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The fifteenth century was a prologue to the great drama of modern Europe. The invention of printing (A. D. 1449 ;) the fall of Constantinople (A. D. 1453;) the example of Cosmo and Lorenzo de Medici; the discoveries of Columbus and Gama, of Vespucius and Cabot, gave a combined impulse to the human mind: and marshaled the hosts of Science and Art, on the battle-field of Europe. But these events were still incapable of deciding and fixing, as by an irrevocable decree, the essential principles and character, the imperishable influence and objects of all Literature. Hitherto, there had been no focal point in the regions of knowledge, no centripetal force to gather into a system around that point, the scattered orbs of Arts and Sciences; and constrain them by the bonds of a common destiny, to fulfil the prophecy of Scripture, and fit man to answer the ends of his being. At this crisis, the Sun of the Reformation arose, and straightway appeared in the Moral World, that phenomenon in the Solar System, described by the English Lucretius, when the soul of Man, in the sublime flights of imagination, hovering o'er the Sun,
“Beholds him pouring the redundant stream
« The fated rounds of time.Such a Sun was the Reformation, to the whole circle of Arts and Sciences. The ancient world exhibits them under the dominion of a centrifugal force, compounded of ambition, military fame and national pride: and we have beheld them, in obedience to its despotic sway, betraying the interests of society, for the glory of the State, and sacrificing the welfare of the people, at the shrine of their rulers. But the Reformation summoned them around its standard, to a warfare, the noblest, the most momentous, in which man had ever engaged, excepting that of Christianity against Paganism.
The essential principle of the Reformation was freedom, freedom of mind, freedom of the individual, freedom of the people. The fundamental position was this--each Man has a right, each is bound to think for himself. This principle and this position were at first the offspring of religious controversy ; but it was impossible to limit the circle of their influence to such a field, spacious and fertile as it was. In his eloquent and ingenious Treatise on Controversy, in vindication of the Catholic Church, Fletcher ascribes to the principles of the Reformation, all the atheism and infidelity of Modern Europe. Without examining the truth of his charge, we may safely grant it, and reply, that without Christianity, the countless heresies of the Primitive Church, would never have existed; without the liberty of the press, its licentiousness would be unknown; without the freedom of the will, Man could neither be virtuous nor happy ;
“For virtue is the child of liberty,
“ Be free to keep the path, who are not free to stray." May we not, indeed, fearlessly and securely bid it pass unquestioned; for, to the Reformation, and to that only, are due the civil, political, and religious liberties of Protestant Europe. And as Villers has said, in his admirable treatise on the æra of Luther, even these our own United States are the legitimate offspring of that Reformation. Cast then, into one scale, these advantages, and into the other, all the abominations of Spinosa, Collins and Paine, of Voltaire, Shaftesbury, and Hume, and nought but the sword of some Brennus in controversy, can award the triumph to the atheist and the infidel.
It is neither my object nor my duty, in this address, to justify the principles of the Reformation, as a Religious creed. May I not, therefore, trust that this vindication will be viewed, not as the reply' of a Protestant, as such; but as the opinion of a candid, independent student of historical Philosophy, in answer to those, who judging for themselves, with equal impartiality and freedom, still maintain the opinions of Fletcher. And here, I may be permitted to remark, once for all, with a view to many parts of this address, that I am deeply sensible how difficult and delicate a task it is, consistently, with the sentiments and feelings that become an American, to treat the subject of the Reformation, even in its political and literary bearing. This embarrassment is enhanced by the recollection, that many Catholics are our fellow citizens. Nor ought any man, who loves and reveres the worthies of the Revolution, to forget, that the Common Father of all has reserved for a Catholic, the venerable CHARLES CARROL, an enviable distinction, an interesting privilege, as SOLE SURVIVOR of those, who signed the Declaration of Independence. And, how remarkably,
indeed, will this appear to be a special Providence, when we remember that two hundred years ago, New England in the North, and Virginia in the South, persecuted their brother refugees, because they differed in religious tenets.* But Maryland, a royal, Catholic colony, the native land of Car- . rol, first acted on the American principle, perpetuated by the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of these United States, that every man has a right to the unmolested enjoyment of his own creed, and of his own mode of worship. Nor is it less remarkable that the same Maryland, when she had become a free Protestant State, should have been the last to receive into the political household, as brethren, the children of Israel. Yet, to behold even this triumph has been vouchsafed to the patriarchal years of Charles Carrol of Carrolton: and he, above all Americans, the Christian and Patriot Simeon of our Western world, may now, in the fulness of time, depart in peace.
My subject calls, however, for a free, impartial review of the character of the Reformation, and of its influence on Science; nor is it possible to examine the history of that period, in any point of view, however remote from Religion, without a continual reference to the state of the Catholic Church, in connection with government and society, both spiritual and temporal—with the Arts and Scienceswith the fortunes and character of nations with the education and general welfare of the people. Considering the Reformation as matter of history and philosophy, it must be a chief ingredient in every discussion, on enlarged principles, of the state of the world for the last three hundred years, of its actual condition now, and of its future prospects. Besides, the Protestants of these United States may well believe, that without the Reformation, they would have been rather like the South Americans, before the late Revolutions, than what they now are, the wonder, and admiration, and example of the world. They may well believe, also, that their Catholic brethren, fellow-heirs of the same glorious and inestimable heritage of Religious, Political, and Civil Rights, never would have enjoyed, in any Catholic country, the full measure of power and liberty, of property and happiness, which the youngest child of the Reformation confers on the eldest daughter of the Christian
* See Note C.
household. Under these considerations, and with these sentiments, I proceed to execute the task which I have undertaken; satisfied that my opinions will be those not mere. ly of a Protestant, but of an American, and of a Man, the lover of truth, the thoughtful student of historical philosophy. In many of the following pages, I shall adopt the very language of Villers, especially in those passages, which express the severe, but deliberate judgment of that invaluable writer, as to the degraded condition of the whole circle of knowledge, at the close of the fifteenth century.
I have said that the Reformation only, gave or could have given to ALL LITERATURE, not merely to the literature of Theology, a decisive, permanent character. To express it otherwise, my settled judgment is, that without the Reformation, the revival of learning, which had commenced, would have terminated as all others had, in public ostentation, princely patronage, and the dazzling homage of Genius and Taste, still intent
“ To heap the shrine of luxury and pride,
But THE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE would have remained almost, if not altogether, in the same degraded and miserable condition, as to civil, political, and religious rights, as to education, as to social improvement, and individual wel. fare. To illustrate this opinion, let us advert to the actual state of Europe, before the French Revolution, bearing in mind the remark of Montesquieu, that Loyola would have governed the world, but for Luther and Calvin. He, in defiance of the reformers, has swayed Italy, Spain and Portugal: they rescued from him and his Church, and have ruled Holland, England and Scotland. Ignatius has governed South America: Calvin and Luther, these United States. Is there now an American, whether of the Reformed or Romish Creed, who would exchange the condition of the Protestant Countries, which have been named, for that of Southern Europe or Southern America ? Is it not obvious, that Society has been comparatively stationary for 300 years, in these; while Protestant nations have been continually advancing ? Look at the wonderful progress of Holland, Great-Britain, and our own country, since the reformation. Place beside them, Italy, Spain and Portugal: and assign, if practicable, any adequate causes, for the in
calculable difference, except the principles of the Reformers. Every student of the philosophy of history, I feel assured, re-echoes the sentiment, THESE ONLY ARE THE
If then, as I have already said, Science and Art are nothing worth, unless they bless the people, as well as adorn the State, and if in Protestant countries, they have thus blessed, as well as adorned, beyond all parallel ; it becomes a question most interesting and momentous, how have the principles of the Reformers wrought this change, in the use and application of the whole circle of knowledge ?
proceed to attempt an explanation; though I believe that every improved mind, already comprehends the development of my subject.
The Reformers began with the fundamental principle, the obligation and correspondent right of private examination and private judgment. They admitted no superior to control and limit this duty and this right, save God and his Scriptures. Whatever uninspired man had done or could do, whether individually or collectively, was acknowledged as guides to the understanding, but not as authority to bind the conscience and the judgment. The position was taken that Man not only had a right, in regard to his fellow men, but was obliged by the law of God, to study his word, and by that standard, to examine the history of the Church; her doctrine, worship and ceremonies; the acts of councils ; the writings of the fathers and the scholastic theology;
and last, though not least, the authority of the Pope. This WAS, IN RELIGION, 66 THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE" -and by its principles the reformers did for the shackled mind, what the angel did for Peter in the prison; they did for the mind's eye, what Ananias did for Paul, when at his touch, the Apostle received his sight.
The Fathers of the Reformation began with the Church ; but the intimate union in theory and practice, between Church and State, after the pacification under Constantine ; the temporal as well as spiritual character of the Pope; the right of the secular power to punish Apostates and Heretics, vindicated by argument and illustrated by example, led directly to an examination of the authority of temporal rulers in spiritual matters. When the Reformer had established this twofold principle, that he had a right to judge of the authority and acts of temporal and spiritual rulers, in spiritual matters, it was impossible to admit any limits to the right of private judgment. If the Pope, “ Vicarius Dei