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REMARKS ON ST. PAUL'S GOOD DEPOSIT WITH TIMOTHY.
Much, of late materially involving the Principle of the Church of England, touching an appeal to Primitive Antiquity, has been said by Mr. Keble in a Visitation Sermon, respecting St. Paul's Good Deposit with Timothy.
That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us. 2 Tim. i. 14.
The true question, I think, lies within a very narrow compass.
If, in the exposition of this passage, it be only meant by Mr. Keble; that, For the sure interpretation of Doctrinal Scripture, we must resort to the Unanimity of Primitive Antiquity, which, in the first instance, enjoyed the vocal teaching of the Apostles themselves : then, I apprehend the position taken up will not be disputed by any consistent member of the Anglican Church; though, peradventure, he may marvel, why so very plain and simple a matter should have been veiled by the preacher in such a cloud of mystification.
But, if it be meant by Mr. Keble, in accordance with some of the matters communicated by the Oxford Tracts for the Times ; that, In the oral teaching of St. Paul's Deposit, Prayers for the Dead, as recommended by Tertullian at the close of the second century and as adopted very extensively in the fourth century, were prescribed or sanctioned ; that the Eucharist, respecting which our Lord said Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me, ought, on the authority of the same Deposit, to be administered to infants and to persons in a state of dying insensibility, who, it is presumed, are physically incapable of obeying the divine injunction of REMEMBRANCE; or that The Sacraments, and not Faith, still by virtue of the Apostle's oral teaching, are to be deemed the appointed instrument of Justification, though the erring Church of England has unhappily called upon her sons to maintain that Faith itself is not merely AN instrument, but even the ONLY instrument : then, I
suppose, we have a clear right to demand some explicit historical testimony, that such were really the esoteric doctrines of the Good Deposit orally communicated to Timothy, however they may seem to differ from the exoteric doctrines advanced and inculcated in the merely written word of God.
Mr. Keble does not specifically tell us, what doctrines and dependant practices were confided to Timothy in the Good Deposit: but his language, according to its most natural construction, seems to intimate, that this same Deposit constitutes a mass of Apostolical Tradition, which stands upon a foundation (as Mr. Keble expresses himself) distinct from and independent of Scripture, and which communicates a body of truth and duty not contained in Scripture.
If, however, such be not the intended import of Mr. Keble's language, I can only say, that the grand characteristic of his phraseology is a curious infelicity.
There is not, I think, much difficulty in giving a sufficiently plain accouut of St. Paul's Good Deposit (Try káany Trapalnkny), which Timothy was solemnly charged to keep or to guard through the Holy Ghost, and which the learned preacher has so industriously puzzled and mystified.
I. All the great truths of the Gospel were, doubtless, communicated orally BEFORE any of them were committed to writing : because the vocal preaching of the Gospel was ANTECEDENT to the composition of any of the Books of the Testament.
Hence, agreeably to the truism propounded by Irenèus, if the Apostles had not left us the Scriptures, we could only, as best we might have followed the order of Tradition delivered by them to those who received from them the charge of the Churches. Iren. adv. bær. lib. iii. c. 4. p. 172.
But then, in the good providence of God, the Apostles, or men deputed and supervised by the Apostles have left us the Written Word.
Hence, the case before us now assumes an entirely different aspect. For a question forthwith arises; the very question, in truth, between the Roman Church, speaking by the mouth of the Tridentines, and the Reformed Churches, unanimously speaking in their Articles or in their Confessions, a question, I say, forthwith arises: Whether traditions appertaining to Faith and Dependent practice, such, for instance, as those which inculcate the invocation of saints and the veneration of images, respecting which inculcation not a syllable is said in Scripture, are, as the Tridentines speak, to be received and reverenced concurrently and EQUALLY with Scripture; or Whether, as the Anglican Church maintains, Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that, whatsoever is not read therein nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith. Compare Concil. Trident. sess. iv. p. 7, 8, with sess. xxv. p. 507, 508: and see Art. Anglican vi.
1. Concerning this question, to suppose, that any doctrines were orally delivered by the Apostles which were not AFTERWARD consigned to the written custody of the inspired Books of the New Testament, is, in itself, so monstrous and so incredible, inasmuch as it defeats the very end and object of a written document, that the wonder is, how the Tridentines could ever have seriously maintained such a palpable incongruity.
(1.) But, in truth, of the precise point before us, we have the direct determination of the Ancients : who must have known the familiar fact, if the Apostles had orally taught any doctrines which were never committed to writing.
With one consent, they assure us : that Nothing is be received, either concerning Christ or concerning his Church or concerning any other matter which appertains either to Faith or