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he canvassed the question of the lawfulness of wearing the military crown, and denied it to be allowable, on account of the heathenish superstitions wherewith he considered it to be connected. In the same spirit he condemned the Christian sculptor who for gain employed his chisel in forming idols, although he took no part in their worship ; and he inveighed against all Christians who assisted at theatrical amusements, which were then full of heathenish allusions. The discourses of all the Fathers abound with moral lessons, and with invectives against the gross vices of the day. With intrepid zeal Chrysostom denounced the luxury of the Empress Eudoxia, and of females generally, and exposed the wanton waste of precious metal employed for the meanest purposes, whilst the poor of Christ were perishing. Ethics were thus presented in a popular form; but we have no systematic treatise of a comprehensive kind which can claim this antiquity. In the writings of Augustine we have the like oratorical exposition of moral duties, and invectives against breaches of the Christian law, with a treatise on falsehood, and the solution of some special cases. much later period, when the diligence of theologians had methodically arranged what was written in a desultory manner in defence of the doctrines of Christianity, the moral code was likewise reduced to order, and its parts were presented in the like close and combined form ; both which important services, cost what it may to our pride to make the humiliating acknowledgment, we owe to the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages. The fuller development of ethics is, indeed, still more recent; but it may be doubted whether the investigation of so many possible cases, attended as it has been with the hazarding of many dangerous opinions, has added much to the simple beauty of the moral system found in the writings of St. Thomas of Aquin. Let, however, the meed of praise be given to the mariners to whose enterprise and observation the modern navigator is indebted for the knowledge of each small isle, rock, and shoal, each gulf, current, and eddy, which are now so minutely marked on the well dotted chart. This takes nothing from the merit of those who first ventured on the broad ocean, trusting to the compass, and furnished with the mere elements of nautical science. Much less can the labors of modern divines in the detailed application of moral principles detract from the praise due to the luminous simplicity and great comprehensiveness of the moral system taught by the Mediæval doctors.

The connection between this science and sacramental confession is manifest; since the office of confessor is that of judge and physician, and the judge must be thoroughly acquainted with the law, the physician must have studied attentively, the maladies to which man is liable. Hence, the study of casuistry, as practical ethics are called, has been almost wholly neglected by those sects which have expunged penance from the list of the sacraments. Jeremy Taylor, after a weak apology for the want of books of cases of conscience in his communion, points to the true cause. " It is not to be denied,” he observes, “but the careless and needless neglect of receiving private confessions hath been too great a cause of our not providing materials apt for so pious and useful a ministration."*

But then we may be asked how this science remained so long unheeded, if confession be an original practice of Christianity. The science, in its main principles, was doubtless cultivated from the beginning ; since all moral instructions were so many scientific lectures (according to modern phraseology), although not couched in scholastic form, or presenting all practical cases in minute detail. Doubtless, special and secret instructions were given, at all times, to the aspirant to the ministry by clergymen of experience or of high authority, and the mode of administering penance was taught with the other sacramental instructions, which it was held unlawful to commit to writing, lest they should fall under the eyes of the uninitiated.

In the infancy of the Church the study of ethics was necessarily far more simple than at present. It was confined to the great principles of Christian morals, and their application to cases for the most part obvious and easy of solution. In the progress of ages, new and difficult cases arose, from the new phases which society assumed, and from the special relations of the Church to various governments. Ecclesiastical discipline was formed, modified, and changed ; laws were enacted ; cases proposed to the sovereign pontiff by bishops and others were authoritatively solved; and opinions were submitted to his judgment, some of which were found worthy of censure. The science is consequently highly complicated in its details at present, whilst it retains the simplicity of its principles. It were unfair to argue that there were no law and no judicial tribunal in the days of Alfred or Edward, because there remain no positive records of that early date, and the principles of common law are proved by decisions far more recent, which, however, presuppose, declare, and apply the great legal rules acknowledged since the time of those monarchs.

* Ductor Dubitantium, or the Rule of Conscience. Preface.

The minds of men have been exercised in various ways on the truths of Christianity, from the time of their original promulgation. These were embraced by the mass of believers in the fulness of faith, and were practically exhibited in the Church; but the temptation of prying into the unfathomable mysteries of the Incarnation and Trinity agitated the East for many ages. Then discipline was attacked by the Iconoclasts, and the unity of the Church was subsequently rent by the abettors of Photius and Michael Cærularius. The West, in its turn, suffered from the attempts of Berenger to reduce a divine doctrine within the limits of human conception, and, after successive outbursts of error, the whole fabric of religion seemed to totter, when Luther, with a giant's hand, sought to overthrow it. Scarcely had the controversial tide begun to ebb, in the middle of the seventeenth century, when ethics became the great matter of inquiry and dispute among theologians. The pontiffs, true to the duties of their high office, weighed the various opinions in the scales of the sanctuary, and rejected, without fear or favor, all that were found wanting. On the one hand, they struck down the harsh advocates of principles too severe for human weakness ; on the other, they rebuked the imprudent patrons of excessive indulgence.

The errors into which some casuists have fallen should not, however, bring the science itself into disrepute ; since these must be regarded as individual extravagances. Wherever authority does not guide, reason, arguing from premises that seem indubitable, will oftentimes draw erroneous inferences ; and the deformity of sin, which, if exposed without veil, would excite horror, may be concealed by some adventitious circumstance. If the gross absurdities which were maintained by the most eminent philosophers of antiquity, and which have been rivalled, if not surpassed, by some moderns, do not warrant the rejection of all philosophy, or a low estimate of its value, why should the errors of some divines involve in disgrace a science which is certain in its principles and true developments, and is pure and sublime in its tendencies ? Besides, it should not be forgotten that some of the propositions which were denounced to the Holy See for condemnation were invented by interested accusers, and the meaning of others was

artfully perverted by separating them from the context which qualified them, and several were but opinions hazarded on subjects which presented a complex character, difficult of solution. It is a singular fact that St. Augustine, in regard to a particular case, pronounces an opinion which is now generally considered extremely severe ; and on another point seems almost to justify what no divine at the present day could be found to sanction.* This shows that the holiest and most enlightened men may err in matters not decided by the Church ; and it should dispose us to regard with indulgence those who, with upright intentions, advance opinions that, on mature examination, may not be found tenable. The satires of Pascal have involved in disgrace the whole society of Jesuits, because some objectionable principles had been maintained by individual members, which, however, were exaggerated and caricatured by the artful and caustic Jansenist. It is the glory of the Society, that, whatever indulgence it showed to human weakness, its members themselves generally exhibited in their own conduct evangelical perfection. It is, indeed, the characteristic of the saints to be severe towards themselves, and indulgent towards others; and only a few years have elapsed since the Church has enrolled in her list of triumphant confessors Alphonsus de Liguori, a moralist remarkable for the mildness of his opinions, which some branded as relaxed, but still more conspicuous for virginal integrity, pastoral zeal, and all the high qualities of an A postolic prelate.' The popular character of his principles in France may be conjectured from the rapidity with which the excellent compendium of M. Neyraguet has passed through several editions.

It is not, however, our object to vindicate any class of theologians, but to give an insight into Christian ethics as they exist, pruned by the hand of authority from the excrescences which spoil their beauty and usefulness. There remain, it is true, many opinions of a questionable kind still afloat on the theological sea. The chief pastors have not taken on themselves to decide every moral question that has been a subject of discussion ; since the endless variety of phases which human actions may assume might render this extreme minuteness in defining the limits of right and wrong hazardous and perplexing. It was enough to defend the great principles of morality, and their application to important cases, against the temerity of men whose zeal was not according to knowledge. The freedom of opinion which is left does not render the science of little value, since it presents a comprehensive rule of duty with the highest sanction of authority. Omitting to speak of the exact sciences, we ask, What other science can offer an equal amount of useful knowledge with fewer questionable points ? Not certainly chemistry, which by undergoing an entire revolution has not strengthened its claims on our confidence ; not geology, with its Plutonian and Neptunian theories ; not medicine, which, for the most part, is matter of experiment, with very doubtful issue, — kill or cure. We stop not to inquire whether law be a science, or art, since, unhappily, we know too much of its glorious uncertainty to fear its rival claims. Our science has broad and deep foundations, absolutely immovable ; and the superstructure is solid and secure.

* De Serm. Domini, n. 50.

Ethics are not matters of sterile speculation, but essentially practical, regulating the actions of man, his words, his affections and thoughts, by the divine law. Man, inasmuch as he is a free and responsible agent, is the object of this science, which, leaving to physiology to contemplate his physical organization, and to medicine to treat of his corporal maladies, considers him as a moral being, subject to impulses which he must restrain and direct, and bound to the performance of certain duties. Her immediate end is to establish and maintain order in man himself by subjecting the animal appetite to reason, and, in case nature still revolt, by influencing the judgment and will, so as to prevent any consent or voluntary delectation in that which is irregular. Internal peace is secured by this control of the appetites and inclinations. Using the goods of life for his nourishment and comfort, man abstains from excessive indulgence, and thus he is not enfeebled by debauchery, or brutified by intoxication, or disturbed by passion. The disorders consequent on the original transgression yield to the superior influence of religion. The science, however, contemplates the possible deviations from her principles and laws, and is employed in devising remedies for all imaginable prevarications, as well as in determining the amount of moral guilt attached to them respectively. She considers man, in every class of society, and in every station of life, as a frail and sinful being; and whilst she lays before him his duties, she supposes the possibility of defects and transgressions. Without waiting for the evidence of actual guilt, she visits the high places of the land, and marks the defilements by which human weakness may stain VOL. III. NO. II.


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