BY THE REV. SAMUEL SEABURY, D. D.,
Rector of the Church of the Annunciation, New-York,
and Professor of Biblical Learning, &c., in the General Theological Seminary.
TO WHICH IS ANNEXED AN ESSAY ON "Who Was James, the Lord's Brother?"
BY THE REV. M. MAHAN, D. D.,
Rector of St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, Md.
New-York: POTT & AMERY, PUBLISHERS,
Nos. 5 & 13 COOPER UNION. 1868.
THE following tract was begun with no other purpose than to bring a few passages from our old divines, with a brief introduction, to the attention of two or three private friends, in order to guard them against a hasty and inconsiderate adoption of an opinion prejudicial, it is believed, to the Christian faith, as it is certainly adverse to the teaching of the Universal Church. As it proceeded, the plan was gradually changed, a greater number of extracts were made, and a larger amount of original matter introduced than was at first intended; so that when the tract was finished, the thought was naturally suggested of giving it a wider circulation than was originally contemplated: hence its publication. This statement may serve to explain any want of congruity which the reader may chance to observe in the order of the work or the arrangement of its materials. Perhaps the writer may be permitted to add that, had publication been his original design, he would have preferred to limit himself to a direct statement of the doctrine, without express reference to the individuals who oppose it.
After his work was ready for the press, it occurred to the author that the argument, on a collateral but important point, would be fortified by the addition of Dr. Mahan's exhaustive and unanswerable essay on the identity of James, "the brother of our Lord," with James, the son of Alphaeus, which appeared in a number of the Church Journal of 1859. Accordingly, he applied to the author of the essay for permission to republish it in connection with the present tract; and he is happy to have the opportunity to express his thanks publicly to the Rector of St. Paul's for the courtesy and promptitude with which he acceded to the request.
FEAST OF ST. MATTHIAS, 1868.
MARY THE VIRGIN;
AS COMMEMORATED IN
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
A VOLUME has lately been published entitled "The True Mary, being Mrs. Browning's poem, 'The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus;' with comments and notes. Edited by W. A. MUHLENBERG." The annotator on this work declares that Mary, the Mother of the SON OF GOD, was also the mother of those who, in the Holy Gospel, are called His brethren, adding, in sufficiently definite language, that these last were "Our Lord's uterine brothers:" and the editor informs his readers that this opinion is sustained by "high authority," and that the opposite opinion (or, to use his own words, "The Mary of the Convent,") "disappears in the light of honest biblical interpretation." The annotator says, "That the tradition of the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord is easily accounted for by the general error on the inferiority of the wedded to the virgin state;" and the editor affirms, with amiable assurance, "Take away the dogma, Semper Virgo Maria, and the half of the papal system falls to the ground."
I make these extracts with unfeigned regret, and only because I feel obliged to make them, in order to explain the occasion of my present publication, and the motives which have prompted it. The views of Dean Alford and of Mr. Farrar, the author of the article Brother, in Smith's Bible Dictionary, may be safely left to the judgment of those who consult the works of the learned; but when these views are commended, in a popular and attractive way, to unsuspecting and unguarded readers, it seems but reason to bring within the reach of those readers a criterion which may enable them to decide whether the views so confidently presented to them are indeed worthy of their acceptance, and sustained by high authority, or whether they do not rather deserve to be rejected by them as crude and frivolous, and wholly destitute of authority. To furnish such a criterion to this class of readers is my present design. That it involves even the semblance of opposition to names deservedly respected for works and labors of love, is matter of deep regret. It will appear, however, in the sequel, that I really oppose, not the editor and annotator of "The True Mary," but the, author whom they quote, and who is, in fact, the assailant of the doctrine which I undertake to defend.
The authorities on which I shall insist are the creeds and formularies of the Church, and the testimonies of her Divines to their legitimate meaning. I submit them to my readers, in the hope that, in imitation of the holy contemplative, they will ponder the teachings of' the Church, and treasure them up in their hearts.
The Apostles' Creed declares that Jesus, the only Son of the Almighty Father, was "born of THE VIRGIN Mary;" the Nicene Creed, that the same everlasting SON of the Father "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of THE VIRGIN MARY;" and the TE DEUM, that "the King of Glory did not abhor THE VIRGIN'S womb." On Christmas Day we render thanks unto the Almighty Father, because JESUS CHRIST, His only Son, "by the operation of the HOLY GHOST, was made very man of the substance of THE VIRGIN MARY, his Mother; we commemorate, also, the Purification of "St. Mary THE VIRGIN;" and in measured and solemn words the Church professes her faith (Art. II.) that "The SON of GOD, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Fatherthe very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Fathertook man's nature in the womb of THE BLESSED VIRGIN."
Let us now bring, for a moment, the rushlights of human sense and fancy to illumine the sun of Catholic verity. The sublime confession of the Church will then read thus: The only Begotten Son of GOD was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of one who was a Virgin, and soon after ceased to be such! The very and Eternal God took man's nature in the womb of Mary, who was then a Virgin, and afterwards bore children like other women. A Virgin whose first-born was the King of Glory, and whose next sons were James and Joses and Judas and Simon!
True, the Creed does not declare in words that Mary is ever Virgin. But is not this meaning fairly implied in it, and that which is most agreeable to its structure and to the intention of its compilers?
In formularies intended to mould and express the faith of her children in all times and places, the Church offers the Holy Mary to our contemplation as "The Virgin," "The Blessed Virgin." The name Mary has been common to many, "but the title added to the name maketh the distinction; for," continues Bishop Pearson, in the words of St. Epiphanius, "as divers characters are given to several persons by which they are distinguished from all others of the same common nomination, as Jacob is called Israel, and Abraham the Friend of God, or Father of the faithful; so is this Mary sufficiently characterized by that inseparable companion of her name, THE VIRGIN." We dare not pronounce her name and rob her of her rightful and perpetual distinction. Now and for ever we confess her to be Mary, the Virgin.
The Blessed Virgin was chosen out of all the daughters of Eve to be the subject of a miracle, which moved and ever will move the wonder of Saints and Angels. She was overshadowed by the HOLY GHOST, that she might conceive, and bear and bring forthwithout violence to her Virgin statethe GOD-MAN. Is it credible, that the Virgin herself had so low and mean a sense of this her singular and ineffable dignity as not to live for it ever afterwards; but; that she fell, speedily and willingly, from her singular eminence, to the common level of women? Is it probable, that Mary and Joseph, her betrothed, really believed the stupendous miracle, of which they had both been supernaturally apprised, and yet did not consecrate themselves solely to their sacred trust, but lived together in the same relation in which they would have lived if they had not believed it? I think not. I do not say, nor do I think that the opinion is heretical in such sense as to be contradictory to the Christian Faith; but I may safely say, that it is one which has ever been accounted shocking to pious ears, and unapt to coalesce with a firm and sound faith in the Incarnation of the SON of GOD.
That the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is delivered, with remarkable unanimity, by the Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops of the Church, is generally conceded. On this point, therefore, in addition to the historical note of Bishop Pearson, which is given below, it suffices to refer to Suicer's Thesaurus; who says, vol. ii., p. 306: "The ancients teach, with great consent, that the Blessed Virgin always remained a Virgin." In support of his statement, Suicer quotes from St. Chrysostom, who delivers the doctrine in plainswords; and from St. Epiphanius, who, in his XXVIII. Heresy, not only affirms the same doctrine, but abundantly proves it [fuse probat]; and concludes his account of the heresy (with a full knowledge, let me add, of all that had been written on the subject before his time) in these words: "It is nowhere found that Joseph, after the immaculate Virgin had brought forth, lived with her as his wife." He quotes, also, from the public offices of the Greek Church, which declare Mary to be Ever Virgin: "before, in and after the birth." St. Basil the Great, also, affirms the same doctrine, and though he does not deem the belief of it necessary to the Christian life; yet, in expressing this opinion, he shows the hold which the doctrine had on the Christians of that early age. "The Virginity," he says, "was necessary until the Incarnation was completely wrought: what was necessary afterwards, as respects the mystery, we forbear to inquire, lest we offend the ears of those who love Christ, and will not listen to the doctrine that The Mother of God ever ceased to be Virgin."
The belief of the Latin fathers, on this subject, did not differ from that of the Greek fathers; so that we have the testimony of the Churches of the East and West, for the first four hundred years after Christ, to the fact that our Lord was the only Son of His Mother. No man who regards the unity of the Christian Church, or respects the foundation of the Christian Faith, will reject such testimony, unless he is clearly able to convict of error those who have delivered it.
From the Fathers of the Primitive Church I pass to those who, since the Reformation, have succeeded to their doctrine, and whose great names, when the true sense of an article of the Catholic Creed is in question, entitle them to be heard.
Bishop Bull says (Sermon Fourth):
"The Blessed Virgin was consecrated to be a Temple of the Divinity in a singular manner. For the eternal Son of God, by an ineffable conjunction, united Himself to that human nature, which was miraculously conceived and formed in her, even whilst it was within her; and so He that was born of her, at the very time that He was born of her, was qeanqropoV God and man. O astonishing condescension of the Son of God! O wonderful advancement of the Blessed Virgin! And therefore we daily sing in our Te Deum: "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ! Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father. When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb." Upon which account the Fathers of the Third General Council at Ephesus, convened against Nestorius, approved the title of qeotokoVthe Mother of Godgiven to the Blessed Virgin.
"They approved it, I say; they did not first invent it, as some have ignorantly affirmed. And therefore, they, themselves, in their synodical epistle, say, that the Holy Fathers before them doubted not to call the Blessed Virgin, QeotokonDeiparamthe Mother of God.' Indeed, an whole age before that council, we find Eusebius expressly giving that title to the sacred Virgin, in his third book of the Life of Constantine, chap. xliii. And Socrates, a most credible witness in this matter, in the seventh book of his Eccl. Hist., chap. xxxii., assures us that Origen, long before Eusebius, largely explained and asserted that title, as applied to the Blessed Virgin. And to go yet higher, we have heard Irenaeus, who was a scholar to a scholar of the Apostles, magnifying the Virgin upon this account, that she did, portare Deum, bear God within her. If she did portare Deum, she did parere Deum; if she bore God, she brought him forth too, and so was, qeotokoV, the Mother of Godthat is, of Him that was God. Nay, the blessed martyr and disciple of the Apostles, Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, edit. Voss. p. 27, feared not to say, 'Our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived of Mary.' But what need we search after human authorities, when the inspired Elizabeth, in her divine rapture, a little before my text, ver. 43, plainly gives the Blessed Virgin the same title? 'And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come unto me?' Where mhthr tou Kurion, the Mother of our Lord, is doubtless of the same import with QeotokoV, the mother of God: for the title of our Lord belongs to Christ chiefly, as He is our God. And we are to conceive Elizabeth, being filled with the Spirit, to have given this title of her Lord to the babe in the Blessed Virgin's womb, not according to the poor, narrow, vulgar sense of the degenerate Jews, but according to the most august and highest sense of the word, viz.: that He is so our Lord, as to be our God also.
"Now, the necessary consequence of this dignity of the Blessed Virgin is, that she remained for ever a Virgin, as the Catholic Church hath always held and maintained. For it cannot with decency be imagined, that the most holy vessel, which was thus once consecrated to be a receptacle of the Deity, should afterwards be desecrated and profaned by human use."
On the latter part of the third article of the Creed, "Born of the Virgin Mary," Bishop Pearson proposes to show, first, that the Messias was to be born of a Virgin, according to the prediction of the Prophets; secondly, that this Mary, of whom Christ was born, was really a Virgin when she bare Him, according to the relations of the Evangelists; thirdly, that being at once the Mother of the Son of God, and yet a Virgin, she continued for ever in the same virginity, according to the tradition of the Fathers and the constant doctrine of the Church.
On the last point Bishop Pearson writes as follows:
Thirdly, We believe the mother of our Lord to have been not only before and after his nativity, but also for ever, the most immaculate and blessed Virgin. For although it may be thought sufficient as to the mystery of the incarnation, that when our Saviour was conceived and born, his mother was a Virgin; though whatsoever should have followed after, could have no reflective operation upon the first-fruit of her womb; though there be no farther mention in the CREED, than that he was born of the Virgin Mary: yet the peculiar eminency and unparalleled privilege of that mother, the special honor and reverence due unto that Son, and ever paid by her, the regard of that Holy Ghost who came upon her, and the power of the Highest who overshadowed her, the singular goodness and piety of Joseph, to whom she was espoused, have persuaded the Church of God in all ages to believe that she still continued in the same virginity, and therefore is to be acknowledged the Ever-Virgin Mary. As if the gate of the sanctuary in the prophet Ezekiel were to be understood of her: "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut." (Ezek. xliv. 2.)
In a learned note Bishop Pearson informs his readers who and of what account they were in the ancient Church, who denied this doctrine. First, he says, we read in the time of Origen that some did maintain the virginity of Mary no longer than to Christ's nativity. Origen describes the error as nothing short of madness. The error has been ascribed to Tertullian, on the ground of two passages, neither of which, says Dr. Burton, is conclusive. Apollinaris and Eunomius, confessed heretics, delivered the same opinion. Bishop Pearson thus proceeds:
These contradictors of the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our Lord afterwards increased to a greater number, whom Epiphanius calls by a general name Antidicomarianitae, (Enemies of Mary.) And now from him St. Augustine tells us, that under this name were condemned by the Sixth General Council those heretics who carried their contradiction of the virginity to such a pitch, as to affirm that after the birth of Christ Mary knew her husband. The same were called by the Latins Helvidiani from Helvidius, * * * whose name is most made use of, because refuted by St. Jerome. He was followed by Jovinian, a monk of Milan, as St. Jerome testifies, and by Bonosus, a Bishop in Macedonia, the last named of whom was condemned by the Council of Capua. "This is the catalogue," adds Bishop Pearson, " of those by the ancients accounted heretics for denying the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our Lord."
After what has been said by the annotator on "The True Mary" and its editor, it may be hoped that Bishop Pearson's exposition of the scriptural argument will not be found tedious:
"Many, indeed, have taken the boldness to deny this truth, because not recorded in the sacred writ; and not only so, but to assert the contrary as delivered in the Scriptures, but with no success. For though, as they object, St, Matthew testifieth that Joseph 'knew not Mary, until she had brought forth her first-born son,' (Matt. i. 25,) from whence they would infer, that afterwards he knew her; yet the manner of the Scripture language produceth no such inference. When God said to Jacob,' I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of,' (Gen. xxviii. 15,) it followeth not that when that was done, the God of Jacob left him. When the conclusion of Deuteronomy was written, it was said of Moses, 'No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day;' (Deut. xxxiv. 6;) but it were a weak argument to infer from thence, that the sepulchre of Moses hath been known ever since. When Samuel had delivered a severe prediction upon Saul, he 'came no more to see him until the day of his death;' (1 Sam. xv. 35;) but it were a strange collection to infer, that he therefore gave him a visit after he was dead. 'Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child until the day of her death;' (2 Sam. vi. 23;) and yet it were a ridiculous stupidity to dream of any midwifery in the grave. Christ promised his presence to the apostles 'unto the end of the world;' (Matt. xxviii. 20;) who ever made so unhappy a construction as to infer from thence, that for ever after he would be absent from them?
"Again, it is true that Christ is termed the first-born son of Mary, from whence they infer she must needs have a second; but might as well conclude, that wheresoever there is one, there must be two. For in this particular the Scripture notion of priority excludeth an antecedent, but inferreth not a consequent: it supposeth none to have gone before, but concludeth not any to follow after. 'Sanctify unto me (saith God) all the first-born;' which was a firm and fixed law, immediately obliging upon the birth: whereas if the first-born had included a relation to a second, there could have been no present certainty, but a suspension of obedience; nor had the first-born been sanctified of itself, but the second birth had sanctified the first. And well might any sacrilegious Jew have kept back the price of redemption due unto the priest, nor could it have been required of him, till a second offspring had appeared; and so no redemption at all had been required for an only son. Whereas all such pretences were unheard of in the Law, because the original Hebrew word is not capable of any such construction; and in the Law itself it carrieth 'with it a clear interpretation.' Sanctify unto me all the firstborn: whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast, it is mine.' (Exod. xiii. 2.) The apertion of the womb determineth the first born; and the law of redemption excludeth all such tergiversation: 'Those that are redeemed, from a month old thou shalt redeem;' (Numb. xviii. 16;) no staying to make up the relation, no expecting another birth to perfect the redemption. Being then they brought our Saviour to Jerusalemn to present him to the Lord; as it is written in the Law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;' (Luke ii. 22, 23;) it is evident he was called the first-born of Mary, according to the notion of the Law of Moses, and consequently that title inferreth no succession, nor proveth the mother to have any other off-spring."
I break the quotation from Pearson to introduce a sentence from Bishop Hacket, one of his fellow-sufferers under the tyranny of the usurping Parliament:
"The first-born son of Mary; non quod post eum alius, sed quod ante eum nemo, says St. Austin; not called the first-born son as the eldest of sons that followed, but as being the first-fruits of a virgin womb that had none before nor after."
In what follows the reader will note Bishop Pearson's statement of the question. The meaning of the word brothers in the New Testament Greek is a point on which the Greek and even the Latin fathers were quite competent to judge; and while they confess what none denies, that James and Joses, &c., were brethren of our Lord, they deny with one. voice that they were the sons of his mother. But to proceed with Bishop Pearson:
"Indeed, as they thirdly object, it cannot be denied but that we read expressly in the Scriptures of the brethren of our Lord: 'He went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren,' (John ii. 12,) and, 'While he talked unto the people, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.' (Matt. xii. 46.) But although his mother and his brethren be named together, yet they are never called the sons of his mother; and the question is not whether Christ had any brethren, but whether his mother brought forth any other children? It is possible Joseph might have children before Mary was espoused to him; and then as he was reputed and called our Saviour's father, so might they well be accounted and called his brethren, as the ancient fathers, especially of the Greek Church, have taught. Nor need we thus assert that Joseph had any offspring, because the language of the Jews includeth in the name of brethren not only the strict relation of fraternity, but also the larger of consanguinity; and therefore it is sufficient satisfaction for that expression, that there were such persons allied unto the blessed Virgin. 'We be brethren,' (Gen. xiii; 8,) said Abraham unto Lot; when Abraham was the son of Terah, Lot of Haran, and consequently not his brother, but his nephew, and, as elsewhere properly styled,' the son of his brother.' (Gen. xii. 5.)' Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary;' (Lev. x. 4;) whereas those brethren were Nadab and Abihu, the sons, not of Uzziel, but of Aaron.' Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son;' (Gen. xxix. 12;) whereas Rebekah was the sister of Rachel's father. It is sufficient, therefore, that the evangelists, according to the constant language of the Jews, call the kindred of the blessed Virgin the brethren and sisters of her only son; which indeed is something the later, but the most generally approved answer.
"And yet this difficulty, though usually no farther considered, is not fully cleared; for they which impugned the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord, urged it farther, pretending that as the Scriptures called them the brethren of Christ, so they also showed them to be the sons of Mary the mother of Christ. For first, the Jews express them particularly by their names, 'Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?' (Matt. xiii. 55.) Therefore James and Joses were undoubtedly the brethren of Christ, and the same were also as unquestionably sons of Mary: for among the women at the cross we find' Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James and Joses.' (Matt. xxvii. 56.) Again, this Mary they think can be no other than the mother of our Lord, because they find her early in the morning at the sepulchre with Mary Magdalene and Salome; (Mark xvi. 1;) and it is not probable that, any should have more care of the body of the son than the mother. She, then, who was certainly present at the cross, was not probably absent at the sepulchre: wherefore they conclude, she was the mother of Christ, who was the mother of James and Joses, the brethren of Christ.
"And now the urging of this argument will produce a greater clearness in the solution of the question. For if it appear that Mary, the mother of James and Joses, was different and distinguished from Mary, the Virgin, then will it also be apparent that the brethren of our Lord were the sons of another mother, for James and Joses were so called. But we read in St. John, that 'there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.' (John xix. 25.) In the rest of the evangelists we find at the same place 'Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James and Joses;' (Matt. xxvii. 56; Mark xv. 40;) and again at the sepulchre, 'Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;' (Matt. xxviii. 1;) wherefore that other Mary, by the conjunction of these testimonies, appeareth to be Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and the mother of James and Joses; and consequently James and Joses, the brethren of our Lord, were not the sons of Mary, his mother, but of the other Mary, and therefore called his brethren, according to the language of the Jews, because that the other Mary was the sister of his mother.
"Notwithstanding therefore all these pretensions, there can be nothing found to raise the least suspicion of any interruption of the ever-blessed Mary's perpetual virginity. For as she was a virgin when she conceived, and after she brought forth our Saviour; so did she continue in the same state and condition, and was commended by our Saviour to his beloved disciple, as a mother only now of an adopted son."
To the above extracts may be added the following eloquent passage from Bishop Taylor. Of course, I quote the passage simply for its bearing on the perpetual virginity of St. Mary. With the other collateral points introduced by Bishop Taylor, on which, even in the ancient Church, there was a diversity of opinion, we have here no concern.
"As there was no sin in the conception, so neither had she pains in the production, as the Church, from the days of Gregory Nazianzen until now, hath piously believed; though, before his days, there were some opinions to the contrary, but certainly neither so pious nor so reasonable. For to her alone the punishment of Eve did not extend, that 'in sorrow she should bring forth;' for where nothing of sin was an ingredient, there misery cannot cohabit. For though amongst the daughters of men, many conceptions are innocent and holy, being sanctified by the word of God and prayer, hallowed by marriage, designed by prudence, seasoned by temperance, conducted by religion towards a just, a hallowed, and a holy end, and yet their productions are in sorrow; yet this of the blessed Virgin might be otherwise, because here sin was no relative, and neither was in the principle nor the derivative, in the act nor in the habit, in the root nor in the branch; there was nothing in this but the sanctification of the Virgin's womb, and that could not be the parent of sorrow, especially that gate not having been opened, by which the curse always entered. And as to conceive by the Holy Ghost was glorious, so to bring forth any of 'the fruits of the Spirit' is joyful, and full of felicities. And he that came from his grave fast tied with a stone and signature, and into the college of Apostles, 'the doors being shut,' and into the glories of his Father through the solid orbs of all the firmament, came also (as the Church piously believes) into the world, so without doing violence to the virginal and pure body of his mother; that he did also leave her virginity entire, to be as a seal, that none might open the gate of that sanctuary, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet,' This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered by it, therefore it shall be shut.' "
The writer of the article "Brother," in Smith's Bible Dictionary, (quoted in "The True Mary," p. 39,) speaks of the doctrine under consideration as a tradition "'which any one may hold if he will, as one of the 'pia credibilia;'" and for this refers us to "Jer. Taylor, Ductor Dubitantium, II., 3, 6." All this is quite odd; odd that the writer should refer to a place in Bishop Taylor, which is as foreign to the point in hand as the man in the moon, and still more odd that, for what he has advanced, he should refer to Bishop Taylor at all. The expression "which any one may hold if he will," implies a belief that the tradition is novel, and has nothing in reason to support it; if the writer gives this as his own belief, he doubtless does justice to himself; if he gives it as Bishop Taylor's, I must think, until I have proof to the contrary, that he does injustice to the Bishop. There is a levity, not to say flippancy, in the expression, which is very unlike Bishop Taylor. If, however, the meaning of the writer be that the tradition or doctrine in question is commended by the Church as one which is to be, piously believed, but not to be imposed as an article of the Faith, and necessary to salvation, it is odd that he should refer particularly to Bishop Taylor in support of an opinion which no divine of note in the Church has ever contravened. For it may, I think, be safely said, that the most learned and judicious of our divines agree in these two points: 1. That the doctrine is one which, in consideration of its antiquity, its intrinsic reasonableness, and the futility of all the objections which are made to it, is to be reverently held and piously believed; and 2. That the doctrine is one which, distinctly and separately taken, is not to be insisted on as a term of Church Communion, and necessary to salvation. Richard Field, in his profound and masterly work on the Church, has explained the distinction in terms which none of the great doctors who have succeeded him, not Bull, nor Pearson, nor Taylor, has rejected or disapproved. For having affirmed (Book IV., c. 20) that "there is no matter of faith delivered by bare and only tradition," Field, writing against the Romanists, proceeds as follows:
"The only clear instance they seem to give, is touching the perpetual virginity of Mary, which, they say, cannot be proved by Scripture, and yet it is necessary to be believed.
"But they should know that this is no point of Christian faith. That she was a Virgin before, in, and after, the birth of Christ, we are bound to believe as an article of our faith, and so much is delivered in Scripture and-in the Apostles' Creed; but that she continued so ever after, is a seemly truth, delivered unto us by the Church of God, fitting the sanctity of the blessed Virgin, and the honor due to so sanctified a vessel of Christ's incarnation, as her body was; and so is de pietate, but not de necessitate fidei, as the schoolmen used to speak. Neither was Helvidius condemned of heresy for the denial hereof, but because pertinaciously he urged the denial of it upon misconstruction of Scripture, as if the denial of it had been a matter of faith. Touching this allegation of our adversaries concerning Mary's perpetual virginity, we must know that howsoever they pretend to hold it only by tradition, yet the fathers that defend it against Helvidius, endeavour to prove it by the Scripture."
True it is, and sad as true, that there are those among us who think little of this distinction'; who make a jumble of matters of faith and opinion; who interpret Scripture without regard to the received expositions of former interpreters or the Symbolical Faith of the Catholic Church; who heed not the Church's advice and counsel, so they can defy her authority; who fling from them what she commends as pious doctrine, that they may believe what they list or what they must; and who would be glad to reform her standards, that they may set up each his own construction of Scripture as the measure and standard of the Catholic truth. True it is, and sad as true, that there are those who abuse their liberty; but would I, therefore, deprive them of their liberty? Would I, with the Romanist or the Puritan, make every thing to be a point of faith which either the existing Church, building on tradition alone, or the private spirit, building on its own inference from Scripture, declares to be a point of faith? and so deprive Christians of the 'liberty secured to them by the fundamental law which limits the authority of the existing Church, in her definitions of faith, to those points which are either read in Holy Scripture, or may be proved thereby?'
"Is there no mean between stupidity and madness? Must either all things be lawful for private persons or nothing? Because we would not have them like David's horse and mule, without understanding, do we therefore put both swords in their hands, to reform and cut off, to plant and to pluck up, to alter and abolish, at their pleasure? We allow them Christian liberty, but would not have them libertines. Admit some have abused this just liberty, may we therefore take it away from others? So shall we have neither a sun in heaven, nor any excellent creature upon earth, for all have been abused by some persons, in some kinds, at some times."
The words are Archbishop Bramhall's; who, while he discards "upstart and supposititious traditions and unwritten fundamentals," admits "genuine, universal, apostolical traditions;" among which he includes "The perpetual Virginity of the Mother of God."
Dr. Donne, in his second Sermon on the Nativity, informs us that the distinguished Calvin, though he did not make the perpetual Virginity a matter of faith, yet says of the doctrine: "Nemo unquam questionem movebit, nisi curiosus; nemo pertinaciter insistet, nisi contentiosus rixatorhe is over-curious that will make any doubt of it; but no man will persist in the denial of it, but a contentious wrangler." Of those who decline the teachings of the Church, there are some, perhaps, who may take from the Genevan Reformer a lesson of common sense and prudent care for the surroundings of the Christian Faith.
Bishop Pearson and Bishop Taylor, following St. Jerome and other ancient Fathers of the Church, have referred, in support of the Catholic doctrine, to Ezekiel xliv. 2: "Then said the Lord unto me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut." In the "True Mary," p. 38, (the words being credited to Smith's Bible Dictionary,) we read: "To quote Ez. xliv. 2, as any argument on the question, is plainly absurd." If I dwell for a moment on these words; it is not to take advantage of what may perhaps have been an unguarded expression, but it is to point out a fallacyas it seems to mewhich underlies a large part of modern criticism. To the Jews, in their carnal state, it seemed absurd to seek an argument in our Lord's words: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up;" but when the minds of these Jews were enlightened by the Holy' Spirit, they saw in. these same words an argument and a prediction that Jesus should die and after three days rise from the dead. The great divines of the Church were not ignorant that the prophet Ezekiel referred to the literal temple; but they knew, also, that the HOLY SPIRIT has often a meaning beyond the letter, and they deemed it but a sorry spiritual thrift, to reject the mystical sense of a passage, for no better reason than that they accepted its literal sense. They, and the Fathers whom they followed, were men who sought to understand Holy Scripture through that same Spirit by whom it was written, and to open its meaning by means of prayer, meditation and a sanctified life; and when they intimate to us that the temple in Ezekiel foreshadowed that Temple of Divinity in which the Son of God for a time vouchsafed to dwell, their comment deserves, at least, to be reverently pondered.
To question the correctness of their interpretation in this particular passage may be safe, but to discard the principle on which they proceed, and pronounce their interpretation void of argument and absurd, is somewhat dangerous: for it is, indeed, nothing less than to abandon the Christian, and to accept the Jewish interpretation of the Law and the Prophets; to turn back from Christ, our Passover, to the passover of sheep and bullocks; to rest in the literal David, and to give up the mystical David, the CHRIST Of God; to catch at the shadows of Christianity, and to let go its substance: it is, in effect, and by necessary consequence, to renounce Christianity and to return to Judaism; for what is Judaism but Christianity in the letter, and what is Christianity but mystical Judaism?
The celebrated Erasmus, one of the chief revivers of learning, and of whose "Colloquies" it has been said, that they made more Protestants than the ten tomes of Calvin, has left us, among many other works, an Exposition of the Creed. I quote Erasmus, not as a legitimate guide of opinion to the members of the Church, but simply to show, on the text under consideration, the judgment of an author whose logical acumen is unquestioned, and who was as far as possible from being either a superstitious monk or a bigot.
The extract is taken from "A Playne and godly Exposition or Declaration of the Commune Crede newly made and put forth by the famouse Clarke Mayster Erasmus of Roterdam;" which was printed by Robert Redman, the introduction being dated A. D. 1533.
"Disciple. Sholde he be accompted and taken for an heretike: whiche wolde beleve, that Marie the Virgine after the byrthe of Christe hadde brought forth other chyldren by her husbande?
"Master. Ye verily not onelye for an hereticke: but for a blasphemouse person also.
"Dis. And yet they say, that this thynge is not expressed in the Holy Scripture.
"Mas. This is very trouth, but thoughe it be not expressed: yet is it evydently gathered and concluded of Holy Scripture, and that it sholde be otherwyse: is manifestly repugnante to the dygnyte bothe of the Sonne, and of the Mother. Finally the Catholyke Church hath with so great consente beleved, taught, and fastly affyrmed it, from the begynnynge of the Gospell, even vntyll this day; that it ought no whitte less to be beleved, than yf it were expressed in the Holy Scriptures.
"Dis. I longe to here the Scriptures.
"Mas. The prophete Ezechiel dyd signifie the perpetual integrite of the Virgine by a darke prophecie, when he beynge tourned towardes the way of the gate of the vttermore sanctuary, which gate loked towarde the Easte, herde the same Spirite, which dyd consecrat the chastite of Mary, sayengthese words vnto hym, This gate shall be shut, and shall not be opened, and no man shal passe thrugh it, for the Lorde God of Israell hath entred in by it and it shall be shut to the prince. Dyd not the prophet in these wordes very proprely and aptely enough descrybe and painte forth the sacred wombe of the Virgine: out of which wombe, that Sone of Rightuosnes hathe risen to vs, which doth lighten every man that cometh into the worlde: of whiche Sone Zacharie also sayth in the Gospell of Luke, He hathe visited vs, spryngynge or risynge from on high to geve lyghte vnto them whiche sitte in darknes and in the shadowe of death. This gate was shut afore the tyme of her deliveraunce of chyld, it waa shut in the time of deliveraunce, and it contynued also stille shut after the tyme of her delyveraunce, it was open only to the Prince Christe: whiche by His entrynge in,. dyd sanctifie it, and by His goynlge out dyd consecrate it, for it dyd not loke but onely towards the easte, from whence the moste pure Sonne dothe vprise, that Sonne (I mean) which never setteth or goeth downe, and which reneweth and chereth all thynges. It loked to the way of the outward sanctuare: for this nativite was without (not according to) the commune manner of nativities of men; having no whit of human concupiscence or luste mengled or joyned vnto it. Finally whan she herselfe speketh thus to the Anngell, quia virum nom cognoscoi. e., for I know no manshe sheweth plainely her perpetual purpose of virginite.
"Dis. But seyng that wedlocke is an honourable thynge of itselfe, and that company of man and wyfe together is without blame or syn: what indignite or vnworthiness sholde it have ben, yf the Lorde hadde ben borne after suche maner, as other prophetes were borne, and as Johan Baptist was borne, which was more excellent than al prophetes?
"Mas. Indede wedlocke is an honourable thynge, yf it be chastely kepte, but perpetuall virginite is a farre more honourabie thynge, yf it be so, that it be wylfully (purposely) taken, and for the love of godlynes and vertue. Through concupiscence, without whiche man is not conceived, the contagion and infection of original synne goeth from one to another. But more than anngelicall purite dyd beseme (become) this hevenly chyldebyrthe. I pray the tell me now, yf ony man did tourne a temple made of stone, after it hadde ben ones hallowed and sacred to God by a mortal Byshop, into a showemaker's shopq, wolde not all men crye out, that it were shamefully and vnaccordyngly (unworthily) don?
"Dis. Yes veryly, and they wolde also overwhelme hym with stones.
"Mas. And yet is not the showemaker's crafte ony filthy occupation. And yf ony man wolde put a vessell, that hadde ben consecrated and dedycated to baptisme: or holy oyle, or to other holy vses, vnto prophane vses of the kechen: sholde it not seme an intolerable contumely and despite?
"Dis. Yes doutles.
"Mas. And yet is there no faughte or synne in the coke's crafte.
"Dis. It is trouth.
"Mas. What is then to be sayde of the most sacred and holy temple of the Blessed Virgine's body? whiche not every maner Bishop hath dedicated with bodily oyle: but the Holy Ghost Hymselfe hath consecrated it with hevenly anoynting. In which that Divine Childe rested so manye monthes, as in a bryde chambre: in whiche also, as in a workehouse, the hole Trinite dyd worke and finishe that mistery, whiche is to be honoured and worshipped even of the anngelycall myndes: sholde it not seme a verye vnmete and vnseemlly thynge: yf it had been open, I wyll not say to man: but even to an anngell?
"Dis. Yes I perceyve it verye playnly.
"Mas. Nowe reken and considre this with thy selfe, whether we sholde rather geve credence to the Church, so consenting and agreing together: or els to the Jewes beynge not onelye in this poynte madde, or els to vile and vnlerned Helvidius, whose erroure taken of the Scriptures mysunderstonded is so manifeste: that scasely (scarcely) he hathe fownde ony disciples of his erroure, and also of the olde doctoures of the Church hath ben scasely judged worthy of confutation?
"Dis. I see and perceyve, how greatly perpetuall virginite dyd beseme that byrthe. But why wolde the Lord be borne of a maryed woman?
"Mas. It was provided by that meane, for the yonge Virgine, that she sholde have a keper, an intender, a nourysher, and a minister: without any sinister suspytion of the wycked and mysdemynge commun people, and also that she sholde have her spouse and husbande a,waighltie and substancyall wytnesse of her virginite, it was semely and convenient, that suche a Virgine as she was: sholde be in moste highe and perfyghte tranquillyte and quyetnes, and it was convenient and mete, that the Mother of God shoulde be not onely pure from all synne: but it was also accordynge that she shold be not so much as touched ony whitte with the false tales of men. For she onely is excellently chaste: of whome the same is aschiamed to speake evyll. And therfore, this mystery was hydde and kepte secret a longe season. For it is lykely, that Marie and Josephe dyd kepe these misteries in they herte: vntyll suche tyme that'after the sending of the Holy Ghost from Heven, the Gospellh dyd spreade abroade His lyghte; thrugh out the hole worlde."
To the above extracts from our Church Divines, I shall add one more, and then leave the subject to the consideration of the reader. The name of Hickes, who heads the catalogue of the non-juring Bishops, may not be entitled to the profound veneration which Churchmen justly accord to the names of Bull and Pearson and Taylor. But no one, within my knowledge, has more effectually exposed the Mariolatry unhappily practised in the Roman Church than the author of the Speculum Beatae Virginis; and the words in which he ends his discourse seem no unmeet conclusion to this brief compilation: "Wherefore, my brethren of this truly Catholic and Apostolic Church of England, let us take care to keep within the bounds and limits, which our pure and holy mother, after the example of the Primitive Church, hath set to the praise and honor of the blessed Virgin. Let us cheerfully and respectfully give her the honorable titles of holy and blessed, and perpetual Virgin; and call her without scruple the holy and blessed mother of God: nay, let us for peace sake go as far as we can with our fellow Christians of the Latin communion, so we go with caution and circumspection, in honoring of this glorious Saint. Let us acknowledge, with them, that she is to be honored above all Saints; - but let us not honor her with religious honor, nor pray unto her either as a donor, or as an intercessor in tile presence of God. Let us acknowledge, with them, her perpetual virginity, according to ancient tradition; and if it will gain, or oblige any of them, let us not oppose them in the opinion they have, that she promised and vowed her virginity to God; for it is an innocent opinion, though it is precarious, and hath no ground in Scripture, or primitive antiquity. In a word, let us admire her singular purity and holiness, though we cannot admit of her perfect innocence. Let us give her all the honor that is due to so great a Saint, but not one jot more than is allowed to a creature; and, if by doing so much, and no more, you shall happen to offend, whether it be on the left hand or on the right, assure yourselves the offence will be taken and not given; but if by refusing to do so much, you offend, the offence will be given to both Churches, and that will be a great offence. To conclude, let us always mention her with respect; let her name still perfume the air like precious ointment; let us celebrate her great virtues; let us keep her festivals, as it becomes true sons of the primitive Church of England; let us imitate her blessed example, and thank God for the benefit of it; let us endeavor, as she did, to hear the Word of God, and keep it, and to do the will of our heavenly Father, and then we shall all become (Kecaritwmenoi) high favorites of heaven, even the mother, and sister and brethren of Christ; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed by the universal Church, all worship, adoration, majesty and dominion, both now and ever more.Amen."
The above testimonies may suffice to show that the Church of England, from which the Church in the United States is derived, and from the doctrine of which it has not departed, sanctions and inculcates the belief that our Blessed Lord is the only Son of His Virgin Mother. The doctrine, as we have seen, was assailed in the Primitive Church, but the replies which were made to the assaults served to establish the doctrine the more firmly in the hearts of the faithful. The Churches of the East and of the West acquiesced in the doctrine; nor am I aware that there is "high authority," or indeed any 'authority' in the Church of England for the denial of it. It is, I believe, a ruled pointruled by the same authorities which have constantly maintained and transmitted the Catholic creedthat the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our LORD is to be commended to the faithful, not, indeed, as an article of the Faith, but as a doctrine worthy of pious belief and devout acceptance. Of late years the old error has been revived, and the attempt has been made to defend it by opening up anew the Scriptural question. Unhappily, however, the recent inquiry into Scripture has been conducted, and that, too, by some of the divines of the Church of England, on a rationalistic principle of interpretation; the appeal being made to "the simple testimony of Scripture," after having disencumbered the mind of all a priori considerations and traditions; that is, after a cool rejection of all considerations drawn from the Catholic creed, and in open disregard of the rule enjoined on the Clergy of the Church of England at the same time and by the same authority which confirmed and set forth the XXXIX. Articles; the rule, I mean, which enjoins the Clergy "to take care that they never teach any thing in a sermon which they would have the people hold and believe, but what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old or New Testament, and which the Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops have collected from that very doctrine."
Not that these gentlemen have any objection to an a priori argument in the present case, provided it be one of their own choice and not of the Church's prescription. Thus the contributor to Smith's Bible Dictionary (quoted in the True Mary, p. 36) remarks, that "when the word brother is used, in any but its proper sense, the context prevents the possibility of confusion; and that if the word brethren, as repeatedly applied to James, &c., really meant 'cousins' or 'kinsmen,' it will be the only instance of such an application in which no data are given to correct the laxity of the meaning." And having inferred from this alleged fact that there is "no adequate warrant in the language alone to take 'brethren' as meaning 'relatives,'" the same writer concludes: "Therefore, the a priori presumption is in favor of a literal acceptation of the term."
The argument on the word brother does not touch the main question. The perpetual Virginity of Mary the Church has ever held to be a most certain truth; but whether "the brothers of our Lord" were the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, or whether they were tile sons of Alphaeus and Mary, the sister, or perhaps cousin of the Virgin, are questions on which there has always been a difference of opinion. The latter hypothesis, therefore, is of no vital importance, and yet it is only against this hypothesis that the writer's argument is directed; with what success, we now proceed to examine.
When the word brother is used, as it often is, in a metaphorical sense, as, for example, when it denotes a colleague in office, or an intimate friend, or a member of the same religious society, this sense is readily inferred from the context. When, however, James and Simon are called our Lord's brothers, there being here no trope, we take the word of course in its proper or literal sense; which is, according to the Scripture use, brother, half-brother, cousin or kinsman. In this ease, as we accept the literal sense, it seems somewhat gratuitous to produce an a priori presumption in its favor.
But the writer, probably, uses proper and literal to express what may, perhaps, be better expressed by the word strict or narrow, as opposed to wide or extended. By brothers, in the strict sense, is meant, I suppose, children of the same parents, the same father and mother. But this meaning is often extended so as to denote persons who are less nearly related; as, for example, half-brothers, or those who have the same father but not the same mother, and vice versa; cousins and others near of kin; members of the same tribe and even natives of the same country. If this be the writer's meaning, then his argument is that there is an a priori presumption in favor of the strict sense, unless the context shows that the word is to be taken in a wider or more extended sense. How the writer himself overcomes the a priori presumption, (seeing he does not take the word brethren in its strict sense, but makes our Lord and His brethren the sons, not of the same parents, but only of the same mother,) I stop not to inquire. I would remark, however, that if this writer is correct, then, when St. Paul (Gal. i. 19) calls James our Lord's brother, without a word in the context, perhaps I may add in the whole epistle, to show that he takes the word in a wide sense, there is an "a priori presumption" that St. Paul believed our Blessed Lord to be the son of Joseph and Mary, and the burthen of proof is thrown upon us to show the contrary. Happily, however, there is no ground for such "a priori presumption." For when the Scripture writers use the word brother, without explaining whether they mean it in a strict or wider sense, all we can fairly infer from such use is that they who lived at the same time with themselves, and for whom they more immediately wrote, understood or were able to discover their meaning without any qualifying terms to explain it. Thus, (to give one instance among many,) from 2 Sam. xiii. 8, we learn that Ammon was the brother of Tamar, and it is only from 1 Chron. iii. 1, 2, 9, that we can be quite sure that lie was only her half-brother. In 2 Sam. xx. 9, we read: "And Joab said to Amasa, art thou in health, my brother?" Not a word in the context to show that Joab and Amasa were not brothers in the strict sense; and yet we learn from 1 Chron. ii. 16, 17, that Zeruiah and Abigail were sisters; that Joab was the son of Zeruiah and Amasa the son of Abigail; and consequently that Joab and Anmasa were cousins.
This last example, (2 Sam. xx. 9, compared with 1 Chron. ii. 16, 17,) we fancy, if nothing else, effectually disposes of the "a priori presumption." But, really, one is ashamed to dwell on an argument of this sort. The fact that our Blessed Lord is the only Son of His Mother, is attested by universal tradition; the same testimony on which we receive the records of our faith, and not less unanimous and unquestioned in this particular case than that which we produce for some, at least, of the books of the New Testament. This testimony shows the fact to be morally certain; and, in this respect, it is one of a class which embraces stated fasts, the Lord's Day, infant baptism, liturgies, and Episcopacy, all of which are attested by the ancient Church to be of Apostolic origin. The denial of one or more of these facts, and the attempt to disprove them by arraying Scripture against the ancient Church, is the bottom of most, if not all of our modern sects and schisms. But, in the whole field of theological controversy, we doubt if an instance can be found of opposition to the Church's testimony so void of all good meaning, and so futile in its mode of operation, as that which bestirs itself to prove that James and Simon, &c., were our Lord's "uterine brothers." At what good end these assailants aim, it is hard to see. It is not, surely, a feeling of modesty, or humility, or reverence for our Lord, or honor for His Mother, which leads them to impugn, on this point, the testimony of the Church. And how do they go to work? Do they name any one author who invented the fable and palmed it on the credulity of the Church? Do they point to any one age since the time of the Apostles, and prove that the Church did not then hold the doctrine which they assail? This is what our Church did when she rejected the invocation and religious worship of the saints, purgatory, transubstantiation, half communion, &c.; she proved, historically, that these doctrines and usages were unknown to the ancient Church, and, consequently, that the traditions on which they rest are novel and surreptitious. But these men attempt nothing of this sort. They confess the antiquity and universality of the doctrine which they attack. They confess, or, at least, they cannot, with decency, deny, that the ancient fathers, as living nearer to the Apostles' times, had better sources of information than themselves, and quite as much of God's grace and man's wit to use them for the ends of truth and piety. The most that they attempt is, to show that the ancient Church did not understand the plain language of Scripture! To this end, they first nibble at the words until and first-born, and then muster all their strength for the word brother. This, they tell us, cannot meanwhat the Western Church has, in this connection, from time immemorial, believed it to meancousin. Grant them this, and still they have not touched the question; for James, &c., may have been the sons of Joseph by a former marriage. But why cannot it mean cousin? Because, say they, unless there is something in the contextas if the whole context did not treat of the Word made flesh!to limit its meaning, there is a presumption in favor of the strict sense. Do they take it in the strict sense? Not at all, or, at least, not yet; for, so taken, the word brother would prove that our Lord is, by nature, the Son of Joseph, as well as of Mary. From men who, on such flimsy pretexts, are fain to convict of error the Origens and Chrysostoms, the Jeromes and Augustines, of the ancient Church, we can but turn away, with the reflection that "owls now see what heretofore eagles could not."
The result of the recent examination of the New Testament on this subject has been just what might have been expected, considering the principle on which it proceeds, viz., a reproduction of the old arguments in a new and specious form, with such adornments and improvements as the acuteness of modern criticism could furnish; without, however, the production of any text which, either expressly or by necessary consequence, contradicts the testimony of the Church. So that, for aught that has yet appeared to the contrary, the Church's testimony on this subject bids fair to remain unshaken after its present opponents shall have passed into the same oblivion or unenviable notoriety which has overtaken their ancient forerunners.
To enter on a discussion of the particular texts appealed to in this controversy, involving, as some of them do, several collateral questions, is foreign to the design of the present tract, and would expand it to an inconvenient length. Nor is it necessary; for Bishop Pearson, if carefully read, will be found to have anticipated most of the modern objections; and in reply to what is new, there is enough in the admirable Commentary of Archdeacon Wordsworthnot to mention other recent works which: have treated the subject from a Catholic stand-pointto convince those who are willing to accept the testimony of the Church, unless it can be shown that her testimony is contradicted by Holy Scripture. For after all, the root of the difference appears to beand the same remark is applicable to some other controverted pointsthat the opponents and advocates of the doctrine conduct the appeal to Scripture on principles of interpretation diametrically opposite. The former (venia dicam, I mean no disrespect) seem to approach and reconnoitre the Scriptures as a modern savant some curious production newly discovered, and demanding to be described and classified; or as the inquisitive student grapples with a heathen classic, whose meaning he can evolve by a skilful use of grammar and lexicon, and the best appliances of philology. The latter, on the other hand, regard the Holy Scriptures 'as' the charter of the Christian Church, and the inestimable birthright of her children; all of whom, whether clergymen or laymen, are bound in their respective spheres, and in their several generations, to guard and preserve them in the integrity not only of their letter, but of their meaning. For this reason, and because they believe that the Holy Scriptures are given to be a spring of divine life, not to a mere aggregation of individuals, but to a continuous and divinely constituted body, they are unwilling, unless constrained by a clear necessity, to accede to any interpretation of Scripture which contradicts the concurrent sense of the Catholic Church. Thankfully do they accept and highly prize the treasures which learning and science have contributed towards the elucidation of the sacred text; but they are yet to seek for the reasonableness of subordinating the lights of human learning and science to a principle of interpretation which is the parent of distraction and division; and not rather to a principle, which leads all who embrace and follow it to hold the Faith in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace. For the matter in hand they would confess a clear necessity, if but one text could be adduced from the New Testament distinctly affirming that James and Simon were the sons of the Blessed Virgin; but to draw so grave a conclusion from expressions which (to say the least) may be otherwise satisfactorily explained, or from a word of ambiguous meaning, and to obtrude it upon the Church in opposition to the consentient testimony of her fathers and bishops, only serves, as they think, to whet the mind to novelty and variety, and to dissipate the sense of the sacred text rather than to retain and preserve it.
"May GOD grant, that avoiding every extreme, we may all seek in love for pious truth, which very often lies in the VIA MEDIA."