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visible. In the same Eucharistical office was always used the Seraphic Hymn or Trisagium, in which the earthly and heavenly Church were believed to join. The following passages will represent the common faith of the early teachers on this point. Speaking of this hymn, St. Chrysostom says,
this voice? Whether is it ours or the seraphims' ? Both ours and the seraphims? through Christ, who hath taken
away the middle wall of partition, and reconciled things in Heaven and things in earth, making
For aforetime this hymn was sung in Heaven alone; but when the Lord vouchsafed to come down on earth he brought down to us also this melody. Wherefore the chief priest (i. e. the Bishop), when he stands at the holy table, offering the reasonable service, and making oblation of the unbloody sacrifice, does not merely call us to this chant, but after naming the cherubim and seraphim, then exhorts every one to send forth this awful song, drawing our thoughts from the earth by the remembrance of those that chant with us, and almost crying to each of us and saying, “Thou singest with the seraphim, stand then with the seraphim, spread thy wings with them, with them hover round the royal throne.” They believed that the acts of homage and adoration offered by the visible were assisted by the invisible members of the Church; that they bore a part in all the ghostly energies of that body of which the Church mili
S. Chrys. Hom. vi. in Esai. t. iii. 890.
tant is the lower portion, and Christ the common Head.
It would be very easy to multiply, to an indefinite extent, passages which bear upon the points under consideration. But knowing how irksome it is to read over a series of quotations, I have endeavoured to make them as few as possible. With this view I have used the best judgment I was able in selecting such as seemed clear enough to exhibit the mind of the early Church.
Once more, let me remind the reader that the only point in which he need as yet apply his critical skill is, whether or no the following summary be a fair and exact representation of the sense of the writers here adduced.
It would seem that they believed the one Church to consist of the body of faithful of all nations and of all ages, gathered under Christ their Head; and that of this body there are two parts, one visible and one invisible, between which there nevertheless subsists the most strict and energetic personal union : that the invisible part is perfect and admitted into the fellowship of angels; and the visible imperfect, having in it a mixture of evil men, and that its unity is twofold, organic in its origin and polity, and moral in peace and charity ; the visible mark or character of unity being communion with pastors deriving lawful succession from the Apostles of Christ.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH AS TAUGHT IN HOLY
HITHERTO I have attempted only to ascertain in what sense the doctrine of the Unity of the Church was held in the first ages. If I have faithfully exhibited the mind of the early teachers of Christ's Gospel, I have fulfilled the work I undertook. Whether that doctrine which has been exhibited be true or not is a further question, on which I have as yet made no assertion. Henceforward I shall endeavour to show by a course of direct argument what is the doctrine of Unity as revealed by Jesus Christ. If the conclusion to which our reasoning may ultimately lead us should be found to coincide with the doctrine stated in the last chapter, it will of course amount to an independent proof that the same doctrine is true. I say independent; for it must always be borne in mind that, even though the arguments of this present chapter should appear inconclusive, the statements in the last constitute
a distinct and separate fact, which, if supposed to be untrue, must be explained away or accounted for.
I will, however, assert nothing upon the witness of the early Church. I will not as yet use it even for the enunciation of our present argument. But, as we have ascertained by detailed examination what was the doctrine of Unity taught by the uninspired writers, we will now follow exactly the same course with the inspired teachers of the Church. The whole of this chapter, therefore, will rest upon the canonical books of Scripture.
That the Unity of the Church in some sense is a doctrine of Holy Scripture every Christian man admits. So far there is no controversy. In what sense this Unity is to be believed, whether as wholly visible and outward, or wholly inward and invisible, or in a mixed, various, and changeable shape this is the only dispute. It is plain, therefore, that if the text of Holy Scripture can be variously interpreted, every man will claim its witness for himself, as every several man believes the eye of a picture to be fixed on him alone. But it is obvious that to call any proposition alleged from Scripture a proof from Scripture, until it is first proved to be the right sense of Scripture, is only to beg the question at every step. The point at issue is plainly this: of
many apparent senses of Scripture, which is the true? He that has it has Scripture on his side,
and he only.
I am aware, therefore, that in professing to derive
the proof of this chapter from Holy Scripture, I lay myself open to the preliminary objection, that the words of Scripture are not proof from Scripture till I have proved that they are adduced according to the mind and intention of the writer. This, therefore, is the real point. Every thoughtful man will admit that although, in the manifold wisdom of God, His Word may have, as it were, many sides, and every saying of it many aspects, yet it can only be so as any perfect though complex figure may have a multitude of harmonizing lines, with an absolute unity. It savours, therefore, rather of shallowness and incoherence to hear men say that Holy Scripture has passages of a discrepant and various kind. God cannot belie himself. In the Divine mind all the ideas of eternal truth lie in perfect harmony; and all their reflections on the page ofy Holy Writ are likewise of one accord. Scattered and divergent as they may seem to our eyes, there is a point of sight at which we shall see them all rise and blend into the oneness and harmony of light.
Many, therefore, as may be the apparent senses of Scripture, there can be but one true sense. Many as may be the apparent arguments and deductions from these apparent senses, there can be but one true argument and conclusion from Holy Writ. And this we will endeavour to ascertain in the article of the Unity of the Church.
I shall, therefore, on every point, first adduce the words of Scripture.