« AnteriorContinuar »
reader suffers himself to be so occupied with the consequences as to forget their cause. On the contrary, the writer would feel that he had done real injury to the cause of truth, if he should find that his readers were led to regard these legends as something wholly new. New they are, in one sense, as being a development, in a particular direction, of a false principle and an erroneous system, and, in some respects, a disclosure of objects, and intentions, and ulterior views, of which the world had not previously been so distinctly informed. But they are no more than a development and a disclosure of what already existed; just as Mr. Ward has, in his Ideal, spoken a little more plainly than his more cautious leader. But, as the non-natural subscription of Mr. Ward is, in point of fact, the identical theory of No. 90, in a more homely and matter-of-fact fashion than it had assumed in Mr. Newman's hands, so the Romanism and Neologianism of the Lives of the Saints are nothing whatever beyond the theology and ethics inculcated in Mr. Newman's own writings, and in those of which he has avowed himself the patron, only they are thrown into a legendary form. Any one who doubts the justice of this observation, can satisfy himself by reading Mr. Newman's University Sermons, his Sermons on the Subjects of the Day, and those articles in the British Critic which he has recommended to the public. The writer thinks it infinitely important to keep this fact steadily and constantly before his readers. Greater mischief, he conceives, could not be done to truth, than to lead people to imagine that an erroneous system is less injurious, when presented in a calm and moderate form. It is plainly the reverse. Error is never so little likely to do mischief, as when it makes itself ridiculous and disgusting. If the Lives of the English Saints had appeared a few years ago, they might have been safely left in that obscurity to which the good sense, and good feeling, and piety of a Christian community would have consigned them. It is because things are altered, that such books require to be exposed now. It is because an erroneous and false system has already predisposed (it is to be feared) too many to read such books with pleasure-because it has already, and to a very fearful amount, blunted men's moral and spiritual perceptions, and prepared them for admiring that from which, a few years ago, they would have turned with abhorrence. And further, it is because these legends do serve so clearly and plainly to make manifest the real spirit and the legitimate effects of that system, and so to put those on their guard who required to be forewarned against errors which make their first advances in a less repulsive form ; and to awaken those who are still incredulous, and still willing to suppose (if there be any such remaining) that the movement is harmless in its original principle and design, and only dangerous in the extravagancies of its younger and more undisciplined admirers. Here is a series of books, containing doctrines, not only contrary to what the Church of England receives as the teaching of Holy Scripture and the primitive church, but plainly subversive of truth, of reverence for sacred things, of purity. It is difficult even to expose their pernicious character, without transcribing matter offensive to piety, and unfit to be placed before the eyes of modesty.
Who is the originator of these books ?- who is the editor ? And has Mr. Newman, even by one single line, come forward to renounce his connexion with their authors, much less to express even a shadow of regret at his having originated and edited a work, which, from its very first number, displayed a spirit so utterly irreconcilable with the good faith of an English clergyman. The world has not forgotten, and it never can, how promptly Mr. Newman responded, on another and very different occasion, even to a private remonstrance, and how readily he came forward to retract publicly the language in which he had spoken with severity of Rome and Romanism; the very language to which his friends had so frequently appealed, whenever his system was charged with a leaning towards the errors of Rome. With regard to the propriety of Mr. Newman's conduct, either then or now, no opinion whatever is offered. It is not to the writer of these pages he is responsible. Nor can anything but confusion and misconception arise from making this in any way a personal question, or allowing feelings either of partiality or dislike to be mixed up with it. Again and again has this been impressed on the reader's mind. The facts of this case are simply these: Mr. Newman did publicly announce himself as the originator and editor of this series of lives ; he has never since come forward to disclaim his connexion with it, or in any way whatever to free himself from the guilt and re. sponsibility which attaches to every one engaged in the publication. These are the facts, which no one pretends to be able to deny. And then the question arises, Would any man act in this manner, if he be. lieved that the authors of these books were giving the public a false view of the nature of his system, and the object of the movements of which he is the head and leader, and were thus defeating and counteracting that design, to the accomplishment of which his whole existence is devoted. This is the point really deserving of consideration ; for, however thankful one would be to awaken any of the persons connected with this movement to the true character and the lamentable consequences of their unhappy projects, the immediate object is to make the nature of these projects known, and to put the public fully on their guard against the system and the teaching by which these projects are attempted to be accomplished.
If, then, one is asked, what is the principal evil of the system inculcated by Mr. Newman and his friends ? the answer must bedisregard of truth, and a disregard the more dangerous because it certainly appears to originate in their having, in the first instance, confused their own notions of truth and falsehood, both as to their nature and their importance. It is difficult, from such a mass of writing, to select examples. One or two from the lives of the Hermit Saints will be sufficient to explain one's meaning. The first shall be taken from the legend of St. Gundleus, of whom nothing certain appears to be known. Indeed the author very freely confesses the fictitious nature of the tale, brief as it is :
" Whether St. Gundleus led this very life, and wrought these very miracles, I do not know; but I do know that they are Saints whom the Church so accounts, and I believe that, though this account of him cannot be proved, it is a symbol of what he did and what he was, a picture of his saintliness, and a specimen of his power." p. 8.
Now, before one proceeds further, is it not necessary to call the reader's attention to the meaning of this passage? The author, it appears, does not scruple to state that he has no knowledge, no proof whatever of the truth of the story. Yet he relates it gravely as a piece of ecclesiastical history; and specially, he relates certain miracles which he states were performed by Gundleus, living and dead, and the appearing of an angelic host about his tomb. Did these things really happen, or did they not? Did the Almighty really interpose by miracles, supernatural voices, and visions of angels? The author answers, “I do not know," and as nothing was to be known, he could give no other answer. But as he did not know whether these miraculous tales were true or not, why did he retail them? How can such conduct be exonerated from the charge of disregard of truth, and of a most irreverent and profane mode of treating sacred names and subjects? The truth is, as it will appear in the sequel, the authors seem resolved to write something. If they have credible materials, well and good ; if not, they must only retail palpable fictions, and call them myths, symbols, and legends. But again and again the question must be asked, if it be lawful to write myths now, and call them history, Was it not equally lawful in the apostolic age? And, if so, what becomes of the gospel history ? Still, serious as this question is, the point immediately under notice is, the loose notions these writers have regarding truth and falsehood.
“ But I do know," says this author, " that they are saints whom the church so accounts." Yet if he should consult any respectable Romancatholic authority, he would find that this matter is not deemed quite so certain in the Roman church. But this is a point which cannot be noticed now. Nor does the author seem to rest the whole weight of the story on this ground; but merely the fact of Gundleus being a Saint. The point on which he thinks it requisite to bestow some considerable pains, is the lawfulness of making up fictions of this sort on the slenderest materials, or on none at all. This question he has discussed at some considerable length in the introduction to the life of Gundleus, and his reasoning, if such it can be called, will afford a striking illustration enough, of the manner in which this party contrive to puzzle and perplex their judgment in the plainest matter, and the sophistry by which they are endeavouring to lead the public mind back to the superstitions from which the divine mercy has delivered us.
“ The Christian lives in the past, and in the future, and in the unseen ; in a word, he lives in no small measure in the unknown. And it is one of his duties, and a part of his work, to make the unknown known; to create within him an image of what is absent, and to realize by faith what he does not see. For this purpose he is granted certain outlines and rudiments of the truth, and from thence he learns to draw it out into its full proportions and its substantial form,--to expand and complete it; whether it be the absolute and perfect truth, or truth under a human dress, or truth in such a shape as is most profitable for him. And the process, by which the word has been given him,' returns not void,' but brings forth and buds and is accomplished and prospers, is Meditation."-p. I.
This may be “ Meditation,”—but plain-spoken people would have called it fiction. And if such a process of invention be lawful, what is meant by “intruding into the things that are not seen ?" But what infinite confusion is here ! It is one of the Christian's duties “to realize by faith what he does not see.” Undoubtedly it is—but why " by faith ?" because faith is that which embraces a revelation. It does not “ make the unknown known.” But rather it withdraws its foot when it reaches the confines of the unknown, content to know and to realize what is known and revealed, and presuming not rashly to attempt to unveil those secret things, which the divine wisdom has thought proper to reserve to himself. This is faith. But to attempt " to make the unknown known” is not an exercise of faith, but the licentiousness of a presumptuous imagination, wise above that which is written. But, even when this author says, that it is a Christian duty to “realize by faith what he does not see,” in his sense of the word “realize” the proposition is untrue. For plainly, what he means by realizing is, allowing the imagination to invent those particulars of which the Word of God is silent, and how any one can imagine this to be a duty is exceedingly surprising.
"It is Meditation which does for the Christian what Investigation does for the chil. dren of men. Investigation may not be in his power, but he may always meditate. For Investigation he may possess no materials or instruments; he needs but little aid or appliance from without for Meditation. The barley loaves and few small fishes are made to grow under his hand; the oil fills vessel after vessel till not an empty one remains; the water-pots become the wells of a costly liquor ; and the very stones of the desert germinate and yield him bread. He trades with his Lord's money as a good steward, that in the end his Lord may receive his own with usury.”—pp. 1, 2.
Divested of the figures, here used to give it sacredness, and an appearance of being recognised by Holy Scripture, “ Meditation" in this sense of the word is really nothing but falsehood and irreverence. The true Christian will wait for the Divine command before he begins to fill his vessels with oil, or pour out costly liquor from the waterpots; and if he should be tempted to command the stones of the desert to germinate and yield him bread,” he will remember the example of Him who was once assailed by the same temptation, and resisted it. In truth, the illustrations are as unhappy as the doctrine is false.
" This is the way of the divinely illuminated mind, whether in matters of sacred doctrine or of sacred history. Here we are concerned with the latter. I say, then, when a true and loyal lover of the brethren attempts to contemplate persons and events of time past, and to bring them before him as actually existing and occurring, it is plain, he is at loss about the details; he has no information about those innumerable accidental points, which might have been or happened this way or that way, but in the very person and the very event did happen one way, which were altogether uncertain beforehand, but which have been rigidly determined ever since. The scene, the parties, the speeches, the grouping, the successson of particulars, the beginning, the ending, matters such as these he is obliged to imagine in one way, if he is to imagine them at all.”-p. 2.
But why is he obliged “to imagine them at all?” Why is he not content to be ignorant, where the providence of God has left him in the dark? What a true and loyal lover of the brethren may or may not do, it is hard to determine beforehand, for many such have done things which it would have been happier for themselves and others if they had left undone; but, most assuredly, no man who has any love or reverence for truth, can feel any pleasure in turning imagination into history ; and those who hate and abhor falsehood, and know how difficult it is to keep in quick and healthy exercise the love of truth
in a world of falsehood and delusion, will be far more likely to hold tight the bridle on their imaginations, than to give a loose rein to fancy, and call it meditation.
“ The case is the same in the art of painting; the artist gives stature, gesture, feature, expression, to his figures; what sort of an abstraction or a nonentity would he produce without this allowance? it would be like telling him to paint a dream, or relations and qualities, or panic terrors, or scents and sounds, if you confine him to truth in the mere letter ; or he must evade the difficulty, with the village artist in the story, who having to represent the overthrow of the Egyptians in the sea, on their pursuing the Israelites, daubed a board with red paint, with a nota bene that the Israelites had got safe to land, and the Egyptians were all drowned. Of necessity then does the painter allow his imagination to assist his facts; of necessity and with full right; and he will make use of this indulgence well or ill, according to his talents, his knowledge, bis skill, his ethical peculiarities, his general cultivation of mind."-p. 3.
Of course, if people will paint what they have never seen or could see, they must draw on their imaginations; but if they would only employ their imaginations on some other than sacred subjects, Christianity would lose nothing by their forbearance. But yet, how does this illustration asssist the argument? If the painter professes to give the world the offspring of his fancy and nothing more, his veracity is not called in question, whatever sentence may be pronounced on his judgment, taste, or skill. But if he should call it a portrait, and publish it as a likeness of a place or person he had never seen, people would not scruple to call him a dishonest man.
“ In like manner, if we would meditate on any passages of the gospel history, we must insert details indefinitely many, in order to meditate at all; we must fancy motives, feelings, meanings, words, acts, as our connecting links between fact and fact as recorded. Hence holy men have before now put dialogues into the mouths of sacred persons, not wishing to intrude into things unknown, not thinking to deceive others into a belief of their own mental creations, but to impress upon themselves and upon their brethren, as by a seal or mark, the substantiveness and reality of what Scripture has adumbrated by one or two bold and severe lines. Ideas are one and simple; but they gain an entrance into our minds, and live within us, by being broken into detail."-p. 3.
Stript of its sophistry, this extraordinary passage can scarcely fail to shock and disgust the mind of every serious person. “We must insert details indefinitely many in order to meditate at all.” We must insert details! What! into “ the gospel history ?” Surely one would have supposed that if this be what is meant by meditation, any one who had the fear of God before his eyes would feel that meditation was sinful. But where is this to end? Or rather, when did it begin ? Is it only within the last ten years, that meditation of this fashion became lawful? Is it only the party who follow Mr. Newinan, as their leader that have a right to “insert details indefinitely many" into the gospel history, and “ fancy motives, feelings, meanings, words, acts," and anything else they please, as“ connecting links" between the facts of the sacred narrative ? Are they the only “ holy men" who are at liberty to “put dialogues into the mouths of sacred persons?” It would seem not. They do not pretend to have a patent right to such profaneness. And if not, the fearful question again occurs—when did this right begin to be exercised ?—when did holy men begin to “insert details," and "fancy motives, feelings, meanings, words, acts,” and to “put dialogues into the mouths of sacred persons ?" Had the Evangelists no right to do such things ? and if they