12 AUGUST 1905, Page 14

SIR,—This is not a "right," but a "duty." If the

faith is a "deposit" hid in a napkin, and only brought out and exposed to view for adoration by the faithful, Mr. Boyd's contention has weight; but if as the leaven and the grain of mustard- seed it contains the principle of life, it must grow, and any attempt to stunt that growth is purely mischievous. Mr. Boyd claims the title of "historical" for the Anglican Catholic position on the ground that the English Church, when at the Reformation she threw off her allegiance to the Church of Rome, accepted the authority of the first four centuries, and by this historical fact bound herself for all time to adhere to this standard. The first remark he makes is surely not historical. "We know that for some thirty years after our Lord's Ascension not a line of the New Testament was written." How can we possibly know this ? Is it credible ? He then defines the word " Canonical " as implying the same degree of reverence and estimation as belongs to the Old Testament Canon. But this undermines his position, for precisely the same liberty of criticising the New Testa- ment which is now generally granted in the case of the old is the very point at issue. The same illuminating process which has thrown a flood of light on the Old Testament may be surely trusted to deal with the New. Is the account given by Mr. Boyd of the Council of Nicaea strictly historical, and were all subsequent Councils conducted in the same spirit ? Was there no preconceived conclusion, which they were expected to stamp with authority ? Was it with the facts of the Gospel history that they dealt, or with certain more or less legitimate inferences based on those facts These early Councils could never have troubled themselves with the discrepancies and contradictions which have exercised the ingenuity of commentators in modern times, and proved stumbling-blocks to those who regarded the Church as respon- sible for literal accuracy. They were mainly concerned with doctrines, and so uncritical in their methods as to accept the verse in St. John's Epistle as genuine because it set forth in un- mistakable terms the doctrine of the Trinity. The question at once arises : may not other texts have been foisted in with some set purpose, notably the verses in St. Matthew establishing the primacy of St. Peter and the authority of the Church, verses the more remarkable as the word "church" occurs nowhere else in the Gospels, and the words (xviii. 17) "if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican," are so entirely out of keeping with the spirit of our Lord that they carry with them their own condemnation ? The relief to the conscience of Christianity would be immense, faith in its teaching would be enormously strengthened, if it were based on the inherent reasonableness and coherence of the whole, and the Holy Spirit trusted to establish the truth in answer to man's endeavour. Let those who believe they have found at least have patience with the seekers. Lowell's lines contain the gist of the matter.—I am,