Page images

Archbishop Whately on the Errors of Romanism.

ART. VII.-1. Essays on the Errors of Romanism having their Origin in Human Nature. By RICHARD WHATELY, D.D., Archbishop of Dublin. 2d edit. London, 1837. 2. Cautions for the Times: Addressed to the Parishioners of a Parish in England by their former Rector. Published occasionally Seventeen Nos. 1851-52.


WE have always had a great admiration of the talents of Archbishop Whately, and a very high appreciation of the services which he has rendered to the world by his valuable and voluminous writings. He has written upon a great variety of most important subjects-theological and ecclesiastical, philosophical and political; and upon the discussion of all of them he has brought to bear a very high measure of excellencies, both intellectual and moral. He is possessed of a very rare combination of ingenuity and sagacity, of penetration and soundness of judgment. He has always advocated and practised the fullest and freest investigation of every subject of interest and importance, and has conducted his own inquiries upon most topics with an amount of real fairness and candour which are by no means common in controversial discussions, even among men of integrity and honour. We regard Dr. Whately as occupying a very high place among the educators of the cultivated intellect of the age. We assign to him this most honourable position, not so much because of the amount of important truth which he has taught and commended to men's acceptance -though his services in this respect have been great-but rather because of what he has done, directly and indirectly, by precept and example, in shewing men, how their faculties may be most fully cultivated and most successfully employed in the investigation of truth; in what way the dangers arising from the obscurities and ambiguities of language ought to be guarded against; and what are the spirit and temper in which truth ought to be sought and investigation ought to be conducted. In these respects Dr. Whately has rendered most important permanent services to the community, which entitle him to the admiration, the respect, and the gratitude of all who are interested in the intellectual and moral advancement of society.

We differ, materially and decidedly, from some of Dr. Whately's views upon theological subjects, but we have no sympathy with the persevering attempts which have been made, not only by the Tractarians or Puseyites, but also by the old orthodox party in the Church of England, as they call themselves, to run him down as a heretic. We believe that, whether

tried by the standard of the Sacred Scriptures, or of the symbolical books of the Church of England, Dr. Whately is much more orthodox in his theological sentiments than these classes of his accusers, that their charges against him upon this subject are in a great measure hypocritical, and are to be traced, to a large extent, to the unfriendly, and even malignant feeling awakened in their minds by his able and consistent advocacy of liberal principles on ecclesiastical and political matters.

There are some subjects on which we think Dr. Whately has displayed great ability and candour, even when he has not, in our judgment, arrived at sound conclusions regarding them. One of the most striking and important instances of this, is to be found in his giving up the argument commonly adduced by Arminians against Calvinism from the moral character and government of God. Dr. Whately, himself an Arminian, virtually admits that the argument derived froin this source, which has hitherto formed almost the whole stock-in-trade of the opponents of the Calvinistic system, is irrelevant and unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it does not really bear upon the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism, but upon great facts or results actually occurring under God's moral government. The reality of these facts or results is not disputed; and Dr. Whately, in substance, admits, that Arminians are just as much bound to explain them, and as incapable of explaining them fully, as Calvinists are. In short, he admits that the fundamental question between Calvinists and Arminians, so far as concerns its relation to the Divine moral character and government, virtually resolves into that of the existence and permanence of moral evil in the world -a question of which both parties are equally called upon, and equally incompetent, to give a satisfactory solution. It is quite true that Calvinists have often proved all this by arguments which are unanswered and unanswerable. But as we do not remember that the admission was ever before so fully and frankly made by an Arminian, we regard it as most creditable to Dr. Whately's ability and candour, and value it as a most important concession to the cause of truth.

It is honourable to Dr. Whately, that, after reaching the highest rank in his profession, he should continue, while diligently discharging the appropriate duties of his office, to labour for the public good through the press. He has written and published a great deal since he becaine Archbishop of Dublin, and he could scarcely have given a more satisfactory evidence of his ability and willingness to be still labouring for the welfare of the community, than by preparing and publishing the “Cautions for the Times," mentioned at the head of this Article.

These Cautions have been published occasionally for about a

Cuutions for the Times.


year and a half past, and now amount to seventeen. They profess to be the productions of several persons; but it is understood that they are composed principally by Dr. Whately, and that they have been all published under his superintendence. As a whole they are quite worthy of bis high standing and his distinguished reputation. They contain much important matter, deserving of a wide circulation, because fitted to be eminently useful. The first eight Cautions treat of topics connected with the Romish controversy, and the remainder present a very valuable exposure of the tendencies of Tractarianism and of the conduct of its advocates. It is to the first of these topics only that we mean at present to advert, and in doing so we shall consider the Cautions in connexion with Dr. Whately's work, entitled “ Essays on the Errors of Romanism having their Origin in Human Nature.” This work is one of the ablest and most valuable of all those which bear Dr. Whately's name; and he has devoted two of the Cautions, the fifth, in two parts, and the sixth, to what is in substance, though it does not profess to be so, a summary or abridgment of the Essays.

The first of the Cautions is on the subject of the late Papal Aggression. We do not quite concur in some of the views it advocates. Its general tone is adverse to the propriety and expediency of the * Ecclesiastical Titles Bill,” and we have already had an opportunity of explaining the grounds on which we regard that measure as thoroughly justifiable in itself, and imperatively called for by the whole circumstances of the case. *

It is undoubtedly true, as Dr. Whately argues, that Romanism can be effectually and permanently guarded against, not by civil enactments, but only by considerations addressed to the understandings and consciences of men, and that every real infringement upon the principles of toleration is fitted to injure the good cause which it may have been intended to benefit.

But even amid the first excitement produced by the Papal aggression, there

no real danger of these truths being overlooked. Dr. Whately's sensitiveness upon this point we regard as unreasonable and exaggerated, and as fitted to produce the injurious effect, of giving an appearance of countenance to the shameless attempt of Cardinal Wiseman and his friends to represent themselves as martyrs in the cause of religious liberty.

In the beginning of the ninth Caution, before proceeding to consider the principles of the Tractarian, or, as he calls it, the “ Tractite,” party, the author gives the following statement of the objects of the seven preceding numbers.


* North British Review, No. xxix. pp. 281-289.

“ We considered (in Nos. II., III., and VIII.) some of the most plausible popular topics advanced by Romish controvertists; and lest it should be thought that we had misrepresented the force of their reasonings, we examined (in Nos. IV. and VII.) a great number of the Tracts which some of the ablest and most dexterous managers of their cause are now busily circulating through England ; and we made it (as we trust) pretty plain that, wherever the secret of their success does lie, it does not lie in the strength of their arguments.

“ But the secret of their success is to be found (as we pointed out in Nos. V. and VI.) in the tendency of corrupt human nature towards such a system as the Romish. Each of us has a traitor in his own breast, always ready and willing to open the gate to the enemy. We are all naturally prone to those errors upon which Romanism is built; and, in consequence of that natural proneness, too many Protestants have already admitted principles which, if fairly carried out, must inevitably lead to the reception of the whole body of Romish tenets. The seed has been, as it were, already deposited in their minds. It may lie long dormant. But as soon as circumstances favourits growth, it will spring up after its kind, and bear the proper fruits of its species.

“ You may see a clear proof of this in the progress of what is called the ` Tractite' party towards Romanism.”

In the five numbers which discuss some of the most plausible popular topics advanced by Romish controvertists,” and expose the sophistries and misrepresentations of a recent series of Popish tracts, there are some very successful specimens of argumentation, instances in which we think the common reasonings of Romanists are admirably well refuted, at once by clear and sagacious exposition and by felicitous illustration. We select some passages in confirmation of this opinion.

“ The truth is, that our religion is the old one, and theirs the new; only their corruptions do not wear the garb of novelty, because they came in without being perceived, silently and gently, through a long lapse of time; whereas our reformation of them, and restoration of the primitive faith, was made suddenly and all at once. When you scour a room, you remove, in an hour or two, dirt which had been gathering for several days; yet that is only called keeping it clean, not changing it; and so, when you wash your face, or brush your clothes. If the corruptions of the Church of Rome had been thrown off one by one, each soon after it came in, no one would have thought such a con. tinual keeping the Church clean to be innovation. But, because they were left to accumulate too long, and a great general correction had to be made suddenly and at once, therefore the restoration of the old state of things seems, to ignorant people, the bringing in of a new one.

" What is called “the change of the style is a striking instance of a seeming innovation, which was really a restoration, being a return

Private Judgment.


to the right course, by a sudden correction of a great error that had resulted from the accumulation of imperceptibly small ones. The year contains 365 days and (almost) a quarter. To keep the reckoning right an additional day is inserted in February, every fourth (leap) year, to make up the four quarters of a day. But this addition is a very little too much; the excess amounting to three days in every 400 years. And this continually increasing error went on uncorrected (in this country) till it amounted to eleven days. In the middle of the last century we corrected it by adopting what is called the new style,' and at once cutting off those days; just as one puts forward the hands of a clock which has lost. But this, though it was, in truth, only a restoration of the true time, appeared to ignorant people a great and offensive innovation, because it was a correction made all at once, of an error which had crept in by little."-Pp. 17, 18.

"But the point which Roman Catholics love most to dwell on is the weakness of private judgment, which they represent as a prevailing reason why we should rather give ourselves up to the direction of an infallible guide. In answer to this, several Protestant writers have very well defended the right of private judgment; others have preferred to regard it as a duty, and in truth the exercise of it is both a right and a duty; or rather, a right because it is a duty. But the most important consideration of all is the necessity of private judgment. A man who resolves to place himself under a certain guide to be implicitly followed, and decides that such and such a Church is the appointed infallible guide, does decide on his own private judgment, that one most important point, which includes in it all other decisions relative to religion. And if, by his own shewing, he is unfit to judge at all, he can have no ground for confidence that he has decided rightly in that. And if, accordingly, he will not trust himself to judge even on this point, but resolves to consult his priest, or some other friends, and be led entirely by their judgment thereupon, still he does, in thus resolving, exercise his own judgment as to the counsellors he so relies on. The responsibility of forming some judgment is one which, however unfit we may deem ourselves to bear it, we cannot possibly get rid of, in any matter about which we really feel an anxious care. It is laid upon us by God, and we cannot shake it off. Before a man can rationally judge that he should submit his judgment in other things to the Church of Rome, he must first have judged, 1. That there is a God; 2. That Christianity comes from God; 3. That Christ has promised to give an infallible authority in the Church ; 4. That such authority resides in the Church of Rome. Now, to say that men who are competent to form sound judgments upon these points are quite incompetent to form sound judgments about any other matters in religion, is very like saying, that men may have sound judgments of their own before they enter the Church of Rome, but that they lose all sound judgment entirely from the moment they enter it."-Pp. 21, 22.

"Again, when Roman Catholics would persuade us to receive their traditions of doctrine as certain truths, without examining them by the

« PreviousContinue »