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THE ROMAN CATHOLIC DIVINITY.
“Oh Majesty most beautiful,
Most Holy Trinity,
THE CROWN HYMN BOOK (Roman Catholic).
If the preceding sketch of the popular conception of the Trinity be a correct one, then the rationale of the faith in the Triune God would seem to be that men have followed into the mysterious spirit-world the soul of a holy man and highly inspired Teacher, have raised him to a nominal equality with, but really to a rank superior to that of the Father in heaven, the One true and only God; and that under the designation of the Mediator they regard him as exercising the most powerful influence over their temporal and eternal destinies. That influence is, moreover, in theological phrase, “ of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding," and constitutes the third Person of the Triune God. Nothing could be more natural than that some of the worshippers holding such a belief should extend the divine attributes of the God-man “ of the substance of his mother," to his earthly parent, and should worship her as well as her divine offspring. We shall not stop to discuss the greater or less claim to credibility which the immaculate conception of the Virgin may have as compared with the
miraculous conception of her great Son, but we think that unprejudiced scientific theologians cannot fail to see in both traditions different phases of the same tendency in the human mind to lay hold upon visible objects of adoration, cherished for their gentleness and sufferings, and gratefully to endow them with divine attributes. But there is another deeply interesting and significant circumstance connected with the worship of the Virgin, to which reference was made in a preceding chapter, and one that has a tendency to enlist for those who have thus raised her to a throne in heaven, the sympathy at least, if not the approval of dispassionate students of theology, and that is the association of the feminine nature with the human conception of the Divinity, for it seems probable that the practice of what Protestants call mariolatry will, in the future, present to the mind of our race a Deity whose maternal attributes will be reflected in an elevated and refined womanhood on earth. But first we must surmount a not very formidable difficulty in regard to the adoration of the Virgin, which some of our Roman Catholic readers are certain to raise, and that is the question whether or not she is worshipped at all. The honest answer to the question would be, “theoretically perhaps not, but practically, yes." It has been and is constantly and strenuously denied that she is worshipped at all, and one theologian asserts that the Roman Catholics do not wat any time say even so much as one prayer to her."*
But the same writer makes but a feeble defence on behalf of
*'A Papist Misrepresented and Represented,' from the original of the Rev. John Gother ; by the Ven. and Right Rev. R. Chaloner, D.D. ; London, Richardson : p. 20.
his co-religionists, for he says elsewhere, “The papist truly represented believes it damnable to think the Virgin Mary more powerful in heaven than Christ, or that she can in anything command him.” * The negative inference is obvious. What should we think of a Trinitarian who denies that he worships Christ by saying that he believes it damnable to think him more powerful in heaven than his Father, or that he can in any way command Him! It appears to us that the Virgin occupies precisely the same position towards her Son in the Roman Catholic mind, as the Son does towards the Father amongst Protestants, and we have not come to this conclusion without careful inquiry and unbiassed observation. Let us deal with the difficulty precisely as we have dealt with controversial questions in other creeds, not even stopping to inquire whether it is accurate that the Roman Catholic worshipper does not address prayers to the Virgin; and that is by consulting the sacred songs of the people, which form an important element in their daily worship. † This will give us a fair idea not only of the rank which the Virgin holds as compared with the three Persons of the Trinity, but also of the object served by her presence in the minds of worshippers.
* 'A Papist Misrepresented and Represented, from the original of the Rev. John Gother; by the Ven. and Right Rev. R. Chaloner, D.D.; London, Richardson: p. 20.
† Students of theology who wish fully to investigate the matter should carefully read the work above named by Dr. Chaloner ; also the Roman Catholic Catechism published by Richardson, London ; and the Crown Hymn Book’ from which extracts are here made. They should also hear Roman Catholic doctrinal sermons on the subject, look at the position and character of emblems in the churches, and converse with the poorer Roman Catholic laity.
First, when we consider the terms in which the Virgin is approached, we find that in early childhood worshippers are taught to address to her the same expressions as they address Jesus Christ :*
“ Infant Jesus meek and mild,
Maiden Mother meek and mild
Later on in life the hymns sung to her indicate at one time absolute worship, at another they leave it doubtful whether her intercession is not all that is sought for. We will at present take only two illustrations :
“ Daily, daily sing to Mary,
Sing my soul her praises due,
Virgin Mother, pray for me."
“Oh, by that Almighty Maker
Whom thyself a virgin bore,
* All the extracts are from the Crown Hymn Book' (Richardson), used by the Roman Catholic body,
“So worship we God in these rude latter days,
So worship we Jesus our love, when we praise
The gift of clear shining sweet Star of the Sea.”
“ But if thou wilt appease Him,
Speak for us, but one word,
The pardon of our Lord.” The Queen of Heaven is her favourite designation with her adorers; and she is regarded as the mother of the human race:
“ Look down, O Mother, Mary,
Guide of the wand'rer here below.” As Queen of Heaven she possesses divine attributes which are vainly sought in any other heavenly being. Combined with the power and providence of a goddess, she is endowed with the brightest virtues and the gentlest graces and sympathies of womankind :
“She is mighty to deliver,
Call her, trust her lovingly ;
* The Virgin is variously addressed as the “ Star of the Sea,” the “Ocean Star,” the “Queen of Heaven,” the “Immaculate Mother of God,” the “Mother of Mercy,” the “Most Holy” (Sanctissima), the “Mystical Rose,” &c., &c.