Page images

correctly at least upon the Incarnation ; and St. Cyprian does not treat of theology at all. Such is the incompleteness of the extant teaching of these true saints, and, in their day, faithful witnesses of the Eternal Son.

Again; Athenagoras, St. Clement, Tertullian, and the two SS. Dionysii would appear to be the only writers whose language is at any time exact and systematic enough to remind us of the Athanasian Creed. If we limit our views of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St. Ignatius may be considered as a Patripassian, St. Justin Arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian.

Again ; there are three great doctrinal writers of the ante-Nicene centuries, Tertullian, Origen, and, we may add, Eusebius, though he lived some way into the fourth. Tertullian is heterodox on the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, and, indeed, ultimately fell altogether into heresy or schism ; Origen is, at the very least, suspected, and must be defended and explained rather than cited as a witness of orthodoxy; and Eusebius was an Arian.'—Pp. 13, 14.

The doctrine of the Trinity, we suspect, was more rudely shaken in the minds of men by the defence of the learned Jesuit than by all the high moral reasonings of the Socini. Mr. Newman will be in a singular position, if, as no doubt they will, the modern Unitarians seize the weapons which he has so generously placed in their hands; and if some Protestant Bishop Bull shall again arise in defence of the Nicene faith, and at least deserve if not receive the thanks of the Gallican Church, through some Bossuet, if Bossuet there be in these degenerate days (alas ! where is he?), for rescuing the cardinal doctrine of Christianity from the incautious, in our case Mr. Newman might have written parricidal, zeal of their new and boasted proselyte.

This case of Petavius is familiar to all who are even superficially read in the divinity of the seventeenth century. But there is another remarkable parallel fact, which has by no means excited the same attention. Who is the parent of that critical study of the canon, and of the authenticity of the Scriptures, which has developed itself into the extreme rationalism of Paulus, and the anatomical biblical dissections of Strauss and his followers? We are not among those, whose

timid-we had almost written dastardly-faith, trembles or looks with jealous suspicion at these inquiries, they were unavoidable. Faithful and conscientious biblical criticism could not elude them. We have the most entire conviction that the historic veracity and the authority of the New Testament will come forth from the ordeal only more firmly established. In Germany the triumphant reaction has begun, not merely in the Pietistic or Evangelic school, with Hengstenburg and his followers, but with men of far more profound and dispassionate thought and higher erudition. But in the name of those who from the abuse, unwisely as we think, deprecate the legitimate use of these investigations—in the name of Mr. Newman's former associates and of his present friends—we may inquire who was the parent of this, at least incipient, Rationalism? Was it the physician Astruc ? Was it Eichhorn or Michaelis ? Was it a Protestant divine, or a German professor ? The first, and certainly one of the very ablest, who entered boldly on this ground, was Father Simon of the Oratory. The History of the Old and New Testament by this very learned man forms an epoch in biblical study. Its object might seem, and its effect certainly was, to assail and disturb the security of the whole canon of the New as well as of the Old Testament. Father Simon declared that he did this only with the view of asserting the authority of the Church. Nothing less than the infallibility of the Church could invest such doubtful records with their plenary supremacy over the faith. We write not in hostility to P. Simon, for whom we have great respect; but if this biblical exegesis be so monstrous a birth,

3 P. Simon says, for example, ‘Bien loin donc qu'on doive croire, arec les Protestans, que

voye la plus courte, la plus naturelle, et la plus certaine pour

décider ces questions de la Foi, est de consulter l'Écriture Sainte, on trouvera au contraire dans cet ouvrage, que si on sépare la règle de droit de celle de fait, c'est à dire si on ne joint la Tradition avec l'Écriture, on ne peut presque rien assurer de certain dans la religion' (Preface). Yet we are charitably inclined, with M. le Normant (Cours d'Histoire ancienne, p. 126), to think that Simon wrote in the pure interests of science; that this was an after-thought, when his book became the subject of attack. We may add that Simon quotes several Jesuit writers who had preceded him in this course of inquiry.

and in her turn the mother of such a fearful brood, of Neologism and Rationalism, let all who have any concern in the parentage equally share the blame. It is remarkable that the eagle eye of Bossuet discerned this danger as it did the other. The same eloquence which had assumed the dignified language of praise to Bishop Bull, took its sterner tone of condemnation towards Father Simon. He prevented the publication of the work in France, which only found its way to light through the free press of Holland.

Mr. Newman, as, notwithstanding his own warning he has revived the arguments of Petavius, so he has not feared to tread in the steps of the Father of the Oratory. He is even more prodigal in his concession. Not content with the Trinity, he fairly throws over the authenticity of the New Testament.

On what ground (he asks) do we receive the Canon as it comes to us, but on the authority of the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries ?' This is the inference from certain passages adopted by him from the "Tracts for the Times,' in which more loose doubts are thrown upon the authenticity of several books of the New Testament, than would load some unfortunate men for life with the ill-omened name of Rationalists. We give one paragraph :

The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books in all, though of varying importance. Of these, fourteen are not mentioned at all till from eighty to one hundred years after St. John's death, in which number are the Acts, the Second to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Colossians, the Two to the Thessalonians, and St. James. Of the other thirteen, five, viz. St. John's Gospel, the Philippians, the First of Timothy, the Hebrews, and the First of St. John, are quoted but by one writer during the same period. — P. 160.

We must enter our passing but solemn protest against thus confounding the historical evidence, both external and internal, on which we ground the authenticity of the sacred books, with these late decrees of the Church. Simon was far too solidly learned to rest the Canon of Scripture on the Fathers of the fourth or fifth century. This statement is a complete misapprehension or misrepresentation of the whole question. It is not whether two or three books (mostly brief and unimportant ones, the shorter Epistles) are known to have been less generally received than others, but whether the great body of the New Testament was the recognized authority throughout Christendom. One argument alone may almost suffice. Look into the works of the earliest of the Fathers, who enter into anything like a regular discussion on any question of doctrine or practice. Open the treatise of Tertullian (probably within the second century) • De Resurrectione Carnis.' The appeal is throughout to the books of Scripture, such as we now read them, as of established, uncontested authority. There is not a single passage in the whole New Testament that can be brought to bear on the subject (and some that have but a remote connection with it are forced into the service), which is not adduced, cited at length, examined, and discussed with as much confidence in its authenticity, and as much deference to its authority, as by any theological Faculty or Protestant University in our own day. So completely, indeed, is the whole an historical question, that it is the age alone, not the religious creed of the writer, which gives weight to the testimony. It is indifferent whether this treatise was written by Tertullian the orthodox or Tertullian the Montanist. An American Unitarian, Professor Norton, has devoted a whole volume, full of ingenious reasoning and solid learning, to show that the Gnostic sects of the second century admitted in general the same sacred books with the orthodox Christians. However doubtful may be his complete success, he has made out a strong case, which, as far as it goes,

* This writer is not even correct in his assertions. We presume that the line of eighty or a hundred years after the death of St. John is drawn to exclude Irenæus. But St. John's Gospel is quoted by Justin Martyr, a.c. 140, Apol. ii. 1, 14; and Dial. c. Tryph.: and by Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 169, ad Autolyc. iii. 22; and what other authentic writers are there within that period from whom we could expect much support?

• Professor Norton makes no concealment of certain peculiar opinions concerning the Old Testament. But his peculiar opinions on the Godhead could be detected only by the acute sagacity of theological jealousy. His work on the Genuineness of the Scriptures is of a high intellectual order.

is one of the most valuable confutations of the extreme German xwpičovtes, an excellent subsidiary contribution to the proof of the genuineness of the Scripture. If by any strange accident, some Palimpsest or Syrian manuscript were to reveal to us some passage of an early Gnostic, or even of a better informed heathen, which should report that the Christians have four biographies of their teacher, written by four disciples, named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and so many letters of his Apostles, it would be as valid evidence as if it were found in a genuine epistle of Clement of Rome or of Ignatius. The New Testament (in this general sense is at once the earliest written record and the earliest tradition : its authority is taken for granted throughout early antiquity; and it is this general admission, not any decree of Council or of Pope, which is our guarantee for its apostolic origin and supremacy. The absolute completeness of the Canon, and the authority of the New Testament, are widely different. To bring that authority down to the fourth or fifth century is to tear up the roots of Christianity. The decrees of the Church! What do we know of the origin, of the Founder, to say nothing of the powers of the Church, but from the New Testament? Tradition might retain some interpretative office; but directly Christendom throughout her churches (and that must have been, from the evidence of every writing we possess, at a very early period) recognized the written Word, it was absolved from its duty of depositary and guardian of the Christian revelation. What Christian writer, when he can adduce the words of Scripture, adduces

any other?

Throughout this preliminary discussion there is, to our feelings, an inexpressibly melancholy tone at once of desperate menace and of desperate apology. The menace is addressed to all Christians who refuse to receive the whole of mediæval Christianity. “Accept the creed of Pope Pius IV., or tremble at least for that of Nicæa. Submit to the doctrine of Purgatory, or surrender that of original sin.' To his former friends,


« PreviousContinue »