Taken from Brownson’s Quarterly Review for April, 1857
We find in the January number of the Methodist Quarterly Review, an article headed Spiritual Despotism, which we are disposed to make the subject of a few comments. The Quarterly named is the organ of the Methodists, and while under the editorial supervision of Dr. M’Clintock, was conducted with spirit and ability. It is now under the editorial charge of Dr. Wheldon, of whom we know nothing; but judging from the number before us, we think he is likely to sustain its former character. In learning it must yield to the Bibliotheca Sacra published at Andover; in classical taste and finish it is far inferior to the Christian Examiner, the organ of the New England Unitarians; in manly thought, independence of spirit, and theological science, it is not to be named on the same day with the Mercesburg Review, but with these exceptions, it compares, we believe, not unfavorably with the ablest of our Protestant religious periodicals. It is, as a matter of course, strongly anti-Catholic, violently "no-Popery," but we do not object to a good hater, and rather like to see a man who is not ashamed to express his wrath and prejudices in good round terms. It shows that he has some stuff in him, though not well worked up.
The article we have designated, is rather too declamatory for our taste, and better adapted to produce a catalepsy in its readers than to give them any valuable or trustworthy information on the subject discussed, but it is in its way thoroughgoing and outspoken. The writer is embarrassed by no facts opposed to his theory, but marches on in spite of both fact and reason with a free step to the end he proposes,- the assertion of Protestantism as the representative of all that is good, and Catholicity as the synonym of all that is bad. In this he commands our esteem. The two systems certainly stand opposed to one another throughout, and if the one is good, the other certainly is bad, if the one be from God, the other is from the devil. The writer is not one to halt between two opinions. If Baal be God, he would say, serve Baal; if the Lord be God, then serve the Lord; and having made up his mind that Baal is God, he very consistently devotes himself to his service, heart and soul, body and mind. But we must let him speak for himself and define his own position.
"The sacred right of individual free opinion in matters of conscience is the principle on which Luther fought the Reformation. This right, so natural, and with us so indefeasible, was then denied. The pope claimed absolute sovereignty in the world of opinion. The temporal powers aimed also to control both the thought and action on the subject. Conformity to the views of the monarch, not only in matters of state policy, but even in religion, was enforced upon the people as coming within the prerogatives of the jus divinum. But the successful assertion by Luther of the rights of conscience in opposition to this, broke not alone the religious thralldom of the age. Both philosophy and science felt the liberating spell. Mind in general was emancipated. From that single act went forth an impulse whose wave is still in vigorous motion, and the productive results of which, upon the world’s development and progress, no human mind can yet foretell. New ideas in faith, philosophy, popular rights, government, and progress in general, at once sprang forth, it was the torch of Prometheus, or rather, it was more. That gave life to a statue; this to an age. The dead forms of social, political, and religious life at once felt the inspiration. It was the inauguration of the modern era of civil and religious liberty.
"From that day, Protestant Christianity has been the representative of freedom, freedom first in the domain of conscience, and then, consequently, in philosophy, art, science, Church, and State. In a word, it reared the throne of reason upon the broken power of bigotry and intolerance, and supported it by order, justice, and truth. It is now more than three hundred years that Protestant liberty has been working out its results. The nations are witnesses, and the scale of operation has been of sufficient magnitude to make the experiment a fair one. What now are the results which so abundantly declare themselves? Let history answer. Let the superior commercial and political condition of the Protestant states of Europe and America answer. Where are prosperity and progress? Where security of life and property? Where liberty of speech and opinion combined with reverence for law and a steady support of public order? Where are schools, Bibles, an unfettered press, and general education? Where the highest tone of morality and the purest form of Christianity which the world has yet seen? All these things are patent to observation, and of a kind so calculated to catch the attention, that sophistry must be artful, and judgment perverse, if the mind fails to be convinced.
"Opposed to this principle, is Spiritual Despotism in deadly conflict with Protestant freedom, and rallying for the most part under the standard of the pope. Poorly disguised under the mask of Christianity, the Roman Catholic hierarchy stands demonstrated by its history, its principles and assumptions to be a grand consolidated conspiracy against both religion and liberty. It is worldly, ungodly ambition, covered with the mere skin of piety, a system defiant of God, and the most deadly enemy of man. There is no study more profound, or worthy the attention of philosophic minds, than the progressive and insidious development of this politico-spiritual system. In the name of Christ, it has remorselessly grasped power which Christ refused. Claiming to be his vicegerent on earth, it has proclaimed doctrines which Christ never taught, and sanctioned enormities which drew forth his severest invectives. In the name of a religion which has designed to bring relief to oppressed and downtrodden humanity, in has imposed upon it burdens intolerable to be borne. Instead of peace, it has brought the sword. Instead of consolation, wretchedness and despair. And yet its pernicious errors are so artfully interwoven with the truth, and its monstrous usurpations so covered with the sacred form of Christ, that the eyes of a large proportion of Christendom are still held that they see not its true character.
"The battle of these contending systems hitherto has been waged at a distance from us. Confidence in our own safety, and belief in the impossibility of disturbing the strong foundations on which our religious liberties rest, have made us in a measure indifferent to the struggles of liberty abroad. We have not forgotten, too, that our fathers suffered. We do not see with our own eyes the streaming blood or the burning fagot. History, it is true, tells something of the past; but the voice of receding centuries, like the sound of receding footsteps, becomes fainter and fainter, as time and distance separate us from danger. Remote from the scenes of danger, we have looked on with the calmness of philosophy, rather than the stirring interest of battle when it is pushed even to our own gates." – pp. 34-36.
Our readers will not fail to perceive the Baalic character of the writer’s theory, and the truth of what we so often assert, that Protestantism has lapsed into carnal Judaism or heathenism, and really objects to the church because she seeks rather to secure a paradise for the soul hereafter than to create a paradise for the body on the earth, because she is spiritual, not carnal, and places the external above the temporal. Our Lord said, "Be not anxious for what ye shall eat, for what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed; for after all these things do the heathen seek." He admonished his disciples to be not like the heathen, not to labor for the meat that perishes, but to seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, to lay up treasures in heaven, and to strive after spiritual perfection. Protestantism reverses all this, and bids us to be like the heathen, and pronounces a system of religion true or false as it does or as it does not promote the earthly prosperity of men, and assure them the goods of this life. Undoubtedly Protestants use at times Christian language, and even urge Christian principles, when they forget their Protestantism and speak according to Christian tradition preserved by the church; but when they turn their arms against Catholicity, and seek to vindicate their Protestantism, they take their stand on heathen ground, and reproduce against the church the arguments of the unbelieving Jews against our Lord, and crucify him afresh. "If we let this man go on the Romans will come and take away our nation," and so they crucified him between two thieves, yet they did not save their nation. The Romans, notwithstanding, came and took it away.
If we analyze the extract we have made, we shall find the writer is a devout worshipper of Baal, that is, of a false god, or the god of falsehood. It contains scarcely a single statement that is true, and the whole theory put forth is in the face and eyes of well-known facts. The writer labors under a strange hallucination, and sees what is not and is blind to what is. "The sacred right of individual free opinion in matters of conscience is the principle on which Luther fought the reformation." Strictly construed this asserts that conscience itself is a matter of opinion, and that every man has a sacred right to follow his opinion in all things, and consequently, that there is for man no right independent of his opinion to which he is bound to conform his conscience, and from which he cannot deviate without sin, unless excused by invincible ignorance. This strikes at the foundation of all religion and all morals, by virtually denying all law, and all objective distinction between right and wrong, virtue and vice. But understanding it more liberally, as meaning the freedom of conscience before all human authority, or the in competency of all mere human authority in spirituals, everybody knows that it is not true. Liberty of conscience in this sense was not "the principle on which Luther fought the reformation," or defended his rebellion. He never asserted the unrestricted right of private judgment. He asserted his right to resist the authority of the pope and councils, and the right of others to agree with him, Martin Luther, and to take him for their pope and leader; but I do not recollect that he asserted or recognized the rights of others to differ from him in any matter which he declared to be of faith. Did he not persecute Carlostadt? Did he not renounce in the most savage manner Zuinglius and Oecolampadius? Did he not thunder his anathemas against the Anabaptists, and call upon the princes to arm and put them down, nay, exterminate them?
None of the reformers asserted the principle in question. John Calvin exercised the most oppressive tyranny over conscience, caused Michael Servetus to be burned at Geneva over a fire made of green wood, and afterwards wrote a book in defense of burning heretics. Henry VIII of England put to death both Catholics and Lutherans for their religion, and James I in his famous speech in the Star Chamber, orders the judges to punish Protestant dissenters from the royal church without mercy, and to hang Catholic priests, if they escape from prison. Our Puritan fathers in the Massachusetts colony hung Quakers, banished Baptists, and bored the ears and tongues of dissenters from their colonial church. Protestant Maryland and Episcopalian Virginia enacted the most stringent laws against Catholics, and almost in the memory of persons still living, priests were hunted in the Old Dominion as wild beasts.
The principle of religious liberty asserted by the reviewer is as applicable to Catholics as to Protestants. If the right of conscience is sacred, my right to be a Catholic is as sacred as yours to be a Protestant. Conscience is, to say the least, as good a plea for me as for you, and you violate the liberty you assert when you persecute me for being a Catholic as much as I should were I to persecute you for being a Protestant. Yet the reformers never respected, they never acknowledged, in principle or in fact, the freedom of the Catholic conscience. Wherever Protestants gained the civil power they used it to enact laws prohibiting the free exercise of the Catholic religion. They dispossessed Catholics of their churches, their colleges, their hospitals, their foundations for the poor, robbed them of all their church property, outlawed them, and massacred them by thousands and ten of thousands. In every country in which Protestantism in the sixteenth century gained an establishment, it gained it by violence, by plundering and oppressing, fining, imprisoning, exiling, hanging, or massacring Catholics, in many cases by a cruelty hardly matched by the Arian conquerors of Africa, or the Musselman devastators of the East. And what is more to the purpose, there is not a country even today whose government professes to be Protestant or to adhere to the glorious reformation, that recognizes and guaranties full and entire religious equality for Catholics with Protestants before the state. A few weeks since the diet of Sweden, influenced by the Protestant clergy, refused to repeal the old laws against Catholics, and to recognize religious liberty. Denmark is Lutheran, and forbids, under pain of perpetual exile and confiscation of goods, a member of the national church to become a Catholic. The Prussian government not long since imprisoned the archbishops of Cologne and Posen because they would not violate their Catholic consciences; Great Britain, since 1850, has passed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which declares, virtually, if not formally, the Catholic religion illegal, contrary to the civil law in the United Kingdom; and we have a dark-lantern movement in this country, supported, perhaps, more generally by the Methodists than by any other sect, expressly designed to deprive Catholics of their political and civil rights, unless they renounce their religion. Several of the state legislatures have proposed, and one state, I believe, has adopted, a law intended to disenfranchise every Catholic, and to make them political pariahs in the very land of their birth. Nay, the whole spirit, tendency, and design of this very article on which we are commenting, is to rouse up the Protestant prejudices of the country and inaugurate a legal persecution of Catholics. With all these facts and many more like them before him, this Methodist reviewer does not blush to tell us that "the sacred right of individual free opinion in matters of conscience is the principle on which Luther fought the reformation!" Can it be possible that Protestants are so blind as really to believe that Protestantism is the representative of freedom,- Protestantism which in its very essence is a persecutor, which was begotten in violence, born in robbery and massacre, and whose history is written in the blood of Catholics, and against which a whole army of martyrs in the Judgment Day will come to bear testimony?
"The pope claimed absolute sovereignty in the world of opinion." This is untrue. The world of opinion is free, and the pope does not and never did claim any sovereignty at all in that world. Does the reviewer make no distinction between opinion and faith? Or is all faith with him simply opinion? The pope is the guardian and defender of the faith once delivered to the saints, but with opinions as long as they are confined to the world of opinion and are not put forth as faith or against faith he does not interfere. In the world of opinion you are as a Catholic free to hold what opinions you please, but no man can be so foolish as to claim the liberty of opinion in matters of faith, that is, in matters where he has not opinion but certainty, the objective truth. Who ever heard of liberty of opinion in regard to the proposition, the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles? Who demands liberty of opinion where he has the word of God? Is it a matter of opinion whether God’s word is true or not?
"The temporal powers aimed also to control both the thought and action of the subject." And succeeded in those countries which threw off the papal authority, and embraced the reformation. "Conformity to the views of the monarch, not only in state policy but even in religion, was enforced upon the people as coming within the prerogatives of the jus divinum." After Luther, in countries that rejected the papacy, conceded; in those that remained Catholic, denied. Monarchs and their courtiers attempted the enforce the doctrine here justly objected to; but they were met by the popes, the Gregories, the Innocents, the Bonifaces, and other great pontiffs, the special objects of Protestant calumny and vituperation, and made aware that the crown has no competency in spirituals. It was not till Luther appeared, and invoked the princes against the pope, and prepared the way for national churches instead of one catholic church, that the monarchs and courtiers succeeded. Then religion fell indeed under the control of the state in every Protestant country. The German Protestant princes and the Scandinavian monarchs determined the faith and worship of their subjects. Henry VIII by an obsequious parliament is declared within the realm supreme in spirituals as well as in temporals, and the king or queen and parliament define the faith and regulate the worship of Englishmen,- yes, of Englishmen who boast of their freedom and manliness. The same was true in Holland, and the attempt to force the Belgian Catholics to conform in religion to the views of the Calvinist monarch, lost in 1830 the crown of the Netherlands what is now the kingdom of Belgium. This same Methodist reviewer in the article before us is laboring, if it did not but know it, to deprive religion of its freedom and independence, and to subject it to the political authority even in our own country, yet he would fain persuade the world that it is Protestantism that has emancipated religion from the despotism of the state! A more absurd or impudent pretence cannot be made. The champion of religious freedom against the state or the temporal power has in all times been the papacy, and this is in reality the standing charge of Protestants against the popes; for it is what is implied in that spiritual supremacy in regard to the temporal power, which has been the theme of so much sound Protestant declamation against them.
"But the successful assertion by Luther of the rights of conscience." The reviewer labors under a great mistake. Luther never asserted successfully, or unsuccessfully, the rights of conscience. "Broke not alone the religious thralldom of that age." All you can pretend is that for Protestant countries Luther’s movement emancipated religion from the authority of the spiritual power, and subjected it to the temporal. "Both philosophy and science felt the liberating spell." Mere cant, and not a word of truth in it. That more attention has been paid to the physical sciences since the sixteenth century than was for some centuries before is possible, but that Luther’s reformation has had any thing to do with it is not proved or provable. The principal contributions to modern science have been made in countries which did not accept Protestantism. Protestants have no philosophy, have done much to bring philosophical studies into disrepute, and few, if any, of them have been or are able to understand the great masters who philosophized before Luther. Germany is the only country in which Protestants have shown any philosophical aptitude, but even Germany has produced no philosophical system not already exploded, and no philosophers to compare with Vico, Galluppi, Rosmini, Gioberti, and Balmes.
"New ideas in faith, philosophy, popular rights, government, and progress in general, at once sprang forth." Were they true, those new ideas? And are any of them living now? I have observed that your new ideas of one age are usually exploded in the next; and those which possess you one day and which you call us narrow-minded and ignorant for not accepting, are most likely to be rejected the day after. What do you mean, moreover, by "new ideas" in faith? I thought faith was revealed in the beginning and delivered to the saints once for all. I did not know that ideas excogitated by the human mind could become faith. The pretence of the reformers was not progress, not the discovery or development of new ideas in faith, but a return to the purity and simplicity of primitive Christianity, from which, it was alleged, that the church by her new ideas or inventions had departed. Your doctrine of progress is in direct contradiction to the ground they assumed. If they were right, you are wrong. After all, this talk about the emancipation of mind, and the progress of philosophy, science, government, etc., is mere rhetoric founded on the cant of the day. It is, moreover, with Protestants, of recent origin. Nothing was heard of it in my boyhood, and I believe no small share of the shame or the credit of introducing it to my countrymen belongs to my own labors in my Protestant nonage. I took this ground, not because I believed it the ground actually taken by the reformers, but because I saw no other ground on which their movement could be defended, and because I wished to establish a principle on which I could defend my own departures from so-called orthodox Protestantism. Yet the theory has no foundation in the facts of the case. What is new is not always true, and changes are not always improvements. There is not an idea, sound or unsound, put forth by the reformers or by Protestants since the reformation, that is really new, or that cannot be traced to individuals who lived long before Luther was born. Solomon said ages ago, "there is nothing new under the sun." Protestants have not done even so much as to invent a new error or a new blasphemy. The reformation has done nothing for progress, but to misdirect and retard it. The progress effected since the reformation bears no comparison with that effected from the sixth to the ninth, or from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, when you consider the difference in the starting-point at the two epochs. From the state of Europe at the beginning of the barbarian era and its state near the end of the reign of the Emperor Charlemagne, the progress of society was far greater and more difficult to effect than that which has been effected by European society since Luther. Take European society at as low a point in the sixteenth century as the reviewer can suppose, and that point was not so low as that at which the church took it at the commencement of any three hundred years previous, from the fall of the Western empire; and granting him all that he claims for his Protestantism, it will have not effected so much as the church effected in any previous period of three hundred years.
There is a gross fallacy in all the Protestant reasonings on this subject. They reason as if society had been constantly deteriorating from the sixth to the sixteenth century, that it was the influence of the church that caused it to deteriorate, that it has been constantly advancing since the reformation, and that its progress subsequently has been solely through the influence of Protestantism. Not one of these assumptions is true. In some respects civilization in what had been the Roman empire was in the sixteenth century below what it was in the third, and perhaps is so even yet; but the fall was not owing to the church, for Roman civilization actually advanced under her influence, as we may see by comparing the legislation of the Christian emperors with that of the pagan republic. In the imperial legislation there is embodied a sentiment of humanity, a respect for personal rights, and a tenderness for human life, of which you shall find no trace in the legislation of republican Rome. The fall, as everybody knows, was owing to the barbarian invasion and conquests, which placed on the ruins of the empire a comparatively uncivilized people. The true starting-point of modern Europe is, the date of the destruction of the Roman power by the Germanic conquerors, say at the beginning of the sixth century. Now if you take the sixth century for your starting-point, you will find that European society continued to advance, notwithstanding the Hunnic, Saracenic, and Norman invasions and devastations, not finally checked until the great wars of the crusades, and had at the opening of the sixteenth century attained on the whole, though not in every respect, to a better state than it could boast in the century before the irruption of the barbarians began. No man who knows the history of that long period of a thousand years can doubt for a moment that the grand agent of the progress effected was the Catholic Church. I do not hold up those ages between the sixth and the sixteenth century as model ages; I do not place them above the present; I concede that they were often dark and barbarous; but it was not the church which made them so; it was, on the contrary, the church that gradually enlightened them, and rescued them, slowly if you will, from barbarism. Let this be remembered that Europe overrun the barbarians in the fifth century, and reduced to a barbarous state, was by the church rescued from that state, and under the paternal guidance of the popes enabled to advance to the comparatively enlightened and civilized state in which the reformers found it in the sixteenth century.
Now the reformers, in must be borne in mind, took European society at the highest point it had reached after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The chief labor had already been done. Catholic faith, Catholic zeal, Catholic piety, and Catholic charity had covered Europe all over with churches, colleges, hospitals, and foundations for the poor. The church had diffused everywhere the Biblical spirit. She had to a great extent Christianized philosophy, science, art, literature, and even politics. Into these labors of society under her inspiration the reformers entered, and Protestantism in the outset started with all the capital which Catholics had been patiently and laboriously accumulating for a thousand years. The venerable universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded and endowed by Catholic zeal and charity, and the glorious old cathedrals which make the pride of England today, were erected by our Catholic ancestors. Take these facts into consideration and you will see that society ought not only to have advanced, but to have advanced much more rapidly after the sixteenth century than it had done before, for there was the accumulated force of a thousand years to push it onwards. But has such been the fact? I will not say that there has been no progress since the reformation, but I will say, and facts will bear me out in the assertion, that there has been far less than was to be expected, considering the vantage-ground already gained by European society. It is manifest by everyone qualified by his genius and studies to form a judgment on such questions that there were causes in operation before the reformation, which, if not counteracted or impeded, would have ensured a far greater progress than has been realized, and that what real progress has been effected has been in spite of the reformation, rather than by it. Judging from what was done in any three hundred years during the thousand years prior to Luther, it is impossible to doubt, that if religious unity had not been broken, the Protestant heresy and schism had not been introduced, involving one hundred years of fearful and destructive civil wars, form the sad effects of which Europe has not yet recovered, and the church had been permitted to continue to exert her direct power and her maternal influence in the whole of Europe, that the progress of the last three hundred years would have been far greater, and of a far higher order than it actually has been. In such case, moral and spiritual progress would have kept pace with material progress, and society would have reflected the lofty principles, the free spirit, and the sublime charity of our holy religion, instead of being as it is a pale reflex of Graeco-Roman society.
It is only common justice to bear these facts in mind. Under the thousand years that Catholicity was the dominant religion in Europe, society advanced from the barbarism of the sixth century to the comparatively high civilization of the sixteenth. This proves that the church is not unfavorable to the progress of civilization, and that whatever defects there may have been in the civilization of the sixteenth century, she was not answerable for them. It was not the church that had reduced a civilized people to a barbarous people; it was not the church that seated barbarians on the ruins of the ancient civilization; it was not the church that gave those barbarians their barbarous manners, their cruel, or their lawless dispositions, their savage customs, their impatience of restraint, and their contempt of the arts and refinements of civilized life. They had them all before her, and brought them with them or borrowed them from pagan Rome; and it was precisely against them that she had for one thousand years to struggle; and struggle she did with supernatural energy, and not without effect. Protestantism has had no such struggle. It had had no barbarous people to convert, at least it has converted and civilized none. It has taken no people from the depths of barbarism and brought them up even to a half-civilized state. It exterminates the savage or the barbarian when it comes in contact with him; it never civilizes or Christianizes him. It has founded no state. The nations that were Protestant were old states, organized long before Luther, and as regularly organized as they are now. Protestantism commenced with powerful civilized states, and has, under the temporal order, had nothing to do but to suffer them to continue the direction they had previously received, and develop the principles and institutions already established. Yet the result obtained, rating it as high as any Protestant can have the conscience to rate it, falls far short of what the previous progress had given us the right to expect. Protestantism has lent those principles and institutions no force, and has really proved an obstacle to their natural development and growth.
"From that day," Protestant Christianity has been the representative of freedom, freedom first in the domain of conscience, and then consequently in philosophy, art, science, church, and state." Freedom of conscience in Protestant countries to reject the pope and councils, to form sects, and to persecute Catholics, conceded, but not in any other respect, for in no other respect do Protestants themselves, as a body, recognize freedom in the domain of conscience. "Freedom in philosophy." There is just as much freedom since Luther as before, and that is all. Men in the domain of philosophy, as long as they confined themselves within that domain, were always free. St. Anselm, St. Thomas, St. Bonaventura, philosophized as freely as Bacon or Leibnitz, Hobbes or Locke, Reid or Hegel, and far more profoundly and justly. Freedom in the "arts." We do not understand the claim put forth by the reviewer. Art is not Protestant, and while we do not pretend that all the great artists of the modern world have been exemplary Catholics, we deny that a great Protestant artist in any department of art can be named. Moreover the impulse to both art and science was given prior to Luther, and we believe Leo X did not deny to art any reasonable freedom. Freedom in the "church." In the Catholic Church, there is about the same degree of freedom and restraint that there was before the reformation. In some respects, however, the abuses introduced and sustained by Protestantism, have led to the adoption of a more stringent discipline than was previously necessary. In the Protestant "church," the claim is absurd, for there was no Protestant church before, and there is none now. There are Protestant sects, establishments, conventicles, temples, but no Protestant church, except by courtesy. As for freedom in religion, we have seen what that is among Protestants; as for the internal discipline which the so-called Evangelical sects exercise over their members, it is far more stringent than any known amongst Catholics; and as for arbitrary authority exercised without responsibility or control, you will find it in its perfection in the Methodist bishops and conferences. It is carrying the joke a little too far for a Methodist to talk of freedom in the church. Whoever knows the Book of Discipline, or the constitution John Wesley gave to the sect he founded, will listen with patience to a Methodist claiming freedom in religious matters. Of all the Protestant sects I am acquainted with,- and, if what is the stock charge against me be true, I must be acquainted with a large portion of them,- the Methodist have the least freedom, and are subjected to the most stringent discipline. They are more enslaved than even the Presbyterians. Freedom in the "state." There is not a Protestant state in the world that has introduced into its constitution a principle of freedom not contained in it before the reformation. We in this country have done nothing but embody the great principles of natural right and justice, developed and defended by all the great Catholic doctors from St. Augustine down to the Spanish Jesuit, Suarez. So all this fanfaronade about freedom proves to be – fanfaronade.
"It reared the throne of reason on the broken power of bigotry and intolerance, and supported it by order, justice, and truth." Indeed! Where does that throne stand? Can you point me to its locality? "The ruins of bigotry and intolerance." Why, my dear brother, do you really fancy that Protestants are free from bigotry and intolerance? Pray, what meaning do you attach to these cabalistic terms? A Methodist talking against bigotry and intolerance! That is capital. It proves, what we began by intimating, that he has come to the conclusion that Baal is God, and the Lord is not God, and consequently reverses the ordinary signification of words,- fulfilling thus the prophecy that the time would come when the churl should be called liberal, bitter sweet, evil good; the liberal a churl, sweet bitter, and good evil. The reviewer’s whole article is written in defiance of reason and common sense, of truth and justice, and is an open display of narrow-minded bigotry and intolerance. What is the dark-lantern movement in this country, but an outrageous exhibition of bigotry and intolerance, seeking to obtain the strong arm of power? Because you are blind, do you fancy nobody can see? What strange hallucination has seized our Protestant friends that they imagine that they respect the authority of reason, and are liberal, free from bigotry and intolerance?
But think of a Methodist talking about erecting "the throne of reason." The Methodist is a descendant of the old Montanists, and places his religion in feeling, in sentiment, in the operation of the spirit, with which reason has nothing to do. The Methodist "Elder" does not, at least did not in my boyhood, address the reason, the understanding, the judgment. He appealed only to the feelings, the sensitive soul, the animal passions, and labored to magnetize his hearers, and throw them into convulsions. Ask a pious Methodist woman, why she believes, she answers, "I know." How do you know? "O I feel it here," putting her hand over where her heart ought to be. Everybody knows that Methodism is a species of wild fanaticism, without reason, method, or rule, in which mere animal feeling is dignified with the name of piety, religion. And yet here is a Methodist talking in grandiloquent terms about the emancipation of the mind, rearing the throne of reason, and freedom in philosophy, arts, science, etc. Does he forget that the founder of his sect eschewed art as profane, and forbade all ornaments even of the temple of worship as savoring of pride and vanity? Does he forget that the male and female attire he prescribed was the reverse of artistic? Does he forget that Wesley forbade the erecting of steeples to the meeting-house, prohibits church bells, and instrumental music, except that through the nose? He required his people to eschew every thing partaking of the arts or graces, and intended them to be a simple and plain people. The meeting-house was to be, as a wag once expressed it in my hearing, "not the Lord’s house, but the Lord’s barn." He somewhere tells us that though he could vie with the great orators of antiquity, he did not dare to adopt the arts of human eloquence, that he allowed himself to use only plain, simple speech, and not the enticing words of human wisdom. The last thing the Methodists would have done in my boyhood, when I knew them well, and went often to hear their ministers hold forth in school-houses, in barns, and in groves, would have been to praise Methodism because it favored human learning and human science, art and philosophy, and reared the throne of reason on the ruins of bigotry and intolerance. The Methodist ministers I knew in my younger days were more remarkable for their lungs and cavernous voices than for their learning or love of art, and for their fat sleek horses than for their science or philosophy. They hardly knew the word reason; they spoke disparagingly of human science and learning, of art and culture, and depended solely on the gifts of the Spirit. It was a Methodist minister, I believe, who, when found not able to read, and being asked how he managed to preach, answered, "O mother reads and I ‘spounds and ‘splains.’" A change would seem to have come over the Methodists within the last twenty or thirty years, but if they are right now they were wrong then. I am willing to admit that they have latterly established three or four respectable academies and colleges, and in the older settled parts of the country are somewhat less uncivilized than they were, and shout, rant, and jump less, and split fewer pulpits. They have certainly made considerable progress, for which we give them all due credit. They are growing respectable, and losing many of the peculiarities of primitive Methodism; but they must not suppose that the Protestant world started in the sixteenth century from so low a point as they did in the eighteenth, or that the progress they have made since the last century is a fair measure of that made by the Protestant world. The man may know more than the child, and yet have little reason to boast of his progress. They are yet far below the level of the sixteenth century, and not quite up to the highest level reached by the more advanced Protestant sects.
In the statements which follow the Baalic character of the writer’s views and assertions are so manifest, and the points raised have been so frequently and so recently discussed in these pages, that we must pass them over. In our review of Derby’s Letters we reduced the boasted superiority of Protestant nations to its just dimensions, and showed that it lies in the natural order alone. We do not deny the material greatness of the British empire, but it is a greatness that requires only the natural virtues, and if it says nothing against, it says nothing for Christianity. With regard to this country we shall take an early occasion to compare the progress in civilization made here since the landing of the Pilgrims from the Mayflower, with the progress effected by Catholicity in Spanish America. It must be borne in mind that the immense majority of the population of all Spanish America are the descendants of the Indians who possessed it before the European colonization. We shall institute the inquiry, not whether the population of Spanish America as a whole is on a level with the population of the United States, but whether the United States can show any work done for civilization, starting with the high civilization of our fathers, to compare with that of raising the Indian population from the point where Cortes and Pizarro found them, to that where they now are? This inquiry, if we mistake not, will put a quietus upon our boasts of Anglo-Saxon civilization. At any rate it will present a contrast between Catholicity and Protestantism, on the very points on which the former is condemned, and the latter eulogized, that will be by no means flattering to our anti-Catholic declaimers. We have multiplied and enlarged our borders, but it may be doubted whether in true civilization we have advanced on that of the original colonists; indeed I fear facts will compel us to acknowledge that we have even retrograted. We are richer, more numerous, more luxurious, but we are, I fear, less highly civilized, less thoroughly trained, less moral, less energetic, less manly, than our ancestors. We have exterminated the Indians or driven them beyond the frontier settlements; we have in no instance worth naming Christianized or civilized them, and adopted them as an integral portion of our population. We can show nothing that we have done for them in the way of civilization. But the Spaniards did not exterminate the Indian population. The church by her missionaries went among them, Christianized them, infused into them the elements of civilization, and elevated them not to the level of the European, for she has not yet done that, but to their present condition, which is far above that in which she found them. Now here is a positive work done by Catholicity on this continent; we demand what Protestantism, working not with savages, but with highly civilized Europeans or their descendants, has to show as an offset to this? We propose this question to our Methodist reviewer, and leave him for the present to ponder on it. Perhaps, when we meet him again, he will deal less in rhodomontade.
"Where are schools?" Schools are more numerous in France, Austria, and Rome, than in Great Britain, and also, we believe, in Turkey and China than in any Protestant country. The attention of Protestants has but recently been directed to education, only since the fright the Protestant governments got by the French revolution, and education is as general among Catholics as it is among Protestants. Where are "Bibles?" We answer, almost exclusively among Catholics. The book the Protestants call the Bible is not the true Bible. "An unfettered press?" You will find it in England, the United States, and Belgium, one a Protestant country, one professing no religion, one a Catholic country, so far as the great majority of the people are concerned. You will find in France, which is not a Protestant country, a press free on all subjects, except the government. "The highest toned morality?" Certainly not in Protestant states. "The purest form of Christianity?" That involves the question whether Catholicity or Protestantism is Christianity. If Catholicity is Christianity, as we hold, the purest form, and the only form of Christianity is to be found in all countries where the church is, and nowhere else. If the writer had asked where are the foulest and impurest heresies to be found, we should answer at once, even taking him for judge,- in Protestant nations. "All these things,"- the reverse of what the reviewer means,- "are so patent to observation and of a kind so calculated to catch the attention, that sophistry must be artful, and judgment perverse, if the mind fails to be convinced." And yet we can hardly hope that the mind of the Methodist reviewer will not remain unconvinced, though we have shown that his statements are untrue and his reasoning inconclusive.
So much in regard to Protestantism, as the representative of freedom, intelligence, and morality of the world, its philosophy, art, science, and progress in general. Turn we now from the bright picture of the Protestant system, which asserts Baal to be God, to the dark and gloomy picture of the Catholic world, which still persists in saying that the Lord is God, and as for me and my house we will serve him. "Opposed to this principle, is spiritual despotism in deadly hostility to Protestant freedom, and rallying for the most part under the standard of the pope." There is, then, some little spiritual despotism that does not rally "under the standard of the pope." That is some comfort. "Poorly disguised under the mask of Christianity the Roman Catholic hierarchy stands demonstrated by its history, its principles, and assumptions, to be a grand consolidated conspiracy against both religion and liberty." The writer concedes it to be grand; there is a drop of comfort in that too, for it at least is not a mean and petty conspiracy against religion and liberty like the Methodist hierarchy, and its pet, the Know-Nothing party. "It is worldly ambition." But you forget, my dear sir, that your standing charge against our church is that she neglects the world, and that in the race for sensible goods she is far outstripped by Protestantism. "Ungodly ambition." Supposing God to be Baal, agreed. "With the mere skin of piety." In the Methodist sense, agreed again. The church does not confound piety with sensuality. "Defiant of God,"- that is, of Baal, quite true. "The most deadly enemy of man." In the sense of being his best and only true friend, true, nothing more true. One only needs to take the contrary of what you say, to have the truth.
"In the name of Christ it has remorselessly grasped power which Christ refused." How does the reviewer know that? "Claiming to be his vicegerent on earth, it has proclaimed doctrines which Christ never taught." Whence did you learn that? You assert it; she denies it, and wherein is your assertion better than her denial? You have for your assertion at best only your private judgment, and she at worst has her private judgment against you, and her private judgment, on any ground you choose to put it, is equal to yours. You are of yesterday. My grandfather was the contemporary of the founder of your sect, nay, even my mother might have known him. You are only the illegitimate offspring of the Anglican establishment, itself of illegitimate birth. Your sect is self-constituted, and nobody can be silly enough to suppose that either our Lord or his apostles founded the so-called "Methodist Episcopal Church." Whatever may be said of the Catholic Church, it is certain that yours is a man-made church, and that you have no authority to decide what our Lord did or did not teach. You have no divine commission, and in the church of God are simply nobody.
But see the admirable consistency of this man. He calls the church a usurper because she claims the authority to decide what Christ did and did not teach; yet, in the very sentence quoted, he claims for himself and undertakes to exercise this very same authority. When he says the church has proclaimed doctrines Christ never taught, does he not assume the authority to decide what Christ did and did not teach? Who then is the usurper? If he says he has no authority, then his assertion is merely his opinion, and entitled to no consideration; if he says he has it, he must show us his commission. "Sanctioned enormities which drew forth his severest censures." Who made you a judge in the matter? Who authorized you to say what Christ did or did not censure? "Sanctioned enormities." In the eyes of a worshipper of Baal, be it so; in the eyes of the Christian, the worshipper of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is for you to prove. "Imposed burdens intolerable to be borne." Intolerable to those who say Baal is God, very likely; but at worst she imposes no burdens so heavy as those imposed by your sect on its members. "Instead of peace it has brought the sword." The very thing our Lord said he had come to do. "Think not," said he, "I am come to bring peace on earth, yea, a sword rather." "Instead of consolation, wretchedness and despair." To the enemies of Christ and worshippers of Baal, be it so; to others it is false. "And yet its pernicious errors are so interwoven with the truth, and the monstrous usurpations so covered with the sacred form of Christ, that the eyes of a large portion of Christendom are still held that they see not its true character." How do you know dear brither, that you yourself see its true character, and that what you call errors are not God’s truths? Are you infallible? May it not be your eyes that "are held," and not ours?
"The battle between these two contending systems has hitherto been waged at a distance from us. Confidence in our own safety, and belief in the impossibility of disturbing the strong foundations on which our religious liberties rest, have made us in a measure indifferent to the struggles of liberty abroad. We have forgotten, too, what our fathers suffered." Your fathers, sir, if they suffered persecution at all, suffered it from the hands of Protestants alone. Neither they nor you have received wrong at our hands. But to hear this man talk one would think that Protestants have been the firm champions of religious liberty, and the sweet, innocent sufferers in its cause. Why, he really has the effrontery to appeal to history. Does the poor man in his self-delusion suppose we cannot read history as well as he? Does he suppose that we are ignorant of the persecutions and the inherent persecuting spirit of the party with which he identifies himself? Does he imagine that he is proving Protestantism to be the friend of religious liberty, by invoking its spirit in a war of extermination against Catholics? He is evidently aiming to arouse the Protestant feeling of this country against Catholics, and to deprive us of equal liberty with Protestants. Can he not understand that the religious liberty which he asserts is simply the liberty of Protestantism to trample on the church? Because we resist being trampled on by Protestants, does he accuse us of persecuting them?
"So strong thus far has been the tide of papal immigration from the old world, that Rome has already commenced the work of recasting our institutions to suit her schemes of ecclesiastical aggression." Does the writer really believe this, or does he say it merely for effect? If the former, let him talk no more of Protestant intelligence; if the latter, let him be silent as to Protestant morality. The whole statement is nonsense. What does Rome want to recast our institutions for? "Her ecclesiastical aggressions,"- on what? Her ecclesiastical system is fixed, the power of her bishops defined, and there is here non motive for aggression, and nothing on which to male ecclesiastical aggression. What is there in our institutions Rome would wish to change? Use the power of the republic to put down Protestants, or to deprive them of their freedom to remain Protestants? Do you suppose she is so silly as to attempt any thing of that sort? Protestants have been here from the first settlement of the country, and have the first civil right to remain here as Protestants. It is not the principle or practice of the church to enter a country where another religion has had before her entrance a legal right to exist, to gain by intrigue, or in any other way, the government, and then use it to suppress the old religion. That is the Protestant, not the Catholic method of proceeding.
"Free schools, free presses, free Bibles, free speech, and free thought, are the natural supports of the great principle of Protestantism; and these, therefore, in some way must be subject to her regulation." P. 36. If Almighty God has given her the power and made it her duty to regulate them, what have you to object? If she does what you allege, you must prove that she has no authority from God to do it, before you can prove any thing from it to her prejudice. "Free schools." Would you, a Methodist, send your children to schools taught by infidels, in which the books used were filled with slanders on Methodism, and in which your children would be trained up to despise the religion of their father and mother, to deny revelation, to deny God, and all moral distinctions? And what would you think of the man who should accuse you, because opposed to such schools, of being opposed to free schools, and to education? You would think of him just what we think of you. Nay, would you send your children to Catholic schools, in which they would be likely trained up Catholics? Of course not. But you cannot hold Catholicity in greater horror than we hold your Methodism. It is not to free schools we object; but the sort of education you give in your free schools. You blame us for acting on the very principle on which you yourselves act. Why have the Methodists established schools, seminaries, colleges of their own, under the regulation of their own sect? why do they not send their children to schools and colleges under the exclusive control of the Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Universalists, or Mormons?
"Free presses." Whether the church likes or dislikes them, it is certain the Methodists are opposed to them. The Methodists, as a sect, have their own Book Concern, and superintend their own publications. It is understood that the members of the sect are to restrict their purchases of books to the works issued by their own Book Concern, and that they are not to purchase even books approved by the sect if issued by other publishers; at least this was the case some time since. As to journalism, the Methodists allow it no freedom; all the journals of the denomination are under the control of the denomination. The Methodist Quarterly Review belongs to the Book Concern, and the editor is designated by the authority of the sect, and is simply its agent. He has nothing of the freedom we have as the editor of a Catholic Review. The only restraint we are under is the restraint of conscience itself; but he must conform to the will of his employers or be dismissed. As to the press itself, there is a question whether the censorship shall be exercised before or after publication, not yet settled; but there is none as to the propriety of the censorship itself. Great Britain, the United States, France, Spain, Belgium, Sardinia, and one or two German States, recognize the liberty of the press, but punish or profess to punish the misuse of its liberty. Other states continue to exercise a previous censorship; which is the better system I am not called upon to decide.
The reviewer is terribly scandalized at a recent publication of the patriarch of Venice.
"If any one supposes that Rome is more tolerant of the press now than formerly, let him read the ‘Circular of Pietro Amerilo Matti, by the mercy of God, Patriarch of Venice, to his beloved sons, the booksellers, publishers, and true believers, residing in the city and diocese.’ Issued so recently as December 31, 1855. This fulmination follows directly in the wake of the Concordat just granted to the pope by the ‘most pious’ emperor of Austria, and is the first signal gun to warn all impracticable sons of the church, as well as heretics, of what they are now to expect. We extract a couple of paragraphs.
" ‘ No one, be he priest or layman, will be allowed, without previously obtaining permission from our ecclesiastical "censure," to publish either as author, printer, or vender, and work either directly or indirectly touching on religion or morality, or specially treating of the Liturgy, or of any other subject. It is also forbidden to introduce any book whatever from other countries, without having applied for and obtained the approbation of the ecclesiastical "Censure Office," excepting in such cases where the book has been marked as being among the works which are permitted.
" ‘ Should any person dare publicly or privately to sell books, prints, or paintings, which are prohibited by the Church, or could be prejudicial to religion or morality, be it known unto him, that we will not only suppress such illicit sales ourselves, but will also call in the arm of the civil power, which the monarch has placed at the disposal of the Church, to our assistance.’
"What this arm of the ‘civil power’ means, the unhappy victims of priestly despotism in Austria understand full well.
"It is not the sudden overthrow among us of the rights and immunities of Protestant liberty, that we fear; open and direct assault would defeat its own aim. Rome understands too well the laws of human nature. She saps and mines by slow approaches. What cannot be accomplished in a year may yield perhaps to a generation or a century. The ages are hers. Like the painter Zeuxis, she works ‘for eternity.’" -pp. 36, 37.
The words "of any other subject," understood in the universal sense, and as indicating the extent of the ecclesiastical prohibition, could not have been in the original, for they transcend the canons of the church, and imply a power the canons do not confer on the patriarch. The rest of the prohibitory sentence is no more than is claimed by every Evangelical sect. The canons of the church prohibit, indeed, the publication of works touching faith, discipline, or worship, by a layman or simple priest, without the permission of the proper authority; but these canons are simply penal laws. I can publish what I please at my own risk. If what I publish contains nothing incompatible with faith, morals, discipline, or worship, I incur no censure; if I publish something against one or another of these I must submit to the penalty of having my publication placed on the Index and being excommunicated if I refuse to correct or retract the erroneous matter. The same rule obtains substantially amongst the so-called Evangelical sects. The Methodists would excommunicate from their communion the layman or "elder" who should publish any thing against the Methodist Book of Discipline and refuse to retract it. The Presbyterians would excommunicate the minister or layman who should do the same with regard to their Confession of Faith. The previous censorship is chiefly a protection to the author, for it enables him to throw the responsibility, in great measure, from himself onto his censors. Thus for years, for my own protection, I submitted all my theological articles to the revision of authority before their publication; I do not do it now, because I choose to bear the responsibility myself alone.
The patriarch of Venice, in his ecclesiastical capacity, could not prohibit the introduction of foreign books; all he could do was to forbid Catholics within his jurisdiction to read them. The introduction or non-introduction is a matter that falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of the civil power. What that power prohibits or does not prohibit in Venice or any other Catholic state, is nothing to me; for, as a Catholic, I am not bound to defend the legislation or administration of Catholic any more than of Protestant states. The principle involved in the patriarch’s circular is wise and just. The church is bound to look after the faith and morals of her children, and if she allowed her children to buy and sell and read without restraint, bad books, books prejudicial to religion and morals, our Protestants saints would set up a universal clamor against her for her alleged profligacy and disregard of religion and morals. There are classes of books, prints, and paintings, as the reviewer well knows, which our laws forbid to be sold publicly or privately. Would the reviewer think it wrong even for a Methodist bishop to tell his people not to sell them, for he was determined to prosecute every man he found doing it? Protestants, when it concerns what a Protestant may do in the bosom of his sect, exercise as rigid a supervision over the reading of their members as the church does. The reviewer himself would not contend that all sorts of books, including irreligious, immoral, and infidel books, are proper even for Methodists. Would he recommend Methodists to read Tom Paine’s Age of Reason, Volney’s Ruins, Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, Jacques et son Maitre, and La Religieuse of Diderot, Sterne’s Sentimental Journey, or Moore’s Little’s Poems, to say nothing of the vile publications circulated secretly for the very purpose of corrupting the heart and inflaming the senses of our youth? Nay, would he not at least admonish them not to read even Catholic books, and to be on their guard against the seductions of Rome? Then what has he to complain of in the patriarch of Venice?
One almost loses his patience with these Protestant declaimers against the church. They cry out with all their force against the church, accuse her of usurpation, of tyranny, of spiritual despotism, whenever she takes any step for the maintenance of the religion and morality of her children, or seeks to secure the peace and order of the state. Yet they know well enough that without discipline, without wholesome laws, restraining licentiousness and punishing vice and crime, society cannot exist. If the church within her sphere, or a Catholic state within its sphere, attempts any thing of the sort, their love of liberty is outraged, and they call upon the whole Protestant world to come and put down these "Romanists." What is it they want? Of course, to prevent religion and morality from flourishing in Catholic states, to corrupt the morals of Catholics, to ripen the Catholic populations for sedition, rebellion, revolution, to render it impossible for Catholic governments to exercise their ordinary functions as governments, and the render the very existence of society in Catholic states impracticable. This is what English and American Protestantism is aiming at, and if it could only effect it, wouldn’t it have a triumphant argument against the church? The real significance of all these charges against the church is that she pursues her own course without consulting the wishes or the interests of Protestantism, and has not the least disposition in the world to avoid doing her duty in order to give her enemies an advantage over her.
"What this arm of the civil power means, the unhappy victims of priestly despotism in Austria understand full well." Is there any priestly despotism in calling upon the government to prevent the sale of books that strike at the foundation of religion and morals? Is it priestly despotism to call upon the civil power to punish gambling, adultery, theft, robbery, murder? Victims of priestly despotism in Austria! Who are they? Name them. But you cannot. Austria is of all Catholic states precisely the one in which the clergy have had the least power, and even the late concordat does not secure to the church in the Austrian empire the freedom and independence she has in these United States. Civil despotism there has been in Austria, and it has had its victims, but priestly despotism there has not been. The censorship has existed and exists still in Austria; yet its practical effect has been not to prevent the circulation of Protestant, infidel, or immoral publications, but the publication of Catholic works, and to discourage Catholic authors. Anti-Catholic books were connived at; Catholic books were prohibited, lest they should disturb the Protestant minority. Wherever the state ha