« PrécédentContinuer »
declare it lodged in the pope alone; but inclines to the milder and more moderate opinion, which vests it in the church and pope jointly. This was the shape in which the doctrine was stated in the pamphlets generally dispersed from the king's printing-press about this time; whether because James really held the opinion of the Ultramontane, or Gallican church, in this point, or that he thought the more moderate statement was most likely to be acceptable to new converts. In a dialogue betwixt a Missioner and a Plain Man, printed along with the Rosary, in a very small form, and apparently designed for very extensive circulation, the question is thus stated:
"Plain Man. How shall I know what the church teaches, and by what means may I come to know her infallible doctrine?
"Missioner. In those cases, she speaks to us by her supreme courts of judicature, her general councils, which, being the legal representatives of her whole body, she is secured from erring in them as to all things which appertain to faith."
But mark how sandy is your own pretence,
All who can read interpreters may be.- P. 165.
This ultimate appeal to the scriptures against the authority of the church, as it is what the church of Rome has most to dread, is most combated by her followers. Dryden, like a good courtier, adopts here, as well as elsewhere, the arguments which converted his master, Charles II. "We declare," says the king in his first paper, to believe one Catholic and apostolic church; and it is not left to every phantastical man's head to believe as he pleases, but to the church, to whom Christ left the power upon earth, to govern us in matters of faith, who made these creeds for our directions. It were a very irrational thing to make laws for a country, and leave it to the inhabitants to be interpreters and judges of those laws: For then every man will be his own judge; and, by consequence, no such thing as either right or wrong. Can we therefore suppose, that God Almighty would leave us at those uncertainties, as to give us a rule to go by, and leave every man to be his own judge? I do ask any ingenuous man, Whether it be not the same thing to follow our own phancy, or to interpret the scripture by it? I would have any man shew me, where the power of deciding matters of faith is given to every particular man. Christ left his power to his church, even to forgive sins in
heaven; and left his Spirit with them, which they exercised after his resurrection; first by his apostles in their creed, and many years after by the council at Nice, where that creed was made that is called by that name; and by the power which they had received from Christ, they were the judges even of the scripture itself many years after the apostles, which books were canonical, and which were not." Papers found in King Charles's strong box.
The good old bishops took a simpler way;
And by tradition's force upheld the truth.-P. 167.
Dryden had previously attacked the rule of faith, by private judgment of the Holy Scriptures. His assumption is, that the scriptures having been often misunderstood and abused by heretics of various descriptions, there must be some more infallible guide left us by God as the rule of faith. Instead of trusting, therefore, to individual judgment founded on the scripture, he urges, that the infallibility of faith depends upon oral tradition, handed down, as his communion pretends, by father to son, from the times of the primitive church till this very day. It is upon this foundation that the church of Rome rests her claim to intallibility, as the immediate representative of the apostles and primitive church.
For purging fires traditions must not fight;
But they must prove episcopacy's right.---P. 170.
The doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead, is founded on a passage in the book of Tobit. The Apocrypha not being absolutely rejected by the church of England, but admitted for "example of life and instruction of manners," though not of canonical authority, part of this curious and romantic history is read in the course of the calendar. The domestic circumstance of the dog gave unreasonable scandal to the Puritans, from which the following is a good-humoured vindication. "Give me leave for once to intercede for that poor dog, because he is a dog of good example, for he was faithful, and loved his master; besides, that he never troubles the church on Sundays, when people have their best clothes on; only on a week-day, when scrupulous brethren are always absent, the poor cur makes bold to follow his master." But although the church of England did not receive the traditive belief, founded upon the aforesaid passage concerning prayer for the dead, the dissenters accused her of liberal reference
to tradition in the disputes concerning the office of bishop, the nature of which is in the New Testament left somewhat dubious.
But this annexed condition of the crown,
Here then you shrink, and lay your weak pretensions down.
Much of the preceding argument, and this conclusion, is founded upon the following passage in the second paper found in King Charles's strong box. "It is a sad thing to consider what a world of heresies are crept into this nation. Every man thinks himself as competent a judge of the scriptures as the very apostles themselves; and 'tis no wonder that it should be so, since that part of the nation which looks most like a church, dares not bring the true arguments against the other sects, for fear they should be turned against themselves, and confuted by their own arguments. The church of England, as 'tis called, would fain have it thought, that they are the judges in matters spiritual, and yet dare not positively say, that there is no appeal from them; for either they must say, that they are infallible, which they cannot pretend to, or confess, that what they decide in matters of conscience is no further to be followed, than as it agrees with every man's private judgment."
To this the divines of England answered, that they indeed asserted church authority, but without pretending to infallibility; and that while the church decided upon points of faith, she was to be directed and guided by the scriptures, just as the judges of a temporal tribunal are to frame their decisions, not from any innate or infallible authority of their own, but in conformity with the laws of the realm.
Behold, what heavenly rays adorn her brows,
To deck the wedding-day of his unspotted spouse !-P. 177. In this and the following lines Dryden sets forth his adopted mother-church in all the glowing attributes of majesty and authority. The lines are extremely beautiful, and their policy is obvious, from the following passage in a pretended letter from Father Petre to Father La Chaise. The letter bears every mark indeed of forgery; but it is equally an illustration of Dryden, whether the policy contained in it was attributed by the Protestants to the Catholics as part of their scheme, or was really avowed as
such by themselves. Many Eng'ish heretics resort often to our sermons; and I have often recommended to our fathers to preach now in the beginning as little as they can of the controversy, because that provokes; but to represent to them the beauty and antiquity of the Catholic religion, that they may be convinced that all that has been said and preached to them, and their own reflections concerning it, have been all scandal.”—Somers' Tracts, p. 253. The unity of the Catholic church was also chiefly insisted on during the controversy:
One in herself, not rent by schism, but sound,
It seems to have escaped Dryden, that all the various sects which have existed, and do now exist, in the Christian world, may, in some measure, be said to be sparkles shattered from his “solid diamond;" since at one time all Christendom belonged to the Roman church. Thus the disunion of the various sects of Protestants is no more an argument against the church of England than it is against the church of Rome, or the Christian faith in general. All communions insist on the same privilege; and when the church of Rome denounced the Protestants as heretics, like Coriolanus going into exile, they returned the sentence against her who gave it. If it is urged, that, notwithstanding these various defections, the Roman church retained the most extended communion, this plea would place the truth of religious opinions upon the hazardous basis of numbers, which Mahometans might plead more successfully than any Christian church, in proportion as their faith is more widely extended. These arguments of the unity and extent of the church are thus expressed in a missionary tract already quoted, where the Plain Man thus addresses his English parson: "Either shew me, by more plain and positive texts of scripture than what the Missioner has here brought, that God Almighty has promised to preserve his church from essential errors, such as are idolatry, superstition, &c.; or else shew me a church visible in all ages spread over the face of the whole world, secured from such errors, and at unity in itself: A church, that has had all along kings for nursing fathers, and queens for nursing mothers; a church, to which all nations have flowed, and which is authorised to teach them infallibly all those truths which were delivered to the saints without mixtures of error, which destroy sanctity; I say, either shew me, from plain texts of scripture, that Christ's church was not to be my infallible guide; or shew me such a church of Christ as these promises require, distinct from that of the Roman, and from which she has either separated, or been cut off.".
Industrious of the needle and the chart,
Sell all of Christian to the very name.-P. 179.
The author has, a little above, used an argument, much to the honour of the Catholic church-her unceasing diligence in labouring for the conversion of the heathen; a task, in which her missionaries have laboured with unwearied assiduity, encountering fatigue, danger, and martyrdom itself, in winning souls to the faith. It has been justly objected, that the spiritual instruction of their converts is but slight and superficial; yet still their missionary zeal forms a strong contrast to the indifference of the reformed churches in this duty. Nothing of the kind has ever been attempted on a great or national scale by the church of England, which gives Catholics room to upbraid her clergy with their unambitious sloth in declining the dignity of becoming bishops in partibus infidelium. The poet goes on to state the scandalous materials with which it has been the universal custom of Britain to supply the population of her colonies; the very dregs and outcasts of humanity being the only recruits whom she destines to establish the future marts for her commodities. The success of such missionaries among the savage tribes, who have the misfortune to be placed in their vicinity, may be easily guessed:
On the other hand, the care of the Catholic missionaries was by no means limited to the spiritual concerns of those heathen among whom they laboured: they extended them to their temporal concerns, and sometimes unfortunately occasioned grievous civil dissensions, and much bloodshed. Something of this kind took place in Japan; where the Christians, having raised a rebellion against the heathens, (for the beaten party, as Dryden says, are always rebels to the victors,) were exterminated, root and branch. This excited such an utter hatred of Catholic priests, and their religion, that they were prohibited, under the deepest denunciations of death and confiscation, from landing in Japan. Nevertheless, the severity of this law did not prevent the Hollanders from sharing in the gainful traffic of the island, which they gained permission to do, by declaring, that they were not Christians, (only meaning, we hope, that they were not Catholics,) but Dutchmen; and it was currently believed, that, in corroboration of their assertion, they were required to trample upon the crucifix, the object of adoration to those whom the Japanese had formerly known under the name of Christians.