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Book III - Chapter II

Influence of Popery on the Individual Man

The important question next presents itself, What is the INFLUENCE of this system? The system, we have shown, tried by the standard of Scripture and the test of reason, is thoroughly evil. Is the influence which it exerts also evil? This is a curious and a most important inquiry. It opens up a wide field, which, like some that have gone before it, we must hastily traverse, selecting only the more prominent of the proofs and evidences, and indicating rather than fully illustrating them. The subject resolves itself into three branches:--I. The influence of Romanism on the individual man. II. Its influence on Government. III. Its influence on society.

We shall confine ourselves to the first of these in the present chapter,--the influence of Romanism on the individual man. Religion is by far the most powerful agent that can act on man, and that for the following reasons. In the first place, its objective truths and its impelling motives infinitely transcend all others; and it is a law, not less in the moral than in the natural world, that the greatest effect must flow from the greatest force. In the second place, with religion is bound up man's own most important interests. Other departments of knowledge are speculative, or at best touch only the interests of time; but religion bears upon the entire of man's destiny. In the third place, it puts in motion the faculties of man in their natural order. As a moral being, man's moral sense is the moving faculty within him, and the intellectual powers are but its ministers and helps. Now, religion acts on the conscience, and the conscience calls into play the understanding, the affections, and the memory. In this way the mental powers act with the most ease and vigour, because this is their natural and healthful action. It is the action of life, not the action of spasmodic or galvanic effort. In the fourth place, religion acts soonest upon the mind. A child can feel its relations to God, and have its judgment and memory exercised about these relations, long before it is capable of a mental act in any other department of human knowledge. But for its religious exercises, which are always the earliest mental efforts of the child, years of intellectual dormancy would pass away, and when they came to an end, the child would bring to other subjects untrained and comparatively feeble powers. Besides, whatever makes the first, coeteris paribus, makes also the deepest impression upon the mind. In the fifth place, religion acts most frequently upon the mind. In early life especially, questions of duty must be of hourly occurrence. The decision of these questions involves the exercise of the reasoning powers. This is favourable to mental activity, and mental activity begets mental vigour. In the last place, religion acts upon the greatest number. Science, politics, and other subjects, have each their chosen disciples, but religion embraces all; for where is the rational being who cannot feel the force of its motives, and the extent to which his highest interests are involved in it? On all these grounds, we do not hesitate to affirm that religion, both as a motive power and as a moulding agent, wields over man, whether viewed individually or socially, an influence of such universal and resistless energy, that, compared with it, all other agencies are insignificant and powerless. Emphatically it is religion,--keeping out of view at present the unequal advantages of birth and of mental endowment,--it is religion that determines the social place and the terrestrial destiny of a man; it is religion that determines the social place and the terrestrial destiny of a nation. But we have already proved that Popery is opposed to Scripture, and contradicts reason. In the proportion in which it does so it is not religion; and in the proportion in which it is not religion, it does not possess and cannot exercise the influence we have described. It follows that the Papist is denied the benefit of an influence morally restorative and intellectually invigorating in an extraordinary degree, to all the extent to which Romanism comes short of religion. But we have already established that Popery is not merely a defective system of Christianity,--it is a system antagonistic to Christianity. It not only, therefore, does not possess the influence we have ascribed to Christianity, but it possesses an influence of a directly opposite character. It tends as much to degrade and pollute man's moral constitution as Christianity tends to elevate and purify it; and where the one quickens, expands, and strengthens the intellect, the other inflicts feebleness and torpor.

In proof of the vast intellectual quickening which Christianity always brings along with it, we may appeal to the state of the heathen world. The various nations of the earth occupy places on the intellectual scale ranged according to the proportion in which the elements of religion are retained among them. First come the more remote tribes, to whom the existence of a God is scarcely known, and whose mental powers scarce suffice to enable them to count ten successive numbers; next come the Hindoos of India, conspicuous alike for the grossness of their religious system and their utter intellectual and moral prostration; next in the intellectual scale come the various tribes of Western Asia, whose faith is Mahommedanism; then the popish nations of Southern and Western Europe; then the semi-popish nations of Northern Germany; and last of all, and very much in advance of all the others, are the Protestant nations of Britain and America. As is the religion of a people, the Bible being the standard according to which we judge of religion, so is the intellectual development and the social advancement of that people. This order obtains over all the earth. It cannot be regarded as a mere coincidence. To regard it as such would be not less unphilosophical than to regard as a mere coincidence the connection between stinted food and a dwarfed body, or that other connection which is found to exist in all ordinary cases between sufficient aliment and vigorous physical powers. A fact of such universal occurrence must necessarily have birth in some great and universal law. Neither climate, nor race, nor government, can solve the phenomenon. Solutions have often been attempted on one or other of these principles; but there are innumerable facts which defy solution on all of them, and which are soluble only with reference to the influence of religion. Not to mention other instances, we find in the very heart of the Mahommedan empire a small Christian society,--the Chaldeans of the Kurdish mountains. Their lovely and well-cultivated valleys, their clean, thriving villages, their pure morals, and cultivated manners and tastes, form a striking but most agreeable contrast to the barbarism, the sloth, the filth, and the vice, that on all sides surround them. They are under the same climate and government as their neighbours: in one thing only do they differ from them, and that is their religion. Thus, in all circumstances the influence of Christianity is the same. Here we find it, though existing in a very imperfect state, creating a very oasis of beauty in the midst of the waste wilderness of Mahommedan idolatry.1 And, to come nearer home, we have in Britain a striking fact standing in direct antagonism to the theory which resolves all these great national diversities into influence of race. We have the Celts of Ireland and the Celts of Scotland standing at the very antipodes of the moral and social scale. But we have not only the proof from analysis; the proof from direct experiment is equally conclusive. All our missionaries declare, that when Christianity is brought to bear upon the native mind of India, it brings a striking intellectual change along with it. Even where it stops short of conversion, it elevates the man from the mass of his countrymen: even where it does not bestow the heart of the Christian, it bestows the intellect of the European. There is a visible quickening and expansion of all the powers, intellectual and moral.2 The vast transformation which Christianity wrought on the islands of the Pacific is well known. She found these islands the abode of cannibalism, and she made them the home of the moral and industrial virtues. In short, what clime or tribe has Christianity visited where she did not bring in her train all the elements of terrestrial happiness?

If, as a wide induction of facts establishes, the religion of the Bible is by far the most powerful agent in quickening the intellect, and starting nations in a career of progress, and if, as we have already proved, Romanism is not the religion of the Bible, it follows that Romanism is devoid of this life-dispensing power. But further, if Romanism be a system the spirit of which is antagonistic to the religion of the Bible, as we have shown it to be, it follows that its influence on the mind of man is antagonistic also,--is as pernicious and destructive as that of religion is wholesome and beneficial. We might safely rest the matter, as regards the influence of Rome, on these general grounds; but we shall go a little into particulars, and show, first, from the doctrines, and, second, from the practice, of the Church of Rome, that the practical tendency and working of the system is ruinous in no ordinary degree.

We take first the doctrine of infallibility. Can anything be conceived more fitted to crush Pope Pius IX all intellectual vigour than such a doctrine? As an infallible Church, Rome presents her votaries with a system of dogmas, not a few of which are opposed to reason, and some of them even to the senses. These dogmas are not to be investigated; the person must not attempt to reconcile them to reason, or to the evidence of his senses; he must not attempt even to understand them; they are simply to be believed. If he demands grounds for this belief, he is told that he is committing mortal sin, and perilling his salvation. Here is all action of the mind interdicted, under the highest sanctions. The person is taught that he cannot commit a greater crime than to think; that he cannot more grievously offend against his Creator than by using the powers his Creator has endowed him with. Thus, while the first effect of Christianity is to quicken the intellect, the first effect of Romanism is to strike it with torpor. She inexorably demands of all her votaries that they denude themselves of their understandings and their senses, and prostrate them beneath the wheels of this Juggernaut of hers. While the Protestant is occupied in investigating the grounds of his creed, in tracing the relations of its various truths, and in following out their consequences, the mind of the Roman Catholic is all the while lying dormant. As the bandaged limb loses in time the power of motion, so faculties not used become at length incapable of use. A timid disposition, an inert habit, is produced, which is not confined to religion, but extends to every subject with which the person has to do. His reason is shut up in a cave, and infallibility rolls a great stone to the cave's mouth.

Not less injurious to the intellect is the doctrine of absolute and unreserved submission to ecclesiastical superiors. If the former afflicts with mental imbecility, this deals a fatal blow to mental independence. The Church issues her command, and the person has no alternative but instant, unquestioning, blind obedience. He acts not from the power of motive, but, like the beast of burden, is urged forward by the rod. Here are the two prime qualities of man destroyed. The one doctrine robs him of his strength, the other of his freedom: the one makes him an intellectual paralytic, the other a mental slave. To this double depth of weakness and servility does Popery degrade her victims.

The leading idea of Popery as a scheme of salvation is, that the sacraments impart grace and holiness,--the opus operatum. It is hard to say whether this inflicts greater injury upon the intellectual or the spiritual part of man. It injures vitally his spiritual part, because it teaches him not to look beyond the sacrament and the priest: it substitutes these in the room of the Saviour. The intellectual part it no less vitally injures: it cuts off that train of mental action, that intellectual process, to which the gospel so naturally and beautifully gives rise, by joining works with faith, the sinner's own efforts with the grace of the Spirit. Under the system of Popery, not a single quality or disposition need be cultivated; not the reason and judgment, for the Papist is forbidden to exercise these; not the power of sustained and patient effort, for all for which the Christian has to pray, and labour, and wait, is in the case of the Papist conferred in an instant, in virtue of the opus operatum: his power of self-scrutiny, his self-denial, and his self-control, all lie dormant. Here are the noblest and most useful of the moral and mental faculties, which Christianity carefully trains and invigorates, all blighted and destroyed by Popery. The very idea of progress is extinguished in the mind. The man is stereotyped in immobility. He is given over to the dominion of indolence, and shrinks from the very idea of forethought and reflection, and effort of every kind, as the most disagreeable of all painful things. These qualities the man carries with him into every department of life and labour; for he cannot be reflective, persevering and self-denied in one thing, and slothful, self-indulgent, and devoid of thought in another. Need we wonder at the vast disparity between Papists and Protestants generally? When called to compete with another man in the field of science or of industry, the Papist cannot, at the mere bidding of his will, call up those faculties so necessary to success, which the evil genius of his religion has so fatally cramped.

Faith is one of the master faculties of the soul. It is indispensable to strength of purpose, grandeur of aim, and that indomitable persevering effort which guides to success. But faith Popery extinguishes as systematically as Christianity cherishes it. She hides from view the grand objects of faith. For a Saviour in the heavens, who can be seen only by faith, she substitutes a saviour on the altar. For the blessings of the Spirit, to be obtained by faith, she substitutes grace in the sacrament. Heaven at last is to be obtained, not by faith on the divine promise, but by the mystic virtue of a sacrament operating as a charm. Thus Popery robs faith of all her functions. That noble power which descries glory from afar, and which bears the soul on unfaltering wing across the mighty void, to that distant land, teaching it in its passage the hardy virtue of endurance, and the ennobling faculty of hope and of trust in God,--lessons so profitable to the intellect as well as to the soul of man, has under the Papacy no room to act. In the room of faith, Popery, as is her wont, substitutes the counterfeit quality,--credulity; and a credulity so vast, that it receives without hesitation or question the most monstrous dogmas, however plainly opposed to Scripture and to reason.

In short, Popery teaches her votaries to devolve upon the priesthood the whole responsibility and the whole care of their salvation. The well-known case of the late Duke of Brunswick is no caricature, but is simply a plain and honest statement,--though not such, we admit, as a Jesuit would have given,--of the real state of matters in the Romish Church. "The Catholics to whom I spoke concerning my conversion," says the Duke, when assigning his reasons for embracing the Roman Catholic religion, "assured me that if I were to be damned for embracing the Catholic faith, they were ready to answer for me at the day of judgment, and to take my damnation upon themselves,--an assurance I could never extort from the ministers of any sect in case I should live and die in their religion." Thus the Church teaches her votaries that religion is entirely dissociated from morals; that it is to no purpose for one to put himself to the trouble of cultivating any one moral or spiritual quality--to no purpose to deny one's self any gratification, however sinful; that one may live in the flagrant violation of every one of the commandments of God, provided only he be obedient to the commandments of the Church; and the sum and substance of the Church's commandments is, that he practise a ritual associated with no act or feeling of the soul, and which produces in return no spiritual effect, and that whenever he fails in this somewhat monotonous and dreary task, he be ready with his money to pay for masses and indulgences. Thus the very first principles of morality are struck at. But the point we meant to bring mainly into view here is the habit of mind thus produced, which is that of sitting still, and leaving all which it belongs to one to do, to be done for him by others. This is fatal to the energy, not less than to the morality, of the man. It teaches him the needlessness of effort; it extinguishes the principle of self-reliance, and teaches the duty of divesting one's self of all care and forethought,--a habit of mind which, when acquired in the important matter of salvation, is sure to be carried into other and interior departments of life. It would form a curious subject of enquiry how far the feeling which leads Roman Catholics to lean so decidedly upon the priesthood for the life to come, is akin to that which leads them to lean so decidedly upon governments, and so little upon themselves, as respects the present life. The fiat of a priest, without any labour of theirs, can give them heaven, with all its happiness: why should not the fiat of a statesman, without any labour of theirs, be able to give them earth, with all its enjoyments? We have only to transfer their modes of thinking and their habits of action on the subject of religion, to matters of this world, and we have the woeful picture of sloth, and decay, and want of forethought, which Roman Catholic countries almost uniformly indicate. The internal powers of the individual Catholic lying undeveloped and running to waste, form but the type of his country lying neglected, with all its rich resources locked up in its bosom, because the poor popery-stricken man has neither skill nor energy to develop them. The one is more than the type of the other: they stand related as cause and effect.

Such are the characters whom Popery is fitted to create: such are the characters it does create. Every noble faculty it chills into torpor and death. The understanding of the man lies crushed beneath the dogmas of his Church: his independence is overborne by an infallible priesthood: his very senses are blunted; for Popery judges it unsafe to leave her miserable victims in possession even of these, and therefore she systematically outrages them in some of the more awful of her mysteries. And conscience, which, did the moral sense survive, might rise in its strength, and rending asunder these fetters of brass, set free the intellectual powers, Popery drugs, by her horrid opiates, into a death-slumber. A more pitiable and hopeless condition it is impossible to imagine. The man is divested of almost all that is distinctive of man. He becomes a mere machine in the hands of Popery. He trembles to assert his manhood. And these unreflective and slavish habits are inwrought into the very being of the man by daily iterations, and they attend him in every avocation of life, proving a certain source of failure and mortification.

Of the practice of Popery, as tending to degrade, we shall have a more legitimate opportunity of speaking when we come to exhibit the influence of Romanism upon society. And as regards the influence of the system upon the religious character of the man, we have so fully entered into this already, when discussing the several dogmas of Popery. that we do not here return to it.

1 For a most interesting account of these Christians, see Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. pp. 147-173.

2 The following anecdote, than which nothing could better illustrate our subject, the writer has from very excellent authority:--Not long since, Dr. Duff was in Manchester prosecuting his grand mission. In company one day with some of the great cotton-spinners of the place, the conversation turned on the subject of cotton. The company were expressing the desirableness of growing cotton in our Indian possessions, instead of importing it from America. "You must first Christianize India," said the doctor. "Why?" it was asked. "Because cotton does not grow in India beyond the line of Christianity," replied the missionary. "What possible connection can there be between Christianity and the growth of cotton?" "There is this connection," replied the doctor, "that Christianity gives the faculties to cultivate it, of which the Indian in his native state is destitute."

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