« AnteriorContinuar »
no eternal consequences. Where excommunication does not certainly imply (if unrepealed) absolute exclusion from heaven, where it has lost its spiritual as well as its temporal terrors, then and there its power has either altogether ceased, or is so reduced as almost to be deprived of its controlling efficacy. When any one may in a Roman Catholic country become a Protestant (excepting where feuds, as in Ireland, run high), however he may distress his friends or family, without losing caste; where a man excluded from one religious community (at least on purely religious grounds) is at once received into another-what is excommunication? It is already incurred by the voluntary renunciation of relationship. I banish you, says, with Coriolanus, every proud or at least self-confident seceder. But if deprived of this ultima ratio, how shall ecclesiastical authority enforce its smaller penalties for smaller offences? The conscience of the individual has become his sole judge; whether he fears or whether he defies Church censure, absolutely depends on his own individual conviction of the validity or invalidity of Church censure. If, indeed, we bemoan the loss of godly discipline, if we think those wiser or more safe who still bow themselves to its humiliating and it may be sanctifying control, we should first remember that it was because it ceased to be godly discipline, and stooped to be worldly discipline, that it has been so entirely lost. And was penitential discipline so efficacious? All that we know of the state of morals and of manners, when it was at its height, is not much in its favour. According to our own modes of feeling are we quite sure that doing penance and being put to open shame would be productive of inward contrition? and notwithstanding the contempt and pity which is felt and expressed towards our degenerate age, we believe that our aversion to ostentatious penitence, to that self-atoning confrontation of shame, is a sign of our moral advancement, of our genuine rather than affected religious sensibility.
What mission, then, remains to the clergy in a state of society which thus repudiates their authority? The noblest, the most sublime, because the most quietly, secretly, unostentatiously, beneficent; in many, perhaps in most places, ill-rewarded, often entirely disinterested service; and that without awakening the old justifiable jealousies, and therefore without encountering the hostility, which perpetually struggled against a presumptuous, arrogant, dictatorial, meddling, sacerdotal power. To be the administrators of the holy, the sanctifying sacraments of our faith; to be the ministers of a Church ceremonial, simple, but solemn, affecting, impressive-a ceremonial not to be regulated by pedantic adherence to antiquated forms, but instinct with spiritual
spiritual life; not the revival of a symbolism, which has ceased to be a language, and become a hieroglyphic—a hieroglyphic without a Champollion; neither a sort of manual exercise of Church postures, which have lost their meaning—an orderly parade of genuflexion, and hand-clasping, and bowing the head:—but a ceremonial set forth, if possible, with all that is grand and beautiful in art (for nothing is grand or beautiful which has not an infelt harmony with its purpose) the most solemn and effective music, the purest and most impressive architectureeverything which may separate the worship of God from the ordinary and vulgar daily life of man-all that really enforces reverence-excludes the world; calms, elevates, truly spiritualizes the soul-all which asserts, heightens, purifies devotion-that devotion daily fed and maintained, where it may be practicable, with daily service. The mission of the clergy is to be more than the preachers of the Gospel, the example of the Gospel in all its assiduous and active love. In each parish throughout the kingdom to head the model family of order, of peace, of piety, of cheerfulness, of contentedness, of resignation in affliction, of hopefulness under all circumstances. To be the almoner (the supplementary almoner over and above the necessarily hard measure of legal alms) of those who cannot be their own. To be the ruler, as such a clergy will be, by the homely poetic precept of domestic life:
'And if she rule him, never shows she rules.'
The religion of such a clergy will not be the religion of the thirteenth century, nor of the ninth century, nor of the fourth century, but it will be the, in many respects, better religion of the nineteenth. Let us boldly say that the rude and gross and material piety of former ages was an easy task as compared to rational, intelligent piety in the present. Mere force is not strength, but force under command. The cilice and the scourge are but coarse and vulgar expedients to subdue the will to the yoke of Christian faith and love. What is the most flagellant asceticism, the maceration of the body, to the self-denial of a great mind, above all the transitory excitement, the bustle and fashion of the religionism of his day, but sternly and hopefully striving for the truth, holding with steady equipoise the balance of reason and faith?
Of all things, such a clergy will be utterly abhorrent to all tampering with truth; they will place themselves high above even the suspicion of profiting by untruth-not, we grieve to say, under existing circumstances, the least difficult of our trials. For among a truth-loving people like ourselves-at least comparatively
paratively truth-loving-the sure effect of the slightest dishonesty of purpose or language will be the total estrangement of the confidence and the respect of the people.
Thus, then it is' (writes one of the biographers of the Saints): some there are which have no memorial, and are as though they have never been; others are known to have lived and died, and are known in little else they have left a name, but they have left nothing besides; or the place of their birth, or of their abode, or of their death, or some one or other striking incident of their life gives a character to their memory; or they are known by martyrologies, or services, or by the traditions of a neighbourhood, or by the titles or decorations of a church; or they are known by certain miraculous interpositions which are attributed to them; or their deeds and sufferings belong to coun'tries far away, and the report of them comes musical and low over the 'broad sea. Such are some of the small elements which, when more is 'not known, faith is fain to receive, love dwells on, meditation unfolds, 'disposes and forms, till by the sympathy of many minds, and the concert of many voices, and the lapse of many years, a certain whole 'figure is developed with words and actions, a history and a character, ' which is indeed but the portrait of the original, yet is as much as a portrait, an imitation rather than a copy, a likeness on the whole; 'but in its particulars more or less the work of imagination. It is but 'collateral and parallel to the truth; it is the truth under assumed con'ditions; it brings out a true idea, yet by inaccurate or defective means of exhibition; it savours of the age, yet it is the offspring from what is spiritual and everlasting. It is the picture of a Saint, who did other miracles, if not these; who went through sufferings, who wrought righteousness, who died in faith and peace-of this we are sure; we are not sure, should it so happen, of the when, the where, the how, the why, and the whence.'-Life of St. Gundleus, pp. 4, 5.
There is a work of which our readers perhaps have heard much, but know little; the Life of Jesus,' by Strauss. We have sometimes contemplated an attempt to give our readers some notion of this book, but have been deterred partly by general doubts as to the expediency of such a course; partly by the difficulty of fairly translating the peculiar mode of thought and expression, which is not merely German, but German according to a special philosophy-that of Hegel. It is done to our hands by this unconscious Hegelite; alter a few words, and we are reading Strauss, unfolding the process by which grew up the great Myth of Christianity; and if this be the legitimate principle of Christian history, what criterion of superior credibility have the four Gospels over the fifth by S. Bonaventure and Mr. Oakley, recently published for the edification of the English Church?
We have quoted but one sample; we could easily give fisty in the same strain. It is a serious question to deal with a peasantry in whom legendary faith has been, as it were, a part of their bap
tismal creed, who have been nursed, and cradled, and matured in this atmosphere of religious fiction, lest, when we pluck up the tares, we pluck up the wheat also. But deliberately to load Christianity again with all the lies of which it has gradually disburthened itself, appears to us the worst kind of infidelity both in its origin and in its consequences; infidelity as implying total mistrust in the plain Christianity of the Bible; infidelity as shaking the belief in all religious truth. It may be well to have the tenderest compassion for those who have been taught to worship relics, or to kneel in supplication before the image of the Virgin; but to attempt to force back, especially on an unimaginative people, an antiquated superstition, is assuredly one of the most debasing offices to which high talents, that greatest and most perilous gift of God, can degrade themselves. If mankind has no alternative between the full, unquestioning, all-embracing, allworshipping faith of the middle ages, and no faith at all, what must be the result with the reasoning and reflecting part of it? To this question we await an answer; but let this question be answered by those only who have considered it calmly, under no preconceived system, in all its bearings on the temporal and on the eternal interests of mankind.
ART. II.-The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion; comprising an Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland. By George Petrie, V.P.R.I.A. (Being Vol. XX. of The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy.) Dublin. 4to. 1845.
WE have taken up this beautiful work of Mr. Petrie's with the
interest due to one of the most curious of antiquarian researches, and laid it down with no little gratitude for the temporary relief and respite which it offers to those dreary, cheerless contemplations with which the present and past history of Ireland is so thickly beset. A man without family pride, and a nation whose present life seems full of poverty, turbulence, sedition, and bloodshed, while its past records present at first sight little but a blank of barbarism, are destitute of one of the most ennobling incentives to reformation or improvement. And to an ignorance of the past history of Ireland must be attributed much of that indifference, amounting even to false shame, with which Irishmen in English society sometimes venture to depreciate, and even disown their country. While to a remembrance of the same history, however vague and obscure, and overlaid with legends and super
stitions, we may trace many of those high and even holy instincts which redeem the other faults of the Irish peasantry.
And to the same ignorance may be attributed much of that weariness and hopelessness (stronger words need not be used) with which the prospects of Ireland are too often regarded even by educated Englishmen. Before us, behind us, all around us, on every side, to superficial eyes there seems to open a wilderness of untilled ground; whose very luxuriance vents itself only in the rankness of its weeds. In the past worldliness and impotency of a Church whose present zeal is little understood-in the extravagance and extortions of a race of landlords which now has all but past away, though the sons are reaping the whirlwind which the fathers have sown-in the religious distractions of age after age-and in the petty marauding vexatious series of burnings, and massacres, and plunderings, and perjuries, which constitute the wars of Ireland from the beginning of the English Invasion to the final subjugation of the whole island, there is scarcely a single feature which can interest or attract. The whole scene is dark and dismal.
And yet there was a time when Ireland was the light of the world. In the same ages in which knowledge and philosophy and art were dying away over the whole surface of the known globe, under the ravages of barbarians, the neglect of emperors, the schism and heresies of Christians, and the disorganisation of a corrupted and crumbling empire, Ireland offered a refuge and a school, in which the light was kept burning, and from thence spread once more over the greater part of Europe. 'Sola Britannia,' says Brucker (Hist. Philos., vol. iii. p. 575), literarum cultu felix insula exules Musas patentibus ulnis amplexa, profugam cum reliquis literis philosophiam cultu squaloreque deformem vixque dignoscendam recepit, et in amplexus admisit suos. Id imprimis, et jure quodam suo ad Hiberniam pertinet, quò hoc seculo Angli literarum addiscendarum causâ adhuc proficisci solebant.'
I have long wished,' said Dr. Johnson, that the Irish literature were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradition to have been once the seat of piety and learning; and surely it would be very acceptable to all those who are curious either in the original of nations, or the affinities of languages, to be fully informed of the revolution of a people so ancient and once so illustrious.' (Boswell, vol. ii. p. 77.) In Mexico and Peru,' says Sir William Temple (Of Ancient and Modern Learning), before the least use or mention of letters, there was remaining among them the knowledge of what had passed in those mighty nations and governments for many ages. Whereas in Ireland, that is said to have flourished in books and learning before they had made much