« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
We cannot, in the brief space now at our command, undertake to clear up all the questions which are involved in these views. That the Church does not make common cause in all cases with the movement party we very cheerfully admit. She holds herself answerable to God for her conduct, not to the self-styled representatives of humanity. She has not received her commission from humanity, but from humanity's Maker and sovereign Lord. It is for humanity to obey her, not for her to obey humanity. Her teachings, not the instincts or tendencies of human nature, are the law, the measure of right and wrong, of good and evil. Your big words, your appeals to the mighty heart of humanity, to the new life, the spirit of the age, all your fine phrases about liberty, progress, social amelioration, and all that, are of no avail. Where the Church condemns you, you are wrong, not she.
Yet it is false to say that the Church ever opposes light, science, liberty, or social progress. Does she oppose liberty in Poland, where she is the unhappy Pole's only protector ? Did she oppose it in Belgium ? Does she oppose it in France, where she stands firm against the government for the liberty guarantied by the charter ? Does she oppose it in Ireland, where her whole influence is on the side of social amelioration? She opposes not liberty, but license. She unquestionably does oppose the modern revolutionary spirit; but when she finds men, like O'Connell, who seek liberty and social amelioration only by peaceful and legal means, she does not oppose them, but blesses them, and makes their cause sacred. As for light, science, and all that, it does not become you to speak. She undoubtedly does not accept all your theories, all your mad speculations and airy dreams; but you have no light she rejects, - have made no discovery in science she does not accept. But you talk of your light, as if you were the lights of the age, of science, as if
had amassed an amount too vast to be compressed within the narrow inclosure of the Church. Quite a mistake, Gentlemen. If you set aside your guesses, your dreams, your mere theories, your unsupported speculations, and reserve only what you have really established, what may be said to be demonstrated, you have nothing not known to the Church long ages before you were born. The Church accepts all your light, and can find room to stow away all your truth ; but she has no fondness for your darkness, and no space for your error and falsehood. With your doctrines and speculations she is quite familliar, for they are nothing but old errors and heresies, which she discarded and condemned many ages ago, and which the real movement party has long since outgrown. You are no creators, no inventors. With all your genius, you cannot even invent a new blasphemy. You remind us of the little girl who stood watching the western sky as the sun went down. The sun went down, the twilight came ; and, as the darkness deepened, the evening star became visible. “Father, father, see there, God has made a star !” So when you see here and there a feeble star, which the darkness gathering over your mental heavens makes visible, you fancy, in an ecstasy of delight, that it is a new creation, or at least a new discovery. Him who is enamoured of his own intellectual progress we may always safely set down as one who has yet to learn that he is a fool. The Church does not oppose progress, but she may, we own, oppose your doctrine of progress ; for she has never yet seen a man lift himself up by his own waistbands, or motion without something fixed and immovable to communicate it. Your doctrine of progress assumes that man without going out of himself can make himself more than he is, the imperfect is able to perfect itself, the possible to make itself real, nothing to make itself something, and that there can be motion without rest. Really, Gentlemen, you are profound philosophers. You can move the world, and without the where to stand deemed so indispensable by old Archimedes! It is no wonder that you regard the Church as behind the age.
Progress there may be, but not without a power foreign to the subject of progress. The error of the movement party is not in demanding progress, but in demanding it of man alone, and where it is suicidal to demand it. The condition of progress is fixed, permanent, and immovable religious and political institutions. The movement party overlook this fact, and demand progress in institutions themselves. They seek to set the institutions themselves afloat, and thus loosen every thing ; which superinduces a state in which all progress is impossible. The grand error is here. The party kills, as in the fable, the goose that lays the golden egg, in the hope of getting more than one egg a day, and thus cuts off the source of golden eggs altogether. It is only this madness which wars upon the established order, and seeks to destroy, for the sake of progress, the condition of all progress, that the Church opposes.
But it may be asked, if institutions are not or may not be progressive.' In themselves considered, no. Religious insti
tutions may be improved or perfected miraculously by the supernatural providence of God, or without a miracle, by transplanting the institutions of one country to those of another, by missions, colonization, or conquest; and civil institutions also by colonization, conquest, or the aid of religious institutions already established and in their vigor ; but not otherwise. This is philosophically demonstrable, and historically verifiable. There is no such thing as self-perfecting institutions. Without one, or another, or all of the efficient causes we have mentioned, improvement in religious or civil institutions is absolutely impossible ; for the simple reason, that the imperfect can never without the aid of a foreign power become perfect, nothing can make itself more than it is; or, as we say, there is no motion without rest, no man can lift himself up by his own waistbands.
If we turn to history, we shall find that institutions, though they may decline, are never progressive. There is no instance on record of a spontaneous civilization, no instance of a savage people emerging of itself from the savage state. The earliest period of all civil and political institutions is their purest and best period. The history of all states is a history of decline, corruption, deterioration of their institutions. The struggle of nations is always for lost rights, lost privileges. Magna Charta is but an attempt to stay the progress of corruption, and to preserve a portion of what had been enjoyed from time immemorial. The earliest of the pyramids is the most perfect as a work of art. The Cloaca Maxima of Rome was built before the epoch of authentic history. The traditions of every people point to a state of society in the past superior to that which is at present enjoyed. The wisest and most salutary laws of all modern nations, save such as are derived from Christianity, have their origin in the night of ages, - have existed and been in force from time immemorial, for a time so long that “the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. Never expect from institutions a worth or adaptedness they do not possess in their origin.
The historian of modern society can trace a progress of civilization effected by Christianity, but no progress in institutions, properly so called. Improvements in administration may have been introduced, though even this, if taken absolutely, may be questioned; but in all cases where change, innovation, has struck at fundamental institutions, it has been a corruption, the sign of decay, and the precursor, if not the cause, of evil. England has suffered from every change in her old constitution. France by her changes was brought to the very brink of ruin ; she owes the preservation of her nationality to the mercy or the policy of her conquerors, and it has only been in proportion as she has restored the old order that she has begun to resume her rank among the nations. Spain lies bleeding at every pore ; her whole energy is relaxed ; and she seems almost on the verge of dissolution. What has brought her to her present deplorable condition ? The party of progress, the innovators, the lovers of change, the madmen who would improve her institutions. There is of old a curse pronounced against all who remove the ancient landmarks"; and Sallust, when he would brand a man with infarny, designates him as one who is rerum novarum cupidus.
We admit the Church does not take sides with the mad dreamers, and we assure the revolutionists that she will never be their accomplice. They may rail as they will, they may appeal to the “irrepressible instincts of humanity,” talk largely of liberty (meaning thereby license), of progress, of science, of light, and in the excess of their philanthropic zeal convulse the nations, and turn the ruthless hordes of their myrmidons against her, sack her temples, desecrate her altars, violate her virgins, massacre her priests, imprison her sovereign Pontiff, as they did in the memorable French Revolution ; but they will never seduce or drive her from her fidelity to her heavenly Spouse. She will remain immovable while all around her is in commotion, and her calm, unalterable voice will make itself heard above the confused roar of maddened millions, command the strife to cease, and be obeyed. That she does not do what she is asked to do by these men greedy of new things is among the proofs that she is from God, and that he continues to fulfil his promise to be always with her unto the consummation of the world. If these men want progress, let them learn submission, let them obey the Church and be counselled by her, and not undertake to counsel her. She has received the authority to teach ; they have received only the command To OBEY. The progress they should seek is progress in obedience, in meekness, in humility, in patience, resignation ; for with their present tempers there is, and can be, no good for them.
Our space will not permit us to discuss now the question M. Quinet raises in its bearing on nationalities. He praises Voltaire for his universality, and condemns the Church because she is not, in his view, as broad as humanity. Yet he wishes her to league with nationalities, be Gallican in France, Spanish in Spain, German in Germany, English in England, Italian in Italy, American in America. A singularly consistent view of Catholicity this. The Church knows no distinction of races or of nations. She deals with all as simple human beings, and seeks to bring all into the unity of one fold, to make all hearts one, in the unity of the same faith, the same hope, and the same charity. To her the soul of the Flathead Indian is as precious as the soul of a professor in the College of France. If civil governments receive her law, and serve her, it is well and good ; she accepts their service, and they do their duty ;rif they refuse to do so, she leaves them to take their own course, and proceeds on without them in her work of love and mercy. She holds her authority not from them; and she will continue to maintain and teach that the law of God is paramount to theirs. They may rebel, they may conspire against her, and seek her destruction ; but He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at their folly, in his hot displeasure shall chastise them with his rod of iron, and break them in pieces as a potter's vessel. It is for them to fear, not for her. It is idle to summon up national prejudices against her. She disdains them. Before her, as the Irish proverb says, “ Man is man the world over, — nothing less, nothing more.
The danger of Catholicity to liberty is an idle dream. You can have no true liberty without her, and the only liberty that is endangered by her is the liberty of those who desire no law but their own will, no restraint but their own caprice. If this is against her, so be it. Be willing to love God and do your duty, and you will have nothing to fear from the Church.
ART. VI. - LITERARY NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.
La Reforme contre la Reforme ; ou Retour à l'Unité Catholique, par la Voie du Protestantisme. Traduit de l'Allemand de HOENINGHAUS. Par MM. W. et S., précédé d'une Introduction par M. Audin. 2 vol. 8vo.
The German title of this work is, “ Das Resultat meiner Wanderungen durch das Gebiet der Protestantischen Literatur : oder, die Nothwen