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what is taught them : in all Christian communions, catechisms containing short dogmatic statements are considered fitting spiritual food for their awakening minds. And so far from an ardent faith being content, as it grows up, with less of definiteness, the exact contrary has often been asserted, and, we believe, with perfect truth. So needful is a certain amount of system to the human mind, that faulty and untenable ones are adopted, often half-unconsciously, rather than that the mind should be left wholly bare of principles. And as for the theory that subjective faith is all in all, it can only be regarded as a specious form of infidelity. Fascinating to some minds it may be, for it has a strong tendency towards self-glorification, in that it makes an inward sentiment of man's heart to be a creative principle of good. But when we look around the world, and see everywhere that man is a worshipping creature, and that further he will endeavour to assimilate himself, so far as is possible, to the Being whom he worships, it is idle to assert that it is of slight consequence whether his faith be reposed upon a Baal, or a Moloch requiring human sacrifices, or a God of mere benevolence, or one who meddles not with the affairs of men, and has not in any way revealed himself to his creatures, or one who sympathises with them, and is himself material, and a partaker of their passions, or finally, One who is pure spirit, all-holy, omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly just and yet all-merciful—in a word, the Christian's God.
The close connexion between sound faith and a good life will, we trust, receive further illustration in the course of our remarks. But, even if we were unable to discern any relationship between the two, it would still be our bounden duty to cherish and openly avow our belief in the dogmas of the Catholic faith. It is at least one way of confessing Christ before men.
With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Moreover, it is hard to understand how, without the aid of creeds and evidences, the great body of Christians can hope to answer every man,' and 'give a reason of the hope that is in them ;'? or how their pastors can hold fast the faithful word according to doctrine, the form of sound words, such as Apostles delivered to their spiritual children,'' or exhort and convince the gainsayers. The talent committed to her the
.' Church cannot bury in the earth. Almighty God has en* trusted to the keeping of His Church a body of clear, definite, 'positive doctrine, which all Christians are required to believe,
2 Coloss. iv. 6.; 1 Pet. iii. 15. 3 'Αντεχόμενον του κατά την διδαχήν πιστού λόγου. Τit. 1. 9. * 2 Tim. i. 13; a text of great importance in its bearing upon our present suljeet.
i Rom. x. 10.
' and without belief in which they cannot be saved; which body • of doctrine, or “ form of sound words," was given prior to • the Scriptures, for the Scriptures are full of allusion to it; is • distinct from the Scriptures, but collateral to it; contains nothing which cannot be proved from Scripture, and is by * Scripture always and universally to be confirmed, yet is not * deduced from Scripture by men, nor dependent upon Scripture ' for the separate historical attestation to its apostolical origin; ' in one word, “that good thing committed to the Church,' • and always to be held fast, without which even the Scriptures ‘ may be perverted, and all objective forms of Gospel truth • be blotted out—the doctrine contained in the creeds. And as the humble and reverent study of Dogmatic Theology is intended to subserve the great cause of God's glory and man's highest welfare, so too we, in our ignorance, know not what other divine plans the publication of the truths thus attained may incidentally promote. Hints and glimpses of further designs beyond the immediate ones are revealed to us; for the incarnate Lord was seen not only of men, but likewise of angels;' and the truths of His revelation are things which the angels desire to look into;' and while His saints proclaim among the heathen His unsearchable riches, they are teaching not mankind alone, but causing too 'that now unto the princi. palities and powers in heavenly places should be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.'?
In that fair form of divine wisdom, the dogmas have not inaptly been likened to the bones of the animal frame. Special study may be requisite to enable men to see any beauty in a skeleton,—the anatomist alone can discern how fearfully and wonderfully it is made ; but it needs no science to perceive the imperfections of a pulpy, boneless creature, like the jelly-fish; and such, instead of a highly organized and nobly constituted structure, would soon become that theology which should attempt to discard all system and all dogma. On the other hand, this comparison suggests what is equally true, that the framework alone does not constitute the man. There was need of flesh and blood, nerves and muscles, heart and brain, before his Maker breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.' Dogmas, apart from the spiritual life of individuals, are but as the dry bones of the prophet's vision. It is to no purpose that the Church proclaims the tidings of a Saviour, if her children, sunk in careless apathy, have lost the sense of their personal need of Him. In vain are means of grace
I Rev. W. Sewell. Sermon on Purification, A.D. 1848.
1 Tim. iii. 16; 1 Pet. i. 12; Ephes. iii. 10.
offered to the pilgrim through this world, if he believes that his own unaided strength can avail to win for him a safe passage to the next. Unblessed, we must fear, will be the services of God's house, and the teachings of His Word, to him who has forgotten all self-examination and private prayer. But when the formal enunciations of doctrine are duly covered and breathed upon, they live and stand up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.'
Hence we see, in all religious revivals, that alarms of the conscience and appeals to individual seriousness form the just and natural commencement. But it is important to observe that this renewed earnestness almost invariably proceeds to assume a scientific form and objective character, or else evaporates and dies away.' This scientific teaching may indeed lean too greatly upon some one man, such as Calvin, and thus become, even though logical and consistent, yet exceeding narrow and imperfect; but, on the other hand, it may, while adapting itself to the needs and availing itself of the resources of its own age, fall back upon the rich resources of antiquity, and thus fostered * upon all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old,' approximate to the wisdom of the true scribe, “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven.'?
And while, on the one hand, the dogmas of religion afford resting-places (if we may thus change our comparison) for the weak and weary, they are likewise starting-points whence bolder spirits may safely issue forth to wander over the comparatively unexplored fields of exegetical inquiry, or even, if duty so demand, to traverse the thorny paths of controversy ; for Christianity, while it does not, like paganism, suffer even the most fundamental articles (such as the nature of God, the immortality of the soul, the judgment to come) to remain undecided and debateable, yet leaves open to the inquisitive temper a vast area of lawful speculation. Most especially,' says Lord Bacon, 'the Christian Faith, as in all things so in
this, deserveth to be highly magnified; holding and preserving 'the golden mediocrity in this point, between the law of the
heathen and the law of Mahomet, which have embraced the two ' extremes. For the religion of the heathen had no constant 'belief or confession, but left all to the liberty of argument; and 'the religion of Mahomet, on the other side, interdicteth argument altogether-the one having the very face of error, and the
• Thus the (so-called) Tractarian movement was the natural sequence of the (so-called) Evangelical movement; and numbers who sympathised with the earlier, mainly subjective, current of thought, have since approved, and at length heartily accepted, the more systematic and objective teaching of the latter school, which has superseded it,
2 Cant, vii. 13; Matt, xiii. 52.
other of imposture; whereas the faith doth both admit and reject disputation with difference.'?
The principles we have been occupied in asserting, though put together in our own way, are in themselves so old,
and have been affirmed by so many writers, from S. Basil to S. Bernard, from Bishop Bull to academical professors of our own day, that the reader may not unnaturally be tempted to exclaim, quorsum hæc? We answer, that the re-statement of these positions on our part has sprung from the conviction, that there has arisen in the present century a tendency to revolt against dogma in religion, to deny its use, its soundness, its possibility; and that such a tendency is, in our judgment, fraught with danger, most imminent danger, to the cause of religion at large. The attack has been conducted in very different ways, and with different objects, but the ultimate results would be the same. There has been employed against the value and authority of creeds and dogmas the insidious sneer of Gibbon (who knew well at what he was aiming), often intermingled, however, with some striking admission, some precious fragment of truth; there has been the bold and contemptuous denunciation of all creeds by Dr. Channing; there has been the attempt to represent the natural history of the soul as the true basis of theology;' there has been a flood of German writers and American imitators, Deists, Pantheists, Atheists, agreeing in scarcely anything but the rejection, firstly, of creeds, and then (but too consistently) of the inspiration of God's Holy Word; and finally, in this questionable company, along with Fichte, with Emerson, with Theodore Parker, and with Strauss, are conjoined, in so far as regards opposition to dogmatic teaching, at least two writers of real piety and good intentions, Neander, and the author of the book before us, Dr. Horace Bushnell. It is with the last named that we are mainly concerned; with the rest we shall not meddle, except incidentally. Their attacks upon dogmatism, when placed before religious persons, carry to a great extent their own antidote with them. A pious mind,
A 1 Adv. of Learning, Book II. versus fin. Compare the following striking language of a recent author :- There is extant no perfect theological system which is also proved. On some points, after all the labours of bygone times, we must inquire for ourselves. On the other hand, it would be most false and dangerous to assume that nothing has hitherto been settled ; that there is now no ark in which the truth of God is preserved ; and that every individual Christian must toss in his own little bark on the perilous sea of opinion. We who believe that the Church is really an institution of God, and that our place within it is determined by His divine providence, may discover that the restless waters of doubt are confined within an outer edge of certainty.'-Chretien's Lectures on the Study of Theology (Oxford, 1851). Introductory Lecture.
even if disposed to underrate the value of the Church's creeds, will assuredly recoil from the Gibbonian sneer. He may, unhappily, consider the formal teaching of the undivided Church to be erroneous, and then he will regard it as the mistaken aliment of many million souls for long centuries; or he may hold it for God's own truth, divinely appointed to be one of the media of salvation, and to be recognised as such before Christ, and men, and angels, at the last great day; and, in either case, the subject will seem too solemn for mockery. Neither, again, will the attacks of Socinians, although ostensibly based upon general and quasi-philosophic groand, he received without just and well-merited suspicion. They have an obvious interest in denying the worth and authority of documents, which denounce the teachings of Arius and Socinus as fraught with everlasting evil to the souls of those who wilfully, and with full consciousness of what they are doing, accept them; still less can men who have renounced all belief in Revelation, or who have even sunk below pure theism, and hold less truth than a Mahometan, expect a hearing from a Christian audience, when they dilate upon themes which presuppose a Christian treatment. But it is far otherwise, when the writer's aim is evidently good, and what we deem to be dangerous errors are mingled with much that is beautiful and true. In selecting Dr. Bushnell's work as the representative of attacks upon Dogmatic Theology, we are not taking one of the most recent, nor one of the most elaborate of such works, but we are certainly choosing one of the most able and attractive; indeed, so attractive in parts that some of our contemporaries have, we fear, unintentionally given a false idea of the book and its tendency, by quoting only from its most unexceptionable pages.
Dr. Bushnell's · Discourses' are prefaced by a dissertation upon language, which lays a foundation for much that is to follow. Then come the three discourses; the first being on the Divinity of Christ, the next upon the Atonement, and the last upon Dogma and Spirit. A few extracts from the headings of the introductory and of the final discourse, will show that it is with them that our immediate business lies, although we shall have occasion to refer to other portions besides these.
"A false element in words of thought. Etymologies to be studied. Opposing words necessary. The logical method deceitful. Interpretation. Language insufficient for the uses of dogma. Creeds and confessions.'
'Christianity displaces the Pharisaic dogma. Enters the world as spirit and life. Lapses next into dogma. Consequent discord and corruption. The Reformation a partial remedy. The reviving of revivals insufficient. Dogma and spirit distinguished. Province and uses of Christian theology. Causes of the lapse into dogma. Resulting benefits of the same theological capacities of dogma. Piety itself limited by dogma.'