Lecture 6. External Difficulties of the Canon and the Catholic Creed, compared

{196} I AM now proceeding to a subject which will in some little degree take me beyond the bounds which I had proposed to myself when I began, but which, being closely connected with that subject, and (as I think) important, has a claim on our attention. The argument which has been last engaging 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 marked by as much apparent inconsistency, as recorded in one part of Scripture and another, as there is inconsistency as regards doctrine in the respective informations of 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 through its two channels.

I then went on to answer 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, {197} 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 and 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 special Church doctrines—I mean, the objection which is brought against the Apostolical Succession or the Priesthood being in Scripture, 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, contained in Scripture, but to the text of Scripture itself, to the books of Scripture, to their canonicity, to their authority. I have said, the line of reasoning entered on in this objection may be carried forward, and, if it reaches on point, may be made to reach others also. For, first, if the want of method and verbal consistency in Scripture be an objection to the "teaching of the Prayer Book," it is also an objection equally to what is called "Orthodox Protestantism." Further, I have shown that it tells also against the trustworthiness of the sacred history, to the statement of facts contained in any part of Scripture, which is in great measure indirect. And now, lastly, I shall show that it is an objection to the Bible itself, both because that Book cannot be a Revelation which contains neither definite doctrine nor unequivocal matter of fact, and next because the evidence, on which its portions are received, is not clearer or fuller than its own evidence for the facts and doctrines which our Article says it "contains." This is the legitimate consequence of the attempt to invalidate the scripturalness of Catholic doctrine, on the allegation {198} 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 who use it, at least in the long run.

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 matters pretty much as it found them, 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 proof or of Patristical proof, ought, if they acted consistently on their principles, to object to the canonicity and authority of Scripture; a melancholy truth, if it be a truth; and I fear it is but too true. Too true, I fear, it is in fact,—not only that men ought, if consistent, to proceed from opposing Church doctrine to oppose the authority of Scripture, but that the leaven which at present makes the mind oppose Church doctrine, does set it, or will soon set it, against Scripture. I wish to declare what I think will be found really to be the case, viz., that a battle for the Canon of Scripture is but the next step after a battle for the Creed,—that the Creed comes first in the assault, that is all; and that if we were not defending the Creed, we should at this moment be defending the Canon. Nay, I would predict as a coming event, that minds are {199} to be unsettled as to what is Scripture and what is not; and I predict it that, as far as the voice of one person in one place can do, I may defeat my own prediction by making it. Now to consider the subject.


How do we know that the whole Bible is the word of God? Happily at present we are content to believe this, because we have been so taught. It is our great blessedness to receive it on faith. A believing spirit is in all cases a more blessed spirit than an unbelieving. The testimony of unbelievers declares it: they often say, "I wish I could believe; I should be happier, if I could; but my reason is unconvinced." And then they go on to speak as if they were in a more exalted, though less happy state of mind. Now I am not here to enter into the question of the grounds on which the duty and blessedness of believing rest; but I would observe, that Nature certainly does give sentence against scepticism, against doubt, nay, against a habit (I say a habit) of inquiry, against a critical, cold, investigating temper, the temper of what are called shrewd, clear-headed, hard-headed, men, in that, by the confession of all, happiness is attached, not to their temper, but rather to confiding, unreasoning faith. I do not say that inquiry may not under circumstances be a duty, as going into the cold and rain may be a duty, instead of stopping at home,—as serving in war may be a duty; but it does seem to me preposterous to confess, that free inquiry leads to scepticism, and scepticism makes one less happy than faith, and yet, that such free inquiry is a merit. What is right and what is happy cannot in the long run and on a large scale be disjoined. To follow after truth can never be a subject of regret; free inquiry does lead a man to regret {200} the days of his childlike faith; therefore it is not following after truth. Those who measure everything by utility, should on their own principles embrace the obedience of faith for its very expedience; and they should cease this kind of seeking, which begins in doubt.

I say, then, that never to have been troubled with a doubt about the truth of what has been taught us, is the happiest state of mind; and if any one says, that to maintain this is to admit that heretics ought to remain heretics, and pagans pagans, I deny it. For I have not said that it is a happy thing never to add to what you have, but that it is not happier to take away. Now true religion is the summit and perfection of false religions: it combines in one whatever there is of good and true, severally remaining in each. And in like manner the Catholic Creed is for the most part the combination of separate truths which heretics have divided among themselves, and err in dividing. So that, in matter of fact, if a religious mind were educated in and sincerely attached to some form of heathenism or heresy, and then were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into the truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not,—not by being unclothed, but by being "clothed upon," "that mortality may be swallowed up of life." That same principle of faith which attaches it to its original human teaching, would attach it to the truth; and that portion of its original teaching which was to be cast off as absolutely false, would not be directly rejected, but indirectly rejected in the reception of the truth which is its opposite. True conversion is of a positive, not a negative character. This was St. Paul's method of controversy at Athens; and, if Apologists after him were wont to ridicule the heathen idolatries, it must be considered that belief in {201} the popular mythology was then dying out, and was ridiculed by the people themselves.

All this is a digression: but before returning to my subject, I will just add, that it must not be supposed from my expressing such sentiments, that I have any fear of argument for the cause of Christian truth, as if reason were dangerous to it, as if it could not stand before a scrutinizing inquiry. Nothing is more out of place, though it is too common, than such a charge against the defenders of Church doctrines. They may be right or they may be wrong in their arguments, but argue they do; they are ready to argue; they believe they have reason on their side; but they remind others, they remind themselves, that though argument on the whole will but advance the cause of truth, though so far from dreading it, they are conscious it is a great weapon in their hands; yet that, after all, if a man does nothing more than argue, if he has nothing deeper at bottom, if he does not seek God by some truer means, by obedience, by faith prior to demonstration, he will either not attain truth, or attain a shallow, unreal view of it, and have a weak grasp of it. Reason will prepare for the reception, will spread the news, and secure the outward recognition of the truth; but in all we do we ought to seek edification, not mere knowledge. Now to return.

I say, it is our blessedness, if we have no doubts about the Canon of Scripture, as it is our blessedness to have no doubts about the Catholic Creed. And this is at present actually our blessedness as regards the Canon; we have no doubts. Even those persons who unhappily have doubts about the Church system, have no doubts about the Canon,—by a happy inconsistency, I say. They ought to have doubts on their principles; this I shall now show, in the confidence that their belief in the {202} Canon is so much stronger than their disbelief of the Church system, that if they must change their position, they will rather go on and believe the Church system, than go back to disbelieve the Canon.


Now there are two chief heads of objection made against the Catholic or Church system of doctrine and worship,—external and internal. It is said, on the one hand, to be uncertain, not only what is in Scripture, but what is in Antiquity, and what not; for the early Fathers, it is objected, who are supposed to convey the information, contradict each other; and the most valuable and voluminous of them did not live till two or three hundred years after St. John's death, while the earlier records are scanty; and moreover that their view of doctrine was from the first corrupted from assignable external sources, pagan, philosophical, or Jewish. And on the other hand, the system itself may be accused of being contrary to reason and incredible. Here I shall consider the former of these two objections.

Objectors, then, speak thus: "We are far from denying," they say, "that there is truth and value in the ancient Catholic system, as reported by the Fathers; but we deny that it is unmixed truth. We consider it is truth and error mixed together: we do not see why the system of doctrine must be taken together as a whole, so that if one part is true, all is true. We consider that we have a right to take it piecemeal, and examine each part by itself; that so far as it is true, it is true not as belonging to the ancient system, but for other reasons, as being agreeable to our reason, or to our understanding of Scripture, not because stated by the Fathers; and, after all, the Church system in question (that is, {203} such doctrines as the mystical power of the Sacraments, the power of the keys, the grace of Ordination, the gifts of the Church, and the Apostolical Succession), has very little authority really primitive. The Fathers whose works we have, not only ought to be of an earlier date, in order to be of authority, but they contradict each other; they declare what is incredible and absurd, and what can reasonably be ascribed to Platonism, or Judaism, or Paganism."

Be it so: well, how will the same captious spirit treat the sacred Canon? in just the same way. It will begin thus:—"These many writings are put together in one book; what makes them one? who put them together? the printer. The books of Scripture have been printed together for many centuries. But that does not make them one; what authority had those who put them together to do so? what authority to put just so many books, neither more nor less? when were they first so put together? on what authority do we leave out the Wisdom, or the Son of Sirach, and insert the book of Esther? Catalogues certainly are given of these books in early times: but not exactly the same books are enumerated in all. The language of St. Austin is favourable to the admission of the Apocrypha [Note 1]. The Latin Church anciently left out the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Eastern Church left out the book of Revelation. This so-called Canon did not exist at earliest till the fourth century, between two and three hundred years after St. John's death. Let us then see into the matter with our own eyes. Why should not we be as good judges as the Church of the fourth century, on whose authority we receive it? Why should one book be divine, because another is?" This is what objectors would say. Now to follow them into particulars {204} as far as the first head; viz., as to the evidence itself, which is offered in behalf of the divinity and inspiration of the separate books.

For instance; the first Father who expressly mentions Commemorations for the Dead in Christ (such as we still have in substance at the end of the prayer for the Church Militant, where it was happily restored in 1662, having been omitted a century earlier), is Tertullian, about a hundred years after St. John's death. This, it is said, is not authority early enough to prove that that Ordinance is Apostolical, though succeeding Fathers, Origen, St. Cyprian, Eusebius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc., bear witness to it ever so strongly. "Errors might have crept in by that time; mistakes might have been made; Tertullian is but one man, and confessedly not sound in many of his opinions; we ought to have clearer and more decisive evidence." Well, supposing it: suppose Tertullian, a hundred years after St. John, is the first that mentions it, yet Tertullian is also the first who refers to St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, and even he without quoting or naming it. He is followed by two writers; one of Rome, Caius, whose work is not extant, but is referred to by Eusebius, who, speaking of thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, and as excluding the Hebrews, by implication includes that to Philemon; and the other, Origen, who quotes the fourteenth verse of the Epistle, and elsewhere speaks of fourteen Epistles of St. Paul. Next, at the end of the third century, follows Eusebius. Further, St. Jerome observes, that in his time some persons doubted whether it was St. Paul's (just as Aerius about that time questioned the Commemorations for the Dead), or at least whether it was canonical, and that from internal evidence; to which he opposes the general consent of external testimony as a {205} sufficient answer. Now, I ask, why do we receive the Epistle to Philemon as St. Paul's, and not the Commemorations for the faithful departed as Apostolical also? Ever after indeed the date of St. Jerome, the Epistle to Philemon was accounted St. Paul's, and so too ever after the same date the Commemorations which I have spoken of are acknowledged on all hands to have been observed as a religious duty, down to three hundred years ago. If it be said that from historical records we have good reasons for thinking that the Epistle of St. Paul to Philemon, with his other Epistles, was read from time immemorial in Church, which is a witness independent of particular testimonies in the Fathers, I answer, no evidence can be more satisfactory and conclusive to a well-judging mind; but then it is a moral evidence, resting on very little formal and producible proof; and quite as much evidence can be given for the solemn Commemorations of the Dead in the Holy Eucharist which I speak of. They too were in use in the Church from time immemorial. Persons, then, who have the heart to give up and annul the Ordinance, will not, if they are consistent, scruple much at the Epistle. If in the sixteenth century the innovators on religion had struck the Epistle to Philemon out of Scripture, they would have had just as much right to do it as to abolish these Commemorations; and those who wished to defend such innovation as regards the Epistle to Philemon, would have had just as much to say in its behalf as those had who put an end to the Commemorations.

If it be said they found nothing on the subject of such Commemorations in Scripture, even granting this for argument's sake, yet I wonder where they found in Scripture that the Epistle to Philemon was written by St. Paul, except indeed in the Epistle itself. Nowhere; yet {206} they kept the one, they abolished the other—as far, that is, as human tyranny could abolish it. Let us be thankful that they did not also say, "The Epistle to Philemon is of a private nature, and has no marks of inspiration about it. It is not mentioned by name or quoted by any writer till Origen, who flourished at a time when mistakes had begun, in the third century, and who actually thinks St. Barnabas wrote the Epistle which goes under his name; and he too, after all, just mentions it once, but not as inspired or canonical, and also just happens to speak elsewhere of St. Paul's fourteen Epistles. In the beginning of the fourth century, Eusebius, without anywhere naming this Epistle," (as far as I can discover,) "also speaks of fourteen Epistles, and speaks of a writer one hundred years earlier, who in like manner enumerated thirteen besides the Hebrews. All this is very unsatisfactory. We will have nothing but the pure word of God; we will only admit what has the clearest proof. It is impossible that God should require us to believe a book to come from Him without authenticating it with the highest and most cogent evidence."

Again: the early Church with one voice testifies in favour of Episcopacy, as an ordinance especially pleasing to God. Ignatius, the very disciple of the Apostles, speaks in the clearest and strongest terms; and those who follow fully corroborate his statements for three or four hundred years. And besides this, we know the fact, that a succession of Bishops from the Apostles did exist in all the Churches all that time. At the end of that time, one Father, St. Jerome, in writing controversially, had some strong expressions against the divine origin of the ordinance. And this is all that can be said in favour of any other regimen. Now, on the other hand, what is the case as regards the Epistle to the Hebrews? Though {207} received in the East, it was not received in the Latin Churches, till that same St. Jerome's time. St. Irenĉus either does not affirm or actually denies that it is St. Paul's. Tertullian ascribes it to St. Barnabas. Caius excluded it from his list. St. Hippolytus does not receive it. St. Cyprian is silent about it. It is doubtful whether St. Optatus received it. Now, that this important Epistle is part of the inspired word of God, there is no doubt. But why? Because the testimony of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Christians were at leisure to examine the question thoroughly, is altogether in its favour. I know of no other reason, and I consider this to be quite sufficient: but with what consistency do persons receive this Epistle as inspired, yet deny that Episcopacy is a divinely ordained means of grace?

Again: the Epistles to the Thessalonians are quoted by six writers in the first two hundred years from St. John's death; first, at the end of the first hundred, by three Fathers, Irenĉus, Clement, and Tertullian; and are by implication acknowledged in the lost work of Caius, at the same time, and are in Origen's list some years after. On the other hand, the Lord's table is always called an Altar, and is called a Table only in one single passage of a single Father, during the first three centuries. It is called Altar in four out of the seven Epistles of St. Ignatius. It is called Altar by St. Clement of Rome, by St. Irenĉus, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen, Eusebius, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Optatus, St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, and St. Austin [Note 2]. It is once called Table by St. Dionysius {208} of Alexandria. (Johnson's U. S., vol. i., p. 306.) I do not know on what ground we admit the Epistles to the Thessalonians to be the writing of St. Paul, yet deny that the use of Altars is Apostolic.

Again: that the Eucharist is a Sacrifice is declared or implied by St. Clement of Rome, St. Paul's companion, by St. Justin, by St. Irenĉus, by Tertullian, by St. Cyprian, and others. On the other hand, the Acts of the Apostles are perhaps alluded to by St. Polycarp, but are first distinctly noticed by St. Irenĉus, then by three writers who came soon after (St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and the Letter from the Church of Lyons), and then not till the end of the two hundred years from St. John's death. Which has the best evidence, the Book of Acts, or the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice?

Again: much stress, as I have said, is laid by objectors on the fact that there is so little evidence concerning Catholic doctrine in the very first years of Christianity. Now, how does this objection stand, as regards the Canon of the New Testament? The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books in all, though of varying importance. Of these, fourteen are not mentioned at all till from eighty to one hundred years after St. John's death, in which number are the Acts, the Second to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Colossians, the Two to the {209} Thessalonians, and St. James. Of the other thirteen, five, viz., St. John's Gospel, the Philippians, the First of Timothy, the Hebrews, and the First of John, are quoted but by one writer during the same period. Lastly, St. Irenĉus, at the close of the second century, quotes all the books of the New Testament but five, and deservedly stands very high as a witness. Now, why may not so learned and holy a man, and so close on the Apostles, stand also as a witness of some doctrines which he takes for granted, as the invisible but real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, the use of Catholic tradition in ascertaining revealed truth, and the powers committed to the Church?

If men then will indulge that eclectic spirit which chooses part and rejects part of the primitive Church system, I do not see what is to keep them from choosing part and rejecting part of the Canon of Scripture.


There are books, which sin as it would be in us to reject, I think any candid person would grant are presented to us under circumstances less promising than those which attend upon the Church doctrines. Take, for instance, the Book of Esther. This book is not quoted once in the New Testament. It was not admitted as canonical by two considerable Fathers, Melito and Gregory Nazianzen. It contains no prophecy; it has nothing on the surface to distinguish it from a mere ordinary history; nay, it has no mark on the surface of its even being a religious history. Not once does it mention the name of God or Lord, or any other name by which the God of Israel is designated. Again, when we inspect its contents, it cannot be denied that there are things in it which at first sight startle us, and make demands {210} on our faith. Why then do we receive it? Because we have good reason from tradition to believe it to be one of those which our Lord intended, when He spoke of "the prophets." [Luke xxiv. 44.]

In like manner the Book of Ecclesiastes contains no prophecy, is referred to in no part of the New Testament, and contains passages which at first sight are startling. Again: that most sacred Book, called the Song of Songs, or Canticles, is a continued type from beginning to end. Nowhere in Scripture, as I have already observed, are we told that it is a type; nowhere is it hinted that it is not to be understood literally. Yet it is only as having a deeper and hidden sense, that we are accustomed to see a religious purpose in it. Moreover, it is not quoted or alluded to once all through the New Testament. It contains no prophecies. Why do we consider it divine? For the same reason; because tradition informs us that in our Saviour's time it was included under the title of "the Psalms": and our Saviour, in St. Luke's Gospel, refers to "the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms."

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 same sources. Traces also of the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement, may be found among heathens, Jews, and philosophers; for the Almighty scattered through the world, before His Son came, vestiges and gleams of His {211} 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. Unbelievers 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 already 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 host was gained from Babylon: it might still be divine, nevertheless. God who made the prophet's ass speak, and thereby {212} instructed the prophet, might instruct His Church by means of heathen Babylon [Note 3].

In like manner, is no lesson 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." [John ii. 10.] 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 those truths 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 thoughts 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 insisted on, 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 insisted on 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 exceptional influence, a {213} 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, number Israel and Judah." [2 Sam. xxxiv. 1.] On the other hand, in Chronicles it is said, "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." [1 Chron. xxi. 1.] On this a writer, not of the English Church, 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 contain a real 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 has revealed {214} 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 an essential part of the Revelation, nothing plain enough to act upon, nothing so certain that we dare assert that the contrary is very much 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 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 forestall knowledge by faith. Let us maintain before we have demonstrated. 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 sanctities what He sets before us, shallow or weak as it may be in itself, for His high purposes; that {215} most systems have enough of truth in them, to make it better for us, when we have no choice besides, and cannot discriminate, to begin by taking all (that is not plainly immoral) than by rejecting 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 a corrupt or defective creed a mode and way of leading us into truth, 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.

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1. De Doctr. Christ., ii. 13.
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2. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the sense of the word Altar ([thusia sterion]) in some of these passages has been contested; as it has been contested whether the Fathers' works are genuine, or the Books of Scripture genuine, or its text free from interpolations. There is no one spot in the territory of theology but has been the scene of a battle. Anything has been ventured and believed in the heat of controversy; but the ultimate appeal in such cases is the common sense of mankind. Ignatius says, "Be diligent to use one Eucharist, for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for the union of His Blood; one Altar, as one Bishop, together with the Presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants."—Ad Phil. 4. Would it have entered into any one's mind, were it not for the necessities of his theory, to take Eucharist, Flesh, Cup, Blood, Bishop, Presbytery, Deacon, in their ecclesiastical meaning, as belonging to the Visible Church, and the one word Altar figuratively?
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3. [This principle seems here too broadly enunciated.]
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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