« AnkstesnisTęsti »
distinctness as to what it is not, which results from presenting it so as explicitly to condemn novel errors as they arise ; which is no variation in the substance or in the form of the doctrine, and at most only a variation in the expression or mode of presenting it as the contradictory of the error. The variation is apparent, not real; and the solution of the difficulty, if difficulty it be, is not in a theory of developments which assumes the variation to be real and undertakes to defend it, but in showing by historical criticism, as our theologians have always done, that the alleged variation is only in appearance, and in reality is no variation at all ; or, in other words, in showing, not that it is a development, as Mr. Newman contends, nor a corruption, as Protestants allege, but a simple primitive doctrine merely defined against a novel error, as the Church alleges, and all our theologians maintain. There are, in point of fact, no variations in doctrine presented by the history of the Church; and the variations, defects, and apparent inconsistencies in the historical representation, which Mr. Newman undertakes to account for, were all in his Protestant spectacles, and he will look in vain for them when he comes to read the history of the Church with the eyes of a Catholic. We say this on the authority of the Church herself, which is sufficient for a Catholic ; on the authority of the fact, that the most learned Protestants, deeply interested in the question, have been trying these three hundred years to find an instance of real historical variation of doctrine and have not succeeded, which is sufficient for a Protestant; and, finally, on the authority of the Essay we are criticizing, which contains conclusive evidence that the developments alleged are not developments, but simple priinitive doctrines, and this is sufficient for Mr. Newman.
But we must bring our remarks to a close. We own we have subjected Mr. Newman's Essay to what many will regard as a severe criticism ; but, in our own estimation, we have treated it with great forbearance, and might have made out even a stronger case against the author than we have. Yet we have said enough, we trust, to put the faithful on their guard against a work which, under the guise of a defence of our religion, is one of the most insidious attacks, though not so intended by its author, on religion, which we remember ever to have read, and that is saying much. In fact, the author himself, in his closing paragraph, pronounces, if it be considered, as severe a judgment on the work as our own. “ Such,”
he says, “were the thoughts concerning the blessed vision of peace,' of one,
while as yet his eye was dim, his breast laden, and he could but employ reason in the things of faith."
What nonsense, to suppose a man, while his eye is dim, his breast laden, and he has nothing but reason to work with, can write an orthodox book! The sentence is the condemnation of the book by a competent judge, - unless it contains the germ of a school not many years since condemned at Rome.
It will most likely be alleged, as it has been, that we have misunderstood Mr. Newman, — as is commonly alleged against
, all who reject a novel theory. So said the Jansenists, when the doctrines of their master were condemned ; so said the Hermesians, when the speculations of their master were condemned. We never yet heard of a novelty that was rightly apprehended by its opponents, if its adherents were to be believed. But it is possible that the very reason why new doctrines are embraced by the one class is because they are not understood, and why the other class oppose them is because they are understood. It is possible that we have misapprehended Mr. Newman ; but if so, it is not our fault, for we
; have done our best to understand him. His theory, if words may be trusted, is substantially what was at one time our own theory, and which, though not in our writings, was in our own mind as fully and as scientifically developed as it is in the Essay. We gathered the theory in part from philosophers, in part from Mr. Newman's school of Tractarians, and in part from our own excogitations. We understood it well, and had renounced it as a thing to be abhorred, before the appearance of this Essay. We therefore had some preparation for understanding Mr. Newman, and it is not very probable that we have misunderstood him. If, however, we have, the man who sets us right, in whatever tone or temper he may do it, shall have our hearty thanks, and we will lose no time in making all the atonement in our power.
It may be that we have shown ourselves over-zealous, for a recent convert, and have taken too much upon ourselves. If so, let our offence receive its merited punishment. We have had some experience in theorizing, and still suffer from the wounds received from it. We remember with some vividness the injury we have done to thousands who placed confidence in us, by our vain and impious speculations ; and, while we have no lack of charity for others who may in like manner
speculate, we have no toleration for their speculations. Our zeal, if culpable, is not unaccountable. We cannot but feel deeply on a subject which is associated in our minds with recollections of the most painful character.
But we could not accept Mr. Newman's Essay, even if its theory were susceptible of a satisfactory explanation. It deserves to be excluded from every Catholic library for its unorthodox forms of expression, as scandalous, even if not as heretical, erroneous, or rash. Words are things, and used improperly by men of eminence, or with inexactitude, become the occasion of error and heresy in others. Not a few of the errors which have afflicted the Church have come in under shelter of loose or inexact expressions, which great and sometimes even saintly men have suffered to escape them. The vain, the restless, the proud, the disobedient, seize on them, ascribe to them a sense they will bear, but not the one intended by their authors, and lay the foundation for “sects of perdition.' Sometimes even better men are deceived and misled, as we see in the case of Fénelon. One cannot be too careful to be exact in expression, or to guard against innovation in word as well as in thought, especially in this age, in which there is such a decided tendency to abandon the scholastic method for the rhetorical. The scandalous phraseology of the Essay is no charge against its author, writing when and where he did, but is a grave charge against the Essay itself.
Finally, we repeat, from our former article, that we object to the Theory of Developments the very fact that it is a theory. We see no call and no room for theories in the Catholic Church, - least of all, for theories concocted outside of her by men whose eyes are dim, and who have nothing but their own reason to work with. From the nature of the case, they are theories, not for the conversion of their authors, but for the conversion of the Church, — framed to bring her to them, not them to her. They can do no good, and may do much harm. It is natural for us to concoct them when out of the Church, for then we have, and can have, nothing but theories, and can do nothing but theorize ; but, if we are wise, we shall not attempt to bring them into the Church with us. The more empty-handed we come to the Church, the better ; and the more affectionately will she embrace us, and the more freely and liberally will she dispense to us her graces. She needs nothing, and the greatest and best of us can offer her nothing but our sins and uncleanness. Naked, or all-defiled with the
filth in which we wallowed while away from her maternal care, must we come, and implore her to be our mother, to cleanse us in the laver of regeneration, and to cover our nakedness with the white robe of charity. So we must come, or we come not at all; and when we have so come, when we have reposed the wearied head on our Mother's bosom, we feel she is our true, our own blessed Mother, and all we ask is to believe, love, obey.
Art. III. - The People. By M. Michelet. Translated
by G. H. Smith, F. G. S. New York. 1846.
M. Michelet is a Professor of History in the Collége Royal of France, and is pretty well known as the author of several historical works, and of two or three publications against religion, which have been favorably received by the Protestant community in general. He is not deficient in natural endowments, and appears to be a scholar of respectable attainments. As a writer, though wanting in dignity, he is lively, brilliant, and sometimes even eloquent. His historical works can be cheerfully recommended to all who wish only to become acquainted with his theorizing, poetizing, and sentimentalizing on history, but they are not indispensable to those who would study history itself. His work against the Jesuits is mere frothy declamation, without any coloring of factor argument; his Le Prêtre et la Femme de Famille is a compound of ignorance, infidel malice, prurient fancy, and maudlin sentiment ; and the work before us is the author himself. ". This book is more than a book ; it is myself, .... it is I.” Indeed, whatever the author may appear to be writing, it is always himself that he writes.
The book we have introduced to our readers is of no great intrinsic value. It throws no certain light on the condition of the people, and makes no important suggestion for their improvement. The only thing we can say in its favor is, that it proves the mass of the French people are less immoral than they are commonly represented, and shows that the modern systein of industry has not so many advantages over that which it has superseded as is commonly imagined. But the work mainly interests us as an exponent of the spirit of the Anticatholic world. The author considers himself a fair representative of the age, and, so far as the age is not Catholic, he appears to us to be so. They who study the age in him will not be likely to mistake its dominant tendencies. He is carrying on a war against religion, and has published this work to enlist his countrymen on his side. It may, therefore, be taken as an index to the kind of appeals the enemies of religion are making to the people, and to the ground on which they are to be met and routed. We no sooner open it than we perceive the bold and direct denials of religion, made by the infidels of the last century, are not now continued. The age of absolute negations appears to have gone by. The present age shrinks from the direct issue, religion or no religion, — and returns to the old device of attempting to oppose Christianity in the name of Christianity herself, and to seduce the people from their love and fidelity by substituting something real and positive in her place, and something, too, which she apparently approves and consecrates.
What is this something ? Christianity represents the divinity on earth, and to oppose it is to oppose God and all that pertains distinctively to the divine order. In the nature of things, then, they who oppose it can oppose to it nothing divine, nothing positive, in fact, but man himself, or what is simply hu
The enemies of Christianity must oppose to it either man or nothing. In the last century, for a time, they really opposed nothing, and relied on simple hatred to religion itself. But hatred is spasmodic, unnatural, and short-lived. Only the Devil himself can make it a universal and permanent principle of action. The bulk of mankind are not bad enough for that. They must have something positive to love and strive for ; and they will not act long steadily and energetically, unless for something they love and wish to possess.
But when God is opposed, when Christianity, the Church in which he resides and dispenses his grace, is discarded, nothing is left to love and strive for but man, and what pertains to bim as man. Hence, we find M. Michelet opposing man to God, and seeking to draw off our love from God by means of our love for the human.
This, in principle, is no new device. It is precisely what the Protestant Reformers themselves did. They rebelled against God; and as God cannot be divided and set against him