Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

preventing persons assuming particular titles, nothing could be more absurd and puerile than to keep up such a distinction." A copy of the Papal Brief was shewn, two years ago, to Lord Minto, when on his mysterious Italian tour. The whole scheme was long ago known to the Government, who neither protested nor forbade. And as to the substitution of Bishop for Vicars Apostolic, the change is one likely to insure an increase of English feeling in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. A Vicar Apostolic is the immediate delegate of the Italian Priest whose domination is so dreaded by Protestant zealots, owing immediate obedience to him, and removable at his pleasure. The Bishops are to a great extent independent of the Pope,-once appointed, cannot be displaced, and, Englishmen by birth, are likely to remain so in feelings, habits and allegiance. And, as for the territorial designations, there were Vicars Apostolic of York, Lancaster and London: two of them, therefore, competitors with English Bishops in their own sees.

At the same time it cannot be denied that the present controversy is not only one of law and toleration, but of feeling. We must admit that there is more in it than at first meets the eye. There are reasons why the Papal movement should have been made just at this moment. Our readers do not need to be reminded of the prevalence in the Establishment of opinions called Tractarian, nor to be instructed as to their nature. Their tendency has been sufficiently exemplified by the practice and ceremonies lately introduced into the services of the Church, and the numerous conversions made to Catholicism. Nevertheless, a bold move on the part of the Pope was necessary to secure certain waverers, who yet halted on the brink of Anglicanism, trying to persuade themselves of the essential identity of the two Churches, and thus cleansing their consciences of the guilt of schism. Rome has therefore spoken, and the English Reformation is now "the schism of the 16th century." Whether or not Pius IX. was misled as to the extent of open or secret Romanism in the country, or expected that at a word the State of England would hasten to be reconciled with the Holy See, we know not. Converts are not multiplied as yet, and even the Tractarian clergy seem disposed to defend the validity of their own orders.

Notwithstanding the noisy invectives against Catholic doctrine and practice, which for many years past have formed a large element in socalled Evangelical preaching, the Church of England, by her adherence to the clumsy fiction of Apostolical Succession, has always been compelled to acknowledge more or less the claims of the Church of Rome. For there is the fountain whence her own orders are derived, and her utmost claim has been to a co-ordinate station in the great Christian community. A Roman Catholic priest needs no re-ordination to exercise ecclesiastical functions in England: the Archbishop of Canterbury himself is a layman in the eyes of the Pope. And hence may be explained the position taken up in the controversy by the Bishop of Oxford and his Tractarian followers. The Bishop of Rome has ignored them. They put forth equal claims with himself. Though dishonestly eating the bread of Protestantism, they had chosen to forget Protestant principles. They had set up the small infallibility of Oxford against the great infallibility of Rome. And lo! to their infinite disgust, Rome declines to fraternize, and claims their allegiance as peremptorily as

that of the lowest Evangelical-confounds them with Calvinist and Socinian in the one sweeping charge of schism.

The Bishop of Exeter, another Prelate who has been long encouraging Romish principles and practices in the Church, yet whose zeal is now startled into protest, chooses, with Rev. G. A. Denison and Archdeacon Wilberforce, the present opportunity for taking up a middle position between Canterbury and Rome-in short, for becoming a Dissenter. He denies equally the Supremacy of the Queen and the Pope. He acknowledges, like every Dissenter, Christ to be the sole Head of his Church. On these grounds he refuses to sign the protest transmitted to her Majesty by the Episcopal Bench, and forwards a private memorial of his own. Nevertheless, as that memorial is a denial of Royal privilege and an unwarrantable assertion of private right, Sir George Grey decided, properly enough, that the Queen could not receive it. So then, as far as the Bishop of Exeter and his party are concerned, the quarrel is reduced simply to a squabble between rival hierarchies. If to deny the Royal Supremacy be an offence against the law, they offend equally. And the Dissenter, who acknowledges neither civil nor hierarchical supremacy in matters of conscience, may leave them, with a smile, to settle it as they please. The only Protestant feeling which we are inclined to respect is that which has been displayed by the Evangelical Church and the orthodox Dissenters. We believe that they are igno

rant of the true nature of the position for which they contend; that in many cases they have fought with the unholiest weapons of controversy; that they have been struck with a most unreasonable panic; but, nevertheless, that the struggle is, on their side, for the vital principles of religion which they dearly prize, less than for an insult to a hierarchy or the pretensions of a Church.

There is, however, a question which may be very advantageously put to those persons who feel and complain of the insult,-What practical end do you propose to yourselves in this agitation? It is, in fact, a remarkable characteristic of the resolutions, addresses and protests which the present occasion has called forth, that they none of them even hint at the course which their proposers wish to be adopted. In some of the answers which her Majesty is about to give to deputations from the Universities and other public bodies, the Government may afford some indication of its intention; but such intention will have the merit of being perfectly spontaneous. The Premier has committed himself by his unfortunate letter; had he held his peace, he might have thrown the responsibility of proposing any legislative measure on her Majesty's opposition. And now what is to be done? An insult offered by any foreign power to the Queen of England, if not explained away by the artifices of diplomacy, is usually revenged by fleets and armies. We do not choose to accredit an ambassador to the Papal Court, and the idea of declaring war against the Pope would be too absurd for all but Lord Winchelsea. But a law may be passed to prohibit the assumption of these offensive titles. And what then? No law can touch the spiritual power of the Pope or his Cardinal in England. The indictment against it can be brought only in foro conscientiæ. The law may not recognize any such Prelate as the Bishop of Birmingham; may threaten Dr. Ullathorne with pains and penalties if he retain the title; but cannot take away from him one tittle of influence over the Catholics in the

diocese assigned him by the Pope. The rival diocesan, the Bishop of Worcester, is in a very different position. He has a large income, a splendid residence, extensive patronage, and a seat in the House of Lords. A Dissenting majority in Parliament might have a very practical effect on these episcopal rights and privileges; but under any reforming or persecuting enactments, the rival Bishops would continue to claim undivided spiritual jurisdiction over the diocese, and Mr. Kentish and Mr. Dawson equally to ignore the claim. In brief, if an offence has been committed against the law, let the alleged offenders be brought into the ordinary courts, though not before the magistrate who has already taken it upon him to prejudge the question: if the result be an acquittal, let us not tarnish Catholic Emancipation by an ex-post-facto measure of persecution.

The point now in dispute is, however, far from being a new one. It is as old as Stephen Langton even in England; in Germany it dates back to Gregory VII. and Henry VI. Even Catholic princes have always claimed the right of investing the Bishops of their kingdoms with at least their temporalities. Disputes with Rome have been hot and long, but have always ended in a Concordat. And this is, in fact, the only practical solution of the question. It would be an undoubted hardship if the Roman Catholic Church in England were to be prohibited a government after their own fashion. We have already shewn that the essence of such government-namely, the spiritual power of their ecclesiastical dignitaries—cannot be touched by legal enactment; yet, at the same time, the existence of a body of Prelates, possessing no little power, direct and indirect, in the country, yet owning some species of allegiance and looking for promotion to a foreign potent, must in many cases be an anomaly most inconvenient to the Legislature. Nor is an instance to point the moral wanting. It seems probable that the Pope and his Synod of Thurles will, for a time at least, get the better of the Queen and her Irish Colleges. The remedy is not difficult to be found, though at the same time unpalatable enough to Protestant zealots. Let the English Government, like that of Prussia, look upon the Popedom and Roman Catholicism as undoubted facts, necessary to be taken into account in legislation; and let them, by the establishment of diplomatic relations with Rome, secure the appointment of Prelates, Englishmen in birth, education and feeling.

Whatever, then, may be the legislative result of the present agitation, the Catholic hierarchy is, in our view, a thing that no law can reach. A territorial hierarchy can never exist-a pretended territorial hierarchy may be forbidden. But in conceding the right of Catholics as such to inhabit the same island, the Protestant majority has of necessity given them also the right of self-government in their own manner. But, nevertheless, a deeper question than any yet agitated underlies this whole strife, one which all Protestant governments have already been called upon to answer practically, though perhaps unconsciously,-Can Catholics be good citizens of a Protestant state? Thousands would at the present moment unhesitatingly answer in the negative. Like the Dissenters, they deny the Royal Supremacy; unlike the Dissenters, they acknowledge Supremacy of a foreign Prince. Allegiance is indivisible; for if the attempt be made, the result is but a perpetual difficulty to distinguish between the things of Cæsar and of God. And whenever

the contest arises, the priest, acting upon both the conscience and the interest of the votary, is sure to win the victory, be his ends ever so unholy or so unjust. And the real question is not one of the new hierarchy, nor of this year at all, but of the whole religious policy of our country, Is it safé, on grounds purely political, to tolerate Catholicism? The true answer to this question is, that English law takes no cognizance of religious principles, but only of overt acts.

We will not argue over again a point which has been again and again enforced in these pages by those who have themselves fought the hard battle of Toleration. We merely repeat that, to secure the perfect enjoyment of religious liberty and equality to every individual, the State ought to be purely a civil corporation, which ignores altogether the faith and opinions of the persons whom it governs and represents. There are, undoubtedly, religious principles which logically lead to overt acts detrimental to the well-being of the State. Such was the Anabaptism of John of Leyden. Yet the State has no right to argue from the principles to the acts, and so prevent the latter by punishing the former. It would indeed be hard to punish men for the logical consequences even of their philosophical faith, and sometimes not a little difficult to find out what those consequences were. A Church Establishment is, logically considered, inconsistent with toleration; but the anomaly is better than the consistency, and may be the chaos out of which a higher order will spring.

If the theory of the Roman Catholic Church were fully exemplified in its practice, we would willingly admit that Roman Catholics would be dangerous citizens. But the law takes cognizance only of the practice; and no religious body, least of all the Church of England, has a right to visit the sins of ultra-montane clergy upon the heads of English Catholic laymen. We are willing to record our individual opinion that Roman Catholicism is a grossly corrupt form of Christianity; that its doctrines are untrue, its ceremonies superstitious, its ethics immoral, its polity opposed to the best interests of humanity. We are not disposed to forget the Spanish Inquisition or the massacre of St. BarthoÎomew. We believe that the Church of Rome is, by theory and practice, a persecuting Church; that, once supreme in England, she would soon forget her present cry of religious liberty. But at the same time we believe that, in the English Catholic layman, the Englishman predominates over the Catholic; that if either allegiance must be given up, he will forsake his Priest sooner than his Queen; that he has been too long emancipated from the despotism of the State to submit himself to absolutism in the Church. The Duke of Norfolk and Lord Beaumont supply evidence of the fact. They deprecate the tone of the Papal Manifesto, and believe "that ultra-montane opinions are totally incompatible with allegiance to their Sovereign and with the Constitution."

We have said that least of all ought members of the Church of England to insist on identifying the theory of the Catholic Church with the practice of her adherents. For to us, who consider the whole question ab extrâ, the Church of England is as much Papal in her spirit as the Church of Rome. In common with every Church which makes salvation dependent upon belief in certain defined doctrines, she lays claim to undivided supremacy over the consciences of men. She merely enforces her claims in a different manner. By the damnatory

clauses of the Athanasian Creed, she attempts to frighten schismatics into her communion: the Church of Rome adopts the more palpable instrument of earthly pains and penalties to compass the same end. And these anti-Protestant claims are expressed haughtily enough by the majority of her clergy and the laity more immediately under their influence. Yet to how small extent do they affect the privileges, civil and religious, of English Dissenters! How far advanced is the State before the Church, with which it is avowedly one! How different is the feeling expressed towards Dissenters by the laity of the Church either from the principles of their creed or the language of the clergy! And thus, in the present crisis, while feeling no sympathy with the loud-tongued complaints and invectives of a clergy Popish in principle and daily practice, we hail with pleasure the manifestation of Protestant feeling among the laity. For while we believe that they have mistaken the occasion for protest,-that, except in so far as they are combatting the insidious Romanism of their own Church, they are fighting with a shadow,—we gladly acknowledge that to their genuine Protestantism we are indebted for the undisturbed possession of our own religious liberties, and look forward without fear to the worst which Rome and Roman principles can do.

As for the insult, Dissenters can afford to pass it by in silence. They have long been used to the same contemptuous treatment. The returns made to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners pass them over, in the same way as the Church of England has been now passed over by Rome. A village within the sphere of our own knowledge, in which an old Presbyterian chapel has lately been rebuilt at an expense of little short of £10,000, was not long since reported by Church authorities as being altogether destitute of accommodation for public worship. It is in no spirit of unseemly triumph that we express a hope, that the Church of England, now called to endure the arrogance she has long inflicted on others, may learn a lesson of Christian brotherhood from the trial. In the mean time, we have sufficient faith in the genuine spirit of Protestantism not to wish to defend it by the fortifications of legal enactment. The truth of God will not be aided by the unholy weapons of human warfare.

C.

VERSE-WRITING.

Verse-writing, notwithstanding all the talk you hear about it, is in almost all cases a totally idle affair; a man was not sent into the world to write verses -no! If he finds himself called to speak, let him speak, manfully, some "words of truth and soberness;" and, in general, leave the singing and verse-making part of it, till the very last extremity, if some inward or outward call drive him irresistibly thither. Nay, in these times, I observe there is less and less attention paid to things in verse; and serious persons everywhere find themselves disposed to hear what a man has to say the shortest way and the directest,that is to say, disencumbered of rhyme. I for my share am well content with this tendency of the world.-Thomas Carlyle's letter of advice to a verse-writing kinsman.

« VorigeDoorgaan »