ART. II. Geraldine—a Tale of conscience. By E. C. A. In 2 vols. London: Booker and Dolman. 1837.

 [British Critic, vol. 24, July 1838.]

{61} THIS is the work of a clever and observant person, though not practised in writing. It is a tale with little incident and no ending; or rather it is an attempt at a tale, which is left unravelled. But in truth its object is very different from that of putting out of hand a well-managed plot, being no other than to recommend the Roman Catholic religion to the favourable notice of the English Protestant; and accordingly it is made up principally of discussions on various points of faith and usage and sketches of character, such as are naturally suggested by the present state and peculiarities of religious parties. In these sketches we conceive the merit of the book lies, for the argumentative portion, as far as it is on the offensive, though not deficient in smartness, is not beyond the ability, and scarcely beyond the opinions, of any one who is not blinded by Ultra-Protestantism; and as far as it is a defence of Romanism, it fails strangely even in matters of fact. Similar failure attends its Roman Catholic sketches, which form an exception, as all readers will feel, to the general spirit and effectiveness of the author's style. It may be, that caricature is much easier than correct drawing, or that true excellence cannot be delineated by a few strokes, or brought out in its substance at the will of a writer; but, however we account for it, De Grey, Angela, Lady Winefride, and Mr. Bernard are but varieties of the "pius Æneas," with the same ambition in the writer, the same failure in the production.

The other characters, however, are for the most part amusingly drawn, and some of them, it must be confessed, good hits. There is a religious indifferentist, with a sufficient insight into the absurdities of the popular ways of thought, a hankering after Catholicity, and a kindness towards the imaginative parts of Romanism; a Whig lord enduring Protestantism and Romanism, yet attached to neither; a High-Church Oxford divine; a Reformation-Society Protestant; a pert young lady inclined to the Presbyterian persuasion; and a parish clergyman of the modern school, amiable, active, uxorious and absurd. Among these personages the heroine moves, being the only child of a widowed father, and heiress of his estates, who, after going through the phases of Protestantism, as it exists among us, seeks for something deeper and truer in Anglicanism, or, as Mr. Palmer more correctly speaks in his recent work, Anglo-Catholicism; is disappointed, and at length finds in the Church of Rome the refuge which she is in quest of. {62}

Geraldline, a name which the reader may have already had sagacity enough to give her, is represented as driven from Protestantism by its endless janglings and changes; and from the Anglican Church by the inconsistency at present existing between its principles and practice. She has been originally brought to serious thoughts about religion by members of what is called the evangelical party; for a time she is in a state of great happiness, till she finds herself involved in the disputes and wanderings which it may be said to consist of, rather than to contain. She falls in with Romanists, and wishes to believe a creed which promises to give the peace and stability which she so much needs. In this state of mind she thus speaks to her intimate friend, the Presbyterian already mentioned.

"Kate! Kate! tell me not that every Bible reader knows the truth: I am weary of this repeated but unsatisfactory answer; I have proved its hollowness. You know well the increased interest I took in religion three years ago,—the confidence I placed in the body of professing Christians, both in this neighbourhood and in London, and the conspicuous part which, from my zeal and my position here, I was induced to take in the various religious associations set on foot. What has become of those Bible readers?—those I most trusted! One has ceased to pray, and now can only praise, being certain of salvation; another has joined the Baptists, being dissatisfied with 'infant baptism;' and my former excellent governess, and still dear friend, has become infatuated by the doctrines of the 'Miraculous Gifts;' and has even been worked upon, by the frenzy of excitement, to utter those sounds which her party denominate the 'Unknown Tongue!' She has ceased to communicate with any of her former acquaintances, as being without the pale of the true Church, which has received baptism by the Holy Ghost; but she still yearns after me with the feelings of a sister. I have received several letters from her, and what think you is her constant entreaty? That I will read the Bible, and nothing but the Bible! pointing out to me the chapter hitherto so neglected during centuries, and reserved for these latter days, to be brought to light by the perfected Church. You know the chapter, Katharine; it is the fourteenth of Corinthians, in which there is certainly most distinct mention made by the Apostle of those very gifts of the Spirit, which, like the power of healing, the Irvingites contend would never have been lost but through want of faith. Now, Katharine, I have looked far too deeply into the cause of all this wild, unstable conduct, longer to suppose it the fault of the individuals who have so wandered astray. It is the system which I see is wrong,—the system of private interpretation of Scripture; and hence, however I may pity, I can never blame its victims."—vol. i. pp. 9, 10.

Again; we have another amusing sketch of the source of her perplexities in the following passage.

"'I was referring to a clergyman of the Established Church,' replied Geraldine, 'whom I met in London during the last season; when {63} having, in addition to Sir Eustace De Grey's defence of his Church, listened repeatedly to that of his aunt, Lady Winefride Blount, and become curious to hear more, I overheard this Rev. Mr. P——, in conversation one evening, at a serious party at Lady Lucy Foster's, make some comments, which I never forgot. 'The present state of the Protestant world,' said he, 'is one of curious contemplation to the philosopher, and one of deep anxiety and pain to the Christian. Infidelity stalks over the land, and will persecute where it dare. The Romish apostacy was superstition and idolatry; the Protestant apostacy is infidelity and anarchy. Each contains in its vital constitution the seeds of these corruptions and abuses. The Romish persecutions have been dreadful, but the infidel persecutions will be far worse; inasmuch as an idolater feels himself responsible to his false god, and the infidel is responsible to nothing. A God obscured is better than a God denied! ... The Roman Catholic Church is right respecting the power of miraculous gifts in the Church of Christ. There is a constant misapprehension respecting the power and the exhibition of miracles. If miracles were needless, except in the revelation of a new dispensation, why did they continue in the Jewish Church after it was firmly established? can it be supposed that God would bestow his gifts less on the Christian, than on the Jewish, Church ? Miracles are granted to a faithful Church.' Much struck by these remarks, I requested to be introduced to this clergyman, to whom every one seemed to listen with as much attention as myself; and from that evening Mr. P—— became a frequent visitor in Berkeley Square. I had hitherto frequented the chapel in —— Street, where I had always been interested and instructed, and where Mr. P—— had himself occasionally officiated; but my new adviser now warned me against the dangerous doctrines that were gradually creeping in at M—— Chapel, without being able, however, to fix for me whither to go instead: 'For,' added he, 'the evangelical body is at present so infected with various heresies that I know not where you would be safe.' 'As a resident in Berkeley Square,' said I, 'my parish Church is St. George's; but all my religious friends assure me, that from the High Church party I should hear nothing that could improve me.' 'Very true,' replied Mr. P——, 'you would never hear the true Gospel from any of the preachers at the great west-end churches. However, do not let this state of things lead you into dissent; for much as I may warn you against the parties in the Church, I doubly warn you against the Dissenters. I have passed much of my life amongst them, and you may trust my experience, that their pride and arrogance are perfectly antichristian.' 'No!' added he, 'the more intercourse I have held with the Dissenters, the less I have liked them: —keep clear of them!'

"'Ha!' cried the warden, suddenly roused from a reverie, 'a sensible man that:—who was he?'

"'The same man, my dear sir, who assured me, that I could never hear the true Gospel from the preachers of the High Church.'

"The warden was again silent and abstracted, and Geraldine continued. Mr. P—— then inquired whose ministry I attended when in the country? and on my speaking of my dear uncle Edmund,—of his piety, {64} his zeal, his usefulness,— 'Yes,' said he, 'Edmund Sinclair is a good man! we were friends at Cambridge—both at that time staunch Simeonites: but take care of his notions on 'Election,' for he has a considerable twist on that point.'

"'Positively, sir,' cried I, equally vexed and amused, 'as I am in such imminent danger from those of my own communion, I had better take refuge in the Catholic Church, where no difference of religious opinion is permitted.'

"'The Roman Catholic Church, you mean,' replied Mr. P——. 'No! you must not take so wild a step as that would be. You must not leave the pure worship of God for all those awful superstitions. The Romanists, however, have the right on their side in many things. They have indeed. But now,' added he, 'Farewell! for I must leave London within an hour—Farewell! read your Bible, pray fervently, and rest satisfied that the 'assurance of faith in the believer,' is the highest perfection in the Christian course, and a foretaste of the time when Christ will be all in all.'"—vol. i. Pp. 147-151.

Her father being at the time away, her maternal uncle, a Dr. Sinclair, warden of —— College, Oxford, has promised to stay with her at Elverton Hall during the long vacation; and to him she resolves to open her mind, with the hope of its being thereby settled in the faith of the Church in which she has been brought up. Such a procedure is in the particular case not only candid and sensible, but the evidence of a strong mind, for though the warden has many good qualities they are not exactly of the kind calculated to win over a young female. And here it may relieve the general reader to be told that the said warden is purely an imaginary being, a mere abstract head of a house; and we must do the author, or, as we suppose from internal evidence, the authoress the justice to say, that, while he is drawn with a good deal of cleverness, there is nothing ill-natured in the picture. He is represented as a person of learning and ability, High Church even to the imputation of Popery, a friend to Catholic Emancipation, and with expectancies from the Whigs. He is grave and dignified, really kind in his feelings and address, though somewhat condescending and pompous, and, when displeased, capable of a cold and stern or "college" manner, calm and ready in times of excitement, and gifted with an admirable command of temper.

He has got up his own system well, and knows exactly what answer to give on every occasion; how far to go with the Romanists and when to part with them. He is full of the praises of Hooker, Mede, Barrow, South, Taylor, Tillotson and others; hates Puritanism as the ruin of the Church; and, in spite of his real affection for his niece, has not a very exalted notion of the theological powers of young ladies. His one great defect is what may be called impenetrableness—an absence of all heart, play of {65} mind, and elasticity of feeling; —in short he is not a person one would by choice take as one's confessor, which makes it the more creditable in Geraldine to consult him, and, we will add, the less likely withal beforehand that he would satisfy her. However, that is not her fault, but the author's; the sole alternative given her in the story being in the warden's brother, an amiable excellent clergyman, to whom she is indebted for her first serious impressions, but deficient in the definiteness of principle, clearness of mind, and theological knowledge adapted to exercise a hold over a powerful understanding. She feels that, if she is to belong to the Church of England, it must be to the "old-fashioned Church," as she calls it, not to any modern edition of it; those who go so far as to advocate the doctrinal system of the new school in the Church, being bound in consistency to go on into dissent and liberalism, which are its legitimate results. To her uncle the warden, then, she betakes herself; and various conversations between them ensue, which end in the following most satisfactory and hopeful manner.

"Geraldine here pressed her hand to her forehead, and remained some time silent—at length she exclaimed, 'Then, uncle, I think I understand at last!—As the Church of England is, in essentials, exactly the same with the early Catholic Church of the first five centuries, inasmuch as that Church was infallible, because still pure from its apostolic founders, so also is the Church of England; but she cannot enforce any thing that is not proved to have been held by that early Church, and, of course, must not deny any thing, clearly flowing from that apostolic source.'

"'You are right, Geraldine.'

"'Well! uncle, I am satisfied; and I believe, shall be now, from this time, a very High Church woman, following strictly all the rules laid down for my practice in the 'Book of Common Prayer,' and endeavouring to recall all the wandering sheep of the flock into the one fold. My next interesting task will be the study of those pure ages in Church history, with which we claim kindred and communion: and in the meantime, I thank you, my dear kind uncle, for all your patience and trouble with me. But for you, I should have confounded our Church with the other Protestant communities; but for you, I should ere this have mistaken, as you have said, 'the reverse of wrong for right,' and have become a Roman Catholic!'"—vol. i. pp. 136, 137.

In consequence of the resolution contained in this extract, Geraldine commences the reading of Milner and Mosheim, and determines meanwhile to act up to the rules of the Church in which she finds herself. She makes a list of the fasts of the Church, and gives orders to the cook to serve up no meat upon them. She also tries to prevail on the neighbouring clergy to open their churches on week days, and to keep sacred the days of the Apostles {66} and other saints, as prescribed. In neither project does she succeed; the fate of the former shall be set before the reader in the author's own words:

"'Blandford,' whispered the warden to his 'own man,' who stood at his post behind his master's chair at the dinner-table, 'inquire what the joint is, and where it is, and when it is to appear; I do not understand the plan of the dinner today.' A smile passed over the face of the butler, when summoned by the grave valet to reply to the provost's inquiry; but the sense of his own official position in approaching a brother dignitary, repressed in the head of the sideboard all undue sense of the ridiculous, as he informed the astonished doctor of divinity, that Miss Carrington had expressly ordered that no joint of meat of any kind should be served up on the 'Hamper Days!'

"'Ah! what—really—oh! of course—very proper,' said the warden, with admirable presence of mind. 'Everard! a glass of wine.'

"'Willingly, warden. On the strength of the 'Hamper Days?' Well!'

"'The Ember Days,' said Geraldine, much embarrassed by the sudden college look of her uncle, and the struggling mirth which played in the countenance of Mr. Everard and Miss Graham. 'The Ember Days begin on this, the twenty-first of September, and used always to be kept as days of abstinence in the Church of England.'

"'Why so? what was there either sinful or mournful about the Ember Days?' cried Katharine Graham, 'was it then St. Anthony preached to the fish, that we have nothing else at table?'

"'Come, come,' said Dr. Sinclair, rousing himself, 'there is plenty to eat, and a very good thing would it be, in a medical point of view, for the overfed portion of society to keep what the Anglo-Indians term a 'banyan day,' once or twice a-week. We all eat too much, according to Cornaro.'

"'Oh!' rejoined Miss Graham, 'I am sure that we can all do very well with less food, if necessary. I would often most willingly omit my dinner altogether, when I have taken no exercise. But it is the hope of propitiating God by fish and eggs, as holy food, that strikes me as so absurd. I would live on them entirely to do good to my fellow sinners; for instance, I would eat this insipid whiting every day, to ensure a good meat dinner to some poor exhausted creature; but for the salvation of my own soul! and to be, at the same time, seen of men! why, I can only quote—

'The devil must grin;
 For his favourite sin
 Is pride that apes humility.'

"The servants all tittered, and the colour rose painfully to Geraldine's cheeks, though, by a great effort, she preserved silence, and endeavoured to forgive—not Katharine, for from her she had never expected support, but her uncle, who had given her false encouragement by his theoretic adherence to what he shrunk from avowing practically. In his study, and amongst the fasting 'Fathers of the English Church,' Dr. Sinclair fasted retrospectively, and was at peace. Great then was his embarrassment {67} at being called upon to patronize the actual abstinence laid down so unmercifully in the Book of Common Prayer, and begun in all the simplicity of obedience by his niece; especially as he was aware of being too learned and noted a person in the Church not to have aroused enemies, who bad already impeded his career of usefulness, by misrepresentations of the Popish twist of the learned warden of ——.

'Geraldine,' said he at length, 'you remember, in the twentieth article of the Church, that 'she hath power to decree rites and ceremonies,' and therefore it may happen, that in her wisdom she may see fit to alter or abridge certain of them for the greater edification of its members. Now, although 'fasting' is warranted by the highest example and precept in Scripture, namely, that of Christ, and also of the Apostles, and therefore may be justly reckoned an article of Christian obligation, rather than a rite or ceremony, yet the appointment of certain days for the observance of this duty is a matter of Church discipline, which may be, and has been, altered at various times, all which I will explain to you at some future period. In the interim,' added he, 'I believe you need not make us keep any more of the 'Ember Days,' although I greatly applaud your zeal for desiring to act strictly according to the supposed commands of your Church.'

"Geraldine, pleased that her uncle had spoken on the subject, and had even praised her, readily gave up the Ember fast, in the full expectation that the alteration of the appointed days would be soon pointed out to her; and she now listened with recovered spirits to the learned conversation which took place throughout the rest of the repast, between the warden and Mr. Everard, on Jewish, Mahommedan, and Pagan fasts. Thence they went off to the Brahmins, till the departure of the servants, who, having at length placed the dessert on the table, finally left the room, completely mystified on the subject of fasting, and with but one clear persuasion, namely, that of the vast learning and power over 'dictionary words' possessed by the reverend warden and his friend,"—vol. i. pp. 175-179.

This incident opened Geraldine's eyes to the fact that the warden's theology was properly speaking but a literature, that he knew what ought to be said on all occasions, but realized very little of the Anglican system in practice. And in consequence a suspicion not unnatural, however unfounded, arose in her mind concerning the reality of the said system itself, represented to her, as it was, in the person of such an advocate; a suspicion whether the distinctions and modifications and adjustments and balancings with which he handled the Protestant and Roman doctrines, were not after all but verbal, and had nothing solid, substantive, abiding, living beyond them. Certainly such a suspicion under such circumstances, it must be sorrowfully confessed, is pardonable; if, for instance, a Church prescribes days of fasting and abstinence, if it has singled out the Forty Days of lent as such, and if grave persons observe a studied neglect of these, not merely {68} not ostentatiously fasting, but actually giving dinners and holding festivities upon them, the question at first sight will come across a thoughtful person's mind, whether the whole system is not as shadowy as the particular specimens of it before his eyes, whether it is not a mere collection of arguments, serving as a refuge and excuse against either Romanism or Protestantism, rather than the positive theology of earnest and serious minds. So far then we do not blame but rather pity our heroine; we do not blame an enthusiastic and sanguine person experiencing a certain revulsion of feeling on her disappointment, and for the moment despising and shrinking from the system which had apparently deceived her. But we think that after the first feeling was over, good sense and sobriety ought to have resumed their sway, and to have whispered to her that the faults of others had no legitimate claim to determine her duties, or influence her conduct towards sacred things; that she had set out with a determination to act up to the Church's rules; that her Oxford uncle's not doing so did not excuse her; and that in a case far graver than that which was her present trial, it had been said, "The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not." It will be observed that we are arguing with the author on his or her own ground; we do really admit that Oxford dignitaries neglect fasting in Lent or on Ember days; whether they do or not is nothing to the purpose, nothing to us. Geraldine and others like her should look to themselves before they look at heads of houses; even granting, for argument's sake, they did not fast, but gave dinners on fasting seasons, (which, we repeat, we grant in no other way,) they would not be acting so culpably in enjoying the good things of life, as young ladies in leaving the Church of England on account of it. Now since Geraldine did do so, and mainly because Dr. Sinclair, an individual head of a house, liked dinner in his dining-room, while upholding the duty of fasting in his library, and in spite of her confessing she ought to act up to such rules of her Church herself, and when there was nothing to hinder her, though others did not, we must say that the author has furnished a refutation to her own book, and an Anglican critic need do nothing besides putting together a few quotations from herself. The utmost she can fairly urge in the case she has imagined, is, that the neglect of duty on the part of authorities is a sort of excuse and palliation of a similar neglect on our part; but surely it does not hinder our personal performance of it. Indeed she has written very ill-advisedly for a Romanist; for, we suppose, she does not mean to say that in Roman monasteries there has never been neglect of the {69} rules of the Church and of their order. The process of argument which led Geraldine to leave the English Church is the very one which led many an indignant reformer in the sixteenth century to a secession from the Roman; and we presume the author would not justify that procedure.

It is then an impatience, and nothing but a sinful impatience, to go out of the English Church for what every believing mind may find in it. The capabilities of our actual state, in the hands of any individual who is moved to use them, are so great, that, putting duty out of the question, it is great inconsiderateness to require more than is given us. Every one may either by faith or in fact develope and realize for himself what is given us in its elements. We have the high doctrines of the Sacraments, Apostolical Succession, Confession, Absolution, Penance, Fasts, Festivals, the daily Service, all recognized as existing ordinances; what do we want but the will to bring into existence what the Prayer Book contains—a will, which, if it exists in the individual himself, will enable him either at once or with a short delay to make all these exist, at least for his own comfort. If he must have an object of ambition, let it be to raise the tone of his own communion. Surely there is as much and as pure gratification in tending piously his afflicted and oppressed mother as in leaving her for another Church, which happens on her surface to have one or two Christian institutions more formally developed, as a set-off against the serious imputations which load her. The captivity in which the English Church lies, if it hinders her from moving, at least allows her children to move more freely. Rome, in some respects more free as a Church, is more free to shackle her children; is it better to have a sick mother or an unnatural one? to be illtreated by the Church itself, or left defenceless to the state? No; if Anglo-Catholics did but understand their position, it would be no despicable one. For ourselves, we find enough of satisfaction in it, not to be eager for any of those changes in the relation of Church to State which late political events and constitutional reforms make abstractedly fitting. What may be the duty of persons in high station in the Church is another matter; or what might be the Church's duty if her members one and all were of one mind and one judgment in all things, or what may be the duty of individuals as a matter of conscience in the event of certain contingencies; but at this moment, we conceive that Catholic truth will spread and flourish more satisfactorily under the existing state of things, than on any alteration which could be devised. We feel no desire for the meeting of Convocation; we are not even earnest in behalf of a repeal of the Statute of Præmunire, though it would certainly be becoming and just. We want {70} changes of no kind, whether in the Prayer Book, or Articles, or Homilies, or Government, except any thing can be shown to us in our present state to be literally and directly sinful. We are content to take things as we have received them, and are quite sure that that system which was sufficient for the expansive minds of Andrews or Laud, has not been so circumscribed by subsequent political events, but it will hold us pigmies, however large we grow. We may like some parts of it less than others; we may conceive that some parts might be more primitive, other parts more finished; but we are thankful to have, and content to use, what has come down to us; and even where any thing has had an unsatisfactory origin, we will make the best of it, and receive it into, and assimilate it to the glorious deposit which we inherit from the Apostles.

What we have been observing of the ritual of religion applies to matters of doctrine also; and it may be worth while to enlarge upon it, though it will carry us some little way from our immediate object. Geraldine grievously misunderstands her uncle's meaning on this head. He says, that the English Church appeals to the first five centuries; and she supposes this means that anything she finds an instance of in that period, by dipping into Mosheim or Milner, is our Church's law! But, surely, if he really represents the English Church, he does not mean that any one opinion which any one Father ever whispered or taught, is binding on our faith. If so, certainly our creed would be a worse bondage even than the Roman; for we should have to believe contradictories, and unsay one moment what we said the foregoing. Christianity has in it a great many questions which are but matters of opinion, of doubt, of surmise, in which one person may take one side, another another; which never have been and never can be determined. This is the true field for the religious exercise of private judgment; and for the duty of Christian forbearance and toleration, and this is closed up both by Protestants and Romanists. While Romanists are for settling every thing, Protestants deny there is any thing to settle; they strangely decide, for instance, not that a certain set of questions about the intermediate state are settled, which would be strange enough, but positively that they do not exist. They will not allow you even to ask the question about the condition, employments or the powers of departed Christians, ever so religiously, ever so historically, ever so little in the way of speculation, with ever so much deference to the opinions of holy men on the subject. They will not let you do what Augustine and Chrysostom did, and all on the plea that such a liberty has been before now abused; a mode of reasoning most contrary to the genius {71} of the English Church, and if valid, inevitably stripping the Church Catholic of ordinances, ceremonies, usages and prayer-book, nay, used for that very purpose by Puritans and others.

Moreover we may be quite sure that a far worse evil will arise from closing the door to these matters of opinion than permitting them. The human intellect needs some play, as it may be called, and Providence has mercifully consulted this peculiarity, whether we call it a weakness or not. He has given us an innocent outlet for its busy and restless activity. We might have been told peremptorily not to let our minds expatiate at all beyond what is positively revealed; but we are not so told; and the consequence of forbidding what God has not forbidden, will be like stopping a safety-valve. The mind, obstructed in its lawful avenues of thought, will be under the strong temptation to employ itself on subjects, where thought is precluded, the sacred and fundamental articles of faith. The irritation of the reason being denied its natural course, will strike inwards, and fall upon vital parts; not without guilt in those who yield to the temptation; but the responsibility of those who yield is one thing, and the responsibility of those who tempt another; and we are now speaking of a procedure which really acts indirectly as a temptation. We hold, then, that these secondary questions of religion are a sort of guarantee for the immunity of the primary points; further we hold that the consideration of them accustoms the mind to the notion of mysteries or secrets in religion, and thus positively protects and disposes towards the reception of the primary points; so that the suppression of the secondary is one of the main causes which tend to lead educated men among us into Sabellianism, Pelagianism, and kindred heresies. If we are determined to admit nothing but what is clear, while we cut off secondary questions, we shall undermine primary doctrines. Such is the mistake of Protestantism: on the other hand, it is easy to see that the contrary conduct of the Roman Church, of determining these doubtful points in one certain way, leads to the same evil by a different road. It makes a doubt about lesser points equivalent to a doubt about greater; and thus tempts the educated mind to snap the tie of faith altogether. Romanism tempts to infidelity, as Protestantism to Socinianism. Equally removed from both extremes, the English Church has set her children's feet, as it has been expressed, "in a large room." She has allowed ample space for diversity of minds, for varying judgments, tastes, feelings, and associations. And this is one reason why we think that Romanism will never spread in England, because whatever is good in it, whatever is adapted to the feelings of particular minds, all this we can enjoy in our Church without leaving her. It were hard {72} indeed, if Puritanism might flourish in her, in spite of her Catholic formularies, yet that those truer elements which are concealed amid the additions of Popery, should not also be able to spring up under her salutary shadow. Mr. Everard's view of the matter is thus expressed in his conversation with Geraldine:—

"Your duty appears to me to be plainly this, remain in that community of Christians where Providence has placed you; and never think of leaving it on account of its short comings, until you shall have acted up to all that it professes to enforce. This will be but justice to your Church, and proper respect to your uncle, who is deeply solicitous on your account. Believe me, that if you really thus act up to all that your Church inculcates, you will be so nearly a Catholic, that, excepting the points of union with Rome and the sacrament of extreme unction, you will be essentially a member of the Universal Church, and need contemplate no change."—vol. i. p. 161.

The last sentence is so strangely worded that it cannot of course be literally accepted by the Anglo-Catholic, but, mutatis mutandis, it is true. It is true that we of the English Church have Catholicism in its truest sense in our hands, if we have but the heart and the courage to use it; and the laity have but to ask the clergy for their rights, as laid down in the Prayer Book, and they must give them. In short, to return to Geraldine, that ardent young lady need not have turned Papist in order to keep fasts and feasts, or to reverence churches, or to recognize the mystery of the Eucharist, or to reverence celibacy, or to chant psalms, or to receive absolution, in a word to hold and practise the Creed of Cyprian or Augustine.

However, Geraldine is represented as finding out that the Anglican Creed is incompatible with that of the early Church. We do not intend here to employ ourselves on so great a subject as the comparison of our Prayer Book and Articles with the writings of the Fathers; but a few words will not be out of place to show how very little fitted Geraldine, or the author, is for the comparison, how little fitted to determine what is in antiquity and what is not. Indeed facts of all kinds, ancient or modern, are, we shall presently see, very subordinate matters in this "Tale of Conscience."

Now, first, we must protest against the treatment which the second General Council has received at the author's hands. Merely, as it would seem, because it was held in the same place as the fifth, it is mistaken for it, and set down as held above 170 years after its real date. And then the importance of the matter treated in the second General Council, thus assumed to be the fifth, is urged against the English Church, which it is also assumed stops short at four. What makes the mistake more {73} notable is, that it is administered to the innocent heroine by her venerable instructor in Romanism, Mr. Everard, while she is artlessly inquiring into the history of the Councils, and exposing and lamenting her own ignorance on the subject. She says—

"The next thing to be done is to read the acts of all the Councils, especially that of Trent, together with that previous and important one, which I always concluded to have been the most guilty, and meant to question my uncle about, namely, the Fifth General Council; for if the Church of England receives the four first as inspired by the Holy Ghost, there must have been something very particular in the Fifth, to have made the Church of England reject it ... She claims four General Councils, and, I therefore conclude, she would date the apostasy of the Ancient Church from the guilty acts of the Fifth; but, no! I am now directed on to the last General Council ever held, as the date when the Holy Spirit no longer overruled the decisions of the Church! What then am I to think of these half-admitted, half-rejected intermediate Councils? And what became of Christ's promise to be with the rulers and pastors of his Church always, even unto the end of the world? I must have particulars of the Fifth Council. Where was it convoked?'

"'At Constantinople,' replied Mr. Everard, 'and condemned the heresy of Macedonius against the divinity of the Holy Ghost.'

"'Now, can the Church of England venture to doubt this Council?' inquired Geraldine; 'Oh, she cannot, it would be impossible; I thought the Fifth Council had been that of Constance.'

"'No, the Council of Constance was the Sixteenth,' replied Mr. Everard, 'one only intervening between it and the Council of Trent.'—vol. i. pp. 219.

Mr. Everard, the philanthropic pseudo-Catholic whom we have above noticed, should not dabble in matters which he has not studied. He finds his fair disciple in the belief that the Fifth Council is the last but two, and he sets her right by telling her it is the second; not much of an approximation to the truth, we make bold to say. But this is not all. The Council of Constance, it seems, is the sixteenth, "one only intervening between it and the Council of Trent." It is clear from this that Mr. Everard is not an Ultramontane; else he would not so easily admit the authority of this Council of Constance which limited the Pope's power, and so far as it did so, was not confirmed by him. Bellarmine considers it as one of those which are "partim confirmata, partim reprobata;" that is, which are open to the objection which our heroine in the innocence and goodness of her heart only intends should apply to our Church, when she asks "What am I to think of these half-admitted, half-rejected intermediate Councils?" Surely Dr. Sinclair, Warden of ——, may refer his niece to Cardinal Bellarmine for an answer to this {74} interesting question. To complete the series of blunders in this one passage, Mr. Everard not only puts the Council of Constance on a par with those of Trent and Constantinople, but makes it the last but one before Trent though it was held 1414; thus cutting out, if not the Council of Florence 1439, at least that of Basil 1431, which, as Constance, "is partly confirmed and partly disowned," and the fifth Lateran, which is not more than "doubtful." If Geraldine require another variety of these half-visible, half-invisible Councils, which she thought were only found on Anglican ground, she will find it in the Council of Pisa, held a few years before Constance, which, according to Bellarmine, is "neither clearly approved nor clearly disowned." This, then, is an interesting specimen of the reasonings by which this polemical young lady, who is determined to exercise the right of private judgment, is converted to Romanism. We would undertake by similar reasonings, if she would as frankly credit them, to make her turn Jewess or fire-worshipper, or to make her fortunes terminate in a Suttee.

Nay, without any such arbitrary power over facts, it would have been no difficult matter, we suspect, to make this young lady believe anything about antiquity she was inclined to; for she is absolutely bewildered in the jungle, as it may be called, of theology into which she has thrown herself, and makes as many mistakes in the proprieties as a country girl would commit if introduced into polished society. Surely there is something most unbecoming in youth and beauty and fashion and the rest of it being represented as mounted aloft on a library stair, and labouring under the weight of books which she was to make subservient to the settlement of her religious sentiments (vol. i. p. 139). And there is something quite ludicrous in fancying that truth could be attained by such child's play. If she had confined herself to arguments (which she also uses), such as that the English system is cold, that its devotions are meagre and heavy, that it has no authority, that it does not clearly say what it believes and what it does not, that bishops' wives dress well, and that a Protestant Sunday is the dullest day in the week, we might differ from her, but still she would have quite as much right to her opinion as we to ours; but it is another matter when, in her controversy with the warden, instead of confining herself, to use her own illustration, to David's sling and stone, she pretends to have cut off Goliath's head (as she continues it) with his own sword. However, she does attempt this doughty undertaking, and she begins it with a malicious compliment to poor Mr. Everard, which is a suitable introduction to what follows:—

"She found Mr. Everard alone, she laid her hand on his book to {75} gain his attention, and entreated him to hear what she had to say. The old gentleman looked up smiling, but started when he observed the swollen eyes and pale checks of his favourite, and inquired anxiously what had befallen her. Geraldine, without replying to his question, said, with forced composure, 'Mr. Everard, I know you to be noted for your historical accuracy; I know also that, although accused of being a dreaming speculatist on impossibilities, you are withheld by no party-feeling from seeing clearly the truth. I come therefore to tell you, and you alone, the result of my researches into Protestant Church History.'"—vol. i. p. 210.

"The result of my researches," as this impetuous lady most protestantly calls it, was as follows:—and let it be observed, the italics are not our doing, but hers.

"I find, during the first five centuries, first, that the Apostolical command to anoint the dying with oil, and to pray over them, was constantly observed; secondly, that an intermediate state of purification for the soul after death was an article of faith; thirdly, that the sign of the Cross was universal in the Church; fourthly, that the consecrated elements were held up to the view of the people; fifthly, that miracles attended the preaching of Christianity; and sixthly, that the prayers of the martyrs were invoked, and that supplication was made for the faithful departed. I find also that the first four Councils, which are received by our Church, confirmed all these things, as articles of faith, against heretics; and, in short, Mr. Everard, the perusal of these Protestant Histories of the Church has again unsettled my mind, and I am once more as miserable as when the warden arrived, and gave me temporary comfort, by holding out to me the Church of England, as the firm and gentle mother, in whose bosom I was to rest in peace."

Where Geraldine or the authoress could have picked up this piece of information, to which she has attracted attention by the italic type, we cannot even conjecture. While she was about it, she might just as soon have said that the decrees of the Council of Trent were formally confirmed by the first four Councils, or that Cardinal Pole was one of the Pope's delegates at Nicæa. It is worth observing the coincidence in conduct between Protestant and Romanist in the controversy, though after all it is but in accordance with the fundamental principles on which they respectively build their faith. The Protestant thinks it no great mistake, to throw together into one the times of Hildebrand and Leo the Tenth; and the Romanist claims the right of doing the same with the times of Cyprian and Gregory the First. And why, we would ask, should they not do so, on their view of religion? Ecclesiastical history, as they read it, is "all the same" in every age. Each system has a theological key independent of facts, by which it interprets them. Each advocates an hypothesis, contradictory indeed to the other, but at variance also with history, which {76} lies as a via media between them. Each accordingly instead of going to history brings up history to its own standard, supplying from itself a complement of the history's defect or excess, reversing, discarding, straightening, or running with the course of events, as the case may require. In neither of the two is Church history supposed to present to us fixed characteristics; according to the one, it is nothing but a gradual development; according to the other, nothing but a gradual corruption; thus while they both admit, as it were the same terms in the series, they but reverse the plus and minor signs, and sum it up into contradictory results. If baptism, for instance, or the sign of the Cross, is spoken of in the second century with reverence, the Protestant brings his peculiar theory to bear in the complacent inference that "therefore the rise of papal corruption showed itself very early;" if purgatory and indulgences are unknown doctrines at the same era, the Romanist in like manner moralizes on the "holiness of the Christian body," which did not call for their inculcation. What matters then whether one speaks of the third or sixth century, of the eleventh or sixteenth?—they have always an answer. In the middle ages the Protestant has conjured up a Church among the Paulicians with Milner, or the Waldenses with Newton, and gives up without remorse all that is visible: one age and another are equally bad. With the Romanist, on the other hand, one age and another are equally good; he views all ages with charity as entire and as misdirected as is the Protestant's bitter and arrogant hatred of them.

Such is their concordia discors; and between the two the history of the last and most august dispensation which Providence has given us is sacrificed to human theories, being no longer considered as the deep oracle of His counsels and His ways, but as if it could be poured out and exhausted into the cisterns of scholastic systems. Not that we would impute to the present author so grave a fault as this, but that of falling in with the tone and spirit of those who are guilty of it. She takes for granted her conclusions are right, and therefore is little solicitous about the facts of the case; they must come right at last. And if any one here objects to us, that every one, not profoundly learned, must do this in a measure, we answer, of course he or she must, but surely is not bound to publish and urge as arguments what he has not duly inquired into.

If it were worth while to go into the particulars of the charge which has led to these remarks, we should have still more evident proofs of the looseness and cloudiness of the author's statements. For instance, she says that during the first five centuries, "an intermediate state of purification for the soul after death was an {77} article of faith." Now what is here meant by "an article of faith?"—a definite statement necessary to be believed in order to salvation? This is to oppose the current doctrine of the Romanists, who maintain that the Church may convert doctrinal truths into articles of faith, and that this is one of such, being not determined at earliest till the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century. Again, if it was an article of faith, how could it be true, as it is, that views taken of it in these early centuries differ from the present Roman view? Does not all this show it was an open question, a matter of opinion, a point on which the private judgment of the individual had to decide this way or that, as he best might, or that it was not then an article of faith, whether or not the Church had the right of making it one, which is a further question. And then again the author speaks, as if all that the Roman Church held about purgatory were, that it is a place of purification, whereas considered not as the Catholic, but as the Latin Church, as found among Latins, and teaching in the west, it expressly teaches in the Catechism of Trent that purgatory is a place of fire and pain as hell is [Note].

Our author's under-estimation of facts in argument extends to contemporary history as well as ancient. The dreadful visitation of the cholera is only of yesterday; what happened during it our readers ought to know quite as well as she docs; yet we suppose it will be news to them to be told that the English clergy were remiss in their pastoral duties on that trying occasion. However so we are informed in the work before us, viz. that from one cause or other, principally from regard to their wives and families, they shrunk from the trial; and a romantic picture is presented to us of a Roman priest being first "hooted and pelted" with "yells and execrations" by the "ignorant and capricious mob" of a town, we believe in Staffordshire, with the connivance of "the leading people, including perhaps some even of the clergy;" then the cholera breaking out, a re-action taking place, and a notion spreading that the disease was a judgment for his expulsion and ending in his triumphant return. But this is but a poor specimen of the extent to which the author's creative powers carry her; in order to do her justice, we shall present the reader with an extract of some length.

"At the hour when the bearer of the warden's note started on his commission, the Rev. Edmund Sinclair, his beautiful wife, and four elder children were enjoying, from windows that looked not on the infected {78} town, the calm soft air of a July morning. The fair twin girls were busily employed in some little work of fancy, while their younger brothers were equally engrossed in raising a bridge, with prepared arches and bricks sent them by their uncle, the warden. No lessons were thought on that bright morning; for it was their parent's wedding-day; and besides a promised ride each on the pony, and sundry other pleasures, a magic lantern was to wind up the evening, to which all the establishment were invited. The father of these happy ones, having finished his breakfast, reclined in a reading-chair, which was likewise the gift of the elder Sinclair, partly following the theories of a modern theological author, partly watching the labours of the little architects on the carpet, and partly endeavouring not to hear the whispered secret between his little girls and their governess, respecting the present to be made of their work to papa and mamma, before they went to bed.

"'Mamma,' at length cried one of the boys, who, despairing of the scientific arrangement of the bridge, was playing at a window, 'there is the cholera signal put up at the hall. Come here, and look: there it flies from a high window, just over the Cedars!'

"The whole party flew to the window, and Mr. Sinclair ascertained the fatal truth, that some one, perhaps his brother or niece, had been seized by the unsparing malady. At that instant the footman entered with a note from Dr. Sinclair, informing his brother that their departed sister's old and faithful housekeeper had been attacked by cholera,—that her mind was oppressed by some secret she wished to impart,—and that while she would not permit him, the warden, to attend her dying bed, she called out repeatedly for Mr. Edmund.

"As Mr. Sinclair perused this summons, his wife, eagerly leaning over his shoulder, devoured its contents. 'Thomas,' said she to the servant, while she secured the note, and plunged it into a flower vase filled with water, 'leave the room instantly, and desire the messenger from the hall to go round into the garden; we will throw the answer to him from the window.' The man obeyed. 'Edmund,' continued she, turning to watch the expression of her husband's countenance, 'you are not mad enough to listen to your brother's selfish suggestion? You surely do not believe one word of the old woman's preference for you?'

"'And why not?' replied Mr. Sinclair, 'I am her parish priest; she naturally turns to me. I have held this living, the gift of General Carrington, nine years, during which time his household have constantly attended my ministry,—they have, therefore, a claim on me for the last consolations of religion.'

"'Good heavens!' exclaimed his wife, 'do you actually think of putting yourself in the way of certain death?'

"'I must leave consequences in the hand of God,' replied he, solemnly; 'and now, my dearest Charlotte, let me entreat you not to place these constant obstacles in the way of my obvious duty. Do not forget, as, alas! you have too often done, that, in marrying one of my holy profession, you bind yourself to assist, not to retard, your husband, in his vocation.'

"'I cannot listen to preaching now, Edmund,' interrupted his wife, {79} becoming extremely agitated. Answer me plainly,—'Yes,' or 'No,'—do you mean to go to the hall?'

"'I do,' replied he, and rushed to the door; but his wife had anticipated him, and, turning the lock, placed the key in her bosom, and sank on her knees before him.

"'Charlotte, my love, I cannot submit to this,—I cannot be detained,' cried the husband. 'Is it not enough to have prevented every personal effort I would have made amongst the sick and dying poor, but that you would force me to deny the last request of a faithful though humble friend? Charlotte, recollect yourself,—exert more Christian strength of mind, or you lose yourself in my regard.'

"'And what is an old servant, what is a friend, compared to your wife, to your children? what claims can equal theirs? and how can you answer to your conscience the bringing back to us this fatal malady?'

"'God will preserve my family,' replied Edmund Sinclair, trembling with emotion. 'My own Charlotte, think of the vows I have taken as a Gospel minister; and remember that, if unfaithful to them, I can never expect Divine assistance.'

"'I know not what were your vows as a clergyman, Edmund, for I never heard them,—I only know what they were as a husband; and, by those remembered vows, I hold you fast. I will not let you go. Is it thus you would 'love and cherish me till death do us part?' Is it thus you would desert the devoted mother of your children, or return to destroy her?'

"Mr. Sinclair here endeavoured to raise her, fondly kissing the hand he held, but at the same time turning his eyes towards the window, whence escape was perfectly feasible. Mrs. Sinclair, however, caught the direction of his looks and thoughts, and throwing her arms around him, burst into tears; while, as the wondering and tearful children gathered round them, the governess ventured to suggest, that, 'if the warden or Miss Carrington had sent for Mr. Sinclair, it would have been painful to have refused them, but that this old woman was no relation.'

"Mr. Sinclair sighed as he replied,—'Every soul is of equal value in the sight of God, and with Him all men are brothers. To the inmates of the hall I have bound myself as their pastor before God. My own love, be reasonable, be more than reasonable, be full of faith and trust, and the Master, whom I serve, will protect me and comfort you.'

"'Oh! Edmund, for God's sake do not go on talking to me in those set phrases! I know very well what the obvious duties of a clergyman are; and I am certain that carrying about the infection from house to house, is not one of them. It is your duty to obey the Government, and the Board of Health has officially commanded that the contagion should not be thus conveyed. You know all this very well, Edmund, I read you the announcement myself from the newspaper; and you also know the dissatisfaction that was expressed because the Roman Catholic priests would not obey the law of the land.' {80}

"'Not the law of the land, Charlotte; no punishment could attend its infraction: but now listen. I must go up to the hall, but I will not return here immediately. I will pass the night at the lodge, and then change my dress.

"'And there die,' interrupted the wife, 'and see me die there, and the one yet unborn! Yes! kill us both at once, and then be satisfied that you have well fulfilled your ordination vows! Go! go!' cried she, with hysterical vehemence; 'go, you love me not,—you never did, and you shall never see me more!'

"Accustomed as he had long been to similar scenes, whenever bent on the fulfilment of those clerical functions in which danger to himself might be dreaded, Edmund Sinclair had never been so powerfully affected, even during the first months of his marriage. This beautiful and devoted creature had passionately thrown herself at his feet, and her sobs echoed in his heart: he thought, also, on this their anniversary.

"The children, fully understanding that their mother was in distress, and their father in danger, joined their lamentations to hers, each little hand fastening on his dress, to force him to remain in safety, while the gentle governess again expostulated: 'Surely, Mr. Sinclair, these dear ones have the first claim on you. Excuse me, if I take the liberty to think you have, in this case, mistaken the line of duty. God can never bid you forget that you are a husband and a father.'

Mrs. Sinclair had now ceased to sob and lament; but it was not that she listened to this last appeal in her favour, for her frame, incapable of longer sustaining this highly wrought state of feeling, sank heavily on the floor, and her rebellious grief was lost in forgetfulness.

"'Great God!' cried the agonized husband, as, disengaging himself from the children, he raised his apparently lifeless victim, and bore her to a couch. 'Thou canst not demand the annihilation of these very affections which Thou Thyself hast blessed. Charlotte, my best treasure, I quit you not. Miss Rigby, tell the messenger from the hall that Mrs. Sinclair is too ill for me to leave her, that I send my best wishes and my blessing to poor old Goodwin, and that I entreat she will have no human preferences at such a crisis, but consent to see my excellent brother the warden. And take the children away, Miss Rigby: I wish to be left with my wife.'

"'I cannot, sir,' exclaimed that lady, 'the door is, you know, locked; and even, while fainting, Mrs. Sinclair still grasps the key.'

"Tears gushed into Edmund's eyes as he threw forth his Charlotte's now unresisting hand from the folds of her dress: it fell powerless, and dropped the key. The governess and children withdrew; and, no sooner was he freed from witnesses, than sinking on his knees, by the couch of his still insensible wife, and burying his face in the cushions, Edmund Sinclair gave way to the remorseful emotions of his soul,—for he had yielded to the enervating effect of earthly love, and, in the husband, lost the priest of God!"—vol. i. pp. 41-48.

This is much worse than Geraldine's confusing the second and {81} fifth General Councils, and Mr. Everard's annihilation of the Council of Basil; it is a very shameful fabrication; but more comes presently. Not content with accusing clergymen's wives of keeping their husbands from their spiritual duties, this "Tale of Conscience," as it styles itself, proceeds to a further charge, so odious, that we almost retract what we have conjectured, and are tempted to deny that its writer is a woman. It actually accuses a clergyman's wife of teasing her husband out of a secret committed to him in confession on a death-bed, and then without a day's delay spreading it among her gossips. Now considering this must be meant to intimate what is natural and usual in the English Church, and cannot be taken as intended as an extraordinary exception to general rule, and is deliberately put on paper, not by a foreigner at a distance, but by one who has seen much of English society, or at least has taken, in some of its features, a shrewd and discriminating survey of it, we do marvel that he or she has had the heart and still more the head to prefer a charge which is as stupid as it is malicious. Why, it beats the story we have lately heard something about somewhere, of Pope Gregory and his fish-pond of infants' skulls; for what is Pope Gregory to us? and, though he was our great benefactor, still one can understand men, brought up as they are, not feeling any great sensitiveness for the honour of one who died hundreds of years before we were born, and whose existence and graces have never been thrust upon their senses by sight and touch and hearing. It is but ordinary and bearable irreverence to heap accusations upon one who after all was but a pope, considering all popes must be bad men; but with all the advantages of sight and hearing, friendly intercourse, the claims of society, and the influence of personal intimacies, thus deliberately to sacrifice our clergy and their wives to a mere theory, the theory of Romanism, which requires that facts should be thus reversed, and the course of things turned inside out, evinces a hardihood which is characteristic of Rome, and which is too extreme and barefaced to excite any angry or impatient feeling. It is their loss who believe it.

Indeed, the authoress seems to feel she has gone too far, and shows signs of compunction; for presently we are favoured, as a set off, with a little sketch of a good parson's wife, or in the words of Mr. Everard, whose luck it has been to discover this rare jewel, "the one good clergyman's wife of my acquaintance," "the Protestant sister of charity," the 'reverend mother' of her "little parish."—vol. i. p. 293.

And now perhaps we have said enough to satisfy the reader's curiosity as to this tale, which has made a sensation in some circles. {82} It contains an amusing exposure of Ultra-Protestantism; it may be useful in shaming members of our Church into a more consistent profession of its principles; it is quite harmless as a controversial defence of the Church of Rome.

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On the history of the Roman doctrine of Purgatory, one of the latest Tracts of the series called Tracts for the Times may profitably be consulted. It is scarcely necessary to add, that Geraldine's other alleged primitive points of faith are either founded on misrepresentation or are not denied by our Church.
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