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evening exercises, directions for meditation, exercises on the chief virtues, instructions and devotions for Confession and Communion, and various other practices of piety. Without catering to a vitiated taste a large prayer-book can be formed, abounding in instruction and edification.
The remedy of the abuse to which we point attention may be thought to rest with the bishops, who are fully authorized to prohibit any book containing the forbidden Litanies, or other objectionable matter; yet it is easily seen that this exercise of authority cannot be ventured on without great reluctance. The immediate prohibition would subject the publishers to considerable loss, and a provisorial measure to take effect after a time might appear to legalize and sanction what the chief pastor has condemned absolutely and without qualification. A less formal notification of the approved discipline may prepare the way for its general observance, and publishers fully advised of its character may procure some competent clergyman, acquainted with all the decisions that have emanated on the subject, and approved of by the bishop, to make a judicious selection of devotional exercises. Such a prayer-book may not all at once be popular ; but if religious communities and institutions adopt it to the exclusion of all that contain prohibited matter, it will amply reward the enterprise of the publisher. The religious orders, cherished with such marked affection by the Holy See, will feel bound to respect its ordinances on this point. Confessors will necessarily abstain from enjoining on their penitents any formulary stamped with the disapproval of superiors. The faithful, persuaded that no devotion can prove acceptable to God which the Church rejects as frivolous or dangerous, will cease to use those exercises. Thus a reform may be effected without the sacrifice of any interests and without any odious exercise of authority.
ART. III.—Spiritual Despotism. Methodist Quarterly
Review. New York : Carlton & Porter. January, 1857.
We find in the January number of the Methodist Quarterly Review, an article headed Spiritual Despotism, which we are disposed to make the subject of a few comments. The Quarterly named is the organ of the Methodists, and while under the editorial supervision of Dr. M'Clintock, was conducted with spirit and ability. It is now under the editorial charge of a Dr. Whedon, of whom we kuow nothing; but judging from the number before us, we think he is likely to sustain its former character. In learning it must yield to the Bibliotheca Sacra published at Andover; in classical taste and finish it is far inferior to the Christian Examiner, the organ of the New England Unitarians; in manly thought, independence of spirit, and theological science, it is not to be named on the same day with the Mercersburg Review, but with these exceptions, it compares we believe not unfavorably with the ablest of our Protestant religious periodicals. It is, as a matter of course, strongly anti-Catholic, violently “ No-Popery,” but we do not object to a good hater, and rather like to see a man who is not ashamed to express his wrath and prejudices in good round terms. It shows that he has some stuff in him, though not well worked up.
The article we have designated, is rather too declamatory for our taste, and better adapted to produce a catalepsy in its readers than to give them any valuable or trustworthy information on the subject discussed, but it is in its way thoroughgoing and outspoken. The writer is einbarrassed by no facts opposed to his theory, but marches on in spite of both fact and reason with a free step to the end he proposes,—the assertion of Protestantism as the representative of all that is good, and Catholicity as the synonyme of all that is bad. In this he commands our esteem. The two systems certainly stand opposed to one another throughout, and if the one is good, the other certainly is bad, if the one be from God, the other is from the Devil. The writer is not one to halt between two opinions. If Baal be God, he would say, serve Baal ; if the Lord be God, then
serve the Lord; and having made up his mind that Baal is God, he very consistently devotes himself to his service, heart and soul, body and mind. But we must let him speak for himself and define his own position.
“ The sacred right of individual free opinion in matters of conscience is the principle on which Luther fought the Reformation. This right, so natural, and with us so indefeasible, was then denied. The pope claimed absolute sovereignty in the world of opinion. The temporal powers aimed also to control both the thought and action of the subject. Conformity to the views of the monarch, not only in matters of state policy, but even in religion, was enforced upon the people as coming within the prerogatives of the Jus Divinum. But the successful assertion by Luther of the rights of conscience in opposition to this, broke not alone the religious thraldom of the age. Both philosophy and science felt the liberating spell. Mind in general was emancipated. From that single act went forth an impulse whose wave is still in vigorous motion, and the productive results of which, upon the world's development and progress, no human mind can yet foretell
. New ideas in faith, philosophy, popular rights, government, and progress in general, at once sprang forth. It was the torch of Prometheus, or rather, it was more. That gave life to a statue; this to an age. The dead forms of social, political, and religious life at once felt the inspiration. It was the inauguration of the modern era of civil and religious liberty.
“ From that day, Protestant Christianity has been the representative of freedom, freedom first in the domain of conscience, and then, consequently, in philosophy, art, science, Church, and State. In a word, it reared the throne of reason upon the broken power of bigotry and intolerance, and supported it by order, justice, and truth. It is now more than three hundred years that Protestant liberty has been working out its results. The nations are witnesses, and the scale of operation has been of sufficient magnitude to make the experiment a fair one. What now are the results which so abundantly declare themselves ? Let history answer. Let the superior commercial and political condition of the Protestant states of Europe and America answer. Where are prosperity and progress? where security of life and property ? where liberty of speech and opinion combined with reverence for law and a steady support of public order ? where are schools, Bibles, an unfettered press, and general education ? where the highest tone of morality and the purest form of Christianity which the world has yet seen? All these things are patent to observation, and of a kind so calculated to catch the attention, that sophistry must be artful, and judgment perverse, if the mind fails to be convinced.
“ Opposed to this principle, is Spiritual Despotism in deadly
conflict with Protestant freedom, and rallying for the most part under the standard of the pope. Poorly disguised under the mask of Christianity, the Roman Catholic hierarchy stands demonstrated by its history, its principles and assumptions to be a grand consolidated conspiracy against both religion and liberty. It is worldly, ungodly ambition, covered with the mere skin of piety, a system defiant of God, and the most deadly enemy of man. There is no study more profound, or worthy the attention of philosophic minds, than the progressive and insidious development of this politico-spiritual system. In the name of Christ, it has remorselessly grasped power which Christ refused. Claiming to be his vicegerent on earth, it has proclaimed doctrines which Christ never taught, and sanctioned enormities which drew forth his severest invectives. In the name of a religion which was designed to bring relief to oppressed and down-trodden humanity, it has imposed upon it burdens intolerable to be borne. Instead of peace, it has brought the sword. Instead of consolation, wretchedness and despair. And yet its pernicious errors are so artfully interwoven with the truth, and its monstrous usurpations so covered with the sacred form of Christ, that the eyes of a large proportion of Christendom are still held that they see not its true character.
"" The battle of these contending systems litherto has been waged at a distance from us. Confidence in our own safety, and belief in the impossibility of disturbing the strong foundations on which our religious liberties rest, have made us in a measure indifferent to the struggles of liberty abroad. We have not forgotten, too, that our fathers suffered. We do not see with our own eyes the streaming blood or the burning fagot. History, it is true, tells something of the past; but the voice of receding centuries, like the sound of receding footsteps, becomes fainter and fainter, as time and distance separate us from danger. Remote from the scenes of danger, we have looked on with the calmness of philosophy, rather than the stirring interest of battle when it is pushed even to our own gates.”
Our readers will not fail to perceive the Baalic character of the writer's theory, and the truth of what we so often assert, that Protestantism has lapsed into carnal Judaism or heathenism, and really objects to the Church because she seeks rather to secure a paradise for the soul hereafter than to create a paradise for the body on the earth, because she is spiritual, not carnal, and places the eternal above the temporal. Our Lord said, “Be not anxious for what ye shall eat, for what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed; for after all these things do the heathen seek.” He admonished his disciples to be not like the heathen, not
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to labor for the meat that perisheth, but to seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, to lay up treasures in heaven, and to strive after spiritual perfection. Protestantism reverses all this, and bids us be like the heathen, and pronounces a system of religion true or false as it does or as it does not promote the earthly prosperity of men, and assure them the goods of this life. Undoubtedly Protestants use at times Christian language, and even urge Christian principles, when they forget their Protestantism and speak according to Christian tradition preserved by the Church ; but when they turn their arms against Catholicity, and seek to vindicate their Protestantism, they take their stand on heathen ground, and reproduce against the Church the arguments of the unbelieving Jews against our Lord, and crucify him afresh. “ If we let this man go on the Romans will come and take away our name and nation," and so they crucified him between two thieves, yet they did not save their nation. The Romans, notwithstanding, came and took it away.
If we analyze the extract we have made, we shall find the writer is a devout worshipper of Baal, that is, of a false god, or the god of falsehood. It contains scarcely a single statement that is true, and the whole theory put forth is in the face and eyes of well-known facts. The writer labors under a strange hallucination, and sees what is not and is struck blind to what is. “ The sacred right of individual free opinion in matters of conscience is the principle on which Luther fought the Reformation.” Strictly construed this asserts that conscience itself is a matter of opinion, and that every man has the sacred right to follow his opinion in all things, and consequently, that there is for man no right independent of his opinion to which he is bound to conform his conscience, and from which he cannot deviate without sin, unless excused by invincible ignorance. This strikes at the foundation of all religion and all morals, by virtually denying all law, and all objective distinction between right and wrong, virtue and vice. But understanding it more liberally, as meaning the freedom of conscience before all human authority, or the incompetency of all mere human authority in spirituals, every body knows that it is not true. Liberty of conscience in this sense was not “ the principle on which Luther fought the Refor