Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

inspired; a notion altogether inconsistent with that of the Incarnation of the Son of God, in any proper acceptation of the term, and closely bordering upon the error of Cerinthus, though divested of some of its more palpable absurdities.

Eutyches, on the other hand, refined upon the Apollinarian heresy. He is represented to have taught, that the two natures in our Lord's person were not merely united together, but were blended into one; the human nature being entirely absorbed in the divine. According to this representation, however, he differed from Apollinaris in one respect, that the one taught a conversion of the Godhead into the manhood, the other of the manhood into the Godhead.

In each of these heresies, (supposing the tenets of the respective parties to have been fairly reported, which nevertheless is somewhat questionable,) one or other of the abovementioned truths—the Divinity of our Lord, or his human nature, or the union of both in his person, or the proper distinction between each-is evidently impugned. Here also, as in the several anti-trinitarian hypotheses, an arrogant attempt to dogmatize upon points beyond the reach of human investigation, appears to have been the first source of error. Questions were suggested which never ought to have been brought into discussion, and strifes were engendered which nothing could compose, so long as the parties were thus mutually disinclined to “receive with meekness “ the ingrafted word.”

To this wantonness of speculation, and a consequent departure from the primitive simplicity of the Christian faith, may fairly be ascribed the introduction of more extended creeds, or public professions of faith, than otherwise it might have been expedient to adopt. It is due to the character of the Christian Church in general, to state this without reserve. Until rash questions were agitated by presumptuous or turbulent spirits, and were made the occasion, not only of divisions, but of apostasies from the faith ; the Church shewed no inclination to multiply articles of belief, or to burthen its members with enlarged expositions of Christian doctrine. The mere baptismal form might have sufficed as a confession of the doctrine of the Trinity; had men been content simply to recognise in that confession the mysterious union of the three Persons in the Godhead equal in majesty and honour. The bare acknowledgment that Christ was Son of God and Son of man, might have superseded any further illustrations of the doctrine of the Incarnation, if all would have agreed in accepting those terms in their plain and obvious signification. But when refinements and subtleties were introduced, which gave a false colouring to these simple declarations, the Church would have betrayed the sacred trust committed to her, had she not fenced and guarded these doctrines by restrictive cautions and more explicit enunciations. Thus far, additions were rendered in some degree necessary; and it will not be easy to shew, that, in any public formulary generally adopted by the Catholic Church, more was done in this respect than the exigency of the case required. The Nicene Creed is in substance no more than such an expansion of the Apostles' Creed; and the Athanasian, of the Nicene. In neither of these are any new articles of faith introduced, nor even any explanation of the doctrines intended. They contain only more explicit declarations of “ the faith once delivered to the saints," and a renunciation of certain errors, which, if suffered to prevail, would have rendered the whole Christian system a confused mass of discordant propositions. Whatever offence, therefore, may have been given by these enlargements of Creeds and Confessions, ought in fairness to be charged upon those who occasioned the evil, rather than upon those who applied the remedy. But

upon other important matters of faith, as well as those which relate to the Trinity and the Incarnation, incalculable evils have arisen, from the introduction of questions equally incapable of solution by any efforts of human sagacity.

The origin of evil and the corruption of human nature are among the subjects which continually baffle the researches of presumptuous inquirers. The Scriptures certify us of the facts relating to them; of the consequences that flow from them; and of the means provided for their ultimate removal. But they afford no clue to guide us through the endless labyrinths in which we find the subjects themselves are involved, when we begin to explore them for other purposes

than these. If we undertake to reconcile, to the satisfaction of every sceptical mind, even the existence of evil with the perfections of an infinitely powerful, wise, and good Being, we shall soon find ourselves stretching beyond the line of the human understanding. For this, again is not exclusively a scriptural difficulty ;—it is not a difficulty peculiar to Christianity, or to any part of the system

of revealed religion ;-it besets every other scheme of religion as well as our own; nay it lies as a stumbling-block in every path of philosophy. The attempt to remove it set the most ancient heathen schools at variance; and in later days has multiplied sects among Jews, Turks, and infidels, no less than among Christians, and perhaps for the same reason ; that we can naturally know nothing of either good or evil, but on the limited scale of our own perceptions, and in the circumscribed relations we bear to the things around us; being wholly incapable of apprehending that chain of universal being which must be ever present to the supreme Governor of the whole, and by reference to which alone the measures of his government can be duly appreciated.

Yet how many vainly-inquisitive minds have made “ shipwreck of their faith,” by embarking on this perilous ocean! Ingrafting upon Christian truths, or rather substituting for those truths, the visionary conceits of oriental philosophy, the followers of Manes, himself a borrower from the older sects of Gnostics, spread far and wide the pestilential notion that the universe is governed by two opposite principles, the one good, the other evil, co-ordinate and co-equal, yet perpetually

« AnteriorContinuar »