Изображения страниц

but it existed there as the universe, visible or invisible, existed before creation-an unbreathed music, an unspoken poetry, deep within the Heart of God. One by one, in their fulness and their detail, its manifold glories were to dawn on her inner apprehension, and become part of her organic life, as the stars are painted one by one on the darkening azure of the sunset sky. There can be no stint to her growing knowledge, no stay in the kindling path of her divine illumination, till the fires of Pentecost are quenched in the brightness of the everlasting sunshine. It may be said that all the articles of the creed are summed up in its opening clause, Credo in unum Deum, as all musical tones are summed up in the seven notes of the scale. His omnipotence is the origin of creation ; the Incarnation and the Passion are the expression of His boundless love; justification is the work of His wisdom ; His mercy is the measure of our endless beatitude ; His justice is revealed in the fiery chastisement of sin. And so it would scarcely be too much to say, that the whole circle of revealed truths is wrapped up in the very letter of the Scriptural record, but then that record (if I may be pardoned a homely simile) is like the handkerchief written over with sympathetic ink, which must be held to the fire for the characters to come out to view; or as the faculties nascent in the human mind, which require to be elicited by influence from without, and fixed by mental analysis ; or rather, let me say, it is like the dry bones in the valley of the Prophet's vision, which await the breath of that Spirit who inhabits and illuminates the Church, to quicken the dull clay with power from on high, and make it a living soul.



It is a very common, but very ignorant, objection to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that it places the Blessed Virgin beyond the need of redemption; and I have even known of sermons being preached against it on the text, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.' Those who so argue can never have read the decree of Dec. 8, 1854, which expressly affirms, “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."* Nor is it more to the purpose to object, as is also frequently done, that her conception was not, like that of our Divine Lord, miraculous. An Oxford writer, of deserved theological reputation, seems almost to think it a sufficient disproof of the doctrine to quote some words from a sermon of St. Leo's, to the effect that Christ alone was born innocent, because His birth alone was not through the ordinary laws of generation.f But that is not the point. Without entering here on the vexed question of the manner of its transmission, it is obvious that original sin affects directly the soul, not the body. And the soul is created immediately by God, though its creation is dependent on certain physical antecedents. The body of the Blessed Virgin (as in all probability our Lord's also) was subject to the conditions of infirmity introduced by the Fall. But we hold that her soul was, by a special grace

* Bishop Ullathorne's Immaculate Conception, p. 198. Richardson 1855. † Bright's Sermons of St. Leo with Notes. Note 1. Masters.

I Her death therefore is no argument against her sinlessness, as is urged by the clever but very one-sided author of Quelques Mots sur les Communions Occidentales, p. 84. Leipzig, 1855. Cf. Encore Quelques Mots, p. 29. Leipzig, 1858.

and for the merits of her Son, perfectly sanctified at the moment of its creation, as ours are in the sacrament of baptism. It is, further, a pious and universal belief (though not matter of faith) dating at latest from the time of St. Augustine, that she was preserved through life by a special grace from all defilement of actual sin. To call such a belief derogatory to the grace of God, or the merits of our Redeemer, is unmeaning. Rather it commends itself to the instinctive feelings of a religious mind. And accordingly we find the great English poet of the last generation exclaiming :

“Mother, whose virgin bosom was uncrost

By slightest shade of thought to sin allied,
Woman above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast."*

It is of course true, as Mr. Bright obserres, that St. Leo knew nothing of the Immaculate Conception,' as it is true, in the same sense, that a host of early Greek fathers knew nothing' of the doctrine of original sin. But it is a confusion of thought to suppose that he intended to contradict an opinion not brought into debate in his day. There were later writers, as St. Bernard, who did oppose it, partly from misapprehension of its precise meaning, partly on grounds proved, after being sifted through some eight centuries, to be inadequate. Arguments of this kind are two-edged swords. Those at least who defend the present form of the Nicene Creed (and I know of but one Anglican divine who declines to do so) may be expected to remember for how many centuries the definition Filioque was unknown, and what high authorities have rejected it.

I have had occasion more than once in the course of this volume to point out, that the Scotist view of the Incarnation, which naturally allies itself with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, is most accordant with the general spirit of patristic teaching, though not expressly maintained by any early writer. The whole doctrinal question is elaborately discussed in Passaglia's De Immaculato Deipare semper Virginis Conceptu Commentarius, 3 vols. folio; and is exhibited in a more concise and popular form, but with great lucidity of statement, in the Bishop of Birmingham's book already referred to.

* Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastioal Sonnets.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »