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The Decline of Protestantism

Brownson's Quarterly Review, January, 1851
Art. V. - 1. The Decline of Protestantism and its Cause. A Lecture, delivered in St. Patrick's Cathedral, on the Evening of November 10, 1850. By the Most Rev. John Hughes, D. D., Archbishop of New York. New York : Dunigan & Brother.    1850.    8vo.    pp. 28.
2. Developments of Protestantism, and other Fragments. Reprinted from the "Dublin Review" and "Tablet." London: Richardson & Son.   1849.    16mo.   pp. 166.
Thusk remarkable pamphlets indicate the commence­ment of a new era in the controversy between Catholics and Protestants in Great Britain and this country. Hith­erto, in both countries, Catholics have been accustomed to apologize for their religion, and explain away its offensive points, appearing to be content with repelling the calum­nies invented against it, and showing that, upon the whole, it can compare advantageously with the best form of Prot­estantism. These pamphlets, as well as several other recent publications, prove that the day for this is passing away, and that Catholics arc beginning to shake off their timid­ity, to assume in controversy their legitimate position, and to speak in the bold and energetic tones which become them ; that, instead of stopping to refute anew objec­tions which have been refuted a thousand times, and to repel calumnies which will be repeated as often as re­pelled, they are carrying the war into the enemy's country, and compelling Protestantism to defend itself. This is a great and important change of tactics.    So long as Protestantism is suffered to act on the offensive, to vent all manner of calumnies, and to urge all manner of objections, and we, simple souls, confine ourselves to the task of merely refuting them, it can maintain the appearance of a formidable opponent, and throw a cloud of dust in the eyes of the ignorant and prejudiced multitude ; for it never heeds our refutations of its calumnies and objections, but continues always to repeat them as if we had said and could say nothing against them. But the moment we turn our arms against it, and force it to give an account of itself, its weakness is at once apparent to all the world. It has no ground on which to intrench, and no arms with which to defend itself, except those of the stale.
The simple announcement, by such a man as his Grace of New York, of a Lecture on the Decline of Protestantism, together with the cause of that decline, is a pregnant event in the modern religious world, and must strike on the ears of Protestants as the trump of doom, filling their hearts with fear and perplexity. He is not a rash man, disposed hastily to commit himself. No man feels more delicately the pulse of his age and country, or marks more accurately their various tendencies. When such a man, occupying so high a rank in the Church and in society, proclaims in his own cathedral, and before the world, that Protestant­ism has declined, is declining, and must continue to de­cline, we may rest assured that such is the fact, the certain and undeniable fact. But he not only proclaims it; he triumphantly proves it, and, if any one wishes for more detailed evidence than he gives, it may be found in the second publication on our list, a work of rare sagacity and intelligence.
The views, facts, and reasonings of these remarkable publications are not precisely new to the readers of this journal, for we have often set them forth, in our humble way; but we arc not a little gratified to find them so much more clearly, eloquently, and learnedly expressed than it was in our power to express them, and confirmed by authority so high as that of the Archbishop of New York, and so respectable as that of the learned and philo­sophical author of the essay on the Developments of Prot­estantism. Our own position, prior to our conversion, in the more advanced ranks of the Protestant community, gave us facilities for judging of the real character, tendencies, and prospects of Protestantism not enjoyed by every one, and it was only after having proved, philosophically and historically, that it must, in so lav as left to follow its own nature, decline into infidelity, heathenism, and abso­lute nullism, that we ever consented to abandon it. We saw that it had done the best that it could do, that it was incapable of amendment, and that, whatever else might be true or salutary, it in all its forms was false and of evil tendency, good neither for this world nor for that which is to come. We saw that, as a matter of 1'act, whatever it was in its origin, it had now ceased to bear a religious character; that as a theology it was absurd, as a philosophy ridiculous, as politics, either anarchy and unbridled license or absolute civil despotism ; in a word, in so far as it pre­tended to be any thing more than a low form of heathen­ism, it was simply what that genuine Protestant Carlyle calls a sham. We saw that .Protestant Christianity was a contradiction in terms, and that we had no alternative, unless we could content ourselves with saying two and two are five, but absolute infidelity or Catholicity. But when we have said so, many have been disposed to dis­credit us, and to set down our conclusion to our alleged ultraism, or tendency to run to extremes. The publica­tions before us, from men who cannot be accused of the tendencies always falsely laid to our charge, abundantly confirm and triumphantly establish, in a manner at once popular and profound, all that we have contended for, as the following from the Archbishop's Lecture will fully show. The extract is long, but it is to the purpose, and we are happy to enrich our pages with a passage so eloquent and instructive.
" Protestantism began in the year 1517. It had then a solitary representative; and as regards religion, his voice was the only dis­cordant sound that could have been heard in western Christendom. All had been united, all had subsisted in the harmony of one be­lief ; and although scandal existed then, as now, and abuses of in­dividual living were known ; and although public and private morals might have furnished much ground for complaint, still, at least there was one ideally perfect, central rallying-point, on which men's minds were united, - the beauty, simplicity, and Unity of the faith of the Catholic Church, which God had established for the salvation of men. From this central point the new doctrine took its bearings of direct and indirect antagonism, and spread on every side. Tt became the theme of general dispute, and into that dis­pute were promptly infused projects of political ambition, popular discontent, and every species of human element and of human motive calculated to give impulse to the new principle, which in itself, if it were true, would have been altogether worthy of the ad­miration of its adherents, and would have been well calculated to spread abroad the doctrine thus introduced and propagated with a rapidity to which there is no such thing as a parallel in the history of the Christian Church, or in the annals of the human race. From Wittenberg it spread throughout Northern Germany. It reached, in a different form however, the Cantons of Switzerland. It pene­trated the empire of France. It took possession of Prussia. It pervaded Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, and Scot­land. It conquered them all ; - and it met a successful resistance only on the western borders of Europe. The Irish nation stood together against it, and struggled with constancy, perseverance, and determination ; and although the battle has lasted for three hundred years, and although that down-trodden nation has suffered intensely for its adherence to principle, still it has not given way to Protestantism. I cannot consider this as altogether the result of chance, for I can almost persuade myself that God in his provi­dence permitted that there should be one western border of Europe upon which the eye of the pilgrim to this free hemisphere should rest for the last time, as upon Catholic soil, and that he should thus continue to cherish the old associations of the Holy Catholic Faith, by which all Europe had been, and the rest of the world might, finally, be emancipated from barbarism and infidelity.
" What is very remarkable is, that Protestantism should have made such progress in so short a time; - that, within fifty years from its origin, it should have conquered and taken possession of every inch of ground, of which it is in possession at this day ; so that an old man of 1567 could see Protestantism triumphant in all the nations I have mentioned, and look back to the memory of boyhood, when he knew Brother Martin Luther, a pious monk, as Macaulay remarks, or what is nearly the same, remembered him, the young father of Protestantism, a fugitive from the laws of his country, seeking and happily finding a safe hiding-place in the suburbs of some obscure German village.
" O, how Protestantism must have been surprised, astounded, and overwhelmed at the immensity and varinty of the spoils, into the possession of which it so speedily entered ! Yesterday it was proscribed ; to-day it is master of kingdoms, thrones, armies, prov­inces, treasures, and the accumulated religious and charitable offerings of Catholic generations for a thousand years ! It came rapidly into the possession of what it had never labored to create ; it reaped where it had never sown; and the toil of the husbandman, who had cultivated the soil before, accrued to the benefit of his adversary, and was unrewarded. It found itself in possession not only of these, but of the Catholic churches, - and when I say Catholic churches, you will not understand me to mean such churches as we in our cold charity and poverty have been able 1o erect, but those great churches that were projected on a magnifi­cent scale, and in the spirit of an age that religion had inspired, when acres were taken into the plan, after the Catholic forefathers of the Protestant occupants of all this ecclesiastical wealth, from age to age, had been making their offerings at the shrine of the one Church : -temples, not perhaps esteemed as worthy of God ; but, at all events, such palaces, so to call them, for the veiled presence of Divine majesty and mercy among men, as might indi­cate at least to all time, their gratitude towards their merciful Crea­tor and Redeemer. Protestantism took possession of them all, and found them so vast that it never has been able since to fill them with worshippers. The congregations of many of them now as­semble in the choir, a part of the church which had been exclu­sively set apart for the clergy. And not alone the churches, but the universities, with all their endowments and benefices as deposi­taries of learning. All, all, passed promptly into the hands of Protestantism.
" I make these statements to show how little Protestantism has accomplished compared with the immensity of its means. If Prot­estantism had been what it professed to be, it found itself almost by surprise put in possession of the means wherewithal to carry its triumphs to the ends of the, earth. The Church of Christ ilself, the Catholic Church, was for three hundred years obliged to dwell in the Catacombs of Rome, not daring, or scarcely daring, to show itself; and when it did, it was with a prospect of martyrdom ; but Protestantism seized upon a large portion of the wealth of Christen­dom, and became the master of kings and armies, senates and na­tions, universities and churches, and every thing that Catholics had, in the gradual accumulation of their charities for ages, contributed to erect for civilization and religion.
"We will now, therefore, regard Protestantism in its purpose. What was its mission ? Its mission, according to its own state­ments, was to renovate a faded, fallen, and false Christianity- Its mission was to introduce a pure and perfect religion, as a substitute for that 'apostate church,' ns it called the Catholic faith, from which itself went forth; and if this were its purpose, we should suppose it would take certain grounds in reference to its mission ; for if it were conscious of the possession of truth, if it really be­lieved it had now taken the form in which God would have the world to be saved, it was bound to propagate itself, to make itself known, to speak in a consistent, uniform, and unequivocal language, so that it might accomplish, in time, something like what the pretendedly faded Church had indisputably accomplished, in its time before.
" Two tilings particularly it was bound to accomplish. One was, to convert pagan nations and Catholic nations ; and the other was, to preserve itself: for, if it lost itself, in attempting to gain others, it would show that it was not what it pretended to be, but some­thing not having that light and truth of which God is the author.
" I should perhaps attempt a definition of what Protestantism is. I have looked into the expositions of its most prominent advocates, but among them all I have sought in vain for any thing like a scientific or logical definition; nor can I conceive it possible to give such a definition of the word Protestantism. However, I will take it in the fairest light of which it is susceptible, and endeavour to give a definition by the elements of which it is composed. I take it that Protestantism is a general term, indicating that an in­dividual accepting it explicitly protests against the Catholic Church in the first instance, but implicitly against all ecclesiastical authority ; and claims, on the other hand, the right of taking the Holy Scrip­tures, reading them for himself, and taking the meaning and light which they reflect upon his mind as the religion of Christ. 1 am aware that, in order to determine its decline or progress, it is ex­pedient that we should fix upon what was understood by Protes­tantism at the period to which I refer. I will therefore take the period of 1567, when Protestantism was comprised under three great divisions : - the Lutheran, the Calvinistic, and the Anglican; and, looking at the symbolical books of that period, it is to be un­derstood as comprising two elements, one negative, the other posi­tive. There is one aspect of the decline of Protestantism which can a fiord no comfort to the most ardent adherent of the Catholic Church, and that aspect is seen in the tendency of Protestantism to rationalism and infidelity. Protestantism comprised, originally, a great number of the primitive truths of Christianity. These truths were doctrines which the first separation from us did not prevent Protestants from carrying forth with them ; 1 mean the great mys­teries of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Saviour, the lle-demption by the Son of God, Original Sin, the Holy Eucharist, with or without the belief of the Real Presence, and others, sanc­tioned in Christ's Church. These were the positive doctrines em­bodied in their symbolical books; while Prayers for the Departed, Transubstantiation, the Intercession of Saints, and so many other doctrines that had been the faith of Christendom, were excluded and cut off, and this formed the negative phase. You have, there­fore, these two principles; and beyond these I cannot pretend to define what Protestantism is : - for if you pass from the generic title to the specific variety, and trace out its development from one denomination to another, down to the latest phase of human error, you will find in them all these two elements, - this and this, no ; and this and this, yes. They all vary, and yet all profess to be guided by their own private interpretation of the Scriptures alone, while all agree in protesting against the Church of God. All of them protest against every species of authority, and all of them, still, retain some of the prominent and positive doctrines of the Christian Church, which become a test of religious association and a special ground of communion. We cannot, therefore, at this day, but. regret that what was positive in those times has ceased in a great measure to exist in the Protestantism of the present day ; but if it once included all these fundamental doctrines, how great has been its decline on the side of Latitudinarianism ! I have written for this lecture perhaps some fifteen or twenty pages of au­thorities alone, and I have been obliged to put them all aside, be­cause, if I should attempt the labor of quoting authorities, to make thorough work of it, I should have to occupy my whole time with them. But then what authorities should 1 have had to quote p Why the authorities of Protestant writers, some calling themselves by one denomination and some by another ; but all of them show­ing the actual condition to which Protestantism has been reduced, on the very fields of ils first and most astonishing triumphs. Do you speak of Germany ? In Germany, the doctrines regarding the Trinity are held, if held at all, only by the uneducated and igno­rant ; but as for your preachers in the pulpit, as for your doctors of theology, and great men of every department, they have no con­ception of any such belief, nationalism has taken the place of Protestantism, although men still claim the name, from the mean­ing and purport of which they have so widely departed. Do you speak of the facts usually referred to in proof of Christianity, the miracles, for instance, recorded in the Holy Scriptures ? They explain them all away. They apply the dreamy analogies of Mes­merism to the works of the Redeemer, and pretend, among other cases, that the man stricken with palsy was cured by Christ, be­cause he had a deep insight into human nature, and knew the power of imagination, when he took the palsied man by the hand, fixed his eye upon him, and effected a cure. This is their expla­nation of Scripture; and yet they are enjoying the emoluments of Protestantism, which were originally provided, in one form or an­other, for the support of the Catholic clergy, but which are now transferred to modern Protestantism, the principles of which are sapping and undermining the vital doctrines of Christianity in such a manner, that in a short time you shall see their dominions a wil­derness of Paganism, and made all the more terrible because their inhabitants have been civilized.
" Do you go to Switzerland, where Calvin established Protestantism, and kept alive for a time the doctrine of the Trinity ? In Geneva, if they have a patron saint, it is not John Calvin, but Jean Jacques Rousseau. His sentiments are the prevailing sentiments of those who call themselves Christians, and they are preached from the very pulpit from which the great father of that stern sect of Protestants once uttered his subtle but desperate scheme of pre­destination. In his day, if a man in Geneva professed disbelief in the Trinity, he ran the risk of capital punishment. But now, how changed ! If a man in that city, at the present day, professes to believe in the Trinity, as Calvin believed it, he will not bo burned to death, - he will only be laughed at!
" Go to France. The condition of Protestantism is nearly, if not quite, similar. Travellers tell us, that the temples there represent but a mockery of a memory of a departed creed ; - that they are chill and dark, and that their preachers, if they speak of Christian­ity at all, speak in the rationalistic language of Germany.
" Go to Sweden; and all again is cold and stiff as iron ; al­though the government holds dominion, and freedom of conscience, as we understand it, is unknown. There is, it is true, an apparent conformity to established forms in this and other northern states of Europe, which might deceive ; but the explanation is, that the civil power will not tolerate any other outward forms of religion. We read, for instance, but the other day, of a painter, and a man of genius, inspired by the enthusiasm of what is warm and beauti­ful in art; and who, whether from this or from some higher im­pulse, wished to become, and did become, a Catholic; - where­upon he was banished from his native land, and all his property confiscated.
" Let us pass to England. Protestantism has not been able to preserve itself, even there. Look over its social and religious his­tory from the year 1567 to the present day. See what England has passed through ; and, at this day, Protestant though it still be in name, in feeling, and in law, yet it appears to be utterly uncon­scious of what really constitutes its religious life and mission. It seems to have no principle of self-explanation, nothing that is cal­culated to impress on others any respectful or reverential idea of what it is ; utterly incapable of preserving the doctrines, which it thought belonged to itself, from the ruthless invasion of every ad­vocate of error. On the other hand, if you look for any thing like propagation of Protestantism in the Catholic or Pagan world, you look in vain. It is long, indeed, since it felt the necessity of at­tempting something like what had been accomplished by the Catho­lic Church, in the conversion of the heathen ;- and we find that as early as 1701 missionary societies were instituted. What they did, however, is a blank, so far as history is concerned. We know that, within our own memory, millions and millions of money from England and these United States, and hundreds if not thou­sands of missionaries, have been sacrificed in the attempt to do something towards propagating Protestantism in the Pagan world ; - and, I will say boldly, without success. I am aware that they speak of success in the Sandwich Islands; but I believe that the success of Protestantism even there, as a religion capable of propa­gating itself, on farther invostigatioii will be found to be altogether illusory. We know that the population has diminished more than one half since it came under the influence and government of what are called missions; and we know farther, for we have it from their own writings, that the conversion of those who remain is of so doubtful a type, that during one period they passed a civil law en­forcing attendance at public worship, and under its operation the inhabitants were driven to church ; but now, for some eighteen years or so, since the law was repealed, their churches are getting empty ; so that I conceive Protestantism will no more succeed in converting the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, than the Puri­tans did in converting the tribes of Indians, whom they drove from their hunting-grounds in the northern and eastern portions of the United States.
" These failures to convert Pagans, therefore, are symptoms of decline ; and if this failure comes, on one side, from the rejection of Catholic authority, or from the withholding its primary doctrines, must we not conclude that all those infidel systems which have grown out of Protestantism have grown out of it at its own ex­pense ? We must either admit that all Germany, and France, and Holland, have declined from Protestantism, and gone into the cold and dark regions of infidelity; or we must still call these nations Protestant, and allow that one condition of their Protestantism is the denial of the doctrines of tlio Trinity, and the holy mysteries of the Christian faith. Protestants would, I believe, universally as­sert the distinction.. They speak of the orthodox denominations, as distinguished from what they consider heterodox or infidel va­rieties. If, therefore, both are not equally Protestant, how vastly has Protestantism declined in the direction of unbelief, skepticism, and heathenism ! "- pp. ft- 14.
There is no gainsaying this. Protestantism reached its limits in 1567, or by the close of the first fifty years of its existence, and it has not enlarged its territory one inch since, except by colonization in countries then unknown to the civilized world, or but recently discovered. No nation is Protestant now that was not Protestant then, and large districts in Europe, especially in Savoy and Germany, then Protestant, are now Catholic. Even in France, the Protestants and unbelievers combined are not to-day so large a proportion of the French people as were the Hugue­nots in the reigns of Henry the Second and Charles the Ninth. Protestantism has never made a single conquest from the gentile world, and for over two hundred and eighty years, that is, for nearly the whole period of its ex­istence, it has made no conquest from Catholic nations. Its expansive power was almost instantly exhausted, and it has been gradually losing the ground it originally occu­pied. This is a remarkable fact, well worthy of the seri­ous meditation of every Protestant. It proves that Prot­estantism is struck with sterility ; that it is destitute of true reproductive energy, and is destined at no distant day to dwindle into an insignificant sect, or finally to disap­pear from the earth it has not blessed. Another fact equally remarkable, and which no Protestant can have the hardihood to deny, is the entire falsification, by the event, of all the predictions and promises of the pretended Reformers. Nothing has been realized of what was prom­ised. In no country, in no respect whatever, has Prot­estantism proved to be what we were told in the begin­ning it would be. It promised to restore the Gospel, from which it dared to say the Church had apostatized, and for the Gospel it gives us mere rationalism, transcendentalism, and heathenism, and it has made the Bible, as somebody has said, a fiddle, on which a skilful performer may play any tune he pleases. In the United States, according to the American Almanac,- Protestant authority,- over one half of the adult population belong to no religious so­ciety whatever, and are really heathen. The majority of the American people are what are waggishly, but expres­sively, called Nothingarians, although good Protestants in their hostility to the Catholic Church. In all Protestant nations faith is gone, morality is gone, and principle is gone. The least depraved among them may vie not un­successfully in immorality and unnatural crimes with the more depraved nations of heathen antiquity. The sin of Sodom is far from being unknown, and infanticide is quite too common even in our own country to permit us to reproach the modern Chinese with the exposure of in­fants.
These results should not surprise us. Human nature is, since the Fall, depraved, rotten, and there are no vices too filthy or crimes too  foul  for it to fall into when left to itself, without being elevated, strengthened, and sustained by the sacraments which Protestantism rejects. Even in Catholic countries, where faith still survives, and the graces of the sacraments are insisted upon and within reach, the depravities of human nature manifest them­selves, and multitudes roll sin as a sweet morsel under their tongue. How much more so in Protestant countries, where there is no faith, no adequate moral instruction, no sacraments, and nothing but pride and a mere regard to public decorum to aid and protect virtue ! The only solid foundation of virtue, private or public, is Christian faith, and its only safeguards are the Christian sacraments. Where these are wanting, you may indeed have for a time polished manners and kindly sentiments, but no gen­uine virtue, for men cannot without grace fulfil even the law of nature. It is nothing surprising, then, that nations under Protestantism should lapse into all the vices, immo­ralities, and unnatural crimes of heathenism.
The decline of Protestantism in regard to Christian doc­trine was in the natural course of things, and the infidelity and heathenism in which it everywhere results are only its legitimate development, the realization of what it orig­inally meant. From the first, Protestantism contained the seeds of its own destruction. We cite again the Arch­bishop at length.
" Bat now the question comes up, W hat causes have prevented Protestantism from taking that spread, and exercising that influ­ence over the human race, which should have distinguished a sys­tem, having, or claiming to have, the blessing and favor of God ? The causes are no doubt many ; but I think the primary cause, of which the others are consequences, is to be found in the very ele­ments of Protestantism itself; - for I conceive that God has given to man but two general principles of guidance. One is Divine authority, which, as being Divine, is above him; and the other is reason, which is in him. it* it be said that we, Catholics, because we admit authority, do not exercise our reason, we have an'an­swer which is obvious, and ought to be satisfactory; - and it is this: If you ask our reason for submitting to authority, we answer, that, in the exercise of that faculty, we have arrived at the con­clusion that God, having made a revelation, has appointed a Church, to be the depositary and witness of his truth, and the guide to his people, to the end of the world. Now, if this be true, what can be more natural or rational than to submit our reason to the teachings and guidance that God himself has appointed ?    But on the other hand, the Protestant system, from the beginning, es­sentially casts off all authority. It is very difficult to say now, what were, if any, the philosophical motives for asserting this prin­ciple, - whether asserted by accident, whether it was intended really to be a central and abiding point in the new system, it is difficult to say ; - but one thing is perfectly clear and obvious, - that the first exigency of condition in Protestantism was to pull down. Its first mission was not to build up, but to pull down ; and a more fruitful or efficient principle of encouragement for the destruction of whatever did exist never could have been devised by the perverted and perverting ingenuity of man, than the princi­ple which made every human being the supreme judge of what was right and true, - with the injunction to reject all authority. Hence, therefore, the first destructive principle of Protestantism was a condition of necessity, though its votaries seem never to have had the foresight to reflect or perceive that this principle could be turned against any thing else, and in a little time, even against itself. But having once proclaimed the principle, it could not deny the consequences. Hence, after the first ebullition of that species of half political, half religious revolution, they bega.i to draw the semblance of a creed around themselves, and to throw some restraints over the private reasoning of their own adher­ents. This attempt fit restraint is the other element of Protes­tantism, and from that period, until the present day, supposing it to be thus constituted, it is manifest that it never could, under such principles, either preserve or propagate itself. And why ? Be­cause these two principles came in contradiction one with the other. How can you make me free to read the Holy Scriptures and judge for myself, if you tie me down to your Augsburg Con­fession, your Westminster Catechism, or your Thirty-Nine Arti­cles and Homilies ? What kind of freedom is that ? The free­dom you proclaimed invited me to desert the Catholic faith, in order, as it would now seem, to put my neck into the yoke you have framed. You give with one hand, and take away with the other that which you had given. Now, therefore, I must be con­sistent with you. Whatever systems or confessions you have made, God is invariable ; and, following out his light and yours, I see you are in contradiction with yourselves, and cannot continue to have any active existence. Either reject authority, and make every man free to follow his own judgment, or admit authority; and if you admit authority, then you recall your own principle! Be candid, then, and do not deceive us with words. If you mean that we are to shape our belief according to your articles, tell us so. If we have reason to think you are teaching from God, we will follow you ; but, as it is, you adopt a principle which is destructive of ev­ery doctrine of your own system, and which, at the same time, deprives you of the right of correcting, and calling back, those who wander from your arbitrary standard of Christian belief. Hence it is, that all those persons who go in the direction of rationalism go on the first principle of Protestantism ; and all those who accept au­thority and find it not in the system of Protestantism, and discover there no guaranty of a certain faith, one after another come back to the faith of their ancestors. This principle has followed Protes­tantism into every department of its quasi religious life. It is like the blood in the human system. It springs from the heart of Protes­tantism, and pervades the whole extremities. Hence the number of sects. No man can enumerate their shades and varieties. It would be vain to attempt it. But all of them are justified in their charac­ter, by the very first principle of separation from the association to which the primitive founders had belonged. Hence it is, too, that Protestantism has lost all organic influence over the masses of mankind, and that it has so lost all capacity to preserve even its own doctrines, that it is paralyzed, powerless, speechless ; or if it speaks, its words are of no import. It has lost all central force ; and because it was conscious of this defect from the beginning, you will observe that it immediately attached itself, in every instance, to the state, so that kings and courts became its master from the hour of its birth. It is free, and professes to be free, only in these United States ; and of the use which it makes of its freedom, even here, none of its advocates have any great reason to be proud.
" It is said that it has emancipated nations. This is not the fnct, but even if it were so, it was at the expense of its own liberty, see­ing that itself became a state-slave from the first hour of its exist­ence. Protestantism at this day, wherever it is established in the Old World, is but a part of the state. You may speak of its Con­sistories, Presbyteries, and Synods, of its Bishops, Ministers, and Dignitaries, but you will find them without a tongue to defend their own rights, or to define its doctrines, except the tongue which the sovereign or his civil minister puts into their mouths. In Eng­land itself, the country which has succeeded the best with Protestant­ism, have we not seen, but the other day, a dispute arising between a Presbyter and his Bishop about the nature and efficacy of the sacrament of baptism ? - a topic which has been decided by the voice of universal Christendom for eighteen hundred years! In this dispute the Bishop had no authority or right of judgment over the Presbyter. On the contrary, he was opposed by the Arch­bishop ; and there were the Presbyter, Bishop, and Archbishop, all learned professors of Protestant theology, and they could not define the doctrine of their church with regard to baptism, until it was made known to them by a civil ofiicer, a judge on the bench ; and to his opinion they were obliged to submit. Yet these Presbyters, Bishops, and Archbishops speak to us of setting, or having set, nations free; they speak to us of the freedom of countries where the religion of which they are ministers is adopted and patronized by the sovereign and by the state ! No doubt. But the connec­tion between the church and the state rules, as I take it, that the church in such countries is a mere function or department of the government, in which the sovereign speaks to the Bishop, or the Judge on the bench to the Presbyter or the Metropolitan, as he does to the admirals of the navy, or the officers of the army.
" How then can Protestantism succeed in preserving itself, or in converting the erring world ? And again, to speak of the causes of its want of success in preserving its own doctrines or in converting nations ; - how has it been or how is it now possible for Protes­tantism to succeed ? Its missionaries, for instance, carry with them double elements, the positive and the negative, namely, ' Such and such doctrines to be accepted, and such and such others to be cast aside.' Indeed, they often cast away all creeds as known to other men, and have no creed of their own except as they read and choose to interpret the Scriptures. We hear of companies of missionaries going to convert heathen nations, and of their holding consultations from day to day on board ship, to agree, in some manner, as to what kind of doctrines they shall preach and present to the heathen. We have an instance of one of their distinguished members who left this country as a missionary, who himself became converted on the voyage, and was baptized into a new sect on reaching the Pagan land. What has been the conse­quence of all this wavering, instability, and uncertainty? It has been the same as that which has produced the divisions, and weak­ened any power that ever existed in the Protestant system of relig­ion. It is natural, and to be expected, that the heathen will say to such men, ' How can we hearken to the voice of missionaries who come to us conflicting with each other in doctrine ? They should not come to us with contrary or mutilated messages from the Son of God. We shall remain as we are, till your learned missionaries agree among yourselves.' They have also still farther confounded the simple judgment of the Pagan. By the fact of being Protes­tants, they must necessarily commence the history of their religion, by saying that Christ established a Church for the purpose of prop­agating his doctrine, but that after fifteen hundred years it had failed, and they had come to renew it. How can the savage in­wardly digest a story like that? How quickly will ho, with tho perception of natural instinct, not to say talent, reply, ' How can I know what confidence to put in you, if the Author of Christianity himself failed in his Church ? '
"Thus, on every side, that inherent defect, that one principle which is self-destruction, has followed Protestantism in every one of its undertakings ; - so that, at the  present day, it does not in reality hold together as a system of doctrines. There is no heart in it, no intellect, no comprehensive or comprehensible body of principles, by which men could be brought into religious and har­monious association with one another." - pp. 16- 21.
Protestantism could not, if left to the free action of the human mind, but develop itself, and in accordance with its own essential nature, in the bosom of the Catholic Church there is development of life in obedience to the truth, but no development of doctrine, save such successive explications and definitions as are necessary to preserve the splendor, purity, and integrity of the original deposit of faith against the novel heresies and errors which, in con­sequence of men's perversity and subtle curiosity, from time to time arise to obscure, controvert, or deny it; be­cause in matters of faith the Church teaches from the first the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and thus leaves no room for development or variation of doc­trine without lapsing into error. Development of doctrine, as distinguished from development of practice, is predica-ble only where the truth is but partially communicated to the mind, or communicated mixed with falsehood, for it proceeds always from the effort of the mind to eliminate what it regards as the false element, and to complete, or realize the potentiality of what, it regards as the true ele­ment. Protestantism had originally at best only a partial truth, and this truth it held mingled with falsehood. Even by its own confession, it was not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Truth and falsehood are ne­cessarily repugnant to each other. There was originally an innate repugnance between their several elements of doctrine professed by Protestants, and they had at best only a few fragments of the truth. Hence Protestantism could not remain fixed and invariable. . Wherever the mind was free, it must struggle to get rid of this innate repug­nance or contradiction, and to complete its view of truth.
Development must follow the inherent law or essential nature of its subject. Development in the vegetable must follow the inherent law of the vegetable world ; in the animal, the inherent law of the animal world; in doc­trine, the inherent law or essential principle of the doc­trine, as Mr. Newman has satisfactorily proved in his theory of development, - a theory as profound and true when applied to heretical sects  and doctrines as it is false and dangerous when applied in the bosom of the Church to Christian doctrine, that is, the Catholic faith, objectively considered. Protestantism, then, if not prevented by ex­ternal causes, must not only develop, but it must develop according to its own inherent law, or essential nature, and this it must do by eliminating whatever is repugnant to it, assimilating whatever is in accordance with it, and realizing its potentiality, or pushing its essential principle to its last logical consequences.
The inherent law or essential principle of Protestant­ism is denial, or negation. Protestants, when they went forth from the Church, professed, it is true, to retain a cer­tain number of Christian doctrines, and Protestantism taken as originally professed consisted of these doctrines and the principles it asserted in protesting against the Church, or in denying its authority. But these Christian doctrines, so far as it held them at all, it held in common with the Church, and therefore they did not and could not constitute its essential nature, its distinguishing charac­teristic, as Protestantism. If it had taken them for its point of departure, and eliminated what it held incompati­ble, and assimilated what was in accordance with them, that is, purified and completed them by development, it would have been obliged to abrogate itself, and return to the Church against which it protested. Its inherent law, its essential principle, its distinguishing characteristic, could not lie in what it held in common with the Church, but must necessarily lie in what it opposed to the Church, as the ground of its rejection of her authority. It must re­ject the Catholic Church, be a protest against her, let it be whatever else it might. The concession of the Church, or the recognition of her authority, in any sense or degree conceivable, was fatal to itself, the total destruction of its own being. It could be only by being Protestantism, and it could be Protestantism only by being opposed to Cath­olicity ; and hence we find, historically, that Protestants, though differing among themselves in all else, agree to a man in protesting against the Church, and denying her authority. The principle of this denial of the authority of the Church, then, must be the essential principle, the dis­tinctive nature, of Protestantism.
The principle of this denial is what is termed the right of private judgment.    But the assertion of the right of private judgment is at bottom only the denial of the right of any authority to control the judgment, that is, the simple denial of authority itself. In denying the authority of the Church on the strength of private judgment, the pretended He formers did not deny it on the strength, or in obedience to the commands, of another authority opposed to hers, but on no authority at all. Their denial of her authority was then a simple negation, in which nothing was affirmed, and therefore the essential principle of Protestantism is denial, or negation. We grant that the pretended Reform­ers did not formally assert the right of private judgment, but. they implied it, since in denying the authority of the Church they asserted no authority to justify their denial. It is true, they alleged the written word, but this amount­ed to nothing; because in alleging it they alleged nothing peculiar to themselves, no authority opposed to the Church. The Church asserted the authority of the written word as well as they, and their distinguishing mark was not in as­serting the authority of the written word, for that authority no Catholic denies, but in asserting the written word as privately interpreted, that is, in denying all authoritative interpreters, and therefore all authoritative interpretation of it; which was, in effect, not the assertion, but the de­nial, of the authority of the written word, as the subse­quent developments of Protestantism have amply proved. The written word is authoritative only in its sense, and its sense can be authoritative only in so far as author­itatively determined and applied. It is true also, that the pretended 'Reformers alleged the written word interpreted by the private illumination of the Holy Ghost; but this was only their private allegation, made on the strength of their private judgment, and therefore on no authority at all. Their peculiarity here was not in asserting the interior illumination of the Holy Ghost, for that every Catholic asserts, but in asserting their right of determining by their own private judgment whether the spirit by which they were moved was or was not the spirit of God; and hence the distinguishing trait of the allegation as a Protestant principle was the assertion of private judgment against the authority of the Church, that is, the denial of her authority on no authority. Hence, notwithstanding these two alle­gations, our assertion remains true and undeniable, that the essential principle of Protestantism is denial, or negation.
It follows from this, that the development of Protestant­ism   must necessarily  consist in  the development of the principle, if we may so speak, of denial or negation, in elim­inating whatever it originally held along with it repugnant to that principle, and  in carrying it out to its last logical consequences.    But, from the nature of the case, this must be a successive throwing off' of truth, and a gradual de­nial of all things.    The  elimination of every positive ele­ment, and the  pushing of denial to its last logical conse­quences, is universal negation, the denial of God  and the universe, - absolute nullism, which is absolute falsehood! This is the final term of Protestantism, what it originally meant, or was, potentially, from the first, in so far as Prot­estantism.    Hegel and  several others, in their  speculative Iheories, have reached this   final term, but  the   great body of the Protestant people draw up a little this side, ihough without any good reason in their own system for doing so, except that universal   negation is necessarily the negation of itself, and  pure falsehood, being a  nonentity, is  abso­lutely  unintelligible; for,  as we   have often   occasion   to say, what is not, is not intelligible.    Men may invent the­ories which imply absolute nullism, but  all such  theories are  self-destructive-, and can   never  be  practically  carried out; for negation is intelligible only by virtue of some af­firmative principle, and falsehood only by virtue of the truth it denies.    Hence, if there were no Catholic Church, Prot­estantism  would   be   absolutely   inconceivable, and   if it could   succeed  in denying it and getting  actually rid of it, it would itself become  absolutely  extinct,  or at  best only an unmeaning word.     In consequence of the purely negative character of Protestantism, the number  of pure and consistent Protestants must always be  small, because; common sense will always in most men be stronger than theory.    Nevertheless,  by the invariable law of develop­ment, the whole Protestant body must be always tending to be more and more thoroughly Protestant, and therefore be always struggling to throw off more and more of what little of truth they may have  held in solution, and to ap­proach   nearer  and   nearer  to  pure  unmixed  falsehood. This is clear a priori; and  it is proved  by the whole  his­tory of Protestantism during the last three hundred years. The decline of Protestantism, under a doctrinal point of view, lay, as we have said, in the ordinary course of things, for the development of negation, that is, the growth of negation is necessarily a decline, an approach towards ceasing to be, that, is, to nonentity.
It should then excite no surprise, that Protestantism has successively eliminated the Christian doctrines which the pretended Reformers originally retained from the Church. These doctrines were affirmative, and necessarily foreign and repugnant to its essential principle, which it must pre­serve or cease to be Protestantism. It was doomed to eliminate them, and lapse into pure rationalism, transcen­dentalism, heathenism. It has done so, and it cannot help itself. All its attempts to retrace its steps, whether in .England, Germany, or this country, and to take its stand nearer to Christian truth, are in vain, and only accelerate its general decline. It has no remedy, for it has no recu­perative energy, no living principle. Its being is non-being, its life is Ihe negation of life, and its movement is the movement of dissolution, of the body after life has de­parted, subjected to the operation of the natural chemical agents. It is strange that, Protestant nations, not lacking in the cultivation of letters and affairs, should not, have sooner discovered that the body they clasp to their bo­soms, and on which they lavish their caresses, is a lifeless corpse, a mass of putrefaction, soon to be a ghastly and grinning skeleton. It is strange that they have been so slow in discovering the imposition which has been prac­tised upon them, and that they should continue to glory in the pretended Reformation, even after having learned by their own bitter that of all the line things it promised them it has given them none. Are they fools ? In the one thing needful, most assuredly. They arc among those of whom the Apostle speaks, who, " esteeming them­selves wise, become fools," who, " ever learning, are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." So it is. When men yield to their own fancy and follow the sugges­tions of their own pride, they lose their powers of discern­ment, and become the prey of every false illusion. Good seems to them evil, and evil seems to them good ; truth wears to them the garb of falsehood, and falsehood the garb of truth ; light is to them darkness, and darkness, light. Following their own foolish hearts, their minds be­come darkened, and God gives them up to a reprobate sense, and permits them to be carried away by strong delusions in punishment for their rejection of the truth and consent to iniquity. They have, like the old carnal Jews, eyes, but they see not, ears, but they hear not, hearts, but they understand not. Yet, singularly enough, they imag­ine themselves enlightened, fancy themselves learned and wise, and use great, swelling words, as if they really knew and were saying something. Alas! how little do they .suspect the ridiculous figure they cut in the eyes of Catho­lics, and how we should laugh at them, did not our charity subdue our risibility, and lead us to compassionate them. Alas ! we cannot laugh at them ; we can only weep for them. They have souls, souls for whom Christ shed his precious blood on the cross, - souls, capable of endless happiness through the grace of our Lord, or of the eternal tortures of hell. Why should they be lost? Dear Catho­lic friends, pray for them; besiege Heaven, day and night, with prayers for their conversion. () Mary, Refuge of .sinners, pray for them, and present our prayers to thy Di­vine Son, that he will open their eyes, save them from themselves, and enable them to love him with their whole hearts, and thee as their sweet mother.
His Grace might have enumerated among the causes, no less than among the effects, of the decline of Protes­tantism, the partial relaxation in most Protestant countries of the barbarous penal codes enacted, and for a. long time rigidly enforced, against the profession and practice of the Catholic religion. Protestantism was favored in its origin by the civil authorities, anxious to get rid of the restraints always imposed on their despotism by the Papacy; and it is a well-known fact, that the pretended Reform was never able to establish itself in any country, except by the strong arm of the secular power. To this not a single exception can be named. Protestantism never spread, became pre­dominant, and sustained itself by the peaceable study of the Sacred Scriptures, free discussion, and moral suasion, but it owes its success to confiscations, fines, dungeons, scaffolds, and wholesale massacres, authorized by the civil authority. Its infancy, indeed, was baptized in blood, as its youth and manhood were nourished by it, but it was the blood of persecuted Catholics, not of its own martyrs. Unlike the early Catholics, under pagan Rome, who con­quered the world not by slaying but by being slain, Prot­estants have made all their conquests by killing, and attempted to secure their conquests by penal codes against Catholics, which would have afforded many valuable hints to a Nero, a Deems, or a Diocletian, and this, too, while they openly acknowledged that salvation was attainable in the Catholic communion!
The relaxation of these codes, either by a formal repeal or by suilering them to fall into desuetude, and the conse­quent partial toleration of the Catholic worship in  Protes­tant countries, have operated seriously to the disadvantage of Protestantism; which could never stand a moment be­fore its Catholic; opponent, when it had not taken the pre­caution to dig out that opponent's tongue, and to bind him hand and foot.    In an open field, with fair play, it never gained, and never could gain, any thing, but a shameful de­feat, and Great Britain, while we are writing, confirms it, by proposing to rei'inforce, or to reenact, her old penal code against Catholics.    In itself, Protestantism never had any strength, and it is never able in a fair argument to make even  a  show  of defending itself.    Hence  everywhere  it shrinks from argument, if there is any prospect of a reply. It cannot be coaxed or shamed into a discussion with Catholicity on equal terms, and now that it has no longer the strong arm of the civil law to fell its opponent, it re­sorts solely to petty squib?, to gross calumnies, or coarse vituperations, and the exhibition of obscene Leahys and Maria Monks.    But these things after a while lose their savor, and its resources fail.    What shall it do ?    Its sole strength - alter the ignorance of the multitude, the gulli­bility inherent in all genuine Protestants, the pride of the human heart, and the depraved tastes, instincts, and pas­sions of human nature -is and always has been in the civil government, and just in proportion as that abandons it, it dwindles into an insignificant sect, or lapses into the lowest form  of Sadducceism and gentilisrn.     So true is this, and so rapid have been the decline of Protestantism and the growth of Catholicity under the relaxation of the old penal codes, that we expect to see etlbrty speedily made in all Protestant nations to revive them.
In point of fact, in those Protestant nations which pro­fess to tolerate Catholicity, as well as in this country, which professes to recognize its equal rights, t'.ie state is constantly exerting its force in favor of Protestants, and against Catholics.    It is still the state that supports Protestantism, and its whole political and social action is di­rected against the Church. It liberally endows Protestant institutions of learning, taxes Catholics to support schools, to which in comparatively few instances can Catholics with a good conscience send their children, and even in liberal Massachusetts refuses to grant a simple charter of incorporation to a Catholic college. The whole system of state education, now so earnestly insisted on, and which no one can oppose without being charged with opposing education itself, is only insisted on because it is believed to favor infidelity, that is, Protestantism, and check the growth of Catholicity. The various philanthropic insti­tutions, Farm Schools, Houses of Reformation, Normal Schools, and the like, are protected and favored by the state, solely with a view to the suppression of l'opery and the preservation of Protestantism. But bad as these all are, and as much as the state may do through them, Catholicity, if tolerated at all, spreads and will spread. The knowing amongst Protestants see it, and, as they have relaxed nothing in their hatred of the Church, we may ex­pect them ere long to demand more eflicient and stringent measures against us. But we are pretty sure that it is too latti for them, even if they obtain such measures, to suc­ceed.
Our reason for thinking it too late for the revival or enforcement of Ihe old penal codes with success, is not only in the actual decline of Protestantism, but in the new and imposing altitude assumed by Catholicity. Two years ago we were told from Protestant pulpit and press that it was all over with Popery. The Holy Father was in exile, and the capital of the Catholic world was in the hands of a ruthless demagogy, of infidel ruffians, paid by Protestant contributions, and sworn to overthrow the Cath­olic Church. All Europe was in commotion, social order was broken up, and it seemed that the civilized world was abandoned to the Red Republicans and Socialists, the emissaries of hell, and the determined enemies of CJod and man, of the Church and of the state. Two years have passed, and the Holy Father is restored to his temporal possessions, the chains with which civil despotism in France and Austria, Spain and Portugal, had bound the spiritual power are nearly all broken, and the Church, arising from the servile posture in which  she had been bound, resumes  her  pristine   energy,   and   addresses  the nations in the free, bold, and commanding tone, which the world has not heard before duving these last three hundred years,    l^ngland, out of hatred to Catholicity, fostered the conspiracy of Mazzini, and sent a cabinet minister to ex­cite rebellion in all Italy, and the Church answers to her insolence by the National Council of Thurles, and the re-establishment of the .English Catholic hierarchy, with Car­dinal Wiseman at its head.    In France, we have, after so many years' silence, once more the free voice of the Church, and we see the; state kneeling at her feet and imploring her to save French society from anarchy and total destruc­tion.    " The Gallican liberties"  have become only a faint reminiscence, and the Gallican Church feels that her only safety is in filial submission  to the  chair  of Peter.      In Austria, the noble and pious young Emperor has given the  death-blow to Josephinism, and restored   to   religion her freedom.    Spain recalls her exiled prelates, and Portu­gal yields to the wishes of the Holy See.    Catholic nations awake from their slumbers, shake oil' the timidity which had  for centuries paralyzed their ellbrts, and on all sides Protestaniism is assailed as it never has been before.    It had brought all Fiiirope to the verge of ruin ; it had well-nigh precipitated the whole1 civilized world into barbarism, and the stern voice of indignant nations is heard calling it to stand forth and show cause why judgment shall not be executed against it.    And it has no answer to give.    Here is what encourages us.    Catholics are becoming Catholics, are beginning to feel, as amid the disasters of so many centuries they had not dared feel, that God  is  for  them, and no enemy can prevail against them.    This is all that was ever wanting to make an end of Protestantism, or at least to compel it to retire  into some dark corners,  to be forgotten save by the antiquarian, or the curious traveller delighting to detect the. remains of lost tribes.
Undoubtedly the Church in this world must always be the Church Militant, and we are never to expect her to be entirely free from either internal or external enemies. Her life through the ages is and must be the life of the indi­vidual believer, that of constant vigilance and unremitted warfare. Perfect peace and security are not to be attained to in this world; the victory is fully gained only at the end, and the triumph is reserved for heaven.   Nevertheless, as her heavenly Spouse visits from time to time the faithful soul with sweet and ineffable consolations, so does he visit and console his Church ; and it is not too much to believe, that he is about to visit and reward her fidelity with new consolations. We do not expect Protestantism, now mere Carnal Judaism and heathenism, will wholly disappear from the face of the earth, but we do believe that its power is broken, and that it should no longer be regarded as a formidable opponent. The woman has bruised its head, and the good God is about to visit the nations more in mercy than in judgment. We Catholics, while we watch and pray, may take hope, that we have seen the darkest days, and that Christ, who loves his Church and gave his life for her, descends to console her for her past sufferings, and for the insults she has recently received from her ene­mies. While we humble ourselves in the dust for our sins and short-comings, we may take new courage, and press forward with renewed ardor to the charge against the en­raged but disheartened enemies of the Lord and of his Im­maculate Spouse. Especially may we do so in this coun­try, where we need nothing but courage, fidelity, and per­severance.