"The Catholic belief on either point may be regarded either as a thing felt in the heart of Christians from the first, or as a thing systematically treated of by polemical divines. It is plain that the first of these must have existed before the last. What Protestants suppose is, that if the first really existeed, it must in the course of five centureies have shown itself visibly and unmistakably in the latter. What our divines often reply is, that so many documents are lost, that we cannot estimate the contents of the mind of the Church from the contents of those which remain. It might be added, that if God, who can show the unknown future in a vision, were in a vision to show us the unknown past, we should find early Christians devout to Mary, as well as Christians of this day. This is what I suppose both parties to feel in the matter. Now to take away in limine an objection, which may be felt to taking the Catholic theory, where, from defect of documents, all is guess-work, let the following observations be attended to.

"The doctrine of the Church, like its subject-matter, stands alone and without parallel in the world. Therefore all illustrations of it will necessarily be imperfect; still the following shall be hazarded. A person who is master of a language, knows what the genius of that language requires by a perception indistinguishable from intuition. This perception he shares with others who knew the same language hundreds of years before him. Neither they nor he could communicate it to persons external to that language. In order to do this, recourse must be had to grammar rules and other subsequent inventions, calculated indeed to convey some idea of that language to others, but wholly inadequate to transferring to the mind of a foreigner that delicate sense of what the genius of each language requires which belongs to a native. Hence most persons have heard narrow-minded persons extol in turns every language of Europe as the finest language in the world, according as these last happen from birth or habituation to have gained an insight into the genius of any particular language. But suppose a person to have found that the grammarians of any nation had remodelled their statements, introduced by degrees rules entirely new, and in appearance contradictory to the positive assertions of their predecessors; suppose that these grammarians even differed materially with one another as to the right mode of stating things, and that in consequence the person spoken of should complain that the language had entirely changed its genius since the time of the former grammarians, a native would reply to him that the genius of the language to his eyes was as palpably as possible the very same it had always been, but that he (who complained), having only such a crude idea of it as grammars and dictionaries could give him, could not possibly have that delicate sense implied by speaking of 'entering into the genius of a language.' It was this [intuitive sense], the native would say -- and not those [grammars and dictionaries] -- which enabled himself to identify the genius of the language even in the earliest authors. Nevertheless, he might frankly admit that, though its personal identity remained full and entire, the philosophical labours of the philologian had had a certain reflex action on its entirety.



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