Page images
PDF
EPUB

ourselves there must always be a strong counterpoise of moderation, good sense, and practical widsom. Imperfect Christians as we are, we do not stand in need of fiery missionaries every two or three years to reclaim us from our heathenism, and to teach us anew the primary elements of our faith. The constant infusion of youth into our clerical body is of itself (independent of sectarian rivalry) enough to keep us alive—of youth which in its generous ardour will be always looking out for some new principles which are to regenerate mankind : who have been Evangelicals ---- are now Puseyites — in ten years may be Arnoldines.

The clergy in general must partake of the character of the people. Without assuming Lord Clarendon's well-known reproach on the professional narrowness of mind and unfitness for the affairs of life to be quite obsolete-admitting the contracting influences of seclusion in country cures (if railroads will allow the deepest dells or the wildest mountain hamlet to be secluded)—the conscientious confinement of their minds to one class of literature—the occupation of their whole thoughts by the severe duties of their calling—the temptation of breaking up into small sets and clerical cliques—still it is impossible that our clergy should not partake of the general intelligence, or that they should keep themselves entirely aloof from the general movement of the human mind.

The great trial of the English clergy—the test of their fitness for the English people—is a distinct perception of their actual position as regards the rest of society. This perception must be realised, notwithstanding every attempt to bewilder them into a false idea of that superiority which they may and ought to possess by skilful appeals to their pride, by artfully disguised suggestions of self-sufficiency, and by perpetual persuasives that, in the most exaggerated notions of their authority, they are magnifying God, and not themselves. The real danger of the recent movement in the Church is the total isolation of the clergy from the sympathies, from the hearts, and from the understandings of the people. The energizers

of the hour are a mere unintelligible enigma to the popular mind.

We know very well all the sounding common-places that will be evoked by what we are about to say—but we cannot afford space to forestall them : it is our simple duty to look steadily into the state of the world around us, and declare the results of our investigation. The party to whom we allude have been straining themselves in a vain effort to resuscitate a dead system of things. The clergy can no longer command—but they may persuade with irresistible force; their persuasion, however, must be purely moral and religious, as contradistinguished from sacerdotal persuasion. Many causes, none indeed which ought to make us despair of their proper and legitimate influence, have altered their position. They no longer stand alone on an intellectual as well as a religious eminence. The awe in which they were invested as wiser as well as holier than the rest of mankind, has passed away; they are not the exclusive, or even in any peculiar degree the preeminent cultivators of letters, of arts, or of philosophy. The mass of the clergy are no doubt, and must henceforward be, inferior in general knowledge to many of the laity in their respective parishes; and if, on the strength of their position, on the sanctity of their ordination, they pretend to assume a superiority which they cannot support; if, where they are not intellectually superior, they do not confine themselves entirely to their religious guidance—nay, if, being conscious of high talents, they do not exercise even that guidance with the modesty which ought always to belong to youth—which (to say truth) is very rarely wanting when the mind is really strong—but which is, in fact, the surest pledge of the real Christian temper and spirit —they will lose their proper power, by straining after that which is unattainable—which neither is nor can again be their prerogative.

The knell of ecclesiastical authority has rung: even in the Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding its large apparent increase in many quarters—and great is still its influence upon the minds of men-its power is a phantom. It is now a great confederacy working together for a common end; not a body wielded at will, and governed and directed in all its movements by a despotic Head.

The Pope holds Rome through the great powers of Europe : if they were to withdraw their support, his own subjects would reduce him, as they often attempted of old but always failed, to a simple bishop; if indeed young Italy would still endure his presence. The kings, who were of old his vassals, are his masters. In Austria the Church is the servant of the state : it has never shaken off the yoke imposed upon it by Joseph II. What may be called the spiritual mandates of the Pope are obeyed, even in Italy, according to the good will of the sovereign princes. He attempted to interdict the scientific meetings in Italy; they have been held in Tuscany, in the Austrian States, and even in Turin—this year they assemble in Naples. Even the puny despot of Modena has invited them. In Spain the work of spoliation, the secularization at least of conventual property, has hardly condescended to notice the remonstrances of the Roman Pontiff. In Germany Roman Catholicism is still strong: it is strong in the old poetical and ästhetic feelings of the people in some parts, among the men of letters, the artists ; it is strong as the badge and distinction of one of the great political divisions, of the Austrian as counterbalancing the Prussian power; it is strong in the contentions of its adversaries, in the three main sections—the religious Protestants, the Rationalists, and the Hegelians. But is the Roman Catholicism of Germany a submissive, obedient faith? One Hermes has been hardly suppressed, partly perhaps because his system was too abstruse and metaphysical even for Germany itself. But how long will it be before there is another and more popular Hermes ? They' (says the writer of a strange book, but .with many things in it not less true because they are strange; at all events, a very able man, and one who knows much of the real state of Germany),—they who now hear the Hegelite lectures and read the O'Connell addresses of Romish literati, would hardly believe that they emanated from the children of that Church which condemned Galileo, and denounced all rebellion against the Lord's anointed. But besides the politic relaxations of discipline on the part of the Romish Church towards those without, her own clergy plainly indicate a tendency to reject, as unscriptural or intolerable, many of her observances. They chiefly insist on the use of the vernacular tongue, the abolition of celibacy, communion in both kinds, the reform of the confessional, and the abridgment of the Papal authority. Although some are actuated by an infidel impatience, others are truly seeking the well-being of the Church ; and although Möhler—whose fair pictures of his mother make one wish that they were true, and that he did not know their falseness-quieted matters for a time by his moral influence and apologetic adroitness, yet the principles at work will not long leave these objects unattained.”? Since this gentleman wrote the affair has assumed a very formidable shape. The movement of the Ronge party has already swept like a torrent from west to east, from north to south. A new Reformation is organized.

Among ourselves we will not dwell on the total abrogation of all real authority in those who hold the place of rulers in our Church. What is the case in the quarter where obedience is the very vital principle of the system? In the words of that remarkable letter to Sir R. Inglis, which we have already more than once cited, The Tractarians, obedient in theory, and loyal, not to their own diocesans, but to their own ideas of what their diocesans should say and do, go a-head of, reprove, and teach the Bishops of the Church, without any commission, without the thought or pretence of apostolic authority so to do.' Here

Moral Phenomena of Germany, by Thomas Carlyle, Esq. “Behold there are two Percies in the field !'-of Germany. This gentleman holds very different principles (principles akin to those of Mr. Henry Drummond) from the original Thomas Carlyle, neither does he write in Carlylese. We wish we could have given more of this his first performance—but his vein is so evidently a rich one that we may safely count on a future (we hope a speedy) opportunity of making our readers better acquainted with him.

and there we have some desperate ostentatious act of submission, endured with the air of a martyr. What can a bishop do by power even over his clergy? What may he not do by gentle influence ?

All this may be very melancholy, and to those who have less faith in the vital powers of Christianity, in whatever form it may adapt itself to the infinite varieties of the human mind, and to every stage of civilization, it may lead to utter despair. But let us rather look back to the causes of this decay of authority with quiet impartiality. Nothing is more easy than to denounce the infidelity of the age to deplore the irrevocable past--with the almost enviable unfairness, though not always with the beautiful feeling and eloquence of the author of the • Mores Catholici,' to recall all that was poetical, tranquil, holy, in what that writer is pleased to call the Ages of Faith, and to be totally silent on the unutterable miseries, and crimes, and cruelties of those fierce times. But trace the growth of ecclesiastical power, and we trace its decay. The one legitimate extreme penalty which belongs to the Church, however that Church may be ruled, is excommunication. Penance in its various forms can, of course, only be enforced on a reluctant member by the dread of that last and capital punishment. No sooner had the Roman emperors been converted to Christianity than excommunication became connected with civil disabilities. It was not merely a religious, but likewise a secular punishment. In the high days of ecclesiastical power it even smote, as it were, the State itself with civil disability. The excommunicated king, according to the loftiest theory, was thereby deposed. Even where the sentence of deposition was either not issued, or was despised by the refractory son of the Church, public opinion inflicted a kind of civil disability. The excommunicated monarch was, even to his subjects, as it were, a leper, and all allegiance which he might still receive or enforce was at best doubtful and precarious. But by the constitution of most kingdoms, by the great common law of Europe, excommunication has entirely lost this alliance with civil dis

« PreviousContinue »