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We have read with peculiar interest the Abbé's four chapters on “the Evils of the Church and of Society, and the means of remedying them.” He gives us a view of the state of Catholicism in Italy and Spain, Portugal and France, which is highly important, as coming from a Catholic priest, exceedingly zealous for his church, and scarcely condescending to notice the existence of any other, imagining that it comprehends all true Christianity in the world, and must therefore be the church which is “ founded on a rock, and against which the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail.”
Yet even the Abbé has strong misgivings on the subject of the stability of the Papacy. The evils of society as well as of the church, according to his showing, are deep-seated and malignant; and from the present policy of Rome he anticipates the worst consequences. He has a peculiar aptitude for “the future.” He is ever calculating consequences; and being no indolent observer of facts and events, his prognostications are not unworthy of regard.
The present work, embracing a period of five years of the author's experience and reflections, we find in the conclusion some decided views respecting Catholicism which we did not expect from the perusal of the former part; and which we shall extract, as affording our readers an interesting topic for consideration. Indeed, we find it difficult to restrain quotations of passages as remarkable for classical elegance and felicitous expression, as they are striking and important.
Is The Papacy,” he says, “ has, at length, declared that its own cause, both in fact and in principle, is inseparable from that of European absolutism." The whole gravamen of his complaint lies here. From this fact he argues with much force against the stability of his own church. The policy of Rome, he says, has confounded her own most staunch adherents. Doubts and perplexing questions have forced themselves on their attention, which must terminate to the disadvantage of Rome.
“ In reality," he says, “ the influence of Rome, in the war of the old society against the new, has had the effect rather of preventing the adoption of a certain character, than of changing the respective forces. Take away the physical obstacle to the social renovation, that is to say, the million of bayonets, destined to defend the ancient order or disorder, to-morrow nothing will remain of it but a detested remembrance. The ideas which time, reflection, experience, have disclosed, continue to propagate and develop themselves, in spite of the re-united efforts of the two powers to suppress them. The violences of the one, the maledictions of the other, have not, for a single instant, suspended their growth. The sovereign Pontiff has not then, in this respect, attained the end which he proposed to himself. His voice, to which formerly the entire world lent the ear, has been, it must indeed be confessed, as to the nations in a body, the voice which cries in the desert.
"Consider only the most Catholic countries. Has Ireland relaxed her march in the way on which for so long a time she has entered ? Is she less attached to that which she calls her rights, less ardent to combat her ancient oppressors? Has she abdicated one single wish, abandoned one demand, disavowed, modified, one single maxim of liberty before proclaimed by her? Is she not, on the contrary, ready to draw from it new, and greater, and more profound consequences? The word emanating from the Vatican
has passed over this land as the light breath which does not even bend a blade of grass.
* What do we see in Spain and Portugal ? Does any party there think of receiving directions from Rome? Contradictions would be less alarming; but the cold indifference which they have almost every where met with is it not a striking symptom; and does it not suggest some serious reflections ?
“What has become in France, in Germany, and even in Poland, especially for the last four years, of the power which, at other times, Rome exercised over minds? Has she modified opinion in any thing whatever -moved the public conscience? Except a few men of other times, where are those whom ihe Papacy directs and moves?
“ Rome knows it, the pontifical authority has, for a long time, had no where less influence than in Italy. It is not that the people do not respect it by habit in every thing which is not too much opposed to their ideas, their inclinations, and their interests; but above them they find none but severe censors and passionate enemies. Not only do they not believe in it, but they repel it with a lively animosity, they hate it with an implacable hatred, as the principal cause of the evils of the country. Austria herself is less abhorred. It is distressing to speak thus; but, in the state of things, one ought not to conceal any truth. Let Italy, then, for one single day, be left to herself; let the existing order have no other support than the admonitions of the head of the church, his prohibitions and his commandments; the next day, the revolution would extend from Turin to the extremity of Calabria.
“ Such is in Europe the position of the papacy in respect to those who, professing Catholicism, belong still externally to the Roman communion. Considered collectively, they do not allow themselves any more to be directed by her ; her tongue is not their tongue, her thoughts are not their thoughts, her ordinances are not their rule.
“ Rome has pronounced her decisions, promulgated her maxims, imperiously dictated her orders. Some individuals, docile to her voice, have retired from the social movement. The people, without even turning their head, have pursued their route. The world has continued to go as before. One may remark even, that the action of the principle which they call revolutionary has not shown itself anywhere so general, so powerful, as in Catholic countries. Such are the facts; every one will draw from them the consequences which seem to him the most natural and just."
The Abbé then proceeds to argue the interesting question, which he terms le problème de l'avenir, and to show that the people will not recede from the positions they have gained ; that they will not place themselves in a worse political condition from any regard to the pope's authority.
“ The only hypothesis," he affirms, “ which an enlightened reason can admit, is that of the triumph of the people. Let them come to realize in the institutions and the laws, the rights which they have conceived ; 10 establish liberty on the ruins of the old despotisms; to renew social order, according to the maxims for which they have been contending half a century; what will Rome then do? Will she persist in the doctrines by whose aid she has taken upon her the task of arresting the movement which is hurrying forward the world? Will she obstinately condemn powerful principles, and curse the men liberated by them? This would be to put the last seal to the separation already so far advanced ; to excommunicate herself from the human race: and what would remain after that to the solitary Pontiff, but to dig a tomb in some corner, with a fragment of his broken crosier ?"
After stating the moral objects of Christianity, to establish justice and charity in the world, and the unconscious tendencies of the European nations toward such a form of religion, he thus concludes his valuable reflections.
“ But if men, pressed by the imperative necessity of renewing, so to speak, their acquaintance with God, of filling up the immense void which religion in retiring has left in them, should again become Christians, let no one imagine that the Christianity to which they will attach themselves can ever be that which has been presented to them under the name of Catholicism. We have explained why, in showing in a future, inevitable and already near us, the Christianity conceived and the Gospel interpreted in one manner by the people; in another manner by Rome; on one side the Pontificate; on the other the human race; - that says every thing. There will be nothing in it which resembles Protestantism, a bastard system, irrational, narrow; which, under a fallacious appearance of liberty, resolves itself, as to the nation, into the brutal despotism of force; and, as to individuals, into egotism.
“No one can foresee how this transformation, or, as one would wish to call it, this new movement of Christianity in the bosom of humanity will operate : but it will operate, without doubt, and great masses of men will be carried forward, not by a sudden impulse, which would be only the sign of some passing disturbance. It will be, at first, a point, which is scarcely perceptible, a feeble aggregation which perhaps may occasion a smile. By little and little this point will extend itself, this collection will spread ; they will flow to it from all parts, because it will be a refuge from all mental and corporeal suffering, and the humble plant will become a tree, whose branches will cover the earth, and under whose foliage the birds of heaven will take shelter. This is what we do not hesitate to announce with a profound conviction. Those who flatter themselves that they shall turn aside the human race from those paths which lead to their object, are very dangerously deceived themselves. But that which must happen will happen, and every one will go whither he ought to go. Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace here below to the men of good will !”
Et tu, Brute! All this from him, who, during fifteen or twenty years, was considered one of the strongest pillars of the Roman Catholic Church in France, and one of the stoutest supporters of Popery. But the times change, and we change with them. The Abbé is quite a different man in 1837, from what he was in 1820; and if he and his writings be any fair specimen of similar changes in others, we may surely calculate on the certainty of that great event, as near at hand, which the Abbé at last contemplates as more than probable; the destruction of the man of sin,” the close of the grand papal apostacy and corruption.
The present work opens a most encouraging prospect to the zealous Christian. He has only to “ gird up his loins," and address himself to the good work of evangelical instruction, in the various forms which modern times supply for all ages and conditions; and, with the sanction and blessing of the Most High, he will not fail of reaping a rich harvest. The whole continent is open to those who have one single and pure aim, to “ turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” It is much to be lamented, that the questions relative to an establishment of religion, diocesan episcopacy, liturgical forms, &c., should be so much allowed to interfere with those efforts which may be attempted for the religious welfare of Europe. While we are combating these points, multitudes in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany are “ perishing for lack of knowledge;" and yet, according to the Abbé's demonstration, they would be ready to receive that “ more excellent way" which pure Christianity teaches. If we are so bound and committed, as that we cannot confederate in large bodies for this purpose, VOL. I. N.S.
surely each, according to his own order, in good will to others differing, may, on a smaller scale, send forth missionaries and delegates, in the spirit of Christ and his apostles, with “ the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations.” The Congregational Body have been of all others the most remiss in this “ work of faith and labour of love." A reproach is upon them, which we trust they will, ere long, wipe entirely away. The Congregational Union surely is competent to devise some method for pursuing effectually this great work; and we trust that their recent deputation to the Continent is but the earnest of their full intention to co-operate in reaping the great continental field which now appears " white unto the harvest."
The Use and Abuse of Creeds and Confessions of Faith, with
Strictures on the Westminster Confession ; being the Substance of a Speech intended to be delivered at an Adjourned Meeting of the General Synod of Ulster, held at Cookstown, in August, 1836. By the Rev. James Carlile, Minister of the Scots
Church, Capel Street, Dublin, Dublin and London. 1836. This is an octavo pamphlet of 102 pages. Whether delivered as a speech and printed, or printed without being delivered, it well deserves the attention of all persons who are advocates for the imposition of tests, creeds, articles of religion, and confessions of faith. Such persons, however, prefer subscription to argument, well knowing that it is much more easy to write their names than to think over the various parts of a religious system, and come to some decision as to their agreement or disagreement with the truth. “Why should I study,” they may well urge, “when a bare assent will avail, or trouble myself as to the right or wrong of a creed or confession of faith, when all that is required of me is to put my name at its foot? Why may I not regard the articles of religion I am called upon to subscribe as articles of peace, and my subscription as an expression of my determination to adhere firmly to the interests of the church whose articles I subscribe? I have nothing to do with the abstract dogmas of the creed - its equivocal expressions—its various interpretations—its anathemas on the one hand, or the blessings it announces on the other All I have to do is to write my name, and to receive my license or appointment; and none but the restless disturber of things as they are, would wish for a change-a change from that which is so easy to a course confessedly difficult.” Indeed it is not an easy, it is an arduous work, to put to the test of Scripture every proposition and mode of expression contained in the articles of religion or confession of faith. It demands attention, thought, meditation, comparison : in a word, the mind must be tasked in the exercise of all its powers, especially the power of discrimination. But this is not all. For, suppose for a moment that conscience interposes a remonstrance, or even an inquiry; and while the pen trembles in the subscriber's hand, puts the question, do you really believe all these declarations to which you are about to affix your signature ? Are you quite convinced that they are each and all of them correct, and as scriptural as they are correct; and if not, are you not writing a lie with your right hand; and do you not know that liars have no portion in the kingdom of God and of Christ ? Now the work being arduous, and the queries which conscience may urge far from pleasant, is it not, may the candidate for a licence in one church, or for ordination in another church, say, is it not much better to subscribe without thought, and with no agitation of difficult questions, or remonstrances from an awakened conscience than to agitate these questions before subscription, and thus expose yourself to the hazard of self-accusation?
That reasonings of this character prevail in the minds of very many of the advocates of subscription to articles of faith, is evident from a disclosure made in the pamphlet now on our table. The author is a Presbyterian of the Synod of Ulster. The immemorial usage of that Synod has been to admit candidates for licence either without any signature of the Confession of Faith, or with a qualified signature. This latter practice was stated and defended by Dr. Cooke, so lately as the year 1828. This mode of proceeding was, however, very little to the taste of some ministers of the Synod, and they have been long endeavouring to obtain the enforcement of unqualified subscription. A motion to that effect was at length carried at an adjourned meeting of the Synod, at which few ministers were present. This took place in 1834, and was confirmed at a similar adjourned meeting in 1835 ; when it was declared that this Synod will not, from this time forth, receive any exceptions or erplanations from candidates for the ministry. A protest was taken against this. The discussion was deferred to a subsequent meeting of the Synod, when, about half the ministers being present, the non-excepting clause was confirmed. Now it was fully understood by those who objected to unqualified subscription, that " they should have opportunity at the aforesaid meeting of discussing the general question of subscription ; and that every man should be permitted to state his whole mind upon the subject, especially as some, on former occasions, had, out of feelings of delicacy, abstained from stating their particular objections to the Westminster Confession.”—Preface, p. vii. This full discussion was, however, prevented both by a point of order craftily (we had almost said) introduced, and by the spirit of the meeting, which was decidedly unfriendly to discussion. The point of order limited the question and afforded opportunity for interruption, and this was so far taken advantage of, that the author soon saw that the Synod was not the proper arena for such a discussion--the pamphlet, therefore, is an appeal from the subscribing ministers to the intelligence and scriptural knowledge of the great body of the Presbyterians of Ulster. The appeal will not, we trust, be without effect. The Synod will enforce its decision, and none who do not subscribe the Westminster Confession will, within its limits, be licensed to preach the gospel. But not a few will read this pamphlet; some will think as they read, and we are bold enough to say, that all who do, will concur with its noble spirited writer. Agitation will go on among the Presbyterians of the North of Ireland, and truth will be brought out from her dark retreats, and shine in her own native lustre. The dogmas of fallible men will give place to the