Puslapio vaizdai

other? Our author has only to extend to the Founder the conception of inspiration on which he insists in the Church ; and he obtains the completest answer to his own demand for an oracular Cbrist.

The re-action of our author's mind against his early belief does not affect merely his views of the sources of Christianity. He criticizes also its history; and denies its beneficent agency, even in directions wherein it has hitherto been regarded as scarcely open to challenge. It has done nothing, he thinks, to improve the condition of the woman or the slave : its spread, no less than that of Mohammedanism, has been the work of the sword : and it has rather restricted, than produced, the benefits of the Reformation. Nothing in this volume has so amazed us as the disproportion between the magnitude of these propositions and the slenderness of the grounds on which they are made to rest. First, as to the condition of women ;


that " the real elevators of the female sex are the poets of Germanic culture, who have vindicated the spirituality of love and its attraction to character"-(p. 165); that the Apostle Paul, far from reaching any such sentiment, discourages marriage, except as a means of escaping the temptations of passion; and that in the South of Europe, where Germanic feeling has taken no root, the relative position of the sexes is not improved. In relation to this question, as to many others, we protest against the identification with Christianity itself of the personal views of this or that Apostle : we are not to seek in the crude germ of the religion for that which belongs to its full and developed fruit. It is enough (and this surely is incontrovertible) that Paul's doctrine on this subject was a vast improvement on the Gentile morality which it replaced ; that the rules which he imposed on the administrators and members of the Christian communities were the only ones which could give scope for the spontaneous growth of the best sentiments; and that his treatment of the case, having exclusive reference to the end of the world supposed to be imminent, was never intended to serve for all time, and owed to its provisional purpose whatever is questionable in it. And after all, unjust as it is to measure the ultimate tendency of an historical influence by its incipient phenomena, there does


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appear to us a manifest trace, in the first age itself, of an ennobling influence from the recognised spiritual equality of the sexes. The women of Galilee and the sisters of Bethany, the helpers of Paul in Macedonia and Corinth, the martyred deaconesses of Lyons and Carthage, were surely lifted by their faith into a consciousness of the claims of the soul, to which nothing in Pagan antiquity can present a moral parallel. We have no desire to derogate from the just merits of German sentiment; or to establish any competition of pretension between its influence and that of Christianity. But is it too much to say, that, for the production of their beneficent results, the two agencies had to concur; and that if, on the one hand, the religion was comparatively barren till it struck upon the German soul, so, on the other, that soul had but the latent capacity for nobler development, till quickened by reception of the religion? We certainly believe that the chief function of the first eight centuries of the Church was to hand over the religion to its proper receptacle in the Teutonic mind,- there for the first time to exhibit on a large scale its native vitality and find its appointed nourishment. Still, if we remember right, the chivalric poetry arose, not in the Germanic race, but among the Romanesque tribes of Spain, France, and Italy; and flourished most where the Albigensian spirit had freest way and the power of the priesthood was most weakened. Sismondi remarks the coincidence, in the Romance literature, of an elevated sentiment towards woman, with bitter satire upon the clergy: and we apprehend it was a true instinct which led the poet, inspired with any delicate and noble love, to turn his antipathies upon the sacerdotal system. That system it is which to this day prevents the sanctity and lowers the dignity of domestic life in the south of Europe; and makes the difference between the love which figures in an Italian opera, and that which breathes in the strains of Tennyson. It cannot be pretended that the Papal and priestly institutions, at whose door this evil is to be laid, afford any true representation of the religion of Christ. Wherever the characteristic sentiments of Christianity have had free action, wherever the faith has prevailed that life is a divine trust, committed to souls dear to God, equal among themselves, and each the germ of an immor


tality, there and there alone has domestic affection been so touched with reverence and confidence, as to retain its freshness to the end, and afford a chastening discipline through life. The doctrines about the “Rights of Woman,” which have sprung from theories of political equality, and disowned the partnership of religious sentiment, have invariably produced great moral laxity : and, in spite of high imaginative talk, fascinating to excitable natures, yield nothing truly noble, but only the monster greatness of mingled intellect and passion. The man and the woman can never learn each other's infinite worth, except in the absence of the priest, and in the presence of their God. Who can deny that this secret has been learned among the lessons of a Christian civilisation ?

The credit assigned to Christianity as the foe of slavery is also, in our author's opinion, unmerited. No apostle denounces the system ; which receives indeed a sort of sanction from the silence of the New Testament respecting it, and from Paul's act of sending back Onesimus to his master Philemon. Good Pagan Emperors of Rome softened the rigours of slavery, but during the several centuries in which Christianity acted in the empire, it produced no opposition to the system. In modern times, serfdom was abolished by the Kings in their desire to raise the chartered cities as an arm against the barons. And black slavery received its first act of abolition from atheistic France; its next from England, impelled by that one among her sects which least regards the letter of Scripture.

This style of criticism is so evidently founded on the conception of Christianity as an oracular system, bound to pronounce distinctly on all considerable matters, human or divine, that in simply treating the religion as an historical development through the influence of reverence for a person, we have already suggested the reply. The operation of such a cause was necessarily gradual, and could not produce the sudden and general protests demanded by Mr. Newman. Its action was not through any revealed economy of social life, but through the introduction of men, one by one, into spiritual relations incompatible with the sentiments of the slave. That Christianity opened its arms to the servile class at all, was enough: for in its em

brace was the sure promise of emancipation. In proof of this we need no other witness than our author himself,

who says:

“ Zeal for the liberation of serfs in Europe first rose in the breasts of the clergy, after the whole population had become nominally Christian. It was not men, but Christians, that the clergy of the Middle Ages desired to make free."-P.167.

What more emphatic expression could the religion give of its hostility to slavery than this, that all men were to become Christians, and that no Christian should remain a slave? Is it imputed as a disgrace, that it put conversion before manumission, and brought them to God, ere it trusted them with themselves ? To our mind this is the true and divine order,-a new life within to rule the new lot without,-Conscience, Lord of the Soul, invoked to succeed the feudal lord of the soil. If Christianity were patient of Heathenism, if it had no generous propagandism, it might be charged with narrowness in only redeeming its own. But its Missionary spirit forbade its ever providing itself with slaves from the Pagan class, while its own children had their liberty. It created the simultaneous obligation to make the Pagan a convert, and the convert free. That this tendency exhibited but faint traces in the earliest age of the Church is due, not merely to the small comparative numbers of the disciples, but no less to their expectation of an immediate close to this world's affairs. The only reason why Paul sanctioned contentment with his condition in the converted slave, was that, for so short a time, it was not worth while for any man to change his state; he that was free, was already the Lord's bondsman; and he that was bound, the Lord's freeman. In proportion as this anticipation retreated, society began to feel the tendency of the new religion. Doubtless the condition of the servile class was ameliorated by the legislation of good Pagan emperors : and not only the precepts of Seneca, but the edicts of Hadrian, Trajan and Antoninus, attest the growth of just and humane sentiments. But the steady agency of Christianity availed incomparably more than the happy accident of wisdom and virtue in a Prince. All its ordi

nances were open indiscriminately to bond and free; nor was servile birth any disqualification for the discharge of Church functions, from the humble office of the two slave-girls mentioned in Pliny's letter to Trajan, to the dignity of the Episcopate itself. This rule stands in strong contrast with the Roman law, according to which no public office could be held by a slave. The exercise of the sacred duties suspended the rights of the master, and in case of the permanent assumption of the monastic habit, or the appointment to a bishopric, entirely abolished them. The Christian indissolubility of marriage seriously curtailed the owner's established rights, though it was long before it openly took the legal place of the previous contubernia. The influence of the Church was vigorously exerted against the barbarous treatment of the servile class : and Clement of Alexandria enjoins the bishop to reject the offerings of masters, " qui fame, verberibus, acerbo dominatu, familiam suam vexarent." And when an ill-used slave fled from the persecution of his owner to a Christian altar, he found a powerful protection in the officiating ecclesiastics; who were bound to intercede actively on his behalf, and, failing of success, to permit to bim the usual shelter of the sanctuary. Constantine was the first to enact laws against separating the members of the same servile family; justifying his edict by the words, “Quis enim ferat liberos a parentibus, a fratribus uxores, a viris conjuges segregari?”. Mr. Newman mentions, among the horrors of Roman slavery, that «

young women of beautiful persons were sold as articles of voluptuousness :" but he does not mention that the first Christian Emperors authorised the clergy to redeem from the Lupanaria the wretched victims who had there suffered the fate of St. Agnes; or that, by a law of Theodoric, the seducer of a slave girl was not only bound to her thenceforth, but subjected for life to her master's service. An indication of the direction which was assumed by the sympathies of the new religion is afforded by the fact, that from the time of Constantine, the process of manumission was for the most part transferred to the Church, and formed part of the ceremonies at Easter, and the other ecclesiastical festivals. And under the auspices of Christian Emperors, the facilities for manumission were so greatly increased, that after the impediments removed by



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