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Objections as plausible, though different, might be urged against the Epistles of St. James, St. Jude, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of St. John, and the Book of Revelation.
Again we are told that the doctrine of the mystical efficacy of the Sacraments comes from the Platonic philosophers, the ritual from the Pagans, and the Church polity from the Jews. So they do; that is, in a sense in which much more also comes from the Traces also of the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement, may be found among heathens, Jews, and philosophers; for GoD scattered through the world, before his Son came, vestiges and gleams of His true religion, and collected all the separated rays together, when He set Him on His holy hill to rule the day, and the Church, as the moon, to govern the night. In the sense in which the doctrine of the Trinity is Platonic, doubtless the doctrine of mysteries generally is Platonic also. But this by the way. What I have here to notice is, that the same supposed objection can be and has been made against the books of Scripture too, viz. that they borrow from external sources. Infidels have accused Moses of borrowing his law from the Egyptians or other Pagans; and elaborate comparisons have been instituted, on the part of believers also, by way of proving it; though even if proved, and so far as proved, it would show nothing more than this,-that God, who gave his law to Israel absolutely and openly, had secretly given some portions of it to the heathen. Again: an infidel historian accuses St. John of borrowing the doctrine of the Eternal Logos or Word from the Alexandrian Platonists. Again: a theory has been advocated,-by whom I will not say,-to the effect that the doctrine of apostate angels, Satan and his hosts, was a Babylonian tenet, introduced into the Old Testament after the Jews' return from the Captivity; that no allusion is made to Satan, as the head of the malignant Angels, and as having set up a kingdom for himself against GoD, in any book written before the Captivity; from which circumstance it may easily be made to follow, that those books of the Old Testament which were written after the Captivity are not plenarily inspired, and not to be
trusted as canonical. Now, I own I am not at all solicitous to deny that this doctrine of an apostate Angel and his hosts was gained from Babylon: it might still be divine, nevertheless. GOD, who made the prophet's ass speak, and thereby instructed the prophet, might instruct His Church by means of heathen Babylon. Again: is not instruction intended to be conveyed to us by the remarkable words of the governor of the feast, upon the miracle of the water changed to wine? "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but Thou hast kept the good wine until now." Yet at first sight they have not a very serious meaning. It does not therefore seem to me difficult, nay, nor even unlikely, that the prophets of Israel should, in the course of God's providence, have gained new truths from the heathen, among whom they lay corrupted. The Church of God in every age has been, as it were, on visitation through the earth,-surveying, judging, sifting, selecting, and refining all matters of thought and practice; detecting what was precious amid what is ruined and refuse, and putting her seal upon it. There is no reason, then, why Daniel and Zechariah should not have been taught by the instrumentality of the Chaldeans. However, this is stated, and as if to the disparagement of the Jewish Dispensation, by some persons; and under the notion that its system was not only enlarged but altered at the era of the Captivity. And I certainly think it may be done as plausibly as pagan customs are brought to illustrate and thereby to invalidate the ordinances of the Catholic Church; though the proper explanation in the two cases is not exactly the same.
The objection I have mentioned is applied, in the quarter to which I allude, to the Books of Chronicles. These, it has already been observed, have before now been ascribed by sceptics to (what is called) priestly influence: here then is a second exceptionable influence, a second superstition! In the Second Book of Samuel it is said, "the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and He moved David against them to say, Go,
1 John ii. 10.
number Israel and Judah 1." On the other hand, in Chronicles it is said, "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel "." On this a writer, not of the English Church, who is in too high a station to be named, says, "The author of the Book of Chronicles . . . . . availing himself of the learning which he had acquired in the East, and influenced by a suitable tenderness for the harmony of the Divine attributes, refers the act of temptation to the malignity of the evil principle." You see in this way a blow is also struck against the more ancient parts of the Old Testament, as well as the more modern. The books written before the Captivity are represented, as the whole discussion would show, as containing a ruder, simpler, less artificial theology; those after the Captivity, a more learned and refined: GoD's inspiration is excluded in both cases.
The same consideration has been applied to determine the date and importance of the Book of Job, which has been considered, from various circumstances, external and internal, not to be a literal history, but an Eastern story.
But enough has been said on this part of the subject.
It seems then, that the objections which can be made to the evidence for the Church doctrines are such as also lie against the Canon of Scripture; so that if they avail against the one, they avail against both. If they avail against both, we are brought to this strange conclusion, that God has given us a revelation, yet revealed nothing,-that at great cost, and with much preparation He has miraculously declared His will; that multitudes have accordingly considered they possessed it, yet that, after all, He has said nothing so clearly as to recommend itself as His to a cautious mind; that nothing is so revealed as to be part of the revelation, nothing plain enough to act upon, nothing so certain that we dare assert that the contrary is less certain.
Such a conclusion is a practical refutation of the objection which leads to it. It surely cannot be meant that we should be undecided all our days. We were made for action, and for right action, for thought, and for true thought. Let us live while we
1 2 Sam. xxxiv. 1.
21 Chron. xxi. 1.
live; let us be alive and doing; let us act on what we have, since we have not what we wish. Let us believe what we do not see and know. Let us forestal knowledge by faith. Let us maintain before we have proved. This seeming paradox is the secret of happiness. Why should we be unwilling to go by faith? We do all things in this world by faith in the word of others. By faith only we know our position in the world, our circumstances, our rights and privileges, our fortunes, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our age, our mortality. Why should religion be an exception? Why should we be unwilling to use for heavenly objects what we daily use for earthly? Why will we not discern, what it is so much our interest to discern, that trust, in the first instance, in what Providence sets before us in religious matters, is His will and our duty; that thus it is He leads us into all truth, not by doubting, but by believing; that thus He speaks to us, by the instrumentality of what seems accidental; that He sanctifies what He sets before us, shallow or weak as it may be in itself, for His high purposes; that almost all systems have so much of truth, as, when we have no choice besides, and cannot discriminate, to make it better to take all than to reject all; that He will not deceive us if we thus trust in Him. Though the received system of religion in which we are born were as unsafe as the sea when St. Peter began to walk on it, yet "be not afraid." He who could make St. Peter walk the waves, could make even corrupt or defective creed truth to us, even were ours such; much more can He teach us by the witness of the Church Catholic. It is far more probable that her witness should be true, whether about the Canon or the Creed, than that GOD should have left us without any witness at all.
INTERNAL DIFFICULTIES OF THE CANON AND THE CATHOLIC CREED COMPARED.
I SHALL now finish the subject I commenced in my last lecture,— the parallel between the objections adducible against the Catholic system, and those against the Canon of Scripture. It will be easily understood, that I am not attempting any formal and full discussion of the subject, but offering under various general heads, such suggestions as may be followed by those who will. The objections to the evidence for the Canon have been noticed ; now let us consider objections that may be made to its contents.
Perhaps the main objection taken to the Church system, is the dislike which men feel for its doctrines. They call them the work of priestcraft, and in that word is summed up all that they hate in them. Priestcraft is the art of gaining power over men by appeals to their consciences; its instrument is mystery; its subject matter, superstitious feeling. "Now the Church doctrines," it is urged, "invest a certain number of indifferent things with a new and extraordinary power, beyond sense, beyond reason, beyond nature, a power over the soul; and they put the exclusive possession and use of the things, thus distinguished, into the hands of the Clergy. Such, for instance, is the Creed; some mysterious benefit is supposed to result from holding it, even though with but a partial comprehension, and the Clergy are practically its sole expounders. Such still more are the Sacraments, which the Clergy only administer, and which are supposed to effect some supernatural change in the soul, and to convey some supernatural gift." This then is the antecedent exception taken against the Catholic doctrines, that they are mysterious, tending to superstition, and to dependence on a particular set of men. And this objection is urged, not merely as a reason for demanding fair proof of what is advanced, but as a reason for