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making any mistake in his statement of facts, or in matters connected with his subject.”1
The Church, though she has used Scripture as a mine, has never defined inspiration, nor has she ever affirmed that the Bible is inspired. If to Scripture-supposing it to form an integral part of the Christian system-we apply the law of the Incarnation, we shall be obliged to allow that it will have the outward, material side, and the inward, spiritual side, the latter infallible, the former fallible and imperfect. Thus Scripture will be infallible as a moral, spiritual guide, but that it will be full of imperfections, grossness, trivialities, and mistakes is also true.
With Scripture it will be as with the priest; the priest in all that is sacramental is infallible, his sacramental acts are spiritually perfect, but all that is of himself is full of imperfection, error, and evil.
It is so with the Church.
The Church has a divine and a human part indivisibly united. The divine constitutes that which is infallible and eternally inerrable in the Church ; and the human is fallible and errable.
In every modification of the law of the Incarnation there must be two factors, the earthly and the divine. Thus Scripture has its human side, and is errable on all that which is not spiritual.
The other theory admits the principle of development, but seeks to limit its operation to the early ages. According to this view, we ought to accept not only the Bible, but the Catholic creeds, together with the dogmatic decrees of the earlier Councils, but to reject as innovations all later developments.
1 The Doctrine of Development. London, 1869, p. 25.
But the question at once occurs, Where is the line to be drawn? If development be allowed up to a certain point, why is it denied beyond that point ? On what authority is that point to be fixed at the third or the fourth century?
As a matter of fact, the process of development is apparent in the Church and in the Bible. The Psalms of David are an advance on Mosaism, the Prophets on the Psalms, and the Apocrypha on the Prophets. And in the New Testament the fourth Gospel and the Epistles of S. Paul are developments of the synoptical gospels. The writings of the last Evangelist differ materially from those of his predecessors. His Gospel has a distinct character and individuality ; it treats of the Incarnation under a new aspect. The other Evangelists are possessed with the facts of the Nativity, the Purification, the Passion, &c., and they narrate the events as historical facts. But in S. John's Gospel the narrative is omitted, and we have in its place theological dogma :-“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Here we have a string of theological dogmas of the Incarnation; no history, but doctrine. There was a growth of mind; an historical fact expanded into a theological truth, to suit the enlarged spiritual apprehension of the Church.
When S. Paul wrote, “ I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures,” his confession of faith enunciated only the bare facts of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, and left untouched all the deeper mysteries of the Holy Trinity, the Atonement, and the like. The infant Church was not prepared for such statements; their hour was not yet come. They were later developments, born in due time, not accretioits, but outgrowths from the facts laid down.
At first the Apostles were ignorant of one of the first necessities of the Incarnation, that the Gospel should be made universal; for seven years at least they confined their labours to the Jews, and it was only when S. Peter and S. Paul broke the ring, that they acquiesced in the evangelization of the Gentiles. S. Paul speaks of the admission of the Gentiles as one of those things not at first known, but afterwards revealed, and still to be regarded as a mystery, an “economy of the grace of God."!
The comparatively short time which elapsed between the writing of the first book of the New Testament and the last, gives but little time for any great development to appear; but it is not a little remarkable, as has been shewn in a former chapter, that the grasp of some of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith by men of the mental calibre of S. Paul was somewhat uncertain.
There is nothing of theological science in the writings composing the New Testament, if, perhaps, we except the fourth Gospel. We find the writers penetrated with conviction as to the verity of certain facts, but as to the scheme of Redemption they seem not to have thought it out. All truths were there, but in suspension, to be precipitated into dogmatic formulae at a later date. The faith of the early Christians was confined to certain facts, on which certain hopes were built up. That was probably enough for their age, but it was not enough when Christianity swelled above the ignorant and poor, and overflowed the intellects of the most cultivated men of the day.
1 Blenkinsopp. This writer, in a treatise well deserving of perusal, traces the gradual expansion of doctrine in the Old and New Testaments, and in the Church.
Then we find a gradual unfolding of doctrine, logically deduced from the premisses held by the first Christians and recorded in the New Testament; and in the Middle Ages theology was organized into a system, intellectual and philosophical.
What was drawn out of the primary dogmas followed as rigidly as do all the results arrived at by astronomers from the doctrine of gravitation.
If we take the decrees of the General Councils for the first seven centuries, we see the system gradually emerging from the fog which had enveloped it, its outlines becoming more distinct, its features more pronounced, and its colours more vivid.
The Council of Nicæa (A.D. 325) affirmed the Son to be of the saine substance as the Father. The Arians entangled in the mist, could not see that without the distinct affirmation of the divinity of Christ, Christianity was neither a religion nor a philosophy.
Constantinople (381) confirmed the doctrine of Nicæa, and affirmed that the Holy Ghost was of the same substance as the Father and the Son, thus developing into distinctness the dogma of the Trinity.
Ephesus (131) affirmed that the person of Christ was one, but that in His one person there were two natures; condemning Nestorius, who taught that Christ was so far two persons, that He was not born of the Virgin Mary as God, but only as man. To affirm more clearly the Catholic faith, it confirmed the title Theotokos, mother of God, to the blessed Virgin. It is evident to us, that it is essential to the Catholic system that the double nature should be distinctly recognized, for if one nature be supplanted by the other, or suppressed by the other, the whole significance of the Incarnation disappears.
Chalcedon (451) re-affirmed that our Lord had two natures in one person.
The second of Constantinople (553) confirmed the preceding Councils, and affirmed in still plainer language the dogmas of the Trinity and the motherhood of the blessed Virgin.
The third of Constantinople (680) affirmed that there were in Christ two natural wills, and that there were two modes of operation, without separation or confusion. In Him the divine will was one, and the human will was free, without which there would have been no real personality in His human nature.
And is it not in strict analogy with all God's dealings with man, that He should give the fact, and leave it to develop its consequences by a slow process of evolution? The seed takes time to grow, the egg to hatch, the larva to change into the imago. The fact of gravitation having been established, years passed before the chain of consequences deducible from it was unrolled. The fact of the circulation of the blood was ascertained, and the results of that discovery are not complete yet. The existence of electricity has been proved, but we have not as yet attained to all the modifications to be effected thereby.
The question of Development is the question whether the Incarnation be a dead and dry historical fact, or whether it be a living reality. If it be a fact full of energy, its significance was not exhausted in the first century of the Christian era. If it be a divine reality, it must partake in the divine characteristics, and be infinite in its significance, as the world, another divine reality, is infinite in its mysteries. In a century we may exhaust the science of geology, because that is the science of a dead deposit; but
1 Union Review, 1869; Art. xxv. Development, p. 493.