Lecture 10. Differences Among Catholics No Prejudice to the Unity of the Church

Objection:—Catholics as Divided as Protestants
Human Nature
    Religious Orders
Church Teaches way to Salvation
History Proves Unity of Church
    Heresies connected with Doctrine of Incarnation


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{296} I AM going today to take notice of an objection to the claims of that great Communion, into which, my brethren, I am inviting you, which to me sounds so feeble and unworthy, that I am loth to take it for my subject; for an answer, if corresponding to it, must be trifling and uninteresting also, and if careful and exact, will be but a waste of effort. I, therefore, do not know what to do with it: treat it with respect I cannot; yet since it is frequently, nay, triumphantly, urged by those who wish to make the most of such difficulties as they can bring together against our claims, I do not like to pass it over. Bear with me then, my brethren, nay, I may say, sympathize with me, if you find that the subject is not one which is very fertile in profitable reflection.


When, then, the variations of Protestantism, or the divisions in the Establishment, are urged as a reason for your distrusting the Communion in which they are {297} found, it is answered, that divisions as serious and as decided are to be found in the Catholic Church. It is a well-known point in controversy, to say that the Catholic Church has not any real unity more than Protestantism; for, if Lutherans are divided in creed from Calvinists, and both from Anglicans, and the various denominations of Dissenters each has its own doctrine and its own interpretation, yet Dominicans and Franciscans, Jesuits and Jansenists, have had their quarrels too. Nay, that at this moment the greatest alienation, rivalry, and difference of opinion exist among the members of the Catholic priesthood, so that the Church is but nominally one, and her pretended unity resolves itself into nothing more specious than an awkward and imperfect uniformity. This is what is said: and, I repeat, my answer to it cannot contain anything either new or important, or even satisfactory to myself. However, since I must enter upon the subject, I must make the best of it; so let me begin with an extract from Jewel's Apology, in which the objection is to be found.

"Who are these," he says, "that find fault with dissensions among us? Are they all agreed among themselves? Hath every one of them determined, to his own satisfaction, what he should follow? Have there been no differences, no disputes among them? Then why do not the Scotists and the Thomists come to a more perfect agreement touching the merit of congruity {298} and condignity, touching original sin in the Blessed Virgin, and the obligations of simple and solemn vows? Why do the Canonists affirm auricular confession to be of human and positive, and the Schoolmen, on the contrary, maintain that it is of divine right? Why does Albertus Pighius differ from Cajetan, Thomas Aquinas from Peter Lombard, Scotus from Thomas Aquinas, Occham from Scotus, Peter D'Ailly from Occham, the Nominalists from the Realists? And, not to mention the infinite dissensions of the friars and monks (how some of them place their holiness in the eating of fish, others in herbs; some in wearing of shoes, others in sandals; some in linen garments, others in woollen; some go in white, some in black; some are shaven broader, some narrower; some shod, some barefoot; some girded, others ungirded), they should remember that some of their own adherents say, that the body of Christ is in the Lord's supper naturally; that others again, of their own party, teach the very reverse: that there are some who affirm that the body of Christ in the Holy Communion is torn and ground with our teeth; others again there are who deny it: that there are some who say that the body of Christ in the Eucharist hath quantity; and others again deny it: that there are some who say that Christ consecrated the bread and wine by the special putting forth of His divine power; others, that He consecrated in the benediction: some, by the {299} conceiving the five words in His mind; others, by His uttering them: others there are who, in these five words, refer the demonstrative pronoun 'this' to the wheaten bread; others to what they call an individuum vagum: some there are who affirm that dogs and mice can verily and truly eat the body of Christ; others there are who do not hesitate to deny it; some there are who say that the very accidents of the bread and wine give nourishment; others, that the substance of bread and wine returns after consecration. And why should we bring forward more? It would be only tedious and burdensome to enumerate them all; so unsettled and disputed is yet the whole form of these men's religion and doctrine even among themselves, from whom it sprang and proceeded. For scarcely ever are they agreed together, unless, as of old, the Pharisees and Sadducees were, or Herod and Pilate, against Christ."

It is equally common to insist upon the breaches of charity which are to be found among the members of the Catholic Church. For instance, Leslie says, "If you have not unity in faith, nor in those principles and practices which are no less necessary to salvation, nor in that love and charity which Christ has made the characteristic of Christians, and without which no man can know who are His disciples; but, instead of that, if you have envyings and strife among you, among your several religious orders, betwixt National {300} and National Church, concerning the infallibility and supremacy of the Pope, and of his power to depose princes, upon which the peace and unity of the world and our eternal salvation does depend; and, in short, if you have no unity concerning your rule of faith itself, or of your practice, what will the unity of communion do, upon which you lay the whole stress?" [Note 1]

Such is the retort, by which Protestants would divert our attack upon their own mutual differences and variations in matters of faith. They answer, that differences of religious opinion and that party dissensions are found within the Catholic Church.


Now, in beginning my remarks upon this objection, I would have you observe, my brethren, that the very idea of the Catholic Church, as an instrument of supernatural grace, is that of an institution which innovates upon, or rather superadds to nature. She does something for nature above or beyond nature. When, then, it is said that she makes her members one, this implies that by nature they are not one, and would not become one. Viewed in themselves, the children of the Church are not of a different nature from the Protestants around them; they are of the very same nature. What Protestants are, such would they be, but for the {301} Church, which brings them together forcibly, though persuasively, "fortiter et suaviter," and binds them into one by her authority. Left to himself, each Catholic likes and would maintain his own opinion and his private judgment just as much as a Protestant; and he has it, and he maintains it, just so far as the Church does not, by the authority of Revelation, supersede it. The very moment the Church ceases to speak, at the very point at which she, that is, God who speaks by her, circumscribes her range of teaching, there private judgment of necessity starts up; there is nothing to hinder it. The intellect of man is active and independent: he forms opinions about everything; he feels no deference for another's opinion, except in proportion as he thinks that that other is more likely than he to be right; and he never absolutely sacrifices his own opinion, except when he is sure that that other knows for certain. He is sure that God knows; therefore, if he is a Catholic, he sacrifices his opinion to the Word of God, speaking through His Church. But, from the nature of the case, there is nothing to hinder his having his own opinion, and expressing it, whenever, and so far as, the Church, the oracle of Revelation, does not speak.

But again, human nature likes, not only its own opinion, but its own way, and will have it whenever it can, except when hindered by physical or moral restraint. So far forth, then, as the Church does not {302} compel her children to do one and the same thing (as, for instance, to abstain from work on Sunday, and from flesh on Friday), they will do different things: and still more so, when she actually allows or commissions them to act for themselves, gives to certain persons or bodies privileges and immunities, and recognizes them as centres of combination, under her authority, and within her pale.

And further still, in all subjects and respects whatever, whether in that range of opinion and of action which the Church has claimed to herself, and where she has superseded what is private and individual, or, on the other hand, in those larger regions of thought and of conduct, as to which she has not spoken, though she might speak, the natural tendency of the children of the Church, as men, is to resist her authority. Each mind naturally is self-willed, self-dependent, self-satisfied; and except so far as grace has subdued it, its first impulse is to rebel. Now this tendency, through the influence of grace, is not often exhibited in matters of faith; for it would be incipient heresy, and would be contrary, if knowingly indulged, to the first element of Catholic duty; but in matters of conduct, of ritual, of discipline, of politics, of social life, in the ten thousand questions which the Church has not formally answered, even though she may have intimated her judgment, there is a constant rising of the human mind against the authority of the Church, {303} and of superiors, and that, in proportion as each individual is removed from perfection. For all these reasons, there ever has been, and ever will be, a vast exercise and a realized product, partly praiseworthy, partly barely lawful, of private judgment within the Catholic Church. The freedom of the human mind is "in possession" (as it is called), and it meddles with every question, and wanders over heaven and earth, except so far as the authority of the Divine Word, as a superincumbent weight, presses it down, and restrains it within limits.


The most obvious instance of this liberty or licence within the Church is that of nationality; and I do not understand why it has not been urged in the controversy more prominently than the mere rivalry and party-spirit of monastic bodies. What a vast assemblage of private attachments and feelings, judgments, tastes, and traditions, goes to make up the idea of nationality! yet, there it exists in the Church, because the Church has not been divinely instructed to forbid it, and it fights against the Church and the Church's objects, except where the Church authoritatively repels it. The Church is a preacher of peace, and nationality is the fruitful cause of quarrels, far more sinful and destructive than the paper wars, and rivalry of customs or precedents, which alone can possibly exist between religious bodies. The Church grants to the magistrate {304} the power of the sword, and the right of making war in a lawful quarrel, and nations abuse this prerogative to break up that unity of love which ought to exist in the baptized servants of a common Master, and to put to death by wholesale those whom they pray to live with for ever in heaven. This, I say, might be urged in controversy against Catholicism, as an extreme instance of the want of unity in the Church; and yet, when properly considered, it is rather a special instance, I do not say of her unity, but of her uniting power. She fights the battle of unity against nationality, and she wins. Look through her history, and you cannot deny but she is the one great principle of unity and concord which the world has seen. In this day, I grant, scientific unions, free trade, railroads, and industrial exhibitions are put forward as a substitute for her influence, with what success posterity will be able to judge; but, as far as the course of history has yet proceeded, the Church is the only power that has wrestled, as with the concupiscence, so with the pride, irritability, selfishness, and self-love of human nature. Her annals present a series of victories over that human nature, which is the subject-matter of her operations; and to object to her that she has an enemy to overcome, surely would be a most perverse view of the case, and a most sophistical argument in controversy. The barbarian invaders of the empire were the enemies of the human race and of each other; {305} and to subdue and unite them, and to harness them, as it were, to her triumphal chariot by her look and by her voice, was an exploit of moral power, such as the world has never seen elsewhere. Such, too, was her continual arbitration between the fierce feudal monarchs of the Middle Ages, which, though not always successful to the extent of her desire, exhibits her most signally in that her great and heavenly character of peacemaker, and vindicates for her the attribute, given her in the Creed, and envied her by her enemies, of being One.

And here I cannot but allude to the subject which employed our attention yesterday; for, be it for good or for evil, it then seemed a truth beyond contradiction, that one and the same character was to be found in all Catholic nations, in north and south, in the middle age and in the present. I repeat, I am not assuming now, any more than then, that this common character is admirable and beautiful, or denying (as far as this argument goes) that it is despicable and offensive; I only remind you that its identity everywhere was in yesterday's Lecture taken for granted; and what was granted by me to our own prejudice then, must be conceded to me in our favour now. Considering the wide differences in nations and in times, it surely is very remarkable that the religious character, which the Catholic Church forms in her populations, is so identical as it is found to be. Can, {306} indeed, there be a more marvellous, or even awful, instance of her real internal unity, than that a modern Naples should be like medieval England? and if we do not see the same character more than partially developed in Ireland at this moment, is not this the plain reason, that the Irish people has been worn down by oppression, not allowed to be joyous, not allowed to be natural, as little capable of exhibiting human nature in a Catholic medium, as primitive Christianity while it lived in the Catacombs?


After considerations such as these, I own I can scarcely treat seriously the earnestness with which Protestant controversialists would call me back to contemplate the quarrels and jealousies of seculars and regulars, among themselves, or with each other; as if the human mind were not at all times, so far as it is left to itself, selfish and exclusive, and especially in the various circumstances under which it is found in a far-spreading polity or association. When Catholics in any country are poor or few, each religious body, each college, each priest, is tempted to do his utmost for himself, at the expense of every one else. I do not mean for his temporal interests, for he has not the temptation, but for the interests of his own mission and place, and of his own people. He has to build his chapel, to support his school, to feed his poor; and if {307} his next-door neighbour gets the start of him, no means will be left for himself. Or if he is of a mendicant order, he feels he has a claim on the support of the faithful, prior to a religious body which lives on endowments or has other property; but the latter has lately come to the country, and thinks it very fair, on its first start, once for all to make a general appeal, without which it never will be able to get afloat. All parties, then, are naturally led to look out for themselves in the first instance; and this state of mind may easily degenerate into a jealousy of the good fortune or prosperity of others. And then again, some men, or races of men, are more sudden in their tempers than others, or individuals may be deficient in moral training or refinement, and strangers may mistake for a real dissension what is nothing more than momentary and transitory collision.

Or again, let the country be Catholic, and the Church rich; then, what so natural, so inevitable, taking men as they are, as that large, and widely-spread, and powerful congregations or orders, high in repute, commanding in station, famous in historical memories, rich in saints, proud of their doctors, and of schools founded on their tradition, should be exposed to the various infirmities of party spirit, adhere sensitively and obstinately to the privileges they possess, or to the doctrines which have been their watchwords, disparage others and wish to overbear them, and provoke the {308} interposition of authority to put an end to the disputes which they have excited? I should be curious to know whether there ever was a case when two Protestant sects or parties found any umpire at all, in a question of opinion between them, except indeed the strong arm of the law. And, in saying all this, I am not determining the fact of such quarrels among Catholics, nor the degree to which they proceed; for, as in former Lectures, I am not specially concerned with the investigation of facts; I am taking for granted what is alleged by our opponents, and is antecedently probable, taking human nature as it is. But, in truth, you might far better refer to the esprit de corps of separate regiments in her Majesty's service, in order to prove that the tribes of Red Indians may be fairly said to live in peace together,—or point to the rivalries and party politics of separate colleges in the national seats of learning as a proof that those bodies are mutual belligerents, and assert that the university is not one, and does not act as one, because its colleges differ among themselves,—than assert the like of any of those religious bodies, established and sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The very same parties, who have their domestic feuds with one another, will defend, as Catho1ics, their common faith, or common Mother, against an external foe; but when did the Bishops of the Establishment ever stand by the Friends or by the Independents, or the Wesleyans by the Baptists, on {309} any one point of doctrine, with a unity of opinion, intelligent, positive, and exact?

You recollect the popular story, which is intended to exemplify the supremacy of the instinct of benevolence over religious opinion. It is supposed to be one o'clock on Sunday, and a number of congregations are pouring out, their devotions being over, from their respective chapels and meeting-houses, when a woman is taken ill in the street. The sight of this physical calamity is represented as sufficient to supersede all other considerations in the minds of the beholders, and to bind together for the moment the most bitter opponents in the common work of Christian charity. This argument of course is based upon the assumption, and a very reasonable one, that the differences which exist between man and man in religious matters, far from disproving, do but illustrate and confirm the fact of the participation of all men in the natural sentiment of compassion; and surely the case is the same in the Catholic Church, as regards the differences and the unanimity of her religious bodies. Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, and Carmelites have indeed their respective homes and schools; but they have, in spite of all that, a common school and a common home in their Mother's voice and their Mother's bosom; "omnes omnium caritates patria una complexa est;" but Protestants can but "agree to differ." Quarrels, stopping short of division, do but {310} prove the strength of the principle of combination; they are a token not of the languor, but of the vigour, of its life. Surely this is what we see and say daily as regards the working of the British constitution.


But we have not yet got to the real point of the question which lies between us: you allege these differences in the Catholic Church, my brethren, as a reason for your not submitting to her authority. Now, in order to ascertain their force in this point of view, let it be considered that the primary question, with every serious inquirer, is the question of salvation. I am speaking to those who feel this to be so; not to those who make religion a sort of literature or philosophy, but to those who desire, both in their creed and in their conduct, to approve themselves to their Maker, and to save their souls. This being taken for granted, it immediately follows to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" and "who is to teach me?" and next, can Protestantism, can the National Church, teach me? No, is the answer of common sense, for this simple reason, because of the variations and discordances in teaching of both the one and the other. The National Church is no guide into the truth, because no one knows what it holds, and what it commands: one party says this, and a second party says that, and a third party says neither this nor that. I must seek the truth {311} then elsewhere; and then the question follows, Shall I seek it in the Communion of Rome? In answer, this objection is instantly made, "You cannot find the truth in Rome, for there are as many divisions there as in the National Communion." Who would not suppose the objection to mean, that these divisions were such as to make it difficult or impossible to ascertain what it was that the Roman Communion taught? Who would not suppose it to mean that there was within the Communion of Rome a difference of creed and of dogmatic teaching; whereas the state of the case is just the reverse? No one can pretend that the quarrels in the Catholic Church are questions of faith, or have tended in any way to obscure or impair what she declares to be such, and what is acknowledged to be such by the very parties in those quarrels. That Dominicans and Franciscans have been zealous respectively for certain doctrinal views, which they declare at the same time to be beyond and in advance of the promulgated faith of the Church, throws no doubt upon that faith itself; how does it follow that they differ in questions of faith, because they differ in questions not of faith? Rather, I would say, if a number of parties distinct from each other give the same testimony on certain points, their differences on other points do but strengthen the evidence for the truth of those matters in which they all are agreed; and the greater the difference, the more remarkable is the unanimity. The question is, "Where {312} can I be taught, who cannot be taught by the National Communion, because it does not teach?" and the Protestant warning runs, "Not in the Catholic Church, because she, in spite of differences on subordinate points amongst her members, does teach."

In truth, she not only teaches in spite of those differences, but she has ever taught by means of them. Those very differences of Catholics on further points have themselves implied and brought out their absolute faith in the doctrines which are previous to them. The doctrines of faith are the common basis of the combatants, the ground on which they contend, their ultimate authority, and their arbitrating rule. They are assumed, and introduced, and commented on, and enforced, in every stage of the alternate disputation; and I will venture to say, that, if you wish to get a good view of the unity, consistency, solidity, and reality of Catholic teaching, your best way is to get up the controversy on grace, or on the Immaculate Conception. No one can do so without acquiring a mass of theological knowledge, and sinking in his intellect a foundation of dogmatic truth, which is simply antecedent and common to the rival schools, and which they do but exhibit and elucidate. To suppose that they perplex an inquirer or a convert, is to fancy that litigation destroys the principles and the science of law, or that spelling out words of five syllables makes a child forget his alphabet. On the other hand, place your unfortunate {313} inquirer between Luther and Calvin, if the Holy Eucharist is his subject; or, if he is determining the rule of faith, between Bramhall and Chillingworth, Bull and Hoadley, and what residuum will be left, when you have eliminated their contrarieties?


It is imprudent in opponents of the Catholic Religion to choose for their attack the very point in which it is strong. As truth is tried by error, virtue by temptation, courage by opposition, so is individuality and life tried by disturbance and disorder; and its trial is its evidence. The long history of Catholicism is but a coordinate proof of its essential unity. I suppose, then, that Protestants must be considered as turning to bay upon their pursuers, when they would retort upon us the argument available against themselves from their religious variations. "The Romanist must admit," it has been urged, "that the state, whether of the Church Catholic or of the Roman Church, at periods before or during the Middle Ages, was such as to bear a very strong resemblance to the picture he draws of our own. I do not speak of corruptions in life and morals merely, or of errors of individuals, however highly exalted, but of the general disorganized and schismatical state of the Church, her practical abandonment of her spiritual pretensions, the tyranny exercised over her by the civil power, and the intimate adherence of the worst passions {314} and of circumstantial irregularities to those acts which are vital portions of her system." [Note 2] Such is the imputation; but yet, to tell the truth, I do not know any passages in her history which supply so awful an evidence of her unity and self-dependence, or so luminous a contrast to Anglicanism or other Protestantism, as these very anomalies in the rule and tenor of her course as I have already observed, and shall presently show by examples.

Two years back, when European society was shaken to its basis, the question which came before us was, not whether this or that nation was great and powerful, and able, in case of necessity, to go to war with vigour and effect, but even whether it could hold together, whether it possessed that internal consistency, reality, and life, which made it one. This was the question asked even about England; it was a problem, debated before it could be tried, settled distinctly in the affirmative, when a trial was granted. Much as we might have confided in the steadiness of character, good sense, reverence for law, contentment and political discipline of our people, we shall, I suppose, admit that there was an evidence laid before the world of our national stability, after April 1848, to which no mere anticipation was equivalent. No one can deny, that fully as we may be impressed with the security of Russia, still we have not, as regards Russia, such a {315} vivid impression on our mind, almost on our senses, of the fact, as was created by the threat and the failure of a political rising in England at the date I have mentioned. And sometimes the longer is the trial, and the more critical the contest (as in the instance of the civil discords of ancient Rome), the greater vigour and the more obstinate life is exhibited by the nation and state, when once it is undeniably victorious over its internal disorders. As external enemies do not prove a state to be weak till they prevail over it, so rebellions from within may but prove its strength, if they are smitten down and extinguished. Now, the disorders which have afflicted the Church have just had this office assigned them in the designs of Providence, and teach us this lesson. They have but assayed what may be called the unitive and integrating virtue of the See of St. Peter, in contrast to such counterfeits as the Anglican Church, which, set up in unconditional surrender to the nation, has never been able to resist the tyranny or caprice of the national will. The Establishment, having no internal principle of individuality, except what it borrows from the nation, can neither expel what is foreign to itself, nor heal its own wounds; the Church, a living body, when she becomes the seat of a malady or disorder, tends from the first to its eradication, which is but a matter of time. This great fact continually occurring in her history, I will briefly illustrate by two examples, which will be the fairest to take, from the {316} extraordinary obstinacy of the evil, and its occasional promise of victory:—the history of the heresies concerning the Incarnation, and the history of Jansenism. Each controversy had a reference to a great mystery of the faith; in each every inch of the ground was contested, and the enemy retired step by step, or at least from post to post. The former of the two lasted for between four and five hundred years, and the latter nearly two hundred.


First, as to the doctrine of the Incarnation, the mind of man is naturally impatient of whatever it cannot reduce to the system of order and of causation to which it subjects all its knowledge; that is, of whatever is mysterious and incomprehensible; no wonder, then, that it was discontented with a doctrine so utterly impossible to fathom as that of the Almighty and Eternal becoming man. As private judgment is ever rising up against Revelation, as the irascible principle in our nature is ever insurgent against reason, so there was a most determined effort and (to use a familiar word) set against this capital and vital article of faith, age after age, on the part of various schools of opinion all over Christendom. They differed, and indeed were almost indifferent, how the mystery was to be disposed of; they took up opposite theories against it; they were antagonists of each other; but go it must. The attack {317} came upon the Church, not on this side or that, but from all quarters, at once or successively, whether in the wide field of speculation, or within the territory of the Church, and circled round the Holy See, rallying and forming again and again in very various positions, though beaten back for a time, and apparently brought under. It was a very stubborn fight; and till the end appeared, which was not till after many generations, it would have been easy to indulge misgivings whether it would ever have an ending. Let us fancy an erudite Nestorian of the day living in Seleucia, beyond the limits of the Roman Empire, and looking out over the Euphrates upon the battle which was waging between the See of St. Peter and the subtle heresy of the Monophysites, through so protracted a period; and let him write a defence of his own Communion for the use of theological students. Doubtless he would have used that long contest as a decisive argument against the unity and purity of the Catholic Church, and might have adopted, by anticipation, the triumphant words of a learned Anglican divine, rashly uttered in 1838, and prudently recalled in 1842, with reference to that Jansenistic controversy, which I reserve for my second example. "This very [Monophysite] heresy," he would have said, "has, in opposition to all these anathemas and condemnations, and in spite of the persecution of the temporal powers, continued to exist for nearly [300] years; and, what is more, it has existed all along in the {318} very heart of the Roman Church itself. Yet, it has perpetuated itself in all parts of that Church, sometimes covertly, sometimes openly, exciting uneasiness, tumults, innovations, reforms, persecution, schisms, but always adhering to the Roman communion with invincible tenacity. It is in vain that, sensible of so great an evil, the Roman Church struggles and resorts to every expedient to free her from its presence; the loathed and abhorred heresy perpetuates itself in her vitals, and infects her bishops, her priests, her monks, her universities; and, depressed for a time by the arm of civil power, gains the ascendancy at length, influences the councils of kings, ... produces religious innovations of the most extraordinary character, and inflicts infinite and permanent injury and disgrace on the cause of the Roman Church." [Note 3]

Such is the phenomenon which Monophysitism distinctly presents to us more than a thousand years before the rise of a heresy, which this author seems to have fancied the first instance of such an anomaly. The controversy began amid the flourishing schools of Syria, the most learned quarter of Christendom; it extended along Asia Minor to Greece and Constantinople; and then there was a pause. Suddenly it broke out in an apparently dissimilar shape, and with a new beginning, in the imperial city; summoned its adherents, confederates, and partisans from North to {319} South, came into collision with the Holy See, and convulsed the Catholic world. Subdued for a while, it returned to what was very like its original form and features, and reared its head in Egypt with a far more plausible phraseology, and in a far more promising position. There, and in Syria, and thence through the whole of the East, supported by the emperors, and afterwards by the Mahometans, it sustained itself with great ingenuity, inventing evasion after evasion, and throwing itself into more and more subtle formulas, for the space of near three hundred years. Lastly, it suddenly appeared in a new shape, and in a final effort, four hundred years from the time of its first rise, in the extreme West of Europe, among the theologians of Spain; and formed matter of controversy for our own Alcuin, the scholar of St. Bede, for the interposition of Charlemagne, and the labours of the great Council of Frankfort.

It is impossible, I am sure, for any one patiently to read the history of this series of controversies, whatever may be his personal opinions, without being intimately convinced of the oneness or identity of the mind, which lived in the Catholic Church through that long period; which baffled the artifices and sophistries of the subtlest intellects, was proof against human infirmity and secular expedience, and succeeded in establishing irrevocably and for ever those points of faith with which she started in the contest. "Any {320} one false step would have thrown the whole theory of the doctrine into irretrievable confusion; but it was as if some individual and perspicacious intellect, to speak humanly, ruled the theological discussion from first to last. That in the long course of centuries, and in spite of the failure, in points of detail, of the most gifted fathers and saints, the Church thus wrought out the one and only consistent theory which can be formed on the great doctrine in dispute, proves how clear, simple, and exact her vision of that doctrine was." [Note 4] Now I leave the retrospect of this long struggle with two remarks—first, that it was never doubtful to the world for any long time what was the decision of authority on each successive question as each came into consideration; next, that the series of doctrinal errors which was evolved tended from the first to an utter overthrow of the heresy, each decision of authority being a new and further victory over it, which was never undone. It was all along in visible course of expulsion from the Catholic fold. Contrast this with the denial of baptismal grace, viewed as a heresy within the Anglican Church; has the sentiment of authority against it always been unquestionable? Has there been a series of victories over it? Is it in visible course of expulsion? Is it ever tending to be expelled? Are the influence and prospects of the heresy less formidable now than in the age of Wesley, or of {321} Calamy, or of Baxter, or of Abbot, or of Cartwright, or of the Reformers?


The second controversy which I shall mention is one not so remarkable in itself, not so wide in its field of conflict, nor so terrible in its events, but more interesting perhaps to us, as relating almost to our own times, and because it is used as an argument against the Church's unity and power of enforcing her decisions, by such writers as the theologian, of whose words I just now availed myself. For the better part of two centuries Jansenism has troubled the greater part of Catholic Europe, has had great successes, and has expected greater still; yet, somehow or other, such is the fact, as a looker-on would be obliged to say, whatever be the internal reasons for it, of which he would not be a judge, at the end of the time you look for it and it is gone. As fire among the stubble threatens great things, but suddenly is quenched in the very fulness of its blaze, so has it been with the heresy in question. One might have thought that an age like this would have been especially favourable for the development of many of its peculiarities; one never should be surprised even now, if it developed them again. The heresy almost rose with Protestantism, and kept pace with it; it extended and flourished in those Catholic countries on which Protestantism had {322} made its greatest inroads, and it grew by the side of Protestantism; when now suddenly we find it dead in France, and it is receiving its death-blow in Austria, in the very generation, at the very hour, when Protestantism is at length getting acknowledged possession of the far-famed communion of Laud and Hammond.

There was a time when nearly all that was most gifted, learned, and earnest in France seemed corrupted by the heresy; which, though condemned again and again by the Holy See, discovered new subterfuges, and gained to itself fresh patrons and protectors, to shelter it from the Apostolic ban. What circle of names can be produced, comparable in their times for the combination of ability and virtue, of depth of thought, of controversial dexterity, of poetical talent, of extensive learning, and of religious reputation, with those of Launoy, Pascal, Nicole, Arnauld, Racine, Tillemont, Quesnel, and their co-religionists, admirable in every point, but in their deficiency in the primary grace of a creature, humility? What shall we say to the prospects of a school of opinion, which was influencing so many of the most distinguished Congregations of the day; and which, though nobly withstood by the Society of Jesus and the Sulpicians, yet at length found an entrance among the learned Benedictines of St. Maur, and had already sapped the faith of various members of another body, as erudite and as gifted as they? For fifteen years a Cardinal Archbishop of {323} Paris was its protector and leader, and this at a distance of sixty years after its formal condemnation. First, the book itself of Jansenius had been condemned; and then, in consequence of an evasion, the sense of the book; and then a controversy arose whether the Church could decide such a matter of fact as that a book had a particular sense. And then the further question came into discussion whether the sense of the book was to be condemned with the mere intention of an external obedience, or with an internal assent. Eleven bishops of France interposed with the Pope to prevent the condemnation; there were four who required nothing more of their clergy than a respectful silence on the subject in controversy; and nineteen wrote to the Pope in favour of these four. Before these difficulties had been settled, a fresh preacher of the same doctrines appeared in the person of Quesnel; and on the Pope's condemning his opinions in the famous bull Unigenitus, six bishops refused to publish it, and fourteen formally opposed it; and then sixteen suspended the effects of it. Three universities took part with them, and the parliaments of various towns banished their Archbishops, Bishops, or Priests, and confiscated their goods, either for taking part against the Jansenists or for refusing them the Sacraments [Note 5].

As time went on, the evil spread wider and grew {324} more intense, instead of being relieved. In the middle of last century, a hundred years after the condemnation of the heresy at Rome, it was embodied in the person of a far more efficacious disputant than Jansenius or Quesnel. The Emperor Joseph developed the apparently harmless theories of a theological school in the practical form of Erastianism. He prohibited the reception of the famous bull Unigenitus in his dominions; subjected all bulls, rescripts, and briefs from Rome to an imperial supervision; forbade religious orders to obey foreign superiors; "suppressed confraternities, abolished the processions, retrenched festivals, prescribed the order of offices, regulated the ceremonies, the number of masses, the manner of giving benediction, nay the number of waxlights." [Note 6] He seized the revenues of the Bishops, destroyed their sees, and even for a time forbade them to confer orders. He permitted divorce in certain cases, and removed images from the churches. The new Reformation reached as far as Belgium on the one hand, and down to Naples on the other. The whole of the Empire and its alliances were apparently on the point of disowning their dependence on the Apostolic See. The worship of the saints, auricular confession, indulgences, and other Catholic doctrines, were openly written against or disputed by bishops and professors. The Archduke of Tuscany, imitating the Emperor, sent catechisms to the bishops, and instructed them by his {325} circulars or charges; while a Neapolitan prelate, instead of his ordinary title of "Bishop by the grace of the Holy Apostolic See," styled himself "Bishop by the grace of the King." Who would not have thought that Henry of England had risen from his place, and was at once in Vienna, Belgium, Tuscany, and Naples? The reforming views had spread into Portugal; and, to complete the crisis, the great antagonist of Protestantism, which was born with it in one day, and had ever since been the best champion of the Holy See, the Society of Jesus itself, by the inscrutable fiat of Providence, was, in that hour of need, to avoid worse evils, by that very See suppressed. Surely the Holy Roman Church is at length in the agonies of dissolution. The Catholic powers, Germany, France, Portugal, and Naples, all have turned against her. Who is to defend her? The mystery of Protestantism is unravelled; the day of Luther is come; the Catholics send up a cry, and their enemies a shout of joy.


Noli ćmulari. Is it not written in the book of truth, that the ungodly shall spread abroad like a green bay-tree, and then shall wither? that the adversary reaches out his hand towards his prey, in order that he may be more emphatically smitten? "Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: I passed by, and lo! he was not; I sought him, and his place was not found. Better is {326} a little to the just than the great riches of the wicked; for the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord strengtheneth the just." So was it with the great Arian heresy, which the civil power would fain have forced upon the Church; but it fell to pieces, and the Church remained One. So was it with Nestorius, with Eutyches, with the Image-breakers, with Manichees, with Lollards, with Protestants, into whom the State would put life, but who, one and all, refuse to live. So is it with the communion of Cranmer and Parker, which is kept together only by the heavy hand of the State, and cannot aspire to be free without ceasing to be one. One power alone on earth has the gift and destiny of ever being one. It has been so of old time; surely so will it be now. Man's necessity is God's opportunity. Noli ćmulari, "Be not jealous of the evil-doers." …

It is towards the end of the century: what shall be, ere that end arrive? ... Suddenly there is heard a rushing noise, borne north and south upon the wings of the wind. Is it a deluge to sweep over the earth, and to bear up the ark of God upon its bosom? or is it the fire which is ravaging to and fro, to try every man's work what it is, and to discriminate between what is of earth and what is of heaven? Now we shall see what can live and what at must die; now shall we have the proof of Jansenism; now shall we see whether the Catholic Church has that eternal individuality which is {327} of the essence of life, or whether it be an external thing, a birth of the four elements, a being of chance and circumstance, made up of parts, but with no integrity or immaterial principle informing it. The breath of the Lord hath gone forth far and wide upon the face of the earth; the very foundations of society are melting in the fiery flood which it has kindled; and we shall see whether the Three Children will be able to walk in the midst of the furnace, and will come forth with their hair unsinged, their garments whole, and their skin untainted by the smell of fire.

So closed the last century upon the wondering world; and for years it wondered on; wondered what should be the issue of the awful portant which it witnessed, and what new state of things was to rise out of the old. The Church disappeared before its eyes as by a yawning earthquake, and men said it was a fulfilment of the prophecies, and they sang a hymn, and went to their long sleep, content and with a Nunc Dimittis in their mouths; for now at length had an old superstition been wiped off from the earth, and the Pope had gone his way. And other powers, kings, and the like, disappeared too, and nothing was to be seen.

Fifty years have passed away since the time of those wonders, and we, my brethren, behold in our degree the issue of what our fathers could but imagine. Great changes surely have been wrought, but not those which they anticipated. The German Emperor has ceased to {328} be; he persecuted the Church, and he has lost his place of pre-eminence. The Gallican Church, too, with its much-prized liberties, and its fostered heresy, was also swept away, and its time-honoured establishment dissolved. Jansenism is no more. The Church lives, the Apostolic See rules. That See has greater acknowledged power in Christendom than ever before, and that Church has a wider liberty than she has had since the days of the Apostles. The faith is extending in the great Anglo-Saxon race, its recent enemy, the lord of the world, with a steadiness and energy, which that proud people fears, yet cannot resist. Out of the ashes of the ancient Church of France has sprung a new hierarchy, worthy of the name and the history of that great nation, as fervent as their St. Bernard, as tender as their St. Francis, as enterprising as their St. Louis, as loyal to the Holy See as their Charlemagne. The Empire has rescinded the impious regulations of the Emperor Joseph, and has commenced the emancipation of the Church. The idea and the genius of Catholicism has triumphed within its own pale with a power and a completeness which the world has never seen before. Never was the whole body of the faithful so united to each other and to their head. Never was there a time when there was less of error, heresy, and schismatical perverseness among them. Of course the time will never be in this world, when trials and persecutions shall be at an end and doubtless such are to come, {329} even though they be below the horizon. But we may be thankful and joyful for what is already granted us; and nothing which is to be can destroy the mercies which have been.

"So let all Thy enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love Thee shine, as the sun shineth in his rising!"

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1. Works, 1832, vol. iii. p. 171.
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2. Proph. Off., p. 408.
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3. Palmer's Essay on the Church, vol. i. p. 320.
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4. Essay on Doctrinal Development, p. 438.
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5. Vide Mémoires pour servir, &c., and Palmer on the Church.
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6. Mémoires pour servir, &c.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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