Wednesday, February 24, 2010

23Feb1871, Dividing the Church From Heresies

LONDON, February 23rd, 1871.
—It is a blessing in these days to find that, in the eye of the law, there is some line still recognised dividing the Church from heresies. I have slowly and after many difficulties come to the conclusion that legal definitions as to sacred doctrines are neither possible nor desirable ; but one thing seems clear to me (it sounds a truism ! but it is not nowadays), that the great doctrines of the Creeds must in the eye of the law be accepted in some sense or another by all professing Churchmen. The various views taken by individuals must, it seems to me, be permitted by the law, however widely they may differ from each other, always provided that no such doctrine is denied. More and more I believe that definitions, more detailed than they are in the Prayer Book, cannot be right for us. Each for himself may strive to define in humility (and can never think out these things too deeply, if he can keep a sober mind), but not for others —not, I mean, to impose his definitions upon others. In this way, it seems to me, we may keep the faith once delivered to the Saints, and yet be wide in our embrace of many schools of thought. Of course I am only speaking of what ought or ought not to be permitted by the law : one is bound to teach and preach with more dogmatism than ought to be the case with legal judgments. I hope I am not all wrong, but the whole tendency of the thing seems to force upon one the duty of comprehension ; lest we should lose earnest, religious, sincere men, who do honestly hold all the Articles of the Faith, tho' interpreting them variously.

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