Page images
PDF
EPUB

idea. Taken according to the letter, it is inapplicable in any case ; ideally interpreted, it suggests a rule of practice of universal application. But to proceed.

The process which I have described was, of course, not carried on by single Churches exclusively for their private guidance, still less by individuals as a method of ascertaining the truth. It was taken up in common, and the results committed to formal documents, for the use of those who should come after. The widest collations of this kind carry with them the highest authority, as the judgment of ecumenical councils, representing the whole Church ; but we are not to suppose that equally correct results were not to be obtained within a much smaller sphere of observation; or, on the other hand, that the most perfectly and extensively convened assembly presents more than an approximate exponent of catholicity. We shall equally err in slighting their decisions and in deeming them infallible.* We are not to suppose that the measure, though ideally perfect, has ever been perfectly applied; nor yet to doubt its practical use and necessity because it still leaves some room for individual judgment and responsibility.

This, then, is the first rectifying principle by which the purity of Gospel truth is to be preserved ; but this of itself would have been utterly insufficient. Taken singly, it labours under this capital defect. It supposes the examiners already in possession of the truth. No synod of divines ever met with impartial mind prepared to determine the matter in question by a fair induction from evidence." Each produced his own pre-conception—his own particular type, and the cause was decided by a majority of votes, sometimes a very small one. If any were induced to alter their opinions, it was by fair argument; but in general every one came to teach, few, if any, to learn. The greatest and best on both sides of the question came deeply convinced that they were already in possession of catholic truth, whatever submission they may have yielded to the voice of the majority. We may believe the divine blessing to rest in general upon this method of investigation; but as it does not constitute, so neither does it discover the truth. At the best, it merely ascertains, fixes, preserves it. It proceeds upon the supposition that the majority are, in fact, possessors of that common type, which is the only true measure of the truth. But if this were once lost, it could never be recovered, except by a fresh revelation, any more than the doctrines of a supreme being or a future state—the fall of man, or the future advent of a Redeemer, could have been ascertained, independently of the Bible, by a council gathered from all the states and tribes of heathen antiquity. Indeed, had not the idea already assumed a distinct form in the minds of individual inquirers, the question could never have been stirred, nor the evidence collected.

But blessed be God, the Gospel type can never be lost. Long before the era of general councils, the principal writings of the New Testament had obtained universal currency, and very soon afterwards the sacred canon, or collected volume of Scripture, was definitively settled. How this was effected is not now the question. We know that it was, in fact, accepted by the Church as a genuine and authentic record of the original revelation. Thenceforth then the evangelical type was contained, not, as heretofore, in the tradition of separate Churches so liable to adulteration, nor in the collective tradition of all Churches, from which, if once lost, it could never have been recovered; still less in the minds of individual men, to be effaced or disfigured by every kind of extraneous influence, but in a permanent form, of all others the most secure from mutability, and the most easy of consultation.

Thus we have in the Scriptures an exponent of the truth far more surely fixed, and in many respects far more adequately expressive, than any of the other forms in which it is traditionally preserved. I say more surely fixed; but

• Article xxi.

here several important considerations present themselves. The rariable character which attaches even to the written monuments of antiquity, (for the best preserved and best considered texts are still in parts unsettled,) is in the sacred writings of our most holy faith so slight, that it may, for the most part, be practically neglected. In nothing do we see the working of a catholic economy animated, however imperfectly, by a catholic spirit, more strikingly than in this ; for from the peculiar manner in which the sacred volume was originally disseminated and multiplied, an amount of uncertainty might have been expected to arise, which would have materially lessened its value. We owe it to a special providence, exhibited in the results of a scheme far wiser than the wit of man could have devised, that to all intents and purposes it is as nothing. Yet the doubt which has always hung over a few not wholly unimportant passages of the New Testament, proves that it exists as an appreciable quantity, which the critical inquiries of learned men, conducted in a really philosophical as well as ecclesiastical spirit, may indeed diminish, but which never, we may presume, can be entirely removed. Strictly speaking, the Greek Testament of Constantinople or Alexandria was not, literatim and verbatim, the Greek Testament of Rome. Which of these was the infallible test? The Church of Rome cut the gordian knot by giving this character to a translation of their own. But we have not so learned Christ. It will readily be admitted that the sacred original is that common type from which each of the above recensions was taken, which is contained more or less perfectly in every one of its copies, without being identical with any, but to be collated from all, much in the same way as the catholic type of the Church itself is determined. And, in fact, the very same measures of universality have been applied, mutatis mutandis, to the manuscripts of the Greek Testaments with signal, but we can never hope to say, complete success. The Greek Testament of Stephens is not punctuatim that of Mill, of Griesbach, or of Bloomfield. Each varies a little from its predecessor, now backwards, now forwards; now this way, now that. Still the original letter-a transcript of the autograph, exact in every word and syllable-exists for us as an idea, of which we have many exponents, by any one of which it is adequately represented, though it be absolutely coincident with none.Pp. 452-458.

We cannot better conclude this notice, than with the solemn and impressive words with which the volume closes :

Let us pray for an abundant outpouring of that Spirit of truth, whose presence and operation in the world we are taught to recognize as the gift of our ascended Lord, and the first-fruits of His sojourn in the flesh. So shall we find the word of God—both life and light-in our hearts; and the Church of Godlife-giving and light-diffusing—in our land. Not as if the earthly Jerusalem, the city of the saints below, had ever fully realized its own divine image. Not as if the visible Church, in any one time or place, had ever presented more than a proximate image of that catholic type which is of all times and of all places. We live in a world of feeble strivings and faint indications; and may be well content if, in the general and manisest tendencies of those outward appointments (of whatever kind) under which we are providentially placed, we can discern their true intention,--their shaping principle, and inward form. But with respect to that traditional order, according to which the word is set forth, and the sacraments administered, in this country, we have in Holy Writ a fixed and infallible criterion by which (in addition to its own apparent evidence and the witness of the Spirit,) we may readily ascertain how far it is actually conformable to the heavenly constitution which it professes to represent. The nature of this comparison, with some of the principal results, i have endeavoured to illustrate in this volume, happy if I shall have assisted a single reader to see more clearly, and to acknowledge more gratefully, "the scriptural character of the English Church.”—P. 480.

Art. II.-1. A Reply to the Rev. Dr. Turton's Roman Catholic

Doctrine of the Eucharist considered," &c. By Nicholas WISEMAN,

D.D. London: Dolman, 1839. Pp. 364. 2. Observations on the Rev. Dr. Wiseman's Reply to Dr. Turton's

Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Eucharist considered.By THOMAS TURTON, D.D. Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, and Dean of Peterborough. Cambridge : Deightons. London : Parker. 1839. Pp. 164.

( Continued from page 270.) We have not yet done with Dr. Wiseman's contradictory opinions. In his Lectures on the Eucharist he had observed

You are aware that most Catholics divide the chapter (John vi.] into three portions, whilst most Protestants consider the two last portions as only composing one whole. From the 1st to the 26th verse we have a historical detail of the splendid miracle. . . . At the 26th verse, his (our Lord's] discourse to them (the crowd] commences. . . On the signification of his discourse, as far as ihe 48th or 51st rerse, Protestants and Catholics are equally agreed, it refers entirely to believing in him.—Pp. 36–39.

And again,

We have before seen, that, upon the Jews misunderstanding our Saviour's metaphorical expressions in the former part of his discourse, he clearly explained them, at v. 35, as relative to faith.-P. 92.

In these passages, (and the same doctrine is maintained in the Moorfields Lectures,) Dr. Wiseman distinctly teaches that our Lord's discourse, from the 26th to the 48th or 51st verse of John vi., refers entirely to faith, or believing in Christ On this point “Protestants and Catholics are equally agreed.” But when he comes to reply to Dr. Turton, the learned lecturer writes in this wise :

I have already remarked that our Lord's discourse properly begins at v. 35 -"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life." To what then does the expression in v. 27 refer? I answer, To the Eucharist. This was the natural topic suggested by the miracle of the multiplied loaves, and of it Jesus designed to treat. The interruptions of the Jews, and their perverse asking of a new sign, led him to introduce (incidentally and parenthetically, the introductory discourse concerning faith. The very use of the verb in the future seems to intimate this.-Reply, pp. 111, 112.

One scarcely perceives how the assertion which made our Lord's discourse, "as far as the 48th or 51st verse,” to refer “entirely to believing in him," can well be reconciled with that which now makes the 27th verse refer “to the Eucharist;" or how a discourse which commences at the 26th verse, can yet “properly begin at v. 35.” Indeed, so directly contradictory do these positions seem to us to be, that we can imagine no way left for Dr. Wiseman to escape the charge of inconsistency, but by some such expedient as that adopted by the divines of the Council of Trent, who decided that two opposite interpretations of John vi. were equally good. Nevertheless, in consideration that he who does not sometimes contradict himself must be a far more circumspect person than we take Dr. W. to be, we are willing to ascribe these and other like jarring assertions, which might be produced from the learned author's Lectures and Reply, to the “haste" in which the latter book was written,

There are, however, portions of Dr. Wiseman's Reply, to which we find it difficult to extend the same charitable construction. When, for example, Dr. W. referred to Matt. xxiv. 43, as “a perfectly parallel instance of such a transition” from one subject to another, as, the learned writer contended, is to be found at the 48th verse of John vi., he observed that —

Some of the best commentators, as Kuinoel, and after him Bloomfield, place it [the transition) at the 43d verse of the 24th chapter.Lectures, p. 46.

And we will venture to say, that no man of common understanding would suppose that Dr. W. intended to convey more or less by that assertion, than that “some of the best commentators,” besides Kuinoel and Bloomfield, considered the transition of subject in Matt. xxiv, to occur at the 43d verse. But when Dr. Turton had shown that the “ best commentators,” with certain exceptions, one and all placed the transition of subject at the 42d and not at the 43d verse of Matt. xxiv, Dr. W. asserts that he meant by the expression referred to, Kuinoel and Bloomfield only. He maintains that,

In candour, the exact nomination of these (Kuinoel and Bloomfield] should have been received as an explanation of these phrases.- Reply, p. 60. i. e. of the phrases, “most modern Protestant commentators," "all the most accurate commentators,' &c. We are, however, sorry to be obliged to express our doubts of Dr. W.'s accuracy, when he writes that by some of the best commentators, as Kuinoel, and after him Bloomfield,” he meant the two latter only. We can hardly persuade ourselves, that an acute and practised controversialist like Dr. W. could be ignorant that his argument was worth nothing, unless it were supported by the concurrent opinion of the “ best commentators” generally. And our doubts are only strengthened by the character of the after-thought by which Dr. W. attempts to supply the lack of argument by something like a fallacy. In a note he writes (p. 60) ):

My words are these : “Why, some of the best commentators, as Kuinoel, and after him Bloomfield, place it at the 43 verse of the 24th chapter.' (p. 46.) I conceive that the some are thus significantly specified. Were I to write, “ Some of the best historians, as Lingard and Capefigue, believe the massacre of St. Bartholomew to have been accidental,” surely it would be a strange way of proving my assertion inaccurate, to refer to the other historians who thought otherwise. My reference to names would sufficiently explain who the historians were that I meant.

Now our conviction is that the "reference to names ” here spoken of would be so far from leading to the conclusion that Dr. Wiseman meant to exclude from his reference all historians except Lingard and Capefigue, that scarcely any one would have guessed that the writers in question had been mentioned for any purpose but to serve as an example of a whole class. As, however, Dr. W. insists that he ought to be understood as referring to Lingard and Capefigue only, to the exclusion of other historians, he obliges us to regard this note as an attempt to divert attention from the real question at issue. The tendency of it is to lead the reader to believe that Dr. Turton had quoted a certain number of commentators, for no reason but to prove that when Dr. Wiseman asserted that “Kuinoel and after him Bloomfield" placed a division of subject in Matt. xxiv, at verse 43, that “ assertion was inaccurate.” But the question to be decided was, not whether Dr. W. had accurately reported the opinion of Kuinoel and Bloomfield, but whether the opinion of but two writers was sufficient to give validity to that argument which Dr. W. had made to depend on the united decision of many commentators. This supplementary note, therefore, will serve no purpose, we apprehend, beyond showing the not unnatural dislike which a Romanist has to the idea that the atrocities of St. Bartholomew should be considered as the genuine offspring of popery; whilst it cannot fail to strengthen the painful impression that Dr. W. might have been aware that it would be of importance to him, if he could shift the ground of controversy. But be this as it may, the learned writer is much displeased with Dr. Turton, for having referred to so many commentators. He can regard what appears to us to be the only mode of dealing with the question at issue, in no other light than as a "clever manæuvre," and as “unhandsome and uncandid dealing." Yet, after delivering this " protest against the Regius Professor," Dr. W. proceeds to “thank Dr. T. for his diligence and sagacity,” in having quoted thirteen Protestant commentators who place the transition in our Lord's discourse at the 42d instead of the 43d verse of Matt. xxiv.

My object (Dr. W. observes) was merely to prove that protestant commentators are not deterred from placing transitions in our Lord's discourses by the coherence of sentences before and after; and I quoted two authorities. Dr. Turton has the kindness to favour me with thirteen instead, who, though they place the transition a verse earlier than my two, do yet precisely the same ihing-they place a transition where the expression indicates a close connexion with what precedes. He has, therefore, made my answer to the objection stronger, in the proportion of thirteen to two.Reply, p. 63.

The reader, we suspect, will be apt to regard Dr. Wiseman's expressions of gratitude to Dr. Turton as somewhat premature, when he shall have pondered that learned person's observations in reply.

It seems, then, that a paragraph beginning with the 42d verse, will do just as well for Dr. Wiseman as a paragraph beginning with the 43d verse. “My object,” he writes, " was merely to prove that protestant commentators are not deterred from placing transitions in our Lord's discourses by the coherence of sentences before and after.” Gently. Verse 47 of John vi. was represented (Lectures, p. 41) as “an appropriate close to a division of discourse,” a manifest summary and epilogue of all the preceding doctrine.” Moreover, the 43d verse of Matt. xxiv. was given (pp. 45, 46) as “a perfectly parallel instance.” “In the preceding verse (41], our Lord sums up the substance of the foregoing instruction, just as he does in John vi. 47." Dr. Wiseman's object, therefore, as stated in his Lectures, is not merely what he has stated in his Reply. Moreover, if commentators are in favour of a division at the 42d verse in St. Matthew, how is that a "perfectly parallel instance to the learned author's proposed division at the 8th verse in St. John? Is it the same, in this respect, whether the division be at the 42d or 43d verse ?-Observations, p. 44.

But after all, Dr. Wiseman ought to be grateful to the Dean of Peterborough, for assuming that by “ some of the best commentators, as Kuinoel and after him Bloomfield,” Dr. W. did not mean to refer

VOL. XXII. XO. VI.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »