Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

there, and to be impoftd upon the Catholics, as it contained doctrinal mstters, of which the bilhops alone were, by divine inftitution, to judge.

'Now, what will our profound parliamentary cafuifts fay to this authentic document? Here we find what are the doctrinal matters, propofed and maintained by the church of Rome to this day, and with which its bifhops forbid all good Catholics to interfere. Will thefc cafuifts fay, that the propofrions contained in the protection, and to be included in the oath, do not contain the identical opinions and tenets, on the profeffion of which the principle of exclulion, at the periods of the revolution, and of the acctffion of the Houfe of Hanover, was grounded? Will they fay that thefc .ate not the principles which originally created the political nectffity of excluding all who profcfled them from all political power under a Protefiant flate? Yet they are the principles which the Catholic bifhops declare to be doctrinal, and to .contain rtligioas opinions, on which none but the guardians of religion are to decide.

'But this is not alL This proteSation was figned by fix bifljop?, and 2i8 of the inferior clergy, and aimod the whole laity of that perfuafion in England, difclaiming the doctrinee, againft which it protefted, as '* dangerous to fociety, and totally repugnant to political and civil liberty." It was prefented to both lioufes of Parliament as "the pledge of the honour of Englifh Catholics, and the public monument of their uprightueft." Vet a year had not elapfed before this inftrument, thus declared to have been coufecrated on the altar of C :tholic honour and uprightnefs, was, on a communication with the court of Rome, and, in conftquence of its injunctions, officially condemned, when propofed to be changed into the form of an oath, by four of the bifhops who had figncd it. WUh the very nme pen that had fet their names to the protection, thus folemnly and deliberately laid before Parliament, they deflared the oath, which wa3 to follow as a thing of conrfe, to be unlawful; and, as unlawful, they interdict it to all good Catholic?.'

It is by such disingenuous statements as these, that the credulous and indolent are misled into prejudices against the Catholic body in Great Britain and Ireland. Would any man doubt, from reading the extract which we have laid before him, that the English clergy of that persuasion had actually refused to renounce the deposing power of the Pope, and the doctrine of keeping no faith with heretics? Yet it is certain that the act for the relief of Roman Catholics, which passed in 1791, 31. Geo. III. c. 32, contains an oath, conceived in as full terms as can well be framed, expressly renouncing those tenets, ' on the profession of which, according to this writer, the principle of exclusion, at the period of the revolution, and of the accession of the House of Hanover, was grounded.' Habemus confitentem reum. If they were excluded on no other principle, let the gates be thrown wide open to receive them; for the oath imposed in 1791, has

I 3 * been

heen taken by every priest and layman of any eminence throughout Great Britain. Tlie infallibility of the Pope is not indeed disclaimed by the existing oath, whatever may have been the case with that to which objections were made ; and certainly it seems inconsistent with the spirit of the act, to make any theological point a condition of toleration. What were the actual grounds of objection to the proposed oath, made by the English bishops in 1790, we do not know; probably they would have appeared to us, as they did to Lord Petre and Sir John Throckmorton, very unwarrantable. But be they what they might, they were recognized by the Legislature, and the oath was actually modified in conformity to their wishes. Upon this point, we shall take the liberty of quoting a passage from an unpublished tract of Sir John Coxe Hippisley, on the Catholic Petition»

'If any blame attaches to the apoftolic vicars in England, from the objections raifed by them, as he obferves, in i79i, they muft bear it in common with the Legiflature, which fandlioned their fcruples, by adopting the amendments propofed by them. A right reverend prelate (the Bifliop of St Afaph) of the Eftablifhed Church, muft alfo fubmit to bear his fhare of the learned gentleman's cenfure, as that prelate has fo recently faid in his place, " That it was very true that the apoftolic vicars forbade the taking the oath, not that they were unwilling that their people mould fwear to maintain the Proteftant fucceffion, but that the oath, as framed in the Lower Houfe, contained fome theological dogmata which they deemed, and in my judgment" (obferves his Lord<hip) " rightly deemed, as impious and heretical." The dogmata I allude to, is an abjuration of the legitimate authority of the priefthood; abjurations which I, as a Proteftant bi/hop, could rot make; and I fhould impute great blame to any prieft of mine who mould condefcend to make them. It was on account of thefe abjurations that the apoftolic vicars reprobated the oath as it ftood in the firft bill; and when it Was amended in that part, as it was in this Houfe (Houfe of Lords), they made no further objection. On the contrary,, when the bill had parted, they exhorted their people, clergy as well as laity, to take the oath as it now Hands; and they have, as I bslieve, themfelves taken it." p. i9.

The tract of Sir John Hippesley, from which we have made the above extract, hardly falls within our province as reviewers, as it has not hitherto been exposed to public sale; yet we cannot refrain from giving another passage, illustrating the nature of that papal supremacy, of which such terrific notions are entertained by the vulgar class of thinkers; and have too often been studiously inculcated by men, whose rank and reputed talents have given currency to the assertion.

'In forming a judgment on this material queftion of ecclefiaftical fupreraacy» we find the cafe too frequently tried by rules which do not

apply apply to it,—by a fancied analogy which has no relation to it. The powers exercifed by our clergy, though denominated ecclefiaftical, involve principally civil and temporal rights. Of this defcription are tithes, glebes, &c. of material churches. Excommunication itfelf, in the eftablilhed church, is infficted as a mere civil punifhment.

.* The fupremacy of Rome, the exercife of which may be regulated by the modes I have on other occafions fuggefted, and to which I (hall again prefently advert, as fandlioned by the inftitutions of other ftates, can militate againft no civil or temporal rights, and cannot trench on the duties of civil allegiance; in fact it is confined to a fubordination purely fpiritual; a fupremacy which is confidered inherent in other churches as well as that of Rome. If the power be purely fpiritual, it little imports the ftate, as far as its temporal interefts are concerned, where that power is lodged,—whether with the Patriarch of Mofcow, or the Pope of Rome,—provided the ftate is fatisfied with fuch pledges as Catholics are called upon to give, in the oaths of 1791 and 1793, in which they declare, " that they do not believe that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, ftate or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any temporal or civil jurifdiftion, power, fuperiority or preeminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm." It is contended, therefore, that the independency of this purely fpiritual fupremacy, admitted in the perfon of a foreign prelate, or rather in the church of which lie is confidered as the chief organ, can, in no manner whatever, interfere with the duties of allegiance to a temporal fovereign. The Kirk of Scotland maintains a fupremacy equally independent of tho temporal jurifdiction of the Crown. The General Afiembly coufiders itfelf paramount in its definitions of doctrine and decrees of difcipline, and convokes and diflolves itfelf. The King's commiifion is not allowed to poffefs any authority or controul over the acts of the AfTembly. This power claimed by the Church of Rome, as diftinct and independent of all temporal authority, we have feen admitted by the moft jealous legiflatures; and not inconfiftently with this acknowledgement, we know that Catholic princes have waged war againft the Pope himfejf, and reduced him to the ftate of a prifoner in his capital. * * * * * But in admitting the exiftence of this fpiritual fupremacy of the fee of Rome, Catholics do not evtn admit that the Pope lhall himfelf eleft and nominate all bifhops, as in fome ages pontiffs have aflumed a right to do, in the fame manner as they exercifed other powers which have not even by human authorities been confidered as legitimately inherent in them." p. 19.

The candid and well-informed author of this tract, which we consider as highly deserving of actual publication, is much disposed even to controvert the heinous imputations which have been thrown upon the Church of Rome, in the darker ages of modern history. Yet charges of ambition and intolerance have been so invariably brought against her by all Protestant writers, and even by many of her own communion, that we cannot avoi4

I 4

a suspicion that he has sometimes strained this a little too far. The tyrannical domination of papal Rome, forms one of the leading features of civil history during several centuries, and certainly one of the most interesting and curious phenomena which the philosophical reflector upon past times can contemplate. We certainly would not chuse, therefore, to rest the cause upon this ground; let us pare the claws of 'the panther, ' without vouching for the milk-white purity of ' the hind.' It is fair, however, to observe, that the canon of the fourth council of Lateran, which seems to sanction the deposition of princes, is suspected of spuriousness by many learned. men, and, at all events, involves no matter of faith, to which the Catholics of the present day can hold themselves bound to subscribe. Thus the argument, which has been sometimes brought forward in the guise of a syllogism,— The Catholic church once maintained the deposing power; but, according to the Catholics themselves, what their church once maintained, it maintains still; therefore, it still maintains the deposing power,—is easily repelled. The major proposition is universally denied by the Catholics at this • day; but if any Protestant think that there are historical proofs of that, he may securely deny the minor of the premises; since it is clear, that at present no such tenet is held by that church, either in Great Britain or on the Continent. The oath of 1791 refutes the charge as to the former; the answer of six eminent universities in 178S, to certain queries proposed at desire of Mr Pitt, is satisfactory, as to the principal repositories of Catholic theology in Europe. These answers are printed in the Appendix to Sir John Coxe Hippisley's tract, and they may be found in Mr Plowden's history of Ireland.

We have only to add, that in discussing this most important question, either now, or at any other time, no considerations of forty shall ever enter into our views. If this great national improvement is brought to pass, it matters little to us by what hand it shall be carried into execution. Although recent changes in government have revived the public feeling upon this theme, the abstract merits of the question have no reference to any political connexions. Among those who regret the late administration, there are many who would have refused their aid in breaking down the restrictive laws against the Catholics; among those who are most engaged in the present, there are many whose assent to the justice of the cause which we have espoused has never been withheld or concealed. But if it seem a solecism to write on political matters, without appertaining to some political sect,—if we are to chuse the divinities of our own idolatry,—we must declare ourselves to belong, upon this subject, to the party of Mr Burke, Mr Fox, and Mr Pitt,

Art,

Art. X. Notice de la Vie et des Ecrits de George Louit Le Sage de Geneve, Membre de VAcademic et de Vlnstitut de Bologtie, &c. &c. Redigee apres ses Notes, par Pierre Prevost. A Geneve, chez Paschoud. 1805.

'"t'he biographical sketch here announced, has more than an or.*• dinary claim to the attention of the reader. The subject of it is a philosopher, who, beside the peculiarities incident to genius, had several that belonged exclusively to himself. These he was careful to study and explain; and the notes which he has left behind him, seem to entitle him to the rare eulogy, of having given an accurate and candid delineation of his own character. His biographer, too, had the advantage of being intimately acquainted with the person whom he has undertaken to describe, and has been attentive to mark whatever appeared singular in the constitution or progress of his mind.

George Lewis Le Sage was born at Geneva in 1724, to which city his father, a native of France, had for some time retired, and lived by giving private lessons in mathematics and natural philosophy. The son was early initiated in these studies; receiving, at the same time, in all the branches of literature, as liberal a course of education as his father's limited income would allow. A marked opposition, however, in their tastes and intellectual propensities, prevented the son from reaping from his father's instructions all the advantage that might have been expected. The old man was well informed; but his knowledge was very much confined , to facts, and was accompanied with little tendency to reason, or to generalize. His son, again, even when a boy, delighted in connecting his ideas by general and abstract principles, and was not more inquisitive about facts, than about the relations in which they stood to one another. This propensity arose, in some measure at least, from the weakness of his memory, which forced him to study the most just and constant connexions among things, in order to prevent both words and ideas from escaping his recollection entirely. 'It was thus,' says M. Prevost, ' that we saw him, in his maturer years, and particularly in his old age, avoiding, with the greatest care, whatever could trouble the order of his thoughts, and substituting, with much art, a logical series of mental operations to the effort which the recollection of a single unconnected fact would necessarily have cost him.'

The history of Le Sage does indeed illustrate, in the clearest manner, the relation between the faculties of memory and abstraction, and the power which each has to supply the deficiencies

« AnteriorContinuar »