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Our second proposition is, that Popish nations are inferior to Protestant nations in respect of general prosperity and happiness.
The economic condition of a nation grows directly out of its moral and intellectual state. We have already shown how vastly inferior, in this respect, are popish nations to Protestant nations; but they are as inferior in point of wealth and general prosperity. The Reformation demonstrated that the doctrines of Popery were false; the three centuries which have since elapsed have demonstrated that their influence is evil. The former brought Popery to the test of the Bible; the other has brought it to the test of experience; and Popery has been cast on both grounds. It was convicted, in the first instance, of being the enemy of divine truth, and therefore, of man's eternal happiness; it has been convicted, in the second instance, of being opposed to political and economic truth, and therefore the foe of man's temporal welfare. The Reformation brought with it a great and visible quickening of mind; it released it from the fetters it had worn for ages,--awoke the intellect,--touched the sympathies and aspirations; and hence there was not a country into which it was introduced that did not start forward in a career of progress in all that relates to the greatness and happiness of man,--in letters, in science, and in arts,--in government, in industry, in manufactures, and in commerce. For the past three centuries Protestantism has been steadily elevating those countries into which the Reformation found entrance; Popery has been steadily sinking those in which Rome continued to bear sway. The difference between the two is now so great as to force itself upon the attention of the whole world. Could the two rival systems have had a fairer trial,--three centuries of time, and western Europe for an arena? and could anything be more striking or conclusive than the issue,--a progress steadily upward in the one case,--steadily downward in the other? The difference may be summed up in two words--ADVANCE and RETROGRESSION. The solemn verdict of history is this:--Popery is the barrier to progress, and the foe of man's temporal wellbeing.
Wherever we look, we find this evil system bearing the same evil fruits. Wherever we meet Popery, there we meet moral degradation, mental imbecility, indolence, unskilfulness, improvidence, rags, and beggary. No ameliorations of government,--no genius or peculiarities of race,--no fertility of soil,--no advantages of climate,--seem able to withstand the baleful influence of this destructive superstition: it is the same amid the exhaustless resources of the new world as amid the civilization and arts of the old: it is the same amid the grandeur of Switzerland and the historic glories of Italy, as among the bogs of Connaught and the wilds of the Hebrides. The first glance is sufficient to reveal the vast disparity between the two systems, as shown in the external condition of the nations that profess them. Let us compare Britain and America,--the two most powerful Protestant countries,--with France and Austria,--the two most powerful popish countries. What a difference as regards the present state and future prospects of these countries! Or, let us take Austria, the daughter of Charles V., and compare it with Prussia, the daughter of Luther; or let us take the United States, the offspring of Protestant Britain, and compare them with Mexico and Peru, the offspring of Catholic Spain. Why should not Austria be as flourishing as Prussia? Why should not Mexico be running the same career of improvement and growing wealth as the United States of America? Are not these countries on a level as regards their internal resources and their facilities for foreign trade? Austria is richer in these respects than Prussia; Mexico than the States. And yet their prosperity is in the inverse ratio of their advantages. Why is this? One solution only meets the case.1 In the one instance, Protestantism has elevated the moral character and strengthened the intellectual powers of the people, and hence the presence of all the elements of a nation's greatness,--skill, enterprize, sobriety, steadiness, and security; and there appears, therefore, no limit to their progress in the other, a demoralizing and barbarizing superstition still bears sway; the people are unskilful, disorderly, and improvident; their country has reached the limits of its prosperity, and is advancing backwards into ruin.
But it is not only when we take a large region into view that we are able to trace the peculiar effects of the two systems; a petty dukedom of Germany, or a Swiss canton, shows it equally well. The result is the same, however closely or minutely we examine. Let us take a rapid glance at the various popish countries of Europe, and see how they authenticate our theory,--that, be the genius of a people and the capabilities of their territory what they may, Popery will convert their country into a social and economic wreck. And here we may state, once for all, that as regards the countries north of the Alps, we shall state only what we have had personal opportunities of knowing, and which we challenge any competent witness to contradict or disprove.
We begin with Belgium, which, on the whole, is the most flourishing Roman Catholic country in Europe, but which, nevertheless, affords conclusive evidence of what we are now seeking to substantiate. Belgium enjoys a free government, a rich soil; is favourably situated for commerce with protestant states; and, above all, still retains the Protestant element, and, along with that, the arts and manufactures which the storms of former persecuting eras were the means of drifting to her shores. Those parts of Belgium where the French Protestants settled enjoy a high degree of prosperity,--a prosperity which is the result and the recompense of its former hospitality to the victims of persecution. But in the aboriginal parts, as in the south-west, where Popery settles thick and dense, we find the same indolence and wretchedness that prevail in Ireland. That district bears the same relation to the rest of Belgium which Ireland does to Britain. It is liable, like Ireland, to be visited with periodic famines, and at these seasons it endures like deplorable misery. The condition of these districts forms a frequent theme of discussion in the Belgian Chambers, as Ireland does in the British Legislature. As in Ireland, so in Flanders, agriculture and the arts are in a backward state, and the people are the prey of ignorance and improvidence. The land groans under a pauper occupancy; and the manufacture of thread,--the staple manufacture of the country--is prosecuted with the hand-wheel of their ancestors. Competition is hopeless with the rest of Belgium, which enjoys the advantage of improved machinery, and thus the Flemings have fallen behind in the race of national prosperity.
Let us contrast Belgium with the little Protestant state on the north of it,--Holland. Holland was originally a few scattered sand-banks at the mouth of the Rhine, when its inhabitants conceived the design of forcing a country amid shifting sands and roaring waves. Piece by piece did they rescue from the ocean an extensive territory; and, girdling it with a strong rampart, it became in time the theatre of mighty deeds, and the asylum of Protestant liberty, when the rest of Continental Europe fell under the power of tyrants. Every reader of history knows the long, unequal, but finally triumphant contest which they waged with the Emperor Charles, who sought to compel them to embrace the Romish faith. The glorious era of the nation dates from the time that the Hollanders threw off the yoke of Spain. From that period their social interests steadily advanced, their commercial genius expanded, the trade of India came into their hands, and they replenished their sea-girt home with the riches and the luxuries of the Orient. No nation teaches the lesson so strikingly as Holland, how little a people owe to the advantages of soil, and how much their greatness depends upon themselves. In all points Holland is the antipodes of Ireland.2 Without one good natural harbour upon their coasts, the Dutch built commodious havens amid the waves for their shipping. Their soil, which was originally the sand which the ocean had cast up, could yield nothing as a basis of trade. All had they to import;--timber to build their ships,--the raw material of their manufactures. Nevertheless, under these immense disadvantages did the Dutch become the first commercial people in the world. They owed all to their Protestantism, and to that element do they still owe their superiority among continental nations, in the virtues of industry, frugality, sobriety, sound morals, and love of freedom.
Let us ascend the Rhine, and mark the condition of the dukedoms and palatinates which lie upon the course of this celebrated stream. This was once the highway of Europe and at every step we meet the memorials of the commercial wealth and baronial power of which this region was anciently the seat. The banks of the river are studded with faded towns, once the busy seats of traffic, but now deserted and impoverished; while the crag is crowned with the baron's castle, now mouldering in the winds. We by no means ascribe to Popery the great reverse which the Rhenish towns have sustained, and which is plainly owing to those great scientific discoveries and political changes which have opened new channels to commerce, and withdrawn it from this its ancient route. But what we affirm is, that wherever there yet remains in this celebrated tract any commercial enterprize and prosperity, it is in connection with Protestantism. The commerce of Europe the valley of the Rhine can never again command; but its trade might be ten times what it is, were it not for the torpor of the people, induced by a superstitious faith; and to be satisfied of this, we have only to take into account that the Rhine connects the centre of Europe with the ocean, and that its course throughout is in a thickly-peopled region. Here, on the right bank of the Rhine, is the free Protestant state of Frankfort. It is some fifteen miles distant from the river; nevertheless it is the scene of extensive banking operations, of commercial activity, and of great agricultural prosperity. Its soil is rich and smiling like a garden, and offers an agreeable contrast to that of the semi-popish duchies and electorates lying around it. But in no part of Germany have the seeds of life which Luther sowed become wholly extinct; and therefore the whole of Germany contrasts favourably with the Bavarian and Austrian kingdoms on the south. As we advance towards the Adriatic the darkness deepens, and the ground refuses to yield its strength to the poor enslaved beings that live upon it.
No traveller ever yet penetrated the mountain-barriers of Switzerland who was not struck, not more with the grandeur of its snows and glaciers, than with the striking but mysterious contrast which canton offers to canton.3 A single step carries him from the garden into the wilderness, or from the wilderness into the garden. He passes, for instance, from the canton of Lausanne into that of the Valais. and he feels as if he had retrograded from the nineteenth back into the fifteenth century. Or he quits the kingdom of Sardinia, and enters the territory of Geneva, and the transition he can compare only to a passage from the barbarism of the dark ages to the civilization and enterprize of modern times. He leaves behind him a scene of indolence, dirt, and beggary; he emerges on a scene of cleanliness, thrift, and comfort. In the one case the very soil appears to be blighted; the faculties of man are dwarfed; the towns and villages have a deserted and ruinous look; and one sees only a few loiterers, who appear as if they felt motion an intolerable burden; the roads are ploughed by torrents; the bridges are broken down; the farm-houses are dilapidated; and the crops are devastated by inundations, against which the inhabitants have neither the energy nor the forethought to provide. In the other case the traveller finds a soil richly cultivated; elegant villas; neat cottages, with patches of garden ground attached, carefully dressed; towns which are hives of industry; while the countenances of the people beam with intelligence and activity. The traveller is at first confounded at what he sees. The cause to him is wholly incomprehensible. He sees the two cantons lying side by side, warmed by the same sun, their soils equally fertile, their people of the same race, and yet their bounding line has a garden on this side and a desert on that. The traveller discovers at last that the same order invariably obtains,--that the rich cantons are Protestant, and the poor cantons Popish; and he never fails to note down the fact as a curious coincidence, even when he may fail to perceive that he has now reached the solution of the mystery, and that the Popery and the demoralization before him stand related as cause and effect. "I met a carrier one day," says M. Roussell of Paris, speaking of his tour in Switzerland, "who enumerated all the clean cantons and all the dirty ones. The man was unaware that the one list contained all the Protestant cantons, and the other all the Popish cantons."4 Every one who knows anything of Gcneva knows that it is crowded with thousands of laborious and skilful artizans. Here is a picture from the opposite quarter of Switzerland,--the canton of Argau,--where the Popery settles thick and deep:--"M. Zschokke, together with two Catholic gentlemen, was named inspecting visitor of the monasteries by the Argovian government. He found the population around the convent of Muri the idlest, poorest, most barbarous, and most ignorant in the whole canton; a long train of able-bodied beggars of both sexes to be seen at the doors of the monastery, dirty and in rags, receiving distributions of soup from the kitchen, but exhibiting the lowest average both of physical and moral wellbeing throughout the neighbouring villages."5
It is but a few years since the author stood upon the frontier of Sardinia; but never can he forget the impression made upon his mind by that lovely but wasted country. Behind him was the far-extending chain of the Jura, with the clouds breaking away from its summits. In the vast hollow formed by the long and gradual descent of the land, from the Jura on the one side and the mountains of Savoy on the other, reposed in calm magnificence the lake of Geneva. Around its lovely waters ran noble banks, on which the vine was ripening; while here and there tall forest-trees were gathered into clumps, and white villas gleamed out upon the shore. In front were the high Alps, amid whose gleaming summits rose "Sovran Blanc" in unapproachable grandeur. In approaching the Sardinian frontier, the author traversed a level fertile country. Trees laden with fruit lined the road, and, stretching their noble arms across, screened him from the warm morning sun. On either side of the highway were rich meadow lands, on which cattle were grazing; while noble woods, and villas embowered amid fruit-trees, still farther diversified the prospect. At short intervals came a neat cottage, with its vine-trellised porch, with its garden gay with blossoms and fruit, and its group of happy children. The author crossed the torrent which divides the republic of Geneva from the kingdom of Sardinia; but ah, what a change! That moment the desolation, moral and physical, began. The fields looked as if a blight had blown across them; they were absolutely black. The houses had become hovels; nor had he gone a dozen yards till he met a troop of beggars. By the wayside stood a row of halt and blind, waiting for alms. Some of them were afflicted with the hideous goitre; others were smitten with the more dreadful malady of cretinism. They formed altogether the most disgusting and miserable-looking group he had ever seen. Their numbers seemed endless. Every other mile, in the day's ride of fifty miles, brought new groupes, as filthy, squalid, and diseased as those which had been passed. They uttered a piteous whine, or extended their withered arms, as if not to beg an alms so much as to protest against the tyranny, ecclesiastical and civil, that was grinding them into the dust. The grandeur of the scenery and the riches of the region, though neglected by man and devastated in part by the elements, could not be surpassed. There were magnificent vines,--trees laden with golden fruit,--patches of the richest grain; but the region seemed a kingdom of beggars, not driven out of their paradise, as Adam was, but doomed to dwell amid its beauty, and yet not taste its fruits. Cretinism, with which the popish cantons especially are overspread, is well known to be owing to filth, insufficient food, and mental stagnancy; and wherever one travels in the popish cantons of Helvetia, he is perpetually met by idiotcy, mendicancy, and every form of misery.
Luctus, ubique squalor."
This was the land of the confessor as well as of the persecutor. Here, during many ages, burned the "Waldensian candlestick," shedding its heavenly light on a cluster of lovely valleys, when the rest of Europe lay shrouded in deepest night. This Church, the most venerable in Christendom, has enjoyed a revival in our day. Its Synod was holden in the present summer (1851); and the sound moral and physical condition of its people contrasts instructively with the ignorance and disease around them. It was stated that twenty-five per cent of the population was at school, and only one per cent in the hospital.
We turn northward into France. France, from its central position, extent and fertility of territory, and the genius of its people, was obviously meant by nature to be one of the first of European kingdoms. We find France taking the lead at the opening of modern European history, and, after a period of decadence, resuming her former place under Louis XIV. Since that time her progress has been steadily downward. No doubt she is nominally richer at this moment, both in population and in revenue, than she was under the grande monarque; but taking the actual value of money into account, and comparing the increase of France in the points specified, with that of Protestant countries, she is vastly poorer in these, as she is in all other points. This decline is directly traceable--indeed her greatest historians trace it--to her bigotry, by which, no sooner had her trade and commerce become flourishing, and no sooner had the principles of loyalty and virtue taken root among her people, than she made renewed and desperate attempts to extinguish both. Last summer M. Raudot published a work entitled "The Decline of France," of which an analysis appeared in the "Opinion Publique,"6 to which we are indebted for the following facts. The first element of power is population. France had a population of thirty millions till 1816, which had risen to thirty-five millions in 1848. Russia had risen in the same period from sixty to seventy millions; England from nineteen and a half to twenty-nine millions; and Prussia from ten to sixteen millions. France during these years had added only a seventh to her population, while the other countries named had added about a third; that is, their rate of increase had been more than double that of France. Were a war to break out, the conditions of the struggle would be changed. France, an essentially agricultural country, has become unable to mount her cavalry with her own horses; and while the other countries have increased in this respect, France was obliged to purchase upwards of 37,000 in 1840. It is obviously unnecessary to compare the shipping of France with that of England. In 1788 the French tonnage was 500,000 tons, and that of England 1,200,000 tons. In 1848 the tonnage of France amounted only to 683,230 tons, and that of England to 3,400,809 tons. These figures speak volumes. The English shipping, which only measured somewhat more than double our tonnage in 1789, is five times greater at present. When a nation buys more than it sells, its wealth diminishes. In France, from 1837 to 1841, the excess of its imports over its exports was 71 millions, and from 1842 to 1846 it was 573 millions. M. Raudot, by calculations founded on the income tax, finds that the landed property of France, though its area is greatly larger and its productive power higher, yields a smaller revenue than that of England and Scotland. It is also to be taken into account, that the funded property in France is dreadfully overloaded with debt. M. Raudot finds also that there has been a diminution in the stature and the physical powers of Frenchmen. In 1789 the height for the infantry soldier in France was 5 feet 1 inch. The law of March 21, 1832, fixed the height at 4 feet 9 inches 10 lines. It was not without reason that the required height was reduced. From 1839 to 1845 there were on an average 37,326 recruits a-year fit for service, who stood less than 5 feet 1 inch French; and if the ancient height had been required, it would have been necessary to send away, as improper for service, one-half of the men called on to perform their turn of duty. In the seven classes called out from 1839 to 1845 there were 491,000 men exempted, and only 486,000 declared fit for service; whereas in the seventeen classes from 1831 to 1837 there had been only 459,000 exempted, and 504,000 declared fit for service; showing that in France the health as well as the stature of the people has declined. M. Raudot proves from the judicial statistics a similar downward course in morals. In 1827, the first year in which a return was made of suicides, the number was 1542 ; in 1847 the number was 3647. In 1826 the tribunals tried only 108,390 cases, and 159,740 prisoners; in 1847 the number of cases had risen to 184,922, and of prisoners to 239,291. This is a sad statement. M. Raudot investigates all the elements of a nation's power, population, army, navy, wealth, commerce, health, public force, morals; and his finding is the same in all,--DECADENCE.
But, would we see how great a wreck Popery is fitted to create, we must turn to Spain. Place a stranger on the summit of the gray rampart formed by the Pyrenees; bid him mark the rich valleys of Spain winding at his feet, and expanding, as they wind, into the fertile plains of Arragon and Navarre; bid him mark how on the north this rich and beauteous land is bounded by the magnificent mountain-wall on which he stands, while on the south it is mistress of the keys of the Mediterranean, still the highway of the world's commerce, and on the west receives the waves of the Atlantic; tell him that the country on which he is gazing, and which under the sway of the Moorish kings was the garden of Europe, possesses every variety of climate, vast beds of minerals, while its soil is covered with the cereals of the north, interspersed with the cotton and rice plants, the sugar-cane, the mulberry, and the vine. "This country," he will exclaim "nature clearly formed to be the seat of a great and powerful kingdom." And such Spain once was; and such it would have been to this day, but for its Popery. Ages of bigotry and of the reign of the Inquisition accomplished at last the utter demoralization of the people; and now Spain, despite her natural wealth and her historic renown, has sunk to the lowest depth of national infamy. Of political weight she is utterly bereft. How seldom is her wheat, or her wool, or her silk, met with in the market! Abroad her name has long ceased to be honoured; at home she presents a spectacle of universal corruption and decay,--an exchequer bankrupt, a soil half-tilled, harbours without ships, highways without passengers or traffic, and villages and towns, partially deserted and falling into ruin.
From Spain we pass into Italy. The nearer we come to the centre and seat of the Papacy, we find the darkness the deeper, and the desolation and ruin, moral and physical, the more gigantic and appalling. Than Italy the world holds not a prouder or fairer realm; but, alas! we may say with the traveller, when he first surveyed its beauty from the passes of the Alps, "the devil has again entered paradise." How much has the Papacy cost Italy! Her arts, her letters, her empire, her commerce, her domestic peace, the spirit and genius of her sons. Nay, not utterly extinct are the last, though sorely crushed and overborne; and now, after twelve centuries of oppression, giving promise to the world that they will yet revive, and flourish anew upon the ruins of the system which has so long enthralled them. Here is Lombardy, "storyful and golden." its sunny plains stretching away in their fertility, with corn and wine eternally springing up from them: yet the Lombards, the merchants and artificers of Milan excepted, are for the most part slaves and beggars. Where now is the commerce of Venice? On the quays on which her merchants trafficked with the world, mendicants whine for alms; and the sighing of four millions of slaves mingles with the wave of the imperial Adriatic.
Italy presents at every step the memorials of its past grandeur and the proofs of its present ruin. In the former we behold what the narrow measure of freedom anciently accorded to it enabled it to attain; in the latter, we see what the foul yoke of the Papacy has reduced it to.7 Its literature is all but extinct, under the double thral of the censorship and the national superstition. The Bible, that fountain of beauty and sublimity, as well as of morality, is an unknown book in Italy; and the popular literature of its people is mainly composed of tales, in prose and in verse, celebrating the exploits of robbers or the miracles of saints.8 The trade of its cities is at an end, and its towns swarm with idlers and beggars, who can find neither employment nor food. These are wholly uncared for by government. Its agriculture is in a like wretched condition. In some of Italy the farms are mere crofts, and the farm-houses hovels. In other parts, as in the plain around Rome, the farms are enormously large, let out to a corporation; and the reaping, which takes place in the fiercest heats of summer, is performed by mountaineers, whom hunger drives down every year to brave the terrors of the malaria, and the harvest costs on the average the lives of one half the reapers. Some tracts of this beauteous land are now altogether desert; and the salubrity of Italy has been so much affected thereby, that the average duration of human life is considerably shorter. The malaria was known to ancient Italy, but it is undoubted that it has immensely increased in modern times, and this is universally ascribed to the absence of cultivation and of human dwellings. "The Pontine marshes, now a pestilential desert, were once covered with Volscian towns; the mouth of the Tiber, whither convicts are sent to die, was anciently lined by Roman villas; and Paestum, whose hamlet is cursed with the deadliest of all the Italian fevers, was in other days a rich and populous city."9
A perpetual round, extending from one end of the year to the other, of festivals and saints' days, interrupts the labours of the people, and renders the formation of steady habits an impossibility. The Roman Calendar exhibits a festival or fast on every day of the year. The most of these are voluntary holidays; but the obligatory ones amount to about seventy in the year, exclusive of Sabbaths. A great part of the land is the property of the Church. The number of sacerdotal persons is of most disproportionate amount, seriously affecting the trade and agriculture of the country, from which they are withdrawn, as they also are from the jurisdiction of the secular courts. "In the city of Rome," says Gavazzi, "with a population of 170,000 (of which nearly 6000 resident Jews, and a fluctuating mass of strangers, nearly of the same amount, formed part), there were, besides 1400 nuns, a clerical militia of 3069 ecclesiastics, being one for every fifty inhabitants, or one for every twenty-five male adults; while in the provinces there were towns where the proportion was still greater, being one to every twenty. The Church property formed a capital of 400,000,000 of francs, giving 20,000,000 per annum; while the whole revenue of the state was but eight or nine millions of dollars,--a sum disastrously absorbed in the payment of cardinal ostentation, in purveying to the pomps of a scandalous court, or in supplying brandy to Austrian brutality."10 In popish countries generally one-third of the year is spent in worshipping dead men and dead women; the people are withdrawn from their labours, and taught to consume their substance and their health in riot, and drunkenness. The clergy, exempt from war and other civic duties, have abundance of leisure to carry on intrigues and hatch plots. They oppress the poor, fleece the rich, and drive away trade.11 Vast quantities of gold and silver are locked up in the cathedrals, being employed to adorn images, which might otherwise circulate freely in trade; and in every parish there is an asylum or sanctuary, where robbers, murderers, and all sorts of criminals, are defended against the laws. To this, in no small degree, is owing the blood with which popish countries are defiled.
There is only one other country to which we shall advert. Its condition is so well known that we simply name it,--Ireland. Its natural riches,--its mineral wealth,--its amenity of climate,--its vast capabilities for commerce,--are all well known; and yet Ireland is a name of woe among the nations, and its wretchedness has clouded the glories of the British empire. There, IGNORANCE and POPERY, IDLENESS, and CRIME, grow side by side, and draw each other up to a marvellous height. In their shade raven all manner of unclean beasts. Rebellion roars from its cave, murder howls for blood, perjury mocks justice, and faction defies law; while hordes of its teeming population annually leave its shores in nakedness and hunger, to lurk in the fever-haunted dens of our great cities, or to be cast upon the frozen shores of Canada. "Take up the map of the world," says Dr. Ryan, Roman Catholic bishop of Limerick; "trace from pole to pole, and from hemisphere to hemisphere; and you will not meet so wretched a country as Ireland." But to what is this wretchedness owing? There is no man who acknowledges the least force in the principles we have demonstrated and the examples we have adduced, who can help seeing that the misery of Ireland is owing to its Popery. On the other side of St. George's Channel it is still the dark ages. There mind is as stagnant as before the breaking out of the Reformation. Nor has Ireland shared in the great industrial revolution of the sixteenth century, and vainly struggles to rival in wealth and comfort a country like England, which possesses the intelligence and wields the arts of the nineteenth. Her Popery has degraded and demoralized her; and out of her demoralization have sprung her sloth, her improvidence, her crime, and her misery. It is hard to say whether her vices or her priests now eat most into her bowels. Where the landlord cannot gather his rents, nor the tax-gatherer his dues, the priest collects his. Popery can glean in the rear even of famine and death: she has neither a heart to pity nor an eye to weep, but only an iron hand to gather up the crumbs on which the widow and the fatherless should feed. Compare Scotland with Ireland. How poor the one, despite her immense natural advantages; how rich the other, despite her no less immense natural disadvantages. We see Popery, in the one case, converting a garden into a wilderness, darkened by ignorance, swarming with mendicants, polluted with crime; while the wail of its misery rings ceaselessly throughout the civilized world. In the other, we see Protestantism converting a land of swamps and forests into a fruitful and flourishing realm, the home of the arts, and the dwelling of a people renowned throughout the world for their shrewdness, their industry, and their virtues.
Or we may take another contrast. At the one extremity of the European continent stands ITALY; at the other is SCOTLAND;--the centre of Roman Catholicism the one, the head of Protestantism the other. What was the relative position of these two countries at the beginning of our era? That a land of sages and heroes; this a country of painted barbarians. But eighteen centuries have accomplished a mighty revolution. Italy, despite the beauty of its climate, the exuberant fertility of its soil, the fine genius of its people, and the heritage of renown which the past had bequeathed to it, is a land of ruins. It has lost all; while Scotland has cleared its swamps, covered its wilds with the richest cultivation, erected cities than which the world contains none nobler, and filled the earth with the renown of its arts, its science, and its patriotism. Why is this? Popery is the religion of the one country,--Protestantism is the religion of the other. God never leaves himself without a witness. He may close his Word; He may withdraw his ministers; still we need no prophet from the dead. He continues to proclaim, by the great dispensations of his providence, the eternal distinction between truth and error. Here has He set up before the eyes of all nations, Italy and Scotland,--a witness for Protestantism the one, a monument against Popery the other. "Be wise, ye kings." Would we sink Britain to the degradation of Italy, let us endow in Britain the religion of Italy.
We have already demonstrated that Popery, looking solely at its character, and apart altogether from any experience of its working, is fitted to degrade man socially and individually. We have now shown, from nearly as extensive an induction of facts as it is possible to make, or as one can reasonably demand, that experience fully bears out the conclusion at which we had arrived on the ground of principle. Wherever we find Popery, there we find moral degradation, intellectual torpor, and physical discomfort and misery. Under every government, whether the free governments of England and Belgium, or the despotic regime of Spain and Austria,--among every race, the Teutonic and the Celtic,--in both hemispheres, the states of the Old World and the provinces of the New,--the tendency of Romanism is the same. It is a principle that stereotypes nations. It depopulates kingdoms, annihilates industry, destroys commerce, corrupts government, arrests justice, undermines order, breeds revolutions, extinguishes morality, and nourishes a brood of monstrous vices,--murder, perjury, adultery, indolence and theft, massacres and wars. It enfeebles and destroys the race of man, and annihilates the very cement of society. Popery has been on its trial before the world these three centuries; and such are the effects which it has produced in every country under heaven where it has existed. It is truly "the abomination that maketh desolate." The man who will not hear what the Bible has to say of Popery, cannot refuse to hear what Popery has to say of itself.
To make the contrast complete, let us glance at the career of Protestant Britain during the past hundred years. In 1750, the throne of Britain was filled by the second George. Four years before, the hopes of the Stuarts had expired on the fatal moor of Culloden; France, under Louis XV. had scarcely passed her zenith; Francis I. and Maria Theresa ruled the destinies of Austria; Philip V. those of Spain; while Pope Benedict XIV. occupied the Vatican. England was but a second-rate power, not daring even to dream of the career of greatness which was just then opening to her. The British sceptre was swayed over not more than thirteen millions of subjects, including our North American colonies. We held at that time, no doubt, possessions both in the western and eastern hemispheres; but they were insignificant in extent, and precarious in point of tenure. The French were masters of Canada and Louisiana, and threatened to expel us from the American continent altogether. Our Indian empire was then limited to the British settlement in Bengal; and the French, who held the Deccan, threatened to deprive us even of that. Holland and Portugal rivalled us as commercial powers; France far eclipsed us in political importance; and Spain, mistress of the gold mines of Mexico and Peru, outstripped us in wealth. In all points we were inferior to the great powers on the Continent, save in one, our Protestantism. Since that period Britain has pursued a career unexampled in the history of nations. Canada has become ours. The Mogul empire has fallen under our sway. We have called hitherto unknown continents and islands from out the Pacific, and are peopling them with our race and our language, ruling them with our institutions and our laws, and enriching them with our commerce, our science, and our faith. Thus the chain of our power encircles the globe. We have become the mother of nations. During the same period we have made rapid progress in scientific discovery, and in the improvement of the arts, perfecting those already known, and summoning to our service new and extraordinary elements of power. Our commercial enterprise and monetary power have also experienced prodigious expansion. Thus, in the short space of a single century, from being but a second-rate state, whose language, laws, and influence scarcely extended beyond the shores of our island, overshadowed by the great continental kingdoms of Europe, we have risen, in point of population, extent of territory, and real power, to a pitch of greatness which is threefold that of imperial Rome. And, we must add likewise, that, though not blind to our shortcomings and sins as a nation, no candid and well-informed man will deny, that during the past century we have made great advances in the theory of liberty, and in the principles and practice of vital godliness; while abroad, we have been making, not so great efforts as we ought to have made, but greater than any nation ever before made, to diffuse the Bible and the gospel throughout the habitable globe. "Happy people the English!" was the exclamation of M. E. de Girardin, at a peace-meeting lately held in London. "Happy people the English! ever advancing in their onward course, while so many other nations progress only to retrograde." There never was seen on earth so sublime a spectacle as Britain at this moment presents.
To one element alone are we to trace the unexampled career and prodigious height of Britain,--her Protestantism. "Ascribe ye strength unto God; his excellency is over Israel; the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God!"
1"Throughout Christendom, whatever advance has been made in knowledge, in freedom, in wealth, and in the arts of life, has been made in spite of her [Church of Rome], and has everywhere been in inverse proportion to her power. The loveliest provinces in Europe have under her rule been sunk in poverty, in political servitude, and in intellectual torpor; while Protestant countries once proverbial for sterility and barbarism have been turned, by skill and industry, into gardens, and can boast of a long list of heroes, statesmen, philosophers, and poets." (Macaulay's History of England.)
2 The contrast was very strikingly stated by Sir W. Temple long ago. See his History of the United Provinces.
3"Whoever passes in Germany from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant principality,--in Switzerland from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant canton,--in Ireland from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant county,--finds that he passes from a lower to a higher grade of civilization. On the other side of the Atlantic the same law prevails." (Macaulay's History of England.)
4"New York Evangelist," 1849.
5Politics of Switzerland, by G. Grote, Esq., p. 70; London, 1847.
6"Opinion Publique," November 4, 1849.
7 "The Pope found the Romans heroes, and left them hens." (Gavazzi.)
8 "Of the thousands who cannot read alphabetical letters in Rome, not one is found ignorant (for lottery purposes) of Arabic numerals; while for those who can read there is published the famous 'Book of Dreams,' as an appropriate auxiliary in legalized witchcraft,--a book sold in wheel-barrows at every fair, and at church-doors, and often the only book in the whole village where a New Testament is unknown. . . . . While the works of learning and genius are on the Index, this blasphemous book's circulation is unblushingly promoted." (Gavazzi, Thirteenth Oration.)
9 Spalding's Italy and the Italian Islands, chap. iii. p. 289.
10 Gavazzi, Thirteenth Oration.
11 The writer was informed in Brussels, by an intelligent English gentleman long resident there, that the priesthood of Belgium were the sworn foes of free trade, fearing that with it might come in protestant books. Every port in a popish country has a priest astride it.