Page images
PDF
EPUB

Memoirs, mass was regularly celebrated at Grandval, the chateau of the Baron D'Holbach. Infidelity may have glided down in one case by more easy steps—in the other it was driven, for driven it was, to a more violent leap. In one word, was it a Protestant nation which solemnly, publicly, deliberately abrogated Christianity; which dethroned, as far as it could, God and his Christ, from the sovereignty of the universe ?

Of all historical questions the gravest is, how far the infidelity, or at least the religious indifference, which was almost universally dominant throughout the highest and higher orders of Christian Europe during the last century, Roman Catholic as well as Protestant, is to be ascribed to the onward movement, caused not by the Reformation (for we hold Luther and Calvin to have been but instruments, the real Reformers were Faust and Gutenberg), or rather to the obstinate, and at first successful determination to maintain Mediæval Christianity with all its dogmas, usages, and sacerdotal power, stereotyped (as we have somewhere recently read) in the decrees of Trent and the creed of Pope Pius. But more of this before we close.

V. On the fifth test, Logical Sequence, we shall be extremely brief. Mr. Newman has adduced under other heads most of the illustrations which he brings forward under this. Of all guides to practical, or even speculative truth, none must be watched with greater jealousy than "logical sequence.' The world is a harmony of conflicting laws, life a balance of contending powers, the mind the concord of opposing faculties ; religion itself a reconcilement of antagonistic truths. No principle followed out to its extreme conclusions, without regard to others, but will end in danger or abuse. Even our noblest dispositions must be mutually checked, and tempered, and modified, and brought into unison. Government becomes by rigid logical sequence despotism. The tyrant's irrefragable sorites, from the sanctity which hedges in a king,' leads him to cut off the heads of all, by whom by the remotest possibility that sanctity may be violated.

So grant the premises of liberty, and stop short if you can (without introducing any extraneous consideration) of anarchy. The Jacobin sorites led as straight to the guillotine. Give Bellarmine his first truths, and admit no others, he is irrefragable ; but do the same to Barclay the Quaker, and he is equally so. Build up a monarchy, and limit it by no counterbalance, and where ends its

power. Grant to Milton two words in St. Peter's epistle, and let him sternly advance, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, he stands a solitary worshipper in communion with no living Christian. Follow out the Polytheism of Mediæval Christianity, and you end in Pantheism. Follow out Hegelism, and, the other way round, you land on the same shore.

VI. We have arrived at the sixth test; the very title of which might appal one less infatuated by a preconceived and predetermined system. It is Preservative Additions. Additions, no longer developments of admitted truths, or of traditions as declaring themselves of apostolic descent, and as claiming coordinate authority with apostolic Scripture; but avowed, ostentatious additions--additions framed with the daring purpose of protecting God's truth, but demanding at the same time the same submissive homage with that truth!

No doctrine of his new creed seems to have seized on the imagination of Mr. Newman so strongly as the worship of the Virgin Mary. On this subject his cool and logical language kindles into lyrical rapture. He is no longer the subtle schoolman; he is the fervent hymnologist. Saint Teresa and Thomas Aquinas are met together.

Whether from the natural conviction that this is the tenet of Mediævalism, which it will be most difficult to force back into the creed of England; which our biblical religious faith will reject with the most obstinate aversion ; which our unpoetic and unæsthetic (may we venture the word ?) spirituality will still brand by the unsubmissive name of Mariolatry; or, from the complete possession which it seems to have obtained of his own mind, Mr. Newman urges this doctrine even with more than his wonted subtlety, labours at it with unwearied zeal, and recurs to it again and again. It is the favourite illustration of three of his tests of legitimate development; it was foreshown by the prophetic glance of early anticipation;' it is drawn out by the iron chain of logical sequence;' it is the grand preservative addition' which guards the precious treasure of the Lord's divinity. We have reserved the subject for our respectful examination.

The early anticipations' of that worship are singularly few and indistinct. Little is told us in Scripture concerning the Blessed Virgin' so commenced Mr. Newman's sermon at Oxford in 1843, in which he first announced his theory of developments. As is well known, 'they (the special prerogatives of St. Mary, the Virgo Virginum) were not fully recognized in the Catholic ritual till a late date; but they were not a new theory to the Church, or strange to her earlier teachers. We listened in reverential anxiety for these prophetic voices. According to this theory it was the deep predestined design of Infinite Wisdom to raise the Virgin Mary to an object of divine worship; the design was her DEIFICATION-(it is Mr. Newman's word, and runs in large distinct capitals along several pageswhether to warn or to startle the English mind we presume not to say); — and yet of the four Evangelists but one, St. Luke, is inspired by the Holy Ghost, or urged by his own prescient sense of her divinity, to record the brief and simple words of the angelic salutation, Hail, highly favoured !

-xaîpe, Kexapıtwuévn.-Let us suppose that word expressive of the utmost fulness of divine grace,- The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women '-ευλογημένη συ εν γυναιξίν. What Christian heart will think that it can adequately conceive the blessedness of her who was the mother of Jesus, the mother of the Son of God—her blessedness among, her blessedness high above, all women? Who will deny himself the fond belief, that beauty, virginal beauty and maternal beauty, worked outward from the inward sanctity into the lineaments and expression of that countenance ?—who will refuse to gaze on the Madonnas of Raffaelle, and not surrender himself in unreasoning wonder to their truth as to their surpassing loveli

A A

Still, of more than that blessedness, or even of that blessedness, not one further word is betrayed by any one of the Evangelists. On the contrary, there is a careful seclusion, as it were, of the Virgin Mother in her humble, in (if we may so say) her human sphere. So far from having any active part in the redemption, she seems as much lost in wonder as the rest at the gradual expansion of the Son of Man into the manifest Son of God. The wonderful things which she had seen, and had kept and pondered in her heart, expound not even to herself the marvellous mystery. Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business,' seems to her, as to others, incomprehensible. How exquisite and how true (we write with reference to the mythic theory of the New Testament), the blending of maternal tenderness and reverential awe in all the intercourse of the mother and the Divine Son; and how completely, in his own language and in his acts, does He seem to stand forth alone and unapproachable, while she is but one, and not the most prominent, of the listening and faithful disciples ! But we must not dwell on this. After the Lord's death, the Acts of some of his Apostles are recorded. Their Letters, which at least dwell on all the more important parts of Christian doctrine, are before us. Of the later life of the Virgin not one word; and so deeply latent in their hearts is this, which yet is to become a chief-we had almost said the chief — truth of Christian doctrine, that not one word, one incidental expression, drops from them. At length, in the obscure and mystic Apocalypse is discovered, or supposed to be discovered, the first “early anticipation. By a fanciful system of interpretation-wild, we venture to say, as the wildest of Protestant applications of that dark book--the Virgin Mary is found in the woman, in the 12th chapter, with whom the dragon was wroth, and against whose head he made war. This is moulded up with the prediction in the beginning of the book of Genesis. All the analogy of prophetic language would certainly lead us to suppose this woman to typify the Church ; but we enter not on the dream-land of Apocalyptic interpreta

ness?

tion. This application however, we believe, was never thought of (we write with diffidence on this point) before the full establishment of the worship of the Virgin after the Nestorian controversy in the sixth century. Once suggested, it was too acceptable to the general ear not at once to become the popular belief; and found its expression in the beautiful verses of Petrarch :

Vergine Bella, che di Sol vestita,
Coronata di stelle, al Sommo Sole

Piacesti si, ch' in te suo lume n'ascose. Poetry and art—and with some poetry and art are the true theology-seized the captivating tradition; it was embodied in the symbolism of mediæval religion, and from such minds can sober reason hope to exorcise such powerful possessing spirits ?

Here, however, proceeds Mr. Newman, we are not so much concerned to interpret Scripture as to examine the Fathers. The early anticipations' of the Fathers are certain rhetorical figures of speech in which the obedience of the Virgin is contrasted with the disobedience of Eve. We are compelled to decline the critical examination of these three or four passages, of which those from Justin and Tertullian have no bearing on the worship of the Virgin: the one extraordinary expression of Irenæus, in which the Virgin bears in relation to Eve the title assigned to the Holy Ghost in relation to true Christians, we must persist in describing as a figure of speech, used by a writer of very indifferent style.

Besides these we have two visions, one of Gregory Thaumaturgus, one which even Mr. Newman will not avouch: and here close the anticipations' of the three first centuriesan image in the Apocalypse, violently wrested from its most obvious signification, three metaphorical passages, and two dreams.

In both these instances (the dreams) the Blessed Virgin appears especially in that character of Patroness or Paraclete which St. Irer.æus and other Fathers describe, and which the Mediæval Church exbibits -a loving Mother with Christ.

A A 2

« PreviousContinue »