Images de page
PDF
ePub

be in the hands of a crafty priesthood. But our end is specially to mark the spell, the witchcraft, in this perversion. How subduing is the charm! What tenderness and sweet emotions seem to wreathe the very thought to the heart. The witchcraft here is of no dazzling, glittering, mystic kind. It is not in the flashing look, the brilliant smile, the oracular words. Here is no witch with glowing eyes and strange unearthly power, luring us away into the darkness and desolation of the unknown. The witchcraft of this perversion is in the appeal to the loving, sensitive, mourning heart. Our temptress here approaches with hushed footfall, and tearful eyes, and face all bathed in touching sympathy. She speaks in the name of “the beautiful that has vanished and returns not,” and speaks in tones subdued by sighs, of what is and what may be to those already past human sight and help. In this is the spell. How mighty it is! What thousands hold by this beautiful deadly delusion. What an unreality it gives to all personal religion. How it cuts the ground from under the christian minister, and makes wavering and hollow the Gospel appeal. Now is the very heart of the Gospel urgency, and God has linked indissolubly the frail fleeting present with the eternal future in each one's personal endeavour. Change the convictions in regard to the surety of the future, project the influence of the aspirations of the living as a power to affect the condition of the dead, the whole edifice of the Christian ministry crashes ; "the pillared firmament is rottenness." This subtle delusion with an eye of mockery fronts and paralyzes all endeavour.

But a still more striking illustration of this fascination, springing from the same source, the passionate love of the heart, meets us in that great perversion of the Scriptural truth of a Mediator which enchains one-half of Christendom. Here, beyond all other instances, the word witchcraft seems appropriate.

Every heart has recognized the divine adaptation in the provision of a Mediator. To assure our confidence and fix our thoughts on the Highest, God has solemnly pronounced that there shall be ONE Mediator;-One Mediator clothed with power, all sufficient, characterized by infinite tenderness, compassion, love, human and divine; in perfect consonance with the Father and with every earnest, striving, trusting heart. He is one with God. He took upon him our nature. He has borne our sorrows. Now so completely has man recognized the beauty and preciousness of this great provision, and yet so profound is our temptation even in the highest truth, that the most glaring and wide spread perversion has sprung out of it. In his very appreciation of the spirit of the great dogma, man has raised up for himself many mediators, and thrust aside the One. We have not to inquire into the procession of this marvellous perversion. We

mockument is to be the work to alloject these the

have only to take it as we find it, and mark the element of attraction in it. We will not dwell on the mediation of saint and angel. We will take this amazing delusion as fully typified in that name which does not merely divide with Christ the throne of worship in so many hearts, but overshadows Him altogether. There mark the fascination at its highest, the spell at its strongest. From end to end of Italy, throughout the the world, wheresoever Romanist teachings prevail, the Virgin Mother of Our Lord is clothed with all worshipful attributes to her passionate devotees, is surrounded with all loving homage and dowered with all saving grace. The charm which prevades this tremendous perversion is plain enough. In the Virgin you have a lovely woman, the Mother of Our Lord, looked at through associations which partake at once of the nature of human love and yet are penetrated by the sense of her most solemn relationship. It is notable that Our Lord, as if forecasting such a delusion, more than once repudiated any influence which might be supposed to be exercised by His mother in their earthly kinship. His parting words from the cross seem at once to acknowledge all the tenderness of the tie which had held Him to her and finally to sever it as for ever. To the disciple He says—“Behold thy mother!” To His mother—"Behold thy Son!" Yet so wondrous is the witchery of this unparalled perversion that more prayers are offered, a hundred fold, at Roman Catholic shrines to the Virgin than to Christ. The plea to the heart is Will not the Son more readily hear His mother whom He so loved than he will a poor sinful wretch like me ? But the fascination is the product of many feelings, including impulses which sway the zrost chivalrous nature as well as those which affect the most dull and boorish. This whole worship is a medley of painting, poetry, love ;-religion dashed in as a background. The genius of the painter has idealized and glorified it with the loveliest and most sublime emanations of his art. That face hails you in every variety of beauty and sweetness of expression, and ever in such association with Christ, yet so naturally prominent, that homage unconsciously glides in to the unsuspecting heart. Song las embalmed this homage in strains which would be only too fervid if addressed to the object of a warm earthly passion. The Litany of the Virgin scintillates with the dartings to and fro of this strange affection; throbs with this holy, wild-beating love, as if the pulse of a passion-fevered soul leaped under it. The soldier vows upon his sword to that name. The statesman deep in intrigues keeps a shrine in his heart for her. She stands to the priest instead of the lover's “bright particular star.” The robber stained with blood hails and grows soft at her name. The sweetest strains of Dante's solemn poem flow at contact with the mother; strains which Byron echoed, though far off yet pleasantly :

“ Ave Maria ! 'Tis the hour of prayer !
Ave Maria! "Tis the hour of love!
Ave Maria! ‘May our spirits dare
Look up to thine and to thy Son's above ?
Ave Maria! Oh, that face so fair,

Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty dove-
What though'tis but a pictured image strike,

That painting is no idol :-'tis too like. The most marvellous instance which the history of Christianity affords us of the witchery which may strike in a great perversion of truth, a deadly blasphemous error, is to be found in the passionate homage offered to the Virgin. Not pray to the Virgin! It would utterly shatter the ritual of Catholic nations; it would strip their worship of that which is its greatest charm to the people; it would empty ninety-nine hundreths of all their places of worship in Europe and the world at large. It is the very witchcraft of perversion.

From the passionate rapture of such a great delusion and its dazzling excitement, let us turn to one whose very charm is :rest.

To the mind truly awake to the profound importance of divine things it will ever be a chief craving to find-A ground for such certainty as may give foothold to faith, rest to the troubled soul. There are various points on which a sincere inquirer will not be able to attain to absolute surety. Many questions rise up from the depths of our spiritual nature; “spirits from the vasty deep;' and find no answer in Scripture, or an answer which by no means corresponds to the Q.E.D. of mathematical propositions. So much we see as may lead us to decide for the right. A promise is added that faithfulness to what is given shall be blest with more light. The very practice of good is enlarging to the heart and intellect. We shall know more as we use well that we have. But there is no mathematical certainty in religion or morals. Our convictions are simply, reason plus faith. Certainty dawns upon us as through experience we feel more and more, by the very vitality of the doctrine, that it must be “ The Word of the Lord which endureth for ever.” But this is not the certainty which satisfies some minds. It must be absolute, final, leave no place for doubt, afford no victory to faith, because it shall leave no struggle. It must be altogether conformable to logical formula and strictly fulfil a nice philosophical necessity. How many thinkers there are in our day, who, amid the jar of controversy, the din and tumult of hostile opinions, wearily seek some solid ground out of the reach of the hoarse waves. What is true? Where is the appeal? Who is judge? Such is the

round of questioning by which many a soul turns on itself like the snake when encircled by fire. The moment we forget that Christian belief is reason plus faith, we are exposed to the temptation either of dark hopeless atheism, or the spiritual bondage of an unquestioning assent to the dictum of a college or a pope. Hence to many to such as Dr. Newman-there is no resting place between atheism and the infallibility of the Pope.

Surely we can see at once how in the very possibility of such a certainty relieving us of our much burdensome anxiety, there is a very spell of fascination. What would we not give at times for a voice which should hush the storm of controversy, disperse the doubts of our own hearts, and give us repose from ceaseless research? There is a charm in this dogma of infallibility. Somewhere is certainty, something is absolutely true, some voice is empowered to pronounce on it. But where? or what? or who ? Let us take a Christian bishop, clothe him with some awful superhuman grace of cognition, exalt him into God's seat, bow down and acknowledge his decree as final. Such is the remedy which commends itself to Dr. Newman and those of his stamp. Nor should we despair of finding something very much akin to it in Protestantism, yea even in free-spoken Nonconformity. There is marvellous joy in the very hope to minds peculiarly circumstanced, or specially wrought upon. The weariness and perplexity of the war of battling creeds to the earnest spirit! If only some deliverance might be had which would put an end to the conflict. The interest in Dr. Newman's “Apologia” is just in this, that we seem to be watching such a spectacle. We follow the writer with breathless attention through all the phases of this strange history. We see him haunted by a ceaseless questioning, his gourd ever smitten by a worm at the root. Scripture does not satisfy him. Who shall interpret Scripture ? Scripture is not intended to teach, but to illustrate truth and verify it. Where is the fountain of truth then? In tradition. Where is tradition? In the Church. What and where is the Church? And so he wanderson, goaded ever by an uneasy doubt. He rests at times, and then cuts away the ground from under him, and is adrift again. He concludes at last that there is no resting-place between Atheism and Popish infallibility. There is almost a tragic pathos in such a soul-stirring history. It recals to our minds the opening of the grand tragedy of

Æschylus—The Furies. We enter with the priestess, and behold Orestes near the altar, in quiet, left a little space, and making his offerings to the god. The Furies lie round him, cirugged with sleep, but hounding the chase even in their dreams. He steps lightly forth into the morning light, and bounds onward for Athens. Roused by the ghostly shade of

murdered Clytemnestra, the horrible band of the Furies start from sleep, and with dire threats and cries they rush forward, and the chase begins anew. So often we figure to ourselves this fugitive soul fleeing with wild impatient haste pursued by the throng of restless doubts and goading fears. The chase, indeed, is self-enforced, but the misery is not the less real, nor the prospect of rest in some unquestioned authority the less happy. But it never seems to strike such minds that the very trial and maturing of our faith consists in our accepting with trembling earnestness what light is given, and waiting and striving for more. It never seems to dawn on them that in submitting to the dictum of any individual, without the clear conviction and assent of reason to the credentials of the speaker and his message, we are abnegating our functions as immortal beings. There is, indeed, a pleasure in being able to say–Now I can sit down to weave the web of a pure life in perfect peace. Now I can watch the stormy waves of strife, and be myself safe.

“Mine is the hut

That from the mountain's side

Views wilds and swelling floods." I am at rest. Yes, perhaps, till a greater storm arises. To accomplish such a peace for the mass of men you must put out - the eyes of reason, abandon liberty of thought, and accept a yoke profoundly degrading. You must accept conditions which discrown your manhood, and deprive you of all claim to the nobler destiny of humanity. You have found peace it may be ; but you have bowed to a power which says:--Seek no further, inquire no more. Your task is finished, your goal is won. Whatever fields of speculation open up, however noble the pursuit which would attract you, every outlet of thought and inquiry is utterly closed. Dr. Newman talks of the brute force, the wild lawlessness of intellect in his day. As if a power which allows no scope for intellectual effort could be a bulwark against the intrusion of presumptuous scepticism.

But we had almost forgotten that our aim is not to argue, but to point out the witchery in the various forms of error to the unguarded mind, apart from all argument. Here we ought to have reached, with such a phase of this fascination, the final utmost spell. What more can there be ? Thus comes this false delusive spirit of error with solemn brow and awful countenance, severe yet wreathed in a false show of kindness. She lays her touch upon the restless soul. She points to the feet wearied with much wandering. She whispers-Here rest, and be at peace. Hear me and let thy spirit fold its wings at length, and waste life no more in idle questioning. Let reason, scholarship, motive, purpose, will, yield themselves to me. The hunted spirit

ped umanity. You heprive you of allonditions

« PrécédentContinuer »