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all the details of the subject treated by us, and forming them into one living connected whole, we saw ourselves compelled to accord the precedence to the matter giving light before that which receives it, and to the inwardly determining principle before that which is determined; and precisely for this reason we here insert the article on the Church, and the authoritative sources of the different confessions. History teaches us, that out of the pale of the Church, from the earliest Egyptian Gnostic, down to the two general superintendants of Weimar and Gotha, * Messrs. Röher, and Bretschneider, of Holy Writ never enjoyed the authority, which it must lay claim to among Christians, of determining by its purport their modes of thinking. On the contrary, they were always preconceived opinions -opinions derived from sources extraneous to Christianity, that were made the standard for estimating the authority of Scripture, the extent of that authority, and the mode of its use, although this might not always be so openly and candidly confessed, as in the case of the two above-mentioned rationalists. Several of the smaller religious sects,—the Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Swedenborgians, and others, -are in modern times irrefragable vouchers for the truth of what is here asserted. As regards Luther, he by no means first abandoned the faith in the Catholic doctrine of the Church, and of the relation of the same to Holy Writ, and then changed what he found reprehensible in the dogmas of the Church. Still less did he make use of the principles, according to which he formed his theory of the Church, to deduce from them his other doctrines. On the contrary, the very reverse took place in both respects. In regard to the first assertion, it is well known that the earliest attacks of Luther were by no means directed against the principle of the Catholic Church and her authority; nay, he declared himself at the outset ready to submit his peculiar doctrines to the judgment of the Church, and he had to endure a grievous struggle with his conscience, whereof he himself has given us a most interesting description, until he at length obtained a melancholy victory, and until the troubled spirit departed from him. Had the Catholic Church agreed to recognize his doctrine, he in his turn would ever have acknowledged her authority. And assuredly, as far as he was concerned, he would have found no difficulty in uniting two things so contradictory, as his dogma and the Catholic Church; and, as he had often succeeded in coupling, as a peaceful pair, two things inwardly opposed to each other, so he
* See Röhr, Letters on Rationalism, p. 15. The writer, after asserting that in matters of faith and in the adoption of religious doctrines, reason alone decides, goes on to say, 66 The Bible is, in his estimation, nothing more than any other book. He holds its declarations to be valid only when they are in accordance with his own convictions; and these declarations do not constitute the ground of determination, for these depend on their own rational proofs, but serve merely as an illustration, that others also, wise men of antiquity, have so thought and believed.”
† See Bretschneider's “St. Simonianism and Christianity, or Critical Exposition of the St. Simonian religion, its relation to the Christian Church, and of the state of Christianity in our times.” Leipzig, 1832. As the result of the progress of intelligence in theological matters, in modern times, we are told by this author, “ Not only is the interpretation of Scripture to be abandoned to science, but even the contents of Scripture discovered by such interpretation are to be estimated according to the sciences.” This assertion, more closely analyzed, would signify that the sum total of all the truths, which the sciences in general, metaphysical as well as empirical, had brought forth, or might yet bring forth, as common property, are the standard for estimating the contents of the Bible. What then is the Deity in the opinion of Mr. Bretschneider ? And what will he be yet?
would have made the attempt here. But, with sound perception, the organs of the Church observed, that deleterious matter was infused by him into ecclesiastical life. Summoned now, either to renounce as erroneous his peculiar doctrine of Justification, together with the propositions determining the same or determined by it, or no longer to flatter himself with the title of a son of the Church, he felt necessitated, as he was the parent of a new doctrine, to become the father of a new Church. Hence, it appeared to him more honourable to execute what his own spirit suggestedrather to command as a father, than to obey as a son. He now laid the foundations for another Church to be erected by himself ; — whether on a rock, or in the sand, the sequel will show.
Yet that Luther had formed a peculiar theory of Justification, before he entertained the clear idea of founding a new Church, is only a subordinate motive for our setting forth the exposition of doctrine, before the explanation of the article on the Church. For it not rarely happens, that what is merely an effect, is already clearly recognized, while its cause, though long busy in the back-ground of human consciousness, exhibits itself only later in its full light, and with entire clearness. Accordingly, it is perhaps possible, that Luther's other tenets may stand in a relation of internal dependence on his view of the Church, although he may have been clearly conscious of his doctrine of Justification by faith alone, prior to his doctrine on the Church, and consequently may have given utterance to the former tenet, previously to the latter. The principal point is, consequently, which of the two furnishes a scientific explanation of the other? We must thus adhere to the latter of the two above-stated propositions. In the
course of our enquiries it will be made manifest, that Luther's, as well as Calvin's and Zwingle's general moral views, especially their conception of the relation of the believer to Christ, entirely pervade their theory of the Church and of Scripture, and constitute the foundation of the same. As, moreover, we consider the Catholic doctrines only in their opposition to the peculiar tenets of Protestantism, and the latter must accordingly determine what Catholic doctrines are to be here discussed, so they must also regulate the mode of the discussion. As thus the Catholic doctrines are in a purely passive relation, and the Protestant, if we are to pursue a scientific course, assign the present place to the article on the Church; so our method, quite independently of the reasons assigned in the first section, is in every way justified.
By the Church on earth, Catholics understand the visible community of believers, founded by Christ, in which, by means of an enduring apostleship, established by him, and appointed to conduct all nations, in the course of ages, back to God, the works wrought by him during his earthly life, for the redemption and sanctification of mankind, are, under the guidance of his spirit, continued to the end of the world.
Thus, to a visible society of men, is this great, important, and mysterious work entrusted. The ultimate reason of the visibility of the Church is to be found in the incarnation of the Divine Word. Had that Word descended into the hearts of men, without taking the form of a servant, and accordingly without appearing in a corporeal shape, then only an internal, invisible Church would have been established. But since the Word became flesh, it expressed itself in an outward, perceptible, and human manner ; it spoke as man to: man, and suffered, and worked after the fashion of men, in order to win them to the kingdom of God; so that the means selected for the attainment of this object, fully corresponded to the general method of instruction and education determined by the nature and the wants of man. This decided the nature of those means, whereby the Son of God, even after He had withdrawn himself from the eyes of the world, wished still to work in the world, and for the world. The Deity having manifested its action in Christ according to an ordinary human fashion, the form also in which
His work was to be continued, was thereby traced out. | The preaching of his doctrine needed now a visible,
human medium, and must be entrusted to visible envoys, teaching and instructing after the wonted method; men must speak to men, and hold intercourse with them, in
order to convey to them the word of God. And as in | the world nothing can attain to greatness but in so
ciety; so Christ established a community; and his divine word, his living will, and the love emanating from him exerted an internal, binding power upon his followers; so that an inclination implanted by him in the hearts of believers, corresponded to his outward institution. And thus a living well-connected, visible association of the faithful sprang up, whereof it might be said,—there they are, there is his Church, his institution, wherein he continueth to live, his spirit continueth to work, and the word uttered by him eternally resounds. Thus, the visible Church, from the point of view here taken, is the Son of God himself, everlastingly manifesting himself among men in a human form, perpetually renovated, and eternally young--the permanent incarnation of the same, as in Holy Writ, even the faithful, are called “the body of Christ.”
Hence it is evident that the Church,