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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of Calvary by the daily repetition of it.

The Catholic Church has read the Epistle of Paul to the
Hebrews, and understands aright the texts produced, but she
also attaches importance to innumerable passages of St. Paul|
and the ancient prophets, which all imply, under the new law,
the existence of an altar, of a priesthood and a victim witJiout
stain offered in every place, passages which the Protestant
commentator only perverts.

The Catholic Church also believes that the greatest injury
which can be done to the Sacrifice of the Cross, is to allow
its memory to fade away among Christians, is to expose them
to lose the fruits of it by a wholly profane life. Now, what
is better adapted to prevent this evil than the pressing invita-
tion she gives them, to be present every day, at most every
eight days at the great Mystery, and there eat the flesh,
and drink the blood of the august victim !

* Tradidit semetipsum pro me. (Galat. ii. 20.) f Hebr. x. 14.

t I. Cor. x. 13 et seq. Hebr. xiii. 10.

Isa. xix. 19. Ixvi. 2. Jerem. xxxiii. 18. Dan. viii. 11; xii. 11.
Malach. i. 10, 11. Ps. cix. 4.


The admirable efficacy of such an institution to impress
on the mind and heart in characters of fire the memory of the
crucified God, the deep life which it communicates to a wor-
ship, all the ceremonies of Avhich harmonise with the action
which is their centre ; the moral omnipotence which it gives
to the evangelical ministry, are all so many powerful reasons
which Luther could have opposed to the wretched sophistry
of his interlocutor, in the famous dialogue in which Satan
succeeds in convincing him that the Mass is, an abomination
that surpasses all other abominations.* But this man who
boldly burned the bulls of Leo X. which proclaimed the
doctrine of the Universal Church and who, in his answer to
Henry VIII. wrote : "If I should have against me a thousand
Cyprians and a thousand Augustins, I should deride them," that
man could only listen and submit when Satan addressed him.

What have Protestants gained by yielding, like Luther, to
the father of lies, against the uniform testimony of the Pro-
phets, of Christ, the Apostles, the Holy Fathers and all Chris-
tian antiquity? They, alone, among all the nations upon
whom the sun has ever shone (except the Jews) they are with-
out, an altar, without a priesthood, witJiout a sacrifice.^ Having
no longer with them him whose powerful voice makes our
supplications penetrate even to the heart of God,J they have
seen public prayer expiring in their religious assemblies, " and
their empty and silent temples seem rather to be the sepul-
chres of a dead worship, than the temples of a living worship."

* Those who are desirous of reading this ever memorable document,
and who have not at hand the works of Luther, will find it extracted
word for word, from the 7th vol. of his works, Wittemberg edition, in
the new edition of Lettres de Scheffmacher, by M. Caillau, vol. iii.
p. 99, et seq.

f Hose. iii. 4.

| Preces supplicationesque . . . cum clamore valido ct lacrymis of-
ferens, exauditus est pro sua rcverentia. (Heb. 5, 7.)

Wiseman, Lecture 5lh.







THE sanctifying influence which Jesus Christ exercises
directly over the soul to which he unites himself in commu-
nion, is doubtless of infinite power if considered in itself;
but it is limited in its effects by human will which yields or
resists, at pleasure, the impulse towards sanctity, which Christ
impresses upon it. The will then must be influenced, and the
best means of determining it to the practice of virtue, is to
realise virtue in the living lesson of example.

The sublime maxims of Jesus Christ's Sermon on the
Mount* would only have produced a fruitless admiration
among the children of men, if the Savior had not joined the
influence which overrules the sluggishness of the heart, to the
word which enlightens the mind. It was by doing, far more
than by teaching, that he has determined so many souls to
follow him in the difficult paths of self-denial.f But every
one knows that example loses much of its efficacy in passing
through the medium of history, and that virtues perceived at
the distance of eighteen centuries are not sufficiently elo-
quent to move our hearts ! It was then very necessary that
the Divine model of the elect should dwell in the midst of us
full of grace and truth, and that he should offer to each one
the living picture of the same virtues which charmed the wit-
nesses of his mortal life and attached to him so powerfully
the heart of his disciples.

This need, Jesus Christ satisfies in his Eucharistic life ; at
the same time that he acts, if I may thus say, physically on
* Matth. v. t Act. Ap. i. 1.


the soul by the sacramental virtue of the Communion, he acts
morally on the understanding and will by the overpowering
spectacle of the virtues of which he offers us the example.
Let us limit ourselves to a few considerations on a subject
which would demand a volume.

In order that the sinner may return to God, he must open
his heart to a filial confidence in the Divine compassion and
say as the prodigal child : / will arise, and I will go and
throw myself at the feet of the lest of my fathers.* This is
not an easy thing. The first effect of the entrance of crime
into the soul is to pervert the idea of God. Instead of a
Father infinitely good, more sensible of the wo of his chil-
dren than of the injuries he receives from them, and always
ready to pardon sincere repentance, the sinner looks upon
God only as a cruel master, armed with thunderbolts. Hence
that profound aversion which leads him to avoid the thought
and the presence of God. Like guilty Adam, he conceals
himself;f like the first fratricide, he often repels the Divine
advances, and abandoned to a secret despair, he passes the
rest of his days far from the face of God.\

What means will infinite compassion employ to recall this
fugitive, to subdue this savage ? She will descend to earth
and assume a body and a soul, she will take the name of the
Friend of sinners ; and while conversing and eating with
them, will entangle them in the nets of his love.]] He is
no longer the God of Sinai speaking in thunder; he is the
Son of the Virgin, charming the multitude by the grace and
sweetness of his words,1T receiving sinners with unspeakable
kindness and urging them to give by their return joy to the
angels of God.** He is the good shepherd, who leaves the
ninety and nine faithful sheep to follow that which has gone

* Luke xv. 18. t Genes, iii. 8. J Genes, iv. 16.

Luke vii. 34. || In vinculis charitatis. (Hos. xi. 4.)
IT Luke iv. 22. ** Ibid xv. 10.


astray, and spares him the fatigue of returning by bearing
him on his shoulders.*

Could Jesus Christ manifest more strikingly his unspeak-
able tenderness for sinners, and his ardent zeal for their sal-
Vation than he does in the adorable sacrament in which he
condemns himself to remain on the earth so long as there is
one soul to save ?

How effectually can the infinite Divine mercy be preached,
and hearts opened to receive hope before the altars where
Jesus Christ resides! For one sinner who has yielded to
these terrible words of the Sovereign Judge of the living and
the dead : Go, ye c.ursed, into everlasting fire, how many thou-
sands have yielded to the tender invitations of the Divine
Recluse of our tabernacles: Come to me, all ye who groan
under the weight of your crimes, and I will console you ! \

After the sinner has been led to God, he must be brought
to annihilate himself before that Supreme Majesty, to which
he has dared to say, ia the delirium of pride ; I will not obey
thee ; | for if God turns with indignation from him who
exalts himself, he lovingly condescends to him who humbles

You, who are repelled by the very word humility because
you have never endeavored to comprehend this simple truth,
that it is folly for a being, created from nothing, to attribute
to himself anything, behold God concealed under the Eucha-
ristic species.

It was, indeed, a wonderful humiliation when the Son of
God was wrapped in poor swaddling clothes and laid crying
in a manger! but he was an infant. It was a dreadful spec-
tacle when the King of Kings was crushed under foot by his
executioners; and expired on the infamous wood between
two criminals! Yet, amid the sighs of the victim, and the
blood that flowed in streams from his wounds, a living
* Luke iv. 5. f Matth. xi. 2S. { Jerem. ii. 20.

VOL. II. 16


body was visible. But here, the God, the man, the child,
have all disappeared. There is nothing which implies life.
What do we see ? What we see everywhere, bread and
wine ; and yet only in appearance. It is mere nothingness.
After that, child of earth, fallen by sin below that nothing,
which is pure in the eye of God, wilt thou dare to exalt

It is by opposing his will to the supreme will that man ren-
ders himself guilty of infinite disorder. It is by resigning his
will into the hands of God, and of every creature divinely
appointed for the government of society,* that man compen-
sates for his rebellion, re-enters into order, and offers to God
the most acceptable of sacrifices, the sacrifice of himself ;f
for there is nothing so precious or so dear to him as his will.

To obtain from us this abnegation of self, it was not enough
that the Son of God obeyed Mary and Joseph | for thirty
years ; made himself, during his public life, the servant of all,
and delivered himself, without resistance, to his executioners.
For eighteen hundred years that he has reigned at the right
hand of the Father, he never has ceased to give to men the
example of the most universal and humiliating obedience.
Every day multitudes of priests, be they fervent, lukewarm,
or vicious it is the same summon him where it pleases
them, give him to whom they will, confine him under lock
and key, and dispose of him at their will. There is no person,
from the youth to the old man, who has not a right to ask
that he may enter into his heart, and whether this heart be
the habitation of angels, or a receptacle of the infernal legions
of vices; Christ muxt obey. There, again, the Son of the
Most High becomes obedient to death.\\ What will is so irn

* I. Peter ii. 13.

t Melior est obedtentia quatn victim'*. (I. Kings xv. 22.)

J Luke ii. 51 Matth. xx. 28. || Philipp. ii. 8.


patient of restraint that it does not yield to the yoke of obe-
dience at the spectacle of such self-abnegation !

God, who is called charity * desires not a heart closed to
the love of its neighbor, and he does not pardon him who
refuses pardon to his brother. Now what can be more ad-
apted to melt the ice of selfishness, and dispose the most
wounded heart for the forgetfulness of wrongs and injuries,
than the daily spectacle of a God, who, not content with
dying for us when ice were his enemies,^ forgets our perpetual
ingratitude to become our nourishment, and pours out for us,
in love, that same blood that we have shed and trampled
under foot by our crimes. How, then, can I wish, and do
evil to this brother, who, by communion, has become a living
member of Jesus Christ! Would not my hatred and my
blows fall upon him whom I adore! The Catholic who would
open his heart to the breath of hatred and vengeance must
first renounce his faith.

What protection have we against the allurements of dis-
graceful pleasures, like that thought of the Apostle, that our
ladies are the members of Jesus Christ, and that we cannot
pollute them without dreadful sacrilege !| Could he degrade
himself to the level of a brute, who, at the Eucharistic ban-
quet, has felt the virginal blood of the Son of Mary flowing
through his veins!

It is not surprising that, in a church where Christ in person
gives every day such instructions, there are found men court-
ing contempt, enemies of their own will, men who cheerfully
sacrifice their lives in the service of their brethren, and who
live in the body as if they had none.

To these happy effects, in the midst of us, of the real pre-
sence of the Divine Physician of souls, let us add another still

* I. John iv. 1G. t Rm. v. 10.

J Nescitis quoniam corpora vestra membra sunt Chrisli ? Tollens
ergo membra Christi v &c. (I. Ccr. vii. 15.)


more so ; it is the determination to take the bitter remedy of
Penance, I would here express mj own thought, in the
words of a celebrated Protestant thinker: " Without the real
presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and the obligation
to receive him in it by communion; the sacrament of penance,
as it is practised in the Catholic Church, would never be ac-
cepted ; and, to take from Catholicism the sacrament of pen-
ance, is to close up the source of the virtues which it offers
to our admiration."* We will begin by giving an idea of




NOTHING sounds so ill in the ear of the world as the word
Penance. Why has not an attempt been made to efface
from the Gospel this unfortunate expression? But certainly
this is not an easy thing to do. What do we find in Scrip-
ture, if not the obligation to resist the impure tendencies
of the heart, and to crucify it with its immoderate desires!
Of the seven thousand six hundred verses of the New Tes-
tament, there are three thousand, at least, which make pen-
ance and mortification the indispensable condition of sal-
vation for the sinner.

If the law of toilsome expiation were not so frequently and
clearly laid down in Scripture, would not the life of Jesus
itself, which was only a protracted martyrdom,f impose on
the Christian the obligation to chastise himself, and follow the

* Lord Fitz-William, Letters of Jltticus, 5th.

t Tota vita Christ! crux fuit et martyrium. (De Imitationc Clitisti,
ii. xii. 7.


footsteps of the Man of Sorrows! How could he hope to
share the glory of his chief, if he remained a stranger to his

Yet it is upon the sufferings of the Mediator that the au-
thors of the Reformation rely, to free sinners from the obli-
gation of suffering. Christ, according to them, has given sa-
tisfaction for our iniquities, why should we afflict our minds
and hearts by penances which would add nothing to the
merits of the Redeemer, and would even be injurious to
them ?

If it was objected, on the other hand, that the object of
Christian penance was not alone to expiate sin committed, but
to prevent the recurrence of it, and that there is a certain
demon, according to the words of Jesus Christ, which can be
conquered only by fasting and prayer. f " Leave these fine
recipes," answered Luther, to the stupid Papists ; " a )d if you
wish to put the devil to flight, always do more than he sug-
gests to you." Let us listen to the Apostle of Wittemberg
instructing his followers in his admirable asceticism.

" Poor Jerome Weller," he writes to a friend who asked
him for arms against the devil, " thou hast temptations ; they
must be overcome. When the devil comes to tempt thee,
drink, my friend, drink freely, make merry, sport and sin, in
hatred of the evil spirit, and to torment him. If he says to
thee : Will you not stop drinking, answer him : I will drink
glasses full, because you forbid it ; I will drink great draughts
in honor of Jesus Christ. Imitate me, I never drink so well,
I never eat so much, I never enjoy myself so much at table,
as when I am vexing Satan. I should really like to find some
good new sin, that he might learn to his cost, that I ridicule
everything that is sin, and that my conscience is never op-
pressed by it. Away with the Decalogue, when the devil

* Si tamen compatimur, ut et conglorificemur. (Rom. viii. 17.)
t Matth. xvii. 20.



comes to torment us! When he breathes into our ear:
' Thou sinnest ; thou art worthy of death and hell.' Ah, my
God ! yes, I know it only too well ; what would you tell me ?
But you will be condemned in the other life. It is not true;
I know some one who has suffered and given satisfaction for
me : he is called Jesus Christ, Son of God ; where he is, there
I shall be." *

Let us compare, with the vile prescriptions of the apostle
of taverns, the salutary remedy which the Catholic Church
offers to the Christian who has had the misfortune to violate
seriously the engagements contracted in baptism. To free
him from the chains of sin, she prescribes for him three
things, contrition, confession, satisfaction.

"Contrition," says the Council of Trent, "which holds the
first place among the acts of penance, is sorrow of soul and
a sincere detestation of the sin committed, with a firm deter-
mination never more to commit it." f

Contrition is the penance of the heart; the first that God
requires, and without which fasting and maceration of the
body would be only hypocrisy in his eyes.J From the heart,
said Jesus Christ, come forth evil thoughts, murders, adul-
teries, <^c. On the heart, then, punishment must first be in-
flicted. It is that which by sin has withdrawn itself from the
divine control to place itself under the debasing yoke of the

* The remaining words refuse themselves to any translation : (See
Audin, Histoire de Calvin, ch. xxv. torn. i. p. 453.) Other recipes
against the suggestions of the devil may be found in the Memoires de
Luther, Merits par lui-meme, by M. Michelet, liv. v. ch. 6. Add
to that the Sermon on Marriage, then ask what is to be thought of
the nations who hailed by the name of Apostle and Evangelist the im-
pudent and sacrilegious libertine, whom Pagan Rome would have con-
demned to death by the rod of the lictor.

\ Sess. xiv. De Pcenit, cap. iv.

f Scindite corda vestra et non vestimenta vestra. (Joel ii. 13.)

Matth. xv. 19.


passions ; it must, then, be brought back, crushed with sorrow
and covered with shame * to the feet of the master whom it
has meanly abandoned.

Let us follow the series of virtuous acts by which the
repentant sinner prepares himself freely under the Divine in-
fluence of grace for the blessing of justification according to
the council quoted above.f Nothing can be more logical,
more natural, or more moral than the path it marks out for
this prodigal son, by which he can be delivered from the abyss
of misery into which crime has led him and conducted back
to his home where the embraces of the kindest of fathers
await him, and the joys which his return will occasion.

While Protestant justification requires but two unimportant
acts for a true moral renovation, in which the soul receives
the Divine influence much more than it co-operates with it,J

* Cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies. (Ps. i. 19.)

t Concil. Trent. Sess. vi. De Justific. cap. vi.

\ These two acts are at first the fear, the terrors, which the criminal
experiences in view of his sins and the punishment preparing for him
by the divine justice; a sentiment adapted it is true, to disturb the
factitious pleasure which the sinner finds in crime, but incapable of
breaking the ties which bind him to it. The fear of hell can delay the
steps of the sinner in the road which leads to it ; but of itself it will
not lead to God by the way of justice.

Afterwards comes the act of justifying faith, by which the sinner
seizes the robe of Christ's righteousness, covers himself with it as with
a garment, impenetrable to the assaults of divine vengeance, and ac-
quires the certainty that, however polluted he may be in himself, he
is holy, pure and perfect before God. Shame, decency, it is true, ob-
liged the leaders of the Reformation to demand of the justified sinner
a new life, and the practice of virtue; but, as we have already observ-
ed, the corrective disappears before the Calvinistic dogma of Persever-
ance, and before the principle a hundred times repeated by Luther,
that there is only one sin worthy of damnation, that is unbelief, and
that the most enormous crimes repeated a hundred times a day, never
corrupt in any way him who perseveres in thinking he is holy. (See as
above, ch. 37.)


The Catholic penitential system embraces the whole interior
man, and imposes on every faculty some restoring effort
adapted to expel the diseased principle and reinstate the soul
in its normal condition.

Is the mind of the sinner touched with a ray of divine
light, or awakened by a movement of the heart, given from
above, does he determine to throw off the lethargy into
which the intoxication of the passions has plunged him, and
place himself, by meditation, on the great principles of faith,
at the only true point of view where man can know him-
self? He cannot but be greatly alarmed at the account he
must every moment give at the tribunal of a God so just
in the duties he imposes on man, so munificent in the re-
wards he promises, so terrible in the punishments he inflicts,
so lavish in the means he furnishes to merit the one, and avoid
the other.

This terror penetrates even into the marrow of the bones,*
when reflecting on the past ; the sinner discovers in it so much
hostility to God and such defiance of his justice.

But God, whose avenging arm will eternally smite the
hosts of angels guilty of one rebellion only, is also the God
of charity who has delivered up his own Son for the salva-
tion of the world. At the thought of the all-powerful Advo-
cate who solicits and always obtains pardon for him who
confidently has recourse to him/j- hope revives in the criminal.
His heart before contracted by fear, expands and gradually
turns lovingly towards the compassionate source of all jus-
tice. The sin, which he at first detested as bringing down

What then is justification according to the principles of Calvin and
Luther ? It is a divine permission to sin, which takes from crime its
last restraint, fear and remorse.

* Non est pax ossibus meis a facie peccatorum meorurn. (Ps. xxxvii. 4.)
f Si quis peccaverit, advocatum habemus apud Patretn, Jesum Chris-
tum. (John ii. 1.)


upon him the weight of celestial vengeance, appears to him
much more odious when love teaches him to look upon it as
an offence against a supremely good and infinitely kind Father.

Such are the holy stations through which the Catholic
Church intends the sinner should pass before receiving the
sentence of absolution, whenever divine love does not diminish
the length of the way by consuming in its burning flames the
pollutions and the bonds of sin. In fact, the Church, which
judges contrition so indispensable to the validity of the Sa-
crament of Penance, that no absolution on the part of the
priest, no act of repentance on the part of the sinner could
ever be a substitute for it, attributes to it, at the same time,
so much power, when it is inspired by divine love, that it can
reconcile the sinner with God before the sacramental act*

It is easy to see the effectual securities which these preli-
minary acts of reconciliation furnish to the sinner against a
relapse into vice. It is easy, too, for each one to estimate
the justice of the reproach that Protestants bring against us,
of favoring crime by making confession a magic bath, where
the blackest criminals may plunge but for an instant and come
forth white as snow.



To the truly humble and contrite sinner confession appears,
not as a punishment inflicted upon sin, but as a natural and
necessary, and a divinely soothing remedy for a tortured

* Concil. Trent., Sess. xiv. De Pcenit. cap. iv. De Contrit.


The most painful and the most burdensome secret to be kept
by a heart not jet polluted by disease, is that of crime. The
soul which is animated by a real hatred of sin, naturally
tends to separate herself from it, to force it out, as it were.

" The stomach which contains poison and which throws
itself into a convulsion in order to reject it, is the natural
image of a heart into which crime has poured its venom. It

Online Libraryabbé (Antoine) MartinetReligion in society; or, The solution of great problems, placed within the reach of every mind (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 36)