« ElőzőTovább »
events embodying these truths which contained implicit obligations of a practical kind. In this way a fixed character was impressed on the re- ^'"rf
J i effective on
ligion itself, and on its followers, sufficient in the Practice, aggregate to produce distinct effects. "The growth of Christian faith became a permanent and hereditary belief by a natural law of transmission."1 Thus we might argue either from the contents of the New Testament, together with the Creeds, to the lives of believers, as exemplifying and verifying the nature of the doctrines believed; or inversely from the life and character of believers, we may argue up to the character of the truths believed. In either case it must be admitted that the first ages of a faith are those in which its tenets are most enthusiastically received and vigorously acted on, and which therefore exhibit most plainly the tendencies and characteristics of the system.2 The emotions are stirred rather than the intellect; and it is with these that religion, as a motive power among men, is principally concerned. But further, by the aid of the Canon of Holy Scripture, cautiously framed, gradually accepted and transmitted to after-times,3 the personal influence, which marked
1 Dr. Mozley, Bampton Led., p. 140.
1 M The life of intense hope," says Mr. Goldwiu Smith, with his accustomed beauty and strength of expression, "that is lived in the morning of all great revolutions, may partly make up for tho danger, the distress, the disappointment of their later hour."—I/ect., p. 59.
* Pascal, speaking of the Old Testament, says: "C'est le plus ancien
the primary records of Christian truth, was indefinitely extended and conveyed with individual force to succeeding generations. And here the Permanent importance of the form in which the New Testaconse"ce ment was composed, becomes still more apparent, the'formof For it is such as to guarantee permanence. The Testament, influences of the Gospel in the example and oral teachings of Christ and His Apostles are brought to bear continuously on successive ages in a degree much greater than could have been achieved by the bare institutions of ceremonies, however significant, or the enunciation of abstract doctrines, however pregnant with principles of action. The flexibility and power of self-accommodation essential to a religion destined for perpetuity are thus secured. In this manner, also, fundamental departures from the pure spirit of pristine Christianity have ever retained their antidote with them. For they have all along held firm to the Canon of Scripture, by which accordingly they may be tested and purged. In this fact, and not in any single doctrine of "justification by faith only" lay the true value of the Reformation as an ecclesiastical movement.1 Print
livre du monde, et le pins authentique; et au lieu que Mahomet, pour faire subsister le sien, a deTendu de le lire; Moise, pour faire subsister le sien, a ordonne" a tout le monde de le lire."—Pensecs, II. 186.
1 It has hence been called "the resurrection of the Bible."—Compare Hallam, Literature of E., I. iv. § 58; Lecky, H. Rat, II. 227; Milman, Hist. Latin Chr., VI. 438. Mr. Hutton, Essays, I. 400, takes a different view; but see also p. 415. Erasmus, Be Raiione Vera Thcdogi<r, p. 87, says: "Non paucos vidimus olim Lutetiae, quibus si quid deproing restored the authority and efficacy of the Bible, which in dark ages inevitably succumbed to tradition. Is there any other example, we may ask, of a religion surviving and drawing fresh strength from the resurrection of its original records? I do not desire to deny that some periods or conditions of society may be more receptive of one sort of teaching than another. And the same law may hold good in respect of individual temperament. Thus the medieval ages of Christianity were bound together by ceremonial uniformity and a ceremonial faith, perhaps essential to a system of centralization such as alone could evict and control the evils of surrounding barbarism. But with the Reformation the Church returned at least in part to its early appreciation of moral and spiritual truths, and to a Scriptural Christianity as their best and most permanent expression.
S 11. It should perhaps be considered how far a objection
s r r to the per
theory of development tends to undermine an manem in
. . fluence of
argument resting on the persistence of Christian Christiandoctrine. It could not, indeed, be viewed as fatal from the to it, except the identity of the religion itself were doctrinal
mendum fuisset ex Paulo, videbantur sibi proreus in alium munduni ment-
compromised; and this would be contended for but by few. In the case supposed it would not be one Gospel, but many, which has been preached throughout the world. The introduction of particular doctrines unknown to the first ages of the Church has certainly exercised an important practical influence on the history of Christianity. But if it should appear that the simplicity of the faith has outlived these and similar importations, and through its native purity still works its own work upon mankind, then the line of proof survives, and an additional evidence is secured for its inherent sanctity, its Divine origin, and its insuffi- imperishable permanence. It would, no doubt, be this theory, possible to maintain upon a theory of doctrinal evolution the progressive unity of Christian truth, together with the continuity of its ideas, and so to lay claim to the effects of the system as flowing from a single source. The difficulty lies in reconciling the theory with the facts. The coldness with which it has been received in the house of its friends throws a just suspicion upon its demands.1 A system of development, however, necessarily
1 "Rome founds herself upon the idea that to her by tradition and exclusive privilege was communicated once for all the whole truth from the beginning. Mr. Newman lays his corner-stone in the very opposite idea of a gradual development given to Christianity by the motion of time, by experience, by expanding occasions, and by the progress of civilization."—De Quincey, Essay on Protestantism. On this subject see Dr. Mill's Five Sermons, Serm. I., and for the view of the Eastern Church, compare Dean Stanley, pp. 42, 173.
renounces the appeal to antiquity or uniform tradition. This is replaced by a different principle, viz. of authority. It assumes the variation of doctrine for which it would account. It renounces, therefore (a fact of especial importance in the present argument) that element of permanence which, we contend, is a marked characteristic of Christianity. It cannot then lay any claim on behalf of the religion of Christ to effects as the results of its character and doctrines. In other words, the sort of permanence which it affects is fictitious and of an arbitrary kind. But there is Its TMcom
further as little limit in this view of the subjectwith fixed
as respects steadfastness of doctrine on the side of doctrine, the future as in the past. The Christianity of the future might require another name. Nor can the ultimate aspect or effects of our religion be predicted with any attempt at precision under such a system.
§ 12. But it may be said, while rejecting the theory of development as an adequate explanation of facts, it must still be admitted that the facts remain ; and it is these which may be held to break off the continuity, as they undoubtedly do, the "simplicity of the faith which is in Christ Jesus." In this £u~js'hi
matter a distinction has been introduced between toric.al corruptions
identity of principle and identity of doctrine.1 J|j||l TM:
1 Newman, Essay on Development, I. iii. § 4, p. 70: "Principles are abstract and general, doctrines relate to facts; doctrines develope, and