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New York
State Library



APRIL, 1846.

Art. I. — 1. Prælectiones Theologicæ Majores in Seminario

Sancti-Sulpitii habitæ. De Matrimonio. Opera et Studio

Jos. CARRIERE. Parisiis. 1837. Vol. III. 2. De Justitia et Jure. Parisüs. Vol. II. 3. Compendium Theologiæ Moralis Sancti A. M. de Ligo

RIO. Auctore Deod. NEYRAGUET. Ruthenis. 1839-44. 4. Theologiæ Moralis concinnatæ a FRANCISCO PATRICIO

KENRICK, Episcopo Philadelphiensi. Philadelphiæ. Vol.
I. 1841. Vol. II. 1842.

Vol. II. 1842. Vol. III. 1843.

The author of the two works which we have placed first on our list is a professor in the celebrated seminary of Saint Sulpice, and one of the vicars-general of the Archbishop of Paris. The lectures which he delivered to the numerous students of that institution form the groundwork of the learned and voluminous treatises in which he labors to adapt theological principles to the altered state of affairs in France and the actual laws, and to solve many practical cases which perplex the clergy in the exercise of their holy ministry. It is not for us to say whether, in all cases, he has been successful in untying the knot; but we can cheerfully bear testimony to his great learning and high integrity. The compendium next on the list is from the pen of a priest of the diocese of Rhodez, in Gascony, and was first published in 1839; but has already passed through three editions, the last of which was in 1844. It is what it professes to be, an abstract of the moral doctrine of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, whose words are, for the most part, retained. In a volume of above eight hundred pages, the substance is given of what fills three large volumes of the great



work of the Saint, besides his practical manual, called Homo Apostolicus. Of the excellence of this work its success affords most satisfactory evidence. The last on our list is a work in three volumes, which, in three successive years, issued from the Philadelphia press, from the pen of the present Bishop of Philadelphia. It also is, to a great extent, a compendium of the work of St. Alphonsus, especially in what regards matters of a delicate character, which the author generally expresses in the very words of the Saint, to shield himself against censure under such high protection ; it being, however, his object to adapt the moral system to our laws and usages, he has necessarily introduced much that is not to be found in St. Alphonsus or other European writers, who, for the most part, were guided by the civil law in what regards legal questions, whilst the common law and our State legislation are frequently referred to by Bishop Kenrick. We do not feel competent to pronounce on the merits of this work; but not to appear to send our readers across the Atlantic for information, we take leave to refer to this domestic specimen of Catholic morality scientifically treated, and invite attention to a science full of practical interest, and which presents social attractions at this moment, when the echo of the ravings of Exeter Hall against Peter Dens has scarcely ceased, and may have awakened suspicion in some minds as to the purity of our moral system. We shall introduce our readers not only to the lecture-hall

, but to the college penetralia, the lonely room of the student, and submit to their inspection what might not be uttered without wounding delicacy.

Ethics, as a Christian science, are the principles of morals as divinely revealed and sanctioned. Independently of revelation, certain rules of action are known to reason; and a power of discriminating between right and wrong, virtue and vice, is inherent in our nature ; so that the nations to whom the divine revelation has not been made known are to themselves a law ; which when they obey, they do, as it were by natural instinct, much of what is prescribed by God in his revealed law, and when they transgress it, they are self-rebuked, and condemned by conscience.* These principles, written on the hearts of all, are recognized and inculcated by the Christian science, which takes them as its basis, whereon it erects a divine superstructure. They are simply and authoritatively propounded; and to enforce them effectually, motives of a high order are proposed, and the most solemn and awful sanctions are added. Instead of leaving each one to discover by reflection this secret law, and to unfold to himself its precepts, our science lays them down broadly and clearly, with their consequences, – at least, such as directly flow from them; and promulgates them, in the name of God, to the young, in the simple language of the catechism, and to all, from the pulpit or altar. A Christian child, after short instruction, knows, with the assurance of faith, what Plato, or Aristotle, or other philosophers, perceived but dimly, and with great admixture of gross error, after many years of profound investigation.

us from

* Rom. ii. 14, 15.

There is an affecting tenderness and sublimity in every moral principle taught by Christianity, inasmuch as it is commended, sealed, and hallowed by the great mystery of Redemption. The Christian teacher does not insist merely on the conformity of the law to the dictates of reason, and on the propriety of sustaining the dignity of man by acting accordingly. Neither does he confine himself to the solemn sanction given to the natural law by its promulgation amidst the thunders of Sinai. He tells of a Redeemer's love ; he points to the cross, and shows the crimson tide that flowed to wash away man's transgressions. Each precept is proposed, not merely in the name of a sovereign who must be obeyed, but as the will of a Saviour, with boundless claims on our gratitude and love. Sin is not only intrinsically base, because contrary to reason and nature ; it is not merely treason against Supreme Majesty ; it is black ingratitude to a Divine Benefactor ; it is the revolt of a ransomed slave against the Lord that bought him; it is the “ crucifying again to one's self the Son of God, and making him a mockery " ; it is the “ treading under foot the Son of God, and the esteeming unclean the blood of the testament by which he was sanctified.'

The sanctions of the moral law, which Christianity presents, are the highest imaginable. The philosopher can only urge that virtue gives peace to the heart, sustains the dignity of human character, gains the esteem of men ; and if he speaks of futurity, it is only with a faltering tongue, uttering the language of conjecture. The torments of a guilty conscience stung with remorse, the shame and censure which follow the exposure of guilt, the wretchedness which it produces, the punishments which society inflicts on certain crimes, and the possible evils that may be endured hereafter, are the grounds of philosophical remonstrance against sin. Earthly rewards and punishments were the immediate sanctions of the Mosaic dispensation ; whilst the Christian moralist promises with confidence eternal rewards for a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ, and foretells with certainty that torments without end await those who transgress and do not penance.

The Sermon on the Mount is the compendium of Christian morality, which is developed throughout the sacred writings of the New Testament, especially in the Epistles of St. Paul. There is, indeed, in this divine book no appearance of system, nothing that savors of didactic forms, no professed or implied design to furnish a complete code of morals ; but great principles are laid down, and sometimes applied to particular events or persons ; and many vices are specifically denounced, and the sanctions of futurity are urged with great force. If we add the precepts of the decalogue, incidentally referred to in the New Testament, and all the moral maxims contained in the ancient Scriptures, the obligation whereof is in their nature perpetual, we shall have abundant materials for a complete moral system.

The science, as such, may not have been cultivated in the commencement of Christianity. The Apostles spoke with authority, and not as theorists. Under divine illumination, they prescribed the good which was to be performed, and warned the faithful to shun all that bore the appearance of evil. They solved the doubts that arose in regard to many practical questions, such as the duties of the married state, the use of meats sacrificed to idols, and they entered into many other details. Their successors, doubtless, imitated their example, when called on as priests of God to declare his law, which was sought from their mouths as from his chosen messengers. Of their moral instructions little has escaped the ravages of time. They were, for the most part, delivered orally to the assembled faithful, or addressed, we may presume, to individual inquirers. The chief documents of that high antiquity which have come down to us are general exhortations to charity, obedience, and religious fervor, and apologies for the Christians, addressed to their persecutors, with some doctrinal essays. As we descend the stream of time, authors in considerable number appear in view ; but they were chiefly employed in combating error, or in expounding Scripture ; and only incidentally or oratorically put forward and applied the principles of morals. Tertullian, indeed, may be classed with the earliest casuists; since

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