Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/383

This page has been validated.

which is all that we claimed, but he denies that modern liberalism exerts its baneful and pestilent influence within the precincts of his church, or that there is any change going on within it respecting the dogma of hell. Yet of this we are not so certain. The liberalizing influences of the age are subtile, diffusive, encroaching, and all-pervading. Such influences have been growing for centuries, and the Catholic Church has by no means escaped them in times past. They have convulsed it and rent it, and are now agitating it profoundly. What warrant have we that these patent disturbing agencies are to be inoperative in the future? Our reviewer, indeed, informs us that there is no change in his church in regard to eternal damnation. To our remark that the doctrine of hell is being refined away, he replies that "the literal lake of fire and brimstone is preached even now all over the earth;" and, to our assertion that the notion is growing obsolete, he rejoins that "two hundred millions of Catholics believe the doctrine as a cardinal tenet of the Church."

But it is important not to be misled here. In what sense are these two hundred million Catholics said to "believe" in the doctrine of hell? Belief implies evidence, and is founded upon it; how, then, can men believe that of which they are never permitted to think in connection with evidence? They may assent to the doctrine, or accept it under the influence of early teaching, or terror, or the coercion of spiritual authority; but the rational act of belief implies the liberty of doubt, the freedom of inquiry, and a judgment resting upon proof. How can this be possible with a dogma upon which men are forbidden to exercise their minds, and are not even permitted to class as a "theological opinion?" We know what the Catholics profess; it is quite another thing to know what they really believe. Of course, the term belief in the theological world is used in a very loose way, and is made to cover whatever is contained in an accepted creed. But in aiming to get at the real state of mind, which is the object here, it is necessary to discriminate between views that are rationally entertained on some claim of reasonable grounds and dogmas that are blindly held under theological dictation. Our reviewer admits that there is a growing liberalization, that it is the very essence of Protestantism, and that it is inroading upon the old doctrine of future everlasting punishment; and it is perfectly well known that the Catholic Church is deeply troubled about the encroachments of the so-called "spirit of the age," which it denounces in the most solemn manner. Can there be any doubt that the invading spirit of liberalism will affect Catholic minds in the same way that it has Protestant minds. If not, where is the danger, and what the excuse, for the anxiety of the Church? Under the external exertion of a rigorous ecclesiastical system, uniformity of profession can be secured; but of what avail is the force of authority in the case, or where does it take effect if not in resisting private reason, and substituting profession for real belief? There may be two hundred million Catholics who still accept the belief in hell, but it is not possible that all of them, in this age, can be in such a complete state of mental paralysis as not to reflect upon the grounds of their belief, and to hold the opinion with more or less of the same reservations that are exercised by other classes of Christian believers.



Prof. Du Bois-Reymond, of Berlin, several months ago gave an address before a scientific association at Cologne, which was recently published in an amplified form by the author. We procured an early copy for translation, and sent the English proof to the author