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CAUSES OF DOCTRINAL DEVELOPMENT.

We mean: there were some points of the New Testament revelation, which -- relatively to the circumstances of those to whom the faith was preached in the first ages of the Church -- did not consist with Christian prudence, to bring all at once into prominence, and to insist upon explicitly in detail everywhere, and at all times. These were, of course, truths accessory to the faith, and not such as belonged to its substance. Amongst them were especially, certain doctrinal results and practical consequences flowing from the whole mystery of the Incarnation, and the glorified Humanity of the Eternal Word: for example, the dignity and prerogatives of Mary, His ever-Virgin Mother; the honour and devotion due to her; to the Angels and Saints; the power of their intercession; the practice of venerating and invoking them; the religious use of images and pictures representing the Word Incarnate, and the Saints in glory.

Here we should take into account the gross ideas and materialistic habits of thought with regard to all things religious that were everywhere prevalent, and which must have had a strong hold on those to whom the Gospel was first preached. Heathen mythology, idolatry, the worship of heroes and demigods, sceptical philosophy, sensual literature, and general corruption of morals, all combined to foster this depraved state of thought. Evidently, then, the first duty and work of the Christian teacher was to disenthrall souls from their mental bondage, to purify, enlighten, refine, and elevate their spiritual sense, by indoctrinating them first of all with the supernaturalness, and distinctive spirituality of the Christian Faith. All the world, at that period needed to be converted from its degraded notions of the divinity into which it had sunk, to the idea of the One true God; as self-existing from eternity, of an infinitely glorious nature adn being -- a pure Spirit, incorporeal, absolutely perfect, All Holy, Almighty, All-wise, All-good, the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign Lord of all things visible and invisible; the Source and Reason of all created being, goodness, beauty and truth; the Supreme Lord, most just Lawgiver, Judge and Recompenser of all men, and also their most merciful Father, their Last End, and All-sufficient Saviour.

We should also bear in mind that the early converts to Christianity were still surrounded by their former co-religionists, on the one hand, Jews, inheriting all the exclusive traditions of their race and nation; Gentiles, on the other, cleaving to their Pagan superstitions: and that it was from these two elements alike fresh accessions to the Faith were hoped to be made.

 

 

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