« ÖncekiDevam »
direct volition, except the sinful acts of his creatures. And his will mysteriously blends itself, yet uncontaminated, with the corrupt actions of men. He gave his son to death by the “wicked hands" of Judas, and Pilate, and the Roman soldiers. The question is of the first practical moment: Do we approve of God's actions? Do we cordially approve of them ? Shall we exult in them in heaven and on earth? Or is there always to be a dark, sullen, suspicious remembrance of his overthrowing Sodom, destroying Canaan, and ordaining “ Tophet of old ;” making it “deep and large; the pile thereof being fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, kindling it.” We are to determine whether, when Jesus, the judge, pronounces the last sentence: “Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” our human sympathy, or our loyal sympathy with the judge, is to prevail. One, or the other, must do so. We regard this question as one of deep and solemn interest, involving not merely our acceptance or rejection of the Bible; but our loyalty and happiness under the dominion of Jesus. Shall we be morose, captious, and gloomy ? -“prisoners' friends," rather than friends of holiness, and of God ?
It is not mere human sympathy, and moral refinement, that meets with such difficulty in these passages. It is not a mark of superior character to be offended at them. We trace it to many causes, betraying either an utter want of piety, or of a sufficiently intelligent piety. It betrays the want of a full appreciation of the circumstances of the writer; or, of the exercise of what may be called the historical imagination ; a want of charity towards the authors, in supposing bad motives, where good motives are possible and probable; a want of zeal for justice and religion; a want of sympathy with providence, and thus a want of preparation for heaven. The prayer of earth and the praise of heaven are to have at least one expression in common :
Thy will be done!” It is not, then, merely passages of the Bible that offend, but it is equally passages of providence, - texts of the world's great history. This sensitiveness betrays not a want of sympathy with Moses and David merely, but also with Jesus Christ. He expressed the will of his Father in his fearful threatenings, and in that will he fully acquiesced. Are we then holier, more humane, than he that came to die for us ! May the atheistical historian record the destruction of wicked and tyrannical men with satisfaction, and escape this censure; but must holy men of God, giving utterance to the feeling of righteous exultation in the final overthrow of the powers that resisted all good and fostered all wickedness, be considered worthy of abhorrence ? Life is a deep tragedy. In the three great dramas of Macbeth, Wallenstein, and Faust, the world is satisfied with a tragical ending: nay, demands it. “ Yet,” says the profound Schlegel, “ a tragedy of this kind is perhaps the more perfect in proportion as the destruction is represented, not as anything external, capricious, or predestinated, but as a darkness into which the hero has sunk, step by step, descending, not without free-will, and in consequence of his guilt.” Indeed, if the three rules of dramatic composition laid down by this great critic were applied to the Scriptures, they would be found to abound in the highest specimens of each kind. There are exhibitions of each of the three kinds of " dramatic conclusion and representation, those of destruction, of reconciliation, and of glorification.” Such is life, such is the Bible. And in this world and the next, we must cordially approve of the severer, as well as the milder, attributes of Jehovah and his
government. These passages should cause us to tremble at the exhibition they make of the nature and consequences of sin; to revere the awful justice there manifested; and to fly to that mercy, which waits to deliver us from deserved judgments. “ Thy Word is very pure ; therefore thy servant loveth it.”
FREEDOM OF INQUIRY, AND ROMANISM.
The chief constitutional elements of the Romish hierarchy are, the infallibility of the pope, the union of Church and State, and the pope's supremacy in both. The pope being the Vicar of God on earth, and charged with political, as well as religious interests, the civil and ecclesiastical functionaries, directly or indirectly, receive their jurisdiction from him. The king is therefore considered as regularly and securely seated on his throne, only when he has received the confirmatory unction of the sovereign pontiff. Then the temporal prince becomes the pledged friend and ally of the spiritual, and the civil power is made subservient to the ecclesiastical. Thus the papal throne towers above all earthly “ principalities and powers,” and a most humiliating submission to the decisions of the reputed Infallible, is exacted of both potentates and people.
What, now, has been the bearing of this principle of ecclesiastical constitution, upon freedom of inquiry? It is evident, that in a single brief article, little can be done in answer to such a question, except to delineate some general and well-known historical facts.
As the Romish hierarchy became consolidated, the Bible was gradually withdrawn from the people, and hidden in old cathedrals and the dusty corners of convent libraries. The temple of knowledge was locked against all eager inquirers, and the key hung up in the Vatican at Rome. Nearly simultaneous with this, the right of private judgment was taken away. The church, or rather, the hierarchy, is made the only authorized mediator between the Father of mercies, and his ignorant, erring children. What she teaches, they must receive ; and from all that she forbids, they must scrupulously abstain.
Now what results followed this withdrawment of the Bible, and this denial of the right of private judgment ?
“Ah, when the searching eye of heaven is hid,
Then thieves and robbers range abroad unseen.”
The Saviour of the world is displaced from his mediatorial throne, by the elevation of his virgin mother. The holiness of poor canonized saints, is made transferable for the benefit of rich, confessing, although unrepenting, sinners. In the fiscal arrangements of the church, births and burials, prayers and pardons, the suspension of the divine law and its satisfaction, — all things, except the liberty to believe and teach the pure gospel, are paid for in gold ; the living are laid under tribute for the alleged benefit of the dead ; not content with assessing men while in the flesh, she consigns them to purgatorial torments of her own invention ; releasement from which even the holiest can obtain, only by masses at so much apiece, with a discount for a large quantity. In exchange for the withdrawn Word of God, and the suppressed right of private judgment and free inquiry, she gives to her deluded children the benefits of her most wonderful arts, not set down in chemical nomenclatures, of transmuting bread and wine into the veritable divinity, flesh and blood of the Redeemer; and this without changing their qualities. She teaches them to discover, and preserve, and multiply indefinitely, the bones of canonized saints, the wood of the sacred cross, fragments of the ark, thorns from the mock crown of the Saviour, and shreds of his holy garment, and girdles and slippers of Mary, his mother. She grants unlimited license in the ancient art of shrine-making; and her traffic is in crucifixes, rosaries, breviaries, images, copes, and cowls. She claims to impart to her priesthood the power of miracles, and of preaching with such efficacy as to cause horses to kneel in adoration before the host, swallows to acknowledge the Catholic faith, and devout fishes to assemble as attentive auditors.
The genius of the Romish system is complete hostility to free thought. No other enemy is so feared by the mother of abominations. Her priesthood is hence bound to an unquestioning obedience to her imperious will. And that they may have no hindering entanglements from social ties, the vow of perpetual celibacy is upon them; although many of them, says Macaulay, are "just as licentious as a fine sense of the graceful will permit." Her discipline is a regime of privilege and power, of sanctity and sacrilege, most sagaciously contrived to keep from the human mind all elements of noble achievement, and render it like an exhausted receiver, within which no glowing sentiment, or breathing thought can live. Her order is the enforced regularity of absolutism. Her peace is the tranquillity of ignorance and of stupidity. Her unity is the harmony of chaos, — the gregariousness of all manner of clean and unclean beasts, driven together by the hounds and horns of her inquisitorial huntsmen. Her wars have been against “ the pestilent liberty of speech and the press.” Her vestments are dripping with the blood of the martyrs.
There is an almost resistless artistic beauty and power of appeal to the imagination, in the “ dim religious light," and the magic lanthorn which are essential to a successful exhibition. In the light fore-ground, the arts of music, poetry, painting, and statuary, appear to the entranced beholder, like truth, nature, and freedom. But beyond, in the shaded vista, all is cold, and cramped, and remorseless as death ; when men
“ Talk of graves, and worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust their papers, and with rainy eye
One of the chief means on which the church of Rome has relied for suppressing free thought and speech, is the Inquisition. Within the enclosures of this court of death,” are found her iron shears, with which the faith of men was wont to be pared, and shapen into agreement with her canons and her catechisms. There is the statue of the blessed virgin, with her spiked brazen bosom, and her iron arms, with which this tender mother receives her wayward children to her fond embrace. And there, too, are the huge “ keys ” of St. Peter, and the deep dungeons and guarded cells, and massive doors, within which she locks up poor tempted pilgrims, to keep them unspotted from the world, and uninfected by the contagion of free inquiry. Behind all, upon his bloody throne, sits the dark-visaged inquisitor. His“ bones are marrowless," and his “ blood is cold," and he has a "lean and hungry look," and is filled “ top-full of direst cruelty.” For this inhuman work, a laic must not be taken, for he has some social bands, or some“ dregs of conscience," which may make him a coward. A monk, an isolated, dehumanized monk, is the only person perfectly qualified for the office. Suspicion drags before him the high and the low; and on suspicion he consigns the body to the flames of the stake, and the soul to the torments of hell.
The most concealed germ of freedom of inquiry has been hunted out of the secret depths of the soul, by the disguised or open emissaries of the Inquisition. It was the proclaimed object and intent of this spiritual court, to prevent free thought and speech. Every trace of them, in domestic or civil life, it sought to exterminate. “ Dishonor of the reason,” says Schiller, " and the murder of the soul, constitute its vows.
Its instruments are terror and disgrace. Every passion is in its pay, and its snares lie in every joy of life. Even solitude is not secure from its espionage; and the fear of its omnipresence, holds freedom fettered, even in the depths of the soul. All the instincts of humanity has it trodden down under the feet of credulity, and to it have been made to yield all those bands which men esteem holiest. All claims upon his race are, for the heretic, disallowed. For, by the least infraction of the law of mother church, he has destroyed his humanity. A modest doubt as to the infallibility of the pope, is esteemed parricide. Even the lifeless body belonging to the heretic is cursed. No destiny can rescue its victims, and the grave itself is no refuge from its terrible arms. VOL. III.