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ART. III. A Portraiture of the Roman Catholic Religios; o
unprejudiced Sketch of the History, Doctrines, O pinions, IN cipline, and present State of Catholicism : with an Appers containing a Summary of the Laws now in Force against Engels and Irish Catholics. By the Rev. J. Nightingale, A uthor of Portraiture of Methodism,” &c. 8vo. Pp. 547. 368. Board
Longman and Co. T HILE a Pretender to the British throne existed, whoz
W religious principles were those of the see of Rome, i was the fashion to represent Catholicism as a monster at one deformed and pestiferous; and Protestant Dissenters we equally zealous with members of the Established Church i making repeated attacks on the scarlet whore of Babylon. Since however, the alarm of a Pretender has subsided, “ Sermos against Popery" are less frequent; and had not the Catholics,' enlightened on the subject of civil rights, and naturally counting on the liberal spirit of the times, asserted their claims to a full participation of the privileges of British subjects, the popular odium, which had been cherished on political accounts, would perhaps gradually have subsided, and we should have regarded the Catholic as no worse a subject for going to Mass than the Methodist for going to the Tabernacle. The apostolic maxim given in Romans, xiv. 5., so characteristic of St. Paul's expanded liberality, “ Let every man freely enjoy his oeun sentie ! ment,” (this is Dr. Doddridge's translation,) would have been 50 far adopted generally, that we should amicably have “ agreed to differ;" and our religious opinions would not, any more than our philosophical or other opinions, be considered as disquali. fying us for any service to which the King might be pleased to appoint us.
Civil privileges, when bestowed on one denomination of Christian professors to the exclusion of others, operate as a monopoly in favour of the privileged class; and profitable monopolies are never relinquished without a struggle. Catholics, therefore, by asserting their right to be adınitted into the market on the same terms with other subjects, have provoked a controversy in which the nature and political operation of their religion become objects of inquiry ; it being contended by their Protestant opponents that, if they be good Catholics, they cannot be good British subjects. Against this party, the author of the Portraiture of the Roman Catholic Religion generously pleads the Catholic cause; and, though himself a Protestant, and firm in his principles as such, he strenuously contends that nothing exists in the doctrines or the discipline of Catholicism, which ought to operate against its professors as members of the state. A Protestant freely advocating the cause of the Roman
Catholic religion is an amiable novelty, which disposes us to believe that the world is growing rather better than worse; and, if we compliment Mr. N.'s heart, on the present occasion, he receives no more from us than he deserves. He probably will think, however, that we are not so kind to the Catholics as he is himself, when we venture to suggest the possibility of his generosity having in some degree invaded the province of his judgment; and if we doubt whether, in a discussion such as he has undertaken, it be admissible to give a view of the Roman Catholic religion detached from all consideration of Roman Catholic courts, and even of the court of Rome itself. Though we rank among the advocates for Catholic Emancipation, we wish to argue the case fairly; and the connection of Catholics with the See of Rome, or with the Pope, is an objection, solely on the ground of their acknowlegment of a jurisdiction out of the realm, which for their own sakes they ought to obviate. We say, “ Make the empire complete within itself, in spirituals as well as in temporals, and enjoy with us the full benefit of it. To emancipate you is our ardent wish; and do you enable us, by removing this single difficulty, to effect it consistently with the principles of sound policy.” Mr. N. will tell us that the atrocities and daring assumptions of temporal power, formerly practised by the court of Rome, make no part of the Roman Catholic religion. Granted : but, in taking a view of this religious system, are we to omit to notice this prominent fact, that it authorizes and assists the right of appeal to a court so loaded with crimes and unprecedented despotism? When Mr. Nightingale has executed his projected Portraiture of the Church of England, will he deem his picture complete, if it includes nothing more than an account of the Liturgy and the Articles ; — will he not exhibit the Church in connection with the State, with the King as its supreme temporal head, with the bishops as appointed by him, and “ raising their mitred fronts in courts and parliaments?” The answer is evident; and in like manner he ought to consider Catholicism in all its bearings, especially as the whole point af issue has a political aspect.
It is proper to let this volunteer in behalf of the Catholios explain his own views and motives. He was not willing,' he informs us in his preface, to forego the pleasure of, at least, endeavouring to shew that the religion of our ancestors has been mistaken, and that unworthy and groundless alarms are excited in consequence of that mistake.'— When,' he proceeds, ' murders, and seditions, and plots, and persecutions, are adduced against Roman Catholics, it is sushcient to give this one plain and obvious answer, they are acts which form Rev. JULY, 1814. S'.
no part of the Roman Catholic religion. The present Catholics are certainly not chargeable with the crimes of their ancestors. It is also to be recollected that Protestants have persecuted in their turn; and that even Calvin and Cranmer manifested a bloody zeal for what they esteemed the truth. In these more liberal times, similar enormities are not likely to occur ; and we cannot deem it generous to urge the former burning of heretics, &c. as an argument against Catholic Emancipation. We entirely agree with Mr. N., that much in extenuation might be offered on account of the mental darkness, the political bondage, and the mistaken policy of the ages in which these enormities were committed ; while much obloquy would be removed, by distinguishing between the acts of princes and politicians, and those of the heads and ministers of religion.' Yet it must not be forgotten that the head of the Catholic church is the only spiritual functionary on record who assumed the monstrous power of deposing kings, and of laying whole empires under his interdicts; and it behoves the sovereigns of Europe not only to protest but to guard against the assumption of this power by the See of Rome, and to distinguish between Catholicism and Popery. The latter term we are happy to find is going out of use, and is grating in the ears of Catholics: it is, however, expressive of one point in debate, viz. their spiritual allegiance to the Pope, and therefore in argument cannot be altogether abandoned. It is in one respect the hinge on which the whole of the controversy turns; and though, in the modern arrangements of Europe, little fear may rationally be entertained of the Pope's dispensing power, it is impossible to say what changes will in future happen; and it is a matter of policy to prevent the possibility of such an interference of the Pope in these realms as may, under any circumstance, disturb the allegiance of his Majesty's Catholic subjects. These and former remarks of the same complexion are offered with no hostility to their cause; and we ardently hope that the Catholics will devise means of quieting the apprehensions of our Protestant government on this head.
The sentiments and object of the author of this Portraiture cannot be more clearly placed before our readers than by transcribing the following passage:
- To state with candour, and to delineate with faithfulness, some of the leading features of Catholic history, and all the great doctrines of the Catholic faith, uninfluenced by the zeal of a partisan, or the disingenuous arts of an apologist, is the chief, if not the sole, duty incumbent on the author of this work. If in the discharge of this duty, it should appear that a great majority of our fellow Christians have been, and still are, misunderstood in regard to their tenets, and misrepresented in their history, and that from these mistakes, to give
them no harsher a term, have been generated and fostered a spirit and conduct on the part of Protestants, unworthy of their principles, and impolitic and unjust in the results, a most important point will be attained, and a desirable object accomplished: for the liberal genius of the Protestant doctrines is most assuredly hostile to all acts of oppression, and all sentiments manifestly unjust.'
Every review of a subject so important as the nature of Catholicism, that may tend to remove unfounded prejudices, is intitled to the fullest attention; and, as Mr. N. has taken pains to obtain the best information, we have no doubt of the favourable reception of his work.
Whether St. Peter was ever settled as a bishop at Rome, (he could not possibly ever have been, in our sense of the word, Bishop of Rome, and whether the list of his successors in this office be or be not correct, are points of little moment in this · inquiry; except indeed to those who assert that "visibility and
episcopal ordination are essential to the character of the church of Christ,' and to such the true history of the Popes offers difficulties which we shall not stay either to encounter or to state. Before and even after the conversion of Constantine, which conferred on Christianity a political consequence and stability, the principle of an universal bishop was not generally acknowleged ; and Mr. N. seems to lean too much to the assertion of Catholic writers, that “ the management and primacy of the whole church had been given to St. Peter :" a position which no Protestant ought to allow, when the only evidence for it is a total misconception of the meaning of the words of Christ to the Apostle, On this rock I will build my church. That the bishops of Rome, from an early period, held a peculiar authority over a large part of the Christian world,' is also a concession which as a Protestant Mr. N. should not make. He indeed wonders that Protestants should feel sore on this point; yet it is surely of some importance to resist this first datum of the advocates for the Pope's supremacy: since, if it is by no means clear that St. Peter had any superior rank or authority over the rest of the apostles,' every idea of his primacy in the church at once falls to the ground; and those who arrogate supremacy, as his real or pretended successors, urge an authority to which they have no shadow of claim. Nothing can be more manifest from the resistance offered by Paul to Peter, (Gal, ii. 11.) and from the blame which the former attaches to the latter, than that even the apostles did not acknowlege any paramount authority in Peter, nor regard him as invested with infallibility. Besides, what good reason can be assigned to prove that the See of Rome should domineer over all the churches of Christ? Be. cause this city was the capital of the Roman world, is its
bishop to take precedence in the kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world ? Considering the obscurity and persecuted state of the Christian church in the first two centuries, its bishops could obtain no very extensive influence ; and it was not till Constantine professed the doctrines of the cross, that its ministers, catching the spirit of the world, grew ambitious of dominion :- then, it was easy to find fathers and ecclesias. tical historians to write up their consequence, and make out their succession from the apostles. Before the imperial resi. dence was removed to Constantinople, the Bishop of Rome took the lead in spirituals, as his master did in temporal affairs; and, as Mosheim says, this pre-eminence resulted from “ those dazzling marks of human power, which have such a mighty influence on the minds of the multitude." Still this pre-eminence, however coveted, was only that of rank, the Bishop of Rome being named before the Bishops of Antioch and Alexandria : but none of the prelates “ acknowledged that they derived their authority from the permission and appointment of the Bishop of Rome, or that they were created bishops by the favour of the apostolic see.” Now, if at this period the Bishop of Rome, with all his grandeur, was only Bishop of Rome, all the subsequent high-flown assumptions of the occupiers of this See are deserving, in the eye of reason, of ridicule rather than of grave discussion. We wish Protestants to treat the subject as it merits, and British Catholics to abandon the shackles which these pretensions impose. Their system may emanate from the Roman Catholic church, but let them not be held in thraldom by it.
Mr. Nightingale is inclined to sneer at the account of the cause of Constantine's conversion : but he does not advert to the reason for his adoption of Christianity given by Zosimus, the historian. Perhaps the vision of the cross, and the splendid display of it on the Labarum, were intended to conceal the real motives which induced the Emperor to embrace the new faith. Instead of tracing the operation of this mighty revolution in the temporal condition of the church, Mr. N. adopts a statement which was put into his hands by the ingenious Mr. Charles Butler: but we should have been more satisfied if the author of the Portraiture had employed his own pencil. We could not indeed have supposed that he would be so complimentary to any Catholic, as to present the following passage for a summary of historic truth : « Thus from a regular train of historical facts, beginning with the earliest monuments of the Reformation, and ascending to the time of Christ himself, we find the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, both in rank and jurisdiction, an admitted article of Christian belief.” - A writer in the ca.