§ 1. The Principles of Christianity
When developments in Christianity are spoken of, it is sometimes supposed that they are deductions and diversions made at random, according to accident or the caprice of individuals; whereas it is because they have been conducted all along on definite and continuous principles that the type of the Religion has remained from first to last unalterable. What then are the principles under which the developments have been made? I will enumerate some obvious ones.
1. The principle of dogma, that is, supernatural truths irrevocably committed to human language, imperfect because it is human, but definitive and necessary because given from above.
2. The principal of faith, which is the correlative of dogma, being the absolute acceptance of the divine Word with an internal assent, in opposition to the informations, if such, of sight and reason.
3. Faith, being an act of the intellect, opens a way for inquiry, comparison and inference, that is, for science in religion, in subservience to itself; this is the principle of theology.
4. The doctrine of the Incarnation is the announcement of a divine gift conveyed in a material and visible medium, it being thus that heaven and earth are in the Incarnation united. That is, it establishes in the very idea of Christianity the sacramental principle as its characteristic.
5. Another principle involved in the doctrine of the Incarnation, viewed as taught or as dogmatic, is the necessary use of language, e.g. of the text of Scripture, in a second or mystical sense. Words must be made to express new ideas, and are invested with a sacramental office.
6. It is our Lord's intention in His Incarnation to make us what He is Himself; this is the principle of grace, which is not only holy but sanctifying.
7. It cannot elevate and change us without mortifying our lower nature:—here is the principle of asceticism.
8. And, involved in this death of the natural man, is necessarily a revelation of the malignity of sin, in corroboration of the forebodings of conscience.
9. Also by the fact of an Incarnation we are taught that matter is an essential part of us, and, as well as mind, is capable of sanctification.
Here are nine specimens of Christian principles out of the many which might be enumerated, and will any one say that they have not been retained in vigorous action in the Church at all times amid whatever development of doctrine Christianity has experienced, so as even to be the very instruments of that development, and as patent, and as operative, in the Latin and Greek Christianity of this day as they were in the beginning?