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ART. VI.—The Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Eight Lectures preached before the University of Oxford, in the year 1866, on the foundation of the late Rev. Joun BAMPTON, M.A., by HENRY PARRY LIDDON, M.A., Student of Christ Church.
We are very grateful to Mr. Liddon, both for his choice of a subject and for his manner of treating it. From his reputation as a preacher and as a theologian, a just expectation was formed, that the Bampton Lectures would be a valuable contribution to theological literature, as well as a timely defence of Catholic truth, upon one of the most important and most controverted of the Christian verities ; nor does his volume disappoint us. A little more conciseness would have been, perhaps, a relief to the reader. The lectures, it is explained in the preface, have been to a certain extent enlarged from the original form in which they were preached; but without these additions, and notwithstanding the undoubted skill of the preacher, they are long, even for an university audience. There is a luxuriant proneness to follow up collateral topics, and to pursue farther than need be, discussions often parenthetical ; but the thoughtful reader is frequently a gainer, and sermons are not bound by the formal symmetry which becomes a treatise. In a literary point of view, the Bampton Lectures of 1866 a welcome addition to the stock of sound, orthodox, and readable theology. This last epithet may require explanation ; but since questions and points of theological inquiry, which formerly were discussed in a learned language, limited in
a circulation to the few, are now devoured by society at farge, and to be obtained in company with the last new novel at the circulating library, it is of importance to be able to refer to works in defence of controversial truth equally attractive in style—where the questions in dispute, though treated with care and learning and reverence, as befitting their solemnity, are treated also with a breadth and vivacity that will ensure an attention which an age of popular literature denies to what is called ' stiff theology. Moreover, the controversy regarding the person and nature of our Blessed Lord is essentially changed in form from what it was when Bull and Waterland appeared as defenders of the faith. And if the works of those eminent divines are less studied and appreciated, it is not because their writings have lost their value or their point, but because the animus of the age, both in the attack and the defence of sacred
subjects, is altered. It is no paradox to say that theological questions are no longer treated simply theologically. impatient of definition and dogma, as they are of authority. The grand limitations with which the mind of a more reverend and less critical age surrounded and protected the verities committed to its keeping, are disdained. Religion is desired apart from theology, Christianity apart from the Church. Faith untrammeled by creeds, historical portraiture critically divested of everything supernatural—these are the current utterances of the inquiring world. A clever sympathiser with the present forms of doubt describes the condition of religious thought:
Between the authority of the Church and the authority of the • Bible, the testimony of history and the testimony of the Spirit, the ascertained facts of science and the contradictory facts
which seem to be revealed, the minds of men are tossed to and * fro, harassed by the changed attitude in which scientific
investigation has placed us all towards accounts of supernatural occurrences.' (Froude's Miscellaneous Writings). Or, as Mr. Liddon (Lect. iv. p. 229) puts it, 'You must choose, men 'seem to say, between history and dogma: you must choose 'between history, which can be verified, and dogma, which belongs to the sphere of inaccessible abstractions.
The character and value of Mr. Liddon's volume will be best understood by describing the order and method with which he meets the various objectors. That it is designed principally to meet the more modern forms of unbelief, is stated in the preface; and this constitutes its primary usefulness to the modern student.
The lectures open with the great question which our Lord Himself addressed to the Apostles, 'Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am ? ' and the various answers of heresy, with the answer of the Church Catholic, are enumerated. The theories of rationalists and philosophers and of Churchmen, are resolved into the three following forms:
"The Humanitarian, the Arian, and the Catholic. Practically, indeed, these three answers may be still further reduced to two—the first and the third : for Arianism no less than Sabellianism is really a form of the Humanitarian or naturalist reply to the question. Arianism does indeed admit the existence of a pre-existent Being who became incarnate in Jesus, but it parts company
with the Catholic belief by asserting that this Being is himself a creature, and not of the very substance of the supreme God. Arianism, therefore, is really at most a resting-point for minds which are sinking from the Catholic creed downwards to pure Humanitarianism, or which are feeling their way upwards from the depths of Ebionitism or Socinianism towards the Church. This intermediate, transient, and essentially unsubstantial character of the Arian position was indeed made plain in theory by the vigorous analysis to which the heresy was subjected on its first appearance by S. Athanasius, and again in the last century whien, at its endeavour to make a home for itself in the Church of England, it
was crushed out, under God, mainly by the genius and energy of the great Waterland.'-P. 25.
Thus having cleared the way, by lopping off what is so perplexing to the student on first approaching this great controversy-viz. the tangled maze of heresies and the prolific growth of error concerning the true nature of our Lord—the question which the Lectures propose is resolved into this alternative : Is Jesus the Son of Man,' very God of very God, as the Catholic Church hath ever held, or not? Because anything short of God, as Arianism would imply, or anything even more than human, which the modern æsthetic school would allow, equally fail to satisfy these necessary tests among others, that our Saviour is what His mission and office, and His own recorded self-assertion declare that He must be. As anything short of God, He cannot be that true and proper object of worship, both in heaven and in earth, which the Bible and the Church alike witness that He hath been and is. As only something more than human, He does not, and He cannot, satisfy the needs of faith. He could not have the right wellnigh to engross the 'vision, the love, the energy of the human soul.' For not ' Christ's teachings alone, not even His redemptive work alone, 'but emphatically and beyond all else, the Person of the Divine 'Redeemer is proposed by St. Paul to Christians as that upon 'which their souls are more especially to gaze, in an ecstasy of
chastened and obedient love' (p. 512). And we must refer to Mr. Liddon's pages in Lect. iv. and vi., where the cumulative evidence of our Lord's persistent self-assertion' is carefully arranged. He reminds his hearers --using the words of a book which we may notice further on, in connexion with the phases of modern thought upon this great subject—that though many may deny or refuse to believe the record of our Lord's words as accurate or trustworthy, especially in those more specific assertions recorded by St. Johu, that "We cannot deny that our 'Lord used words which have substantially the same meaning. We cannot deny that He called Himself King, Master, and
Judge of Men; that He promised to give rest to the weary and 'the heavy laden ; that He instructed His followers to hope for life, from feeding on His body and His blood.' (Ecce Homo).
But one of the especial services which Mr. Liddon has rendered consists in the noble and effective protest which, repeatedly throughout the lecture, he utters in behalf of the necessity of distinctive and dogmatic teaching on the essentials of the Catholic Faith, and against the possibility of permitting equivocal language concerning the Godhead to pass without condemnation. It is impossible not to be struck, as we study the early history
of the Christian faith, with the tender yet laborious accuracy with which the Church endeavoured to guard the sacred deposit. Scoffers may amuse themselves with 'deriding the furious con'tests that the difference of a simple diphthong excited between 'the Homoousians and the Homoiousians;' hut in that difference lay the keystone of belief in our Saviour's divinity. And the patient, unyielding exactness of Athanasius is a mark not of ingenious stubbornness, or, as it would be termed now, of an .autocratic and priestly temper,' but of the anxiety of the Church as to the remotest consequences of any deviation; and likewise of the amount of saving doctrine which depended upon the truth, the exact truth, being preserved. It is not, then, a needless task to insist upon theological accuracy as one of the wants, as well as one of the defects of our day. A speculative age, impatient of dogmas and of 'inferential theology,' bent rather upon seeking analogies than upon discriminating distinctions, is ever liable to undervalue this careful exactness. For example, the popular tendency of the present day is an unconscious Sabellianism. To represent the Trinity as a set of relations in which the Godhead was pleased to manifest its presence, rather than to insist upon the distinct personality of each divine member of the Trinity, is just the confusion which this popular neglect of theological accuracy is certain to give rise to. Or take another not uncommon error, indulged in quite as much from ignorance as from purpose, and certainly without any notion of its legitimate consequences. The worship of the Son has been defended, as by Archbishop Whately and other eminent names, on the ground simply of having been prescribed and authorized, instead of vindicated, as the early Church was so careful to do, on His inherent divinity. Yet it was upon this ground that the Church repelled the subtleties of Sabellius. Moreover, this vindication of the worship of our Lord led the Church to the mysteries of His personality, and His eternal sonship: 'Ever Son,
. therefore ever Father.' The worship of Christ is not, as the Arians would admit, because authorized and appointed, because He might represent God, but because He is God: 'the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person.' Hence a careful study of the early heresies, and of the marvellously careful manner in which the Church met each fresh and questionable theory, cannot be too highly recommended. The history, sad as it sometimes is, exhibits a providential care in the Church, tracking, as with an inspired sagacity, each latent tendency to error, imperceptible perhaps at first, but imperilling, if allowed to develop, either the worship or the redemptive efficacy of the Eternal Sacrifice.
But in opposition to this it is often pleaded that this dogmatic
and definite teaching is very different from the pure and simple truth which sufficed the Apostles and their converts: that the confession of the eunuch, which was deemed sufficient by S. Philip, is a striking contrast to the overloaded refinings and inferences of the Nicene decrees.
Be it so.
The Church would have been well content, yea, thankful, to have been always
a witness to the truth, without the necessities of inferential theology. To have accepted Christ as the Son of God, and as God and One with the Father to have worshipped Him, as from the Mount of Ascension had been the undoubted practice, without controversy' and without the necessity of dogma, would have been her joy and her glory.
Heresy forced definition upon her: heresy endangering what was already the belief and the practice of Christians from the beginning obliged councils to assemble and to put forth decrees ; and thus arose the whole body of inferential theology.
But heresy was also dangerously inferential; and this was another cause. Grant, for a moment, the tenet of Arius in that more plausible form which seemed at first so logically consistent, and to give so little cause for the vast ferment that arose ; and what gradually follows ? First, as remarked already, the worship in which the Church had been wont unshrinkingly to join, became chargeable with idolatry because offered to a creature, no matter how high, how glorious, or how transcendent beyond all created beings that object might be. It was not God; it was another, of another substance, and existing only by the will of Him who gave the first commandment. In like manner the perfect sinlessness of Jesus was liable to be affected. For the Arians themselves, when asked whether the Word of God, not being God, might be perverted as the devil was, shrunk not from answering in the affirmative : since by nature He is liable to change. Or take what Waterland describes as 'the precarious existence of God the Son on the Arian hypothesis,' and another fatal inference succeeds. Mr. Liddon, in a note, quotes
, a story which we make no apology for repeating here.
· Bishop Van Mildert quotes from Mr. Charles Butler's Historical Account of Confessions of Faith,' a remarkable report of Dr. Clarke's conference with Dr. Hawarden in the presence of Queen Caroline. After Dr. Clarke had stated his system at great length and in very guarded terms, Dr. Hawarden asked his permission to put one simple question, and Dr. Clarke assented.
Then,” said Dr. Hawarden, “ I ask, can God the Father annihilate the Son and the Holy Ghost ? Answer me, yes or no.” Dr. Clarke continued for some time in deep thought, and then said it was a question which he bad never considered.'
Now these are instances of inferential heresy taken only from one point, viz. the Arian error. But they show that inferential