Lecture 7. Internal Difficulties of the Canon and the Catholic Creed, considered

{216} I SHALL now finish the subject I have commenced, the parallel between the objections adducible against the Catholic system, and those against the Canon of Scripture. It will be easily understood, that I am not attempting any formal and full discussion of the subject, but offering under various general heads such suggestions as may be followed out by those who will. The objections to the evidence for the Canon have been noticed; now let us consider objections that may be made to its contents.


Perhaps the main objection taken to the Church system, is the dislike which men feel of its doctrines. They call them the work of priestcraft, and in that word is summed up all that they hate in them. Priestcraft is the art of gaining power over men by appeals to their consciences; its instrument is mystery; its subject-matter, superstitious feeling. "Now the Church doctrines," it is urged, "invest a certain number of indifferent things with a new and extraordinary power, beyond sense, beyond reason, beyond nature, a power over the soul; and they put the exclusive possessions and use of the things thus distinguished into the hands of the Clergy. Such, for instance, is the Creed; some {217} mysterious benefit is supposed to result from holding it, even though with but a partial comprehension, and the Clergy are practically its sole expounders. Such still more are the Sacraments, which the Clergy only administer, and which are supposed to effect some supernatural change in the soul, and to convey some supernatural gift." This then is the antecedent exception taken against the Catholic doctrines, that they are mysterious, tending to superstition, and to dependence on a particular set of men. And this object is urged, not merely as a reason for demanding fair proof of what is advanced, but as a reason for refusing to listen to any proof whatever, as if it fairly created an insurmountable presumption against the said doctrines.

Now I say, in like manner, were it not for our happy reverence for the Canon of Scripture, we should take like exception to many things in Scripture; and, since we do not, neither ought we, consistently, to take this exception to the Catholic system; but if we do take such grounds against that system, there is nothing but the strength of habit, good feeling, and our Lord's controlling grace, to keep us from using them against Scripture also. This I shall now attempt to show, and with that view, shall cite various passages in Scripture which, to most men of this generation, will appear at first sight strange, superstitious, incredible, and extreme. If then, in spite of these, Scripture is nevertheless from God, so again, in spite of similar apparent difficulties, the Catholic system may be from Him also; and what the argument comes to is this, that the minds of none of us are in such a true state, as to warrant us in judging peremptorily in every case what is from God and what is not. We shrink from the utterances of His providence with offence, as if they were not His, in consequence of our inward {218} ears being attuned to false harmonies. Now for some instances of what I mean.


1. I conceive, were we not used to the Scripture narrative, that we should be startled at the accounts there given us of demoniacs.—For instance: "And He asked him, What is thy name? And He answered, My name is Legion, for we are many." [Mark v. 9.]—Again, consider the passage, "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none," [Matt. xii. 43.] etc.; and in like manner, the account of the damsel who was "possessed of a spirit of divination," or "Python," that is, of a heathen god, in Acts xvi.; and in connexion with this, St. Paul's assertion "that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God," [1 Cor. x. 20.] and this as being so literally true that he deduces a practical conclusion from it: "I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." But, as regards this instance, we are not at all driven to conjecture, but we know it is really the case, that they who allow themselves to treat the inspired text freely, do at once explain away, or refuse to admit its accounts of this mysterious interference of evil spirits in the affairs of men. Let those then see to it, who call the Fathers credulous for recording similar narratives. If they find fault with the evidence, that is an intelligible objection; but the common way with objectors is at once and before examination to charge on the narrators of such accounts childish superstition and credulity.

2. If we were not used to the narrative, I conceive we should be very unwilling to receive the account of the serpent speaking to Eve, or its being inhabited by an {219} evil spirit; or, again, of the devils being sent into the swine. We should scoff at such narratives, as fanciful and extravagant. Let us only suppose that, instead of being found in Scripture, they were found in some legend of the middle ages; should we merely ask for evidence, or simply assume that there was none? Should we think that it was a case for evidence one way or the other? Should we not rather say, "This is intrinsically incredible?—it supersedes the necessity of examining into evidence, it decides the case." Should we allow the strangeness of the narrative merely to act as suspending our belief, and throwing the burden of proof on the other side, or should we not rather suffer it to settle the question for us? Again, should we have felt less distrust in the history of Balaam's ass speaking? Should we have been reconciled to the account of the Holy Ghost appearing in a bodily shape, and that apparently the shape of an irrational animal, a dove? And, again, though we might bear the figure of calling our Saviour a lamb, if it occurred once, as if to show that He was the antitype of the Jewish sacrifices, yet, unless we were used to it, would there not be something repugnant to our present habits of mind in calling again and again our Saviour by the name of a brute animal? Unless we were used to it, I conceive it would hurt and offend us much to read of "glory and honour" being ascribed to Him that sitteth upon the Throne and to the Lamb, as being a sort of idolatry, or at least an unadvised way of speaking. It seems to do too much honour to an inferior creature, and to dishonour Christ. You will see this, by trying to substitute any other animal, however mild and gentle. It is said that one difficulty in translating the New Testament into some of the oriental languages actually is this, that the word in them for Lamb does not {220} carry with it the associations which it does in languages which have had their birth in Christianity. Now we have a remarkable parallel to this in the impression produced by another figure, which was in use in primitive times, when expressed in our own language. The ancients formed an acrostic upon our Lord's Greek titles as the Son of God, the Saviour of men, and in consequence called Him from the first letters ιχθυς, or "fish." Hear how a late English writer speaks of it. "This contemptible and disgusting quibble originated in certain verses of one of the pseudo-sibyls ... I know of no figure which so revoltingly degrades the person of the Son of God." Such as this is the nature of the comment made in the farther east on the sacred image of the Lamb.

But without reference to such peculiar associations, which vary with place and person, there is in the light of reason a strangeness, perhaps, in God's allowing material symbols of Himself at all; and, again, a greater strangeness in His vouchsafing to take a brute animal as the name of His Son, and bidding us ascribe praise to it. Now it does not matter whether we take all these instances separate or together. Separate, they are strange enough; put them together, you have a law of God's dealings, which accounts indeed for each separate instance, yet does not make it less strange that the brute creation should have so close a connexion with God's spiritual and heavenly kingdom. Here, moreover, it is in place to make mention of the "four beasts" spoken of in the Apocalypse as being before God's throne. Translate the word "living thing," as you may do, yet the circumstance is not less startling. They were respectively like a lion, calf, man, and eagle. To this may be added the figure of the Cherubim in the {221} Jewish law, which is said to have been a symbol made up of limbs of the same animals. Is it not strange that Angels should be represented under brute images? Consider, then, if God has thus made use of brutes in His supernatural acts and in His teaching, as real instruments and as symbols of spiritual things, what is there strange antecedently in supposing He makes use of the inanimate creation also? If Balaam's ass instructed Balaam, what is there fairly to startle us in the Church's doctrine, that the water of Baptism cleanses from sin, that eating the consecrated Bread is eating His Body, or that oil may be blessed for spiritual purposes, as is still done in our Church in the case of a coronation? Of this I feel sure, that those who consider the doctrines of the Church incredible, will soon, if they turn their thoughts steadily that way, feel a difficulty in the serpent that tempted Eve, and the ass that admonished Balaam.


3. We cannot, it seems, believe that water applied to the body really is God's instrument in cleansing the soul from sin; do we believe that, at Bethesda, an Angel gave the pool a miraculous power? What God has done once, He may do again; that is, there is no antecedent improbability in His connecting real personal benefits to us with arbitrary outward means. Again, what should we say, unless we were familarized with it, to the story of Naaman bathing seven times in the Jordan? or rather to the whole system of mystical signs:—the tree which Moses cast into the waters to sweeten them; Elisha's throwing meal into the pot of poisonous herbs; and our Saviour's breathing, making clay, and the like? Indeed, is not the whole of the Bible, Old and New Testament, engaged in a system of outward signs with {222} hidden realities under them, which in the Church's teaching is only continued? Is it not certain, then, that those who stumble at the latter as incredible, will stumble at the former too, as soon as they learn just so much irreverence as to originate objections as well as to be susceptible of them? I cannot doubt that, unless we were used to the Sacraments, we should be objecting, not only to the notion of their conveying virtue, but to their observance altogether, viewed as mere badges and memorials. They would be called Oriental, suited to a people of warm imagination, suited to the religion of other times, but too symbolical, poetical, or (as some might presume to say) theatrical for us; as if there were something far more plain, solid, sensible, practical, and edifying in a sermon, or an open profession, or a prayer.

4. Consider the accounts of virtue going out of our Lord, and that, in the case of the woman with the issue of blood, as it were by a natural law, without a distinct application on His part;—of all who touched the hem of His garment being made whole; and further, of handkerchiefs and aprons being impregnated with healing virtue by touching St. Paul's body, and of St. Peter's shadow being earnestly sought out,—in the age when religion was purest, and the Church's condition most like a heaven upon earth. Can we hope that these passages will not afford matter of objection to the mind, when once it has brought itself steadily to scrutinize the evidence for the inspiration of the Gospels and Acts? Will it not be obvious to say, "St. Luke was not an Apostle; and I do not believe this account of the handkerchiefs and aprons, though I believe the Book of Acts as a whole." Next, when the mind gets bolder, it will address itself to the consideration of the account of the woman with the {223} issue of blood. Now it is not wonderful that she, poor ignorant woman (as men speak), in deplorable ignorance of spiritual religion (alas! that words should be so misused), dark, and superstitious,—it is not wonderful, I say, that she should expect a virtue from touching our Lord's garment; but that she should obtain it by means of this opus operatum of merely touching, and again that He should even commend her faith, will be judged impossible. The notion of virtue going out of Him will be considered as Jewish, pagan, or philosophical.

Yes; the outline of the story will be believed,—the main fact, the leading idea,—not the details. Indeed, if persons have already thought it inherently incredible that the hands of Bishop or priest should impart a power, or grace, or privilege, if they have learned to call it profane, and (as they speak) blasphemous to teach this with the early Church, how can it be less so, to consider that God gave virtue to a handkerchief, or apron, or garment, though our Lord's? What was it, after all, but a mere earthly substance, made of vegetable or animal material? How was it more holy because He wore it? He was holy, not it; it did not gain holiness by being near Him. Nay: do they not already lay this down as a general principle, that, to suppose He diffuses from His Person heavenly virtue, is a superstition? do not they, on this ground, object to the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist; and on what other ground do they deny that the Blessed Virgin, whom all but heretics have ever called the Mother of God, was most holy in soul and body, from her ineffable proximity to God? He who gave to the perishing and senseless substances of wool or cotton that grace of which it was capable, should not He rather communicate of His higher spiritual perfections to her in whose bosom He lay, or to those {224} who now possess Him through the Sacramental means He has appointed?

5. I conceive that, if men indulge themselves in criticizing, they will begin to be offended at the passage in the Apocalyse, which speaks of the "number of the beast." Indeed, it is probable that they will reject that book of Scripture altogether, not sympathizing with the severe tone of doctrine which runs through it. Again: there is something very surprising in the importance attached to the Name of God and Christ in Scripture. The Name of Jesus is said to work cures and frighten away devils. I anticipate that this doctrine will become a stone of stumbling to those who set themselves to inquire into the trustworthiness of the separate parts of Scripture. For instance, the narrative of St. Peter's cure of the impotent man, in the early chapters of the Acts:—first, "Silver and gold," he says, "have I none; but such as I have, give I thee; In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Then, "And His Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong." Then the question, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" Then the answer, "By the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth ... even by it doth this man now stand here before you whole … there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Then the threat, that the Apostles should not "speak at all, nor teach in the Name of Jesus." Lastly, their prayer that God would grant "that signs and wonders might be done by the Name of His Holy Child Jesus." In connexion with which must be considered, St. Paul's declaration, "that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow." [Acts iii. 4. Phil. ii. 10.] Again: I conceive that the circumstances of the visitation of the Blessed {225} Virgin to Elizabeth would startle us considerably if we lost our faith in Scripture. Again: can we doubt that the account of Christ's ascending into heaven will not be received by the science of this age, when it is carefully considered what is implied in it? Where is heaven? Beyond all the stars? If so, it would take years for any natural body to get there. We say, that with God all things are possible. But this age, wise in its own eyes, has already decided the contrary, in maintaining, as it does, that He who virtually annihilated the distance between earth and heaven, on His Son's ascension, cannot annihilate it in the celebration of the Holy Communion, so as to make us present with Him, though He be on God's right hand in heaven.


6. Further, unless we were used to the passage, I cannot but think that we should stumble greatly at the account of our Lord's temptation by Satan. Putting aside other considerations, dwell awhile on the thought of Satan showing "all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time." [Luke iv. 5.] What is meant by this? How did he show all, and in a moment? and if by a mere illusion, why from the top of a high mountain?

Or again: consider the account of our Saviour's bidding St. Peter catch a fish in order to find money in it, to pay tribute with. What should we say if this narrative occurred in the Apocrypha? Should we not speak of it as an evident fiction? and are we likely to do less, whenever we have arrived at a proper pitch of unscrupulousness, and what is nowadays called critical acumen, in analyzing and disposing of what we have hitherto received as divine? Again: I conceive that the blood and {226} water which issued from our Saviour's side, particularly taken with the remarkable comment upon it in St. John's Epistle, would be disbelieved, if men were but consistent in their belief and disbelief. The miracle would have been likened to many which occur in Martyrologies, and the inspired comment would have been called obscure and fanciful, as on a par with various doctrinal interpretations in the Fathers, which carry forsooth their own condemnation with them. Again: the occurrence mentioned by St. John, "Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it (My Name), and will glorify it again. The people, therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered; others said, An Angel spake to him:" [John xii. 28, 29.] this, I conceive, would soon be looked upon as suspicious, did men once begin to examine the claims of the Canon upon our faith.

Or again: to refer to the Old Testament. I conceive that the history of the Deluge, the ark, and its inhabitants, will appear to men of modern tempers more and more incredible, the longer and more minutely it is dwelt upon. Or, again, the narrative of Jonah and the whale. Once more, the following narrative will surely be condemned also, as bearing on its face evident marks of being legendary: "And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe-head fell into the water; and he cried, {227} and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it." [2 Kings vi. 1-7.]


7. Having mentioned Elisha, I am led to say a word or two upon his character. Men of this age are full of their dread of priestcraft and priestly ambition; and they speak and feel as if the very circumstance of a person claiming obedience upon a divine authority was priestcraft and full of evil. They speak as if it was against the religious rights of man (for some such rights are supposed to be possessed by sinners, even by those who disown the doctrine of the political rights of man), as if it were essentially an usurpation for one man to claim spiritual power over another. They do not ask for the voucher of his claim, for his commission, but think the claim absurd. They so speak, that any one who heard them, without knowing the Bible, would think that Almighty God had never "given such power unto men." Now, what would such persons say to Elisha's character and conduct? Let me recount some few passages in his history, in the Second Book of Kings, and let us bear in mind what has been already observed of the character of the Books of Chronicles. When the little children out of Bethel mocked him, "he cursed them in the name of the Lord." [2 Kings ii. 23.] This was his first act after entering on his office. Again: Jehoram, the son of Ahab, put away Baal, and walked not in the sins of his father and his mother; but because he did not put away {228} the false worship of Jeroboam, but kept to his calves, his self-appointed priests, altars, and holy days, which he probably thought a little sin, when he was in distress, and called upon Elisha, Elisha said, "What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother:" [2 Kings iii. 13.] and went on to say, that, but for the presence of good Jehoshaphat, "I would not look toward thee nor see thee." This was taking (what would now be called) a high tone. Again: the Shunammite was a great woman; he was poor. She got her husband's leave to furnish a "little chamber" for him, not in royal style, but as for a poor minister of God. It had "a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick," and when he came that way he availed himself of it. The world would think that she was the patron, and he ought to be humble, and to know his place. But observe his language on one occasion of his lodging there. He said to his servant, "Call this Shunammite." When she came, she, the mistress of the house, "stood before him." He did not speak to her, but bade his servant speak, and then she retired; then he held a consultation with his servant, and then he called her again, and she "stood in the door;" then he promised her a son. Again: Naaman was angered that Elisha did not show him due respect: he only sent him a message, and bade him wash and be clean. Afterwards we find the prophet interposing in political matters in Israel and Syria.

Now, it is not to the purpose to account for all this, by saying he worked miracles. Are miracles necessary for being a minister of God? Are miracles the only way in which a claim can be recognized? Is a man the higher minister, the more miracles he does? Are we to {229} honour only those who minister temporal miracles, and to be content to eat and be filled with the loaves and fishes? Are there no higher miracles than visible ones? John the Baptist did no miracles, yet he too claimed, and gained, the obedience of the Jews. Miracles prove a man to be God's minister; they do not make him God's minister. No matter how a man is proved to come from God, if he is known to come from God. If Christ is with His ministers, according to His promise, even to the end of the world, so that he that despiseth them despiseth Him, then, though they do no miracles, they are in office as great as Elisha. And if Baptism be the cleansing and quickening of the dead soul, to say nothing of Holy Eucharist, they do work miracles. If God's ministers are then only to be honoured when we see that they work miracles, where is place for faith? Are we not under a dispensation of faith, not of sight? Was Elisha great because he was seen to work miracles, or because he could, and did, work them? Is God's minister a proud priest now, for acting as if he came from God, if he does come from Him? Yet men of this generation, without inquiring into his claims, would most undoubtedly call him impostor and tyrant, proud, arrogant, profane, and Antichristian, nay, Antichrist himself, if he, a Christian minister, assume one-tenth part of Elisha's state. Yes, Antichrist;—"If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?" [Matt. x. 25.]

8. St. John the Baptist's character, I am persuaded, would startle most people, if they were not used to Scripture; and when men begin to doubt about the integrity of Scripture, it will be turned against the authenticity or the authority of the particular passages which {230} relate to it. Let us realize to ourselves a man living on locusts and wild honey, and with a hair shirt on, bound by a leathern girdle. Our Lord indeed bids us avoid outward show, and therefore the ostentation of such austerity would be wrong now, of course; but what is there to show that the thing itself would be wrong, if a person were moved to do it? Does not our Saviour expressly say, with reference to the austerities of St. John's disciples, that after His departure His own disciples shall resemble them,—"then shall they fast"? Yet, I suppose, most persons would cry out now against the very semblance of the Baptist's life; and why? Those who gave a reason would perhaps call it Jewish. Yet what had St. John to do with the Jews, whose religion was one, not of austerity, but of joyousness and feasting, and that by divine permission? Surely the same feeling which would make men condemn an austere life now, if individuals attempted it, which makes them, when they read of such instances in the early Church, condemn it, would lead the same parties to condemn it in St. John, were they not bound by religious considerations; and, therefore, I say, if ever the time comes that men begin to inquire into the divinity of the separate parts of Scripture, as they do now scrutinize the separate parts of the Church system, they will no longer be able to acquiesce in St. John's character and conduct as simply right and religious.


9. Lastly, I will mention together a number of doctrinal passages, which, though in Scripture, they who deny that the Fathers contain the pure Gospel, hardly would consider parts of it, if they were but consistent in their free speculations. Such are St. Paul's spiritualizing {231} the history of Sarah and Hagar; his statement of the fire trying every man's work in the day of judgment; his declaring that women must have their heads covered in church, "because of the Angels;" his charging Timothy "before the elect Angels;" his calling the Church "the pillar and ground of the Truth;" the tone of his observations on celibacy, which certainly, if written by any of the Fathers, would in this day have been cited in proof of "the mystery of iniquity" (by which they mean Romanism) "already working" in an early age; St. John's remarkable agreement of tone with him in a passage in the Apocalypse, not to say our Lord's; our Lord's account of the sin against the Holy Ghost, viewed in connexion with St. Paul's warning against falling away, after being enlightened, and St. John's notice of a sin which is unto death—(this would be considered opposed to the free grace of the Gospel); our Lord's strong words about the arduousness of a rich man's getting to heaven; what He says about binding and loosing; about a certain kind of evil spirit going out only by fasting and prayer; His command to turn the left cheek to him who smites the right; St. Peter's saying that we are partakers of a divine nature; and what he says about Christ's "going and preaching to the spirits in prison;" St. Matthew's account of the star which guided the wise men to Bethlehem; St. Paul's statement, that a woman is saved through childbearing; St. John's directions how to treat those who hold not "the doctrine of Christ;"—these and a multitude of other passages would be adduced, not to prove that Christianity was not true, or that Christ was not the Son of God, or the Bible not inspired, or not on the whole genuine and authentic, but that every part of it was not equally divine; that portions, books, particularly of the Old {232} Testament, were not so; that we must use our own judgment. Nay, as time went on, perhaps it would be said that the Old Testament altogether was not inspired, only the New—nay, perhaps only parts of the New, not certain books which were for a time doubted in some ancient Churches, or not the Gospels according to St. Mark and St. Luke, nor the Acts, because not the writing of Apostles, or not St. Paul's reasonings, only his conclusions. Next, it would be said, that no reliance can safely be placed on single texts; and so men would proceed, giving up first one thing, then another, till it would become a question what they gained of any kind, what they considered they gained, from Christianity as a definite revelation or a direct benefit. They would come to consider its publication mainly as an historical event occurring eighteen hundred years since, which modified or altered the course of human thought and society, and thereby altered what would otherwise have been our state; as something infused into an existing mass, and influencing us in the improved tone of the institutions in which we find ourselves, rather than as independent, substantive, and one, specially divine in its origin, and directly acting upon us.

This is what the Age is coming to, and I wish it observed. We know it denies the existence of the Church as a divine institution: it denies that Christianity has been cast into any particular social mould. Well: but this, I say, is not all; it is rapidly tending to deny the existence of any system of Christianity either; any creed, doctrine, philosophy, or by whatever other name we designate it. Hitherto it had been usual, indeed, to give up the Church, and to speak only of the covenant, religion, creed, matter, or system of the Gospel; to consider the Gospel as a sort of literature or philosophy, open for {233} all to take and appropriate, not confined to any set of men, yet still a real, existing system of religion. This has been the approved line of opinion in our part of the world for the last hundred and fifty years; but now a further step is about to be taken. The view henceforth is to be, that Christianity does not exist in documents, any more than in institutions; in other words, the Bible will be given up as well as the Church. It will be said that the benefit which Christianity has done to the world, and which its Divine Author meant it should do, was to give an impulse to society, to infuse a spirit, to direct, control, purify, enlighten the mass of human thought and action, but not to be a separate and definite something, whether doctrine or association, existing objectively, integral, and with an identity, and for ever, and with a claim upon our homage and obedience. And all this fearfully coincides with the symptoms in other directions of the spread of a Pantheistic spirit, that is, the religion of beauty, imagination, and philosophy, without constraint moral or intellectual, a religion speculative and self-indulgent. Pantheism, indeed, is the great deceit which awaits the Age to come.


Let us then look carefully, lest we fall in with the evil tendencies of the times in which our lot is cast. God has revealed Himself to us that we might believe: surely His Revelation is something great and important. He who made it, meant it to be a blessing even to the end of the world: this is true, if any part of Scripture is true. From beginning to end, Scripture implies that God has spoken, and that it is right, our duty, our interest, our safety to believe. Whether, then, we have in our hands the means of exactly proving this or that part of Scripture {234} to be genuine or not, whether we have in our hands the complete proofs of all the Church doctrines, we are more sure that hearty belief in something is our duty, than that it is not our duty to believe those doctrines and that Scripture as we have received them. If our choice lies between accepting all and rejecting all, which I consider it does when persons are consistent, no man can hesitate which alternative is to be taken.

So far then every one of us may say,—Our Heavenly Father gave the world a Revelation in Christ; we are baptized into His Name. He wills us to believe, because He has given us a Revelation. He who wills us to believe must have given us an object to believe. Whether I can prove this or that part to my satisfaction, yet, since I can prove all in a certain way, and cannot separate part from part satisfactorily, I cannot be wrong in taking the whole. I am sure that, if there be error, which I have yet to learn, it must be, not in principles, but in mere matters of detail. If there be corruption or human addition in what comes to me, it must be in little matters, not in great. On the whole, I cannot but have God's Revelation, and that, in what I see before me, with whatever incidental errors. I am sure, on the other hand, that the way which the Age follows cannot be right, for it tends to destroy Revelation altogether. Whether this or that doctrine, this or that book of Scripture is fully provable or not, that line of objection to it cannot be right, which, when pursued, destroys Church, Creed, Bible altogether,—which obliterates the very Name of Christ from the world. It is then God's will, under my circumstances, that I should believe what, in the way of Providence, He has put before me to believe. God will not deceive me. I can trust Him. Either every part of the system is pure truth, or, if this or that {235} be an addition, He will (I humbly trust and believe) make such addition harmless to my soul, if I thus throw myself on His mercy with a free and confiding spirit. Doubt is misery and sin, but belief has received Christ's blessing.

This is the reflection which I recommend to all, so far as they have not the means of examining the Evidences for the Church, Creed, and Canon of Scripture; but I must not be supposed to imply, because I have so put the matter, that those who have the means, will not find abundant evidence for the divinity of all three.

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.