« VorigeDoorgaan »
F. R. DE LAMENNAIS (1782-1854); F. D. MAURICE (1805-1872) 1
A Likeness and a Contrast.
It may seem strange to bring together these two names under one heading :-Maurice, the liberal Broad Anglican Churchman; Lamennais, the great promoter in France of those ultramontane ideas which issued in the proclamation of the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Pope by the Vatican Council of 1870. And the contrast appears still sharper if we consider the two lives. Maurice, brought up as a Unitarian, almost a Deist, fights his way through doubt to an acceptation of the
1 F. D. MAURICE: The Prayer-Book and the Lord's Prayer. New Edition. (Macmillan, London, 1893.)
Social Morality. New Edition.
F. R. DE LAMENNAIS: Correspondance, par E. D. Forgues. Nouvelle Edition, 1863. (Didier, Paris.)
Lamennais d'après sa Correspondance et les Travaux les plus Récents, par R. P. Mercier. Ñouvelle Edition, 1895. (Lecoffre, Paris.)
doctrines of the Church of England, and to a firm hold of the great truths of Catholic Orthodoxy ; he dies honoured by all, and time does but add to the veneration of his memory. Lamennais, blessed with pious parents, educated in the strictest orthodoxy, held up in boyhood and youth as a model of piety, an eager proselytizer, gathering round him as disciples, or fellow-helpers, the foremost youth in the Church of France, impressing his ideas, as it has been given to few men to do, on the whole Roman Church, on the high road to great distinction, yet turns aside in mid-career. Relinquishing first his hold on Roman Catholicism, then on Christianity, he clings only to a vague Deismif to that-rejects all offers of religious consolation on his death-bed, and is buried, with no religious rites, in a nameless pauper's grave.
If we look at the mental constitution of the two men, to their methods of reasoning, to their style, we find the like contrast. Maurice has all the faults of an English thinker and writer in an exaggerated degree. His logic and reasoning are so tortuous and involved, that we almost smile at the apparently wilful deviousness of their course; yet somehow, by paths which none but himself would ever have selected, which are a perpetual irritation to an impatient reader-somehow, he attains the right conclusion in the end. He is thoroughly practical in this, that he never lets a theory hide from him the practical outcome of his conclusions, but bends and twists his argument to bring it into accordance with his practice. Reasoning thus, his expression and
style are often curiously laboured and involved; but through all this awkwardness the deep spirituality of the man and his intense earnestness glow with only a stronger light and heat; and when he rises, as he does occasionally, to real eloquence, we feel that we are in the presence of no mere rhetorician, but of one who is striving to inculcate upon others the truths which are the life of his life, the very substance of his soul. Lamennais, on the other hand, was one of the finest writers of his day. His style, formed to a great extent on that of Rousseau, is one of those which, with Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo, has added warmth, colour, passion, and intensity to the crystal clearness and classical form of the French prose of the eighteenth century. There are passages of Lamennais, especially in his earlier works, which will live as models of beauty: there are chapters in his later works-for instance, in the Paroles d'un Croyant-which, though prose, are excelled in beauty of imagery and of rhythm only by the masterpieces of French verse. His logic goes straight to its point, regardless of obstacles, admitting no qualifications, reckless of consequences, sweeping all before it; until at length the impediments which the writer would not see accumulate like an impassable barrier before him, and he dashes his system to pieces against them. Then, with the remains of this broken system he constructs another, which again fails him. The available remnants get fewer and fewer; he has nothing wherewith to build anew; his beliefs become almost wholly negative; he broods in
silence; he dies unblest. So he who was the hope of his Church, for a moment the foremost voice of Christianity, remains an enigma to his friends, an object of scorn to his adversaries. With all this vehemence and passion, with all the terrible sacrifices which he makes to his logic, we feel that if he had by chance taken up other premisses, he would have argued with equal power and vehemence to an opposite result. With Maurice, his beliefs are the man himself, which could not be different without destroying his spiritual identity.
Where, then, is the likeness between two such opposite characters ?
Maurice and Lamennais are alike in this, that neither could regard Christianity as a thing of merely individual life. To save one's own soul, apart from all others, glorying in the fewness of the elect, and more thankful for salvation on that account, both saw that this might be the highest selfishness, the very opposite of the spirit of true Christianity. Both looked at Christianity from the social and political side, not merely from its profit or importance to the isolated individual. To Maurice, preaching "the Kingdom of God" was not preaching Christ as Head or King of the Church in its separate aspect; but Christ as King of all, of the whole nation, of the State as much as of the Church, of civil as well as of ecclesiastical, of social as well as of individual, of commercial and of industrial as well as of clerical or of religious life. Lamennais discovered, as he thought, a new and irrefragable proof of the truth of Christianity from the universal consent of all peoples. All that had
been good in other systems of religion, in morality, or in philosophy, had been derived from Christianity, or was Christianity latent and in disguise; either a degradation of a primitive revelation, or a forecast of Christianity not yet fully revealed or perfected. And this conception of Christianity as really universal, belonging to all peoples, to the conscience of humanity, made it democratic, popular, in the widest and most absolute signification. And the cause of its comparative failure in modern society lay in the violation of this, its central idea; in the subserviency of Christianity to the State or ruling powers, to kings, parliaments, and material hierarchies. He clung to the Romanist ideal of the Church, a world-wide body (he said a democratic body) under one supreme infallible head. All lesser tyrannies were to be done away with. The Pope was to make his appeal to the people, to place himself at their head, and be the sole worthy ruler of the world: "Everything by the Pope, and for the people." Half of this was accepted, half rejected by the Papacy; the time was not yet ripe. But the rejection of one-half of the formula was fatal to Lamennais. In his inexorable logic the two parts were inseparably bound up together and co-existent. Neither could exist without the other: they could not act apart. The Christ Himself had come, and died for the people; that was the reason of His mission; and the Pope was Christ's Vicar upon earth, for humanity could not be left without a guide. Such views were condemned by Gregory XVI.; and Lacordaire, Montalembert, Rohrbacher,