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this mortal life. In compassion to these human weaknesses and natural misgivings, they retained, for the comfort of the dying penitent, a full and authoritative form of sacerdotal absolution, in the private office for the visitation of the sick as the blessed apostles, in condescension to the similar prejudices of their own countrymen, permitted the churches of Judea to retain the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic law. If the cases are not exactly parallel, they so nearly correspond, that few will venture to deny to our reformers, in this instance, the praise of that exalted charity, and that considerate attention to the pardonable frailties of human nature, which are of more value in the sight of God than the highest attainments in mere knowledge or in mere faith.
"It was designed, I conceive, from the first, that among the members of our own communion this indicative absolution, which was retained to meet a present exigency, should gradually fall into total disuse; for the minister is not authorized to give absolution in this form, except at the earnest entreaty of the penitent himself. But at a period when the presbyters of our church must, in a vast majority of instances, have been required to administer the last consolations of religion to men but imperfectly converted from the errors of the church of Rome, who might passionately desire that fuller absolution which custom had made sacred, and superstition necessary; had they either, in the pride of superior knowledge, withheld it, or coldly stayed to dispute the point with the dying penitent, they would have lamentably discovered, that they little knew what manner of spirit they were of.' There is nothing,' says
the venerable Hooker, which the soul of man doth desire in that last hour so much as comfort against the natural terrors of death, and other scruples of conscience, which commonly do then most trouble and perplex the weak; towards whom the very law of God doth exact at our hands all the helps that Christian lenity and indulgence can afford.'" P. 21.
Here again it must be observed, that while we agree with Mr. Lowe in his general principles, and see nothing to impugn in the scope of his argument, we are not convinced of the accuracy of his deductions. Instead of proving that "the indicative absolution" was designed merely to meet a present exigency, and was gradually to fall into total disuse; the extract from Hooker is a powerful reason for its retention. Human nature is still the same; the terrors of death still trouble and perplex, and there are many who stand in need of all the helps that Christian lenity and indulgence can afford. If the design imputed to the reformers by Mr. Lowe was really entertained by them, why was it not executed in the reign of James or of Charles II.? What proof is to be found in the writings of our most eminent divines, that the church was ready to surrender this ceremony? Hooker, Barrow, Taylor, and Pearson, speak of the absolving power of the church X VOL. XXIII. MARCH, 1825.
in terms which imply any thing rather than an intention to renounce it. Taylor particularly recommends the dying penitent to seek comfort in that authorized declaration of forgiveness, which the minister of God will pronounce over such as "humbly and heartily desire it;" and there is much more difficulty in reconciling the words of our standard authors with the modern exposition that has been advocated by Mr. Lowe, than in shewing that they never contemplated the alteration which he recommends.
It is due, however, to Mr. Lowe to observe, that in objecting to the "indicative form," and recommending a speedy alteration of it, he carefully avoids the opposite extreme. This argument is summed up in the following terms:
"But if, in this matter, our church assumes no higher power for her ministers than that of declaring, as ambassadors for Christ, the pardon of the repentant sinner, it may be said, as it has been strangely said, that such a claim amounts in fact, to nothing; that any other man, as well as a minister, or even an apostle, may do as much as this, and with equal effect. By no means. If it were so, our Lord himself, with reverence be it spoken, did ill to consecrate and send forth a peculiar order of men to proclaim repentance and remission of sins in his name among all nations. To preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound,' is the great business on which those are sent, who have received the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the church of God.' The catholic church, in fulfilment of this sacred duty, has therefore, from the earliest ages enjoined her ministers, by a formal act of absolution, to give the repentant sinner assurance of his pardon. Bold, proud men may despise this gracious ordinance; but the better part of Christians are so far from entertaining a confident surmise of their own sufficiency, that, especially on their death-bed, they are rather apt to be filled with doubts and misgivings; to feel that their sins are too great and too many to be pardoned, and their repentance too weak, and their faith too imperfect to avail them. În merciful commiseration of these natural disquietudes, the consecrated ministers of Christ on earth are especially required to pronounce absolution in his name, and to give peace and assurance to the penitent at his latter end." P. 25.
The points, therefore, upon which we differ from the author of this treatise, are rather historical than doctrinal. He has not convinced us that the visitation service was designed to answer a temporary purpose, or that the priestly authority was precisely the same in the apostles days, and in our own. But he has furnished a sound and temperate exposition of the nature of absolution; and comments upon the form in which it ought to be pronounced in a strain which would merit serious attention if a new form were about to be composed.
ART. XII. The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics and Literature of the Year 1823. London. Rivingtons.
We are happy to observe in this important work a conti nuance of the same industry, impartiality and discretion by which it has been hitherto distinguished. Carefully avoiding that deceitful bias which arises from party-spirit and political attachments, the Editor gives a fair view of parliamentary proceedings, both as they respect the foreign engagements and the internal administration of the kingdom: setting forth, without the slightest reserve, the facts and reasonings which are most strenuously urged by those members of the national council who habitually oppose themselves to the general tenor of his Majesty's government. Guided by these principles, the "History of Europe" for the year 1823, presents to the reader a faithful and very interesting record of the several projects and events which at that period engaged the attention of all thinking men, from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The perusal of it has afforded us extreme satisfaction, both because the narrative itself is agreeably and ably written; and more especially, because the course of events has completely vindicated the policy pursued by this country in relation to the plans of our continental neighbours, and at the same time illustrated the wisdom of the views upon which that policy was founded.
We allude here to the invasion of Spain by the French; the main subject of discussion in the session of 1823, and the most interesting topic of parliamentary deliberation that has occurred since the close of the late war. A report of the speeches which followed the production of the official correspondence on this important question, occupies nearly a half of the space allotted in the historical retrospect of the Register to the annual abstract of legislative oratory. The powerful address of Mr. Canning is still fresh in the memory of every one who either heard or read it. But as it admits not of abridgement, either in language or reasoning, we shall not diminish its cogency by an imperfect quotation; preferring rather, as a specimen of the style and manner in which this part of the work is executed, a paragraph or two from Mr. Robinson's speech on the same occasion. We transcribe this extract the more readily, too, because the object of it is to do justice to a statesman, whose character and services have not met with the respect to which they were entitled. We allude to the late Lord Londonderry,
who, as he had the misfortune to live in times of great national exertion and sacrifice, and had not the means nor the art to conciliate the prejudices and gratify the innovating spirit of the age, has been regarded, but too generally, as the patron of ancient errors, and the enemy of all liberality and improvement.
"It had been complained, that during the late negociations his Majesty's ministers had not assumed that high tone of remonstrance which became the government of this country. If there be a doubt, said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about the dignity or firmness of our tone, there can be none, I should think, about the fact of our remonstrance. Some gentlemen may conceive that a remonstrance ought to be framed in the angry and violent tone of declamation which was used the other night by a noble lord (Folkstone): others may think that the vehement and sarcastic invective of the honourable and learned member for Winchelsea (Mr. Brougham) is that in which a remonstrance may be best conveyed. It is very easy for us to say (in our indignation) of foreign states and ministers You are debased, you are traitors; you are perjured, you are calumniators: it is very easy for us to exhaust upon those who seek the war, all the vituperative epithets with which the English vocabulary can supply us; but I must say, I think it would be a proceeding somewhat new and not very dignified, were we to adopt such a tone in our diplomatic transactions. It must be recollected that those powers like ourselves have feelings and prejudices; that they have natural pride and national character to sustain. If it were true that those powers were adverse to the extension of freedoman ignoble feeling and one which he did not wish to defend it became our duty to shape our arguments in a manner the best calculated to carry persuasion and conviction with them. Nothing could be gained by invective; while, on the contrary, much might be done by pointing out the danger likely to arise from any attempt to repress that national tendency to liberty which he firmly believed must, in spite of all efforts to the contrary, make its way in the natural course of things, as a consequence of the great increase of general knowledge.
"But although our language towards the powers in alliance with us was, therefore, necessarily rather in the tone of dissuasion than of menace, Mr. Robinson said, he could not admit, that, in the progress of this matter, ministers had never made any particular remonstrance. In proof of this he referred to lord Castlereagh's note to the four courts in 1820, as conveying, not a violent or severe invective, but reason and argument to shew to the allied sovereigns the injustice of the principles on which they professed to act; and he more particularly pointed out the two concluding paragraphs as accurately describing the original purpose of the alliance, to the exclusion of those objects to which it had since been endeavoured to pervert it. I am the more anxious," said Mr. Robinson, "to call the attention of the House to this para
graph, because it has been said here and elsewhere, that its noble author, my lamented friend, was in league with the despots of Europe. I do so again, because I feel a strong principle of attachment to him; because I knew the sterling nature of his mind and venerated the qualities of his heart; because I respected his talents, and because I think I have formed a true estimate of the services which he has rendered to his country. Never, perhaps, was there a minister in England whose character has been more constantly or more completely misrepresented. He had to conduct the foreign affairs of this country under circumstances, I will venture to say, of as great difficulty as ever fell to the lot of man to contend with. I had many opportunities of seeing how he met them-of observing how admirably, by the decision of his character and the equanimity of his temper, he would check angry passions, and stay the impulse of irritated feelings, or combat and overcome prejudices that were almost invincible. But to give an effectual answer to all the misrepresentations that have been made about him, it is only necessary to turn to this paragraph, which contains a most unequivocal denial on the part of this government, of all participation in the principle of interference. This document, be it remembered, was not intended as a public paper. It was never meant to furnish a defence or to establish a case; but it was a confidential paper privately communicated to those powers on whom it was intended to produce an effect. It was meant to convey the generous impression and feeling of the noble lord himself and of the government to which he was attached, and as such will be found to convey an earnest disavowal of, and a manly protest against those principles. on which the attack upon the liberties of Spain was to be committed by the allied powers."
We were very much struck at the period of the debate with the severe though gentlemanly rebuke administered to Mr. Wilberforce by the eloquent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, for charging government with having neglected to assume a high moral tone in their discussions with the ministers of France, Austria and Russia. "My honourable friend," said Mr. Canning, "through a long and amiable life has mixed with the business of the world without being stained by its contaminations; and he, in consequence, is apt to place, I will not say too high, but higher I fear than the way of the world will admit, the standard of political morality. I fear my honourable friend is not aware how difficult it is to apply to politics those pure abstract principles which are so indispensable for the perfection of private ethics. Had we employed in the negociations that serious moral strain which he might have been more inclined to approve, many of the gentlemen opposed to me would, I doubt not, have complained that we had taken a leaf from the book of the Holy Alliance itself; that we had framed in their language a canting protest