« PreviousContinue »
Art. I.—1. The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. By Robert Isaac Wilberforce, A.M., Archdeacon of the East Riding. London: Mozleys. 1853.
2. The Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. A Sermon preached before the University, in the Cathedral Church of Christ, in Oxford, on the 2d Sunday after Epiphany 1853. By the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D., Regius Professor of Hebrew, Canon of Christ Church, late Fellow of Oriel College. Oxford and London: J. H. Parker. London: liivingtons. 1853.
3. The Real Presence. A Sermon preached in the Cathedral Church of S. Andrew, Wells, on Sunday, August 7, 1853. By G. A. Denison, M.A. Archdeacon of Taunton. With a Preface, explaining the Circumstances under which the Sermon has
been preached and published, and Appendix. Second Edition. London: Masters. 1853.
Christians of all denominations, from Pius IX. to Dr. dimming,—and the series might be extended at both ends,— still have some reverence for the authority of S. Paul, and believe that the maxims and principles which he taught are more or less applicable, even at the present day. We try, but with no very great success, all to ' think the same thing,' some by compelling others to think with them by persecutions and censures, others doing the same by reasoning, or eloquence, or confident assertion, a few by doing their best to understand and be understood. And as we cannot, after all, accomplish this desirable object, we are aware that we ought, in some sense, and to some extent, to practise that forbearance and allowance for others which he recommended with respect to the great controversy, within the Church, of his day—the question of the observance of the Ceremonial Law. 'Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, 'and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth; for 'God hath received him.'' To the disputants, doubtless, these questions seemed of vital importance, nor were they unimportant in the view of S. Paul, for he withstood S. Peter to the face in defence of the Gentiles' right, and pronounced the teacher of' another Gospel' accursed; and exclaimed,' O foolish 'Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey 'the truth ?'' Yet, in this very controversy, he could teach forbearance, lest any should be lost for whom Christ died. And, at all times, the controversy of the day will be felt to be important, and will call for decisive action, and clearness of statement. Yet it will always be the point on which these principles of mutual forbearance will most need to be put in practice, however difficult it may be to discern the limits of their application.
'Rom. xiv 3. NO. I.XXXII.—N. S. T
Such a question is now, amongst ourselves, the Doctrine of the Sacraments, and the light in which they are to be viewed. And amongst Churchmen the greatest difficulties have of late arisen on the subject of the Holy Eucharist, while they are agreed as to maintaining, in some sense, the efficacy of Baptism. For there is clearly a farther mystery in this ease than in that of the other Sacrament, and a greater apparent division between the Anglican and at least other Western Churches. And there is especial room for the characteristic working of two very distinct classes of minds, for whose natural peculiarities we must certainly make some room and allowance, if the Church is not to lose, on one side or on the other, a third part of her members. For the disposition to rest in known causes, and to doubt all that is not accounted for by them, and the disposition to seek, and always to suspect, some mysterious and hidden agency, are inherent in different minds, and scarcely eradicable by any discipline. To reason and to doubt in the one class, to wonder and to believe in the other, are almost irresistible tendencies. And though they must, in either case, be under some restraint, if consent in any scheme of action or of belief is to be maintained, yet they will have some scope, and some allowance must be made for them, so long as men claim, in any measure, to agree together.
If there is any subject which, by its very nature, must incline us to long for charity in our discussions, and unity and peace in our conclusions, it is that of the Holy Eucharist. Itself not only a sign, but a pledge, an element, a bond, a living principle of peace, every Christian must regret that it should give rise to suspicions, recriminations, heart-burnings, and schisms. Yet the interest of the subject, which animates inquiry, and the mystery, which ever eludes it, are sure to give occasion for such evils so long as man is imperfect in knowledge and in love. And there is an especial danger of their arising, when a really searching inquiry is undertaken, unless it be undertaken with that resolution of facing the truth, that abandonment of prejudice, and that patience of attention which ensure the full use, at least, of the materials at the command of the inquirer. To such an inquiry Archdeacon Wilbcrforce invites his reader, and it is not too much to say that his work is one which deserves to be taken up for a more than ordinarily thoughtful reading, with more than ordinary resolutions of impartiality, and with more than ordinary endeavour thoroughly to master various principles, and enter into various ideas. No Christian teacher, indeed, who is honest to himself, can call upon his hearer or reader to renounce all prejudice. A man who is capable of understanding the higher acroamata of Christian doctrine certainly was never meant to do so. He cannot clear out his mind, and make it a perfect * tabula rasa,' without parting with his belief, and this it would be wrong and absurd for him to do without the very strongest reason shown previously. The intellect is capable, indeed, of a kind of abstraction, by which it supposes itself, for the sake of argument, destitute of convictions which it really possesses, and thus much it may sometimes do with advantage; but a man must unmake himself before he can do away with the tendency of those convictions to sway the balance of his conclusions, and to perpetuate their own force. Even a farther concession may be made, and in this case ought to be made, by recognising the indefiniteness of all parts of belief that are really indefinite, or not defined on certain grounds, and preparing the mind to accept new boundaries, if they shall appear, in the course of the inquiry, to be more exact. Yet this may be done, and ought to be done, without the surrender of any real principle, or substantial conviction of the mind, as a whole, and without admitting even a particle of doubt as to any Truth of" the Gospel, or any authoritative expression of it.
'Oal. iii. 1.
For the range of private opinion is large, and few men have any distinct conception of the limits which divide Faith from Opinion. And when the mind has begun to realise the fact that there are such limits, it is no easy work to learn where they are. The greater part of mankind must either remain at a very low point in the scale of Theological knowledge, or admit of repeated changes in what they, for a time, suppose to be the limits of dogmatic Faith, although, in a healthy process of inquiry, the real limits of Faith remain fixed, and the change takes place, not in the thing believed, but in the extent to wThich that thing is apprehended, and the manner in which it is viewed. A statement which, before inquiry, might have excited strong repugnance, may be received, on inquiry, without the slightest shock to the principle of Faith, as a simple and necessary consequence of Truth already believed. Confidence in self may be shaken, but confidence in the general truth and accuracy of dogmatic Christianity may be even strengthened by such growing and assimilating processes of conviction. And, as they are repeated with similar results, tending perpetually to bring the individual mind into unison with the universal spirit and thought of the Holy Catholic Church through all time, a sober and unprcsuming confidence in individual judgment will return, tempered with somewhat of charitable allowance for others who may be, as yet, in involuntary ignorance of particular truths, and who may appear to oppose them, simply because they have never had "them intelligibly presented to their cognizance. Such may be the case with Christians of moderate intellectual capacity, but of a thinking turn of mind. It is, however, much more likely to be so with those who are capable of becoming theologians, if gifted with charity and candour.
Candour is, indeed, hardly possible in Theologasters, who only wish to be as dogmatic and exclusive as they can upon a small stock of knowledge. Their easiest resource is to take up some formula connected with the controversies of the day, and use it as a criterion of orthodoxy. Such a phrase, for instance, as that 'there is no objective presence of the "Thing signified" in the elements in the Holy Eucharist,' is a very easy principle to assume, and one which looks at once theological and philosophical; and yet it may be taken up and made the basis of a whole position, without any clear understanding either of its grounds or of its consequences. On the other side, the assertion that ' the Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord, which is given 'in the Holy Eucharist, are the same in which He suffered on 'the Cross,' is capable of being affirmed or denied in very distinct senses, and either the affirmation or the denial may mislead a mind that rests in words, and does not search for truth as for hidden treasure. The safest ground we have in the controversy of the Holy Eucharist is the simple belief of God's promises made to us in the Sacrament. Any hastily assumed criterion is sure to prove fallacious, because it is not even itself understood. The greatest divines can see the truth in simple men's faith as well as in clear and orthodox statements, and can even trace it in the honest expressions of men in partial error. It is scarce less to the honour of S. Athanasius that he could discern the obscured orthodoxy of the Semiarians, than that he was the instrument of fixing the Church's faith in the doctrine of our Blessed Lord's Divinity.
But there is still a danger for those who walk by simple faith, when they meddle with controversy. For nothing is more difficult than to judge exactly how far Feeling is an evidence of the truth of a.given Doctrine. We feel that a particular view of Divine truth is edifying to ourselves; we seem to have an inward sense of its reality, and think that it would be an unfaithfulness to our highest spiritual instincts, and to the grace of God itself, to doubt its completeness and certainty. Yet if we would judge fairly, and avoid a high probability of error, we must allow for the possible confusion of our own intellectual sight, and be prepared to separate images which we have viewed conjointly. For even a false intellectual representation may contain in it enough of truth to affect the heart rightly, and a true doctrine, very imperfectly understood, may be strongly and profitably felt. And one part of the truth may take so strong a hold of the affections, as to make every mention of another part excite suspicion, as though it were brought forward as a cloak for the suppression of the favoured particular. Especially in the case of a subject at once complex and mysterious, a variety of considerations are so mingled together, that it is difficult to give due prominence to any one without seeming to neglect the rest. And somehow or other controversial minds are apt to lay stress on their negations, and to carry their jealousy of any interference with their favourite view to the height of exterminating every other.
Thus, in the Holy Eucharist, one mind is accustomed to dwell on the memorial of our Blessed Lord's passion, another on the pledge of present grace, another on the work of the Holy Spirit, another on the presence of our Blessed Lord's Divinity, another on the presence of His Sacred Body, another on the past sacrifice of the Cross, another on the present sacrifice of the Altar, and any one of these points may be insisted on with such jealousy of interference or preference as to be made to exclude sonic other. The figure may be made to exclude the real presence, or the real presence the figure, or the memorial the present sacrifice, or the present sacrifice, in some degree, the memorial of the past, and so in other cases, while the genuine inquirer after truth will rather see how much of what is commonly and reasonably thought to form part of the Doctrine of the Sacrament he can include in his own view. The devout reader, then, may fairly be called upon to peruse such a work with some amount of impartiality, and to prepare to enlarge his views and his sympathies, if he can do so without prejudice to his solid and practical convictions, and to the Truth he has already received on valid authority.
Another class of inquirers nre liable to a very different danger,—that of determining to believe nothing but what they can understand; and that in such a sense as to deny every mode of causation to which they cannot find a parallel, and of which they cannot give what they consider a rational account. Upon such principles the question must be asked, What is the parallel cage to the operation of the Christian Sacraments, or of each of them in particular? And an answer must be demanded, referring that operation unequivocally to suine of the processes