« PreviousContinue »
sentations, however refined in their nature and however adroitly employed, tend neither to the credit of the individual, nor to the support of the cause in which he is engaged....As to Dr Eichhorn's hermeneutics, with reference to the words of Institution, I know nothing more of them, than Dr Wiseman has communicated. They may have as little foundation in reason, and be as improperly applied, as some other hermeneutics with which I am acquainted. But be that as it may, we need them not. We leave, to those who have superfluous time, "the Hebrew protevangelium, or primitive Gospel, as it is called" and the fancied misapprehensions and glosses-and the Algebraic resultwhich the learned author has attributed to Eichhorn. In our view of the matter, there is no figurative meaning to be constructed. We give way to no dreams of "vague somethings"-and imperceptible miracles—and incommunicable mysteries-with Dr Wiseman; nor do we, with Dr Eichhorn, arrive at conclusions "truly enigmatical and obscure." We attempt not to force strange senses upon Scripture language. We observe the character of that language; and we find the figurative meaning naturally presenting itself, in the words of Institution....In fine, after some attention to the science of hermeneutics, and its practical effects, my opinion is this-Select a passage of Scripture, of which there are numerous interpretations, and take whichsoever of them you please
with such curious felicity has the science been constructed, that it will furnish ample means of defending that interpretation, in the most systematic manner.
DR WISEMAN, in the outset of his undertaking, expresses his belief, that more persons are brought over to the Communion of his own Church, by having their minds satisfied respecting the doctrine of Transubstantiation, than by being convinced upon any other point of difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants. This opinion is probably correct; and will account for the learned author's anxiety to establish the doctrine, on the authority of Scripture-an authority common to both parties. Of his principal arguments for the Corporal Presence, I have put the reader in possession, by adducing them in the very terms in which they are given. The comments upon them are designed, not only to rectify error, but also to throw additional light upon the topics discussed. With regard both to the arguments and the comments, glad should I be to think that they have been perused with all the care which is due to the subject professedly examined in this volume. My remarks have been written with a serious feeling of responsibility; and now, at the conclusion of the work, I seem as if I had not quite failed in exposing
misrepresentations, and had really done something towards ascertaining the truth. At all events, I know what my intentions have been; and I cheerfully submit the result of my reflections, to the judgment of those who may take an interest in the
After stating the importance of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, Dr Wiseman dwells, with much complacency, upon "the curious shades of difference, observable in the doctrines of the separated Churches." He mentions Luther, Melancthon, Zuinglius, Ecolampadius and Calvin, among the foreign reformers and Cranmer and Ridley, among those of our own country-and describes their gradual changes of sentiment, respecting our Lord's presence in the Eucharist:-his object being to contrast the unity and certainty of the Roman Catholic faith, with the varying character of the Protestant belief, on that point. Now, it might easily be shown, that assertions, of the uniformity of faith among Romanists with respect to the Eucharist, must be received with no small abatements; and the preceding pages bear witness to as great discrepancies, among them as among Protestants, on topics closely connected with that Sacrament. But the true answer, to the learned author's remarks, is that he must have but little knowledge of human nature, who is not aware of the effects of long-cherished opinions-and who does not allow for their effects-upon the minds of even the most
learned, intelligent and honest enquirers; and that the gradual changes of sentiment, laid to the charge of the Reformers above-mentioned, so far from presenting any valid objections to their proceedings, afford the best security that they did not, without the most urgent reasons, relinquish doctrines, which they had been taught to regard as Gospel truths.
Having observed upon the differences of creed among Protestants, Dr Wiseman lays down those hermeneutical principles, of which I have already made sufficient mention. Here, however, a difficulty occurs to him, as not unlikely to be felt by his brethren :-"Does not the hermeneutical method tend to diminish the divine authority of the Church and of Tradition, by making the interpretation of Scripture depend upon human ingenuity and learning, rather than upon the authority of an infallible guide*?" To this question, he replies in the negative. He maintains, however, that "this philological method of learning religion is one of the most pernicious evils we owe to the Reformation; and that far better would it have been, had the plain and only true rule of Church authority continued in its legitimate force :"-acknowledging at the same time the error of the Roman Catholics, in allowing themselves to be led by Protestants into a war of detail, meeting them as they desired, in partial combats for particular dogmas, instead of steadily fixing them to one fundamental discussion,
*Lectures, p. 34.