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that the Gospel is a myth, its hero a fallible being, subject to error like ourselves, and of being at one and the same time delivered from a worship for his person accounted superstitious, and also from the irksome obligations which he imposed upon us in the name of a God who had not given him his commission.
How many in each thousand are there who intoxicate themselves with this poisonous draught, who will seek the divinely appointed remedy for it—the Bible? How many are there, too, who will admit that science, mighty in overthrowing and destroying, is not less so in strengthening and building up; and that, if it induces scepticism in frivolous and sneering minds, it furnishes evidence of the reality of Gospel truths, and of the authenticity of the books in which these truths are contained and related, for men who seek for truth with a sincere and upright heart.
But, it may be said, the Catholic Church dreads the circulation of the Bible among the people, and that its efforts are put forth to hinder rather than to increase it. Nevertheless, this Church has never been without priests zealous for the dissemination of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and more especially of the Gospels. Tradition informs us of how Greek and Latin fathers nourished the faithful with the Word of God. St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine unite in inviting men to read it, and to meditate upon it. St. Gregory the Great used to say that the Holy Scriptures are the letters which God addresses to us, to inflame our hearts, and to hinder divine love from growing cold within us under the chilling influences of impiety. St. Cesaire, bishop of Aries, did not excuse even those who could not read from total ignorance of Holy Writ; for, said he, if without any knowledge of reading they learn songs and ballads by getting them recited or sung to them, they could also learn the Bible by getting it read to them. The unanimous sentiment of true Christians, of Christians of all Churches, on the benefits resulting from the circulation of the Bible, could not be better expressed than it is in the preface to a version of the New Testament, published in the course of the last century, by a company of priests and laymen in Switzerland, with the approval of several bishops. I will quote some short extracts from it.
"We feel surprised," the author says, "that there are now-a-days so few real Christians, and that so much disorder reigns in the world. The reason is, because men do not read the Bible, and do not meditate sufficiently upon its admirable contents. If men were to read it, and to meditate unceasingly upon it with profound humility and all due preparation of heart, it would quickly spread over tho earth the sacred fire of the love of Christ, and of the unspeakable blessings which He is preparing for us; and in an infinite number of souls it would infallibly produce the same results which it produced in the world generally by the conversion of whole nations. . . . Let us, then, exert ourselves to circulate it, and to make it fruitful, imitating in this the zeal of the early Christians, whether priests or laymen, who traversed divers countries with the view of announcing Jesus Christ to those who had never heard mention of his name, and who, says St. Eusebius, used to pat the Holy Bible into their hands. .... If, indeed, the writings of the Saints may be compared to rills in which wisdom and piety flow, and which, scattered in all directions, water the earth and make it fruitful, the Gospel, which is the work of Jesus Christ, and of His Holy Spirit, must be regarded as the source where the waters are always more living and more pure. With what zeal, then, ought Christians, the children of Jesus Christ, to apply themselves to reading and studying this sacred volume, each according to the measure of his capacity and his condition? Strong meat for men and milk for babes are alike to be found there; there Jesus Christ, adapting himself to all, supplies to all who lay to heart and who listen to His word with faith, with piety, and with a teachable spirit, that salutary instruction which they need for curbing vice, for increasing in virtue, and for shining more and more unto the perfect day."
"In the earlier part of the eighteenth century," such was the utterance of a Catholic Society*, manifesting admirable zeal in the circulation of those Holy Scriptures wherewith the choice spirits whom France numbers up with pride in her great age of literature, used to feed their souls in the previous age. Read the great authors ofthat period, in poetry or in prose, suchasMalherbe, Botrou, Corneille, the two Racines, and so many more; read moreover the familiar letters of that time, you will find in them an acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures that would be sought in vain in writers of the present day. The Bible was read and meditated upon in families in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and I do not hesitate in attributing more particularly to that pious and wholesome custom the firmness of principle, the elevation of thought and style, so remarkable in the chief writers of that period; and if now-a-days we seek what is the chief among so many other causes of the utter abandonment of all religious principle, of the intellectual disorder which so many distinguished men have fallen into, of the sophisms, of the anarchical theories and hollow systems which dazzle and fascinate vulgar minds, we shall find it in the almost entire ignorance in which men are of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the contempt or utter forgetfulness of this holy book, the most
* There is an interesting account of the Christian Observer for 1846. They
this Bible Society, the promoters of published soveral editions of the Biblo
which were chiefly Jansenist clergy- in French between the yoars 1719 and
men and laymen, under the direction of 1735.—En. an Abb6 Barnaveld, in the volume of
Vol. 69.—No. 379. 3Z
precious gift which heaven has given to earth. This holds good throughout the entire domain of thought and human activity, in literature as in philosophy, in politics as in religion; this is verily and indeed the great and chief cause of the intellectual and moral confusion, of the decrepitude of minds and consciences, which, in modern society, render its reconstruction on a new and durable basis so difficult after its crumbling down upon its ancient foundations."*
"Men," says a pious writer already quoted, "have not built on the true foundation; they have not built upon the Gospel, that is to say, upon evident, necessary, eternal and universal justice into which life has been infused, and which has been rendered substantial by divine power and by Christ. Hence the inevitable fall of republics, of monarchies, of empires. Men have built upon the sand; tempests and inundations have swept away these houses built on insecure foundations. . . . Former society, which is now crumbling to pieces, must be reconstructed on the basis of Christianity. So long as the nations of Europe do not perceive that ancient constructions fell to pieces because they were not built upon the Pock, and that the Rock is Jesus Christ and His doctrine; the great advance of ages, which has become a necessity, continues still an impossibility.'''
The same cry is raised throughout all Churches. Christians at issue among themselves upon other points, whatever may be the race or religious society to which they belong, be they Catholics, Greeks, or Protestants, agree in recognizing this truth. Thus, what was the eloquent reply of one of these zealous Christians, when recently replying, in an admirable publication, to one of the great teachers of the modern school of Positivism?
"I have written this book," he says, "in a season of trouble, when the storm which rages sweeps men away from the convictions most dear to me; it will be soon evident what deadly germs this freezing blast sows in its progress, and all that it shrivels up. On the shores to which it is driving us we shall find some of the most excellent gifts of life. Liberty, social justice, noble sympathy for the weak and disinherited; all these holy causes would be lost on that day when, to our infinite misfortune, that of Christ is in danger; for—and it is the honour of our humanity—our fleeting life here on earth derives its greatness only from the world above, whence we proceed. Before all things Christians believe that this heavenly world must be sought for its own sake, and that the work of restoration and uplifting, undertaken by Christ, begins in the mdi
• "Twice," sayB the celebrated Carmelite preacher, le Pere Hyacinthe, "have I Hit my toot on English soil and I felt and understood that the strength of England wua the Bible."—Ed.
vidual who finds at his feet only the weight and victorious power of evil. They proclaim aloud that they are not disinterested in the question of religion; it embraces for them all that makes life worth living. Therefore they unite more closely together, notwithstanding the divisions which still exist, in defence of the common banner."
We must not forget that this banner is that of the Messiah announced by the Prophets; is the banner of the Divino Redeemer, who came down from Heaven for the salvation of the human race, and who, at the sure approach of a cruel and ignominious death, said to His terrified disciples, " Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world ;" and to His Father and our Father, "Holy Father, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. ... I have manifested Thy name unto men .... glorify me with .... the glory which I had with Thee hefore the world was. Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee with the power that Thou hast given him over men to bring them to eternal life."
THE REASON OF THE CROSS.
"From the highest throne in glory,
We have seen that many accomplished writers of modern times, endeavouring to understand and account for this great fact, have utterly failed to do so. . They have just touched the surface, and have flown off, as if repelled by the touch. Shall we not endeavour to discover the reason of this failure?
There is no great difficulty in detecting it. Theodore Parker and Dr. Channing in America, Martineau, Robertson, and Maurice in England, differing often from each other, still agree in one point;—they dislike and reject the idea, found in every part of the Bible, that God is angry with sinners, and denounces wrath against sin. This idea lies at the foundation of Christianity, whose errand is, to bring men the Gospel, i.e., glad tidings ;—to proclaim salvation, to " set forth a Propitiation;" a Reconciliation. But salvation implies, that there is some evil, some danger, to be saved from. The good news,—the gospel, tells us how we may be saved from "the wrath to come." But if there is no "wrath to come," then the gospel is an empty and unmeaning thing: it has no message of any value: it can bring us no " glad tidings."
A rejection of this fundamental idea, that "God is angry with the wicked," (Psa. vii. 11,) constitutes the essence of what is now called "Broad-Church theology." The great master of the whole school was Theodore Parker, who tells us, in his autobiographical sketch, how soon, in his precocious self-confidence, he threw off his belief in one half of God's word: He thus writes:—
"In my early childhood, after a severe and silent struggle, I made away with the ghastly doctrine of Eternal Damnation and a wrathful God. From my seventh year I have had no fear of God."*
The positive side of his creed, he thus developes :—
"The religion we want must recognize the Infinite God, who is not to be feared, but loved: not a God who thunders out of Sinai in miraculous wrath, but who shines out of the sun on evil and good, in never-ending love."f
"I know that each beggar in the street, and each culprit in the jail, has an immortal soul, and will go on greatening and beautifying more and more for ever." J
"From the idea of God as infinite, it follows that He has no right to call into being a single soul, and make that soul miserable for its whole life ;—no right to call into life a single worm, and make that worm's life a curse to itself. It is irreverent and impious to teach that He could do this."§
"God is perfect cause and perfect providence; father and mother of all men; and He loves each with all His being, His almightiness, His all-knowingness, all-righteousness, all-lovingness, and all-holiness. He knew at the beginning the future history of mankind, and of every man, and prepared for all, so that a perfect result shall be worked out at last for each soul." ||
Here is a poor, conceited "worm of the earth," who really fancies that he knows far more of the nature and attributes of God than such persons as Moses, or Isaiah, or Daniel, or St. Paul; and who unhesitatingly tells us what God can do, and what He cannot do, and what He ought to do, with a cool selfsufficiency which must make the evil spirits laugh, but which would draw tears of pity from angels, if angels ever wept.
Theodore Parker had a freedom of speech which belonged to his position. He stood alone; fettered by no creeds, bonds, or obligations. His admirers expected and desired to hear startling things from his lips, and would have been disappointed if he had given them ordinary and every-day doctrines. But those who in their hearts concur with him in England, cannot speak with equal plainness. If Dissenters, they would lose their pulpits: if Churchmen, they would be in danger of ecclesiastical censures. So they merely adopt his conclusions, without avowing that they hold his premises. They deny the
* Life, vol. ii. p. 452. + Works, vol. xi. p. 150.
J lb. vol. xi. p. 166. § lb. vol. xi. p. 176. || lb. vol. xii. p. 195.