« VorigeDoorgaan »
that he seems to have carried this article of delicacy to an excess; and the event proved, to his own conviction, that it was misplaced. The lamb became a tiger in his rejoinder; and Mr. Faber felt the imprudence of stroking him. This is no uncommon progress with Romanists in their general conduct. Up to a certain point nothing can be more bland and forbearing : when that is past, the savage appears. The reply of the Gallican bishop was rather of an anomalous description in its circumstances. The work, in French, and in manuscript, appears to have been put into the hands of his English second, and by him to have been translated into our language, and published. As Mr. Faber had not undertaken the office of champion of English Protestantism against all comers, he might have declined any attention to this effort of voluntarianism. He, however, gave the adventurer a lesson, by which the man,* had he been wise, might have profited.
With this first edition of “The Difficulties," however, we are the less concerned, because in the second, awaiting our criticism, the author has entirely, and with striking advantage, as we think, remoulded the work. The present edition has, certainly, more simplicity, a more convincing effect in the statement of the argument, and a supply of some important deficiencies in the former edition. It is an important peculiarity likewise in this edition, that it embodies a reply to a book in high esteem among English Romanists, and to which Dr. Trevern has been highly indebted in the concoction of the Discussion Amicale—The Faith of Catholics. This book has some curiosities pertaining to it; and we shall have to revert to it before we have done with this article. At present we observe, it was first published by M. Berington, (of rather dubious odour in his own church soon after,) and now in conjunction with Mr. Kirk, of Lichfield. It was allowed to circulate in the Roman community, and do all the good it might, and where the circumstances were not known: but a terrible growl of disapprobation issued from the episcopal den at Wolverhampton, which, with the particular reasons for it, produced, in the year 1830, a new, improved, altered and enlarged editionnothing is said of subtractions—by Mr. Kirk alone. The synchronism is remarkable: this new edition and Mr. Faber's new edition appeared in the same year. We do not know that there was any contrivance in this; nor will we say that alterations were made in the arrangement of the matter in the Popish book, in order to defeat the references in the Protestant one. All we can say is, that if such were the intention, it has succeeded to a very trifling extent; the difficulty of finding the portions referred to being but little increased.
So Mr. Husenbeth designates Mr. Faber.
The preface of Mr. Faber begins by stating the summary convenient principle by which the professors of Romanism preclude the necessity of controversy, on their part, in defence of their faith—their church, which is assumed to be infallible, has, from the beginning, definitely settled, and still settles it. On this plea, the members of Stonyhurst were prohibited from entering upon a discussion respecting the differences between the churches of Rome and England, proposed by Mr. Whittaker. But should we admit the right which is here claimed, -should we admit that the Roman church, having the authority which she claims, has likewise and consequently authority to preclude all disputation on the matter of her faith and morals, and perhaps discipline, still this is an assumption of which we may most rationally demand the proof; and it is absolutely incumbent upon the claimants to give it. If they fail, all the right and every thing with it tumbles to the ground; and if they decline, or even hesitate, this will necessarily and lawfully be construed into a consciousness, that their cause is an untenable one. Let them have their church's authority if they can fairly win it-it is the elephant which supports their system, and there may be a great tortoise under him: but if, proceeding till the patience of every hearer is exhausted, they get no nearer to a real foundation, the world of ecclesiastical Rome, St. Peter's, the Vatican, and all, must fall into the hopeless and fathomless abyss of imaginary space. They may perchance stop at the moon, and there take up their abode.
The basis of Mr. Faber's present work, and of its peculiar construction, is, the assumption of the final settlement of the faith of the Roman church, by, and in, the council of Trent. Indeed, without this assumption, the faith of Rome, or the Italian bark of St. Peter, is still at sea; and it would be difficult (one of our author's giant difficulties) to say, what she does or does not believe, or require to be believed by her subjects. Now the enactments, the most solemn enactments, of that council, as defining the articles of faith on all the fundamental points of theology, are not simply decisions of doctrine, but have professedly (as Mr. Faber instances by various references, p. xiv.) incorporated with them, and inseparably incorporated, an asserted fact, namely, that “all the doctrines, and all the practices which the Tridentine fathers have decided to be true and obligatory, were always the received doctrines of the Church Catholic in EVERY age, without ANY variation, from the very time of Christ and his apostles, who were themselves the first original inculcators of such doctrines and such practices, down even to the time in which they, the Tridentine fathers, lived and flourished.”—P. xii.
This fact they likewise make the foundation of their own specific doctrinal decisions.
The necessary involved fact introduces, at one stroke, the
whole body of historic evidence upon the subject of the controverted points of faith. And, indeed, as Mr. Faber irresistibly argues, the whole force of the works of Berington and Trevern, by appealing to the natural testimony of early Christian writers, recognises and establishes the legitimacy of this species of evidence. Their appeal is to the writers of the first ages; and by that appeal they virtually and decisively acknowledge themselves bound by the result. It should seem scarcely necessary to bring individuals to acquiesce in so rational a course : but really it is quite an acquisition to induce individuals of the Romish character and habits to assent to any thing which is rational. Here, however, they are so bound that they cannot consistently get loose. This point, then, being settled, Mr. Faber had open sea before him; and he has distributed his work into two grand divisions, the most obvious, natural, and fair, that can be imagined. The whole is historic evidence-the first part, negative ; the other, positive. In the first he undertakes to prove, and we will not anticipate whether justly or not, that the evidence which the church of Rome produces for her peculiarities in doctrine, utterly breaks down; in the second he undertakes to bring forward such evidence against those peculiarities as to demolish them from the foundation. We need hardly remark, (and yet in this age of eccentric liberality it is necessary, how important in the Romish controversy is the distinction between the peculiarities of the Roman church, and that which she retains of common Christianity. A feeling of sentimentality is ever at hand, and on the watch to exclaim—What! vilify and calumniate a church which holds all the fundamentals of Christianity in common with yourselves! Be calm: we quarrel not with this, but with what smothers, debases, and poisons it. The greater our value for pure Christianity, the greater our disgust and horror at what disfigures and pollutes it. Iniquity is bad enough in itself, but far worse when it seats itself beside, or in, the throne of righteousness.
Under these two divisions, then, our author introduces, by a most natural, and almost necessary process, all the matter which comes in controversy between the church of Rome and ours. All the peculiar and fundamental doctrines of the former pass in review before him; and he tries them, first, by the Scriptures; and then, by what are called the Fathers, and those limited to the first three centuries. The first three centuries. This is a matter of some importance, and therefore some debate. It is not without a grand interest in the affair that Roman controvertists stickle for two additional centuries—the fourth and the fifth. These are golden ages to them. Out of the first three they can gain nothing; and that, even independently of absolute opposition, is very discouraging and ominous to their cause. But matters improve as time rolls on : foulnesses are contracted in the progress, and they present a front which goes some way, at least, to justify the enormous corruptions which had grown upon the Latin church in her later years, till the time of Luther and the Reformation. But there was a difficulty in setting aside, and even postponing, the evidence of the first ages. Scanty though they might be comparatively, they were the first—the nearest to the fountain. O! but they were scanty : perhaps, for that reason the more valuable, and to be made the most of. They had little relation to the doctrines which modern times hare called into controversy. No bad proof that the doctrines themselves did not exist, or were not known at the time. And so, according to the logic of Cardinal du Perron,* in his attack upon our first James, the primitive witnesses respecting christian doctrine are to be dismissed, in order to make way for the conciliar, more formal and deliberate enactments of the fourth and fifth centuries. Just as if councils were not meagre enough on the subject of doctrine; and just as if by prosperity, and distance of time from the matters in question, the value of their testimony were not proportionally, and still more relatively, deteriorated. However, the consequence with relation to the two kindred, or it might be said identical, writings, with which Mr. Faber contends, is, that both are miserably penurious in their collections from the first three centuries, and prodigal to excess in those from the fourth and fifth. Were it not for the streams derived from these impure fountains, their volumes would almost run dry. But such are the artifices, against which Protestants are to be guarded in their contests with advocates of the Italian see and doctrine.
As to Mr. Faber, we are yet but in limine. And we think it almost as well to leave it so, and to allow the author to speak for himself: indeed no one can do it better than himself. The reader will have anticipated the matter of the work ; for the peculiar doctrines of Rome are well known to all but sciolists and indifferents. Were we to attempt an outline or abridgment of the work, we should do only what is done by the author himself, and in a way which lets the attentive or intelligent reader into the whole rationate of his argument. But here we ought not to omit, that though there is much of the perfection of a well constructed system in the order and connexion of the parts, they are each sufficiently insulated and independent to stand by themselves in their own strength, though a neighbour or distant companion might stagger or fall; and the book may be opened
* See Du Moulin's Nouveauté du Papisme, 1627, pp. 70—72, where the Cardinal's reasoning is examined ; and if the reader wish to understand the religious sincerity and reverence of this gifted apostate, he may find something in Maichelius's Lucubrationes Lambeth. Art. I.
at any page with the assurance of finding the particular argument which presents itself erect and firm in its own strength, and fit for immediate and efficient use. There is another remark, which is Mr. Faber's own, and of great importance, as well as justice; to wit, that though the value of evidence in favour of any doctrine of Rome, could she find it, would increase in proportion to its antiquity, the value of evidence against her increases in proportion to its posteriority. The later any testimony against her peculiarities, the stronger is the presumption or proof, that the specific peculiarity was not apostolic; and so, an opposing or condemning witness, of the fourth or fifth century, and the more so the more onward, is proportionally more convictive of novelty than an earlier one. The reader who is not quite a novice in these matters will, perhaps, think of our honest countryman, Bishop Fisher's account of the origin of purgatory and indulgences.
We can scarcely conceive any thing more satisfactory, more fair and above-board, than the method which our author has pursued throughout the present performance. In the first edition he was seduced (shall we say ?) to follow the example set him by the French bishop, in neglecting to give the originals of the passages cited by him from his different witnesses.
Every writer knows that a vast quantity of substantial labour is saved by this method: but as it may subserve an unfair purpose, where such a purpose exists, it is always unsatisfactory; and while our opponents gain an obvious advantage by the obscurity which it secures, it operates unfavourably in our case, who, as Protestants, need no such assistance, and suffer under the doubt or uncertainty, which it can hardly fail to produce. Imposition and disguise are not indeed necessarily and completely excluded even by such precision : but it is the most promising method which can be adopted for that end. He who gives his originals in their own language at large, and without garbling, certainly does the best in his power to enable his reader to see and judge for himself. But there is no security, where integrity is wanting; and a parade of fidelity and openness may be made while the writer is steadily pursuing a deception. It is sometimes of importance to know in what point or direction a person's interest lies: this is not far from the ruling passion in most,-in all, indeed, of bad principles or of none.
In the first part of this work, as the plan required, the author has stated the argument from historic testimony, (limiting it to the first three centuries,) as advanced by Romanists in favour of their own principal peculiarities in doctrine. And we really believe that Mr. Faber not only intended to represent, but has actually represented, that argument, with all the force which the opponents could either accomplish or desire. Of course, they will not be satisfied to have the fourth and fifth centuries wrested