IT has been set down above as a fifth argument in favour of the fidelity of developments, ethical or political, if the doctrine from which they have proceeded has, in any early stage of its history, given indications of those opinions and practices in which it has ended. Supposing then the so-called Catholic doctrines and practices are true and legitimate developments, and not corruptions, we may expect from the force of logic to find instances of them in the first centuries. And this I conceive to be the case: the records indeed of those times are scanty, and we have little means of determining what daily Christian life then was: we know little of the thoughts, and the prayers, and the meditations, and the discourses of the early disciples of Christ, at a time when these professed developments were not recognized and duly located in the theological system; yet it appears, even from what remains, that the atmosphere of the Church was, as it were, charged with them from the first, and delivered itself of them from time to time, in this way or that, in various places and persons, as occasion elicited them, testifying the presence of a vast body of thought within it, which one day would take shape and position.
§ 1. Resurrection and Relics
As a chief specimen of what I am pointing out, I will direct attention to a characteristic principle of Christianity, whether in the East or in the West, which is at present both a special stumbling-block and a subject of scoffing with Protestants and free-thinkers of every shade and colour: I mean the devotions which both Greeks and Latins show towards bones, blood, the heart, the hair, bits of clothes, scapulars, cords, medals, beads, and the like, and the miraculous powers which they often ascribe to them. Now, the principle from which these beliefs and usages proceed is the doctrine that Matter is susceptible of grace, or capable of a union with a Divine Presence and influence. This principle, as we shall see, was in the first age both energetically manifested and variously developed; and that chiefly in consequence of the diametrically opposite doctrine of the schools and the religions of the day. And thus its exhibition in that primitive age becomes also an instance of a statement often made in controversy, that the profession and the developments of a doctrine are according to the emergency of the time, and that silence at a certain period implies, not that it was not then held, but that it was not questioned.