A Blind Transfer Of Personal Responsibility To Others

Francis Inauguration fc06

REV. EDWARD HOARE, M.A. on how Rome satisfies the mind inquiring after Christian truth:

It is impossible to give the slightest attention to the Word of God without perceiving the vast importance attached to the reception of Christian truth; and it is equally impossible to avoid the conviction that it is declared in Scripture to be there revealed decisively.  It is the plain doctrine of the Word of God that there is one way, one truth, and one life, and that we are responsible for its rejection or reception.  Now, just in proportion as a man feels the pressure of a surrounding religious atmosphere, does he feel the weight attaching to this responsibility; and the more anxious does he naturally become to have his mind settled and his doubts satisfied.  It is true that the humble believer, being led by the Spirit, quickly finds an happy assurance in the simple statements of the Bible; but there are many, like Noah’s dove, who can find amidst the troubled waters of the world no resting-place for their soul.  Many shrink from the labour of investigation, and many more from the responsibility of decision.  The truth is not arranged in a system of dogmatical statements, but lies embodied in every portion of the book, from whence it arises that men must search for it as for hid treasure; a duty in direct opposition to the natural indolence of our nature.  But, still more, faith requires conviction and decision—qualifications yet more opposed to the wavering and vacillating tendencies of man.  You see many men in life who appear to have no power to take a consistent course alone.  If they are led they will follow, and, perhaps, will follow well; but they do not appear to have the mental faculty of decision.  Indeed, this power of decision is the characteristic of great men.  They are not always either wiser or better than those they lead, but they have this faculty, that they are thoroughly persuaded in their own mind, and are capable of full and unwavering conviction of any truth which they are led to embrace.  Such persons are sure to have a cluster of dependent minds around them, and others of superior ability are glad to lean on their superior decision.  The fact is, that man is a parasitic plant, and he must lean on something.  Now see the influence of such a fact on our connexion with Divine truth.  A thoughtful mind at once discovers that the reception of truth is of the utmost importance to his soul, and at the same time his conscience assures him that he is but partially acquainted either with its evidence or its statements.  What, then, is the result?  He begins to lean on the judgment of those whom he considers better informed, and to pin his faith on other men.  Thus there are thousands and tens of thousands who abhor the name of Rome, who are depending wholly on the judgment of others in religion.  This is always the danger in those congregations where there is a beloved and gifted minister.  It is the case also amongst those whom you would suppose to be at the antipodes of Popery, viz., those who boast that they are peculiarly men of reason in their faith.  A friend of mine was conversing the other day with an Unitarian, and proving to him the clear doctrine of the eternal divinity of the Saviour.  The man could make no reply to the clear proofs adduced from Scripture, till at length, when completely baffled, he said, “I cannot explain those texts myself, but my minister can.”  Could you have a stronger proof that it is the tendency of human nature, even when it boasts its own reason, to lean on other men for truth?  Now, from this tendency has arisen the whole system of Romish infallibility.  Anxious minds felt the necessity of leaning upon something.  Had they leaned on Scripture they would have been at peace; but, in default of that, they required some human judgment.  The first and most natural process was to lean on individuals, and, accordingly, most heresies bear the names of their first leaders.  But this fails in giving peace, for individuals differ, and the authority of the individual is too often weakened by his faults and errors.  Hence it follows, that these leaning minds are often involved in perplexity of the most painful character.  Not having the one anchor, they are driven about by every wind that bloweth.  Was there ever a system more beautifully adapted to such a case than that which steps in to the chamber of doubt, and says, “Be still, it is not your business to decide at all: it is for you, as a humble believer, to believe what the Church believes?”  All responsibility is thus taken off the conscience, and thrown on an ideal object, the Church; the indolence of human nature is at once satisfied, for investigation is represented as a sin; and even the piety of the heart is called into exercise, for blind reliance is honoured by the hallowed name of faith.  The whole weight of perplexity is thrown off beyond the reach of investigation, and by that one stroke a false relief is given.  There are a thousand questions which ought to be answered before the leap is taken.  What is the Catholic Church?  Where is the proof of its infallibility?  What does it teach? and is the teaching scriptural?  But these it is said to be a sin to ask.  At one stroke the responsibility is transferred, and the anxious mind finds what it terms “rest in the Church.”  Hence men often begin with anxious interest, advance as a second step to perplexity, and then, at length, abandon inquiry in a blind reliance on what they are told is the teaching of the Church.  One of the late perverts to Rome said, when a gentleman quoted to her the Word of God, “I thank God I am not called to perplex myself any more with the perplexities of Scripture.  I have placed the interests of my soul in safe keeping, and shall not suffer myself again to be disturbed.”  She had plainly felt perplexity, and she had found a false peace in throwing off her personal responsibility.  So there is mention made in “Milner’s End of Controversy,” of one Anthony Ulric, Duke of Brunswick, who, having commenced a search for true religion, ended in writing a book entitled his “Fifty Reasons for preferring the Roman Catholic Religion,” in which he says, “The Catholics to whom I spoke concerning my conversion, assured me, that if I were to be damned for embracing the Catholic faith, they were ready to answer for me at the day of judgment, and to take my damnation upon themselves.”  As he could find no Protestants who were willing to undertake a similar responsibility, he decided on joining the Church of Rome:—showing again how a state of perplexity leads on to a blind transfer of personal responsibility to others.

Source:  POPERY THE ACCOMMODATION OF CHRISTIANITY TO THE NATURAL HEART at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42280/42280-h/42280-h.htm, p. 7-9

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