Page images

illustrate, by an example, what I have now advanced. Our Lord (John iii. 3) said to Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus being perplexed by the literal meaning of this, our Lord gave him its figurative interpretation: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Now, if, in expounding the nature of Baptism, an inter*preter were to insist upon the circumstances of the natural birth, instead of considering our Lord's explanation, and those other passages of Scripture in which that sacrament is mentioned-he would not act more absurdly than do those, who, after applying our Lord's expressions, in John vi, to the Eucharist, determine its nature, by means of such expressions.

When Dr Wiseman-whether from some ambition of originality, I know not-determined, in opposition to the most renowned doctors of his own Church, to maintain the correctness of the Jewish interpretation, of the closing expressions in our Lord's discourse-he could scarcely have calculated the consequences of his undertaking. He must have felt that the literal sense was not the sense he really meant to establish; and there was, at least, a possibility that the silent substitution, in the course of the argument, of a meaning not literal, instead of that literal meaning which


he professed to support, might not pass without observation, Yet he does not seem to have made any provision against the contingency. Appearances, at present, are somewhat ridiculous. He had a leaning wall to support; and he has built his buttresses on the wrong side of it. stronger are his reasonings, in defence of the literal interpretation of the Jews the more fearfully do they press upon his sacramental interpretation. In fact, through the greater portion of his lectures on this subject, he has exerted himself in ̊ adding weight to that which crushes his own hypothesis to atoms. I doubt whether a more surprising instance, of such a mode of proceeding, is to be found in the history of theological literature.

These concluding remarks are of themselves destructive of Dr Wiseman's system; but I shall examine his remaining lectures on the subject, with similar care to that which I have already manifested. His explanations of Scripture furnish instruction of a very peculiar kind; and the reader, I trust, has still some remains of curiosity and patience. But before I proceed to the next lecture, I wish to point out how unwisely, in my opinion, the learned author has deviated from one of the ablest members of his own communion—and I could instance many others-in interpreting the sixth chapter of St John.

Estius-with the sanction, as he says, of Scripture and the fathers-mentions four methods, as

I have already stated, of eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ: that is, (1) carnally, (2) cruelly (crudeliter), (3) sacramentally, and (4) spiritually. The first method has been described... The second method approaches to that which Dr Wiseman has given, as the only figurative method. David (Psal. xxvii. 2), according to Estius, prophetically personifying our Saviour, exclaims, "When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell;" also (Psal. xxii. 13) "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion:"-with reference to the events attending the crucifixion.... The third (sacramental) method relates to the eating and drinking in the Eucharist where Estius, as a Roman Catholic, of course believes that the real body and blood exist under the appearance of bread and wine..... The fourth (spiritual) method is placed in several points of view; but I will mention only the first two: 1. To be incorporated with the mystical body of Christ, whether by Baptism, the Eucharist, or any other means, is to eat the flesh of Christ and to drink his blood. For this view of the matter, great authorities are quoted; namely, the sixth chapter of St John, Augustine, The Master of the Sentences, Gratian, and (in Dr Wiseman's estimation I should think) more than all-Pope Innocent the first...2. We eat and drink spiritually, through faith in the flesh of Christ consigned to

the cross for us, and in his blood shed for us; which, induced by probable arguments, some think may be proved from our Lord's discourse in John vi. On this subject I cannot but quote the very words of Estius:

"Secundo autem modo spiritualis manducatio intelligitur quæ fit per fidem in carnem Christi traditam pro nobis in cruce, et sanguinem pro nobis effusum. Quem modum alii probabilibus argumentis moti putant propriè significatum esse a Domino in illo sermone quem habuit Joan. 6. Quem et Augustinus tradit, cum ait in illis verbis, Nisi manducaveritis, &c. FIGURAM esse, quâ præcipiatur passioni Domini esse communicandum, et suaviter atque utiliter recondendum in memoriâ, quòd pro nobis caro ejus crucifixa sit et vulnerata.” (In sent. lib. iv. 9. 1. p. 111.)

In a scholar of the Roman Church, we naturally excuse a respect, even if it happens to border upon veneration, for the general voice of antiquity. Now, there are two points, concerning which I should be surprised to find any difference of opinion, amongst fathers, schoolmen and divines, from the age of the Apostles to our own-till Dr Wiseman arose. One is, a belief that the Jewish literal interpretation of our Lord's expressions was wrong; another, that the expressions must be understood figuratively. The learned author appears to me, in this respect, very like a man rowing by himself, in his own small boat, in opposition to a mighty stream; and it is easy to predict the result.

[blocks in formation]



MR BURKE, in one part of his on the Revolution in France,' dwells upon the description of persons who, at the commencement of that terrible crisis, had been elected into the Tiers Etat, and the consequences which naturally resulted from such an assembly. However extraordinary the circumstance may appear, my undertaking now requires me to quote Mr Burke's observations on that subject; which are, as usual, full of wisdom. Thus then writes that great man:

[ocr errors]

Among them, indeed, I saw some of known rank; some of shining talents; but of any practical experience in the state, not one man was to be found. The best were only men of theory. But whatever the distinguished few may have been, it is the substance and mass of the body which constitutes its character, and must finally determine its direction. In all bodies, those who will lead must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They must conform their propositions to the taste, talent and disposition of those whom they conduct: therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly composed in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme degree of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, and for that reason cannot enter into calculation, will prevent the men of talents so disseminated through it from becoming only the expert instruments of absurd projects. If, what is the more likely event, instead of that unusual degree of virtue, they should

« PreviousContinue »