Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

the manifold lusts of man's heart, multiplied by all the gradations of intensity, and by all the inexhaustible combinations of circumstance, condition, and aggravation. What is needed, therefore, is a power to subdue, and to repress the human will; and this the Church provides. By her authority, as God's vicar on the earth, she subjugates the whole energy of man which struggles against the will of God. By her in ward discipline she checks and, through grace, subdues to the conscience the aggressive and importunate affections of our nature. These two forces are perpetually compressing, as it were, the distracted spirit of man to an unity with itself; and by this they strengthen the natural powers of the soul. The authority of God arms the converted will with a new force to coerce the lower appetites; the discipline of the Church weakens the lower appetites by check and by repression, and so drives them under the inward sway of conscience.

It is by this equable pressure that the dislocated members are reduced to their natural site and functions. By the illumination of the intellectual nature through the one objective doctrine, and by the purifying of the moral nature through the one objective discipline, the will is once more enthroned supreme, and its energies united with the will of God. Obedience passes, by little and little, from deliberation and conscious effort to a ready and almost unconscious volition. It becomes like the docility and innocence of childhood; and the unity of the Church is the mould

in which this character is recast. The adaptation of the outward system to this result is obvious to all who remember that by the gift of regeneration we receive the

grace of sonship from God; and by the organic system of the Church is expressed the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all mankind. We are placed, as it were, under the discipline of childhood. It is the very discipline of a household dilated to a Church ; the original discipline of nature strengthened and stretched abroad by the hand of God, so as to hold all men under one common Father. The lineage of natural birth has neither virtue nor commission for more than the discipline of natural childhood; but the lineage of Faith, which is the Church, a body visible, organized, articulated as the family of man, takes up the whole aggregate of moral life, and carries on its training for a riper state, to which this world is as a childhood. The objective unity of the Church, therefore, has the same direct adaptation to the perfect restoration of the Divine image in man, as the objective unity of a family has to develop the gift of regeneration into the rudiments of that image; being the natural discipline of humanity enlarged and transfigured. And on this we need only remark, further, that the voluntary aggregations of men into communities

professing Christianity are no more Churches, than an arbitrary combination of fathers and children under one roof are a family. The one constitutive principle is wanting, which is the will of God knitting

them in one by a revealed or natural sanction. They have not the first element of moral unity. They have no relation to each other; no fatherly authority, no brotherly claims. The very essence of a family is natural order, based upon the duties of submission and the rights of equality. God is the author of these relations by the appointments of nature. The lines of parental authority are a silent revelation, as divine as the voice of God at Sinai; and the polity of a family is as exactly ordained of God as the pattern which was shown to Moses in the Mount. Without this authorship and sanction there could be no parental authority, and no filial obedience, and, therefore, no moral discipline of the will. For this reason the divinely constituted polity of the Church effects what no other system can.

And, once more, the difference between a civil and a domestic polity lies chiefly in this. The civil can coerce outward but not inward obedience; it can reach the acts but not the affections of men ; it can prescribe for the broader but not for the finer moralities of life. The civil governor can but mould the frame or skeleton of the outward conduct: all that makes up life and character is beyond

power. This only the suasion and correction of domestic discipline, that is of fatherhood, can reach and fashion ; and therefore it is that in families men's characters are formed, but in states only their actions are governed. But the one Church, which is an expanded family under the father


hood of God, can do both. It forms by an outward or political coercion the exterior course of obedience, and it shapes by a lighter and unerring hand the full lineaments of Christ's image. Its correction reaches the unwritten moralities : it enters into the inner heart of man; it forbids unforgiving thoughts; it commands a man to render good for evil, blessing for cursing; it obliges him to love God and man, and it rebukes him if he disobey. It works as the presiding wisdom of a father, and broods with the creative energy of the Divine presence over the moral world as it rises again towards the image of God.

To sum up this Chapter: it may be said that the objective Unity of the Church is a means of restoring man to the image of God, by expressing and transmitting the knowledge of that image in the manhood of Christ : by impressing it upon man through the one gift of regeneration, and the one organic discipline : by uniting all nations in one body, and bringing them under one rule and power : by correcting the exorbitances of human actions, and reducing the moral nature of man to unity with itself: in which unity of the rational and moral will consists the image of God in man. The Unity of the Church, therefore, may be called the Sacrament of the Divine image, being a means ordained of God, through Christ, for restoring it to the moral being of mankind.




The next point to be shown is, how the Unity of the Church is a means in the moral probation of


It is evident, as I have said before, that the work of our redemption in us is a transcendent mystery, of which the will of man is the centre. We must believe that the fall both of angels and of men is the alienation of the will from God; and that our redemption is the reclaiming of it from the bondage of evil. It follows, therefore, upon this, that the whole scheme of our redemption should be so framed as to address itself directly to the principle of volition. By baptism the will is not extinguished, but regenerated; by our after-discipline it is not overborne, but strengthened to perfection. The argument of the last Chapter may be here taken as the

« AnteriorContinuar »