Several passages have occurred in the foregoing Chapters, which serve to suggest another principle on which some words are now to be said. Theodore's exclusive adoption of the literal, and repudiation of the mystical interpretation of Holy Scripture, leads to the consideration of the latter, as one of the characteristic conditions or principles on which the teaching of the Church has ever proceeded. Thus Christianity developed, as we have incidentally seen, into the form, first, of a Catholic, then of a Papal Church. Now it was Scripture that was made the rule on which this development proceeded in each case, and Scripture moreover interpreted in a mystical sense; and, whereas at first certain texts were inconsistently confined to the letter, and a Millennium was in consequence expected, the very course of events, as time went on, interpreted the prophecies about the Church more truly, and that first in respect of her prerogative as occupying the orbis terrarum, next in support of the claims of the See of St. Peter. This is but one specimen of a certain law of Christian teaching, which is this,—a reference to Scripture throughout, and especially in its mystical sense.
1. This is a characteristic which will become more and more evident to us, the more we look for it. The divines of the Church are in every age engaged in regulating themselves by Scripture, appealing to Scripture in proof of their conclusions, and exhorting and teaching in the thoughts and language of Scripture. Scripture may be said to be the medium in which the mind of the Church has energized and developed. When St. Methodius would enforce the doctrine of vows of celibacy, he refers to the book of Numbers; and if St. Irenæus proclaims the dignity of St. Mary, it is from a comparison of St. Luke's Gospel with Genesis. And thus St. Cyprian, in his Testimonies, rests the prerogatives of martyrdom, as indeed the whole circle of Christian doctrine, on the declaration of certain texts; and, when in his letter to Antonian he seems to allude to Purgatory, he refers to our Lord's words about "the prison" and "paying the last farthing." And if St. Ignatius exhorts to unity, it is from St. Paul; and he quotes St. Luke against the Phantasiasts of his day. We have a first instance of this law in the Epistle of St. Polycarp, and a last in the practical works of St. Alphonso Liguori. St. Cyprian, or St. Ambrose, or St. Bede, or St. Bernard, or St. Carlo, or such popular books as Horstius's Paradisus Animæ, are specimens of a rule which is too obvious to need formal proof. It is exemplified in the theological decisions of St. Athanasius in the fourth century, and of St. Thomas in the thirteenth; in the structure of the Canon Law, and in the Bulls and Letters of Popes. It is instanced in the notion so long prevalent in the Church, which philosophers of this day do not allow us to forget, that all truth, all science, must be derived from the inspired volume. And it is recognized as well as exemplified; recognized as distinctly by writers of the Society of Jesus, as it is copiously exemplified by the Ante-nicene Fathers.
"Scriptures are called canonical," says Salmeron, "as having been received and set apart by the Church into the Canon of sacred books, and because they are to us a rule of right belief and good living; also because they ought to rule and moderate all other doctrines, laws, writings, whether ecclesiastical, apocryphal, or human. For as these agree with them, or at least do not disagree, so far are they admitted; but they are repudiated and reprobated so far as they differ from them even in the least matter." Again: "The main subject of Scripture is nothing else than to treat of the God-Man, or the Man-God, Christ Jesus, not only in the New Testament, which is open, but in the Old … For whereas Scripture contains nothing but the precepts of belief and conduct, or faith and works, the end and the means towards it, the Creator and the creature, love of God and our neighbour, creation and redemption, and whereas all these are found in Christ, it follows that Christ is the proper subject of Canonical Scripture. For all matters of faith, whether concerning Creator or creatures, are recapitulated in Jesus, whom every heresy denies, according to that text, 'Every spirit that divides (solvit) Jesus is not of God;' for He as man is united to the Godhead, and as God to the manhood, to the Father from whom He is born, to the Holy Ghost who proceeds at once from Christ and the Father, to Mary His most Holy Mother, to the Church, to Scriptures, Sacraments, Saints, Angels, the Blessed, to Divine Grace, to the authority and ministers of the Church, so that it is rightly said that every heresy divides Jesus." [Note 17] And again "Holy Scripture is so fashioned and composed by the Holy Ghost as to be accommodated to all plans, times, persons, difficulties, dangers, diseases, the expulsion of evil, the obtaining of good, the stifling of errors, the establishment of doctrines, the ingrafting of virtues, the averting of vices. Hence it is deservedly compared by St. Basil to a dispensary which supplies various medicines against every complaint. From it did the Church in the age of Martyrs draw her firmness and fortitude; in the age of Doctors, her wisdom and light of knowledge; in the time of heretics, the overthrow of error; in time of prosperity, humility and moderation; fervour and diligence, in a lukewarm time; and in times of depravity and growing abuse, reformation from corrupt living and return to the first estate."
"Holy Scripture," says Cornelius à Lapide, "contains the beginnings of all theology: for theology is nothing but the science of conclusions which are drawn from principles certain to faith, and therefore is of all sciences most august as well as certain; but the principles of faith and faith itself doth Scripture contain; whence it evidently follows that Holy Scripture lays down those principles of theology by which the theologian begets of the mind's reasoning his demonstrations. He, then, who thinks he can tear away Scholastic Science from the work of commenting on Holy Scripture is hoping for offspring without a mother." [Note 19] Again: "What is the subject-matter of Scripture? Must I say it in a word? Its aim isde omni scibili; it embraces in its bosom all studies, all that can be known: and thus it is a certain university of sciences containing all sciences either 'formally' or 'eminently.'" [Note 20]
Nor am I aware that later Post-tridentine writers deny that the whole Catholic faith may be proved from Scripture, though they would certainly maintain that it is not to be found on the surface of it, nor in such sense that it may be gained from Scripture without the aid of Tradition.