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It admits of being appealed to, and is appealed to by the early Fathers, as Scripture is. If Scripture was written by the Apostles, because the Fathers say so (as it is), why was not the Creed taught by the Apostles, because the Fathers say so? The Creed is no opinion in the mind, but a form of words pronounced many times a day, at every baptism, at every communion, by every member of the Church;-is it not common property as much as Scripture?
Once more; if Church doctrine is but an opinion, how is it there can be such a thing at all as Catholic consent about it? If, in spite of its being subjective to the mind, Europe, Asia, and Africa could agree together in doctrine in the fourth and fifth centuries (to say nothing of earlier times), why should its subjective character be an antecedent objection to a similar agreement in it between the fourth century and the first?
Granting then, that external facts can be testified in a way in which opinions cannot be, yet the Church doctrines are not mere opinions, but ordinances and though the books of Scripture themselves are an external fact, yet they are not all of them witnessed by all writers till a late age, and their canonicity and inspiration are but doctrines, not facts, and open to the objections, whatever they are, to which doctrines lie open.
And now, having said as much as is necessary on these subjects, I will make some remarks on the state of the case as I have represented it, and thus shall bring to an end the train of thought in which these Lectures have hitherto been engaged. Let us suppose it proved, then, as I consider it has been proved, that many difficulties are connected with the evidence for the Canon, that we might have clearer evidence for it than we have; and again, let us grant that there are many difficulties connected with the evidence for the Church doctrines, that they might be more clearly contained in Scripture, nay, in the extant writings of the first three centuries, than they are. This being assumed, I observe as follows:
1. There is something very arresting and impressive in the fact, that there should be these difficulties attending those two great instruments of religious truth which we possess. We are all
of us taught from the Bible and from the Prayer Book: it is from these that we get our knowledge of GOD. We are sure they contain a doctrine which is from Him. We are sure of it; but how do we know it? We are sure the doctrine is from Him, and (I hesitate not to say) by a supernatural divinely inspired assurance; but how do we know the doctrine is from Him? When we go to inquire into the reasons in argument, we find that the Prayer Book rests upon the Bible, and the Bible rests on testimony; that the Church doctrines, which the Prayer Book contains, are to be gathered from Scripture, and that the books of Scripture which make up the Bible are to be gathered from history; and further, that those doctrines might have been more clearly stated in the Bible, and the books of the Bible more clearly witnessed by Antiquity. I say, there is something very subduing in this remarkable coincidence, which cannot be accidental. We have reason to believe that God, our Maker and Governor, has spoken to us by revelation; yet why has He not spoken more clearly? He has given us doctrines which are but obscurely gathered from Scripture, and a Scripture which is but obscurely gathered from history. It is not a single fact, but a double fact; it is a coincidence. We have two informants, and both leave room for doubt. GOD's ways surely are not as our ways.
2. This is the first reflection which rises in the mind on the state of the case. The second is this: that, most remarkable it is, the Jews were left in the same uncertainty about CHRIST, in which we are about His doctrine. The precept "Search the Scriptures," and the commendation of the Berceans, who "searched the Scriptures daily," surely implies that divine truth was not on the surface of the Old Testament. We do not search for things which are before us, but for what we have lost or have to find. The whole system of the prophecies left the Jews (even after CHRIST came) where we are,-in doubt. The Sun of righteousness did not at once clear up the mists from the prophetic word. It was a dark saying to the many, after He came, as well as before. It is not to be denied that there were and are many real difficulties in the way of the Jews admitting that JESUS
CHRIST is their Messiah. The Old Testament certainly does speak of the Messiah as a temporal monarch, and a conqueror of this world. We are accustomed to say that the prophecies must be taken spiritually; and rightly do we say so. True: yet does not this look like an evasion, to a Jew? Is it not much more like an evasion, though it be not, than to say (what the Church does say and rightly) that rites remain, though Jewish rites are done away, because our rites are not Jewish, but spiritual, gifted with the Spirit, channels of grace? The Old Testament certainly spoke as if, when the Church expanded into all nations, yet that those nations should be inferior to the Jews, even if admitted into the Church; and so St. Peter understood it till he had the vision. Yet when the Jews complained, instead of being soothed and consoled, they were met with language such as this: Friend, I do thee no wrong. . . . . .Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good?" "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against GOD? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus '?"-Again: why were the Jews discarded from GOD's election? for keeping to their Law. Why, this was the very thing they were told to do, the very thing which, if not done, was to be their ruin. Consider Moses' words: "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The LORD thy GOD; then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance 2." Might they not, or rather did they not bring passages like this as an irrefragable argument against Christianity, that they were told to give up their law, that law which was the charter of their religious prosperity? Might not their case seem a hard one, judging by the surface of things, and without reference to "the hidden man of the heart?" We know how to answer this objection; we say, Christianity lay beneath the letter; that the letter slew those who for whatever cause went
1 Matt. xx. 13-15. Rom. ix. 20. 2 Deut. xxviii. 58, 59.
by it; that when CHRIST came, He shed a light on the sacred text and brought out its secret meaning. Now, is not this just the case I have been stating, as regards Catholic doctrines, or rather a more difficult case? The doctrines of the Church are not hidden so deep in the New Testament as the Gospel doctrines are hidden in the Old; but they are hidden; and I am persuaded that were men but consistent, who oppose the Church doctrines as being unscriptural, they would vindicate the Jews for rejecting the Gospel. Much might be said on this subject: I will but add, by way of specimen, how such interpretations as our LORD's of "I am the God of Abraham," &c. would startle and offend reasoning men. Is it not much further from the literal force of the words, than the doctrine of the Apostolical Suecession, from the words, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world?" In the one case we argue, "Therefore, the Apostles are in one sense now on earth, because CHRIST says with you alway;'" in the other, CHRIST Himself argués, “therefore in one sense the bodies of the patriarchs are still alive; for GOD calls Himself their GOD." We say, "therefore the Apostles live in their successors." CHRIST implies, "therefore the body never died, therefore it will rise again." His own divine mouth hereby shows us that doctrines may be in Scripture, though they require a multitude of links to draw them thence. It must be added that the Sadducees did profess (what they would call) a plain and simple creed; they recurred to Moses and went by Moses, and rejected all additions to what was on the surface of Moses' writings, and thus they rejected what really was in Moses, though not on the surface. They denied the resurrection; they had no idea that it was contained in the books of Moses.
Here, then, is another singular instance of the same procedure on the part of Divine Providence. That Gospel, which was to be "the glory of His people Israel '," was a stumblingblock to them, as for other reasons, so especially because it was not on the surface of the Old Testament. And all the compas
1 Luke ii. 32.
sion (if I may use the word) they received from the Apostles for their perplexity was, "because they knew Him not, nor yet the voice of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him." Or again: "Well spake the HOLY GHOST by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand "," &c. Or when the Apostles are mildest: "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from CHRIST for my brethen, my kinsmen according to the flesh;" or "I bear them record that they have a zeal of GOD, but not according to knowledge"." Moreover, it is observable that the record of their anxiety is preserved to us; an anxiety which many of us would call just and rational, many would pity, but which the inspired writers treat with a sort of indignation and severity. "Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt ?" or more literally, "How long dost Thou keep our soul in suspense? If thou be the CHRIST, tell us plainly." CHRIST answers by referring to His works, and by declaring that His sheep do hear and know Him, and follow Him. If any one will seriously consider the intercourse with our LORD and the Pharisees, he will see that, not denying their immorality and miserable pride, yet that they had just reason to complain (as men now speak) that " the Gospel was not preached to them,"-that the Truth was not placed before them clearly and fully and uncompromisingly and intelligibly and logically,—that they were bid to believe on weak arguments and fanciful deductions.
This then, I say, is certainly a most striking coincidence in addition. Whatever perplexity any of us may feel about the evidence of Scripture or of Church doctrine, we see it is what is represented in Scripture as the lot of the Jews too; and this circumstance, while it shows that it is a sort of law of God's pro
Acts xiii. 27.
3 Rom. ix. 2, 3; x. 2.
2 Ib. xxviii. 25, 26.
4 John x. 24.