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Aberglaube Reinvading - Part 5

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



The time was not then ripe for doing more ; and we, if we can do more, have the fullness of time to thank for it, not ourselves. Yet it needs all one's sense of the not ourselves in these things, to make us understand how doctrines, supposed to be the essence of the Bible by great Catholics and by great Protestants, should ever have been supposed to be so, and by such men.

To take that chief stronghold of ecclesiasticism and sacerdotalism, the institution of the Eucharist. As Catholics present it, it makes the Church indispensable, with all her apparatus of an apostolical succession, an authorised priesthood, a power of absolution. Yet, as Jesus founded it, it is the most anti-ecclesiastical of institutions, pulverising alike the historic churches in their beauty and the dissenting sects in their unloveliness ;—it is the consecration of absolute individualism. ` This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you." When Jesus so spoke, what did he mean, what was in his mind? Undoubtedly these words of the prophet Jeremiah : ' Behold the days come, saith the Eternal, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, which covenant they brake ; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel : After those days, saith the Eternal, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying : Know the Eternal ! for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest.' 2 No more scribes, no more doctors, no more priests ! the crowning act in the 'secret' of Jesus seals at the same time his `method,'—his method of pure inwardness, individual responsibility, personal religion.

Take, again, the Protestant doctrine of Justification ; of trusting in the alone merits of Christ, pleading the Blood of the Covenant, imputed righteousness. In our railway stations are hung up, as everyone knows, sheets of Bible-texts to catch the passer's eye ; and very profitable admonitions to him they in general are. It is said that the thought of thus exhibiting them occurred to Dr. Marsh, a venerable leader of the so-called Evangelical party in our Church, the party which specially clings to the special Protestant doctrine of justification; and that he arranged the texts which we daily see. And there is one which we may all remember to have often seen. Dr. Marsh asks the prophet Micah's question : ' Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ?' 1 and he answers it with one short sentence from the New Testament : ' With the precious blood of Christ.' This is precisely the popular Protestant notion of the Gospel; and we are all so used to it that Dr. Marsh's application of the text has probably surprised no one. And yet, if one thinks of it, how astonishing an application it is ! For even the Hebrew Micah, some seven or eight centuries before Christ, had seen that this sort of gospel, or good news, was none at all ; for even he suggests this always popular notion of atoning blood, only to reject it, and ends : ' He hath showed thee, O man, what is good ; and what doth the Eternal require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' So that the Hebrew Micah, nearly three thousand years ago, under the old dispensation, was far in advance of this venerable and amiable coryphaeus of our Evangelical party now, under the Christian dispensation !

Dr. Marsh and his school go wrong, it will be said, through their false criticism of the New Testament, and we have ourselves admitted that the perfect criticism of the New Testament is extremely difficult. True, the perfect criticism ; but not such an elementary criticism of it as shows the gospel of Dr. Marsh and of our so-called Evangelical Protestants to be a false one. For great as their literary inexperience may be, and unpractised as is their tact for perceiving the manner in which men use words and what they mean by them, one would think they could understand such a plain caution against mistaking Christ's death for a miraculous atonement as St. Paul has actually given them. For St. _Paul, who so admirably seized the secret of Jesus, who preached Christ crucified, but who placed salvation in being able to say, I am crucified with Christ ! s—St. Paul warns us clearly, that this word of the cross, as he calls it, is so simple, being neither miracle nor metaphysics, that it would be thought foolishness. The Jews want miracle, he says, and the Greeks want metaphysics, but I preach Christ crucified!—that is, the `secret' of Jesus, as we call it. The Jews want miracle !—that is a warning against Dr. Marsh's or Mr. Spurgeon's doctrine, against Evangelical Protestantism's phantasmagories of the `Contract in the Council of the Trinity,' the `Atoning Blood,' and `Imputed Righteousness.' The Greeks want metaphysics !—that is a warning against the Bishops of Winchester and Gloucester, with their Aryan genius (if so ill-sounding a word as Aryan, spell it how one may, can ever be properly applied to our bishops, and one ought not rather to say Indo-European), dressing the popular doctrine out with fine speculations about the Godhead of the Eternal Son, his Consubstantiality with the Father, and so on. But we preach, says St. Paul, Christ crucified !—to Mr. Spurgeon and to popular religion a stumbling-block, to the bishops and to learned religion foolishness; but, to them that are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. That is, we preach a doctrine, not thaumaturgical and not speculative, but practical and experimental ; a doctrine which has no meaning except in positive application to conduct, but in this application is inexhaustible.





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