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luntary, can or cannot be the occasion of condemnation. For we are dealing simply with the construction of Scripture, in which some sense is to be put on the passages which undoubtedly speak of belief as a condition of acceptance; and whatever sense that is, the same must be put on statements deduced from the Bible.
Thus, some may have stumbled at these clauses, because of the stringent and personal terms in which they are expressed. But this is only after the manner of Scripture in such cases. If it was said, instead of the present words, that such are the fundamental articles of the Catholic faith, it would make no real difference.
Nor does the absence of exceptions, or the insertion of such words as “without doubt,” do more than broadly affirm the truth of the proposition, or forbid the proper qualifications, which always, if we are to be guided by Scripture, must be supplied to statements of this kind. We would not say this except on the indisputable ground that Scripture itself, in repeated instances, qualifies in one part what it lays down in another. The student of the Bible well knows that he is never to dwell on isolated texts, but to gather the whole sense of the Book from a due collation of its several parts. And so, on the present or similar questions, he knows that he has to harmonise such passages as these (I only quote a few) :—“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned ;” “I beseech you that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you ;” “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life ;” —with such as these : “Grace be with all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity ;" “In every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him ;” “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”* There seems no great difficulty in doing this ; but without attempting here to do so completely, it seems practically enough to say, that while the former passages forbid our setting forth any defective scheme of doctrine—any that shall not contain all the great truths revealed in the Gospel—or shrinking from the statement that we know of no other appointed way of salvation, the latter ones are to show us that it is not for us to limit in any way the free grace of God, and that especially in considering individual cases, we are not to assert that intellectual error or obliquity shall prevail to condemnation if the heart be right before God, which He alone can tell.
The admission of the necessity of the two Sacraments is quite as open to dispute from the Bible as that of the doctrine of the Trinity or the Incarnation. Yet none of us, on the one hand, has any scruple as to the statement in the Catechism, that the Sacraments "are generally necessary to salvation "-words which in truth mean just the same as the damnatory clauses—and on the other hand few, I hope, if any, hold the opinion that Mrs. Fry was incapable of salvation. According to a figure often used, God's grace may overflow its appointed channel ; but that does not prove that there is no appointed channel, or that it is not the only such channel.
* Mark xvi. 16; 1 Cor. i. 10; Rev. xxii. 19 ; Eph. vi. 24 ; Acts x. 35; Rom. x. 9.
A Creed is important as a barrier against heresy, and against the gradual depravation of doctrines which transcend the ordinary human understanding. I believe it is a fact, and a significant one, that some modern sectaries, whose bond of union is not so much any common belief, as a dislike of all fixed human formularies, are sometimes found to feel no uneasiness at joining in any of the services of the English Church, except when the Athanasian Creed is used.
LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF A CLERICAL
MEETING ON THE FINAL COURT OF
DEAR SIR, Your meeting, at which I was present, did not seem a favourable one for full discussion of any point requiring deliberate attention; and in any event, such a subject as that of the Court of Appeal cannot well be dealt with without some previous preparation.
Having been present at the meeting, I feel it an additional favour to be allowed to write this letter, which I believe you will be kind enough to read to the next meeting. The subject is one of general interest, which laymen, as well as clergy, may, if they can, contribute to elucidate.
My task, however, is much lightened by the perusal of Mr. Joyce's book,* which you have lent me; for, much to my satisfaction, I find myself in entire agreement with him on the general principle of the practical measure which he recommends.
It is also more than I expected : for I had imagined that he would support, as to appeals in cases of doctrine (which are all that need here be dealt with), the constitution, or the return to the constitution, of a tribunal consisting wholly or predominantly of spiritual persons, and certainly of members of the English Church exclusively.
* Ecclesia Vindicata, by the Rev. J. W. Joyce, 1862.
Writing as a Churchman, it is unquestionably a concession on Mr. Joyce's part that he does not do this ; for, though I am not sure that he has quite exhausted the historical view of the subject in the earlier part of his book, I think he has sufficiently shown that the general stream of ancient English precedent is on the whole in favour of such exclusive jurisdiction in the hands of the spiritualty; at least as far as judicial tribunals are concerned, and apart from the paramount power of the King personally, which was in almost all cases in earlier days rather indefinite, and difficult accurately to limit and delineate.
Mr. Joyce's authority, were it needed, is sufficient to show that such a concession is not in limine indefensible, or necessarily surrendering any vital privilege of the Church. : The concession is this (pp. 173-189): that the Judicial Committee shall remain as it was till lately, wholly one of lawyers (for the Lord President is there rather as a sort of compliment to his office), and that, as in all other cases, it should decide absolutely on its own judgment; but that, also on the analogy of other cases, it should inform that jndgment in matters of theology or scientific doctrine, by obtaining the opinion of what may be called theological experts.*
The analogies of the case are partly stated or quoted by Mr. Joyce, and on the general view of the case seem irresistibly strong. It is said to be monstrous that laymen or Dissenters should judge of Church doctrine.
* Undoubtedly this assumes that theology is a special study, requiring professional training. I shall not argue this, though I am not sure that it would be universally allowed.