Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

without taking into account these peculiarities of Scripture, it is obvious from what meets us daily in the course of life, how insufficient a test is the surface of any one writing, conversation, or transaction, of the full circle of opinions of its author. How different persons are, when we know them, from what they appeared to us in their writings! how many opinions do they hold, which we did not expect in them! how many practices and ways have they, how many peculiarities, how many tastes, which we did not expect! I will give one illustration, which may approve itself to those who are acquainted with the case alluded to. That great philosopher, Bp. Butler, has written a book, as we know, on the Analogy of Religion. It is distinguished by a grave, profound, and severe style; and apparently is not the work of a man of lively or susceptible mind. Now we know from his history, that when Bishop he put up a Cross in his chapel at Bristol. Could a reader have conjectured this from his work? At first sight would it not have startled one who knew nothing of him but from his work? I do not ask whether, on consideration, he would not find it fell in with his work; of course it would, if his philosophy were consistent with itself; but certainly it is not on the surface of his work. Now might not we say that his work contained the whole of his philosophy, and yet say that the use of the Cross was one of his usages? In like manner we may say that the Bible is the whole of the Divine revelation, and yet the use of the Cross a divine usage.

But this is not all. Some small private books of his are extant, containing a number of every-day matters, such as of course one could not expect to be able to conjecture from his great work; I mean, matters of ordinary and almost household life. Yet those who have seen these papers are likely to feel a surprise that they should be Butler's. I do not say that they can give any reason why they should not be so; but the notion we form of any one whom we have not seen, will ever be in its details very different from the true one.

Another series of illustrations might be drawn from the writings of the ancients. Those who are acquainted with the Greek historians know well that they, and particularly th

gravest and severest of them, relate events so simply, calmly, unostentatiously, that an ordinary reader does not recognize what events are great and what little; and on turning to some modern history in which they are commented on, will find to his surprise that a battle or a treaty, which was despatched in half a line in the Greek author, is perhaps the turning point of the whole history, and certainly known to be so by him. Here is the case of the Gospels, with this difference, that they are unsystematic compositions, whereas the Greek historians profess to be methodical.

Again instances might easily be given of the silence of contemporary writers as to great events of their time, when they might be expected to notice them; a silence which has even been objected sometimes against the fact of those events having occurred, yet, in the judgment of the mass of well-informed men, without any real cogency.

I conclude with two additional remarks. I have been arguing that Scripture is a deep book, and that the peculiar doctrines concerning the Church, contained in the Prayer Book, are in its depths. Now let it be remarked in corroboration, first, that the early Church always did consider Scripture to be what I have been arguing from the structure of it,-viz. a book with very recondite meanings; this they considered, not merely with reference to its teaching the particular class of doctrines in question, but as regards its entire teaching. They considered that it was full of mysteries. Thus, saying that Scripture has deep meanings, is not an hypothesis invented to meet this particular difficulty, that the Church doctrines are not on its surface, but is an acknowledged principle independent of it.

Secondly, it is also certain that the early Church did herself conceal these same Church doctrines. I am not determining whether or not all her writers did, or all her teachers, or at all times, but merely that viewing that early period as a whole, there is on the whole a great secrecy observed in it concerning such doctrines (e. g.) as the Trinity and the Eucharist; that is, the early Church did the very thing which I have been supposing Scripture does,-conceal high truths. To suppose that

Scripture conceals them, is not an hypothesis invented to meet the difficulty arising from the fact that they are not on the surface; for the early Church, independent of that alleged difficulty, did herself in her own teaching conceal them. This is a second very curious coincidence. If the early Church had reasons for concealment, perchance Scripture has the same; especially if we suppose, what at the very least is no very improbable idea, -that the system of the early Church is a continuation of the system of those inspired men who wrote the New Testament.

70

LECTURE VI.

EXTERNAL DIFFICULTIES OF THE CANON AND THE
CATHOLIC CREED, COMPARED.

I AM now proceeding to a subject which will in some little degree take me beyond the bounds which I have proposed to myself in these Lectures, but which, being closely connected with their subject, and (as I think) important, has a claim on our attention. The argument which has last engaged us is this: objection is made to the indirectness of the evidence from Scripture on which the peculiar Church doctrines are proved. I have answered, that sacred history is for the most part conveyed with as much apparent inconsistency between one part of Scripture and another, as there is inconsistency as regards doctrine between Scripture and the Church; one event being told us here, another there; so that we have to compare, compile, reconcile, adjust. As then we do not complain of the history being conveyed in distinct, and at times conflicting, documents, so too we have no fair reason for complaining of the obscurities and intricacies under which doctrine is revealed.

Again in the last Lecture I answered in a similar way the objection, that Scripture was contrary to the teaching of the Church (i. e. to our Prayer Book), not only in specific statements, but in tone; for I showed that what we call the tone of Scripture, or the impression it makes on the reader, varies so very much according to the reader, that little stress can be laid upon it, and that its tone and the impression it makes, would tell against a variety of other points undeniably true or firmly held by us, quite as much as against the peculiar Church doctrines.

In a word, it is as easy to show that Scripture has no contents at all, or next to none, as that it does not contain the peculiar Church doctrines,-that the objection which is brought against the Apostolical Succession, or the Sacerdotal Office, tells against

the instruction and information conveyed in Scripture generally. But now I am going to a further point, which has been incidentally touched on, that this same objection is prejudicial not only to the revelation, whatever it is, conveyed in Scripture, but to the text of Scripture itself, to the books of Scripture, to their canonicity, to their trust-worthiness. The line of reasc ning entered on in this objection may be carried forward, and, if it reaches one point, may be made to reach the other also. For, first, if the want of method and verbal consistency in Scripture, be an objection to the truth of Church doctrine, it is also an objection equally to what is called "orthodox Protestantism." Further, it is an objection also to the trust-worthiness of the sacred history, to the information contained in any part of Scripture, which is in great measure indirect. And now, lastly, I say it is an objection to the Bible itself, both because that book cannot be a revelation which contains neither doctrine nor matter of fact, and because the evidence on which its portions are received is not clearer or fuller than its own evidence to facts and doctrines. This is the legitimate consequence of the attempt to invalidate the scripturalness of Catholic doctrine, on the allegation of its want of Scripture proof, an invalidating of Scripture itself. This is the conclusion to which both the argument itself, and the temper of mind which belongs to it, will assuredly lead those eventually.

who use it, at least

There is another objection which is sometimes attempted against Church doctrines, which may be met in the same way. It is sometimes strangely maintained, not only that Scripture does not clearly teach them, but that the Fathers do not clearly teach them; that nothing can be drawn for certain from the Fathers; that their evidence leaves the matter pretty much as it found it, as being inconsistent with itself, or of doubtful authority. This part of the subject has not yet been considered, and will come into prominence as we proceed with the present argument.

I purpose, then, now to enlarge on this point; that is, to show that those who object to Church doctrines, whether from deficiency of Scripture or Patristical proof, ought, if they acted

« VorigeDoorgaan »