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CHAPTER XII. APPLICATION OF THE SEVENTH NOTE OF A. TRUE DEVELOPMENT. CHRONIC VIGOUR. WE have arrived at length at the seventh and last test, which was laid down when we started, for distinguishing the true development of an idea from its corruptions and perversions : it is this. A corruption, if vigorous, is of brief duration, runs itself out quickly, and ends in death ; on the other hand, if it lasts, it fails in vigour and passes into a decay. This general law gives us ad· ditional assistance in determining the character of the developments of Christianity commonly called Catholic. 2. When we consider the succession of ages during which the Catholic system has endured, the severity of the trials it has undergone, the sudden and wonderful changes with­ out and within which have befallen it, the incessant mental activity and the intellectual gifts of its maintainers, the enthusiasm which it has kindled, the fury of the contro­·versies which have been carried on among its professors, the impetuosity of the assaults made upon it, the ever­ increasing responsibilities to which it has been committed by the continuous development of its dogmas, it is quite inconceivable that it should not have been broken up and 438 APPLICATION OF THE SEVENTH NOTE. (CH. XII. lost, were it a corruption of Christianity. Yet it is still living, if there be a living religion or philosophy in the world ; vigorous, energetic, persuasive, progressive ; vires acquirit eundo ; it grows and is not overgrown ; it spreads out, yet is not enfeebled ; it is ever germinating,·yet ever consistent with itself. Corruptions indeed are to be found which sleep and are suspended ; and these, as I have said, are usually called " decays :" such is not the case with Catholicity ; it does not sleep, it is not stationary even now ; and that its long series of developments should be corruptions would be an instance of sustained error, so novel, so unaccountable, so preternatural, as to be little short of a miracle, and to rival those manifestations of DivinePowerwhich constitute the evidence of Christianity. We sometimes view with surprise and awe the degree of pain and disarrangement which the human frame can undergo without succumbing ; yet at length there comes an end. Fevers have their crisis, fatal or favourable ; but this corruption of a thousand years, if cprruption it be, has ever been growing nearer death, yet never reaching it, and has been strengthened, not debilitated, by its excesses. 3. For instance : when the Empire was converted, multi­ tudes, as is very plain, came into the Church on but par­ tially religious motives, and with habits and opinions infected with the false worships which they had professedly abandoned. History shows us what anxiety and effort it cost her rulers to keep Paganism out of her pale. To this tendency must be added the hazard which attended on the development of the Catholic ritual, such as the honours publicly assigned to Saints and Martyrs, the formal vene­ ration of their relics, and the usages and observances which followed. What was to hinder the rise of a sort of refined Pantheism, and the overthrow ofdogmatismpari passu with CH. XII.) CHRONIC VIGOUR. 439 the multiplication of heavenly intercessors and patrons ? If what is called in reproach " Saint-worship " resembled the polytheism which it supplanted, or was a corruption, how did Dogmatism survive ? Dogmatism is a religion's profession of its own reality as contrasted with other systems ; but polytheists are liberals, and hold that one religion is as good as another. Yet the theological system was developing and strengthening, as well as the monastic rule, which is intensely anti-pantheistic, all the while the ritual was assimilating itself, as Protestants say, to the Paganism of former ages. 4. Nor was the development 0£ dogmatic theology, which was then taking place, a silent and spontaneous process. It was wrought out and carried through under the fiercest controversies, and amid the most fearful risks. The Catholic faith was placed in a succession of perils, and rocked to and fro like a vessel at sea. Large portions of Christendom were, one after another, in heresy or in schism ; the leading Churches and the most authoritative schools fell from time to time into serious error ; three Popes, Liberius, Vigilius, Honorius, have left to posterity the burden of their defence : but these disorders were no interruption to the sustained and steady march of the sacred science from implicit belief to formal statement. The series of ecclesiastical decisions...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268158088
Related ISBN
9780268009212
MARC Record
OCLC
1017613061
Pages
480
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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