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LECTURE III.

EXPOSITION OF THE CATHOLIC RULE OF FAITI.

I PETER, ui, 15. Sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in your hearts : being ready

always to satisfy any one that asketh you the reason of the hope

that is in you. In my last discourse, I was principally occupied with the less pleasing task of examining and confuting the opinions of others. I endeavoured, with the utmost impartiality, to analyse the principle of belief adopted by those religions which have rejected ours; and, without any reference to express authority, by simply tracing it to its simple elements, I attempted to show you that it was fraught with so many difficulties, as absolutely to render it in practice inapplicable, and void of fruit. For, while it supposes, on the one hand, the obligation of each individual to examine for himself the word of God, and draw thence the doctrines which he believes, as therein contained; it, on the other hand, vecessarily supposes, a train of difficult, learned, and often abstruse, enquiry, to which very few, comparatively, can be equal.

I come now to the more agreeable duty of explaining to you the faith which we hold : and I shall endeavour to proceed precisely in the same manner, as I did at our last meeting. I will at present content myself with giving you the outline of our belief; showing, as I proceed, how simple and obvious is the whole process of our reasoning; such, indeed, as must at once satisfy the most accurate and logical enquirer; and, yet, at the same time, be within the reach of the most illiterate capacity. I will endeavour, also, to point out the beautiful harmony of all its parts, and the striking way in which the adoption of such a rule, must influence, not only the whole basis and nature of the demonstration, but also the construction, of per. fect Christianity.

We are told, in the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy, how, when Moses had completed the law of God, and had written it in a book, he

gave

it to the Levites who bare the Ark of the Lord, and commanded that it should be placed beside the Ark of the Covenant, within the Tabernacle, as a testimony against Israel. But that was not the only precious thing which received so distinguished an honour. For we read how, on a certain occasion,* when many would have disputed the supreme priesthood of Aaron's line, and, jealous of the authority vested in him as the priest appointed of God, would have claimed a share in his dignity, the Almighty commanded Moses to give a rod unto each of the tribes, whereon the name of its head was written; and all were placed in the presence of the Lord; and on the next morning, it was found that the rod of Aaron had blossomed, and brought forth fruit. And then God commanded this rod, which was the emblem of authority, and a witness that he had confided the spiritual rule, and the teaching of the people, to one line, to be also deposited and kept in the same place, as a testimony in like manner to the people of Israel. And even so, on another occasion, Moses commanded Aaron to take a certain portion of the manna, of the holy and spiritual food sent down from the clouds to feed the people of Israel; and having put it into a vessel, he treated it likewise with the same distinction, and placed it to stand in the Sanctuary, before the Mercy-seat of God.t

Now, my brethren, all these are perfectly symbolical of the elements, which the Catholic supposes to enter into the composition of the ground-work of his faith. For, first, above all, he reveres and values the Sacred Volume revealed by God, which he places as the foundation-stone of his faith, in the holiest of His temple. But beside it is also the rod of the children of Aaron, the sceptre of power and authority, the badge of dignity and command, which God hath given to the rulers and pastors of the Church; and in this also he recognises the honourable right to claim a place beside the other in the * Numbers, xvii.

+ Exod. xvi. 33.

Sanctuary, although with such distinctions as I shall just now explain. Then, in the third place, he believes also, that a necessary and important ingredient in the formation of individual faith, is the strengthening and life-giving grace which God sends down into the soul, which infuses faith as a virtue into the heart, ready to be exercised the moment its object is properly placed before it. And such is the threefold composition of the provision made by God for the acceptance of His holy religion: a divine revelation, having its essential basis in his written word; an unfailing authority to preserve, propose, and explain it; and an inward aid to receive and embrace it. And the emblems of these, as was done of old, we carefully cherish in the tabernacle of God with men, which is His Church.

What, then, my brethren, is the rule of faith which our Church admits? The word of God—the word of God alone and exclusively; but here comes the great trenching difference between ourselves and others, in the enquiry, what is the extent of God's holy word ? The Churches which separated from us at the time of the Reformation, separated from us, I may say, upon this principle,--that the Catholic Church had introduced another ground, besides the word of God, into the principle of its religion; that it admitted the traditions of man, and had given to them the title, the name, and dignity of God's word. It is, therefore, necessary for me to propose a few simple explanatory distinctions. You often hear of Catholics admitting traditionsometimes of their receiving what they call the unwritten word of God. Perhaps you have not a clear apprehension of these two terms. Then besides them, you will sometimes hear of the power of the Church to make decrees of dogma, or of the authority of General Councils, or of the Universal Church, or of the Pope, to define matters of faith, with a number of other terms, often vaguely, and sometimes equivocally used. The meaning of all these phrases, to the reasonable and instructed Catholic, is sufficiently obvious;

but they should be used with great caution, and accurately defined, when we explain our doctrines to persons not equally competent to understand them. In the first place, then, as it has pleased God to order things, the Catholic has no need of any other ground-work of his faith beyond the written word of God. For it has pleased Him (though he might have otherwise ordered it) to give us in His holy Scriptures suffi cient evidence of that authority which he has bestowed upon his Church. This reasoning may be thus illustrated, as we do not allow of any doctrine which is not contained and rooted in Christ Jesus incarnate, the Word of God, and Eternal Wisdom of the Father, and yet we admit other doctrines, only remotely connected with him, based only on him, and less directly referable to him,—for no doctrine can have

any force except inasmuch as it rests on his authority;. so likewise if the Church claims authority to define articles of faith, and to instruct her children what they must believe, you must not for one moment think that authority, and the sanction for that power, she conceives herself to derive from the clear, express, and explicit words of Scripture. Thus, it may be truly said, that, whatever is believed by the Catholic, although not positively expressed in the written word of God, is believed, because the principle adopted by him is there expressly revealed.

By the unwritten word of God, we mean a body of doctrines, which, in consequence express

declarations in the written word, we believe not to have been committed in the first instance to writing, but delivered by Christ to his Apostles, and by the Apostles to their successors.

We believe that no new doctrine can be introduced into the Church, but that every doctrine which we hold, has existed, and been taught in it, ever since the time of the Apostles; having been handed down by them to their successors, under the only guarantee on which we receive doctrines from the Church, that is, Christ's promises to abide with it for ever, to assist, direct, and instruct it, and always.

of

teach in and through it. So that, while giving our implicit credit, and trusting our judgment to it, we are believing, and trusting to the express teaching and sanction of Christ himself.

Tradition, therefore, my brethren, or the doctrines delivered down, and the unwritten Word of God, are one and the same thing. But it must not be thought, that Catholics conceive there is a certain mass of vague and floating opinions, which may, at the option of the Pope, or of a General Council, or of the whole Church, be turned into Articles of Faith. Neither is it implied by the term unwritten word, that these Articles of Faith or traditions are nowhere recorded. Because, on the contrary, suppose a difficulty to arise regarding any doctrine—so that men should differ, and not know what precisely to believe, and that the Church thought it prudent or necessary to define what is to be held; the method pursued would be, to examine most accurately the writings of the Fathers of the Church, to ascertain what, in different courtries and in different ages, was by them held; and then, collecting the suffrages of all the world and of all times,—not indeed to create a new Article of Faith—but to define what has always been the Faith of the Catholic Church. It is conducted, in every instance, as a matter of historical enquiry, and all human prudence is used to arrive at a judicious decision. But when the Church is assembled for this solemn

purpose,

in consequence of those promises of Christ, which I shall develop at full length hereafter, we believe it impossible that the decrees which she issues can be false or incorrect; because Christ's promises would fail and be made void, should the Church be allowed to fall into error.

Thus then we allow of no authority but the Word of God, written or unwritten; and maintain that the controlso necessary over the latter, exists in its depository,—that is, in the Church of Christ, which has been appointed by God to take charge of, and keep safe, those doctrines, committed to her from the beginning, to be taught, at all times, to all nations. Now,

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