abbé (Antoine) Martinet.

Religion in society; or, The solution of great problems, placed within the reach of every mind (Volume 1) online

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Adam, by his rebellion, threw off the divine character of
the child of God, and became justly the slave of the rebel,
whose will he obeyed, in contempt of the divine will. He
transmitted to his children the human nature which he fright-
fully degraded ; he transmitted it to his children ; and these
are all born children of v:rath. Why? Because they are
all jlcsh ;|j because crime has changed the noble instincts
which God gave to innocent man, into the vile and brutal

* Qui cum sit splendor gloriae, et figura substanties ejus, portansque
omnia verbo virtutis suae. (Hebr. i. 3.) Qui est imago Dei invisibi-
lis, &c. (Coloss. i. 13.)

f Ques prsescivit et pracdestinavit conformes fieri imaginis Filii sui,
&c. (Rom. viii. 29.)

\ Primogenitus omnis creaturse . . . Ipse est ante omnes, et omnia
in ipso constant, &c. (Coloss. i. 16, et seq.)

Ephes. ii. 3. See 1st Problem, ch. xxii.

H Genes, vi. 3.


appetites which too often sink him beneath the brute. Do
not expect that heaven will ever open its gates to this de-
graded being, nor that the Most High will seat him upon his
throne. Has he, then, who so passionately clings to earth,
the least thought of heaven ? Certainly not ; flesh and blood
can never possess the kingdom of God.*

Divine justice required the death of man. Mercy pleaded
for his pardon. The Word reconciles these opposite claims.
With a devotion which captivates the adoration and love of
angels and of men, He who by his divine nature is equal to
the Father, condescends to take upon himself the human na-
ture, the degraded nature of Adam, without the sin which is
humanly inseparable from it. We have seen how the whole
force of divine justice fell upon the soul and body of the great
Victim.f He was bruised for our sins, according to the ex-
pression of the prophet,! and the body which the God-Man
held from Adam by his mother, nailed to the infamous wood,
shed from its veins the last drop of a blood, pure, it is true, but
proscribed by love, and abandoned to the celestial vengeance.
Humanity, purified and renewed by this blood, comes forth
triumphant from the tomb, where it must descend in order to
fulfil the divine decree : Thou shall die, and return to the dust ;
and soon it will go to seat itself at the right hand of the Father.

Humanity is saved ! But, how are men to be saved ? A
question which will seem minute to our pantheistic thinkers,
who are occupied very much with the general, and not at all
with the particular. Of what importance is it to them if we
all should disappear under the bloody car of humanitary re-
volutions, provided that humanity advances ? This question,
however, has pre-occupied the mind of Christ ; for he became
man, and delivered himself up to death, only to save every
individual of the human family.

* I. Cor. xv. 50. t See 1st Problem, ch. xxx.

f Isa. liii. 5. Rom. viii. 32. Ephes. v. 2.


How can man, then, participate here below in the justice
and sanctity of Jesus Christ, an indispensable condition for
sharing, at a future time, his glory?* It is by reproducing
in himself the life of Jesus Christ ; that is to say, by putting
aside the old man, and his corrupt inclinations ; by the cruci-
fixion of the flesh and its appetites ; and incorporating himself
with the new man, by a life of holiness and justice-^

It is in this moral transubstantiation, which transforms the
corrupt child of Adam into a member of the body of Christ, liv-
ing by his spirit, that the work of the regeneration and sanctifi-
cation of man consists ; the united work of divine activity oper-
ating through grace, and of human activity, which excited and
strengthened by grace, freely co-operates with the divine action.

It is to effect, maintain, and perfect this intimate union of
man with Jesus Christ, that the evangelical ministry exclu-
sively conspires, that all the powers concur, and all the in-
stitutions bequeathed by the Savior to his Church, but, above
all, the sacraments.

Let us cast a rapid glance over what I shall call the dyna-
mics of Catholicism, and admire the efficacy of its means for
uniting souls to their divine Head, and lifting them to heaven.




To regenerate man, it is necessary, in the first place, to
efface the odious character of a rebellious child, the slave of

* Rom. viii. 17.

( Deponere . . . veterem hominem qui corrumpitur secundum desi-
deria erroris . . . et induite novum hominem, &c. (Ephes. iv. 22,24.)
Qui autem Christi sunt, carnem suam crucifixerunt cum vitiis et con-
cupiscentiis. (Galat. v. 24.)


Satan, and impress upon him (he divine traits of him who has
saved us by obedience. As we bring into being the image of-
the terrestrial man, we must, as the apostle says,* take at the
new birth the resemblance of the celestial man. Such is the
effect of baptism, in which the soul casts off the sullied image
of Adam, and clothes itself with Jesus Christ, f

If it is an adult, before the baptism he must be instructed,
open his mind to the light of the Gospel, and unite his thought
to that of Jesus Christ by the tie of faith.J He must open
his heart to penitence, detest his sins, and renounce them for
ever. By this breaking of the heart, which is called contri-
tion, the catechumen is united to Jesus crucified ; he dies
afterwards with him, and descends into the tomb, which was
typified by the immersion formerly employed in baptism.
The Holy Spirit, hovering over the baptismal waters, as in
the first days of creation over the waters of chaos, to im-
pregnate them, completes the destruction of the old man, and
communicates to this mystic dead body the life of the new
Adam, bathing the soul in the blood of Jesus Christ, at the
same time that the body is baptized with it.|| The neophyte
comes forth from the sacred font, radiant in innocence ; hea-
ven opens over his head, and his heavenly Father says to the
angels: "Here is my child, the living image of my well-

* Sicut portavimus imaginem terreni, portemus et imaginem crelestis.
(I. Cor. xv. 49.)

f Quicumque enim in christo baptizati, estis, christum induisti.
(Galat. iii. 27.)

f The regeneration of the child presented at the sacred font is the
exclusive operation of the Holy Spirit and the Church. Lost by an
act independent of his will, why should he not be saved in the same
manner ?

Spiritus dei ferebatur super aquas. (Genes, i. 1.)

|| St. Paul often reveals in his Epistles the deep significance of the
baptismal rite. An ignoratis quia quicumque baptizati sumus in
Christo-Jesu in Morte ipsius baptizati sumus ? Consepulti enim sumus
cum illo per baptismum in mortem, &c. (Rom. vi. 3 et seq.)


beloved Son ! Watch over him with love along the road that
lends him to his destined throne." *

The new-born soul enters upon the arena of the world,
where it must choose between the arduous victories which
hoaven crowns, and the cowardly defeats which lead to eter-
nal servitude. Feeble as we always are at the entrance upon
life, surrounded by the thousand dangers which besiege in-
fancy and make so many their victims, the principle of divine
life, which he has received in baptism, must be unfolded, ex-
panded, and strengthened.

This vital principle is the spirit of Jesus Christ, communi-
cated more abundantly by the imposition of hands of the
priest, and the unction of the holy chrism. That spirit, ac-
cording to the promise of Jesus Christ, guards the spirit of
the young Christian from all error, by teaching him all truth, \
and strengthens his heart against the assaults of vice by un-
folding in it the germ of all the virtues.

Such is the Sacrament of Confirmation, the effect of which
is to strengthen in the faith, and to make the perfect Christian
a sacrament which realizes the promise of Jesus Christ, to
give his disciples the Spirit, the Comforter a promise which
St. Peter understands as extended to all Christians J a sac-
rament which we find the Apostles administering after bap-
tism, and which St. Paul very distinctly mentions.^

The permanent union of the Christian with Jesus Christ is
especially cemented and elevated to its highest perfection, by
the eucharistic bread, that centre of spiritual light and heat.
There the Author of life himself, entering in person into our
souls, unites himself as closely to them by love, as he is united
by nature to the divine persons. He that ealeth myjlesli, and
drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. . . . As 1
live by the Father, so he that eatelh me lives by me.\\

* Matth. iii. ult. Ps. xc. 11. f John xvi. 13. J Act Ap. ii. 38.
Ibid. viii. 17. xix. 6. II. Cor. i. 21. || John vi. 57.


Are these various ties \vliich connect the Christian soul
\vith (!ud, destroyed by tlie slow or sudden eruption of the
never wholly extinguished fires of concupiscence? and does
the soldier of Christ, invulnerable while united to his Chief,
receive a mortal wound from the assaults of his passions?
See him pierced with grief and shame at the feet of the spiri-
tual physician, to whom Christ has given the power to cure
all the infirmities, and heal all the wounds of the soul. The
"lying gladiator, re-animated by divine strength, rises at these
consoling words: " Go, my l)rother, in peace, and repair this
defeat by new triumphs." This is the Sacrament of Penance,
instituted for the remission of sins committed after baptism ;
a difficult baptism, according to the Holy Fathers ; a plank
of safely offered to the shipwrecked, a very necessary plank ;
for who has been able to traverse the sea of the world with-
out suffering shipwreck from the sudden whirlwind of the
passions !

Our Christian arrives at an age when he is to choose the
companion of his life, the angel to whom he will offer his
hand for the journey towards the eternal country at the head
of a more or less numerous family. Religion presides with
maternal solicitude, over this act, so often decisive for the
temporal and eternal life. It is in his Heavenly Father's house
that it is celebrated, far from those passions which would not
fail to break the tie which they themselves had formed. This
is the sacrament of marriage destined to sanctify the legiti-
mate union of man and woman ; a sacrament truly great in
Christ and in the Church, as St. Paul expresses it.*

Does the young Christian, instead of dividing his heart by

uniting himself to a wife,f feel moved to consecrate it entire

to the Lord and to the spiritual good of his brethren ; docs

\e hear a celestial voice which says to him : Leave all and

follow after me ; I will make tJiec a jisher of men ? J After

* Ephes. v. 32. f I- Cor - vii - 33 t Matth. iv. 10.


long conflicts and slow and measured steps towards the high
places of the sanctuary, behold him ready to ascend the last
steps of the altar. The Pontiff surrounded with his priests,
covers with his hands the head of the Levite and invokes the
treasures of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, on this new dis-
penser of the Divine mysteries, and by Holy unction he pre-
pares his hands for the battles of our Lord. This is the
Sacrament of Ordination, which confers the power of filling
the ecclesiastical functions, and the grace to exercise them in
a holy manner.

Finally, whether priest or simple believer, the Christian
approaches the end of his career, and confined to the bed of
pain, he hears already the footsteps of the inexorable judge
who leaves no fault without its punishment. On the other
hand, Satan seeing the end of the combat approaching, sum-
mon's the infernal legions, and profiting by the decay of
nature, assails him furiously. What is to be done ? Let the
priests be summoned, said the Apostle St. James, and let them
pray over the sick man, anointing him with oil in the name of
the Lord ; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man,
and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he be in sins they
shall be forgiven him.* This is what the Church does in
the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, established for the spi-
ritual and corporal consolation of the sick.

This last purification terminated, the Church confidently
says to her child : " Go forth, Christian soul ! "

Death which dissolves the ties of flesh and blood, respects
those of Catholic charity and seems even to bind them more
closely. The Church believes and teaches, according to the
tradition of all time, which is perfectly conformable to Scrip-
ture and the light of reason, that beyond this world, between
the frightful abyss into which impenitent crime descends for-
ever, and the happy abode open to souls without stain, there
* James v. 14, 15.

VOL. II. 13


exists a place of temporary suffering, where, according to the
words of Jesus Christ, Divine justice demands even to the
last farthing its dues for faults committed in the journey
through life.*

The Church also believes and teaches, according to the
doctrine of the transfer of merits and penalties, upon which
all Christianity rests, that the prayers, sacrifices and good
works of the living may propitiate God in favor of the vic-
tims of purgatory, and abridge their sufferings. Thus has
this tender mother given a large space to the dead in her
Liturgy : by recalling them incessantly to the remembrance
of her children, she at the same time engages these last to
extend their charity beyond the tomb, and keep themselves
from the least taint of sin.

The only departed ones for whom the Catholic does not
pray, but whose powerful intercession, on the contrary he
invokes, are those heroic souls whom the voice of the people,
confirmed by the miraculous voice of heaven has determined
the Church, after rigid formalities, to propose to the venera-
tion, invocation, and holy emulation of her children.

This magnificent system of restoration, of which I have
given only a very incomplete sketch, Protestantism has dis-
owned and almost entirely destroyed. Her sacrilegious attacks
are principally directed against the adorable Eucharist, the
Sacrament of Penance, Ordination and the Worship of the
Saints. Let us vindicate these admirable institutions from
the brutalities of ignorance. But first we must say a few
words concerning the primitive theories of Protestantism
concerning sin, justification and the sacraments.

* Matth. v. 25.




ORIGINAL sin, which the Catholic Church attributes to the
voluntary weakness of man and the artifice of the seducer,
Luther, Zwingle and Calvin had the temerity to attribute to
the will of the thrice Holy God.

Frequently in his book on Free Will and in many other
productions, the evangelist of Wittemberg declaims against
moral liberty as a human invention cherishing self-love ; and
he attempts to establish Christian humility upon that princi-
ple of fatalism, that God "by an immutable, eternal and
infallible will regulates, plans and does all things," that, pas-
sive instruments of this sovereign will, " all that we do, it is
not freely, but by pure necessity that we do it."*

The mild and gentle Melancthon at first very warmly sus-
tained this oracle of the fiery apostle, and inveighed against
the Catholic theologians whom he accused of having borrowed
from philosophy and imported into Christianity the impious
doctrine of liberty, a doctrine absolutely opposed to Scripture.
It is also, to the philosophy of Plato, according to him that
we are indebted for the equally pernicious word, reason.^

Zwingle, in his brutal book On Providence, repeats at
every page that God leads and forces man into evil ; that he
makes use of the creature to produce injustice, and that
jet he does not sin ; for the law which makes an act sinful
does not exist for God, and moreover he always acts from
right and supremely holy intentions. The creature, on the
contrary, although acting involuntarily under the Divine

* De Servo arbit. opp. ed. Jen. vol. iii. p. 170, 177.
t Loc. Theol. ed Aug. 1821. p. 10.


guidance sins because he violates the law and acts from
damnable motives.*

As to Calvin, it is well known, that as a consequence of
his favorite dogma of absolute predestination, by which
God from all eternity has irrevocably devoted some to good-
ness and eternal happiness, and others to evil and eternal
misery, has filled his Christian Institutes with such beautiful
assertions as the following, that, for reasons incomprehensi-
ble to our ignorance, God irresistibly impels man to violate his
laws, that his inspirations turn to evil the heart of the wicked,
that man falls, because God has thus ordered it.

The mellifluous Theodore of Beza, second Pope of the
Genevese Church, goes farther still, and wishing to explain
absolute predestination, which Calvin had taught as an incon-
trovertible but profoundly mysterious dogma, he boldly affirms
that God has created the largest portion of men only with
the object of making use of them to do evil ; and then gives
as a reason for it, that God, in the creation of the universe,
designed to manifest his justice and his mercy; but how
could this end be attained with creatures who remaining
innocent, would need no pardon, nor merit any punishment !
God then ordains that they should sin ; he saves some, and
here his compassion is seen ; he condemns others, and behold
his justice. The end that God proposes to himself is evi-
dently just and holy ; consequently the means must be the

According to such a system what is the action of justifica-
tion and spiritual regeneration except a mechanical movement
of man under the irresistible influence of God? and what
must be the effect of this movement of conversion ? is it as
has hitherto been believed casting off the degradation of sin,

* De Providentia, opp.vol. i. p. 355. See Moehler,Si/mZic/wm vol. i. ch.i.
t Abaters, Calumn Heshus, Adv. Calvin. Moehler, Symbolism vol.
i. p. 35.


freeing oneself from the tyranny of passion, and the corrupt
love of creatures, and following in the footsteps of Jesus
Christ and in the way of his commandments ? Not so ; that
would have been, according to the Reformers, to make man
the author of his justice, and bring to naught the merits of
Jesus Christ, by the power of which alone we are justified.
The justice which renders us holy and agreeable to God is
not in us, but out of us ; it is the justice of Jesus Christ
which is imputed to us, and which, leaving the soul still sul-
lied, covers it as with a mantle. God closes his eyes upon
our inward condition, that vile receptacle where all the vices
rage to rest them with complacency upon his Son, who
extends the veil of his merits over this frightful sink of

But how can the sinner shelter himself under this Divine
mantle ? By faith, and faith alone, answer the Reformers.
It must be observed, however, that this justifying faith is not
what is commonly understood by faith, belief in revealed
truths ; but it is the certain faith that we are just and holy.
" The sinner," says Luther, " must believe in his justifica-
tion with the same faith with which he believes that Jesus
Christ came into the world . . . Cursed be he who does no.
place himself among the number of the saints ! Believe, and
henceforth you are as holy as St. Peter."*

But, what become of good works, the practice of virtue,
and the observance of the divine commandments, the only
way, according to Jesus Christ, which leads to life ?f These
are troublesome superfluities, of which Christian liberty must
rid us. Rather, according to Luther, they are invincible ob-
stacles to salvation, if one places the least reliance upon
them. " Faith alone," said he, " is necessary for our justifi-
cation : nothing else is commanded or forbidden. Do not say
that God will punish sin. The law, in truth, says so ; but
* Opp. vol. i. prop. 15, IS. f Matth. xix. 17.



what have I to do with the law ? I am free. . . . There is
only one unpardonable sin, unbelief. . . . The way to heaven
is narrow," adds the sacrilegious jester ; " if you wish to pass
through it, throw away your good works." *

" Those pious souls," he says farther, " who do good to
gain the kingdom of heaven, not only will never succeed, but
they must even be reckoned among the impious ; and it is
more important to guard them against good works than
against sin." f

" Be a sinner, and sin boldly," he writes to a friend, from
the Patmos of Wartburg ; " but, believe yet more boldly,
and rejoice in Jesus Christ, the conqueror of sin, of death,
and the world. We must sin so long as we are here below.
This life is not the abode of justice. It is sufficient that, by
the riches of the glory of God, we know the Lamb that takes
away the sin of the world. Hence, sin cannot separate us
from Jesus Christ, even if, in one day, we should commit a
hundred thousand murders, and a hundred thousand adul-
teries." J

To the certainty of justification by faith, Calvin added the
certainty of salvation in the justified man ; so that every true
Christian must believe, with an unwavering faith, that he could
never again lose, even by the greatest crimes, the friendship
of God, and his right to the celestial inheritance. The synod
of Dort professed solemnly this doctrine, so favorable for
criminals, and sustained it by the spiritual thunders of excom-
munication, in the age of Bossuet, Fenelon, Grotius, and

It is necessary to have before our eyes the incontrovertible
testimony of history, and the works of the leading reformers,

* Galat. ch. ii. De Captiv. Babyl., chap, de - Bapt. Serin, de Nov. Test.

t Opp. Wittemb., vol. vi. p. 1GO.

t Ep. of Martin Luther, &c. Symbolism, vol. i. p. 165.

See Histoire de Variations.


edited by Protestant hands, to believe in the existence of such
horrors. We can easily perceive that Luther, Calvin, and,
above all, their disciples, must have been obliged afterward
to veil such baseness, and revive the obligation, at first so
brutally denied, of the moral law. But what power had such
feeble palliatives against the fundamental doctrine of justifi-
cation by faith alone ! And fatalism, introduced by the ex-
tinction of free will and absolute predestination, would be
ready to lend a strong hand to the passions, and justify the
greatest excesses.

Do we not still see the new Methodistic Calvinism move
heaven and earth to bring these horrible doctrines into re-
pute ? The Methodist pulpits of England and the United
States resounded, not long since, with these oracles of the
preacher Hill : " If I should sin more grievously than Manas-
seh, I should be still a child of grace ; for God always regards
me as Jesus Christ. Art thou plunged, my soul, in crime ?
Art thou red with homicidal blood ? It- matters not. Thou
art ah 1 beauty, my lover, my faithful spouse ; thou art without
stain. I am not among those who say : Let us sin, that grace
may abound; but it is no less certain, on that account, that
adultery, incest, and murder, will render me more holy on the
earth, and happier in heaven." *

In a word, Geneva shows us the ministers of her petrified
Church always dabbling in the infected mire of Calvin, and
exhuming from it this vile maxim, that Christ, by attaching
himself to the cross, has conquered liberty of mind, heart,
and body.f

It may be easily imagined, that such doctrines took from
the sacraments their efficacy and importance. What advan-

* Moehler, Symbolism, book ii., ch. iii., vol. ii., p. 299.

t This is the favorite dogma of Dr. Malan. (See his Letire (Tun
Protestant a un Cntholique de Vtrscix. Les Jldieux u Rome, de
1'Apostat Bruitte.)


tage from these divine channels, destined to conduct into
the soul the grace and the blood of Jesus Christ, if this soul
is condemned to remain impure, and without activity in the
cause of goodness ? Consequently, the Reformers, after manj
changes, reduced the sacraments to two baptism, a faint
emblem of justification by faith, an equivocal sign of the
divine covenant; and the supper, in which Luther maintained
the reality of the body of Jesus Christ, in opposition to
Zwingle and Calvin, who only recognised in it a type or figure

Online Libraryabbé (Antoine) MartinetReligion in society; or, The solution of great problems, placed within the reach of every mind (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 36)