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Rome is an article of belief imposed by authority. It is not necessary that the article be understood, or that there be any evidence of its truth; it is enough that it comes with the authority of the Church. The only ground for an essential difference among Roman Catholics must be concerning this authority — who are they whose decisions constitute the voice of the Church? The distinction between a dogma and a pious opinion is clear and definite in the Church of Rome. The same cannot be said of Protestantism. Three hundred years have passed since the Reformation; but it is only to-day that men are beginning to see the ultimate of the principles which the Reformation involved. Protestants made creeds which consisted of definitions of doctrines; but the only authority claimed for them was the authority of Scripture; which implied either that the framers of the creeds had infallibly interpreted the Scriptures, or that those required to believe the creeds were to judge for themselves.
It is not unnatural that those who have written on dogma should generally begin with an inquiry concerning the meaning of the word. The definition given by Neander is just the opposite of what the word means in the Church of Rome. A dogma, he says, is an opinion-a notion. For this meaning of the word, he quotes Plato and Sextus Empiricus. In the New Testament, he adds, the word never occurs in the sense of a doctrine, but only in that of a statute or decree. Dogma, according to Neander, does not form an original part of Christianity. It is derived and secondary. The essence of Christianity does not consist in a system of ideas, but in a tendency of the inner life. “The pearl of Christianity is a hidden life in God, consisting neither in dogmas, nor ideas, nor ceremonies." In this case a history of dogmas would be a history of human opinions, not necessarily true, and very probably untrue. The words of Hagenbach correspond to those of Neander.
“ Jesus," he says, “was not the author of dogmatic theology, but the author and finisher of our faith ; not the founder of a sect, but emphatically the founder of religion, and of the Church.” The Lutheran theologian, Martensen, on the other hand, maintains that a dogma is not an opinion, nor even an ascertained truth, but a truth resting on faith, and "derived from the authority of the Word and Revelation of God.” This is the old Protestant definition, while Neander and Hagenbach represent the view with which it is in conflict. Mr. Liddon starts with the impossibility of separating between faith and dogma ; the latter being simply identical with the thing believed. This is true in itself; but Mr. Liddon's argument is beside the question, which is not the impossibility of separating between religion and theology, but whether any given system of articles to be believed
can be proved to have authority. Mr. Garbett, in the main, agrees with Mr. Liddon. He defines dogma as positive truth positively asserted. This, Mr. Garbett says, is the historical meaning of the word, both among Christians and pagans. “In Christian philosophy it expresses the theology based on the authority of Scripture and the judgment of the Fathers."
The question of the etymological or historical meaning of the word might be dismissed. It would be no loss to either side to dispense with the word altogether. Mr. Liddon and Mr. Garbett both mean by dogmas certain things to be believed because of the authority which imposes them. This opens up the real question at issue, which is the character of belief if it depends on authority, and the consequent inquiry who or what that authority is. Neander and Hagenbach are as clear as Mr. Liddon and Mr. Garbett that certain things are believed, but they do not admit that they are presented for our belief in the form of authoritative dogmas.
The Church of Rome, as we have said, takes up a position definite and consistent. It claims to speak infallibly, and therefore to publish doctrines or definitions of doctrines with authority. Mr. Liddon, of course, as a Protestant must take the Scriptures before the Church ; but not being willing to be considered altogether a Protestant, he falls back on something which he calls “the voice of the Catholic Church”—that is, some interpretations of Scripture which he finds, or supposes he finds, in some old creeds or Church Fathers, and which he considers "authoritative elucidations of Christian doctrine." We have difficulty in discovering that any authority ever belonged to the Church which does not belong to it now. What Mr. Liddon means by the “ Catholic Church” is not easy to say. Its relations to the present Church of Rome, or the present Church of England, are difficult to determine. Both these Churches cannot be at one with it, for their dogmas are different. The recent efforts to harmonize their teaching have been made, as we all know, by dissolving the dogmas peculiar to each. The English Church is to renounce its articles, and the Church of Rome the decisions of Trent. Mr. Garbett-faithful to the Protestantism of the Church of England, but unfaithful to the principle of Protestantism-seeks another foundation for the authority of dogma. He divides the theory of dogma into three elements the Church, the dogma itself or the “ faith,” and the Scriptures. The first is the keeper of truth, the second is the truth kept, and the Scriptures the authoritative record. The Scriptures are the criterion or the judge. By them we are to discriminate between a true Church and a false Church ; by them we know that the dogmas of the Church of Rome are errors, and that those taught in the articles of the Church of England are the truth.
This is not enough, Mr. Garbett adds in the spirit of the most innocent orthodoxy, that all the Roman dogmas condemned in our articles, rubrics, canons, and homilies are the "dogmas taught by special branches of the Church," while the teaching of the articles consists of the “dogmas ever held in common by the universal Church.” Authority, in the final analysis of the argument, is only ascribed to the Scriptures, so that this “universal Church,” whatever it may be, and the "judgment of the Fathers," whatever that may mean, have no validity in making dogma authoritative.
To approach this question somewhat nearer; we may follow Mr. Liddon in his application of the principle of dogma to the subject of his lectures——the Divinity of Jesus Christ. In the sense in which Mr. Liddon understands the divinity of Christ, that divinity is an authoritative dogma. We waive the question whether or not Mr. Liddon's doctrine is that of the ancient Church. By his own confession, it was not that of the ante-Nicene Fathers. At least the forms in which they put their doctrine were not satisfactory. They “admit a Catholic interpretation, but they do not invite one." This really means that the ante-Nicene Fathers held the divinity of Christ : in a sense which would now be reckoned heresy. We do not know if Mr. Liddon's doctrine is really that of the Nicene Fathers. We, seriously question if it be that of St. Athanasius. We have grave doubts if it is even that of the Athanasian Creed. The Church went on defining till the later definitions converted the earlier doctrines into heresies. This is the conclusion to which we are inevitably led by every history of dogmas. The dogmatist demands that the doctrine be received in its most developed form. The antidogmatist prefers it in a simpler form, under which may be included a variety of opinions respecting it. In John's Gospel Jesus speaks of Himself as being one with the Father, and He prays for His disciples that by a like union they might be united to Him, that they all might be one with the Father. Athanasius, in the spirit of John's Gospel, made the incarnation of the Logos in Jesus the same in kind with the incarnation of the Logos in all good men. The very object of the incarnation, according to St. Athanasius, was that man might be made God. This is far removed from that modern view of the incarnation which isolates the man Jesus from the whole of humanity, as if in Him, under the limitations of the finite, was embraced the all of the Infinite. Exuberance of piety might be pardoned when it speaks of
“Our God contracted to a span;" but when this idea is worked up into a dogma, and called the “Catholic ” faith, anti-dogmatists may well long for the simpler creed of the ante-Nicene Fathers, or even that Athanasius would
again arise and fight his battles, “contra mundum," against the world of modern dogmas.*
For another phase of the development of dogma we turn to Mr. Hugh Martin. We have designedly chosen an extreme form of Calvinism, and we take a representative of the metaphysical Scotch intellect, the
“Gens ratione ferox et mentem pasta chimæris." The question is, if any of these chimæras be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Martin advocates the old Scotch theology in its integrity, the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This Confession is still subscribed by the Presbyterian ministers in Scotland ; in charity, we hope, only with explanations and reservations sufficient to neutralize its meaning. It is, however, only too evident that there are men who really subscribe it in good faith, and receive its teaching as absolute truth. The genuine believers are mostly to be found in the Free Church. Mr. Martin is consistent, and granting his premises, logical. He is thorough, and not afraid of the legitimate results of what he believes. He tells us that the view of the atonement which he advocates, is a "revealed reality.”
It is a dogma resting on the authority of inspired and infallible Scriptures, and therefore to be thoroughly believed and received by all men. It is moreover declared to be “the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” This use of the word “Catholic" brings us into our usual perplexity as to what men can possibly mean by it. The doctrine in question is now renounced by the whole Christian world, if we except the party in the Free Church of Scotland represented by Mr. Martin, the Particular Baptists, and a very small section of the clergy of the Church of England. When a man sets forth his own views of doctrine as “Catholic,” we generally suspect that he is in want of a more solid argument, and that his acquaintance with the history of Christianity does not extend much beyond the history of his own sect.
Mr. Martin's doctrine is what is called the “ federal theology." It means that God made a covenant with Christ that He should save a certain number of the human race who were included in that covenant. So that Christ did not die for man, but for some men ; not for sin, but for “sins.” His death was a literal substitution for those in the covenant, a literal price paid that they might escape punishment. Objections on the side of reason are not to be heard against a “revealed reality.” If they cannot be answered directly, they
* In opposition to the whole of Mr. Liddon's theory, we may quote the words of Lücke: “The more I endeavour to realize the manner of thinking and speaking current in the New Testament, the more I feel myself called upon to give it as my opinion, that the historical Son of God, as such, cannot be called God without completely destroying the monotheistical system of the Apostles.”
must find a general answer in the Divine sovereignty, which means that an“ Almighty Tyrant,” to use John Wesley's words, can do as He likes with the beings He has made. The first objection to this view of the atonement is that the innocent suffers in order that the guilty may escape. By a “legal fiction ” they are accounted righteous who are not righteous. Mr. Martin's answer is that Christ and His people are federally one; Christ has become the guilty, and his righteousness has become theirs. There is then, he concludes, no legal fiction,” which of course is true if Mr. Martin could
prove that the identity of Christ with other men is not itself a “legal fiction.” Another objection is that if Christ died only for some men, there is no possibility of salvation to those for whom He did not die. It is admitted that the invitation of the gospel is addressed to all, but the answer is that they cannot come. The old Calvinistic divines got out of this difficulty by the matchless scholastic distinction between a moral and a physical inability. The inability was not physical, but moral. It consisted in having no will to accept Christ's invitation to repentance and forgiveness. Mr. Martin, having found by the help of Dr. Cunningham a better answer, admits that this distinction did not meet the objection. The better answer is to show that man is responsible for his inability. The “federal theology' easily manages this by regarding the whole human race as “one and indivisible." So that when Adam sinned, all sinned; and therefore all might have been, as some will be, punished everlastingly, because of their “ federal” connection with Adam. According to Mr. Martin, this is not merely a doctrine expressly and verbally revealed in Scripture, but the only one to which we are led by “scientific or Baconian induction.” If it were either of these, we fear that the very existence of such a dogma in the Scriptures would in the judgment of most men be sufficient, not merely to overthrow the authority of the Scriptures, but to deprive them both of value and meaning.
It is always an advantage in studying any controverted subject to get an author who is not afraid of all the legitimate results of his position. This is the case with Mr. Martin ; and one thing which is clearly evident from his book is the inconsistency of those who believe in literal substitution, and yet reject the “federal theology." The Arminian or Wesleyan view, that Christ died for all, but that they only are saved who believe and repent, is the antithesis of Mr. Martin's doctrine ; and yet it is not generally believed to contain any special heresy. Several theological writers, especially among the Independents, who have wished to adhere to Calvinism, and yet to escape its difficulties, have supposed a universal atonement for all men, but an election afterwards of some men to the benefits of that