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From this instance, and some hundreds of similar ones which we shall have occasion to produce hereafter, we may learn that the Romish phrase "to correct the saints' histories"-means nothing more when translated into plain English, than, "to put possible falsehoods in the place of impossible ones." When the baseness of this holy church's current coin becomes too palpable, it is cast anew into the papal crucible, whence it comes forth in due time newly gilt and burnished and with a somewhat different legend; in short, quite fit for circulation among those "who believe all that the church believes." But the discerning Protestant who has witnessed the whole process, will take the liberty of doubting whether all the alchemy of Rome can turn falsehoods into facts, or transmute the fictitious counters of the middle ages into the pure gold of ancient historical truth.
Though this narrative is as complete a romance as the history of the seven sleepers, it has, in one stage or other of its progress, given at least eight saints to the Roman Martyrology,-Flavianus, Dafrosa, Bibiana, Demetria, John the Presbyter, Priscus, Priscillianus, and Benedicta, to all and singular of whom Roman Catholics may lawfully pray as often as they please. They who think that the presence of original relics adds efficacy to such devotion, may find at Rome the magnificent Church of St. Bibiana, erected by Urban VIII. where he may, at the same time, pay such due worship as is enjoined by the Council of Trent to the superb image of the saint, one of the choicest productions of the celebrated Cavalier Bernino. He may also see the urn of oriental alabaster, in which the identical body of Bibiana, so happily discovered and recognized by the sagacity of Pope Urban, is now deposited, as well as the very pillar of Egyptian granite to which she was bound at the time of her martyrdom. When he is moreover assured, on the authority of Leo Urbevetanus, that the precincts of the said church contain no fewer than four thousand two hundred and sixty-six martyrs, exclusive of women and children, his devout astonishment will rise to the highest pitch, and he will exclaim with Mr. Eustace that Italy is verily the land of saints! And, if he is disposed to rely upon the accuracy of this enumeration, or the rather more moderate one of Giovanni Pietro Rosini, Antiquary and Professor of ancient medals, who reduces the number to three thousand, and on the discernment of the Sacred Tribunal of Relics, "full of knowledge and attention," which has pronounced them to be bona fide martyrs, we would advise him to beware of two French Benedictines,
called Mabillon and Montfaucon.* These over-learned and inquisitive ecclesiasties will be likely to cool his enthusiasm by assuring him that the said sacred tribunal has long had a hocus-pocus trick of converting the bones of pagans into the relics of saints, and that there is some reason to doubt whether those wholesale repositories of martyrs were not in reality the charnel-houses for slaves, gladiators, malefactors, and the lowest of the people.
"Cum in terris nullum poterit reperiri judicium, de cælo quærendus est judex. Sed ut quid pulsamus ad cælum, cum habemus hic in evangelio?" Optatus.
ROM the days of Job to our own it has been obvious that there is no end of disputing, especially upon religion, without an Umpire: and even an Umpire is nothing, if his decision be not intelligible. In the controversy between the Papists and the Reformed, this matter has always been well understood on both sides.
The Papists have accordingly set up a Jupiter Latialis of their own, who they reasonably supposed would be tolerably favorable to their cause. Then as to being intelligible, what could be more so than those traditions which are a kind of Common Law, identical in fact with their own customs? They have not failed moreover to insult the Reformed, who deny any mortal to be infallible, that by their own confession then, whatever disputes may arise among them they can have no Umpire:
"As long as words a different sense will bear,
And each may be his own interpreter,
Our airy faith will no foundation find,
The word's a weathercock for every wind."
Whereas they, the Papists, are never without a guide always visible, always audible, always infallible; in whose sentence, once delivered ex cathedra, they may confide as in a voice from heaven. However stormy the waves of controversy may arise, with a single syllable, almost with his nod, they are dispersed :
"dicto citius tumida æquora placat Collectasque fugat nubes, solemque reducit."
It has happened, however, that one Controversy has arisen among the Papists themselves which could never be allayed by this potent being and yet the matter seemed but a trifle, being only the previous question, namely, Who this convenient Umpire might be; for, unfortunately, there were two rivals for the office! They who
See particularly Montfaucon's Diary. Mabillon's Journey to Italy, and his famous letter to Theophilus, on the worship of unknown saints.
embraced the more ancient and moderate Papacy have maintained, that the true Umpire was a body Corporate; it was, they said, a General Council, and even without the Roman Pontiff at its head. It must be confessed indeed, that they who were of this opinion, were these General Councils themselves, as that of Constance and of Basil (to whom indeed we may add the Sorbonists;) and these have not denied, but rather have stoutly contended, that the Roman Pontiff may be obnoxious to error, nay, may be even a heretic and the teacher of heresy; that he himself is subject to the Council, and His solitary determination therefore, can bind the conscience of no man: finally, that the contrary opinion is itself a palpable heresy. In all this, they seem to leave no more to the Roman Pontiff than to any other common Bishop. They, who embrace the interpolated, or (as we should call it now) the ultra Papacy, have maintained, on the other hand, that the true authorised Umpire was a single person, his Holiness the Pope. He alone, they say, even though he should be a man without either picty or learning, neither studying nor caring for any of these things, yet, being once seated in the chair of St. Peter, it is impossible that He ever should err in defining the Faith: his edicts are final, they oblige the consciences of the whole church. Here also it is not to be concealed, that they who have defended this ground have been his Holiness himself, with his Prætorian Cohort, the Jesuits. And this party too have sufficiently defined the limits of their opponents; contending very valiantly, that even a General Council, if the authority of his Holiness be wanting, is as mutilated a thing, as a trunk without a head; its decrees are invalid, its anathemas vain. With them the maxim, that "the church cannot err," is true, provided it adhere to its unerring head; which head, according to them, is his Holiness. A General Council they allow may be infallible; but then it must be, when they suffer themselves to be directed by him who alone is infallible on earth, his Holiness. From this it should seem they leave no very extraordinary privilege to a General Council; as good an infallibility as this, might be imputed to any conventicle whatever. Here appears to be a trifling difficulty then: two parties set up themselves for Umpires, and a third has not yet been discovered to decide between the Umpires themselves.
To do the latter party justice, I mean the Jesuits, they seem not disinclined to allow themselves that privilege which they deny to others; and have therefore modified their last appeal, explaining, that they mean by it, neither the General Council alone, nor the Pope alone, nor yet the Pope assisted by the General Council; (for the General Council, they insist, derives all its infallibility from him ;) they appear therefore to refer us at last to the Pope sitting, as it were, in privy council. For since they dare not deny that many of the Popes have been and may be bad men; when they are pressed with the objection, How it could be possible that such men should be under the Divine influence, and be able even to discern, much less to decide, that perplexing question, "What is truth?" at first they reply, that as a private doctor indeed, he may err; but as he is the successor of St. Peter he cannot err. When it still seems improbable, that the chair of St. Peter should confer any thing more, at 'most,
than an official authority; they insist that it confers also a dispensation of the Spirit; that is to say, an extraordinary one. Does this seem to you an extraordinary dispensation indeed?—At last it comes out, that his Holiness, even in the chair, may err in points of fact but not of faith; or if of faith, at least only as to the premises, not as to his conclusions; provided, they mean, that his Holiness shall proceed deliberately; if, in short, he will hear the counsel (take heed, you understand not the General Council) no, but if he will take advice of good, and learned men-such as the Jesuits, we may suppose. I say we may suppose this, for it has not been specified yet, who these good and learned may be; and that being the case, while, at the same time, the General Council already are put entirely out of the question, the matter really remains as much undecided as ever. There is an infallible guide somewhere;
"But still, we want a guide to find out Him."
To all this, what may any of the Reformed have to reply? replies very coolly, "Physician heal thyself." He concedes to the Council on the one hand, that his Holiness, is, indeed, a fallible member of the church. On the other to the Jesuits, he grants, it may easily happen in any assembly of men, that numbers may carry it against truth; and that councils therefore are fallible also. There remains however still the author of all truth in Heaven, and his word upon earth. For the interpretation of that word, we may be beholden much to the office of the ministry, which is not to be despised as nothing but as to the truth of such interpretation, it behoves every man who regards his Salvation to know and defend his right; which is, not indeed to depend on his own private judgment, but certainly to use it, and depending chiefly on the promised aid of the Only Wise, to compare human interpretations with the divine word itself.
These are the sentiments of either party on a subject which certainly lies at the foundation; for on this all the rest of the Controversy between the Reformed and the Papist depends. It is curious to observe how this Controversy still ebbs and flows. It is now near high-tide. As Dryden remarked in the preface to his poetical Apologue, so it is now: "The nation is in a ferment; all men are engaged on this side, or that." In their day, the controversy between Protestant and Papist soon yielded to that between Whig and Tory, and remained undecided. It has revived in ours: but the point of infallibility is that which, sooner or later, must bring it to a close. If it be a subject in every respect unpromising for poetry, which is a luxury, and especially in this respect, that it is not one of permanent interest; the last circumstance makes it so much the more promising a theme for serviceable prose. For, indeed, if in the article of infallibility, the papists have truth on their side, the day of course is their's; but if the Reformed have it, that day on which they can make it appear so to the world, the Papacy is at end.
There is yet a shorter cut still than by the thorny path of controversy. Whoever gives his neighbour the word of God, and persuades him to read it with prayer, that man, Prince or peasant, is the true "Defender of the Faith."
A Dialogue between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic. Roman Catholic.-This is an unconsecrated wafer-I now consecrate it-it is no longer a wafer at all; but is actually become the true body of Christ by a change of substance.
Protestant. I do not perceive any alteration in it-it looks, and feels, and smells just as it did before.
R. C.-It may be so, the accidents and appearances may remain the same while the substance is changed. Divine mysteries are not addressed to our senses but to our faith. It is not required that you should understand those mysteries which you are called upon to believe. Surely you do believe things confessedly beyond your comprehension.
P.-Undoubtedly. I am bound to do so when called upon by proper authority. But why am I to believe that this substance, which appears to be a wafer, is not a wafer, but is another substance which it appears not to be?
R. C.-You are required to believe it by Christ himself. He said, "This is my body."
P.-Indeed! how do you know that he said that?
R. C.-Because I read it in the Gospel,-here is the book, look for yourself, is it not so?
P.-How can I possibly tell?
R. C.-Nay, is this fair and candid? If you mean to dispute the authority of scripture, say so;-but do not pretend to doubt whether these words are in the Bible, while they stare you in the face.
P.-I do not wish to be unfair, and much less would I dispute the authority of the scriptures.
R. C.-Well then, answer me plainly. Do you not see our Lord's Qwn words?
P.-If I am to answer plainly, I must say that you seem to argue most absurdly, when, after having called upon me to disbelieve the evidence of my senses, you rest your argument simply and entirely on an appeal to my sight.
R. C.-This is an evasion;-of course you must use your sight; but my appeal is to the Bible.
P. It is no evasion. I cannot pretend to know that the substance before me is a book, or that it contains words, or letters at all, except by the very same evidence which tells me that the substance before you is a wafer; and surely it is as reasonable to doubt respecting one as respecting the other. You tell me that divine mysteries are not addressed to my senses but to my faith, and though this may be true, it is nothing to the purpose; because, though the mystery itself may be addressed to my faith, yet you can adduce no evidence to prove the existence of that mystery, except what is and must be addressed to my senses. Can you show me from the scripture or elsewhere any miracle which did not appeal for the evidence of its existence, to the senses of mankind; or point out any mystery held by Protestants, which they profess to have received otherwise than through the medium of their senses.
R. C.-You believe the doctrine of the Trinity,-yet how is this addressed to your senses?
P.—Understand me clearly.—I have not said that it is addressed to my senses. On the contrary, I have admitted that the mysteries of religion are all addressed to my faith; but the evidence on which I believe the existence of those mysteries, does appeal to my senses. I believe