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tice, and for the growth of opinion on particular points. Some light may be thrown on this hypothesis as we proceed; meanwhile, however freely it may be assumed and largely applied, it has no claims on our attention till it is drawn out scientifically;—till we are distinctly informed what the real Christian doctrine or evangelical message is, or if there be any; from what sources it is drawn; how those sources are ascertained to us; and what is a corruption.
A third hypothesis, which has been put forward by divines of the Church of Rome, is what has been called the Disciplina Arcani. It is maintained that doctrines which are associated with the later ages of the Church were really in the Church from the first, but not publicly taught, and that for various reasons : as, for the sake of reverence, that sacred subjects might not be profaned by the heathen; and for the sake of catechumens, that they might not be oppressed or carried away by a sudden communication of the whole circle of revealed truth. And indeed the fact of this concealment can hardly be denied, in whatever degree it took the shape of a definite rule, which might vary with persons and places. That it existed even as a rule, as regards the Sacraments, seems to be confessed on all hands. That it existed in other respects, as a practice, is plain from the nature of the case, and from the writings of the Apologists. Minucius Felix and Arnobius, in controversy with Pagans, imply a denial that then the Christians used altars ; yet Tertullian speaks expressly of the Ara Dei in the Church. What can we say, but that the Apologists deny altars in the sense in which they ridicule them; or, that they deny that altars such as the Pagan altars were tolerated by Christians? And, in like manner, Minucius allows that there were no temples among Christians; yet they are distinctly recognised in the edicts of the Dioclesian era, and are known to have existed at a still earlier date. It is the tendency of every dominant system, such as the Paganism of the Ante-nicene centuries, to force its opponents into the most hostile and jealous attitude, from the capprehension which they naturally feel, lest, in those points in which they approximate towards it, they should be misinterpreted and overborne by its authority. The very fault now found with clergymen of the English Church, who wish to conform their practices to her rubrics, and their doctrines to her divines of the seventeenth century, is, that, whether they mean it or no, whether legitimately or no, still, in matter of fact, they will be sanctioning and encouraging the religion of Rome, in which there are similar doctrines and practices, more definite and more influential; so that, at any rate, it is inexpedient to attempt what is sure to be mistaken. That is, they are required to exercise a disciplina arcani ; and a similar reserve was inevitable on the part of the Catholic Church, at a time when priests and altars and rites all around it were devoted to malignant and incurable superstitions. It was wrong indeed to deny, but it was a duty to withhold, the ceremonial of Christianity; and Apologists might be sometimes tempted to deny absolutely what at furthest could only be denied under conditions. An idolatrous Paganism tended to repress the externals of Christianity, as, at this day, the presence of Protestantism is said to repress, though for another reason, the exhibition of the Roman Catholic religion.
On various grounds, then, it is certain that portions of the Church system were held back in primitive times, and of course this fact goes some way to account for that apparent variation and growth of doctrine which embarrasses us when we would consult history for the true idea of Christianity; o yet it is no key to the whole difficulty, as we find
it, for an obvious reason;—the variations continue beyond the time when it is conceivable that the discipline was in force.
The following Essay is directed towards a solution of the difficulty which has been stated, the difficulty which lies in the way of using the testimony of our most natural informant concerning the doctrine and worship of Christianity, viz. the history of eighteen hundred years. The view on which it is written has at all times, perhaps, been implicitly adopted by theologians, and, I believe, has recently been illustrated by several distinguished writers of the continent, such as De Maistre and Möhler: viz. that the increase and expansion of o the Christian Creed and Ritual, and the variations which have attended the process in the case of individual writers and Churches, are the necessary attendants on any philosophy or polity which takes possession of the intellect and heart and has had any wide or extended dominion; that, from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; and that the highest and most wonderful truths, though communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers, could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients, but, as received and transmitted by minds not inspired and through media which were human, have required only the longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation. This may be called the Theory of Developments; and, before proceeding to treat of it, two remarks may be in place.
First, it is undoubtedly an hypothesis to account for a difficulty; and such too are the various explanations given by astronomers from Ptolemy to Newton of the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies. But it is as unphilosophical on that account to object to the one as to object to the other. Nay, more so; for an hypothesis, such as the present, rests
upon facts as well as accounts for them, and, independent of the need of it, is urged upon us by the nature of the case. Nor is it more reasonable to express surprise, that at this time of day a theory is necessary, granting for argument's sake that the theory is novel, than to have directed a similar wonder in disparagement of the theory of gravitation, or the Plutonian theory in geology. Doubtless, the theory of the Secret and the theory of Developments are expedients, and so is the dictum of Vincentius; so is the art of grammar or the use of the quadrant; it is an expedient to enable us to solve what has now become a necessary and an anxious problem. For three hundred years the documents and the facts of Christianity have been exposed to a jealous scrutiny; works have been judged spurious which once were received without a question; facts have been discarded or modified which were once first principles in argument; new facts and new principles have been brought to light; philosophical views and polemical discussions of various tendencies have been maintained with more or less success. Not only have the relative situation of controversies and theologies altered, but infidelity itself is in a different, I am obliged to say in a more hopeful position,—as regards Christianity. The facts of revealed religion, though in their substance unaltered, present a less compact and orderly front to the attacks of its enemies, and allow of the introduction of new conjectures and theories concerning its sources and its rise. The state of things is not as it was, when an appeal lay to the supposed works of the Areopagite, or to the primitive Decretals, or to St. Dionysius's answers to Paul, or to the Cæna Domini of St. Cyprian. The assailants of dogmatic truth have got the start of its adherents of whatever Creed; philosophy is completing what criticism has begun; and apprehensions are not unreasonably excited lest we should have a new world to conquer
before we have weapons for the warfare. Already infidelity has its views and ideas, on which it arranges the facts of ecclesiastical history; and it is sure to consider the absence of any antagonist theory as an evidence of the reality of its own. That the hypothesis, here to be adopted, accounts not only for the Athanasian Creed, but for the Creed of Pope Pius, is no fault of those who adopt it. No one has power over the issues of his principles; we cannot manage our argument, and have as much of it as we please and no more. An argument is needed, unless Christianity is to abandon the province of argument; and those who find fault with the explanation here offered of its historical phenomena will find it their duty to provide one of their own.
And as no aim at Roman Catholic doctrine need be supposed to have given a direction to the inquiry, so neither can a reception of that doctrine be immediately based on its results. It would be the work of a life to apply the Theory of Developments so carefully to the writings of the Fathers, and the history of controversies and councils, as thereby to vindicate the reasonableness of every decision of Rome; much less can such an undertaking be imagined by one who, in the middle of his days, is beginning life again. So much, however, might be gained even from an Essay like the present,—a solution of such a number of the reputed corruptions of Rome, as might form a fair ground for trusting her, where the investigation had not been pursued.