Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

understand the wonders that exist in their very midst. Let those who are not for her, however, bear in mind, that, whether they oppose her, or pretend to extend to her their patronage, as she cheered the hearts of the great and good centuries before they and their vain systems were born, so will she lead new generations heavenward ages on ages after they and their vain systems are remembered no more.

ART. VI. - LITERARY NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.

1.- Protestantism and Catholicity compared in their Effects on

the Civilization of Europe. By the Rev. J. BALMEZ. From the French, by C. J. HANFORD and R. KERSHAW. London: James Brown. 1849. 8vo. pp. 452.

a

Our readers are already well aware of the high estimation in which we hold this admirable work by the late Abbé Balmez, work which will stand the test of the most rigid criticism for lofty eloquence, sound philosophy, solid and various erudition. It does for Protestantism, under a political and social point of view, what the illustrious Moehler has done for it under the point of view of theology. The Symbolik of the German professor may here and there contain statements and views that need some modifications, but it utterly demolishes Protestant dogmatism, and shows unanswerably that it is baseless, incoherent, self-contradictory, and unable to stand a moment before enlightened theological criticism. The no less illustrious Spaniard has done the same with political and social Protestantism. For some time Protestants have very generally ceased to claim any superiority for Protestantism over Catholicity as a religion, as a system of dogmatic truth, or as the means of effecting the salvation of the soul, and have placed its defence on the ground of its having disenthralled the human mind, broken up civil despotism, established civil freedom, and advanced the general civilization and social well-being of the European nations. The Abbé Balmez meets Protestants on this their chosen ground of defence, and proves that it is utterly untenable, and that Protestantism has only retarded, instead of advancing, the cause of liberty and general civilization. In him human reason, the common sense of mankind, sits in judgment on Protestantism in its social and political character, and pronounces a sentence of condemnation which the future will not reverse.

The translation of this work into our language we regard as a happy event. It is precisely the work which in the present crisis we need, and its influence will be wide and lasting. Mr. Hanford and his assistant, Mr. Kershaw, have done their work well. The work hardly reads as a translation, but has the freedom, freshness, ease, and vigor of an original work, and yet, as far as we have compared it with the French, it is faithful, and even literal. These gentlemen prove themselves very fair translators, and we hope their labors will be appreciated by our countrymen, and that the work, which is published in a cheap but neat style, will find as ready a sale in this country as we learn it is finding in England.

We have no room to give any extended review or analysis of the Abbé's work, and, indeed, no analysis can give a correct and adequate notion of it. The work to be known must be read entire. All we have space to do is to give a single extract, which may serve to give as good an idea of the whole as a single brick from its walls of ancient Babylon. We select the first chapter, entitled the “ Nature and Name of Protestantism."

“ There is a fact in existence among civilized nations, very important on account of the nature of the things which it affects, - a fact of transcendent importance, on account of the number, variety, and consequence of its influences, a fact extremely interesting, because it is connected with the principal events of modern history,

“ Like a clap of thunder, it attracted at once the attention of all Europe ; on one side it spread alarm, and on the other excited the most lively sympathy: it grew so rapidly, that its adversaries had not time to strangle it in its cradle. Scarcely had it begun to exist, and already all hope of stopping, or even restraining it, was gone; when, emboldened by being treated with respect and consideration, it became every day more daring; if exasperated by rigor, it openly resisted measures of coercion, or redoubled and concentrated its forces, to make more vigorous attacks. Discussions, the profound investigations and scientific methods which were used in combating it, contributed to develop the spirit of inquiry, and served as vehicles to propagate its ideas.

“ By creating new and prevailing interests, it made itself powerful protectors; by throwing all the passions into a state of fury, it aroused them in its favor. It availed itself by turns of stratagem, force, seduction, or violence, according to the exigencies of times and circumstances. It attempted to make its way in all directions; either destroying impediments, or taking advantage of them, if they were capable of being turned to account.

" When introduced into a country, it never rested until it had obtained guaranties for its continued existence; and it succeeded in doing so everywhere. After having obtained vast establishments in Europe, - which it still retains, - it was transported into other parts of the world, and infused into the veins of simple and unsuspecting nations.

" In order to appreciate a fact at its just value, to embrace it in all its relations, and to distinguish properly between them, it is necessary to examine whether the constituting principle of the fact can be ascertained, or at least whether we can observe in its appearance any characteristic trait capable of revealing its inward nature. This examination is very

difficult when we have to do with a fact of the kind and importance of that which now occupies our attention. In matters of this sort, numbers of opinions accumulate in the course of time, in favor of all which arguments have been sought. The inquirer, in the midst of so many and such various objects, is perplexed, disconcerted, and confounded ; and if he wish to place himself in a more advantageous point of view, he finds the ground so covered with fragments, that he cannot make his way without risk of losing himself at every step.

“ The first glance which we give to Protestantism, whether we consider its actual condition, or whether we regard the various phases of its history, shows us that it is very difficult to find any thing constant in it, any thing which can be assigned as its constituent character. Uncertain in its opinions, it modifies them continually, and changes them in a thousand ways. Vague in its tendencies, and fluctuating in its desires, it attempts every form, and essays every road. It can never attain to a welldefined existence; and we see it every moment enter new paths, to lose itself in new labyrinths.

“Catholic controversialists have pursued and assailed it in every way; ask them what has been the result. They will tell you that they had to contend with a new Proteus, which always escaped the fatal blow by changing its form. If you wish to assail the doctrines of Protestantism, you do not know where to direct your attacks, for they are unknown to you, and even to itself. On this side it is invulnerable, because it has no tangible body. Thus, no more powerful argument has ever been urged, than that of the immortal Bishop of Meaux, - viz. • You change; and that which changes is not the truth. An argument much feared by Protestantism, and with justice ; because all the various forms which are assumed to evade its force only serve to strengthen it. How just is the expression of this great man! At the very title of his book, Protestantism must tremble : The History of the Variations ! A history of variations must be a history of error.

These unceasing changes, which we ought not to be surprised at finding in Protestantism, because they essentially belong to it, show us that it is not in possession of the truth; they show us also, that its moving principle is not a principle of life, but an element of dissolution. It has been called upon, and up to this time in vain, to fix itself, and to present a compact and uniform body. How can that be fixed, which is, by its nature, kept floating about in the air? How can a solid body bé formed of an element, whereof the essential tendency is towards an incessant division of particles, by diminishing their reciprocal affinity, and increasing their repellant force ?

" It will easily be seen that I speak of the right of private judgment in matters of faith, whether it be looked upon as a matter of human reason alone, or as an individual inspiration from heaven.

“ If there be any thing constant in Protestantism, it is undoubtedly the substitution of private judgment for public and lawful authority. This is always found in union with it; and is, properly speaking, its fundamental principle : it is the only point of contact among the various Protestant sects, — the basis of their mutual resemblance. It is very remarkable that this exists, for the most part, unintentionally, and sometimes against their express wishes.

" However lamentable and disastrous this principle may be, if the coryphæi of Protestantism had made it their rallying-point, and had con

NEW SERIES. - VOL. IV. NO. I.

17

stantly acted up to it in theory and practice, they would have been consistent in error. When men saw them cast into one abyss after another, they would have recognized a system, — false undoubtedly ; but, at any rate, a system. As it is, it has not been even that: if you examine the words and the acts of the first Reformers, you will find that they made use of this principle as a means of resisting the authority which controlled them, but that they never dreamed of establishing it permanently; that, if they labored to upset lawful authority, it was for the purpose of usurping the command themselves ; that is to say, that they followed, in this respect, the example of revolutionists of all kinds, of all ages, and of all countries. Every body knows how far Luther carried his fanatical intolerance ; he who could not bear the slightest contradiction, either from his own disciples or any body else, without giving way to the most senseless fits of passion, and the most unworthy outrages. Henry VIII. of England, who founded there what is called the liberty of thinking, sent to the scaffold those who did not think as he did ; and it was at the instigation of Calvin that Servetus was burnt alive at Geneva.

* I insist upon this point, because it seems to me to be of great importance. Men are but too much inclined to pride ; and if they heard it constantly repeated, without contradiction, that the innovators of the sixteenth century proclaimed the freedom of thought, a secret interest might be excited in their favor ; their violent declamations might be regarded as the expressions of a generous movement, and their efforts as a noble attempt to assert the rights of intellectual freedom. Let it be known, never to be forgotten, that if these men proclaimed the principle of free examination, it was for the purpose of making use of it against legitimate authority ; but that they attempted, as soon as they could, to impose upon others the yoke of their own opinions. Their constant endeavour was, to destroy the authority which came from God, in order to establish their own upon its ruins. It is a painful necessity to be obliged to give proofs of this assertion ; not because they are difficult to find, but because one cannot adduce the most incontestable of them without calling to mind words and deeds which not only cover with disgrace the founders of Protestantism, but are of such a nature, that they cannot be mentioned without a blush on the cheek, or written without a stain upon the paper.

“ Protestantism, when viewed in a mass, appears only a shapeless collection of innumerable sects, all opposed to each other, and agreeing only in one point; viz. in protesting against the authority of the Church. We only find among them particular and exclusive names, commonly taken from the names of their founders; in vain have they made a thousand efforts to give themselves a general name expressive of a positive idea ; they are still called after the manner of philosophical sects. Lutherans, Calvinists, Zuinglians, Anglicans, Socinians, Arminians, Anabaptists, – all these names, of which I could furnish an endless host, only serve to show the narrowness of the circle in which these sects are inclosed ; and it is only necessary to pronounce them, to show that they contain nothing universal, nothing great.

“Every body who knows any thing of the Christian religion must be convinced by this fact alone, that these sects are not truly Christian. But what occurred when Protestantism attempted to take a general name is singularly remarkable. If you examine its history, you will see that all the names which it attempted to give itself failed, if they contained any positive idea, or any mark of Christianity ; but that it adopted a name taken by chance at the Diet of Spires ; a name which carries with it its own condemnation, because it is repugnant to the origin, to the spirit, to the maxims, to the entire history of the Christian religion; a name which does not express that unity, - that union which is inseparably connected with the Christian name; a name which is peculiarly becoming to it, which all the world gives to it by acclamation, which is truly its own, viz. Protestantism.

“ Within the vast limits marked out by this name, there is room for every error and for every sect. You may deny with the Lutherans the liberty of man, or renew with the Arminians the errors of Pelagius. You may admit with some that real presence, which you are free to reject with the Calvinists and Zuinglians ; you may join with the Socinians in denying the divinity of Jesus Christ; you may attach yourself to Episcopalians, to Puritans, or, if you please, to the extravagances of the Quakers; it is of no consequence, for you always remain a Protestant, for protest against the authority of the Church ; your field is so extensive, that you can hardly escape from it, however great may be your wanderings; it contains all the vast extent that we behold on coming forth from the gates of the Holy City." - pp. 1-3.

The work may be had of Messrs. Dunigan & Brother, 151 Ful. ton Street, New York; and of Joseph A. Copes, 51 Salem Street, Boston ; and we recommend all who would possess one of the great books which has appeared in our day, to lose no time in procuring it.

you

2. The Orphan of Moscow, or the Young Governess. A Tale.

From the French of MADAME Woillez, by Mrs. M. A. SADLIER. New York: D. & J. Sadlier. 1849. 18mo. pp. 400.

This is a very interesting story, admirably translated, breathing a truly Catholic tone, and teaching an unexceptionable moral lesson. It is a valuable present to our young folks, although far better adapted to the wants of Catholic youth in France than in this country. We wish some one would write a tale entitled The Orphan of New York, or The Orphan of Boston, — The Irish Orphan, or The Catholic Orphan, — which should be adapted to the condition of the poor orphan boys among ourselves. Let its hero be an orphan boy, and taken from the poorer class, not from the wealthier. Our modern writers take much more pleasure in depicting the piety of girls than of boys. This comes, we suppose, from the fact, that piety in females is prettier and more sentimental than in the other sex, and therefore more within the comprehension of an effeminate and sentimental, not to say sensual, age. Yet boys have souls as well as girls, and were equally redeemed by the Man-God. We are not among those who think lightly of le intellect, female piety and worth, and we willingly accord to woman in her own sphere equality with man. We are not Mahometans, nor savages.

« AnteriorContinuar »