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H.M. Field's Letter from Rome

Brownson's Quarterly Review, July, 1849

Art. II.- The Good and the Bad in the Roman Catholic Church. Is that Church to be Destroyed or Reformed? A Letter from Rome. By Rev. Henry M. Field. New York : G. P. Putnam.    1849.    12mo.    pp. 34.

If we have not mistaken him for another man, the writer of this Letter is a Calvinistic Congregational minister of our own neighbourhood,-a young man of fine abilities and generous feel­ings, respectable for his learning, and still more for his honest aims and strong religious tendencies. We cannot say that his pamphlet is highly creditable to him as a dialectician or as a theologian ; but it presents him in an amiable light as a man and as a philanthropist. It is not very consistent ; for it sets out with the assumption that our Church is a human institution, then proceeds to prove it a true Christian Church, and closes by pointing out its supposed corruptions, and demanding iis reformation. But if it is a human institution, it cannot be the Christian Church, nor a branch of it; for the Christian Church is divine. If our Church is Christian, and actually doing the work of her Lord, as Mr. Field contends, it cannot be proper to judge her as a human institution, or to speak of " the good and the bad " in her ; and to propose the question whether she shall " be destroyed or reformed" is quite out of place. There is no little audacity in proposing to reform, there is something worse in proposing or in assuming it to be lawful to propose to destroy, the Church, or any portion of the Church, of Christ.

The author is aware that he may be charged with inconsis­tency, but he seeks to make it appear that the inconsistency is in his subject, not in himself. " I feel," he says (p. 3), "alternately admiration and disgust for the Roman Catholic Church. And if any man tells me that this is inconsistent, t answer that it is this very inconsistency which is alone consist­ent with truth. Human institutions are not wholly good, or wholly bad ; and he who praises or blames without discrimina­tion is sure to be wrong." Very true of human institutions, which acknowledge themselves to be human ; and he who praises or blames them indiscriminately is sure to go wrong, we grant ; but this is not true of divine institutions. But is our Church a human institution ? The author contends (p. 20) that she is at least " a portion of the Church of Christ," and that Protestants should not " hesitate to allow that she is a true Christian Church." If Christian, she is divine,- for Christ is God ; and then she is not a human institution, unless God and man are identical, which the author would be as unwilling as we to assert. Then from the fact that human institutions are not wholly good or wholly bad it does not follow that the Church is not wholly good, for she is not a human institution. The au­thor's reasoning labors under the fallacy termed by logicians tran-sitio a genere ad genus, and therefore does not transfer his in­consistency from himself to his subject. He evidently says too much or not enough. Too much, if he holds our Church to be a mere human institution ; for if such, she is, as we often say, a gigantic imposition upon mankind, since she claims to be the Church of God, and, as a church, must be wholly bad. Not. enough, if he holds her to be divine or Christian ; for in the divine all is   good, and   nothing bad ;   and we are forbidden to discriminate, but must praise indiscriminately, since to pro­nounce anything divine bad would be to blaspheme God. This is an awkward dilemma, and vet it is one in which every Protestant places himself who undprtakes to vindicate to us as Catholics a Christian character, while he claims a Christian character for himself. There is no medium. The Protestant must either concede or deny all our Church claims.

But we have no disposition to dwell on the author's incon­sistencies. He has evidently intended to be fair and candid, and we are sure that he has written with kindly feelings and friendly motives what he has actually thought and felt ; and it does not surprise us, that, unacquainted as he is with the inner sense of our religion, he should fail to speak like a Catholic, with theological accuracy, or with even logical consistency. The child usually creeps before it walks, and lisps before it speaks. We cannot expect Protestants to go to bed at night in their heresies and errors, and to wake up in the morning sound and well-instructed Catholics. We must expect their approach to us to be gradual, now throwing oft' one error and taking up one truth, and now another ', and though such approach can avail nothing for the salvation of those who stop short of unity, it may have an important influence in preparing the future conversion of the Protestant populations. We there­fore welcome it as a favorable symptom, and cannot repel it, because we see clearly enough its insufficiency. All truth is ours, and it is our privilege as Catholics to acknowledge and reverence it wherever we find it, whatever the dialect in which it is spoken or the garb in which it is dressed. Mr. Field's errors and inconsistencies belong to his abnormal position, and to his sect; the truths he utters are ours, and his utterance of them does him honor as a man. He has, indeed, attained to less of Catholic thought, and enters less into the Catholic spirit, than he imagines ; but he has made some progress from the rab­ble of bis brethren, - has got rid of many foolish and unjust prejudices, and become pretty well convinced that Protestant­ism is far from embracing all truth, and that Protestants are very far from possessing all the piety and virtue of Christen­dom. This is much, and may become more. He says many things of our Church that we can accept without modification ; but his Letler interests us chiefly for the picture it gives us, by contrast, of Protestantism. We pay little attention to what those without say in our favor, but what they say against them­selves we regard as entitled to some respect.    They must be presumed to be acquainted with their own religion, and to have no motive to disparage it. We take Mr. Field's praise of us as so much dispraise of Protestants ; and when he commends something in our Church, and proposes it to them for imitation, we regard him as acknowledging that it is an excellence which we have that they have not. In this point of view, his Letter is a severe condemnation of Protestantism ; for most of the things he commends in our Church come under the head of the car­dinal virtues, or pertain to the essential principles of the Chris­tian religion, without which there is no sanctity, and no inquiry whether there is a Christian life can even be entertained.

The author begins by describing the ceremonies of Holy Week at Rome, at which he assisted. These, he tells us, left a very unfavorable impression on his mind, nay, absolutely shocked and disgusted him. At this we are not surprised ; for they were strange to him, contrary to what he had been ac­customed, and he assisted at them to see and criticize, not to worship. We give him credit for trying to be impartial ; but he could only imperfectly understand their significance and appropriateness ; he could not enter into their spirit, or feel that he had lot or part in them ; and, at best, he could view them only as a mere curious spectator. We should have been, knowing his habits, tastes, and position, far more surprised if he had found them edifying. The things which he complains of, however, are for the most part mere accesso­ries, dictated by national usage and taste, and form no essential part of Catholic faith or Catholic worship. That they should not be agreeable to a New England Puritan is easily understood; but, after all, his habits and tastes may possibly be as much at fault as those which dictated the things which offend him. The firing of cannon, the waving of plumes and banners, in connection with religious ceremonies, may not be in accordance even with our own individual taste ; yet our judgment does not disapprove them, and we do not know what right we have to erect our in­dividual taste, formed by our Puritanical training, and therefore very questionable, into a standard to which all mankind must conform or be voted dis-tasteful.

But Mr. Field had the candor and the good sense not to take up with his first impressions, and proceed no farther. The following is very honorable to him : -

" Such was my first impression. Truth now compels mo to say that I have attended other services of the Catholic Church loss ostentatious, which have had upon me a very different effect.    I go often to the Convent of Trinitu. dei Monti, to hear the nuns sing their evening hymn, and it would be quite impossible for me to describe the effect upon my feelings. I listen till my heart dis­solves. It seems as if some choir of the blessed were chanting a celestial hymn; as if that tender and plaintive melody, which comes to bear up my soul from gloom, were the distant music of angels.

" Ofttimes, too, at such an hour, I see the most simple and ear­nest devotion kneeling on the pavement of the church. I ask no questions, but there is a look which tells me that the thoughts of the worshipper are fixed on something beyond this world, - a look of sorrow and yet of peace. And often I say to myself, as I see men and women who have evidently led a life of extreme poverty and suffering kneeling on the church floor, ' While we sneer at their worship, these poor beings are ascending to heaven.'

" The contrast of these different services produces in my mind a confused feeling in regard to the Roman Church. I see evil there, but I see good also. And if I denounce the one, I will not deny or disparage the other.

" Besides, the fact stares me in the face that this Church has pro­duced innumerable Saints, - some of an order of saintliness which has hardly a parallel in the world's history. If she has had a Cicsar Borgia, she has had also a Charles Borromeo, a Francis Xavier, a Pascal and Fenelon. I often go to the Church of Jesus in this city to muse at the tomb of Ignatius Loyola. This simple inscription is written over his body : Ad majorem Dei gloiuam. Was ever epitaph more simple or just ? And shall I deny that such a man was a Christian, when his heroic self-denial, his voluntary poverty and labors, put to shame the Protestant world ?

" Farther observation has led me to modify still further my views of the Roman Catholic Church ; to discover in it many things beau­tiful, of happy influence, and worthy of imitation. To these I am happy to bear a tribute of admiration. Our condemnation as Prot­estants of what is bad would come with a belter grace, and produce more effect, if we showed a readiness to appreciate and acknowl­edge what is good. There are several pleasing aspects which I wish particularly to notice : -

" First, - The Catholic Church eminently cherishes the feeling of reverence. Its history, its associations, its very architecture, contribute to this. Its age of itself makes it venerable, and supplies many touching associations which Protestantism wholly wants. It has been the faith of a large part of mankind for eighteen centu­ries. Millions have staked their eternal salvation upon its truth, and supported the agonies of life and of death upheld by its hope. They have found in its communion comfort, joy, and peace. A cloud of witnesses seems to fill the arches of every cathedral, and stretch forward like a shining column into heaven.

" Often, as I stand at twilight in some old cathedral, leaning against a column which has stood while centuries have been rush­ing past it, -just as the last rays of the dying day gleam through the stained windows, shedding 'a dim, religious light' on the mar­ble monuments and the kneeling worshippers, and as the vesper hymn is filling the vault above, -

' Dimly on my soul streams the light of ages.'

Then, more than at any other hour, I feel myself united to all the living and the dead, - a unit in that mighty host which is hurrying to the unknown, yet inseparable from the rest. I think how many have come up here to drink the waters of life and gone away to die in peace. On this pavement generations have knelt, and look-od up to heaven, and now 'the sheeted dead' seem still to walk here. An invisible bond unites me to all the human souls that are kneeling at my side. I should feel guilty if I dared to disown my brotherhood to them. I feel that we are one family, one great brotherhood of guilt and misery, and that I can unite in their prayers.

" Again, - The arrangements of the Catholic worship seem to me peculiarly fitted to nourish a spirit of devotion. Its churches are open at all hours, and my observation is that I have seldom en­tered a Catholic church that I did not find some individual - some poor man or woman - absorbed in prayer, and often with a look so eloquent of woe, and yet of that peace which passeth under­standing, that I have wished that I might receive the same consola­tion.

" The hours of devotion are chosen with a wise discernment of the periods at which man is naturally disposed to reflection and to prayer,- to thoughts of a better world. The Church celebrates the rising and the setting of the sun with her matin and vesper hymns. As the sunset touches with its last rays the mountain-tops, the shepherd on the hills and in the valleys hears the evening bells that call him to prayer. How touching is that music of the con­vent bell ringing among the mountains! The air seems hushed and holy.    Nature unites in the worship of man.

" 'Blessed be the hour, The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft
Have felt that moment in its fullest power Sink o'er the earth so beautiful and soft,
While swung the doop bell in the distant tower, Or the faint, dying day-hymn stole aloft,
And not a breath crept through the rosy air,
And yet the forest leaves seemed stirred with prayer.' "
- pp. 6 - 9.

This is well written, and indicates deep sensibility, a warm heart, and a rich imagination.     The sentiment so eloquently approved, and the absence of which in his own communion the author so feelingly laments, cannot be found out of our Church. What the author really feels and expresses is not the sentiment of reverence itself, but his own sense of the want of it among Protestants, and his strong emotions at beholding it in Catho­lics. Protestantism cannot be reverential, for it has nothing to reverence. It has no fund of rich associations ; no slock of cherished memories ; no patrimony ; no long line of noble and heroic ancestors ; no " cloud of witnesses to fill the arches of every " meeting-house, " and to stretch forward like a shining column into heaven." It has broken from the u communion of saints," and its children cannot look upon the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, upon the saintly and heroic preachers of the Gospel who won the nations to the Cross by their mis­sionary labors, their toils and privations, their prayers and vigils, their mortifications and austerities, their crucifixion to all worldly ties and affections, their tears, and their blood,-- as members of their own household, or claim them as their own kith and kin. To these Christian noblemen, these honored servants of God, these champions of truth and love, to whom we owe it that we are not sunk in the chaos of barbarism, or in the fetid pool of idolatry and superstition, they feel that they are strangers, and that in their glory they have no share. The link which should have connected them in one glorious brotherhood with them has been severed, or never formed, and they can at best only half persuade themselves that possibly it may hereafter be formed or reunited in some remotely future world. Prot­estantism is of yesterday, and the heroic ages of the Christian Church it does not and cannot inherit. When our Protestant friend summons up the long line of saints and martyrs who have adorned the annals of religion, and says he does not disown his brotherhood to them, he only expresses his weariness of his own isolation, and the joy he conceives it would be to be able to feel himself of their brotherhood;-in a word, his deep longing, the inward yearning of his heart for " the communion of Saints."

As Catholics, we cannot enter into his feelings, we cannot sympathize with his emotions. We are " to the manner born." All this, which so powerfully affects the imagination of our Protestant friend, is with us a matter of course, and we enjoy it as we do the air and sunshine of heaven, pure water from the brook or fountain, or as a gentleman does his estate which has  descended to him, through father and  son, from time immemorial. The saints - all who have heroically served their neighbour in their lives or in their deaths, and secured the approbation of* their Cod - are of our household, members of our family, our own dear relations, with whom we live, and daily and hourly converse, as with our most familiar acquaintances and bosom friends. It is not surprising to us, that our Prot­estant ministers, who are conscious that they have no Chris­tian antiquity, no heroic ages, no spiritual chivalry, no saints, no martyrs, in a word, no ancestors,- who feel that they have sprung up in the night, like the mushroom from the dung­hill, and are oppressed with a sense of their newness and isola­tion from all that is grand, beautiful, holy, or inspiring in relig­ious history, -should long for our privileges, and half envy us their possession ; but it does surprise us, that they should not see, that, in acknowledging that we inherit Christian antiquity, they condemn their own communions, and exclude themselves from the heritage of the Gospel. They who are not one with the Church in all ages cannot share in the associations, recol­lections, and achievements of all ages.

The author appears to be charmed with the monastic insti­tutions of the Church.

" Another winning feature of the Catholic Church is the repose which its numerous institutions offer to the weary, the broken heart. Protestantism has no cloisters, - no places of holy retreat, to which a man broken with the labors of life, or with private grief, or sick of the selfishness of the world, can retire to pass his days in devotion, and in communion with the wise and good of other days, or in labors of charity and mercy.

"To an old man,- if without children, or if they are dead, or his lot is hard, or his life unhappy, - I can conceive of nothing more grateful than such a retreat as he approaches the evening of life. There the seductions or the treachery of the world cannot reach him. He is secluded from its occupations, and heavy, wea­rying care. Hours of study alternate with the gentle religious ex­citement of matins and vespers. His life has been full of sorrow, and now he finds a soothing repose in the monastery which creates a solitude in the heart of a city,- the stillness of its paved court broken only by the murmur of a fountain, and its long corridors echoing only to the footfall of some passing solitary who has retired from the world. In, the lonely imprisoned cell, the lamp suspended from the ceiling lets fall its light on the bald head of the aged pil­grim bending over the pages of St. Augustine,

4 The scrolls that Ictich him to live and die.'
In former ages, monastic institutions had a high literary utility. Never have 1 seen a monastery afar on the top of a mountain, glow­ing in the sunset, without recognizing gratefully a luminary of the Middle Ages,- one of those stations along which the torch of knowledge was transmitted from summit to summit while tho world beneath lay buried in darkness. The importance of these institu­tions to learning is lessened, now that the sun shines down into the valleys as well as on the hill-tops. But as places of religious se­clusion, I cannot but wish that there were some such retreats in Protestant lands, to which a man who has nothing more on earth to live for could retire to calm the fever of his mind, and prepare to go to God.

" The Catholic Church deserves also great honor for her charita­ble institutions. She has erected monasteries in lonely and almost inaccessible places ; on the top of the Alps and of Mount Sinai; amid perpetual snows and frightful deserts, to extend assistance and relief to lost or helpless travellers. I walked over the Pass of the Simplon with an Episcopal clergyman, and I remember well his animated exclamation, as we first caught sight of the Hospice on the top of the mountain,-' There is what the Catholic Church does!' And 1 confess I could resist any abstract argument belter than the Monks of St. Bernard, or the Sisters of Charity." - pp. 10, 11.

We find no fault with this as far as it goes, for it is all that we could expect from a Protestant minister; but how far short it falls of the Catholic thought which has generated and sustained mo­nastic institutions, we have no occasion to inform our Catho­lic readers. Mr. Field's thought, singularly enough in one who protests earnestly and eloquently against the prevailing human­ism of the day, remains in the humanitarian order, and makes the monastery simply a sort of Sailor's Snug Harbour for those who are weary of the storms and tempests of life, or too old or too feeble to buffet them. This is something, as was the gen­erous provision made in his will by an Isastern Emir for the erection and support of a hospital for old and worn-out horses ; but far different was the thought which gave birth to the monas­tery, and which has continued to sustain it through the lapse and changes of wcllnigh twenty centuries. This thought was that of Sacrifice, which lies at the bottom of all worship. It was not simply the desire to retreat from the world, to throw ofV its cares, its responsibilities, and to lead a calm and indo­lent life away from its troubles and temptations, but to immo­late one's whole self to God, to die, to be crucified, unto all, in order to live only unto God. For the weak and the way­worn, for the old and the sick of heart, still pertaining to the world, the monastery was an hospice, an asylum ; but, to the monks themselves, it was the cross to which they were nailed, - the altar on which they offered themselves, heart and soul, body and mind, reason and will, - the place of trial and suffer­ing, of labor and vigil, of fasting and prayer, of pain and mor­tification, though of interior peace and consolation, - the list into which the aspirants, as skilful and determined athletae, enter­ed to struggle even unto death for the crown of life to be given to the victors by the Sovereign's own hand. It is not when the old and infirm, who have outlived their worldly pleasures and affections, or when they whom early misfortune, disappoint­ments, or blight have sickened with the world and rendered un­able to bear its rude breath or its scornful eye, retreat from society, and wait in concealment and silence for death to relieve them of their burdens, that the Catholic sees the peculiar beau­ty and worth of the monastery ; but it is when the strong and the beautiful, in the bloom of life, in the freshness of their thoughts and affections, for whom the world is full of promise and society reserves its choicest pleasures and its richest honors, turn their backs upon them all, and, adorning themselves as the bride for the bridegroom, offer their virgin hearts and virgin bodies on the altar of sacrifice, and pledge themselves to their celestial Spouse, to be his, and his only, for time and eternity, that the Catholic heart swells with admiration, that Catholic eyes fill with tears of thanksgiving and joy, and pious souls fall down and adore the wondrous power of Divine grace.

The following throws a strong light on Protestantism, and shows its utter worthlessness under its least objectionable as­pect, under which one would expect it to have, at least, some appearance of merit.

" I believe no church is so faithful to the sick and to orphans as the Church of Rome. In hospitals, the Sisters of Charity are the most faithful watchers, performing the most menial services with their own hands ; and, much as I dislike their vows, I can never see these sisters pass in the streets of our cities without a feeling of pitying admiration.

" When a city is visited by plague or cholera, the Catholic priest has the feeling of a soldier in the hour of danger. If his people ever need him, they need him then. And the priest never deserts his flock, while the Protestant minister often flees with precipita­tion.

" No other church is so faithful to the poor, and to this I ascribe the hold which she has on the Irish peasantry and on the masses wherever her faith prevails. She has accomplished that greatest task of any religion, - to make it penetrate the lower strata of soci­ety,- to make it sink down into the ocean of popular ideas and affections.

" In countries where the Catholic Church is dominant, religion has at least some hold on all classes. The lowest, the most degrad­ed, have some touch of religious sentiment about them, some ven­eration for sacred things, some sensibility to holy influences. The Irish peasant, the Sicilian beggar, still keep some fraction of Chris­tian faith, even in circumstances fitted to cast down and brutalize human nature. They do not sink to such brutish degradation as the same class in Protestant countries. They are not such animals as the low population of London, the haggard wretches of St. Giles. It appears to me that it is the highest triumph of the Catholic relig­ion that it has infused some touch of heavenly love and hope into such stern and savage breasts.

" Eternal honor to the Catholic Church for this, - that she makes no distinction between the rich and the poor! In that church, as before God, all men are on a level. In the immense multitude that prostrate themselves on the floor of the cathedral, the rich and the poor, the prince and the laboring man, kneel side by side, and feel that God is the maker of them all. The thought of their Creator and of their immortality, that rushes over them at such a moment, makes them equal.

" To all conditions of men the Church administers the same sac­raments, from baptism in childhood to extreme unction in the hour of dissolution. When the poor man is taken sick, the priest is at his bedside to administer the consolations of religion ; and over the de­parting soul of the poorest of her children the Church pronounces her last benediction,-' Go forth,O Christian soul! from this world, in the name of God, the Father Almighty, who created thee ; in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered for thee *, in the name of the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth thee. When thy soul shall depart from thy body, let the resplendent mul­titude of the angels meet thee; let the triumphant army of the martyrs, clad in their white robes, conduct thee.'

" Being pervaded by the same sentiment of religion, there is a sympathy between all classes, where all belong to the same commun­ion, which, in our divided Protestant communities, does not exist. The tendency of sects is to isolate a man from his neighbour, to make him selfish, clannish, and proud.

" It is perhaps owing to this difference of religion, that there is much less of aristocratic pride and assumption in Catholic coun­tries. Their religion has at least a softening and beautiful effect upon manners. In persons of the highest rank, they are softened by a courtesy which the burly Englishman, or the purse-proud American, never knows. I believe there is more pride, more inso­lence, in England, than on the whole continent of Europe. I do not suppose that their religion has produced this pride, but it cer­tainly has not prevented it.
" Protestantism seems to have no machinery to reach the poorer classes. The most that has been done in England or in this coun­try has been done by the Methodists. But the spirit of our churches generally is worldly, self-seeking. They court the rich. The ambition of a Protestant minister, even in democratic America, is to be the head of an aristocratic congregation. The churches themselves are a kind of religious aristocracy. In New York, for example, what a rivalry as to which congregation shall be most ex-elusive ! The very buildings in which they worship are construct­ed as if on purpose to shut out the poor. They are arranged just like a theatre, in boxes, which are sold to the highest bidder, and all are held at such a price that the poor are almost as a matter of necessity excluded.
" I may be wanting in reverence, but to me a fashionable church is about as sacred a place as a fashionable theatre. One is as much devoted to the god of this world as the other. Both are fitted up with gay or gaudy decorations. Both resorted to by very fashion­able audiences for curiosity or display. The principal feeling ex­cited or gratified is poor, pitiful human vanity. In the church, as in the theatre, the audience are entertained for an hour with public speaking in which there is an occasional religious reflection or sen­timent, about as solemn, though by no means as eloquent, as the moralizing of Hamlet. From both places the public, or the poorer part of it, are strictly excluded.

" How Christianity is to penetrate the whole mass of society by the agency of such churches surpasses my comprehension. Sad would be the fate of the world, if its moral condition or happiness depended on these fashionable Christians, who are giddy with folly and dissipation half the year, but-religiously abstain from the opera during Lent! "- pp. 12- 15.

This speaks for itself, and should for ever silence those who pretend that Protestantism is favorable to the million. But here is another passage which proves equally the worthlessness of Protestantism as the medium of maintaining faith in Christian­ity as a divine revelation.

" Lastly, I honor the Catholic Church for this, - that it has held inflexibly to its high ground, that Christianity is a divine religion ; not merely what Mr. Emerson or Mr. Parker thinks, or what any body supposes ; but that it is the eternal truth of God; not a sys­tem of philosophy like that of Plato, or a mere classification of nat­ural laws which man.has discovered, but a revelation from the invisible world, which the Son of God has come down from heaven to give to mankind. We have been so long trying to explain every­thing in the Christian religion, from a wish to make its truth and evidence palpable to all, that we have insensibly let go the sublim­ity and grandeur of this mighty faith. We have sought to reduce its mysteries to the level, not only of the highest, but of the most vulgar comprehension ¦, to classify its stupendous facts under the ordinary course of nature. Some have gone so far as to reduce Christ to be a mere man, his miracles to be merely natural phe­nomena, and his teachings to be simply the wise sayings of a virtu­ous philosopher. Christianity is merely the reiteration of those general laws of the mind which we knew before, or might have known, from our own consciousness. When we have reached this point, what place is left for faith, or for anything that had been be­fore called religion ? What need of temples, and altars, and an­thems to bear up the soul on high ? The church becomes merely a hall for public lectures, and human flattery and compliment take the place of the prostration of man before his Maker.

" I do not wonder that some minds, when they reach this'lowest point of belief, or disbelief, rush back from it into the unquestion­ing faith of the Church of Rome. A dark, half-understood faith, mysterious yet sublime, is better than total unbelief, than universal doubt. As they turn away sickened from the miserable transcen­dental philosophy of the day, which reasons God and all spiritual existences out of the world, which knows no being hut man,- the faith of Rome presents itself as a refuge. There is an attrac­tion in its mysteries, there is a solemnity in that darkness of the future and the invisible, which the Catholic Church professes to illu­mine but dimly, as with a few faint stars twinkling in the midnight sky, which casts over the soul a spell as deep and awful as the shadow of eternity.

" Better even an excess of veneration and belief than a total ab­negation of faith. Better even for the intellect, for the arts, for poetry and eloquence, which can only live in an atmosphere of faith ; and infinitely better for the character. Superstition may be a weakness, but it is the error, though of an ignorant, yet of a sin­cere and truth-loving mind. Skepticism, still farther from the truth, is the error of an understanding but half instructed, yet conceited and flippant. Better any extreme of credulity than this, the laugh and gibber of a low, licentious, sneering infidelity.

"The Catholic Church, I think, deserves the thanks of all Chris­tendom for this, - that it has held so firmly that Christianity is a divine religion, the direct revelation of God, and eternal and im­mutable as its Author. Standing on this foundation, that church asserts the majesty of religion above all the interests of this world, in face of the secularizing influences of a commercial, and the sneers and scoffs of a skeptical age.
" And she is not ashamed to bear her cross before the world ! I confess I like those popular signs of its faith, crucifixes and orato­ries by the way-side, which are the landmarks of a Catholic country. I once looked on all such things as superstition ; but now they pro­duce on me rather a pleasant impression. I like, as I enter a foreign country, to be greeted with some token that 1 am entering a Christian land. A Protestant country you may travel through, from one end to the other, without meeting a single symbol of the national faith. You see buildings devoted to religious worship, but whether Christian temples, or Mohammedan mosques, or Hebrew synagogues, no visible sign tells. But over every Catholic Church a silent cross proclaims whose name they bear. Along the highways stand a thousand shrines like so many fountains, inviting the pil­grim to stop and drink of living waters. I confess I love to see these things; as I travel through strange kingdoms, to behold here and there the blessed symbol of my faith standing in a grove of pines, or on some headland overlooking the deep ; and as I see it standing at the head of those swelling mounds, which mark where we all must lie, it gives me a firmer hold of my immortality. It seems to say, ' I am the resurrection and the life : he that believ-eth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.'"-pp. 16- 18.

It is a little remarkable that a Protestant minister should mark it as a signal merit of the Catholic Church, that she has never ceased to assert that Christianity is a divine revelation. What must be his estimate of his own religion, when he acknowledges that ours is, in this respect, honorably distin­guished from it ? It is clear in his mind, that, if it had not been for our Church, the idea of Christianity as a positive, divine revelation, in contradistinction from mere philosophy or Ra­tionalism, would have been lost, and the world would have lapsed into the abyss of infidelity, - in a word, that it is to her that Protestants themselves are indebted for even the preserva­tion of Christianity in the world. This is, no doubt, true ; but how can a Protestant acknowledge it ? Is it not fatal to his own communion ?

Mr. Field says he does not wonder at persons who recoil from the abyss of infidelity going over to Rome, but seems to imply that, if these persons were acquainted with some of the higher forms of Protestant Christianity, they might satisfy them­selves without taking so long a journey. But if the world is indebted to the Roman Catholic Church, as it undoubtedly is, for the preservation of the belief in Christianity as a divine revelation, how could we be saved from the abyss of infidelity out of that Church ?    It follows necessarily from what he concedes, that no form of Protestantism has power to save from infidelity ; and if not, how can any form of Protestantism be a secure refuge to those who would be Christian believers ? The fact is, that all those who, like ourselves, have been con­verted from Protestant Rationalism or Transcendentalism to the Roman Catholic Church, are as well acquainted with the higher forms of Protestantism as with the lower, and it was from the higher we had descended to the lower ; when we recoiled from the lower, we went to Rome, because we knew that there was nothing in these higher forms that could save us from relapsing into the lower.

All Protestant communions may be divided into three class­es :- I. The Genevan, or Calvinistic ;   2. The Anglican, or Episcopalian ;   3. The Unitarian, or Rationalistic.    The best that Protestantism has to offer is to be found in one or an­other of these three classes ; and he who cannot find the Gos­pel in some one of these need not hope to find it in the Prot­estant world.     The first class embraces all the sects com­monly called Evangelical.    Their principle is enthusiasm, and their fruit fanaticism, alike repugnant to faith and to reason. Anglicanism, or Protestant Episcopalianism, embracing Luther-anism in so far as Lutheranistn is not Evangelicalism, is mere formalism, -what Carlyle calls a u sham."    It is the broken hull of Catholicity, emptied of its kernel, and has nothing to feed the  famishing soul.     Doubtless both  of  these classes recognize many Christian truths, and retain large portions of Christian  ethics ; but these, if not defended on Rationalistic principles, must be defended on Catholic principles.    If we de­fend them on Rationalistic principles, we necessarily, as our author will  not deny, precipitate ourselves into the yawning abyss of infidelity ; if on Catholic principles, we cannot stop short of Catholicity, -save at the expense of our logic, - where they exist in their unity and integrity.   Not one of these truths ever has  been or ever can  be defended  against the   Unita­rians, or third class, save on principles which equally defend the Roman Catholic Church.    Here   is  the difficulty under which Protestantism, so long as it professes to be Christian, necessarily labors.     It is always too much or too little  for itself.      No  man   capable  of   reasoning  consecutively,   and whose  intellect is not warped by passion or prejudice, can for a moment avoid either sinking to the lowest depths of in­fidelity, or rising to Catholicity.

Then, again,  as a matter of fact, the active  living  men amongst Protestants are all dissatisfied with every existing form of Protestantism ; and if they cling to a particular form, it is never for what it is, but for what they hope or persuade themselves it may become. Our author himself has no sym­pathy with Evangelicalism, and he would reform it by in­ducing it to copy the principal features of Catholicity ; and he stands by no means alone. There is a deep feeling among our New England ministers, that Evangelicalism is far from being the adequate expression of Christianity, and that it by no means answers the great ends of a divine religion, as we have had ample means of knowing, and of which we have ample proofs in our own possession. What is Dr. Bushnell's movement but a revolt against Evangelicalism, now in favor of Rationalism, now in favor of Mysticism, and now even in favor of Catholicity ? Protestant Episcopalians, with their kindred, may talk emphatically of their church and their " ad­mirable liturgy," but none of them appear to be satisfied with their church as it actually is, and most of them, whether in England or in this country, are at work to develop it, some in favor of Evangelicalism, some in favor of Catholicity, others, like Whately and his school, in favor of Unitarianism, or Ra­tionalism. Unitarians acknowledge with one accord that they have not found what they want, and never expect to come to the knowledge of the truth. The late Dr. Channing, a short time before his death, made the remarkable confession, in a letter to a friend, that, though he approved of his past course, and believed Unitarianism had been useful in combating Calvinism, he still looked for the manifestation of a higher form of Christian truth and of Christian life. These are facts which have their significance, and which prove, that, in recoil­ing from infidelity, we have no resource but to fall back on the Catholic Church, not merely to satisfy our imaginations or our sensibilities, but our sober reason. There is nothing else, even on the showing of the sects themselves, for us to fall back upon.

We, who have run through the higher as well as the lower forms of Protestantism, are not to be put off with a mere ab­straction, which has nothing positive, definite, and is nothing but the negation of Catholicity, and the assertion of anything we please in general, and nothing in particular. It is here that Protestants delude themselves. Our author claims to be a Protestant, and yet it is evident from his letter that there is no form   of Protestantism   that he  believes to be   the   adequate expression of Christian doctrine, or which is able to produce and support the genuine Christian life.    But what is this Prot­estantism in general, which is nowhere realized in a specific or individual form ?    The general, abstracted from the par­ticular, has no existence, and is only a mere possibility, not an actuality.      Protestantism exists only as  Evangelicalism, formalism, or Rationalism ; and he who is not an adherent of one or another of these, though he may be no Catholic, is no Protestant, - is in Christian countries nothing at all,-belongs, as it is said in the language of the day, to the " Big Church," that is, the " Nothingarian."    It is idle to ask us to be Prot­estants in general and not Protestants in particular, - to em­brace a mere abstraction and not a real thing.     If we are to be Protestants, we must embrace some particular form, enter some  particular communion ;  and if you yourselves cannot offer us any such communion, which, as it is, and not merely as you are hoping it one clay will be, is in your own belief the true Christian communion, you should not sneer at us for go­ing to Rome, since that, according to yourselves, is our only refuge from infidelity ; for to ask us to make a church for our­selves, or to remain in a false communion till you have suc­ceeded in forming the true one, is asking quite too much of us.    Life is short, and death is near at hand :  we have no vocation ourselves to make a church, and you seem to have just as little ; for you appear to be no nearer getting a true church constructed than you were three hundred years ago. You are busy, we grant ;  but unless God build  the house, how shall they prosper who build it ?    Does the Church of Christ now exist in its integrity, or does it not ?

Perhaps, were our Protestant friend to look closer into the matter, he would find that we who have gone over to Rome did not go because we had become disgusted with this or that particular form of Protestantism, in a fit of ill-humor or de­spair, - in obedience to the craving of a morbid sensibility, or of a disorderly imagination. Perhaps he would find that we need no such apology as he generously volunteers for us,- that, in fact, we did not fall into that abyss of Transcendental­ism and infidelity till we had examined the higher forms of Protestantism, and found them empty, or go into the Church but upon full and sober conviction. And perhaps, too, if he should form his conclusions from our Catholic faith as our Church teaches it, instead of forming them from his own glosses, he would not hold it necessary to defend superstition in order to defend the reasonableness of our conversion. It is amusing as well as painful to witness the absurd mistakes which even able and well-disposed Protestants fall into in re­gard to our faith ; and we must tell even the able and well-dis­posed, that, while we appreciate their motives, and honor them for their good intentions, their apologies are hardly less offensive to us than the most bitter accusations they could bring against us. However, our kind-hearted friend has intended nothing offensive, and while we refuse to accept his well-meant apolo­gy for us and our brother converts, we assure him that we only wish him to be able from his own experience to see its absurdity, and the little need we have of it, or of any apolo­gy for renouncing error and embracing truth, - for,leaving the Protestant conventicle for the Catholic Church.

We have laid before our readers " the good " which Mr. Field finds in the Church, and the conclusion is evident, that, in his mind, - however the case may stand as to doctrine, in which he admits we are substantially orthodox, - the Christian life is to be found, at least in its perfection, only in our com­munion. This is enough for us, and we will not press him with the logical consequences which naturally follow from it ; for we trust, in due time, with God's grace, he will see them for himself. As to " the bad " he finds in the Church, it real­ly amounts to little. We pay too great a regard to relics, have too many ceremonies in our worship, use in the service of the Church a dead language, find too great a facility of pardon in the confessional, have a source of abuse in the celibacy of the clergy, and have too many monks. Here is the whole list, we believe. We have no intention, at present, of discussing these subjects at length. The recent revolutions in Europe are fast removing the last abuse, if abuse it be, and there is no danger of the monastic orders becoming too crowded, at least for some time to come. The celibacy of the clergy is not a debatable question at this late day. If it were pro­ductive of evil, experience would have demonstrated the fact long before this ; and it would be giving the Church little credit for that consummate policy she is said to profess and prac­tise, to suppose, that, if experience had so demonstrated, she would continue to insist on it, since it is within her com­petency to abolish it. „ Did it never occur to our friend, that the very fact that the Church insists on the celibacy of the clergy in face of the opposition it encounters, and after ages of experience, is a palpable proof that it is not an abuse, that its practical effect is good, and that she has good and solid reasons for insisting on it ? As to the use of a dead language, we are surprised that such a man as Mr. Field should find it an objection. Just consider the number of languages and dialects in the world, the constant changes and alterations they undergo, and ask, if a more unreasonable proposition was ever put forth, than that the Church should translate her sa­cred offices into them all, many of which have never been written languages, have no grammar, and no alphabet. And what need is there of it ? The prayers are addressed to God and not to the worshippers, and he can understand, we pre­sume, Latin as well as English or French. As to the cere­monies objected to, if, as the author says, they were borrowed from the Jewish worship, they were originally prescribed by God himself, and therefore cannot be in themselves objec­tionable, but must be, one would be disposed to think, such as God himself approves. The Catholic Church teaches that the Jewish worship was prescribed by divine authority, and remains in force save so far as repealed by the New Law.

On the other two points, we have now only one or two sug­gestions to offer. The author recognizes true Saints in our Church, and names some ; and we request him to take notice that those whom he recognizes for Saints were remarkable for their veneration of the Saints, the honor they paid to sacred relics, and the frequency with which they approached the con­fessional ; and that we never find a Saint, nor an eminently pious Catholic, of whom we are not obliged to say as much. Has our friend meditated this fact ? Did St. Francis of Sales, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Vincent of Paul, or even Fenelon, ever hint that these things were abuses and needed reforming ? Are not such men as these better judges of what favors the growth of sanctity, than is a stranger to our Church, who can judge only according to uncertain specula­tion from uncertain data ? May it not be that there is a con­nection between these things and holiness of life, which our Protestant friend, with his Protestant eyes, does not perceive ? Let him produce an instance of real eminent sanctity discon­nected from them.

The author nowhere shows himself to so little advantage as when speaking of confession, and he proves himself by no means well informed when he reckons Pascal among Catholic Saints.    Pascal was no Saint, and not even a Catholic.    He was a Jansenist, and therefore a heretic ; and his life shows, that, whatever were the austerities he practised, he was lack­ing in the Christian virtue of humility, without which there is no sanctity. The author does not appear to have made him­self at all acquainted with the ordinary Catholic expositions of the sacrament of Penance. He fancies that the main end of confession is the relief of a scrupulous conscience, and to reassure the self-distrustful. Beyond this he thinks it is an abuse, or only an indulgence to sin. What blunders sensible men will commit when they venture to speak on topics of which they are ignorant! "Many a bad man," he says, " sins with a light heart, thinking that he can get a release from the Divine penalty by whispering into the ear of the priest. Confession relieves his conscience altogether too easi­ly." (p. 24.) How does our friend know this, since he has never believed or practised confession ? Even if what he says were true, he is rash in saying it, for he has no sufficient reason for saying it. But there is no truth in it. The bad man supposed knows, if he knows anything of his religion, that to sin presuming on pardon is an additional sin of pre­sumption ; and he knows, also, that he cannot receive pardon unless he has all that Protestants understand by repentance, and that, if he should approach the sacrament with an impenitent heart, without sorrow for his sin, and a firm resolution to for­sake it and obey God for the future, he would not only not ob­tain pardon, but would commit the sin of sacrilege. No Catho­lic is so ignorant as not to know that something more than whis­pering in the ear of the priest is necessary to obtain pardon for his sins. The simple fact is, that, in this matter of forgive­ness, Protestants hold that there is forgiveness of sins on re­pentance, without confession ; and Calvinists hold that all sins, past, present, and to come, are forgiven at once ; - we, that there is none with confession, without repentance. So we make the matter more difficult than they do, requiring all they require, and confession into the bargain. The author mistakes the motive which he tacitly assumes the Reformers had in re­jecting confession : it was not to make pardon less easy, but to remove an unpleasant restraint ; for confession is anything but agreeable to flesh and blood. As to its being an indul­gence to sin, that is ,all moonshine. Is it an indulgence to sin to say that God pardons the penitent for Christ's sake ? No man dares say it, and what more do we say in the sacra­ment of Penance ?

We request the attention of the author to a well-known fact in all Catholic countries, that the pious, the devout, they who aspire to Christian perfection, and who really adorn their religion, and extort the admiration of Protestants by their virtues, go regularly and often to confession, and some of the greatest Saints confess daily ; while the bad, the profane, the licentious, the men who dishonor their manhood by their vices and their religion by their profligate lives, the very persons Protestants throw in our faces as fruits of Catholicity, rarely, if ever, approach the tribunal of Penance ; and the first thing the good priest, in order to reform them, attempts, is to bring them to it. Here is a fact worth all the speculation in the world. If confession were an abuse, if sinners were made worse by frequently confessing, the fact would be as little like­ly to escape the observation of the Catholic pastor as of our Protestant minister ; and if he found such to be the fact, why should he resort to it as the most efficient means of reforming them ? Why should he spend days and nights in the most ar­duous and painful labors to get sinners to confess and in hearing their confessions ? The most painful and laborious part of his mission is that of hearing confessions ; and why should a good, intelligent, faithful, and zealous priest impose this task upon himself, if aware that it is not only of no use, but of real injury to the souls of his flock ? He could easily, to a great extent, escape it, and without subjecting himself to canonical censure, if he chose ; and bad or indolent priests, who care nothing for the souls committed to their charge, do escape it, and with what fruit the wretched condition of their flocks bears witness. The morals of a Catholic communi­ty may always be measured by the numbers who approach, and the regularity and frequency with which they approach, the confessional and Holy Communion. Mr. Field would seem to suppose that it is the bad, the dissolute, among us that frequent the confessionals, and that these, as soon as they sin, run to the priest and confess it. Would that it were so. But it is not so ; for these are precisely the ones who keep aloof from the confessional, and, in this respect at least, are good practical Protestants. The terrible corruption in France, during the last century, began in a neglect of the sacrament of Penance ; and it is only as we succeed in bringing men to it that we succeed in reforming them. Even Anglicans are so struck with this fact, that they are trying to introduce the practice of confession into their communion.

But we have extended our remarks farther than we intended. It is not necessary to dispute these matters with our Protes­tant friend, for we do not perceive that he recognizes any standard according to which he proposes to reform us ; and we should think he had had enough already, in his Protestant com­munions, of the absurd attempt to reform the Church of God by private authority. Churchmen may need reforming in or­der to bring them up to the standard of the Church ; but, as recent as is the time since we became a Catholic, the propo­sition to reform Christ's Church sounds harshly in our ears. We cannot help thinking that Almighty God had the ability to construct, and has constructed, his Church to suit the ends for which he instituted it, and that it cannot be improved by us, or stand in need of us to repair it. After all, it seems to us not unreasonable to accept it as he has given and sustains it, and, if we do not happen to find ourselves in harmony with it, to conclude that the fault is far more likely to be ours than his or its. It seems hard that God should submit to man, but not hard that man should submit to God.