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before.A sensible man, having much inward respect for Protestantism, would hardly allow us to make a supposition so much to its discredit. Are the works of God destined to prove failures ? And are we to suppose that God's Church needs mending, or that, if it does, he cannot mend it without taking it to pieces, and leaving the whole world for three hundred years and more without any Church, without any religion, without law or order, without faith, without hope, without charity, to worry and devour one another as dogs, - to live like swine, and die like beasts? How know we that God did not make his Church perfect at first ? Certainly, if the principles we have established in the course of this article deserve any consideration, man is no church-builder, or church-reformer, and his proper sphere of activity lies in believing what God's Church teaches, and in doing what she commands, and the only development that can be asserted is growth in the understanding and appropriation of the truth, and in the practice of Christian perfection, by single minds and wills, or individual believers. "It is ours to perfect ourselves by the Church, not to perfect her by us.
Then, as to the magnitude of Protestantism, we are not much impressed by it. We have had too near a view of it for it to loom up very large in our eyes. It is far inferior in the magnitude of its results to the sin of our first parents ; it is not so great an event as the lapse of nearly the whole ancient world into idolatry ; it is not greater than Brahminism, than Budd hism, or than Arianism, and it dwindles into insignificance before Mahometanism, -- all manifestly of the Devil. Why, then, not Protestantism also? Wherefore pronounce them the work of the Devil, and it, on account of its magnitude alone, the work of God ? Protestantism is nothing but what it is in individual minds and hearts, and we see nothing unphilosophical or irrational, taking into the account the depravity of human nature, or men's proneness to evil, in supposing that so consider. able a number of persons as there are Protestants should fall into error and sin, leave God to follow their own foolish pride, vicious appetites and propensities, corrupt passions and sentiments. Its influence on modern civilization has not been such as to command our respect. It has everywhere been deleterious, tending to draw off the mind and heart from God, to fix the affections on the low and transitory, the material and the sensual, to corrupt morals, to dry up the springs of spiritual life, and to prepare the way for the return to barbarism. Whatever advance modern civilization has made, has been made in spite of it, by virtue of principles and influences drawn from Catholicity. Indeed, the most severe condemnation of Protestantism is to assert the necessity of divinizing all history in order to be able to divinize it, or to take it out of the category of the works of our great Enemy.
There are some other points of minor importance, as made by the Reviewer, on which we would comment if our space permitted, and we were not already fatigued ; but we have said enough, if it is understood, to prove that the Reviewer has not made out his case, has not established a theory that meets the difficulties he acknowledges; and we are therefore entitled to conclude our Church against him. In what we have said, we have aimed to treat him with respect, and we certainly do respect him as a man, a scholar, and a writer. He is nearer the truth in his spirit than in his words ; he has generous impulses towards something better than vulgar Protestantism, and we trust in God that he will persevere till he finds it. If what we have said, although strongly put, more strongly than may be pleasing to him, enables him to understand better his own doctrine in its relation to ours, and to form a more correct judgment of Catholic theology, we shall have done him and many others no mean service. At any rate, if he choose to rejoin, he will hardly fail to see the points he must make and defend, what he must prove and disprove, in order to feel that he can have any hope of salvation, without abandoning his theory, not for another of man's concoction, but for the glorious old Catholic Church, which, though assailed continually by the folly of men and the rage of devils, stands firm as ever upon the Rock on which her Lord has founded her.
Art. IV. - Conversations of an Old Man and his Young
Friends. - No. II.
F. All you say seems plausible enough, and perhaps follows logically from principles that cannot very well be denied ; but there is always danger in pushing matters to extremes. I am a Catholic as well as you, and, unlike you,
have been one from my infancy, and I would rather die than give up my Church. I am a “Catholic of the Catholics," and have no
need to be instructed by neophytes in my religion, however much my seniors in years. Pushing the principles of our religion to their last consequences, and taking extreme views of all questions of practical life, can do no good, — is impolitic, subjects our Church to unnecessary odium, and imposes too heavy a burden upon us who mingle in the world, and have more or less to do with “our separated brethren.” Virtue, the Philosopher tells us, is the mean between two extremes.
B. I am very happy to hear my young friend say that he is a Catholic, a fact which I own I had not even suspected. As a neophyte I stand rebuked. But I have heard of 'Catholics who will fight to the death for their religion, as a point of honor, who yet will not live it. The test of a man's love of Catholicity is in living it. If ye love me, says our Lord, keep my commandments; and this we must do, if we would enter into eternal life. Extremes are dangerous, no doubt; but it is always well to understand our terms. Virtue, in a certain sense, may be the mean between two extremes, but I have never understood that the extremes were more and less of virtue itself. Too little virtue to be virtue is not virtue at all, and I have never been aware that a man can have too much virtue to be virtuous ; at any rate, I do not think any of us are likely to sin by an excess of virtuous action. Extremes are not in pushing true principles to their logical consequences, but in false principles themselves. A man can no more have an excess of truth than he can of virtue.
R. But what we object to is, that you are ultra. You were always, we have been told, even when a Protestant, disposed to be ultra in every thing. You would push your Protestantism, your notions of government and society, to such extremes, that no one could act with you. And now you push your Catholicity to extremes.
B. Beyond Catholicity itself ?
R. No; I do not precisely say that; but you push it farther than it seems to me necessary to go. You are too rigid, too uncompromising, — nay, to be plain, you are too bigoted and intolerant.
B. Bigotry is the obstinate adherence to one's own opinions, without any solid reason for them, and a blind intolerance of whatever contradicts them. If half that is said of my frequent changes be true, I must have very little obstinate attachment to any opinions, and in those matters which are really matters of opinion, it might be difficult to adduce an instance in which I have shown myself intolerant. Nor am I aware that in matters which are mine, and of which I have the disposal, I have been thus far in my life remarkable for my rigidness, or want of liberality. The tendency to push matters to extremes has never been one of my besetting sins, and I have always been ready to accept any compromise that seemed expedient, if it involved no compromise of principle or dereliction from the truth. But I confess I am not and never was one of those who could say, “Good Lord,” and “Good Devil,” not knowing into whose hands I might fall. As to ultra Catholicity, I do not understand it. You might as well call a man ultra orthodox, as if one could be orthodox, and at the same time more or less than orthodox. Orthodoxy is a definite quantity, and one has it, or has it not. It is not a creation of mine, nor of yours, and all that either of us has to do is to accept it as prescribed to us by the Church. You can either hold it or not hold it, but you cannot both hold it and not hold it at the same time. You are bound to go as far as your religion requires you to go, or you sin by defect; and if you go beyond what it permits, you sin by excess. The medium is not something arbitrary, left to your will and caprice or to mine; it is determined by the truth itself. If I go beyond the truth, I certainly go too far, and you, if you go not as far as the truth, go not far enough. As you concede that I do not go beyond Catholic truth itself, it strikes me that, instead of charging me with the sin of ultraism, you would do much better to humble yourself and do penance for your short-comings.
F. All this looks plausible, I grant, and yet I see no need of being so very strict. There is no need of exaggeration.
B. All exaggeration is wrong, and to be condemned ; but as long as one is within the bounds of truth, I do not see how he can be guilty of exaggeration. Then I do not understand what you mean when you say that there is no need of being so very strict. I must be as strict as truth and virtue, or I fall into error and sin. You doubtless remember that the early Christians were so very strict as to choose rather to undergo the most cruel tortures, to suffer death in its most frightful shapes, than to offer a single grain of incense to Jupiter or to the statues of Cæsar. Do you think they were foolish, ultra, more strict than their religion required them to be, and that they might, with credit to their religion, and without sin in themselves, have offered incense as the pagan magistrate commanded ?
M. That was all very well in the Martyrs, and we honor them for it; but what your young friends contend is, that it is not necessary to place ourselves in opposition to our age, and to shut ourselves out from all communion with our kind, because they do not happen to be of our way of thinking.
B. I was not aware before that Catholicity, the Catholic Church, the Immaculate Spouse of God, the Mother of all the faithful, is a way of thinking. “Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence” (Ps. i. 1); but I do not remember that a blessing is any where pronounced upon those who follow the counsels of the ungodly, or hold communion with the workers of iniquity. “What participation hath justice with injustice? or what fellowship hath lighi with darkness? or what concord hath Christ with Belial? And what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever ?” (2 Cor. vi. 14, 15.) In matters not of religion the faithful may, no doubt, have intercourse with such heretics as are tolerated, and they are certainly not required or permitted to oppose the age in any respect in which the age is right. But we cannot conform to the age wherein the age is wrong without sin, for that is precisely what is meant by sinful conformity to the world. That would bring us into bondage to the world, into bondage to sin, from which it is the design of our religion to free us. This setting up the age as a standard is by no means Catholic, and to fall in with the children of this age in their worship of it is as much idolatry as that which the early Christians resisted unto death.
F. You mistake our meaning. We do not advocate full conformity to the age ; all we mean is, that, as the age manifestly tends to popular institutions, to the extension of popular liberty, it is an exaggeration of Catholic doctrine to contend that we should resist this tendency, fight against the people, and exert ourselves to uphold old abuses and despotic rulers.
B. My young friend certainly does not sin by an excess of clearness and precision in his ideas. If he would take a little pains to distribute things according to their categories, and to keep those things distinct in his reasoning which are distinct in their nature, I cannot believe that it would do him any serious harm. Catholic truth does not, of course, require us to uphold abuses or despotic rulers. In asserting things are abuses, and rulers despots, you assert your right as a Catholic to resist them, and, within the limits of prudence and charity, your duty to resist them. All that is clear enough. But before