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WORDS AND PRINCIPLES.
Few things tend more directly to the destruction of a principle, than the unguarded surrender of its distinctive appellation; and few things illustrate this fact more remarkably, than the Church, in the grave and serious losses she has sustained by a careless currency of language employed by her members.
On this subject I shall offer a few prefatory remarks, suggestive of a careful examination of the subsequent texts from Scripture; the arrangement of which, together with the two Tables which precede them, forms the chief design of this little work. The first Table represents the doctrines of the Catholic Church in juxtaposition with Protestant deteriorations and corruptions of them; the second is a scheme of the Christian faith, as upheld by the Church in her catholic integrity.
We have been so long in the way of regarding the word Church, as merely meaning a place for public worship, that now, when we are being called back to a better hope-a higher view of our spiritual privileges as members incorporate of the Body of Christ, we
want, like some foundling who has been fortuitously restored to his parents, the deference and love towards her, which established habits of obedience and trust alone could have fostered within us. We equally dislike the wholesome restraints she would tenderly lay upon us, and impugn the broad lines she has laid down for our spiritual culture and defence. The one is too narrow for our lawless inclinations; the other too wide for our untutored apprehensions. While the life-giving efficacy of Baptism, by which we are made very members incorporate of Christ's mystical Body, is a doctrine too comprehensive for our stunted faculties; a tardy acknowledgment of sin, and confession of faith, from lips unfamiliar with the Name of God, except to blaspheme, is hailed as a sure evidence of Divine Goodness. Thus we limit the mercy of God as pledged in His appointed ordinances, while we insist upon it abstractedly, as being, in our opinions, consonant with His Divine attributes of love and pity.
The spiritual life of man, according to modern notions, is altogether unreal. God is a Spirit; and we seem to think that everything connected with Him, is of a like intangible and impalpable nature. We look upon the kingdom of Heaven as something vague and visionary ; as a something to be revealed hereafter ; some subtile expansion of our being into an etherial state of existence. Whereas, “the kingdom of God is at hand;" it is near to us; real, tangible and immediately effectual to the saving of souls, being typified and realized in His Church :-typified, as presenting in it, a faint image of future excellence; and realized, as having in it, the actual germ of our heavenly existence. It is the stone cut out of the mountains without hands”—the kingdom set up by the God of Heaven which “shall never be destroyed.” It has ever been the same; a real, actual, living body, whose province it is to "gather together in one, all things in Christ; both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth.” In this kingdom or Church, and under every succeeding dispensation, it has ever pleased the God of goodness, to appoint an outward and visible sign, for the strengthening and refreshing of His people, either typical or memorial, upon which He is pleased to look; and seeing, has promised to remember His everlasting covenant. The bow is set in the cloud ; the blood of the Paschal Lamb is sprinkled on the lintels and side-posts of the doors while the destroying Angel passes over; the creature is sacrificed, and the blood sprinkled on the Jewish Altar; the memorial offering of Bread and Wine is laid upon
the Christian Altar. These are set as the visible signs of God's covenant with man, and which, in His own inscrutable wisdom, He has been pleased to appoint for a perpetual remembrance of His
promises; being designed for us as visible signs of invisible mercies, spiritually discerned therein-the seen and the unseen mingling together, and carrying
us out of this corrupt state into one of inconceivable glory by the contact of our sinful bodies with that which God has sanctified to His eternal praise: the incorruptible Essence of God, reaching to corruptible man by Jesus Christ, Who is the One Adorable Mediator; touching by His glorious Godhead, the Heaven of Heavens; and in the mystical members of His Body drawing all mankind unto Himself.
To this exalted view of Christ's union with His Church, we have been preferring the low and narrow notions of the Christian calling, peculiar to a cold and rationalistic age; and are unwilling to disturb old and familiar modes of thinking by others which bring with them the appearance of reproof and condemnation. But as we cannot extend our bodily vision beyond a certain boundary, while we stand still; neither can we see far into moral and spiritual effects without altering our position, and advancing a little way, so to speak, into the world of mind external to ourselves. It is for this reason that we should lay aside our preconceived notions—our circumscribed views on the subject of Catholic teaching so heavily charged, and so hastily rejected by many —and patiently advance within the confines of a region of thought and experience, lying beyond our own, before we proceed to denounce it as false or delusive.
It is with the hope of inducing a more earnest inquiry into the nature and authority of the Church's teaching that a few simple and concise remarks are here diffidently offered on the abuse or disuse of words—involving certain principles-the surrender of which has so largely contributed towards the destruction of all concord in faith and feeling in the Christian world. I shall begin with the word
Divines of the Anglican Church, subsequent to the Reformation, in their controversies with those of the Roman obedience, incautiously fell, by degrees, into the very general use of the word-Protestant; adopted in many, not to say in most instances, simply with a view to keep clear of confusion in the course of argument. The consequence of this is, that the word Catholic-expressing the universality and oneness of the true faith-the doctrine of the “One Body," the “ One Spirit,” the “One hope of our calling," the “ One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”—is come to be nearly superseded by that of Protestant, which means repudiating or protesting against; and which, in strict accordance with its meaning, has ended—not simply in the rejection of what is untenable by the test of Scripture and the Fathers—but in so many forms of Sectarianism, as not to have left one single doctrine of the primitive faith untouched by some one or other of its divisions. Some protest against, “or deny," as St. Peter fore