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Art. I. 1. A Text-Book of Popery: comprising a Brief History of the Council of Trent, and a Complete View of Roman Catholic Theology. By J. M. CRAMP. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 480
London : 1839. 2. Essays on Romanism. By the Author of Essays on the Church.
12mo. pp. 487. London : 1839. 3. The Variations of Popery. By Samuel Edgar. Second Edi
tion, revised, corrected, and enlarged. 8vo. pp. 551. London:
1839. 4. Authenticated Report of the Discussion between the Rev. T. D.
Gregg and the Rev. Thomas Macguire. 8vo. Dublin : W. Car
OMANISM—what are the signs of the times in relation to
it? To this question it is not easy to return a summary answer. It is, however, high time that some answer to it should be attempted. There are appearances which make it probable that the Catholic controversy is about to obtain a larger share of public attention than has been bestowed upon it since the age of Bellarmine. The causes which have contributed to place this probability before us, deserve our grave consideration. Indeed, among the many agitating questions of the day, there is not another of greater moment than that which relates to the best method of dealing with the state of things which has thus risen up around us, and which, in fact, has come upon us, in great part, by surprise. Fault, no doubt, there has been somewhere; and it will be well if we are found capable of so looking to the failures of the past, as to brace ourselves to the obligations of the future in a more adequate temper.
Some attention to the general history of this controversy is necessary to an effective management of the points at issue. In its
early stages it was a dispute about revenue and secular power, based upon a real or pretended difference in religious opinion. There were men who cared only about the politics of the question; there were others who looked simply to its theology; but in the view of the majority a mixture of both was always present. In every state, the church was a richly endowed corporate body. These bodies were all liable to suffer from questionable exaction, or from open pillage, sometimes as proceeding from the power of the crown, and sometimes as the work of the sovereign pontiff
. But so long as these rival authorities continued to hold their usual positions, the jealousy with which they regarded each other operated as a means of protection. The Popes looked on all national churches as so many provinces of their spiritual empire, and were prepared, in consequence, to restrict the privilege or right of making exactions in those quarters as much as possible to themselves; while kings were prompted by similar passions to place the strongest available check on the interferences of these foreign potentates.
But the blow which severed one half of Europe from its dependence on the chair of St. Peter, put an end, so far, to this system of divided allegiance. Kings resumed the entire sovereignty of their dominions, repudiating the religious grounds on which no mean portion of it had been so long conceded to another; and the pontiffs betrayed the usual symptoms of mortification and resentment under the loss which they had sustained. Their struggle henceforth, with all the south of Europe at their back, was to regain what had been wrested from them; while the effort of the princes of the north was to keep their hold on what they had resumed. The point immediately in debate, was one of theology, -namely, the right of the pope to the species of sovereignty which he claimed; but dependent on that issue was the question,—whether the wealth of the national church, sometimes amounting to nearly half the wealth of the state, should be left to the sole disposal of the sovereign, or be managed as heretofore by the joint authority of the prince and the pontiff
. The immediate aim of both when they came forth as antagonists, was to possess themselves of the spiritual authority involved in being head of the church. But that authority derived its chief attraction from its being a convenient medium through which to extend their power over other matters much less etherial in their nature.
Thus the Catholic controversy in the sixteenth century received all the stimulus that could be supplied by the authority and wealth of the one half of Europe as arrayed against the other. The cause might be bad in many respects on both sides, but there were substantial considerations which disposed men to give to it the best possible appearance. Polite literature and the arts re
in its cause.
vived; but the grand struggle of learning and of mental power in those times, was the struggle of the Reformation. This involved the future sovereignty of Europe—the sovereignty over mind, and through that over all inferior interests. On the one side were the new demands of princes, sustained by the aspirations of the devout, the generosity of the patriot, and the servility of the selfish; on the other, the ancient claims of the papacy, still strong in its powers of appeal to the interests of the unprincipled, to the fears of the timid, and to the usual force of hereditary recollections and feelings; and all that such resources could supply was thus furnished to give breadth and power to the great war of argument then waged. The Popish controversy, therefore, must not be regarded as a topic of small compass or little intricacy. It has its root in all learning and all science; and there is no strength or complexion of intellect that has not been enlisted
During the greater part of the long reign of Elizabeth, the Romanists in this country indulged the hope of seeing a Catholic sovereign again upon the throne, and of recovering by that means the whole of the power which they had lost. So long as it was at all possible that such hopes should be entertained, their plottings were subtle, bold, and unwearied. Hence, in great part, the severity of the penal laws enacted against them in that age. But subsequent to the death of the Queen of Scots, there was little prospect of their ever gaining their former ascendancy; and the extent of their expectations appears to have been, to obtain a more lenient treatment from the government, and, ultimately, a toleration of their worship. The accession of a new dynasty in the person of James I., tended to strenghten this expectation, while their manifest weakness as a party served to prevent their expecting any thing more. But the cruelties practised in the reign of Mary had diffused great fear and resentment among the people ; and soon after the death of Elizabeth these passions were inflamed to the utmost by the discovery of the gunpowder treason. When the civil war began, the Catholics took side with the court, having much more to hope from the dispensing power of the crown, than from the Puritan majority which had long governed in the House of Commons
During the whole of this period persons brought up in the expectation of public employment, either in the state or the church, were generally made to bestow a systematic attention on the questions of the Romish controversy. Europe being about equally divided between the two religions, hardly a question of diplomacy could be settled without a considerable acquaintance with the matters in debate between them, and ability to reason soundly upon them at any moment. Thus, from the commencement of the Reformation, to the treaty of Westphalia in 1648,
religion was the main-spring of European politics; the mutual relations of the Protestant and Catholic powers forming the basis on which all treaties and alliances were adjusted. Since that time, religion has gradually given place to questions relating to succession, boundaries, commerce, colonies, and finance. Hence the Catholic controversy has gradually ceased to fill its old place in our plans of education. English statesmen are no longer trained, in this respect, after the school of our Cecils, Walsinghams, and Winwoods; and our English divines have as little resemblance, in this particular, to the contemporaries of Ames and Owen, of Usher and Stillingfleet.
It must not be supposed, however, that the horror of Popery at once subsided after the treaty of Westphalia. On the contrary, it was not until the 'popish plot' panic, toward the end of the reign of Charles II., that the act was passed which excluded the Catholic from all place in the British legislature. The commercial spirit of Europe, as it became more and more prevalent, did much to soften the spirit of intolerance; but in England, the dread of Popery was a strong and growing passion during the whole interval from the Restoration to the Revolution. The Duke of York, heir presumptive to the throne, was known to be a Catholic; the religious preferences of the king were regarded as of the same complexion ; and both obtained the reputation, and not without deserving it, of being parties to a series of conspiracies with foreign powers for the purpose of overthrowing the Protestant religion, and the liberties of Englishmen. With the accession of William and Mary these fears were somewhat diminished; but the restlessness of James, and afterwards of the Pretender and the partizans of his family, still served to keep the old apprehension in some measure alive, until the public feeling became absorbed in the stirring events of the Revolutions in America and France. Since that time some attention has been called to this subject by the debates on the Catholic Relief Bill. But the discussions elicited by the Catholic question did not refer to Popery as a system and a whole, so much as to certain points of it, alleged to be incompatible with civil allegiance. Hence, since the days of Usher and Stillingfleet, though the hatred of Popery has continued strong with the great body of the English people, there has been no such display of its power as to dispose men to read much on the subject; and the class of minds which in other circumstances might have been directed toward the Catholic controversy with much effect, have been directed to other topics, on which there has been a greater prospect of securing attention. The absence of an encouragement to print on this subject, has been followed by the absence of a disposition to make it the object of attention in any form, very few of our divines having any adequate idea of the nature of the controversy, and fewer still
being prepared to take it up with advantage against a skilful antagonist.
But of late many circumstances have concurred to recal attention to this subject. Toward the close of the sixteenth century the court of Rome was obliged to look on great part of Europe as lost to its spiritual sway beyond the hope of recovery. It then determined to seek new conquests in foreign parts, particularly in South America and the East; and from the decease of Elizabeth to the commencement of the French Revolution, the resources and energy of the church of Rome were directed mainly to such labours. The infidel convulsion in France shook the Papacy to its foundation ; during the last twenty years it has been gradually recovering the footing it had in Europe before that time; and now it is beginning to renew its missionary enterprises, and it is probable that there is not a Protestant missionary station in the world which will not be ere long disturbed by emissaries from that quarter. In the mean while, among ourselves, the Catholic interest is displaying an organization, a power, and a boldness, greatly exceeding any thing of the kind in its history for many generations past. We share but little in the fears of the Protestant Association on this subject, and should be sorry to be held responsible for the statements of the reverend orators who so often figure in that connexion, whether as relating to errors really chargeable on the Romish communion, or to its alleged increase in this country. But that there is an increase of Catholics in England, and an increase upon a scale calling imperatively for some counteracting effort, may be safely believed. Much the larger portion of this increase is made up, no doubt, of Irish emigrants; and parallel with it there has been an increase, still more conspicuous, of sincere and enlightened piety among Protestants, both within the pale of the endowed Church, and among the different bodies of Protestant Dissenters. But if the tone now pervading the periodical publications of the Catholics may be taken as a fair indication of their general feeling, it is certain that they see as much in their altered position to warrant hope, as their enemies discover in it to justify fear. Probably both parties will prove to be a little mistaken, and to be verging in consequence toward the extravagant; but in the meanwhile it should be remembered, that there is a confidence of success which often does much to prepare the way towards it, and that it is possible to give a feeble adversary a fatal advantage by underrating his power. If our civil constitution has really nothing to fear from this cause, is the honour of God, are the souls of men equally secure? Looking to Europe generally, Catholicism is seen to be the ally, or, more properly, the parent, of ignorance, indolence, poverty, and wretchedness, and opposed,