From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for January, 1847
This is an American reprint of a recent work by one of the distinguished converts from Anglicanism, and is one of the most interesting and valuable popular works on the Anglican controversy with which we are acquainted. Its tone is earnest and sincere, gentle and strong. It is written in a clear, chaste, and eloquent style, out from the very heart and soul of the author, with a deep sense of the magnitude of the question it discusses, and of the perilous state of those who remain attached to an heretical communion, reject the church of God, and daily crucify their Lord anew. It gives one a favorable impression of the talents, learning, and Catholic spirit of its author, and, indeed, of the men in general, who have recently had the happiness of being received from Anglicanism into the holy Catholic Church. It does ample justice to its subject, and, where dispassionately and candidly read; cannot fail to be regarded as a sufficient refutation of the pretensions of Anglicanism, and an unanswerable defence of the Catholic Church as the church brought to our view in the Nicene creed.
The plan of the work is simple and natural. The Anglican pretends that his communion is at least a branch of the Catholic Church. He professes to believe, — if he is of the high church party, — that our Lord founded a church, one and catholic, out of which, in the ordinary course of God’s gracious providence, salvation is not attainable. But is his communion this church, or at least a living branch of it; or is this church the one in communion with the see of Rome? This is the question. How shall it be answered?
There are certain marks or notes by which the church of Christ may be recognized and distinguished from all other bodies or pretended churches. These notes are enumerated in the Nicene creed, which the Anglican professes to believe and to hold authoritative, and are Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity, — Credo unam sanctam, Catholicam, et Apostolicam Ecclesiam . If all these notes are united in the Anglican establishment, she is the church of the Nicene creed, the church of God, and spouse of the lamb; but if she want any one of them, and certainly if she want them all, she is not that church, is no part or branch of it, and, properly speaking, no church at all. On the other hand, if they are all united in the Roman Church, then she is the church of the Nicene creed, the church of God, and only those in communion with her are in communion with Christ or in the way of salvation. The object of the book is to show that none of these notes are the possession of Anglicanism, and that they are each and all the exclusive possession of the church in communion with the successor of St. Peter, the supreme and visible head of the church and vicar of our Lord on earth. It shows this in a pleasing and convincing manner, and leaves little to be desired.
The author proves very clearly that Anglicanism is neither one nor holy, neither catholic nor apostolic, but he seems partially to concede at least some degree of sanctity to individual members of its communion. “In claiming,” he says, “this note of sanctity as the exclusive possession of the Roman Church, I do not of course mean that there is nothing which might be called by the name to be found in the Church of England; sanctity, unlike unity, admits of degrees, and I should suppose there is no body of Christians, I had almost said, no body of worshippers of any religion whatever, among whom there does not exist something which at least seems akin to it.” This is rather loosely expressed, and may mean simply, that, though sanctity, truly and properly so called, belongs exclusively to the church, yet it is not denied that there is that to be found in other communions which has many of its external characteristics, and may be sometimes supposed to be it, but which, in fact, is only its counterfeit; and so understood, it expresses nothing objectionable. But it may also be construed to mean, that, though sanctity, indeed, in its higher degree, in its heroic form, is found only in the Roman Church, yet it is not denied but it may in some of its lower forms, in its elements at least, be found in communions external and hostile to her. That this last is the meaning of the author is probable, since he asserts that sanctity admits of degrees, which he would have had no occasion to do, if he had intended to concede no degree of sanctity to individuals in the Anglican communion. If this be his real meaning, it needs some qualification.
It is no reproach to the author, that he should mistake the Catholic faith or theology on this or that point, or sometimes fail to express himself with strict verbal accuracy. The recent convert — and we speak a good word for ourselves — cannot be expected to be always rigidly exact either in thought or language, and his mistakes, or blunders even, should be regarded with Christian forbearance. But sanctity, though it admit of degrees, is sanctity even in its lowest degree, and, if Mr. Northcote admits that it can in any degree be possessed by persons who adhere to the Anglican communion, he cannot claim it as the exclusive possession of the Roman Church. The difference between the two communions in respect of sanctity would, in such a case, be merely a difference of more or less, — a difference simply in degree, not in kind. Moreover, sanctity and salvation go together and are inseparable. Where there is no sanctity, there can be no salvation; and where there is sanctity, there can be no condemnation. This must be true of sanctity in general, in any and every degree in which it is sanctity; for no one can pretend that none are saved but those who have attained to that heroic form of sanctity which we honor in the saints canonized by the church. If, then, the author concedes sanctity in any degree to individuals living in and adhering to the Anglican communion, he must concede salvation to be attainable in that communion; which is contra fidem , for it is de fide that there is no salvation out of the church. It should also be borne in mind, that the church has excommunicated and excommunicates every Protestant body, the Anglican as well as the Presbyterian or the Socinian, and we can hardly suppose that she allows us to concede sanctity to those who are under the ban of her excommunication, as heretics, cut off from communion with Christ; especially since sanctity is the end to be attained to, the end for which she, with all her sacraments and ministries, was instituted and exists through all time. We have consulted the authorities within our reach, and we find none of them making the concession in question, but all unanimously contending that sanctity, properly so called, can be predicated only of the church, whether reference be had to doctrines or to persons.
The author seems to us, also, to be not quite exact in the following passages:
“All Catholic doctrine, as held by the Roman Church, has been the result of one continued law of growth, and has therefore the unity of nature and of life: its development has been like that of the church itself, ‘the least of all seeds, but when it is grown the greatest among herbs’; or, like the growth of grace in each individual soul, ‘first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in ‘the ear.'” “The Gospel, it is true, is a divine message. Yet, as the language in which it is made is human, questions may naturally suggest themselves, almost without end, as to the real import of that language; as, for instance, from the brief and mysterious announcement, ‘the Word became flesh,’ three wide questions, as it has been well said [Newman On Development , p. 50, Amer. edition], at once open upon us; what is meant by ‘the Word,’ what by ‘flesh,’ and what by ‘became’; and inquiries of this kind have, as you know, from time to time arisen in the church, more or less supported by Scriptural and traditional evidence. These have gradually gained ground and attracted notice, until the church has felt herself obliged to pronounce judgment upon them and thenceforward, according to her seal of sanction or anathema, such opinions have either been incorporated into the Catholic creed , or denounced as contrary to it; and those bodies which, spite of such anathema, have still clung to the proscribed opinions, have gradually become external and hostile to the church.”
This seems to us to teach or necessarily imply, — 1, that Christian doctrine grows by virtue of human effort; 2, that a revelation cannot be made through the medium of human language, which shall reach the minds of its recipients in the full and exact sense intended by its author; 3, that heresies arise, as to their matter, from the incompleteness, quoad se or quoad nos , of the original revelation, and the honest and necessary endeavours of individuals to complete it; and, 4, that opinions may be and are made by the church articles of faith. There can, it seems to us, be no question that the passages quoted express or imply at least these four propositions, and we should suppose there can be just as little as to their objectionable character.
The recent conversion of the author, his evident Catholic intentions, and general soundness of doctrine, would lead us to pass over these points, all uncatholic as they are, with simple remark calling the attention of our readers to their evident heterodoxy, were they the solitary opinions of Mr. Northcote; but they are the doctrines of a school, — of a school formed, indeed, at first outside of the church, but by the conversion of its distinguished founder, Mr. Newman, and his more eminent disciples, now brought within her communion. Mr. Northcote was one of Mr. Newman’s disciples, and the fact that he continues to be one, even within the bosom of the church, leads us to fear the same may be the case with many others. He gives, in the extracts we have made, what we understand, and what we presume he understands to be substantially Mr. Newman’s doctrine of development. If that doctrine is entertained by the great body of those who have recently abandoned Anglicanism for the church the question becomes somewhat grave, and we may have, if we are not on our guard, before we are aware of it, a new school springing up in our midst, as dangerous as the Hermesian or that of La Mennais. These individuals, from their well known talents, learning, and zeal, cannot fail to have a wide and commanding influence on our Catholic literature, and, if they adhere to Mr. Newman’s doctrine it will be diffused beyond the circle of those who now entertain it, and do no little harm to portions even of our Catholic population. The age has a strong tendency to theorizing and innovation, which Catholics themselves do not wholly escape. Let there be brought forward a theory which promises to them an opportunity of combining the love of speculation and novelty with reverence for their religion and zeal for the salvation of their neighbor, and the temptation will be too strong to be in all cases successfully resisted. In this view of the question, it becomes important to examine thoroughly Mr. Newman’s Theory of Developments , and to lay open to all its real character. If it really authorize doctrines like those Mr. Northcote sets forth, no Catholic can for a moment, after discovering the fact, entertain it either as true or as harmless.
It is with sincere reluctance we recur once more to Mr. Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine . We cannot do so without exposing ourselves to much misconstruction and odium, especially since we are a layman and only a recent convert ourselves, a mere novice in Catholic faith and theology. But, occupying the post we do, and which we occupy by the request of those whose requests are commands for us, we are obliged to consult, not what may seem most appropriate to the neophyte or the layman, but what is most befitting the Catholic reviewer. And, after all, there may be less arrogance and dogmatism in speaking, under the supervision of the church, what and only what she teaches us, and commands us to speak, if we speak at all, than those who are accustomed to speak only from their own heads may imagine. But personal considerations must not be suffered to enter into the account. The man, who, when the purity and integrity of the Catholic faith is attacked by an insidious theory, will remain silent lest his own motives should be misconstrued, or offer an apology for speaking out in dear and energetic tones against the advancing error, has little reason to glory in his Catholicity.
Mr. Newman’s book should have been exempt from Catholic criticism, and would have been, if it had been suffered to pass for what it is and professes to be, — the speculations of a man who at best is merely in transitu from error to truth. So regarded, — as it was on its first appearance, and still is by the great body of Catholics at home and abroad, whether of the clergy or the laity, — it deserves no censure, and may be read with no inconsiderable interest; for what it contains that is unsound may be justly attributed to the author’s former Protestantism, and what is sound may be taken as the concessions of a great and earnest mind to Catholic truth. So regarded, we read the book as it should be read, — to find what it contains which we may as Catholics accept, not what it contains which we must reject. But we are compelled to regard it in a different light. Some few within contend the book must needs be orthodox, while those without insist that it is a work from which Catholic faith and theology are to be learned. The very eminence of the author gives weight to the conclusions of both. We are therefore compelled, willing or not, to bring the book to the Catholic standard, and try it by Catholic principles.
They who, among ourselves, differ from us in our estimate of Mr. Newman’s theory, do not, so far as we are informed, differ from us as to the doctrine we oppose to it; but they think that we do not rightly understand it, and ascribe to the author doctrines he would at once repudiate. What Mr. Newman would or would not repudiate, or what he did or did not intend to teach, is not the question we raise; for we review not him, but his book. What esoteric meaning he may have had, we do not inquire. We simply inquire, What does his book. in the obvious and natural sense of its language, actually teach to plain and unsophisticated readers? If we have misinterpreted or misrepresented what in this sense it actually teaches, let us be set right or condemned; but if it actually, in the obvious and natural sense of the words used, means what we allege, let it be condemned, whatever hypothesis may or may not be invented to excuse its author. But we trust we may, without offence, entreat those who may be disposed to accuse us of misunderstanding the book, before so accusing us, to take the trouble to read the book themselves, and to be certain that they themselves do not misunderstand it.
Mr. Newman, as is well known, wrote, and in part printed, his essay before he became a Catholic, and, as he personally informed a distinguished friend of ours, — if the eminent prelate who is our informant will allow us to call him our friend, who has more than once proved himself to be really so, — that he wrote the principal part of it nearly ten years before his conversion. It is not strange, then, nor incredible, that it should not be thoroughly orthodox. Never yet was a Protestant book written that could be converted into a Catholic book; for, with all deference to Mr. Newman, who maintains the contrary, conversion is not simply taking something in addition to what we before had, but consists in putting off, as well as putting on, in “being un clothed, as well as clothed upon.” It is not likely the work was commenced with the design with which it was completed; and it requires no very profound examination to discover, that, while the main theory is consistently enough set forth, the book is not all of a piece; and the hand of the author, retouching it here and there for the press, and striving to give it a more Catholic coloring and expression, is visible enough. That he considered the theory set forth in his book as intimately connected with his own conversion, that he honestly believed it contained a solid ground on which a man could justify himself in abandoning a sect and seeking the communion of the church, and that it would or might aid others, especially Anglicans, in removing the obstacles they imagined to communion with Rome, we have no doubt, and it seems to us but natural that he should have so believed. We see in the fact that he so believed, even on the supposition that the book is what we regard it, nothing to induce us to withdraw our high esteem for him as a man and a scholar, or to check the full flow of our gratitude to Almighty God for having, in his great mercy, brought him into the way of salvation.
The Theory of Developments is professedly put forth as an hypothesis, as an expedient for removing or getting rid of a difficulty. What is this difficulty, and what is suggested as the means of removing it? The difficulty is presented in two forms, special and general. In the first part of the book, the special difficulty is sunk in the general; in the last part, the general is sunk in the special; — so that, really, the book is written to remove a special difficulty; which is, the obstacle to seeking communion with the church of Rome, pointed out by the author in one of the earlier numbers of the Tracts for the Times , and consists in the assumption that Rome has introduced new gods, new doctrines, or, in simple terms, corrupted the primitive faith.
This difficulty rests on the assumption of differences or variations between the faith presented to us by the history of the early ages of the church, and the faith as held by the present Roman Catholic Church. But the real difficulty the author appears to hold does not end there, but resolves itself into a more general difficulty. The variations and differences have not occurred in one form of Christianity alone, but have extended to all; so that it is impossible to find any form of Christianity extant which is precisely that which we meet with in the primitive church. If variation and difference of external form are solid reasons for refusing to seek communion with Rome, they are equally so for refusing communion with any pretended church now in existence. We must, then, conclude, either that Christianity has failed, died out, or that it can exist under certain variations or differences of external representation. The first alternative is inadmissible. Consequently the great inquiry must be, to ascertain how Christianity may continue perfect and unchanged under a variation and difference of external representation, and to obtain certain criteria by which to distinguish historically what is true Christianity from what is not. For the explication or accounting for the variations, the author brings forward his theory of developments; for determining which or what is the real Christianity of history, and the actual continuation of the apostolic church, he introduces his seven tests of a true development, and applies them to ecclesiastical history, more especially of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries.
The variations and difficulties are predicated in the essay alike of doctrine, discipline, and worship. We confine ourselves, as we did before, to his theory so far only as it affects
Christian doctrine, or the credenda of the Christian Church, to be received by all with divine and Catholic faith; for we readily concede that much he says is true, if restricted to discipline and worship; and we have no doubt, that, if the author had been acquainted with the proper distinctions made by Catholic theologians between the former and the latter, he would have avoided the more serious errors of his book, — very likely would not have written it at all.
To proceed to more precise and formal statements; we may say the author affirms, — 1. That Christianity is a fact in the world’s history, and therefore falls itself within the province of history. 2. It must, then, have a history, and he susceptible of an historical representation and verification. 3. But such are the variations and apparent inconsistencies of the historical representation it has received, that, while history enables us to say with ease what Christianity is not, — as, for instance, that it is not Protestantism, — yet it does not, without difficulty, enable us to say precisely what it is. Hence the problem : —
Given, the variations and apparent inconsistencies in the historical representations, how to explain or account for them, so as to be able to use history, our natural informant, in successfully determining, with completeness and exactness, what Christianity, historically considered, really is. — Essay , pp. 11-13.
If Mr. Newman had been a Catholic at the time of proposing this problem he would not have proposed it; for no Catholic concedes that there is or can be the difficulty he implies. The only variations in respect of Christian doctrine the Catholic admits are; as Father Perrone says, new modes of expression adopted on the occasion of novel errors. But this is the problem proposed. For its solution, the author assumes a theory or hypothesis is necessary. Several hypotheses have heretofore been suggested.
1. The quod ubique , quod semper , et quod ab omnibus of Vincent of Lerins, that Christianity is what has been held everywhere, always, and by all. This rule appears reasonable on its face; is true in the abstract, when fairly applied in the Roman sense; but it is impracticable, especially as understood by English divines; for it admits of a laxer and a stricter application. If enlarged so as to suit the purposes of Anglicans, it includes the present Roman Catholic Church; if contracted so as to exclude the creed of Pius IV., it will exclude that of St. Athanasius, and certain doctrines which Anglicans profess to hold sacred.
2. The second hypothesis is, that Christianity was early corrupted from oriental, Platonic, and polytheistic sources; but this, however possible in itself, plausible, or sufficient, is unavailable ; because we must know what the original evangelical message was, before we can say what has been a corruption of it.
3. The discipline of the secret, — disciplina arcani ; sufficient as far as it goes, but does not meet the whole difficulty, because the variations continue after this discipline has ceased to be in force.
4. The theory of developments, which assumes the fact of variations and apparent inconsistencies, but defends them on the ground that they are legitimate developments, not corruptions of primitive doctrines. Or, to state it with more rigid accuracy, it assumes two classes of variations, one false and destructive, the other true and preservative; the former are false developments, and to be rejected as incompatible with the continued existence of Christianity; the latter are true developments, and necessary to its preservation and influence.
The subject matter of the essay is the Development of Christian Doctrine , and Christian doctrine , is the subject of the developments, as the very title of the work informs us. What, then, is to be understood by Christian doctrine ? This is our first question; and we answer, evidently, according to Mr. Newman, the view taken or the idea formed by the human mind. He connects the developments of Christian doctrine and the developments of ideas in general, supposes a parity between them, and from the fact and necessity of the latter concludes, at least, the antecedent probability of the former; which he could not do, if he did not hold Christian doctrine to be an idea. All he says of ideas in general, all the analogies he draws from them to elucidate and establish his doctrine of development, would be irrelevant and unmeaning, if he did not hold Christian doctrine itself to be an idea.
But is the idea the revealed truth itself, or is it the view which the mind takes of the revealed truth? In some passages, the author seems to teach the former. Thus he says, — “Christianity came into the world as an idea rather than an institution”; and he quotes with approbation a passage from Guizot, a Protestant, which teaches that Christianity, as an institution, as a government, has been the natural and necessary result of the action of the idea on its recipients.
But, according to Mr. Newman, the idea is not something given to the mind, ab extra , already formed, but is itself formed by the mind; for he defines it to be an habitual judgment of the mind, formed by comparing, contrasting, abstracting, generalizing, adjusting. classifying. If, then, he takes the first alternative suggested, he must hold, as we showed in our former article, that the revelation itself is an idea formed by the human, mind, which is the evident denial of revelation itself.
Mr. Newman, though some passages in his essay certainly warrant it, will of course shrink from this view. Then he must take the other alternative, and say that Christian doctrine is not the revealed truth itself, but the view taken, or the idea which the mind forms of it. This is clearly taught in the essay, as a passage which we shall soon quote fully and conclusively proves; it is supposed to be the view most favorable to Mr. Newman, and we have been accused of doing him injustice in alleging that in some passages of his essay he implies the other; it is evidently Mr. Northcote’s understanding of his doctrine, and Mr. Northcote is good authority in the case; and, finally, we have been assured personally by an English gentleman, an acquaintance and friend of Mr. Newman, one who was with him at Littlemore, one of his warm admirers and disciples, and like him a convert, — a man of superior worth and intelligence, — that this is really Mr. Newman’s doctrine, and that it never occurred to him that any one could understand him otherwise, or that anybody did or could understand any thing else by Christian doctrine. Conceding or assuming, as the case may be, this to be actually what Mr. Newman understands by Christian doctrine, we can without much difficulty seize the more prominent features of his theory. 1. The revealed truth or divine message communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers, and consigned to the letter of documents, say the Holy Scriptures; 2. The view taken or idea formed of it by the human mind operating on it; 3. The struggles or efforts of the human mind to realize its idea, or to make it an adequate mental representation of the external revealed truth; and, 4. The developments which result from these efforts or struggles, and of which some are legitimate and tend to preserve, and others are illegitimate and tend to corrupt or destroy, the original idea. Hence, says the author : —
“If Christianity is a fact, and can be made the subject-matter of exercises of the reason, and impresses an idea of itself on our minds, that idea will in the course of time develop in a series of ideas, connected and harmonious with one another, and unchangeable and complete, as is the external fact itself which is thus represented. It is the peculiarity of the human mind that it cannot take an object in, which is submitted to it, simply and integrally . It conceives by means of definition and description; whole objects do not create in the intellect whole ideas, but are, to use a mathematical phrase, thrown into series, into a number of statements, strengthening, interpreting, correcting each other, and with more or less exactness approximating, as they accumulate, to a perfect image. There is no other way of learning or of teaching. We cannot teach except by aspects or views, which are not identical with the thing itself which we are teaching ….. It may be objected, that inspired documents, such as the Holy Scriptures, at once determine its doctrine without further trouble. But they were intended to create an idea, and that idea is not in the sacred text, but in the mind of the reader ; and the question is, whether that idea is communicated to him in its completeness and minute accuracy, on its first apprehension, or expands in his heart and intellect, and comes to perfection in the course of time. Nor could it be maintained without extravagance that the letter of the New Testament. or of any assignable number of books, comprises a delineation of all possible forms which a divine message may assume when submitted to a multitude of minds. Nor is the case altered by supposing that inspiration did for the first recipients of the revelation what the divine fiat did for herbs and plants in the beginning, which were created in maturity. Still, the time at length came when its recipients ceased to be inspired; and on these recipients the revealed truths would fall, as in other cases, at first vaguely and generally, and would afterwards be completed by developments.”
This is to the purpose, and establishes what we have thus far said. Christian doctrine is the idea the mind forms of the revealed truth. But the idea is at first incomplete, vague, and general, and constitutes no adequate mental representation of its object. Hence the occasion and need of development. But the process of development is not a process carried on by authority for the mind, but a human process, carried on by the human mind itself. In this process the mind may err, run off into extravagances, and effect false developments which tend to corrupt and destroy the original idea. Hence the necessity of an infallible authority to decide between true and false developments, to say what of that which the mind has worked out may be retained, and what must be rejected. What is permitted to be retained is incorporated into the creed. and is henceforth de fide ; what it is determined must be rejected degenerates into heresy, and, as Mr. Northcote says, “gradually becomes external and hostile to the church.” Since developments are inevitable and necessary, from the very nature of the human mind, and, to say the least, antecedently probable from the character of the revelation itself, they must have been designed and provided for by the Author of the revelation. Then he must have established the infallible authority proved to be necessary. This infallible authority can be predicated of no other body than the Roman church. Therefore, the Roman church is infallible. Then she is the true church, the church of God, in whose communion alone salvation is to be sought. Here is the theory of developments from the point of view we have taken it up, and here is the argument of the essay. The argument is no novelty, and if, instead of saying developments are necessary and must be provided for, we say, such is the perversity of the human intellect and will, that men will not be simple believers, but will strive to comprehend the faith, master it by subjecting it to human forms, as Mr. Newman’s main endeavor is to show it should be, and therefore errors do and will arise, and must be guarded against, it is the argument used by every Catholic theologian from the first, and suggests itself naturally to every man of ordinary intellectual cultivation. It was hardly necessary to go so far, and to run such risks, to obtain an argument which might have been obtained without any journeying or risk at all. But we are most of us like the Syrian who came to the prophet to be cured of his leprosy, greatly scandalized if the prophet merely tells us, — ” Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and be clean.” But, letting the argument go for what it is worth, we object to the theory of Christian doctrine as set forth.
1. It degrades Christianity to the level of human and heretical doctrines, and denies all differentia generis between them. This follows necessarily from its assumption of a parity between Christianity and philosophy, human polity and ideas in general. The author everywhere illustrates and confirms his doctrine of developments by what he terms “parallel instances,” taken from philosophy, politics, and heresy, and, after describing the state into which the Nestorian and Monophysite communions have fallen, adds, — ” Such might have been the condition of Christianity, had it been absorbed by the feudalism of the middle ages.” He takes the developments of Methodism, an heretical sect, and subject, to say the least, to the simple natural taws of the human mind, as illustrative of those he contends for in Christian doctrine. But all this would be absurd, if he supposed Christian doctrine, as doctrine, belonged to a different order. Moreover, he expressly admits the objection. “Nor can it,” he says, “fairly be made a difficulty, that thus to treat Christianity is to level it in some sort to sects and doctrines of the world, and to impute to it the imperfections which characterize the productions of man.” This is sufficient, for it concedes that the author’s manner of treating Christianity does degrade it to the level of human and heretical doctrines, and imputes to it the imperfections which characterize whatever is human.
The author, indeed, tells us that the divine message was, or may have been, communicated to the world once for all; but this makes no difference; for, as we understand him, it was not communicated as materia formata , but simply as materia informis , on which the mind may operate, and to which, by operating, it gives form or idea. The doctrine is the form which the human mind gives to the materia informis. As to this informal matter, it is indeed divine, but as reduced to form, made doctrine, it is human. But this must also be said of all heresies, for they are only the form which sectarians give to the revealed facts on or about which they exercise their reason. They, then, are not essentially or generically distinguishable from Christian doctrine itself, and it is clear from Mr. Newman throughout, that he does not distinguish them from it, except in the fact that they are less adequate mental representations of their object; that is, use up or reduce to form a less quantity of the informal matter revealed, are less successful in reducing the wild chaos to order. Hence, —
“The Catholic creed is for the most part the combination of separate truths, which heretics have divided among themselves, and err in dividing. So that, as a matter of fact, if a religious mind were educated in some form of heathenism or error, and then were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not; not by being unclothed, but by being clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up in life.”
Nor does the case essentially alter when we come to philosophy, or human doctrines formed for the explication of nature. Nature here is the materia informis ; but nature is divine as well as grace, and philosophies, though human as doctrines, are yet divine as to their matter. The only difference between philosophy and Christian doctrine, then, is, that philosophy is the human form of divine matter naturally supplied while Christianity is the human form of divine matter supernaturally supplied. The one, then,in quantum est doctrina , does not differ, generically, from the other. Hence the author says, very consistently with this view, — ” Christianity differs from other religions and philosophies in what it has in addition to them, not in kind, but in origin; not in its nature, but in its personal characteristics.” It is true the author says this cannot be fairly made a difficulty; but, with his leave, we think it a very grave difficulty to degrade Christianity “to the level of sects [heresies] and doctrines of the world, and to impute to it the imperfections which characterize the productions of man.”
2. The doctrine Mr. Newman sets forth denies that there is, properly speaking, any such thing as Christian doctrine . It is a contradiction in terms to call that the doctrine which is not the thing taught, but the view, or idea, or judgment, which the mind forms of it. Doctrine means, by the very force of the word itself, that which is taught , and formally taught too; for all teaching is necessarily formal, and can never be made to mean either the materia informis submitted to the mind, or the form the mind gives to it, or judgment it forms of it. Hence, in representing the Christian revelation, objectively considered, as the mere informal matter of doctrine, and making the doctrine the form which the mind gives it, Mr. Newman denies that there is or can be a Christian doctrine. This he might have suspected when he was reducing Christianity to the level of the sects; for, properly speaking, the sects have no doctrine, since what each believes is merely his own view of what is submitted to his mind.
3. The theory excludes the ecclesia docens , or teaching authority of the church. The Catholic holds that the faith is what, and only what, God reveals and the church teaches or proposes. The faith is everywhere and always in the church. Hence, there must be everywhere at every moment of time a teaching authority in the church, everywhere and always, from the apostles to the consummation of the world, actively proposing the faith. This is what we call the church teaching, and is composed of all pastors and teachers in communion with the successor of St. Peter, all of whom teach with infallible authority, when teaching what, and only what, they have been taught and commissioned to teach. Individuals here and there may err through ignorance or perversity; but our Lord is himself supernaturally present with the church universally and permanently, and by his gracious providence takes care that the whole do not err, and that no considerable number do, from one cause or the other, or from any cause whatever; and if individuals, through the pride of their own reason, seek to bring in profane novelties, the ecclesia judicans , passive except on such occasions, declares infallibly what is the law which, on the points in litigation, has been promulgated from the beginning, and condemns the errors and their adherents and abettors. Thus has the faith been infallibly taught and preserved from the apostles to us, and thus it will be from us to the consummation of the world; for He who can neither deceive nor be deceived has said it. But this universal, indefectible, and permanently active teaching church Mr. Newman’s theory denies. Of course, the teacher is denied in the denial of the doctrine; for there can no more be a teacher without doctrine than there can be doctrine without a teacher; since teacher [doctor] and doctrine are correlatives.
If there be a church teaching, she must teach Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine must be what and only what she teaches. But Christian doctrine must be either the revealed truth itself, or the idea the mind forms of it. Then the church must, if she teach at all, teach either the one or the other of these. But not the revealed truth itself, because that would make it the doctrine, and not merely the materia informis of doctrine; not the idea, for that would deny that it is formed by the mind operating on the revealed truth. In either case, then, the supposition of the church teaching contradicts the theory. Consequently, the theory contradicts the church teaching, or, as we say, excludes the ecclesia docens .
4. It excludes the ecclesia credens , or denies that there is any faith believed. This follows from the
denial of the church teaching. The faith is what, and only what, God reveals and the church proposes. If there be no church teaching, there is no faith proposed; and if none is proposed, none can be believed. But the theory denies the church teaching, therefore denies that any faith is taught; therefore that any is believed. So there can be no church believing. Fides ex auditu, auditus autem per berbum Christi . … Quomodo credent ei, quem non audierunt? Quomodo autem audient sine proedicante? Quomodo vero proedicabunt misi mittantur?
5. It excludes the ecclesia judicans . Mr. Newman, in words, asserts the infallible authority of the church, and on this fact founds his claim to Catholicity. But the church is infallible in three distinct, though inseparable, functions’- believing, teaching, and judging. The first two Mr. Newman’s theory denies, and he nowhere even in words asserts them. In their place he substitutes an ecclesia discens , or, in plain English, a church learning, which likens the faithful to those whom the blessed apostle characterizes as
semper discentes, et nunquam ad scientiam veritatis per venientes . But to stop here would be obviously absurd; for the church, in learning or developing the faith, in quantum est ecclesia discens or evolvens , is not infallible, may err, run off into extravagances, effect false developments as well as true, and therefore lose, instead of preserving, the deposit of faith. Hence the necessity of an infallible authority. But this infallible authority can, after the exclusion of the church teaching and believing, be only the church judging, or deciding between true and false developments, — what of that which the church learning has worked out is to be retained as dogmatic truth, and what is to be rejected as refuse and suffered to degenerate into heresy; and it is only in this sense that we find the author asserting the infallibility of the church, or arguing its necessity; for — and the point is capital — the authority does not precede the fallible
action of the mind of the church, effect and authoritatively propose the development, but follows that action, and gives to the developments effected, as Mr. Northcote expresses it, “her seal of sanction or anathema.” The truth to be sanctioned is elicited by the controversy which precedes the decision of authority; and consequently the action of authority, as such, must consist in opposing the truth so elicited to the contradictory error; that is, determining which of the litigants is the faithful development. Obviously, then, the infallible authority can be only the judicial authority, that is, the ecclesia judicans .
But no ecclesia judicans can be legitimately asserted where there is no church teaching; for the church teaching is the conditio sine qua non of the church judging. The office of the judge is to judge of the infractions of law. But where there is no law, there are no infractions of law, and there is no law where none has been promulgated. The judge, therefore, necessarily presupposes the promulgation of the law as the condition of his own existence. But where there is no teacher, there is no promulgation of the law. The judge, in quantum est judex , does not promulgate the law, but simply declares what, on the points in litigation, is the law which has already been promulgated. Consequently, where there has been no teacher to promulgate the law, or simply where there is no teacher preceding the judge, there can be no judge. Therefore the theory excludes the church judging.
Again. The judge, in quantum est judex , does not promulgate the law; he only declares a law previously promulgated. Now, on the points in litigation, which the judge is called upon to decide, he either declares the law truly or he does not. If he does not, he is not infallible, and the assertion of a judge avails the author nothing. If he does, then it is infallibly certain that on those points there had been a law previously promulgated. If so, the alleged development is no development, but the simple declaration or application of the preexisting law. In point of fact, this last is what the church always alleges when deciding a controversy of faith. She uniformly alleges, that she is only opposing to the novel error what is and has been the faith taught and believed, or law promulgated, from the first. From the first, then, she assumes the law on the point litigated to have been formal, for it is absurd to say an informal law, in so far as informal, is a law promulgated. But if the law or the faith from the first has been formal, of course it can have had no developments. But the church, in declaring the law, which she applies to the point litigated, has been promulgated from the first, is either fallible or infallible. If fallible, Mr. Newman has no infallible church. If infallible, he cannot assert developments. But he does assert developments. Therefore, he can assert no infallible church. So both his theory of Christian doctrine and his theory of developments alike exclude the infallible church judging, and reduce his theory to that of mere private judgment .
6. It excludes even the possibility of faith, by denying, quoad nos , the possibility of an infallible revelation. This we saw in the beginning was Mr. Northcote’s understanding of Mr. Newman’s theory. Mr. Newman says, — ” It is the peculiarity of the human mind that it cannot take an object in, which is submitted to it, simply and integrally. …. Whole objects do not create in the intellect whole ideas; but are, to use a mathematical phrase, thrown into series, into a number of statements, strengthening, interpreting, correcting each other, and with more or less exactness approximating, as they accumulate, to a perfect image. There is no other way of learning or of teaching. We cannot teach except by aspects or views, which are not identical with the thing itself we are teaching .” This is clear and conclusive, if words are allowed to have their ordinary meaning; for it is assigned as the reason why we cannot, on its first apprehension, form to ourselves an adequate mental representation of the revealed truth, and are able to complete it only in the course of time by developments. But what is thus affirmed of the communication and reception of the original divine message may and must be affirmed, for the same reason, of the decisions of the infallible authority,-supposing it to exist. “Whole objects do not create whole ideas in the intellect.” But the decision or definition of an objective authority is a whole object, and therefore cannot create a whole idea, be taken in simply and integrally, but must be “thrown into series, into a number of statements, strengthening, interpreting, correcting each other, and with more or less exactness approximating, as they accumulate, to a perfect image.” Suppose a new decision, and the same process must be repeated, and so on ad infinitum . “We cannot teach except by aspects or views, which are not identical with the thing itself we are teaching.” If not identical with it, in so far as not identical, they must be diverse from it. Then, if the thing itself be truth, they must be more or less untrue; consequently, it is impossible to teach the truth without some admixture of error. Then no infallible revelation can be made to the human mind, as we inferred from Mr. Northcote; if no infallible revelation, then no infallible faith; and if no infallible faith, then none at all; or, if no infallible revelation, then no revelation, for God cannot teach error, quoad se or quoad nos ; and if no revelation, then of course no faith. Consequently, faith is impossible.
These are some of the grave objections to which Mr. Newman’s theory of Christian doctrine is exposed, if, as we have conceded, it assumes Christian doctrine to be not the revealed truth itself, but the mind’s idea of it. But, if it be denied that it does so assume, and contended that it assumes the doctrine to be the revealed truth itself, it becomes, if possible, still more objectionable; for it is undeniable that it assumes the doctrine to be idea , and idea to be, not something already formed communicated to the mind ab extra , but an habitual judgment formed by the mind itself. This would reduce ‘Christianity, in respect both of its matter and of its form, to the level of philosophy, and be an absolute denial of the supernatural revelation even of its matter, that is, of supernatural revelation altogether. The moment Christian doctrine is assumed to be an idea formed by the mind, an habitual judgment, whatever is assumed to be its object, Christianity, in any sense in which a Catholic can recognize it, is absolutely denied. No man can be a Catholic, who does not hold that Christian doctrine is the revealed truth itself, and that this truth is infallibly proposed to the mind, and infallibly received by it. If the revealed truth cannot be so proposed and so received, it is idle to talk of faith or of a divine message. The real question Mr. Newman raises is, not the possibility of developments, but the possibility of revelation.
Thus far we have confined ourselves chiefly to Mr. Newman’s view of Christian doctrine; we proceed now to his view of developments. It will not be difficult to determine what he means by developments, for they are determined by his view of the doctrine, not the doctrine by them. His view of the doctrine is the basis of the developments, the principle from which they are deduced, and they therefore are to be understood in that sense only in which it is the ground on which they may be logically accounted for and justified.
The historical facts assumed to be developments, — except in the few instances in which the author is not historically exact, — we readily admit as facts, but not as developments . The Catholic Church to-day, whether regarded as a government, as a body of doctrine, or as a cultus , Mr. Newman says, is the development of the apostolic church, and, being such, is the true church. But is the present Catholic Church, under the relation of doctrine , the development of the apostolic church, or is it identically it, without any development or shadow of variation? We say, under the relation of doctrine , by which we mean the faith objectively considered and formally proposed; for there is a broad distinction to lie marked between the faith and the church under the relation of government and worship. In government, or discipline, and cultus exterior , we have no difficulty in conceding developments. When the church was confined to the apostles, and a small Company of believers at Jerusalem, she could hardly present the same appearance externally, or exercise all the governmental faculties, at least in their varied applications, as when she included all nations under her dominion; and all the capabilities of her worship could hardly be developed when the faithful were few, without temples, unable to worship in open day, and obliged to conceal themselves in private chambers, in caves, and in catacombs, any more than they can be with us in a hostile community, in the midst of poverty and destitution. Yet in both of these respects her faculties must always be the same, and it is necessary, in order to establish her identity and fidelity, to show that she has always exercised her faculties according to their normal intent, and that she has exercised no faculties but those with which she has been endowed from the beginning. But if this be done, all is done that is necessary for her complete vindication under the respective heads of government and of external worship, Thus far we have no controversy with Mr. Newman.
But with regard to doctrine the case is different. The doctrine is the revelata or credenda , which God reveals and the church proposes, and is the fundamental law of the church. In this, developments are not admissible, for they would imply a growth of doctrine, which in its turn would argue either a deficiency in the apostolic doctrine as formally taught, or an excess in the doctrine formally proposed by the church now. Developments of the law must be understood either in the sense of new enactments, or in the sense of new applications, or applications of the law to new cases which arise in the course of time and the progress of events. In the first sense, they cannot be admitted without assuming a progress in the law itself, which is only another form of saying it was imperfect in the beginning, contrary to the uniform teaching of Catholic theologians, who are all agreed that the law was perfect from the first, and can neither be enlarged nor diminished. In the second sense mentioned, what are called developments are not developments. All development implies a change of some sort ; but the application of the law to a new case implies no change in the law, either in respect of its matter or in respect of its form. If you mean only these new applications by developments, you have no right to call them developments of doctrine. The identity of the doctrine materially and formally remains ever unaffected, whatever the variation of the cases to which it is applied.
This is so obvious, that it can escape no one of ordinary intelligence, and, in principle, it has not escaped Mr. Newman. But he does not — and the point must not be overlooked — hold the doctrine to be the law. The law of the church, he admits, must be identical, unchanged, and unchangeable, both as to space and time. The law, properly speaking, according to him, develops, but is not developed. But he means by the law not law in the forensic sense, but in the animal or vegetable sense, — a subjective inherent law of growth, like that in the acorn, which develops it into the oak, — the law of the animal in the embryon, which develops it into the full-grown animal of its species, — the forma , or idea , of the Platonists. This law is the informative or informing power of the church, and, just in proportion to its life, vigor, activity, pushes out branches and foliage in all directions, effects new developments in doctrine, in discipline, and worship, till the church, under all these aspects, and under every possible particular aspect of these general aspects, has in the course of time come to maturity, or the perfection of its species. These are Mr. Newman’s own illustrations, and this is his theory of development. Evidently, then, the faith, objectively considered, is not, in his view, the law which the church obeys, and which determines her developments, as the law of the animal economy determines the developments and growth of the animal.
This is further evident from his use of the word development. Sometimes he means by developments the process of development, sometimes the result; sometimes the practical effects of faith and worship on the life of individuals, communities, societies at large, sometimes the reaction of these effects on faith and worship themselves; sometimes the simple application of the recognized law to new cases which occur, sometimes the evolution of new dogmas from the original divine message as embodied in Scripture or as latent in the undefined consciousness of the church; sometimes true developments, sometimes false developments; sometimes developments of Christian doctrine, and sometimes developments by it. Yet all these several classes of facts, so diverse and heterogeneous to the Catholic theologian he throws into the same category, traces to one and the same generic principle, and calls by the same common name. This is a singular fact. Hear what he himself says : — “The word is commonly used, and is here used , in three senses indiscriminately, from defect of our language; on the one hand, for the process of development, on the other for the result; and again, either generally for a development true or not true, or exclusively for a development deserving the name.” What more perplexing to the reader? What scientific writer ever before defined his terms so as to make “confusion worse confounded”? With all respect for Mr. Newman, this confusion does not arise “from the defect of our language,” but from his own ideas. These things are confounded in his theory, and according to that theory are to be regarded as homogeneous. If his theory be true, his classification is rigidly scientific. Christian doctrine — and by Christian doctrine he means Christianity, whether regarded as government, as dogma, as ethics, or as worship — is the human form of the revealed truth or divine message submitted to the action of reason. Hence, the formative power or informing law of the church is not in the Revealer, is not in the revelation, but in the mind of the recipient. It is simply the human intellect and heart operating on and with the idea formed of the revelation submitted to them. The developments predicated are all the results of this operation. Consequently, whether they be developments in doctrine, in discipline, or in worship, true or false, they all have the same generic principle, and fall of themselves into the same category, and are rightly and scientifically called by the same common name. The defect of language is nothing but its inability to supply common names which, implying a whole class, yet imply only a part of it, — a defect, we apprehend, common to most languages.
Mr. Newman’s whole theory of developments, as a theory, rests on the assumption, that our holy religion under all and each of its aspects, is divine matter under a human form; that is, it is efficacious ex opere recipientis , not, as we are taught, ex opere operato ; or that Divinity is the matter, humanity the form, — the divine the passivity, the human the activity. “Certainly,” he says, “it is a degradation to consider a divine work under an earthly form; but it is no irreverence, since the Lord Himself, its author and owner, bore one also.” Christianity is “externally what the apostle calls an ‘earthen vessel,’ being the religion of men. And, considered as such, it grows in wisdom and in stature; but the powers which it wields, and the words which proceed out of its mouth, attest its miraculous nativity.” Yes, as to its matter, but not as to its form, — to say nothing of the doctrine implied, that the Incarnation was the simple exhibition of the Divinity under an earthly form, which, if we understand by the form idea, and by idea an habitual judgment, as the author defines it, implies the assumption of the divine by the human, and not of the human by the divine, if the analogy relied on be illustrative of the doctrine in question.
We by no means assert or believe that Mr. Newman would now, or when writing his book, maintain consciously, intentionally, this abominable formula to which his essay is reducible; but his theory rests upon it, necessarily implies it, if we are not utterly incapable of understanding our mother tongue on a subject with which we are not unfamiliar; or if it does not, it is either unintelligible except to the few who may have the word of the enigma, or it is a splendid illustration of the ignorentia elenchi . From beginning to end, it seems to us to rest on the assumption, that Christianity is nothing to us but mere words, save so far as we realize it in our intellect and heart. To realize , if applied to ideas, means to make the ideal real; if to matter, to make that which is informal and potential, formal and actual, as the seal impressed gives form to the wax, or as the sculptor brings out the figure from the block of marble. View it in what light you will, the formative power is the human agent, and therefore what in Christianity is divine must be regarded as the matter on and with which the human agent operates, — the precise doctrine we ascribed in our former article to Mr. Newman, and identified with Neander’s, and which is readily developed into Socinianism on the one hand, and, perhaps, into justification by faith alone on the other, according to the special point of view under which it is taken up. This doctrine makes the divine passive; and the only exceptions to the universal passivity of the divine in our religion and its effects, which Mr. Newman seems to us to recognize, are exceptions as to the original revelation itself, and in deciding, when the mind of the church has worked them out from her implicit feelings, what are to be retained as true developments, and what are to be rejected as false. But this occasional active interference of the divine militates nothing against the formula in the sense we give to it. It is true, in applying, though not in stating and establishing, his theory, the author speaks of “the mind of the church,” where we say the human mind . But by the mind of the church he can mean only the collection of individual minds, operating on and with the original idea of the divine message submitted to them. This idea is the human form of the divine message, and, though divine as to its matter, or as to its passive element, is yet human as to its form or active element; and therefore, whether we say the human mind or the mind of the church, the meaning is one and the same. It is true, also, that he speaks of the mind of the church working out dogmatic truth from implicit feelings, under secret supernatural guidance. But this amounts to nothing, in any sense in which, as a Catholic, he is at liberty to understand it. To amount to any thing, this secret supernatural guidance must be gratia inspirationis , and that would imply that the church is inspired, and that each of her members is inspired, which, in both of its parts, is untrue; for the church is not inspired, but assisted. If he means by this secret supernatural guidance only gratia assistentioe , it is not to his purpose. This, in the sense of Catholic theologians, must be either assistance in keeping and proposing what has been taught and believed from the first, or it must be the donum fidei , or supernatural assistance to believe what the church proposes. He cannot say the former, because he does not mean by the mind of the church the ecclesia docens ; not the latter, because it is only assistance to believe what is formally proposed. Let him mean by the supernatural guidance what he will, he must assume it either as teacher or as believer. As believer he cannot, for the object must be proposed before it can be believed, and the object is not proposed, for the very supposition is, that it is to be evolved or worked out. If as teacher, it can, according to the formal doctrine of the author, teach only in so far as that which it teaches is subjected to a human form, — its teachings must be subject to the condition of all teaching, no less than the original divine message itself. Whatever, then, he may mean by secret supernatural guidance, unless he either contradicts himself or the uniform teaching of all Catholic theologians and asserts that the church is inspired, he can mean nothing which militates against the doctrine we have ascribed to him.
Assuming now what we have sufficiently established to be Mr. Newman’s doctrine, express or necessarily implied, consciously or unconsciously on his part put forth, it follows, that the idea which the human mind formed, on the submission of the divine message to its action, is the inherent or subjective law of the church, and the whole life and action of the church consists in the full and perfect realization of this idea under all and each of its aspects, in each and all of its capabilities, in the intellect and heart of individuals and of nations; that is, if we may so speak, the full and perfect reproduction of the divine message under a human form, or rendering the human idea the full and complete representation of the divine idea. This idea being that with which she starts, she must obey it, preserve it, as the acorn obeys and preserves its law in becoming the oak. We must, then, conceive the church to have been in its beginning the embryon or the germ of what she now is. Nothing can be in her in maturity but what was in the germ, or has been assimilated in the process of growth. But if the germ of all is in the beginning, it is only the germ. Every doctrine, every discipline, every rite, every observance, we now find in the church was in the church in the apostolic age, but only as the oak is in the acorn, the chicken in the egg. All is there, but there in an embryonic state.
The process of growth includes, like all growth, a process of evolution and a process of assimilation. “The idea,” says the author, “never was that throve and lasted, yet, like mathematical truth, incorporated nothing from external sources . So far from the fact of such incorporation implying corruption, as is sometimes supposed, development implies incorporation .” This is decisive; and the only question we need now ask is as to the fact, whether Mr. Newman does predicate growth, development in this general sense, of doctrine properly so called. That he does in other respects, and in all other respects, no one will deny; but does he of doctrine in the specific sense in which we use the word?
In answer, we remark, — 1. The developments are predicated generally of Christian doctrine, in the very title of the book, and are throughout the whole essay predicated of Christianity in general, without any note or mark of distinction. 2. The problem the author set out to solve includes doctrine, as well as discipline and worship. 3. He concludes the antecedent probability of developments in Christianity from the developments of doctrine effected by divine inspiration under the old law. 4. His theory requires him to assert development of doctrine in like manner as other developments. 5. He expressly asserts development and growth of doctrine, whether regard be had to the original revelation or to our idea of it. Out of the multitude of passages we might quote to prove this, which, by the way, needs no proof, after what we have established, the following will suffice:
“When we turn to the consideration of particular doctrines on which Scripture lays the greatest stress, we shall see that it is absolutely impossible for them to remain in the mere letter of Scripture, if they are to be more than mere words or to convey a definite idea to the mind of the recipient. When it is declared that ‘the Word became flesh,’ three wide questions open upon us on the very announcement, — what is meant by ‘Word,’ what by ‘flesh,’ and what by ‘became.’ The answers to these involves a PROCESS OF INVESTIGATION, and are developments . Moreover, when they have been made, they will suggest a series of secondary questions ; and thus at length a multitude of propositions will gather round the inspired sentence of which they come, giving it externally the form of doctrine , and creating or deepening the idea of it in the mind.”
This of itself is decisive. Revelation does not tell us what is meant by “the Word,” what by “flesh,” nor what by “became,” and we can answer these questions only by a process of investigation! Was Christianity a revelation only for men who have the ability and the leisure to undertake, and carry on processes of investigation; or will not the faith of the poor servant-girl or the poor slave suffice for the scholar and the philosopher? But the author goes on, and after enumerating several particulars in which, he says, so far as we know, the original revelation, on matters of great and pressing moment, is incomplete, adds:-
“As far as the letter goes of the inspired message, there is not one of us but has exceeded by transgression its revealed provisions , and finds himself in consequence thrown upon those infinite resources of divine love which are stored in Christ, but have not been drawn out into form in its appointments . Since, then, Scripture needs COMPLETION, the question is brought to this issue, — WHETHER DEFECT OR INCHOATENESS IN ITS DOCTRINES BE OR BE NOT AN ANTECEDENT PROBABILITY OF A DEVELOPMENT OF THEM.”
Can any than ask any thing more than this? Here is a plain assertion, if taken in connection with what immediately precedes, that the sacrament of penance was not included in the formal appointments of the inspired message; which corresponds with what the author elsewhere says, namely, that penance is a development of baptism, as purgatory was a later development as a form of penance due for post-baptismal sins. But here is another passage :-
“In whatever sense the need and its supply are a proof of design in the visible creation, in the same do the gaps , if the word may be used, which occur in the structure of the original creed of the church, make it probable that those developments, which grow out of the truths which lie around them, were intended to complete it.”
One more extract will suffice on this branch of the subject:-
“And it is plain that what the Christians of the first ages anathematized included deductions from the articles of faith, that is, developments, as well as those articles of faith themselves. For, since the reason they commonly gave for using the anathema was that the doctrine was strange and startling, it follows that the truth which was its contradictory had also been unknown to them hitherto ; which is also shown by their temporary perplexity, and their difficulty of meeting heresy, in particular cases.”
These extracts settle the fact that Mr. Newman does assert positive developments of Christian doctrine in the sense alleged. But can a Catholic admit them? Certainly not.
Christian doctrine is simply and exclusively the revealed truth proposed by the church to be believed. We have consulted as high living authorities on the subject as there are in this country, and they all concur in saying that the church can propose only what was revealed, and that the revelation committed to the church was perfect. If there be any thing in which Catholic theologians are agreed, it is in these two points, — that the revelation in the beginning was perfect, and that nothing can be proposed by the church to be believed, fide divina , not revealed from the beginning. Developments of doctrine, then, are possible only on condition that the church has neglected her mission as a teacher, which cannot be assumed, even by way of hypothesis. Her commission was, — “Going, teach all nations ….. to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
It is essential to Catholic faith to believe that she faithfully, at all times and in all places discharges this commission. Then she must always and everywhere teach the whole faith, and then developments are inconceivable: for though there may be implicit believing, there is, properly speaking, no implicit or informal teaching.
To this effect we quote the illustrious Bossuet, who is, at least, as hiigh authority in regard to Catholic faith and theology as Mr. Newman. Bossuet, in his History of the Variations of Protestantism , assumed, as the basis of his argument, that the truth, divinely revealed, has its perfection at once, and never varies, and that variation in doctrine is a proof of error. Thus he says in the preface: —
“When in the expositions of faith, variations were seen among Christians, they were ever considered as a mark of falsehood, an inconsequence, so to speak, in the doctrine propounded. Faith speaks with simplicity; the Holy Ghost sheds pure light, and the truth he speaks has a language always uniform. Whoever is but the least conversant with the history of the church must know she opposed to each heresy appropriate and precise expositions, which she never altered; and if we attend to the expressions by which she condemned heretics, it will appear that they always proceed by the shortest and most direct route to attack the error in its source. She acts thus, because all that varies, all that is overlaid with doubtful or studiously ambiguous terms has always appeared suspicious, and not only fraudulent, but even absolutely false, because it betrays embarrassment, with which truth is unacquainted . . . . But whilst heresies, always varying, agree not with themselves, and are continually introducing new rules, that is to say, new symbols of faith. Tertullian says, that ‘in the church the rule of faith is unalterable, and never to be reformed.’ It is so, because the church, which professes to speak and to teaech nothing but what she has received, does not vary; and, on the contrary, heresy, which began by innovating, daily innovates, and changes not its nature …… The Catholic truth, proceeding from God, has its perfection at once ; heresy, the feeble offspring of the human mind, can be formed only by ill-fitting patches.”
This, of itself, is conclusive, ‘so far as the authority of Bossuet goes; but he does not stop here. The Protestant minister Jurieu attacked the principle laid down, and undertook to prove, as does Mr. Newman, that the truth comes to perfection only gradually and in the course of time. Bossuet replies in his Premier Avertissement aux Protestants sur les Lettres du Ministre Jurieu contre l’ Histoire des Variations , which, by a change of name, might serve in many respects as an appropriate admonition to the admirers of the Essay on Developments , and from which we will make a few quotations : —
“What,” says Bossuet, “your minister finds insupportable is, that I dared assert that faith in the true church never varies, and that the truth, proceeding from God, has its perfection at once . He affects to be astonished, as if I had invented some novel prodigy, instead of faithfully repeating what our fathers have said, that the Catholic doctrine is that which is, everywhere and always, quod ubique, quod semper . This is what says the learned Vincent of Lerins, one of the lights of the fifth century, what he lays down as the principle of his celebrated Admonition , in which he gives the true character of heresy, and a general method of’ distinguishing true doctrine from false. The orthodox had always reasoned on this sound principle; heretics had never dared openly reject it, and had obscured rather than denied it; but when I advance it, M. Jurieu cannot endure it. ‘I am tempted,’ he says, ‘to believe that M. Bossuet has never even cast his eyes over the history of the first four ages.’ It is the doctrine of the first four ages, the most beautiful period of Christianity, he undertakes to show was uncertain and variable. ‘How,’ he continues, ‘could a learned man be able to exhibit such profound ignorance?’ I am not only grossly ignorant, but my temerity is a prodigy, and goes even to impiety. ‘We know not,’ he says, ‘whether we are disputing with a Christian or with a pagan; for precisely thus might reason the greatest enemy of Christianity.’ He accuses me of delivering Christianity, bound hand and foot, over to infidels, because I have dared to say that the truth proceeding from God has its perfection at once, — that is to say, was well understood and happily explained in the beginning . ‘It is,’ he continues, ‘precisely the contrary that is true, and one must have a brazen front, or be grossly and surprisingly ignorant, to deny it.’ Then, according to your minister, in order to speak truly, one must say that the truth was neither well known nor happily explained in the beginning. ‘The truth of God,’ he adds, ‘has been known only by parcels ‘ [only by particular aspects , says Mr. Newman]. Christian doctrine has been composed piecemeal; it has had all the changes, and the most essential of all the defects, of human sects; and to give it, as I have done, this beautiful character of having its perfection at once, as pertains to a work proceeding from a divine hand, is not only not to understand it well, but it is a prodigy of rashness, a most extraordinary error, the lowest degree of ignorance, a manifest impiety.”
This is pretty strong. But Bossuet proceeds to establish his thesis, and quotes Vincent of Lerins still further:-
“But this father not only establishes, as fundamental, the truth I have laid down, but he does it by the same principle, namely, that the truth proceeding from God, as a divine work, has its perfection at once. ‘I cannot,’ he says, ‘be enough astonished that men can be so carried away, so blind, so impious, so prone to error, as not to be content with the rule of faith once given to the faithful and received from all antiquity, but must every day seek novelties, be always changing something in religion, adding something to it, or taking something from it; as if it were not a celestial dogma which once revealed is sufficient for us, but a human institution , to be brought to perfection only in being reformed, or rather, by detecting in it each day some new defect.’* Here is an astonishment very different from that of the minister. This holy doctor is astonished that men can even think of varying in the faith; the minister is astonished that they can say the faith has never varied. The holy doctor treats as blind and impious those who will not acknowledge that religion is a thing from which nothing can be taken away, to which nothing can be added [it grows by incorporating, says Mr. Newman], and in which nothing can be changed, in any time whatever. The minister on the contrary, imputes to blindness and impiety the unwillingness to acknowledge either change or progress .”
Mr. Newman’s friends may say that his thesis and Jurieu’s are not the same. Be it so. Nevertheless, this shows Bossuet’s general doctrine on the subject. But on one point at least, the two do actually maintain one and the same thesis. Mr. Newman says (p. 82), — ” There was no formal acknowledgment of the doctrine of the Trinity till the fourth century”; and again (p. 166), — “So the effort of Sabellius to complete the mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity failed; it became a heresy; grace would not be constrained; the course of thought could not be forced ; — at length it was realized in the true Unitarianism of St. Augustine ” The minister Jurieu, speaking of this same mystery, says, as quoted by Bossuet, — ” This mystery is of the last importance, and essential to Christianity; .yet everybody knows how unformed [informis ] it remained till the first Council of Nice, and even till that of Constantinople.” Here Mr. Newman and the minister, undeniably, assert one and the same thesis. Let us hear Bossuet’s indignant reply:-
“The mystery of the Trinity, my brethren, unformed ! Could you have believed it possible ever to have heard that word from any mouth but that of a Socinian? If from the beginning one only God was distinctly adored in three equal and coeternal persons, the mystery of the Trinity was not unformed. But according to your minister, it was unformed, not only till 325, when the Council of Nice was held, but even fifty years later, till the first Council of Constantinople, held in 381. Then the first Christians, in the greatest fervor of religion and when the church brought forth so many martyrs, did not adore distinctly one God in three equal and coeternal persons; St. Athanasius himself, the fathers of Nice, did not well understand this worship, — the Council of Constantinople has given to the worship of Christians its form . Even till the end of the fourth century, Christianity was not formed, since the Trinity, so essential to Christianity, was not, Christians shed their blood for a religion not yet formed, and knew not whether they adored three Gods or only one!”
Bossuet continues, goes over much of the ground traversed by Mr. Newman in the application of his “Tests,” and proves from the express testimony of fathers and councils, that the uniform doctrine of the church is, that the faith cannot vary, that what is taught is always that which has been taught from the first. He goes further still, and, in answer to the Protestant minister, proves historically that the faith on the principal points on which Mr. Newman asserts developments was clearly and explicitly taught from the beginning. Mr. Newman undertakes to show historically, that the doctrine opposed by the Council of Chalcedon to the Eutychian heresy was, till the council defined it, generally unknown through all the East, and that its adoption was forced upon the church by St. Leo, aided by the civil power. He also assumes throughout his essay, that the faith remains unformed, vague, and general, till authority defines it against the opposing heresy. “There was,” he says, as we have seen, “no formal acknowledgment of the doctrine of the Trinity till the fourth century. No doctrine is defined till it is violated.” And again, — “It follows that the truth which was its contradictory had been unknown to them hitherto,” that is, prior to the rise of the heresy anathematized. On these two points, let us listen to the illustrious Catholic bishop of Meaux:
“Can there be, my brethren, a greater illusion than wishing to make you believe that the faith of the church has been formed only on occasions of heresies which arise and make express decisions necessary? So far from this, decisions have been made only by proposing the faith of past ages . For instance, your minister tells you, that the faith of the Incarnation was formed only after the disputes of the Nestorians and Eutychians had occurred [Mr. Newman implies as much], that is to say at Chalcedon; but this is not what the council itself thought. From what point did this venerable assembly set out? Front what point did its conductor, St. Leo, set out? Perhaps by saying, that this mystery, hitherto, had not been well understood; that the sense of Scripture had not been sufficiently explained? God forbid! They began by making it appear that the holy doctors had always understood it as they understood it, and that Eutyches had rejected the doctrine of the fathers. There St. Leo began, as you may see by his divine letters, which the council admired; there the council itself began, and it approved St. Leo’s letter, only because it conformed to St. Athanasius, St. Hilary, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Cyril, and the others whom St. Leo cites.
“But perhaps the fathers of Chalcedon thought they would add to it the perfection which the preceding councils had not given it? Not at all. For they begin by reporting them at length, and taking them as their foundation. ‘This holy assembly embraces and follows the rule of faith established at Nice, that which was confirmed at Constantinople, that which has been set forth at Ephesus, that which St. Leo follows, an apostolic man and pope of the universal church, and it will neither add nor diminish.’ The faith was perfect , and if any one had taken it into his head to say to these fathers, as your minister does, that it was unformed before their decision, they would have cried out against his rash speech as against a blasphemy. Hence they begin their definition by saying, — ‘We repeat the infallible faith of our fathers at Nice, at Constantinople, at Ephesus, under Celestine and Cyril.’ Why, then, have they themselves made a new definition? Because that of the preceding councils was not sufficient? On the contrary, they continue, — ‘It is sufficient for a FULL declaration of the truth; for in them is shown the PERFECTION Of the Trinity and the incarnation of the Son of God. But because the enemies of .the truth, in dealing out their heresies, have invented novel expressions, some in denying the Holy Virgin to be the mother of God, and others in introducing a prodigious confusion in the two natures of Jesus Christ, this great and holy council, teaching that the preaching of the faith from the beginning is always immutable, has ordained that the faith of the fathers REMAIN FIRM, and that nothing be added to it, as if any thing were wanting to its perfection.’ Thus the definition of the council was nothing new, except a new declaration of the faith of the fathers and preceding councils applied to new heresies.”
If language has its ordinary meaning, or any meaning at all, this is decisive proof that Bossuet knew the theory of developments only to condemn it. He has, as we have seen, quoted Vincent of Lerins, whom we venture to quote again as express to our purpose. The holy doctor is commenting on the text of-the blessed apostle, — O Timethee, depositum custodi, devitans profanas vocum novitates .
“Quis est hodie Timotheus ,” he asks, “nisi vel generaliter universa ecclesia, vel specialiter totum corpus praepositorum, qui integram divini cultus scientiam vel habere ipsi debent vel aliis infundere? …. Quid est depositum ? id est quod tibi creditum est, non quod a te inventum; quod accepisti, non quod excogitasti; rem non ingenii, sed doctrinae, non usurpationis privatae, sed publicae traditionis; rein ad te productam, non a te probatam; in qua non auctor debts esse, sed custos; non institutor, sed sectator; non ducens, sed sequens. Depositum , inquit, custodi ; Catholicae fidei talentum inviolatum illibatumque conserva. Quod tibi creditum, hoc penes te maneat, hoc a te tradatur. Aurum accepisti, aurum redde …… Eadem tamen quae didicisti doce, ut cum dicas nove, non dicas nova .” — Comm., I., c. 22.
Language can hardly be more precise and express against developments. But this learned doctor continues: —
“Sed forsitan dicit aliquis: Nullusne ergo in ecclesia Christi prefertus habebitur religionis? Habeatur plene, et maximus. Nam quis ille est tam invidus hominibus, tam exosus Deo, qui istud prohibere conetur? Sed ita tamen ut vere prefectus sit ille fidei, non permutatio. Siquidem ad profectus pertinet ut in semetipsum unaquaeque res amplificetur; ad permutationem vero, aliquid ex alio in aliud transvertatur. Crescat igitur oporlet et multum vehementerque proficiat, tam singulorum quam omnium, tam unius hominis quam totius ecclesiae, aetatum ac saeculorum gradibus, intelligentia, scientia, sapientia, sed in suo duntaxat genere, in eodem scilicet dogmate, eodem sensu, eademque sententia. Imitetur animarum religio rationem corporum: quae licet annorum processu numeros suos evolvant et explicent, eadem quae erant permanent. Multum interest inter pueritiae florem et senectutis maturitatem, sed iidem tamen ipsi flunt senes qui fuerant adolescentes; ut quamvis unius ejusdemque hominis status habitusque mutentur, una tamen nihilominus eademque natura, una eademque persona sit. Parva lactantium membra, magna juvenum, eadem ipsa sunt tamen. Quot parvulorum artus, tot virorum; et si qua illa sunt quae aevi maturioris aetate pariuntur jam in seminis ratione proserta sunt; ut nihil novum postea proferatur in senibus quod non in pueris jam ante latitaverit. Unde non dubium est hanc esse legitimam et rectam proficiendi regulam, hunc ratum atque pulcherrimum crescendi ordinem, si eas semper in grandioribus partes ac formas numerus detexat aetatis quas in parvulis Creatoris sapientia praeformaverat. Quod si humana species in aliquam deinceps non sui generis vertatur effigiem, aut certe addatur quippiam membrorum numero vel detrahatur, necesse est ut totum corpus vel intercidat, vel prodigiosum fiat, vel certe debilitetur; ita Christianae religionis dogma sequatur has decet profectuum leges, ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate, incorruptum tamen illibatumque permaneat, et universis partium suarum mensuris cunctisque quasi membris ac sensibus propriis plenum atque perfectum sit, quod nihil praeterea permutationis admittat, nulla proprietatis dispendia, nullam definitionis sustineat varietatem.” — Ib., c. 23.
Mr. Newman has himself quoted a part of this passage, and evidently had the whole passage in his mind when framing his theory, which at first view may seem to be supported by it; but we find it sustaining us rather than him, for it evidently does not concede that the dogma, in quantum est dogma , gains something in the course of time, but contends the contrary. The dogma is as one of the arteries or properties, which must be the same in the old man as in the child, and the gain is in a clearer understanding not of what it is, but of what it is not, in its relations to what is not of faith, as the language used may be understood, and must be, unless we make the holy doctor inconsistent with himself. Bossuet is here again our authority, and in the Avertissement , from which we have already quoted, fully sustains us.
“If it be asked with the minister, How, then, can it be true to say that the church has profited by heresies? St. Augustine replies for us, that ‘each heresy introduces into the church a new doubt, against which the Scriptures are defended with more care and exactitude than they might have been without such necessity.’ Observe, are defended with more care, not that they are better understood at bottom. The celebrated Vincent of Lerins also takes our cause in hand, when he says — ‘The gain of religion consists in gaining in the faith, not in changing it’; that ‘we may add to it intelligence, science, wisdom, but always in its own kind.’ that is to say, ‘in the same dogma, in the same sense, in the same sentiment ‘; and, what settles the whole dispute, that dogmas may receive, with time, ‘light, evidence, distinction, but must preserve always THEIR PLENITUDE, INTEGRITY, AND PROPERTIES. 1 That is, as he explains it, ‘the church changes nothing, diminishes nothing, adds nothing, loses nothing of her own, receives nothing from abroad.’ Who, after this, will tell us the faith varies?
“But, if we are still pressed to say in what new decisions have profited the church, the same doctor answers for us. — ‘The decisions of councils have done nothing but transmit by writing to posterity what the ancients believed by tradition alone; include in a few words the principle and the substance of the faith; and often, to facilitate the understanding of it, express by some new but proper and precise term the doctrine which had never been new.’ Or, as he had just explained, that, in sometimes saying things in a new manner, nothing new is ever to be said, — ut eum dicas nove, non dicas nova . ” 2
This is amply sufficient to show, that, whatever Vincent of Lerins may have meant by the gain religion acquires in the course of time, he cannot have meant any thing corresponding to the view of developments to which we have objected. His whole meaning seems to us to be comprised in these few words of St. Augustine: — Multa quippe ad fidem Catholicam pertinentia, dum hereticorum calida inquietudine exagitantur, ut adversus eos defendi possint, et considerantur diligentius, et intelliguntur clarius, et instantius proedicantur; et ab adversario mota guestio, discendi existit occasio . 3 “Many things pertaining to the Catholic faith, being agitated by the feverish uneasiness of heretics ~ in order that they may be defended against them, are considered more attentively, understood more clearly, and inculcated more earnestly, so that the mooting of the question by the enemy becomes the occasion of learning.”
But the occasion of learning what? The faith, as to what it is in itself considered? Assuredly this thought never entered into the head of St. Augustine or of a single father of the church. It is precisely here where Mr. Newman seems to us to have mistaken the sense of the fathers. He supposes them to teach that there is a growth in the understanding, not merely of what is not the faith, but of what is the faith, — not merely of what it is in relation to what it is not, but of what it is in relation to itself. No one can have read his essay without having perceived that he holds large portions, at least, of the faith may and do lie latent in the Scriptures, or in the undefined traditions or vague consciousness of the church, till the occasion calls them forth, and reduces them by the decisions and definitions of authority to formal and dogmatic statements. The faith is virtual but not actual; and development is the process of reducing it from its virtuality to actuality, — from vague and undefined sentiment, from intense or implicit feeling, to formal dogmas.
“Thus,” he says, “the apostles would know without words all the high doctrines of theology, which controversialists after them have piously and charitably reduced to formulae, and developed through argument. Thus, St. Justin or St. Irenaeus might be without any digested ideas of purgatory or original sin, yet have an intense feeling, which they had not defined or located, both of the fault of our first nature and the liabilities of our nature regenerate.” “So far may be granted, that even principles were not so well understood and so carefully handled at first as they were afterwards. In the early period, we see traces of a conflict, as well as of a variety , in theological elements, which were in the course of combination, but which required adjustment and management before they could be used with precision as one. In a thousand instances of a minor character, the statements of the early fathers are but tokens of the multiplicity of openings which the mind of the church was making into the treasure-house of truth , — real openings, but incomplete or irregular. Nay, the doctrines even of the heretical bodies are indices and anticipations of the mind of the church. As the first step in settling a point of doctrine is to raise and debate it , so heresies in every age may be taken as the measure of the existing state of thought in the church, and of the movement of her theology; they determine in what way the current is setting, and the rate at which it flows.” “The deep meditation which seems to have been exercised by the fathers on points of doctrine, the debate and turbulence, yet lucid determination, of councils, the indecision of popes, are all in different ways, at least when viewed together, portions and indications of the same process. The theology of the church is no random combination of various opinions, but a diligent, patient working out of one doctrine out of many materials. The conduct of popes, councils, fathers, betokens the slow, painful, anxious taking up of new elements into an existing body of belief .” “Evidently the position of baptism in the received system was not the same in the first ages as in later times; and still less was it clearly ascertained in the first three centuries.” “Here a serious question presented itself to the minds of Christians, which was now to be wrought out .” “Thus we see how, as time went on, the doctrine of purgatory was opened upon the apprehension of the church , as a portion or form of penance due for sins committed after baptism. And thus the belief of this doctrine and the practice of infant baptism would grow into general reception together.”
We might multiply similar quotations from Mr. Newman’s essay to almost any extent, and they all show that he regards portions at least, of the faith as remaining at first, so far as concerned either the formal teaching, or the formal belief of the church, in a merely latent or virtual state, and that it has been subsequently, or is still to be, realized by developments. Unquestionably he does not mean to assert that there is any thing in the developed doctrine not meant or promised by the doctrine as it was in the beginning, any more than there is that in the chicken which was not meant or promised by the egg; but he does mean that the faith is developed by the spontaneous process carried on by the mind of the church herself, under the influence of what he calls the sacramental principle, and which he misapprehends, and also by fierce and protracted controversies, and developed in reference to what it is as positive dogma, as well as in reference to what it is not, in its positive aspect, as well as in its negative aspect. And here is precisely his error. When the fathers speak of attaining to a more clear understanding, to more explicit and distinct apprehensions of the faith, and to the consolidation of doctrine, it is always as it is opposed to or opposed by heresies. The new explications and definitions do not make it more clear and explicit in what it is as matter to be positively believed, but simply as the contradictory of the errors those new explications and definitions condemn. It is only in this sense that the assertion of the Council of Chalcedon, that the faith was already sufficiently explained, can be reconciled with its act of giving a new definition, — or with the uniform declaration of the church, in defining the faith against novel errors, that she simply opposes to the error the faith which has been taught and believed from the beginning. Moreover, this is the express assertion of St. Thomas: — “In doctrina Christi et apostolorum veritas fidei est sufficienter explicata. Sed quia perversi homines apostolicam doctrinam, et caeteras doctrinas, et Scripturas, pervertunt ad sui ipsorum perditionem, ideo necessaria fuit temporibus procedentibus explicatio fidei contra insurgentes errores. ” 4 Certainly St. Thomas understands no developments of Christian doctrine, except new explications contra insurgentes errores ; that is, clearer expositions, not of what it is, but of what it is not. He does not, save in this negative sense, allow us to say that “no doctrine is defined till it is violated”; or that it is latent in Scripture or tradition till a heresy arises to controvert it; for his sense evidently is, that the whole doctrine was sufficiently explained in the beginning. No doctrine is defined as the contradictory of an error before the error has arisen, it is true; but that it is not explicitly taught and believed before, as to all that it is as a positive dogma or a revealed truth, is not true; and we fall back on Bossuet, St. Thomas, St. Leo, the Council of Chalcedon, the Council of Ephesus, all the fathers and all the popes, uniformly declaring that the new definition is only the express application of the preexisting faith to a novel error for our authority.
If there be any thing uniformly taught by our theologians, it is that the faith of the fathers was perfect, that the revelation committed to the church was complete and entire, and that the church has, from the first, faithfully, infallibly, taught or proposed it. If this be true, as it would at least be temerity to question, there can be, there can have been, no latent or merely virtual doctrine waiting for heresy and controversy to call it forth, and to render it formal and actual. There is implicit belief, — for individuals may be ignorant, some on one point, and some on another; but there is, save in a very restrictive sense indeed, no implicit teaching. All teaching is formal, and what is not formally proposed is not proposed at all. Revelation, in quantum est revelatio, must be formal . Each revealed dogma may imply more than appears or is apprehended; but the truth implied, if not formally revealed in the truth explicitly revealed, is not a revealed truth, and therefore is not and cannot be a portion of the Catholic faith, unless we assume for the church gratia inspirationis , which she has not, and does not claim. Her commission was not, to reveal truth, but to keep, believe, and teach the truth already revealed, — ” Going, teach all nations …… to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Under the old law there was development, and Christianity itself is, in some sense, a development of Judaism, but not a development effected by human agency. In the one case it was a development effected by the immediate agency of our Lord and inspired apostles, and in the other by inspired prophets, inspired to reveal truth, not merely to keep, teach, or believe it. Here is an important fact which Mr. Newman has undeniably overlooked, and which vitiates all his arguments drawn from the fact of developments under the old law, in favor of the antecedent probability of developments under the new law. There is no parity in the case; for under the old law there was gratia inspirationis , but under the new law there is only gratia assistentiae . St. Thomas expressly denies developments under the new law similar to those which took place under the old law. He objects to the necessity of a new edition of the symbol: — “Nova enim editio symboli necessaria est propter explicationem articulorum fidei. Sed in veteri testamento articuli fidei magis ac magis explicabantur secundum temporum successionem, propter hoc quod veritas fidei magis manifestabatur secundum majorem propinquitatem ad Christum. Cessante ergo tali causa in nova lege, non debet fieri major ac major explicatio articulorum fidei.” To which the holy doctor replies, in the body of the article: — “Respondeo dicendum, quod nova editio symboli necessaria est ad vitandum insurgentes errores “; and specially to the objection, what we have already quoted:-“Dicendum, quod in doctrina Christi et apostolorum veritas fidei est sufficienter explicata. Sed quia perversi homines apostolicam doctrinam, et caeteras doctrinas, et Scripturas pervertunt ad sui ipsorum perditionem, ideo necessaria fuit temporibus procedentibus explicatio fidei contra insurgentes errores” Here, the principle of the objection is conceded, .and the reason assigned for the new explication is not that the faith may be more and more explicit, but that errors which arise may be avoided. Mr. Newman has evidently fallen into the error into which we ourselves fell, when, in the first number of this journal, we wrote as follows: —
“The true theory of the church is, I believe, that, through all the successive stages of its existence, it is apostolic, retaining always and everywhere the same authority over faith and discipline which the apostles themselves had; and that its mission is not merely to preserve the memory of a work done, completed , but to continue and carry on to perfection a work commenced . It has indeed received the law from which it can in no wise depart, but a law which it is to develop and apply, by virtue of its own continuous inspiration , — received from the indwelling Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, — to all new questions that come up, and to all old questions coming up under new forms or under new relations. ITS MISSION IS THE CONTINUED EVOLUTION AND REALIZATION IN LIFE OF THE TRUTH CONTAINED IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION, which evolution and realization constitute the continued progress of mankind. Now I am far from pretending that the church, in point of fact, has altogether overlooked this theory; …… but she seems to me to have asserted it with too much feebleness and timidity, and with numerous and almost suicidal concessions to the spirit which finally broke out in the Protestant schism. Instead of boldly asserting her high prerogatives as the body of our Lord, and maintaining her right and duty to develop and apply the truth, according to the exigencies of time and place, she has left to be believed, that the Gospel, instead of being given her merely in germ, to be subsequently developed and applied, was given her as a perfect code, drawn out in all the minuteness of detail, and that her sole mission is to preserve the original deposit unaltered, unchanged, undiminished.”
We confess we are unable to discover any essential difference between the theory here stated and the one developed in Mr. Newman’s essay. Even the problems are virtually the same, with this difference only: — Mr. Newman wished to be able to accept past developments, and we wished to secure the right to future developments. But we, at least, knew that our doctrine was repugnant to the formal teaching of the church. Therefore we wrote, very consistently, — ” I am free to confess that I accept the general theory of that church [the Roman Catholic] as the true theory of the church of Christ; but that theory itself prevents me, in the present state of the religious world, from seeking to unite myself with the Roman Catholic communion.”
No Catholic can defend the theory we put forth; for all our theologians unanimously agree that the church does not and cannot propose as Catholic faith any thing not either explicitly revealed, or at least formally contained in what is explicitly revealed; as, Christ died for me , is formally contained in the revealed proposition, Christ died for all men . What is revealed only as the effect in the cause, or as the property in the essence, though true theologically, and its denial would be erroneous , is yet no part of that which the church teaches as revealed truth, to be believed fide divina et catholica . When the contradictory is condemned by the church, its assertion is indeed heresy, not because it is itself matter of faith, but because its assertion involves the denial of the infallibility of the church, which is of faith, because formally revealed. Assuming this, the church may apply the truth, according to the exigencies of time and place, to the condemnation of all new errors which come up, and to all old errors appearing under new forms or under new relations; but it must be the truth deposited with her, not deductions discursively drawn from it, if she condemns them as opposed to the faith.
We cannot understand why it should be more correct to assert a growth in Christian doctrine than in the science of morals. If there are developments in Christian doctrine, there is a growth of doctrine, and it could be better learned from the moderns then from the ancients. But that morals can be better learned from the moderns than from the ancients is a condemned proposition. Morals are simply practical theology, and theology finds its principles or data in faith, or Christian doctrine. A progress in either Christian doctrine or theology would imply the possibility of progress in the science of morals. Why, then, should not a denial ‘of the possibility of the latter be equally the denial of the possibility of the former?
But the point is sufficiently clear. Christians always believed that our Lord was not only true God, but a real man, and had a real body; but before the rise of the error of the Docetae, which asserted that his body was a body only in appearance, they may not have considered what they believed, distinctly, in the light of the contradictory of that error.
They believed, as explicitly before as afterwards, all that the faith asserted, but did not consider so attentively, nor perceive so distinctly, all it denied. The same may be said of all other points of faith, and their contradictory errors. The faith was known, but all that could or could not oppose it was not clearly and distinctly known and considered. But whenever the error appeared, it was seen to be repugnant to the faith, and there was a universal outcry against it; the whole church looked with horror on the impious wretch who dared broach it, and compelled him instantly to retract it, or to go out from her communion, under the ban of her anathema. This is evident from the whole history of the church, and from the fact that it is always the error that is new and startling, and never the contradictory truth the church opposes to it. The cities are illuminated, triumphal processions await the fathers, and all the world rejoices, from Ephesus to Alexandria, when it is known that the council has condemned the Nestorian heresy, and declared the Holy Virgin to be the mother of God, as all were conscious of having always believed.
In the sense of this distinction between positive and negative developments, we understand the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon; the uniform declaration of the church in every age, that she does but oppose the faith already believed to the errors which arise; St. Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Thomas, Bossuet, and all our theologians, whenever they speak of the faith as gaining clearness, evidence, distinctness by the condemnation of new errors and heresies. In this sense we understand the learned author of Symbolism , when he speaks of Catholic theology as having gained in clearness and precision by the controversies with the early reformers. Catholic theology in so far as it is the explicit negative of those errors of Protestants which were new or which appeared under new forms or in new combinations, has gained in clearness and precision by those controversies; but in other respects we are sure it has not. So of the language of the early fathers, which Mr. Newman regards as often careless and inexact. That it is often inexact, regarded solely as excluding what is not of faith, may be conceded; regarded as including what is of faith it is not.
What we have said is sufficient to establish the fact that Catholic theology is a stranger to positive developments; but some, presuming Mr. Newman must have been substantially orthodox, and judging from what he ought to have said rather than from what he actually has said, may be disposed to think, that, after all, he may really mean by developments in Christian doctrine only those negative developments which all Catholic theologians admit. There are, we own, portions of his book which may be understood in this sense; but, as far as language can go, we have proved, that, though he may mean these, he also means positive developments. If he intended only the ordinary Catholic doctrine on the subject, why did he not say so in plain words? If this was all he meant, what was the need or bearing on his conclusion of his theory of Christian doctrine? Why did he lay down, and with great care and labor establish, a theory of development, which authorizes positive developments on the largest scale, as well as negative developments? Why did he allege the positive developments under the old law as rendering similar developments under the new law antecedently probable, if he did not contend for similar developments under the new law? How could he have supposed the positive developments in philosophy, in human polity, in sects, in ideas generally, could be illustrations of those he was contending for in Christianity, if he was contending only for negative developments? How, if this was all he meant, could he have felt it necessary to degrade Christianity to the level of sects and doctrines of the world, to impute to it the imperfections which characterize the productions of man, and to go into an elaborate, ingenious and profound defence of error and heresy? Could he have ever dreamed that an all but successful defense of error and heresy is the only defence of the church in condemning them? The supposition is absurd. Mr. Newman may err, and in our judgment has erred gravely, but his errors are those of a fullgrown man, of a ripe scholar, and a disciplined mind, not those of the schoolboy who has hardly completed his humanities. But whatever the view he may take of the actual developments he contends for, his view .of Christian doctrine is sufficient to condemn his essay as essentially repugnant to Catholic faith and theology. This last we recommend to the consideration of those who are disposed to regard the theory as extra fidem and indifferent, — a theory which a Catholic may or may not hold, according to his own individual convictions.
As for the problem the author set out to solve, it was a problem only in his Protestant prejudice. If it were a real problem, there could be no solution of it but in the rejection of the church; and just so far as the author assumes it to be real, he yields the whole question to the Protestant. The church of God never varies, and the only variation a Catholic can concede in Christian doctrine is the greater clearness and distinctness as to what it is not, which results from presenting it so as explicitly to condemn novel errors as they arise; which is no variation in the substance or in the form of the doctrine, and at most only a variation in the expression or mode of presenting it as the contradictory of the error. The variation is apparent , not real; and the solution of the difficulty, if difficulty it be, is not in a theory of developments which assumes the variation to be real and undertakes to defend it, but in showing by historical criticism, as our theologians have always done, that the alleged variation is only in appearance, and in reality is no variation at all; or, in other words, in showing, not that it is a development, as Mr. Newman contends, nor a corruption, as Protestants allege, but a simple primitive doctrine merely defined against a novel error, as the church alleges, and all our theologians maintain. There are, in point of fact, no variations in doctrine presented by the history of the church; and the variations, defects, and apparent inconsistencies in the historical representation, which Mr. Newman undertakes to account for, were all in his Protestant spectacles, and he will look in vain for them when he comes to read the history of the church with the eyes of a Catholic. We say this on the authority of the church herself, which is sufficient for a Catholic; on the authority of the fact, that the most learned Protestants, deeply interested in the question, have been trying these three hundred years to find an instance of real historical variation of doctrine and have not succeeded, which is sufficient for a Protestant; and, finally, on the authority of the essay we are criticizing, which contains conclusive evidence that the developments alleged are not developments, but simple primitive doctrines, and this is sufficient for Mr. Newman.
But we must bring our remarks to a close. We own we have subjected Mr. Newman’s essay to what many will regard as a severe criticism; but, in our own estimation, we have treated it with great forbearance, and might have made out even a stronger case against the author than we have. Yet we have said enough, we trust, to put the faithful on their guard against a work which, under the guise of a defence of our religion, is one of the most insidious attacks, though not so intended by its author, on religion, which we remember ever to have read, and that is saying much. In fact, the author himself, in his closing paragraph, pronounces, if it be considered, as severe a judgment on the work as our own. “Such,” he says, “were the thoughts concerning the ‘blessed vision of peace,’ of one, ….. while as yet his eye was dim, his breast laden, and he could but employ reason in the things of faith.” What nonsense, to suppose a man, while his eye is dim, his breast laden, and he has nothing but reason to work with, can write an orthodox book! The sentence is the condemnation of the book by a competent judge, — unless it contains the germ of a school not many years since condemned at Rome.
It will most likely be alleged, as it has been, that we have misunderstood Mr. Newman, — as is commonly alleged against all who reject a novel theory. So said the Jansenists, when the doctrines of their master were condemned; so said the Hermesians, when the speculations of their master were condemned. We never yet heard of a novelty that was rightly apprehended by its opponents, if its adherents were to be believed. But it is possible that the very reason why new doctrines are embraced by the one class is because they are not understood, and why the other class oppose them is because they are understood. It is possible that we have misapprehended Mr. Newman; but if so, it is not our fault, for we have done our best to understand him. His theory, if words may be trusted, is substantially what was at one time our own theory, and which, though not in our writings, was in our own mind as fully and as scientifically developed as it is in the essay. We gathered the theory in part from philosophers, in part from Mr. Newman’s school of tractarians, and in part from our own excogitations. We understood it well, and had renounced it as a thing to be abhorred, before the appearance of this essay. We therefore had some preparation for understanding Mr. Newman, and it is not very probable that we have misunderstood him. If, however, we have the man who sets us right, in whatever tone or temper he may do it, shall have our hearty thanks, and we will lose no time in making all the atonement in our power.
It may be that we have shown ourselves over-zealous, for a recent convert, and have taken too much upon ourselves. If so, let our offence receive its merited punishment. We have had some experience in theorizing, and still suffer from the wounds received from it. We remember with some vividness the injury we have done to thousands who placed confidence in us, by our vain and impious speculations; and, while we have no lack of charity for others who may in like manner speculate, we have no toleration for their speculations. Our zeal, if culpable, is not unaccountable. We cannot but feel deeply on a subject which is associated in our minds with recollections of the most painful character.
But we could not accept Mr. Newman’s essay, even if its theory were susceptible of a satisfactory explanation. It deserves to be excluded from every Catholic library for its unorthodox forms of expression, as scandalous, even if not as heretical, erroneous, or rash. Words are things, and used improperly by men of eminence, or with inexactitude, become the occasion of error and heresy in others. Not a few of the errors which have afflicted the church have come in under shelter of loose or inexact expressions, while great and sometimes even saintly men have suffered to escape them. The vain, the restless, the proud, the disobedient, seize on them, ascribe to them a sense they will bear, but not the one intended by their authors, and lay the foundation for “sects of perdition.” Sometimes even better men are deceived and misled, as we see in the case of Fénelon. One cannot be too careful to be exact in expression, or to guard against innovation in word as well as in thought, especially in this age, in which there is such a decided tendency to abandon the scholastic method for the rhetorical. The scandalous phraseology of the essay is no charge against its author, writing when and where he did, but is a grave charge against the essay itself.
Finally, we repeat, from our former article, that we object to the theory of developments the very fact that it is a theory. We see no call and no room for theories in the Catholic Church, — least of all, for theories concocted outside of her by men whose eyes are dim, and who have nothing but their own reason to work with. From the nature of the case, they are theories, not for the conversion of their authors, but for the conversion of the church — framed to bring her to them, not them to her. They can do no good, and may do much harm. It is natural for us to concoct them when out of the church, for then we have, and can have, nothing but theories, and can do nothing but theorize; but, if we are wise, we shall not attempt to bring them into the church with us. The more empty-handed we come to the church, the better; and the more affectionately will she embrace us, and the more freely and liberally will she dispense to us her graces. She needs nothing, and the greatest and best of us can offer her nothing but our sins and uncleanness. Naked, or all-defiled with the filth in which we wallowed while away from her maternal care, must we come, and implore her to he our mother, to cleanse us in the laver of regeneration, and to cover our nakedness with the white robe of charity. So we must come, or we come not at all; and when we have so come, when we have reposed the wearied head on our MOTHER’S bosom, we feel she is our true, our own blessed MOTHER, and all we ask is to believe, love, obey.
1 “Fats est etenim prisca illa coelestis philosophiae dogmata processu temporis excurentur limentur, poliantur: sod nefas est ut commutentur, nefas ut detruncentur, aut mutilentur. Accipiant licet evidentiam, lucem, distinctionem, sed retineant necesse est plenitudinem, integritatem, proprietatem.” — Ubi supra.
2 “Christi veto ecclesia sedula et cauta depositorum apud se dogmatum custos, nihil in his unquam permutat, nihil minuit, nihil addit, non amputat necessaria, non apponit superflua, non amittit sua, non usurpat aliena; sed omni industria hoc unum studet, ut vetera fideliter sapienterque tractando, si qua sunt illa antiquitus informata et inchoata, accuret et poliat; si qua jam expressa et enucleata, consolidet, firmet; si qua jam confirmata et definita, custodiat; denique quid unquam aliud conciliorum decretis enisa est, nisi ut quod antea simpliciter credebatur, hoc idem postea diligentius crederetur, quod antea lentius praedicabatur, hoc idem postea instantius praedicaretur, quod antea securius colebatur, hoc idem postea sollicitius excoleretur? Hoc inquam semper, necque quicquam praeterea hereticorum novitatibus excitata, conciliorum suorum decretis Catholica perfecit ecclesia, nisi ut quod prius a majoribus sola traditione susceperat, hoe deinde posteris etiam per Scripturae chirographum consignaret, magnam rerum summam paucis literis comprehendendo, et plerumque, propter intelligentiae lucem, non novum fidei sensum, novae appellationis proprietate signando.” — Vinc. Lirin., ubi supra.
3 De Civitate Dei, Lib. 16, c. 2.
4 Summa, 2, 2, Q. 1, a. 10.