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JULY ), 1848.
THE SEARCH AFTER INFALLIBILITY.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE FATHERS TO THE ROMAN DOGMA OF
VIII.-ST. AUGUSTINE. DR. O'CONNELL quotes the following extract from St. Augustine without any introductory remark whatsoever. I shall give the original with his translation:
Neque enim natæ sunt hæreses, et For neither have heresies, and certain quædam dogmata perversitatis illaque- perverse doctrines which ensnare souls, antia animas et in profundum præcipi- sprung up but by mal-interpretation of tantia, nisi dum Scripturæ bonæ intelli- the Holy Scriptures; and what is badly gantur non bene; et quod in eis non bene understood is rashly and boldly asserted. intelligitur, etiam temere et audacter Wherefore, my beloved, in things in asseritnr. Itaque, charissimi, valde caute which we are but little children in comhæc audire debemus, ad quæ capienda prehending, let us listen to with great parvuli sumus ; et corde pio et cum tre- caution and pious heart, and, as the more, sicut scriptum est, hanc tenentes Scriptures say, with trembling, let us regulam sanitatis, ut quod secundum adhere to the sound rule-to be glad in fidem qua imbuti sumus, intelligere va- whatsoever we are able to understand in laerimus, tanquam de cibo gaudeamus: accordance with the faith wherewith we quod autem secundum sanam fidei regu- have been imbued; but as to whatsoever lamintelligere nondum potuerimus, dubi- we may not, as yet, be able to undertationem auferamus, intelligentiam dif- stand in accordance with the sound rule feramus ; hoc est, ut etiam si quid sit of faith, to put aside all doubt whatever nescimus, bonum tamen et verum esse but that it is good and true. minime dubitemus. Et ego, fratres, qui suscepi loqui vobis, cogitandas sam a vobis qui susceperim, et quæ susceperim: suscepi enim tractanda divina homo, spiritaalia carnalis, æterna mortalis. Etiam a me, charissimi, longe sit vana Far be it from me, your pastor, all vain præsumptio, si volo sanus in domo Dei presumption, if I would have my conVol. XXXIV.-July, 1848,
conversari, quæ est Ecclesia Dei vivi, versation as a sacred teacher in the columna et firmamentum veritatis: pro house of God, which is His Church, the modulo meo capio quod vobis appono; pillar and ground of Trutb.* ubi aperitur, pascor vobiscum; ubi clauditur, pulso vobiscum.
This passage is produced by Dr. O'Connell as a proof that St. Augustine “reprobates the individual examination of holy Scripture." The question, therefore, before us is, does it really prove this ? St. Augustine is here speaking of the words of the Gospel, in which we are told that the Jews sought to kill our blessed Lord, “ because He had not only broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” And in reference to our Lord's reply to this accusation, (John, v. 19,) he remarks, that it was intended to excite their minds, and disturb their preconceived opinions, in order that they might become sensible of their ignorance, or their malice, and be led to seek to the true Physician—“Adversus hanc eorum calumniam, venientem vel de ignorantia, vel de malitia, loquitur Dominus non omnino quod capiant, sed unde agitentur et conturbentur, et fortasse vel conturbati medicum quærant.” The Jews, in fact, as he afterwards intimates, had reasoned from true principles : (for it was clearly a fearful blasphemy for a man to make himself equal with God;) but they did not know that our Lord, although a man, was also very God. St. Augustine therefore says, (what is fearfully true,) that heresies and other perverse doctrines, ensnaring souls and casting them into hell, have their foundation in a bad interpretation of the good Scriptures, and in a bold and daring assertion of what is thus wrongly understood. But what is his conclusion from this? If he had been of Dr. O'Connell's mind, he ought, one would think, to have inferred, “therefore let us beware of all individual examination of those good Scriptures from which evil interpretations are so easily drawn.” But instead of this he argues, “ Therefore let us be cautious, let us suspect ourselves, let us remember that in these things we are but as children, let us adhere to the only safe rule, which is this, to receive as wholesome food, whatsoever we are able to understand in accordance with the faith we have been taught; and to suspend our judgment in whatsoever we are unable to reconcile with that faith, believing, however, that whether we can understand it or no, the Scripture nevertheless is good and true.”
This is a brief paraphrase of the passage quoted by Dr. O'Connell, which contains assuredly no reprobation of individual examination of the Scriptures: it is part of a short sermon on
Dr. O'Connell appends to this passage the following reference to the works of St. Augustine : “ Trac, T. 3. c. xviii. in Joan Evg.” This ought to be, In Joann. Evang. Tract. xviii. p. 1. (Opp. Ed. Bened. tom. iii. part 2. p. 429.)
the text, “ The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do,”—words which at first sight, and in the hands of a rash or presumptuous interpreter, might seem inconsistent with our faith in the Deity of our Lord; and therefore St. Augustine exhorts his hearers, in reference to such mysterious sayings of the Scripture, to remember that in these things we are but as children; and to believe that even though we should be unable to reconcile them, the Scripture is always capable of being reconciled with the faith, and the faith with the Scripture.
The only thing reprobated here is the spirit of rash and daring dogmatism, which would presumptuously draw hasty inferences from a mysterious or difficult passage of Scripture, not waiting to compare it with other passages, or with the fun. damental principles of the Christian faith. But Dr. O'Connell, as usual, assumes, that there can be no individual examination of Scripture, without this kind of gross abuse which no person contends for or defends, least of all the church of England. The rule of soundness (regula sanitatis) of St. Augustine is our rule also—we earnestly impress it upon all who are engaged in the study of the Scriptures, and we exemplify it in the soundness and moderation of our formularies and doctrines; nay, we hold that not even the church itself, much less individuals, "may so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another."* Nor are we insensible to the danger of those who, in carnal pride and self-conceit, undertake to interpret the Scriptures for themselves : “ The unlearned and unstable, (saith St. Peter,)” to use the language of one of our Homilies,“ pervert the holy Scripture to their owne destruction. Jesus Christ, (as St. Paul saith) is to the Jewes an offence, to the Gentiles foolishnes: But to God's children, aswell of the Jewes as of the Gentiles, He is the power and wisedome of God. The holy man Simeon saith, that He is set forth for the fall and rising againe of many in Israel. As Christ Jesus is a fall to the reprobate, which yet perish through their owne default: so is His Word, yea the whole Booke of God a cause of damnation unto them through their incredulity. And as He is a rising up to none other than those which are God's children by adoption, so is His Word, yea the whole Scripture, the power of God to salvation to them only that doe believe it. Christ himselfe, the Prophets before Him, the Apostles after Him, all the true ministers of God's holy word, yea every word in God's Booke, is unto the reprobate, the savour of death unto death.”+
* Art. 20.
† An information for them which take offence at certaine places of the holy Scripture ; Part II.
If Dr. O'Connell had found such a passage as this in St. Augustine, it would doubtless have been paraded as an indubitable proof that individual examination of the Scriptures was a very bad thing, and utterly reprobated by the ancient Fathers. But if we are to understand by a reprobation of individual examination of the Scriptures, that the discipline of the primitive church prohibited the perusal of the Scriptures to the laity, the passage quoted by Dr. O'Connell from St. Augustine, when fairly considered, proves beyond a question that this was not the case. For if so, the caution given by St. Augustine to his hearers would have been unnecessary. Instead of giving them a rule, to enable them, in reading the Scriptures, to escape the dangers of a false interpretation, he ought rather to have congratulated them on not being in any way exposed to such a danger, inasmuch as the Scriptures were wisely withheld from them altogether by the discipline of the church. But instead of this, the rule he lays down presupposes that they had a full and free access to the Scriptures : for he tells them that the sound rule of interpretation is, to remember always that in such matters we are but children, and therefore to rejoice whenever we are able to understand any difficult passage so as to reconcile it with the fundamental articles of the faith; and whenever we are not able to do this, to put aside all doubt, and to believe that even though we cannot understand it, the Word of God is always consistent with goodness and truth.
The testimony of St. Augustine, therefore, clearly makes nothing in favour of Dr. O'Connell's doctrine, but proves beyond a question that the study of the Scriptures, notwithstanding the admitted danger of erroneous interpretations, was by no means interdicted to the church of that time,
IX.-ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA.
In the testimony which Dr. O'Connell produces from the writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria, we have a curious and very instructive instance of the manner in which he has manufactured his authorities at second hand.
Messrs. Berington and Kirk* have quoted the following passage from the writings of this father :
“He (John of Antioch) grieves all the bishops, both in the east and in the west, (saying) that the word concerning Christ is not orthodox, but perverted. But it suffices for a demonstration and refutation of these things, that they have never been said by one in the churches, as they are set down in the expositions of this man.—Ad Clerum C. P. col. 333, t. iii. Labb. Concil.”
* Faith of Catholics, vol. i. p. 384.