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Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
in religion,” the “doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but one creed is as good as another.”  He lamented the decay of the power of authority, the disappearance of religion from the sphere of political influence, from education, from legislation.  He deplored the increasing impossibility of getting men to work together on a common religious basis.  He pointed out the increasing seriousness and earnestness of the attempts to “supersede, to block out religion,” by an imposing and high morality, claiming to dispense with it.

He dwelt on the mischief and dangers; he expressed, as any Christian would, his fearlessness and faith in spite of them; but do we gather, even from such a speaker, and on such an occasion, anything of the remedy?  The principle of authority is shaken, he tells us; what can he suggest to restore it?  He under-estimates, probably, the part which authority plays, implicitly yet very really, in English popular religion, much more in English Church religion; and authority, even in Rome, is not everything, and does not reach to every subject.  But authority in our days can be nothing without real confidence in it; and where confidence in authority has been lost, it is idle to attempt to restore it by telling men that authority is a good and necessary thing.  It must be won back, not simply claimed.  It must be regained, when forfeited, by the means by which it was originally gained.  And the strange phenomenon was obviously present to his clear and candid mind, though he treated it as one which is disappearing, and must at length pass away, that precisely here in England, where the only religious authority he recognises has been thrown off, the hold of religion on public interest is most effective and most obstinately tenacious.

What is the history of this?  What is the explanation of it?  Why is it that where “authority,” as he understands it, has been longest paramount and undisputed, the public place and public force of religion have most disappeared; and that a “dozen men taken at random in the streets” of London find it easier, with all their various sects, to work together on a religious basis than a dozen men taken at random from the streets of Catholic Paris or Rome?  Indeed, the public feeling towards himself, expressed in so many ways in the last few weeks, might suggest a question not undeserving of his thoughts.  The mass of Englishmen are notoriously anti-Popish and anti-Roman.  Their antipathies on this subject are profound, and not always reasonable.  They certainly do not here halt between two opinions, or think that one creed is as good as another.  What is it which has made so many of them, still retaining all their intense dislike to the system which Cardinal Newman has accepted, yet welcome so heartily his honours in it, notwithstanding that he has passed from England to Rome, and that he owes so much of what he is to England?  Is it that they think it does not matter what a man believes, and whether a man turns Papist? 

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