{234} [Rambler, July 1859.]

Correspondence

Temporal Prosperity, whether a Note of the Church

SIR,—I cannot resist writing a few lines upon the letter signed O. H. in your last Number.

With much in it I agree; but O. H.'s argument overlooks altogether the greatest illustration the world has ever seen of an exclusively national Church,—I mean the chosen people of God in the Old Testament. We see there a people who were, with few exceptions, the sole depositaries of truth in the world; a people to whom God had expressly promised temporal prosperity as a reward of faith and obedience; with whom God had condescended to make a compact, binding Himself to protect them by his visible power, if they would obey His law; to whom He promised a land flowing with {235} milk and honey, and whom He led thither through a series of stupendous miracles.

Yet, when we read the Old Testament, we find their history as full of punishments as of favours; and if we turn to secular ancient history, we cannot fail to perceive that in arts, arms, commerce, naval power, philosophy, literature, and weight and influence in the then known world, they were inferior to many other nations, who were, for the most part, heathen,—to Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Egyptians, Phœnicians, Greeks, and Romans.

Now this appears to me absolutely opposed to the argument that temporal prosperity is a note of the Church; for this, observe, is an instance so complete, that it can never occur again. No people will ever be able to look upon itself as the exclusive choice of the Most High. It is the character of the modern Church to be Catholic, to embrace all nations in her fold, and to be as "a field in which the enemy hath sown cockle:" and we are expressly told that this peculiarity is to continue to the end of the world, if not in all probabi1ity to increase. It seems to me, then, that if, as is in point of fact the case, divine punishment is quite as characteristic of the history of the chosen people of God as divine protection; if, as is likewise the case, that people were inferior in temporal greatness and prosperity to many others; if, moreover, as cannot be denied, that people were marked out from the rest of the world in a manner quite different to what any Catholic nation ever can be,—then it follows that we should not expect to see nations prosperous in proportion to their Catholicity. I am far from saying the connection may not exist, I should be inclined to think it does; but it follows the ordinary laws of God's providence, which are, and ever must be, a mystery to us. Moreover, since the coming of our Saviour on earth, humiliation, suffering, and poverty are to be looked on as His livery; and His prophecies to His Church rather foretell thorns than roses, strife than peace, and humiliation than triumph. Of course, the lowly virtues of the New Testament are applicable to different states of life in different proportions; but there must be a recognition of them in the king as well as in the hermit. Heroic, by which I mean self-sacrificing, virtues are, as a general rule, less applicable to fathers of families, simply because, all duties being relative, the duty of a man to his wife and children comes before a larger number of more distant duties. This it is which has led, in the Catholic Church, to the celibacy of the clergy; which is no dogma, but a mere consequence of what I may call the division of labour consequent on a more developed state of Christian civilisation. The attire of the glorified Church is to be wrought about with a variety of ornament. Meanwhile, that temporal prosperity should frequently be withheld from the Church, that she should be often bated and despised, that she should be defaced by "spot and wrinkle," that she should be to many a stumbling-block,—all this seems to me nothing more than what we might be led to expect. {236}

1st. Because she is the body of a Head crowned with thorns.

2d. Because she is like the net, which held many bad as well as good fish.

3d. Because it is easier for her individual members to excel in one thing rather than in many; and therefore intellect, and even moral virtues, will frequently be found dissociated from the Church, which, in imitation of her Divine Master, calls especially the poor, the sinful, and the ignorant: not that she calls them peculiarly, but because her including them repels the rich, the self-righteous, and the intellectual.

4th. Because where there is "community of saints," there is probably, to a great extent, community of temporal rewards and punishments; as in the Old Testament the innocent suffered with the guilty, and in the New the innocent for the guilty.

5th. That as proximity to grace augments responsibility, and diminishes the chance of excuses of ignorance, so it increases the guilt of those who wilfully choose evil rather than good. Sacraments, humanly speaking, cause sacrileges, and faith blasphemy; and this simply through the exercise of man's free-will. We should never forget those awful words of Simeon applied to our Lord, "that He was set for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel;" and then we shall wonder less at what seem the more devilish forms of unbelief in the immediate proximity of all that is most holy.

6th. That given an imperfect world, it is easier to bring it to acquiesce in a law of expediency than to submit to one which aims at a definition of right and wrong.

For all these reasons, my common sense is not the least hurt by the fact of the absence of temporal prosperity in the Church in any particular country and at any particular time; though sometimes I might expect to see them culminate together. If I speak of O. H.'s letter as containing a half-truth, I claim no more for my own; for I look upon it as a proof of ignorance as well as presumption, to despise truths which must be partial, because they are shown forth by a human intelligence. Out of the dogmas of the Church I admit no complete truths.

I am Sir, your obedient servant,
F.

———————

Prosperity, not the price, but a Reward, of Christian Virtue

SIR,—A writer in a Catholic newspaper has been hard on a sentence of mine in your last Number. May I ask room for a few lines in answer to him?

I had said, "Religion may preach poverty to the saint, but it teaches worldly success and the comforts of life to the faithful at large." I did not mean that worldly success was the wages, or the {237} object, of Christian obedience; but I meant that, as a rule, it was the natural effect of certain supernatural graces, and that it was the extra recompense or present, the mantissa, as Maldonatus calls it, the corollarium, as Cornelius ą Lapide calls it, coming from a bountiful Providence upon His consistent, faithful servants.

Our Lord says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added to you." Maldonatus refers us to the instance of Solomon. St. Paul too says, "Godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." What is promised is preached; though I did not use the word "preach."

I think experience too proves the truth of what I have said, as a matter of fact. Poverty may either be the high reward of the saint and faithful Christian striving after perfection, or the punishment of the careless Christian. Those who strive after perfection are the few; as to the multitude of Christians, poverty is the token, not of perfection, but of certain great imperfections, or rather great sins. And in like manner, as to the multitude of Christians, the absence of poverty is the token of the absence of those particular sins. I appeal to any one who knows the poor, whether, looking at them as a whole, their miseries do not arise from three causes, carelessness and improvidence, drunkenness, neglect of conjugal and parental duty. The absence of these does not guarantee the presence of supernatural virtue; but their presence testifies to its absence. If whole classes of men are without bread, clothing, or lodging, "in labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness," it is not because they are like St. Paul; but, on the contrary, because they utterly neglect "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame;" whatsoever is of "virtue," whatsoever has the "praise of discipline." Here one great exception of course must be joyfully made, viz. of the poor children who have bad parents, the poor wives who have bad husbands, the poor old grandparents, penitents, though they have sinned in their day. I class all these, whom the Almighty afflicts in love, with St. Paul and the perfect, for they are under the discipline of the perfect; nor have I said that individuals have an exact measure of temporal good or evil in proportion to their works; but if a whole independent community be in a slovenly, discontented, disorderly, restless, rebellious condition, "incontinent, unmerciful, traitors, stubborn, puffed up, lovers of pleasure more than of God," as St. Paul says (and this I think is the state of good part of Italy), I cannot but think that such a community, such a nation, is in a state of religious decadence.

I did not say in my letter, and do not say, that good Christians will make splendid fortunes, or be better off than the children of this world; for men who make worldly success their object, and the one object of their lives, and pursue it with energy and prudence, will commonly have their reward where they seek it, and will beat in the race of wealth or honour the good Catholic, who not only does not {238} make it his sole object, but not his object at all. And in like manner I did not quarrel with the social state of Italy because England surpassed her in worldly greatness, but because she was all in confusion, without stable government, without internal union, without civil obedience, without religious peace.

I am tempted here to quote some words of the Council of Paris of 1849; they may be taken as a sort of friendly hint addressed by the Christians of France to the Christians of Italy and their abettors. "It is not true," say the Fathers of the Council, "that in holding the inequality of ranks in society, the Church implies that those hapless persons who are both broken with labour, and yet encompassed with utter penury, are fettered to their misfortunes without power of change and as though by some insuperable fate, the pressure of which neither can nor ought to be alleviated. This most perverted sentiment, which of old time was in fashion among the pagans, is utterly foreign to the Christian doctrine, and is abhorred and detested by the Church.

"Neither is it true that we must understand the Evangelical doctrine concerning the spiritual advantage of pain and its sanctifying power in the sense that it is not lawful for Christians either to desire or to secure a relief of their miseries. For they are taught by the Church to pray daily for deliverance from evil, which in this life is, in the first place sin, next misery or any trouble: and, on every opportunity which offers itself, doth the same Church declare that it is both lawful and honourable for those who are in want of the goods of this life, to strive earnestly in order that every one of them, by means of his strenuous efforts, and in conscientious ways, may alleviate the hardship of his condition, nay further, may succeed, by the assistance of God, in rising to a more prosperous state.

"Once more, it is not true that the Church disapproves of either the prudent investigations of the learned or the wise endeavours of the civil power, for the amelioration of those classes of society which are in want. What measures soever can be as ascertained and established which are salutary for this purpose, we declare to be worthy of praise, and agreeable to Christian piety" (Decret. pp. 66-68).

It must be recollected by my critic that these strong sentiments have been "recognita et approbata" by the Holy See.

I cannot tell, of course, whether he is a priest, but by his authoritative tone I suppose he is; and if so, I recommend him to "preach" to his poorer people, that if they do not strive hard by conscientious ways to rise out of their abject poverty, they are omitting a course of conduct which the Holy See has pronounced to be "lawful, honourable, praiseworthy, and consistent with Christian piety."

I am, &c.
O. H.

———————

Lay Students in Theology

SIR,—I beg to direct your writer's attention to a passage in Dr. Newman's recent volume on University Teaching, in answer to his question {239} about laymen studying theology. It agrees pretty nearly with a judgment which I have heard, and to which I defer, viz. that laymen may study the Treatises de Religione and de Ecclesia; but had better keep clear of the high mysteries of faith and of the subject of grace.

After mentioning the reasons which "oblige us to introduce the subject of religion into our secular schools," he proceeds to answer the objection that "it is better for a youth to know nothing [of theology] than to have a slender knowledge, which he can use freely for the very reason that it is slender." He writes thus:

"In the first place, it is obvious to answer, that one great portion of the knowledge here advocated is, as I have just said, historical knowledge, which has little or nothing to do with doctrine. If a Catholic youth mixes with educated Protestants of his own age, he will find them conversant with the outlines and the characteristics of sacred and ecclesiastical history as well as profane: it is desirable that he should be on a par with them, and able to keep up a conversation with them. It is desirable, if he has left our University with honours or prizes, that he should know as well as they the great primitive divisions of Christianity, its polity, its luminaries, its acts, and its fortunes; its great eras, and its course to this day. He should have some idea of its propagation, and the order in which the nations which have submitted to it entered its pale; and the list of its Fathers, and of its writers generally, and the subjects of their works ... He should be able to say what the Holy See has done for learning and science; the place which these islands hold in the literary history of the dark age; what part the Church had, and how its highest interests fared, in the revival of letters … I do not say that we can ensure all this knowledge in every accomplished student who goes from us, but at least we can admit such knowledge, we can encourage it, in our lecture-rooms and examination-halls.

"And so in like manner as regards Biblical knowledge, it is desirable that, while our students are encouraged to pursue the history of classical literature, they should also be invited to acquaint themselves with some general facts about the canon of Holy Scripture, its history, the Jewish canon, St. Jerome, the Protestant Bible; again, about the languages of Scripture, the contents of its separate books, their authors, and their versions. In all such knowledge I conceive no great harm can lie in being superficial.

"But now as to Theology itself. To meet the apprehended danger, I would exclude the teaching in extenso of pure dogma from the secular schools, and content myself with enforcing such a broad knowledge of doctrinal subjects as is contained in the catechisms of the Church, or the actual writings of her laity. I would have them apply their minds to such religious topics as laymen actually do treat, and are thought praiseworthy in treating. Certainly I admit that when a lawyer, or physician, or statesman, or merchant, or soldier, sets about discussing theological points, he is likely to succeed {240} as well as an ecclesiastic who meddles with laws or medicine, or the exchange. But I am professing to contemplate Christian knowledge in what may be called its secular aspect, as it is practically useful in the intercourse of life and in general conversation; and I would encourage it as it bears upon the history, literature, and philosophy of Christianity.

"It is to be considered, that our students are to go out into the world, and a world not of professed Catholics, but of inveterate, often bitter, commonly contemptuous Protestants; nay, of Protestants who, so far as they come from Protestant Universities and public schools, do know their own system, do know, in proportion to their general attainments, the doctrines and arguments of Protestantism. I should desire, then, to encourage in our students an intelligent apprehension of the relations, as I may call them, between the Church and society at large; for instance, the difference between the Church and a religious sect; between the Church and the civil power; what the Church claims of necessity, what it cannot dispense with, what it can; what it can grant, what it cannot. A Catholic hears the celibacy of the clergy discussed; is that usage of faith, or is it not of faith? He hears the Pope accused of interfering with the prerogatives of her Majesty, because he appoints an hierarchy. What is he to answer? What principle is to guide him in the remarks which he cannot escape from the necessity of making? He fills a station of importance, and he is addressed by some friend who has political reasons for wishing to know what is the difference between Canon and Civil Law, whether the Council of Trent has been received in France, whether a priest cannot in certain cases absolve prospectively, what is meant by his intention, what by the opus operatum; whether, and in what sense, we consider Protestants to be heretics; whether any one can be saved without sacramental confession; whether we deny the reality of natural virtue, and what worth we assign to it.

"Questions may be multiplied without limit, which occur in conversation between friends in social intercourse, or in the business of life, where no argument is needed, no subtle and delicate disquisition, but a few direct words stating the fact. Half the controversies which go on in the world arise from ignorance of the facts of the case; half the prejudices against Catholicity lie in the misinformation of the prejudiced parties. Candid persons are set right, and enemies silenced, by the mere statement of what it is that we believe. It will not answer the purpose for a Catholic to say, ‘I leave it to theologians,' ‘ I will ask my priest;' but it will commonly give him a triumph, as easy as it is complete, if he can then and there lay down the law, I say ‘lay down the law;' for remarkable it is, that even those who speak against Catholicism like to hear about it, and will excuse its advocate from alleging arguments, if he can gratify their curiosity by giving them information. Generally speaking, however, as I have said, such mere information will really be an argument also. I recollect some twenty-five years {241} ago three friends of my own, as they then were, clergymen of the Establishment, making a tour through Ireland. In the West or South they had occasion to become pedestrians for the day; and they took a boy of thirteen to be their guide. They amused themselves with putting questions to him on the subject of his religion; and one of them confessed to me on his return that that poor child put them all to silence. How? Not of course by any train of argument or refined theological disquisition, but merely by knowing and understanding the answers in his catechism.

"Nor will argument itself be out of place in the hands of laymen mixing with the world. As secular power, honour, and resources are never more suitably placed than when they are in the hands of Catholics; so secular knowledge and secular gifts are then best employed when they minister to Divine Revelation. Theologians inculcate the matter and determine the details of that revelation; they view it from within; philosophers view it from without; and this external view may be called the Philosophy of Religion, and the office of delineating it externally is most gracefully performed by laymen. In the first age laymen were most commonly the apologists. Such were Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Aristides, Hermias, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, and Lactantius. In like manner, in this age some of the most prominent defences of the Church are from laymen; as De Maistre, Chateaubriand, Nicolas, Montalembert, and others. If laymen may write, lay-students may read; they surely may read what their fathers may have written. They might surely study other works too, ancient and modern, whether by ecclesiastics or laymen, which, although they do contain theology, nevertheless in their structure and drift are polemical. Such is Origen's great work against Celsus ... Even, however, if we confine ourselves strictly to the philosophy, that is, the external contemplation of religion, we shall have a range of reading sufficiently wide, and as valuable in its practical application as it is liberal in its character. In it will be included what are commonly called the Evidences, and what is an especially interesting subject at this day, the notes of the Church."

A letter which has come into my hands from a foreign theologian singularly corroborates some of these remarks, going further than the author. It says, "My opinion is, which many others share, that at present laymen of a certain rank have more need of knowing dogmatic theology, ecclesiastical history, and canon law, than priests. The reason is, that in lay company the deepest and most difficult problems in those subjects are discussed. This is seldom done when any priest is present. Moreover, in your country, laymen have better opportunities than priests to correct a thousand false notions of Protestants."

H.

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{244}

Designs and prospects of Russia

[Possibly by N.—Blehl.]

SIR,—A friend of mine has expressed his views on the subject of the attitude and views of Russia, in connection with the present war, so clearly in an unpublished pamphlet, that I hope that you will allow me to set them before your readers as far as your space admits.

Russia, as he considers, is the power destined to gain by the mad and lawless policy of France and Sardinia. The "liberalism" put forward is only the familiar repetition of many another stroke of the kind. Such professions of philanthropic sympathy preceded the disruption of Poland; such talk was heard about Greece and before Navarino, and has now half-severed a new region from Turkey on the Danube, to be soon absorbed like Poland. The strings and levers of the Secret Societies of the Continent are in reality in her hands. She has Legitimacy in one hand, and Revolution {245} in the other; and is so practised in the game, that she might almost play it blindfold.

How long is it since it has been known to the better informed in every country but England—which is so enlightened that she cannot see—that before Russia's plans in Turkey can be much further developed, Austria must be reduced to at least an inert, suffering, exhausted condition? Austria's Slavic populations must also be taught to look for their future to the cognate Muscovite, and, with those of Turkey, gradually crystallise into Russian provinces, from the Black Sea to the Adriatic.

This assault of France and Sardinia will probably advance Russia morally and politically—though not as yet physically—to all but the accomplishment of that design.

Even a succession of military successes, pitched battles fairly won, can hardly save Austria. She will almost certainly break down in finance, after having, to men's surprise, just raised her head above the level of bankruptcy. Russia will have nothing to do but stand by, guiding events through her satellites in Paris, Turin, and London. If Austria be not sufficiently broken, she can disturb her by conspiracy in her rear, or even by attack. If she be so far broken as to present a prospect of France becoming too powerful, she can head a German alliance, and march to the Rhine, putting Austria once more as ostentatiously as possible in a position of disgraceful obligation for help out of a pit which the helper had dug.

My own impression is, that the financial ruin and the show of help are for Austria, and that military concussion is reserved for France. But who can say? It may depend on the completeness of Louis Napoleon's collusion with Alexander. If he is yet to join in a partition of Turkey, then the whole weight of all calamity may probably fall on Austria. Still, the former course—that, to wit, of hopeless depression of Austria through financial exhaustion, and of France through a defeat at the hands of a new coalition—seems the more likely.

In any event, the real case, as concerns Europe, has not even been hinted at by our wonderful Press and Parliament. On the one hand, a philanthropic impossibility, a lawless propagandism of constitutional forms, is accepted as motive for encouraging the march of France into Italy; on the other hand, a risk of such a thing as French ambition is the utmost motive that has been suggested for misgiving, and for pausing in headlong cooperation with Cavour and the Clubs. Certainly this is, so far, common sense; but how infinitely short of the truths involved, and the motives presented, by three words, "What of Russia?" You will not get that chord touched.

But there are other motives besides those drawn from strategy, and geographical positions, and sympathies of blood and language, which make Russia intent on paralysing Austria, reducing her to a small German state, and slipping the Muscovite bit into the mouths of her Slavic tribes. {246}

The same motives which rendered it clear gain to Russia that the prestige of the Germanic empire—the shadow of that of Rome—should cease, and that Vienna should sink into only the capital of Austria, and her emperor be one, therefore, of a later date than the Romanoff, still prevail. The grandeur of the old imperial dignity is not yet sufficiently stripped from Russia's rival. Like that other august claimant of homage and reverence, the crown of St. Louis, it must be lowered to the dust. Russia must have none but new kings and parvenu states, or, at best, decrepit old ones, as the preliminary to enforcing her long-reserved claim to universal imperial sway, and the fruition of her pretended inheritance through Byzantium and the Palęologi.

She has also to make her throne the citadel of man's religious necessities. However strong unbelief and vice and revolution may be, in the long-run Russia knows that men must have order, and all that renders order possible; and that, therefore, religion must reappear, like an Ararat, after every deluge. What strength may be got through these moral necessities, after teaching the world to feel them through successive confusions and desolations, and after breaking down every rival representative of such ideas, Russia means to retain for herself. She may somewhat miscalculate final issues, but, in the mean time, such are among her motives; such are, therefore, among the facts with which we are concerned in viewing such an event as war waged against Austria. Every portion of this subject,—in which England has been only seeing, on the one hand, a tempting vision of a romantic united Italy, and, on the other, a warning spectre of an aggrandised France,—teems, in fact, with Russia's schemes. Her motives and interests, ethnological, geographical, military, political, religious, crowd into the very van of the question. Yet they are unseen, unnamed. Their overwhelming importance is rendered doubly impressive by the dead silence regarding them. Such a demeanour, in the face of such facts, is fearfully ominous; it shows the truth to be so grave as to make the weak look askance, and that where ignorance and panic cannot be supposed, there must be collusion.

One word as to contingence directly affecting our own shores. Which power is likely to do Russia's work of breaking England when her turn comes? Is it Austria? or is it France? Supposing Louis Napoleon to look forward to the humiliation of England as the triumph which is to give to himself fame, and to his dynasty permanence, when can he most safely attempt it,—before or after the crushing of Austria? Austria (like the rest of Germany) might easily be induced to strike a blow to save England, and arrest the domination of France, were she herself standing upright and uncrippled. If French ambition, or rather vain-glory and revenge, are, therefore, ere long to be directed against us, the assault on Austria is a wise preliminary. Our most sure ally will be thus destroyed, not to speak of her dispositions changed by a sense of injury in being abandoned. France assail us with no alarms {247} in her rear, but, on the contrary, with Italian ships, and ports, and sailors, added to her own. The temptation, should France entirely triumph in her present war, to pursue the career desired by Russia will be irresistible; and a deadly struggle between the two great maritime powers will end in the possession by a third of the prize for which they contend.

H. H.

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