« PreviousContinue »
or most suitable to the manners of the world.
In this age when scepticism is affected as a mark of talents, and religious policy enters very little into the usual intercourse of the world, even the Protestant religion, divested of many awkward articles of faith, and of all the rigour of church discipline, is lamentably on the decline. We cannot suppose that the doctrines and ceremonies of the Catholic religion are more consonant with reason, or more agreeable to the strong impulse of manners ; surely, then, its flourishing state must be the effect of the political causes to which it is subjected; of that irritation which prevents indifference; of those distinctions which make adherence amenable to public opinion; of those privations which make apostacy base.
The present union and formidable dimension of the Catholic body, arise from the injudicious repulsion of government; as a political party, they could never hold together merely by their own weak attraction.
• What can be a stronger proof of the truth of this reasoning, than the fluctuation of religious zeal in France? The Roman Catholic religion had there, been long established under the monarchy, and had gradually dwindled into a mere state ceremonial. Persecuted, during the violence of the revolution, it recovered the enthusiasm of primitive Christianity; tolerated under the consulate, its zeal abated. · Once more established under the imperial house, it has ceased to be an object of interest, and the churches are once more abandoned.*
It is not from the efforts of the established church, from its charter-schools, and the aid of penal laws, that the Catholics have any reason to apprehend a diminution of numbers, but from a sect, and that sect the Methodists. A very obvious fact will sometimes remain unnoticed, and yet ..when once pointed out, will be generally „acknowledged. This we imagine to be the case with the hitherto unnoticed progress the Methodists are making in Ireland against the Roman Catholic religion.
Their eloquence, their zeal, and astonishing industry in employing the most minute means to propagate their tenets; above all the judicious use they make of the power of the press, has ' produced an impression which has evidently alarmed the Catholic priesthood. We are very doubtful whether it is an event to be wished: whether the Catholic religion is not better adapted to the cheerful temper of the Irish peasantry, than the proud and sullen spirit of Methodism; yet we have not the least doubt, that if the Catholic clergy were paid by government, and if the practice and principle of religious restrictions were abandoned, in the course of a few years, a very large portion of the Irish peasantry would be converted to Methodism
At present, the Methodists only succeed in cutting off supplies from the established church, and have reduced it to an insignificance, which, compared with its revenues. is quite ridiculous.
What then, in the name of consistency, can make the enemies of Popery so violent in their opposition to the only measures which can check the influence of the Ca
tholic religion? That which will ever make the opinion of the multitude an absurd one, on abstruse subjects; the want of capacity and inclination to examine farther than the apparent effects of circumstances ; which makes them believe, that scarcity is the effect of regrators and monopolists; that protecting duties bring home-manufactories to perfection; that the sun revolves round the earth, or any error which it requires a chain of reasoning to refute.
But whence can arise the opposition of government to the emancipation of the Catholics ? are we seriously to be referred to his Majesty's coronation oath, to his Majesty's scruples of conscience!
There is at least as much truth in the maxim that the King never dies, as that the King can do no wrong; and if the former means any thing, it is that the constitution solely regards the King in a political, never in a personal light: his life is a political life, and knows no dissolution; his acts are considered only as acts of state, for which not the King, but ministers are responsible: his oath is not his own personally, he is not responsible even for its violation, but bis
ministers are; it is an act of state, it is a pledge given to the legislature; the performance of which they only can exact, they only can remit, and which an act of theirs clearly can remit.
There has been of late years, a great, an alarming, and a treasonable inroad made upon the constitution, by a set of men, who perpetually introduce the idea of the King's personality; of which the wisdom of our constitution has foreseen the danger, and has guarded against it with the most anxious care. For, if that fatal hour shall ever come when the King of England shall be the leader of a party---when he shall be nominally King, and virtually minister--when to the prerogative of the veto, he shall add the power of the initiative---that sacred fiction, that the King can do no wrong, will gradually disappear before the force of imperious circumstances, and responsibility will gradually attach itself to the idea and the person of the King.
This revolution we believe to be far, very far distant; nor are we of that class of alarmists who instantly believe the existence of whatever they apprehend. But