Page images
PDF
EPUB

INTRODUCTORY NOTICE

BY

THE TRANSLATOR.

SOME years ago I presented the public with a translation of Frederick Schlegel's Philosophy of History, which may be termed a sort of "Discourse on Universal History," adapted to the actual state and wants of Catholic science. I now venture to bring forward a translation of a work that has been called by a French critic a necessary supplement to Bossuet's "History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches"-a work well suited also to the present necessities of the Catholic Church, and fitted for the existing state of controversy between the two great religious parties in Europe.

The kind reception which my former task experienced from the British public, at a time when all Catholic productions were still viewed with peculiar distrust and aversion, encourages me to hope that now, when so happy and so remarkable a change has come over the Protestant mind of England, the same indulgence will not be refused to my present effort. The work, indeed, whereof a translation is now offered to the public, enters far more deeply into the discussion of those great questions, which divide the minds and the

hearts of our countrymen. The moral wound that for three centuries hath disfigured the aspect, crippled or misapplied the energy, and exhausted the vital forces of our country, is here probed with a firm and dexterous, though most gentle hand. Yet Dr. Möhler's book is more historical, explanatory, and analytical, than really polemical. And the spirit of eminent charity, which breathes through his pages-the mild accents wherewith error is rebuked-the aversion from all exaggeration, that will never push beyond their legitimate bearing the words of an adversary—the exquisite sense of justice, that never fails to award to merit, wherever it is found, its due recognition; that is ever ready to make allowance for human frailty; that amid the greatest aberrations of the human mind, points with pleasure to the truths which tempered them, as well as to the truths which they abused; that even in the most hideous caricatures of fanaticism loves to seek out some trait of the Divine original, which that fanaticism strove to realize or restore;-all these qualities, I trust, will not fail to obtain from the author, even from the most prejudiced Protestant, an impartial and attentive hearing.

A distinguished English Protestant writer once characterized Bossuet's "History of the Variations," as a book" where a Catholic might study his religion, and a Protestant learn logic." The same remark applies in an equal, perhaps more eminent, degree, to Möhler's Symbolism; yet with this difference, that the latter is a work, where a Protestant, too, may study his religion.

The Protestant of every denomination may here see the tenets of his own religious community on the controverted points stated and explained according to the most solemn and unexceptionable of all authorities-the public formularies of that religious community itself. The declarations of such formularies are placed in juxta-position with those of the Catholic Church. By this means, the better understanding of the doctrines of either Church is promoted; mutual misconceptions are obviated; the points of agreement, as well as the points of divergence, are more prominently brought out; the means for the reconciliation of religious parties are at once laid open and facilitated; and as a clearer knowledge of error leads of necessity to a better appreciation of truth, the return to the true Church is thus at once rendered more easy and more certain.

This work, in its apologetical parts, noticing but cursorily or incidentally the historical and traditionary proofs of the Catholic faith, and confining itself in general to an a priori vindication of our tenets, I recommend the Protestant reader, who happens to be totally unacquainted with writings of Catholic controversy, to consult, prior to the perusal of the Symbolism, one or more of the approved books of Catholic evidences; where the external, as well as intrinsic, arguments in favour of our Church are more fully and elaborately entered into. Among these, I may particularly recommend three excellent works, which, though differing in their plan, will furnish the Protestant with the proofs required. I mean the Right

Rev. Dr. Milner's solid and instructive book, The End of Religious Controversy; Dr. Kirk's learned work, The Faith of Catholics; and the ingenious, learned, and eloquent Lectures on the Principal Doctrines and Practices of the Catholic Church, by my illustrious friend, the Right Rev. Dr. Wiseman. If, besides one or other of these works, the Protestant reader has leisure to consult the history by Bossuet, above referred to, he will then derive from the perusal of the Symbolism more spiritual advantage and intellectual profit; and will find but few passages that will present a difficulty. In the course of perusal it will be well for him frequently to refer to the decrees of the Council of Trent.

The word "Symbolism," or, as the Germans say, "Symbolik," has, it is proper to observe, a two-fold signification. Sometimes it means the science, that has for its object to explain the symbol, or outward signs used in the religions of antiquity; and in this sense it is employed by Creuzer, as the title to his celebrated work on that subject. At other times, the word is used by German divines, Catholic and Protestant, to signify the science of comparative inquiry into the Confessions, or Symbolical writings, of the different Christian Churches; and this is the sense it bears in the title to the book here translated.

There is a small, but learned work, entitled Confessions of Faith, by my lamented friend, the late Mr. Charles Butler, where the reader will find an interesting literary history of the formularies of the different Christian communities.

« PreviousContinue »