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In spite of their dead and false systems they took hold of the living God.
We may thus be allowed to arid a humble tribute of praise and admiration to the lofty character and self-sacrificing piety of Father de Ravignan, without so much honoring the system which is said to have produced him. Though it may be an injustice, we cannot help separating him from much of that elaborate and peculiar mode of religious culture which belongs to the society of Jesus, and giving the credit of his good and great qualities rather to Jesus himself who wrought in him. We have heard it even reported from high authority, that Father de Ravignan revolved at one time the question whether he should seek a dispensation to leave the society. We give it only as a report. And we bring no railing accusation against that world-renowned and powerful society itself, which checked and drove back the Reformation, and has proved ever since the strongest support of the Papal church. It has its bright and dark sides. As far as the biography itself reveals to us anything of the outward or inward life of Father de Ravignan," it is that of a devoted servant of the society, of a Jesnit of the Jesuits. He said—" The Church of God, and my mother the Society, hold a large place in my mind and heart." He was a superior of the Jesuit Professed House in Rue de Sevres in Paris, and he thoroughly identified himself with the history of that body; and, as its chosen champion in France, he composed, with his usual force of reasoning, a defense of " The Existence and Institute of the Jesuits." He is represented as clinging to Ignatius, as seeing him in vision, and holding spiritual communion with him of a mysterious nature.
We have, therefore, to accept Father de Ravignan, thus set before us, as an example of what the Jesuit system of training, on its own showing, can produce in this modem age of Christianity. We are thus enabled to note the profound influence and the far-reaching sagacity of that system of training. We have the impression, whether it be true or false, that the book is quite unique in its ample revelation of the more interior workings of that complicated and hitherto jealously hidden system—it is so at all events to us, and t' at forms its chief interest. It is an apology for Jesuitism of the strongest kind, viz: the life of a powerful and good man. Be it so. We accept it as such, and are thankful for what it has taught us, while we are still unsatisfied, and unconvinced of the claims of a system which operates in a manuer in which it confessedly does. We see, however, the sagacity of a system which chooses an instrument with consummate knowledge, and shapes it with exquisite skill. If the instrument is not consumed in its fires and broken in its welding, it will come forth a strong, sharp instrument. If the instrument is a good instrument, and one chosen by the Spirit of God, it will not be destroyed, perhaps not seriously injured, by a wrong system of training, and may draw good from it. But, the question is, can a human system, which, in exceptional cases, does not materially damage an immortal nature stronger than itself, but which, by its own showing, is, in many important respects, opposed to the inspired system of training in the spiritual life, be defended?
The New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess it with no disdainful feeling toward a society which numbers so many saints, missionaries, and martyrs, seems to us like the blessed sunshine compared to the cavernous gloom revealed in this book and in this life. The terrible system of self-introspection, accompanied by the austerities of an ascetic and monastic age, is not, and cannot be, we believe, the gospel way of spiritual perfection. We have spoken of Father de Kavignan's devotion to the Book of Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is said, " he had but one book with him during his retreats. He could not even understand how a Jesuit could need anything more, except, perhaps, the New Testament and the Imitation of Christ." Now, what is this Book of Exercises? It is a book which la}s claims to inspiration, and which forms the only door into the Society of Jesus. Its disciples assert, that by an implicit obedience to its precepts, conversion from sin to holiness in a few weeks, or, in some cases, days, is absolutely secured. It is a book of dry directions, of military rules, with little of scriptural language and thought, or even of devotional matter; by the following of whose prescriptions with an uureasoning fidelity, and under the supervision of a skilled director, the imagination is turned on a few objects, and those the most terrible; the thoughts are forced into one narrow channel; the senses are repressed, as it were extinguished; the most interior operations of the mind are inspected and annotated; the gradual recurrence of wrong desires is reduced day by day to a mathematical point, till one after another the evil inclinations of the mind are abolished, and the man becomes holy and perfect. By his own efforts, with the help of the book, or in obedience to it, the man does this work. It is a perfect self-immolation. It is the deliberate suicide of every natural desire and affection, and a literal death to the interests of the common life of humanity. We see the noble De Ravignan disregarding and cutting himself suddenly off from his widowed mother, his brothers and his relatives, sequestrating himself for ten years, and then emerging from his solitude after his mother had died, a man of iron will, of impenetrable mind, a religions without apparently an earthly tie, another man from the warm-hearted youth who entered the Beminary, his mind fixed on the one idea, or eidolon, of serving the society and converting men to the true church. He is, it is true, less a man of the cloister than at first, and mingles more frequently with men and the powerful of the earth, but still his heart is "in his beloved cell." The bold-minded thinker, who dared even to be influenced for a while by the sophisms of Pascal, has become a machine, submitting his freewill to a system, doing nothing spontaneously, reducing his life to one word—obedience. We yield him all that is said of him; we give our warm admiration to the heroic devotion and self-abnegating purity of hie character; but we ask again, is the process which is said to have made him what he was, a process in harmony with nature, reason, and true Christianity? Is it not one, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, calculated to produce a fictitious piety?
God has placed us on this earth to serve him in the way he has already indicated in the constitution of our natures, and with just those powers and susceptibilities with which he originally endowed us. Wo are to be true subjects of his governmen's, loyal in every part; we are to be also the loving and joyful children of his will. We have but one master of our
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souls, and that is the Creator and Redeemer of our spirits; by serving him and not a human legislator of souls, we come into spiritual freedom. We are not to be taken out of the world, but to be kept, and to keep ourselves, from its evil. In the using and developing of all the powers, and affections, and desires of our being—regulating, educating, purifying, strengthening them, and not repressing or killing them—we are to best serve and glorify him who made us in his image. True religion is the very germ in us of this purified nature. The nature we have, cleansed of its corruptions, is to be made like the human nature of Christ—the perfect man. The old Procureur du Roi, we believe, reasoned well. A man, even an apostle, has duties to his parents, his brethren, the State, and the world, which he cannot repudiate at will. The Saviour did not do so with the vast, spiritual responsibilities pressing upon him. He was seen at the market-place and the gatherings of the people. He went into their houses; he feasted with the publican and sinner; he loved to sit down with the Bethany household; he wept with the sisters of Lazarus; he yearned for human sympathy; he commended his mother to the care of the beloved disciple amid the sombre shadows of thecross; he was rooted in the common human heart; he was swayed by "the enthusiasm of humanity."
It may be replied by the Roman Catholic, that all men are not called upon to attain the same degree of spiritual perfection; that some are to aim at extraordinary holiness, and to be set apart, in order that they may be "apostles" to their fellow men. But did Christ make such a distinct ion as this in the requirements of human piety? Is one Christian called upon to be holier than another Christian? And how did Christ himself train his apostles? He did not send them into the caves of Engaddi or tombs of Gadara, to spend ten years in spiritual exercises and contemplations, but he commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; and he would be ever with them by his Spirit to help and guide. At the moment of the apostle Paul's conversion, he asked: "What wilt thou have me to do?" and his work was immediately assigned him. They were not to be enlightened by inspecting their own darkness, but by the illumining inflnences of the Holy Spirit; they were not to be holy by efforts to rid themselves of their sins, but by following Christ, by doing his words, by walking in lti& spirit, by giving themselves upr to the power of his heavenly love; by gazing upon his perfection until they grew into the same pure and heavenly image. They were to look out of themselves, not into themselves.
The different and almost opposite methods of training Roman Catholic and Protestant ministers, and the lives and influence, social, moral, and spiritual, of these, in the communities where they live and in the world, are fairly brought before our notice and judgment in a book like this, which seta bef-ire us one of the best examples, we presume, which the Romish system could offer us. The education of candidates for the ministry, in our Theological Seminaries, is to be compared with the same training in the Retreats and Noviciates of the Jesuit Fraternity; and we are not sure but that some most valuable hints, especially in the eminent attention bestowed upon spiritual culture as the chief thing, might not be gained in stndying the Jesuit system. The life of a good Protestant minister, going among his people constantly and freely, mingling with the world of men, now and then, perhaps, drawn even into a political discussion, distinguished by no peculiar badge or dress from his fellow-citizens, living very much as other men do—this life is to be measured and weighed with that of the Jesuit Father or Priest, issuing periodically from his solitary cell to preach and administer the oflices, to appear and disappear like an angel on a mount, rather than a man on the earth; and we are also to measure the actual results, \\\e fruits of the two systems—of the life of Father de Ravignan, and, let us say, the life of Dr. Chalmers—for both were men of superior, though perhaps unequal power, and both, we believe, were influenced by the motive of doing the most good and of glorifying God. Let the two systems, then, be judged by their fruits. They are now fairly on trial in this country; for here, as elsewhere, the Jesuit is the educating and controlling mind in the Roman Catholic Church. Which of the two systems is most in consonance with our free institutions? Which of them most truly agrees with the spirit of