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It is probably too late to do more by force than to vex and annoy, and soon Protestantism must take a new ground of defence.
This new ground, if new it is, is already beginning to be assumed amongst us, and will soon be assumed in Great Britain; for such is the intimate relation of the two countries that the opinions of each act and react on the other with surprising rapidity. As yet, here, as in England, we are opposed principally in the name of civil and religious liberty; but this sort of opposition, when liberty is understood in its proper sense, is too ridiculous to continue for any great length of time, and must soon be abandoned. The new ground of defence Protestantism is to assume is one we are very glad to see making its appearance. The attacks we and others have made on the sects, though made without hope and as if beating the air, are beginning to tell, and we see in various quarters the concession made, that, if it be admitted that Christ founded a church at all, we must accept the Catholic Church, and therefore, to escape going to Rome, it must be stoutly denied that our Lord founded any church, or instituted any ministry of his word. This is what Evangelical Protestantism is now undertaking to prove, and the question now comes up, as simply a question between Catholicity and no church,—the very form in which it always presented itself to our own mind. How men of common sense and common honesty could reject the Catholic communion, and still contend that our Lord instituted a ministry or founded a church, was to us as great a puzzle when we were a Protestant as it is now. To us it always seemed that Protestantism in its very essence was the rejection of every church and every sacerdotal principle. We had hardly commenced our career as a Protestant minister, before we began preaching against every thing that implied a church, on the very ground that, if we admitted a single church idea, we must, if consistent, go back to Mother Church. The thing seemed to us as plain as that two and two make four. Hence the tractarian movement was one with which we could not sympathize, and the sincerity and honesty of the tractarians seemed to us most difficult to be believed, and we could believe in them only on the ground of the perversion of the English mind which had resulted from its long study to find a via media between truth and falsehood. How a tractarian could honestly admit so much and not admit more, could say two and two, and refuse to add—make four, we could not understand, and we should never have understood it had we not become a Catholic. But all our Protestaut sects are in reality, though not so glaringly, as inconsistent, as illogical, as high-church Anglicans.
The discomfiture of the high-church party has finally opened the eyes of a large number of Protestants, and compelled Protestantism to abandon all pretensions to be a church and to fall back on no-churchism. But it will be discomfited on this ground also, for if any thing is certain in Christianity, it is that our Lord did establish a church and instituted an external ministry of his word. This was proved to complete demonstration in our article entitled The Church against No-church.* Protestantism must then fall back on the ground of “no external authoritative revelation,” a ground already assumed by the modern spiritualists, the more advanced party of Protestants. Discomfited on this ground, it must and will fall back on the ground of no religion, and on this ground the great battle between Catholics and Protestants in the United Kingdom and the United States will have to be fought. All the engagements previously are only preliminary skirmishes, and really decide nothing. But though we see this very clearly, and can have no doubt whither Protestantism is tending, there is little to be gained by anticipating its developments. We must follow it step by step, and meet it on each new ground, as it assumes it, only too thankful to find it assuming any ground at all
. The great difficulty in dealing with Protestants is and always has been in making them understand their own Protestantism. They do not understand, they have never understood it, and they never fairly accept either its principles or its consequences. They never will till driven to do so by their own experience. But the pressure from without and from within is every day increasing, and they find it less and less satisfactory and availing to continue their old practice of saying yes and no in the same breath to one and the same proposition. They must ere long make
up their minds to say either the one or the other only, either to abandon Protestantism or else to accept and abide by it in its essential principles and its logical consequences. In the meantime, though we cannot expect to gain over the main body of Protestants, we must meet each phase of the movement as it is developed, each special controversy as it arises, and if we meet it fairly, wisely, firmly, with the uncompromising yet gentle and hopeful spirit of our religion, we hope to reap at each successive stage a rich harvest of such as are to be saved.
* Vol. V., p. 331.
His Eminence has never, any more than we, supposed that all Protestantism is concentrated in high-churchism, and that the great body of Protestants will consent to accept the issue between it and the church. He of course regarded it and treated it as a special question, and as a special question, though a very interesting and important one, he has treated it so as to leave us nothing to desire. Wherever the controversy with high-churchism is not out of date, his essays offer us the best models and afford us all the assistance we need. They are worthy of the serions consideration of the catholicizing party among Protestants everywhere, though not especially adapted to the form which the question assumes out of the Anglican church. But nowhere is the question his Eminence has discussed the only question of the day. We have other controversies than that with high-churchmen, and questions to be solved which but few among us have studied thoroughly and completely mastered, althongh we have of course in our church and her teaching the principle of their solution. But if we have the principle, we do not always understand its application, and to under.stand its application we must understand well our own times. We must not look only at the surface of things, and take them as they may present themselves at first sight. Error has a genetic history as well as truth, only the genesis of error is negative, and that of truth is affirmative. Error is never pure, it is always a mixture of truth and falsehood; the truth it holds tends always to eliminate the falsehood and become pure truth, and the falsehood tends always to eliminate the truth and become pure falsehood. This double process of elimination is always going on in the bosom of Protestantism, and explains, as we have elsewhere shown, its tendency on the one hand to a return to the church, and on the other hand to absolute unbelief.
But in all parties starting with an error, the great body always adhere to the false, and aid in carrying on the elimination of truth. The great majority of Protestants are here and everywhere more wedded to their Protestantism in what it has that is infidel, than in what it has that is coincident with Christianity. Hence they are more ready to carry on the work of eliminating and rejecting the truth hitherto retained, than they are the elimination and rejection of the falsehood adopted by the reformers. The sects are by their errors thrown back on corrupt human nature, fallen anew under the dominion of Satan; and corrupt hnman nature under his dominion is open to every illusion, and is sure to mistake falsehood for truth. It is thus we see in the mass of the Protestant world the false principles of the reformers becoming every day more and more exclusive, and developing more and more distinctly their legitimate consequences. The same human nature which led the reformers to adopt their false principles, we must remember, is also in ourselves, and in us, though it may be restrained by grace, and effectually resisted by constant vigilance and prayer, it is never annihilated. The greatest saint, who has led a life of the highest and truest sanctity, may fall at the last moment, and be lost for ever. Hence it is that errors in a subtle form, not directly and innmediately opposed to faith, so disguised as not to alarm the true believer, have a perpetual tendency to make their way, from the nonCatholic world without, among Catholics themselves, to the undermining at first of their piety, their virtue, and finally of their faith.
Protestantism has developed its denial of authority till it has become completely revolutionary, and its doctrine of individual independence till social order and society itself are threatened with utter dissolution. The error with Protestants began in the religious order, and was directed solely against the church; but it subsequently passed into the political and social order, and is now passing into the domestic circle. But under its political and social character it found its way in the last century among the Catholic populations of Europe, and it is now no uncommon thing to find Catholics who are thoroughly Protestant, that is, thoroughly atheistic, in their political and social doctrines and tendencies. It is in this fact that the revolutionism or the radicalisin of our age finds its chief support; and it is worthy of note that the war against political authority, social order, and religion is carried on to-day almost exclusively under the lead of apostate Catholics. The most influential and depraved radicals that the convulsions of Europe have thrown into the United States, as well as the most vio lent and energetic antipopery lecturers, are almost without exception apostates from the church. Without these apostates, Protestantism could no longer hold up its head.
These apostates are of course all infidels, at least men who have lost all respect for religion, who have made up their minds to live and die for this world alone. They despair of heaven and they welcome hell. They consequently give to their Protestant followers their own character and animate them by their own spirit. Caring nothing themselves for doctrine or morals, animated solely by love of the world on the one hand, which they call patriotism, and by hatred of the church on the other, which they call liberty, they make war against us professedly in the name of liberty and patriotism, but really in hatred of all restraint, and in devotion to the world, the flesh, and the devil. And this is the form in which we have to meet the question of religion or no religion. At bottom it is, as we so often say, the old question between the flesh and the spirit, the church and the world, Christianity and heathenism.
It seems to us, therefore, that our great work at present is to be for those within rather than for those without; and looking to the whole of Christendom, it consists precisely in bringing the faithful themselves to see and understand the great principles of our religion in their application to the great radical, socialistic, and revolutionary movements of our age. Past ages have shown the distinction between the temporal and spiritual, and even the union of the two as external governments; we are called upon to go a step deeper, and show the unity of all power in its origin and principle, and that in a deep internal sense the assertion of the independence of the temporal is virtual atheism. We must not revive the theocratic form of society or of government, but reassert the truth that was embodied in that form, and make it familiar again to the minds and hearts of the faithful
. It is only as we weed out all radicalism, socialism, and revolutionism from our own minds, and comprehend that they are damnable errors, and incompatible with religion, the teachings and the spirit of the church, that we can place ourselves in a position to carry on successfully the controversy demanded by our age.
In this work we can obtain less assistance from the great controversialists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than in almost any other, because the questions in the form we have to meet them are modern. Bellarmine, Suarez, the brothers Wallenbruch, Bossuet, and the noble old English Jesuit fathers, who did their work so well in their day, cannot serve us here, except so far as the enunciation of prin