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Art. I. - Romanism in America. By Rev. Rufus W.
Clark. Boston: Whipple. 1855. 12mo. pp. 271.
Who Rev. Rufus W. Clark is, we do not know, and have not thought it worth our while to endeavor to ascertain. We presume, however, that he is an Evangelical minister of some sort in this city, and perhaps of high standing in his own sect. His book does not present him in a very amiable light, and from its perusal we should judge him to be more remarkable for his zeal than his knowledge, and more accustomed to hate than to love. He is very ignorant, and even more untruthful. Candor and courtesy towards those with whom he differs are evidently qualities he has not yet acquired, and qualities which we fear he is utterly unable to appreciate. He is both credulous and unscrupulous, and though a Protestant minister, he is wanting in all those amenities and gentle manly habits which are within the reach of a cultivated Gentile. Yet we are obliged to confess that, however much his book may disgust the better sort of Protestants, it is a fair specimen of the works which issue from the American Protestant press against our Church and the members of her communion. Its only merit is the Satanic cunning with which it appeals to the low and unworthy prejudices of the Protestant plebs against Catholicity. It is with great reluctance that we approach such a work, but as American Protestantism seems unable or unwilling to produce anything more gentlemanly, more scholarlike, more
VOL. III. NO. II.
worthy of the great question at issue, we suppose it would be undue fastidiousness to pass it by without some notice.
The work itself appears to consist of a course of Lectures delivered by Mr. Clark, the last season, in this city, and now published at the recommendation of some of the persons who listened to them. The subjects treated are, 1. The Origin and Progress of Romanism; 2. Fundamental Principles of Popery; 3. Antagonism between Popery and Civil Freedom; 4. The Order of the Jesuits; 5. The Paganism of Popery; 6. The Persecuting Spirit of Romanism; 7. The Inquisition; 8. The Bible in our Public Schools. These topics are selected with some skill, and give the lecturer an opportunity to repeat the greater part of the vulgar cant and stale charges which form the staple of the writings and lectures of men of his class. The slightest knowledge of history, coupled with a moderate share of good sense, is sufficient to demolish the whole fabric which the author erects, for it is less substantial than ordinary castles in the air. The author seems to have lost whatever original faculty he may have had of telling the truth. The truth itself, when by some rare accident he stumbles upon it, becomes falsehood in his manner of telling and applying it. His whole work is simply a tissue of false assertions, unfounded charges, gross perversions of facts, and unwarranted inductions.
We cannot attempt a complete refutation of what he advances against our religion, for we have neither the space nor the patience to quote and reply separately to each separate sentence of his book. We can note only a few of the more glaring of his errors, misstatements, and false accusations. As a specimen of the whole work, we commend to our readers the following paragraphs from the opening Lecture.
“ We would not exaggerate the evils or the strength of Roman. ism ; neither would we utter a word to excite unnecessary alarm with regard to the prevalence of the system in our land. But we contend that a system in the very heart of our republic, deadly hostile to our churches, public schools, and free institutions, that numbers three millions of votaries, and is sustained by nearly sixteen hundred priests, thirty-two bishops, seven archbishops, more than one hundred colleges and seminaries, and seventeen hundred churches, is a system that should not be passed by with a sneer, or treated with cold indifference. The recent aggressions of this
power, the arrogant assumptions of its prominent writers, the astounding insolence of such publications as the Freeman's Journal, Shepherd of the Valley, and Brownson's Review, in asserting that heretics, that is, American Protestants, should be punished by the sword if they cannot be forced into the Catholic Church, should arouse the citizens of this nation, and prompt them to plant themselves at once in opposition to this power. We would deprecate all violence and unnecessarily harsh and denunciatory language ; but we would use all the moral means that God has placed in our hands to break down a system that at every point is antagonistic to our dearest privileges and blessings.
“In seeking, however, the destruction of Romanism, we would do all in our power to save the Romanist, not, indeed, as a Romanist, but as a man, as a sinner like ourselves, for whom Christ died. In seeking the annihilation of Popery, we would save the Pope, as one who specially needs the benefits of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. We declare war, not against men, but against principles that are subversive of our liberties and religion. We declare war, and, God helping us, we will prosecute it, against that system which, in the Holy Scriptures, is denominated the man of sin and son of perdition, the mystery of iniquity,' mother of harlots and abominations. And we would break it down that its victims themselves may be delivered from its grasp and saved from its pernicious influences; for a greater calamity could not befall the Roman Catholics than to have Romanism triumph in this nation. Such a conquest would be the destruction of the very privileges and advantages that they have come to our shores to enjoy.” — pp. 7-9.
We hardly know how to deal with an author who writes in this way.
There is not a word of truth in what he says of The Freeman's Journal, The Shepherd of the Valley, or Brownson's Review. These journals, one of them or all of them, have never, explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, in form or substance, asserted that heretics, meaning thereby “American Protestants," or any other class of heretics, “ should be punished by the sword,” or in any other way, “if they cannot be forced into the Church"; nor have they ever asserted that heretics ought even to be, or even may be, forced into the Church at all.
The author says that, “in seeking the destruction of Romanism, he would do all in his power to save the Romanist." This distinction is intelligible, and every man who knows the difference between systems and persons makes it, or professes to make it. We ourselves say, and say truly, that, in seeking the destruction of Protestantism, we would
save the Protestant. “In seeking the annihilation of Popery, we would save the Pope, as one who specially needs the benefits of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.” This is well enough. So we, in seeking the annihilation of Protestantism, would save Rev. Rufus W. Clark, who specially needs the benefits of the atoning sacrifice of Christ,” not less so, he must perinit us to believe, than the Pope. We may cheerfully say, also, with the author, that " we declare war, not against men, but against principles that are subversive of our religion and liberties. We declare war, and, God helping us, we will prosecute it, against that system which, in the Holy Scriptures, is denominated the man of sin and son of perdition, the mystery of iniquity,' the mother of harlots and abominations, and we would break it down that its victims may themselves be delivered from its grasp and pernicious influence.” He calls that system “Romanism, we call it Protestantism, and are at least as anxious to deliver its victims as he is.
The author would save the Romanist, not as a Romanist, but, we suppose, by converting him from Catholicity to something else. Will he tell us to what he would convert him? To Protestantism ? To what form or sort of Protestantism ? To Protestantism in that sense in which it is accepted by all who call themselves Protestants ? But in that sense it is simply the rejection of Catholicity, and not a religion, but the negation of the Catholic religion. To convert us to Protestantism in this sense would be merely inducing us to give up the religion we have, and to go without any religion, - to live without God in the world, and to die as the dog dieth. We cannot consent to that. We cannot live without religion, and if you ask us to give up Catholicity, you must offer us something better in its place, and something which we cannot have without ceasing to be Catholics.
Have you anything of the sort to offer us? What is it? Reason? But that we already have, to say the least, as
And we have no occasion to go out of the Church in order to exercise it; for it leads us to submit to the Church as divinely commissioned to keep and declare the law of God and dispense the mysteries of the Gospel. We came to her, and we submit to her in all she commands, by a free act of reason, and we could not renounce
well as you.
her without renouncing reason itself. Nothing strikes us as more reasonable than to believe God on his word, and to submit to him in all things; and therefore nothing seems to us more reasonable than to believe and obey the Church authorized by him to teach and command us in his name, for it is his word we believe and bis authority we obey. We submit to the Church, not blindly, but with our eyes open, and solely on the ground that our reason, freely exercised, is convinced that she is authorized by Almighty God himself to speak to us in his naine, or rather that it is he, the indwelling Holy Ghost, that speaks to us in her voice, through her as his organ. Under the head of reason, then, you have nothing to give us.
What then have you to give us ? The Bible? But we have that without you, and had it fifteen hundred years before Luther. In fact, you have the Bible only as you have got it from us, and you are obliged to take its canonicity and inspiration on the authority of the Catholic Church, or at least on Catholic tradition. Do you allege that we are not permitted to read it? Then you allege what is not true. We are not indeed allowed to regard your mutilated and corrupt version of the Scriptures as the genuine Bible, but we have as much liberty to read the Bible as you have. The free use of the Scriptures has always been permitted and encouraged by the Church ; the only thing she prohibits is their abuse. Do you add, that Protestants will allow us to interpret them for ourselves ? That is true only in case we do not interpret them diflerently from the Protestant sect to which we happen to belong. But this is nothing. What is wanted is not the liberty to interpret the Scriptures for ourselves, and therefore to misinterpret them, and make God's word a lie, but the assistance necessary to enable us to arrive at their true meaning. Can you give us that assistance ? No? Then in regard to the Bible you have nothing to give us which we have not already as Catholics. In regard to the Scriptures, then, we are at least as well off as you.
What, we ask again, will you give us in exchange for our Catholicity? - The benefits of the atoning sacrifice of Christ”? But how assure us that you have them to give ? You probably mean, that you would teach us to rely solely on the merits of Christ for salvation, not on dead works. But this would give us nothing which, as Catholics, we