Topic - Bigotry and Prejudice Lecture 6. Prejudice the Life of the Protestant View

Christ as Anti-Christ
Nature of Prejudice
    Definition
    Culpability
    Reinforcement
    Independent of Fact or Reason
    An Act of Malevolent Will
The Prejudiced Man Observed
    His First Principle
    Refuses to be Enlightened
    Unchanged by Refutations
    His Reaction to Conversions
        General
        Personal Experience
    Makes the Most of Supporting Facts
    His Travels Abroad
Protestant Scripture Reader Observes Benediction
    Description of Actual Rite
    Reader's Account
Seriousness of Prejudice
Oates and Bedloe
Notes

—NR

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{223} Topic - Antichrist IN attributing the extreme aversion and contempt in which we Catholics are held by this great Protestant country, to the influence of falsehood and misrepresentation, energetic in its operation and unbounded in its extent, I believe in my heart I have referred it to a cause, which will be acknowledged to be both real and necessary by the majority of thoughtful and honest minds, Catholics or not, who set themselves to examine the state of the case. Take an educated man, who has seen the world, and interested himself in the religious bodies, disputes, and events of the day, let him be ever so ill-disposed towards the Catholic Church, yet I think, if he will but throw his mind upon the subject, and then candidly speak out, he will confess that the arguments which lead him to his present state of feeling about her, whatever they are, would not be sufficient for the multitude of men. The multitude, if it is to be arrested and moved, requires altogether a different polemic from that which is at the command of the man of letters, of thought, of feeling, and of honour. His proofs against Catholicism, though he considers them sufficient himself, {224} and considers that they ought to be sufficient for the multitude, have a sobriety, a delicacy, an exactness, a nice adjustment of parts, a width and breadth, a philosophical cumulativeness, an indirectness and circuitousness, which will be lost on the generality of men. The problem is, how to make an impression on those who have never learned to exercise their minds, to compare thought with thought, to analyse an argument, or to balance probabilities. Catholicism appeals to the imagination, as a great fact, wherever she comes; she strikes it; Protestants must find some idea equally vivid as the Church, something fascinating, something capable of possessing, engrossing, and overwhelming, if they are to battle with her hopefully; their cause is lost, unless they can do this. It was then a thought of genius, and, as I think, preternatural genius, to pitch upon the expedient which has been used against the Church from Christ's age to our own; to call her, as in the first century, Beelzebub, so in the sixteenth, Anti-Christ; it was a bold, politic, and successful move. It startled men who heard; and whereas Anti-Christ, by the very notion of his character, will counterfeit Christ, he will therefore be, so far, necessarily like Him; and if Anti-Christ is like Christ, then Christ, I suppose, must be like Anti-Christ; thus there was, even at first starting, a felicitous plausibility about the very charge, which went far towards securing belief, while it commanded attention.

This, however, though much, was not enough; the charge that Christ is Anti-Christ must not only be made, but must be sustained; and sustained it could not possibly be, in the vastness and enormity of its {225} idea, as I have described it, by means of truth. Falsehood then has ever been the indispensable condition of the impeachment which Protestants have made; and the impeachment they make is the indispensable weapon wherewith to encounter the antagonist whom they combat. Thus you see that calumny and obloquy of every kind is, from the nature of the case, the portion of the Church, while she has enemies, that is, in other words, while she is militant,—her portion, that is, if she is to be argued with at all; and argued with she must be, because man, from his very moral constitution, cannot content himself, in his warfare of whatever kind, with the mere use of brute force. The lion rends his prey, and gives no reason for doing so; but man cannot persecute without assigning to himself a reason for his act: he must settle it with his conscience; he must have sufficient reasons, and if good reasons are not forthcoming, there is no help for it; he must put up with bad. How to conflict with the moral influence of the Church, being taken as the problem to be solved, nothing is left for him but to misstate and defame; there is no alternative. Tame facts, elaborate inductions, subtle presumptions, will not avail with the many; something which will cut a dash, something gaudy and staring, something inflammatory, is the rhetoric in request; he must make up his mind then to resign the populace to the action of the Catholic Church, or he must slander her to her greater confusion. This, I maintain, is the case; this I consider, must be the case;—bad logic, false facts; and I really do think that candid men, of whatever persuasion, though they will not express themselves {226} exactly in the words I have used, will agree with me in substance; will allow, that, putting aside the question whether Protestantism can be supported by any other method than controversy, for instance, by simple establishment, or by depriving Catholics of education, or by any other violent expedient, still, if popular controversy is to be used, then fable, not truth, calumny, not justice, will be its staple. Strip it of its fallacies and its fiction, and where are you? It is no accident then that we are the victims of slander.

So much in corroboration of what I have said in former Lectures; but I have not yet stated the full influence in the controversy, or (as it may be called) the full virtue, of this system of misrepresentation. The question may have occurred to you, my Brothers, as a philosophical difficulty, how it is that able, cultivated, enlarged minds should not only be the organs of the grossest slanders about us, but should refuse to retract them, when they have been absolutely silenced and exposed. The very courtesy of civilized life demands from them a retraction; it is the rule among gentlemen that, even when an accuser adheres in his heart to what he has advanced against another, yet on that other's denying it, he accepts the denial and withdraws his words. It is otherwise in the contest with Catholics; when we deny what is charged against our character or conduct, and deny it with irresistible arguments, we not only have reason to desiderate that outward consideration which the laws of society enforce, but probably are bluntly told that we lie, and there we are left, and the matter too. Doubtless this phenomenon is traceable in part to that {227} characteristic of the human kind, noticed by philosophers, to crouch to what is in the ascendant, and to insult what is down in the world; but it partly arises from a cause to which I have not yet referred, and which I mean to make the subject of this Lecture. This cause is so obvious, that you may wonder I am so circuitous in introducing it, and why I have not treated of it before; but it properly comes in this place. I allude to the power of Prejudice, which is to be reckoned a principal reason why our most triumphant refutations of the facts and arguments urged against us by our enemies avail us so little; for in reality, those facts and arguments have already done their work, before their demolition arrives and in spite of their subsequent demolition, by impressing the minds of the persons who have heard and have used them with a prejudice against us.

1.

Now, first I must explain what Prejudice is, and how it is produced, before I go on to consider its operation. Prejudice, you know, means properly a pre-judgment, or judgment by anticipation; a judgment which is formed prior to the particular question submitted to us, yet is made to bear upon it. Thus, if a man is accused of theft, and I already believe him to be an habitual thief, I am naturally led to think that this particular charge is well-founded before going into the evidence which is actually adducible for it. In this way, previous good or bad name has so much to do with the decisions in courts of justice; slight evidence will be enough to convict a reputed thief; on the other hand, a person under accusation, in order {228} to repel it, brings witnesses to his character. When we have this previous knowledge of persons, we say,—when their actions or they themselves come under consideration,—on the one hand, that we cannot help being "prejudiced" against one, and on the other, "prejudiced" or "prepossessed" in favour of another. Now there is nothing unfair in all this; what is past naturally bears on the future; from what has been, we conjecture what will be; it is reasonable and rational to do so; and hence, persons who have all their lives long heard nothing but what is bad of Catholics, naturally and fairly entertain a bad opinion of them; and when a new charge is made against them, are disposed to credit it without stopping to consider the evidence. And it matters not, whether the previous judgment, which influences their belief, be a judgment of their own forming, or be inherited; let it be the tradition of their country; still there is nothing strange, there is nothing wrong, in their being influenced by it.

But then observe this;—after all, a previous judgment, conclusion, or belief such as this, in which consists their prejudice, is but vague and general; it is not more than an opinion or inference, of greater or less strength, as the case may be, and varying with the trustworthiness of the reasons or testimony which has created it. It cannot reasonably, and must not, be taken as infallible;—did the persons in question so simply rest upon it, that they would not hear what could be said on the other side, as if they were quite sure nothing could be said to the purpose, they would cease to act rationally, they would be simply obstinate. And this is Prejudice in its bad and {229} culpable sense, the sense in which the word is commonly used, and in which I am using it here, and am imputing it to Protestants. I accuse them of making too much of the Tradition which has come down to them; they not only take it at first sight as true, and act upon it as true (a proceeding against which nothing can fairly be said), but they put such implicit confidence in it, that they cannot bring themselves to hear what can be said on the other side. They make the Tradition practically infallible, as if it had settled the view they are to take of the subject of it once for all and for ever.

How can any one, you will say, act so absurdly, who has any pretensions to good sense and good feeling? yet it may happen in a measure to any one of us, and in the following way. Now I hope I shall not be taxing your attention, my Brothers, more than I have a right to do on an occasion such as this, in what I am going to say in explanation. Prejudice then is something more than an act of judgment; it is not a mere act, it is a habit or state of mind. I must refer to a peculiarity, not of the English character, but of our mental constitution generally. When, then, we hear a thing said again and again, it makes what may be called an impression upon us. We not only hold it in our mind as an opinion or belief as separate from us, as depending on the information or grounds on which we have received it, and as admitting of being thrown off the next minute at our will, should we have reasons for discarding it, but it has acted upon our mind itself, it has sunk into it, it has impressed it. No longer at our disposal as before, to keep or throw away, it becomes one of our {230} habitual and invariable modes of judging and believing, something like the ideas we have of good and evil, and of religious duty. The idea, for instance, that justice is a virtue, or that there is a Divine Providence, is imprinted in our minds; it is congenial to our nature, and it is true, and that, because it is found in all times and places, with exceptions too rare or inconsiderable to be worth noticing. Such an idea, I say, is true; still there may also be impressions, similar in permanence, which yet are false and are uncongenial to our nature, and they are characterized, first, in not being common to all; next, in not being found in the mind from the first (if I may so speak), in not coming thither no one knows how, that is, from heaven itself, but formed in us by the accidental occurrence of things which we have seen or heard, and another has not. These impressions are commonly created in the mind by the repetition of something striking it from without. A fact or argument is not stronger in its own nature by being repeated; but the effect on any mind, which is passive under the infliction, is stronger and stronger every time it is repeated. In this way almost any idea whatever may be impressed on the mind; a man will begin at length to think himself a fool or a knave, if every one tells him so.

This then is what comes of the perpetual talk against Catholics. It does not become truer because it is incessant; but it continually deepens the impression in the minds of those who hear it, that Catholicism is an imposture. I say, there is no increase of logical cogency; a lie is a lie just as much the tenth time it is told as the first; or rather more, it is ten lies {231} instead of one; but it gains in rhetorical influence. Let it be repeated again and again; it matters not; the utterer has only to go on steadily proclaiming it, and first one, then another, will begin to believe it, and at length it will assume the shape of a very respectable fact or opinion, which is held by a considerable number of well-informed persons. This is what is meant by the proverb, "Fling dirt enough and some will stick." And if even one pertinacious slanderer has the prospect of such success in his slander, from this peculiarity of our nature, what must be the effect when vast multitudes of men are incessantly crying out to each other, with unwearied and sleepless energy, fables and fallacies against the Catholic Religion? Why, each is convincing the other, and deepening the hostile impression in his mind with a keenness and precision which it is appalling to contemplate; and thus the meetings and preachings which are ever going on against us on all sides, though they may have no argumentative force whatever, are still immense factories for the creation of prejudice,—an article, by means of these exertions, more carefully elaborated, and more lasting in its texture, than any specimens of hardware, or other material productions, which are the boast of a town such as this is.

Now the peculiarity of these mental impressions is, that they do not depend afterwards upon the facts or reasonings by which they were produced, any more than a blow, when once given, has any continued connexion with the stone or the stick which gave it. To burn the stick will not salve the sore: and to demolish the argument, as I have already said, does {232} not obliterate the prejudice. Suppose I have been told that my neighbour is a thief; suppose the idea has rested on my mind, and I have accustomed myself to it; and suppose I hear what it was that made my informant assert it, and examine into this, and find it to be utterly untrue; why I may indeed cast off my feeling against my neighbour at once and altogether, but I may have a great difficulty in doing so. The idea may still cling to me, and I may find it impossible, except by degrees, to overcome the associations with which he is connected in my mind, and the repugnance I feel to him; there is something I have to struggle against. And thus, even though a slander be perfectly cleared up, even though it be brought into a court of justice, and formally disconnected from the person who has been the victim of it, he is not what he was. It was a saying of the greatest of the Romans, "that Cęsar's wife should not be suspected." The slander has, as it were, stained the minds of the hearers, and only time, if even time, can wipe it out. This, then, is properly a prejudice,—not an opinion which is at our own disposal, and dependent for its presence or its dismissal on our will, but an impression, which reason indeed can act upon, and the will can subdue, but only by degrees and with trouble. It sank into the mind by the repetition of untrue representations, it must be effaced by an opposite process, by a succession of thoughts and deeds antagonistic to it. We must make it up to the injured party by acts of kindness, by friendly services, by good words, by praising him, by the desire and attempt to please and honour him, and thus gradually we shall lose all recollection {233} of our former hard thoughts of him. On the other hand, it is quite possible to shut ourselves up in ourselves; to keep at a distance from him, and to cherish coldness or ill-will; and then, in spite of the calumnies having been triumphantly refuted, and of our nominal acquiescence, we shall be as suspicious or jealous as ever. We shall say that we are not, after all, satisfied; that we cannot, indeed, give our grounds, but that things have a suspicious appearance; and we shall look about diligently for some fresh ground of accusation against him, to justify us in such thoughts and such conduct.

Now you may recollect, Brothers of the Oratory, that, in speaking of prejudice in its first and most simple sense, as a mere anticipation or previous opinion in disparagement of another, I said there was no harm in it. It is a mere judgment, formed on previous grounds, like any judgment, which the owner puts away at once, as soon as its unsoundness is detected. But prejudice, in its second and ordinary sense, in which I have now for some time been using it—viz., as an impression or stain on the mind is not at all innocent or excusable, just the reverse. This may surprise you; you may say, How can a man help his impressions? he is passive under them; they come of themselves; he is as little answerable for what is actually stamped upon his mind, as for a wound which is inflicted on his body; but this is very far from the case, as a little consideration will show. The will goes with a prejudice; there is no compulsion or necessity; those who have prejudices are unwilling to give them up; there is no prejudice without the will; we are prejudiced, I say, because we will; {234} and therefore, if we did not will, we should not be prejudiced. I do not say we could get rid of the prejudice in a day by wishing to do so; but we should, in that case, be tending to get rid of it. Scripture speaks of those who "loved darkness rather than the light;" and it is impossible for us to deny, from what we see on all sides, that as regards the Protestant view of Catholics, men love to be left to their own dark thoughts of us; they desire to be able with a good reason and a good conscience to hate us; they do not wish to be disabused, they are loth that so pleasant an error should be torn from them. First, then, I say, that prejudice depends on the will; now, secondly, if it does depend on the will, it is not, cannot be, innocent, because it is directed, not against things, but against persons, against God's rational creatures, against our fellows, towards all of whom we owe the duties of humanity and charity. There is a natural law, binding us to think as well as we can of every one; we ought to be glad when imputations are removed and scandals cleared up. And this law is observed by every generous mind: such a mind is pained to believe that bad things can be said of others with any plausibility, and will rejoice to be able to deny them, will hope they are not true, and will give the subject of them the benefit of its doubts. Every hour, then, as it passes, bears with it protests against prejudice, when there is generosity, from the natural striving of the heart the other way. Jealousy, suspicion, dislike, thinking ill, are feelings so painful to the rightly disposed, that there is a constant reclamation going on within them, an uneasiness that they should be obliged to entertain them, and an {235} effort to get rid of them. Nay, there are persons of such kind and tender hearts, that they would believe there is no evil at all in the world, if they could: and it is a relief to them whenever they can knock off, so to say, any part of the score of accusations which the multitude of men bring against each other. On the other hand, to close the ears to an explanation, and to show a desire that the worst may be true,—unless indeed the innocence of the individual who at present lies under a cloud involves the guilt of a vast many others instead, so that one has to strike a balance of crimes,—I say, to resolve that rumours or suspicions, for which no distinct grounds are alleged, shall be true, is simple malevolence, deplorable, shocking, inexcusable.

I do not know how any one can deny the justice of these remarks; but observe what a melancholy comment they form on the treatment which Catholics receive in this Protestant country. Where are the tender hearts, the kind feelings, the upright understandings of our countrymen and countrywomen? where is the generosity of the Briton, of which from one's youth up one has been so proud? where is his love of fair play, and his compassion for the weak, and his indignation at the oppressor, when we are concerned? The most sensible people on the earth, the most sensitive of moral inconsistency, the most ambitious of propriety and good taste, would rather commit themselves in the eyes of the whole world, would rather involve themselves in the most patent incongruities and absurdities, would rather make sport, as they do by their conduct, for their enemies in the four quarters of the earth, than be betrayed into any {236} portion—I will not say of justice, I will not say of humanity and mercy, but of simple reasonableness and common sense, in their behaviour to the professors of the Catholic Religion; so much so, that to state even drily and accurately what they do daily is to risk being blamed for ridicule and satire, which, if anywhere, would be simply gratuitous and officious in this matter, where truth most assuredly, "when unadorned," is "adorned the most." This risk, as far as I am incurring it myself in these Lectures, I cannot help; I cannot help if, in exposing the prejudice of my countrymen, I incur the imputation of using satire against them; I do not wish to do so; and, observe, that nothing I have said, or shall say, is levelled at the matter or the rites of Protestant worship. I am concerned with Protestants themselves; moreover not with Protestants quiescent and peaceable, but with Protestants malevolent, belligerent, busy, and zealous in an aggression upon our character and conduct. We do not treat them with suspicion, contempt, and aversion: this is their treatment of us; our only vengeance, surely it is not a great one, is to make a careful analysis of that treatment.

2.

The Prejudiced man, then—for thus I shall personify that narrow, ungenerous spirit which energizes and operates so widely and so unweariedly in the Protestant community—the Prejudiced man takes it for granted, or feels an undoubting persuasion,—not only that he himself is in possession of divine truth, for this is a matter of opinion, and he has a right to his own,—but that we, who differ from him, are universally {237} impostors, tyrants, hypocrites, cowards, and slaves. This is a first principle with him; it is like divine faith in the Catholic, nothing can shake it. If he meets with any story against Catholics, on any or no authority, which does but fall in with this notion of them, he eagerly catches at it. Authority goes for nothing; likelihood, as he considers it, does instead of testimony; what he is now told is just what he expected. Perhaps it is a random report, put into circulation merely because it has a chance of succeeding, or thrown like a straw to the wind: perhaps it is a mere publisher's speculation, who thinks that a narrative of horrors will pay well for the printing: it matters not, he is perfectly convinced of its truth; he knew all about it beforehand; it is just what he always has said; it is the old tale over again a hundred times. Accordingly he buys it by the thousand, and sends it about with all speed in every direction, to his circle of friends and acquaintance, to the newspapers, to the great speakers at public meetings; he fills the Sunday and week-day schools with it; loads the pedlars' baskets, perhaps introduces it into the family spiritual reading on Sunday evenings, consoled and comforted with the reflection that he has got something fresh and strong and undeniable, in evidence of the utter odiousness of the Catholic Religion.

Next comes an absolute, explicit, total denial or refutation of the precious calumny, whatever it may be, on unimpeachable authority. The Prejudiced Man simply discredits this denial, and puts it aside, not receiving any impression from it at all, or paying it the slightest attention. This, if he can: if he {238} cannot, if it is urged upon him by some friend, or brought up against him by some opponent, he draws himself up, looks sternly at the objector, and then says the very same thing as before, only with a louder voice and more confident manner. He becomes more intensely and enthusiastically positive, by way of making up for the interruption, of braving the confutation, and of showing the world that nothing whatever in the universe will ever make him think one hair-breadth more favourably of Popery than he does think, than he ever has thought, and than his family ever thought before him, since the time of the fine old English gentleman.

If a person ventures to ask the Prejudiced Man what he knows of Catholics personally—what he knows of individuals, of their ways, of their books, or of their worship, he blesses himself that he knows nothing of them at all, and he never will; nay, if they fall in his way, he will take himself out of it; and if unawares he shall ever be pleased with a Catholic without knowing who it is, he wishes by anticipation to retract such feeling of pleasure. About our state of mind, our views of things, our ends and objects, our doctrines, our defence of them, our judgment on his objections to them, our thoughts about him, he absolutely refuses to be enlightened: and he is as sore if expostulated with on so evident an infirmity of mind, as if it were some painful wound upon him, or local inflammation, which must not be handled ever so tenderly. He shrinks from the infliction.

However, one cannot always make the whole world take one's own way of thinking; so let us suppose {239} the famous story, to which the Prejudiced Man has pledged his veracity, utterly discredited and scattered to the winds by the common consent of mankind:—this only makes him the more violent. For it ought, he thinks, to be true, and it is mere special pleading to lay much stress on its not having all the evidence which it might have? for if it be not true, yet half a hundred like stories are. It is only impertinent to ask for evidence, when the fact has so often been established. What is the good of laboriously vindicating St. Eligius, or exposing a leading article in a newspaper, or a speaker at a meeting, or a popular publication, when the thing is notorious; and to deny it is nothing else than a vexatious demand upon his time, and an insult to his common sense. He feels the same sort of indignation which the Philistine champion, Goliath, might have felt when David went out to fight with him. "Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a staff? and the Philistine cursed him by his gods." And, as the huge giant, had he first been hit, not in the brain, but in the foot or the shoulder, would have yelled, not with pain, but with fury at the insult, and would not have been frightened at all or put upon the defensive, so our Prejudiced Man is but enraged so much the more, and almost put beside himself, by the presumption of those who, with their doubts or their objections, interfere with the great Protestant Tradition about the Catholic Church. To bring proof against us is, he thinks, but a matter of time; and we know in affairs of everyday, how annoyed and impatient we are likely to become, when obstacles are put in our way in any such case. We are angered at delays when they are {240} but accidental, and the issue is certain; we are not angered, but we are sobered, we become careful and attentive to impediments, when there is a doubt about the issue. The very same difficulties put us on our mettle in the one case, and do but irritate us in the other. If, for instance, a person cannot open a door, or get a key into a lock, which he has done a hundred times before, you know how apt he is to shake, and to rattle, and to force it, as if some great insult was offered him by its resistance: you know how surprised a wasp, or other large insect is, that he cannot get through a window-pane; such is the feeling of the Prejudiced Man, when we urge our objections—not softened by them at all, but exasperated the more; for what is the use of even incontrovertible arguments against a conclusion which he already considers to be infallible?

This, you see, is the reason why the most overwhelming refutations of the calumnies brought against us do us no good at all with the Protestant community. We were tempted, perhaps, to say to ourselves, "What will they have to say in answer to this? now at last the falsehood is put down for ever, it will never show its face again?" Vain hope! just the reverse: like Milton's day-star, after sinking into the ocean, it soon "repairs its drooping head,"

"And tricks its beams, and with new-spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky."

Certainly; for it is rooted in the mind itself; it has no uncertain holding upon things external; it does not depend on the accident of time, or place, or testimony, or sense, or possibility, or fact; it depends on the will alone. Therefore, "unhurt amid the war of elements," it "smiles" at injury, and "defies" {241} defeat? for it is safe and secure, while it has the man's own will on its side. Such is the virtue of prejudice—it is ever reproductive; in vain is Jeffreys exposed; he rises again in Teodore; Teodore is put down; in vain, for future story-tellers and wonder-mongers, as yet unknown to fame, are below the horizon, and will come to view, and will unfold their tale of horror, each in his day, in long succession; for these whispers, and voices, and echoes, and reverberations, are but the response, and, as it were, the expression of that profound inward persuasion, and that intense illusion, which wraps the soul and steeps the imagination of the Prejudiced Man.

However, we will suppose him in a specially good humour, when you set about undeceiving him on some point on which he misstates the Catholic faith. He is determined to be candour and fairness itself, and to do full justice to your argument. So you begin your explanation;—you assure him he misconceives your doctrines; he has got a wrong view of facts. You appeal to original authorities, and show him how shamefully they have been misquoted; you appeal to history and prove it has been garbled. Nothing is wanted to your representation; it is triumphant. He is silent for a moment, then he begins with a sentiment. "What clever fellows these Catholics are!" he says, "I defy you to catch them tripping; they have a way out of everything. I thought we had you, but I fairly own I am beaten. This is how the Jesuits got on; always educated, subtle, well up in their books; a Protestant has no chance with them." You see, my Brothers, you have not advanced a step in convincing him. {242}

Such is the Prejudiced Man at best advantage; but commonly under the same circumstances he will be grave and suspicious. "I confess," he will say, "I do not like these very complete explanations; they are too like a made-up case. I can easily believe there was exaggeration in the charge; perhaps money was only sometimes taken for the permission to sin, or only before the Reformation, but our friend professes to prove it never was taken; this is proving too much. I always suspect something behind, when everything is so very easy and clear." Or again, "We see before our eyes a tremendous growth of Popery; how does it grow? You tell me you are poor, your priests few, your friends without influence; then how does it grow? It could not grow without means! it is bad enough if you can assign a cause; it is worse if you cannot. Cause there must be somewhere, for effects imply causes. How did it get into Oxford? tell me that. How has it got among the Protestant clergy? I like all things above board; I hate concealment, I detest plots. There is evidently something to be accounted for; and the more cogently you prove that it is not referable to anything which we see, the graver suspicions do you awaken, that it is traceable to something which is hidden." Thus our Prejudiced Man simply ignores the possible existence of that special cause to which Catholics of course refer the growth of Catholicism, and which surely, if admitted, is sufficient to account for it—viz., that it is true. He will not admit the power of truth among the assignable conjectural causes. He would rather, I am sure, assign it to the agency of evil spirits, than suspect the possibility of {243} a religion being true which he wills should be a falsehood.

3.

One word here as to the growth of Catholicism, of conversions and converts;—the Prejudiced Man has his own view of it all. First, he denies that there are any conversions or converts at all. This is a bold game, and will not succeed in England, though I have been told that in Ireland it has been strenuously maintained. However, let him grant the fact, that converts there are, and he has a second ground to fall back upon: the converts are weak and foolish persons,—notoriously so; all their friends think so; there is not a man of any strength of character or force of intellect among them. They have either been dreaming over their folios, or have been caught with the tinsel embellishments of Popish worship. They are lack-a-daisical women, or conceited young parsons, or silly squires, or the very dregs of our large towns, who have nothing to lose, and no means of knowing one thing from another. Thirdly, in corroboration:—they went over, he says, on such exceedingly wrong motives; not any one of them but you may trace his conversion to something distinctly wrong; it was love of notoriety, it was restlessness, it was resentment, it was lightness of mind, it was self-will. There was trickery in his mode of taking the step or inconsiderateness towards the feelings of others. They went too soon, or they ought to have gone sooner. They ought to have told every one their doubts as soon as ever they felt them, and before they knew whether or not they should overcome them or no: if they had clerical charges in the {244} Protestant Church, they ought to have flung them up at once, even at the risk of afterwards finding they had made a commotion for nothing. Or, on the other hand, what, forsooth, must these men do when a doubt came on their mind, but at once abandon all their clerical duty and go to Rome, as if it were possible anywhere to be absolutely certain? In short, they did not become Catholics at the right moment; so that, however numerous they may be, no weight whatever attaches to their conversion. As for him, it does not affect him at all; he means to die just where he is; indeed these conversions are a positive argument in favour of Protestantism; he thinks still worse of Popery, in consequence of these men going over, than he did before. His fourth remark is of this sort: they are sure to come back. He prophesies that by this time next year, not one of them will be a Catholic. His fifth is as bold as the first;—they have come back. This argument, however, of the Prejudiced Man admits at times of being shown to great advantage, should it so happen that the subjects of his remarks have, for some reason or other, gone abroad, for then there is nothing to restrain his imagination. Hence, directly a new Catholic is safely lodged two or three thousand miles away, out comes the confident news that he has returned to Protestantism; when no friend has the means to refute it. When this argument fails, as fail it must, by the time a letter can be answered, our Prejudiced Man falls back on his sixth common-place, which is to the effect that the converts are very unhappy. He knows this on the first authority; he has seen letters declaring or showing it. They are quite altered men, very {245} much disappointed with Catholicism, restless, and desirous to come back except from false shame. Seventhly, they are altogether deteriorated in character; they have become harsh, or overbearing, or conceited, or vulgar. They speak with extreme bitterness against Protestantism, have cast off their late friends, or seem to forget that they ever were Protestants themselves. Eighthly, they have become infidels;—alas! heedless of false witness, the Prejudiced Man spreads the news about, right and left, in a tone of great concern and distress; he considers it very awful.

Lastly, when every resource has failed, and in spite of all that can be said, and surmised, and expressed, and hoped, about the persons in question, Catholics they have become, and Catholics they remain, the Prejudiced Man has a last resource, he simply forgets that Protestants they ever were. They cease to have antecedents; they cease to have any character, any history to which they may appeal: they merge in the great fog, in which to his eyes everything Catholic is enveloped: they are dwellers in the land of romance and fable; and, if he dimly contemplates them plunging and floundering amid the gloom, it is as griffins, wiverns, salamanders, the spawn of Popery, such as are said to sport in the depths of the sea, or to range amid the central sands of Africa. He forgets he ever heard of them; he has no duties to their names, he is released from all anxiety about them; they die to him.

Now, my Brothers, unless I should be obliged to allude to myself, I could, without bringing in other instances, show you, from my own experience, that there is no exaggeration in what I have been saying. {246} I will go so far as to mention four facts about me, as they have been commonly reported. First, when I became a Catholic, grave persons, Protestant clergymen, attested (what they said was well known to others besides themselves) that either I was mad, or was in the most imminent danger of madness. They put it into the newspapers, and people were sometimes quite afraid to come and see me. Next, they put about, what they had prophesied beforehand as certain to be, that I had already the gravest differences with one from whom I had received nothing but kindness, and whom I regarded, and still regard, with no other feelings than those of gratitude and affection, Cardinal Wiseman. They had predicted it, and therefore so it must be, whether there was evidence of it or not. I will quote to you the words of an eminent pulpit and platform clergyman, one of those two eloquent defenders of Protestantism, who lately gave out that every Catholic Priest ought to be hanged. "He believed," said the Manchester Courier, reporting his speech, "that already some of those reverend gentlemen, who had betaken themselves to Rome, under the idea that they were going to a scene of beauty and piety, had found that dark was the place behind the scenes that they had painted as so beautiful. So he believed it was with Mr. Newman. (Hear, hear.) He (the speaker) was told that Mr. Newman had a most sovereign contempt for Dr. Wiseman; and he was told that Dr. Wiseman had the utmost hatred for Mr. Newman. And he believed that result was brought about from Mr. Newman having seen Dr. Wiseman more closely, and Dr. Wiseman having found out that Mr. Newman saw through the mask, and discerned {247} him as he was." You see "the wish was father to the thought." Thirdly, when I went to Rome, then at once a long succession of reports went about, to the effect that I had quarrelled with the ecclesiastical authorities there, and had refused to be ordained on their conditions; moreover, that I was on the point of turning Protestant, and that my friends about me had done so already. The list of good stories had not run out by the time I came back; they were too precious to be lost, any one of them; so it was circulated, when I came here to Birmingham, that I was suspended by the present Bishop of the diocese, and not allowed to preach. Fourthly and lastly, it has lately been put into the papers, under the sanction of respectable names, that I am not a believer in the Catholic doctrines; and broader still in private letters, that I have given up Revealed Religion altogether. I mention these instances, not for their own sake, but to illustrate the power of prejudice. Men are determined they will not believe that an educated Protestant can find peace and satisfaction in the Catholic Church; and they invent catastrophes for the occasion, which they think too certain to need testimony or proof. In the reports I have been setting down, there was not even a rag or a shred of evidence to give plausibility to them.

I have been setting forth as yet the resources of the Prejudiced Man, when he has no facts whatever on his side, but all against him; but now let us suppose he has something or other to show; in that case it is plain that he finds it very much easier to maintain his position. If he could do so much with no materials at all, to what will he be unequal when he has really {248} something or other, external and objective, to bring forward in his justification? "Trifles light as air," says the poet,

"Are to the jealous confirmation strong
As proofs of Holy Writ."

You may be sure he makes the most of them. A vast number of matters, we easily may understand, are of daily occurrence, which admit of an interpretation this way or that, and which are, in fact, interpreted by every one according to his own existing opinions. Rival philosophers seize on new discoveries, each as being in favour of his own hypothesis; it is not indeed, many instances which are critical and decisive. Are we told of some strange appearance at night in some solitary place? Those who are fond of the marvellous, think it an apparition; those who live in the rational and tangible, decide that it has been some gleam of the moonbeam, or some wayfarer or beggar, or some trick intended to frighten the passer-by. Thus history also reads in one way to one, in another to another. There are those who think the French at the bottom of all the mischief which happens in England and Ireland; others lay it to the Russians. Our Prejudiced Man of course sees Catholics and Jesuits in everything, in every failure of the potato crop, every strike of the operatives, and every mercantile stoppage. His one idea of the Catholic Church haunts him incessantly, and he sees whole Popery, living and embodied, in every one of its professors, nay, in every word, gesture and motion of each. A Catholic Priest cannot be grave or gay, silent or talkative, without giving matter of offence or suspicion. There is peril in his frown, there {249} is greater peril in his smile. His half sentences are filled up; his isolated acts are misdirected; nay, whether he eats or sleeps, in every mouthful and every nod he ever has in view one and one only object, the aggrandizement of the unwearied, relentless foe of freedom and of progress, the Catholic Church. The prejudiced Man applauds himself for his sagacity, in seeing evidences of a plot at every turn; he groans to think that so many sensible men should doubt its extension all through Europe, though he begins to entertain the hope that the fact is breaking on the apprehension of the Government.

4.

The prejudiced Man travels, and then everything he sees in Catholic countries only serves to make him more thankful that his notions are so true; and the more he sees of Popery, the more abominable he feels it to be. If there is any sin, any evil in a foreign population, though it be found among Protestants also, still Popery is clearly the cause of it. If great cities are the schools of vice, it is owing to Popery. If Sunday is profaned, if there is a Carnival, it is the fault of the Catholic Church. Then, there are no private homes, as in England, families live on staircases; see what it is to belong to a Popish country. Why do the Roman labourers wheel their barrows so slow on the Forum? why do the Lazzaroni of Naples lie so listlessly on the beach? why, but because they are under the malaria of a false religion. Rage, as is well-known, is in the Roman like a falling sickness, almost as if his will had no part in it, and he had no responsibility; see what it is to be a Papist. Bloodletting is as frequent {250} and as much a matter of course in the South, as hair-cutting in England; it is a trick borrowed from the convents, when they wish to tame down refractory spirits.

The Prejudiced man gets up at an English hour, has his breakfast at his leisure, and then saunters into some of the churches of the place; he is scandalized to have proof of what he has so often heard, the infrequency of communions among Catholics. Again and again, in the course of his tour, has he entered them, and never by any chance did he see a solitary communicant:—hundreds, perhaps, having communicated in those very churches, according to their custom, before he was out of his bedroom. But what scandalizes him most, is that even bishops and priests, nay, the Pope himself does not communicate at the great festivals of the Church. He was at a great ceremonial, a High Mass, on Lady Day, at the Minerva; not one Cardinal communicated; Pope and Cardinals, and every Priest present but the celebrant, having communicated, of course, each in his own Mass, and in his own chapel or church early in the morning. Then the churches are so dirty; faded splendour, tawdriness, squalidness are the fashion of the day;—thanks to the Protestants and Infidels, who, in almost every country where Catholicism is found, have stolen the revenues by which they were kept decent. He walks about and looks at the monuments, what is this? the figure of a woman: who can it be? His Protestant cicerone at his elbow, who perhaps has been chosen by his good father or guardian to protect him on his travels from a Catholic taint, whispers that it is Pope Joan, and he notes it down in his pocket-book accordingly. I am alluding {251} to an accident, which in its substance befell a most excellent person, for whom I had and have a great esteem, whom I am sure I would not willingly offend, and who will not be hurt at this cursory mention of an unintentional mistake. He was positive he had seen Pope Joan in Rome,—I think, in St. Peter's; nay, he saw the inscription on the monument, beginning with the words, "Joannę Papissę." It was so remarkable a fact, and formed so plausible an argument against the inviolateness of the chair of St. Peter, that it was thought worth inquiring into. I do not remember who it was that the female, thus elevated by his imagination, turned into in the process of investigation, whether into the Countess Matilda, or Queen Christina, or the figure of Religion in the vestibule of St. Peter's; but certainly into no lady who had any claim on the occupation of the Ecumenical See.

This puts me in mind of another occurrence, of which the publications of the day have recently been full. A lady of high literary reputation deposed that Denon and other French savans had given her the information that, in the days of the Republic or Consulate, they had examined St. Peter's chair in the Vatican Basilica, and had found that it unquestionably had come from the East, long after the age of the Apostle, for it had inscribed upon it the celebrated confession of Islamism, "There is one God, and Mahomet is his prophet." Her prejudices sharpened her memory, and she was positive in her testimony. Inquiry was made, and it turned out that the chair of which she had spoken was at Venice, not at Rome; that it had been brought thither by the Crusaders from the East, and therefore might well bear upon it the {252} Mahometan inscription; and that tradition gave it the reputation of being, by no means the Roman, but the Antiochene Chair of the Apostle. In this, as in other mistakes, there was no deliberate intention to deceive; it was an ordinary result of an ordinary degree of prejudice. The voucher of the story was so firmly convinced, I suppose, of the "childish absurdity and falsehood of all the traditions of the Romish Church," that she thought it unnecessary to take pains to be very accurate, whether in her hearing or her memory.

Our Prejudiced Man might travel half his life up and down Catholic Europe, and only be confirmed in his contempt and hatred of its religion. In every place there are many worlds, quite distinct from each other: there are good men and bad, and the good form one body, the bad another. Two young men, as is well known, may pass through their course at a Protestant University, and come away with opposite reports of the state of the place: the one will have seen all the bad, the other all the good; one will say it is a sober, well-conducted place, the other will maintain that it is the home of every vice. The Prejudiced Man takes care to mix only in such society as will confirm his views; he courts the society of Protestants and unbelievers, and of bad Catholics, who shelter their own vice under the imputations they cast on others, and whose lives are a disgrace to the Church prior to their testimony. His servants, couriers, laquais de place, and acquaintance, are all of his own way of thinking, and find it for their interest to flatter and confirm it. He carries England with him abroad; and, though he has ascended mountains and traversed cities, knows scarcely more of Europe than when he set out. {253}

But perhaps he does not leave England at all; he never has been abroad; it is all the same; he can scrape together quite as good evidence against Catholicism at home. One day he pays a visit to some Catholic chapel, or he casually finds the door open, and walks in. He enters and gazes about him, with a mixed feeling of wonder, expectation and disgust; and according to circumstances, this or that feeling predominates, and shows itself in his bearing and his countenance. In one man it is curiosity; in another, scorn; in another, conscious superiority; in another, abhorrence; over all of their faces, however, there is a sort of uncomfortable feeling, as if they were in the cave of Trophonius or in a Mesmerist's lecture-room. One and all seem to believe that something strange and dreadful may happen any moment; and they crowd up together, if some great ceremony is going on, tiptoeing and staring, and making strange faces, like the gargoyles or screen ornaments of the church itself. Every sound of the bell, every movement of the candles, every change in the grouping of the sacred ministers and the assistants, puts their hands and limbs in motion, to see what is coming next; our own poor alleviation, in thinking of them, lying in this,—that they are really ignorant of what is going on, and miss, even with their bodily eyes, the distinctive parts of the rite. What is our ground of comfort, however, will be their ground of accusation against us; for they are sure to go away and report that our worship consists of crossings, bowings, genuflections, incensings, locomotions, and revolvings, all about nothing. {254}

5.

In this matter, my Brothers, as I have already said, the plain truth is the keenest of satires; and therefore, instead of using any words of my own, I shall put before you a Protestant's account of a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which he went to see in the Chapel of the Fathers of the Oratory in London. I quote his words from a publication of an important body, the British Reformation Society, established in the year 1827, and supported, I believe, by a number of eminent persons, noblemen, gentlemen, and ministers of various denominations. The periodical I speak of is called "The British Protestant, or Journal of the Religious Principles of the Reformation." It would seem to be one of the Society's accredited publications, as it has its device upon the title-page. In the 62nd Number of this work, being the Number for February, 1850, we are presented with "Extracts from the Journal of a Protestant Scripture Reader." This gentleman, among his missionary visits to various parts of London, dropt in, it seems, on Tuesday, January 8th, to the Roman Catholic Chapel in King William Street; which, he commences his narrative by telling us, for "the large roses of every colour, and laurel," "was more like the flower-shops in the grand row of Covent Garden than a place of worship." Well, he had a right to his opinion here as much as another; and I do not mean to molest him in it. Nor shall I say anything of his account of the Sermon, which was upon one of the January Saints, and which he blames for not having in it the name of Jesus, or one word of Scripture {255} from beginning to end; not dreaming that a Rite was to follow, in which we not only bow before the Name, but worship the real and substantial presence of our exalted Lord.

I need hardly observe to you, my Brothers, that the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is one of the simplest rites of the Church. The priests enter and kneel down; one of them unlocks the Tabernacle, takes out the Blessed Sacrament, inserts it upright in a Monstrance of precious metal, and sets it in a conspicuous place above the altar, in the midst of lights, for all to see. The people then begin to sing; meanwhile the Priest twice offers incense to the King of heaven, before whom he is kneeling. Then he takes the Monstrance in his hands, and turning to the people, blesses them with the Most Holy, in the form of a cross, while the bell is sounded by one of the attendants to call attention to the ceremony. It is our Lord's solemn benediction of His people, as when He lifted up His hands over the children, or when He blessed His chosen ones when He ascended up from Mount Olivet. As sons might come before a parent before going to bed at night, so, once or twice a week the great Catholic family comes before the Eternal Father, after the bustle or toil of the day, and He smiles upon them, and sheds upon them the light of His countenance. It is a full accomplishment of what the Priest invoked upon the Israelites, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord show His face to thee and have mercy on thee; the Lord turn His countenance to thee and give thee peace." Can there be a more touching rite, even in the judgment of those who do not believe in it? How many {256} a man, not a Catholic, is moved, on seeing it, to say "Oh, that I did but believe it!" when he sees the Priest take up the Fount of Mercy, and the people bent low in adoration! It is one of the most beautiful, natural, and soothing actions of the Church—not so, however, in the judgment of our young Protestant Scripture Reader, to whom I now return.

This Protestant Scripture Reader then, as he calls himself, enters the chapel, thinking, of course, he knows all about everything. He is the measure of everything, or at least of everything Popish. Popery he knows perfectly well, in substance, in spirit, in drift, in results; and he can interpret all the details when they come before him at once, by this previous, or what a theologian might term "infused," knowledge. He knows, and has known from a child, that Popery is a system of imposture, nay, such brazen imposture, that it is a marvel, or rather miracle, that any one can be caught by it—a miracle, that is, of Satan: for without an evil influence it is quite impossible any single soul could believe what the Protestant Scripture Reader would call so "transparent a fraud." As a Scripture Reader he knows well the text, Second of Thessalonians, chapter two, verse eleven, "He shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie," and he applies it to the scene before him. He knows that it is the one business of the Priest to take in the people, and he knows that the people are so inconceivably brutish that nothing is too gross or absurd a trick to take them in withal. If the Priest were to put up a scarecrow, they, like the silly birds, would run away as if it were a man; and he has only to handle his balls {257} or cards, and flourish them about, and they take him for a god. Indeed, we all know, he gives out he is a god, and can do what he pleases, for it is sin to doubt it. It is most wonderful, certainly, as to this Popery, that in spite of the Parliament all in a bustle, passing laws, as if against typhus or cholera, yet there it is, and spread it will; however, Satan is the father of lies; that is sufficient. With this great principle, I say, clearly impressed upon his mind, he walks into the chapel, knowing well he shall find some juggling there; accordingly, he is not at all surprised at the scene which passes before him. He looks on at his ease, and draws up his own account of it, all the time that the Catholic people are bowing and singing, and the Priest incensing; and his account runs thus:—

After the sermon, he tells us (I am quoting the very words of his Journal), "another young priest came in with a long wand in his hand, and an extinguisher on the top of it, and a small candle, and he began to light others." "Another young priest:" he thinks we are born priests; "priest" is a sort of race, or animal, or production, as oxen or sheep may be, and there are young priests and old priests, and black priests and white priests, and perhaps men priests and women priests; and so in came this "other young priest" with a wand. "With a wand:" he evidently thinks there is something religious about this lighter and extinguisher; it is a conjuror's wand; you will, I think, see presently I am borne out in saying this. He proceeds: "The next part of the play was four priests coming to the altar" (it is as I said; everything is a priest), "four priests and {258} Gordon in the middle:" this is a mistake, and an unwarrantable and rude use of the name of one of the Fathers of the London Oratory, my dear brother and friend, the Reverend Philip Gordon—for it was not he, and he was not a priest; accordingly, I should leave the name out, except that it adds a good deal to the effect of the whole. "One of them," he proceeds, "took from a small cupboard on the altar," that is, from the tabernacle, "a gold star;" this is the head of the Monstrance, in which is placed the Blessed Sacrament, and screwed it on to a candlestick," that is, the foot of the Monstrance, "and placed it on the top of the altar, under the form of a beehive, supported by four pillars," that is, under the canopy. He calls the head of the Monstrance a star, because it consists of a circle surrounded by rays; and he seems to think it in some way connected with the season of the year, the Epiphany, when the Star appeared to the Wise Men.

"The Star," he proceeds, "glittered like diamonds, for it had a round lamp in the middle of it;" I suppose he means the glass covering the Blessed Sacrament, which reflected the light, and you will see clearly, as he goes on, that he actually thinks the whole congregation was worshipping this star and lamp. "This Star glittered like diamonds, for it had a round lamp in the middle of it; when placed under the beehive, the four priests began to burn incense, waving a large thing like a lanthorn" (the thurible) "towards the Star, and bowing themselves to kiss the foot of the altar before the Star." Now observe, my Brothers, I repeat, I am not blaming this person for not knowing a Catholic rite, which he had no {259} means of knowing, but for thinking he knows it, when he does not know it, for coming into the chapel, with this most coxcombical idea in his head, that Popery is a piece of mummery, which any intelligent Protestant can see through, and therefore being not at all surprised, but thinking it very natural, when he finds four priests, a young priest with a wand, and a whole congregation, worshipping a gold star glittering like diamonds with a lamp in it. This is what I mean by prejudice.

Now you may really have a difficulty in believing that I have interpreted him rightly; so let me proceed. "The next piece acted was, one of them went to bring down the Star, and put it on the altar, while another put something like a white shawl round Gordon's shoulders." True; he means the veil which is put upon the Priest, before he turns round with the Blessed Sacrament in his hand. "Gordon next takes the Star, and, turning his face to the people, to raise up the Star, with part of the shawl round the candlestick, the other two priests, one on each side of him, drawing the shawl, it showed a real piece of magic art." Now what makes this so amusing to the Catholic is, that, as far as the priest's actions go, it is really so accurately described. It is the description of one who has his eyes about him, and makes the best of them, but who, as he goes on, is ever putting his own absurd comment on everything which occurs in succession. Now, observe, he spoke of "magic;" let us see what the magic is, and what becomes of the Star, the lamp, and the candlestick with the shawl round it.

"As Gordon raised the Star, with his back to all {260} the lighted candles on the altar, he clearly showed the Popish deceit, for in the candlestick there is a bell." Here is his first great failure of fact; he could not be looking at two places at once; he heard the bell, which the attendant was ringing at one side; he did not see it; where could it be? his ready genius, that is, the genius of his wonderful prejudice about us, told him at once where it was. It was a piece of priestcraft, and the bell was concealed inside the foot of the candlestick;—listen. "As Gordon raised the Star, with his back turned to all the lighted candles on the altar, he clearly showed the Popish deceit; for in the candlestick there is a bell, that rung three times of its own accord, to deceive the blind fools more; and the light through the shawl showed so many colours, as Father Gordon moved his body; the bell ringing they could not see, for the candlestick was covered with part of this magic shawl, and Gordon's finger at work underneath."

Such is his account of the rite of Benediction; he is so densely ignorant of us, and so supremely confident of his knowledge, that he ventures to put in print something like the following rubrical direction for its celebration:—

First, a young priest setteth up a golden, diamond-like star, with a lamp in it, sticking it on to the top of a candlestick, then he lighteth fifty candles by means of a wand with an extinguisher and wax candle upon it; then four priests bow, burn incense, and wave a lanthorn before the star; then one of the priests, hiding what he is at, by means of a great shawl about his hands and the foot of the candlestick, taketh up said {261} candlestick, with the lamp and gold star glittering like diamonds, and beginneth secretly to tinkle with his finger a bell hid in its foot; whereupon the whole congregation marvelleth much, and worshippeth star, lamp and candlestick incontinently.

He ends with the following peroration:—"This the power of priests; they are the best play actors in this town. I should be glad to see this published, that I might take it to Father Gordon, to see if he could contradict a word of it." Rather, such is the power of prejudice, by good luck expressed in writing, and given to the world, as a specimen of what goes on, without being recorded, in so many hundred thousands of minds. The very confidence with which he appeals to the accuracy of his testimony only shows how prejudice can create or colour, where facts are harmless or natural. It is superior to facts, and lives in a world of its own.

Nor would it be at all to the purpose to object, that, had he known what the rite really meant, he would quite as much, or even more, have called it idolatry. The point is not what he would think of our rites, if he understood them exactly, for I am not supposing his judgment to be worth anything at all, or that we are not as likely to be right as an individual Scripture Reader; the question is not, what he would judge, but what he did think, and how he came to think it. His prejudice interpreted our actions.

6.

Alas, my Brothers, though we have laughed at the extravagance which shows itself in such instances of {262} prejudice, it is in truth no matter for a jest. If I laugh, it is to hide the deep feelings of various kinds which it necessarily excites in the mind. I laugh at what is laughable in the displays of this wretched root of evil, in order to turn away my thoughts from its nature and effects, which are not laughable, but hateful and dangerous—dangerous to the Catholic, hateful to the Supreme Judge. When you see a beast of prey in his cage, you are led to laugh at its impotent fury, at its fretful motions and its sullen air and its grotesque expressions of impatience, disappointment, and malice, if it is baulked of its revenge. And, as to this Prejudice, Brothers of the Oratory, really in itself it is one of the direst, most piteous, most awful phenomena in the whole country; to see a noble, generous people the victims of a moral infirmity, which is now a fever, now an ague, now a falling sickness, now a frenzy, and now a St. Vitus's dance. Oh, if we could see as the angels see, thus should we speak of it, and in language far more solemn. I told you why in an earlier part of this Lecture;—not simply because the evil comes from beneath, as I believe it does; not only because it so falls upon the soul, and occupies it, that it is like a bad dream or nightmare, which is so hard to shake off;—but chiefly because it is one of the worst sins of which our poor nature is capable. Perhaps it is wrong to compare sin with sin, but I declare to you, the more I think of it, the more intimately does this prejudice seem to me to corrupt the soul, even beyond those sins which are commonly called most deadly, as the various forms of impurity or pride. And why? because, I repeat it, it argues so astonishing {263} a want of mere natural charity or love of our kind. It is piercing enough to think what little faith there is in the country; but it is quite heartrending to witness so utter a deficiency in a mere natural virtue. Oh, is it possible, that so many, many men, and women too, good and kind otherwise, should take such delight in being quite sure that millions of men have the sign and seal of the Evil One upon them! Oh, is it conceivable that they can be considerate in all matters of this life, friendly in social intercourse, indulgent to the wayward, charitable to the poor and outcast, merciful towards criminals, nay, kind towards the inferior creation, towards their cows, and horses, and swine; yet, as regards us, who bear the same form, speak the same tongue, breathe the same air, and walk the same streets, ruthless, relentless, believing ill of us, and wishing to believe it. I repeat it, they wish us to be what they believe us to be; what a portentous fact! They delight to look at us, and to believe that we are the veriest reptiles and vermin which belied the human form divine. It is a dear thought, which they cannot bear to lose. True, it may have been taught them from their youth, they never may have had means to unlearn it,—that is not the point; they have never wished better things of us, they have never hoped better things. They are tenacious of what they believe, they are impatient of being argued with, they are angry at being contradicted, they are disappointed when a point is cleared up; they had rather that we should be guilty than they mistaken; they have no wish at all we should not be blaspheming hypocrites, stupid idolaters, loathsome profligates, unprincipled rogues {264} and bloodthirsty demons. They are kinder even to their dogs and their cats than to us. Is it not true? can it be denied? is it not portentous? does it not argue an incompleteness or hiatus in the very structure of their moral nature? has not something, in their case, dropped out of the list of natural qualities proper to man?

And hence it is, that, calm as may be the sky, and gentle the breeze, we cannot trust the morning: at any moment a furious tempest may be raised against us, and scatter calamity through our quiet homes, as long as the Prince of the power of the air retains this sovereignty. There is ever a predisposition in the political and social atmosphere to lour and thicken. We never are secure against the access of madness in that people, whose name and blood we share. Some accident,—a papal bull, worded as papal documents have been since the beginning of time, a sudden scandal among our priests or in our convents, or some bold and reckless falsehood, may raise all England against us. Such also was our condition in the first age of the Church: the chance of the hour brought the Pagan Romans upon us. A rash Christian tore down an Imperial manifesto from its place; the horrible Dioclesian persecution was the consequence. A crop failed, a foe appeared, it was all through the poor Christians. So speaks the Early Christian Apologist, the celebrated Tertullian, in his defence of us, about a hundred years after St. John's time. "They think the Christians," he says, "to be the cause of every public calamity, of every national ill. If the Tiber cometh up to the walls, if the Nile cometh not up to the fields, if the rain hath not fallen, {265} if the earth hath been moved, if there be any famine, if any pestilence, Christianos ad leonem—to the lion with the Christians—is forthwith the cry." No limit could be put to the brutishness of the notions then entertained of us by the heathen. They believed we fed on children; they charged us with the most revolting forms of incest; they gave out that we worshipped beasts or monsters. "Now a new report of our God hath been lately set forth in this city," says the same Tertullian, "since a certain wretch put forth a picture with some such title as this,—The god of the Christians conceived of an ass. This was a creature with ass's ears, with a hoof on one foot, carrying a book and wearing a gown. We smiled both at the name and the figure." Not indeed the same, but parallel, are the tales told of us now. Scottish absurdities are gravely appropriated as precious truths. Our very persons, not merely our professions, are held in abhorrence; we are spit at by the malevolent, we are passed with a shudder of contemptuous pity by the better-natured; we are supposed to be defiled by some secret rites of blood by the ignorant. There is a mysterious pollution and repulsion about us, which makes those who feel its influence curious or anxious to investigate what it can be. We are regarded as something unclean, which a man would not touch, if he could help it; and our advances are met as would be those of some hideous baboon, or sloth, or rattle-snake, or toad, which strove to make itself agreeable.

7.

Is it wonderful, with this spirit of delusion on the faculties of the many, that charges against us are {266} believed as soon as made? So was it two centuries ago; one or two abandoned men, Titus Oates, whom the Protestant Hume calls "the most infamous of mankind," William Bedloe, who, the same writer says, was, "if possible, more infamous than Oates," and some others, aided by the lucky accident of the assassination of a London magistrate, whose murderers were never discovered, were sufficient, by a bold catalogue of calumnies, to put the whole kingdom into a paroxysm of terror and suspicion. The fit had been some time coming on, when "the cry of a plot," says Hume, "all on a sudden, struck their ears. They were awakened from their slumber, and, like men affrighted in the dark, took every figure for a spectre. The terror of each man became a source of terror to another; and a universal panic being diffused, reason and argument, and common sense, and common humanity, lost all influence over them."

Oates and Bedloe came forward to swear against us the most atrocious and impossible falsehoods. The Pope and Propaganda had claimed possession of England; and he had nominated the Jesuits to be his representatives here, and to hold the supreme power for him. All the offices of government had been filled up under the seal of this Society, and all the dignities of the Protestant Church given away, in great measure, to Spaniards and other foreigners. The king had been condemned to death as a heretic. There had been a meeting of fifty Jesuits in London during the foregoing May, when the king's death was determined on. He was to be shot or to be poisoned. The confessor of the French king had sent to London {267} £10,000 as a reward for any one who would assassinate him; a Spanish ecclesiastic had offered £10,000 more; and the Prior of the Benedictines £6,000. The Queen's physician had been offered £10,000, and had asked £15,000 for the job, and had received an instalment of £5,000. Four Irish ruffians had been hired by the Jesuits at twenty guineas apiece, to shoot the king at Windsor. Two others were also engaged, one at £1,500; the other, being a pious man, preferred to take out the money in masses, of which he was to receive 30,000. Another had been promised canonization and £500, if he was successful in the enterprise. There was a subscription going on among the Catholics all through England, to collect sums for the same purpose. The Jesuits had determined to set fire to London, Southwark, and the chief cities of the country. They were planning to set fire to all the shipping in the Thames. Twenty thousand Catholics were to rise in London in twenty-four hours' time, who, it was estimated, might cut the throats of 100,000 Protestants. The most eminent divines of the Establishment were especially marked for assassination. Ten thousand men were to be landed from abroad in the North, and were to seize Hull; and 20,000 or 30,000 religious men and pilgrims from Spain were to land in Wales.

Is all this grave history?—it is. Do not think I have added aught of my own; it is unnecessary. Invention cannot run with prejudice. Prejudice wins. Do not my true stories of Protestantism beat the fables against Catholicism of Achilli and Maria Monk? they are a romance, true and terrible. {268}

What came of these wild allegations, preferred by men of infamous character, and favoured by the accident of Sir Edmonsbury Godfrey's murder, by unknown assassins? "Without further reasoning," says Hume, "the cry rose that he had been assassinated by the Papists, on account of his taking Oates's evidence. The clamour was quickly propagated, and met with universal belief. Each hour teemed with new rumours and surmises. To deny the reality of the plot was to be an accomplice; to hesitate was criminal. Royalist, republican, churchman, sectary, courtier, patriot, all parties concurred in the illusion. The city prepared for its defence, as if the enemy were at its gates; the chains and posts were put up ... The dead body of Godfrey was carried into the city, attended by vast multitudes ... Seventy-two clergymen marched before; above a thousand persons of distinction followed after; and, at the funeral sermon, two able-bodied divines mounted the pulpit, and stood on each side of the preacher, lest, in paying the last duties to this unhappy magistrate, he should, before the whole people, be murdered by the Papists."

A recent historian adds to the picture [Note]: "Everywhere," he says, "justices were busied in searching houses and seizing papers. All the gaols were filled with Papists. London had the aspect of a city in a state of siege. The trainbands were under arms all night. Preparations were made for barricading the great thoroughfares. Patrols marched up and down the streets. Cannon were placed round Whitehall. {269} No citizen thought himself safe, unless he carried under his coat a small flail loaded with lead to brain the Popish assassins."

The Parliament kept pace with the people, a solemn fast was voted, and a form of prayer drawn up; five Catholic peers were committed to the Tower on charge of high treason; a member of the Commons, who in private society spoke strongly against the defenders of the plot, was expelled the House; and both Houses, Lords and Commons, voted, almost in the form of a dogmatic decree, "that there is, and hath been, a damnable and hellish plot, contrived and carried on by the Popish recusants, for assassinating the King, for subverting the Government, and for rooting-out and destroying the Protestant succession." Titus Oates was called the Saviour of his country; was lodged in Whitehall, protected by guards, and rewarded with a pension of £1,200 a year.

I will not pursue the history of this remarkable frenzy into its deeds of blood, into the hangings, and embowellings, and the other horrors of which innocent Catholics were in due course the victims. Well had it been had the pretended plot ended with the worldly promotion of its wretched fabricators, whom at this day all the world gives up to reprobation and infamy. Oates and Bedloe were the Maria Monk, the Jeffreys, the Teodore, the Achilli of their hour, on a larger field; they spoke then as Protestant champions speak now, to the prejudices of the people: they equalled our own slanderers in falsehood and assurance,—in success they surpassed them.

We live in a happier age than our forefathers; at least, let us trust that the habits of society and the {270} self-interest of classes and of sects will render it impossible that blind prejudice and brute passion should ever make innocence and helplessness their sport and their prey, as they did in the seventeenth century.

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Note

Macaulay, History, vol. i. p. 235.
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