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our author proceeds to the corruption introduced by the Schoolmen and the Casuists :
• They treated morality in the Schools," saith he, 6 like the rest of theology, by reasoning rather than by authority, and after the manner of problems, putting into question every thing, even the clearest truths ; from which have resulted, in the course of time, so many decisions of the Casuists, far removed, not only from the purity of the Gospel, but from right reason; for where will men not go in these matters when they give themselves all liberty to speculate ? Moreover, the Casuists applied themselves much more to impart the knowledge of sins than to show their remedies. They occupied themselves chiefly in deciding what constituted mortal sin, and to distinguish the virtue to which each sin was contrary, whether to justice, prudence, or temperance; they studied, as one may say, to put sins below their standard, and to justify many actions, which the ancients, less subtle, but more sincere, judged to be criminal.”—(App., Note 202.)
Such has become the practical administration of the Confessional, according to the admissions even of this learned Romanist. But how little did he know—nay, how little does any man know—of the real state of a process conducted by so many thousand priests of different character, honesty, piety, and judgment, toward millions of subjects, male and female, young and old, in every rank and condition of society, all in profound secrecy, under no check of human responsibility, with every possible temptation to abuse, and with the most powerful motives of superstition to guard them from detection!
And now, after showing by so long an array of witnesses, the rise, progress, and final consummation of the Confessional in the Church of Rome, I have next to consider the argument of expediency, as it is presented in the Catechism of Trent, and to test its validity by an appeal to facts, with especial regard to the developments of the Jesuit system.
ARGUMENT OF EXPEDIENCY.
THE advocates of Rome are dexterous logicians, and neglect no mode of recommending their favorite institution which is likely to produce an advantageous impression. Hence the authors of the Catechism of Trent boldly assume the argument of expediency, as if it were decisive in their favor.
66 Abolish sacramental confession," say they, "and that moment you deluge society with all sorts of secret crimes-crimes, too, and others of still greater enormity, which men, once depraved by vicious habits, will not dread to commit in open day. The salutary shame that attends confession restrains licentiousness, bridles desire, and coerces the evil propensities of human nature.”*
If there were any basis of truth for this lofty assumption, it would constitute, of itself, a powerful recommendation of the Roman system. But I do not hesitate to pronounce it an absolute fallacy, in direct conflict with the whole tenor of history and experience. I deny not, indeed, that there is an intrinsic difficulty in the secret nature of this peculiar institution, which forbids our speculating upon its results in every case of individual application. Neither do I deny the theoretical possibility of its being so administered as to be useful, in some respects, to those who are deprived of the far superior teaching of the Word of God. And yet I am well persuaded that few impartial and unprejudiced observers can look at its practical effects on the broad scale of national morals and character with
out being perfectly convinced of its pernicious influence, since the fruits of the system correspond most accurately to the anticipations which a thoughtful and religious mind would form in reflecting upon its unscriptural rules and principles of action.
For who has not read of the awful immorality, the licentiousness and degradation of the Roman priesthood themselves, during the ages of darkness which preceded the Reformation ?
Who is so ignorant as not to know that many of their popes, their bishops, and even their religious orders, were a reproach not only to the Church of Christ, but even to humanity? Their own Councils and historians bear witness to the fact; and notwithstanding the ingenious efforts of their modern writers to beguile the public mind upon the subject-assisted, I am sorry to say, by some nominal Protestants, who have sacrified the evidence of truth in the service of a spurious liberality-yet the record is engraved upon the history of Europe in characters of crime and blood which are perfectly indelible.
And how does the argument of expediency appear, in the aspect of the nations, since the Reformation of the sixteenth century? Where has the boasted moral superiority of the Confessional been found in the countries which continued subject to the papal scepter? What portions of the globe were so noted for robberies and assassinations as the very territories of the popedom? Where were chastity and conjugal fidelity so lightly regarded ? Where was, notoriously, so little restraint upon the worst passions of our nature, lust, malice, and revenge? Where was the administration of justice so uncertain, bribery so shameless, personal liberty so insecure, faction so fierce, cupidity so unscrupulous, despotism so cruel ?
Was all this the fault of the people ? No, truly. These countries were once far in advance of the civilization of Europe. The fairest heritage of the ancient world had fallen into the hands of the pope, with all the noble advantages of the Roman race and character, all the treasures of classic literature, all the precious remains of the arts, all the inspiring associations of great names and high achievements. Spain, in the sixteenth century, stood proudly eminent among the first powers of the Continent. Naples, Genoa, Florence, Venice, were all distinguished among their cotemporaries. No better qualities could have been desired for the true genius of Christianity to mould into virtue, than the people possessed, until they had been debased for successive generations by the yoke of the Confessional.
And now, after three hundred years have passed, who that is not willfully blind, can look at the progress of the nations of Christendom without perceiving the marvelous difference between those countries where the religion of the Bible has been established, and those in which the religion of the priest has continued its oppressive sway? Who can fail to observe the rapid advancement of the Protestant portions of the earth, when compared with the papal, in the useful arts, in commerce, in literature, in education, in civil rights, in social privileges, in moral sense, in political influence ? We have only, for example, to survey Italy, Spain, Portugal, and South America, in contrast with England, Holland, and the United States. We have only to look at the mass of the Roman population in Ireland, and compare them, in morals and intelligence, with their Protestant countrymen. We have only, in a word, to try the question by any reasonable standard of existing facts, and it will be obvious to any candid mind that the supremacy of the Confessional, instead of being friendly to the true interests of nations, has pressed them down below the general level, and kept them far behind the rest in all the better objects of earthly energy and devotion.
And yet this contrast would doubtless have been much more striking than it is, if it were not for the fact that the principles of the Reformed Churches have greatly modified the practical operation of Romanism, even in many of those places where Popery is supreme. The constant effort to proselyte Protestants, the motives of interest, the arguments of policy, and the sympathies of social intercourse, have all tended to influ. ence most beneficially the proper results of the papal system throughout the Continent of Europe. They operate, to a considerable extent, even in the metropolis of the pontiff, Rome itself; since it is obvious that a constant power must be exerted in this way, however indirectly and unconsciously, by the wealthy crowds who come from every quarter of the civilized world, to admire the venerable ruins of ancient days, and to luxuriate among the paintings, the statues, and the ecclesiastical magnificence of “the eternal city.”
I am well aware, however, that this is an invidious topic. And assuredly it is one which I should have gladly passed over without remark, if the proud boast of our adversaries had not challenged a reply. It gives me no pleasure, but, on the contrary, the deepest pain, to be forced to notice the evil results of any professedly religious system. But I can not pass by the assumption of morality which is made by Romanists themselves an important branch of the argument in their favor.
And yet I willingly grant the propriety and justice