Moreover, it is as plain, or even plainer, that what the Christians of the first ages anathematized, included deductions from the Articles of Faith, that is, false developments, as well as contradictions of those Articles. And, since the reason they commonly gave for using the anathema was that the doctrine in question was strange and startling, it follows that the truth, which was its contradictory, was also in some respect unknown to them hitherto; which is also shown by their temporary perplexity, and their difficulty of meeting heresy, in particular cases. "Who ever heard the like hitherto?" says St. Athanasius, of Apollinarianism; "who was the teacher of it, who the hearer? 'From Sion shall go forth the Law of God, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem;' but from whence hath this gone forth? What hell hath burst out with it?" The Fathers at Nicæa stopped their ears; and St. Irenæus, as above quoted, says that St. Polycarp, had he heard the Gnostic blasphemies, would have stopped his ears, and deplored the times for which he was reserved. They anathematized the doctrine, not because it was old, but because it was new: the anathema would have altogether slept, if it could not have been extended to propositions not anathematized in the beginning; for the very characteristic of heresy is this novelty and originality of manifestation.
Such was the exclusiveness of Christianity of old: I need not insist on the steadiness with which that principle has been maintained ever since, for bigotry and intolerance is one of the ordinary charges brought at this day against both the medieval Church and the modern. ......
Such are some of the intellectual principles which are characteristic of Christianity. I observe,—
That their continuity down to this day, and the vigour of their operation, are two distinct guarantees that the theological conclusions to which they are subservient are, in accordance with the Divine Promise, true developments, and not corruptions of the Revelation.
Moreover, if it be true that the principles of the later Church are the same as those of the earlier, then, whatever are the variations of belief between the two periods, the later in reality agrees more than it differs with the earlier, for principles are responsible for doctrines. Hence they who assert that the modern Roman system is the corruption of primitive theology are forced to discover some difference of principle between the one and the other; for instance, that the right of private judgment was secured to the early Church and has been lost to the later, or, again, that the later Church rationalises and the earlier went by faith.