Page images

din'rs an sian

next, that those who have received thc gift of Baptism live in a state of holiness, not of sin. How does doctrine like this meet the actual state of the Church as we see it at this day?

Considering that it was expressly predicted that the Kingdom of Heaven, like the fisher's net, should gather of every kind, and that the tares should grow. with the wheat until the harvest, a graver and more practical question cannot be imagined than that which it has pleased the Divine Author of the Revelation to leave undecided, unless indeed there be means in that Revelation for its own growth or de\velopment. As far as the letter goes of the inspired

message, “there is not one of us but has exceeded by transgression its revealed provisions, and finds himself in consequence thrown upon those infinite resources of Divine Love which are stored in Christ, but have not been drawn out into form in its appointments.”i Since then Scripture needs completion, the question is brought to this issue, whether defect or inchoateness in its doctrines be or be not an antecedent probability in favour of a development of them.

There is another subject, though not so immediately practical, on which Scripture does not, strictly speaking, keep silence, for then there would be no basis for development, but says so little as to require, and so much as to suggest, information beyond its letter, the intermediate state between death and the Resurrection. Considering the length of time which separates Christ's first and second coming, the millions of faithful souls who are exhausting it, and the intimate concern which every Christian has in the determination of its character, it might have been expected that Scripture would have spoken explicitly concerning it, whereas in fact its notices are but brief and obscure. We might indeed have argued that this silence was inten

1 Justification, lect. xiii.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


once, otion that Chries on our

tional, with a view of discouraging speculations upon the subject, except for the circumstance that, as in the question of our post-baptismal state, its teaching seems to proceed upon an hypothesis inapplicable to the state of the Church since the time it was delivered. As Scripture contemplates Christians, not as backsliders, but as saints, so does it apparently represent the Day of Judgment as immediate, and the interval of expectation as evanescent. It leaves on our minds the general o impression that Christ was returning on earth at once, “the time short," worldly engagements superseded by “the present distress," persecutors urgent, Christians sinless and expectant, without home, without plan for the future, looking up to heaven. But outward circumstances have changed, and with the change, of necessity, a different application of the revealed word became necessary, that is, a development. When the nations were converted and offences abounded, then the Church came out to view, on the one hand as an establishment, on the other as a remedial system, and passages of Scripture aided and directed the development which before were of inferior account. Hence the doctrine of Penance as the complement of Baptism, and of Purgatory as the explanation of the Intermediate State. So reasonable is this development of the original creed, that, when Baptism was lately expounded without the doctrine of Penance, it was accused by English Churchmen of Novatianism, while heterodox thinkers have before now urged the doctrine of the sleep of the soul as the only successful preventive of belief in Purgatory.

Thus developments of Christianity are proved to , have been in the contemplation of its Divine Author, by an argument parallel to that by which we infer intelligence in the system of the physical world. In o whatever sense the need and its supply are a proof of design in the visible creation, in the same do the

gaps, if the word may be used, which occur in the structure of the original creed of the Church, make it probable that those developments, which grow out of the truths which lie around them, were intended to complete it.

Nor can it be fairly objected that in thus arguing we are contradicting the great philosopher, who tells us, that “upon supposition of God affording us light and instruction by revelation, additional to what He has afforded us by reason and experience, we are in no sort judges by what methods, and in what proportion, it were to be expected that this supernatural light and instruction would be afforded us,"l because he is speaking of our judging before a revelation is given. He observes that we have no principles of reason upon which to judge beforehand, how it were to be expected Revelation should have been left, or what was most suitable to the divine plan of government," in various respects; but the case is altogether altered when a Revelation is vouchsafed, for then a new precedent, or what he calls “principle of reason," is introduced, and from what is actually put into our hands we can form a judgment whether more is to be expected. Butler, indeed, as a well-known passage of his work shows, is far from denying the principle of progressive development.

5. The method of revelation observed in Scripture abundantly confirms this anticipation. For instance, Prophecy, if it had so happened, need not have afforded a specimen of development; separate predictions might have been made to accumulate as time went on, prospects might have opened, definite knowledge might have been given, by communications independent of each other, as St. John's Gospel or the Epistles of St. Paul are unconnected with the first three Gospels, though the doctrine of each Apostle is a development of their matter. But the Revelation is, in matter of fact, not of this nature, but a process of development: the earlier prophecies are pregnant proceeds. nt's head Shiloh came was to che quest

1 Butler's Anal. ji. 3.

texts out of which the succeeding announcements grow; they are types. It is not that first one truth is told, then another; but the whole truth or large portions of it are told at once, yet only in their rudiments, or in miniature, and they are expanded and finished in their parts, as the course of revelation proceeds. The Seed of the woman was to bruise the serpent's head; the sceptre was not to depart from Judah till Shiloh came, to whom was the gathering of the people. He was to be Wonderful, Counsellor, the Prince of Peace. The question of the Ethiopian rises in the reader's mind, “Of whom speaketh the Prophet this?” Every word requires a comment. Accordingly, it is no uncommon theory with unbelievers, that the Messianic idea, as they call it, was gradually developed in the minds of the Jews by a continuous and traditional habit of contemplating it, and grew into its full proportions by a mere human process; and so far seems certain, without trenching on the doctrine of inspiration, that the books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus are developments of the writings of the Prophets, expressed under or elicited by current ideas in the .Greek philosophy, and ultimately adopted and ratified by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews.

But the whole Bible, not its prophetical portions. only, is written on the principle of development. As the Revelation proceeds, it is ever new, yet ever old. St. John, who completes it, declares that he writes no “new commandment unto his brethren,” but an old commandment which they “had from the beginning.” And then he adds, “A new commandment I write unto you.” The same test of development is suggested in our Lord's words on the Mount, as has already been noticed, “Think not • that I am come to destroy the Law and the Prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” He does not reverse, but perfect, what has gone before. Thus with respect to the evangelical view of the rite of

o sacrifice, first the rite is enjoined by Moses; next

Samuel says, “to obey is better than sacrifice;" then Hosea, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice;" Isaiah, “ Incense is an abomination unto me;" then Malachi, describing the times of the Gospel, speaks of the "pure offering” of wheatflour; and our Lord completes the development, when He speaks of worshipping “in spirit and in truth.” If there is anything yet to explain, it will be found in the usage of the Christian Church immediately afterwards, which shows that sacrifice was not removed, but truth and spirit added.

Nay, the effata of our Lord and His Apostles are of a typical structure, parallel to the prophetic announcements above mentioned, and predictions as well as injunctions of doctrine. If then the prophetic sentences have had that development which has really been given them, first by succeeding revelations, and then by the event, it is probable antecedently that those doctrinal, political, ritual, and ethical sentences, which have the same structure, should admit the same expansion. Such are, “This is My Body,” or “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church,” or “Suffer little children to come unto Me,” or “The pure in heart shall see God.”

On this character of our Lord's teaching, the following passage may suitably be quoted. “His recorded words and works when on earth . . . come as the declarations of a Lawgiver. In the Old Covenant, Almighty God first of all spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, and afterwards wrote them. So our Lord first spoke his own Gospel, both of promise and of precept, on the Mount, and His Evangelists have recorded it. Further, when He delivered it, He spoke by way of parallel to the Ten Commandments. And His style, moreover, corresponds to the authority which He assumes. It is of that solemn, measured, and severe character,

In the ; come as

st of all.

« PreviousContinue »