Billeder på siden

will be apt to suppose are not there at all, till such oracle declares they are. As there are comparatively few, therefore, who can read it with profit, let it be regarded with silent veneration by the ignorant laity, or read only by special licence! Liberty may be an excellent thing, but religion is a better; and as liberty may be readily abused to the injury of religion, toleration of heterodox opinions and the exercise of private judgment are of necessity to be denounced and proscribed. Such seems to Protestants, at present, the theory, and in harmony with it, they affirm, has certainly been the practice of the Church of Rome, whenever she has had the power of fairly acting out her tendencies. Now all this evidently places us, if we become proselytes, in peculiar difficulties. For by the aid of 'seven' sacraments; claims to separate jurisdiction and tribunals for all ecclesiastical offences; exclusive authority over marriages and wills; the construction of an Index Expurgatorius;' the control of what printers shall print, and what readers shall read, and the contrary; persecution for heretical opinions and restrictions on religious toleration ;there is hardly anything in the whole scope of civil legislation, however remote, which may not be gradually involved in this all-devouring vortex. The Romish theory, maintain the Protestants, when carried out in perfection, spreads its subtle and refined meshes of glutinous filament over the whole body politic; and its consistent realisation is incompatible with rational freedom. It is only when it is partially neutralised, they affirm, that it is even tolerable; and for proof, they tell us to look at Italy and Spain.*

* In the event of its being satisfactorily proved that the genuine theory of the Romish Church is unfriendly to Ultramontanism, it is pleasant to think what changes will take place in her Index Ex

Far be it from us to insinuate that the whole system, however inconvenient, is not necessary; even as the Ultramontanist frankly declares, and the Protestant suspects it to be. Doubtless it interferes thus comprehensively with the whole outward life of man, from his cradle to his grave; takes his meats and drinks, his fasts and holidays, his books and his opinions, his wife and his will, into its keeping and under its protection, only from the purest and the best motives; from anxiety to sanctify the whole man, and offer him up as a holocaust-an 'acceptable,' if not a 'reasonable,' sacrifice to the Church.' But it is, nevertheless, necessary, if we are to become proselytes to Rome, either to show that an infallible Church infallibly requires these sacrifices, and that we should be all the happier with the full enforcement of the canon law, with a rigid censorship, the Index, and restrictions on toleration; or that it is a mistake to suppose that she requires anything of the kind: and that when she seems to have given

[ocr errors]

purgatorius; if, indeed, it be conceivable on such an hypothesis that she will retain such an index at all. Some few authors will come out of prison, but how many will go in; and among them the chief champions of the Pope must necessarily be consigned to it. What work will the sponge make with Bellarmine, Baronius, Mariana, Emmanuel Sà Suarez, and a host more! Whole folios will shrink to pamphlets, and the index itself will extend to folios. It may begin with the voluminous collection, (compiled by Roccaberti, Grand Inquisitor of Spain, in 21 vols. folio,) of treatises in defence of the Pope's Supremacy. The 'index' at present is a curious 'index' to the opinions of the Romish Church, — if she does indeed renounce Ultramontane principles.

Paul Sarpi gives a most amusing account of the origin and progress of the Index. He tells us that at first the Church was less jealous of heretical than of the profane and classical authors: it was feared that ecclesiastics might be ambitious of imitating their eloquence! This was assuredly an excess of caution.

effect to such a theory, it is because either her infallible mind has not been infallibly known, or, when it has been known, and that too the other way, her supremacy has failed to secure the obedience of her perverse children; or, lastly, that the matters are too trivial to induce her to declare herself authoritatively on any such trumpery; as to which she concedes to all a glorious indifferentism! It is an unhappy accident that the great bulk of her writers, and her too uniform practice, when not compelled to practise toleration, (excuse the expression, gentle reader, we cannot avoid its use) have excited a sort of suspicion that she is unfriendly to the liberty and independence of mankind. But if unjustly, it will be easy to rectify the error by citing her official documents and acts, and especially by pointing to those countries, in past or present ages, which, (where she has had exclusive sway,) have enjoyed the privileges of religious liberty.

It will unquestionably be a consolation should the Romish Church be able to show, from the irrefragable decisions of her unanimously admitted organs of infallibility, that she has never affirmed the principles which so trouble the patriotism and loyalty of Englishmen; and still more so, if she can show that she condemns and renounces the 'deposing power' of the Popes, and the 'rights of persecution.' If she has always felt these sentiments, but has merely forgotten to give utterance to them, it would be a sufficient reason one might imagine for convening a General Council to declare them; especially considering the stumbling-blocks which apparent decisions of Popes or Councils, or of Popes and Councils, place in the way of the Protestant who is called upon to admit her infallibility! How would he hail this auspicious though late discovery of Rome's genuine mind, how

ever he might feel surprised that Infallibility should have so long delayed or so darkly expounded its true views on such important subjects!

In another way, we apprehend, such a course must be advantageous to the Church of Rome. It would silence the taunts of Protestantism, that Rome will never see and dare not summon another General Council; that the last Ecumenical' has been held; that the diversities of opinion and distractions of party would inevitably issue in the break up of the Papacy; that the instinctive reluctance of Leo X., Clement VII., and Pius IV. to convene any such assembly will be a thousandfold stronger in every future Pope, because the degree of freedom now diffused through so many states of Europe would irresistibly secure full liberty of discussion. The blasphemous proverb, reported by Paul Sarpi,. 'that the Holy Ghost was sent every few days from Rome to Trent in a post-bag,' would have no chance of again becoming current. One of the ancient Councils decreed that a Council should be held every thirty years. Perhaps it meant every three hundred. 'Will it be held then?' Protestants confidently ask. They say that the 'cup to the laity,' and other things, which so many demanded at Trent in vain, must be granted in a future Council, if there shall ever be one.


But how can there ever be one? for to grant what must then be granted, though at Trent withheld, will ruin infallibility, unless it can be saved by the assurance that in the points retracted Rome was infallibly in error. This comes, say Protestants, of stereotyping human theology; of planting the cedar of Lebanon in a flower-pot; it either will not grow, or if it does woe to the earthen vessel that contains it!

If all this be so, nothing can be said but that it


very unfortunate; for it is as certain as any thing can be that a General Council will be demanded sooner or later, whether granted or not. And till it is granted and a true unity attained, it is to be feared that Protestants will be inclined, as before, to laugh at what seems but its semblance. Unity!' they exclaim, 'whether external or internal, it is equally a chimera. As to Rome's external unity, its just image is that of an old gnarled oak, from which the fairest boughs and the richest foliage have perished; and from which every leaf will be stript in due season. It is the same venerable trunk, no doubt. Down fell the huge branch of the Greek Church with all its leafy honours, if indeed it can ever be said to have been more than an imperfect graft upon the Papal trunk at all. But still they cry, Behold the majestic unity of the tree! Down came at the Reformation the fruitful branches of Germany and Holland, and at last of England and Scotland; but still the cry is, Behold the inviolable unity! And so long as the trunk remains, though it be reduced to Pope and Conclave, and every branch, and twig, and leaf shall have been severed from it, it will still be possible to say, Behold the unity! It is in truth a sort of unity which nothing can impair.'

'And its internal unity,' they insist, is equally curious; for it consists in the close contact, by mechanical compression, of all sorts of heterogeneous substances; many varieties of hypothesis respecting infallibility itself; its seat,-its limits, and the results which are derived from the application of any of these varying theories, besides an infinite variety of opinions on subjects which appear quite as important as many of those fantastical ones which the Church has undertaken dogmatically to decide. The


[ocr errors]

« ForrigeFortsæt »