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ing through his mouth ; and those who hear him are
constrained to believe it too. Our hearts leap out to
meet his words ; we recognise that this is what we wanted ;
that here is the truth which we could not find for ourselves,
the good news which we should not have dared to believe.
We recognise in the prophet himself a man of God. We
trust him instinctively ; when he speaks to us about the
unseen world, we feel that he knows what he is speaking
about, that he ' has been there ' himself. When we read the
words of Jesus Himself, our hearts tell us that even this
language is inadequate.

This will show why I regard prophetical authority as

F



FAITH [ca

a secondary ground of Faith. It is not independent of
the primary ground, the inward tribunal which accepts or
rejects it. It is this primary ground which alone makes
belief on authority a religious act. Without it, belief in
authority is inert opinion, or lazy acquiescence, or blind
partisanship ; and none of these things has anything to
do with Faith.

Revelation is wholly within the sphere of religion.
Nothing can be revealed to an irreligious mind, and nothing
can be revealed to the religious mind that falls outside
the sphere of religious truth. Neither can the natural
man discern the things of the Spirit of God, nor can the
spiritual man claim the inspiration or guarantee of the
Spirit of God for beliefs which belong to the scope of
the natural man.

This, however, is a restriction of the province of authority
which has not been generally accepted hi practice.
Authority, by those who appeal to it, is usually treated
as the final court of appeal. Belief on authority, thus
understood, has a psychological affinity to intuitivism,
and is in fact often held hi conjunction with it. The
mystic who refuses to analyse or criticise his intuitions is
often baffled by the emptiness or formlessness of his
religious conceptions, and so tends to fall back upon the
clearly defined images or symbols which his church pro-
vides. He accepts these on authority, since he is not
interested hi the proof of them, and would even value
them less if they were based on ordinary evidence.
Whether consciously or not, he only needs them as helps
to his imagination. But they may easily become so
indispensable to him that he will be as stiff a dogmatist
as if his Faith really rested on external authority ; and he
will often protest vehemently that external authority,
in the form of supernaturally revealed doctrines, is in
truth the basis of his Faith, which would fall in ruins if
this support were withdrawn. Just because the dogmas



,



AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 83



of his church are accepted uncritically, as outside dis-
cussion, they are capable of being used as external supports
of a Faith which in reality sprang up independently of
them, and only requires them to give form and colour to
its vague intuitions. The typical dogmatist is a confused
half -mystic, whose intuitive Faith is neither strong enough
nor clear enough to bring him strength or comfort. He
accordingly fortifies himself by calling in the help of an
external authority, whose credentials he would think it
impious to investigate, and willingly accepts its guidance
whenever the inner light burns dim.

This is the most rudimentary and crudest form of
working Faith ; since we have found that reliance upon
undifferentiated feeling does not provide a working Faith
at all. It is the working Faith of the simple orthodox
believer ; and however unsound it must appear to the
philosopher, it works fairly well in practice. It is a
wholesome safeguard against rash individualism ; since
the doctrines which are supposed to be externally revealed
by God are in truth supported, in part at least, by the
legitimate authority of the collective religious conscious-
ness, the value of which can hardly be overestimated.
If a ' universal Church ' really existed, and if its Judg-
ments were articulately represented by its official spokes-
men, it would be rash indeed for an individual to dis-
regard its authority. Even under the present state of
things, ' orthodoxy ' provides a well-balanced view of
life, and a safe guide in ordinary cases. But it remains
true that the simple believer places the seat of authority
wrongly, and allows authority to throw her shield over
various beliefs relating to particular events, some of
which may be untrue, while others have no religious
significance. This kind of belief on authority, therefore,
may be a source of danger to Faith, by loading it with
burdens which it is unable to bear.

Those who lean heavily on authority soon discover



84 FAITH [CH.

if they allow themselves to think seriously, that it pro-
vides no solution of the enigmas of Faith. Just as, in
considering the hypothesis of Faith as immediate per-
ception of divine truth, we found that the devout mystic
is haunted by nightmares, contrefacons diaboliques of
his most precious visions, which he has denied himself
the means of testing, and cannot possibly test without
being false to his principle that divine truth is communi-
cated immediately; so the believer on authority is dismayed
to find that authority is not all of one mind. 1 Not only
are his senses confused by the clamour of rival teachers,
all equally confident that their prophecy is the true
word of the God of truth, but his intellect, conscience, and
feelings are touched on different sides by appeals which
are sharply antagonistic to each other. Unless he
shuts his ears tight to all advocates except one (a very
common but rather undignified way of deciding a case
to one's own satisfaction), he will find that the rival
authorities give him no peace, and that he must somehow
decide among them, weighing his authorities against each
other, and thereby abandoning the attitude of unques-
tioning submission. Now these rival claims cannot be
settled offhand, by an intuitive method ; we cannot go
back for external authority to pure mystical experience,
which answers no questions about particulars. It is
thus that we are driven to admit the necessity of those
other secondary grounds which will form the subject of
my later lectures the practical principle, the intellectual
principle, and the aesthetic principle. Without them
we cannot say what kind of facts can be guaranteed by
authority, and which voices it is safe to trust.

I am trying to arrive at a conclusion as to what Faith
ought to be and may be, not as to what in the majority
of cases it actually is. I have already said that the

J Alanus of Lille (thirteenth century) said wittily: 'Auctoritas cereum
habet nasum ; id est, in diversum potest flecti sensum.'






AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 85



great mass of religious people stop short at this second
stage, which the medieval Church called fides implicita,
and which the German reformers called ' charcoal-burner's
faith.' In the case of these simple believers the contents
of their creeds nearly the whole concrete body of their
beliefs are determined by pure accident. The authority
to which they pin their Faith is that under which they
were brought up. It matters little that a Protestant may
have a mind naturaliter Catholica ; he will rarely change
his profession. Somehow or other, his religious instincts
will find expression in the church or denomination to
which he belongs. If he has been brought up as a Catholic,
he will find grace and help in the Sacraments ; if as a
Methodist, he will expect and generally experience the
crisis which is known in those circles as sudden conversion,
and which is supposed to occur usually between the ages
of fifteen and twenty-one. The means of grace suggested
to men and women by their teachers may not be, and in
fact are not, equally wholesome and good in all cases ;
there may be, and in fact is, spiritual loss hi belonging to a
religious body whose tenets are meagre, defective, and out
of correspondence with some of the ingredients of a rich
spiritual nature. But when the driving force, the religious
instinct, is strong, it is able to stretch inadequate dogmatic
theories to a very considerable extent. They become
merely pegs on which the believer hangs his best thoughts.
Clement of Alexandria called Faith (and it was precisely
this common kind of religious belief the belief of the
average church-goer which was in his mind), 'compendious
knowledge' (o-iWo/xos yvwo-ts). It is a kind of short cut to
divine knowledge, for those who have not yet had enough
spiritual experience, or who have not the leisure, or the
intellectual ability, to ' beat out the music ' of their Faith
for themselves. It is a working principle for all (Clement
would say) until they have attained to philosophical
truth. This is obviously true. The average Christian



86 FAITH [CH.

possesses, in the tenets of his Church, a much richer Faith
than he could have found for himself, a much more com-
plete scheme of beliefs than individually he has any right
to call his own. It is not possible for him to suspend his
judgment until he has balanced the claims of rival
authorities. He feels that his wisest course is to admit
and accept the claims of the authority under which he
finds himself, to be a divine revelation, and to make this
the mould, as it were, into which he can pour the treasures
of his religious experience. The treasure is in earthen
vessels, no doubt, and he is very helpless if called upon
to give a reason for the Faith that is in him ; but he has
a receptacle for his religious emotions, a rule of belief,
and a rule of life.

I have now perhaps shown sufficiently the partial
justification, and the necessary limitations, of that kind
of Faith which passively accepts the body of orthodox
beliefs, as a man has learnt orthodoxy at school, or at his
mother's knee. In my next lectures I must consider the
chief historical forms which the belief in authority has
taken.



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GKOUND OF FAITH 87




CHAPTER VI

AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH Continued

AUTHORITY in religion, as I showed in my last lecture,
means Divine authority ; and to rest one's Faith on
Authority means to act on the belief that information about
divine things has been communicated to mankind, immedi-
ately and unmistakably. I have shown that this belief
is held by most religious people, and that they for the
most part accept unexamined, and maintain through life,
the forms of Faith which were first presented to them,
refusing even to contemplate any change. I have ad-
mitted the necessity of this nai've, childlike Faith ; but
I have shown that its forms are determined by the
accidents of early surroundings, and that by excluding
self-criticism it is condemned to stationariness in the
midst of a changing world.

In this lecture and the next I wish to consider the
historical forms which the belief in authority has
taken.

The chief of these are the theories of the Infallible
Church, and of the Infallible Book. But there is another
form of supernatural authority, which is historically prior
to these, and which even in the history of the Christian
Church comes before them. I mean belief in the super-
natural inspiration of individual men, prophets, seers,
visionaries, and the like. I have already mentioned this
as the most typical form of religious authority properly
so called.

The prophet conceives himself to be the mouthpiece of



88 FAITH [CH.

God, and his utterances as prophet are held to convey
direct information about the will and purposes of the
Almighty. This is a case of belief on authority, in the
true sense. It differs from the intuitivism which we
discussed the other day, in that the prophet regards his
message as something special and miraculous. He is
merely the vehicle, not the organ of the revelation. Other
men accept his utterances as coming straight from God.
They have lost nothing, it is thought, by passing through
a transparent medium.

In the New Testament this individual inspiration is
spoken of as being ' filled with the Holy Ghost.' The
religious instinct, which is the foundation of true Faith,
was justly traced to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of
God. But there is a right and a wrong view of individual
inspiration. In St. Paul, the action of the Holy Spirit
is looked for in all that goes to make up character in its
widest sense, and it appears in all religious experience.
The Holy Ghost is the guide of prayer, the illuminator
of the intellect, the kindler of love, the inspirer of every
noble deed and work. But the operation of this Spirit is
not wholly miraculous, wholly foreign to their own true
nature. It is, in truth, their own best nature. ' God in
them is the fulfilment of the best that they have it in
them to become. The higher nature begotten hi them is
the first-fruits of the Spirit, with promise of ever richer
fruition. The groanings which cannot be uttered, with
which the Spirit comes in on our behalf, are identical with
the groanings which we ourselves utter in the longing for
a fuller experience of God (Rom. viii. 23-27). And so the
light within is the light of God, as we allow Him to become
one with us.' l But St. Paul's contemporaries could not
all rise to this conception. They traced the operation of
the Spirit rather in fitful and unaccountable manifesta-
tions of religious enthusiasm. The more strange and
1 Grubb, Authority and the Light Within, p. 62.



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 89

wild these were, the more sure they were that there was
something divine hi them. In the various charismata,
especially, they found unmistakable evidence of an
influx of the supernatural. The * pneumatic ' or spiritual
man was one who spoke with tongues or prophesied.
This undisciplined enthusiasm was discouraged, and in
the end suppressed or expelled by the Catholic Church,
though it lived on in a different form, in the strange belief
in visions. Tertullian, writing about A.D. 200, has the
startling and very significant statement that ' the
majority of men derive their knowledge of God from
visions.' l In the folio whig centuries, the visions of the
monks and nuns were the chief sources of supposed in-
formation about the life after death. All the horrors of
the medieval Inferno were thus guaranteed, and a great
part of the terrible pictures of hell, which seem to us so
grotesque and wantonly cruel, was the direct result of
the supernatural authority attributed to the nightmares
of holy men.

In our own day, the belief in directly inspired prophets
among our contemporaries has practically disappeared,
as it disappeared in Palestine between Malachi and John
the Baptist. But the belief in supernatural guidance
vouchsafed to individuals survives both in its true and
in its more dubious form.

The distinguishing mark of this belief in individual
illumination is the acceptance of the supposed divine
communication simply and without question. A man,
for instance, will hesitate about accepting an appointment
until he feels a distinct ' leading ' to say yes or no ; then
he will act at once, putting aside any self-questionings
as to his fitness for the post.

I must try to indicate what measure of truth and error
I consider to reside in this Faith in direct inspiration.

1 See the interesting note in Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. i. p. 53
(English translation).



90 FAITH [CH.

Assuredly all good men are guided in various degrees by
the Spirit of God who dwells, St. Paul says, in all but the
reprobate. We have within us a tribunal before which
it is our right and our duty to bring every doubtful case.
And in this ' discerning of spirits ' we may hope that we
are guided not by our own unaided wisdom, but by the
divine gift of grace which is only the other side of the
human virtue of Faith. In trusting miraculous ' leadings,'
the error is in supposing that we can accept any mental
suggestion, without question, as coming from God. The
suggestion may come to us in a mysterious manner hi a
vivid dream, or associated with a strange coincidence, or
in some other way unlike our usual mental processes.
But these are no necessary tokens of divine inspiration ;
it is superstition, not religion, to suppose that they are.
Divine guidance is given us ; but the degree of it is deter-
mined by our spiritual and mental condition, and it is
not communicated in a magical manner, so as to save
us the trouble of further inquiry. If the man who, when
he has been offered an appointment, waits for some
4 leading,' and does not try to weigh the pros and cons
fairly, were to consider the reasons for and against
acceptance, prayerfully, but with the best use of his
reason, he would be more likely to be guided aright in his
decision. In short, the error is in trying to fix the
immediacy of special inspiration, as Quietists try to fix
the immediacy of general, diffused inspiration. Special
guidance in emergencies comes to us through our ordinary
faculties if it comes at all. Sanctity does not confer the
power of divination.

The theory of individual inspiration, if pushed to its
logical conclusion, is too absurd to be widely held. It
would result in making each Christian, who believed him-
self inspired, his own church and his own Bible. But
even in a democratic age it would seem ridiculous to
apply the theory of ' one man one vote ' to religion. This






AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 91



type of Faith can be studied in its most favourable form
in the writings of the earlier Quakers. In the words of a
living member of the Society of Friends, whom I have
already quoted in this lecture, ' they made the inner light
something wholly alien to man's nature. It was not an
attribute of man, but a substance entirely separate from
man's own being. " The light of which we speak," says
Barclay, " is not only distinct but of a different nature
from the soul of man and its faculties." It is not to be
identified with the conscience any more than a candle
is the same as the lantern that holds it.' 1 The error
here, which, as this passage shows, is fully admitted by
modern ' Friends,' is substantially the same as that of
quietistic mysticism.

This extreme form of individualism has not been very
prominent in the history of Christianity. The authorities
which in history have swayed the destiny of nations have
been more external and more august. They have spoken
to man, not within him.

Let us first consider the historical evolution of the idea
of the Church, as the divinely inspired source of authority.

I have already shown that the conception of Faith as a
body of doctrine, supernaturally accredited and therefore
to be accepted in its entirety, is primitive. The guiding
idea of Catholicism began to establish itself as soon as
there was a Church for it to grow in. ' The Catholic
theory of apostolic tradition,' says Sabatier, 2 who writes
from a Protestant standpoint, ' is found clearly defined
and established as an infallible and sovereign law in the
times of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus.' The
concentration of power in the hands of the Roman Church,
as the authoritative interpreter of this tradition, advanced
as if by an automatic process. To quote Sabatier again :
' The future centre of the Catholic Church appeared from

1 Grubb, Authority and the Light Within, p. 81.

Sabatier, Let Religions d'Autoritt et la Religion de V Esprit.



92 FAITH [ca

the commencement of the second century/ and hi the year
194, ' for the first time a bishop of Rome, Victor, speaks
as master to the other bishops, presents himself as inter-
preter and arbiter of the universal Church, acts as
universal bishop, and proclaims heretical the churches
that would resist his authority.' In Cyprian's time the
bishops were all theoretically equal. Yet such is the
interior logic of the system that Cyprian himself laid the
foundation of a new evolution which was to produce from
the body of bishops that episcopus episcoporum against
whom he had tried to guard himself. The trend of the
Catholic polity towards a centralised despotism went on
irresistibly and inexorably.

When once the Roman primacy is recognised, all later
developments of the papal prerogative, down to our own
times, are only the logical conclusion of the Catholic con-
ception of the Church. The infallibility which was the
attribute of the universal Church was gradually con-
centrated hi the Roman Church, and thence passed to the
Roman bishop. When the Pope was held to be the head
and voice of the Church, the infallibility of the Church
could not express itself through another mouth.

Roman Catholicism is a religion of authority. When
a man who has been a Protestant becomes a Roman
Catholic, he must learn a kind of submission that we in
England, or America, know nothing of hi any other relation
of life, unless we are soldiers on a campaign. Where
the Church has spoken, the loyal Catholic must obey
without question. Nor is this authority confined to
religious matters. ' That authority,' says Cardinal
Newman, l ' has the prerogative of an indirect jurisdiction
on subject-matters which lie beyond its own proper
limits, and it most reasonably has such a Jurisdiction.
It could not properly defend religious truth without
claiming for that truth what may be called its pomoeria,

i Development of Christian Doctrine.



.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 93

or, to take another illustration, without acting as we act,
as a nation, in claiming as our own not only the land on
which we live, but what are called British waters. The
Catholic Church claims, not only to judge infallibly on
religious questions, but to animadvert on opinions in
secular matters which bear upon religion, on matters of
philosophy, of science, of literature, of history, and it
demands our submission to her claim. It claims to
censure books, to silence authors, and to forbid discussions.
It must, of course, be obeyed without a word, and perhaps,
in process of time, it will tacitly recede from its own
injunctions.' How like this is to the history of the growth
of the Roman world-empire ! Each new province demands
a further annexation to secure its frontier ; and nothing
short of military discipline and military organisation will
keep the vast dominion together.

But we must examine more closely the claims of a
theory which has so august a history. It rests entirely
on the theory of a clearly distinguishable special divine
revelation, as does the Protestant theory of an infallible
book. At the close of this discussion we must consider
how far this distinction is valid. According to the
Catholic theory, the Church is not simply a divinely
founded establishment which continues to administer the
trusts committed to it by its Founder, but it is in its
corporate capacity a direct continuation of the Incarna-
tion, permanently and fully inspired by the Holy Ghost,
who, in accordance with the promise of Jesus Christ,
made while He was on earth, was to take His place as a
Divine Presence among men, until His coming again.
It is true that God had never left Himself without witness,
even in heathendom ; but from the first Whitsunday He
has had ' a special abode, an organised and visible agency
for distributing a higher and supernatural order of grace,' *
a guidance differing in kind from natural wisdom and
1 Martineau, Seat of Authority in Religion, p. 130.



94 FAITH [CH.

goodness. If we ask how we are to know that one
particular corporation, and no others, has the privilege
of being the sole trustee of this supernatural revelation,
we are referred to four marks, the famous ' notes ' of a
true Church, viz. Unity, Sanctity, Universality, and
Apostolicity.

We are bound to ask, whether, as a matter of historical
fact, the Roman Church, or the Catholic Church, which
is so defined as to include all Episcopalian bodies having
the ' Apostolic Succession,' but no others, can claim to
exhibit these marks. If it fails to do so, it will be un-
necessary to ask the further question, whether these four
notes, if they were established, would be sufficient founda-
tion for so tremendous a claim. The first note, Unity,
used to be understood to mean that there have been no
changes in the teaching of the Church since Apostolic
times. / Dogma is unchangeable immobilis et irrefor-
mabilis. This theory, as we shall see presently, has been
abandoned by the Liberal school of Catholic apologists in
favour of the doctrine of natural and necessary develop-
ment. It is, indeed, only by completely rewriting Church
history that the mutability and mutations of dogma can
be disputed. The Roman Catholics have made a


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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 8 of 21)