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THOSE WHO FEAR AND HATE CANNOT UNDERSTAND, 121
matters will, to his perverted and distorted mind, appear base and contemptible in comparison with the things of God. The Catholic or the Methodist who excites himself to extatic rapture or agony, during his retreat or his revival, who gloats over his meditations on the bliss of heaven or the horrors of hell, can have but little sympathy left for the earthly progress of the human race, and will have nought but malignity in his heart towards all those who look with indifference or aversion on those doctrines and those practices in which he places all his hope, and which he believes to be of more importance than anything that the earth can afford. " For what sball a man give in exchange for his soul ?” And in proportion to the strength of the superstitious element will this contempt of worldly and human progress pervade the human mind; and while religious prejudices still linger around us, atheism, or devotion to humanity, reality. and truth, will appear cold, cruel, and benumbing, because it will not be understood. But man must learn to love truth as truth, and not to doubt that from truth will spring happiness and beauty and glory.
Unreasoning Robert Southey, in the midst of his Tory fears and prejudices, said, with the instinctive judgment of a generoushearted poet, “I am fully convinced that a gradual improvement is going on in the world, has been going on from its commencement, and will continue, till the human race shall attain all the perfection of which it is capable in this mortal state.” Yes; the progress of improvement will still proceed onwards : men are not as wise, not as pure, not as good, not as happy as they are capable of being. Europe has been marching on ever since we have any record-each generation advancing, and sometimes, but only in localities, apparently retrograding. The invention of printing rendered progress more rapid and retrogression impossible. Whatever share the Christian religion may have taken in the work of civilisation was finished long ago, and will not be disputed here. Whether it ought to be called a symptom or a cause of progress is unimportant-its errand is done.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.
A SUMMONS IN CONCLUSION.
“ Les superstitions, ces hideuses vipères,
Fourmillent sous nos fronts, ou tout germe est flétri,
Nous portons dans nos cæurs le cadavre pourri
Victor Hugo : "Les Chants du Crepuscule,” No. XXXV. An acquaintance with some of the most approved periodical and other religious works of the last few years, will prove that the most active and intelligent priests and professors of va. rious sects, have not failed to observe with alarm and consternation the rapid increase and formidable aspects of infidelity. Although Christian writers have misjudged the causes of this movement, have alluded to it as cursorily as possible, and underrated its extent and importance, they have placed on record many unequivocal acknowledgments that on this point they are neither blind nor indifferent. They see that, whatever form infidelity may appear to bave taken in bygone times, it is not now a mere system of negation—that the infidel* is not a mere thoughtless scoffer, fighting for a barren victory, and regardless of the feelings and happiness of others; but that, however false and dangerous they may consider his opinions to be, the infidel himself has a benevolent object in view, the intellectual enlightenment and social amelioration of the human race; and however extravagant and Utopian these objects may seem, they at least show that this
Although names invented by opponents cannot inflict any real stigma or disgrace, the term “infidel” cannot willingly be accepted by those who reject Christianity; they have violated no promise, they are unfaithful to no engagement in doing so.
Atheist,” though merely implying a certain negation, is inoffensive. “ Rationalist and Rationalism,” which I have very often used, are not intended to charge others with being irrational; but a better term has lately been proposed for adoptionSecularist-signifying our belief that man's whole duty, devotion, and service ought to be centred in humanity, and in this life.
UNBELIEF IS A FACT.
infidel, atheist, blasphemer, or miscreant, is not totally selfish, insensible, or indifferent, who, in the face of public disadvantages, private discouragement, general execration, and loud threats of eternal punishment, undauntedly pursues his course, supported by a faith and a hope. The position of the avowed and active enemies of religion bas improved in public consideration, and they have been gradually enabled to assume a more aggressive attitude. Unbelievers of every shade of opinion may be observed in every rank of society. Doubters, scoffers, and triflers, all of them refractory pupils of the Christian priesthood, all witnesses of the inefficacious nature of religious instruction, demonstrate the waning influence of supernatural motives, and the increasing disgust and contempt which they cause even in weak minds. Many Christian writers have opportunities of knowing personally, or of hearing of the learning and talents, and the decorous and useful lives of some distinguished men who deny the truth of Christianity, and all can see the calm earnestness, the undeniable sincerity, and the bright hopes indicated in their writings.
The lamentations and denunciations of priests and of the devout of every sect, the recent desperate and declining efforts to revive religious fervour by the attractions of architecture and mediæval decorations, and to restore the authoritative teaching of the church, and the exclusive sacramental power of her ministers, as checks to the growth of ultra Protestantism and Unitarianism, are symptoms of the unsettled and critical state of the public mind on the subject of religion. The flight of the most able and earnest of the Tractarian party to Rome, and the actual numerous and important conversions to the Catholic faith, when contrasted with that “ current of doubt,” every day becoming more apparent in our English society"a current strong in learning, crested with genius, strenuous yet calm in progress," go far to prove that there is now but one logical alternative for the earnest truth-seeker, Romanism or Rationalism, either the utter prostration of the reason and the feelings before the autho
* Rev, G. Gilfillan's 6 Second Gallery of Literary Portraits." Notice of John Sterling.
ROMANISM OR RATIONALISM.
ritative teaching of the visible church, or the submission of the imaginative and venerative propensities to the deductions of reason, and the inexorable facts of infinite nature. Protestantism and Unitarianism are vain attempts at compromise, impracticable plans for reconciling reason with religion, ancient ignorance and credulity with modern science and love of truth. Protestants reject the authoritative interpretation of the written and unwritten law by an unbroken succession of priests from the time of the apostles, and profess to place their entire confidence in a book, for which they claim divine inspiration, while they allow of its interpretation by private judgment. In this they are as unreasonable and imprudent as a legislature would be, which should publish laws for a nation's guidance, and although the simplest document frequently contains passages that will bear different senses, should permit their interpretation by each man's private judgment-a course which could lead to nothing but senseless confusion and anarchy. And it is undeniable that the Protestant rule of faith has produced this effect. Protestants are split into innumerable sects; the most foolish and revolting doctrines have been drawn by private judgment from the Bible, and defended by its language; doctrines generally deemed fundamental to Christianity have been rejected, and their rejection justified by an appeal to scripture; while some religionists, calling themselves Christians, asserting the inspiration of the Bible, and exercising the Protestant right of private judgment, have pared away every peculiarity of Christian theology, until it is difficult to perceive in what they differ from mere Deists. No Protestant church can, or does, lay claim to infallibility, yet the institution of Omnipotence must be infallible, or it is nothing."
“ We have become convinced,” says the Catholic, “ by the exercise of our reason, that God has made a revelation of his will to mankind; we know that God is invariable, and that there
* The timid, incoherent, and impotent claim advanced by some of the Anglican High Church party, is contradicted by their ackpowledgment of corruptions in the doctrine and worship of the church before the Reformation. How did these come into an infallible church ?
can be but one truth. We therefore arrive at the conclusion that God must have appointed a church to be the depository and witness of that truth, and a guide to his people to the end of the world. And what can be more reasonable, when once the truth of the Christian revelation is ascertained, than to submit our reason to the guidance and teacbing of that church which we believe God himself to have appointed, just as we submit to that erudite and authorised body who interpret and administer the civil laws of the land ? Imagine the state of a country where there were no judges, and where every man claimed the right of construing the law according to his own reason and conscience! Yet this is what Protestantism proclaims with respect to the law of God. Its original principle is that of private judgment, of the right of each man to take the scriptures, and adopt the meaning and light which they reflect upon his mind as the religion of Christ. We have had three hundred years' experience of Protestantism, and it is now sufficiently certain that the Bible is no public treasury from which every earnest student can draw harmonious oracles of faith and morals. God's truth is one, man can enumerate the shades and varieties of faith caused by the Protestant rule. Every sect, however, bas found it necessary to throw restraints, in the shape of written creeds, over the private judgment of its own adherents. These two principles, of private judgment and fundamental doctrines, are positively contradictory and incompatible. How can you make a man free to read the scriptures and judge for himself, and yet tie him down to your Augsburg Confession, Westminster Catechism, or Thirtynine Articles ? What kind of freedom is this, and what kind of authority is this? You invite me to desert the Catholic faith by a proclamation of freedom, only, as it now seems, to insert my neck in the yoke which you have framed. You give with one hand and take away with the other. You are in contradiction with yourselves, and adopt a principle which is destructive of every doctrine of your own systems, and which at the same time deprives you of the right of correcting and calling back those who wander from your arbitrary standard of orthodoxy. And thus it is that all those persons who go in the direction of Ration