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dispensation Church principle

whether of deceit or of violence; as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain acts, or as if the end justified the means.

It is but enunciating in other words the principle we are tracing, to say that the Church has been entrusted with the dispensation of grace. For if she can convert heathen appointments into spiritual rites and usages, what is this but to be in possession of a treasure, and to exercise a discretionary power in its application ? Hence there has been from the first much variety and change, in the Sacramental issues and instruments which the Church has used. While the Eastern and African Churches baptized heretics on their reconciliation, the Church of Rome, as the Catholic Church since, maintained that imposition of hands was sufficient, if their prior baptism had been formally correct. The ceremony of imposition of hands was used on various occasions with a distinct meaning; at the rite of Catechumens, on admitting heretics, in Confirmation, in Ordination, in Benediction. The Eastern Church seemed to consider the consecration of the elements in Baptism and the Eucharist to lie in the invocatory prayer; the Latin placed it in the recitation of the words of institution. Baptism was sometimes administered by immersion, sometimes by infusion. Infant Baptism was not enforced as afterwards. Children or even infants were admitted to the Eucharist in the African Church and the rest of the West, as now in the Greek. The Bread or the Wine was sometimes administered without the corresponding element. Oil had various uses, as for healing the sick, or as in the rite of Extreme Unction. Confession and Penance were at first public, afterwards private, as in the Church of Rome at this day. Indulgences of works or of periods of penance, had a different meaning, according to circumstances. In like manner the Sign of the Cross was one of the earliest means of grace ; then holy seasons, and holy places, and pilgrimage to them; holy water; prescribed prayers, or other observances; garments, as the scapular, or coronation robes; the rosary; the crucifix. And for some wise purpose doubtless, such as that of showing the power of the Church in the dispensation of divine grace, as well as the perfection and spirituality of the Eucharistic Presence, the Cup is withheld from all but the celebrant in the Holy Eucharist.

In the foregoing sketch I have been tracing the gradual consolidation of doctrine and ritual in the Christian Church, and describing the principles on which the process was conducted.

1. The Dogmatic and Sacramental principles have in consequence been enlarged upon here, while others were specified in a former Section; such as the mystical interpretation of Scripture, and the substitution of Faith for Reason as a principle of conduct.

2. The continuity of these various principles down to this day, and the vigour of their operation, are two distinct guarantees that the theological conclusions to which they are subservient are, in accordance with the Divine Promise, true developments, and not corruptions of the Revelation.

3. Moreover, if it be true that the principles of the later Church are the same as those of the earlier, then, whatever are the variations of belief between the two periods, the earlier in reality agrees more than it differs with the later, for principles are responsible for doctrines. Hence they who assert that the modern Roman system is the corruption of primitive theology are forced to discover some difference of principle between the one and the other; for instance, that the right of private judgment was secured to the early Church and has been lost to the later, or, again, that the later Church rationalizes and the earlier went by faith.

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4. On this point I will but remark as follows. It cannot be doubted that the horror of heresy, the law of implicit obedience to ecclesiastical authority, and the doctrine of the mystical virtue of unity, were as strong and active in the Church of St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian as in that of St. Carlo and St. Pius the Fifth, whatever be thought of the theology respectively taught in the one and in the other. Now we have before our eyes the effect of these principles in the instance of the later Church; they have entirely succeeded in preventing innovation upon the doctrine of Trent for three hundred years. Have we any reason for doubting, that from the same strictness the same fidelity would follow, in the first three, or any three, centuries of the Ante-tridentine period ? Where then was the opportunity of corruption in the three hundred years between St. Ignatius and St. Augustine? or between St. Augustine and St. Bede? or between St. Bede and St. Peter Damiani? or again, between St. Irenæus and St. Leo, St. Cyprian and St. Gregory the Great, St. Athanasius and St. John Damascene? Thus the tradition of eighteen centuries becomes a chain of indefinitely many links, one crossing the other; and each year, as it comes, is guaranteed with various degrees of cogency by every year which has gone before it.

5. Moreover, the various heresies which have from time to time arisen, have all in one respect or other violated those principles with which the Church rose into existence, and which she still retains. Thus Arian and Nestorian schools denied the allegorical rule of Scripture interpretation; the Gnostics and Eunomians for Faith professed to substitute Knowledge; and the Manichees also, as St. Augustine so touchingly declares in the beginning of his work, De Utilitate Credendi. The Dogmatic Rule, at least so far as regards its traditional cha

ne? Thain of inand each racter was thrown aside by all those sects which, as Tertullian tells us, claimed to judge for themselves from Scripture; and the Sacramental principle was violated, ipso facto, by all who separated from the Church, was denied too by Faustus the Manichee when he argued against the Catholic ceremonial, by Vigilantius in his opposition to relics, and by the Iconoclasts. In like manner the contempt of mystery, of reverence, of devoutedness, of sanctity, are other notes of the heretical spirit. It is plain in how many ways Protestantism has reversed the principles of Catholic theology.

6. Further, these principles of Catholic development admit of development themselves, and have in fact developed, as was above suggested, though not to the prejudice of their manifest identity throughout. For instance, the principle of Dogmatism involves the philosophy, as it may be called, of the intellectual exhibition of mysteries, and the principle of infallibility. Again, it is plain that such writers as St. Thomas and Suarez speak more definitely on the subject of Faith and Reason than Origen or Eusebius. And, in like manner, for the assertion of the Sacramental principle we shall have recourse, not to St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, who acted upon it, but to St. Augustine or St. John Damascene. . 7. And, lastly, it might be expected that the Catholic principles would be later in development than the Catholic doctrines, as lying deeper in the mind, and as being its assumptions rather than its objective professions. This has been the case. The Protestant controversy has mainly turned, or is turning, on one or other of the principles of Catholicity; and to this day the rule of Scripture Interpretation, the doctrine of Inspiration, the relation of Faith to Reason, moral responsibility, private judgment, inherent grace, the seat of infallibility, remain, I suppose, more or less undeveloped, or, at least, undefined, by the Church,





It has been set down above as a fourth argument in favour of the fidelity of developments, ethical or political, if the doctrine from which they have proceeded, in any early stage of its history, gave indications of those opinions and practices in which it has ended. Supposing then the so-called Catholic doctrines and practices are true and legitimate developments, and not corruptions, we may expect to find traces of them in the first centuries. And this I conceive to be the case: the records indeed of those times are scanty, and we have little means of determining what daily Christian life then was: we know little of the thoughts, and the prayers, and the meditations, and the discourses of the early disciples of Christ, at a time when these professed developments were not recognised and duly located in the theological system; yet it appears, even from what remains, that the atmosphere of the Church was, as it were, charged with them from the first, and delivered itself of them from time to time, in this way or that, in various places and persons, as occasion elicited them, testifying the presence of a vast body of thought within it, which one day would take shape and position.

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Resurrection and Relics. As a chief specimen of what I would say, I will direct attention to a characteristic principle

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