Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

add, the only, effectual way of advancing or securing it. No doubt there are evangelical counsels distinguishable from evangelical precepts, and we are far from pretending that, in strict law, we are all obliged to lead the life of the religious. The life of seculars is lawful, but that of the religious is higher and more perfect, and the nearer we approach its elevation and perfection, the better for us, and the better our influence on the world, both for time and eternity.

We intended to offer something more, and we may resume the discussion hereafter, but for the present we must content ourselves with what we have already said. We frankly acknowledge that on many points we have been enlightened by reading Gioberti's writings, and had we not read them, we could hardly have given the statement we have of the truth opposed to his errors ; we also acknowledge, nay, contend, that his errors do not necessarily grow out of his fundamental philosophy, but are distinguishable from it, and in fact opposed to it. They have another origin, and ought not to lead us to reject the philosophy itself, because he has bound them up with it. Nevertheless, as these errors chime in with the grand heresy of our age, - that is, the secularization of Christianity, the rehabilitation of the flesh, the revival of paganism, and the conceptions of the carnal Jews, who expected a temporal prince and temporal prosperity, instead of a spiritual ruler and the salvation of the soul, — they are precisely that in his writings which will give them their popularity with the mass of readers, and determine their practical influence, and therefore are exceedingly dangerous. They seem also to indicate the practical results the author has had in view in writing his pbilosophy. Hence, however sound may be the philosophy itself, the author's writings cannot be safe, and we have felt it our duty 10 admonish our readers to be on their guard against them.

As to Gioberti himself, while we have not spared him where we have thought him wrong, we have aimed to treat him with candor and respect. It is possible that he began writing with good intentions, with the sincere and earnest desire to promote the cause of truth and piety ; but the tone and style of his works are not such as to win our confidence in him as a sincere, humble, and devout Catholic priest. They are laical; and his spirit is proud, his bearing haughty and disdainful. He strikes us as a politician, or as a man of the world, rather than as a spiritual father. We miss in his writings that unction which so charms us in Fénelon, and especially in St. Francis of Sales, and we cannot help feeling that he has spent an undue proportion of his time in studying philosophy and profane literature, and has reserved himself too little io spend at the foot of the crucifix in prayer and meditation. We are sorry to think so, for we see in him a man whom God has endowed with extraordinary gifts, and who might be an honor to his country, and a useful servant of the Church ; but so we must think, till he breaks his present silence, submits to the Holy Father, responds to the affectionate entreaty of Pius the Ninth, and sets nimself earnestly at work to purge his writings of their mischievous errors.

Art. II. - 1. Sermons on the Obedience of Faith. By the

Right Rev. Silliman Ives, Protestant Episcopal Bishop

of North Carolina. 2. Pastoral Letter on the Priestly Office. By the same. 3. Pastoral Lelter on the Salisbury Convention. By the same. 4. A Voice from Connecticut. By SAMUEL FARMER JAR

vis, D. D., Historiographer of the Protestant Episcopal

Church. 5. Auricular Confession in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

By a Protestant Episcopalian. 6. The History of the Confessional. By John HENRY HOP

KINS, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont.

Our readers must not imagine that we have undertaken to furnish them with a bookseller's catalogue ; we have only placed on our list a few out of many publications which have been recently issued on the great controversy concerning Consession. This has been chiefly an internal dispute in the Protestant Episcopal Church, occasioned, we imagine, by the efforts made on the other side of the Atlantic to restore the practice in the Established Church of England, of which a distinguished advocate (Mr. Maskell) has recently passed to our communion. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina, a few years since, became an ardent supporter of the same views, which he urged on the consideration of his hearers throughout his diocese. The publication of his sermons gave form and consistency to the reports which were spread abroad of his Roman tendencies, and notwithstanding the caution with which he expressed himself, and the protection which he sought

under the bulwarks of the English Establishment, he was denounced at home and abroad, by presbyter and layman, as a dangerous innovator. A North Carolina Senator of the United States rebuked his assumption ; a presbyter of the diocese and a New York presbyter, a native of North Carolina, undertook to refute him; the aged historiographer of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States sent forth his warning voice, with oracular solemnity, from Connecticut; the late editor of The Churchman resumed his pen to trace the precise limits of the midway course to be pursued between orthodoxy and Protestantism; and last, not least, the chivalrous Bishop of Vermont appeared on the battle-ground, encased in the ponderous armour of antiquity, to make a diversion by attacking the Roman camp, instead of leading back his too adventurous fellow-knight, who was incautiously advancing in that direction.

We regret that decision and firmness have been wanting, on the part of Bishop Ives, throughout this whole controversy. Although he exposed himself to considerable censure by recommending confession as a salutary practice, in some instances necessary, he shrank from the odium of inculcating its absolute necessity, in virtue of the Divine ordinance, and sheltered himself beneath the English rubrics, and the authority of Anglican divines. Now and then he ventured to refer to the power of forgiveness granted by Christ, and condemned “that presumption which leads neglecters and violators to trust for pardon to a vague and general repentance, a repentance not accepted by the representatives of Christ, who alone have charge of the discipline of his Church, or the power to remit or retain sins." *

He asked with earnestness,“ How can the merits of Christ be applied now except through that priestly judgment, intercession, and absolution, authorized and made binding by his express commission, Whosesoever sins ye remit,' &c. ? " + He insisted that confession is “a remedy for sin, which the experience of the one Catholic and A postolic Church has ever sanctioned.” | He ventured to affirm that it was, in some cases at least, indispensable. But he had not courage clearly and unequivocally to avow that it was Divinely commanded. On the contrary, not content with the qualifying terms

Pastoral Letter on the Priestly Office, p. 24. | Sermon on Self-examination, p. 113.

Sermon, Obedience the Way to Knowledge, p. 151.
Sermon, The Case of the Baptized without Self-discipline.

57

NEW SERIES.

VOL. IV. NO. IV.

tion."*

which were interwoven with his strongest phrases, he openly declared that “private confession is not regarded by his branch of the one Catholic Church as generally necessary to salva

This weakness and hesitancy can scarcely merit sympathy. The imperfection of his mental vision is the only excuse which charity can suggest for a course of conduct utterly inconsistent with the general character of the effort to reestablish the practice. If he were convinced that confession is a necessary condition for the exercise of the power of forgiveness, he should have stated it broadly and openly ; if he judged it to be a mere disciplinary observance, - a medicinal appliance to diseased souls, — he might have recommended it; but he should scarcely have disturbed the tranquillity of his diocesans by insisting on its adoption.

It is an undeniable fact that the English Book of Common Prayer contains an exhortation to the communicants to confess any weighty matter which may disturb the tranquillity of their conscience, with a view to obtain absolution as well as comfort. Dr. Hopkins is of opinion that this rubric was inserted "to favor the feelings and habits of a large proportion of the nation, in whose judgment the principles of the Reformation had not yet become fully established”; or rather, “to agree as far as possible with the system of the German Reformers, Luther and Melancthon, who called absolution a sacrament, and required auricular confession and priestly absolution of every one, as a regular preparative for the Eucharist." Whichever motive influenced the compilers of the Book of Common Prayer, their work is, in this respect, true to its general character, — equivocal and vague, - so that it may be employed by the advocates of confession, which it insinuates and recommends, and by its opponents, since by implication it denies its necessity. Dr. Hopkins bitterly laments that the rubric was inserted, and rejoices in the expurgated American ritual, which Dr. Jarvis shows to have been the result of compromise. To every unbiased mind it must be manifest that no argument can be derived from the English rubric in support of the practice, save as a relief for weak minds, and as the last vestige of a rite which the spirit of innovation sought to abolish. It may serve to recall those who glory in the recollections of the AngloSaxon Church to earlier and better times, when the clergy and faithful people sought relief for their distressed souls in the tribunal of penance, and with contrite hearts confessed their sins before they approached the Holy Table. The absolution, in a deprecatory form, which is still pronounced after the people have acknowledged that “they have done what they ought not to have done, and have left undone what they ought to have done,” corresponds with the prayer which the Catholic priest pronounces before he administers communion ; but it is not an exercise of the absolving power, so that with Protestant Episcopalians there remains not even the shadow of that power, which Bishop Pearson regarded as distinguishing the Church of Christ from the followers of the Novatian heresy. It is not easy to understand how it is that the revised prayer-book varies, notwithstanding, in no essential matter from the formularies of the mother Church of England.

* Pastoral Letter on the Salisbury Convention.

Although Dr. Hopkins professes to have undertaken bis work, because “no author in the English language had hitherto treated the subject as extensively as its importance deserves,” we notice some omissions of authorities, even of some quoted by his predecessors in the controversy. St. Irenæus, whose testimony is recited by the anonymous writer, speaks of women who for a time had followed the heretic Marcus : — " These, often converted to the Church of God, confessed that, having their bodies exterminated, as it were, by him, and influenced by lust, they loved him to excess." of another he says : " Penetrated with grief, she spent her whole time in confessing and bewailing her sins, in exomologesi,) and lamenting the crime which she had been led by this magician to commit.” The answer given to these testimonies is far from being satisfactory. Exomologesis, it is said, on the authority of Tertullian, is a public act, and the confession was a general one, imposed by ancient discipline ; but Dr. Hopkins informs us that the system of canonical penance, of which public confession formed a part, was not regulated by any formal code until the fourth century. True, he maintains that it existed in substance in the days of Tertullian; but if this be admitted, it necessarily follows that, before any special legislation on this head, penance, as it was afterwards formally prescribed, was practised in virtue of the great principles of Christian doctrine. The prominent place which confession occupied is manifest from its being chosen as characteristic of the whole process. It can scarcely be contended ---- and certainly it cannot be proved that public confession was generally required, at that early period, if indeed at any time, in regard to secret sins ; so that, as

« AnteriorContinuar »