Abbildungen der Seite

most heartily in the scheme they have in view, we hope they will not relax their efforts to obtain from the Government such measures as shall lead to a complete abandonment of this curse of East Africa, and pave the way for the restoration, to their own wasted and depopulated though fertile country, of a people who, under the teaching of the Society, will be not only educated in agriculture and the useful arts, but "instructed unto the kingdom of heaven." But to the accomplishment of this end many will be the obstacles; nor must the Society falter or swerve from its path at the opposition they must encounter. We beg them to remember the inheritance which has descended to them from the men who fought and won the old fight. And here the words of Sir James Stephen seem to us so encouraging, and conceived in a spirit so appropriate to that in which the present contest, inferior though it may be in magnitude to the battle of the old slave trade, should be commenced and maintained, that we cannot do better than close this article by quoting them at length :—

"In later days agitation for the accomplishment of great political objects has taken a place among social arts. But sixty years since, it was among the inventions slumbering in the womb of time, taught by no professors, and illustrated by no examples. We have lived to see many of the most ancient and solid edifices, erected by the wisdom of our ancestors, totter at the blast of leagues, associations, speeches, reports, and editorial articles, like the towers of Jericho falling before the rams' horns of Joshua. But when Mr. Wilberforce and his friends met to deliberate on their enterprise, the contrast between the magnitude of their design and the poverty of their resonrces demanded a faith scarcely inferior to that which encouraged the invaders of Palestine to assault with the sonnd of their trumpets the towers built up by the children of Anak to the heavens. Truth, indeed, and justice were on their side; and in the flower of his youth, his eloquence, and his fame, Mr. Pitt had given the bright augury of his adhesion to their cause. But, after twenty years of ceaseless controversy had rolled away, the most sanguine of them was constrained to 'stand in awe of the powers of falsehood' and of commercial cupidity, and to acknowledge that, in effecting so great a deliverance, God would not employ the rulers nor the mere rhetoricians of the world, but would use, as His instruments, His own devoted servants—men able to touch in the bosoms of others the sacred springs of action which were working in their


1. L'Eglise et la Revolution Histoire des relations de I'Eglise et de VEtat de 1789 a 1802. ParEdmond de Pressense. Paris. 1864.

2. The Church and the French Revolution. A History of the Relations of Church and State from 1789 to 1802. By E. de Pressense", D.D. Translated from the French, by John Stroyan. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1869.

Whatever expectation a glance at the first title of the work before us might lead us to form of finding in it an impartial narrative of the career of the Gallican Church during the most troublous times of her history, must be at once dismissed upon observing the supplementary title. We may be tolerably sure that the two words Church and State will never be found in conjunction without the presence and manifestation of strong feelings and opinions upon the subject which is expressed by their combination, and we shall not be deceived in the case of the present volumes. Indeed, in the preface to the original work, M. de Pressense' avows that his main object in compiling it has been to advance the cause of the separation of Church and State in France; and in the special preface which he has written to the English edition, he expresses his desire to promote the same cause in this country. And so open and continuous is the advocacy of that cause, which runs through all the pages, that we feel almost compelled to relegate the work from the category of historical to that of controversial writings.

Having expressed, in a recent Number, our own views upon the subject of Church and State, we will not here repeat them, but will confine ourselves to pointing out how, in our opinion, M. de Pressense has failed to establish, from his facts, the conclusion which he desires to draw in favour of the absolute separation of religion and the civil administration. We shall have occasion, in the course of our review, to notice a real defect in the ecclesiastical condition of France, to which, independently of all doctrinal considerations, may, as we think, be charged, in great part, the eclipse of religion in that country at the time of the great Revolution.

We have questioned the right of M. de Pressense^s book to rank as history; but we, at the same time, readily acknowledge that it possesses a real value as a narrative of the events which affected the Church in France during the period of which it treats. We are also indebted to the author for an Vol. 68.—No. 383. 5 R

interesting sketch of the condition of the Gallican Chnrch, when the storm of the Revolution burst upon her. Her condition at that time appears to have resembled, in many points, that of the Church in England before the commencement of the reforms in the reign of Henry VIII. The relations between the Church and the State were very similar to those which then existed in this country. The assemblies of the clergy were under the control of the king. The nomination of the bishops was vested in him, subject to the confirmation by the Pope of the persons appointed. As in England at the eve of the Reformation, abbeys, priories, monasteries, and convents, were flourishing with mediaeval vigour, and perpetuating mediaeval abuses. M. de Pressense estimates the ecclesiastical revenues as amounting to nearly 200 millions of livres, or about 7,900,000/. sterling. Toleration, except in Alsace, had been unknown in the country for upwards of a century.* Nor were the dignitaries and functionaries of the Church superior to the system of which they were the representatives. Everything testified that if there were many matters in France which stood in need of reform, there were none that required it more urgently than matters ecclesiastical.

And no long time elapsed, after the formation of the National Assembly, before interests which affected the Church became subjects of discussion. Her vast wealth offered a broad front to the assaults of the rising storm. The night of the 4th of August (1789) swept away many ecclesiastical as well as civil abuses; long-standing privileges and perquisites of the clergy were abolished contemporaneously with feudal tenures and oppressive prerogatives of the nobility.

But these encroachments on the revenues of the Church, and the abolition of tithes which almost immediately succeeded them, were effected, in form at least, if not in reality, by a voluntary surrender on the part of the clergy. It was not until nearly three months later, that the Assembly proceeded to the length of decreeing that all ecclesiastical property was at the disposal of the nation, subject to due provision being made for the maintenance of religion and the relief of the poor. That step, which was speedily followed by decrees according civil rights to Protestants and Jews, and by the abolition of monastic vows, naturally led to the introduction, early in the year 1790, with a view to the discharge of part of the duties recently taken upon itself by the State, of a Bill for the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. This Bill, as it eventually became law, appears to have owed its contents mainly to the Jansenist element in the Assembly. It provided for the suppression of many of the ancient bishoprics, and a re-arrangement of the bounclaries of those which were destined to remain. With the suppressed bishoprics fell abboys, priories, prebendaries, and canonries; and the recognition of dignitaries established under foreign authority was forbidden. At the same time, for the sovereign authority of the bishop over his diocese, was substituted that of a clerical council. The appointment to bishoprics and cures was to be made by popular election, in which Jews and Protestants could take an equal part with Roman Catholics; and the appointment thus made could only be superseded on certain specified grounds of manifest impropriety in the choice. The Bill also limited the salaries of the clergy, and enjoined their residence at the scene of their cures, placing them at the same time under the surveillance and jurisdiction of the municipal authorities.

* The Edict of Nantee was revoked in 1686.

Although we cannot go so far as to say, with M. de Pressense, that it was an abuse of power without excuse, he is no doubt technically right when he stigmatizes the passing of this important measure as an abuse of power on the part of the National Assembly. That body was, we agree with him, purely a political assembly. It had, indeed, been summoned to consult respecting all matters relating to "the wants of the State, the reform of abuses, the establishment of a fixed and durable order in all parts of the administration, the general prosperity of the kingdom, and the good of the people collectively and individually ;"* but these general terms could hardly, according to the ideas then subsisting, be held to warrant an interference with matters purely ecclesiastical. The Assembly could certainly make no authoritative claim to represent the Church of France. This being the case, the stnctly proper course would have been to adopt the proposal of the Archbishop of Aix, and to have referred the reconstruction of the Church to a National Church Council. But apart from merely technical grounds, we see no reason for viewing this act of the National Assembly in a different light from its other contemporaneous proceedings, or judging it according to a different standard. Where a Church is co-extensive with the State, a body which adequately represents the views of the nation in political affairs may reasonably be supposed to do so also in ecclesiastical matters; and in the case of the National Assembly, in the composition of which the clergy as a body obtained their full share, those who would deny that it substantially represented the clergy and laity of the Gallican Church, can do so only to the same extent as they deny its right to be considered as a fair exponent of the political opinions of the French nation. We of the Church of England recognise a unity of

* See the Letter of Louis XVI., of the 24th of January 1789, convoking the State* General.

supremacy in matters civil and ecclesiastical, and the right of the same Parliament to legislate for both alike. The two Houses of that Parliament are summoned to treat and give advice on urgent affairs concerning the Sovereign, the State, and defence of the kingdom and the Church; and we acquiesce in its enactments in matters affecting the Church, although in process of time it has come, not only to represent, but even to be composed of, persons who own no connection with the national establishment, and are, some of them, bitterly hostile to it. There was, then, we conceive, nothing in the manner in which the reconstruction of the Church was effected, which could justify that irreconcileable opposition to it on the part of a large portion of the French bishops and clergy, which brought upon France the curse of schism, and struck a deadly blow at the interests of religion in the country. Nor were the terms of the reconstruction, in our opinion, such as a body of highminded Christian clergy could not have accepted without a sacrifice of conscience and honour. There were, no doubt,

Eoints in the scheme which lay open to grave objections, ut this was also the case with many of the political measures which were carried in the National Assembly. The defects, however, in these would not have furnished a ground for any Frenchman, at that period of the Revolution, to have abjured his country and fidelity to her government; and every French Christian who recognised allegiance to his God as the first duty, and as the next, whenever compatible with the former, allegiance to his country, might, we think, while far from approving it, have acquiesced in the civil constitution of the clergy without compromising his duty to the Almighty. Such was the view in fact taken by a small minority of the French clergy, conspicuous among whom was the Abbe* Gregoire, afterwards Bishop of Blois.

But the ecclesiastics of France were not merely Christians, they were Catholics; and according to their ideas of the duties which a profession of Catholicity involved, owed obedience not merely to their God and their country, but likewise to a foreign potentate whom they regarded as their spiritual head. It might well be that the claims made upon them, by virtue of this extraneous supremacy, would conflict with the promptings of patriotism in many cases where the latter were not inconsistent with the performance of the Divine commands. Such was, as it seems to us, the question of adhesion to the civil constitution of the clergy. The Pope, it is true, did not give his final and formal decision respecting that measure, until after the majority of the Gallican titulary clergy had taken the irretrievable step of refusing the oath to it. But he had in the meanwhile made it clearly understood what that decision would

« ZurückWeiter »