INTRODUCTION BY THE RIGHT REV. BISHOP
HUGHES TO MR LIVINGSTON'S BOOK ON
HUGHES TO MR LIVINGSTON'S BOOK ON
The individual instances, to which we have alluded, of a return to the ancient faith, must have served as occasions for bringing these comparative results before the minds of serious and reflecting men of both communions. But they must have done more. The Catholic religion had been represented as suited only to ages of ignorance and mental darkness; and thin prejudice must have been confounded, as men of the purest character, and most powerful intellects, were seen, from time to time, passing over to Catholicism, in the full light of the nineteenth century. Such examples, and in increasing 'numbers, are witnessed from day to day. But within the last fifteen or twenty years, the controversy between the two communions has assumed new features, altogether favorable to Catholicity. Among the Protestant clergy on the continent, several distinguished authors have come forward to vindicate certain portions of ecclesiastical history as well as the character of certain Popes, from the foul aspersions and misrepresentations of the earlier Protestant writers. In England, on the other hand, the venerable dogmas of the Catholic faith have been, to a great extent, vindicated in the writings of the Oxford Tractarians. In both cases, it is to be remembered, that the testimonies in favor of truth are those of adversaries; but it is this circumstance that gives them additional weight, on the general bearing and issue of the great question. Protestants would not receive, generally, the testimony of Catholic witnesses on these subjects; but when some of the first men in their own ranks bear similar testimony, the effect is calculated to shake, to its very centre, the foundation of 'heir prejudices against the ancient faith.
Accordingly, these writers are no longer to be regarded as individuals merely, but as leaders, representatives of whole classes; organs, giving utterance, with a faltering voice, to the uneasiness, doubts, and struggles that agitate the breasts of thousands of their Protestant countrymen. If there be one impression that has seized on the minds of all sects and parties, except themselves, with the grasp of a conviction, it is, that the Oxford movement must lead its votaries into the bosom of the Catholic Church. There is but one other alternative possible; and that is, that they should abandon the ground they have taken, retreat to the point from which they started, and rest satisfied with the religion which the laws of their country have prescribed for them. It is, however, a painful contest, between the spirit and the flesh. May Almighty God strengthen them by his grace, to accomplish the sacrifice which will best promote his glory, and secure their own salvation.
But the social as well as religious condition of England, at the present time, is enough to convince wise men that the country requires a spiritual renovation,which the barrenness of Protestantism is incapable of producing. The moral sympathies, that should knit and bind together all classes, have been ruptured or dissolved. The wealthy aristocracy, the poor, and the middle classes, which should blend into each other at a thousand points of social and religious contact, are as distinct and separate, except in the material relations of self-interest, as the castes of Hinduism. Pauperism, unknown in that country during Catholic times, is now universal throughout the land. The domains of the monasteries, and of the Church, were formerly the patrimony of the poor, of which the monks and clergy were as the administrators for their benefit; now these domains belong to the princes of Protestantism; and for the poor, work-houses have been constructed from the ruins of the abbeys. In Catholic times, the clergy, by their state of voluntary celibacy, left the resources of the poor almost undiminished; now, the whole church-, livings are hardly sufficient for the extravagant modes of life and domestic ambitions of the married clergy. The extent of ignorance among the working classes, respecting the first principles of Christianity, would be incredible were it not attested by Reports of Parliamentary Committees. So that whether you regard the gilded corruptions of excessive wealth on the one side, or the squalid depravities of extreme destitution on the other; or contemplate the ignorance of religion, the infidelity, and desperate confederations of those who occupy the middle ground between them, it will appear evident, that the regeneration of such a people, even under the social aspect, requires the presence and the action of a religion which can infuse into its masses the warmth and vitality of the Christian virtues reduced into daily practice.
In alluding to these things as betraying, to the eyes of discerning Protestants themselves, the evidence of a moral and religious want, which the established church is obviously, through its own intrinsic deficiency, unqualified to supply, we would by no means present them as the only, or even a prominent cause, of the general movement which is now going on in England, in the direction of a return to the Catholic faith. No; we would rather believe, humbly, that the progress of this movement is directed through the operation of that Grace which is invoked by the united prayer of millions, for the conversion of the English nation. But neither is it to be forgotten, that God, in his designs of mercy, may make use of outward things as well as interior convictions, to hasten the period of their accomplishment. He must be but a superficial reader of things, who does not see, in the actual condition of England, what a powerful vindication of the Catholic faith, has been wrought out by the silent progress of human events—and what a deep stamp of failure has been fixed on Protestantism, as a social and religious experiment, by the same unspeaking, but intelligible test. It can hardly be supposed, that it was the mere learning or piety of the Oxford divines, that Las won for their views the sympathy and approbation of high secular powers in the state. Statesmen, no less than theologians, have advocated, and continue to advocate their views; and although these views do not yet avow the adoption of the whole Catholic truth, still, they are manifestly adverse to the essential principles of the entire Protestant system. Now, it is worthy of remark, that in every defense of these views which they have deemed it expedient to put forth, the moral and social, as well as religious condition of the country, entered into their grounds of justification. Indeed, so much is the case, that it is avowed in the brief title prefixed to the writings by which they have become so celebrated, " Tracts Foe The Times."
It is remarkable, under this view of the subject, that the Oxford divines should have overlooked the matter which is treated of in the following pages. Among all the errors owing their birth to the innovations of the sixteenth century, there is not one so subtle as that which the Reformers adopted on the subject of justification by faith alone. It lies at the root of the whole system of Protestantism. It pervades, with but little modification, the doctrines of all the various sects, comprised under that comprehensive term. To it may be traced the peculiar and distinctive moral, as well as social features, that characterize every community or nation in which it has prevailed. It has chilled every generous emotion of self-sacrifice, and Christian heroism, which the charities of the Christian religion are wont to excite in the human breast, and which the ancient faith knows so well how to cherish, and ripen into the means of temporal and eternal benedictions to the whole human race. Why is it that Protestantism has produced no institutions for the welfare of mankind, which can be traced to the inward efficacy of any of its principles, acting on the human heart and soul? No universities, no hospitals, no churches, no asylums for the poor? Some of all these, it has unquestionably produced; but there is not so much as one, that can be traced to the inward power of any principles of Protestantism operating silently and secretly in the souls of men. Human legislation will be found to have intervened in all the Protestant countries of Europe; whereas those same countries had been almost paved with such institutions resulting from the inward operation, without the aid of human laws, of the Catholic faith, in the hearts of men, before Protestantism began. Why has the latter system never produced an Xavier, an order for the redemption of captives, a Vincent of Paul, or even a Sister of Charity? No one could fill the place of either of these, without being prepared to offer himself a daily sacrifice, or if need be, once for all, for the good of his neighbor, which is only the second part of the Lord's commandment, carried to its point of heroism; and why is it that Protestantism has never been able to inspire this heroism into a single member of its communion? Who has ever heard even of a Protestant Sister of Charity?
We know, indeed, that such works have a place in the theory of the Protestant system; but in that theory itself, their sphere is restricted; within it, too, they are controlled by an arbitrary rule of divine economy; and even then, they are pronounced utterly unprofitable to the soul of him who performs them! How, then, can the Tractarians realize, in the Anglican communion, so long as this doctrine is not repudiated, those practical results which religion, operating internally on the hearts of men, is constantly producing in Catholic lands? Do men gather figs of thorns, or grapes of thistles?
Still, it must be admitted, that the idea of justification by faith alone, as it presents itself to minds trained up in the Protestant system is plausible and seductive. As this subject, however, is seldom treated of in a popular way, it may be well to give a brief statement of the question and a definition of the terms involved in it.
"Justification" is that action or operation of divine grace on the soul, by which a man passes from the state of sin; from an enemy, becomes the friend of God, agreeable in the divine sight, and an heir to eternal life. This act of transition from the one state to the other, with its operating causes, is called "justification." From the circumstance of its being a spiritual and interior operation, it is evident that it affords an opportunity for theological subtleties, to those who would make use of it; and at the same time, renders it difficult to expose the error which those subtleties may be employed to foster. The Church, therefore, has always preserved her ancient and orthodox teaching under the form of sound words—which heresy has ever betrayed itself by refusing to adopt.
Thus, in both communions, justification is acknowledged to be, as to its efficient source, from and through and by Jesus Cubist, alone. But in the Catholic system, this justification, occurring in the modes of the Saviour's appointment, is not only the imputation, but also in the interior application of the justice of Christ, by which guilt is destroyed, pardon bestowed, and the soul replenished by the inherent grace and charity of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Protestant principle, justification is when a man believes with a firm and certain faith or conviction, in his own mind, that the justice of Christ is "imputed" to him. This is that "faith alone," by which they profess to be saved. The sacraments, for them, have no other end or efficacy, except as signs to awaken this individual and personal faith, so called, and as tokens of communion. Neither is it, that any intrinsic or interior operation takes place in the soul, by this, in which she is changed by a transition from the state of sin, now remitted and destroyed, to a state of justice wrought for her and in her, by the application of the merits and infusion of the grace of Christ. No; this is the Catholic doctrine. But, according to the Protestant principle, no such change takes place. According to that principle, the impious man is not made just, even by the adoption of God, or the merits of Christ. But leaving him in his injustice, it is conceived that his sins are no longer imputed to him, but that the justice of Christ is imputed to him. Thus a criminal is under guilt and condemnation'; but in consideration of a powerful and innocent intercessor, the chief magistrate pardons him. It is only by a certain fiction of thought and language that such a person can be considered innocent; or that his intrinsic guilt can be conceived of as still existing, but as imputed to the one who interceded for him, and the justice of that intercessor imputed to him. Such is the exact likeness of justification as taught in the theology of Protestantism. But it is to be observed, that the sphere which is assigned as the seat of this species of fiction, is the mind of God himself! The sinner is not intrinsically, or really justified, in this system, but we are told that God, on account of the merits of Christ, is pleased to regard and " repute" him as such ; that is, God "reputes" him to be, what, in reality, He knows him not to be.
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaks of the faith of Abraham as having been reputed to him unto justice. And Luther, to meet the exigencies of his case, seized on the letter of this passage, and distorted its spirit and meaning. God had made rich promises to Abraham and his posterity. The hope of this promise was in his son Isaac. And God, to try the faith of his servant, directed Abraham to immolate this, his only son, as a sacrifice to his name.
Such an order, under such circumstances, was calculated to throw deep and impenetrable mystery over the previous promises, treasured up in the mind of the patriarch. Nevertheless, he falters not in his confidence, but obeys without a moment's hesitation. He sinks all the apprehensions arising from the suggestions of flesh and blood, and in the simplicity of his confidence, prepares to execute what had been commanded. And it is only when his hand is uplifted to strike, that God manifests his acceptance of the will, which, however, embraced the work itself, that he is no longer permitted to execute.
Such was the faith of Abraham. But it is evident that it embraced the works, and that so far as obedience, will, intention, purpose, and even feelings, were concerned, Abraham had already completed the sacrifice. This, the same Apostle writes in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ii. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son."
As, however, the outward immolation was not actually or physically consummated, Luther was pleased to exclude it altogether from the faith of Abraham, contrary to the express words of St. Paul himself. The error of Luther has been incorporated, with but slight modifications, into the theology of all the other Protestant denominations. Hence the doctrine of salvation by "faith alone."' By faith, to use their own phraseology, the sinner "seizes" on the merits of Christ—by believing firmly that they are "imputed" to him. It is not that by this, he is made just or innocent, but God is pleased to declare, to suppose, to repute—let us say it with reverence —to imagine him as such. It is all God's work, he has not the smallest share in it—and then, the seductive boast of the system, that thus, "all the glory returns to God, and nothing to man." Under the same plea, good works were decried as hindrances, rather than helps, in the matter of justification. It was supposed, indeed that by a necessary consequence, they would appear in the life of the believer, as the fruit and evidence of his faith. But, even then, they would be of no advantage to the soul. Neither could sin, except that of unbelief alone, defeat its salvation. To such a point of of insanity did Luther carry his doctrine on this subject, that he declares, that "if adultery could be committed in faith, it would not be a sin. Luth. Disput. t. 1, b. 523.
This doctrine is the root of all those distinctive features of Protestantism, which place its moral, as well as dogmatical code, so much in opposition to the ancient teaching of Christendom, and of the Catholic world. Calvin moulded it into his own system of Election, Predestination, Reprobation, and Inadmissible Grace. The different confessions of faith have mitigated somewhat the harshness of language with which it was first set forth in the writings of the two great Continental Reformers. But its substance pervades them all. The extent to which it has prevailed in the Anglican Church, which is supposed to have departed least from the ancient faith, will appear in the little work which is now presented to the public. And humanly speaking, there is no hope for the Protestant world, even through the piety and learning that are represented by the Oxford divines, until they themselves shall have burst through the intricate and subtle meshes of this elaborate net of primitive Protestantism. They seem to repine at not beholding among themselves those fruits of religion, which they witness among their Catholic neighbors. But how could they expect it, while they teach that man's righteousness is solely by the mere imputation of the righteousness of Christ—and that this imputation is by faith alone, to the utter exclusion of good works, either before or after justification? Do they not see that this system leaves them no ground whereon to place the fulcrum, or apply the lever of either a moral, religious, or social regeneration?
We would not be understood by these remarks, to assert or insinuate, that the moral virtues awe not attended to in the practice of Protestant communities as well as elsewhere. Far from it. But it is seldom that the conduct of men is in strict consistency with their creed, and in the present instance it is well known, that Catholics living up to the principles of their holy faith, would be infinitely better than they are; Protestants, on the same grounds, would be immeasurably worse.
In the Catholic Church, every age witnessed the spectacle of thousands of individuals rising by the power of Grace, above the ordinary range of righteous living, and devoting themselves by a perpetual sacrifice of all that is selfish, for the good of their neighbor; and this for God's sake. Protestantism, after three hundred years of existence, cannot point out even one such example! Why is it? Now, the true type of the faith and the grace of the Catholic religion, is to be found in those higher examples to which we have just referred, —whilst, if you seek a corresponding type, something that will exemplify the essence of Protestantism, you must be satisfied with the concentration of it in the coarse uncharitableness and unchristian exhibitions of it in Exeter Hall, and in kindred assemblies on this side of the Atlantic. It is true, and honorable as true, that the vast majority of Protestants, in both countries, look upon such exhibitions with regret, and virtuous indignation; but it is not less true, that for this, the genuine interpreters of their creed, regard, and denounce them as only half Protestants, and half " Papists." There is more of truth in this uncourteous statement than either side is aware of. Truth, and charity, and meekness, and patience, and all good works, are contemplated as implied conditions of justification in the Catholic system; whilst they are as implicitly discarded from the Protestant justification, except, indeed, as consequences which, it is supposed, must necessarily follow.
But the stumbling-block, with many, is the idea that according to the Catholic doctrine, man is himself the author, in part, at least, of his own justification, through the supposed efficacy of good works, and human merits; and that thus Christ is robbed of the glory which belongs solely to Him. Having stated briefly the Protestant doctrine, we shall now exhibit, with equal brevity, the Catholic teaching on the subject of justification.
The Catholic Church teaches, also, that Christ is alone the author and finisher of our salvation—that of ourselves we can do nothing without his grace—that all grace is the pure gift of God—that to Him belongs the whole and undivided glory. This is the faith of the Catholic Church. But from this point the two systems begin to diverge.
Supposing the existence of faith in the soul, which is regarded in the Catholic system as the "root of our justification," God imparts additional grace, by which it is increased and developed into the tree of a holy life, laden with its proper fruits of Christian charity. The operation of this grace is in the soul itself, renovating its powers, impaired and decayed as they had been by the contagion of original and actual sin. The sacraments are appointed channels by which Christ communicates this grace, and applies now, individually, to those who receive it, the merits of its own infinite sacrifice, once offered up on the Cross. He may communicate grace otherwise than by the sacraments, but however communicated He is its source and author. One of the effects of this grace, is to enable the soul to co-operate with the inspirations which it communicates. Thus it disposes itself to receive further aid from heaven; and being still faithful in its correspondence with the new grace, it goes on in a progress of holiness, by which it approaches nearer and nearer to the perfect and adorable Author of its being.
In all this, what are termed good works, must necessarily enter. Sin must be avoided; for sin would displease God, and destroy his grace in the soul. Charity, the love of God, becomes the impulse by which such a soul is actuated. She will endeavor to keep the commandments, for this is given as the test of love. Nay, more, she will sometimes, for his sake, resolve on the sacrifice which is always necessary in order to accomplish those things which He has counseled, —without having reduced them to the rigor of a universal precept. She will sell all that she has, and give it to the poor, in order to have treasures in heaven. Here the Catholic doctrine of the "merit of good works, comes in. Is it, that according to our faith anything that man can do, even with the aid of grace, creates a right in virtue of which he may claim a recompense from God? Certainly not. Is it that any works of his can enter, as a portion, into the price by which he was redeemed? By no means. Nevertheless, the Church teaches, founding her doctrine on the express word of God, and the excess of his goodness and mercy, that He himself bestows on works thus performed through his grace, for his sake, and his love, a merit which lie will recompense with eternal rewards. But are these rewards on account of any intrinsic merit in the actions themselves as the mere works of men? Surely not. Long before Luther began to pervert the writings of St. Paul, St. Augustine declared in two words what had ever been, and still is, and ever will be, the faith of the Church on the subject, viz.: God in rewarding his saints, but crowns in them the effect of his own grace. "Where, then, is there room for that calumny which the radical error of the sixteenth century put forth against the Church of God, viz.: that she robbed Christ of his glory in the justification of sinners, by making it partly the work of man himself? This calumny is still propagated, and by it thousands are prevented from returning to the fold of Christ.
We have exemplified the Protestant doctrine of justification by a human comparison; we shall endeavor to represent the Catholic tenet by another.
A man gives capital for trade to a number of persons who are utterly penniless and starving—more to one,'less to another. He places them in a sphere of commerce, in which, if they are attentive, industrious, and prudent, they will acquire much wealth; but in such a way, that the measure of the increase is also owing' to the goodness of him who gave the original capital. In this, two things concur to the same end—his liberality, and their co-operation; but can they glory on this account, as if their fortune was owing to themselves, or their works? Certainly not; and yet the same goodness of their patron, may induce him to reward, as merit in them, that industry with which they employed his money. And what is this, after nil, but the lesson of our Lord's teaching in the parable of the talents—and for the proper use of which it was said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many ; enter into the joy of the Lord."
This is the doctrine of justification, as taught in the Catholic Church; the grace of Christ, which is his gift, is the capital, renovating the powers of the soul, and enabling her to enter into the commerce of charity, which has God and the neighbor for its objects, and by which "treasures," in the language of Scripture, may be laid up in heaven. See how this commerce has been carried on in the Church from the beginning! See the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, the virgins, the missionaries, the teachers of the ignorant, the friends of the poor, of the sick, of the captives, even buriers of the dead, give up the world, renounce their own ease, embrace voluntarily the mortifications of the Cross, and by a perpetual sacrifice of self, become the living, and, not unfrequently, the expiring victims of their love for their fellow beings, and of Him who died for all! The world has always been full of wickedness, and always will be; but, notwithstanding this, amidst its social convulsions, and its hereditary corruptions, see, how in every age since the beginning of Christianity, men rose and girded themselves up for Christ's sake, to battle in the armor of faith, and with the weapons of holy charity, against the peculiar disorders of the times. The infidel corsair sweeps the sea, carrying Christians into slavery. But the grace of Christ has inspired other Christians with the heroism of charity, by which they bind themselves in a solemn vow, to seek the captive in a barbarous land, to redeem him with money, or, if need be, to take on their own limbs the chains of bondage which they have stricken from his! Plague and pestilence are desolating the land, and thousands of delicate and tender virgins are ready to rush into the atmosphere of death, and ministering at the bed-side of the sick and dying, occupy the place which the cowardice of mere flesh and blood had caused even relatives to abandon! But all this, again, is through Christ, who inspires this supernatural courage, and crowns as merit in the members of his mystical body, the fruits of his own grace. Now, if such things occur at all times, and in all places of the Catholic Church; and if, on the other hand, the world has yet to witness the first example of them in the Protestant communities, does it not follow- that there is, there must be, some deep and radical cause to account for the difference? Unquestionably, there is. The Protestant dogma of a forensic imputation of the merits of Christ, and of justification by " faith alone," explains it all. No other key is necessary.
It is not pretended that in the ordinary virtues of social and domestic life, Protestants are inferior to any others. Still, even these, it is manifest, derive no support from their doctrine of justification, and must be accounted for on other grounds. But above the range of every-day duties, performed in a genteel and respectable manner, where is there a name that stands prominent on the page of self sacrifice for the good of others? We have sometimes heard the names of Howard and Wilberforce mentioned as instances. They, certainly, especially the former, were above the ordinary standard in the reformed ranks; but yet how immeasurably below any corresponding type in the Catholic church! The one visited the institutions for erring and suffering, or destitute humanity, which had been founded by the spontaneous charity of Catholic lands, or the civil laws of Protestants states—and recorded the reflections of his mind, and the sympathies of his benevolent heart. Even this was much. The other poured out his eloquence, and his gold, if you please, to meliorate the condition of an afflicted portion of his fellow men. But neither of them showed anything like a willingness to undergo themselves, for their Maker's sake, a portion of the sufferings they would mitigate or remove.
The Oxford school is the only one in the history of Protestantism that seems to have caught a ray of the light and warmth of Catholic faith on the subject of justification. Neither is this so manifest in what are called their principles, as in the tone of a deeper spirituality, piety, meekness, and a desire to. foster more the love of God, and of man. These feelings appear under the surface of their writings as if struggling for an issue, and a right direction. Hence the innovations with which they are charged. Fasting, confession, and most of the practical devotions of the Catholic Church, are reported to have found favor in their sight. But, alas! so long as the fundamental error of the Anglican system on justification remains, what practical progress can they make with the masses of their people? It is said they would establish Protestant monasteries; but who will be the monks? That they would have daily service in their churches; but who will attend the worship, except a few devout females whose hearts unconsciously obey the instinct of that Catholic faith against which their understandings have been so perversely instructed? That they would rid the churches of pews, so that, as in Catholic times, the rich and poor may worship together; but do they imagine that the haughty lords of England, who, fenced round in their exclusive boxes, will hardly kneel before their Maker, albeit they are tempted by soft and velvet cushions to do so,—will mingle in any direct contact of equality with the poor? No, no! such results cannot be anticipated, so long as both are taught to believe that justification is by "faith alone." But going beyond the precincts of the temple, how will the Oxford divines be able to infuse into the Anglican system any principle of spiritual fruitfulness, whilst this tenet prevails? How will they go forth to their rich and proud countrymen, preaching, like St. Paul, the chastisement of the body," and the "crucifixion of the flesh?" How will they meet the dark, sour discontent of religious, as well as civil chartism, in the millions of their countrymen, with the words of the Saviour Himself, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." How will they reduce to the simplicity of faith, and the obedience of Christ, the spiritual haughtiness and double-dealing of their middle classes? How, in a word, can they renovate their church, or distill a healing balm for any of the wounds, religious, moral, social, or physical, of their suffering land, so long as they and their countrymen remain alike paralyzed by the frozen grasp of the fundamental error of their system to which we have alluded? They may, indeed, preach and write with the force and eloquence, and even unction of a Chrysostom or a Paul, but yet so long as the present system of the Anglican Church remains, their words will return on them as feathers cast against the wind. Still, however, all these things are in the hands of God—who can employ the things that are not, to confound the things that are.