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denounce any maxim or doctrine of Liguori as immoral ; and although it may be charitably believed that some of the Romish clergy in America and in other countries, where external influences operate to make them cautious, are afraid to adopt his principles unmodified, yet in order to secure their diffusion, a society of professed Liguorians exists among us, by means of whom the morals that have poisoned Society in South America, are infused into the hearts of our immigrant population. This society, it is believed, is to be found in most of our cities. They name churches after their patron, “St. Alphonsus," (Liguori,) and parade his images before the public eye. Their seminaries flank our very dwellings; their confessional-boxes are set up to neutralize our courts of Justice; and within a short time, the writer of these paragraphs has heard from a Romish priest of this society, the bold avowal of his own readiness to take a false oath in open court on Liguori's principles, and the assertion of a culprit's right to swear himself innocent of the crime of murder, when interrogated by a judge, provided he uses a whisper, or speaks (aside) to the contrary. This fact can be established by competent testimony, if it should be denied ; and while such instructions are given to the class of our citizens who are least acquainted with our laws, it may well be asked to what purpose do juries sit, or why are indictments found ?
The writer of this introduction has compared many of Mr. Meyrick's quotations with the original Latin of Liguori; and he is obliged to say, that while no injustice is done to the “ Saint,” his more serious sins against social decency remain to be exposed. Mr. Meyrick is a clergyman in the University of Oxford ; and he has felt the difficulty of communicating to an English ear all the defilements of the author whom he has been obliged to handle. It is to be regretted, that mysterious Latin so often breaks the line of argument to an ordinary reader; but a dead language has occasionally been found the only vehicle to which the idea could safely
be confided. That the Romanists have felt the exposure to the quick, is sufficiently evident in the rejoinders of the Rambler and the Dublin Review. If anything were wanting to the complete exposure of the fatal effects of Liguorianism, upon character, where it is allowed to have its way, this is afforded in the melancholy exhibition of his present moral creed, supplied by the late Archdeacon of Chichester. He once knew nothing but the laws of his SAVIOUR, and of the Apostles. To any question as to the quantum of a sin, he would have answered
high Heaven disdains the lore
Of nicely calculated less, or more.” Of lying, he would have said with St. Paul—“Speak every man truth with his neighbour :” of theft—“Let no man defraud his brother in any matter.” But he has forgotten his good old English Bible, and the Catechism his mother taught him; and now, with stammering tongue, and with white lips, he finds himself defending a system which erects a tariff of justifiable theft, and which stimulates an evil conscience, by teaching that oaths and words which cheat the ear are not lies and perjuries, if accompanied by whisperings and reservations.
It is to be regretted, that so much professional technicality pervades the correspondence of Messrs. Meyrick and Manning, that the unlearned reader may sometimes fail to see the bearings of the controversy. This is observable in the instance of Mr. Manning's attempt to convict Jeremy Taylor of principles identical with those of Liguori. No one who has ever compared the two authors, would require to be assured that they are as unlike as St. Peter and Judas Iscariot. Taylor may sometimes err, but Liguori habitually balances conscience with pieces of silver. The charge is based on a mere fragment of Bishop Taylor's work, in which he professedly notices exceptional cases, and provides for the stratagems of war, and such conven
, tionalisms as the not guilty of a criminal, or the humble servant of a letter. Bishop Taylor gives all deception the broad Eng
lish name of Lying, but justifies, in certain cases, such innocent equivocations as are used with sick children, with maniacs, with persons incapable of judgment, and with others subject to the authority of superiors, and to their charitable and prudential discipline. Thus,
Thus, a husband who should save a frantic wife from suicide, in some great casualty, like fire or shipwreck, by assuring her of the safety of her children, when in fact they had perished, would tell a lie, according to Taylor, and yet be justifiable. Such is his opinion, but the Anglican Church has never endorsed it. On the other hand, Liguori lays it down that a lie must not be uttered to save one's own life. Oh, no, not by any means—a lie is always sinful! But then he allows a man to tell truth in a whisper, while he speaks aloud what he means shall be heard ! On very slight grounds one may deceive his neighbour, provided he whispers the word Not; while he seems to affirm, what, in fact, he denies. Taylor, then, excuses the lie which is devoid of moral turpitude, in certain great emergencies; but Liguori exacts material truth, in order to pander to moral villany, in the constant and essential intercourse of daily life. Again, in the case of a man, belonging to a petty co-partnership, who obtains credit as one of the firm of “Smith and Jones,” giving the creditor to suppose that he represents eminent bankers of the same names: according to Taylor, his material truth is morally the worst kind of a lie; but according to Liguori, it is justifiable, and the creditor has no cause to complain, because the words are true. In a word, Taylor's strict definition of a lie obliges him to admit that a lie is not always morally base; while Liguori's ingenious laxity, makes it quite unnecessary that a man should ever depart from material truth. If he can say Not, under cover of a cough, he may swear to what he pleases! Be it remembered, Bishop Taylor
, speaks for himself alone ; but this beautiful principle of Liguori is certified by Pope and Cardinals to contain “nothing against good morals," and is made the standard of the Romish Confessional throughout the world.
The attempt of such a man as Mr. Manning to degrade Bishop Taylor to a level with Liguori, presents to the mind of the writer the most melancholy evidence, that the Liguorian code, in its very idea, is productive of results almost as fatal to character as would be the practice of its gross details. When any one has been led to think of morals, not as a system of spiritual development, and growth in grace, calling poor human nature up to the perfect standard of God's requirements, but rather as a system of concession to human corruption, and of sympathy with the evil that is in the heart of man-his character is already degraded ; his conscience has ceased to be magnetic with holy fear, or true to the unchanging light of God's holy law, In a genuine system of morals, those exceptions to abstract rules, which spring from extreme cases, from conventionalisms, and from what may be called the surprises of conscience, receive a passing notice, but are scarcely observed in the grand development of a good author's enthusiasm for “ whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, wherein there is virtue, and wherein there is praise.” Beautiful summary of the true subject matter of the ethical philosopher ! But in a code like Liguori's, all this is reversed. The exceptions become the laws, and the genius of the “ moralist” exhausts itself in lowering the standard of rectitude to human vices and passions, and in constructing evasions of conscience, which may comport with apparent policy. The great drift of Liguori's system is an apology for vice. He neutralizes God's law by sophistical distinctions precisely like those rebuked by our Saviour in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the matter of the Corban. (St. Mark, vii. 11.) Thus evil becomes his good : and his disciples, in the name of morals, are initiated into practical lying, perjury, and fraud.
The most natural inquiry which suggests itself to a good man, in reading the pages of Liguori, is to this effect : What can be the motive for teaching such enormity, in the name of religion? The “Mystery of Iniquity” is indeed incomprehensible; yet what we observe in strictly Romish countries, (in Spain and South America for example,) appears to me to furnish the explanation, as it certainly demonstrates the fact that the religion of the people is the source of their social diseases. Papal Rome, like Rome Imperial, has but one instinct, and that is—Empire. Its undying part is the iron will, by which all humanity must be crushed into subjection. This is a conception which cannot be realized righteously : and by degrees, in working itself out, it has committed itself to the unscrupulous policy of making a league with the evil that is in man. It economizes human vices, and makes a religion out of his sins. Thus, in the Sacrament of Penance, sins are made in part the matter of the Sacrament, as water is the matter of Baptism; while the confessor becomes to the sinner, as it were, God. He shares with Omniscience the darkest secrets of the soul, and becomes invested with some of the supernatural dignity of the Maker. The priest is master of the devotee, and the Pope is master of the priest. The secret sins of individuals, become the chains of nations. and Rome realizes her darling power over the bodies and souls of millions, wherever she can make them act on the principle that vice is no bar to salvation, if only this subjection is complete; and that angelic purity is no safeguard against damnation, in any one that dares to think, or to ask a reason, as to anything the Pope ordains.
It is observable, as one result, that few Roman Catholics have any idea of salvation, as primarily a rescue from sin. The one idea is a rescue from eternal fire. The priest is bound to absolve the man who professes mere attrition, and not the contrite only. JESUS is no longer wanted to save His people from their sins, so long as Mary is at hand to snatch them from hell torment. How deeply this principle eats into the soul, and renders it incapable of spiritual religion, is almost incredible to those who take no pains to study characters. On such matters