Изображения страниц


Thus, the Church of Rome appeals to some of the Greek fathers, as Origen, Athanasius, and Chrysostom-and to the Latin fathers, as Lactantius, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine-to the leading schoolmen, as Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard, and to some later theologians, as Bellarmine. For the Lutheran Church, Luther; for the Swiss or Reformed Church, Calvin and Zwingli are the main guides. The Church of England considers as its chief luminaries those divines who have excelled among its own clergy -as Hooker, Ussher, Hall, Jeremy Taylor, Pearson, Bull, Burnet, Butler, Waterland, &c. Among the Protestant Dissenters of England, Baxter, Wesley, Whitefield, and other leaders of later date, are the chief guides of doctrine. Each of these teachers has, however, a jurisdiction which is limited to the members of his own confession, and which other churches either wholly repudiate, or recognise only with large qualifications and restrictions. they are quoted by writers of a different religious creed, it is principally in their character of recognised leaders and representatives of their own churches, and for purposes of controversy and refutation. Thus, a member of the Church of England, or any other Protestant church, would deny any decisive authority to a passage from Thomas Aquinas or Bellarmine; and a polemical writer of the Church of Rome would probably think that he had made a large concession, in admitting that any Protestant divine was even a Christian. The Church of Rome, which formally prohibits the reading of all heretical books, places the writings of the Reformers in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Every Roman Catholic who reads a book included in this list, incurs the penalty of excommunication latæ sententiæ. The Protestant churches, in like manner, discourage the reading of heterodox and erroneous writings; but they have never gone the length of publishing an Index of condemned books.2

§ 19. An important influence is exercised by the heads of a church, or by certain members of it invested with a delegated power, in ascertaining the fitness of candidates for the Christian ministry or priesthood, and in stamping them with the public character of the sacred profession. The character conferred by the process of ordination is, in some churches, indelible by law, and in

1 See Sarpi, VI. 5. Excommunication late sententiæ is the same as what, in our law books, is called excommunication ipso facto; i.e., excommunication following immediately upon the offence, without the sentence of a court.

2 See Palmer, On the Church, Part IV. c. 17.

nearly all by custom. It is accompanied, moreover, with a renunciation of many secular pursuits; and, in the Church of Rome, the obligation of celibacy is likewise imposed upon ordained priests. The importance of the selection thus made mainly depends on the judicious exercise of the discretion confided to the ordaining parties, and on the qualifications which it guarantees. Whether the ordination is further sanctified by an uninterrupted succession from the Apostles, is a question upon which theologians and churches differ, and which does not belong to the present inquiry. In episcopal churches, the ordination is effected by the bishopsin presbyterian churches, by the presbyteries-and in other Protestant churches by boards, sometimes mixed, of ministers and laymen. Thus, Cromwell established a board of commissioners called Triers, whose business it was to examine candidates for ecclesiastical benefices, and to admit them, if deemed worthy of approbation.'

§ 20. III. We have next to consider the influence of Voluntary Associations for political, scientific, literary, and other purposes, in the diffusion and authentication of opinions.

Both in England and the United States, it has been for some years (as has been before observed) 2 the practice to form voluntary associations for certain political objects. Such associations have generally an internal organisation-arrangements as to meetings, order of proceedings, committees, and the like, together with officers and funds of their own. Sometimes they are concerned in the party questions of the day, and seek to influence the government and legislature by appealing to and agitating public opinion against some existing law, At other times, their object is to procure the introduction of some philanthropic measure-as for abolishing slavery or the slave-trade, for improving education or health, for diffusing knowledge, for promoting public order and morality. Voluntary associations of this sort bring together persons who are interested in the pursuit of a common end; they tend to create and foster, by the mutual communication and emulation of their members, a body of enlightened opinion and accurate information on the given subject; and thus, independently of the arguments which they may lay before the public, they promote the formation of a centre of authority on the matter, which is likely to exercise an influence in various directions. It is

1 See Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, vol. II. pp. 621-9.

2 Above, p. 182.

probable, indeed, that the active members of such an association may be prompted to the pursuit of their object by a zeal not sufficiently tempered with discretion, and that they may overrate the importance and utility of the end at which they aim; still, with these deductions, the honest conviction of the leaders of such a body will scarcely fail to exercise an influence on some portion of the public.

This effect is particularly perceptible in societies formed for scientific and literary purposes, whose proceedings are of a more tranquil and less controversial character than those of political or semi-political associations. The earliest of the learned societies is the Museum founded at Alexandria, in the third century before Christ, by Ptolemy Philadelphus, which was assisted by a public endowment, and encouraged by the royal patronage. Societies for the cultivation of literature, science, and the fine arts were, however, first established on an extensive scale in modern Italy. The Italian Academies, which began even in the fifteenth century, directed their attention to every department of the field of knowledge-from mathematics and physics to painting and music-and from them the learned societies afterwards established in the other European States, such as the Académie Française and the Académie Royale des Sciences, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society, the Berlin Academy, &c., were imitated. Some of the most important of these societies obtain pecuniary assistance from the government; but their number has, during the last century, been greatly multiplied by voluntary efforts, and their utility has been increased by the direction of their efforts to limited and definite subjects.1

Bodies of this sort concentrate a large mass of skilled opinion upon the subject to which their combination refers, and their corporate judgment accordingly carries with it a deserved authority among the public. For example, the Reports of the French Académie des Sciences upon new works and discoveries belonging to the department of physics, have obtained great weight in the scientific world. Dictionaries of the Italian, Spanish, and French languages have been published by academies-the Academia della Crusca, the Royal Academy of Madrid, and the Académie Française ;

Full details respecting literary and scientific societies may be found in the Penny Cyclopædia, Arts. Academy and Societies, and in the Conversationslexikon, Arts. Akademie and Kunstschulen. Compare Hallam, Lit. of Europe, vol. I. p. 654; vol. II p. 502; vol. IV. pp. 89, 560-3. Bethune's Life of Galileo, c. 9.

it being thought that the combined opinion of such a body would give authority to their exposition of the usage and signification of words. For a similar reason, treatises or collections of papers published or circulated by learned societies, derive an additional weight from the patronage under which they appear, and the authentication which they thus obtain. The scientific congresses, which have grown up in Europe since the Peace, differ from the former societies with like objects, principally in having a more cosmopolitan character, and being independent of national divisions; by which means the consent of their members, when they agree, is calculated to inspire greater confidence, as being free from all suspicion of local prejudice or partiality.'

Academies for the cultivation of the arts of design have, undoubtedly, contributed to promote that end, though they have been accused of a tendency to confine and pervert the natural taste and genius of the young artist. Academies of painting may, it is true, give authority and currency to a certain style and manner, which, by frequent repetition, and by the imitation of successive disciples, may degenerate into a sort of mechanical and insipid ideal, wanting the freshness, variety, and truth of nature. Such an effect of academic teaching is not, however, necessary; and it must be considered an accidental abuse of the system, which might be prevented by a proper method of instruction-not a vice inherent in academies.?

§ 21. The influence exercised upon opinion by universities and places of learning may be referred to the same head: these are bodies containing studious and learned men, competent to pronounce a judgment on the subjects which form a part of the academical course of reading and instruction; and, by their collection in one place, concentrating a mass of light on these subjects. Every such body ought to be a luminous point, diffusing its rays in all directions to the rest of the com

1 As to scientific societies, and their influence upon opinion, see the remarks of Dr. Whewell, Hist. of Ind. Sciences, b. VII. c. 6, § 3; and as to their beneficial effects, Laplace, cited by Weld, Hist. of Royal Society, vol. I. p. 27. With respect to the scientific congresses, compare the observations of M. Comte, Cours de Phi. Pos. tom. VI. p. 478.

2 See the remarks of Mr. Payne Knight, upon the cramping influence of academies of painting, and the mannerism which they tend to generate.-Principles of Taste, Part II. c. 2, §§ 116-19. He admits, however, that if 'academical science and precision can be united with feeling and sentiment, there is no doubt that the result would be a degree of perfection hitherto unknown to the art.'

munity.' The efficiency of universities and other learned bodies may be assisted and promoted by a public endowment, and by the countenance of the government, in the manner which has been already illustrated.

§ 22. Political parties likewise are, properly speaking, voluntary associations for the promotion of certain opinions. This end they attain by their organisation, numbers, and activity, and by the ability, zeal, and character of their leaders. On the means by which they exercise a moral authority, some remarks have been made in a former chapter, in reference to the working of a political body; and we shall have occasion to revert to the subject, in treating of the abuses to which that influence is liable."

§ 23. IV. We have, lastly, to consider the influence of the Periodical Press, through its various organs, so far as it affects the belief and convictions of the public by the weight of its authority.

The extensive circulation of periodical publications is a phenomenon of comparatively recent date. The general diffusion of literary journals was prior, in point of time, to that of political newspapers; but neither reached a considerable height until a long time after the invention of printing. A censorship of the press was, as we have seen, an institution universally established throughout Europe soon after the introduction of printing; and wherever a censorship of the press exists, political newspapers are restrained within narrow limits. A government, exercising a censorship over the press, may permit considerable freedom of discussion upon religion, philosophy, and the history of past ages; but with regard to the events of the day, and its own acts, its enforcement of silence is in general inexorable. In England, the censorship of the press was substantially maintained until the reign of William III., and therefore it was not until after this period that political newspapers could assume any importance. A

1 'It may perhaps be worth while to remark, that if we except the poets, a few orators, and a few historians, the far greater part of the other eminent men of letters, both of Greece and Rome, appear to have been either public or private teachersgenerally either of philosophy or of rhetoric.'-Wealth of Nations, b. V. ch. 1, art. 3, near the end. This remark of Adam Smith's is more applicable to the Greeks than to the Romans. Dr. Chalmers also observes, that much more than half the distinguished authors of Scotland have been professors, (On Endowments, p. 48.) Respecting the English universities, and the readiness with which they have adopted new opinions in science, see Whewell, ut sup. b. VII. c. 3, § 2.

2 Above, ch. 8, § 3; below, ch. 10, § 7.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »