Chapter 19.

{310} THE winter had been on the whole dry and pleasant, but in February and March the rains were so profuse, and the winds so high, that Bateman saw very little of either Charles or Willis. He did not abandon his designs on the latter, but it was an anxious question how best to conduct them. As to Campbell, he was resolved to exclude him from any participation in them; but he hesitated about Reding. He had found him far less definitely Roman than he expected, and he conjectured that, by making him his confidant and employing him against Willis, he really might succeed in giving him an Anglican direction. Accordingly, he told him of his anxiety to restore Willis to "the Church of his baptism"; and not discouraged by Charles's advice to let well alone, for he might succeed in drawing him from Rome without reclaiming him to Anglicanism, the weather having improved, he asked the two to dinner on one of the later Sundays in Lent. He determined to make a field-day of it; and, with that view, he carefully got up some of the most popular works against the Church of Rome. After much thought he determined to direct his attack on {311} some of the "practical evils," as he considered them, of "Romanism"; as being more easy of proof than points of doctrine and history, in which, too, for what he knew, Willis might by this time be better read than himself. He considered, too, that, if Willis had been at all shaken in his new faith when he was abroad, it was by the practical exemplification which he had before his eyes of the issue of its peculiar doctrines when freely carried out. Moreover, to tell the truth, our good friend had not a very clear apprehension how much doctrine he held in common with the Church of Rome, or where he was to stop in the several details of Pope Pius's Creed; in consequence, it was evidently safer to confine his attack to matters of practice.

"You see, Willis," he said, as they sat down to table, "I have given you abstinence food, not knowing whether you avail yourself of the dispensation. We shall eat meat ourselves; but don't think we don't fast at proper times; I don't agree with Campbell at all; we don't fast, however, on Sunday. That is our rule, and, I take it, a primitive one."

Willis answered that he did not know how the primitive usage lay, but he supposed that both of them allowed that matters of discipline might be altered by the proper authority.

"Certainly," answered Bateman, "so that everything is done consistently with the inspired text of Scripture;"—he stopped, itching, if he could, to bring in some great subject, but not seeing how. He saw he must rush in medias res; so he added:—"with {312} which inspired text, I presume, what one sees in foreign churches is not very consistent".

"What? I suppose you mean antependia, reredosses, stone altars, copes, and mitres," said Willis innocently, "which certainly are not in Scripture."

"True," said Bateman; "but these, though not in Scripture, are not inconsistent with Scripture. They are all very right; but the worship of Saints, especially the Blessed Virgin, and of relics, the gabbling over prayers in an unknown tongue, Indulgences, and infrequent communions, I suspect are directly unscriptural."

"My dear Bateman," said Willis, "you seem to live in an atmosphere of controversy; so it was at Oxford; there was always argument going on in your rooms. Religion is a thing to enjoy, not to quarrel about; give me a slice more of that leg of mutton."

"Yes, Bateman," said Reding, "you must let us enjoy our meat. Willis deserves it, for I believe he has had a fair walk today. Have you not walked a good part of the way to Seaton and back? a matter of fourteen miles, and hilly ground; it can't be dry, too, in parts yet."

"True," said Bateman "take a glass of wine, Willis; it's good Madeira; an aunt of mine sent it me."

"He puts us to shame," said Charles, "who have stepped into Church from our bedroom; he has trudged a pilgrimage to his."

"I'm not saying a word against our dear friend Willis," said Bateman; "it was merely a point on {313} which I thought he would agree with me, that there were many corruptions of worship in foreign churches."

At last, when his silence was observable, Willis said that he supposed that persons who were not Catholics could not tell what were corruptions and what not. Here the subject dropped again; for Willis did not seem in humour—perhaps he was too tired—to continue it. So they ate and drank, with nothing but very commonplace remarks to season their meal withal, till the cloth was removed. The table was then shoved back a bit, and the three young men got over the fire, which Bateman made burn brightly. Two of them at least had deserved some relaxation, and they were the two who were to be opponent and respondent in the approaching argument—one had had a long walk, the other had had two full services, a baptism, and a funeral. The armistice continued a good quarter of an hour, which Charles and Willis spent in easy conversation; till Bateman, who had been priming himself the while with his controversial points, found himself ready for the assault, and opened it in form.

"Come, my dear Willis," he said, "I can't let you off so; I am sure what you saw abroad scandalised you."

This was almost rudely put. Willis said that, had he been a Protestant, he might have been easily shocked; but he had been a Catholic; and he drew an almost imperceptible sigh. Besides had he had a temptation to be shocked, he should have recollected that he was in a Church which in all greater matters could not err. He had not come to the Church to criticise, he said, but {314} to learn. "I don't know," he said, "what is meant by saying that we ought to have faith, that faith is a grace, that faith is the means of our salvation, if there is nothing to exercise it. Faith goes against sight; well, then, unless there are sights which offend you, there is nothing for it to go against."

Bateman called this a paradox; "If so," he said, "why don't we become Mahometans? we should have enough to believe then."

"Why, just consider," said Willis; "supposing your friend, an honourable man, is accused of theft, and appearances are against him, would you at once admit the charge? It would be a fair trial of your faith in him; and if he were able in the event satisfactorily to rebut it, I don't think he would thank you, should you have waited for his explanation before you took his part, instead of knowing him too well to suspect it. If, then, I come to the Church with faith in her, whatever I see there, even if it surprises me, is but a trial of my faith."

"That is true," said Charles; "but there must be some ground for faith; we do not believe without reason; and the question is, whether what the Church does, as in worship, is not a fair matter to form a judgment upon, for or against."

"A Catholic," said Willis, "as I was when I was abroad, has already found his grounds, for he believes; but for one who has not—I mean a Protestant—I certainly consider it is very uncertain whether he will take the view of Catholic worship which he ought to take. It may easily happen that he will not understand it." {315}

"Yet persons have before now been converted by the sight of Catholic worship," said Reding.

"Certainly," answered Willis: "God works in a thousand ways; there is much in Catholic worship to strike a Protestant, but there is much which will perplex him; for instance, what Bateman has alluded to, our devotion to the Blessed Virgin."

"Surely," said Bateman, "this is a plain matter; it is quite impossible that the worship paid by Roman Catholics to the Blessed Mary should not interfere with the supreme adoration due to the Creator alone."

"This is just an instance in point," said Willis; "you see you are judging à priori; you know nothing of the state of the case from experience, but you say, 'It must be; it can't be otherwise'. This is the way a Protestant judges, and comes to one conclusion; a Catholic, who acts, and does not speculate, feels the truth of the contrary."

"Some things," said Bateman, "are so like axioms as to supersede trial. On the other hand, familiarity is very likely to hide from people the real evil of certain practices."

"How strange it is," answered Willis, "that you don't perceive that this is the very argument which various sects urge against you Anglicans! For instance, the Unitarian says that the doctrine of the Atonement must lead to our looking at the Father, not as a God of love, but of vengeance only; and he calls the doctrine of eternal punishment immoral. And so, the Wesleyan or Baptist declares that it is an absurdity {316} to suppose any one can hold the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and really be spiritual; that the doctrine must have a numbing effect on the mind, and destroy its simple reliance on the atonement of Christ. I will take another instance: many a good Catholic, who never came across Anglicans, is as utterly unable to realise your position as you are to realise his. He cannot make out how you can be so illogical as not to go forward or backward; nay, he pronounces your professed state of mind impossible; he does not believe in its existence. I may deplore your state; I may think you illogical and worse; but I know it is a state which does exist. As, then, I admit that a person can hold one Catholic Church, yet without believing that the Roman Communion is it, so I put it to you, even as an argumentum ad hominem, whether you ought not to believe that we can honour our Blessed Lady as the first of creatures, without interfering with the honour due to God? At most, you ought to call us only illogical, you ought not to deny that we do what we say we do."

"I make a distinction," said Bateman; "it is quite possible, I fully grant, for an educated Romanist to distinguish between the devotion paid by him to the Blessed Virgin, and the worship of God; I only say that the multitude will not distinguish."

"I know you say so," answered Willis; "and still, I repeat, not from experience, but on an à priori ground. You say, not 'it is so,' but 'it must be so'."

There was a pause in the conversation, and then Bateman recommenced it. {317}

"You may give us some trouble," said he, laughing, "but we are resolved to have you back, my good Willis. Now consider, you are a lover of truth: is that Church from heaven which tells untruths?"

Willis laughed too; "We must define the words truth and untruth," he said; "but, subject to that definition, I have no hesitation in enunciating the truism, that a Church is not from heaven which tells untruths."

"Of course, you can't deny the proposition," said Bateman; "well, then, is it not quite certain that in Rome itself there are relics which all learned men now give up, and which yet are venerated as relics? For instance, Campbell tells me that the reputed heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, in some great Roman basilica, are certainly not the heads of the Apostles, because the head of St. Paul was found with his body, after the fire at his church some years since."

"I don't know about the particular instance," answered Willis; "but you are opening a large question which cannot be settled in a few words. If I must speak, I should say this: I should begin with the assumption that the existence of relics is not improbable; do you grant that?"

"I grant nothing," said Bateman; "but go on."

"Why, you have plenty of heathen relics, which you admit. What is Pompeii, and all that is found there, but one vast heathen relic? why should there not be Christian relics in Rome and elsewhere as well as Pagan?"

"Of course, of course," said Bateman. {318}

"Well, and relics may be identified. You have the tomb of the Scipios, with their names on them. Did you find ashes in one of them, I suppose you would be pretty certain that they were the ashes of a Scipio."

"To the point," cried Bateman, "quicker."

"St. Peter," continued Willis, "speaks of David, 'whose sepulchre is with you unto this day'. Therefore it's nothing wonderful that a religious relic should be preserved eleven hundred years, and identified to be such, when a nation makes a point of preserving it."

"This is beating about the bush," cried Bateman impatiently; "get on quicker."

"Let me go on my own way," said Willis—"then there is nothing improbable, considering Christians have always been very careful about the memorials of sacred things—"

"You've not proved that," said Bateman, fearing that some manœuvre, he could not tell what, was in progress.

"Well," said Willis, "you don't doubt it, I suppose, at least from the fourth century, when St. Helena brought from the Holy Land the memorials of our Lord's passion, and lodged them at Rome in the Basilica, which was thereupon called Santa Croce. As to the previous times of persecution, Christians, of course, had fewer opportunities of showing a similar devotion, and historical records are less copious; yet, in spite of this, its existence is as certain as any fact of history. They collected the bones of St. Polycarp, the immediate disciple of St. John, after he was burnt; as of St. Ignatius before him, after his exposure to the beasts; {319} and so in like manner the bones or blood of all the martyrs. No one doubts it; I never heard of any one who did. So the disciples took up the Baptist's body—it would have been strange if they had not—and buried it 'in the sepulchre,' as the Evangelist says, speaking of it as known. Now, why should they not in like manner, and even with greater reason, have rescued the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul, if it were only for decent burial? Is it then wonderful, if the bodies were rescued, that they should be afterwards preserved?"

"But they can't be in two places at once," said Bateman.

"But hear me," answered Willis; "I say then if there is a tradition that in a certain place there is a relic of an apostle, there is at first sight a probability that it is there; the presumption is in its favour. Can you deny it? Well, if the same relic is reported to be in two places, then one or the other tradition is erroneous, and the primâ facie force of both traditions is weakened; but I should not actually discard either at once; each has its force still, though neither so great a force. Now, suppose there are circumstances which confirm the one, the other is weakened still further, and at length the probability of its truth may become evanescent; and when a fair interval has passed, and there is no change of evidence in its favour, then it is at length given up. But all this is a work of time; meanwhile, it is not a bit more of an objection to the doctrine and practice of relic-veneration that a body is said to lie in two places, than to profane history {320} that Charles I. was reported by some authorities to be buried at Windsor, by others at Westminster; which question was decided just before our times. It is a question of evidence, and must be treated as such."

"But if St. Paul's head was found under his own church," said Bateman, "it's pretty clear it is not preserved at the other basilica."

"True," answered Willis; "but grave questions of this kind cannot be decided in a moment. I don't know myself the circumstances of the case, and do but take your account of it. It has to be proved, then, I suppose, that it was St. Paul's head which was found with his body; for, since he was beheaded, it would not be attached to it. This is one question, and others would arise. It is not easy to settle a question of history. Questions which seem settled revive. It is very well for secular historians to give up a tradition or testimony at once, and for a generation to oh-oh it; but the Church cannot do so; she has a religious responsibility, and must move slowly. Take the chance of its turning out that the heads at St. John Lateran were, after all, those of the two Apostles, and that she had cast them aside. Questions, I say, revive. Did not Walpole make it highly probable that the two little princes had a place in the procession at King Richard's coronation, though a century before him two skeletons of boys were found in the Tower at the very place where the children of Edward were said to have been murdered and buried by the Duke of Gloucester? I speak from memory, but the general fact which I am illustrating is {321} undeniable. Ussher, Pearson, and Voss proved that St. Ignatius's shorter Epistles were genuine; and now after the lapse of two centuries, the question is at least plausibly mooted again."

There was another pause, while Bateman thought over his facts and arguments, but nothing was forthcoming at the moment. Willis continued: "You must consider also that reputed relics, such as you have mentioned, are generally in the custody of religious bodies, who are naturally very jealous of attempts to prove them spurious, and, with a pardonable esprit de corps, defend them with all their might, and oppose obstacles in the way of an adverse decision; just as your own society defends, most worthily, the fair fame of your foundress, Queen Boadicea. Were the case given against her by every tribunal in the land, your valiant and loyal Head would not abandon her; it would break his magnanimous heart; he would die in her service as a good knight. Both from religious duty, then, and from human feeling, it is a very arduous thing to get a received relic disowned."

"Well," said Bateman, "to my poor judgment it does seem a dishonesty to keep up inscriptions, for instance, which every one knows not to be true."

"My dear Bateman, that is begging the question," said Willis; "every body does not know it; it is a point in course of settlement, but not settled; you may say that individuals have settled it, or it may be settled, but it is not settled yet. Parallel cases happen frequently in civil matters, and no one speaks harshly of {322} existing individuals or bodies in consequence. Till lately the Monument in London bore an inscription to the effect that London had been burned by us poor Papists. A hundred years ago, Pope, the poet, had called the 'column' 'a tall bully' which 'lifts its head and lies'. Yet the inscription was not removed till a few years since—I believe when the Monument was repaired. That was an opportunity for erasing a calumny which, till then, had not been definitely pronounced to be such, and not pronounced in deference to the primâ facie authority of a statement contemporaneous with the calamity which it recorded. There is never a point of time at which you can say, 'The tradition is now disproved'. When a received belief has been apparently exposed, the question lies dormant for the opportunity of fresh arguments; when none appear, then at length an accident, such as the repair of a building, despatches it."

"We have somehow got off the subject," thought Bateman; and he sat fidgeting about to find the thread of his argument. Reding put in an objection; he said that no one knew or cared about the inscription on the Monument, but religious veneration was paid to the two heads at St. John Lateran.

"Right," said Bateman; "that's just what I meant to say."

"Well," answered Willis, "as to the particular case—mind, I am taking your account of it, for I don't profess to know how the matter lies. But let us consider the extent of the mistake. There is no doubt in the world that at least they are the heads of martyrs; {323} the only question is this, and no more, whether they are the very heads of the two Apostles. From time immemorial they have been preserved upon or under the altar as the heads of saints or martyrs; and it requires to know very little of Christian antiquities to be perfectly certain that they really are saintly relics, even though unknown. Hence the sole mistake is, that Catholics have venerated, what ought to be venerated anyhow, under a wrong name; perhaps have expected miracles (which they had a right to expect), and have experienced them (as they might well experience them), because they were the relics of saints, though they were in error as to what saints. This surely is no great matter."

"You have made three assumptions," said Bateman; "first, that none but the relics of saints have been placed under altars; secondly, that these relics were always there; thirdly—thirdly—I know there was a third—let me see—"

"Most true," said Willis, interrupting him, "and I will help you to some others. I have assumed that there are Christians in the world called Catholics; again, that they think it right to venerate relics; but, my dear Bateman, these were the grounds, and not the point of our argument; and if they are to be questioned, it must be in a distinct dispute: but I really think we have had enough of disputation."

"Yes, Bateman," said Charles; "it is getting late. I must think of returning. Give us some tea, and let us begone."

"Go home?" cried Bateman; "why, we have just {324} done dinner, and done nothing else as yet; I had a great deal to say."

However, he rang the bell for tea, and had the table cleared.

Chapter 2-20

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