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So De Quincey, ornate with learning, but bowed by suffering, stands among other authors peculiar and alone. When the first feeling of fear for his fate is over, we almost wonder, as we admire him, whether the terrible bent which opium has given to his genius is really due to his habits, or to the influences of his singular mind; and we hesitate long before we admit that we do not like him better as he is, than if he were straight like other men.
ART. V. - MODERN ROMANISM AND MODERN PROTES
Protestanf Europe. By the Hanford and
Protestantism and Catholicity compared in their Effects on the Civilization of Europe. By the Rev. J. BALMEZ. Translated from the French Version by C. J. HANFORD and R. KERSHAW. London: James Burns. 1849.
WE quote the title of a work classic in its way, and deserving not only of the study of theologians, but to take its place on the shelves of general scholars and historical students, beside the works of Guizot and Hallam. The historical periods which it sketches, and the social revolutions of which it treats, deserve a more broad and impartial study than is usually given to them, or than can be given by the knowledge of Protestant books alone. It is the interest both of philosophy and morals, as well as of scientific theology, that a voice in the discussion should be had by that Church which claims to be the only and complete representative of the great Catholic power of the Middle Age. And a book written like this of Abbé Balmez, expressly to guard and forewarn the strongholds of modern Romanism from the encroachment of dissent, has a particular claim on us for attentive study and fair appreciation.
A large portion of this work, it is needless to say, consists of the stereotype and ex parte statements of Romanists respecting the Protestant movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the motives of its leaders, such as deserve neither notice nor repetition from anybody now. It is just to say, however, that it is free from that temper of scandal and aspersion and personal vituperation to which Papist polemics have been too often prone. The whole of it is characterized, of course, by the constant half-conscious assumption — in which Romanism is so radically different from any form of Protestant dissent — that religious truth is a thing to be dictated on one part, and accepted on the other, like the military code of an army, or the official routine of civil magistrates. This is a state of mind as to which it is impossible to argue, or to hope for a common understanding between the parties in debate. The writer, also, closes his work by professing that he has written it in strict submission to the Church dogmas, as he understands them, and that he will instantly retract anything that shall be condemned by official authority, a profession which does not prepossess one in favor of the argument. Still one is glad to hear what can be said, even in behalf of such questionable matters as inquisitions and bullfights; and we are not in the least prejudiced against a fair presenting of the Romanist view on the whole ground of controverted social morals. The chief value of the work, however, we think will be found, first, in the lively view it gives of the social changes which took place in Europe in connection with the decline of the Empire and the rise and fall of Feudalism ; and, secondly, in the citations it gives from the great theologians of the Middle Age — the Schoolmen, whose works are not often included in the course of a Protestant education — to illustrate the Catholic view of such matters as the Divine foundation of human society, government, and morals. Arbitrary in their foundation, and technical in their style of expression, as these writings may be, the essential truth they vindicate is expressed often with much nobleness and force. And it is a special advantage, that the historical survey before us is made by an author whose priestly training has made him more familiar with them than most compilers and critics of mediæval annals are likely to be.
The volume is interesting to us in another way, - as an illustration of that vast vitality and power still inherent in the
name and the spiritual dominion of Rome. In one sense, the limits of that dominion are broader than ever; and though it is no longer, in any fair sense, “ Catholic” or universal, the number of its nominal subjects is probably far greater than in the day of its stateliest pomp and pride. A new life, a new era of existence, was won for it in the great struggle that threatened its annihilation. Its sphere of secret influence and invisible strength, its prestige with the imagination, faith, and reverence of half of Christendom, has remained almost unimpaired. A subtler and deeper policy, a craft of profounder dissimulation, a nicer skill in dealing with men's motives and fears, a theology more orderly, logical, and complete, an organization shaped with shrewder and more practical wisdom to meet the actual ends and needs of its being, have been developed, along with the strifes, dangers, and experiences of the last three centuries. This change is briefly indicated in a single phrase : for mediæval Catholicism we have the modern Romanism, - a form of ecclesiastical power which but partly represents the great Christian empire it claims to be, and plays its part in history side by side with that modern Protestantism which has succeeded to the heroic struggles of the Reformation.
It is only one or two points of characteristic difference between these two rival powers that we propose to speak of now, — by no means to sketch even an outline of their history or their character. In doing it, it is convenient to fix our eye, for a starting-point, on some one name, that stands as a type of a period, and contains in itself a hint of those forces which history has expanded into events. For such a name we have not far to seek. Perhaps no one point in chronology more strongly arrests the student of the “Reformation Period,” than that which brings for a moment into contact the names of the leaders of the two contending hosts. On the day when Martin Luther appeared before the Diet at Worms, and spoke the memorable words that forever cut him off from the ecclesiastical body, and made the Reformation a fact in history, there was, newly arrived, at a monastery in Spain a man in the prime of life, of exalted birth, and knightly training, who had come up thither to consecrate himself as the soldier of the Holy
VOL. LXXIV. — 5TH S. VOL. XII. NO. I.
at a monass knightly train of the Holy Mother of our Lord. Ignatius Loyola (as we now know his name) was the younger son of a noble house among the Pyrenees. His knightly accomplishments were learned at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. His desperate defence of Pampeluna — where one leg was shattered by a ball, and the other lacerated by a splinter— had won the chivalrous homage of his foes, who sent him to heal his wounds at home. Twice he submitted to operations of intense and frightful pain to reduce the unsightly lameness of the fractured limb; then, as he slowly gained health, - as he believed, from the direct vision and help of the Virgin Mary, — his mind was fed and fired by legends of Catholic devotion, and he resolved to live the life of a saint himself. He threw away his fortune; stripped himself to absolute beggary ; addressed himself to the first elements of scholarly learning, when the influence of his ardent, subtile, imperative mind was already felt upon a wide circle who knew him ; braved the censure of the authorities by preaching in the streets and becoming a guide of souls ; set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, one foot bare and bleeding, the other swollen, bandaged, and lame, scourging his bare shoulders thrice a day as penance for his sins; braved the sea, the Turk, the plague, and the risk of absolute starvation, to fulfil his pilgrimage ; and began to be widely revered for austere sanctity, and respected for the singular subtilty and skill of his dealing with men's motives and shaping of their will. This gay, ambitious, intrepid cavalier, this clear-headed, sagacious, experienced man of the world, this fanatic, enthusiast, visionary, devotee, this patient endurer of hardship, this marvellous reader, director, and controller of the obscurest motives of the human breast, became the founder and master of an Order which revived the decaying strength of Romanism. Under him, the Society of Jesus became the implacable, impenetrable, invincible rival of the Reformation, and has had ever since the most powerful influence on the character and fortunes of the Papal Church. That wonderful Order - more sagacious, more deep and subtile in policy, more absolute within its range of power, more daring and at the same time wary and perplexing in its ambition, than perhaps any other organization upon earth - embodies in itself the plans, schemes, and
agencies that make the secret dread of the Roman name. Distrusted, persecuted, exiled, dishonored, abolished, time after time, by kingdom after kingdom, and by the highest authority of the Church itself, it has yet lived on, in its wonderful way, the professed, zealous, indispensable, dreaded, distrusted, hated champion of that Church. Under the guise of loyalty, it has even been charged with establishing a rival power to the Papacy itself; and if the choice must be made, so its enemies accuse, — would doubtless leave the Church to perish, so that the Order should survive.
We need not echo the suspicion, dread, and hate, that seem not all unfounded, which in all Protestant and in most Papal countries cling to the name of Jesuit. We are justified in accepting the general verdict as to the leading aim and ambition of the Order; — which is, to establish a perfect and absolute dominion over the thought, belief, affection, act, and will of its subjects; to found an invisible, spiritual police, as crafty and as powerful as the state police of Napoleon's imperial rule, - a power dealing with the secret motives and interior life of men with as perfect control as that over their outward acts. All other belief, hope, principle, faith, may be surrendered, but what cluster about the organization itself. To that, fealty must be entire and complete, — the man “ as a corpse” in the hands of his superiors, to do their will to the uttermost, whatever that will may be. Its system of ethics, so far as we may judge, is based on bare despotic authority, and the denial of all natural grounds of virtue, honor, or faith. Absolute obedience and absolute reserve are the basis of its rule. A secret and desolating scepticism, an utter ravage of all that is humanly noble and true, makes the levelled field on which its structure is to be reared. Every man of its enormous muster-roll is a secret spy on every other. Every confession of the sensitive conscience, made under the sacred seal of secrecy, may be a key, used with infinite skill, to lay the penitent open to the uses of the Order. Its ascetic discipline is shaped to mould the character, pliant and yielding, to the one end. So that, in theory, the chief master has spread before him like a book a vast registry of souls; and, ranging the world over, can handle them as tools to frame and