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TACTICS OF ROME AND DUTIES OF PROTESTANTS.
While the animating principles of Rome continue the same, her tactics are ever varying.
Adopting plans to win by favour, where she has not the power, or does not see it politic to coerce by punishment and severity,—we see her now siding with absolutism—now with democracy; opposing the people or favouring them; but in each instance calculating with keen eye upon the advantages to be derived from either of such lines of policy to her own interests and system.
Not always, however, though Romanists boast of infallibility, does the course taken prove to be infallibly right. Steps have sometimes to be retraced; or, if they are not, prove of disastrous consequences to the Church of Rome.
Long has her chief power been directed against England. Whatever intrigues and intimidation, wealth and learning, theological and political organization could effect, has been attempted by her. A Society was recently set on foot for the express purpose of defending and promoting "the Catholic cause." That Society, rumour says, is now on the eve of being dissolved, if it be not already so.
We have no desire to speculate as to what may have been the causes of such failure. It may have been internal weakness and division; ii may have been increased strength and union manifested by Protestants from without; it may have been owing to disapproval in high quarters of the course intended to be pursued. It may have been the discovery or presentation of some new object of pursuit or attack; something supposed better to consolidate the powers of the Papacy, or to weaken, if not to demolish some of the bulwarks of Protestantism;—or to select some more popular mode of attack, and one which might possibly ensure the co-operation of those who are opposed to all establishments and State endowments; or it may be in the hope of turning away the eye of the public from the delinquencies, moral and religious, which during the late general election have characterized so many of Rome's priesthood.
Rome may try her worst. If we, as a Protestant nation, with the Bible in our hands, and the grace of God in our hearts, are
Vol. XIV.— October, 1852. x New Series, No. 22.
but united amongst ourselves, we may set Popery at defiance; and every storm which the craft of "the devil or men" could work against us will be brought to nought, or made tributary to our greater present or ultimate good.
When Rome sets up the clamour for religious equality, we have not far to look for proof that the pretence is hollow, and that something else of a different nature is intended. Nor more successful, though, in the estimation of some, more plausible, will be her crusade against the Protestant Church in Ireland. "Destroy it not, for good is in it," will be the language of many, who, in former times, would never have lifted up a voice for her defence; and it may be, would even have clamoured for her destruction. Whatever, then, be the tactics of Popery, Parliament should no sooner meet for the despatch of business, than we hope inquiries will be moved for into the conduct of the Popish population of Ireland during the late elections, characterized as many of the proceedings were by a fierce and barbarous cruelty, which true religion can never instigate;—humanity cannot approve ;—and a wise, politic, and paternal Government should mark with justly merited rebuke.
The Committee of the Protestant Association have resolved to issue, before the meeting of Parliament if possible, a publication containing an account of some of the proceedings of the Romish priesthood during the late Irish elections. A selection from correspondence upon the subject with men of various ranks and station in different parts of the United Kingdom will be found in a subsequent portion of the present number of this periodical, and we would venture strongly to urge upon our friends, when the facts are fully before them, not to be slow in writing to, or waiting upon Members of Parliament, or in petitioning the House for some further inquiry into the matter, and that some efficient law may be enacted to prevent, or repress in future such manifestations of undue influence, as if tolerated, will lower, if not destroy the character of the House of Commons as a representative—deliberative assembly, and even endanger the peace and the independence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The contest thickens. Popery seems preparing for its final struggle. It may be long, and severe. The ultimate triumph, however, will be with the truth: and the overthrow and ruin of Popery will be one certain result of the contest, now rekindled with more vigorous power than has been known for years.
Those to whom an Arcadian theology suggests a state of calm inactivity on the part of Protestants, will find that they have mistaken their position, and underrated their duties. The lion and the lamb are not yet of the same nature;—and widely does he, as a pastor, in our judgment err, who thinks he has to feed, but not to protect his flock; nor to admonish it of coming and surrounding dangers, and aid by God's grace in preparing it to meet and to overcome them.
In England, Protestant England—and happy and prosperous, because Protestant England—we do not witness nor—God be praised—are we yet called on to endure the active presence of Rome's persecuting power against the properties, liberties, and lives of our fellow-Protestants: nor do we think that we, any more than our ancestors, could or would endure it.
In Ireland, however, it is otherwise. At Home it is otherwise. In various places on the Continent it is otherwise. In Tuscany it is otherwise. Long and much as we have been accustomed to hear of the organized system which has prevailed in Ireland, for the suppression of Protestantism by the Roman Catholics, we have not yet to record that the judicial power, and that of Her Majesty's Government, have been induced to take any step in the way of persecuting and punishing as an offence against law, the profession of Protestantism,—the reading of the Scriptures,—or even efforts to proselytize amongst the Roman Catholics.
But in Tuscany it is different. The revival of the Popish power there has placed the Court influence very much at the disposal of Rome; and the Papacy is now seen making use of the temporal Prince to aid her in coercing heretics and repressing heresy; and the influence of the canon law is found to be a weight strong enough to crush its opponents.
Two Christian persons, Protestants, a man aged fifty years and his wife, have been, and are now imprisoned for the cause of the Gospel. They have been condemned to four years at the galleys; — repulsed by their Prince, on their appeal for mercy; their hair shaved by the hand of the gaoler, and clothed in the dress of criminals, they are now undergoing their sentence in the midst of malefactors.
Touched with a deep feeling of commiseration for these faithful servants, these followers of, and sufferers for the cause of Christ—some members and friends of the Protestant Alliance determined to send a deputation to Tuscany, in order to obtain an audience of the Grand Duke, to implore his clemency and mercy on behalf of their fellow Christians. This has come to the knowledge of other friends of the cause abroad, and they have written a letter to Lord Shaftesbury, urging that three or four more persons, representatives of Switzerland, Holland, France, and Germany, should be added to the deputation, and should join it at Marseilles.
The letter is one of deep interest, and its subject at once of grave and thrilling import. It appeared in extenso in the "Times" of Wednesday, Sept. 22d ult., and its calm and temperate, but determined tone, gives it additional weight.
Romanists are united, and sympathize with one another. Why should not Protestants also be united and sympathize with their co-religionists in their various trials, humiliations, persecutions, and sufferings throughout the globe?
Great is the moral influence of Great Britain, whether in matters of peace or war, or of commerce, throughout the earth; —shall not her justly great moral and religious influence as the first of Protestant nations—one whose constitution is built upon the Scriptures, acknowledging the Bible alone as the religion of Protestants, be felt in sympathetic action for the protection of the weak, the consolation of the suffering, and the liberty of the captive?
The following is the correspondence referred to, and it is gratifying to observe the increased interest which is evinced in the management of that journal upon questions affecting Protestantism and Popery; an interest which, whether arising from an improved feeling on the part of the proprietors and conductors of that journal, or from the improved tone of the public mind upon the questions at issue in general, will we trust increase, and be rightly and wisely directed by an enlightened policy, and by Christian—scriptural principle.
"To the Editor of the Times.
"Sir,—May I request you to insert the accompanying letter in your columns?
"The subject is of the deepest interest to all Protestant Europe.
"Your obedient servant, "Sept. 21." "Shaftesbury.
"'Geneva, Friday, Sept. 17, 1852.
"' My Lord,—We have the honour of announcing to you, in the name of the Evangelical Alliance of Geneva, the speedy arrival in London of the Comte de St. George.
"' He is delegated to the Protestant Alliance, of which you are the President, to present an important proposal on the subject of the Madiais.
"' If we have thought it right that the first commission of M. de St. George should be given to him by the Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, it was because, in accordance with its very title, it feels itself enabled to represent better than any other Society all that is evangelical and Christian among us. But, at the same time, in order that there may be nothing wanting in the unanimity of the request of which he is the bearer, three other letters will be given him from the Eglise Evangelique of this city, from the Societe Evangelique, and from the Society of Foreign Missions.
"' Francisco and Rosa Madiai, at the age of fifty years, condemned, for the sole cause of the Gospel, to four years at the galleys, repulsed by their Prince on their appeal for mercy, their hair shaved by the hand of the gaoler, and clothed in the dress of criminals, have just been sent to the Maremme,* and are now undergoing their sentence in the midst of malefactors. Is there any Christian in our Churches who could, in taking his morning meal, or in laying his head on his pillow at night, think of this Christian pair, torn from one another, and bearing obloquy for our common Master, without sharing that obloquy with them, and without remembering that it has been said, "Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity as being yourselves also in the body."
"* My Lord, we remember these two prisoners; we, too, are in the body; we suffer adversity with them, and we feel the desire of labouring for their relief.
"' More, however, than the Madiais are involved. We have everything to fear for many others. Do we not behind these two martyrs see hundreds of Christians threatened with the like fate, and for the like crime—their attachment to the Word of God? Who can henceforth open as they did the Word of God, and endeavour as they did to conform their life to it, without having in view the galleys and perhaps death, since the canonical laws pleaded by the priests before the princes and judges of Italy demand more than the galleys, and even require extermination and the stake ?" Puniantur ad ignem," they have said (Concil.-Constant., sess. 44, art. 23).
"' This sentence on the Madiais, if nothing is done to check it, will have a widely-extended result. Solemnly pronounced in the face of Europe, confirmed by the Sovereign (who might have used the right of pardon, and refused to do so)—this sentence must not be considered as an isolated fact. It is the signal of a fearful transition, —a return, in the spirit of secular princes, to the errors of the past, a fresh encroachment of the canon law on the legislation of their States, and a first symptom of the submission of their conscience to the conscience of the priests, however bloody may be its requirements. Doubtless we knew already that their canonical laws concerning persecution are considered by them as unchangeable because divine; we knew that the atrocious bulls of the Popes for the extermination of heretics had lost none of their authority in the eyes of the priests, that the decrees of the Provincial Council of Toulouse, of Beziers, and of Oxford, as well as the General Councils of Lateral and of Constance, require that for all future times all such Christians as the Madiais should be burnt alive; but these laws have for the last century been rendered powerless by the indignant voice of humanity, and it seemed as if their application were to be nothing henceforward but a matter of ancient history. Now, the trial of the Madiais marks the return of a time when the consciences of judges and of princes, not daring to make itself heard in opposition to that of the priests, their hands are to be again imbrued in the blood of the servants of God.
* Francisco is sent to the Casa di Forza, Rosa to the Ergastolo.