Page images
PDF
EPUB

1847.] Letter from the bishop of Rochelle.

545 lows of error, though now just nearing the haven of truth,' (which, in your opinion, is the Catholic church,) and who, most reverend Sir, you say you greatly wish were a Catholic, and whom you seem to revere and love; for in this matter and in your opinion of me, and your wishes and desires respecting my mind and will, you greatly err. I, indeed, with you, acknowledge and revere both one God and one faith, the truly Christian faith; and one church, the common society of all upright, pious and good Christians; and also one head of this church, Christ, the Saviour of all Christians and the Fountain of all our salvation. But with me it never was, nor is, nor will be, that Roman or Catholic faith which they call the only true faith; never that Roman or Catholic church, which they say is the only saving church; never that Romish priest whom they call the true head of the church.

“But if, to use your own words, you would know my wishes and desires respecting you, I will, reverend Sir, as you have done to me, tell you frankly and fully what I think. With a pious and candid mind I esteem and honor you for your sincerity and piety, for your high and amply attested merits in the cause of the Rom. ish church, and for your zeal in ecclesiastical matters and in your faith ; and yet, as I do not wish you a Lutheran, so neither may you wish me a Catholic. May you rather beseech Almighty God, of his grace and clemency, to lead not only me, but all men, to the true faith, the true and saving church, and the head of our church, Jesus Christ. Pray also, I beseech you, that, not Greg, ory VII, but Christ himself, our Saviour, may meet me when I enter heaven. And certainly, most venerable Sir, do I pray in. stantly for you, that the gates to the seats of the blessed may at length be opened to you by the true Head and King of the church, the Saviour of all Christians.

“Farewell, then, and receive this epistle from me as the sincere witness and interpreter of my cordial esteem and high regard

for yon.

Farewell, your most obedient,
JOHN VOIGT, Prof. of Hist. in the University

of Königsberg. Königsberg (in Eastern Prussia), June 23, 1839.”

Here, as Prof. Voigt supposed, the matter was ended. But the bishop seemed to think it expedient again to address him, partly by way of apology for the bold advances he had made.

Prof. Voigt, as appears from the date of his letter, had now VOL. IV. No. 15.

47

been transferred to his present office in the University at Kö. nigsberg

The following is the last letter of the bishop to him.

" Rochelle, Aug. 8, 1839. “ Most learned Professor!

“ Your long desired letter at length reached Rochelle, while, like a father among his children, I was presiding over the annual assembly of the clergy of my diocese. For it is the custom in France for the parochial clergy, once a year, to devote themselves entirely to spiritual exercises, for eight days, in order that, after shaking off the dust of the world, with which even pious hearts are sometimes defiled, they may return the more alert, prompt, unshackled, to their sacred duties.

“ With eager hands I received the epistle, the organ of your heart, read with attentive eyes, and as an anxious friend meditated with all emotion. I pondered the words; I sought in your sentences that holy and immaculate religion which alone and everywhere is dear to me; joyful I followed you rejoicing, and sad I followed you sad, being mindful of Paul's direction, to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and weep with those that weep.'

"I neither deny nor dissent, most excellent Sir; as I ought, I do sincerely esteem and honor you, though not a Catholic. For even if the treasures of your wisdom and learning did not wonderfully commend yon, (and in that respect, with what regard and emotion should I embrace you !), who would dare pronounce any one an exile from the bonds of that charity which the Saviour commands to know no bounds? I agree with you in the sentiment, that men of magnanimity, genius, and probity, are to be greatly admired for these endowments.

“ But nothing more can be required. For we are not to honor the daemon of Socrates, the luxury of Caesar, the robberies and adulteries of Mohammed. Of the rest I say nothing. I also ad. mit that true wisdom, wherever found, comes from the Most High, and is an exhalation of God's virtue, a real emanation of the splendor of the Almighty, and the brightness of the eternal light, however difficult it may seem to me to decide where this true wisdom is found, especially in those out of the visible body of the church.

“ But how the love of this wisdom can be called the Holy Spirit himself (I speak frankly), I can by no means see. Nor

1847.)

Second Letter of the bishop of Rochelle.

547

do I perceive how the encomium of this wisdom, whatever it be, can be called a revelation.1

“I now come to the points in my letter which gave pain to your excellent heart. Be assured then, honored Sir, that this was contrary to my intention. For why should I wound one who has not injured me, when Christ forbids me to hate, nay, commands me to love, even my enemy? Are you not my neighbor and brother? I therefore receive and love you, my neighbor and brother, even as myself. Indeed, I peculiarly embrace you, as no ordinary brother, but as one learned and filled with the precious treasures of science. And what wonder, then, if I should wish your soul and mine, which are already connected by so many similar sentiments, bound together by the same religious bonds ? Truly did I most ardently wish you a Catholic, and an avowed one, when I viewed you as just on the threshhold of the Catholic church. Yet I erred, you say. But you will please to pardon this error, as not malicious, nor insidious, nor feigned. In disclosing to you my mind and my desires, I considered myself as joining in Christ's prayer to the Father, that all night become one and be joined together in unity. For what can the one God desire, if not unity? For, to use the words of the apostle: Christ

, gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the edification of the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the faith, that we now be no more as children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, by craftiness, to the circumventions of error; but that, doing the truth, we may grow in him who is the head, even Christ.

A great impiety I grant it would be, to deny Christ to be the invisible head of the church; for all true Christians of all ages have so received and acknowledged him. For otherwise, the words of the Spouse of the church would not be true: I am a king- I am the vine, and ye are the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, no more can ye except ye abide in me. Without me ye can do nothing. I will not leave you orphans.Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world.

" But the church is a kingdom, and a visible kingdom; and a visible kingdom requires a visible prince, just as a family a father, although we have a father in heaven from whom all paternity is derived.

' In these two points, the bishop strangely mistakes or else perverts the bold but well guarded figures of speech which our author saw fit to employ, as the reader will perceive by recurring to Prof. Voigt's letter.—Tr.

“ You reject the Roman pontiff as head of the church. I confess, I expected no such thing; especially as I saw you so ready, shall I say so pious, a defender of the pontiff as assailed for many ages by the rage of a thousand calumniating foes.

“ Melanchthon, Grotius, Leibnitz, acknowledged the beautiful monarchy in the church; and thence greatly lamented that the Roman pontiff was rejected by the Reformers, and saw and hoped for the remedy to the calamities of Christians, from that corner stone on which Christ built his church, that was forever to vanquish the gates of hell. With those learned professors I also associated you, a learned professor, rejoicing thus to magnify both you and my high respect for you. Pardon at least my intention, however grievous to you may have been the expression of my desires. Doubtless I should have been silent, had I foreseen the pain it would give.

“ With many errors and even pernicious heresies, have the reformed reproached the reformed. These cannot have escaped the notice of so learned a man as yourself. I by no means doubted your rejection of these errors, these heresies, though sailing amid their billows. To me the language of your narrative savor. ed of neither an errorist nor a heretic. Do you expect me to change my opinion ? 'But the Romish faith,' you say, 'neither has been, nor is, nor will be to me the only true faith. Why then should I now discuss and dispute ? It is decided. According to you, the Catholic church has usurped the exclusive possession of truth, which other communities, teaching contrary doctrines, can also claim for themselves. For her intolerable pride, therefore, the church is to be rejected; for how can she be tolerated, if she is a proud and unrighteous usurper? Now, too, there exists no deposit of the faith, which deposit the apostle commanded to be kept; but where will the deposit stand when there shall be no depositary? For who will dare to attribute the depositary to himself, if all, though teaching contraries, may rejoice in an equal right? Montanus says, I enjoy the deposit; and the same thing is said successively by Manes, Arius, Nestorius, Eutiches, Pelagius, and so many myriads of other renovators. Good God, what a deposit of the faith! if there is no society especially designated by Christ exclusively for its custody! What a Christianity! What a church! how squalid! how monstrous !!

Should some reflecting but illiterate Protestant be disposed here to suspect, 1847.]

Roman Catholic Views.

549

[ocr errors]

" Pardon me, most excellent sir ; for from my inmost heart I cleave to the faith commended by Christ, the faith, I say, which was strengthened and sustained by the Saviour's prayers. Simon, Simon, saith he, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sist you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. Always have I believed, that the faith of the prince of the apostles was confirmed and fortified by these words; and not merely the faith of Peter, the first pilot of the church (otherwise he gave nothing more to him than to the rest of the apostles), but also the faith of all Peter's successors, who were to rule the church which was at no time to be conquered by the gates of hell, the church, I say, the pillar and ground of the truth. Hence the Roman Leo said, The solidity of this faith which was commended in the prince of the apostles, is perpetual; and as what Peter believed in Christ remains, so what Christ instituted in Peter, remains. Power lives in the faith of Peter, and Christ's authority excels. You will say, perhaps, that Peter is dead. But Chryologus answers, Peter always lives in his see, being repre. sented by his successors, and ever stands before those who seek the truth. Relying on this belief, Irenaeus the disciple of Polycarp intimated, that all heretics were confounded by the Romish see and succession; Augustine boldly declared, that a cause was decided as soon as Rome had spoken; and Jerome was allied to the chair of Peter, following no other but the Roman pontiff.

Never, you add, is the Romish or Catholic church the only saving church. But it was only to the pastors constituted according to the hierarchy established by himself, that Christ said, The Holy Spirit shall teach you all truth, and suggest to you all things

that the sound is in the inverse ratio to the sense, he may be assured that the above is no uncommon specimen of papal logic on such themes. Witness also what follows. It is the best that can be done in such a cause.—TR.

So the bishop has always believed. Peter was distinguished from the other apostles only by Christ's thus praying that his faith might not fail. And this prayer was to be equally answered in all his successors on the papal throne, making them the effective guardians of the sacred deposit and the sure guides of the church. Even a Borgia, acknowledged by Catholics themselves to have been one of the wickedest of men, and utterly destitute of Christian faith, was to have his faith so strengthened that it would never fail him. And on this hangs all the supremacy of the Romish church.

So our bishop believes. And on his belief of such a point, and on the very doubtful belief of certain early writers whom he proceeds to cite respecting the supremacy of Rome, he seems still to hope that such men as Prof. Voigt may be induced to suspend their faith.-Tr.

« PreviousContinue »