An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine

By John Henry Newman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII.

APPLICATION OF THE THIRD NOTE OF A TRUE
DEVELOPMENT.

ASSIMILATIVE POWER.

SINCE religious systems, true and false, have one and the same great and comprehensive subject-matter, they necessarily interfere with one another as rivals, both in those points in which they agree together, and in those in which they differ. That Christianity on its rise was in these circumstances of competition and controversy, is sufficiently evident even from a foregoing Chapter: it was surrounded by rites, sects, and philosophies, which contemplated the same questions, sometimes advocated the same truths, and in no slight degree wore the same external appearance. It could not stand still, it could not take its own way, and let them take theirs: they came across its path, and a conflict was inevitable. The very nature of a true philosophy relatively to other systems is to be polemical, eclectic, unitive : Christianity was polemical; it could not but be eclectic; but was it also unitive? Had it the power, while keeping its own identity, of absorbing its antagonists, as Aaron's rod, according to St. Jerome's illustration, devoured the rods of the sorcerers of Egypt? Did it incorporate them into itself, or was it dissolved into them ? Did it assimilate them into its own A a 2

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