« PredošláPokračovať »
first nobleman in the kingdom, they suffer with one who is more entitled to his rank and honours, by the public and private virtues which adorn him, than by the adventitious circumstance of hereditary descent,-whose patriotism is only outshone by the noble sacrifice which he offers to the dictates of his conscience,—and whose chief regret in being deprived of the privileges from which he is so unjustly debarred, arises from the inability to employ them for the advantage of his country.
I have the honour to remain,
MY LORD DUKE,
March 18, 1828.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The man who feels no precise and determined steadfastness in his religious belief, is but little suited to comprehend that unhesitating faith which is the pride, as it is the consolation, of a Catholic; and unconvinced himself, he would only labour in vain in endeavouring to convince others. Receiving his first impressions in a country in which the doctrines of Christianity are become as changeable as the climate, and as various as the productions of the soil, an Englishman is too apt to consider a certainty of faith in any particular system of religion, either as unimportant or unattainable. Amidst the extraordinary diversity by which he is surrounded, he deems it unnecessary to choose, and perhaps dangerous to enquire. He considers many as the dupes of imposture, and others as the victims of fanaticism. His perception of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, is impaired and blunted by the disorder which reigns around him; he mistrusts his powers in a voyage of discovery
in which such numbers are wrecked before his eyes; or, he considers the possession of the prize an inadequate reward for the task of obtaining it.
To those who are sunk in apathy and indifference, I would say, that they are afflicted with the most fatal malady to which the soul of man is exposed; they have condemned to ignominious contempt the very end for which they were created. To those who acknowledge the law, but hold it impossible to be fulfilled, I will answer, that they are guilty of impugning the justice of God, and of placing heaven and earth in irreconcileable opposition to each other. Both are the effects of the insufficiency of that principle, which, incapable of producing conviction, leads either to indifference or despair ; and while the inefficacy of the principle is proved to demonstration by the confusion prevalent amongst those who affect to follow it, the Catholic is preserved in one undeviating and tranquil course, by placing himself under the protection of a guide which both lights and cheers him on his way. Thus unhesitatingly fixed in our belief, it is not surprising that we should think lightly, very lightly indeed, of any attempt made to overturn it. There are but two
methods of attack which can be employed against it: the one, an empty, unmeaning declamation, which, taking the place of argument, refutes itself, or rather, evaporates in air; the other, a gross perversion of facts and reasoning, put together with a degree of disingenuous artifice which no honest man would deign to employ. The former method has been brought into action against the work which I judged it expedient to publish last spring. Having exhausted itself by its own efforts, it neither merits, nor needs, reply. The second has been announced as in preparation; but the period since the announcement is so long, that it seems very questionable whether it will ever make its appearance. If it should, it requires but little foresight to predict, that it will end, like every other artifice employed to sully our religion, by paying a fresh homage to its truth, in the vanity and impotence of its attack.
If our Religion shrink from the most caustic touch of criticism, it can possess but little intrinsic value. If there be no system of Christianity which can withstand the tests before which all the far-famed philosophy of the ancients has crumbled into atoms, we may boast in vain of its superiority.
It may delight the mind by the beauty of its morality, and the sublimity of its mysteries, but if it command not our unhesitating assent-if its authority be not absolute and paramount–if the law be to be ruled by men, and not men by the law,we shall soon perceive that while we affect to be obedient to Religion, we are only guided by decorum ;--that while the lamp of Faith burns dim and languid, the laws of honour are more powerful than the laws of God ;—that we are only Christians by profession, and moralists through a principle of public decency. But if a true religion exist on earth, and a stedfast faith be attainable in Christianity, it cannot be like the philosopher's stone, ever eluding the keenest search. Enquiry will make it our own. The avenues are open; we have only to enter and advance. The sun of knowledge will dissipate the mists from the mountain top, and disclose to our enraptured view,
the great city of God upon its summit, in pure
and cloudless effulgence.
We court enquiry. We are only fearful it will be denied us. For, whatever period be selected for investigation - whatever point of doctrine be singled out for discussion, --so sure are we to find