Imágenes de páginas

sight, there is, to say the least, a considerable antecedent improbability in the notion, that whereas we know the tenets and the history of the stoic or the academic philosophy, yet we do not know the main tenets, nor yet the fundamental principles, nor even the temper and spirit of apostolic Christianity.”—(Preface to vol. ii. p. xv.)

There is in this passage a very ingenious use of the figure litotes—indeed it is a figure often conspicuous in Mr. Newman's rhetoric; but we shall deal with the manifest purpose and drift of the author, without enquiring how far writings for which such modestly abated claims are made, could be of any service in determining our modern controversies, if their advocate were held with strictness to the exact letter of his plea. We accept the examples, which Mr. Newman has himself suggested, of the ancient philosophic schools. His own instances are cautiously chosen, nor can we reasonably complain that he avoided the less felicitous cases with which his memory could not have failed to furnish him. Where then, let us ask, would a reasonable critic go to look for the doctrines of Plato ? Would he trust to the authorized succession of the masters of the academy, to the teaching of Antiochus, of Arcesilas, of Carneades, or the later but more reverend traditions of the “complete and accomplished doctors” of the Alexandrian school—to Porphyry, to Jamblichus, to Proclus, or to Plotinus ? The universal judgment of enlightened criticism has decided otherwise. If new light has been thrown upon the doctrines of Plato, its sources have been reached by deserting his traditive commentators, and by the careful and independent investigation of the documents in which he has himself delivered them. If we have obtained any clearer insight than formerly into the nature of Aristotle's tenets, it has been obtained by treading in the same path ; by refusing to take on trust the reports of his disciples and expositors, by examining his writings with our own eyes, and bringing the opinions of the scholars to the test of their master's precepts. Let us hear a father of the church applying Mr. Newman's parallel :

“There is one God, whom we know no otherwise than by the holy Scriptures. For as, if one desired to practise the wisdom of this world, he could discover it no where but in the teaching of the philosophers, so we who desire to practice Divine piety can find the rules of it no where but in the oracles of God. So much therefore as the Scriptures proclaim, let us see; so much as they teach, let us know. As the Father chooses to be believed, let us believe him; as the Son chooses to be glorified, let us glorify him; as the Spirit chooses to be given, let us receive him ;—not following our own choice nor the devices of our own minds, not putting violence on the gifts of God, but seeing all things in that light in which he himself chose to exhibit them in the holy Scriptures.”—(Hippolytus c. Noet. s. ix.)

In effect, must it not be evident to even the most cursory observer, that whatever species of evidence can be pretended for

the oral rule, exists in a higher degree for the written? If, for instance, universal consent be appealed to, the consent which attests the authenticity of the gospel is not only as strong within the Church as any agreement in doctrine can with any plausibility be pretended to have been, but even transcends the boundaries of orthodoxy, and extorts reluctant testimony from the lips of infidels and heretics. Upon the grounds of evidence, no rational enquirer can for a moment doubt, that the Scriptures are by far the most certain extant document of the faith and of the practice of the Apostolic ages.

Few readers of Mr. Newman's Lectures upon Romanism can have forgotten the perverse dexterity with which he has contrived to insinuate an impression of the uncertainty of Scripture, by a dexterous collection of texts separated from the natural connections in which they stand in the Inspired Volume. We should be ashamed to try the Fathers by so unfair a test. We are sure that, tried by a much fairer standard, it would be evident to any one that the danger of mistakes, or perversion, is much greater in the case of their writings, than it is in respect of the writings of the apostles and evangelists. Let a reasonable man, for instance, consider, that when Jesus pronounced the words— This is my body

- he was in the act of instituting what all confess to be a symbolic rite—that he was speaking to persons, all the rites of whose religion partook of a symbolic character—that the immediate and leading circumstance which introduced and suggested the whole transaction, was the symbolic emblem of the Paschal supper-and, unless strongly prejudiced, can he hesitate at an interpretation which assigns to these words the common ordinary meaning which such a form of speech is always understood to bear when used in expounding the nature of a symbol ? But surely such language as the following can hardly admit of so natural an interpretation :

“ Christ once turned water into wine, in Cana of Galilee, at his own will, and is it incredible that he should have turned wine into blood ? That wonderful work he miraculously wrought, when called to an earthly marriage; and shall he not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of his body and blood on the children of the bride.chamber? . These things having learnt, and being fully persuaded that what seems bread is not bread, though bread by taste, but the body of Christ; and that what seems wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old, And bread which strengtheneth man's heart, and oil to make his face to shine, strengthen thine heart, partaking thereof as spiritual, and make the face of thy soul to shine."-(Library of Fathers, ii. pp. 270, 272.)

We would by no means be understood to deny, that these and similar strong expressions of the ancient writers may be explained away into something very different from the Romish doctrine of


transubstantiation-we are perfectly aware that they can.

But the question which we ask is this-Does he who holds a collection of writers, who write commonly in this rhetorical and perplexing style, for his rule of faith, possess a rule more certain or intelligible than he who is contented with the Scriptures ?-or can it be that the Bible is so strange a book, that its meaning could not be successfully investigated by the application of the diligence, and skill, and candor, and sound judgment, that are necessary to form a correct estimate of the sense of that vast and multifarious collection of writers whom custom has classed together under the title of the Fathers ? Truth, if sought amongst these fallible expositors, must be sought in various forms, and recognised under a thousand different disguises Now speaking in the simple, but childish, voice of primitive ignorance; now disputing in all the artful contrivances of Grecian sophistry: now wearing the dark complexion of African obscurity; and now painted in the meretricious colours of Asiatic eloquence. What a contrast between this motley library, and its heterogeneous contents

πολλά μεν έσθλα μεμίγμενα, πολλά δε λύγραand the single volume which “has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter !” Mr. Newman, indeed, seems by no means insensible of the difficulties which beset the investigator, in his endeavours to catch the evanescent clue that is to guide his footsteps in this perplexing maze of the Catholic labyrinth :

" It must be granted, that this view of the fathers, as witnesses to apostolic truth, not individually, but collectively, clear and unanswerable as it is, considered as a view, is open to some great practical inconveniences when acted on in such an undertaking as that in which the present Editors are engaged. For since, by the supposition, no one of the fathers is necessarily right in all his doctrines taken by himself, but may be erroneous in secondary points ; each taken by himself is in danger, by his own peculiarities, on the one hand, of throwing discredit on all together; on the other, of perplexing those who, by means of the fathers, are inquiring after Catholic truth. And whereas in any publication of this nature they cannot appear all at once, but first one and then another, and, at all events, cannot be read together, it follows that, during their gradual perusal, unavoidable prejudice will often attach to the fathers, and to the Catholic faith, and to those who are enforcing the latter by means of the former.

Such are the circumstances in which we find ourselves, open to remark for every opinion, every sentence, every phrase of every father, before its meaning, relevancy, importance, or bearings are ascertained; before it is known whether it will be, as it were, obliterated by others, or completed, or explained, or modified, or unanimously witnessed. And since the evil is in the nature of the case itself, we can do no more than have patience, and recommend patience to others, and with the racer in the tragedy, look forward steadily and hopefully to the event–T. TEAEI niotu pépwr-when, as we trust, all that is in harmonious and anomalous in the details, will at length be practically smoothed.”—(Preface to vol. ii. p. xix.)

Such earnest claims for a patient examination and candid con

[ocr errors]

struction of the Fathers, are a perfectly intelligible confession upon Mr. Newman's part, that his fallible rule of faith is, in its nature, at least no more exempt from being perverted by the abuses of private judgment, than the infallible rule adopted by the Protestants. Yet, when he and his learned coadjutors have paced the Bodleian, and marked its countless shelves groaning under the weight of controversial monuments of the ambiguities and uncertainties of the traditive canon—when they have marked the innumerable disputes about the opinions of the early Church concerning the most important doctrines of the faith-when, in order to form a right judgment of the Trinity, they have made their tedious way through Petavius and Huetius on the one hand, and Bull and Le Nourry on the other- through Clarke and Jackson, and Waterland and Burton-through Zwicker and Curcellæus, and Leclerc and Priestley, and Stillingtleet and Horsley ;-when, upon the subject of original sin, they have surveyed the labours of Bishop Taylor and Gerard Vossius, and Jansenius and Cardinal Noris, and Arnaud and his myriad enemies ;-when, upon the mystery of the Eucharist, they have wound through all the labyrinthine windings of the “perpetuity of the faith ”—with all these practical proofs before their eyes, that men may profess to tread “ the delightful path of Vincentius Lirinensis, jostle one another by the way,—did the suspicion never cross their minds, that there might be some gross partiality in determining that the abuses of Protestant private judgment were to be ascribed to the intrinsic insufficiency of the Divine rule which Protestants profess to follow ? You can never-say these new and plausible undertakers for the safety of Christendom-you can never banish from the Church that moral pestilence of schism, which at present rages in its veins, while you blindly suppose that the Bible is a sufficient cure. Perverted by the madness of the delirious patient, the remedy which you prescribe serves only to aggravate the disease. But once make trial of our panacea of Catholic tradition, and the alarming symptoms will speedily assuage and disappear. What then, we ask, is this wonderful drug so sovereign a medicine that no danger is to be apprehended from its abuse ? By no means, they reply; it may be, and often has been, converted by rash and unskilful persons into a deadly poison. But we trust that, in this case, the patient himself will see the reasonableness of making a fair and candid trial of its healing virtues. Such is Mr. Newman's wise project for restoring unity to the Church!

In truth, the source of heresy and dissension lies not in the rule, but in the disputants. With the single love of truth and virtue to clear our intellectual vision-with the pious zeal and

»; and yet

[ocr errors]

5 C

patient labour which that love will prompt and render easy-with
that favouring assistance of the Divine Spirit, which will never be
denied to the faithful prayer of the pure in heart—the lamp,
kindled by the celestial fame of inspiration, will burn bright and
clear enough to guide the humble and persevering traveller on the
appointed path to heaven. Let it once be distinctly understood,
that men are bound to find their favourite tenets in the writings
of the Fathers; and the same partiality of prejudice and perverse-
ness of ill-directed ingenuity, which have tortured the text of
Scripture into obscurity and incoherence, will produce precisely
similar results upon the documents of ecclesiastical tradition.
While human language continues to be the same ambiguous and
doubtful medium which it has ever been, and while the human
will remains the same headstrong and depraved faculty which it
has hitherto been found, it is impossible that any rule expressed
in the former can escape from the distorting influence of the
latter. In vain shall we endeavour to surround ourselves with
external muniments and fortifications, and pile up mounds and
breastworks, and dig trenches, and raise buttresses, and flatter
ourselves that our defences are impregnable. The real enemy is
already within the very lines which we are toiling so sedulously to
strengthen against his attacks, and every moment threatening to
make himself master of our vaunted bulwarks.

Let us now consider this Library in another point of view. The editors are members of the Church ; the reading public, for whose benefit the new rule of faith is principally intended, are members of the same Church. The editors are warm in their protestations, that they mean no harm to the Church of England.

“The appeal to antiquity," they say, “is made not against our own church, or as wishing to superadd anything to it, but against modern misinterpretations of her meaning. The great object of practical and reverential men must be, FOR A LONG TIME, confined to bringing out her existing system in its depth, beauty, and fulness, &c. The object, then, of recalling men's attention to the fathers, so far as relates to the establishment of doctrine or practice, is, subordinately to Scripture, to bring out the meaning of holy Scripture, and, with respectful deference to our Church, to lead people to see the Catholic and primitive character of the treasure she possesses.”—(Pref. v. i. p. 8.)

But can men like Dr. Pusey and Mr. Newman be indeed so simple as to suppose that their disciples will or can come to the study of the Fathers as the depositories of the divinely-appointed rule of faith and practice, and listen to the voice of those awful teachers with all the reverend submission and prompt alacrity of obedience which, upon their theory, that voice demands—can they expect that men will, or can, or ought to do this, and yet attend to nothing in their instructions but what the modern church of

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »