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Admonitions to Protestants. No. III. The Necessity of Revelation.
Legitimacy and Revolutionism,
III. GRANTLEY MANOR, OR POPULAR LITERATURE
Admonitions to Protestants. Introduction. "Quærite ergo primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus, et hæc omnia adjicientur vobis."-S. Matt. vi. 33.
Is it not strange, my brethren, that the great primary questions, whence we came, why we are here, and whither we go,
questions which we must answer, or have no rule of life, and be compelled to live as the beasts that perish, should be regarded by large numbers of you, who believe yourselves to constitute the more advanced portion of mankind, as unsolved, if not, indeed, as unsolvable, problems? Is it reasonable to suppose the race has subsisted six thousand years, and, as many of you would fain persuade us, much longer, on this globe, with these problems unsolved? Is it true that no light has ever dawned on our origin and destiny, that we are placed here with darkness behind us, darkness before us, and darkness over, around, and within us? If not, as it cannot be, how happens it that so many of you find your minds filled with doubt and anxiety, that you feel that nothing is settled, that all is loose and floating, and in the bitterness of your hearts, from the depths of despair, you are calling upon all nature, upon the heavens and the earth, the living and the dead, and some of you even upon hell itself, to disclose to you the secret of your origin and destiny, and to determine for you the rule of life and the purpose of existence ?
My brethren, you need not seek far for the cause. It is nigh you, and plain before your eyes, if you will but open them. Your ministers, whom in an evil hour you preferred to the priests of the Most High God and the consecrated pastors of his people,
VOL. II. NO. I.
have misled you; they have turned your faces away from God, and caused you to lose sight of the truth he has graciously revealed for the instruction and consolation of men. They have given you their words for his, the chaff for the wheat, a faint and mutilated shadow for the substance. By casting off authority, and substituting in its place what they term private judgment, which is necessarily followed by interminable disputes, innumerable sects, divisions, and contradictions, they have made, for you, what was clear and certain in the Word of God dark and doubtful, religion a weltering chaos of discordant elements, the noble science of theology an unmeaning jargon, and piety a reproach. Their utter inability to agree among themselves on a single positive doctrine, their variable and incoherent speech, their sectarian wrath and bigotry, fierce contentions, arrogant claims, pretended faith, yet obvious doubt, boasted interior illumination, yet undeniable and often deplorable ignorance, have disgusted men of sober practical sense who know no other teachers, sowed in their hearts the seeds of universal skepticism, and induced them to look upon all religion as a cheat, and all pretensions to divine revelation as ridiculous and absurd. It is thus they have darkened your minds and perverted your hearts, cast you down from the high heaven of God's grace, robbed you of the supernatural riches bestowed on you by your Heavenly Father, wounded you and left you half dead in the streets, as did the robbers the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
It is not presumed, my brethren, that your ministers in the outset intended to bring about the deplorable state of things of which they as well as you are the victims. Men rarely, if ever, will evil for the sake of evil; they will it for the sake of the good they hope to obtain from it. Eve did not suffer herself to be seduced by the Serpent, for the sake of bringing sin and death into the world; she did it that her eyes and those of her race might be opened, and that men might be as gods, knowing good and evil, that is, as God knows them, without. being obliged to learn them from the law or command of a superior. Yet none the less did sin and death follow her act of disobedience, and become the painful heritage of all her posterity. "There is a way which seemeth just to a man; but the ends thereof lead to death." Prov. xiv. 12. The early Protestant ministers, the Reformers as you call them, it is to be presumed, had no wish to introduce evil for the sake of evil; they may have verily believed their movement compati
ble with Christian faith and morals, and even that it was wise and necessary in order to preserve our holy religion in its purity, integrity, freedom, and vigor; yet are they responsible for the fatal consequences of that unlawful movement. They might, and should, have foreseen them. They knew that they acted against legitimate authority, on their own private judgment; they were distinctly warned of the unlawfulness of their act, and of the consequences which must inevitably follow, and with ordinary prudence they could not have failed to foresee them. The arguments which they were obliged to use, in order to defend their movement, their revolt from the Church and rejection of her teaching, are precisely, in principle, the arguments which a Voltaire uses against divine revelation, and a D'Holbach against the existence of a God; while those by which they defended and must defend, if they defend it at all, their principle of private authority are precisely those by which the Rationalists undertake to establish the sufficiency of reason, and Transcendentalists, that human nature is the ground and measure of truth and goodness, as has been demonstrated to you, perhaps a hundred times over, by some of your own ministers themselves.
It is conceded that your ministers have written several able and learned works against unbelief, and in defence of religion; but in these works they have only borrowed Catholic principles and arguments, conclusive when urged by us, but of no practical value when urged by them, because practically denied and refuted by their position outside of the Church, and by the other principles and arguments they must adopt and urge in their own defence. Actions speak louder than words. The rebel chief, in arms to overthrow his lawful sovereign, cannot preach loyalty with much effect. His practical disloyalty more than neutralizes his speculative loyalty. The practical rejection of Catholicity by your ministers necessarily does more to spread infidelity and licentiousness than any Catholic principles and arguments they may urge can do to arrest their fatal progress.
It is certain, and the experience of three hundred years has proved it, that Christianity is defensible only on Catholic ground, and every attempt to defend it on other grounds has failed. Philosophers have tried to defend it on philosophical grounds, but in doing so have only reduced it to a philosophy. Rationalists have attempted to do it on the ground of reason alone, and have obtained only the same result. Socialists and
progressists attempt to do it on humanitarian principles, and have only reduced it to a system of humanityism, which is pure egotism, pure socialism, pure pantheism, or pure atheism, according to the point of view from which it is considered. A religion which emanates from a supernatural source, and which is intended to be authoritative for man, cannot be defended on grounds which recognize no authority that does not emanate from man himself. That which is subject to man, controllable by his reason or will, is not authoritative for him, and, instead of giving the law to him, receives it from him. The very moment, then, that one of your ministers undertakes to defend Christianity, not as a philosophy, not as a system of rationalism or of socialism, but as a religion imposing the law on man, on both his reason and his will, which he must obey in thought, word, and deed, he must recognize and defend the principle of authority. It is so in the nature of things. But as a Protestant he must either deny this principle or condemn himself; for as a Protestant he is obliged to protest, not simply against this authority or that, but against authority itself. When he objects to the Church, it is not so much what she teaches, as her authority to teach. Many Protestants do not object at all to Catholic doctrines, if they may believe them for other than Catholic reasons. There are men in our own day who reject the Roman Catholic Church, and yet boast that they hold "all Roman doctrine." You all profess dogmas, when you profess to believe any thing at all, as difficult to reason as any of the Catholic Mysteries. You even contend for a church, a catholic church too, and find it very reasonable, in case it is an abstraction, an ideal thing, claiming and able to exercise no authority over the individual judgment and belief. When your ministers object to certain doctrines and practices of the Church, it is chiefly because they wish to break down her authority; not because the doctrines. or practices themselves are felt to be intrinsically so very objectionable. It is clear, then, that it is to authority, in a word, to an authoritative religion, to what Christianity must be, if a religion at all, that your ministers as Protestants must object. It is equally clear, then, that whenever they undertake the defence of Christianity, and offer any thing solid in its defence, they must abandon the Protestant ground, and take the Catholic ground, the ground of authority. If we examine the defences they have written, those which have really contained something to the purpose, we shall find that they have uniformly done so.