21
CAUSES OF DOCTRINAL DEVELOPMENT.

"As principles imply applications, and general propositions include particulars, so Butler tells us, do certain relations imply correlative duties and certain objects demand certain acts and feelings. He observes that even though we were not enjoined to pay Divine honours to the Second and Third Persons of the Holy Trinity, what is predicated of Them in Scripture would be an abundant warrant, an indirect command, nay, a ground in reason for doing so. 'Does not,' he asks, 'the duty of religious regards to both the Divine Persons as immediately arise to the view of reason out of the very nature of their offices and relations, as the inward good-will and kind intention which we owe to our fellow-creatures, arises out of the common relations between us and them?' He proceeds to say that he is speaking of the inward religious regards of reverence, honour, love, trust, gratitude, fear and hope. 'In what external manner this inward worship is to be expressed is a matter of pure revealed command; but the worship, the internal worship itself, to the Son and Holy Ghost, is no further matter of pure revealed command that as the relations they stand in to us are matter of pure revelation; for the relations being known the obligations to such internal worship are obligations of reason, arising out of those relations themselves.' Here is a development of doctrine into worship, of which parallel instances are obviously to be found in the Church of Rome."*

The Cardinal says later on: --

"Worship, then, is the necessary correlative of glory: and in the same sense in which created natures can share in the Creator's incommunicable glory, are they also allowed a share of that worship which is His property alone."+

8. We should not fail to remember all along, as we pursue our inquiry, that the doctrinal and devotional development in the first centuries of which we can now take any note, must not be put down for certain as precisely that which then actually had place amongst the faithful, but is such only as we can now discover from the extant records of antiquity. The works of the Fathers that have ocme down to us are comparatively few. Many of them have perished. Those that survive are not generally of such a character and scope, as would lead us to expect that we should find in them much information on details of popular devotioni and piety. They deal for the most part with larger topics, the refutation of heresies and the vindication of the orthodox doctrine, Scriptural exegesis; or it is sermons preached on greater occasions, or discourses and treatise s on special subjects, moral and religious. It is rare to find in them anything that bears directly on the devout habits and pious practices of the faithful, or that would portray and illustrate the ordinary Christian in the family and society. Here or there something to the point appears in the writings of one or other Father: but it is an isolated trait, or a passing allusion, suggestive, rather than enlightening. The monuments and inscriptions in the Catacombs throw, perhaps, more light on the modes of religious thought, devotions, and practices of piety in fashion amongst the early Christians, than all the patristic works of the first three or four centuries. S. Ephrem may be said to stand alone in this respect, amongst all the Fathers of that period whose writings have come down to us. He was a zealous and successful missionary preacher, whose fervid eloquence was in its matter and style in touch with the people. In his popular sermons, prayers are frequently addressed to the Saints, with exhortations to his hearers to invoke them. But we must wait for the writings of John Moschus, and S. Gregory of Tours, at the close of the sixth century, before we can find stories or anecdotes in any number that serve to illustrate the popular faith and practical devotion of the primitive Church in this matter. We say, in any number, for one or other is related by earlier Fathers. Here, however, we should not omit to take account of the Apocalyptic writings belonging to the third and fourth centuries -- some of them, perhaps, even to the second -- which doubtless represent in great measure the popular sentiment and are its outcome; as well as other records, such as the Acts of the early Martyrs, which, though drawn up in their present form at a later date, were derived in great part, at any rate, from original coeval documents, or from very ancient sources, that were still extant at the time of their compilation.


* Development, p. 49. The author thus continues: "A development converse to that which Butler speaks of, must next be mentioned. As certain objects excite certain emotions and sentiments, so do sentiments imply objects and duties. Thus conscience, the existence of which we cannot deny, is a proof of the doctrine of a Moral Governor, which alone gives it a meaning and a scope: that is, the doctrine of a Judge and Judgment to come is a development of conscience... And the usage of prayers for the dead implies certain circumstances of their state upon which such devotions bear."

+ Ib., p. 142.

 

 

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