Archbishop Manning’s pamphlet on Caesarism and Ultramontanism, gives the whole theory of one of the busiest and most conspicuous religious and political parties of the day in clear and emphatic language. I propose in the present Paper to examine that part of it which relates to the Church, leaving for a future occasion the consideration of that part which relates to the State. In order to do this, I will begin by stating the substance of the argument, which takes the form of a history with comments. The history describes first: Caesarism as understood in ancient Rome, which the Archbishop calls Pagan Caesarism; then the theory of the relation between Church and State held by Ultramontane Roman Catholics, which he calls Christian Caesarism; and lastly, the legislation of the Tudors in this country, and that of the Emperor of Germany and the King of Italy in the present day, which he describes as “the Caesarism of the last age of civil power lapsing or lapsed from Christianity.”
The first picture is that of Pagan Caesarism. Its most striking lines are as follows:–
“The sovereignty of Caesarism is absolute and dependent on no conditions. It is also exclusive, because it does not tolerate any jurisdiction above and within its own. It does not recognize any laws except of its own making. Now this supreme power need not be held in the hand of one man. It may be a People or a Senate, or a King or an Emperor. Its essence is the claim to absolute and exclusive Sovereignty. It by necessity excludes God, His sovereignty, and His laws. The sole fountain of law is the human will, individual or collective. . . . Law, morals, politics, and religion all come from him (Caesar), and all depend upon him.”To crown all, a divine character was conferred upon Caesar. He was addressed as AEternitas Tua, and qualified as divus.
The first great check placed upon Caesarism was imposed by Christianity.
“The political consequences of the Incarnation constitute the essence of the moral, social, domestic, and civil life of men and of nations. . . . There can be no Caesarism where Christ reigns. Christianity, in consecrating the civil authority of the world, has laid on it the limits of the divine law. Christianity has confirmed the civic power within its own sphere a delegation from God Himself, but by the same act Christianity has limited the sphere of its jurisdiction. It has withdrawn from its cognizance and control the whole inner life of man. The civil power cannot command his intellect, it cannot control his conscience, it cannot coerce his will. Christianity has indeed subjected the outward actions of man to civil government, but it has withdrawn from civil rulers the whole domain of religion. The State may imprison the body or even take its life, but it has no jurisdiction over the soul. All its acts are free; they have no lawgiver or sovereign, but God alone.”This great change was effected by very simple and definite means:
“The presence of the Catholic Church among the civil powers of the world has changed the whole political order of mankind. It has established upon earth a legislature, a tribunal, and an executive independent of all human authority. It has withdrawn from the reach of human laws the whole domain of faith and conscience. These depend on God alone, and are subjected by Him to His own authority vested in His Church, which is guided by Himself. . . Obedience to the Church is liberty, and it is liberty because the Church cannot err, or mislead either men or nations. If the Church were not infallible, obedience to it might be the worst of bondage. This is Ultramontanism, or the liberty of the soul divinely guaranteed by an infallible Church; the proper check and restraint of Caesarism, as Caesarism is the proper antagonist of the sovereignty of God.”This statement of principles is followed by a variety of authorities, Gelasius, Constantine, St. Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, are all quoted with due complimentary epithets, and the result of their statements is drawn out in a series of contrasts between the view taken of government by Pagan Caesarism and Christian Caesarism respectively. The passage concludes as follows:— “The essence of “Ultramontanism’ is, that the Church, being a divine institution, and by divine assistance, infallible, is within its own sphere, independent of all civil powers, and as the guardian and interpreter of the Divine Law, is the proper judge of men and of nations in all things touching that law in faith and morals.”
A long argument follows to show that Ultramontanism is “identical with perfect Christianity.” The foundation of the argument is that “Christianity has introduced two principles of Divine Authority into human society: the one the absolute separation of the two powers spiritual and civil; and the other, the supremacy of the spiritual over the civil, in all matters within its competency or divine jurisdiction.” The extent of this jurisdiction may be matter of doubt, but “except Erastians,” no one can deny its existence “without renouncing his Christian name, or the coherence of his principles.” The Christian theory is that Civil Sovereignty is from God, but that the Spiritual Power is independent, of which latter doctrine “the existence of the Church and the primacy of its head in these eighteen hundred years are proof enough.” Moreover, “no Christian of sound mind will deny that these distinct and separate powers have distinct and separate spheres.” He observes that in purely civil and purely ecclesiastical matters, there is no difficulty in seeing this. The difficulty appears only in “mixed” cases, and even as to these there need be no difficulty. The decision as to the limits of the two powers, must be vested in “a judge who can define the limits of the two elements respectively, and therefore of the respective jurisdictions.” Now, “who can define what is, or is not, within the jurisdiction of faith and morals except a judge who knows what the sphere of faith and morals contains, and how far it extends?” The spiritual power “knows this with divine certainty,” and is “thereby, in matters of religion and conscience, supreme.” Archbishop Manning puts this in the most emphatic language. He gives us the essence of Ultramontanism in the following passage:–
“The Church is separate and supreme. Any power which is independent and can alone fix the limits of its own jurisdiction, and can thereby fix the limits of all other jurisdictions, is ipso facto supreme ; but the Church of Jesus Christ, within the sphere of revelation, of faith and morals, is all this, or is nothing, or worse than nothing, an imposture, and an usurpation— that is, it is Christ or Antichrist.”He adds :
“If it be Antichrist every Caesar from Nero to this day is justified. If it be Christ it is the supreme power among men; that is to say:— (1) It holds its commission and authority from God. (2) It holds in custody the faith, and law of Jesus Christ. (3.) It is the sole interpreter of that faith and the sole expositor of that law; it has within the sphere of that commission a power to legislate, with authority to bind the consciences of all men born again in the baptism of Jesus Christ; it alone can fix the limits of the faith and law entrusted to it, and therefore the sphere of its own jurisdiction; it alone can decide in questions where its power is in contact with the civil power—that is, in mixed questions; for it alone can determine how far its own divine office or its own divine trust enter into and are implicated in such questions; and it is precisely that element in any mixed question of disputed jurisdiction which belongs to a higher order and a higher tribunal.”As an illustration, Archbishop Manning gives the case of a Professor in a Catholic University, who denounces the syllabus, and is excommunicated by his Bishop for so doing. The State supports and pays him. This, says the Archbishop, is utterly wrong.
“Here is a mixed question of stipend and orthodoxy: surely orthodoxy is a higher element than stipend; faith is of a higher order than thalers, and to judge of orthodoxy and faith belongs not to the Civil, but to the Spiritual tribunal, which is in that sphere superior, absolute, and final.”After this it may appear strange to say that the claims advanced by Archbishop Manning for the Church in this paper are modest in comparison with those which in a different publication he has made for the bishops of the Church and for himself as one of them. If it is not technically correct to say that Archbishop Manning regards himself and others as God incarnate, he does at least distinctly assert that he and they are in some special manner, which is for all practical purposes very like incarnation, connected with the Holy Ghost.
In a book called “The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost” (on the first page, characteristically enough, is the mark of a crown, under which is printed in quaint letters the word Humilitas), occur the following passages —
“The present dispensation, under which we are, is the dispensation of the Spirit, or of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. To him in the Divine Economy has been committed the office of applying the redemption of the Son to the souls of men by the vocation, justification, and salvation of the elect. We are therefore under the personal guidance of the Third Person as truly as the Apostles were under the guidance of the Second. The presence of the Eternal Son by incarnation was the centre of their unity; the presence of the Eternal Spirit, by the incorporation of the mystical body, is the centre of unity to us.” (pp. 48, 49.)After much discourse about “passive spiration,” and other matters which I do not profess to understand, we come to the following, which is plain enough:—
“The pastoral authority, or the Episcopate, together with the Priesthood and the other orders, constitute an organized body, divinely ordained to guard the deposit of the Faith. The voice of that body, not as so many individuals, but as a body is the voice of the Holy Ghost, that pastoral ministry as a body cannot err, because the Holy Spirit, who is indissolubly united to the mystical body, is eminently and above all united to the hierarchy and body of its pastors.”Such is Archbishop Manning's conception of the Church and its general position and attributes. In a few words, it comes to this— the Roman Catholic Church is a divine institution, the leading officers of which are in some way or other directly and personally united with God Almighty. They are the supreme guardians of faith and morals, and are as such supreme over all governments whatever, within a sphere to be defined by themselves. In that sphere they have all power, executive, judicial, and legislative, and they can make, interpret, and execute their own laws, which are sanctioned, I presume, by purgatory or eternal damnation, as the case may be.
The first remark which suggests itself on this theory, is that, to me at least, it appears impossible to deny its coherency. If any man, or any body of men, really is entrusted by God with the custody of a revelation on all the leading points of religion and morals, I do not see how they can fail to occupy the position which Archbishop Manning claims for them. Religion and morals lie at the root of life; and all the more important forms of human energy must depend upon them, and their operation must be affected and coloured by them. Let us suppose, for instance, that any body of men was in a position to say to mankind, with truth, and in such a manner as to be believed—
“God, an infinitely powerful and benevolent being, resembling you in the matter of consciousness and individual will, made the world and all its contents, human nature and society included. It is a place of trial and preparation for a wider sphere, and we who speak are entrusted by the Author of this Universe, who has in some mysterious way united himself with us, with an explanation, absolutely true as far as it goes, and sufficiently full and clear for every practical purpose, of the position which men occupy in the universe, and of the duties which they have to discharge in the present life. Now in regard to politics our message to men is this. In all matters relating to the preservation of the peace, the distribution of property, and the management of the common affairs of life, they must obey the civil rulers, who are to be found in all parts of the world; but they must take from us the general theory of the Universe, and their conceptions of right and wrong. The duty of recognizing our supremacy in these points, and of governing themselves accordingly, is binding just as much on rulers as on subjects.”Whoever could say this with truth, no doubt both would and ought to be the King of the world; the most powerful temporal ruler would be to such a person or body no more than a sheriff to a judge. Such a ruler would and ought to be able to say, “I give you, the civil power, and lay society in general, to understand that this or that is the truth on the great moral problems which disturb society. This, and nothing else, is the true way of looking at the distribution of property, the relation between the sexes vice, crime, pauperism, war. These and no others are the principles on which you should found your legislation and your other proceedings upon this subject—this and no other is the theory of human life.” Moreover, when this was said experience ought to confirm it. The theory ought to recommend itself to men's minds, and ought upon experiment to succeed. If such were the case, I certainly do not see how we could stop short of Archbishop Manning's conclusions as to the relation between the Church and the State. Such a Church would leave the State no room for any other functions than those which he assigns to it. The State might no doubt make laws, let us say, to forbid crimes like murder or robbery; but if the ruler of the State did his duty, he would always go to the Church to know whether his definitions of these offences were in harmony with moral theology, and would always be ready to receive as a divine command any intimation on the subject. Thus, for instance, if parliament were debating the subject of the abolition of capital punishment, the debate might at any moment be closed by a papal declaration that capital punishment was immoral and barbarous; or that the objections made to it were sentimental nonsense, and that the hanging of murderers was a moral duty.
It thus becomes a question of urgent practical importance whether the claims made by Archbishop Manning for the Church are true or false. If they are true, of course they ought to be allowed. The Pope and his Bishops ought to be acknowledged as the Spiritual Sovereigns of the world, as the ultimate court of appeal on all questions which can permanently interest rational men, and as the rulers whose decrees must indirectly, at all events, dispose, not only of the thoughts of our hearts, but of the whole colour and tone of our lives, and the disposition of our property. If they are false, they are monstrous. It is difficult to imagine a lower depth of degradation than to surrender absolute control over one's very soul to a man who, whether a conscious impostor or not, falsely pretends to possess the powers which Archbishop Manning claims.
Are we, then, to say that the claims in question are true or false? Or, rather, what are the reasons why the ordinary run of English people regard them as being about as well founded as the claims of the cardinal who was called Henry IX, to be King of England, though by no means so harmless? Those reasons appear to me to be broad, plain, and of overwhelming force. I will shortly state them, though in a variety of forms they have been stated and re-stated a thousand times. The issue, then, is whether these claims are true or false, and this issue is raised, not between students in theological schools, but between the Roman Catholic clergy and their adherents on the one hand, and the great mass of the educated part of the laity, including in particular the leading statesmen of Germany, England, France, and Italy, on the other. It is the controversy, in short, between the clergy, or rather that part of the clergy to which Archbishop Manning belongs, and ordinary men of the world. The question, then, for us men of the world, people engaged in the common pursuits, and recognizing, and as a rule acting upon the common worldly maxims of honour and morals, is simply this: Shall we recognize the Roman Catholic clergy as our moral and spiritual sovereigns and guides? I think that the proper answer to this is—Never, unless and until they have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that they are really entitled to that position.
Of course there is a dark and perplexed side of life. We have all great want of light and knowledge, especially about the nature of the world in which we live, and what is to follow it. We are all impelled to dwell upon the questions—What? Whence? Whither? and to catch at any coherent explanation of them which may be offered to us. If any man could and did prove to me that he did really hold the clue of the great labyrinth, that he could really show me how we ought all to live and to die, and why it should be thus and not otherwise, I should regard him as a benefactor and obey his directions faithfully. I should not require from such a person a mathematical demonstration of the truth of his claims. I should require evidence strong enough to exclude all reasonable doubt—the sort of evidence which rational men require in the decision of all weighty practical affairs, that his claims were well founded, and when I was satisfied on that point, though I should always reserve a discretion as to believing what he told me, I should not be at all surprised or offended at his saying, I tell you that this, that, or the other statement, unintelligible to you, does express a truth, and I expect you to believe me. I do not see how any one can be expected to say more than this; I should decline to argue further with any one who did not admit that a man who surrendered to another man control over his thoughts and actions upon weaker grounds than these hardly deserved to be called a man at all. The next question is whether Archbishop Manning, as our local English representative of the Roman Catholic clergy, has made out, or can make out, as against educated men of the world, such a claim to spiritual dominion as I have described. In order to make out such a case they must prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, every part of the following proposition :-God became incarnate in Jesus Christ, who conferred the authority which I claim on Peter and the other apostles whom I represent.
This may be resolved into the following propositions:
1. There is a God.
2. The historical statements of the Apostles' Creed are all true in fact, and amount to an account of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus Christ established a Church with the constitution and powers which I claim for my Church.
4. My Church is the Church so established.
If there is room for reasonable doubt as to the substantial truth of any one of these four propositions, Archbishop Manning's case fails, and it would be the height or depth of weakness in any statesman or body politic to recognize in the Roman Catholic Church the rights and powers which he claims for it.
The first proposition is, that there is a God. It appears to me, that the existence of God is probable enough to supply to men a real motive to lead a virtuous life, but not established on such grounds that the proposition “there is a God,” can serve as a foundation for inferences about any particular event or institution. It is one thing to say the general constitution and aspect of the world and of human nature, suggests the inference that this world is a place of moral trial, and that “be virtuous” is the implied command of a conscious and powerful ruler; and as I must have some theory to live by, I will adopt that, not because I am entirely convinced of its truth, but because upon the whole I think it most advisable upon several obvious grounds. It is quite another thing to say that the existence of God is a first truth which rests upon higher grounds than common truths, and can be used to interpret their meaning and to establish a priori probabilities in favour of an alleged revelation. In other words, it is one thing to infer the existence of God from the existence of the world, and quite another to use a doctrine about God supposed to be a first truth as the key by which the world is to be explained. This is what Archbishop Manning must do, and he is obviously not entitled to do it unless he is entitled to affirm the existence of God in so absolute and preremptory a manner, that the proposition “there is a God,” considered as the basis of argument, will bear the same sort of weight as the proposition “two straight lines cannot inclose a space,” or the proposition “the force of gravity varies inversely as the square of the distance.” I deny his right to do this.
The controversy which relates to the being and attributes of God has been so much and so long debated from every possible point of view, that some general observations upon it may be made without much fear of error. Bishop Butler briefly refers to the argument on the subject in the following words, which form his justification for “taking for proved that there is an intelligent Author of Nature and Natural Governor of the world.” He says,—
“As there is no presumption against this prior to proof of it, so it has been often proved with accumulated evidence, from the argument of analogy and final causes, from abstract reasoning, from the most ancient traditions and testimony, and from the general consent of mankind.”This condensed sentence, I think, mentions the principal arguments used upon this great subject. They fall under three heads. 1. Analogy and final causes, or, as it is more commonly called, the argument from design; 2. Tradition, testimony, and the present condition of mankind; and 3. Abstract reasonings.
Upon this the following observations occur:—
The arguments which fall under the first and second heads, prove only a probability of the existence of God, greater or less according to the existing state of knowledge and opinion as to the general constitution of the world, physical and moral, and the history of its opinions and institutions. It would be presumptuous in me to suppose that my opinion upon the weight of this evidence was of any intrinsic value, but in order to avoid false inferences from the fact that I am obliged by the course of my argument to show that Archbishop Manning, and other persons of his way of thinking, have no right to impose their opinions upon others, I may observe that, rightly or wrongly, I believe that the importance of these arguments and the value of the probability which they raise, has been of late years unjustly depreciated. I am not in the smallest degree satisfied with what are popularly called the scientific refutations of them. For instance, the whole of the argument in Strauss's “Alte und Neue Glaube,” about the inferences to be drawn from Mr. Darwin's theories, appears to me, upon many grounds, altogether unsatisfactory. Whatever ignorance may be involved in the admission, I must admit that I have never been able to understand the fallacy which many people impute to the old-fashioned argument from design, though I recognize its limitations. It is impossible to me to believe either that St. Paul's Cathedral always existed, or that it suddenly came into existence, or that the bricks and mortar accidentally built it by degrees or otherwise. On the other hand, I do not see the improbability of the common opinion about Sir Christopher Wren. When, however, this process of reasoning is applied, not to a work exactly like millions of others which are to be seen growing under our eyes every day and in all directions, but to the plan of the universe, and when I reflect on the vastness of the universe, on the almost infinite extent of human ignorance and the narrowness of human knowledge, it appears to me that the highest result to which such reasonings can properly lead, is a hypothesis suggested by facts, but which cannot be said to be conclusively proved, as our knowledge on the subject is limited to a small part of the facts.
That such arguments are not demonstrative has, I think, hardly been doubted by any one, and it requires little proof to show that the arguments drawn from the general opinions and traditions of men are of the same kind, though of less weight. Modern research and experience have shown that however ancient the belief in God may be, and however widely it may be spread, other theories of the universe are at least as ancient, as common, and as widely diffused. If the writers of the eighteenth century had been as well informed as we are about Buddhism and Confucianism, and the beliefs of savage tribes, they would hardly have written on the subject as they did.
Passing then from the arguments from tradition and design, I will say a word on the “abstract reasonings” which Butler mentions. The first observation which arises upon them is that their value is essentially a question for experts, and that experts of the first eminence have denied their validity. The “demonstration” of the existence of a God contained in Locke's Essay (Bk. iv. ch. x.), and the work written by Dr. Samuel Clarke on the same subject, are well known, and, by way of showing how persistently such arguments are used, I may observe that in a volume of Essays on religion and literature just published under Archbishop Manning's auspices, I find Locke's argument put forward very nearly in Locke's own words by the Rev. William Humphrey (see p. 361).
One of the faults of this argument is, I think, that it assumes the possession by the human mind of a power, which it does not really possess, of drawing universal inferences from an experience which is in fact exceedingly limited; but this is only my opinion, which is a small matter. Look at the opinion of Bishop Butler on the same subject. Twenty-four years" after the publication of Locke's Essay, and after a careful study of Clarke's work, Bishop Butler wrote as follows to Dr. Clarke :
“I have made it, Sir, my business ever since I thought myself capable of such sort of reasoning, to prove to myself the being and attributes of God. And being sensible that it is a matter of the last consequence, I endeavoured after a demonstrative proof, not only more fully to satisfy my own mind, but also to defend the great truths of natural religion, and those of the Christian revelation, which follow them, against all opposers; but must own, with concern, that hitherto I have been unsuccessful; and though I have got very probable arguments, yet I can go but a very little way with demonstration in the proof of those things.”He then refers to Clarke's work, and proposes certain objections, to which Clarke replies. The correspondence removed one of Butler's objections, and apparently weakened the rest, but his last letter leaves upon me, at least, the impression that he was not convinced. After making certain objections, he says—
“Notwithstanding what I have now said, I cannot say that I believe your argument not conclusive; for I must own my ignorance, that I am really at a loss about the nature of space and duration. But did it plainly appear that they were properties of a substance we should have an easy way with the atheists, &c.”I do not think that in his later works Butler anywhere says, or even implies, that he thought that the existence of God admitted of demonstration. The whole argument of the Analogy rather implies the reverse. The well-known passage quoted above from the Introduction to the Analogy to my mind suggests this, though it is certainly not conclusive. I could, if necessary, refer to other passages in his writings which confirm this impression. [*e.g. “There is no need of abstruse reasonings and distinctions to convince an unprejudiced understanding that there is a God, &c., though they may be necessary to answer abstruse difficulties, &c. To an unprejudiced mind, ten thousand thousand instances of design cannot but prove a designer.”—Conclusion to Analogy, near the beginning.]
I suppose it will hardly be alleged that any such demonstration has been discovered since Butler's time, or that he was not well acquainted with the subject.
It is often alleged that the belief in the existence of God is not dependent upon argument at all, but results, or may result, from a direct operation or energy of the mind itself, superseding all argument, and forming a higher and more certain method of procedure. I need not say how vehemently or on what apparently strong grounds the possibility, or at all events the existence, of such mental operations has been denied. As everyone knows, the question whether they exist or not is the subject of the great standing battle which each generation of metaphysicians transmits to its successors, and which appears to rage with undiminished eagerness in every successive generation. I do not think it necessary to express my opinion on a subject which has been argued out so often. For all practical purposes, two remarks will suffice. If a man needs no proof of a doctrine he needs no proof of it, but his certainty can be no warrant to anyone else, much less to the world at large. To tell me that my mind does affirm what I tell you it does not affirm, is to try to convince me by giving me the lie. To tell me that your mind affirms what my mind does not affirm, and that I ought to believe the affirmation of your mind rather than the silence of my own, is to assert your superiority over me, which is the thing to be proved. If, therefore, some minds do spontaneously make the affirmation in question, that in itself is no reason why nations in their corporate capacity should acknowledge its truth.
In the second place it is to be observed that even if some people's minds do spontaneously affirm the existence of God apart from all external proof of it whatever, nothing is more likely than that men should be mistaken in supposing themselves to form such a judgment. It is almost impossible to distinguish such an affirmation from a rooted prejudice, and such prejudices are very common. Numbers of people believe this and other doctrines with the most passionate energy, either because they hope or fear that they are true, or because they consider it a point of honour or duty to believe them. Belief may be produced in every sort of way, but the connection between belief and the truth of the matter believed in, is quite another thing. The writings of several men of the highest eminence convince me that they would have been atheists if they had had the moral courage, but that, fearing to embrace that opinion, they forced themselves to believe in God, taking a strange pleasure in trampling on their own reason, and in avowing, perhaps even in exaggerating, the difficulties of their belief.
Two excellent illustrations of this are to be found in Pascal and Dr. Newman. No one can doubt that Pascal believed, or that Dr. Newman believes, in God passionately and enthusiastically; and no one, I think, can read either Pascal's Pensées, or Dr. Newman's sermons without owning that their belief was the result, not of a process of reasoning open to all men, but of a desperate struggle to believe in spite of weighty objections.
As regards Pascal, a general reference to his Pensées will be sufficient, but I cannot resist the temptation of quoting once more a passage which seems to me to paint with the greatest liveliness the state of his own mind, and that of many others, on this subject.
“Parlons maintenant selon les lumières naturelles. S'il y a un Dieu il est infiniment incomprehensible, puisque n'ayant ni parties, ni bornes, il n'a nul rapport à nous: nous sommes donc incapable de connaitre ni ce qu'il est, ni s'il est. Cela étant, qui osera entreprendre de resoudre cette question? Ce n'est pas nous, qui n'avons aucun rapport à lui.And he proceeds to argue in a well-known passage that if it is a mistake to bet on the existence of God, it is a mistake on the safe side. This passage, one of the most memorable ever written by its author, appears to me to sum up in plain prose, and apart from rapture and enthusiasm, the result of a great deal of matter about “nous connaissons la verité non-seulement par la raison, mais encore par le coeur,” &c.
“Qui blamera donc les Chrétiens de ne pouvoir rendre raison de leur créance, eux qui professent une religion dontils ne peuvent rendre raison. Ils déclarent en l'exposant au monde, qui c'est une sottise, stultitiam, et puis vous vous plaignez de ce qu'ils ne la prouvent pas. S'ils la prouvaient, ils me tiendraient pas parole; c'est en manquant de preuve qu'ils ne manquent pas de sens.
“Oui mais encore que cela excuse ceux quil'offrent telle et que cela les 6te du blame de la produire sans raison, cela n'excuse pas ceux quila reçoivent. Examinons donc ce point et disons Dieu est, ou il n'est pas. Mais de quel côte pencherons-nous? La raison n'y peut rien déterminer. Il y a un chaos infini quinous sépare. Il se joue un jeu ä l'extrémité de cette distance infini on il arrivera croix on pile. Que gagerez-vous? Par raison vous me pouvez faire ni l'un ni l'autre; par raison vous ne pouvez defendre nul des deux. Ne blámez donc pas de faussete ceux qui ont pris un choix car vous n'en savez rien. Non: mais je les blamerai d'avoir fait nonce choix mais un choix; car encore qui celui qui prend croix et l'autre soient en pareille faute ils sont tous deux en faute: le juste est de ne point parler.
“Oui, mais il faut parier; cela n'est pas volontaire vous étes embarqué. Lequel prendrez-vous donc?”
As regards Dr. Newman, I must content myself with a general reference to his Apologia, and to the 13th, 14th, and 15th of his Discourses to Mixed Congregations. In these works he argues elaborately to reduce men to an alternative between Atheism and Popery. His argument in a very few words is this:—God's existence is certain because the voice of conscience testifies of it, but the doctrine is open to very strong objections, both intellectual and moral. If you can acquiesce in them, you can acquiesce in anything, and, therefore, in the claims of the Roman Catholic Church. [*I developed this at length in a review of Dr. Newman’s “Apologia,” published in Fraser's Magazine, September, 1864. I know that it was brought under Dr. Newman's notice, but I never heard that any answer to it was made or attempted.] I cannot say that I think much more of Dr. Newman's difficulties than I think of his positive evidence: both appear to me shadowy and fanciful; but whatever they may be worth, they tend to show, not that we must believe in mysteries, but that the existence of God is a doctrine supported by some considerations, and open to some objections; in other words, that it is a matter of probability as to which we must decide as best we may by taking into account conflicting arguments and evidence. Dr. Newman's passionate belief on the subject appears to me simply a common instance of that moral weakness which transmutes wishes into beliefs. It does not admit of being brought to so distinct and positive a test as Lady Tichborne's belief in the identity of the Claimant with her son Roger, but to my mind it is not in itself a bit more convincing.
The practical importance of the distinction between thinking the existence of God an inference from the world, sufficiently probable to exercise a real influence over our conduct, and regarding it as a first truth immoveably established and capable of serving as a foundation for deductions by which particular facts may be proved, will appear from a consideration of the second of the four points which, as I have said, Archbishop Manning has to prove before he can establish his claim to be the spiritual Viceroy of this country under the Pope. This is the historical truth of the matters of fact stated in the Apostles' Creed.
As to this, I say, there are grounds for reasonable doubt as to the truth of what he asserts. How far that doubt extends, whether it ought to lead rational men absolutely to disbelieve the whole history, or whether it is probable enough to justify persons who find in it the highest lessons of virtue, in believing its truth in a private way, and with a view to the voluntary regulation of their own conduct, I do not say. It is not necessary to my argument to do so. What is necessary for me to say is, that the truth of the history of Jesus Christ is not proved beyond all reasonable doubt as against ordinary men of the world on whom the clergy are trying to force their yoke on the strength of it. The question, Is it wise to act on the assumption of the truth of this history so far as to conform to an established order of worship which appears in other respects to be useful? is quite different from the question—Is it wise to act on the assumption of the truth of this history to the extent of giving the Pope and Archbishop Manning a moral right indirectly to control our legislation about marriage and education? Much might be said on the first question, but I shall pass it over. To the second question I answer without the slightest hesitation—No.
In order to justify this answer, let us consider what, in general terms, the evidence of the truth of the history of Jesus Christ as given in the Apostles' Creed really is.
The question has been debated so long and so keenly that it is not difficult to do so in a very moderate compass.
Arguments upon this subject usually begin (and much too often end) with discussions as to the possibility of proving miracles, and the possibility of their occurrence; and this, again, is usually complicated by a definition of a miracle as a departure from a law of Nature, and a discussion as to what is meant by laws of Nature. The mere mention of these topics gives me, and I have no doubt must give many others, a sense of weariness, by raising recollections of endless and apparently interminable hair-splitting and verbal debates. It appears to me that by avoiding the use of the word “miracle,” which, after all, means only a wonderful or marvellous event, and the phrase “law of Nature,” which I regard merely as a rhetorical name for formulae, enabling us, so far as our experience extends, to a certain extent to predict and understand the course of Nature, it is possible to reduce the whole controversy to a very few very plain questions which almost answer themselves.
The first question is:—Suppose that the known universe is the work of a Being having consciousness, will, and power, do you think that such a Being would or would not be able to raise a dead man to life and carry him away bodily from mortal view, and to enable him to raise the dead, multiply loaves, restore sight to the blind, and so on. The answer to this question to my mind is obviously, Yes. I can set no limit in imagination to the powers of a Being capable of creating a world.
The second question is:–Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Jesus Christ did actually live, die, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven in the manner stated, and suppose that he stated on various occasions that God had enabled him to work miracles in order to warrant his announcement that there was a future life and a future state of rewards and punishments for virtue and vice respectively, would it be rational to believe him? To this also the answer appears to me to be, Yes, on this plain ground, that, in the case supposed, it would be obvious that Jesus Christ was endowed with powers of some kind or other peculiar to himself, and this would make it probable that he knew more about God and a future state than other people. The general beneficence and virtue of his life would make it probable that he told the truth, though this, of course, would be subject to the remark that when you have to do with a being not wholly of this world you know less of his principles of action than if he were a mere man.
The third question is:— Can any evidence be imagined which would prove beyond all reasonable doubt that such a series of events happened? To this also I should answer, Yes. Theoretically, I can set no limits at all to the probative force of evidence. I can imagine cases in which events in every respect as extraordinary as the resurrection might, if they really occurred, be proved beyond all possibility of doubt. Suppose, for instance, that a prophecy were to be published to-day announcing, in the most direct and unmistakeable language, events which were to take place a year hence. The publication of the prophecy might be proved not only to us but to our posterity in a manner which no one could doubt. If it were published in the different London newspapers, say in March 1874, the fact that it was actually made at or before that time would admit of no doubt at all. The subsequent happening of the events predicted might be proved with equal facility and in an equally conclusive manner. Indeed, you have only to take any miracle to pieces and it will be obvious that if it really occurred the difficulty of proving it might be small. What can be easier than to prove (if the fact be so) that a man was actually put to death and buried, that afterwards his coffin was found empty, and that after that he was seen and talked to by numbers of people. Each of these events is in itself ordinary and common-place, and capable of being put quite beyond the reach of reasonable doubt. The combination of them makes the wonder, and if each is distinctly proved by independent testimony, a wonder, miracle, departure from the laws of Nature, or whatever else you please to call it, is shown to have occurred.
As to the difficulty of showing that a law of Nature has been departed from, a single illustration will, I think, show that this is possible. One of the strongest confirmations which the formula called the law of gravitation ever received was afforded by the discovery of the planet Neptune. Irregularities were observed in the orbit of Uranus which would be accounted for if Neptune were in a certain place at a certain time, and there he was accordingly. Suppose he had not been there, and that the irregularities in the orbit of Uranus could be accounted for in no other way consistently with the law of gravitation, the law of gravitation would be shown to be incomplete. The assertion that nothing can be proved which involves a departure from a law of Nature is true only if it be added that no formula can be regarded as a law of Nature which is really inconsistent with any one proved fact. The laws of Nature are not coercive, but only metaphorical laws. They describe but do not alter facts.
There are, however, some observations on the other side which, after making these remarks, ought not to be neglected. Admitting that evidence can be imagined which would prove beyond reasonable doubt events in themselves improbable in the highest degree, it seems to me childish to deny either that there is such a thing as intrinsic probability and improbability, or that the strength of the evidence ought to be proportioned to the improbability of the event to be proved. To deny either of these things is virtually to close all discussions upon evidence. Such discussion, whether carried on by historians, lawyers, or others, invariably assumes experience in a generalized form by which we measure and compare the intrinsic probability of the event and the intrinsic probability of the truth of the evidence. To deny this is to deny the validity of the argument, “he said it, therefore it is true,” for this depends entirely on the probability of the truth of a given statement made under given circumstances, and if this is denied, not only the Christian but all other histories must be discredited together.
We are thus brought round to the turning point of all modern controversies. People may dispute for ever about miracles, laws of Nature, the probability that God would do this or do that, the analogy between Christian doctrine and the course of Nature, and so forth, but the vital part of the whole discussion is simply this: Is the history of Jesus Christ as related in the Apostles' Creed shown beyond all reasonable doubt to be substantially true?
Now, what is the evidence upon this point? It may, I think, be stated as follows:–
1. It is proved in many ways, and was proved once for all by Paley, that the history of Jesus Christ substantially as we have it, was widely and earnestly believed by considerable numbers of persons within a reasonable time after the occurrence of the events recorded in it. Roman Catholics would call this the testimony of the Church, and if this is the meaning of that phrase, and its full meaning, I see no objection to it.
2. The unquestioned Epistles of Paul refer to the subject.
3. There are the narratives in the Four Gospels.
This fact and these documents constitute the whole of the evidence now accessible on the subject. I will consider their value in their order.
The fact that the history of Jesus Christ was widely and earnestly believed not long after the time when he lived is stated by Paley at the head of each of the chapters forming the first part of his treatise in the following words: “There is satisfactory evidence that many professing to be originally witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence oftheir belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted from the same motives to new rules of conduct.”
The parts of this proposition which I have italicised appear to me to be unproved. The great weakness of the writings of Paley (whom I admire and respect), is, that he entirely overlooks the force of the tender, enthusiastic, more or less visionary side of human nature. The most true and earnest believers in Christianity in all ages and countries, have been and are those who are, so to speak, born Christians,—people whom the character of Jesus Christ inspires with passionate, rapturous love, who would count all the common objects of life as so much dross, as dirt under their feet, in comparison with the rapture, the deep-seated, unfailing hidden joy of preaching the doctrines of Christ, living the life prescribed by Christ, suffering, and if necessary, dying in his cause. We see such feelings still in full operation in many different Christian communions. There have been in our own times martyrs in Madagascar, in China, and in the other parts of the world. There is probably not a parish in England in which there are not devout persons who do habitually “pass their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings voluntarily undergone” in what they regard as the cause of Christ. It would be antecedently probable, even if there were no historical evidence of it, that such would be the case in the earliest times of Christianity, and no doubt it was the case, but it is quite a different thing to say that these sufferings were undergone by actual witnesses of the miracles, specifically in attestation of miracles and solely in consequence of a belief in miracles. It would be about as rational to say that Henry Martyn (for instance) went to India, and exposed himself to the hardships of which he ultimately died, solely in order to bear witness to the weight of the arguments for Christianity collected by Paley.
Now, whatever we may think of the merits and virtues of persons of this kind, most of them were not original witnesses at all. It is doubtful whether the testimony of any one such witness remains. But apart from this, they are just the sort of witnesses to whose evidence on specific matters of fact I should be inclined to attach least weight, and that because they are what a lawyer would call willing witnesses. Numbers of persons appear in the early ages of the Church to have submitted to be tortured to death rather than disown Christ, and the name which they earned was that of witnesses by way of eminence (uáptupes). To a dispassionate mind the value of their evidence is destroyed by the fact that they knew nothing whatever about the matter to which they are supposed to have testified except by remote hearsay. What their deaths did really prove was the moral attraction of Christianity for minds of a particular temper, not the historical facts upon which Christianity rests. I have known people who would, I am sure, have been proud to be allowed to suffer death in honour of the Virgin Mary. Yet they neither knew, nor could by any possibility know anything whatever about her. Heat the mind to a certain temperature, and fact, tradition, and doctrine are all fused into one homogeneous mass, which is believed whole on account of the inherent attractions of one of its constituent elements. “If Christ is not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain.” No argument can be so persuasive to those whom it affects at all, but it is not the way to prove matters of fact to the world at large.
Upon the whole, the general and early diffusion of the belief in the history of Jesus Christ appears to me to prove little more as to the truth of the history than is proved by the eagerness with which it is accepted and the warmth with which it is believed in the present day. Both the one and the other prove superabundantly how strong a hold Christian doctrine has on a certain class of minds, and how much they are attracted by the history and character of Christ himself, but they prove no more.
The next piece of evidence is to be found in the statements made by Paul (Gal. i. 11, and 1 Cor. xv. 1–10). The genuineness of these Epistles is undoubted, and though the passages referred to do not say so in so many words, they clearly imply that Paul was told of the resurrection of Christ by Peter and James. This is the nearest approach we now have to a direct statement by an eye-witness. It is coupled with one remarkable circumstance. After enumerating these appearances to Peter, the twelve, and the 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part “remain unto this present,” Paul proceeds, obviously alluding to the vision on the road to Damascus—“And last of all he was seen of me also, as by one born out of due time.” Now, this vision certainly would not prove anything approaching to what is commonly understood by the Resurrection. It is more like an apparition, and is not easily distinguishable from the delusions of sunstroke, but Paul puts it on a level with the other appearances. However, it still remains true that Paul says that Peter and James told him that Christ rose from the dead, and that Paul refers those whom he addresses to other persons who, he says, were living witnesses of one appearance of Christ.
Lastly come the four Gospels. I need not do more than allude to the existence of the well-known controversies as to their authenticity. I should think no one would say that it is proved beyond all reasonable doubt, or that it is really possible to get beyond conjecture on the matter. On two points, indeed, we have more than conjecture. It is hardly possible to doubt that the Synoptic Gospels are either different versions of each other, or of one common original, and it is clear that they record in one language conversations and other transactions which were carried on in another. It would, I suppose, be difficult to say more of the Gospels than that they contain, to use the words of Luke, “those things which were most surely believed” amongst the Christians of a period considerably subsequent to Christ, though no one can say how far subsequent. The state of things is, as if in the year 3800, the principal authorities as to the life of Napoleon Bonaparte were four popular biographies written in English somewhere about the present time, and quoting no authorities.
I need not dwell upon the various detailed criticisms which have been made upon the gospels. The matter has been argued backwards and forwards till everything that can be said or imagined has been said and imagined, and libraries have been written on a matter which really lies in a very small compass. I may, however, make a few observations by way of specimen of thousands which have been made, and might be repeated ad nauseam. In the first place it is alleged on the one side, that there are many inconsistencies between the narratives of the different Gospels. It is alleged on the otherhand that the inconsistencies are only apparent, and not real, and that superficial variation covering substantial agreement is a sign of truth. Endless ingenuity has been displayed in the elaboration in detail of these conflicting views, and both sides, as it appears to me, have indulged in a great amount of conjecture as to matters on which nothing certain can now be known.
I do not happen to have met with the observation which presents itself to my mind on the subject, as the result of long professional experience in the investigation of disputed matters of fact, though I can hardly doubt that it must have been made, because it seems so obvious. It is that the effect of variations or inconsistencies between the accounts of different witnesses is to raise doubts which must remain till they are explained. They may upon explanation confirm the credit of the witnesses. They may totally destroy it, but this depends on the nature of the explanation. If one man lays the scene of an event in London and another in Bristol, it may often be rash to conclude at once, and without going further into the matter, that one of them is speaking untruly, or that the event never happened at all. But it is obvious that some mistake or misapprehension exists which ought to be cleared up. The case is one for cross-examination, and the result of the cross-examination may be either to reconcile the apparent contradiction, or to show that on the one side or the other there is ignorance or fraud. Till the -matter has been probed to the bottom the question who is right and who is wrong must remain doubtful. The first step which a lawyer takes, whether in advising his own side or testing his adversary's case, is to look into the various doubtful points which it presents, and to get them cleared up, either by the production of additional evidence or by cross-examination. The care and skill with which this is done makes one principal difference between a man who does and a man who does not understand this part of his business. Novelists, and the authors of anecdotes have invested the whole topic with associations which jar with religious and devotional feeling, but cross-examination is a real and serious test of truth, and one of which the omission must of necessity produce doubts, which, after a certain time, become absolutely incapable of being solved.
Every one of the leading passages in the Gospels fills me with a wish to question the author, whoever he may have been. The impossibility of asking such questions, and of receiving any answer at all to them, must, and does, in every case, produce doubt. I will give instances enough to show what I mean. The Gospel according to St. Matthew (why “according to”? why not “by” or “of”? we do not say the history “according to” Thucydides, or philosophy “according to" Plato) does not expressly mention the ascension, but it contains a passage which would seem to imply that it took place on a mountain in Galilee. Mark mentions the fact very shortly, and says nothing as to the place. Luke says that it occurred at Bethany. John says nothing about it. The account in the Acts implies that it occurred at Mount Olivet. I do not say that these accounts are inconsistent. A few obvious questions might clear up the whole matter. On the other hand they might show that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke had had access to two entirely different traditions really contradicting each other. How this was we can never know. It is, and must for ever remain, doubtful. Look again at the verse in the narrative in Matthew xxviii. 16, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” Who doubted? On what grounds? What made the writer mention their doubts? These questions can never be answered. All that ever can be known on the subject is, that the author of the Gospel according to St. Matthew recorded that some of the original witnesses of what we are told was an appearance of Christ after his resurrection “doubted”—which can only mean that they doubted, for whatever reason, whether the person whom they saw was really Jesus. Many other instances of the same sort might be given.
Another class of cases occurs in which it is to me at least impossible not to feel that it would be but common justice to hear the other side. I once listened to a sermon from a dignitary of the Church of England, in which he said that he would argue the probabilities of the resurrection in “a cold, dry, legal spirit,” and he proceeded to compare the probabilities of what he called the apostles' account (“the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven and came and rolled back the stone,” &c.), and the chief priests' account (“his disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept,” &c). The preacher urged with much warmth that it was a moral impossibility that Roman soldiers should sleep on guard, and that the disciples, awed as they were by what had happened, could commit an audacious and useless imposture. He totally forgot that what he called the chief priests' account is not what the chief priests said, but what the author of St. Matthew's Gospel says that they said, which is quite a different matter. Nothing could be more curious or important than to hear the chief priests' account of the matter, and to be able to confront the centurion and his soldiers who are said to have been on guard that night with the author of St. Matthew's Gospel or his informant. It is indeed only remote and uncertified hearsay which assures us that there ever was any guard at all. Unless Judaea was utterly and generically unlike both England and India, there is every reason to suppose that if we could get to the bottom of the matter we should have to decide between witnesses contradicting each other flatly. It is surely contrary to the first principles of justice and common sense to give absolute confidence to the statements of unknown persons who are obviously writing on hearsay, and who accuse people who can no longer be heard in their own defence of fraud and falsehood. Pilate and the chief priests never have been, and never can be heard in the matter, and the result is that justice can never be done, and that the doubts which hang over the history can never be removed.
Another point which has often impressed me, is that the whole of the history of Jesus Christ is put forward as of equal certainty. It is, indeed, embodied in one mass in the Apostles' Creed, from the miraculous birth to the ascension. The evidence on these points is, however, of very unequal degrees of force. The miraculous birth, for instance, must, from the nature of the case, be proved by the uncorroborated assertion of Mary. Whether she ever made any such assertion, to whom, and under what circumstances she made it, is nowhere stated. The history is rather indicated, than expressly told, by Matthew. Mark does not mention it. Luke, who avowedly wrote upon hearsay, gives it at full length, interspersing it with two separate poems, or counting Simeon's prayer, three; and John does not mention it, though the Gospel which bears his name professes to be written by the disciple who “from that hour took her to his own home,” and would, therefore, know more of the subject than anyone else. Add to this the fact that similar stories have been told of the birth of many remarkable persons in that and other ages of the world," and say whether it is possible to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt that any such event happened. Yet it forms an article in the Apostles' Creed. It is part of the general history on the strength of the literal truth of which Archbishop Manning claims a divine right to demand for the Irish Roman Catholic bishops the control of Irish University education.
Putting all this together, I conclude that one main part of the evidence on which Archbishop Manning claims spiritual sovereignty over us all is evidence which no court of justice in the world would accept or listen to, for the purpose of inflicting the most trifling punishment or conferring the most trifling right. If Archbishop Manning wished to recover an alleged debt upon the sort of evidence on which he claims for his Church the moral and spiritual sovereignty over the human race, the court would say to him, If this debt is really due to you, you ought to have taken proper means of proving it at the time when such means existed. As it is, we can do nothing for you, and if you have lost anything to which you were entitled, it is your own fault for not taking proper steps at the proper time. How can we act upon a general rumour that the defendant owed you money, a remark by one of your friends that another friend told him the same thing, and a pamphlet by an unknown author, written years afterwards, which asserts it? It must be carefully borne in mind that these remarks apply to a man who is himself making a claim, and one which, if not well founded, is the most audacious claim ever advanced in this world to universal spiritual sovereignty. Such a claim forces those on whom it is urged to give it a plain and strong reply, and this I have tried to do. I have nothing at all to say to a person who speaks in a different tone and assumes a different position. I can understand a man who says I admit that I can force no one to believe the history of Jesus Christ. I ground upon it no demand for spiritual authority over my neighbours. It appears to me possible. If true, it would account for the facts. It is beautiful, and I cannot bring myself to think that the great benefits which a belief in it has conferred on mankind are due to mere mistake. At all events, it has come to be inextricably mixed up with all sorts of tender and sacred associations, and with the practice of virtues which it is much easier to destroy than to replace. I shall therefore go on going to church. To such a person I should reply, So long as you are quiet and modest, and do not interfere with the common course of affairs, I have nothing at all to say to you. I fully recognize the weight of the practical considerations to which you appeal. I have not now to discuss the value of your theory. All that it is necessary for me to say, and all that I do say, is—that evidence which may be strong enough to explain or even to justify the use of a particular form of public worship in a quiet way is not strong enough to support an enormous fabric of spiritual and temporal power. Different sorts of foundations are required for different kinds of superstructures.
I pass now to the third and fourth items of Archbishop Manning's case, which may be conveniently considered together. They are as follows:-
3. Jesus Christ established a church with the constitution and powers which I claim for my church.
4. My church is the church so established, and as such possesses the powers in question.
The first remark which suggests itself upon this is that a priori there is no presumption in favour of the notion that Jesus Christ founded any institution at all. If we grant the historical truth of the history told in the Apostles' Creed, it simply confounds all our notions of probability and improbability. The question, how God incarnate would secure the permanence of a revelation to man, is a question on which no mortal man is entitled to form even a conjecture. We can only look at what he either did or said. Now all the sayings and doings of Christ which even profess to be recorded at all are recorded in the New Testament, and thus the propositions stated depend upon the interpretation of half a dozen vague texts. Strike out from the New Testament “Thou art Peter,” “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,” “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and a few other texts, and the whole of the Roman Catholic case against Protestants is destroyed. I cannot understand how upon any hypothesis as to Christ and as to the Gospels they can be regarded as more than vague and obscure metaphors. I have no wish to recur to a worn-out controversy, but if anyone wishes to see in detail the difficulties of the Roman Catholic interpretation of “Thou art Peter” and “Feed my sheep,” I would recommend him to read Jeremy Taylor's Liberty of Prophesying, and Chillingworth, and to compare them with Bossuet and Bellarmine.
There is, however, a previous question which I should have thought must suggest itself to everyone. What reasonable grounds have we for believing that any one of the texts in question represents a real occurrence? Take, for instance, the words, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” There are either four [Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 14–18; Luke xxiv. 46–48; Acts i. 5-8.] different versions of them or else as many different statements were made, much to the same effect and on the same occasion. The different versions vary widely, and in points of the utmost importance. Each of them, as we have it, is recorded in Greek, whereas Jesus Christ spoke Syriac. We know not whether when his words were spoken they were taken down in writing, or by whom; we know not who is responsible for the translation nor whether it is correct; we know not how many years elapsed between the utterance of the words and the composition of the documents in which they now appear; and yet we are told that they are amongst the main foundation stones or title deeds of a universal and everlasting spiritual monarchy. I do not wish to offend anyone by connecting common associations with matters which appeal to their deepest feelings, but I would ask whether in these days anyone would venture to rest important interests on the authenticity of mere anecdotes as to the sayings of eminent persons? We have all heard of abundance of stories of which the sinking of the Vengeur is the type. Many of them have been distinctly disproved in our own days by a process of critical inquiry utterly alien to the habits of the first Christians; yet they were universally believed. They have found a place in authentic histories (like the first edition of Carlyle's “French Revolution”), and if a few obscure original papers had been destroyed or a few old men had died before curious inquirers questioned them on the subject, they would have passed beyond the reach of refutation, and would have been an accredited and accepted part of history. Archbishop Manning claims a right to dictate to Parliament about education, marriage, and church endowments, on the strength of the interpretation which he puts upon a few ambiguous and fragmentary expressions, which as likely as not were never uttered at all. It is as if a man should claim to be king of England on the strength of a doubtful interpretation of an obscure metaphor, different forms of which were attributed to James II, late in the eighteenth century, by various French memoir-writers who derived their information from unknown and unspecified sources.
To say that the New Testament contains a complete scheme of Church government, or the materials from which such a scheme might be constructed, is like saying that it contains the differential calculus, and this proves that, as against Roman Catholics, the case of the ordinary orthodox Protestants is unanswerable. The controversy cannot move a step unless the truth of the matters of fact stated in the Apostles' Creed, and the supernatural authority, in one sense or other, of the New Testament, are admitted or proved. Take this foundation away, and Catholic and Protestant are silenced alike. Admit it, and the fact of the silence of the New Testament about Church government, and as to far the greater part of theology, proves the conclusions of such writers as Chillingworth and Jeremy Taylor— namely, that error upon such points is unimportant, and that Christianity is simply (to use the language of a later generation) a republication of natural religion supernaturally authenticated. The only apparent advantages which Roman Catholics have ever gained in controversy over Protestants have arisen either from the hankering of Protestants after elaborate systems of doctrine and Church government—that is to say, from a desertion of their true principles—or else from the adoption by Roman Catholics of arguments which upset the foundation common to both. The Protestant always gets the best of the Catholic if he really fights him up to the point at which the Catholic, in despair, throws a match into the powder magazine.
There is, indeed, one line of argument by which Roman Catholics may appear to avoid this conclusion, but it is impossible to make it out in fact. They may say the Church proves itself. Its history shows that it is divine. You can give no reasonable account of its growth and present position, except that which is implied by the truth of the claims which it makes. The existing Church, the wonderful virtue and wisdom of Pius IX, Archbishop Manning, Cardinal Cullen, and a variety of other personages of the same sort, taken in connection with the history of their predecessors, is the foundation upon which faith in the Bible and in Jesus Christ is the superstructure.
This appears to me to be the only way of putting the Roman Catholic case which does not involve an argument in a circle or a petitio principii (the Church proves the Bible, and the Bible proves the Church, or the Bible is true and proves the Church). The Roman Catholic Church and its history are, no doubt, facts from which we may draw inferences. Is it possible, however, to draw from them the inference which this argument suggests? Is it possible to read the ordinary histories of the world without seeing that the history of the Christian Church is like the rest of human history? Clouds and darkness hang over the origin of the religion. It grew as other great creeds have grown; it has had its victories and its defeats, its good times and its bad times. It has assumed all manner of forms and broken up into a thousand contending parties, but no one sect of it can claim exclusive goodness and truth, or can even allege with much appearance of justice that it represents the real original unadulterated religion. To pick out for such a position the Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic creed, as we know them appears to me to be a distortion of all historical truth. The Romish Church has a history which for 1500 years or more is as distinct and clear as the history of the English or French nations for 1000 or 1200 years. It has its merits and defects, its achievements and its atrocities, like any other history; and it is to me as difficult to believe that it is divine as to believe that Archbishop Manning is generically different from other men. It has performed great services to mankind. It has inflicted on them great injuries. It has preached much truth and much nonsense, according to time, place, and circumstance; nor can it be said that the one is less or more characteristic of it than the other. I will give a slight illustration of this from the works of one of the greatest writers of the Roman Catholic Church, Bellarmine. I would ask any one to read his treatise on Purgatory,” and to say whether it is not a fair specimen of the sort of matter of which all his works consist, and whether it is possible to discuss it seriously. I will give two samples of it. After much twisting of texts to prove “purgatorium esse,” we arrive at the second book “de Circumstantiis Purgatorii.” Chap. vi. relates to the place of purgatory. On this, says Bellarmine, the Church has defined nothing, but there are many opinions. Some think “loca animarum non esse corporalia.” This was Augustine's view, “sed retractavit.” Others, that conscience is “infernum et purgatorium animae,” but “haec” (opinio) “refellitur nam si ista opinio esset vera, non minus essemus nunc in inferno vel purgatorio quam post mortem.” Others think that purgatory, “and therefore hell” (sunt enim loca vicina), are in the Valley of Jehosaphat, which appears to be an unobjectionable view if any one likes it. Another opinion is, that it is not on the earth at all, but that the place of punishment is “aerem istum caliginosum ubi Daemones versantur.” The opinion which Bellarmine adopts is as follows:-
“The other opinion is the common one of the Scholastics that purgatory is in the bowels of the earth, near hell, for the Scholastics by common consent establish (constituunt) inside the earth four hollows (sinus), or one divided into four parts, one for the damned, a second for the souls to be purged, a third for infants dying unbaptized, a fourth for the just who died before the passion of Christ, which is now empty. These correspond to the kinds of punishment, for they are all places of punishment. Now all punishment is either of loss or of sense, and either eternal or temporal: for eternal punishment of loss only there is the limbus puerorum; for temporal punishment of loss only, the limbus patrum; for eternal punishment of loss and sense, hell; for temporal punishment of loss and sense, purgatory.”Notwithstanding the neatness of this cross division, Calvin said, “haec omnia fabulas esse.” Bellarmine refutes him at length by various arguments, one of which, directed to the point, “quod intra viscera terrae sit locus aliquis animarum," is as follows:–
“Ad argumenta quae tunc” (in another work) “attulimus accedunt variae eruptiones ignis quae in terris apparent, quas non temere B. Gregorius putat esse indicia quaedam inferni intra viscera terrae existentis Laurentius Surius in historia anni 1537 scribit circa montem, Heelam Insulae Islandiae, unde erumpunt flammae, et audiuntur quaedam tonitrua horribilia, saepe apparere animas, quae dicunt se mitti ad illum montem.”Bellarmine is very particular about the condition of souls. He discusses, amongst other things, the question whether they can ever get out “ex receptaculis suis,” and is inclined to think not. However, John Damascenus was of a different opinion, for he says that one Falconilla was let out of hell on the prayers of S. Thecla, and that Trajan was let out of hell on the prayers of S. Gregory. Bellarmine examines Trajan's case with the utmost care. First he says, that if it did really happen, we must believe “that Trajan was not absolutely condemned to hell, but only punished in hell according to his present demerit, and that judgment was arrested (sententiam suspensam), because S. Gregory's prayers were foreseen.” Moreover, he could not have gone straight from hell to heaven, he must first have been re-united to his body and baptized and repented or done penance (paenitentiam in hac vitâ egisse). Now the accounts of his case say nothing of any such occurrence, and this throws a doubt over the whole story, which, indeed, Bellarmine does not credit for several reasons.
One of these reasons is, that Gregory would have committed mortal sin in praying for Trajan, and it hardly seems likely that if the prayer was a mortal sin, it would have been granted. Ciaconus indeed says, that Gregory prayed “ex peculiari instinctu divino.” “At contra,” objects Bellarmine, the history expressly declares that Gregory was punished “with a perpetual pain in his stomach and his feet” (perpetuo dolore stomachi et pedum). True, it is urged that this pain was to keep him humble (“ne elatio illi subreperet”). “At contra,” Petrus diaconus expressly declares, “Gregorio ab angelo dictum fuisse, quod quia praesumpserat hoc petere laboraret usque ad mortem dolere, &c., ergo in poenam peccati, nam praesumptio peccatum est.” Ciaconus, however, was not to be beaten so easily, and he produces various other witnesses, one of whom (Mechtildis), said that he had asked the Lord what he had done with the souls of Samson, Solomon, Origen, and Trajan, “et responsum esse Deum velle esse omnibus incognitum quid sua liberalitas cum illis egerit,” which Ciaconus puts forward as a circumstance tending to show that Trajan was not in hell. Bellarmine triumphantly argues, first, that it clearly shows that no one could possibly know that Trajan was in heaven, and next, that it is inconsistent with another part of the evidence of Joannes Diaconus, who declares that Origen was actually seen in hell with Arius and Nestorius.
To me there is something inexpressibly grotesque in this mixture of acuteness and absurdity. It is like a mad judge summing up to an imaginary jury out of the Arabian Nights. “At this point, gentlemen, a black man, whose name is not given, and whose object is not very apparent, came out of the wall and said to the fish, “Fish, fish, are you in your duty?’ The fish made a reply, to which I shall refer immediately. Some circumstances in this story appear to me suspicious. Of course the black man might speak to the fishes, but I know of no direct authority for the proposition that fishes can speak to black men. I am aware that the whale said to Moses in the bulrushes, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian; but whales are mammals, not fishes properly so called, and Moses, if not entirely white, was probably very far from being black, so that the case does not apply. However, gentlemen, it is entirely a question for you whether you will or will not believe the evidence as to the black man. I cannot affect to direct you upon it as matter of law. With regard to the alleged reply of the fishes, it is different. I admitted proof of what was said by the black man (not without some hesitation), on the ground that it was a statement accompanying, and probably explaining, the act of coming out of the wall; but I had no hesitation in excluding the reply of the fish. It can be nothing but hearsay, and by the first principles of the law of evidence it must be withdrawn from your consideration.”
I can hardly argue with a person who does not put Bellarmine's speculations on a level with such an effusion as this; but it is impossible to draw any intelligible line between this part of Bellarmine and many others. It is impossible to believe in purgatory without either believing this nonsense, or cutting the doctrine down upon principles which would apply equally to transubstantiation, and many other doctrines. Let common sense once get in its little finger, and you cannot keep out the whole arm. Absolutely exclude it, and you must be content to debate with Bellarmine the causes of Gregory's gout, and the credibility of witnesses who say they saw Origen in hell, and souls coming out of the crater of Hecla. It would be curious to know what Archbishop Manning really thinks of the limbus patrum, and the fate of the unbaptized infants suffering to all eternity the poena damni, because they died before baptism.”
[*Bellarmine's account of the fate of the unbaptized infants is bad enough. A being who keeps a number of poor little babies crawling about in a huge black hole to all eternity on a point of form deserves to be called intolerably stupid and cruel, even though it be true, according to what Bellarmine calls “communis opinio scholasticorum,” “limbum puerorum in loco inferni altiore esse quam sit purgatorium, ita ut ad eum ignis non perveniat.” This, however, it must be itted, is humane in comparison with what I can only call the devilish wickedness of some of the Protestant opinions on the subject. Cotton Mather's poem about the last judgment describes the whole matter :
“Then to the bar all they drew near who died in infancy,They are told by the presiding Moloch, that if Adam had not sinned they would have claimed the benefit, and that as he did they must stand to the loss. They are accordingly taken away with much lamentation to the place of torment : “God's vengeance feeds the flame, With piles of wood and brimstone flood That mone can quench the same.”
And never had or good or bad effected personally.”
These illustrations show how monstrous it is for men to throw their own gloomy and cruel thoughts into the form of definite statements about matters of which they know absolutely nothing at all, and about which their very conjectures become absurd as soon as they cease to be vague.
Any one who doubts whether intelligent Catholics in the present day have got much beyond Bellarmine upon this matter would do well to read a passage in the life of Bishop Grant (pp. 208–214) about the “Holy Souls.” It contains inter alia a story as to the temporal blessings to be secured by praying to them. “A firm of Catholic lawyers,” taking a hint from a statement of the Bishops on this point, “promised a certain number of masses to the Holy Souls if a complicated and unpromising suit in which they were engaged were successfully terminated. They gained it, and so much more happily than they could have anticipated, that the promised offering to the Holy Souls was proportionately increased.” What would the judges say to such a proceeding ? It has a most unpleasant resemblance to bribery.]
Upon the whole it appears to me that ordinary men of the world both may and ought to say to Archbishop Manning, as I do, “You have entirely failed to make out any sort of claim to be my spiritual master, which I should be justified in entertaining for one moment. The fundamental principle upon which your whole system depends is based upon arguments which the limitation of human knowledge considerably weakens. The history which you next appeal to rests upon hearsay evidence which can no longer be tested, though innumerable points in it show the necessity of further inquiry or of continued doubt. The institution which you represent can make out no clear title to the powers you claim for it, even upon your own statement of the case; and, admitting many of your premisses, your Protestant adversaries show that your conclusions are untenable. The history of your Church is just like other human histories. You are just like other men, not much worse or better than your neighbours, and assuredly not much wiser.
The Church, Archbishop Manning says, is “either Christ or Antichrist.” It appears to me that it is neither one nor the other, but simply a collective name for a number of not very wise laymen superintended by clergymen who differ from the ordinary Anglican clergy principally in the colour of their spiritual veneering. With no intention to be wanting in personal respect to Archbishop Manning, I cannot see that he has more right than any other man to be believed when he says that in some sense or other he is a kind of organ of the Holy Ghost, and that if not, then he must be a limb of Antichrist.
These are the reasons which lead me to think that Archbishop Manning's claims on behalf of the Church of Rome cannot be supported. I have said nothing which has not in various forms been repeated over and over again, and I may add that I think I am entitled to appeal to the general conduct of the lay world as a plain proof that mine are the views usually entertained by laymen, though I do not say that every layman has distinctly realized them in his own mind. Look at the position of the Church in every part of the world. Has not the civil power here, there, and everywhere quietly, and more or less courteously, but firmly, refused to recognize in the priests the powers which Archbishop Manning claims for them, and to which, on his view of the case, they are no doubt entitled? That this is so is the burden of every pastoral which issues from the Vatican, and the belief that it is so is the explanation of the syllabus. Nay, Archbishop Manning himself has expressly admitted that in these ages politics and science have fallen away from the faith. How badly I am used, says a convict, twenty witnesses swore against me, and the jury with one voice found me guilty. Probably, one would reply, you really were guilty. If Archbishop Manning's claims are well founded, why do politics, science, and all the governments of Europe, repudiate them? If they are false, there is no difficulty in the matter.
Look again at the tenor of most, or at least of many, of the sermons which are continually being preached up and down the country. “You worldly moralists,” says the preacher, “would you live as you do if you believed in your heart all that I am continually telling you? If you really and earnestly believed all that is written in the Bible, would you love the world so dearly and enjoy the pleasures of life so eagerly?” [*This vein of rhetoric was worked with vivacity and ingenuity not long since in a novelette entitled “Modern Christianity a Civilized Heathenism.”] If the hearers answered quite honestly, they would say very much what I have said in this paper. They would reply, “Well, if you must know, we do not believe what you tell us, except to a small extent, and in part. We think in general that religion is a good thing, and is rooted in human nature, but your particular version of it appears to us very much too doubtful to be acted on to any unpleasant extent.” If we look at what men do instead of what they say (which is surely the true way to discover their real opinions), we can hardly escape from the conclusion that this is what the great mass of quiet, respectable, orderly people really do in their hearts believe about religion, and if this is their real opinion, why are we to suppose that it is false? Why not let opinion upon this as well as upon other subjects rest at its natural level? Why not take the world as you find it? The only possible answer to this question is Because the world is wrong, and to this the reply is, Then prove it to be wrong by producing arguments to show that the subject of religion is not doubtful, that the different propositions which you maintain can be properly and fully made out, and that they should be made the foundation of our conduct. I think this will be found to be no easy task.
Part 2: May 1874
In the March number of this Review I wrote an article under the above title which avowedly formed part only of what I had to offer on the subject. For reasons of which I have no right to judge, but of the result of which I am certainly not disposed to complain, Archbishop Manning thought it desirable, before my argument was complete, to interpose an answer to what I had published. Before I proceed, I must notice his interruptions.
I understood Archbishop Manning, in his lecture on Caesarism and Ultramontanism, to claim for the Roman Catholic Church supremacy over all governments whatever within a sphere to be defined by itself, but including faith and morals. Such a claim I said ought not to be admitted unless it was proved beyond all reasonable doubt; and I then proceeded to give my reasons for thinking that every element of which it was made up was more or less open to doubt, that the very existence of God could not be said to be more than probable; that the truth of the facts stated in the Apostles' Creed rests upon hearsay evidence which can no longer be tested though innumerable points in it show the necessity of further inquiry or of continued doubt; and that even if the general truth of the history of Christ be granted, there is no sort of proof that he ever established a Church with the constitution and powers which Archbishop Manning claimed for his Church; or that if he did, the Roman Catholic Church is the Church so established. My general inference from this was, that whether or no a man might be justified in believing in Christianity as a matter of private opinion, it was impossible to justify the claim made by Archbishop Manning on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to universal spiritual sovereignty.
To this Archbishop Manning replies that he had hoped to find in my article a specimen of close reasoning, but that he was disappointed, inasmuch as “the case argued is not mine,” “the whole issue had been changed.” He says in substance, though not in so many words, that his paper was addressed to those only who agree with him so far as to regard as certain both the existence of God and the historical truth of the statements in the Apostles' Creed, and he accordingly “dismisses from this contention” so much of my paper as referred to these topics, with a few brief remarks. He admits the relevancy of the rest of it. My answer is, that the cardinal proposition of the whole paper on Caesarism and Ultramontanism is in these words:—
“This is Ultramontanism, the essence of which is that the Church being a Divine institution and by Divine assistance infallible, is within its own sphere, independent of all civil powers; and as the guardian and interpreter of the Divine law is the proper judge of men and of nations in all things touching that law in faith or morals.”This surely asserts, not only that Christianity and Ultramontanism are identical, but also that Ultramontanism is true. Indeed about half of the paper consists of denunciations of what the author calls revived paganism, and modern German legislation on ecclesiastical subjects.
My article answered this by alleging in substance that the Church was not a divine institution, which allegation I supported by showing that the evidence to prove that it was is unsatisfactory. Archbishop Manning considers this allegation irrelevant. He compares my argument to the case of a lawyer insisting upon the Tichborne trial on discussing the Mosaic cosmogony. I think I can help him to a much more appropriate illustration. Suppose that Colonel Lushington, who was the nominal defendant in the action of ejectment, had claimed Tichborne Hall, not as tenant to Sir Alfred Tichborne's trustees, but in his own right—Would it have been irrelevant if his counsel had said to Arthur Orton, Not only are you not Roger Tichborne at all, but if you were, you would have no right to this house? This is precisely what I have said to Archbishop Manning. Not only are you not the representative of the Church, but if you were, that body is not what you represent it to be.
Apart from this, can anything be more paltry than to resort in a matter of this kind to questions of special pleading ? By what rule was I bound to confine my observations strictly to a contradiction of the particular matters which he alleged ? If what I assert is true, Archbishop Manning must himself admit that his claims fall to the ground, whatever else falls with them. Let him show or try to show that what I said is not true. If he refuses to do so, he makes a claim to universal spiritual sovereignty, and is unable even to try to justify it except as against people who go half way with him. When confronted by a person who does not go half way with him, he has not a word to say. To threaten the weak and to turn away from a real antagonist with—“I was not speaking to you," is not generally considered courageous; nor does it make it much better if the aggressor, as he turns away, affects to smile with good-natured superiority, observing to his baffled opponent, “Poor fellow, you know you are not the man you were. I pity your weakness and will not annihilate you just at present; my business lies elsewhere.”
Archbishop Manning speaks of my paper as valuable because “it reveals the position of a small number of minds amongst us,” and a passage follows, the point of which is that I overrate the importance of the views which I hold, and the extent to which they prevail. I shall not argue the question whether Archbishop Manning's judgment as to the importance of these views is correct. If so, it is singular that Archbishop Manning himself should be of opinion that in these days politics and science have fallen away from the faith; and that the Pope should have found it necessary to issue the Syllabus, and to fill the world with lamentations over the defection from his principles of every country in Europe. For my own part I can hardly believe in the sincerity of an educated man acquainted with the course of speculation for the last century and a half, and more particularly for the last generation, who affects to believe that dissatisfaction with theological doctrines is confined in these days to an insignificant minority, and who can say with easy, almost jaunty, self-confidence, “Surely at this time of day the onus of proving it (Christianity) to be false or doubtful, rests upon those who refuse to believe it.”— “The Christian world is in possession.”
There is a process in legal procedure called taking out a summons for further and better particulars, the nature of which is sufficiently explained by its name. If it could be employed in controversy it would be curious to learn specifically from Archbishop Manning what he understands by Christianity and by the Christian world, what by being in possession, and of whom or of what Christianity and the Christian world, as so defined, are in possession, in the sense to be so stated ? Are England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, North America, South America, parts of the Christian world? and if so, in what sense is Christianity in possession of them? Is a Unitarian a Christian 2 Are the laity in Paris, in Berlin, in Vienna, Florence, Rome, Madrid, and especially the more intellectual part of them, usually quite convinced of as much theology as is believed say, by Mr. James Martineau, or even by Mr. Francis Newman? Is Christianity in possession of the British Empire in India or of the University of Oxford? Is the Christian world in possession of politics and science? If no, what does it possess? If yes, why did Archbishop Manning say, in 1865, that they had fallen away from the faith? Have they come back since? I need not pursue this. I quite agree with Archbishop Manning in one point, “Securus judicat orbis terrarum.” If we judge by its conduct, it does not at present, at least, intend to put him, and people like him, ‘in possession’ of its destinies; at least if it does, it has an odd way of showing its intentions.
So much for the general principle of Archbishop Manning's reply to me. By way of appendix to it he refers to the extracts which I gave from Bellarmine about the limbus infantum and purgatory, and to a short parody in which I compared Bellarmine's discussion about certain visions to the summing up of a mad judge to an imaginary jury. This, he says, was “not intended for argument.” He adds, “When a writer has declared that Christianity is not yet proved to be true, and that the existence of God is doubtful, I think I may postpone my answer as to what I believe of infants dying without baptism.” He must use his own judgment about that ; but what I wrote was intended for serious argument, and I can hardly believe that Archbishop Manning really missed its point. The argument was this: One of the principal doctors of your Church attributes to God inconceivably brutal and cruel conduct to little babies. He illustrates and confirms what he says by arguments so grotesquely absurd, that my humble efforts to hold them up to ridicule by a parody which did not exaggerate them, were very probably inadequate to the occasion. You call the Church which honours this man as one of its principal defenders against heretics, an infallible guardian and interpreter in the matter of faith and morals, a corporate incarnation of the Holy Ghost. How, I ask, could it represent anything but ignorance, presumption, and cruelty, when it did not disown and stigmatize this wicked nonsense according to its demerits? I appeal to any one who reads them whether Bellarmine's views are not, as far as truth goes, on a par with the speculations of augurs as to chickens' entrails and calves' livers, and whether, as far as morals go, they do not charge God Almighty with stupid cruelty? Whether I have succeeded or not in my attempt to hold them up to the ridicule which they deserve is a question which it does not become me to argue. Be this how it may, Archbishop Manning will find it no easy matter to deny that it is only by finding a refuge in contempt that they can avoid the horror which they are so well calculated to excite. If Archbishop Manning believes in Bellarmine's nonsense, or in some emasculated version of it, he is beneath my notice. If he frankly throws it overboard and excuses it on the ground of the ignorance and education of the writer, he must show where he draws the line. The limbus infantum has so strong a family likeness to transubstantiation, that it will be very hard to disown the one and to save the other. A Catechism authorised by the Archbishop expressly declares that limbo is “a place of rest where the souls of the just who died before Christ were detained,” also that it is “a part of hell.”
I will now notice certain remarks which Archbishop Manning says he “cannot refrain from making” on those parts of my argument which he regards as irrelevant. One of them only is important enough to deserve detailed notice. He says that I have “failed to state correctly the method of proving the divine origin of Christianity, and the divine foundation of the Church;” that I have. “treated it as a question of evidence from Scripture,” whereas he says, “surely it is a question of facts. The documents of the New Testament may be offered in proof at a certain stage of the argument; but assuredly not at the outset.” Archbishop Manning misrepresents me. Any one who looks at my article will see that I distinctly did treat the question as a question of facts. I arranged the evidence of the truth of the Christian history under three distinct heads, to each of which different considerations applied. To treat it as a question “of evidence from Scripture,” would have been to put myself in direct opposition to my own principle, which is, that Scripture depends for its value upon the evidence which may be produced as to its authenticity and as to the age when it was written.
The Archbishop proceeds to say that I write as if the onus of proving Christianity to be true rests upon those who believe it; whereas “at this time of day the onus of proving it to be false or to be doubtful, rests upon those who refuse to believe it.” It is a common error in controversy to apply legal principles improperly. In an action at law the question upon whom the burden of proof rests may be extremely important, because the object of such a proceeding is the taking of a definite course about some particular thing. The rule that when a person is in possession of anything he ought not to be disturbed except by some one who can show a better title to it, is not a rule of logic but a rule of convenience. Its reason is obvious. Any other would lead to violence and bloodshed. I can understand a person who says that opinions and religious beliefs ought to be put on the same footing as property, and that no one should be permitted to attack his neighbour's opinion unless he had satisfied some established authority that he ought to be allowed to do so. Under such a system, the question whether a given man was in possession of a given opinion might be very important. But when it has once been decided to be expedient that opinions should be freely discussed, all such questions are at an end. The fact that a given opinion is “in possession”—that is, that it is commonly held, is irrelevant to its truth, unless, indeed, any one is prepared to maintain that every opinion held by any considerable number of persons is true, or that the probability of an opinion is to be measured by the number of people who hold it—a view which I suppose would establish Buddhism as the most probable of religious systems, and which would, beyond all doubt, be accepted with delight by devout Hindoos, if they were allowed to poll India. If Archbishop Manning must have a legal axiom on this subject he ought to take “affirmantis estprobare.” Every belief upon every subject rests upon some grounds or other, which those who hold it should be prepared to state. Rules about the burden of proof have nothing to do with the matter. To take a specific instance: How can any rule about the burden of proof affect the truth or the importance of my remark, that many statements in the four Gospels, as we have them, suggest the importance of cross-examining the persons who made them, and the necessity for continued doubt upon the points to which those statements refer, in the absence of opportunities for cross-examination ?
Archbishop Manning proceeds to state what he regards as the true method of proving the truth of the Christian history.
He says the Church “is a visible fact, as palpable as the British Empire.” “As the British Empire has its succession of Sovereigns, its unwritten and written laws, its legislature, and its tribunals, its customs and traditions of public and private life, its documents and records: so has the Christian Church, more widely known, more profuse in evidence, more open to every kind of test.”
I never heard of any question as to what the British Empire means, but when we hear of the Church, it is impossible not to ask which 2 Do you mean the Roman, the Anglican, the Greek, the Church of England as by law established, the Church of Ireland, the Church in South Africa, or the Presbyterians? Does Archbishop Manning admit of an invisible Church 2 If so, he is in opposition to all the greatest divines of his own communion. Does he reject an invisible Church 2 If so, a very large, and much the most intelligent part of the Christian world, rejects the “tribunals, customs, and traditions,” to which he appeals, as the proof of Christianity, and appeal to the Bible alone as their religion.
We learn next that, “like the British Empire, the Church has a corporate identity and living consciousness, which is traceable up to the time of its founder.” What does this mean? If any one was to get together a French Canadian, a London shopkeeper, a Hottentot from the Cape, a Zulu Caffre, a Sikh from Peshawur, a Bengalee Baboo, a Spaniard from Trinidad, and an Australian savage, and to tell them that they all shared in the living consciousness of the British Empire, and that if they wanted to know what that was, it was very like the living consciousness of the Church, I doubt whether they would be much the wiser. I do not see very much difference myself between the two consciousnesses, nor much resemblance, for neither can be traced in nonsense.
The Archbishop proceeds: “Its” (the Church’s) “account of itself” (different parts of it give different and conflicting accounts of its origin, nature, and powers) “rests upon a history which cannot be rejected without shaking all evidence except the personal eye-witness and ear-witness of each man for himself. If we are to believe nothing but what we have seen, heard, and touched, the human mind would dwell in a blank isolation. The Divine origin of the Christian Church rests upon a history which cannot be shaken without shaking the foundations of all moral certainty. It rests upon a legitimate authority of direct evidence, the most explicit and uninterrupted to . be found in all history. It claims our belief on the maximum of historical certainty. If its history is not to be believed, all history would be shaken.” The Archbishop then proceeds to explain what he means by the “legitimate authority of direct evidence.” He means by “authority.” “the motive of our belief or source of evidence.” He tells us that “no witnesses have authority but those who are competent and veracious.” He then introduces several remarks about the importance of believing history. Next he says:
“Again, the visible fact of the Christian world proposes to my reason the maximum of evidence for the events upon which it rests. That evidence is the evidence of eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses. It is a part of their autobiography; their testimony was an adequate motive of credibility to those who heard them; the expansion of that testimony throughout the world, and its continuity through all ages, if it has not added to the intrinsic certainty of the facts, has in no way lessened it. But it has proportionately increased the extrinsic evidence by way of corroboration and accumulation, reaching up to the moment of the facts alleged. I affirm, therefore, that this authority is both competent and veracious, and therefore legitimate; and that its action upon the human reason is not by way of imperious command, but of the proposition of evidence. It comes and speaks to us, clothed with the evidence of its testimony.
“Authority is, therefore, not an imperious act substituting command for reason, Sic volo sic jubeo stet pro ratione voluntas: but it is reason and evidence speaking by a legitimate voice. Authority and evidence are thereby identical and convertible.”
All this seems to me strangely confused and intricate. The Archbishop is not even consistent in his use of words. He says first, that by “authority” he means “the source of evidence,” and afterwards, that authority and evidence are convertible. How can evidence be the same as the source of evidence? Again, substitute either of these definitions of evidence for the word “authority,” which is said to be convertible, and the leading propositions into which that word is introduced become nonsense. The divine origin of the Christian Church, we are told, “rests upon a legitimateauthority of direct evidence,” i.e., upon a legitimate evidence of direct evidence. Then again we are told that no witnesses have authority but those who are competent and veracious. What is the sense of saying that no witnesses have evidence except those who are competent and veracious? Again we are told that the authority on which Christianity rests, is “both competent and veracious, and therefore legitimate.” Substitute evidence for authority and this becomes, “the evidence on which Christianity rests being veracious is legitimate;” or, “true evidence is legitimate.” This is not, perhaps, nonsense, but it is very near it. If evidence is true, what do you gain by calling it “legitimate? " Lastly, we get the following marvellous proposition. “It" (authority) “comes and speaks to us, clothed with the evidence of its testimony,” i.e. Evidence comes and speaks to us clothed with the evidence of its evidence. This has as much meaning as the following: “Dress clothed in the garment of coat, waistcoat, and trousers.” Once more, “Authority” “is reason and evidence, speaking by a legitimate voice.” This makes a contradiction in terms. Evidence is reason and evidence speaking by a “legitimate voice.” That is, Evidence is Evidence, and a good deal more. The truth seems to be that in this as in other passages which I could mention, if necessary, Archbishop Manning has entangled himself in a network of words, which, at best, to use Lord Macaulay's expression, mark time instead of marching, and sometimes trip themselves up instead of marking time.
Setting aside obscurities of language, the substance of the passage referred to seems to be as follows:— Historical events which competent and veracious witnesses say that they saw ought to be believed to have happened: But competent and veracious witnesses say that they saw the historical events which are mentioned in the Apostles' Creed: Therefore we ought to believe that those events happened. If this is what he means, can Archbishop Manning refer to one single statement now before the world which purports to be a statement by an eye-witness of the main historical facts stated in the Apostles' Creed, and which is proved beyond all reasonable doubt to be authentic? The statements in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians are no doubt authentic, but Paul does not profess to have seen any of the events in question himself. The author of the Gospel according to St. John professes to have been an eye-witness of circumstances closely connected with some of the events in question, but whether St. John was the author of the Gospel which goes by his name is a very doubtful matter indeed. However, if I apprehend Archbishop Manning's principle correctly, my article did not attack it. It pointed out a limitation essential to the application of the principle which may be stated thus. The importance of a witness's testimony depends absolutely on his means of knowledge, and, to a great extent, on the intrinsic probability of what he says, and on the opportunities which exist for sifting and examining his evidence. I pointed out how these limitations affected the evidence now in existence as to the truth of the Christian history. How can this argument be affected by commonplaces about the importance of not confining our belief to what we actually see and hear (a course which I suppose no one was ever so childish as to
propose), and utterances about the identity between “evidence” and “legitimate authority?”
It fills me with astonishment that in these days any one should be found to assert that a man who is not convinced of the resurrection, must, in consistency, refuse to believe in any historical event whatever. It would be not one whit more absurd to say that every statement in Livy must either be rejected or believed, or that all or none of the prisoners indicted at a given assize ought to be convicted. People who disbelieve the Christian history do so on the plain ground that the evidence is not strong enough to prove the miracles which form part of it. What inconsistency is there in their belief of ordinary events attested by stronger evidence? Would Archbishop Manning himself say that no direct assertion is ever to be disbelieved, or that the improbability of a story is not a ground for doubting it? If not, where does he draw the line? His argument implies that I said or thought that human history in general was not proved, or proveable. The suggestion is absurd. What I said was, that certain specific evidence for particular incidents was open to certain specific objections. Why does not he try to answer this? He does in a sort of way.
The evidence of the Christian history, he says, “is the evidence of eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses?” Who are they? What are their names? Where is their evidence?
“It is a part of their autobiography.” What eye- or ear-witness of the Christian history wrote any autobiography at all?
“The expansion of that testimony throughout the world, and its continuity through all ages, if it has not added to the intrinsic certainty of the facts, has in no way lessened it, but it has proportionally increased the extrinsic evidence by way of corroboration and accumulation.” I think I understand what the Archbishop means by “intrinsic certainty,” though I should not use the phrase. No doubt when evidence has once been recorded anyone can judge of its value, and, subject to some allowance for the changes of habits and circumstances, the mere lapse of time does not affect its weight. It is about eighteen years since Palmer was hung for poisoning Cook. Anyone who reads his trial now can form as good an opinion of his guilt as he could have formed on the same materials ten years ago, and the same remark will apply fifty years hence. But what is extrinsic probability? How can the force of existing evidence ever increase unless new evidence is discovered? How can the “extrinsic probability,” for instance, of Palmer's guilt be increased? A. tells B. that he saw something happen; B believes A., and tells C.; C. believes B., and tells D.; and so it goes on to Z. The extrinsic probability of the story, according to Archbishop Manning, is “proportionally increased by way of accumulation and corroboration” when it reaches Z. It appears to me, on the other hand, that all that Z. can possibly say is that Y. says that X. says that W. says that U. says that, &c.; till we arrive at that B. says that A. told him that he, A., saw this or that. Surely B. is in a better position to prove whether the event happened than C., D., and the rest all put together, unless indeed you increase a fraction by enlarging the denominator. If you do, how very true Buddhism and Brahminism must have grown by long keeping and earnest belief!
Any one who considers Archbishop Manning's arguments attentively will find, that like most others on the same subject, they are an attempt to avoid the application to the evidence of Christianity of that close criticism which is expected of every historian who deserves the name, and which answers to cross-examination in legal proceedings. “What can you have,” he asks, “beyond the testimony of a competent and veracious witness?” I reply, you can have the same testimony duly criticized, checked, and compared with the testimony of other witnesses, and with the known course of human events and conduct. Lady Tichborne was surely competent and veracious, so were the whole mass of soldiers and officers who positively swore that Arthur Orton was Roger Tichborne, yet no sensible person can doubt, in spite of the oaths of these competent and veracious people to a plain matter of fact, that Roger Tichborne had been dead for nearly twenty years when they swore he was standing alive before them.
So much for Archbishop Manning's reply to what he regards as the irrelevant part of my article. I now pass to what he admits to be relevant. I said that in order to prove his case he must establish four propositions, the third of which was as follows:
“Jesus Christ established a Church with the constitution and powers which Archbishop Manning claims for his Church.” “This,” he says, “is my thesis, and this has been attacked. This I am in duty bound to defend, and with this only I have now to do.” I think I shall be able to show that the argument thus introduced is open to the following objections:—
First, it shows a total incapacity to understand the meaning of proof and evidence.
Secondly, it is based on ignorance or forgetfulness of the most notorious facts.
Thirdly, it aims at establishing a proposition totally different from the one advanced in “Caesarism and Ultramontanism.”
Fourthly, the proposition which it defends is inconsistent, if true, with the whole policy of the Roman Catholic Church for three hundred years, and forms its severest condemnation.
First, I say that Archbishop Manning's argument shows a total incapacity to understand the meaning of proof and evidence. He has to prove that Jesus Christ established a Church with a certain constitution and power. His evidence of this proposition consists of extracts from books which, as he supposes, show that various Anglican divines, the established Church of Scotland, and the different dissenting Protestant bodies, are of that opinion. He failsto show anything of the sort; but suppose he succeeded, what have the opinions of ecclesiastical writers to do with the subject ' What did any of them know about the proceedings of Jesus Christ except what is written in the New Testament? The whole of their writings are simply commentaries on a few texts of the Bible, and discussions of what was said and done by councils and theological speculators long subsequent to Christ. The way to prove that Jesus Christ founded a Church with a given constitution, is to produce documents, written by Christ, or recorded words spoken by Christ, purporting to found that Church with that constitution. A whole library of such quotations as Archbishop Manning's do not advance one step towards such a proof, nor would any one who had the most elementary notions about evidence suppose that they did. Half a dozen expressions in the New Testament form the foundation upon which all these speculations, and tons of others of the same sort, rest. Archbishop Manning indeed is committed to this in the strongest way, for the Catechism which the Roman Catholic bishops approve “for the use of the faithful” in England and Wales, contains this question and answer: “Q. How do you prove that Christ appointed St. Peter to be the head of the Church? A. Because he said unto him, ‘Thou art Peter,’ &c.” To which I go on to ask: How do you prove that Jesus Christ said any such thing, or if he did, that he attached to those words any such meaning I asked these questions pointedly in my last article, and the Archbishop does not try to answer them. He obviously feels the force of what I said upon the real value of the obscure and ill-authenticated metaphor which contains all that Christ is said to have said on the subject; and he tries to bolster up the imperceptible foundation by pointing out the monstrous size of the superstructure. People could never, he argues, have written such big books, and put forward such enormous pretensions, upon no foundation at all. There must be a pot of gold to support such a big and bright rainbow. Well, where is it? Surely the real truth is obvious. The power of the Church was really founded upon broad historical causes. The arguments alleged for it are childish excuses addressed to an ignorant and uncritical age. “Tu es Petrus” has about as much real importance as the donation of Constantine or the Constitutions of the Apostles. Yet there is absolutely no other evidence whatever of the doctrine alleged to be true.
Secondly, I say Archbishop Manning's argument is based on ignorance or forgetfulness of the most notorious facts. The title of his last article is “Ultramontanism and Christianity,” and he repeats again and again that “no man can deny that the authority of the Church is separate from all civil powers, and within its own spiritual sphere supreme, without renouncing his Christian name or the coherence of his reason.” He thinks that he establishes this by proof that different Christian communities have put forward the doctrine in question in their various confessions of faith. In using this argument he shows that he has no right to assume that every Protestant agrees with the articles of the Church of which he is a member. Every Protestant body without exception holds that it is fallible, and that differences of opinion as to theological doctrines, and, above all others, as to everything connected with the Church, are by all Protestants regarded as the natural and not undesirable results of the exercise of the right of private judgment. What proportion of the lay members of the Established Church of Scotland does Archbishop Manning suppose to believe in the divine right of presbytery in the present day? Why should they believe in it on the authority of the Church to which they belong (if, indeed, that Church affirms it, which I do not think it does), when the Westminster Confession distinctly says—“The purest Churches under Heaven are subject both to mixture and error, and some have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.”
As to the Church of England (which distinctly affirms that many churches have erred), Archbishop Manning himself says—“I do not forget that a large latitudinarian and rationalistic section of its members would, in practice” (he ought in fairness to have said, and in theory) “refuse its spiritual office and authority,” but he thinks that the other section have the better case. Be this as it may, does he really mean to say that all the large section mentioned must either renounce the title of Christians, or the coherency of their reason? It is a singular conclusion to arrive at, to say the least, that the great bulk of the laity of the Church of England are either “incoherent,” or not Christians at all. What “incoherency” is there in the opinion that the history of Jesus Christ, as related in the Gospels, is substantially true, but that it does not appear that he established any particular organization for the purpose of preserving and interpreting his doctrines, preferring, for whatever reason, to leave the doctrines to produce their own effect, and the question of organization to settle itself? This opinion may be right or wrong, but it is perfectly coherent, and it is notoriously the opinion of a large proportion of that small number of Protestants, both clerical and lay, who can be said to have formed any opinion on the subject. If I were to add that it appears to me to be held by a considerable section of Catholics as well, I should say nothing very rash.
Thirdly, I say that in his last article (“Ultramontanism and Christianity”) Archbishop Manning tries to establish a proposition totally different from the one advanced in his first article, “Caesarism and Ultramontanism.”
In his first article Archbishop Manning said—
“It” (the Catholic Church) “has established upon earth a legislature, a tribunal, and an executive independent of all human authority." “Obedience to the Church is liberty; and it is liberty because the Church cannot err or mislead either men or nations. If the Church were not infallible, obedience to it might be the worst of bondage.” After some further explanation, he says, “This is Ultramontanism, the essence of which is, that the church being a Divine institution, and by Divine assistance infallible, is within its own sphere independent of all civil powers; and as the guardian and interpreter of the divine law, is the proper judge of men and of nations in all things touching that law in faith and morals.”
These were the passages with reference to which I said—prove that Christ ever instituted any Church with the power of infallibility, which you claim, and without which, as you justly observe, “obedience to the Church might be the worst of bondage.” Archbishop Manning's way of complying with what he admits to be a relevant question is by referring to the opinions of a number of Churches, none of which claim infallibility, and some of which expressly and in terms disclaim it; and he sums up the effect of his evidence in these words:—
“I therefore affirm again that every Christian, who believes that Christianity is a Divine Revelation, must also believe that a Divine Revelation is independent of all civil authorities, and is dependent upon the authority of God alone, whether that Divine Authority make itself known by its own action in the isolated conscience of each individual man, or in the assembly of each Christian sect, or in the congregation of a Presbytery, or by the acts of an Episcopate, or by the voice of the Visible Head of the Universal Church. The forms, indeed, are different ; the principle is one and the same. The Revelation of God is sustained and promulgated to the world by the authority of God Himself, in independence of all civil authorities, and in supremacy over them all.Who changes the issue now? I deny and require proof of the establishment by Jesus Christ of an infallible Church. Archbishop Manning, who had asserted it, replies that all Christians believe that a Divine Revelation is independent of all civil authorities.
“This is the claim I have, therefore, made for the Catholic Church, abstracting from all forms of visible order and external polity; and I submit that Mr. Stephen's third thesis is maintained explicitly by the Anglican Establishment, the Established Kirk, the Free Kirk of Scotland, and by all Nonconformists in both countries: namely, that “Jesus Christ established a Church with the constitution (visible or invisible) and powers which I claim for my Church. The answer, “We ought to obey God rather than men, carries the whole claim of Divine authority.”
I deny and require proof of the establishment by Jesus Christ of an infallible Church, the guardian and interpreter of the divine law, and the proper judge of men and nations in all things touching faith and morals. Archbishop Manning replies that all that he really meant to say was that every Christian who believes Christianity to be a Divine Revelation, must believe that revelation to be dependent upon the authority of God alone—a Divine Revelation must be of Divine Authority.
If that was what he meant to say, it is a pity that he does not know better how to express his meaning. How was I to know that when he alleged that every Christian must believe in an infallible Church, and that obedience to the Church was liberty, because the Church was infallible, he meant that a man might be a very good Christian without believing in any Church at all, fallible or infallible, so long as he believed in the voice of God speaking “in the isolated conscience of each individual man?”
Fourthly and lastly, I say that Archbishop Manning's amended proposition is inconsistent with the whole policy of the Roman Catholic Church for three hundred and fifty years at least, and forms its severest condemnation. If, as he now says, it is true as regards Roman Catholics, the Church of England, Presbyterians, and Protestant Dissenters, that “the forms, indeed, are different, the principle is one and the same,” it will follow that the most bloody wars, civil and foreign, the most hideous massacres, the most unrelenting and cruel persecutions by which the world has been disgraced, were the instruments by which the Church of Rome, when really powerful, tried to prevail upon a point of form over those whose principles were its own. There may be something imposing in the spectacle of a Church out of harmony with the age nailing its colours to the mast and sinking by inches without renouncing one of its claims. But when the representatives of defeated tyrants try to curry favour with the representatives of those whom their predecessors would, if they could, have exterminated by fire and sword all over the world, they present a lamentable spectacle. What language can be worse than this from the successor of Bonner and Gardiner, to the successors of their victims—“Beloved fellow-Christians, the forms of our belief are, indeed, different; the principle is one and the same : just as the wicked English nation once persecuted you, so it persecuted us, and the wicked Germans are doing the same. Help us, brethren, at all events weep and pray for us, as the injured and harmless champions of liberty of conscience— true liberty, of course, obedience to the infallible Church, in which, under a slightly different form, you believe quite as devoutly as we.”
If any one wants to know how much sincerity there can be in such language, I would advise him to recollect the Albigenses, the Lollards, the revolt of the Netherlands, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Spanish Armada, the Inquisition, and the whole history of Ireland from the massacre of 1641 downwards. Let him compare these events with the doctrines of the Syllabus and the decrees of the Council of 1870, and let him remember that the distinctive feature of the Church of Rome is its claim to be infallible and immutable; but for which obedience to it would “be the worst of bondage.”
Having disposed of Archbishop Manning's interruption, I resume the course of my argument, and proceed from what he says of Ultramontanism to consider what he says of Caesarism, by which he appears to mean an exaggerated estimate of the powers and qualifications of temporal governments.
His own view of the State is that within its own sphere it is “a delegation from God himself,” but that “since the Incarnation,” the whole inner life of man has been withdrawn from its sphere, “It cannot.” (which in Archbishop Manning's language means ought not) “command his intellect, it cannot control his conscience, it cannot coerce his will.” Intellect, conscience, and will are all free, subject always to the claim of the Church to absolute obedience in every matter which it regards as being included within the sphere of faith and knowledge. Caesarism, as he understands it, denies this, and claims as a right “all power, religious, political, legislative, and civil, —in a word, omnipotence in all things and over all things.” After dwelling at great length upon this, he observes at last, “Let it be clearly understood that in these assertions” (i.e., a variety of assertions about what the Church and the State respectively “can ” and “cannot.” do) “I am vindicating to the Church her divine rights. I am not denying to the State its power to violate every Divine right upon earth. It may abuse its power at the license of its will— Imperial, Royal, Bureaucratic, Democratic. I deny only its right. Id potest quod jure potest.”
Lastly, he quotes for the purpose of denouncing it, a statement made by the Pall Mall Gazette, of which the following is the most important part :—
“A nation as such is essentially a better thing than a Church: it is, in fact, of all positive human institutions at present known to us, the most sacred, the most deeply rooted in human nature, and the best fitted to engage the affections of a rational man.”This statement, says Archbishop Manning, is “Paganism revived.” I do not care what he calls it, but, whether pagan or not, I adopt it as the expression of my own views, and I propose to justify it on the ground that it is true. Archbishop Manning's own views seem to me to be open to every sort of objection. I will mention two of the most prominent of them, and I will then proceed to give my own opinions upon the matter to which they relate as being the shortest and most satisfactory way of explaining the grounds on which I dissent from them.
In the first place, Archbishop Manning's doctrine about the sphere of the State is either incomplete and misleading, or else it stands in direct and glaring opposition to the whole policy of the Roman Catholic Church at the most critical and characteristic periods of its history. He says that “since the Incarnation” the State has had no right to “command the intellect, control the conscience, or coerce the will” of its subjects. Throughout the greater part of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the one object of the Roman Catholic Church was to get the Roman Catholic States to do all this to the point of extermination and by the unsparing use of the most revolting cruelties, and to a very great extent it succeeded in its efforts. If the State as represented by Philip II. and others acted within its sphere, what are we to say to Archbishop Manning's principle : If it overstepped its sphere, what are we to say of the Church at whose instigation and with whose warm approval it did so ? It seems to me that a person must be wilfully blind who does not see that when a Roman Catholic Archbishop puts forward such a theory as the one in question, he is either in direct opposition to the institution to which he belongs, or else, to serve a temporary purpose, he is putting forward principles in which he does not believe. The principle on which Archbishop Manning's theory really depends ought to be stated thus:—The State has no right to control men's consciences and opinions unless it thinks that it is desirable to do so in the interests of the Catholic Church, or unless it is required to do so by the Catholic Church, in either of which cases it may and ought if necessary to employ whatever means are required for that purpose, war, judicial torture, and the incitement of Catholic mobs to massacre Protestant populations, all included.
In the next place it appears to me that in his denunciations of “Caesarism,” Archbishop Manning is attacking an imaginary opponent. I know of no writer who maintains the monstrous proposition that “Caesar finds the law in himself and creates right and wrong, the just and the unjust, the sacred and the profane.” [*Hobbes uses language which has a superficial resemblance to this view of the matter; but I think that if justice were done to his theories, it might easily be shown that this was not his opinion. I must not, however, diverge into an inquiry into the views of one of the very greatest and most hardly-used of English writers.] The authorities to which the Archbishop refers, are four. 1. An account given by Terrasson of the Lex Regia which, as I shall show in a moment, is utterly absurd; 2. The article in the Pall Mall Gazette, which I have already quoted and propose to justify; 3. Two phrases employed by Dr. Falck in proposing the laws to which the Archbishop so much objects. Dr. Falck said (according to Archbishop Manning), “if the State and the Church are equal in the domain of moral power, the State must always have the supremacy in the domain of law.” Is this equivalent to the assertion that Caesar “creates right and wrong, the just and the unjust?" 4. Archbishop Manning repeatedly quotes a maxim “cujus regio ejus religio;” but he gives no authority for it, and its character must entirely depend upon the connection in which it is used. This will appear from what I have to say on his remarks on “Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem.”
Let us now see how he deals with his authorities.
He says “the sovereignty of Caesarism is absolute and dependent on no conditions;” “Caesar finds the law in himself, and creates right and wrong, the just and the unjust, the sacred and the profane.” “Law, morals, politics, and religion all come from him and all depend upon him.” “Quod Principi placuit legis habet vigorem,” and “cujus regio ejus est religio,” are the axioms of Caesarism. He goes on for two pages more in the same vein, and then proceeds to a third-hand quotation of the maxim last mentioned. He refers to Gaume as his authority for saying “Terrasson describes the Lex Regia in these terms: All power, religious, political, legislative, and civil, in a word omnipotence in all things and over all things, the people and the Senate transferred to Caesar when the republic passed into the Empire. And this took place in virtue of the Lex Regia, of which Ulpian speaks in these words: ‘Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem utpote cum Legia Regia quae de imperio ejus lata est, populus ei et in eum omne suum imperium et potestatem conferat.’” This imperial power was therefore absolute, exclusive, unlimited, and omnipotent.
Before I show the absurdity of this, I may observe that even if Archbishop Manning never happened to have read the first page of the Institutes, he ought to have been protected against the error into which he has fallen by his own theory. He is not writing of forms of government. His argument is not directed specially against absolute monarchy. He says expressly “this supreme power need not be held in the hand of one man. It may be a People or a Senate, or a King or an Emperor. Its essence is the claim to absolute and exclusive sovereignty.” He also points out the wellknown fact that the Lex Regia simply transferred to the Emperor the powers of the different public bodies of Rome, and did not even purport to confer upon him any powers which had not been previously exercised by other authorities. This ought to have shown him that the Lex Regia was in itself totally foreign to his subject, and that he proved nothing unless he could prove that according to the theories of Roman Law and Roman lawyers, the Senate and the other authorities of the Republic in their time, and the Emperors afterwards as their successors, were not merely sovereign, in the political sense of the word, but also “found the law in themselves, and created right and wrong, the just and the unjust, the sacred and the profane.” Now if he had read the first and second titles of the first book of the Institutes, (in which the sentence “Quod Principi placuit, &c.,” occurs) he would have learnt not only that the Roman lawyers said no such thing, but that they said the very opposite, and laid down in the broadest and most emphatic language the distinction between jus, which is not very different from what we mean by morals, and lex, or law in the technical and proper sense of the word. Ulpian would no more have said, “Quod Principi placuit jurishabet vigorem,” than Austin or Bentham would have said that am Act of Parliament could change the moral quality of treachery or falsehood.
The maxim which appears to him so dreadful is in reality as true and as harmless as it would be to say, that the Viceroy of India and his Council have a power to legislate for the whole of British India, limited only by the restrictions contained in the 22nd section of the Indian Councils Act. The first title of the first book of the Institutes is headed, “De Justitiâ et Jure.” Justice it defines as "constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi.” It does mot expressly define Jus (though in the Digest it is strikingly described as, “ars æqui et boni"), but it observes” Juris præcepta sunt hæc: honeste vivere, alterum non lædere, suum cuique tribuere," which is very like the explanation in the Catechism of our duty to our neighbours. The second title elaborately distinguishes “Jus naturale,” “Jus gentium," and “Jus civile.” It then proceeds to the “Jus civile” of Rome specifically, and after defining and explaining the manner in which "Jus” flows from and depends upon human nature itself, it goes on to written laws. “ Scriptum autem jus est lex, plebiscitum, Senatus consultum, Principum placita, magistratuum edicta, responsa prudentum.” Each of these six terms is then explained technically. Lex is thus defined : “Lex est quod populus Romanus Senatorio magistratu interrogante (velut Consule) constituebat.” “Plebiscitum " differs from "lex'' and is thus defined: “Plebiscitum est quod plebs plebeio magistratu interrogante (veluti tribuno) constituebat.” The Senatus consultum was a decree by the Senate. The chapter goes onto say, “Sed et quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem; quum lege Regiâ quæ de ejus imperio lata est populus ei et in eum omne imperium suum et potestatem concedat." This is simply a statement of the well-known fact that the emperors of Rome obtained legislative power by the Lex Regia. The prætors' edicts, and the responsa prudentum are them referred to as sources of law, just as an English law-book would refer to the decisions of the Courts of law and equity, and the chapter ends as it begam, with a reference to Jus, which the writer distinctly sets above leae. "Sed naturalia quidem jura quæ apud omnes gentes peræque observantur, divinâ quâdam providentiâ constituta, semper firma atque immutabilia permanent, ea vero quæ ipsa sibi quæque civitas constituit sæpe mutari solent vel tacito consensu populi, vel aliâ postea lege latâ.”
The result is that the passage which Archbishop Manning quotes and requotes with pious horror as the gospel of blind tyranny and despotic irresponsible power, forms in reality part of a lawyer's exposition of the meaning of a variety of technical terms, and is introduced into the midst of a passage which begins and ends by laying down in the most explicit manner an ethical theory of law, often put forward as the exclusive property of the Christian Church, but in fact derived from the Stoic philosophy.
Apart from this specific instance of the value of the Archbishop's speculations, his whole method of discussing moral and political questions appears to me to be fallacious. It is simply the old and, as I had hoped, exploded method of laying down broad general propositions which strike the fancy of the person who makes them, calling them first truths, and arguing downwards from them to particular results. It is a method which labours under the incurable defect, that it will prove anything whatever. All that it requires is that a man should know what conclusion he wants to establish. This being settled, it is only necessary for him to state as first truths the propositions which will serve as premisses for the conclusion, and the argument is complete. A great mass of speculation which in its time was eminently popular, is nothing more than an exemplification of this process, and it is the one upon which Archbishop Manning's paper has been constructed. We are told quietly, and as an indisputable matter of fact, “By this Divine fact”. (the Incarnation), “the Lex Regia was abolished for ever;” a proposition of which the preceding remarks show the absurdity, and which the Christian emperors, from Constantine downwards, would have regarded as high treason. We are then informed that “Pope St. Gelasius,” Constantine at Nicaea, St. Bernard, and Thomas Aquinas, all laid down certain doctrines as to the relation between the Church and the State (p. 25–31), and the same theory in an expanded form is stated over again by Archbishop Manning himself (p. 32–38 and elsewhere), but there is no sort of attempt to prove it to be true, that is to say, to show that it follows from actual facts or admitted principles. Of course, if the pamphlet is meant only as an exposition of the views of the Roman Catholic Church on these subjects, this is unobjectionable, but it hardly seems likely that this should be the case, inasmuch as the paper ends with a denunciation of the Falck laws based upon the supposition of the truth of the principles stated in the earlier part of the paper, and it would be strange to make an attack upon the German Government which, upon the whole, resolves itself into this: The German Government legislates in regard to the Roman Catholic Church on principles as to the relation between Church and State, of which the Roman Catholic Church does not approve.
Perhaps the most instructive passage in the whole paper, in so far as this point is concerned, is one which I have already quoted, in which Archbishop Manning says that by cannot, he means ought not. “I am not denying to the State its power to violate every Divine right upon earth. It may abuse its power at the license of its will—Imperial, Royal, Bureaucratic, Democratic. I deny only its right. Id potest quod jure potest.”
It appears to me that this confusion of “can” with “ought,” the notion that it is possible to lay down a scheme of divine rights pertaining to the Church and State respectively, so that the expression “id potest quod jure potest” may be rational, is fatal to all accurate thought upon the higher problems of law, politics, and morals. It involves the deification of particular theories which may happen to strike the fancy of particular men or bodies of men, and reduces inquiry upon such subjects to an arbitrary formation of systems divorced from fact, and incapable of being proved on the one hand or refuted on the other. Any number of coherent systems of law and morals may be devised by ingenious persons, and those who adopt any one of them may, to the end of time, denounce those who do not as impious tyrants infringing the first principles of natural justice; nor do I see upon what principle the controversy between them is ever to be decided unless the fundamental terms of the subject, and the nature of its connection with actual matters of fact, are clearly defined. The great merit of the later English writers who have dealt with ‘these subjects, writers of whom Hobbes was the first, and Mr. John Austin one of the latest, appears to me to be that they have recognized this necessity, and that instead of adding to the number of baseless ideal systems upon the subject, of which there are too many already, they have to a considerable extent taught people to speculate not about ideal States and Churches or ideal laws, like those of Hooker and Suarez, [* Hooker's rhetorical description of law is well known, and considered as rhetoric is very fine. It is not unlike a passage from Chrysippus, quoted in the Digest I. tit. iii. 2, 3: "νόμος πάντων έστι βασιλεύς θέιωντε καί άνθρωπίνων, πραγμάτων - κ.τ.λ." Suarez says of law, “proprie et simpliciter loquendo sola illa quae est mensura rectitudinis simpliciter, et consequentiá, sola illa quae est regula recta et honesta potest lex appellari.” This is a good instance of that determination to try to say several things at once which is the bane of all attempts at accurate thought. If no law is law unless it is “right and honest,” there can be no such thing as a bad law, and we want a new name for acts of parliament which are not “right and honest.” Archbishop Manning himself writes about the Falck laws, and complains of them bitterly.] but about actual institutions and actual laws, in relation to which we can start from real premisses and arrive at real conclusions. I think that a great part of what Archbishop Manning calls Caesarism, revived Paganism, and so forth, is simply the result of the application of this method to the subject of the relations between Church and State.
It appears to me to be mere waste of time to begin political inquiries by laying down general propositions like those of the Archbishop. The proper course is to begin with a statement of facts, and then to proceed to examine the questions which they suggest. Now, the facts out of which all political inquiries ought to grow, though in some senses complicated to the highest degree, fall into a few well-marked general groups, of which it is easy to give a broad general description sufficiently correct for practical purposes. In every part of the world with which we need concern ourselves, we find men collected together into societies of various kinds, which societies are in every instance governed by laws. The laws by which they are governed differ in every respect. They aim at different objects, they are enforced by different sorts of sanctions, they are applied to particular facts in all manner of different ways, they are enacted, or supposed to be enacted by different sorts of lawgivers; but wherever men live in society, and whatever may be the nature of the society in which they live, their laws will, in all cases, be found to fall within the following definition. A law is a command to pursue or abstain from some course of conduct under the penalty of some evil to be inflicted in case of disobedience. This definition will be found to apply equally to the wildest and most irrational customs of a tribe of savages, to the moral theology of the Church of Rome, to English Acts of Parliament, and to the rules of a secret society banded together for the purposes of political revolution, or, if you please, social crime.
This idea of law does not, and indeed cannot, stand alone. It involves as its correlatives the ideas of sanction, right, duty, and sovereignty. The necessary effect of a legal command is (speaking generally, for there are certain exceptions which I pass over for the sake of simplicity) to impose duties and to confer rights, which are the same thing looked at from different points of view. “Let the eldest son inherit his father's land,” is the command of the law of England. The effect of it is to give to the eldest son the right to possess his father's land as his property, and to impose on all the rest of the persons subject to the law the duty of not interfering with him. “When a traveller is murdered, the property found on him shall be divided into three equal parts,—one for the person who decoyed him into our company, one for the assassin, and one for the general purposes of the Society,” might be the law of a community of Thugs. This command would be addressed by all the Thugs collectively to each Thug individually. It would give a right to each of them to his share in the plunder, supposing the case to occur, and impose a duty on the rest to concede his right to him. All the parties in the meanwhile would be under a duty to the law of the land to abstain from murder altogether, and each of their victims would by the same law have a right to security against personal violence. The one set of rights and duties would be sanctioned by the threat of murder by the Thugs, the other set would be sanctioned by the threat of hanging by the Government, but in each case there would be laws prescribing rights and duties, and a Sovereign whose law created them.
One more idea completes, as it were, the skeleton of every human Society, whatever may be its nature and purpose. This is the idea of sovereignty. The sovereign is the person, or body of persons, who impose the laws by which a given society is constituted, and whose commands those laws are, and the essential peculiarity by which he is distinguished is that he is, as a matter of fact, habitually obeyed by his subjects. His will, so long as he is obeyed, is the cause of the acts or omissions which flow from it. When he ceases to be obeyed he ceases to be Sovereign.
These five terms—Sovereignty, law, duty, right, sanction—denote relations which form the skeleton of all human societies; they are a framework by the help of which all political questions may be stated in a systematic form, and may be solved in so far as they are soluble; and in this they resemble the principles of applied mathematics, political economy, or any other study, the elements of which have been duly defined and settled. In order, however, to make them fruitful we must go a good deal further. When, for instance, we know that the Roman Catholic Church is a society with a constitution and a sovereign of its own, and that it can make laws which impose duties and confer rights, we know a simple matter of fact, which is equally true of the British Empire, the German Empire, and every other nation in the world, to say nothing of other religions, and of gangs of robbers.
Men and mice are both vertebrate animals, and have as such much in common; but there are great differences between a man and a mouse, of which the knowledge of the fact that each is a vertebrate animal leaves us uninformed. In the same way, a Church, a nation, and a secret society of criminals resemble each other in the circumstance that each can make laws, impose duties, and confer rights, sanctioned by hell, the gallows, or the dagger respectively. But to know this is to know little. If we wish to know what a reasonable man will think of the Church, the nation, and the secret society respectively, up to what point he will obey each, and which he will prefer if their commands conflict with each other, we must go beyond the sphere of analysis altogether. Such a man must leave behind him the question of laws, rights, duties, and sanctions, and rise to a higher point of view, from which he can consider the nature of the laws, rights, duties, sanctions, and sovereigns by which he is surrounded. He must say to himself, What is this life of mine? What are its objects? What are my deepest and most abiding wishes? How shall I attain them: When once a man has made up his mind about that, he can set their proper value on the laws of Churches, States, and secret societies; he can take the measure of the rights and duties which they confer and impose, and estimate the importance of the sanctions which constitute their power. If he thinks them wise and good, he can honour and obey them. If he thinks otherwise, he can say to the secret society, You can make it my duty to you to commit a crime, and this duty you can sanction by the threat of murder. I would rather be murdered ten times over than obey you, and I will resist to the death and take the chance of being assassinated. He can say to the nation, You can impose upon me a legal duty to go and worship a wafer on the pain of burning alive. I had rather be burnt alive than worship a wafer; and you and your law may do your worst. He may say to the Church, You threaten me with hell fire to all eternity unless by elaborate and painful efforts I distort my whole mind into the attitude of believing a mass of what my unperverted judgment declares to be poisonous nonsense and lies, and I admit that you impose a duty upon me to believe all this or dare your threat. Well, I will dare your threat and violate your duty. I will call a lie a lie, and take the chance of whatever may come of it in any world whatever, present or future. The recusant in each of these cases breaks a law and disregards a duty; but whether he does well or ill depends on the further question whether the law is good or bad, and whether the duty is one which a good man will disobey. Law, right, and duty are relative terms. Caesar, being stronger than I, can make any law, impose any duty, confer any right, set up any standard of justice or injustice, he pleases; but Caesar can no more make ingratitude or treachery morally good than he can make small-pox or typhus fever healthy. Ingratitude and treachery are bad, because human nature is so constituted that where they prevail they produce universal and widespread misery, and prevent the growth of many forms of happiness. It might be a man's legal duty to practise those vices, just as it might be his legal duty to diffuse small-pox and typhus fever; but any one who imposed such a law or discharged such a legal duty would be an enemy to the human race, all laws notwithstanding.
A world in which the devil was supreme ruler; in which every law aimed at the promotion of general misery; in which every right conferred and every duty imposed by every law, contributed to the production of that result; and in which the whole system was administered with inflexible justice or impartiality, would realize the idea of hell. Its legal system, however, would be just as perfect, just as capable of being represented logically as that of a world which realized the idea of heaven. Law, right, duty, and justice retain their specific character, whether they are applied to good objects or bad ones, just as the principles of mechanics apply equally to the erection of a robber's castle and to the erection of a court of justice.
Hence the real question between Churches and States is like all other questions between conflicting authorities. The question is, Which of the two sorts of institutions is the better, the healthier, the wiser? Which has most of a hold upon the principles upon which political and social life depend, and which every good Government, whether ecclesiastical or lay, must recognize and depend upon? I say States for the following reasons: They are more honest than Churches. The objects at which they aim are more rational. The means of which they dispose are better in every respect. Their leading men are, as a rule, abler and wiser than the leading men in Churches. The results which they produce admit of being from time to time tested by visible results. They have in every way less nonsense about them.
I need not repeat what I have said on the unsatisfactory nature of the foundation on which theology rests, or dwell at length upon the fact, for such it is, that nearly the whole of it consists of confident assertions about matters of which the men who make the assertions really know nothing at all, and have no means of acquiring any knowledge whatever. I may, however, shortly point out one striking proof of this. Of late years English writers on theology have usually considered the strength of their case to lie in the circumstance that many objections to theological dogmas may be shown to be ill founded. This would be important if the arguments in their favour were strong, but it has another bearing. When you show that a given proposition can neither be proved nor disproved, surely it follows that nothing is known about the matter to which it relates. I would ask any one to look at the recent history of ecclesiastical bodies in general, and in particular at the history of the Church of Rome, and to say whether the true result of the controversies which began three hundred years ago is not that the whole subject matter of the controversy is one on which men are densely ignorant, and on which they are driven either to be silent or to content themselves with more or less reasonable conjectures. When men claim to know more than their neighbours on other subjects, they justify their claims either by stating their principles or by an appeal to experience. Anyone who pleases may study law, medicine, engineering, or astronomy for himself, and judge of its value, but if he does not, he can test it in another way by its results. The lawyer wins your case or loses it. The physician cures you or does not cure you. The engineer constructs a machine which will answer its purpose or else he fails. The astronomer predicts eclipses which actually occur—but what does the priest do? He claims to know what is infinitely more important than all the knowledge of all the other persons mentioned put together, and he requires you to take on trust both his principles and his results. In fact he proves each by the other. The results are good because the principles are true, and the principles are true because the results are good. You must admire asceticism because it flows from the principles of the Church, and how can you doubt that a Church which produced the monastic life is divine He is like a mathematician who can neither explain the principles on which he proceeds, nor appeal to facts to verify his conclusions. Generally he condemns the facts. Especially if he is a Roman Catholic, he wants you to believe that the whole world is wrong, and has been so for three hundred and fifty years. Can any one who studies the subject seriously believe that this is so, that the true account of modern history is, that whereas the Kingdom of God had actually been established on earth in the Middle Ages under the auspices of the Popes, all the changes which have taken place since, have been in the nature of a rising against God, and a work of the Devil? Can any one, for instance, who looks at the histories of England and Spain since the middle of the sixteenth century, believe that all the most characteristic actions of England have been mutiny and rebellion against a divine and holy institution, which the Spaniards faithfully served and devoutly believed in, till it suddenly occurred to them, about forty years ago, that the system was one which they might as well attempt to get rid of at the expense of throwing themselves into a condition of hopeless anarchy and chronic civil war? Can any one draw from French history, from the sixteenth century to our own times, the inference that the people who were wholly in the right throughout were the Jesuits in all their manifold phases; that it was a blessed and holy work to establish the League; to stir up the French mobs to the massacre of the Protestants in every part of France; to murder Henry III.; to incite Louis XIV. to revoke the Edict of Nantes, and to convert the Protestants by dragonnades; to set up the thin varnish of devotion which prepared the way for the Regency; to persecute the Jansenists, and to destroy Gallicanism, because it interfered, however awkwardly, with the despotism of the Pope; and to pursue in our own days the course of policy which cost their thrones to Charles X and Louis Napoleon, and contributed in no small degree to bringing the Germans to Paris? To me it is utterly impossible to read history in that manner. In former times, the vices of the clergy were the great and successful argument against their claims. It was impossible to recognise the representatives of God upon earth, in proud, ambitious, and sensual priests. Nobody in these days would bring such charges against the clergy, but I think they are open to others which make it almost more difficult to submit to them. Wolsey and Richelieu were no saints; but to me, at least, it would be far less difficult to regard either of them as the representative of God upon earth, than to view in that light a male old maid, clever, charitable, and good after his fashion, and as long as he has his own way, but totally devoid of real wisdom and force, either of mind or of character, and capable, when thwarted, of any amount of spite, falsehood, and gentle cruelty.
The impression of the impossibility of accepting as absolute truth any theological solution for life becomes, if possible, stronger when we bear in mind the fact that there are many such solutions, each of which is inconsistent with all the rest. If it is really true that all men owe allegiance to some definite set of priests, it will follow that either the Buddhists, or the Brahmins, or the Mahommedans, or the Thibet Lamas, or the Ultramontane Roman Catholics, or the English High Churchmen, or the extreme Presbyterians, represent God upon earth. Look at the matter from the theological point of view, assume that there is and shall and must be a divinely established Church somewhere, and it is hardly possible to decide between the conflicting views. To say nothing of the question between Mahommedans or Brahminists and Christians, and to confine our attention to our own island, Dr. Newman's account of his religious opinions gives me the impression that he never quite gave up the notion that the Anglican theory was, upon the whole, the most perfect as a theory, though he could not make it square with a certain part of the facts. Many people of learning and ability still maintain it. The Particular Baptists again have a great deal to say for themselves from their own point of view. Much may be said by anyone who believes the whole Bible to be absolutely true in favour of the notion that the Church consists of persons who have been spiritually and consciously converted from sin, and baptised after such conversion, and of no others. Once decide that some theological solution of society is true absolutely, and the questions, what theological principles are true? and which Church represents them? are insoluble. The real objection to all these schemes is, that if we take a general view of the world and its history, if we look at the people we know, and the things which are going on around us, it is morally impossible to accept any of them as a true and sufficient account of the world. Not one key of the whole bunch will open the lock. Every considerable religion which has had its full swing has failed to justify its pretensions. Buddhism began with a theory which many people regard as sublime (though I do not), but it ends in a wretched superstition. Brahminism, which has good points about it, falls away into shapes which are simply monstrous. Mohammedanism is in a false position, unless it can conquer the world, which it most emphatically cannot, and it is but a poor thing when it does conquer. Of the forms of Christianity, the Roman Catholic system is either corrupt if it is allied with the State, or intolerable if it stands by itself, and in every case it is incredible, and so generates gross superstition on one side, and absolute scepticism on the other. The Protestant systems have a tendency to become avowedly what they really are, simple speculations and theories. It is hardly possible to state them coherently upon any other principle, and this is their great merit.
Indeed all these systems begin at the wrong end, or rather come before us in the wrong attitude. Regard them as divine revelations and each must be rejected. Regard them as human theories, and all have their merits. Any system of theology, Christian or otherwise, which has sufficient consistency to be called a system, contains an immense proportion of matter, which it would have been impossible to believe if it had been proclaimed from the clouds in an audible voice, and of which one may usually assert with perfect confidence that it was devised by particular people at particular times, under the influence of particular habits of thought. I do not deny the importance of these speculations. I have often given the reasons why I regard them as necessary, though I do not think they can ever be more than speculations. Men must have some theory of life just as they must have theories of morality, politics, law, medicine, and physical science. Life would be greatly impoverished if people ceased to think on the greatest of all subjects, simply because they cannot attain absolute knowledge upon it, but it seems to me as far from the truth to say that God gave us a ready-made theology, as to say that he gave us any other item of knowledge ready made. I believe that in regard to this as in regard to other subjects, people must use their minds to the best of their ability, and be contented with such conclusions as they are by that means enabled to arrive at. This, indeed, must be the case, whether there has been any special revelation or not, for the question whether such a revelation has taken place, and if so what were its contents, must always be questions of fact to be investigated like any others.
This introduces the few remarks which I wish to make on the subject of the relation of the Church and the State, and the supremacy of the latter. I cannot of course be answerable for what others may have said, but as a passage which entirely expresses my own views was singled out for attack by Archbishop Manning, it is natural to explain myself more fully. I have said that the laity, on the whole, appear to me to be wiser than the clergy, inasmuch as they live in a healthier atmosphere, and are exposed to fewer illusions, but these remarks have a wider application. It appears to me that in the management of all human affairs—government, morals, theological speculation, the study of physical science, or anything else, the very highest authority that is to be had at any given time, is the settled opinion of the best and wisest men who can be found, checked on the one hand by its application to facts and on the other by criticism. When, for the purposes of government, we have got together as wise a body of men as we can find (I am far from saying that our existing methods of performing this operation are the best that could be devised), all is done that can be done, and I do not see how we can go further or rise higher, except by slow and often painful steps. Some authority is absolutely necessary, if for no other purpose, at all events in order to keep the peace, administer justice, and make what laws are wanted. When called into existence, such a body must, de facto, be supreme. As Archbishop Manning himself admits, it can do what it likes (if “can” is used in the proper sense of the word), up to the point at which it excites a resistance stronger than the force of which it disposes, or encounters a natural impossibility. At all events it can, if it is so minded, work its will with religious establishments, and the public performance of religious worship. On the other hand, in the present day individuals can, as a rule (at least in this country), freely remonstrate with the government, and press advice of any kind upon it for its acceptance. I thus view the supremacy of the civil government as a matter of fact to be dealt with like another, and I do not differ from Archbishop Manning upon the question, What are the facts?
Translating his views into my language, the question at issue should be stated thus. Ought a looker-on to advise the civil government to recognize in the clergy of any Church infallible spiritual guides, or ought he to advise the civil government to look upon and to treat the clergy simply as members of a particular profession (say like university professors), as to whose position and powers the civil government may, and ought, to legislate as occasion requires? I say that the State ought to look on the clergy simply as members of a profession, because that is their true position. As a general rule, the best course for the civil government to take would, I think, be to leave them alone, and to allow their opinions to find their own level. This, however, is far from being always possible. On several highly important matters, of which marriage, education, and ecclesiastical endowments attract most attention at present, it is absolutely necessary for the civil government to take a side in matters affecting religion, just as when the style was changed in 1752, it was absolutely necessary for parliament to take a side in an astronomical question. When this is the case, I say that the civil government ought to act on its own opinions as to what is right and wise, without deferring to the opinions of the clergy, or to the demands of any theory as to the relations between the State and the Church. In many cases, and particularly in cases in which the civil and the clerical element have been mixed up together, as they were in England in the 16th century, and as they still appear to be in Germany, the determination on the part of the civil government to carry out its views may, of course, involve great changes and excite passionate resistance, but this is the case with all political questions. Moreover, the civil government not being infallible may in such cases be wrong; but these considerations prove only that such steps should not be taken without great consideration, and a deliberate counting of the cost. Like all other political measures, each case must be judged according to its special merits, but in every case the question is one for the nation which it concerns. When the English nation under Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, decided to pull down one Church and set up another, it performed one of the natural functions of a nation, just as much as it did when, at the close of the last century, it decided upon the whole to take the anti-revolutionary side in the great war with France, or when in our own days it devoted its energies to parliamentary reform and its consequences. A nation must either settle its religious questions for itself as they arise, or must allow somebody else to decide them for it.
The conflicting views on the subject may be stated in a very few words.
Archbishop Manning's theory is, that whereas God Almighty has made the Pope the absolute spiritual master and Grand Lama of mankind, nobody is ever to interfere with any subject that the Pope cares about without his leave.
My theory is, that nations must use the powers which they do in fact possess, at their own discretion and on their own responsibility, in regard to every question which comes before them, whether it be political, religious, or scientific. If they make mistakes so much the worse for them, but no mistake which they can make is so fatal as the mistake of flinching from the responsibility of being supreme rulers and judges, deciding in the last resort on all matters which vitally interest mankind. In short, the sum and substance of my theory is this. Human reason, pure, simple, and undisguised, acting within convenient local limits, through the best representatives of it that can be found, is the best and highest authority we have on all subjects whatever, and, fallible as it is, is most likely to be right. It, and it alone, must decide when, and for what purposes, and in what shape, the legal sanction, or in other words disciplined and systematic physical force, shall be used, and whenever that decision is taken, the last word, the ratio ultima, which man can address to man, is spoken. That last word may do infinite mischief. It may be spoken wrongly; it may have to be retracted, and uttered again in an altered form; and this will be the case as often as it violates the principles on which, as a matter of fact, this world is constructed, and which legislators must observe just as much as architects, if they desire their works to stand.
It cannot be too strongly asserted that the end at which laws should aim, and by their attaining which they must be judged, is their conformity with the permanent principles of human nature and society; principles which are antecedent to and independent of all laws whatever, whatever may have been their origin. These, however, are reasons only for caution and care in legislation. Not to make a law which circumstances do require, is just as great an error as to make a law which circumstances do not require. The fallibility of lawmakers is only one of the innumerable illustrations of the weakness and poverty of human nature. Men must acknowledge and measure that weakness before they can begin to diminish it, and one of the first steps towards such an acknowledgment is to be found in discarding the quack remedies with which Archbishop Manning and others mock the world.
Contemporary Review, March/May 1874.