Lecture 10. On the Essentials of the Gospel

{239} I TRUST that the foregoing Lectures have disposed us to take a more cheerful view of what the Protestantism of the day considers a hardship. It considers it a hardship to have anything clearly and distinctly told it in elucidation of Scripture doctrine, an infringement on its right of doubting, and mistaking, and labouring in vain. And the violent effort to keep itself in this state of ignorance,—this unnatural "stopping of ears," and "throwing dust into the air," after the pattern of those Jews who would not hear the voice of Apostles and Martyrs,—all this it dignifies by the title of defending the sacred right of Private Judgment, calls it a holy cause, a righteous battle, with other large and senseless epithets. But I trust that we have learned to glory in that which the world calls a bondage. We do boast and exult in bearing Christ's yoke, whether of faith or of obedience; and we consider His Creed, not as a tyrannical infliction, (God forbid!) or a jealous test, but as a glorious privilege, which we are ready to battle and to suffer for, nay, much more ready, (so be it! through His grace), than they for their low, carnal, and despicable licence to reject it.


And as they are eager to secure liberty in religious opinions as the right of every individual, so do we make {240} it every individual's prerogative to maintain and defend the Creed. They cannot allow more to the individual in the way of variety of opinion, than we do in that of confessorship. The humblest and meanest among Christians may defend the Faith against the whole Church, if the need arise. He has as much stake in it and as much right to it, as Bishop or Archbishop, and has nothing to limit him in his protest, but his intellectual capacity for making it. The greater his attainments the more serviceably of course and the more suitably will he enter into the dispute; but all that learning has to do for him is to ascertain the fact, what is the meaning of the Creed in particular points, since matter of opinion it is not, any more than the history of the rise and spread of Christianity itself. No persons (to speak generally) properly qualified, whatever their own opinion may be, can doubt, for instance, in what cases the articles of the Creed concerning the Son of God, are contradicted; all that could come into dispute is, whether those articles are necessary or essential to the Gospel, and that point has been settled long ago.


Now then, having considered in general what the saving Faith is, let us proceed to examine some of the principal objections which are taken to the above view of it.

1. First, then, it may be urged that the Creed, which I have stated to be the abstract of saving Faith, does not include all doctrines which are essential; especially it does not include any acknowledgment that Scripture is the word of God. It has been asked of us, is belief in Scripture a fundamental of faith or not? if it is, it follows that there are fundamental doctrines besides the articles of the Creed; if it is not, what becomes of the popular notion that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants. I answer as follows:— {241}

If the Roman Catholic asks, whether belief in Scripture is an essential part of the faith [Note 1], which he is apt to do, I ask him in turn, whether the Infallibility of the Church is or is not in his system an article of faith. It is nowhere so declared [Note 2]; how then is it less defective in the Creed of Romanism to omit so cardinal a doctrine, than in our own Creed to omit the inspiration and canonicity of the Scriptures? Whatever answer he gives in his own behalf, will serve for us also. If he says, for instance, that the whole Roman system implies and is built upon the principle of Infallibility, that the doctrines which it holds as fundamental could not be such were not the Church an infallible oracle, that every truth must have some truth beyond itself until we come to the ultimate principles of knowledge, that a Creed never could recount all the previous steps by which it became a Creed, and that after all the doctrine in question is at least indirectly expressed in Pope Pius's Creed, I answer that much the same pleas may be offered in explanation of Scripture not being recognized in the Apostolic Creed. It may be something more than a fundamental of faith; it may be the foundation of the fundamentals, and may be passed over in the Creed, as being presupposed and implied in it. This is what might be said in explanation. But in truth it is really recognized in it as the standard of appeal; viz. in those articles which, after St. Paul's pattern, speak of our Lord's resurrection as being "according to the Scriptures." What {242} happen to be expressed in one instance, as regards the Old Testament, is a kind of index of what is tacitly signified throughout. This, indeed, is no proof to a Romanist, who denies that the Bible was considered by the original framers of the Creed, as the fundamental record of the Gospel: but it goes as far as this, to show that the Bible may have been so considered by them, to show that our doctrine is consistent with itself. As far as the facts of the case go, that may be, which we say really is. The indirect manner in which Scripture is referred to in the Creed, while it agrees with the notion that the Creed contains all the fundamentals, seems also to imply that Scripture is their foundation.


This is no singular case. I refer to the parallel of Romanism, not as a mere argumentum ad hominem, but as a specimen of a general principle. Surely it might be asked, with just as much, and just as little reason, whether belief in a Revelation be a fundamental of faith; whereas the fact of its being granted is properly a truth prior to the fundamentals, for without a revelation there would be nothing to believe in at all. Now what is the Bible, if it is worth while to pursue the argument, but the permanent voice of God, the embodied and continuous sound, or at least the specimen and symbol of the message once supernaturally delivered? By necessary faith, is not meant all that must be believed, but all that must be immediately believed, what must be professed on coming for admittance into the Church, what must be proclaimed as the condition of salvation; it is quite another question whether there be certain necessary antecedents, and of what nature. It is impossible, for instance, to accept the Creed, or to come for Baptism, without belief in a Moral Governor, yet there is not a word on the subject in the Creed, nor is it to be looked for there. Again, the candidate for Baptism must {243} feel the needs and misery of his nature, the guilt of disobedience, his own actual demerits and danger, and the power, purity, and justice of God, if Baptism is to be profitable to him; yet these convictions are preparatives, not parts of Baptismal faith; not parts of that act of the mind by which the candidate realizes things invisible, surveys the Gospel Economy, embraces it, submits to it, appropriates it, and is led to confess it. Faith is of many kinds, and these have their respective objects. Repentance involves faith; yet is always considered distinct from justifying faith notwithstanding. No one can come to God without believing "that He is, and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," but, we know, Calvinists and others consider that the faith that justifies has also a simple reference to Christ's Atonement; so that they at least will understand the distinction here insisted on. I say, belief in the Scriptures may be requisite for a Christian, but still as little be included in the Baptismal faith, as the faith which "cometh to God," or the faith implied in repentance.


But I will go further, and venture to deny that belief in the Scriptures, is, abstractedly, necessary to Church communion and salvation. It does not follow from this that any one, to whom they are actually offered, may without mortal sin reject them; but in the same way a man is bound to believe all truth which is brought home to him, not the Creed only. Still it may be true that faith in Scripture is not one of the conditions which the Church necessarily exacts of candidates for Baptism; and that it is not, is, I suppose, sufficiently clear. Heathen nations have commonly been converted, not by the Bible, but by Missionaries. If we insist that formal belief in the Canon of Scripture, as the inspired Word of God, has been a necessary condition of salvation, we exclude from salvation, {244} as far as our words go (which happily is, not at all), multitudes even in the earliest ages of the Gospel, to say nothing of later times. A well-known passage of St. Irenæus is in point, in which he says, "Had the Apostles left us no Scriptures, doubtless it had been a duty to follow the course of Tradition, which they gave to those whom they put in trust with the Churches. This procedure is observed in many barbarous nations, such as believe in Christ, without written memorial, having salvation impressed through the Spirit on their hearts, and diligently preserving the Old Tradition." [Note 3]

The Creed, indeed, can be proved from Scripture, which in this sense is its foundation, but it does not therefore follow that it must be so proved by every one who receives it. Scripture is the foundation of the Creed; but belief in Scripture is not the foundation of belief in the Creed.

It is not so in matter of fact, even at this day, in spite of the extended circulation of the Scriptures. It is not true in fact, and never will be, that the mass of serious Christians derive their faith for themselves from the Scriptures. No; they derive it from Tradition, whether true or corrupt; and they are intended by Divine Providence to derive it from the true, viz., that which the Church Catholic has ever furnished; but how they derive it, whether from Scripture or Tradition, is in no case a necessary point of faith to be asked and answered before their admittance into the Church. Suffice it that they believe in the blessed doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and the other parts of the Gospel, however they have learned them; as to Scripture, they either do already believe it to be God's word, if they have been properly catechized, or they shortly will so believe, but its divinity, though a necessary and all-important, is only a collateral truth. {245}


But, if this be so, how very extravagant is the opposite notion, now so common, that belief in the Bible is the sole or main condition for a man being considered a Christian! how very unchristian the title by which many men delight to designate themselves, turning good words into bad, as Bible-Christians! We are all of us Bible-Christians in one sense; but the term as actually used is unchristian, for the following reason.—As soon as it is assumed that the main condition of communion is the acceptance of the Bible as the word of God, doctrines of whatever sort become of but secondary importance. They will practically become matters of mere opinion, the deductions of Private Judgment from that which alone is divine. This principle then, of popular Protestantism, is simply Latitudinarian; and tends by no very intricate process to the recognition of Socinians and Pelagians as Christians. Men who hold it and yet attempt to hold definite essentials of faith, are in a false position, which they cannot ultimately retain; as the history of the last three centuries abundantly shows. They must either give up their maxim about the Bible and the Bible only, or they must give up the Nicene formulary. The Bible does not carry with it its own interpretation. When pressed to say why they maintain fundamentals of faith, they will have no good reason to give, supposing they do not receive the Creed also as a first principle. Why, it is asked of them, should those, who equally with themselves believe in the Bible, be denied the name of Christians, because they do not happen to discern the doctrine of the Trinity therein? If they answer that Scripture itself singles out certain doctrines as necessary to salvation, and that the Trinity is one of them, this, indeed, is most true, but avails not where men are committed to this theory. {246} It is urged against them, that, though the texts referred to may imply the Catholic doctrine, yet they need not; that they are consistent with any one out of several theories; or, at any rate, that other persons think so; that these others have as much right to their opinion as the party called orthodox to theirs; that human interpreters have no warrant to force upon them one view in particular; that Private Judgment must be left unmolested; that man must not close, what God has left open; that Unitarians (as they are called) believe in a Trinity, only not in the Catholic sense of it; and that, where men are willing to take and profess what is written, it is not for us to be "wise above what is written;" especially when by such a course we break the bonds of peace and charity.

This reasoning, granting the first step, is irresistible; I do not mean that it convinces those against whom it is directed, for their hearts happily are far better than their professed principles, and keep them from acting upon them. They, more or less, believe in the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, not as mere deductions, but as primary truths, objects of their faith, embraced and enjoyed by their spiritual sight, though they use language which implies that they have gained them by a process of reasoning. But though certain individuals are not injured by the principle in question; the body of men who profess it are, and ever must be injured. For the mass of men, having no moral convictions, are led by reasoning and by mere consistency of argument; and legitimately evolve heresy from principles which to the better sort of men may be harmless.—And now let us proceed to a second objection which may be advanced against the doctrine of fundamentals, as I have maintained it.


2. It may be urged, then, that at least the Creed does {247} not contain the whole revealed truth, as necessary for salvation, even though it contain its main elements; so that the charge which was brought in the last Lecture against the Romanists, of considering it only an initiatory formulary, and not an abstract of the whole Gospel, lies against us also; else what is the meaning of our Articles, which undeniably contain doctrines, not developed out of the Creed, but added to it? These doctrines, it may be urged, either are Apostolical, or they are not; if they are, they must be binding; if they are not, they ought not to be taught. If true, they must be necessary; we cannot choose but believe them; they have claims upon our acceptance in the nature of things, and the idea of receiving them or not, as we please, is self-contradictory. Now I would maintain, on the contrary, that there are what may be called minor points, which we may hold to be true without imposing them as necessary; and, as I have already considered those which are of first importance, let me now direct attention to those which are of secondary.


Doctrines may be secondary in two ways; in their nature and in their evidence. Evidence which may be strong enough to make it safer to believe and act than to remain uninfluenced, may yet be insufficient to enable us to preach and impose what it attests. I may believe, for instance, that infant baptism is an Apostolic usage, and think men very mistaken and unhappy who think otherwise, and yet not feel authorized to say, that to disbelieve it is to throw oneself out of the pale of salvation. The highest evidence of Apostolical Tradition is where the testimony is not only everywhere and always, but where it has ever been recognized as tradition, and reflected upon and professedly delivered down as saving, by those who hold it. Such is the Creed, and such, in the way of ordinances, {248} are the Sacraments, and certain other rites and usages. The next are those doctrines which are delivered as tradition, but not as part of the faith. Next may be placed the consent of Fathers, without apparent consciousness of agreement, as in the interpretation of Scripture. Other doctrines again, may come on such comparatively slender evidence, as to be but probable, as interpretations of prophecy. For all these reasons it may be right in many cases to state without enforcing; and again, it may be safe or pious to believe, where it cannot be pronounced absolutely necessary, or be made a condition of communion.


Again, the matter of the doctrine may be of a nature such as not to demand enforcement; mere facts are an instance in point. It is certain that David was king of Israel; and that St. Paul was martyred; yet it would be unmeaning to say belief in such facts was necessary to salvation. Again, certain doctrines may be true only under circumstances, or accidently, or but expedient, or developments of the truth relatively to a given state of things; such as the duty of the union of Church and State. Or they may be comparatively unimportant, as the duty of women covering their heads in Church; or they may be but protests against the errors of a particular day.

Such are most of those doctrines in our Articles which go beyond the doctrine of the Creed; such are many of the decrees of Roman and other Councils. All of these, whether true or false, are at any rate no part of necessary truth; as for instance the doctrine of the soul's consciousness in the intermediate state, of the indirectly divine character of Paganism, of the person and reign of Antichrist, of the just limits of the Pope's power, of the time of keeping Easter, of the lawfulness of bearing arms, of the {249} lawfulness of oaths, of the use of the Cross, of the design of the Jewish Law, of the indefectibility of the Church, and an indefinite multitude of others. But it may be better to treat the subject historically, though at the risk of some repetition.


I say, then, that the Creed is a collection of definite articles set apart from the first, passing from hand to hand, rehearsed and confessed at Baptism, committed and received from Bishop to Bishop, forced upon the attention of each Christian, and thus demanding and securing due explanation of its meaning. It is received on what may fitly be called, if it must have a distinctive name, Episcopal Tradition. Besides, it is delineated and recognized in Scripture itself, where it is called the Hypotyposis, or "outline of sound words;" and again, in the writings of the Fathers, as in some of the passages cited in the last Lecture. But independently of this written evidence in its favour, we may observe that a Tradition, thus formally and statedly enunciated and delivered from hand to hand, is of the nature of a written document, and has an evidence of its Apostolical origin the same in kind with that adducible for the Scriptures. For the same reason, though it is not pertinent here to insist on it, rites and ceremonies too are something more than mere oral Traditions, and, as being so, carry with them a considerable presumption in behalf of the things signified by them. And all this, let it be observed, is independent of the question of the Catholicity or Universality of the rites or doctrines which are thus formally sealed and handed down; a property which in this case attaches to both of them, and becomes an additional argument for their Apostolical origin.


Such then is Episcopal Tradition,—to be received {250} according to the capacity of each individual mind. But besides this, there is what may be called Prophetical Tradition. Almighty God placed in His Church first Apostles, or Bishops, secondarily Prophets. Apostles rule and preach, Prophets expound. Prophets or Doctors are the interpreters of the revelation; they unfold and define its mysteries, they illuminate its documents, they harmonize its contents, they apply its promises. Their teaching is a vast system, not to be comprised in a few sentences, not to be embodied in one code or treatise, but consisting of a certain body of Truth, pervading the Church like an atmosphere, irregular in its shape from its very profusion and exuberance; at times separable only in idea from Episcopal Tradition, yet at times melting away into legend and fable [Note 4]; partly written, partly unwritten, partly the interpretation, partly the supplement of Scripture, partly preserved in intellectual expressions, partly latent in the spirit and temper of Christians; poured to and fro in closets and upon the housetops, in liturgies, in controversial works, in obscure fragments, in sermons, in popular prejudices, in local customs. This I call Prophetical Tradition, existing primarily in the bosom of the Church itself, and recorded in such measure as Providence has determined in the writings of eminent men. This is obviously of a very different kind from the Episcopal Tradition, yet in its first origin it is equally Apostolical, and, viewed as a whole, equally claims our zealous maintenance. "Keep that which is committed to thy charge," is St. Paul's injunction to Timothy, and for this reason, because from its vastness and {251} indefiniteness it is especially exposed to corruption, if the Church fails in vigilance. This is that body of teaching which is offered to all Christians even at the present day, though in various forms and measures of truth, in different parts of Christendom, partly being a comment, partly an addition upon the articles of the Creed.


Now what has been said has sufficed to show, how it may easily happen that this Prophetical Tradition has been corrupted in its details, in spite of its general accuracy and its agreement with Episcopal; and if so, there will be lesser points of doctrine as well as greater points, whatever be their number and limit, from which a person may possibly dissent, as doubting their Apostolical origin, without incurring any anathema or public censure. And this is supposed on the Anglo-Catholic theory actually to be the case; that, though the Prophetical Tradition comes from God, and ought to have been religiously preserved, and was so in great measure and for a long time, yet that no such especial means were taken for its preservation as those which have secured to us the Creed,—that it was rather what St. Paul calls "the mind of the Spirit," the thought and principle which breathed in the Church, her accustomed and unconscious mode of viewing things, and the body of her received notions, than any definite and systematic collection of dogmas elaborated by the intellect. Partially, indeed, it was fixed and perpetuated in the shape of formal articles or doctrines, as the rise of errors or other causes gave occasion; and it is preserved to a considerable extent in the writings of the Fathers. For a time the whole Church agreed together in giving one and the same account of this Tradition; but in course of years, love waxing cold and schisms abounding, her various branches developed portions of it for themselves, {252} out of the existing mass, and, according to the accidental influences which prevailed at the time, did the work well or ill, rudely or accurately. It follows, that these developed and fixed doctrines are entitled to very different degrees of credit, though always to attention. Those which are recognized by the Church at an early date, are of more authority than such as are determined at a later; those which have the joint assent of many independent Churches, than those which are the result of some preponderating influence; those that are sanctioned dispassionately, than those which are settled in fear, anger, or jealousy. Accordingly, some Councils speak far more authoritatively than others, though all which appeal to Tradition may be presumed to have some element of truth in them. And this view, I would take even of the decrees of Trent. They claim indeed to be Apostolic; and I would grant so much, that they are the ruins and perversions of Primitive Tradition.


What has been here maintained, that there are matters of doctrine, true yet not necessary, is sanctioned by the Fathers; as the following authorities suffice to show.

The first instance I shall take occurred under extraordinary circumstances; yet that does not make it less apposite. It is Athanasius's conduct towards the Semi-Arians. Even the article of the Homoüsion, which, in consequence of its wide acceptance in former centuries, the Nicene Fathers admitted into the Catholic Creed, they did not impose on those who had been admitted into the Church before their decree was made. It was exacted, indeed, at once of the Clergy, as being teachers, but not of the laity. On the other hand, anathemas were levelled against those who openly professed any other doctrine. Here then we have three classes of persons brought before us; the {253} ministers of the Church bound to teach after her rule, contumacious opposers excommunicated, and the mass of Christians left as they were before, neither pledged as if teachers, nor expelled as if heretics [Note 5]. "What has been said," says Athanasius in one place, "is sufficient for the refutation of those who altogether reject the Council. But as for those who receive its whole Creed except the word Homoüsion, but doubt about it, we must not regard them as enemies; for our opposition to them is not as if we thought them Arians and impugners of the Fathers, but we converse with them as brothers with brothers, who hold the same sense as we do, only hesitate about the word."

To the same purpose are the following passages from Vincentius of Lerins. "It is necessary," he says, "that the heavenly sense of Scripture be explained according to this one rule, the Church's understanding of it, principally in those questions only on which the foundations of the whole Catholic doctrine rest. Again, he says, "The ancient consent of the Holy Fathers is to be diligently ascertained and followed, not in all the lesser questions of the Divine Law, but only or at least principally as regards the Rule of Faith." And again, in the following passage, he tacitly allows the right of Private Judgment in lesser matters; that is, the necessity and duty of judging on our own responsibility piously and cautiously, provided our conclusions be not pertinaciously urged, for then our Judgment is no longer private in any unexceptionable sense of the word. "Whatever opinion has been held beyond or {254} against the whole Church, however holy and learned be the author of it, let it be separated from common, public, and general opinions which have authority, and included among peculiar, secret, and private surmises." [Note 6]


3. That there are greater truths, then, and lesser truths, points which it is necessary, and points which it is pious to believe, Tradition Episcopal and Tradition Prophetical, the Creed and the Decrees of Councils, seems undeniable. But here another object obviously calls for consideration; viz., how the line is to be drawn between them. It has been above confessed that the doctrine of the Creed runs into the general Prophetical Tradition; how much, then, or how little doctrine is contained in the Creed? what extent and exactness of meaning must be admitted in its Articles by those who profess it? what in fact, after all, is that Faith which is required of the candidates for Baptism, since it is not to be an acceptance of the mere letter of the Creed, but of a real and living doctrine? For instance, is the doctrine of original sin to be accounted part of the Creed? or of justification by faith? or of election? or of the Sacraments? If so, is there any limit to that faith which the Creed represents?

I answer, there is no precise limit; nor is it necessary there should be. Let this maxim be laid down concerning all that the Church Catholic holds, to the full extent of her Prophetical Tradition, viz. that her members must either believe or silently acquiesce in the whole of it. Though the meaning of the Creed be extended ever so far, it cannot go beyond our duty of obedience, if not of active faith; and if the line between the Creed and the general doctrine of the Church cannot be drawn, neither can it be drawn between the lively apprehension and the submission of {255} her members in respect to both the one and the other. Whether it be apprehension or submission, it is faith in one or other shape, nor in fact can individuals themselves ever distinguish what they spiritually perceive from what they merely accept upon authority. It is the duty of every one either to believe and love what he hears, or to wish to do so, or at least, not to oppose, but to be silent.

This distinction between openly opposing and passively submitting to the Tradition of the Church Catholic, is recognized by Vincentius in the last of the foregoing extracts; and rests upon grounds which have come under notice in former Lectures, and which easily recommend themselves to the mind.


Take the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch, whom Philip baptized. Philip did not oblige him to contemplate, accept, and profess, the doctrine of eternal punishment, yet surely the Eunuch was not at liberty to oppose it. He did not, could not teach him at once everything that was to be learned; yet was he at liberty, when once a Christian, to sift, criticize, and prove for himself Philip's teaching before he accepted it? Whether or not this case is precisely parallel to that under consideration, it shows all that I bring it to show, that there is a medium conceivable between confessing all truth from the first, and having a right of opposing it from the first. Such opposition, or again, even a resolute disbelief without open opposition, would be the token of an arrogant mind, as certainly as wilful acts of impurity argue a carnal mind; and as a fornicator or adulterer would be an unfit subject for Church communion, so would a disturber or scorner of the Church's Tradition. He is excluded on a moral offence; not only because he believes amiss, but because he acts {256} presumptuously. The Church Catholic is more likely to be right than he.

Such is the moral state, and such the punishment, of those who presumptuously resist the Church; but it does not follow because a man does not oppose a certain article that therefore he firmly holds it. There is surely a middle state of mind between affirming and denying, and that in many forms; and in one or other of them, it is the portion, in a measure, of all of us. Either we are ignorant, or we are undecided, or we are in doubt, or we are on inquiry, or we take secret exceptions in one or other part of that extended system which has existed more or less all over the Church, and which I have called the Prophetical Tradition. Unless the Church were thus indulgent to her children, she could not be called Catholic.


The Primitive Church recollected that she was instituted for the sake of the poor and ignorant. "To the poor the Gospel is preached." She was simple and precise in her fundamentals to include all classes, to suggest heads of belief, to assist the memory, to save the mind from perplexity [Note 7]. However, while thus considerate, she has not forgotten her high office, as the appointed teacher of her children. She is "the pillar and ground of the truth;" of all truth, Christian Truth in all its developments, in the interpretation of Scripture, in the exposition of doctrine, in the due appointment of ordinances, in the particular application and adjustment of the moral law. She is called a superstructure, as being built upon the great rudiments of the Gospel Doctrine; a pillar and ground, as being the expounder of it. And, in consequence, such being her office towards her children, they are bound, if they would remain her children, as far as their minds {257} attain to her doctrine, to take it on the ground of her Catholicity.

I say, "as far as their minds attain to it," for few of us indeed have the opportunity of acquainting ourselves with the whole system of truth which is preserved in the Church. Every word of Revelation has a deep meaning. It is the outward form of a heavenly truth, and in this sense a mystery or Sacrament. We may read it, confess it; but there is something in it which we cannot fathom, which we only, more or less, as the case may be, not perfectly, enter into. Accordingly, when a candidate for Baptism repeats the Articles of the Creed, he is confessing something incomprehensible in its depth, and indefinite in its extent [Note 8]. He cannot know at the time what he is binding on himself, whither he is letting himself be carried. It is the temper of reverent faith to feel this; to feel that in coming to the Church, it stands before God's representative, and that, as in her Ordinances, so in her Creed, there is a something supernatural and beyond us. Another property of faith is the wish to conceive rightly of sacred doctrine, as far as it can conceive at all; and, further, to look towards the Church for guidance how to conceive of it. This is faith, viz., submission of the reason and will towards God, wistful and loving meditation upon His message, childlike reliance on the guide which is ordained by Him to be the interpreter of it. The Church Catholic is our mother; if we attend to this figure, we shall have little practical difficulty in the matter before us. A child comes to its mother for instruction; she gives it. She does not assume infallibility, nor is she infallible; yet it would argue a very unpleasant temper in the child to doubt her word, to require proof of it before acting on it, {258} to go needlessly to other sources of information [Note 9]. Sometimes, perhaps, she mistakes in lesser matters, and is set right by her child; yet this neither diminishes her prerogative of teaching, nor his privilege of receiving dutifully. Now this is what the Church does towards her children, according to the primitive design. She puts before them, first of all, as the elements of her teaching, nothing but the original Creed; her teaching will follow in due time, but as a privilege to children necessarily ignorant, as a privilege which will be welcomed by them, and accepted joyfully, or they would be wanting in that temper of faith which the very coming for Baptism presupposes.


Thus, then, I would meet the difficulty of drawing the line between essentials and non-essentials. The Church asks for a dutiful and simple-hearted acceptance of her message growing into faith, and that variously, according to the circumstances of individuals. And, if this be the principle on which the Catholic Church anciently acted, we see how well it was adapted to try the humility of her children, without imposing any yoke upon them, after the manner of Rome, or repressing the elastic or creative force of their minds. She makes her way by love, she does not force a way by violence. All she asks is their confidence, which will practically preserve them from all difference from her, except in minor matters. Thus, in the case of particular minds, she allows for a defect in the evidence they have received of her full doctrine, or in the impression of this or that part of her Creed. She is gentle, holds back, watches her time, and is persuasive according to the {259} opportunity. She secures to herself the power of accommodating her communications to the circumstances, ranks, and ages of her children; of consulting for their ignorance, or even waywardness; of keeping silence when it would be inexpedient or unkind to urge truth in its fulness, or where men are unworthy of it; of letting the reason range freely, and then bringing it round. She exacts the great rudiments of the Gospel from all, she requires teachableness, she is severe with scepticism, but she is tender and considerate amid her zeal and loyalty towards God. She does not "strive nor cry," nor "quench the smoking flax;" but retires into the sanctuary, dispensing her message, not lavishly, or by necessity, but on those who care to follow her. She has that confidence in the truth of her doctrine and in the sovereignty of truth, that she can be long-suffering towards error; that faith in her spiritual powers, that she is slow to display them. She can within bounds bear with the froward or the obstinate, knowing her gift both in the word and in the sacraments, when the time comes for using it. She has too generous a temper to rule by engagements, but, like an absolute monarch, is familiar with her children without jealousy, because God is with her. But supposing they are hopelessly contumacious, resist her word, oppose and preach against her, she has no desire, nay, no warrant to retain them, and suffers or compels them to depart, lest the rest should be injured. Yet after all, even when she strips them of her glorious privileges, she does not thereby absolutely pronounce on their spiritual state in God's sight, or their future destiny. She is as little concerned with such questions as with the state of heathens [Note 10]. She surrenders them to that Master "to whom they stand or fall;" doing her part, and leaving the rest to Him. {260}


4. It is time to bring this Lecture to an end, but one objection, and not the least important, remains, which shall be treated with as much brevity as the nature of it admits. It will be said that, even if the above theory of Fundamentals is consistent, yet, after all, it is but a theory; a mere shadowy, baseless, ingenious theory, since the division of the East and West, and still more so since the great schism of the North and South. "You speak," it may be urged against me, "of the Church Catholic, of the Church's teaching, and of obedience to the Church. What is meant by the Church Catholic at this day? where is she? what are her local instruments and organs? how does she speak? when and where does she teach, forbid, command, censure? how can she be said to utter one and the same doctrine everywhere, when we are at war with all the rest of Christendom, and not at peace at home? In the Primitive Church there was no difficulty, and no mistaking; then all Christians everywhere spoke one and the same doctrine, and if any novelty arose, it was at once denounced and stifled. The case indeed, is the same now with the Roman Church; but for Anglo-Catholics so to speak, is to use words without meaning, to dream of a state of things long past away from this Protestant land. The Church is now but a mere abstract word; it stands for a generalized idea, it is not the name of any one thing really existing; which if it ever was, yet ceased to be, when Christians divided from each other, centuries upon centuries ago. Rome and Greece, at enmity with each other, both refuse communion to England, and anathematize her faith. Again, in the English Church by itself may be found differences as great as those which separate it from Greece or Rome;—Calvanism and Arminianism, Latitudinarianism and Orthodoxy, all these sometimes simply such, and sometimes compounded together into numberless varieties {261} of doctrine and school; and these, not merely each upholding itself as true, but, with few exceptions, denouncing all the rest as perilous, if not fatal errors. Such is its state even among its appointed ministers and teachers. Where, then, in the English Church is that one eternal voice of Truth, that one witness issuing from the Apostles' times, and conversant with all doctrine, the expounder of the Creed, the interpreter of Scripture, and the instructor of the people of God?"


Whatever truth there is in these remarks, still I cannot allow that what I have been above drawing out is therefore a mere tale of other times, when addressed to those who are really bent on serving God as well as they can, and who consult what is most likely to please Him. The very difficulty of applying it, will be a test whether we earnestly desire to do His will or not. Those who do not, will gladly seize the excuse that His will is difficult to find. Common experience of life shows us clearly enough how men evade what they do not like. They find reasons for pleasing themselves, good unanswerable reasons, but which after all do not deceive us for an instant as to the real motives which influence them. The two things are quite distinct and quite compatible, neither interfering with the other nor arguing its absence, the motive for an act and the excuse for it. The excuse which is urged to defend it, does not obscure in any degree our view of the motive which it argues. We know quite well that if their heart had been in the business, they would have found at least an approximation and made an attempt towards that which they have passed over; as is even plain from the proverb, "where there is a will, there is a way." Now, we have no reason to suppose, that God will accept in our conduct towards Him excuses which we see through when {262} offered to ourselves; and, if so, the difficulty of obedience may be a trial of our motives, not a subject for argument. The servant who hid his talent and made excuses, did not find his account in making them.

It being kept in view, then, what kind of obedience God requires of us, viz. such as we can pay, not the alternative of the highest conceivable obedience, or none at all, of the very letter, or not of the spirit, let us see, whether even amid our present confusions there be any such insuperable obstacle in obeying the Church, as is pretended. Now, in spite of differences within or without, our own branch may surely be considered as to us the voice of her who has been in the world ever one and the same since Christ came. Surely, she comes up to the theory; she professes to be the Catholic Church, and to transmit that one ancient Catholic Faith, and she does transmit it simply and intelligibly. Not the most unlettered of her members can miss her meaning. She speaks in her formularies and services. The Daily Prayer, the Occasional Offices, the Order of the Sacraments, the Ordination Services, present one and the same strong, plain, edifying language to rich and poor, learned and unlearned; and that, not as the invention of this Reformer or that, but as the witness of all Saints from the beginning. The very titles of the Prayers and Creeds show this; such as, "the Apostles'" and "the Nicene Creed," "the Creed of St. Athanasius," "the Catholic Faith," "the Catholic Religion," a "Prayer of St. Chrysostom," and the like. It is undeniable, that a stranger taking up the Prayer-Book would feel it to be no modern production; the very Latin titles to the Psalms and Hymns would prove it. It claims to be Catholic; nor is there any one of any party to deny, that on the whole it is. There is no mistaking then in this day in England, where the Church Catholic is, and what her teaching. To follow her is to follow the Prayer-Book, instead of following preachers, who are but individuals. Its words are {263} not the accidental out-pouring of this or that age or country, but the joint and accordant testimony of that innumerable company of Saints, whom we are bound to follow. They are the accents of the Church Catholic and Apostolic as she manifests herself in England. Surely, if we did but proceed on the great principle above described, of acting towards duties which we cannot fulfil exactly, did we take what is given us, and use it not grudgingly, nor of necessity, but with a cheerful obedience, did we receive the Creed as our Gospel, embrace and act upon the doctrine of our Services, and, if anywhere we differed, differ in silence, we should of ourselves without effort revive all those visible tokens of the Church's sovereignty, the want of which is our present excuse for disobedience. Surely, "the kingdom of God is within us;" we have but to recognize the Church in faith, and it rises before our eyes.


Nor is there anything in the profession of the sects around us to disturb us. They contradict each other, or rather themselves. They pretend to no Antiquity, they do not claim a Tradition, they have no stability, no consistency; they as little interfere, or profess to interfere, with our doctrine and our pretensions at all, as the schools of philosophy and science. They have taken a different line and occupy a different province. They gain their opinions from a distinct source. As well might it be said that diviners interfere with prophecy, as those who out of their own judgment conjecture the doctrine of Christ, with its traditionary delivery through His appointed stewards.

The only real difficulty in our path in the question now under review, arises from the pretensions of the Roman Catholics who are among us. They profess to be the Church and to teach the Catholic Faith as well as we, yet differ materially from us. Which then are our people to believe? but even here there is no such difficulty in our {264} path as opponents would be glad to create. Assuming, as our present argument leads us to do, that Romanists and we are both branches of the one Catholic Church, I say the difference of doctrine between them and us is no practical difficulty in finding what is Apostolical, no drawback upon our people's certainty and comfort in the Anglo-Catholic communion. Indeed, the two rival systems, Roman and English, agreeing amid their differences in those points which they each hold to be the highest truths, and which sectaries more or less undervalue, afford a remarkable attestation to the Apostolical origin of both. Both profess the Apostles' Creed. Both use substantially the same Common Prayer, ours indeed being actually but a selection from theirs. It is nothing to the purpose in this point of view, what and how great the errors of Romanism are in practice. We know they are very serious; but I am speaking of its professions, with which alone at this instant I am concerned. And the doctrines of Three Persons in One indivisible Divine Nature; of the union of two Natures, Divine and Human, in the One Person of Christ; of the imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants; of the death of Christ to reconcile God the Father to us sinners; of the application of His merits through external rites; of the singular efficacy and mysteriousness of Sacraments; of the Apostolical ministry; of unity; of the necessity of good works; these and other doctrines are maintained, and maintained as the chief doctrines of the Gospel, both by us and by them. And our very differences in other matters, and our hostility towards each other increase, I say, the force of our unanimity where it exists.

On the other hand, the very fact of those differences throws a corresponding uncertainty over those points which Rome maintains by herself [Note 11], such as the existence {265} of Purgatory, the supremacy of the Roman see, and the Infallibility of the Church.


If, in answer to this statement, it be urged that the peculiar claim set up by Rome to be the true Church to the exclusion of ourselves, is so serious as to perplex the inquirer, and almost to lead him to join himself to her communion as the safest course, whatever be the identity of doctrine between the two systems on greater points, let it be considered whether on the other hand there be not some peculiarities hanging about her, which are sufficient from the same prudential motives to keep us at a distance from her. Our Lord said of false prophets, "By their fruits shall ye know them;" and, however the mind may be entangled theoretically, yet surely it will be struck with certain marks in Rome which seem intended to convey to the simple and honest inquirer a solemn warning to keep clear of her, while she carries them about her. Such are her denying the cup to the laity, her idolatrous worship of the Blessed Virgin, her Image-worship, her recklessness in anathematizing, and her schismatical and overbearing spirit. Surely we have more reason for thinking that her doctrines concerning Images and the Saints are false, than that her decision that they are Apostolical is true. I conceive, then, on the whole, that while Rome confirms by her accordant witness our own teaching in all greater things, she does not tend by her novelties, and violence, and threats, to disturb the practical certainty of Catholic doctrine, or to seduce from us any sober and conscientious inquirer.

And here I end, at last, my remarks on Fundamentals, in which I have been unavoidably led, partly to repeat, partly to take for granted, some portions of the preceding Lectures.

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1. [Catholics will not instance one doctrine merely, but, as has been noted above, there are many doctrines, which, though not in the Apostolic Creed (as the developed doctrine of the Holy Trinity, original sin, the necessity of grace, eternal punishment), still the high Anglican considers to have a place in the Apostolic depositum of faith.]
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2. [If we are asked why it is not so declared, our answer is, that commonly truths of the Apostolic depositum are not made dogmas or articles of faith, till they have been publicly denied. However, in fact the Church's Infallibility has been asserted by the Vatican Council.]
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3. Hær. iii. 4.
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4. E.g. The Catholic interpretation of certain portions of Scripture, as Rom. vii., comes close upon the highest kind of Tradition; on the other hand, the Tradition of facts is very uncertain, often apocryphal, as that St. Ignatius was the child whom our Lord took in His arms and blessed, which, however, even if untrue, indirectly confirms certain truths, viz. that St. Ignatius was closely connected with the Apostles, &c.
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5. [This is not quite in point. It was not a difficulty of doctrine at Nicæa, but of a word; the doctrine was both true and necessary, and the mass of Christians were so zealous for it as not to need to be pledged. The word was refused, not by the mass of Christians, but by two parties of ecclesiastics, the one political, the other (of whom Athanasius is writing) pious but subtle-minded and perverse.]
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6. Athan. de Syn. 41. Vincent. Commonit. 39, 41.
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7. August. Serm. 213, init.
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8. "Considera quod voceris fidelis, non rationalis. Denique accepto baptismo hoc dicimus, Fidelis factus sum, credo quod nescio." Augustin. Serm. de Tempore. 189. 1. de Trin. apud Bellarm.
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9. [But supposing that after she has given her answer, the child has real reason to come to a conclusion of his own, what is to hinder him, since she is not infallible? Yet she may be right after all in the particular case.]
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10. [Nor is the Catholic Church, though she be infallible in her statements of doctrine. This whole paragraph is in the main true of her.]
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11. [Do, in like manner, the theological differences between Bp. Bull and Socinus, add weight to their evidence for the Divine Unity, in which they agree, but throw doubt upon the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, about which they differ?]
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