« AnteriorContinua »
DEAN OF WURZBURG, AND LATE PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN,
WITH A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR,
PRECEDED BY AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE STATE OF PROTESTANTISM AND CATHOLICISM IN
JAMES BURTON ROBERTSON. ESQ.
TRANSLATOR OF SCHLEGEL'S PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY.
THE DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES
AMONG CATHOLICS, LUTHERANS,
AND THE REFORMED.
DIFFERENCES IN RESPECT TO THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH.
§ XXXVI.-Notion of the Church. Combination of Divine and human elements in her. Infallibility of the Church.
It has, undoubtedly, excited surprise, and it has even been made a matter of reproach against us by wellmeaning readers, that we have not, prior to all the subjects here discussed, treated of the article of Church authority. For it appears a matter of self-evidence, that any discussion respecting the doctrines of a confession, should be postponed to the enquiry into the authority which that confession follows, and the sources from which it derives its tenets. In fact, this appears indeed to be self-evident, if we merely look at the matter from without; and such an appearance has misled many. But, as we have made it our duty everywhere to trace the inward bond of connexion pervading
all the details of the subject treated by us, and forming them into one living connected whole, we saw ourselves compelled to accord the precedence to the matter giving light before that which receives it, and to the inwardly determining principle before that which is determined; and precisely for this reason we here insert the article on the Church, and the authoritative sources of the different confessions. History teaches us, that out of the pale of the Church, from the earliest Egyptian Gnostic, down to the two general superintendants of Weimar and Gotha,* Messrs. Röher, and Bretschneider, † Holy Writ never enjoyed the authority, which it must lay claim to among Christians, of determining by its purport their modes of thinking. On the contrary, they were always preconceived opinions
* See Röhr, Letters on Rationalism, p. 15. The writer, after asserting that in matters of faith and in the adoption of religious doctrines, reason alone decides, goes on to say, "The Bible is, in his estimation, nothing more than any other book. He holds its declarations to be valid only when they are in accordance with his own convictions; and these declarations do not constitute the ground of determination, for these depend on their own rational proofs, but serve merely as an illustration, that others also, wise men of antiquity, have so thought and believed."
† See Bretschneider's "St. Simonianism and Christianity, or Critical Exposition of the St. Simonian religion, its relation to the Christian Church, and of the state of Christianity in our times." Leipzig, 1832. As the result of the progress of intelligence in theological matters, in modern times, we are told by this author, "Not only is the interpretation of Scripture to be abandoned to science, but even the contents of Scripture discovered by such interpretation are to be estimated according to the sciences." This assertion, more closely analyzed, would signify that the sum total of all the truths, which the sciences in general, metaphysical as well as empirical, had brought forth, or might yet bring forth, as common property, are the standard for estimating the contents of the Bible. What then is the Deity in the opinion of Mr. Bretschneider? And what will he be yet?
-opinions derived from sources extraneous to Christianity, that were made the standard for estimating the authority of Scripture, the extent of that authority, and the mode of its use, although this might not always be so openly and candidly confessed, as in the case of the two above-mentioned rationalists. Several of the smaller religious sects,-the Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Swedenborgians, and others, are in modern times irrefragable vouchers for the truth of what is here asserted. As regards Luther, he by no means first abandoned the faith in the Catholic doctrine of the Church, and of the relation of the same to Holy Writ, and then changed what he found reprehensible in the dogmas of the Church. Still less did he make use of the principles, according to which he formed his theory of the Church, to deduce from them his other doctrines. On the contrary, the very reverse took place in both respects. In regard to the first assertion, it is well known that the earliest attacks of Luther were by no means directed against the principle of the Catholic Church and her authority; nay, he declared himself at the outset ready to submit his peculiar doctrines to the judgment of the Church, and he had to endure a grievous struggle with his conscience, whereof he himself has given us a most interesting description, until he at length obtained a melancholy victory, and until the troubled spirit departed from him. Had the Catholic Church agreed to recognize his doctrine, he in his turn would ever have acknowledged her authority. And assuredly, as far as he was concerned, he would have found no difficulty in uniting two things so contradictory, as his dogma and the Catholic Church; and, as he had often succeeded in coupling, as a peaceful pair, two things inwardly opposed to each other, so he