An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
Part 2, Chapter 7: Application of the Second Note of a True Development
APPLICATION OF THE SECOND NOTE OF A TRUE DEVELOPMENT.
CONTINUITY OF PRINCIPLES.
It appears then that there has been a certain general type of Christianity in every age, by which it is known at first sight, differing from itself only as what is young differs from what is mature, or as found in Europe or in America, so that it is named at once and without hesitation, as forms of nature are recognized by experts in physical science; or as some work of literature or art is assigned to its right author by the critic, difficult as may be the analysis of that specific impression by which he is enabled to do so. And it appears that this type has remained entire from first to last, in spite of that process of development which seems to be attributed by all parties, for good or bad, to the doctrines, rites, and usages in which Christianity consists; or, in other words, that the changes which have taken place in Christianity have not been such as to destroy that type,--that is, that they are not corruptions, because they are consistent with that type. Here then, in the _preservation of type_, we have a first Note of the fidelity of the existing developments of Christianity. Let us now proceed to a second.
§ 1. _The Principles of Christianity._
When developments in Christianity are spoken of, it is sometimes supposed that they are deductions and diversions made at random, according to accident or the caprice of individuals; whereas it is because they have been conducted all along on definite and continuous principles that the type of the Religion has remained from first to last unalterable. What then are the principles under which the developments have been made? I will enumerate some obvious ones.
They must be many and positive, as well as obvious, if they are to be effective; thus the Society of Friends seems in the course of years to have changed its type in consequence of its scarcity of principles, a fanatical spiritualism and an intense secularity, types simply contrary to each other, being alike consistent with its main principle, "Forms of worship are Antichristian." Christianity, on the other hand, has principles so distinctive, numerous, various, and operative, as to be unlike any other religious, ethical, or political system that the world has ever seen, unlike, not only in character, but in persistence in that character. I cannot attempt here to enumerate more than a few by way of illustration.
For the convenience of arrangement, I will consider the Incarnation the central truth of the gospel, and the source whence we are to draw out its principles. This great doctrine is unequivocally announced in numberless passages of the New Testament, especially by St. John and St. Paul; as is familiar to us all: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, that declare we to you." "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." "Not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
In such passages as these we have
1. The principle of _dogma_, that is, supernatural truths irrevocably committed to human language, imperfect because it is human, but definitive and necessary because given from above.
2. The principal of _faith_, which is the correlative of dogma, being the absolute acceptance of the divine Word with an internal assent, in opposition to the informations, if such, of sight and reason.
3. Faith, being an act of the intellect, opens a way for inquiry, comparison and inference, that is, for science in religion, in subservience to itself; this is the principle of _theology_.
4. The doctrine of the Incarnation is the announcement of a divine gift conveyed in a material and visible medium, it being thus that heaven and earth are in the Incarnation united. That is, it establishes in the very idea of Christianity the _sacramental_ principle as its characteristic.
5. Another principle involved in the doctrine of the Incarnation, viewed as taught or as dogmatic, is the necessary use of language, e. g. of the text of Scripture, in a second or _mystical sense_. Words must be made to express new ideas, and are invested with a sacramental office.
6. It is our Lord's intention in His Incarnation to make us what He is Himself; this is the principle of _grace_, which is not only holy but sanctifying.
7. It cannot elevate and change us without mortifying our lower nature:--here is the principle of _asceticism_.
8. And, involved in this death of the natural man, is necessarily a revelation of the _malignity of sin_, in corroboration of the forebodings of conscience.
9. Also by the fact of an Incarnation we are taught that matter is an essential part of us, and, as well as mind, is _capable of sanctification_.
Here are nine specimens of Christian principles out of the many[326:1] which might be enumerated, and will any one say that they have not been retained in vigorous action in the Church at all times amid whatever development of doctrine Christianity has experienced, so as even to be the very instruments of that development, and as patent, and as operative, in the Latin and Greek Christianity of this day as they were in the beginning?
This continuous identity of principles in ecclesiastical action has been seen in part in treating of the Note of Unity of type, and will be seen also in the Notes which follow; however, as some direct account of them, in illustration, may be desirable, I will single out four as specimens,--Faith, Theology, Scripture, and Dogma.
§ 2. _Supremacy of Faith._
This principle which, as we have already seen, was so great a jest to Celsus and Julian, is of the following kind:--That belief in Christianity is in itself better than unbelief; that faith, though an intellectual action, is ethical in its origin; that it is safer to believe; that we must begin with believing; that as for the reasons of believing, they are for the most part implicit, and need be but slightly recognized by the mind that is under their influence; that they consist moreover rather of presumptions and ventures after the truth than of accurate and complete proofs; and that probable arguments, under the scrutiny and sanction of a prudent judgment, are sufficient for conclusions which we even embrace as most certain, and turn to the most important uses.
Antagonistic to this is the principle that doctrines are only so far to be considered true as they are logically demonstrated. This is the assertion of Locke, who says in defence of it,--"Whatever God hath revealed is certainly true; no doubt can be made of it. This is the proper object of Faith; but, whether it be a divine revelation or no, reason must judge." Now, if he merely means that proofs can be given for Revelation, and that Reason comes in logical order before Faith, such a doctrine is in no sense uncatholic; but he certainly holds that for an individual to act on Faith without proof, or to make Faith a personal principle of conduct for themselves, without waiting till they have got their reasons accurately drawn out and serviceable for controversy, is enthusiastic and absurd. "How a man may know whether he be [a lover of truth for truth's sake] is worth inquiry; and I think there is this one unerring mark of it, viz. the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon, will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not truth in the love of it; loves not truth for truth's sake, but for some other by-end."
It does not seem to have struck him that our "by-end" may be the desire to please our Maker, and that the defect of scientific proof may be made up to our reason by our love of Him. It does not seem to have struck him that such a philosophy as his cut off from the possibility and the privilege of faith all but the educated few, all but the learned, the clear-headed, the men of practised intellects and balanced minds, men who had leisure, who had opportunities of consulting others, and kind and wise friends to whom they deferred. How could a religion ever be Catholic, if it was to be called credulity or enthusiasm in the multitude to use those ready instruments of belief, which alone Providence had put into their power? On such philosophy as this, were it generally received, no great work ever would have been done for God's glory and the welfare of man. The "enthusiasm" against which Locke writes may do much harm, and act at times absurdly; but calculation never made a hero. However, it is not to our present purpose to examine this theory, and I have done so elsewhere.[328:1] Here I have but to show the unanimity of Catholics, ancient as well as modern, in their absolute rejection of it.
For instance, it is the very objection urged by Celsus, that Christians were but parallel to the credulous victims of jugglers or of devotees, who itinerated through the pagan population. He says "that some do not even wish to give or to receive a reason for their faith, but say, 'Do not inquire but believe,' and 'Thy faith will save thee;' and 'A bad thing is the world's wisdom, and foolishness is a good.'" How does Origen answer the charge? by denying the fact, and speaking of the reason of each individual as demonstrating the divinity of the Scriptures, and Faith as coming after that argumentative process, as it is now popular to maintain? Far from it; he grants the fact alleged against the Church and defends it. He observes that, considering the engagements and the necessary ignorance of the multitude of men, it is a very happy circumstance that a substitute is provided for those philosophical exercises, which Christianity allows and encourages, but does not impose on the individual. "Which," he asks, "is the better, for them to believe without reason, and thus to reform any how and gain a benefit, from their belief in the punishment of sinners and the reward of well-doers, or to refuse to be converted on mere belief, or except they devote themselves to an intellectual inquiry?"[329:1] Such a provision then is a mark of divine wisdom and mercy. In like manner, St. Irenæus, after observing that the Jews had the evidence of prophecy, which the Gentiles had not, and that to the latter it was a foreign teaching and a new doctrine to be told that the gods of the Gentiles were not only not gods, but were idols of devils, and that in consequence St. Paul laboured more upon them, as needing it more, adds, "On the other hand, the faith of the Gentiles is thereby shown to be more generous, who followed the word of God without the assistance of Scriptures." To believe on less evidence was generous faith, not enthusiasm. And so again, Eusebius, while he contends of course that Christians are influenced by "no irrational faith," that is, by a faith which is capable of a logical basis, fully allows that in the individual believing, it is not necessarily or ordinarily based upon argument, and maintains that it is connected with that very "hope," and inclusively with that desire of the things beloved, which Locke in the above extract considers incompatible with the love of truth. "What do we find," he says, "but that the whole life of man is suspended on these two, hope and faith?"[330:1]
I do not mean of course that the Fathers were opposed to inquiries into the intellectual basis of Christianity, but that they held that men were not obliged to wait for logical proof before believing: on the contrary, that the majority were to believe first on presumptions and let the intellectual proof come as their reward.[330:2]
St. Augustine, who had tried both ways, strikingly contrasts them in his _De Utilitate credendi_, though his direct object in that work is to decide, not between Reason and Faith, but between Reason and Authority. He addresses in it a very dear friend, who, like himself, had become a Manichee, but who, with less happiness than his own, was still retained in the heresy. "The Manichees," he observes, "inveigh against those who, following the authority of the Catholic faith, fortify themselves in the first instance with believing, and before they are able to set eyes upon that truth, which is discerned by the pure soul, prepare themselves for a God who shall illuminate. You, Honoratus, know that nothing else was the cause of my falling into their hands, than their professing to put away Authority which was so terrible, and by absolute and simple Reason to lead their hearers to God's presence, and to rid them of all error. For what was there else that forced me, for nearly nine years, to slight the religion which was sown in me when a child by my parents, and to follow them and diligently attend their lectures, but their assertion that I was terrified by superstition, and was bidden to have Faith before I had Reason, whereas they pressed no one to believe before the truth had been discussed and unravelled? Who would not be seduced by these promises, and especially a youth, such as they found me then, desirous of truth, nay conceited and forward, by reason of the disputations of certain men of school learning, with a contempt of old-wives' tales, and a desire of possessing and drinking that clear and unmixed truth which they promised me?"[331:1]
Presently he goes on to describe how he was reclaimed. He found the Manichees more successful in pulling down than in building up; he was disappointed in Faustus, whom he found eloquent and nothing besides. Upon this, he did not know what to hold, and was tempted to a general scepticism. At length he found he must be guided by Authority; then came the question, Which authority among so many teachers? He cried earnestly to God for help, and at last was led to the Catholic Church. He then returns to the question urged against that Church, that "she bids those who come to her believe," whereas heretics "boast that they do not impose a yoke of believing, but open a fountain of teaching." On which he observes, "True religion cannot in any manner be rightly embraced, without a belief in those things which each individual afterwards attains and perceives, if he behave himself well and shall deserve it, nor altogether without some weighty and imperative Authority."[331:2]
These are specimens of the teaching of the Ancient Church on the subject of Faith and Reason; if, on the other hand, we would know what has been taught on the subject in those modern schools, in and through which the subsequent developments of Catholic doctrines have proceeded, we may turn to the extracts made from their writings by Huet, in his "Essay on the Human Understanding;" and, in so doing, we need not perplex ourselves with the particular theory, true or not, for the sake of which he has collected them. Speaking of the weakness of the Understanding, Huet says,--
"God, by His goodness, repairs this defect of human nature, by granting us the inestimable gift of Faith, which confirms our staggering Reason, and corrects that perplexity of doubts which we must bring to the knowledge of things. For example: my reason not being able to inform me with absolute evidence, and perfect certainty, whether there are bodies, what was the origin of the world, and many other like things, after I had received the Faith, all those doubts vanish, as darkness at the rising of the sun. This made St. Thomas Aquinas say: 'It is necessary for man to receive as articles of Faith, not only the things which are above Reason, but even those that for their certainty may be known by Reason. For human Reason is very deficient in things divine; a sign of which we have from philosophers, who, in the search of human things by natural methods, have been deceived, and opposed each other on many heads. To the end then that men may have a certain and undoubted cognizance of God, it was necessary things divine should be taught them by way of Faith, as being revealed of God Himself, who cannot lie.'[332:1] . . . . .
"Then St. Thomas adds afterwards: 'No search by natural Reason is sufficient to make man know things divine, nor even those which we can prove by Reason.' And in another place he speaks thus: 'Things which may be proved demonstratively, as the Being of God, the Unity of the Godhead, and other points, are placed among articles we are to believe, because previous to other things that are of Faith; and these must be presupposed, at least by such as have no demonstration of them.
"What St. Thomas says of the cognizance of divine things extends also to the knowledge of human, according to the doctrine of Suarez. 'We often correct,' he says, 'the light of Nature by the light of Faith, even in things which seem to be first principles, as appears in this: those things that are the same to a third, are the same between themselves; which, if we have respect to the Trinity, ought to be restrained to finite things. And in other mysteries, especially in those of the Incarnation and the Eucharist, we use many other limitations, that nothing may be repugnant to the Faith. This is then an indication that the light of Faith is most certain, because founded on the first truth, which is God, to whom it's more impossible to deceive or be deceived than for the natural science of man to be mistaken and erroneous.'[333:1] . . . .
"If we hearken not to Reason, say you, you overthrow that great foundation of Religion which Reason has established in our understanding, viz. God is. To answer this objection, you must be told that men know God in two manners. By Reason, with entire human certainty; and by Faith, with absolute and divine certainty. Although by Reason we cannot acquire any knowledge more certain than that of the Being of God; insomuch that all the arguments, which the impious oppose to this knowledge are of no validity and easily refuted; nevertheless this certainty is not absolutely perfect[333:2] . . . . .
"Now although, to prove the existence of the Deity, we can bring arguments which, accumulated and connected together, are not of less power to convince men than geometrical principles, and theorems deduced from them, and which are of entire human certainty, notwithstanding, because learned philosophers have openly opposed even these principles, 'tis clear we cannot, neither in the natural knowledge we have of God, which is acquired by Reason, nor in science founded on geometrical principles and theorems, find absolute and consummate certainty, but only that human certainty I have spoken of, to which nevertheless every wise man ought to submit his understanding. This being not repugnant to the testimony of the Book of Wisdom and the Epistle to the Romans, which declares that men who do not from the make of the world acknowledge the power and divinity of the Maker are senseless and inexcusable.
"For to use the terms of Vasquez: 'By these words the Holy Scripture means only that there has ever been a sufficient testimony of the Being of a God in the fabrick of the world, and in His other works, to make Him known unto men: but the Scripture is not under any concern whether this knowledge be evident or of greatest probability; for these terms are seen and understood, in their common and usual acceptation, to signify all the knowledge of the mind with a determined assent.' He adds after: 'For if any one should at this time deny Christ, that which would render him inexcusable would not be because he might have had an evident knowledge and reason for believing Him, but because he might have believed it by Faith and a prudential knowledge.'
"'Tis with reason then that Suarez teaches that 'the natural evidence of this principle, God is the first truth, who cannot be deceived, is not necessary, nor sufficient enough to make us believe by infused Faith, what God reveals.' He proves, by the testimony of experience, that it is not necessary; for ignorant and illiterate Christians, though they know nothing clearly and certainly of God, do believe nevertheless that God is. Even Christians of parts and learning, as St. Thomas has observed, believe that God is, before they know it by Reason. Suarez shows afterwards that the natural evidence of this principle is not sufficient, because divine Faith, which is infused into our understanding, cannot be bottomed upon human faith alone, how clear and firm soever it is, as upon a formal object, because an assent most firm, and of an order most noble and exalted, cannot derive its certainty from a more infirm assent.[335:1] . . . .
"As touching the motives of credibility, which, preparing the mind to receive Faith, ought according to you to be not only certain by supreme and human certainty, but by supreme and absolute certainty, I will oppose Gabriel Biel to you, who pronounces that to receive Faith 'tis sufficient that the motives of credibility be proposed as probable. Do you believe that children, illiterate, gross, ignorant people, who have scarcely the use of Reason, and notwithstanding have received the gift of Faith, do most clearly and most steadfastly conceive those forementioned motives of credibility? No, without doubt; but the grace of God comes in to their assistance, and sustains the imbecility of Nature and Reason.
"This is the common opinion of divines. Reason has need of divine grace, not only in gross, illiterate persons, but even in those of parts and learning; for how clear-sighted soever that may be, yet it cannot make us have Faith, if celestial light does not illuminate us within, because, as I have said already, divine Faith being of a superior order cannot derive its efficacy from human faith."[336:1] "This is likewise the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas: 'The light of Faith makes things seen that are believed.' He says moreover, 'Believers have knowledge of the things of Faith, not in a demonstrative way, but so as by the light of Faith it appears to them that they ought to be believed.'"[336:2]
It is evident what a special influence such doctrine as this must exert upon the theological method of those who hold it. Arguments will come to be considered as suggestions and guides rather than logical proofs; and developments as the slow, spontaneous, ethical growth, not the scientific and compulsory results, of existing opinions.
§ 3. _Theology._
I have spoken and have still to speak of the action of logic, implicit and explicit, as a safeguard, and thereby a note, of legitimate developments of doctrine: but I am regarding it here as that continuous tradition and habit in the Church of a scientific analysis of all revealed truth, which is an ecclesiastical principle rather than a note of any kind, as not merely bearing upon the process of development, but applying to all religious teaching equally, and which is almost unknown beyond the pale of Christendom. Reason, thus considered, is subservient to faith, as handling, examining, explaining, recording, cataloguing, defending, the truths which faith, not reason, has gained for us, as providing an intellectual expression of supernatural facts, eliciting what is implicit, comparing, measuring, connecting each with each, and forming one and all into a theological system.
The first step in theology is investigation, an investigation arising out of the lively interest and devout welcome which the matters investigated claim of us; and, if Scripture teaches us the duty of faith, it teaches quite as distinctly that loving inquisitiveness which is the life of the _Schola_. It attributes that temper both to the Blessed Virgin and to the Angels. The Angels are said to have "desired to look into the mysteries of Revelation," and it is twice recorded of Mary that she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart." Moreover, her words to the Archangel, "How shall this be?" show that there is a questioning in matters revealed to us compatible with the fullest and most absolute faith. It has sometimes been said in defence and commendation of heretics that "their misbelief at least showed that they had thought upon the subject of religion;" this is an unseemly paradox,--at the same time there certainly is the opposite extreme of a readiness to receive any number of dogmas at a minute's warning, which, when it is witnessed, fairly creates a suspicion that they are merely professed with the tongue, not intelligently held. Our Lord gives no countenance to such lightness of mind; He calls on His disciples to use their reason, and to submit it. Nathanael's question "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" did not prevent our Lord's praise of him as "an Israelite without guile." Nor did He blame Nicodemus, except for want of theological knowledge, on his asking "How can these things be?" Even towards St. Thomas He was gentle, as if towards one of those who had "eyes too tremblingly awake to bear with dimness for His sake." In like manner He praised the centurion when he argued himself into a confidence of divine help and relief from the analogy of his own profession; and left his captious enemies to prove for themselves from the mission of the Baptist His own mission; and asked them "if David called Him Lord, how was He his Son?" and, when His disciples wished to have a particular matter taught them, chid them for their want of "understanding." And these are but some out of the various instances which He gives us of the same lesson.
Reason has ever been awake and in exercise in the Church after Him from the first. Scarcely were the Apostles withdrawn from the world, when the Martyr Ignatius, in his way to the Roman Amphitheatre, wrote his strikingly theological Epistles; he was followed by Irenæus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian; thus we are brought to the age of Athanasius and his contemporaries, and to Augustine. Then we pass on by Maximus and John Damascene to the Middle age, when theology was made still more scientific by the Schoolmen; nor has it become less so, by passing on from St. Thomas to the great Jesuit writers Suarez and Vasquez, and then to Lambertini.
§ 4. _Scripture and its Mystical Interpretation._
Several passages have occurred in the foregoing Chapters, which serve to suggest another principle on which some words are now to be said. Theodore's exclusive adoption of the literal, and repudiation of the mystical interpretation of Holy Scripture, leads to the consideration of the latter, as one of the characteristic conditions or principles on which the teaching of the Church has ever proceeded. Thus Christianity developed, as we have incidentally seen, into the form, first, of a Catholic, then of a Papal Church. Now it was Scripture that was made the rule on which this development proceeded in each case, and Scripture moreover interpreted in a mystical sense; and, whereas at first certain texts were inconsistently confined to the letter, and a Millennium was in consequence expected, the very course of events, as time went on, interpreted the prophecies about the Church more truly, and that first in respect of her prerogative as occupying the _orbis terrarum_, next in support of the claims of the See of St. Peter. This is but one specimen of a certain law of Christian teaching, which is this,--a reference to Scripture throughout, and especially in its mystical sense.[339:1]
1. This is a characteristic which will become more and more evident to us, the more we look for it. The divines of the Church are in every age engaged in regulating themselves by Scripture, appealing to Scripture in proof of their conclusions, and exhorting and teaching in the thoughts and language of Scripture. Scripture may be said to be the medium in which the mind of the Church has energized and developed.[339:2] When St. Methodius would enforce the doctrine of vows of celibacy, he refers to the book of Numbers; and if St. Irenæus proclaims the dignity of St. Mary, it is from a comparison of St. Luke's Gospel with Genesis. And thus St. Cyprian, in his Testimonies, rests the prerogatives of martyrdom, as indeed the whole circle of Christian doctrine, on the declaration of certain texts; and, when in his letter to Antonian he seems to allude to Purgatory, he refers to our Lord's words about "the prison" and "paying the last farthing." And if St. Ignatius exhorts to unity, it is from St. Paul; and he quotes St. Luke against the Phantasiasts of his day. We have a first instance of this law in the Epistle of St. Polycarp, and a last in the practical works of St. Alphonso Liguori. St. Cyprian, or St. Ambrose, or St. Bede, or St. Bernard, or St. Carlo, or such popular books as Horstius's _Paradisus Animæ_, are specimens of a rule which is too obvious to need formal proof. It is exemplified in the theological decisions of St. Athanasius in the fourth century, and of St. Thomas in the thirteenth; in the structure of the Canon Law, and in the Bulls and Letters of Popes. It is instanced in the notion so long prevalent in the Church, which philosophers of this day do not allow us to forget, that all truth, all science, must be derived from the inspired volume. And it is recognized as well as exemplified; recognized as distinctly by writers of the Society of Jesus, as it is copiously exemplified by the Ante-nicene Fathers.
"Scriptures are called canonical," says Salmeron, "as having been received and set apart by the Church into the Canon of sacred books, and because they are to us a rule of right belief and good living; also because they ought to rule and moderate all other doctrines, laws, writings, whether ecclesiastical, apocryphal, or human. For as these agree with them, or at least do not disagree, so far are they admitted; but they are repudiated and reprobated so far as they differ from them even in the least matter."[340:1] Again: "The main subject of Scripture is nothing else than to treat of the God-Man, or the Man-God, Christ Jesus, not only in the New Testament, which is open, but in the Old. . . . . . . For whereas Scripture contains nothing but the precepts of belief and conduct, or faith and works, the end and the means towards it, the Creator and the creature, love of God and our neighbour, creation and redemption, and whereas all these are found in Christ, it follows that Christ is the proper subject of Canonical Scripture. For all matters of faith, whether concerning Creator or creatures, are recapitulated in Jesus, whom every heresy denies, according to that text, 'Every spirit that divides (_solvit_) Jesus is not of God;' for He as man is united to the Godhead, and as God to the manhood, to the Father from whom He is born, to the Holy Ghost who proceeds at once from Christ and the Father, to Mary his most Holy Mother, to the Church, to Scriptures, Sacraments, Saints, Angels, the Blessed, to Divine Grace, to the authority and ministers of the Church, so that it is rightly said that every heresy divides Jesus."[341:1] And again: "Holy Scripture is so fashioned and composed by the Holy Ghost as to be accommodated to all plans, times, persons, difficulties, dangers, diseases, the expulsion of evil, the obtaining of good, the stifling of errors, the establishment of doctrines, the ingrafting of virtues, the averting of vices. Hence it is deservedly compared by St. Basil to a dispensary which supplies various medicines against every complaint. From it did the Church in the age of Martyrs draw her firmness and fortitude; in the age of Doctors, her wisdom and light of knowledge; in the time of heretics, the overthrow of error; in time of prosperity, humility and moderation; fervour and diligence, in a lukewarm time; and in times of depravity and growing abuse, reformation from corrupt living and return to the first estate."[341:2]
"Holy Scripture," says Cornelius à Lapide, "contains the beginnings of all theology: for theology is nothing but the science of conclusions which are drawn from principles certain to faith, and therefore is of all sciences most august as well as certain; but the principles of faith and faith itself doth Scripture contain; whence it evidently follows that Holy Scripture lays down those principles of theology by which the theologian begets of the mind's reasoning his demonstrations. He, then, who thinks he can tear away Scholastic Science from the work of commenting on Holy Scripture is hoping for offspring without a mother."[342:1] Again: "What is the subject-matter of Scripture? Must I say it in a word? Its aim is _de omni scibili_; it embraces in its bosom all studies, all that can be known: and thus it is a certain university of sciences containing all sciences either 'formally' or 'eminently.'"[342:2]
Nor am I aware that later Post-tridentine writers deny that the whole Catholic faith may be proved from Scripture, though they would certainly maintain that it is not to be found on the surface of it, nor in such sense that it may be gained from Scripture without the aid of Tradition.
2. And this has been the doctrine of all ages of the Church, as is shown by the disinclination of her teachers to confine themselves to the mere literal interpretation of Scripture. Her most subtle and powerful method of proof, whether in ancient or modern times, is the mystical sense, which is so frequently used in doctrinal controversy as on many occasions to supersede any other. Thus the Council of Trent appeals to the peace-offering spoken of in Malachi in proof of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; to the water and blood issuing from our Lord's side, and to the mention of "waters" in the Apocalypse, in admonishing on the subject of the mixture of water with the wine in the Oblation. Thus Bellarmine defends Monastic celibacy by our Lord's words in Matthew xix., and refers to "We went through fire and water," &c., in the Psalm, as an argument for Purgatory; and these, as is plain, are but specimens of a rule. Now, on turning to primitive controversy, we find this method of interpretation to be the very basis of the proof of the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Whether we betake ourselves to the Ante-nicene writers or the Nicene, certain texts will meet us, which do not obviously refer to that doctrine, yet are put forward as palmary proofs of it. Such are, in respect of our Lord's divinity, "My heart is inditing of a good matter," or "has burst forth with a good Word;" "The Lord made" or "possessed Me in the beginning of His ways;" "I was with Him, in whom He delighted;" "In Thy Light shall we see Light;" "Who shall declare His generation?" "She is the Breath of the Power of God;" and "His Eternal Power and Godhead."
On the other hand, the School of Antioch, which adopted the literal interpretation, was, as I have noticed above, the very metropolis of heresy. Not to speak of Lucian, whose history is but imperfectly known, (one of the first masters of this school, and also teacher of Arius and his principal supporters), Diodorus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who were the most eminent masters of literalism in the succeeding generation, were, as we have seen, the forerunners of Nestorianism. The case had been the same in a still earlier age;--the Jews clung to the literal sense of the Scriptures and hence rejected the Gospel; the Christian Apologists proved its divinity by means of the allegorical. The formal connexion of this mode of interpretation with Christian theology is noticed by Porphyry, who speaks of Origen and others as borrowing it from heathen philosophy, both in explanation of the Old Testament and in defence of their own doctrine. It may be almost laid down as an historical fact, that the mystical interpretation and orthodoxy will stand or fall together.
This is clearly seen, as regards the primitive theology, by a recent writer, in the course of a Dissertation upon St. Ephrem. After observing that Theodore of Heraclea, Eusebius, and Diodorus gave a systematic opposition to the mystical interpretation, which had a sort of sanction from Antiquity and the orthodox Church, he proceeds; "Ephrem is not as sober in his interpretations, _nor could it be, since_ he was a zealous disciple of the orthodox faith. For all those who are most eminent in such sobriety were as far as possible removed from the faith of the Councils. . . . . On the other hand, all who retained the faith of the Church never entirely dispensed with the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. For the Councils watched over the orthodox faith; nor was it safe in those ages, as we learn especially from the instance of Theodore of Mopsuestia, to desert the spiritual for an exclusive cultivation of the literal method. Moreover, the allegorical interpretation, even when the literal sense was not injured, was also preserved; because in those times, when both heretics and Jews in controversy were stubborn in their objections to Christian doctrine, maintaining that the Messiah was yet to come, or denying the abrogation of the Sabbath and ceremonial law, or ridiculing the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and especially that of Christ's Divine Nature, under such circumstances ecclesiastical writers found it to their purpose, in answer to such exceptions, violently to refer every part of Scripture by allegory to Christ and His Church."[345:1]
With this passage from a learned German, illustrating the bearing of the allegorical method upon the Judaic and Athanasian controversies, it will be well to compare the following passage from the latitudinarian Hale's "Golden Remains," as directed against the theology of Rome. "The literal, plain, and uncontroversible meaning of Scripture," he says, "without any addition or supply by way of interpretation, is that alone which for ground of faith we are necessarily bound to accept; except it be there, where the Holy Ghost Himself treads us out another way. I take not this to be any particular conceit of mine, but that unto which our Church stands necessarily bound. When we receded from the Church of Rome, one motive was, because she added unto Scripture her glosses as Canonical, to supply what the plain text of Scripture could not yield. If, in place of hers, we set up our own glosses, thus to do were nothing else but to pull down Baal, and set up an Ephod, to run round and meet the Church of Rome again in the same point in which at first we left her. . . . This doctrine of the literal sense was never grievous or prejudicial to any, but only to those who were inwardly conscious that their positions were not sufficiently grounded. When Cardinal Cajetan, in the days of our grandfathers, had forsaken that vein of postilling and allegorizing on Scripture, which for a long time had prevailed in the Church, and betaken himself unto the literal sense, it was a thing so distasteful unto the Church of Rome that he was forced to find out many shifts and make many apologies for himself. The truth is (as it will appear to him that reads his writings), this sticking close to the literal sense was that alone which made him to shake off many of those tenets upon which the Church of Rome and the reformed Churches differ. But when the importunity of the Reformers, and the great credit of Calvin's writings in that kind, had forced the divines of Rome to level their interpretations by the same line; when they saw that no pains, no subtlety of wit was strong enough to defeat the literal evidence of Scripture, it drove them on those desperate shoals, on which at this day they stick, to call in question, as far as they durst, the credit of the Hebrew text, and countenance against it a corrupt translation; to add traditions unto Scripture, and to make the Church's interpretation, so pretended, to be above exception."[346:1]
He presently adds concerning the allegorical sense: "If we absolutely condemn these interpretations, then must we condemn a great part of Antiquity, who are very much conversant in this kind of interpreting. For the most partial for Antiquity cannot choose but see and confess thus much, that for the literal sense, the interpreters of our own times, because of their skill in the original languages, their care of pressing the circumstances and coherence of the text, of comparing like places of Scripture with like, have generally surpassed the best of the ancients."[346:2]
The use of Scripture then, especially its spiritual or second sense, as a medium of thought and deduction, is a characteristic principle of doctrinal teaching in the Church.
§ 5. _Dogma._
1. That opinions in religion are not matters of indifference, but have a definite bearing on the position of their holders in the Divine Sight, is a principle on which the Evangelical Faith has from the first developed, and on which that Faith has been the first to develope. I suppose, it hardly had any exercise under the Law; the zeal and obedience of the ancient people being mainly employed in the maintenance of divine worship and the overthrow of idolatry, not in the action of the intellect. Faith is in this, as in other respects, a characteristic of the Gospel, except so far as it was anticipated, as its time drew near. Elijah and the prophets down to Ezra resisted Baal or restored the Temple Service; the Three Children refused to bow down before the golden image; Daniel would turn his face towards Jerusalem; the Maccabees spurned the Grecian paganism. On the other hand, the Greek Philosophers were authoritative indeed in their teaching, enforced the "_Ipse dixit_," and demanded the faith of their disciples; but they did not commonly attach sanctity or reality to opinions, or view them in a religious light. Our Saviour was the first to "bear witness to the Truth," and to die for it, when "before Pontius Pilate he witnessed a good confession." St. John and St. Paul, following his example, both pronounce anathema on those who denied "the Truth" or "brought in another Gospel." Tradition tells us that the Apostle of love seconded his word with his deed, and on one occasion hastily quitted a bath because an heresiarch of the day had entered it. St. Ignatius, his contemporary, compares false teachers to raging dogs; and St. Polycarp, his disciple, exercised the same seventy upon Marcion which St. John had shown towards Cerinthus.
St. Irenæus after St. Polycarp exemplifies the same doctrine: "I saw thee," he says to the heretic Florinus, "when I was yet a boy, in lower Asia, with Polycarp, when thou wast living splendidly in the Imperial Court, and trying to recommend thyself to him. I remember indeed what then happened better than more recent occurrences, for the lessons of boyhood grow with the mind and become one with it. Thus I can name the place where blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, and his goings out and comings in, and the fashion of his life, and the appearance of his person, and his discourses to the people, and his familiarity with John, which he used to tell of, and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he used to repeat their words, and what it was that he had learned about the Lord from them. . . . And in the sight of God, I can protest, that, if that blessed and apostolical Elder had heard aught of this doctrine, he had cried out and stopped his ears, saying after his wont, 'O Good God, for what times hast thou reserved me that I should endure this?' and he had fled the place where he was sitting or standing when he heard it." It seems to have been the duty of every individual Christian from the first to witness in his place against all opinions which were contrary to what he had received in his baptismal catechizing, and to shun the society of those who maintained them. "So religious," says Irenæus after giving his account of St. Polycarp, "were the Apostles and their disciples, in not even conversing with those who counterfeited the truth."[348:1]
Such a principle, however, would but have broken up the Church the sooner, resolving it into the individuals of which it was composed, unless the Truth, to which they were to bear witness, had been a something definite, and formal, and independent of themselves. Christians were bound to defend and to transmit the faith which they had received, and they received it from the rulers of the Church; and, on the other hand, it was the duty of those rulers to watch over and define this traditionary faith. It is unnecessary to go over ground which has been traversed so often of late years. St. Irenæus brings the subject before us in his description of St. Polycarp, part of which has already been quoted; and to it we may limit ourselves. "Polycarp," he says when writing against the Gnostics, "whom we have seen in our first youth, ever taught those lessons which he learned from the Apostles, which the Church also transmits, which alone are true. All the Churches of Asia bear witness to them; and the successors of Polycarp down to this day, who is a much more trustworthy and sure witness of truth than Valentinus, Marcion, or their perverse companions. The same was in Rome in the time of Anicetus, and converted many of the aforenamed heretics to the Church of God, preaching that he had received from the Apostles this one and only truth, which had been transmitted by the Church."[349:1]
Nor was this the doctrine and practice of one school only, which might be ignorant of philosophy; the cultivated minds of the Alexandrian Fathers, who are said to owe so much to Pagan science, certainly showed no gratitude or reverence towards their alleged instructors, but maintained the supremacy of Catholic Tradition. Clement[349:2] speaks of heretical teachers as perverting Scripture, and essaying the gate of heaven with a false key, not raising the veil, as he and his, by means of tradition from Christ, but digging through the Church's wall, and becoming mystagogues of misbelief; "for," he continues, "few words are enough to prove that they have formed their human assemblies later than the Catholic Church," and "from that previously existing and most true Church it is very clear that these later heresies, and others which have been since, are counterfeit and novel inventions."[350:1] "When the Marcionites, Valentinians, and the like," says Origen, "appeal to apocryphal works, they are saying, 'Christ is in the desert;' when to canonical Scripture, 'Lo, He is in the chambers;' but we must not depart from that first and ecclesiastical tradition, nor believe otherwise than as the Churches of God by succession have transmitted to us." And it is recorded of him in his youth, that he never could be brought to attend the prayers of a heretic who was in the house of his patroness, from abomination of his doctrine, "observing," adds Eusebius, "the rule of the Church." Eusebius too himself, unsatisfactory as is his own theology, cannot break from this fundamental rule; he ever speaks of the Gnostic teachers, the chief heretics of his period (at least before the rise of Arianism), in terms most expressive of abhorrence and disgust.
The African, Syrian, and Asian schools are additional witnesses; Tertullian at Carthage was strenuous for the dogmatic principle even after he had given up the traditional. The Fathers of Asia Minor, who excommunicated Noëtus, rehearse the Creed, and add, "We declare as we have learned;" the Fathers of Antioch, who depose Paul of Samosata, set down in writing the Creed from Scripture, "which," they say, "we received from the beginning, and have, by tradition and in custody, in the Catholic and Holy Church, until this day, by succession, as preached by the blessed Apostles, who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word."[350:2]
Moreover, it is as plain, or even plainer, that what the Christians of the first ages anathematized, included deductions from the Articles of Faith, that is, false developments, as well as contradictions of those Articles. And, since the reason they commonly gave for using the anathema was that the doctrine in question was strange and startling, it follows that the truth, which was its contradictory, was also in some respect unknown to them hitherto; which is also shown by their temporary perplexity, and their difficulty of meeting heresy, in particular cases. "Who ever heard the like hitherto?" says St. Athanasius, of Apollinarianism; "who was the teacher of it, who the hearer? 'From Sion shall go forth the Law of God, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem;' but from whence hath this gone forth? What hell hath burst out with it?" The Fathers at Nicæa stopped their ears; and St. Irenæus, as above quoted, says that St. Polycarp, had he heard the Gnostic blasphemies, would have stopped his ears, and deplored the times for which he was reserved. They anathematized the doctrine, not because it was old, but because it was new: the anathema would have altogether slept, if it could not have been extended to propositions not anathematized in the beginning; for the very characteristic of heresy is this novelty and originality of manifestation.
Such was the exclusiveness of Christianity of old: I need not insist on the steadiness with which that principle has been maintained ever since, for bigotry and intolerance is one of the ordinary charges brought at this day against both the medieval Church and the modern.
The Church's consistency and thoroughness in teaching is another aspect of the same principle, as is illustrated in the following passage from M. Guizot's History of Civilization. "The adversaries," he says, "of the Reformation, knew very well what they were about, and what they required; they could point to their first principles, and boldly admit all the consequences that might result from them. No government was ever more consistent and systematic than that of the Romish Church. In fact, the Court of Rome was much more accommodating, yielded much more than the Reformers; but in principle it much more completely adopted its own system, and maintained a much more consistent conduct. There is an immense power in this full confidence of what is done; this perfect knowledge of what is required; this complete and rational adaptation of a system and a creed." Then he goes on to the history of the Society of Jesus in illustration. "Everything," he says, "was unfavourable to the Jesuits, both fortune and appearances; neither practical sense which requires success, nor the imagination which looks for splendour, were gratified by their destiny. Still it is certain that they possessed the elements of greatness; a grand idea is attached to their name, to their influence, and to their history. Why? because they worked from fixed principles, which they fully and clearly understood, and the tendency of which they entirely comprehended. In the Reformation, on the contrary, when the event surpassed its conception, something incomplete, inconsequent, and narrow has remained, which has placed the conquerors themselves in a state of rational and philosophical inferiority, the influence of which has occasionally been felt in events. The conflict of the new spiritual order of things against the old, is, I think, the weak side of the Reformation."[352:1]
§ 6. _Additional Remarks._
Such are some of the intellectual principles which are characteristic of Christianity. I observe,--
That their continuity down to this day, and the vigour of their operation, are two distinct guarantees that the theological conclusions to which they are subservient are, in accordance with the Divine Promise, true developments, and not corruptions of the Revelation.
Moreover, if it be true that the principles of the later Church are the same as those of the earlier, then, whatever are the variations of belief between the two periods, the later in reality agrees more than it differs with the earlier, for principles are responsible for doctrines. Hence they who assert that the modern Roman system is the corruption of primitive theology are forced to discover some difference of principle between the one and the other; for instance, that the right of private judgment was secured to the early Church and has been lost to the later, or, again, that the later Church rationalizes and the earlier went by faith.
On this point I will but remark as follows. It cannot be doubted that the horror of heresy, the law of absolute obedience to ecclesiastical authority, and the doctrine of the mystical virtue of unity, were as strong and active in the Church of St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian as in that of St. Carlo and St. Pius the Fifth, whatever be thought of the theology respectively taught in the one and in the other. Now we have before our eyes the effect of these principles in the instance of the later Church; they have entirely succeeded in preventing departure from the doctrine of Trent for three hundred years. Have we any reason for doubting, that from the same strictness the same fidelity would follow, in the first three, or any three, centuries of the Ante-tridentine period? Where then was the opportunity of corruption in the three hundred years between St. Ignatius and St. Augustine? or between St. Augustine and St. Bede? or between St. Bede and St. Peter Damiani? or again, between St. Irenæus and St. Leo, St. Cyprian and St. Gregory the Great, St. Athanasius and St. John Damascene? Thus the tradition of eighteen centuries becomes a collection of indefinitely many _catenæ_, each commencing from its own point, and each crossing the other; and each year, as it comes, is guaranteed with various degrees of cogency by every year which has gone before it.
Moreover, while the development of doctrine in the Church has been in accordance with, or in consequence of these immemorial principles, the various heresies, which have from time to time arisen, have in one respect or other, as might be expected, violated those principles with which she rose into existence, and which she still retains. Thus Arian and Nestorian schools denied the allegorical rule of Scripture interpretation; the Gnostics and Eunomians for Faith professed to substitute knowledge; and the Manichees also, as St. Augustine so touchingly declares in the beginning of his work _De Utilitate credendi_. The dogmatic Rule, at least so far as regards its traditional character, was thrown aside by all those sects which, as Tertullian tells us, claimed to judge for themselves from Scripture; and the Sacramental principle was violated, _ipso facto_, by all who separated from the Church,--was denied also by Faustus the Manichee when he argued against the Catholic ceremonial, by Vigilantius in his opposition to relics, and by the Iconoclasts. In like manner the contempt of mystery, of reverence, of devoutness, of sanctity, are other notes of the heretical spirit. As to Protestantism it is plain in how many ways it has reversed the principles of Catholic theology.
[326:1] [E. g. development itself is such a principle also. "And thus I was led on to a further consideration. I saw that the principle of development not only accounted for certain facts, but was in itself a remarkable philosophical phenomenon, giving a character to the whole course of Christian thought. It was discernible from the first years of Catholic teaching up to the present day, and gave to that teaching a unity and individuality. It served as a sort of test, which the Anglican could not stand, that modern Rome was in truth ancient Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, just as a mathematical curve has its own law and expression." _Apol._ p. 198, _vid._ also Angl. Diff. vol. i. Lect. xii. 7.]
[328:1] University Sermons [but, more carefully in the "Essay on Assent"].
[329:1] c. Cels. i. 9.
[330:1] Hær. iv. 24. Euseb. Præp. Ev. i. 5.
[330:2] [This is too large a subject to admit of justice being done to it here: I have treated of it at length in the "Essay on Assent."]
[331:2] _Vid._ also _supr._ p. 256.
[332:1] pp. 142, 143, Combe's tr.
[333:1] pp. 144, 145.
[333:2] p. 219.
[335:1] pp. 221, 223.
[336:1] pp. 229, 230.
[336:2] pp. 230, 231.
[339:1] Vid. Proph. Offic. Lect. xiii. [Via Media, vol. i. p. 309, &c.]
[339:2] A late writer goes farther, and maintains that it is not determined by the Council of Trent, whether the whole of the Revelation is in Scripture or not. "The Synod declares that the Christian 'truth and discipline are contained in written books and unwritten traditions.' They were well aware that the controversy then was, whether the Christian doctrine was only _in part_ contained in Scripture. But they did not dare to frame their decree openly in accordance with the modern Romish view; they did not venture to affirm, as they might easily have done, that the Christian verity 'was contained _partly_ in written books, and _partly_ in unwritten traditions.'"--_Palmer on the Church_, vol. 2, p. 15. Vid. Difficulties of Angl. vol. ii. pp. 11, 12.
[340:1] Opp. t. 1, p. 4.
[341:1] Opp. t. i. pp. 4, 5.
[341:2] Ibid. p. 9.
[342:1] Proem. 5.
[342:2] p. 4.
[345:1] Lengerke, de Ephr. S. pp. 78-80.
[346:1] pp. 24-26.
[346:2] p. 27.
[348:1] Euseb. Hist. iv. 14, v. 20.
[349:1] Contr. Hær. iii. 3, § 4.
[349:2] Ed. Potter, p. 897.
[350:1] Ed. Potter, p. 899.
[350:2] Clem. Strom. vii. 17. Origen in Matth. Comm. Ser. 46. Euseb. Hist. vi. 2, fin. Epiph. Hær. 57, p. 480. Routh, t. 2, p. 465.
[352:1] Eur. Civil. pp. 394-398.
Chapter 8: Application of the Third Note of a True Development
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine - Part 1: Doctrinal Developments Viewed in Themselves
Chapter 1: On the Development of Ideas
Chapter 2: On the Antecedent Argument in Behalf of Developments in Christian Doctrine
Chapter 3: On the Historical Argument in Behalf of the Existing Developments
Chapter 4: Instances in Illustration
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine - Part 2: Doctrinal Developments Viewed Relatively to Doctrinal Corruptions
Chapter 5: Genuine Developments Contrasted with Corruptions
Chapter 6: Application of the Seven Notes to the Existing Developments of Christian Doctrine
Chapter 7: Application of the Second Note of a True Development
Chapter 8: Application of the Third Note of a True Development
Chapter 9: Application of the Fourth Note of a True Development
Chapter 10: Application of the Fifth Note of a True Development
Chapter 11: Application of the Sixth Note of a True Development
Chapter 12: Application of the Seventh Note of a True Development
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