Images de page

soul of a man is the cause of all his vital operations, so is the Spirit of God the life of that life, and the cause of all actions and productions spiritual. And the consequence of this is what St. John tells us of:-Ye have received the unction from above, and that anointing teacheth you all things. All things of some one kind: that is, certainly, all things that pertain to life and godliness: all that by which a man is wise and happy. We see this by common experience. Unless the soul have a new life put into it, unless there be a vital principle within, unless the Spirit of life be the informer of the spirit of the man, the Word of God will be as dead in the operation as the body in its powers and possibilities."***"

"A good life is the best way to understand wisdom and religion, because by the experiences and relishes of religion there is conveyed to them such a sweetness, to which all wicked men are strangers: there is, in the things of God, to them which practice them, a deliciousness that makes us love them, and that love admits us into God's cabinet, and strangely clarifies the understanding by the purification of the heart. For when our reason is raised up by the Spirit of Christ, it is turned quickly into experience; when our faith relies upon the principles of Christ, it is changed into visions: and so long as we know God only in the ways of man, by contentious learning, by arguing and dispute, we see nothing but the shadow of him, and in that shadow we meet with many dark appearances, little certainty, and much conjecture. But when we know him λόγῳ ἀποφαντικώ, γαληνῃ νοερά, with the eyes of holiness, and the intuition of gracious experiences, with a quiet spirit and the peace of enjoyment; then we shall hear what we never heard, and see what our eyes never saw : then the mysteries of godliness shall be opened unto us, and clear as the windows of the morning. And this is rarely well expressed by the Apostle :-If we stand up from the dead and awake from sleep, then Christ shall give us light.

For although the Scriptures themselves are written by the Spirit of God, yet they are written within and without and besides the light that shines upon the face of them, unless there be a light shining within our hearts, unfolding the leaves, and interpreting the mysterious sense of the Spirit, convincing our consciences and preaching to our hearts; to look for Christ in the leaves of the gospel, is to look for the living amongst the dead. There is a life in them, but that life is (according to St. Paul's expression) hid with Christ in God: and unless the Spirit of God be the Promo-condus, we shall never draw it forth.

Human learning brings excellent ministeries towards this: it is admirably useful for the reproof of heresies, for the detection of fallacies, for the letter of the Scripture, for collateral testimonies, for exterior advantages; but there is something beyond this, that human learning, without the addition of Divine, can never reach. Moses was learned in all the learning of the Egyptians; and the holy men of God contemplated the glories of God in the admirable order, motion and influences of the heaven: but beside all this, they were taught of God something far beyond these prettinesses. Pythagoras read Moses' books, and so did Plato; and yet they became not proselytes of the religion, though they were learned scholars of such a master. The reason is, because that which they drew forth from thence was not the life and secret of it.

Tradidit arcano quodcunque Volumine Moses.

There is a secret in these books, which few men, none but the godly, did understand: and though much of this secret is made manifest in the gospel, yet even here also there is a letter and there is a spirit: still there is a reserve for God's secret ones, even all those deep mysteries which the Old Testament covered in figures, and stories, and names, and prophecies, and

which Christ hath, and by his Spirit will yet reveal more plainly to all that will understand them by their proper measures. For although the gospel is infinitely more legible and plain than the obscurer leaves of the law, yet there is a seal upon them also: Which seal no man shall open but he that is worthy. We may understand something of it by the three children of the captivity; they were all skilled in all the wisdom of the Chaldees, and so was Daniel: but there was something beyond that in him: The wisdom of the most high God was in him, and that taught him a learning beyond his learning."-A Course of Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year. By the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, D. D., late Lord Bishop of Down and Connor. Part 2nd., p. p 102. 108. 111, folio edition.

No. 8.

THE deference which is due to the authority of the fathers, as expounders of the doctrines and interpreters of the truths of Scripture, is a question so intimately connected, or rather so identified with that of tradition, that the remarks and quotations which have been made in a preceding article of this Appendix with reference to the latter, may be regarded as having in a great measure superseded the necessity of dwelling at much length upon the former. Nevertheless, when the paramount authority of the Bible is virtually, if not explicitly, set aside by the dogma that "Scripture and tradition taken together are the joint rule of faith"-when the most strenuous efforts are made to ascribe to the fathers a sort of quasi infallibility, and to invest them with a certain sacrosanct and mysterious influence, when any disposition to impugn their decisions may expose the person who evinces it, to the imputation of rationalism, or neology, or ultra-Protestantism,—it becomes necessary to scrutinize somewhat more narrowly their claims to such blind and implicit submission.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The two great points upon which it is scarcely possible to overrate the value of the writings of the fathers is their testimony to the genuineness and authenticity of the canonical books of the New Testament, and to the fundamental doctrines contained in the three creeds. The first of these has been noticed as constituting their principal excellence by a distinguished living prelate. The Bishop of Lincoln, in his Account of the Writings and Opinions of Justin Martyr," has stated that "the principal value of the writings of the fathers consists, perhaps, in the testimony which they bear to the authenticity of the books of the New Testament." (p. 133.) But admitting, to the fullest extent, that their most zealous champions can wish, the weight which is due to their opinions upon these points, it does not follow that they are always to be regarded as safe guides in the interpretation of Scripture,— still less that tradition, as transmitted through them, is to be considered as a joint rule of faith with the Bible. The contrast between the inspired volume and the writings of the fathers is described by Evans, in his introduction to "the Biography of the early Church," in a manner which at once confutes any such hypothesis. This able, but somewhat florid writer, observes,-" Awful, indeed, is the interest with which the reflecting reader passes from the last writer of the New Testament to the earliest of the fathers; and on the point of quitting with one foot, as it were, the Epistles of St. John, comes down with the other upon that of the Roman Clement. Men have so bestridden in the body, the boundary-mark of Europe and Asia, and reflected, as they passed, upon the contrast of the fortunes and characters of these two quarters of the globe. But inferior, as body to mind, is the subjectmatter of the reflections of these travellers. The reader passes from the blessed company that heard, and saw, and touched the Lord of life, from those to whom he gave in person his commission to preach his word to every creature, from

those whom he endowed with miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost for that purpose, on whose written record and doctrine therefore he can securely rely, in whose authority lies the last appeal of Christian controversy, and whose lives and writings exhibit in lively characters the conversation which they once enjoyed with Christ in the flesh, and their sure and certain hope of rejoining him in a glorified body.-From such he passes at one step to those, who, with the exception of the privilege of having been the disciples of such men, and enjoying occasionally more than ordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, (which privilege, however, extends but to the first two or three) are like to ourselves. He comes to the infirmities of human understanding, to the frailty of imperfectly evangelized temper. The overflowing charity of John, the mingled sweetness and dignity of Paul, too soon meet their counterpart in the moroseness and harsh invective of Tertullian, in the insolent bearing of Victor; and for the steady and commanding simplicity of Divine Truth, he is presented with the tortuous or unstable deductions of unassisted, if not erring, human reason. In short he may enter upon this new field with much of the feelings of Adam when he quitted paradise, and entered upon the wide earth; and if the ground be not cursed, yet is it, comparatively speaking, unblest. Far from plucking from the tree of life in all security, and gathering his fruit in leisurely gladness, he has now to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, painfully to select wholesome from amid noxious, and to pass over much ground for but little store. Legitimate types are to be adopted from a heap of fanciful allegory, good reasons from a tissue of loose argument, and credible facts from much careless assertion. His industry, his judgment, his charity, are kept in perpetual exercise."-p. 3.

In a later part of his interesting work, he says, after an enumeration of the faults of Tertullian's style and manner,"Added to all these particular defects, ARE THE GENERAL

« PrécédentContinuer »