Page images

Whene was rent could

bled to were sto millioht from

for his use; and, by subsequently breaking up the thick crust of the earth, put these deposits within his reach.

7. It reconciles us to the revelations of Astronomy, and the Telescope. When a few years ago, Herschell announced that some of the stars were at such a distance, that “their light could not have reached us in less than 60,000 years,” he was regarded as an infidel, and an enemy of Revelation! When he afterwards announced, that “the rays of light from the remotest nebulæ must have been about two millions of years on their way," the Christian public were still more grievously stumbled!

And stumbled they must be, while with Mr. Eleazer Lord and Dr. Dickinson, they will insist that “ in the beginning," means 6,000 years ago.

8. It accounts, rationally, for the phenomena of the Earth's crust, for each and every stratum, without any unnecessary miracles: accounts for disruptions, and disturbances, of the various rocks; and for vegetable and mineral fossils, deep in the earth, for which neither the flood of Noah, nor any other since Adam, can account.

It excuses us from believing that the Lord intended to mock all our reasoning from final causes, by creating vegetables and animals in stone, six or eight miles deep! We can now suppose that each stratum was in turn, the surface of the land, or the bottom of the sea, and received marine or lacustrine salt, or fresh water deposits, as sea or river prevailed.

9. It extends our ideas, or helps our conceptions of Time and Eternity, by making time, almost immeasurable. As astronomy helps us in our conceptions of Divine immensity, by carrying us from planets to the fixed stars, and from stars of the first magnitude to those of the twelfth, and the sixteenth-those of the sixteenth being supposed to be as far beyond the fifteenth magnitude, as those of the first are from our earth—and from these to the nebulæ; and from the nebulæ resolvable, to those which are unresolvable even by Lord Rosse's telescope, till we are overwhelmed by the infinity of space; so Geology carries us on its wings, not merely through the recent period since Adam, but downward through the Alluvium and Diluvium, the Pliocene, Miocene, and Eocene periods of the Tertiary strata, to the cretaceous group or Chalk; and, without stopping here, carries us onward through the consecutive periods of the Oolite, the Lias, the Mountain-Limestone, the Coal, the old Red Sandstone; and thence through the immeasurable ages of the Silurian,

Cambrian, and Cumbrian epochs, till our journey is stopped by the granite walls of the fiery ocean..

It gives us such an idea of time past, as nothing else has ever given. Geology helps us to carry back our ideas of time, beyond the usual conceptions of a past eternity!

10. Lastly; it gives us a sublime idea of Earth's Future. While it helps our faith in the future conflagration, by revealing to us oceans, if not one great Central Ocean, of internal fire, ready to burst its bounds, whenever the great Kindler speaks the word; it, at the same time, rescues from the fear of annihilation, and gives assurance of a purified and meliorated condition of our earth, fitted for holier inhabitants.

The long past, will be followed by a still longer future. And while the earth rolls on with the sun in his measureless circuit, through countless revolutions, each period will be found advancing its state, and fitting it for higher life, and ever increasing enjoyment.

ibn of our eartht, will be followed sun in his me


1. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, by John Henry

Newman; author of Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church.

Pp. 206. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 2. Symbolism : or Exposition of the Doctrinal differences between Catho

lics and Protestants, as evidenced by their Symbolical writings; by John Adam Moehler, D.D., Dean of Wurtzburg, and late Professor of Theology at the University of Munich. Translated from the German, with a memoir, &c., by James Burton Robinson, Esq. Two volumes of the London

edition in one, pp. 571. New York: published by Edward Dunigan, 1844. 3. (Moehler's Defence of the above.) Neue untersuchungen der Lehrge

gensatze zwischen den Katholiken und Protestanten. Eine Vertheidigung meiner Symbolik gegen die Kritik des Herrn Professors Dr. Baur in Tübingen: von Dr. J. A. Moehler, Ordentl. Professor der Theologie an der Universität München. Zweite vermehrte und verbesserte ausgabe. Mainz, 1835.

Luther closed his argument against Dr. Eck, at the Leipsic disputation, by saying, “The worthy Doctor carefully avoids Scripture. He likes it as little as the devil likes holy water." Eck was not destitute of sense to discern the true ground for his church to stand on. Some years later, at the Diet of Augsburg, after hearing the Protestant Confession read, one of the Catholic Princes asked him if he could refute it; "why perhaps

ainie Evidences of be of putting pietatis affectu before recourse he

not, from the Scriptures," said Eck, “but I can by help of the Fathers and Councils.” “Ah! I understand !" rejoined the Duke; “the Protestants, according to you, are in the Scriptures, and we on the outside.”

A reference by any church to Councils and Fathers as containing its title deeds, is an admission, tantum quantum, that those evidences of title are outside the Scriptures. Whatever the pretence may be of putting tradition on the same shelf with Scripture, to be honored pari pietatis affectu et reverentia, the first will always be exhausted for arguments, before recourse is had to the latter. A church will not launch its boat on the muddy canal of primitive antiquity, until the living current of Scripture testimony, bends resolutely the wrong way. So long as it will run, or seem to run, towards Rome or Oxford, there is none like it. When it refuses, a portage becomes unavoidable. The “navicula Petri," for example, must be dragged out soon after passing that great Rock in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel; hauled over a tremendous barrier of two hundred and fifty years: then pushed through a dubious sludge of mud and water for two or three hundred more, till it finally floats off, pulled by a whole Catena of Fathers, and steered by Symmachus, Leo or Gregory.

Mr. Newman accepts the necessity which obliges him to find somewhere else than in Scripture, a warrant for the doctrines he has embraced. The drift of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, is to show that an appeal to the Bible, on any question respecting the nature of Christianity, is quite superfluous. We have authority on the subject much more proximate. Why go back to the original records, when we have a convenient comment close at hand ? He proposes to “solve the difficulty which lies in the way of using our most natural informant concerning the doctrine and worship of Christianity; viz., the history of eighteen hundred years;” which is much like proposing to interpret the Constitution of the United States, by the resolutions and caucus proceedings of the dominant party for the last half century. One might have thought the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, were our most natural informants on that subject. But Mr. Newman has a very compendious way of putting them out of court: a sort of short and easy method with the Apostles. It consists in assuming that Nicene Christianity was the faithful representative of the Christianity of the New Testament: and then showing that Romanism has grown by a legitimate process of development out of it.

“We are told that God has spoken. Where? In a book ? We have tried it, and it disappoints: it disappoints, that most holy and blessed gift, not from fault of its own, but because it is used for a purpose for which it was not given.” Of course it disappoints, if it is taken up with the expectation of finding the Romish system there. But there is another authority more accommodating. “ Till it be shown why we should view the matter differently, it is natural, or rather necessary, it is agreeable to our modes of proceeding in parallel cases, to consider that the society of Christians which the Apostles left on earth was of that religion to which the Apostles had converted them; that the external continuity of name, profession and communion, is a prima facie argument for a real continuity of doctrine; that as Christianity began by manifesting itself to all mankind, therefore it went on to manifest itself; and that the more, considering that Prophecy had already determined that it was to be a power visible in the world, and sovereign over it; characters which are accurately fulfilled in that historical Christianity to which we commonly give the name. It is not a great assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous skepticism, to take it for granted that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries, is, in its substance, the very religion which Christ and his Apostles taught in the first, whatever may be the modifications for good or for evil which the lapse of years, or the vicissitudes of human affairs, have impressed upon it. I am not denying the abstract possibility of extreme changes. The substitution is certainly, in idea, supposable of a counterfeit Christianity for the original, by means of the adroit innovations of seasons, places, and persons, till, according to the familiar illustration, the blade' and the "handle' are successively renewed, and identity is lost without the loss of continuity. It is possible; but it must not be assumed. The onus probandi is with those who assert, what it is unnatural to expect."*

Now as to the unnaturalness of the expectation that Christianity would be essentially corrupted in the lapse of time; would be superseded by a sham Christianity; it would occur to any reader of the Scripture, that some light might be derived from the Apostolic writings themselves. The onus probandi logically

stance, the teenth, and intuity of the septicism, to take to the

• Introduction to Essay on the Development, &c.

essed in images ption; thagainst meant, i

rests on the party laying down a proposition, affirmative or negative, against which a presumption can be alleged in the nature or relations of the thing itself. Mr. Newman, for example, maintains that the Second Commandment is not strictly and universally binding on Christians. It was meant, in its letter, only for temporary observance. Against which there arises at once this strong presumption; that the command forbidding the use of graven images in worship, is found among moral statutes confessedly of universal obligation: there being no pretence, for instance, that the First and Third Commandments are not literally binding on Christians as well as Jews. We are not called upon, therefore, to do anything more in defence of our iconoclastic position than simply to recite the statute. Let those who say it has been abrogated, bear their Onus.

In like manner Mr. Newman maintains that Tridentine Christianity is the same as that of the Nicene period, and therefore the same as that contained, in the germ at least, in the New Testament. Against which there exist two strong presumptions; First, the explicit prophecy of a radical corruption of faith and worship, to take effect in the church; Second, the wide variation confessed between the present Christianity of Rome, and Christianity as set before us simply in the Scriptures. In the light of that express teaching of the Spirit, which announced a great future apostacy, characterized by blasphemous pretensions to Divine authority; claiming miraculous powers, and enjoining celibacy and asceticism, the presumption is against a church which pretends that genuine Christianity has been maintained in her communion, semper, ubique, et ab omnibus. Just as a presumption lies against the Christianity of an individual who pretends to sinless perfection, so it is prima facie evidence against a church, that she claims to hold, and ever to have held, in all ages, the unadulterated doctrine of the Apostles. The fact of a wide departure from the simplicity of the Gospel, enters essentially into the history of Christianity, 28 sketched by the pen of inspiration. It began even in the life-time of the Apostles. The mystery of iniquity was working while Paul wrote; and the presumption is of the strongest character, therefore, that after the death of the Apostles it went on unchecked, eating like a canker into the heart of Christianity.

It is very far from “unnatural,” then, to expect to find a corrupted form of Christianity prevailing in the fourth, seventh,

« PreviousContinue »