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macious. But Constantine died, and his successor Constantius favoured Arianism. A still larger council was held; the eastern bishops, 160 in number, meeting at Seleucia, the western, to the number of 400, at Ariminum. By both these assemblies, amounting unitedly to nearly double the strength of that of Nice, was the word consubstantial struck out of the creed; and the church which had been orthodox under the orthodox Constantine, became semi-Arian under the Arian Constantius. It was of this period that Vincent of Lirins speaks, when he says that “the poison of the Arians had contaminated almost the whole world;" and Jerome, when he adds, "the whole world groaned to find itself Arian!”
It is not true, then, that the presence of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, hath ever been with the general or ecumenical councils of the Church. No one can read a single page of their proceedings, without feeling that it would be quite profane to attribute the conspiracies and brawls of those assemblies to so high and holy an inspiration. Christ has not been, unceasingly, with any one local church ;-nor with the great aggregate or main body of his professed followers ;-nor with the councils or synods called in his name. All these have fallen, again and again, into great sins and grievous apostacies. They have not been “divinely preserved from error; and therefore we conclude with safety, that no promise that they should be so preserved was ever given. What, then, was the real meaning of our Saviour's gracious words, just before he left this earth? What was the real drift and tenor of the promise he then gave ? On this we will now say a very few words.
The Church's Lord was then about to withdraw his bodily presence from this earth, for about the space of two thousand years. But these years were not to pass over, to the earth's population, in the gloom and stillness of heathenism. He was leaving behind him eleven apostles; mostly poor and unlearned men ; wholly destitute of influence or consideration; and followed by about an hundred other disciples, of still less note or consequence. And yet he was devolving on this “ little flock,” the greatest and mightiest enterprize that ever was committed to human energies. These few poor and illiterate men were to be sent against all the learning and eloquence and subtlety of the Greek philosophy; and against all the power of imperial Rome. The whole heathen mythology was to crumble away and vanish before them. The religion of the universal empire was to be changed. An entirely new faith, and one not attractive, but repulsive, to the natural mind of
man,- ,—was to be established in the world; and not only esta
blished, but to hold predominant sway and dominion. And how, it might well be asked, were all these wonders to be accomplished by eleven poor fishermen of Galilee?
fishermen of Galilee? Was there ever a little company of men, just issuing forth on a “forlorn hope,” who stood more in need of the peculiar encouragement afforded to them, in the gracious words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world ?"
They had, it was true, gone forth, within the last three years, at His command, and by His power wrought wonders. But in all that they had done, they had acted under, and relied upon, their Lord, at whose bidding they issued forth, and to whom they returned, to tell of the success of their mission. This great Leader was now to be taken from them. They were to see Him no more, during the whole of their remaining warfare. They were to be left “as sheep among wolves;”-in the midst of those who had just put their Lord to death. But if, further, we may suppose them to have had any right understanding of the nature of the enterprize before them, this of itself would tend beyond all other considerations to sink them into despondency. They had to strive to change the hearts of the myriads of haters of Christ and holiness who surrounded them on every side. The success of their mission depended wholly upon this. "If
, then, they really understood the nature of this work, they must have felt that it was as entirely beyond their power, as if they had been commissioned to create a world. Those among them who had witnessed the frequent strifes which had already taken place, would have a lively impression of the utter impossibility of reducing a proud and self-righteous Pharisee to the meekness and humility of the gospel, by anything short of Divine power. What, then, could they,—these eleven, poor despised fishermen, do, to bring out of this vast mass of evil which surrounded them on every side, a pure and holy Christian Church ?
It was to preserve them from the utter despair which all these considerations would seem to induce, that the compassionate Saviour, before taking his leave of them, solemnly declares unto them, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go
ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name “ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching “ them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you :
and, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the " world.” (Matt. xxviii. 18—20.)
Not one syllable of " indefectibility,” however, is there here. Not one word of a “divine preservation” from error. know, in fact, they were not so preserved. For, “when Peter was
come to Antioch, Paul withstood him to the face, because he
was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, “ he did eat with the Gentiles : but when they were come, he “ withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of “ the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise “ with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with “ their dissimulation.”—(Gal. ii. 11–13.)
The meaning of the passage is very plain. An injunction is given,—“ Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them “ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy “ Ghost ; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have “ commanded you." But, as the Apostles would be sensible of their own inability to change the hearts of men, their Lord adds, to give them assurance of success, -“ Lo, I am with you alway, even “ unto the end of the world.” Not to place these men and their successors in a different position from that which all men, from Adam downward, had occupied from the commencement of the world,--a position of liability to err;-but to encourage them when in the path of obedience. A certain line of duty is marked out, and a promise of divine aid is given, annexed to a continuance in that course. But this promise did not imply, even to the Apostles themselves, that they should never err ;-we know that Apostles have erred. It did not imply that churches should not fall away ;
-we know that churches have fallen away. It did not imply that general councils should be always guided into truth ;—we know that they have contradicted and condemned each other : Still less did it imply that the whole professing Church should be divinely preserved in truth and orthodoxy ;-we know that at this moment it is divided between five or six great divisions, each contravening and anathematizing all the others.
Away, then, with all those pleasing fictions in which Rome delights, and which the favourers of Rome are striving to revive among us,—of a Church, (and a priesthood) divinely preserved from error, and therefore enabled to say to the myriads who dislike to be troubled with too many thoughts about religion,—“ Trust your salvation in our hands : the Holy Ghost is ever with us : 'the gift of indefectibility is supernaturally secured to us :' cast in your lot with us, and you are for ever safe.”
There is no such spiritual corporation revealed in God's word, by whom patents for heaven may thus be granted. The salvation spoken of in the New Testament is an individual salvation, not conferred by outward rites, or ministerial absolution; but by coming, each man for himself, to Christ for pardon, sanctification, and the gift of eternal life. This and this alone,-the believing cry to Jesus, as in the case of the dying thief, is salvation, even where sacraments are unattainable; while the rank and powers of a Judas or a Demas availed them nothing without it. In a word, the Catholic Church, truly so called, is an invisible Church ; not known by its external privileges, or ministerial powers, or apostolic commission or succession ; but by the fruits of the Spirit. This Church, indeed, can never fail; but it may be often persecuted and brought very low; and, judging from Scripture, we should far rather expect to find her, during the 1260 years, “ in the wilderness”-than “seated on the seven hills,” and “ ruling over the kings of the earth.”
CHRIST ON THE CROSS: an Exposition of the Twenty
second Psalm. By the Rev. JouN STEVENSON, Perpetual Curate of Cury and Gunwalloe, Cornwall. London: Jackson.
1812. THE GOSPEL NARRATIVE OF OUR LORD'S PASSION
HARMONIZED: with Reflections. By the Rev. ISAAC WILLIAMS, B.D., Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. London: Rivingtons. 1812.
Amidst the various distracting controversies which harass the Church, there is often danger of losing sight of those grand and simple truths on which its real prosperity depends. In such seasons of theological strife there is peculiar need that the eye of the Christian should be kept stedfastly fixed on the great and central doctrines of God's word; the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow. Where these are forgotten, perverted, or obscured, no zeal for discipline, no correctness of formal orthodoxy can possibly compensate for the loss. The Church will assuredly wither and decay, and religious orthodoxy will itself degenerate into a lifeless form. On the contrary, wherever these great truths are held up to view with scriptural simplicity and power, true religion will prosper, and the fruits of living holiness will abound. The character of the writings on these subjects which are in actual circulation, becomes thus an important test of the true condition of the Church at any time, and of its spiritual progress or decay.
In this view the two works before us have a deep interest. They both relate to the same impressive subject--the cross and passion of our Divine Lord and Saviour. But in other respects they diverge widely, and represent two schools of thought entirely distinct, prevailing within our own Church, and which we may popularly describe as Evangelical and Tractarian. Each work is also a very favourable specimen of the school to which it belongs. It may be profitable therefore to submit them to an impartial comparison, in their bearing upon this fundamental truth of the Christian faith.
The “ Exposition on the Twenty-second Psalm ” is simple and unpretending in the highest degree. There is no motto prefixed, to inculcate the duty of implicit submission to the judgment of the ancient Church ; and no quotations from the Catena Aurea or the early fathers, to invest it with an air of deep research or venerable antiquity. It opens without one word of preface, and the name of a human author rarely occurs in its pages. But it has far higher claims to our regard, in the lovely and unadorned simplicity of Christian truth and feeling which reigns throughout the work. The writer begins with an introductory address to the reader, marked at once by deep thought and devout feeling, and which is closed by a practical appeal of peculiar beauty and power. The Psalm itself is viewed, with strong warrant from Scripture, as the record of the Saviour's inward experience, and the secret language of his heart, while suffering on the cross. In this light the author proceeds to unfold it, and leads our thoughts to the deep utterances of the Lord of glory, first in the darkness and agony of desertion, and next in the recovered light and joy of the Father's reconciled countenance, with His song of devout and grateful thanksgiving. There is a spirit of simple earnestness and practical holiness breathing in every page, which sometimes deepens into profound reflection, sometimes kindles with its own fervour into passages of the truest eloquence—the eloquence of the heart. Most cordially and earnestly do we commend the work to our readers, as one which can scarcely fail, under the blessing of God, to be attended with lasting benefit, and to enrich their understanding and their heart with lessons of divine wisdom and emotions of devout thanksgiving and praise.
The other volume, though very different in character, has also many claims on our notice. It is from the pen of Mr. Williams, well known as the author of “The Cathedral," and the tracts On Reserve.” It is professedly an experiment, “to ascertain how far a Commentary on the Gospels of the same kind may be found to answer its purpose.” Its object is "to introduce something of the depth and devotional thought of ancient interpretation.” With this view quotations from the fathers are interspersed throughout in great profusion, taken however chiefly, as the writer tells us,