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Christian thinker has but to hand them on as he has received them, without increase or diminution. They are a fixed quantity in almost all the Creeds, which embody them with little or no important variation, as may be seen to advantage in any of the tabular views given in Dr. Schaff's work.
But the facts are not facts only; they are also the groundwork of what we have called the class of inference-truths, and with regard to these the case is different. A practical consensus of opinion exists as to the chief facts of Gospel history among the great majority of Christians; it is with regard to
ono the great majority of Christians: it is with res the inter-relations of the acknowledged facts, to the necessary inferences from them, to the practical methods for giving them effect in the world, that the divergence of minds finds its points of departure. It may be thought, and, indeed, it has often been said, that here is a great danger for the Church. Unquestionably experience has proved this to be the case ; and it may be charitably supposed that something like this was what a famous putter-forth of daring paradoxes, Mr. J. A. Froude, meant by a dictum which even for him was irreverent, that while "God gave the Gospel, the father of lies invented theology. A cavil so flippant and so shallow cannot be too severely condemned, but it is possible that the writer had this notion at the bottom of his sneer. The lamentable consequences of this doctrinal divergence have, in fact, been experienced, and are visible in the state of division and estrangement in which the several sections of that once undivided body now exist. It may be thought, further, that the danger was one that might have been avoided, if a complete and detailed Creed embracing both facts and dogmas had been given to the Church by revelation or Apostolic authority.
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themselves were accustomed to set forth, may indeed be discerned, as is well known, in more than one part of their writings; but it is a characteristic of most of these to be rather memoranda of facts than expressions of doctrinal truths. And it is clear, that to impose a detailed Creed from above, would have been to avoid one danger by introducing another. The certainty of mental and spiritual immobility is far worse than the danger of disagreement. Mohammedanism shows the fatal effects of a Creed stereotyped from the first and incapable of change: and we can hardly fail to find a warning in the spectacle of the blight of mental feebleness and stagnation which lies to this day upon every nation that has accepted the Korân as its unchangeable law. And, furthermore, the revelation of such a Creed would have been con
trary to the entire analogy of the Divine dealings with the human race.
We hold, therefore, that the sanctified intellect has rightly and legitimately the share of activity which history shows that it unquestionably has exercised, in the gradual evolution of the Divine Thought from the earliest and least differentiated forms; from the dimness of implicit reverence to the clearness, and sharp definition of explicit belief. Thus Dr. Newman well says as to the general idea of the evolution of doctrine:
Unless, then, some special ground of exception can be assigned, it is as evident that Christianity, as a doctrine and worship, will develop in the minds of recipients, as that it conforms in other respects, in its external propagation or its political framework, to the general methods by which the course of things is carried forward.
Again, if Christianity be an universal religion, suited, not simply to one locality or period, but to all times and places, it cannot but vary in its relations and dealings towards the world around it—that is, it will develop. Principles require a very various application, according as persons and circumstances vary, and must be thrown into new shapes, according to the form of society which they are to influence. Hence all bodies of Christians, orthodox or not, develop the doctrines of Scripture. Few but will grant that Luther's view of justification had never been stated in words before his time; that his phraseology and his positions were novel, whether called for by circumstances or not. It is equally certain that the doctrine of justification defined at Trent was, in some sense, new also. The refutation and remedy of errors cannot precede their rise ; and thus the fact of false developments or corruptions involves the correspondent manifestation of true ones. Moreover, all parties appeal to Scripture, that is, argue from Scripture; but argument implies deduction that is, development.'
It is, further, quite according to the analogy of the Divine dealings with men, as shewn in the history of the Jewish nation, that the formation of doctrine should be a gradual process, and that its development should be traceable. For it is unquestionable that the Messianic idea grew age after age among the prophets, not simply by accretion, but by orderly and organic development. This will become clear if we compare the germ of the Messianic portraiture, say, in Deut. xviii. 15, with its complete description and multiplied detail in the prophecies of Isaiah. Or again, we may take that which is in some respects an even more remarkable instance,—we mean the belief among the Jews in the immortality of the soul. To derive this, as some critics do, ab extra, is a mere begging of the question ; so that we are thrown back on the supposition of a development of primitive ideas by the
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collective mind of the prophets and psalmists of Israel, under the guiding influence of the Divine Spirit. The supposition of such a divinely guided organic growth, if admitted, would seem to us to go far to harmonise the statements of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which look professedly at the divine side of this process, and the element of truth which exists in the merely humanistic theories of the modern critical school of writers who regard the same facts simply as human developments from antecedent facts.
To such a process the gradual formation of Christian dogma has distinct analogies. And we may notice in passing certain incidental advantages, which appear to have resulted from the course thus taken by the Divine Providence. As a matter of faith we know it need hardly be said) that the Divine method was abstractedly the best that could have been taken in the circumstances ; we think also that as a matter of demonstration it may be proved to have been so. For thus Divine truth was filtered gradually forth upon the mind of the nations, as they were able to bear it, and not showered upon them all at once. One truth after another rose above the horizon of the human mind, and, by thus coming singly, secured attention and won acceptance. The acceptance was indeed usually preceded by a period of preparation, often by one of violent excitement and struggle. Not that this was always necessarily a thing to be deplored : it might not be a positive advantage, but still it might be a useful preliminary to the wide-spread acceptance of them : , for thus truth after truth was impressed upon the mind of the Church as it could have been impressed in no other way, : It is clear, at the same time, that the process thus described has its limits, both of time and subject. It is a process that cannot go on indefinitely, heaping inference upon inference. It must be held in the strictest subordination to the original, and therefore fundamental, truths, of which it forms the organic development and necessary complement. This was no doubt what the framers of our Article VI. on the sufficiency of Holy Scripture intended to express by the words, so that whatsoever is not read therein nor may be proyed thereby ;' and that the warning was by no means unneeded is very evident from the mass of doubtful inferences and 'pious opinions? which a licence of development long unrestricted has produced in the Roman Communion. We should doubt very much the safety of, so to speak, a 'second generation' of theological inferences. Inferences direct from Holy Scripture are one thing ; but a new set of inferences, based only on our
former conclusions, is another and far more questionable thing. It may fairly be a matter of doubt how far they are in any sense necessarily reliable. The Church has possession of certain facts of religion ; with respect to such she has the position of a witness. The Church contends further that certain inferences are virtually contained in the facts, and implied by them necessarily. With respect to these, her position is that of a teacher or expositor. This is the function of the Ecclesia docens. These instances of necessary inference constitute the tradition of the Church, which may fairly claim to stand for practical purposes side by side with Holy Scripture in respect of the cogency with which it applies to the reason and the will of the hearer. As an instance of the application of this principle may be adduced our own Bishop Pearson, in his Exposition of the Creed (art. v. chap. i. par. 4).
Thus it would seem that the process of evolving dogma needs to occupy itself primarily with the Holy Scriptures, and to find exclusively in them the materials for its labours. It must observe, in the extent to which they have spoken or have not spoken upon any particular point, the definite limit for its own operations. Experience has abundantly proved how much the speculative faculty needs the anchor and holdfast which the Scriptures supply. An unlimited licence of introducing new articles into the Creeds would speedily submerge the primitive faith under a flood of purely human additions ; and except this limit which the Scripture thus furnishes, we do not see where any boundary can logically be placed. Here appears to us the cardinal defect of so subtle a theory of development as that of Dr. Newman,' viz. that it postulates an infallible developing authority to preside over every step of the evolution of dogma, which, since it is infallible, is necessarily the judge of the limits of its own authority, and can itself be limited by no external authority whatever. His argument, then, comes to this, that any developments whatever are legitimate, if guaranteed by the (supposed) infallible authority. The infallibility, however, is neither proved nor can be proved. This would not necessarily be fatal to it, if in practice it should appear so to discharge its supposed function of a developing authority, as to arrive at doctrinal results agreeable to and harmonising with the portions of Christian truth previously reached and embodied. To our apprehension, however, this is not the case.
The view we have been dwelling upon is, it will be seen,
1 Lately republished, and thus requiring notice as a book of the day.
different from this. We premise, not an infallible authority bestowed upon the Church, but the Divine guidance expressly promised to it in Scripture. Given these two things, the Christian consciousness employing itself upon the substratum of generic and fruitful religious ideas, which, when defined and technically expressed, become dogmas of the Church, and the Divine Spirit controlling its operations, it appears to us that the result of this balance of forces would be at once progressive and conservative; that it would be exactly what we have in the successive Ecumenical Creeds, that is to say, those which were authorised by the whole Church, and have been accepted by it, of which the Chalcedonian is, as yet, the last; viz. expositions of doctrine, keeping close to the Holy Scriptures, and yet clear where they are obscure ; and systematic in method where they are popular in treatment.
But the Church so guided would have no power to go beyond the circle of primitive, i.e. Scripture truths, in search of materials for its generalisations. And assuredly the Primitive Church did not attempt to do so. It is the later, not the earlier, Church of Rome which was the first to arrogate to itself an unlimited power of adding fresh articles to the Creed.
What, therefore, is required is a principle that shall at once recognise the function of the sanctified intellect in the ascertaining of doctrinal truth, and at the same time prescribe the limits to the exercise of that function. We must bear in mind that truth is single and changeless, so that our use of the words growth or development does not denote an increment in the truth itself, but is only another way of stating that human minds have learned to see more of it; and remembering this, we have to lay down a rule that shall at once include primitive teaching, which consists of legitimate developments, and exclude those of the later Roman Church, many of which we must hold to be illegitimate.'
Now Dr. Newman does, as we have said, lay down a theory of development by an infallible authority. He says :
"The very idea of revelation implies a present informant and guide, and that an infallible one—not a mere abstract declaration of truths unknown before to man, or a record of history, or the result of an antiquarian research, but a message and a lesson speaking to this man and that. This is shown by the popular notion which has prevailed amongst us since the Reformation, that the Bible itself is such a guide; and which succeeded in overthrowing the supremacy of Church
1 We are glad to claim the Bishop of Winchester as holding the view expressed in the text. See p. 65 of his Charge for 1878 delivered since this article was in type.-[ED. C. Q. R.]
VOL. VII.--NO. XIIJ.