Billeder på siden

just image of this unity, is to be seen in some masses of geological remains, in which shells, bones of extinct species, genuine coprolite relics, and divers earthy substances are compressed into artificial union, and exhibit the marvellous power of - petrifaction.' Into the justice of such comparisons we do not enter.

[ocr errors]

Meantime we want a solution of our doubts, if we or the mass of our countrymen are ever to be converted at all. Sometimes, indeed, we meet with a quasi Roman Catholic, who attempts to alleviate them, -not by denying that such and such apparently authoritative decisions of Popes and Councils, separately or conjointly, have been uttered, which he nevertheless rejects as firmly as we do; nor, again, by admitting that the infallibility in question must be abandoned, but by reminding us that the decisions in question occurred so many centuries ago, and in such a very different state of the world, and that it is not worth while to discuss arguments extracted out of musty records, dated in such remote antiquity! It reminds us of the woman who, having heard a very pathetic discourse on the Crucifixion, remarked to her neighbour, 'Well, it seems to have been a long way off, and a long time ago; let us hope it is not true. Such an argument is of admirable use, if we are at liberty to abandon the notion of Romish infallibility and immutability; or if infallibility in process of time can become fallible, or immutability mutable; or if things may be infallibly true four centuries ago, and the direct contrary infallibly true now; but to argue that the decisions of an infallible Church are not to be pleaded because they were delivered four centuries ago, is as if a man were to say that the theorems of Euclid were indeed true in Euclid's days, but not now; or, like Molière's Physician, that the

heart used, indeed, to be on the left side, 'Mais nous avons changé tout cela!' When time can either make things the same and not the same, or transform truth into falsehood, then, and not till then, may there be an infallibility which may err, and an immutability which can change.

Some, again, strive to quiet doubts occasioned by such decrees as those of the Third or Fourth Lateran, or any previous Council whatever, by reminding us that the Council of Trent has been more moderate in these articles. This, we regret to say, does not help us at all; first, because that Council distinctly asserts in its anathematising decrees against heretics, quite enough to render religious toleration a seeming impossibility to a genuine Romanist; and, secondly, because the appeal is not to this or that Pope or to this or that Council, but to all the General Councils, or to all the Popes, or to all the General Councils and Popes conjointly, according to the special theories adopted by the 'private judgment' of particular parties in the Romish Church. Now the decisions made by the authorities thus defined, prior to the Council of Trent, were either the same as those of Trent, or opposed to them, or simply not affirmed by the Council of Trent at all; if the same, then the argument is where it was, and the old difficulties still remain; if different or opposite, then, indeed, we are left either to adopt contradictions as a curious way of preserving infallibility, or, by rejecting one of them, to reject infallibility at the same time! Lastly, if the dogma of the universal and absolute supremacy of the Pope, as asserted (say) by Gregory VII., and the persecuting Canons of the Fourth Lateran, were not touched by the Council of Trent, if it neither abjured nor affirmed such articles, then the silence of the Council

of Trent on such matters cannot annul the validity of the bulls of previous Popes, and the decrees of previous Councils. But suppose that we argue in the affirmative from the silence of that Council, and thence infer its virtual condemnation of the obnoxious dogmas affirmed by previous Councils, then all the old perplexities reappear; unless, as said before, the infallible Church is so infallible that she cannot err even in embracing either side of a contradiction.

Nor will the Ultramontanists (consistent advocates of Rome) feel any difficulty in the case. Their explanation is at hand, and ample enough to cover all objections. Rome, they will say, at Trent, either simply did not urge all her claims, and her silence could not prejudice any assertion of those she had already made; or, if the Council, in deference to temporal sovereigns, and in the unhappy condition produced by Protestantism, would not speak out the claims she did make,-it only follows that she simply refrained from urging, not that she abandoned them. Nor (they proceed, and justly,) were the Pope and his legates wanting in their duty towards the Church, only alas! temporal sovereigns did not know their duty. Did they not make those memorable demands which provoked the stormy invectives of the French envoy Ferrier ? *

It is right that Protestants on their part should remember these demands. The list is characteristic -That Churchmen should not be cited before the lay courts: That the lay courts should not interfere in causes of matrimony, heresy, tithes, patronage, pa

There is scarcely a more graphic passage in any history than that in which Sarpi gives the ironical speech of Ferrier, and the consternation it produced in the Council. He must, indeed, have been like a wild bull in a crockery shop.

trimonial benefices, ecclesiastical fiefs, the temporal jurisdiction of Churches, nor in any cause civil, criminal, or mixed, pertaining to the ecclesiastical courts That Churchmen should not be liable to pay taxes, tenths, forage, or subsidies of any sort, either on the property of the Church or on their own property: That the property of the Church of every kind, tithes, and other rights, should be held sacred from the hands of the lay powers: That all letters, citations, sentences, and excommunications, from the ecclesiastical courts, or from Rome, should be promulgated and executed without requiring any exequatur or permission from the civil power: That neither emperor, nor king, nor any other prince, should interfere with the said courts or with the tribunal of the Inquisition, but should, when required, give them the assistance of the secular arm.

These claims the Roman See consented to keep in abeyance (though the principal were afterwards expressly asserted in the celebrated bull In Cœnâ Domini, by Pius V.), and the Council expressed no decision upon them. Protestants, by the by, will here interpose with the objection already stated, that if a reluctant consent on the part of the Pope not to press these claims is tantamount to a rejection of them on the part of the Council,—then principles and measures may be infallibly right under one Pope and Council, which were infallibly wrong under another Pope and Council. But what is more, we arrive at the singular result, that the infallibility of the Council of Trent was so far the result of not admitting the claims of the Pope; and further, that the infallibility, in fact, was the infallibility, not of the representatives of Rome, who were willing enough to be led astray, but that of the secular princes!

Surely Protestants must be excused remarking that, if Rome was under unerring guidance upon this occasion, she was led by a way that she knew not.' Happy prerogative of infallibility, which, even when it would fain go wrong, is kept from doing so by the still surer infallibility of a secular guide!

It is hard enough, on any hypothesis, to know what Englishmen are to do in the event of their conversion; the dilemma is aggravated by diversity of judgment in those who assure us that they enjoy immunity from it. The genuine Ultramontanist tells us that Rome has abandoned none of the claims she ever made; that whatever was not re-affirmed in the Council of Trent is simply not re-affirmed, but is not therefore surrendered as, indeed, it cannot be by the very theory and principle of Roman infallibility; again, that whatever the Council of Trent has affirmed remains stereotyped for ever by the very same principle; that whatever claims Rome in these latter ages has not been able to enforce, have not been renounced, they have not been enforced simply because she has wanted the power, and not the will, to enforce them; that this is plainly con. firmed by the fact that her power, when limited, has always been limited from without, not from within; that no voluntary concessions can be pleaded against her; that every fragment of authority which has been wrested from her since those happy days when the dethronement of princes was her glorious work, and the menace of an interdict was as the whisper of an earthquake, has been ruthlessly torn from her amidst her protestations and tears; and that she still ever acts up to the limits of the power left to her, as she does at this moment, wherever her sway is acknowledged. Such a man, therefore, in effect tells us, with

« ForrigeFortsæt »