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Christian Ethics

Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1846

ART. I. — 1. Praelectiones Theologicce Majores in Seminario Sancti- Sulpitii habitum. De Matrimonio. Opera el Studio Jos. CARRIERE.    Parisiis.   1837.    Vol. III.
2. De Justitia et Jure.    Parisiis.    Vol. II.
3. Compendium Tkeologim Moralis Sancti A. M. DE LIGO-
RIO.   Auctore DEOD. NEYRAGUET.  Ruthenis.   1839-44.
4. Theologian Moralis concinnalcn a FRANCISCO PATRICIO
KENRICK, Episcopo Philadelphiensi.    Philadelphia?.  Vol.
I. 1841.    Vol. II. 1842.    Vol. III. 1843.

THE author of the two works which we have placed first on our list is a professor in the celebrated seminary of Saint Sul-pice, and one of the vicars-general of the Archbishop of Paris. The lectures which he delivered to the numerous students of that institution form the groundwork of the learned and voluminous treatises in which he labors to adapt theological principles to the altered state of affairs in France and the actual laws, and to solve many practical cases which perplex the clergy in the exercise of their holy ministry. It is not for us to say whether, in all cases, he has been successful in untying the knot; but we can cheerfully bear testimony to his great learning and high integrity. The compendium next on the list is from the pen of a priest of the diocese of Rhodez, in Gascony, and was first published in 1839 ; but has already passed through three editions, the last of which was in 1844. It is what it professes to be, an abstract of the moral doctrine of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, whose words are, for the most part, retained. In a volume of above eight hundred pages, the substance is given of what fills three large volumes of the great work of the Saint, besides his practical manual, called Homo Jlpostolicus. Of the excellence of this work its success affords most satisfactory evidence. The last on our list is a work in three volumes, which, in three successive years, issued from the Philadelphia press, from the pen of the present Bishop of Philadelphia. It also is, to a great extent, a compendium of the work of St. Alphonsus, especially in what regards matters of a delicate character, which the author generally expresses in the very words of the Saint, to shield himself against censure under such high protection ; it being, however, his object to adapt the moral system to our laws and usages, he has necessarily introduced much that is not to be found in St. Alphonsus or other European writers, who, for the most part, were guided by the civil law in what regards legal questions, whilst the common law and our State legislation are Irequently referred to by Bishop Kenrick. We do not feel competent to pronounce on the merits of this work ; but not to appear to send our readers across the Atlantic for information, we take leave to refer to this domestic specimen of Catholic morality scientifically treated, and invite attention to a science full of practical interest, and which presents social attractions at this moment, when the echo of the ravings of Exeter Hall against Peter Dens has scarcely ceased, and may have awakened suspicion in some minds as to the purity of our moral system. We shall introduce our readers not only to the lecture-hall, but to the college penetralia, the lonely room of the student, and submit to their inspection what might not be uttered without wounding delicacy.

Ethics, as a Christian science, are the principles of morals as divinely revealed and sanctioned. Independently of revelation, certain rules of action are known to us from reason ; and a power of discriminating between right and wrong, virtue and vice, is inherent in our nature ; so that . the nations to whom the divine revelation has not been made known are to themselves a law ; which when they obey, they do, as it were by natural instinct, much of what is prescribed by God in his revealed law, and when they transgress it, they are self-rebuked, and condemned by conscience.*(footnote: * Rom. ii. 1-1. 15.) These principles, written on the hearts of all, are recognized and inculcated by the Christian science, which takes them as its basis, whereon it erects a divine superstructure.    They are simply and authoritatively propounded ; and to enforce them effectually, motives of a high order are proposed, and the most solemn and awful sanctions are added. Instead of leaving each one to discover by reflection this secret law, and to unfold to himself its precepts, our science lays them down broadly and clearly, with their consequences, — at least, such as directly flow from them ; and promulgates them, in the name of God, to the young, in the simple language of the catechism, and to all, from the pulpit or altar. A Christian child, after short instruction, knows, with the assurance of faith, what Plato, or Aristotle, or other philosophers, perceived but dimly, and with great admixture of gross error, after many years of profound investigation.

There is an affecting tenderness and sublimity in every moral principle taught by Christianity, inasmuch as it is commended, sealed, and hallowed by the great mystery of Redemption. The Christian teacher does not insist merely on the conformity of the law to the dictates of reason, and on the propriety of sustaining the dignity of man by acting accordingly. Neither does he confine himself to the solemn sanction given to the natural law by its promulgation amidst the thunders of Sinai. He tells of a Redeemer's love ; he points to the cross, and shows the crimson tide that flowed to wash away man's transgressions. Each precept is proposed, not merely in the name of a sovereign who must be obeyed, but as the will of a Saviour,- with boundless claims on our gratitude and love. Sin is not only intrinsically base, because contrary to reason and nature ; it is not merely treason against Supreme Majesty ; it is black ingratitude to a Divine Benefactor ; it is the revolt of a ransomed slave against the Lord that bought him; it is the " crucifying again to one's self the Son of God, and making him a mockery " ; it is the " treading under foot the Son of God, and the esteeming unclean the blood of the testament by which he was sanctified."

The sanctions of the moral law, which Christianity presents, are the highest imaginable. The philosopher can only urge that virtue gives peace to the heart, sustains the dignity of human character, gains the esteem of men ; and if he speaks of futurity, it is only with a faltering tongue, uttering the language of conjecture. The torments of a guilty conscience stung with remorse, the shame and censure which follow the exposure of guilt, the wretchedness which it produces, the punishments which society inflicts on certain crimes, and the possible evils that may be endured hereafter, are the grounds of philosophical remonstrance against sin. Earthly rewards and punishments were the immediate sanctions of the Mosaic dispensation ; whilst the Christian moralist promises with confidence eternal rewards for a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ, and foretells with certainty that torments without end await those who transgress and do not penance.
The Sermon on the Mount is the compendium of Christian morality, which is developed throughout the sacred writings of the  New  Testament, especially in the Epistles of St. Paul. There is, indeed, in this divine book no appearance of system, nothing that savors of didactic forms, no professed or implied design to furnish a complete code of morals ; but great principles are laid down, and sometimes applied to particular events or persons ; and many vices are specifically denounced, and the sanctions of futurity are urged with great force.    If we add the precepts of the decalogue, incidentally referred to in the New Testament, and all the moral maxims contained in the ancient Scriptures, the obligation whereof is in their nature perpetual, we shall have abundant materials for a complete moral system. The science, as sttc/i, may not have been cultivated in the commencement of Christianity.    The Apostles spoke with authority, and not as theorists.    Under divine illumination, they prescribed the good which was to be performed, and warned the faithful to shun all that bore the appearance of evil.   They solved the doubts that arose in regard to many practical questions, such as the duties of the married state, the use of meats sacrificed to idols, and they entered into many other details. Their successors, doubtless, imitated their example, when called on as priests of God to declare his law, which was sought from their mouths as from his chosen messengers.    Of their moral instructions little has escaped the ravages of time.   They were, for the most part, delivered orally to the assembled faithful,  or addressed, we may presume, to individual inquirers. The chief documents of that high antiquity which have come down to us are general exhortations to charity, obedience, and religious fervor, and apologies for the Christians, addressed to their persecutors, with some doctrinal essays.    As we descend the stream of time, authors in considerable number appear in view ; but they were chiefly employed in combating error, or in expounding Scripture ; and only incidentally or oratorical-ly put forward  and applied the principles of morals.    Tertullian, indeed, may be classed with the earliest casuists ; since
he canvassed the question of the lawfulness of wearing the military crown, and denied it to be allowable, on account of the heathenish superstitions wherewith he considered it to be connected. In the same spirit he condemned the Christian sculptor who for gain employed his chisel in forming idols, although he took no part in their worship ; and he inveighed against all Christians who assisted at theatrical amusements, which were then full of heathenish allusions. The discourses of all the Fathers abound with moral lessons, and with invectives against the gross vices of the day. With intrepid zeal Chrysostom denounced the luxury of the Empress Eudoxia, and of females generally, and exposed the wanton waste of precious metal employed for the meanest purposes, whilst the poor of Christ were perishing. Ethics were thus presented in a popular form; but we have no systematic treatise of a comprehensive kind which can claim this antiquity. In the writings of Augustine we have the like oratorical exposition of moral duties, and invectives against breaches of the Christian law, with a treatise on falsehood, and the solution of some special cases. At a much later period, when the diligence of theologians had methodically arranged what was written in a desultory manner in defence of the doctrines of Christianity, the moral code was likewise reduced to order, and its parts were presented in the like close and combined form ; both which important services, cost what it may to our pride to make the humiliating acknowledgment, we owe to the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages. The fuller development of ethics is, indeed, still more recent ; but it may be doubted whether the investigation of so many possible cases, attended as it has been with the hazarding of many dangerous opinions, has added much to the simple beauty of the moral system found in the writings of St. Thomas of Aquin. Let, however, the meed of praise be given to the mariners to whose enterprise and observation the modern navigator is indebted for the knowledge of each small isle, rock, and shoal, each gulf, current, and eddy, which are now so minutely marked on the well dotted chart. This takes nothing from the merit of those who first ventured on the broad ocean, trusting to the compass, and furnished with the mere elements of nautical science. Much less can the labors of modern divines in the detailed application of moral principles detract from the praise due to the luminous simplicity and great comprehensiveness of the moral system taught by the Mediaeval doctors.

The connection between this science and sacramental confession is manifest; since the oflice of confessor is that of judge and physician, and the judge must be thoroughly acquainted with the law, the physician must have studied attentively the maladies to which man is liable. Hence, the study of casuistry, as praciical ethics are called, has been almost wholly neglected by those sects which have expunged penance from the list of the sacraments. Jeremy Taylor, after a weak apology for the want of books of cases of conscience in his communion, points to the true cause. " It is not to be denied," he observes, " but the careless and needless neglect of receiving private confessions hath been too great a cause of our not providing materials apt for so pious and useful a ministration."*(footnote: * Duotor Dubitantium, or the Rule of Conscience. Preface.)  But then we maybe asked how this science remained so long unheeded, if confession be an original practice of Christianity. The science, in its main principles, was doubtless cultivated from the beginning ; since all moral instructions were so many scientific lectures (according to modern phraseology), although not couched in scholastic form, or presenting all practical cases in minute detail. Doubtless, special and secret instructions were given, at all times, to the aspirant to the ministry by clergymen of experience or of high authority, and the mode of administering penance was taught with the other sacramental instructions, which it was held unlawful to commit to writing, lest they should fall under the eyes of the uninitiated.

In the infancy of the Church the study of ethics was necessarily far more simple than at present. It was confined to the great principles of Christian morals, and their application to cases for the most part obvious and easy of solution. In the progress of ages, new and difficult cases arose, from the new phases which society assumed, and from the special relations of the Church to various governments. Ecclesiastical discipline was formed, modified, and changed ; laws were enacted ; cases proposed to the sovereign pontiff by bishops and others were authoritatively solved; and opinions were submitted to his judgment, some of which were found worthy of censure. The science is consequently highly complicated in its details at present, whilst it retains the simplicity of its principles. It were unfair to argue that there were no law and no judicial tribunal in the days of Alfred or Edward, because there remain no positive records of that early date, and the principles of common law are proved by decisions far more recent, which, however, presuppose, declare, and apply the great legal rules acknowledged since the time of those monarchs.

The minds of men have been exercised in various ways on the truths of Christianity, from the time of their original promulgation. These were embraced by the mass of believers in the fulness of faith, and were practically exhibited in the Church ; but the temptation of prying into the unfathomable mysteries of the Incarnation and Trinity agitated the East for many ages. Then discipline was attacked by the Iconoclasts, and the unity of the Church was subsequently rent by the abettors of Photius and Michael Cacrularius. The West, in its turn, suffered from the attempts of Berenger to reduce a divine doctrine within the limits of human conception, and, after successive outbursts of error, the whole fabric of religion seemed to totter, when Luther, with a giant's hand, sought to overthrow it. Scarcely had the controversial tide begun to ebb, in the middle of the seventeenth century, when ethics became the great matter of inquiry and dispute among theologians. The pontiffs, true to the duties of their high office, weighed the various opinions in the scales of the sanctuary, and rejected, without fear or favor, all that were found wanting. On the one hand, they struck down the harsh advocates of principles too severe for human weakness ; on the other, they rebuked the imprudent patrons of excessive indulgence.
The errors into which some casuists have fallen should not, however, bring the science itself into disrepute ; since these must be regarded as individual extravagances. Wherever authority does not guide, reason, arguing from premises that seem indubitable, will oftentimes draw erroneous inferences ; and the deformity of sin, which, if exposed without veil, would excite horror, may be concealed by some adventitious circumstance. If the gross absurdities which were maintained by the most eminent philosophers of antiquity, and which have been rivalled, if not surpassed, by some moderns, do not warrant the rejection of all philosophy, or a low estimate of its value, why should the errors of some divines involve in disgrace a science which is certain in its principles and true developments, and is pure and sublime in its tendencies ? Besides, it should not be forgotten that some of the propositions which were denounced to the Holy See for condemnation were invented by interested accusers, and the meaning of others was artfully perverted by separating them from the context which qualified them, and several were but opinions hazarded on subjects which presented a complex character, difficult of solution. It is a singular fact that St. Augustine, in regard to a particular case, pronounces an opinion which is now generally considered extremely severe ; and on another point seems almost to justify what no divine at the present day could be found to sanction.*(footnote: * De Serm. Domini, n. SO.) This shows that the holiest and most enlightened men may err in matters not decided by the Church ; and it should dispose us to regard with indulgence those who, with upright intentions, advance opinions that, on mature examination, may not be found tenable. The satires of Pascal have involved in disgrace the whole society of Jesuits, because some objectionable principles had been maintained by individual members, which, however, were exaggerated and caricatured by the artful and caustic Jansenist. It is the glory of the Society, that, whatever indulgence it showed to human weakness, its members themselves generally exhibited in their own conduct evangelical perfection. It is, indeed, the characteristic of the saints to be severe towards themselves, and indulgent towards others; and only a few years have elapsed since the Church has enrolled in her list of triumphant confessors Alphonsus de Li-guori, a moralist remarkable for the mildness of his opinions, which some branded as relaxed, but still more conspicuous for virginal integrity, pastoral zeal, and all the high qualities of an Apostolic prelate. The popular character of his principles in France may be conjectured from the rapidity with which the excellent compendium of M. Neyraguet has passed through several editions.

It is not, however, our object to vindicate any class of theologians, but to give an insight into Christian ethics as they exist, pruned by the hand of authority from the excrescences which spoil their beauty and usefulness. There remain, it is true, many opinions of a questionable kind still afloat on the theological sea. The chief pastors have not taken on themselves to decide every moral question that has been a subject of discussion ; since the endless variety of phases which human actions may assume might render this extreme minuteness in defining the limits of right and wrong hazardous and perplexing. It was enough to defend the great principles of morality, and their application to important cases, against the temerity of
men whose zeal was not according to knowledge. The freedom of opinion which is left does not render the science of little value, since it presents a comprehensive rqle of duty with the highest sanction of authority. Omitting to speak of the exact sciences, we ask, What other science can offer an equal amount of useful knowledge. with fewer questionable points ? Not certainly chemistry, which by undergoing an entire revolution has not strengthened its claims on our confidence ; not geology, with its Plutonian and Neptunian theories ; not medicine, which, for the most part,- is matter of experiment, with very doubtful issue, — kill or cure. We stop not to inquire whether law be a science, or art, since, unhappily, we know tco much of its glorious uncertainty to fear its rival claims. Our science has broad and deep foundations, absolutely immovable ; and the superstructure is solid and secure.
Ethics are not matters of sterile speculation, but essentially practical, regulating the actions of man, his words, his affections and thoughts, by the divine law. Man, inasmuch as he is a free and responsible agent, is the object of this science, which, leaving to physiology to contemplate his physical organization, and to medicine' to treat of his corporal maladies, considers him as a moral being, subject to impulses which he must restrain and direct, and bound to the performance of certain duties. Her immediate end is to establish and maintain order in man himself by subjecting the animal appetite to reason, and, in case nature still-revolt, by influencing the judgment and will, so as to prevent any consent or voluntary delectation in that which is irregular. Internal peace is secured by this control of the appetites and inclinations. Using the goods of life for his nourishment and comfort, man abstains from excessive indulgence, and thus he is not enfeebled by debauchery, or bru-tified by intoxication, or disturbed by passion. The disorders consequent on the original transgression yield to the superior influence of religion. The science, however, contemplates the possible deviations from her principles and laws, and is employed in devising remedies for all imaginable prevarications, as well as in determining the amount of moral guilt attached to them respectively. She considers man, in every class of society, and in every station of life, as a frail and sinful being ; and whilst she lays before him his duties, she supposes the possibility of defects and transgressions. Without waiting for the evidence of actual guilt, she visits the high places of the land, and marks the defilements by which human weakness may stain offices the most holy.    She follows the sinner into the sanctuary, deprives him of the benefit of asylum, erects her tribunal at the very altar of God, and decrees the punishment of profanation and sacrilege.    The walls of the cloister do not oppose an obstacle to her scrutiny.    The musings of the convent-cell, — the  whisperings   of  the  tempter that  addresses   the   frail daughter of Eve even within the earthly paradise, — are all judged of by her  according  to the  standard  of Him   who searcheth the heart and reins.    No place is deemed too holy to exclude temptation, no perfection so complete as to remove danger.    With scales  taken  from the sanctuary she weighs each circumstance which may aggravate guilt, or change altogether its character; with minute accuracy she numbers the transgressions ; and with unsparing strictness she unfolds the obligations which arise from their commission ; whilst with a mother's solicitude she points to the means necessary to insure pardon.    It is, however, unjust to suppose that the cases laid down by casuists are so many realities, since they are generally mere creatures of imagination, designed to illustrate and apply the principles.    It may be that several similar sins have been, in various circumstances, committed ; but their commission cannot be proved or inferred   from mere hypotheses ; much less is it fair to argue their frequency from the fact that they are spoken of as possible.    As well might the character of a nation be assailed, because the laws decree punishment against such as may be guilty of unnatural enormities.    Surely it is from the criminal records, and not from the statute-book, that  the   amount  of crime   should  be estimated,  nor  does even  the  conviction  of an   individual   culprit  establish   the general criminality of the body to which he belongs.    If a theologian  dwell on  the  guilt  of a sacrilegious priest,  is it just to infer that sacrilege is the ordinary characteristic of the priesthood ?  If he exaggerate the profanation of the holy ministry, does it follow that it is constantly profaned ?   If he condemn the looking back with regret on  the world which has been forsaken, and  the forfeiting  in secret the  purity which was vowed to God, with what appearance of reason is it inferred that the cloister is the habitation of unclean spirits ?   Ilonni soit qui mal y pense.
Moral theology reviews the relations of man to his fellow-men individually, to his family especially, to his country and her government, and to society at large. This is a wide and vast domain.    Some of these relations are of the most deli- cate kind, which many think should be covered with an impenetrable veil, since their exposure shocks public sentiment, and the glance of curiosity may bring death to the soul. The French infidel affects horror at the cahiers which are submitted to the ecclesiastical student to prepare him for the ministry of the confessional, by giving him an insight into mysteries of which he has no practical knowledge. The calumniators of Dens have paraded and exposed in the vernacular tongues all that this excellent divine thought necessary to detail, that what is lawful and what is forbidden might be accurately discriminated, and marriage maintained in every respect honorable, — the bed undefined. The tract of Sanchez, De Matrimonio, written on his knees, at the foot of the crucifix, with an iron girdle around his loins, has been singled out for denunciation, as an index of Spanish corruption, an insult to public morals, a libel on Christianity. Even Saint Alphonsus de Liguori has not escaped the censure of the advocates of decorum and morality ! Protestant and infidel have joined in the war-cry against Roman casuists; but is it meant that the law of God does not regulate the relations of man and wife ? Is it supposed that the first laws of nature can be defeated without sin, or that nothing must be said to disturb the false tranquillity of the transgressors ? Are crimes which the marriage-veil conceals from the public eye less abominable before God than the frailties of the inexperienced and unprotected,, which are followed by exposure and shame ? Whoever entertains such views forgets what St. Paul has said to inculcate the duties of the married state,*(footnote: * 1 Cor. vii. 3.) and what Moses has recorded respecting the punishment of their violation. Of Onan it is written, " The Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing."(footnote: Gen. xxxviii. 10.) In times of primitive purity and simplicity, the holiest prelates of the Church, such as Chrysostom and Augustine, entered into details from the pulpit which the public ear will not now suffer. Shall we, on this account, consider all such offences against the fundamental law of nature as imaginary, and shrink from their contemplation, and in every circumstance affect utter ignorance of their possibility or their malice ?

It is amusing to see Michelet solicitous about the purity of the young Levites, on their being allowed to peruse the Diaco-nal; it is highly ludicrous to hear the corrupt compiler of extracts from Dens, whilst putting every dangerous detail within the reach of every school-boy or girl, affecting to be shocked at the impropriety of instructing the clergy in the like details, the ignorance whereof would expose them, like unskilful physicians, to mistake the diseases which they may be called on to cure. Since the matrimonial relations form an essential part of Christian morality, — since .the laws are founded in nature, and have God for their author, — since the transgressions are pointed out in Scripture, and the severest punishments are there denounced against the transgressors,— the professor of Christian ethics must study them. The innocence of his life, the solemnity of his obligations, and the daily exercises of piety which are enjoined on him, are so many protecting influences in a study, the pursuit of which, although not free from danger, is, under these circumstances, infinitely less dangerous to the Le-vite than the morbid descriptions of Sue or Bulwer are to the young female reader. Nay, we will say confidently, there is far more danger to a youth, male or female, from the premature reading of certain Scriptural facts and enactments, than there is to the theological student from the study of all the details of Dens, Sanchez, or Saint Alphonsus. Those who know vice only in the abstract, by studying its deformity, are generally remarkable for great innocence and purity of manners, and are never found, on this account, less delicate or refined in their intercourse with society. It is not presented to them in the pages of the casuist in the glowing colors wherewith it is depicted in romance, or with the charms wherewith stage representation invests it. The tear of sympathy for the faithful lovers does not steal down the cheek, nor does the bosom throb with high emotions. Adventure, intrigue, stratagem, are not employed to give interest to the narrative. Vice is considered as base, degrading, producing wretchedness and ruin, the worst enemy of man, and as that which God hates with perfect hatred ; its fatal results in time and eternity are portrayed ; and is it in circumstances like these that innocence, which in age more tender resisted the rude blasts of the world, is most likely to be blighted ?

Some affect to believe that the crimes contemplated by theologians belong to extraordinary epochs, when man was rendered savage by wars, and his passions defied all control. Would to God that it were so ! Still would their labors have their value, because suited to circumstances which may somewhere exist, and may sooner or later occur among ourselves. But, alas !   what is man everywhere, and at all times?    Truly an irrational animal, — a weak and corrupt being, with beastly propensities. What crime has been committed at any period of the world, and in any state of society, that does not find a parallel in the criminal records or the newspaper reports of modern times ? For those who can see beneath the surface of society, and view the depths of human corruption, what sinks of vice open to the sight! Moral theologians, then, deserve well of humanity, who, instead of indulging vain fancies of human perfection, or following phantoms for the improvement of our race, have considered the vices of men, and sought out the suitable remedies. It is a grand and consoling spectacle, which Christianity alone presents, — that of men removed from the influences which might pervert their judgment, and engaged in the consideration of human actions in reference to the divine law, that they may guide the unwary and enlighten the doubtful in all the numberless difficulties whereby the mind is perplexed, and without fear or favor say what is lawful and what is forbidden. This is a science of the highest advantage to individuals, and to society generally. Its professors are engaged in no metaphysical subtilties ; they are utilitarians in the highest and best sense. They are counsellors whose advice is gratuitous ; they are physicians whose unbought sympathies alleviate much of suffering, whilst they study to effect a cure.

To such as are anxious that subjects of a delicate nature, and crimes that are atrocious, should not be treated of in moral theology, we beg to remark, that God, in the ancient dispensation, was pleased to specify in detail matters the most delicate,*(footnote: Leviticus, passim.) and to' mark out for punishment unnatural crimes; and the Apostle descended to the like specification in several portions of his inspired Epistles.(footnote: Rom. i. 26, 27 ; 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.) From what part of the Scriptures can it be gathered that vice is to be warred against most effectually by dissembling its existence, and to be rooted out by conniving at its growth ? Specifications are revolting to the feelings of the pure and the refined. Well, then, let them be avoided in familiar conversations, wherein the Apostle would not have impure crimes to be at all mentioned ; let them be avoided in the pulpit, where, nevertheless, in better and purer times, they were used by holy and zealous men ; let them be avoided in books of general instruction, which may pass into the hands of the innocent and young ; — but the code of Christian morals cannot, on this account, suffer mutilation. Its foundations are in the eternal law ; it necessarily embraces all human actions in every variety of circumstance ; none can be withdrawn from its cognizance. To write on ethics, and not treat of impure and unnatural sins, is the same as to limit the writers on materia medica, anatomy, or other branch of medicine or surgery, to such details as may not be indelicate or revolting. Away with such affectation! The moralist should narrowly and closely consider every thing that is embraced by the science ; and in proportion to the diligence wherewith he has pursued his investigation into the depths of human malice, — accordingly as he has studied the human heart, which no one can thoroughly fathom, and as he has become acquainted with the weakness and depravity of man, so will be his prospect of success in the skilful treatment of the moral patient. Let no one rashly judge the man who, with a view to effect a cure even in cases which seem desperate, considers crime in all its phases and all its deformity, and familiarizes himself with that which he utterly loathes and detests. " All things are clean to the clean ; but to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean ; but both their mind and conscience are defiled." *(footnote: * Tit. i. 15.) The imagination is easily excited without any external cause ; an ambiguous word, a gesture, a look, suffices to raise the tumult of the passions and dethrone reason; death enters by all our senses ; but the man, who, sensible of his own weakness, relies only on divine aid, may without fear unfold the pages of Sanchez, and consider over the various actions that come under review, to determine their moral character. The purity of his intention, and the necessity of the study for the proper discharge of the office of guide, in-structer, counsellor, and physician, are his safeguards ; and the grace of God is sufficient to preserve him undefiled. Let those fear who court danger, — who let fall the equivoque,--who indulge the dangerous glance, — who pore over the obscene tale, — who in the crowded theatre, with excited, minds, view at one moment the syrens in gaudy array, at another the successful intrigue invested with all the charms of happiness. They are not the persons to warn the theological student of the dangers attendant on the study of moral points in the silence and solitude of his retreat.
We have some doubts whether the  title  of theology has been appropriately given to Christian ethics, as they do not immediately regard God ; but we are not disposed to be over-fastidious in this respect, especially as it serves to mark the sublime character of the science.    Our friends of the bar are highly eloquent when they  undertake to describe the excellence of the law, of which, borrowing the words of Hooker, they say, " Her seat is the bosom of God."    Of the common law they speak in raptures, as most comprehensive, there being no such thing as casus non prwvisus, a case for which adequate provision is not found in it.    Of course we bow assent, but at the same time we assert the superior claims of the moral science.    The law, technically so called, determines only the external relations of society, — binds to acts of duty, enforces external rights, and punishes transgression.    Its sanctions are human and earthly, and limited to time.    Our science is eminently celestial in her origin, comprehensive in her application, and her sanctions are divine and eternal.    The law, in whatever sense it may be said to be derived from the eternal rule of righteousness, does not always harmonize with it, or enforce its dictates.    In consequence of its general character, it often fails in individual instances, and, by a tenacious  adherence to rule, it leaves wrong without redress, and right unsupported. Its application depends much on momentary influences brought to bear on the judges; and generally it cannot be effectually applied  to  some whose station  seems  privileged.    Christian ethics are essentially based on right and justice, and in no case are controlled  by technicalities  to the  prejudice of equity. The science presents general principles which admit of no deviation ; but the circumstances of particular cases may cause a combination of principles which will necessarily result in the triumph of right.    She literally and absolutely comprehends all cases,—all the actions of men of every class from the beginning to the end of time, the rich and poor, the noble and the lowly, the learned and the ignorant, are bound by her authority.    She admits no privileged caste, no individual exemption. The monarch is subject to her rule equally as the poorest slave. Where the law fails by reason of the imperfection of its language, or the secrecy of the crime, or other cause, ethics review the act, censure it, affix the penalty, and put the seal of the Sovereign Judge to the sentence.    The prejudices of society and many local influences often interfere with the administration  of justice, but have no  control over the Christian moralist.    Las Casas, in the court of Spain, condemned  oppression ; Soto, in her schools, repeated the eternal principles of justice, as Aquinas, ages before, had expounded them. The rule of Christian ethics is not self-interest, which corrupts the judgment, or public opinion, which establishes a superficial and false morality. No individual, however exalted, no majority of votes, however overwhelming, can change a particle of this code, which admits neither of repeal nor of modification. It survives the overthrow of dynasties ;• it loses nothing by revolutions; it pervades all forms of society, and claims dominion over the children of the forest, the barbarian, and the savage. Where no herald proclaims the mandates of this daughter of the Eternal, she whispers them to the conscience of the lonely wanderer; where no officer of justice enforces her laws, she punishes transgression by the sting of remorse and the anticipations of future woe.

We have, no doubt, wearied the patience and wounded the sensibilities of many of our readers ; but the importance of making known the true character of Catholic morality must plead our apology. Deceive ourselves as we may, " God is not mocked." Christian ethics do not consist in fine phrases, addressed to ears polite, in a flowery sermon, or a popular essay ; but they are plain and stern rules of conduct, derived from the eternal and divine law, and governing man in all his most secret actions and thoughts. Others may practise the art of adorning sepulchres which are full of corruption ; but this science explores unsparingly the secret maladies which prey on the moral constitution, and labors for their cure. She is contented \vith no fruits, however specious to behold, unless the core be sound. Donations for works of charity, zeal to spread the faith, religious exercises practised with assiduity, are not sufficient for her demands. Order must be established within ; the eye of the intention must be purified, that the whole body may be lightsome. It is of no avail that we come up to the standard of public morals, and that our' carriage in society be free from censure, and our good works elicit praise. If one vice lurk in the heart, — if one passion be secretly indulged, no matter whether it be lust, avarice, or ambition,— if we be self-righteous, — if our justice surpass not that of the scribes and Pharisees, — we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Those who are serious in the affair of their salvation will not easily complain of the minuteness or indelicacy of Catholic theologians, and will rather feel benefited when they can peruse, in their own language, the most important points of practical duty, such as may be found in the excellent work with an humble title, The Poor Man's Catechism. The rich will be judged by the same standard as the poor man. The voice of flatterers will at length cease to delude men into the opinion of their own innocence, merely because they shrink from scrutinizing their guilt; they will learn to judge themselves, that they may escape condemnation ; and the purity, beauty, and perfection of the Christian character will appear, not in affected delicacy or ignorance, but in the deep, solid, and uniform sense of duty, displayed in the secrecy of domestic life no less than in the public walks of society.