« PrécédentContinuer »
There is another school of theorists whose Deity is "the God of pure reason, a bare abstraction, outside of time, space, movement, life, and all the conditions of reality: the God whom, in their speculative soaring, Plato, Plotinus, Malebranche, and Fénélon pursued in vain as a real Being; the God whose activity is without movement, whose thought is without development, whose will is without choice, whose eternity is without duration, whose immensity is without extent. This God, whom a contemporary represents as relegated to the desert throne of his silent and void eternity, has no other throne than the mind, no other reality than the idea." 1
This also is true, as has been already shewn, true of the Absolute apart from creation, in His side turned from all relations with the world and with men. But this is only one truth, and it is converted into the denial of that other side, the relative aspect of God, as Creator and Incarnate, the highest expressions of the knowable Deity.
There is also the subjective God, the result of the grand imaginative instincts of humanity, as M. Renan calls Him, created by man's thought, but without reality. An idea, nothing more. M. Renan calls by this sublime name the secret and interior motive of all his great aspirations. God is to him the highest type of science and art. He is the truth that he conceives, the beauty he imagines. "Humanity," says M. Renan, “is not composed of wise men and philosophers. It is often mistaken, or rather it often deceives itself on facts and persons. But it does not deceive itself on the object of its worship: that which it adores is really adorable; for that which it adores in the characters it has idealized, are goodness and beauty." “ Man makes the
Vacherot : La Métaphysique et la Science, ii. p. 539.
sanctity of that which he believes in, as he makes the beauty of that which he loves.” “The word God being in possession of the respect of humanity, this word having a long prescriptive right, and having been used in beautiful poems, should not be abandoned, lest the habits of language be upset. Tell the simple to live on aspirations after truth, beauty, and moral goodness, these words will be to them without sense.
Tell them to love God, not to offend God, and they will understand you at once. God, Providence, immortality, are so many good old words, a little heavy may be, which Philosophy will interpret in the most refined sense, but which it can never replace with advantage. Under one form or another, God will always be the summary of our supra-sensible wants, the category of the ideal, that is to say the form under which we conceive the ideal, as space and time are the categories of bodies, that is, the forms under which we conceive bodies. In other terms, man, placed before beautiful things, good or true, goes out of himself, and suspended by a celestial charm, annihilates his paltry personality, is in ecstasy, and lost. What is this but adoration?"
What is this but the Christ, the ideal God-Man, minus His reality. M. Renan affirms all that man desires to be very good, except one important demand, without which his affirmations are nothing worth, the reality of the Ideal.
Such then is the Protestant spirit carried out to its ulterior consequences, a spirit exclusive, negative, combative. It begins by opposing religion to morality, and liberty to authority, it pursues its course and opposes man against God, and man against man. It denies the Church, the universal Christ, and then it affirms the Church and denies
1 Etudes d'Histoire Religieuse, 1864, preface, pp. 334, 419.
the personal Christ. It denies the relative God, by opposing to that idea the notion of the absolute God, and then it idealizes the God-Man, but denies His reality. It denies the existence of virtue or of vice, and then it affirms their identity. And finally, it denies everything in a paroxysm of spleen, and says that nothing is but Negation.
Rational truths and ästhetic truths are the sisters of moral and religious truths. These four segments make a complete circle. Catholicism unites all, or professes to do so. Protestantism opposes all to one another, at least in theory.
The inevitable consequence of the introduction of the Protestant spirit into a country has been that it has invaded the social relations to break them up, by setting man against man. I speak with confidence, that any one who has had opportunities of contrasting Protestant with Catholic society will admit, that, in the latter case, mutual confidence, trust and sympathy, is a prominent characteristic, whereas, in the former, suspicion, distrust, and alienation are its most salient features. And this is inevitable, for the base of the Catholic system is unity, whereas, in the other system, the fundamental principle is division.
And this it is which has produced that peculiar phenomenon of Protestant religionism—snobbishness, vulgarity. Cross the Gemmi from the Valais into the canton of Berne, and you pass from courtesy to a brutality of manner not unlike that so common in our own land. Go from the Catholic Rhine into Calvinist Holland or Lutheran Prussia, and the ill weeds of blackguardism stare you in the face at once. Why is it so ? Because the Protestant is taught, as an integral part of his religion, to make himself and his own opinion the criterium of right for every one else; he is therefore taught to set himself above every one else, to defy every one else, to hate the man who is wiser, richer, and more powerful than himself, and to spurn from him the ignorant, the poor, and the weak.
The Protestant spirit is not confined to sectarian bodies, it has invaded the Roman Church. If Anglican bishops in their charges attack all those religious truths to which they are themselves colour-blind, Roman prelates assail all those scientific truths of which they are themselves ignorant, as though they were inevitably destructive to religion. That same narrow spirit animates equally the Roman curia and the Puritan press, the Inquisition and the “ Church Association.” It is that same spirit which urges Pius IX. to proclaim his own personal infallibility, and which makes the sects split and splinter into smaller and yet smaller fragments, till each man's opinion becomes his only truth, and every man becomes his own god.
The principle of Persecution is by its very nature unCatholic. The development of the spirit of intolerance in the Roman communion inevitably followed the introduction of the autocratic principle,—the erection of the Papacy into a spiritual sovereignty. One evil led to another. Whether compulsion be used to make a man believe twelve articles of belief when he can only mentally grasp three, or to make a man surrender nine because the persecutor can only tolerate three, is immaterial, the principle is identical, the setting up of the belief of one man as the measure of belief to other men—a principle eminently Protestant. Consequently, Philip II. of Spain was more of a Protestant than a Catholic at heart, and William the Silent, ready to tolerate all religions, was a truer Catholic than his foe.
Luther and Calvin introduced the wedge to drive apart religion and morality, and Puritanism has forced apart religion and aesthetics. The beauty of holiness is taught to be not one truth, but beauty to be one thing and holiness another thing, and both to be contrary the one to the other.
To any one with artistic taste, poetic feeling, and refined perceptions, there is something inexpressibly sad in passing from a Catholic to a Protestant country, it is like passing from sunshine into mist, from mountain variety and beauty into fens, well-drained, cut into square fields, but intolerably monotonous.
Few, unless they think over it, are aware how much they are indebted to Catholicism for the lovely ideas and pleasant memories which relieve the dreariness of their common life. The poets involuntary derive beautiful imagery from it, painters delight in it, architects build inspired by it. What would foreign travel be without Catholic sights ? Few are uninfluenced by the beauty of that religion which bathes so large a portion of the Continent in rosy light; and it is only with a shudder that we pass into a Lutheran State or a Calvinistic Canton, to a leaden religious sky, and a people with ashes, white and ghastly, strewn over their lives. What would France, Belgium, the Rhine become, if Protestantized?
What is a grand old minster when it has fallen into Protestant hands? A shell. The spirit which vivified it is gone, and it looks thenceforth a corpse; beautiful still, with a beauty derived from the life which once animated it, but now dead and slowly decaying.
Not only has Protestantism divided morality from religion, and religion from beauty; it has not suffered truth to