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CHAPTER VIII. APPLICATION OF THE THIRD NOTE OF A TRUE DEVELOPMENT. ASSIMILATIVE POWER. SINCE religious systems, true and false, have one and the same great and comprehensive subject-matter, they necessarily interfere with one another as rivals, both in those points in which they agree together, and in those in which they differ. That Christianity on its rise was in these circumstances of competition and controversy, is sufficiently evident even from a foregoing Chapter : it was surrounded by rites, sects, and philosophies, which contemplated the same questions, sometimes advocated the same truths, and in no slight degree wore the same ex­ ternal appearance. It could not stand still, it could not take its own way, and let them take theirs : they came across its path, and a conflict was inevitable. The very nature of a true philosophy relatively to other systems is to be polemical, eclectic, unitive : Christi�ni.ty was polemical; it could not but be eclectic ; but was it also unitive ? Had it the power, while keeping its own identity, of absorbing its antagonists, as Aaron's rod, according to St. Jerome's illustration, devoured the rods of the sorcerers of }�gypt ? Did it incorporate them into itself, or was it dissolved into them ? Did it assimilate them into its own 356 APPLICATION OF THE THIRD NOTE. [CH. VIII. substance, or, keeping. its name, was it simply infected by them ? In a word, were its developments faithful or corrupt ? Nor is this a question merely of the early centuries. When we consider the deep interest of the controversies which Christianity raises, the various charac­ ters of mind it has swayed, the range of subjects which it embraces, the many countries it has entered, the deep philosophies it has encountered,thevicissitudes it has under­ gone, and the length of time through which it has lastecl, it requires some assignable explanation, why we should not consider it substantially modified and changed, that is, corrupted, from the first, by the numberless influences to which it has been exposed 2. Now there was this cardinal distinction between Chris­ tianity and the religions and philosophies by which it was surrounded, nay even the Judaism of the day, that it referred all truth and revelation to one source, and that the Supreme and Only God. Pagan rites which honoured one or other out of ten thousand deities ; philosophies which scarcely taught any source of revelation at all ; Gnostic heresies which were based on Dualism, arlored angels, or ascribed the two Testaments to distinct authors, could l}Ot regard truth as one, unalterable, consistent, imperative, and saving. But Christianity started with the principle that there was but " one God and one Mediator," and that He, " who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, had in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." He had never left Himself without witness, and now He had come, not to undo the past, but to fulfil and perfect it. His Apostles, and they alone, possessed, venerated, and protected a Divine Message, as both sacred and sanctifying ; and, in the collision and conflict of SECT. I. § 1.J ASSIMILATING POWER OF DOG MATIC TRUTH. 357 opinions, in ancient times or modern, it was that Message, and not any vague or antagonist teaching, that was to succeed in purifying, assimilating, transmuting, and taking into itself the many-coloured beliefs, forms of worship, codes of duty, schools of thought,through which it was ever moving. It was Grace, and it was Truth.§ 1. Tlie .Assimilating Power of Dogmatic Truth. That there is a truth then ; that there is one truth ; that religious error is in itself of an immoral nature ; that its maintainers, unless involuntarily ,such, are guilty in maintaining it ; that it is to be dreaded ; that the search for truth is not the gratification of curiosity ; that its attainment has nothing of the excitement of a discovery ; that the mind is below truth, not above it, and is bound, not to descant upon it, but to venerate it ; that truth and falsehood are set before us for the trial of our hearts ; that our choice is an awful giving forth of lots on which salva­ tion or rejection is inscribed ; that " before all things it is necessary to hold the Catholic faith ;" that "he that would be saved must thus think,'' and not otherwise; that, " if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding, if...


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