Our Lord Jesus Christ did not merely present a revelation of the nature of God and His relations to man for the benefit of a few particular people, living in a particular corner of the world: His revelation was intended for all mankind of every nation and every time. His method was to select a few persons and to charge them with the task of proclaiming Him to the rest of the world. They formed the nucleus of an organised society whose function it was to bear witness to Him. Even before His coming it had been realised to a limited extent by the Jewish nation that a knowledge of the one true God carried with it the duty of preaching Him to the world: the Jew outside Palestine was normally an energetic missionary to the Gentiles. Although much of this propaganda was the work of individual Jews, yet it centred on the religious organisation of the Jewish nation; that organisation consisted of local synagogues, each of which owed a rather indefinite allegiance to the supreme Council of the nation, the Sanhedrin, and paid its contributions to the Temple at Jerusalem. It is difficult to see how the Christian revelation could have been preached to the world except through the medium of an organised society charged with this duty. The fact that now, in spite of the divisions of Christendom, the Gospel is preached to all the world, is due to the fact that the various Christian bodies recognise this duty of acting as if each of them bad inherited the duty laid by Jesus upon His first followers: several of them of course claim to be the only genuine heirs of those followers and deny the right of others to teach in His name. In spite of this, the divisions of Christendom are generally felt to be a grave hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel: it is now almost universally agreed that there ought to be a single Christian body, and that the existing divisions are gravely contrary to the intention of Our Lord.
Most Christians indeed would go further than this and hold that there is in fact only one society or organisation which has the right to preach in the name of Jesus, that body being the Holy Catholic Church. As to the exact nature of that body there is indeed the utmost controversy. Some would claim that all followers of Jesus are ipso facto members of that one body, at any rate if they have been admitted to it by baptism. Others hold that only one particular body has any right to the title: this is of course the claim of the Holy Roman Church, and formally at least of the Holy Orthodox Church of the East. Others would say that certain Christian bodies are within the one true Church, and therefore, although outwardly divided, are yet inwardly one, while other bodies are outside it. But on the main point almost all Christians are agreed, that there is in fact only one body, the Holy Catholic Church, which has the right to preach the Gospel, and that even though that body may not be visibly one at the present moment, yet its divisions are only external and apparent: inwardly it is one. Even so it is the duty of all Christians to labour for the removal of the external divisions. But this body has not only the duty of preaching the Gospel. It possesses a divine authority, arising from the fact that it is the body of Christ, animated by the indwelling power of God the Holy Ghost, given to it on the day of Pentecost. The purposes for which this authority is needed are several. In the first place it gives power to the preachers of the Gospel to proclaim their message aright. In the second place it empowers ministers of the Church to administer the Sacraments ordained by Our Lord. (Although many Christians bodies reject large portions of the Sacramental system of the Catholic Church, yet most of them would admit that their authority to administer those parts which they retain, in whatever sense they retain them, proceeds from the presence of the Holy Ghost in the particular body as part of the Catholic Church.) Further in virtue of his membership of the one Body the individual Christian has the power to enjoy the guidance of the Holy Ghost in his personal service of God.
So far there would be a general agreement among all Christians: but at this point the agreement ends. The main cause of the existing divisions of Christians is the question whether in addition to these functions exercised in the Church by the Holy Ghost, there is a further one by which He enables the Church to decide with absolute authority the true meaning of the one divine revelation given by Jesus, rejecting false explanations of it and verifying the attempts of Christian thought to grasp with increasing fulness the implications of the life and teaching of Jesus, His death and Resurrection. The body known in history as the Holy Catholic Church has always in fact claimed to possess such a power: and when the external unity of Christendom was broken by the schism between the East and the West (formally on a particular doctrinal development, actually on the method by which doctrinal development ought to be effected), the two divided bodies, each of which claimed that through the fault of the other it had now become the whole Church, still claimed the right to exercise it. At the Reformation, however, a new theory was put forward. It was urged that the Bible itself contained all that was necessary for the salvation of Christians. No doctrine that could not be clearly proved by the teaching of the Scriptures could be regarded as being part of the Christian faith: it could at best be a matter of pious opinion, while it was open to grave suspicion as a superstitious addition to it. Meanwhile the East and the West remained divided, not indeed on the question of the right of the Church to interpret with authority the implications of the Christian revelation, but on the manner in which the authority of the Church was to be exercised.
We have seen that the necessity of the Church as a body authorised to teach in the name of Jesus is generally admitted: we have now to consider the question whether this duty of teaching carries with it a duty of interpreting the implications of the original revelation of Jesus, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of the authority of the Church in this matter, the method by which it is exercised, and the extent to which the decisions made by the authority of the Church can claim the assent of all Christians. It will of course be observed that it has in earlier chapters of this book been assumed that the Church has in fact such an authority: it is the task of the following chapters to justify this assumption.
IT has already been noted that the Protestants of the Reformation rejected the whole conception of the necessity of the authority of the Church in interpreting Christian doctrine. They urged that all necessary truth was to be found in the Bible. Now we cannot say in advance that Our Lord could not have laid down a complete scheme of Christian theology and Christian morality, contained in a series of sacred books, which would have left no scope for the development of anything further. We can only say that in fact He did nothing of the kind. The Jewish nation indeed, when He appeared, believed that the whole revelation of God to man was contained in the sacred books of the Old Testament; but already they had been driven by their belief to various expedients by which they could appear to maintain their allegiance to the letter of the Law and yet expand it in order to meet what they regarded as the needs of the day. Our Lord rejected the whole conception. His religion is not the religion of a book, but the revelation of God in the form of a human life. He does not lay down a system; He issues a challenge, which His followers are to answer; "Whom say ye that I am? "He claims indeed to be the fulfilment of the earlier divine revelation given in the Old Testament; but he nowhere explains in detail the relation of his followers to that older revelation. He does not even definitely lay down whether they are still to obey the old Jewish Law or not; the point was left for His followers to decide.
Nor did the first generation of His followers arrive at any definite scheme of theology; the later books of the New Testament present us with the outlines which Christian theology was to follow, but they do not elaborate a definite system of Christian doctrine. In many of the controversies of the Christian Church both sides have quoted passages of Scripture calculated to support their view, and it is often hard to say that the orthodox party were better off as regards the number and suitability of the texts they quoted than their opponents. It is indeed true that the orthodox interpretation of the person of Our Lord and His relations to the Father, (the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation and the like) are the only interpretation of the Scriptures which are really compatible with their contents taken as a whole: but it is entirely erroneous to suppose that they are so self-evident in the pages of Scripture that it is possible for any Christian to find them there with absolute certainty; in point of fact many who profess themselves Christians have been led by the study of the Scriptures to an entirely erroneous view.
The error of the Reformers was not, however, entirely unnatural. At the time everyone accepted the conception of the Bible as an infallible oracle, in which the truth could be discovered immediately by all who sought it. The Roman Church indeed claimed that the truth could only be discovered if the Bible were interpreted in accordance with the traditional teaching of the Church, but did not deny that, if interpreted in accordance with that traditional teaching, infallible guidance could be obtained from the letter of the Scriptures. The Reformers on the other hand claimed that certain fundamental doctrines of Christianity were so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures that there could be no question of disputing them.
The real fact was that no serious theologians disputed these doctrines, and hence it was not noticed at the time that in fact there is scarcely a single orthodox Christian doctrine apart from the teaching that God is one, which is laid down in an exact verbal form in the Scriptures. The whole body of orthodox theology was arrived at as the result of centuries of controversy in which both sides believed quite genuinely that they were supported by a true interpretation of the Bible.
The deficiency of the Protestant view was not so clearly noticed as it might have been, owing to the fact that the Roman theologians allowed themselves to be diverted from their true case, the impossibility of proving even the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from the text of the Bible without some authoritative tradition as to the right way of interpreting it, into an attempt to justify the specific practices and teachings which the Reformers criticised by the quotation of isolated Scripture texts. This was a favourite weapon of the Reformers and is not yet entirely obsolete in Christian theology. The real weakness of the Protestant point of view first became manifest in the regions where Protestantism obtained the control of all organised religion. Immediately it began to break up into a number of warring sects, each appealing to the text of the Scriptures and claiming their own interpretation as the true one. In history the claim to appeal to the authority of Holy Scripture has, in fact, meant an appeal to Holy Scripture as interpreted by the theological system of some particular religious body. Nominally indeed it is claimed that the supreme authority is Holy Scripture as interpreted by the conscience of the individual Christian: in fact it has always meant the establishment of a system of theology, based on a particular conception of the true meaning of the Christian religion, as the one correct method of interpreting the Scriptures. Obviously this is simply to erect the new tradition or convention into the supreme standard of Christian authority.
The development of modern criticism of the Scriptures has made the claim to regard the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, as the infallible source of Christian doctrine more untenable than ever. It is quite clear that the books of the Bible are not simply the product of divine inspiration in the sense in which the term was formerly understood. They were not simply transcribed from a divine dictation, which left no scope for the individuality of the author. They are affected by personal peculiarities; in many cases they reflect the views of opposing sides in periods of controversy; there is even reason to suppose that in some cases the narrative of the life and teaching of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels has been affected by the controversies of the primitive Church. This development of learning renders more necessary than ever the recognition of some system of authority which will enable the Christian to interpret the Bible correctly: the attempt to establish the Bible as interpreted by the individual conscience as the sole authority of Christian faith and morals is seen more clearly than ever to be unworkable, since it involves the ability of the individual Christian to decide for himself which elements in it are of universal application, and which are the expression of the beliefs of a particular period of Jewish or Christian development. (It should be noted that the attempt to make the Bible the sole source of Christian authority does not concern matters of dogmatic belief alone, but the whole moral life. The appeal to the Bible may easily result and has often in the past resulted, in the denial of the right of the Christian to own any personal property or his right to defend himself against any form of aggression: it may equally well result in the assertion of his right to put to death all who do not share his religious views or to marry as many wives as he pleases.)
The attempt has been made in recent years to avoid the difficulty involved in the appeal to the Scriptures and the Scriptures only, by maintaining that the supreme authority is Our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in them. In point of fact this change of ground does not help matters. The revelation of Our Lord as recorded in the Scriptures does not, as we have seen, necessarily involve the orthodox system of Catholic theology as to His personality and His relations both to God and to mankind, in the sense that it is impossible for any one to read the New Testament without arriving at the orthodox interpretation. It gives the individual Christian no means of deciding whether some of Our Lord's commands are universal in their application, or only intended for those in certain states of life. (For instance it has always been held both by Catholics and orthodox Protestants that His prohibition of re-marriage after divorce is absolute, His prohibition of the possession of riches only intended for those who have a special vocation to a life of poverty: but it is very hard to see how this distinction can be justified apart from the belief that the Church has a right to decide in the matter). Moreover, although in the first instance Scriptural criticism in England was mainly concerned with the Old Testament, it is tending to concentrate more on the life and teaching of Jesus: it has claimed the right to test the geunineness of the Gospel narratives and even to question the value of that part which it admits to be genuine. For these reasons the attempt to establish the Scriptures as the infallible and immediate test of truth in all matters of faith and conduct is untenable. It is the unhappy result of controversy among Christians that it invariably emphasises points of difference and tends to obliterate points of agreement. For this reason it is perhaps desirable to point out that in fact the attempt of the Reformers to establish the authority of the Bible represents a quite genuine attempt to restore the balance of the Christian faith, at a time when such an attempt was sorely needed. The state of Christianity in the later Middle Ages will be considered in a later chapter, but it is necessary to consider here the permanent position of the Scriptures as a factor in the Catholic conception of Christian authority. Their position is not that of an immediately infallible collection of oracles, in the sense that any Christian can, by the appeal to any isolated text, establish with final certainty any article of faith or rule of conduct. They contain the account of the preparation of the Jewish nation by a continued series of partial revelations for the full revelation of God given to mankind in the person of Jesus, the narrative of His life, death and resurrection, which are the account of the full and perfect revelation of God to man and the redemption of man by God, and the record of the teaching of the first generation of Christians as to the life and work of Jesus. Since that teaching was accompanied by a special measure of divine inspiration, it was able to lay down permanently the lines which the subsequent teaching of the Church was bound to follow, if it was to be true to the original revelation on which it was based. For these reasons all Christian theology must be true to the Scriptures in the sense that nothing can be taught as of faith which is not explicitly stated in the Scriptures, or implied in what is explicitly stated in them. In this sense they are the source of all Christian doctrine; but they are not by themselves an authority which enables the individual Christian to decide on their true meaning and implication.
THE CHRISTIAN CONSCIOUSNESS
In certain popular treatises on Catholic theology it is sometimes possible to find an error exactly opposed to that which we have just been considering. Language is employed which seems to imply that it is the function of the authority of the Church to lay down what the Christian is bound to believe, and the function of the Christian to believe it. The whole process is described as though truth depended on the pronouncements made by ecclesiastical authorities with regard to it. This is obviously not the case. We have seen already that the authority of the Church is not unlimited: it is confined by the necessity of harmonising its pronouncements with the revelation of God given in the Scriptures.
This however is not its only limitation. We have already noticed that Our Lord does not lay down a system of doctrine: He presents Himself as a challenge. The first rudimentary version of a Creed is contained in St. Peter's reply, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," to His question, "Whom say ye that I am? "Our Lord appeals to those whom He has chosen as His immediate personal followers. They have facilities not available for others to answer the question. Their acquaintance with Him and their personal devotion to Him enable them to give a better answer than the rest of mankind. Now if we consider the method by which Christian beliefs have been formulated in the past, we shall find a precisely similar process at work. Christianity began with personal devotion to Jesus, based on the fact that in His death and resurrection alone could His followers obtain salvation: there was none other Name under heaven given among men. This devotion was at first content with very little doctrinal elaboration as to the precise nature of His personality and His relations to the God Whom He claimed as His Father.
This state of things could not, however, last for long. With the teaching of the Gospel there came the necessity for summarising exactly what the Christian community believed as to the life and death of Jesus, His relation to the older religion of the Jews, the nature of the salvation He had brought to man, and the way in which man could obtain that salvation. In this way formal Creeds began to grow up. They were soon employed not merely as summaries of Christian doctrine but also as means of excluding false conceptions of the Christian revelation.
Such false conceptions appeared from the first moment of the preaching of the Gospel to the heathen world. There were some who sought to bind the Church to permanent allegiance to the Jewish Law: there were others who sought to amalgamate it with the various religious movements of the age in which it was preached. Invariably the motives for which these false conceptions were rejected were the same. The reason for the rejection of the Jewish Law was the feeling that it was derogatory to the person and work of Jesus to suppose that those who believed in Him were also bound to obey the Jewish Law if they wished to obtain full salvation both in this world and the next. The reason for rejecting any attempt to amalgamate Christianity with other religions was the feeling that the position of Jesus was unique. He was the one redeemer of mankind, the one revelation of the one true God, not a partial and local revelation of a deity who had also revealed Himself in part through other similar semi-divine redeemers.
In later years the Church followed the same principle.
Beliefs were rejected which denied either the fulness of the Godhead of Jesus or the reality of His manhood, in part because they were inconsistent with the Scriptures, but mainly because they were felt to be inconsistent with that devotion which all Christians had always rendered to Him. Often, as has been noted, it is very hard to say that orthodox Christianity was right and the false system of teaching wrong, if we merely judge of the merits of the controversy by the words of the Scripture texts to which either side appealed. The justification of the orthodox attitude is that it was the correct explanation of the Scriptural revelation as interpreted by the devotion of Christians from the beginning. The false doctrines would have introduced an element different from the faith of earlier times; although such doctrines might not have been in formal contradiction of anything explicitly held by an earlier generation, they would have been incompatible with the devotional attitude of such generations to the person of Our Lord and the contents of His revelation.
We have thus arrived at a second limitation of the exercise of ecclesiastical authority. It is bound by the belief of the Christian consciousness as to the implications of the revelation of God in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This limitation has always been recognised in theory, although it has often been stated in misleading and inaccurate terms. For instance it is sometimes expressed in the rule quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. This rule (that the Catholic faith is that which has been believed at all times, in all places, by all Christians), is true, if it means that the Catholic faith in its historical development is limited to the rendering explicit of truths implied in the devotional consciousness of all Christians, although not consciously held by them. It is quite inadequate if it is held to mean that the Catholic faith is limited to that which all generations have consciously and explicitly believed. It is for instance quite idle to suppose that the orthodox belief as to the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Our Lord was explicitly present to the mind of St. Paul, who had no means of foreseeing the controversies which resulted in the formation of that doctrine. None the less Christian authority in its definitions of doctrine has always claimed that what it lays down is simply the universal faith of Christians; and although those responsible for such definitions may have supposed quite erroneously that the faith which they laid down had been explicitly held by earlier generations, yet they were right in claiming that the orthodox interpretation, and that alone, was compatible with the devotional implications of the universal consciousness of Christians, which the controversies of the time or the general needs of the Church forced them to formulate in explicit terms.
Thus the second limitation of the authority of the Church is that it must proceed from the religious consciousness of Christians as to the truths implied in Christian devotion. This view is sometimes expressed in the form that the ultimate source of Christian authority is the religious experience of Christians. Either phrase is liable to misunderstanding, and it is therefore necessary to observe several important qualifications.
The terms "religious consciousness" and "religious experience" must not be taken to refer to any abnormal variety of religious experience, such as either the sudden access of enthusiasm which is fairly commonly experienced during the opening stages of a serious attempt to lead the Christian life, or yet any of the more advanced forms of mystical communion with God. Still less must it be held to mean visions or other abnormal phenomena. Any complete system of Christian theology must of course recognise and account for these forms of experience; but they are not more than a very small and unimportant element in the sum total of the religious experience of Christians. That experience denotes primarily the ordinary processes of prayer and sacramental worship, with their proved efficacy to enable the Christian to grow in holiness and the love of God. The value of the religious life of the primitive Christians, as the means of producing a type of holiness greater than anything hitherto known in the world, was the main argument by which they converted the heathen around them; and to a less extent this was true of the Jewish religion before the preaching of the Gospel. The holiness of Christians has always been the main argument for Christianity. Now this holiness was from the first based upon devotion to the person of Our Lord; and it was the sense that anything but the orthodox account of the person of Jesus was incompatible with the devotion which Christians felt towards Him which was responsible for the rejection of the various false doctrines as to His nature and relation to God, which abounded in the early Christian centuries. The false teachings were in the first instance felt to be alien to the instinct of Christian devotion, before Christian theology had investigated the reasons for Which they could be seen to be false. In the same way the instinct of Christian devotion led to the offering of worship to the Saints: Christian theology only justified the practice after it had arisen. But in all cases this devotion proceeded from the normal development of the religious consciousness, not from any abnormal phenomena of mystical experience. Even where, as in a few cases, such phenomena have played a part in the growth and formulation of Christian doctrine, the Church has never regarded them as possessing any authority; where such experiences have been claimed as divine revelations, the Church has always exercised the right of testing them by their consonance with the general body of Christian doctrine, to reject them if incompatible with it, and only to accept them as incidental confirmations of truths which had been otherwise ascertained.
Again it has been noted that the Protestants of the Reformation claimed authority for the Scriptures, as interpreted by the individual conscience. The defect of this point of view is its failure to allow for the fact that no single human being can grasp the whole content of the Christian revelation. If it were possible to analyse the psychological value of the doctrines of Christianity to the devotional life of all the Christians in the world, we should find an infinite variety. An obvious and highly important instance of this inadequacy of the individual mind as a guide for the interpretation of the Christian religion may be found in the case of St. Paul, who states: "If we have known Christ after the flesh, henceforth we know Him no more." His meaning is that in view of the supreme importance of grasping correctly the work of Our Lord as a supernatural Redeemer, it is at least comparatively unimportant to care about Him as a human example. It is obvious that the Pauline conception by itself would be as defective as is the conception of those who see in Our Lord simply an example of human perfection and nothing more. It is not necessary here to enquire how far this isolated utterance can be taken to represent St. Paul's permanent outlook, or how far it is a highly emphatic utterance of the importance of Our Lord's work as a Divine redeemer, put into a somewhat startling form for purposes of controversy. It is enough to notice that these two aspects of Our Lord's work almost invariably tend to assume a different degree of importance in the religious outlook of different Christians, or indeed of the same Christian at different stages of his development. In the same way other aspects of Christian doctrine and practice, whether of fundamental importance or quite minor details, have different values for different people. Consequently the conception of Christianity present at any given moment to any individual Christian is very limited and one-sided. On the other hand the general religious outlook of a large body of Christian opinion will not suffer from this defect; what seems of little value to one will seem of the utmost value to another. Thus the religious consciousness of Christians as to the truths implied in Christian devotion, or the religious experience of Christians, must be taken to refer not to the private devotion of the individual Christian, but to the corporate religious experience of the whole Christian body.
It is from this corporate religious experience of the Christian body that the development of Christian doctrine and the rejection of false doctrinal systems has in fact proceeded. Thus it was the intuitive grasp of the fact that Christianity supplied a fulfilment of the religious aspirations of mankind which no other system of religion could give that led, under the guidance of the Apostles by the Holy Ghost, to the rapidity of its early progress. The same holds true of the development of particular portions of the Christian system. Even where, as has often been the case, developments have been accepted or rejected mainly as the result of the teaching of a single theologian or a group of theologians, yet the success or failure of such theologians has been due to the fact that their teaching has been felt to be the true expression of what all Christians have hitherto held, or to be fundamentally incompatible with it. (This point will be more fully considered later).
At the same time it is obvious that the value of the general acceptance or rejection of a particular element of Christian doctrine or practice by the corporate religious consciousness of Christians will very largely depend for its value on the extent to which that corporate consciousness represents a wide variety of intellectual and social development, and also on the extent to which it is arrived at by the free judgment of the individual Christians whose religious experience makes up the whole sum of the corporate consciousness.
One of the strongest arguments for the truth of Christianity is the fact that it was first preached in a period in which races of the most divergent types and temperaments were combined under a single system of government, and found itself able to appeal with equal success to every one of these types; and yet this success was achieved not by the assistance of any kind of governmental compulsion, but in the teeth of official persecution. It is obvious that the value of a general consent of a wide body of Christian opinion will be very much diminished, if it is entirely made up of the opinions of Christians whose whole outlook on life is more or less identical, and who are content to accept without question a generally dominant intellectual tradition; it will be very much increased if it is composed of the opinions of those who on every other matter follow absolutely different lines of intellectual belief. In the same way it will be very much reduced if the apparent consent is due to the fact that ecclesiastical authority is constantly vigilant in suppressing any expression of independent thought, and is able to make its attempts at suppression effective; it will be increased, if it is the result of free expression of opinion. Although hitherto we have treated the consensus of the corporate religious consciousness of Christians as if it were a purely natural growth, due to the instinctive re-action of the minds of individual Christians towards new interpretations of the Christian revelation, yet it must never be supposed that it is simply a natural phenomenon of the human intellect. It must always be remembered that the "instinctive re-action "is the work of the Holy Ghost operating through the religious consciousness of the faithful and guiding them into the fuller understanding of the truth.
The effect of this guidance will not of course be confined to the instinctive consciousness of a large number of individuals. It will often manifest itself through the teaching of Christian writers and theologians. In some cases new developments of Christian doctrine have proceeded from a movement among quite uneducated Christians; in other cases they have proceeded from great Christian teachers. In the same way false developments have sometimes proceeded from the ignorant, sometimes from the learned. But in either case the acceptance or rejection of such developments has been due to the general feeling of the Christian consciousness that the new development was, or was not, a legitimate development of the faith hitherto held by all Christians. The function of Christian learning is to formulate new currents of thought and to adjust them to the permanent deposit of the faith, selecting what is true in them and rejecting what is false. In doing this it is continually enlarging and enriching the contents of Christian devotion; but its ability to do this with success will depend on the power of the theologian to adapt his teaching to the demands of the Christian consciousness. His learning alone will be of little value, if it is seen that his teaching is in fact subversive of the whole devotional life of Christianity. It is perhaps worth noting at this point that for precisely this reason the possession of learning alone without great personal piety will be of little value to the theologian. Pure learning will never compensate for the lack of spiritual insight into the meaning of the Christian religion for the simple reason that it it deals with spiritual facts, which the intellect alone cannot grasp. Thus it has often happened that men of great learning have brought disaster to the Church by allowing themselves to be led away by personal ambition or a lack of the spirit of Christian charity. They have sought not the glory of God and the establishment of the truth, but their own personal triumph in controversy and the overthrow of their enemies. The disasters of the Reformation were mainly due to the failure of both sides to detach themselves from the desire of obtaining an immediate triumph for the causes they represented. The abundance of learning at the time could not compensate for the general lack of Christian charity; and where charity is absent, the guidance of the Holy Ghost is rendered ineffective. (A similar phenomenon is of course noticeable in other fields of learning: the desire to obtain a controversial victory has often hindered the progress of science).
It has been noted that the consensus of the corporate consciousness of Christians depends very largely for its value on the fact that it represents a wide variety of temperament and outlook on life. None the less its value also depends on the fact that it is the consensus of those who accept the general Catholic system of faith and practice. It has been seen that the doctrinal system of Catholicism grew up out of the consciousness of Christians as to the truths implied in the Christian devotional life. Obviously, however, only those who are familiar with the Catholic system of devotion by personal spiritual experience are competent to judge whether some new development is or is not compatible with that system. The object of the Catholic religion is to bring the soul into communion with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ by the means instituted by Him; only those who have learnt its power to do so can decide whether some new form of teaching is really compatible with the life of communion with God which they enjoy, or not. This claim may perhaps offend the generally current view that any one, who in any sense calls himself a Christian, has a right to express an independent opinion on all matters of the Christian faith; but it is manifestly reasonable. The person, who, with no spiritual knowledge of the Catholic religion, lays down the law as to what the teaching of the Church ought to be, is in fact talking of a subject with which he has not the remotest acquaintance.
This chapter may be summarised by the statement that the ultimate source of authority within the Church is God the Holy Ghost, guiding the corporate consciousness of the whole body of those who accept the Catholic system of faith and practice into a fuller and deeper understanding of the truths implied in their religious experience and devotional life. That experience and life are based on the revelation of God to man in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
Manifestly the corporate consciousness of Christianity is by itself an inarticulate body of opinions or partial apprehensions of the truth as revealed in Our Lord. It is the supreme authority for the interpretation of His person and work, yet by itself it cannot find any means of articulate expression. Consequently it is necessary that there should be some system by which it can express the postulates on which its existence depends. It is on the historical processes by which it has found the means of doing so that the greater part of the modern controversies as to authority in the Church are centred.
A great deal of confusion in the discussion of the whole problem, has been caused by the failure of the various parties in it to grasp the fact that the Christian faith has from the first been a process of development. It has developed from an original deposit of truth, and all new developments must, by implication at least, be contained in that original deposit. But the various sides have constantly tended to bring forward evidence intended to show that their own particular point of view was in fact held explicitly by the first generation of Christians as part of the original deposit of the faith, or at least that it was so held at a very early period of Christian development; or on the other hand they have attempted to produce evidence that the point of view of an opponent was explicitly denied by all Christians at a time when even the germ from which it developed had hardly been seen to exist. Since the main ground of controversy has been the claim of the Holy Roman Church that the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter is the supreme authority for deciding in all questions concerning the belief and the moral life of all Christians, a whole system of controversial mythology has grown up around the person of St. Peter, as described in Holy Scripture or reliable historical tradition, and the early position of the See of Rome. Thus it is urged that Our Lord never recognised St. Peter as enjoying any special position as against the rest of His disciples; that in the promises which He is said to have made to St. Peter, He explicitly conferred on him and his successors in the See of Rome the full powers now claimed for the Pope; that St. James the Lord's brother and not St. Peter presided at the Council of Jerusalem; that St. Peter in person founded the Christian Church of Rome; that in fact he never visited Rome at all; that the earliest Christians regarded the Bishop of Rome as the supreme Bishop of the Catholic Church or that they never regarded him as enjoying any position of particular importance whatsoever. There is nothing so discreditable to modern scholarship as the manner in which it has allowed itself to be led into these and countless similar extravagances by the desire to prove some controversial side-issue.
As against this system of mythology we may now examine the actual facts. Our Lord on various occasions formally recognised St. Peter as enjoying a position of primacy among the disciples. He nowhere defined its scope, nor the mode, if any, in which it was to be transmitted to later generations of Christianity. St. Peter's primacy was recognised by the Apostolic Church, which none the less felt perfectly free to criticise him, if his actions seemed to call for criticism. St. Peter did not found the Roman Church, but went to Rome some time after St. Paul. The two Apostles worked in the city, probably at the head of two Christian communities, which except in so far as the two Apostles and their immediate personal attendants were concerned, had little connection with one another. (This point cannot be regarded as certain, but seems the most probable interpretation of the facts; the vast population of ancient Rome would render such a state of affairs easy). The two Apostles earned at Rome the crown of martyrdom, probably during the Neronian persecution. From the fact of their ministry there, and from the fact that Christianity had spread from Rome to the rest of Italy and the Western part of Europe (with the possible exception of the Rhone valley, which may have learnt Christianity from Asia Minor), the Church of the city enjoyed a special respect and veneration in those regions; while the growth of Christianity naturally increased the influence of the Church of the city which was the centre of the civilised world. The more Christians there were, the larger would be the number of those who had visited their brethren in Rome. From the first the position of the Roman Church rested on two foundations, the fact that it had witnessed the later ministry and death of the prince of the Apostles and the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the secular position of the city, (which of course was the reason which had led the two Apostles to work there).
It is therefore essential to abandon the mythological method of argument and to realise that the discovery of methods for the authoritative formulation of the Christian faith has been, like the Christian faith itself, a process of development. It was always recognised that the Apostles as the divinely appointed rulers of the Church (with St. Peter as their recognised leader), had the right to decide in the first instance what was implied in the teaching of Jesus and their experience of daily life in His society. This power they handed on to the Bishops as the representative rulers of the communities founded by them. The earliest controversies on Christian teaching were decided by local Bishops or groups of the Bishops of a whole area. Later, Councils were summoned, at which all Christian Bishops were present in person or by representation. The unwieldiness of these bodies, the difficulty of summoning them frequently, and their liability to domination by purely human motives led to the growth of the influence of the See of Rome; that influence rested in part on its historical association with St. Peter, the prince of the Apostles, partly on the wisdom with which various occupants of the See had acted in the theological controversies which accompanied the final definition of the Catholic doctrine of the person of Our Lord and His relations to God and man. None the less the formulation of these doctrines, which are the essential foundation of all Christian doctrine, were settled in the main by the voice of Councils representing the whole body of Christian Bishops.
In the period of the barbarian invasions the importance of the Roman See increased in the West, for the Roman Church was the one power which survived the general collapse of Roman civilization. But this growth of influence led to constant friction with the Eastern part of the Church, which culminated in the breach between Rome and Constantinople in 1054. There thus originated two distinct bodies, each claiming in theory to be the whole Church, each preserving the distinctive features of Catholic belief and worship.
From that date we can distinguish two main periods of development in Western Christendom. The first culminates in the Reformation; during this period the Papacy extends its influence over various spheres of human life and thought: the second stage is that which follows the Reformation, and is marked by the definite claim that the Pope, as the supreme pastor of all Christians, is infallible whenever in that capacity he makes any pronouncement in matters of faith or morals which are to be held as of faith by all Christians. The claim to infallibility was widely held before in the Roman communion, but never laid down as a formal part of the Christian faith; but the main feature of this second period is not in fact the extension of the authority of the Papacy by the formal claim to infallibility, so much as the limitation of the sphere over which the Church, as represented by'the Papacy, claims to wield authority. For the modern form of the Roman Catholic conception of the authority of the Church has tacitly abandoned all claim to jurisdiction in matters of political life or scientific thought, both being spheres in which at an earlier period the Church claimed the right to intervene. At the same time the immediate jurisdiction of the Roman Church in the religious life of Western Christendom has been widely extended, as against the authority of the local episcopate.
Now it is very certain that there is no test of a purely historical character which will enable us to discover whether the whole of this development is radically true or radically false. Historians have examined the whole matter, and failed to agree; but they have almost invariably assumed that the nature and function of the authority of the Church is something clearly ascertained and agreed on by all Catholics. We shall in the following chapters consider whether it is possible to suggest a method of testing the authority of the Church which may lead to a solution of the controversies of the past.
We have seen that the function of the authority of the Church is to formulate explicitly the truths involved in the religious consciousness of all Christians--to crystallize what would otherwise be an inarticulate mass of varying apprehensions of the revelation of God to man in the person of Jesus. The power which enables the Church to do this is the Holy Ghost, speaking through the organisation which possesses the right to speak in the name of the whole Christian body. At the same time it is generally assumed that since the organisation which speaks, whether Pope or Council, enjoys the right to speak with divine authority, the mere statement of any doctrine carries with it an immediate and oracular infallibility, which all Christians are bound to obey. Obviously this is a very sweeping claim. In fact the claim is so sweeping that it has led to a distinction between two distinct forms in which the authority of the Church may be exercised. The first is that which we have hitherto been considering, and that which has led to the greater part of the controversies of the past, in which the Church, with absolute divine authority, lays down that some doctrine is implied in the Christian faith as revealed by Our Lord and accepted by all Christians. Hitherto this doctrine has not been explicitly believed, because an earlier generation had not seen its necessity; henceforth all Christians are bound to believe it. The latter form of authority is that which the Church exercises in matters of discipline: it covers a very wide field of different departments of the Christian life. The whole use of the sacramental system of religion is very largely determined by it; thus the rule that Christians must receive Holy Communion once a year at least, that they must receive the sacrament fasting, that they must use the sacrament of penance once a year at least, are all precepts of the Church, imposed in virtue of her authority to exercise discipline over her children. Yet this latter form of authority proceeds from the same source, the general consciousness of Christians, interpreted by the authority of the Church. In the first instance this authority resided in the local Bishop; later it was exercised by groups of Bishops or general Councils; finally a very large power of exercising discipline was centralised in the Western Church in the hands of the Pope, though a certain element of authority in this field has always remained in the hands of the local Bishop. Now this authority is exercised in order to bring home to the individual Christian the application of Christian doctrine to his life; thus he is told to communicate fasting in order to inculcate on him a certain belief as to the importance of the Holy Sacrament and the reverence due to it. Even the minutest details of regulation as to the ordering of public worship are ultimately intended to inculcate some aspect of Christian doctrine, and to bring it home to the consciousness of Christians who might otherwise fail to appreciate its importance. This authority may be exercised directly in the sphere of doctrine; the authority of the Church may be used to prohibit some form of teaching, not necessarily on the ground that it is untrue, but on the ground that as stated it might injure the faith of the simple and ignorant. In all cases, however, this exercise of authority depends for its effectiveness on the fact that it commends itself to the faithful. Where, as has often happened, it has failed to do so, its precepts have been disregarded.
The distinction between these two methods of the exercise of authority is that in the case of the former the Church is irrevocably committed to the truth of what has once been proclaimed. If the Holy Ghost has once spoken, it is impossible that His teaching can be reversed: He cannot lie. In the case of the latter form of authority, although the Pope or Council or Bishop may have enjoyed a certain measure of divine guidance, yet it is not supposed that this guidance has enabled the person or organisation which issues the command to decide anything more than that such a measure is profitable for the particular circumstances of the time and place; the same body which issued a disciplinary regulation can withdraw or reverse it or allow it to lapse. Further, the individual Christian is not bound to accept the decision of the Church in these fields with internal consent; he must obey such decisions, but he is not bound to believe in their wisdom, or, where they appear to imply some particular doctrine, to accept that doctrine, if it be not already part of the recognised faith of the Church. He may even question its wisdom or the truth of the doctrine implied in it, provided that he does so without disrespect to the constituted authority of the Church. Now in itself this distinction is, if we accept the general principles of the Catholic faith, perfectly reasonable. If the Christian religion is a permanent divine revelation, it is the duty of the Church to see that her accredited teachers do not introduce new doctrines, calculated, at any rate in the form in which they are stated, to subvert the faith of the general Christian public. Similarly it is reasonable that the Church should be able to exercise her discipline in matters of morals or worship at any given moment. Now in all these different fields there is a certain element which rests on the explicit teaching of Our Lord Himself or the formal interpretation of His teaching as denned with absolute authority by the Church; but on any showing that element is comparatively small: there is outside this a wide field, in which the interpretation of that permanent element of absolute truth may need some regulation by the disciplinary authority of the Church. This may be made plain by examples. The union of the divine and human natures in the person of Jesus is a part of the permanent teaching of the Christian faith; but there have been many discussions as to the exact extent to which Jesus was at various periods of His life explicitly conscious of that union of the two natures in Himself; and on this the Church has made no final definition. On the other hand a Christian teacher might easily use language on the subject which seemed to deny the reality of the union of the two natures in Him: and the Church has an obvious right and duty to prevent him from expressing his teaching in such a manner as to lead the simple to doubt that reality. Again the only part of the Eucharistic rite which can claim to be of immediate divine institution is the pronouncement of the words of consecration over the elements of bread and wine. The Church has an undoubted right to alter the rest of her Eucharistic worship: but she has also the right to prevent individuals from introducing innovations on their own authority, and from recommending the alteration of her existing rites in a tone which is calculated to undermine the devotion of the faithful to the existing form of Eucharistic worship. Yet in either case it would be absurd to demand that the Church should on all such occasions be compelled to promulgate some new doctrine to which she is pledged to the end of time.
While however it is reasonable that this distinction between the two forms of ecclesiastical authority should be recognised, it is natural that we should enquire what is the test which enables the faithful to ascertain whether any particular pronouncement is made in virtue of the former power, by which the Church defines with absolute divine authority some truth implied in the original divine revelation committed to her charge by Our Lord and now revealed by the operation of the Holy Ghost within her, or whether it is merely a local and temporary pronouncement called for by the circumstances of the day. But it is precisely on this point that there is no agreement among Christians. One school of thought holds that only the pronouncements of Councils of the universal Church have this final and absolute authority, Now it is certain that the pronouncements of the great Councils which laid down the permanent Catholic interpretation of the person of Our Lord and certain other Councils of the undivided Church must be accepted as part of the permanent deposit of the faith; but it is not at all easy to find any external test, which will enable us to say definitely that certain Councils possess the right to be regarded as Councils of the universal Church, while others, which promulgated teachings afterwards rejected were not. In view of this modern Roman writers tend to put forward the theory that only those Councils which were accepted by the Popes can be regarded as having spoken with full authority, and to argue that this authority is derived from their recognition by the Pope, not from any inherent authority of their own We need not enquire into the exact measure of historical truth contained in this theory, for it presupposes that, once a doctrine has received Papal sanction, its infallibility thenceforth is clearly established. As a matter of fact this is not the case. For the claim to absolute infallibility, as put forward on behalf of the Papacy, is so tremendous that no one has ever ventured to put forward any test by which it can be finally decided that a pronouncement made by a Pope is to be accepted as infallible and part of the Christian faith. Of all the innumerable Papal pronouncements that have been made there are not more than one or two which would be regarded by the unanimous consent of Roman Catholic theologians as possessing the character of infallibility. The rest would be relegated to the character of temporary measures of ecclesiastical discipline, put forward by the Pope in virtue of his supreme disciplinary power--a power which he is said to exercise as the chief Christian Bishop, not as the supreme pastor of all Christians. Here again it is possible to find quite reasonable grounds for supposing that such a distinction exists in whatever is the final authority in matters of Christian faith and practice; but it must also be pointed out that the distinction was not by any means invariably present to the mind of the Pope who issued some pronouncement, now admitted to have been only a temporary disciplinary measure. What has actually happened is that various Popes have issued pronouncements, which they firmly intended to be accepted as final and endowed with the full weight of Papal authority, not then explicitly defined in regard to its infallibility. Since, however, time has shown that they were in error, it has become necessary to relegate those pronouncements in which the Pope was mistaken to the rank of disciplinary utterances in which the Papal infallibility was not concerned.
There is a further difficulty. The claim of such a colossal scope for certain pronouncements of the Papacy frequently renders it difficult for it to speak with any high degree of authority on any matter of dispute. For instance during the past thirty years there have been continual controversies on the subject of the historical truth of the books of the Bible. It might have been expected that the Papacy would issue some authoritative pronouncement on the subject. In point of fact it has not done so. It has issued certain pronouncements, intended to allay the doubts of the faithful who were disturbed by the speculations of the time, by seeming to insist on an extremely conservative view on the various points at issue, such as whether Moses was the author of the Pentateuch; invariably, however, loop-holes were left, which enabled scholars who were prepared to take the risk of official disfavour to put forward the most radical views. For these pronouncements were only disciplinary, and therefore had no claim to internal assent. In the same way, when the system of teaching known as Modernism was widely prevalent in the Roman communion, Pope Pius X condemned certain doctrines, very vaguely described, and ordered that various steps should be taken to prevent them from being taught; he was unable to define exactly what those doctrines were, or to define any positive truth which would exclude them, for the simple reason that to do so might have been dangerous: it might have exposed the Papal infallibility to the suspicion of having fallen into error.
Thus in fact the external test of Papal approval is of no value as a means for deciding why certain Councils are to be regarded as having spoken with infallibility, so that their definitions of the faith are to be regarded as final, while others are not, for the simple reason that there is no external mark by which it can be ascertained precisely which Papal decisions are infallible and which are not. Yet again it is quite impossible to take the line which certain Anglican writers are in the habit of taking, and dismiss the whole idea of Papal authority as the result of the unjustifiable aggression of the Bishops of Rome on the liberties of the Church. The mere history of the primitive Church neither proves nor disproves the claim that the authority of the Papacy is a true development from the original germ of the authority conveyed by Our Lord to St. Peter. But the later history of the Roman See, as well as much of its earlier history, is quite clear evidence that it has on many occasions been the main force which has prevented the disappearance of the Catholic religion in Western Europe. Catholicism in the West, as it exists to-day, is the result of a movement within the Roman Church since the Reformation, which saw in the Papacy the centre of Catholic doctrine and Catholic worship; and without it the Catholic revival in the English Church would have been inconceivable. We cannot dismiss the Papacy as a mere false development without discrediting the whole system of doctrine and devotion which came into the English Church with the Tractarian movement.
Thus we seem to have arrived at a position from which there is no way out. We seem to have no external means for judging what the final teaching of the Church is in matters of faith, which will not either commit us to an untenable conception of the infallibility of the Papacy, or else discredit the whole system of Western Catholicism. For this reason it seems necessary to enquire whether the mistake may not lie in the whole attempt to find immediate external tests of infallibility. What has happened in the past has been that pronouncements have been made with the authority of some person or body which claimed the right to speak in the name of the whole Church. Some of these utterances have been recognised subsequently as true to the original revelation of Our Lord, and its interpretation by the corporate consciousness of Christendom; others have been seen to be false. (In some cases indeed the errors of such pronouncements have been detected by the light of the human reason and the growth of human knowledge, rather than by the Christian consciousness; but even in such cases the rejection of such errors is due to the impossibility of believing that God, as conceived by the Christian consciousness, can demand of the human reason that it should commit itself to a permanent belief in what its own nature compels it to reject). Thus in actual history the factor which has selected certain teachings as true and rejected others is the same as that from which the original authority for interpreting the Christian revelation proceeds--the corporate consciousness of Christians of what is implied in their devotional and religious life. It is in fact this consciousness which has accepted certain statements as the permanent and eternal truth, reduced others to the category of partial expressions of the truth, framed for local needs, and rejected others as eternally false.
Now if this fact be recognised it would seem to follow that the ultimate test of the measure of authority, which any statement put forward by the Church can claim, is the extent to which it commands the universal acceptance of Christendom. Naturally in this case we shall have to take into account the factors already noticed in an earlier chapter, namely the extent to which this general acceptance represents a wide variety of temperament and outlook upon life, the extent to which it is free in accepting or rejecting the utterances of authority, and the extent to which it represents those whose conception of religion is in general of a Catholic type. At the same time it would follow that the test of infallibility is not the nature of the authority which puts forward a new statement as to the Christian faith, nor the form in which that statement is presented, but the truth of the statement put forward, the judge of its truth being the corporate consciousness of the Christian world as enlightened by the Holy Ghost. This point is of some importance, for in many recent controversies on the subject there is a tendency to suppose that the authority of the Church is above the truth » that truth is what authority lays down, rather than that it is the duty of authority to declare and interpret the truth. Now this view is not incompatible with the belief that infallibility resides in the person or organisation which promulgates the statements which the Christian consciousness accepts; in fact the opposite is the case. Obviously the reason for which the Christian consciousness accepts or rejects a pronouncement put forward with authority (whether by a Pope or a general Council) is its belief that the statement is true. If then a statement wins final acceptance by the general consent of Christendom, it wins it because its truth is recognised. But the truth is inherent in the statement itself. Thus it is necessary to hold that infallibility resides in certain cases in the organ of authority, although the test of infallibility is the recognition of the corporate consciousness of Christendom. At the same time it is clear that if this view be accepted, the infallible guidance of the Holy Ghost must be regarded as manifesting itself in the corporate mind of the Church, no less than in the organ of authority. If this line of argument be accepted, it will follow that we shall look for infallibility rather in the general trend of Christian development than in the oracular infallibility of particular pronouncements. It may be observed as confirming this view that it is analogous to the method of Holy Scripture. Earlier generations sought to establish the truth by the quotation of isolated texts; it is now generally recognised that it must be sought in the contents of the Scriptures taken as a whole. In the same way it seems reasonable to suppose that infallibility is to be found in the general trend of Christian evolution, rather than in particular pronouncements, assumed to be infallible in virtue of some particular external form in which they are promulgated. At the same time certain particular pronouncements which stand out as landmarks in the general process of evolution will be recognised as having been uttered with the full and infallible authority of the Holy Ghost dwelling in the Catholic Church. The test of their infallibility will be the general recognition by all those who accept the Catholic conception of religion that these particular pronouncements were in fact vitally necessary for the determination of the general lines which that evolution was bound to follow, if it was not to prove radically false to the original revelation of Our Lord and to the whole content of Christian experience. Naturally, however, the mere fact that they are now recognised as infallible involves us in the belief that the quality of infallibility was from the first inherent in them; the subsequent recognition of Christian experience is the test by which their infallibility is proved, not the factor which confers on them their quality of infallibility. It is only in the case of those pronouncements which have not stood the test of time and selection by the corporate experience of Christendom that we shall feel justified in exercising a certain degree of reserve; though naturally no Christian has any right to express that reserve in a manner incompatible with the respect due to persons or institutions which have a legitimate claim not merely to respect but to veneration.
Clearly if the foregoing conception be true, it follows that the Church of Christ not only must actually enjoy an internal unity in virtue of the fact that it is His Body, but also that it ought to be outwardly one, possessing the power to formulate, as the need arises, such statements or rules in regard to the faith and practice of Christians as will ensure that the religious life of the individual Christian shall in essential matters conform to the general level of the corporate life of the whole Christian body. In the Roman communion, where the developments of the past have tended to a particularly strong sense of this necessity, it is of course commonly urged that an outwardly divided Church is unthinkable; it is argued that since St. Peter was the chief of the Apostles and the Pope has inherited his primacy, those who are not in communion with the Holy See are thereby cut off from unity in the body of Christ.
The discussion of the matter is, however, complicated by the general tendency to introduce irrelevant side-issues, such as the fact that this necessity was not explicitly recognised by the earliest generations of Christians on the one hand, or the manifest practical advantage of a visible centre of Christian unity and the high claims of the Roman See to be regarded as the proper centre of Christian unity on the other. These are not relevant to the discussion of the question whether the Roman See is by divine appointment entitled to claim that any Christian body not in communion with it is necessarily and inevitably cut off from the one Body.
Now we have seen that the Church exists to teach the Catholic religion and to maintain the Catholic life. Its authority to do so is the authority of Our Lord transmitted to His disciples by the sending of the Holy Ghost and handed down by them to their successors. Consequently where we find Christian bodies, which have for centuries preserved the Catholic faith, administered the Catholic sacraments, and thereby enabled their members to live the Catholic life, we are compelled to regard the Roman claim with some suspicion. For the Church was made for man and not man for the Church; and if we find that generations of mankind have enjoyed all the benefits of the life of the Church, although cut off from unity with the Holy See, we shall find it hard to resist the conclusion that they have in fact been within the Church all the time, although the Church has been in a morbid condition of disunion, which does not conform to the intention of Our Lord. Our suspicions will be strengthened if it is clear that the original division was due to the faults of both sides, and arose in part from the advancement of unjustifiable claims on the part of the Holy See and not purely from a spirit of rebelliousness in the body which separated itself. Now this was certainly the case at the time when the Eastern Church broke off from the Western; the cause of the division was partly the ambition of the See of Constantinople, partly the growth of the claims of Rome and the endeavour to impose them on the rest of Christendom by authority, before they had gained general recognition. It was equally the case at the time of the Reformation, when, as we shall see in a later chapter, the Holy See advanced claims to interfere in the political life of the nations of Europe, which it has since admitted to have been unjustifiable by its abandonment of them. (The full discussion of the Anglican position is deferred until a later chapter in view of the historical problems connected with it: the reader is asked to assume it for the moment). We have therefore strong grounds for doubting the Roman claim in view of the proved capacity of the Eastern Church to preserve the Catholic religion and the capacity of the Anglican communion to vindicate its Catholic character in spite of adverse circumstances.
Our doubts are confirmed when we find that as a matter of fact there has been a period of some forty years in the history of the Church when the Roman See was itself divided. At the time of the great Schism in the West, rival Popes, each enjoying the allegiance of some of the Western nations, claimed to be the only genuine successors to the throne of St. Peter, and anathematised their opponents as having cut themselves off from the unity of the Church by owning the claims of their rival. The Roman Church has never professed to decide which of the claimants was in the right, and which was in the wrong. The scandal lasted for a sufficient time to allow the rival colleges of Cardinals at Avignon and Rome each to elect several Popes: it was only ended by the rebellion of the Christian world, and its demand for a general Council to end the scandal. This episode in history is really fatal to the Roman claim that unity with the Holy See is the one divinely ordained test of unity with the Body of Christ; for it proves that in certain circumstances it is possible for the centre of unity to be divided. The fact that the disaster of the Schism was mitigated by the refusal of certain parts of the Church to obey the orders of the rival claimants, with the result that in many cases Christians who owned allegiance to one Pope continued in communion with those who owned allegiance to the other, does not help the Roman case; for this result was only achieved by the refusal of individuals to obey the successor of St. Peter. Consequently it becomes impossible to deny that in certain circumstances the Church may be outwardly divided.
It may indeed be objected that if such a division of the Body of Christ be indeed a possibility, it becomes impossible for the ordinary man to know which is the true teaching of Jesus Christ, and which body possesses the authority to teach in His Name. If the Church be divided, and if the divided portions teach different doctrines, which portion is he to follow, and whose doctrine is he to accept? Further, since various bodies, which Anglicans regard as outside the Catholic Church, none the less claim to be within it, how is he, being no theologian, to decide in the obscure theological issues on which their controversies are based?
In point of fact the difficulty of the ordinary man is not so serious as it is sometimes represented to be. For where he finds that two bodies both claim to be within the unity of the Catholic Church, and both provide him with the general tradition of Catholic doctrine and the sacramental system which is the basis of the Catholic life, and where he finds that the arguments of the rival bodies are so evenly balanced that those who are qualified to form a judgment on the disputed points are divided in their conclusions as to the relative merits of either side, he may fairly assume that it is the will of God which has placed him on that side to which he has been brought by the accidents of birth or upbringing, and be content to remain where he is, praying, and, so far as it lies in his power, working for the outward unity of Christendom, and reposing sufficient trust in the justice of God to believe that, even if he finds hereafter that his judgment as to the question whether he was in fact within the one true Church or not was erroneous, he will not be punished for his failure to decide aright on a point on which his lack of theological training did not permit him to arrive at an accurate conclusion. For it must always be remembered that the unity of the Church, and the Church itself exist in order to enable man to fulfil that eternal purpose for which God created him. Where he is not cut off formally from that general stream of Catholic development in belief and religious practice which is the essence of the Christian religion, and where he has no serious reason to doubt that the claims of those who administer the Sacraments to possess the necessary divine authority is a genuine one, the individual can scarcely do wrong to be content to wait until it is the pleasure of God to restore the outward unity which ought to be.
We may in conclusion notice the main objection that the Church cannot be outwardly divided without involving the individual in complete inability to know exactly what is the faith which he is bound to believe. By implication, indeed, this difficulty has been met by our inquiry as to the nature of Christian authority; but it is convenient to point to certain practical deductions which will make the position clear. If infallibility resides primarily in the general line of development of Catholic Christendom it will follow that any doctrine will derive its authority from its compatibility with that general line of development. (We are of course only considering those doctrines which have not behind them the claim to absolute and explicit recognition as infallible by the undivided Church). The test of its claim to authority will be its general acceptance by the Christian consciousness. Consequently where any particular doctrine is generally recognised by the consent of Catholic Christians, it will have a strong claim to his assent, a claim which will be considerably enhanced if it has been formally and explicitly denned by some organised body which claims to speak in the name of the whole Church even though that claim is not entirely justifiable. The wide measure of authority which the promulgation and acceptance of such a definition will confer, coupled with the actual acceptance of the general contents of such a belief by other parts of Christendom will give it little less claim on his internal assent than a doctrine formally denned and universally accepted before the divisions of Christendom arose. A similar measure of authority will be enjoyed by devotional practices prevalent over a wide area of Christendom. If the doctrines implied in any form of Christian devotion are such as are accepted by the whole of Christendom, although the form of devotion in question is not universally practised, the Christian may reasonably assume that the form in question is legitimate and desirable.
This principle is of primary importance as regards the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, and its place in Christian devotion. Although the dogma of Transubstantiation cannot claim the absolute authority of a dogma of the undivided Church, since it was not denned until after the division of East and West, it is very difficult to find any serious distinction between it and the belief of the Eastern Church. Thus the general contents of the doctrine enjoy practically the authority of the universal consent of Christians, although the verbal form of the definition in itself cannot claim the absolute weight of promulgation by the universal Church. In the same way the various forms of devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament common in the Western Church do not imply any doctrine repudiated by the East. Their justification therefore arises from the fact that they are commended by a wide measure of Christian experience and are not an expression of any form of doctrine which is the cause of division among Christians.
The only matters in which difficulties of a serious kind may arise are those in which differences of doctrine or practice have been a permanent cause of Christian disunion. The fact that a particular doctrine is firmly and strongly held by a large body of Christian experience is strong evidence that it contains an element of truth. But a doctrine may contain an element of truth, and yet be distorted in its expression by the desire of those who hold it to gratify purely human and sinful motives, such as ambition or intolerance of opposition. Hence a doctrine which is in itself true, or at least a partial statement of the truth, may be so put forward as to excite the resentment and opposition of a large number of Christians, who do not as yet appreciate its truth, or consider the manner of its expression to be faulty. Here the Christian will be wise to exercise the utmost reserve, and to wait until the guidance of the Holy Ghost has revealed the exact element of truth and separated the element of falsehood. This consideration applies particularly to the position of the Roman Church. It is ludicrous to dismiss as entirely unfounded a doctrine and a practical system which have played so large a part in the preservation and development of the Catholic religion. It is equally ludicrous to refuse to recognise the fact that it has at times been put forward rather in order to gratify the human ambitions of individual occupants of the Holy See, or as a means of gaining for it a purely secular position in the politics of the world. The Christian will, if he be wise, be content to wait until the working of the Holy Ghost has brought to light the true scope and meaning of the claims to a divine right to a primacy in the Church held by the occupant of the Roman See as the successor of the Prince of the Apostles.
In this way we can hope that the Church will arrive at the solution of her present divisions. It will indeed be objected that it leaves the individual in considerable doubt as to what exactly he is bound to believe. The real answer to this is that on any showing he is in that position of doubt, and that it is desirable that to a very large extent he should remain so. The attempt of the Church in the later Middle Ages to extend its influence over every department of human thought ended in disaster. It resulted further in the tacit abandonment by the Church of a very wide measure of its claims. The Roman Church now only claims infallibility in the sphere of faith and morals, the two departments of life in which her teaching cannot readily be verified by the general progress of human learning. Yet even in these departments, as we have seen, she is hampered by the danger that official pronouncements may be proved to be untenable, with the result that such pronouncements as she is prepared to make are liable to be vaguely worded and ineffective.
Thus in fact the body of doctrine which the faithful are, on the Roman theory, bound to believe, as against those of other communions, is very limited in extent. A large number of Papal pronouncements are commonly described as being the authoritative and final teaching of the Church, when in fact they are notl.mg of the kind. Nor is it by any means evil that the scope of the absolutely defined teaching of the Church should be very limited in its extent. Historically the formulation of Christian doctrine arose from the necessity of preserving the faithful from certain peculiarly dangerous forms of false teaching, seen to be subversive of the whole contents of Christian devotion. So long as the essential elements of that devotion are preserved, it is vital that the widest possible liberty should be allowed for the free exercise of the human intellect; a definition of Christian doctrine by ecclesiastical authority should always be avoided except where it is rendered necessary by urgent peril to the whole Christian faith.
At the same tune it should also be noted that the general view that the discussion of the deepest matters of the Christian faith is open to all Christians whatever their training and their power of grasping the issues involved may be, is as erroneous as the demand for an exact definition of every article of Christian faith or practice. It should be recognised that theology is a branch of learning in which only the expert can pronounce an opinion that is worth considering. Further, it is a branch of learning fraught with immediate consequences to the religious and moral life of the individual Christian. Consequently it is indefensible to put forward new and doubtful doctrines, without consideration of their effect on the immediate audience. In many cases Anglicans have put forward such views without the smallest regard to Christian charity and the danger that they may be wrecking the faith of those for whom Christ died.
Thus it is possible to look forward to a time when the Church shall be restored to unity. In such a re-united body the function of authority will be mainly concerned with the regulation of doctrine by means of such disciplinary measures as may confine the putting forward of new ideas to a form which will enable them to receive the consideration and criticism of experts, without endangering the faith of the simple, and in certain cases forbidding the expression of teachings subversive of the whole faith and morality of the Christian religion. None the less, of such pronouncements some will be seen to possess a higher intrinsic value and importance than others, and may finally obtain the universal recognition of all Christians as part of the deposit of the Christian faith. And at least one of the authorities from which such pronouncements will emanate will be the earthly successor of the fisherman of Galilee who was appointed by Jesus as the prince of the Apostles.
NOTE.--The authority of Anglicanism. It might be urged that since the Church of England is part of the Catholic Church, it is necessary in any attempt to ascertain the implications of the corporate religious consciousness of Christendom to consider the weight of the Anglican part of the Church. Theoretically this is true: practically it is not. For, in so far at least as the official pronouncements of the English Church are concerned, they are vitiated by the fact that they are invariably the result of an attempt to compromise with that element of purely Protestant opinion, which has since the Reformation succeeded in maintaining a foothold within the limits of the English Church. From the point of view urged above, the value of religious experience is confined to those who accept at least the general outlines of the Catholic conception of religion: the experience of those who reject it is worthless, precisely to the extent to which they reject it. Consequently the weight of the corporate consciousness of Anglicanism as formulated in its official pronouncements will remain negligible, as. long as it is the expression of an attempt at a compromise with those who entirely reject the general principles of Catholic devotion.
We have hitherto been considering the Church as it exists at any given moment in the present world. From the purely human point of view it consists of a certain number of individuals organised into a visible society for the preservation of certain teachings as to the nature of God and His relations with man, and for the provision of certain means by which man can approach to Him. From the divine point of view however it is the body of Christ, the external manifestation in the world of Jesus Himself, just as His human body was in the days of His earthly life the means by which He made Himself known to men. But at the same time all those who in their life on earth have been admitted to membership in His Body, remain members of it eternally, except in so far as they have by their own deliberate preference of evil to good rejected the privileges bestowed on them at their baptism. Consequently those members of the Church who happen at any given moment to be living upon earth are only a part of the whole Body of Christ, as it exists in reality. The vast number of those who have served Our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully in this world, and have now departed from it, are now united to Him far more closely than ever they were in this life.
The phrase "united to Him" is of course a metaphor which cannot be pressed too closely; for the individual Christian never loses his personal individuality, nor yet those various personal qualities which on earth made him what he was. Except in so far as they were definitely sinful and needed to be eliminated by purification before he could be admitted to the full enjoyment of the presence of God, he retains to all eternity his own personal qualities of mind and character. It is from the fact that, as we know them in the present world, these qualities are in some undefinable way united with the purely material elements of our physical nature that Christianity has always taught the Resurrection of the body, a phrase which need not necessarily imply the resurrection of the purely material elements of the physical nature, but excludes the idea of the bare survival of a personality from which all the characteristics, which depend in this world on the union of the soul with the material body, have been separated.
In so far as they have already attained to full perfection, i.e. the fullest perfection of which they individually are capable, the faithful servants of Jesus who have departed from this world enjoy the bliss of being admitted to His presence. Naturally here again we are forced to use phrases which are at the best inadequate earthly metaphors tor a state of union with God in Jesus which it is beyond the power of human language to express. As is well known the Book of Revelation describes the glory of the blessed in heaven in imagery borrowed from the pomp of Oriental courts familiar to the older Jewish writers in whose thought and language the author is steeped. The imagery which we may choose to employ does not particularly matter, so long as it is recognised that it is only imagery which must always be inadequate to express the fullness of the truth. In that truth there are two aspects which must always be borne in mind, the intimate union of the righteous, who have been made perfect, with their Lord, and their complete retention of the whole of their human personality, except in so far as it was affected by sin.
In this state they are by no means cut off from knowledge of the lives of their brethren of the Church on earth, who are no less than themselves members of the Body of Christ. They are still members of the Church though they have passed from that part of it which is still fighting in this world against the powers of evil and have passed to that part of it which is enjoying the rewards of victory in heaven. For this reason the Saints in glory are sometimes referred to as the Church Triumphant, the members of the Church on earth as the Church Militant. In virtue of their triumph they are still able to render their assistance to those who have not yet been released from the struggle, or, though released from the struggle, have not yet attained to their full perfection. The manner in which they render this assistance cannot indeed be adequately expressed in human language. In one passage of Scripture the Saints of the Old Testament are described as watching the labours of the infant Church like spectators watching a race in the amphitheatre; in another the martyrs of the early persecutions are described as clamouring to God to avenge the blood of those who are still suffering for His sake on earth.
Since the highest activity known to created beings in this world and the most efficacious means for rendering assistance to others is prayer, it is customary to describe the mode in which the Saints in glory assist the Church on earth as consisting in offering intercessory prayer for them. Naturally the imperfect prayer of those in this world is a very poor thing as compared with the prayer of those who have attained to the full vision of God. None the less the conception is valuable as eliminating from Christianity the danger which might otherwise arise, of exalting the Saints into beings of a more or less divine character, able to offer an assistance independent of the divine will. It emphasizes the fact that as created beings they can only render to the Church on earth a measure of assistance limited by their capacities as created beings, and do not possess that immediate power of ordering the events of this world which is proper only to God.
In using language of this kind we consider rather the individual activity of the Saints; we may if we like consider rather their corporate action, by which those members of the body who have already attained to their perfection, are able, under the disposition of the Head, to assist those members who are still suffering in the state of imperfection, provided that we do not lose sight of the fact that the individual members still remain independent personal beings and retain their power of independent personal activity.
Since moreover the measure of perfection of which the individual is capable varies in accordance with the capacities bestowed upon him, and since the essence of perfection is personal union with Our Lord Jesus Christ, it has from a very early time been the belief of Christians that the one person who was called on earth to stand in the most intimate personal relation with Jesus was specially fitted for her place by a pre-eminent measure of divine grace, and that by her fulfilment of her task she was privileged to receive a peculiar reward of glory in heaven. That person is Mary the Mother of Jesus. It is the general belief of Christians that that deliverance from original sin which is accomplished in the case of ordinary Christians at baptism, was accomplished in her case by a special act of divine grace at the first moment of her existence, and that by the grace of God she was enabled to live without actual sin. It should be noted that this does not imply that she was raised to a supernatural order in which temptation had no power to attract her; it implies that she received the benefits of baptism by an act of divine grace, and subsequently used the means of grace with unvarying success, whereas the ordinary Christian, enjoying far greater means of grace in his full knowledge of the Gospel, which was only gradually unfolded before the eyes of Mary, does as a matter of fact repeatedly fail to use them. Similarly it is the general belief of Christians that her special call to personal intimacy with Jesus was rewarded with a special degree of glory in heaven. The main argument in favour of this view lies in the obvious fact that God in choosing his agents for the working of His will in this world, chooses those who are qualified for the duty to which he calls them, and gives them grace to fulfil their vocation. It is true that He sometimes uses the wicked as involuntary instruments for the fulfilment of His designs without their consent and even against their will; but in calling men to cooperate with Him of their own free choice, as He called Mary, He calls those who are duly qualified to answer Him.
NOTE.--It may be observed that while the view that the Mother of God was freed at the moment of her conception from the taint of original sin, commonly known as the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, was only proclaimed by the Roman Church to be a dogma to be accepted as of faith by all Christians some seventy years ago and was in earlier times disputed by many theologians including Sf Thomas Aquinas, the belief in her freedom from all sin both original and actual has been generally accepted by Catholic theologians from very early times.
It is an obvious fact of experience that there are very few Christians indeed who at the moment of death can be supposed with any show of reason to have attained that stage of holiness which will qualify them to stand in the presence of God. Indeed even those who have advanced furthest along the road to perfection are normally conscious of themselves as being the chief of sinners. It is manifest that we cannot suppose that only those who at their death have attained to absolute perfection can hope for eternal salvation; such a supposition would involve the belief that practically the whole of mankind is lost. On the other hand it can scarcely be supposed that the divine justice makes no distinction between those who have by their steadfast attempts to submit to the action of grace upon their souls advanced far in the path of holiness and those who have turned at the last moment by a sudden though genuine repentance from a life of evil. It seems necessary to suppose that the latter must undergo a process of purification from sin after death, in order that they may attain to the holiness which the former achieved by a life of laborious effort.
The language of Scripture on the fate of those who at their death are still imperfect, but none the less not deserving of eternal condemnation, is complicated by the fact that there were, at the time when the books of the New Testament were being composed, several Jewish views upon the fate of the soul after death. One supposed that the soul passed immediately into a state of being in which it received the reward of its works, in the form either of partial happiness or partial misery. In this state it awaited the time when the Messianic kingdom would be established, when its happiness or its misery would be made complete. Another school of thought supposed a complete cessation of conscious life except in the case of a few persons of exceptional righteousness, until the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, when a general assize would be held at which all mankind would be judged according to their works.
These two points of view are reflected in the Gospels, in which, however, as is natural from the higher ideal of righteousness introduced by the teaching of Jesus, we have for the first time hints as to the distinction between the righteous, the imperfect and the wicked. Thus Jesus Himself speaks of sins which have no forgiveness either in this world or in that which is to come, and speaks of the unreconciled sinner being committed to a prison from which he will not be released until he has paid the uttermost farthing; again we have a distinction between servants who are to be beaten with few stripes and servants who are to be beaten with many. These are indeed rather hints than definite statements; St. Paul, who follows rather the view that the dead have no conscious existence until the day of the final judgment speaks of those whose work has been imperfect, (he is referring primarily to Christian teachers under the metaphor of the builders of the Temple of God); their work will be destroyed in the fires of judgment but they themselves will be saved, yet "so as by fire."
Now it is clear that the conception of the nature of a life after death which takes the form of a complete cessation of conscious life until a day of final judgment of all men is hardly one which commends itself. In the period when St. Paul wrote, it was rendered easy by the general assumption that this day of judgment was imminent; the only difficulty on the point was to explain the fate of Christians who died before it, since it was felt that the whole of the first generation of Christians ought properly to be alive to witness the second coming of Jesus and His triumph over His enemies. All our conceptions of the future life necessitate the view that it continues from the moment of death. The plane on which we exist is altered, but we can hardly conceive of an interruption of our conscious existence at death, which is followed by a sudden re-awakening to conscious life at some final day of judgment. Thus the view which seems to be implied in St. Paul's teaching of a sudden purification of the imperfect by fire at a future day of judgment can hardly be pressed in its literal form. In fact the tradition of the Church has always followed the other line. It has been generally taught that the soul is judged at the moment of death, and is admitted to a state corresponding to its life in this world. Those who have attained to such a degree of holiness that after the final purification involved in the pain of death they are, owing to the infinite merits of the death of Jesus on the Cross, worthy to be admitted to the presence of God, attain at once to the full happiness of Paradise. Those who died with their will fixed finally and irrevocably on the side of evil and against God, are condemned to that eternal misery which they have chosen. The vast majority of mankind fall into neither category. They have not finally and deliberately rejected God and chosen the side of evil; but they are very far from having attained to perfect holiness. For them there remains the necessity of undergoing a process of purification and perfection before they can stand in the presence of God. All moral progress is difficult and painful in a certain measure; and in the case of the departed it is the more so, since it is effected not by a series of voluntary acts,--for the life of freedom has ended at death--but by a process of cleansing inflicted by the will of God. The soul indeed accepts this process gladly; but its choice is not in the proper sense voluntary, since after death it is no longer in a position to choose evil; hence its progress is achieved by the external action of the will of God, not by the free moral choice of the soul. At the completion of the process they are worthy to be admitted to the full enjoyment of the vision of God.
There has been a certain amount of discussion as to the extent to which the suffering of souls in purgatory, as the state of purification is usually called, is to be regarded as the bearing of a punishment inflicted by divine justice, or how far it is simply to be looked on as a painful process of cleansing from sin. The question is not ultimately one of theology but of philosophy. It has been held that the only justification of the infliction of punishment is that it has a valuable effect in improving the character of the sufferer. On the other hand it has been held that the violation of the moral law demands the infliction of pain as a retribution for the act of violation. It is hardly necessary to press the attempt to solve this particular problem; but it is to be noted that while on Christian principles it is difficult for any man to claim that he has a right to inflict punishment on another as a mere vindication of the moral law, (for all men are sinners and their right to punish is therefore doubtful), it is not necessarily so with God. The divine justice can obviously claim a right to vindicate itself by the infliction of suffering on those who violate it, which human justice cannot claim.
The question of the life of the soul after death has been complicated by the fact that Christian theology has not wholly avoided the confusion produced by the absorption into it of the two Jewish views alluded to above. Thus it is commonly taught that while each soul is judged at the moment of death, there remains a final judgment to be held at the second coming of Jesus, when all mankind will appear before His judgment seat. At that final consummation the soul will be re-united to its risen and glorified body, and will enter into the final perfection of which humanity is capable. In the interval the soul will be immeasurably better off than it is in the present state in which it is united to its purely material body; but its final state of being in which the soul and the glorified body are united will be more glorious still.
It cannot however be denied that this account, originating as it does in two different traditions of Jewish thought, involves considerable difficulties. The conception of an interval after death in which the soul is separated from the body, and the subsequent re-union of the soul with a glorified body, seems ultimately to imply the belief in the re-union of the soul with a material body, which, although different in degree, is similar in kind to that which we know. Again if the insistence of Christian thought on the resurrection of the body is justified by the fact that it commits us to belief in the eternal existence of our whole moral and intellectual being, not a mere survival of some principle of personal identity divorced from all that makes us what we are, it is obviously impossible to suppose that the soul at death loses all its moral and intellectual characteristics and only regains them at some final judgment.
The solution would seem to lie in the fact that while human language is bound to speak of the state of the soul at death as if it continued to be subject to the laws of time as we know them in this world, we have no reason for supposing that they do ultimately apply beyond our present state. It is perfectly possible that for the soul at death there is no longer any such thing as time, and that the process of purification through which it must pass should be measured by intensity rather than by duration. Further, it is perfectly possible, though inconceivable to the human understanding, that for every soul at death the final judgment is a present fact and that it is only as a necessary form of language for minds on the human plane of understanding that the Church has been allowed to distinguish between the particular judgment of the individual soul at the moment of death and the universal judgment of all men at the end of the world. In any case it must be remembered that in all these matters we are using the language of human metaphor to describe things which surpass human understanding.
The essential point is that the Catholic religion insists clearly on the distinction of the souls of the departed into three classes--the Saints in glory who have attained to perfect blessedness, those who are saved but still have a process of purification and perfecting to undergo, and those who by their own final choice of evil and rejection of good are irrevocably lost. Of these the first class have no need of the prayers of the Church Militant, for they have passed beyond all need of anything which by our prayers we might help them to gain. They have all and more than all that they could conceivably desire. The last class cannot profit by our prayers, for they have finally cut themselves off from God; since they have finally rejected Him, even His infinite mercy cannot help their condition. On the other hand we can by our prayers and good works alleviate the sufferings and render easier the purification and perfection of souls of the intermediate class, to which daily experience shows that the vast majority of mankind belong. Naturally it is always possible that those for whom we pray may in fact stand in no need of our assistance, or may be incapable of profiting by it; but it is to be supposed that our prayers will none the less avail for others who can profit by them. In particular the pleading in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the atoning death of Jesus on the Cross must be the most efficacious method for assisting the departed; since in it Our Lord Himself applies His own eternal sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins which at the moment of death stood between the departed soul and God.
NOTE.--There is at the present time a certain unwillingness to believe that a God who loved mankind so well that He was willing to die for it, should allow a single soul to be finally condemned to everlasting misery. The objection is indeed in part due to an over-literal interpretation of the pictorial language as to everlasting fire in which the torments of the lost are described in the Jewish literature from which these conceptions are drawn in the New Testament. None the less the objection does in fact raise a real difficulty. But it is even harder to suppose that God, having given man free will, has not also given him the power to make the final choice of his will to rest on the side of evil and against the good. If so, it seems necessary to suppose that man has the power so finally to reject God, that there remains in him no ability even to desire anything but evil. Hence even the vision of the goodness of God will excite in him not love and sorrow, but hatred. In such a condition God Himself cannot benefit the sinner except at the cost of depriving him of that freedom to choose between good and evil which alone gives a moral value to any action. It has sometimes been held that there must be some further stage of probation beyond this life, in which the sinner, who in this life died impenitent, had a further chance of repentance. Unfortunately this suggestion does not solve the difficulty; for either in that future stage, man has still the free choice of good and evil, in which case he may persist in his choice of evil no less than he did in this world, or his freedom of will is removed, in which case his enforced acceptance of good and rejection of evil ceases to possess any moral value. It is indeed almost impossible to deny the possibility of final reprobation without denying the whole value of the New Testament, which teaches it almost as clearly as it teaches any doctrine. At the same time we have no means of knowing how many of those whom we might suppose to be lost, may not have been saved from ultimate loss by a repentance at the last moment. In any case it is only those who have chosen evil as against good so absolutely that it is no longer possible for them to prefer good, even when they see it as revealed in the vision of God, that are finally lost. So long as any element of good remains, there is hope of ultimate salvation.