« AnteriorContinuar »
longer in ignorance.* The fault is their own. They stay away because they do not will to come.
" Ye will not come to me that ye may have life, because your deeds are evil.” They disregard divine grace, they disdain the Church, they contemn her pastors, they scorn her sacraments. For what Catholic can doubt, if they were to seek the truth, cauta sollicitudine, as St. Augustine says they must, even to excuse them from formal heresy or infidelity, that they would find, and, finding and knocking, that they would be admitted ?
No ; let us love our countrymen too much to be ingenious in inventing excuses for them, to strain the faith in their behalf till it is nearly ready to snap. Let us from a deep and tender charity, which, when need is, has the nerve to be terribly severe, thunder, or, if we are no Boanerges, breathe in soft but thrilling accents, in their ears, in their souls, in their consciences, those awful truths which they will know too late at the day of judgment. We must labor to convict them of sin, to show them their folly and madness, to convince them that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and condemned already, and that they can be restored to life, and freed from condemnation, only by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we, and we only, preach, which is dispensed through the Church, and the Church only.
It has been said that our countrymen are not to be driven into the Church, and that a soft answer turneth
away wrath. All very true, — who doubts it? Use as soft words and speak in as honeyed tones as you please, but do not forget to set forth sound doctrine, or to use hard arguments. Tell the truth in your own way, and by all means in a manner as little offensive as possible ; but TELL IT. Nobody has
any wish or intention to drive people into the Church. There are some things so obvious, that men of ordinary sense may be presumed not to overlook them. The only driving we wish is the driving by the force of truth distinctly enunciated, by solid arguments clearly stated, and solemn appeals well put. So far as this may be called driving, which is only presenting motives to reason and free-will, we are for driving, and will do all we can to drive, till every one is driven within the fold. The lord of the nuptial feast did not command his servants to go out into the highways and hedges and coax people to come in, but to
* S. Aug. lib. 1, de Bapt. contr. Donat. cap. 5. Etiam S. Joan. Chrysost. in Epist. ad Rom. xxvi.
compel them to come in, that his house might be full. No man can honestly mistake the drift of our remarks, or imagine that they proceed from harshness of temper, or want of respect for the rights or the characters of those without, as well as of those within. What we urge and insist upon is, that we feel, and freely, earnestly, solemnly, without fear or palliation, set forth to our unbelieving and heretical countrymen, the danger, the sinfulness, of their present condition ; that, in so far as we wish or seek their conversion, we must follow the example of the Apostles and Fathers, and reason of sin, justice, and judgment to come ; that we must present the question of the Church, not as an intellectual or æsthetical question, but as a question of life and death, of heaven and hell. Infidelity and heresy have not improved by age, and they are as hateful to God, as odious to the Saints, as destructive to the souls of men, here and now, as they were in the days of St. Athanasius, St. Hilary, St. Jerome, or St. Augustine, and are to be met and conquered only in the spirit and by the weapons these holy Fathers and great Saints met and conquered them.
If any Catholics imagine, that, in some things we have said, their favorite policy has been arraigned, they will take care not to misinterpret us. We have spoken strongly, earnestly, as we have the right to speak, as it was our duty to speak ; but we hope we have not spoken arrogantly, barshly, uncharitably, or without authority. We have impeached no one's motives, faith, zeal, or piety. We trust we are not so utterly destitute of Christian humility as to imagine that we have any special monopoly of true Catholic faith and zeal, or as not to feel that they who prefer a policy we may disapprove may be at least as true believers, as deeply in earnest, as solicitous for the salvation of souls, as ourselves. God forbid that we should think of drawing a parallel, or presume in the remotest degree conceivable to breathe a censure against them! We are not insensible to the pious worth, nor destitute of admiration of the labors, of those who have worn out their lives in laboring to plant the Church in this moral wilderness. We are not untouched by the recital of their labors, their privations, their sufferings, their sacrifices, and we would that we could aspire to their virtues. We offer our prayer at the tombs of those who have been called to their reward; we love and reverence those still living. Who are we, to judge them? We speak not of the policy they may have adopted in its relation to their times, and the frightful circumstances under which they unfurled here the
banner of the cross. We speak only in relation to the country as it now is. Times have changed. Protestantism is not, as to its forms, what it was even twenty years ago.
We have as bitter enemies as ever, but not in the same shape. The bigot gives place to the latitudinarian. We have not now to prove that the Church may be as good as the sects, or even better than the sects; for these two points are now virtually conceded us.
We have now to prove that she alone is Christianity, and that without Christianity, without Christ, there is no true life here or hereafter. It is this great fact, so solemn and so terrible, that we have wished to place prominently before our readers,
not to censure the past, but to guide our future efforts, and for the purpose of rendering such service as may be in our power to the great and glorious cause equally dear to all Catholics.
ART. II. — Essay on the Generative Principle of Political
Constitutions. Translated from the French of M. LE COMPTE JOSEPH DE MAISTRE. Boston: Little & Brown. 1847. 16mo.
Count Joseph DE MAISTRE was among the most distinguished men of his age. He was born at Chamberri in Savoy, 1753, was a senator of Piedmont at the time of the French invasion in 1792, and resided at St. Petersburg, as the ambassador of the king of Sardinia, from 1804 to 1817, in which last year he returned to Turin, where he died in 1821. Though not a subject of France, he was descended from a French family ; was peculiarly French in his genius as well as his language, and his works were all written in reference to French ideas and affairs at the time of their composition. No one among those who labored during the first years of this century to revive and restore French literature, perverted by the philosophers, and nearly destroyed by the Revolution, deserves a more honorable mention, or exerted a more salutary influence in exposing the popular fallacies of the day, and in recalling men's minds to deeper and sounder religious and political doctrines.
As a theologian, some may think that he placed too much reliance on the analogies his profound and varied erudition supplied him with between the principles of our holy religion and those which were acknowledged in the old heathen world, that he was more fond than is prudent in these times of citing pagan authorities for his doctrines, and that he gave an almost unorthodox application to the dictum of St. Vincent of Lerins, quod semper, quod ubique, et ab omnibus ; but it cannot be denied that his works were peculiarly adapted to the temper of the times in which they were written, and admirably fitted to excite and engage the attention of a lively people grown weary indeed of infidelity, anarchy, and military despotism, but not yet recovered from the habits of incredulity and impiety, of sneering at the priest and the altar, and of regarding Christianity as old and effete; or that, if they contain some things local and temporary in their interest, they still contain much that is universal and permanent, which may be profitably studied in every age and country. No one acquainted with them can hesitate to regard them as peculiarly appropriate to our own country, and worthy the serious attention of our people, whether Catholic or Protestant.
The analogies between the principles of our holy religion and those of the ancient world, on which Count de Maistre lays great stress in all his works, are undeniable ; but if we adduce them without taking great care to mark their precise nature, and the precise purpose for which we adduce them, we are in danger of giving occasion to an argument unfavorable to Christianity. German neologists and their American followers, it is well known, appeal to these analogies, and attempt from them to construct an argument against Christianity as a positive revealed religion, or against the special divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and in favor of their pernicious error, that inspiration, so far as it is to be admitted at all, is a universal phenomenon, not peculiar, unless it be in degree, to certain individuals, but common to all men in all countries and ages of the world, — that God speaks objectively to no one, but reveals subjectively, in their spiritual nature, reason, conscience, sentiment, the same great truths to all. Hence they conclude that all religion is natural, if we consider the fact that it is common to all men, and resulting spontaneously from universal humanity, or supernatural, if we consider the fact that our nature lives and operates only in God, and through the creative and upholding power and wisdom of God, who is himself above nature. All religions, say they, are therefore at bottom one and the same, natural or supernatural according to the point of view from which we choose to consider them; and they differ as concrete religions only according to, and in consequence of, the
differing degrees of mental and moral culture of mankind in different ages, countries, and individuals. To get at the perfect form of religion, we must eliminate whatever is local, temporary, peculiar to this or that individual, to this or that age or country, and seize upon that which has been held always, everywhere, and by all. What we thus obtain, the residuum which remains after this analysis, will be absolute religion ; that is to say, all religion in general, and no religion in particular, like man without men, the race without individuals !
No man was ever farther from adopting this gross absurdity, or of countenancing this religious nihilism, than Count de Maistre; but we sometimes feel, while reading his learned and brilliant pages, that he has not been always careful to guard against it, and that he says many things which could, without much difficulty, be construed in its favor. He does not appear to us to state clearly always the precise purpose for which he adduces these analogies, or the precise grounds on which he ascribes to them the value he evidently supposes them to possess. In a word, he does not appear to have marked with precision the place which belongs to the consensus hominum, and seems at times to hold it to be the ground of certainty, and to favor the notion that the Church is authoritative for the reason that she is the organ through which the universal consent of the race expresses itself, and therefore to favor the heresy taught a short time after by De Lammenais. Yet it is only in appear- . ance ; for in his thought, though not always sufficiently guarded in bis expression, we are sure he was sound and orthodox.
If we appeal to these analogies to show what has always been the reason or belief of mankind, and, from the fact that mankind have always assented to principles identical with the principles of Christianity, or analogous to them, conclude the truth of the Christianity as a divinely revealed religion, we fall into the error of De Lammenais, condemned as heretical; because we then make the consensus hominun the ground of certainty, the authority for believing, instead of the veracity of God, as required by faith. But, if we adduce them as authorities, not for faith, but for what is and always has been the practical reason or common sense of mankind, and therefore as proofs that the principles of our holy religion are not unreasonable, but reasonable, our method is perfectly legitimate, and perhaps the very best that can be adopted against the unbeliever. It is only in this latter sense, we are confident, that Count De Maistre, in reality, appeals to the consensus hominum and adduces the analogies in question.