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Elizabeth, and for that purpose consult Hume. Do we, then, know what Elizabeth was ? No; we only know that Hume wrote thus and thus of her. If, on the contrary, we had read Lingard and adopted his judgment of that princess, it would differ from that of Hume. And Hallam would lead us to a conclusion different from that of either of the others. It is notorious what dissimilar verdicts have been pronounced on Mary Stuart ; but the case which has struck us most forcibly is that of Madame Roland. In our first chapter a quotation was introduced from the Quarterly Review respecting her; it was this :«Το
say that she was without fault would be to say that she was not human.” A reader of this passage thus meeting her name for the first time, would surely form an exalted opinion of her character. If, then, he happened, afterwards, in reading Carlyle’s “French Revolution," to see her there termed “the noblest of all living Frenchwomen” (vol. i. p. 263); and to remark, in vol. ii. p. 78, “ Envious men insinuate that the wife of Roland is minister, and not the husband; it is, happily, the worst they have to charge her with," that opinion would be confirmed, and he would be almost inclined to think “the force of Nature could no farther go."
Yet let an ingenious youth who has thus learned to think of Madame Roland meet with another who has only heard of that lady from the Regius Professor of Modern History in Queen's College, Belfast—Mr. Charles Duke Yonge—and in the following words,
" It was in more than one point of view characteristic of the party” (the Girondins) “that the person who, of all others, had the greatest weight in its councils was a woman of the name of Roland, the wife of one of the Norman deputies, and of so sanguinary a temper that as early as the summer of 1789 she had recommended the assassination of the king and queen, while they were still in fancied security at Versailles, and that, in the course of the next year, she plotted the assassination of one who was by far the ablest of her husband's colleagues, because he was not prepared to acquiesce in the measures of extreme violence which alone found favour in her eyes” (p. 229). This one will probably regard her as simply a monster of ferocity, the other thinks of her as a spotless heroine. And each can quote, in his own support, the verdict of history. Alas for us, if our “life eternal ” must depend on these things!
Where we are greatly interested in getting at the truth, we must not, it is clear, confine ourselves to one writer, nor only to the writers on one side, but having consulted each, it rests with us to decide between different authorities. We must ask, what were the sources of information open to the several historians or biographers ? Did they avail themselves of them? We ask this of each ; and, further, is he careful or careless about writing what is true ? Has he any bias likely to mislead him?
By thus using the true key to the treasures of
knowledge-cautious inquiry, though still liable to err in details, we may be generally sure of certain broad facts of history and biography, by which the after course of events may be made more clear. And are we thus asked to know the truth “ as it is in Jesus” by those teachers of Christianity who insist most strenuously on the necessity of our knowing him ? Not so. The watchword of the Church is not “Inquire,” but “ Believe.” Most of her authorized ambassadors seem to say, “Believe—without inquiry, if you can; but if not, inquire of us, and we will produce you evidence—of a sort.” The “only true Church” claims to be the infallible teacher of the truth about Jesus, and how many churches claim to be inheritors of the fundamental truths respecting him? But the most ancient claimant and the most modern agree in the character of their appeals to the ignorant. They first try to alarm them into belief, and, if unsuccessful, they endeavour to astonish them into it. “Behold the blood” (of St. Januarius). “Bow down your soul before this well-attested miracle of healing wrought on a devout Catholic by his touching, in faith, a leg-bone of a martyred saint, or at least make a pilgrimage to La Salette or Lourdes, and you may receive the faith that cometh by hearsay.”
“ To remove your doubts, if you wish to believe, God will cause our 'prophet seer and revelator' to stand in the air without support."
But the Catholic Churches, especially the Roman, have many other arguments, and appeal in many other ways to different classes, convincing only those who already believe that an “only true Church" does exist somewhere.
Popular Protestantism, too, claiming no infallibility, professes herself able to direct you to a “short and easy method ” of obtaining a knowledge of Jesus. Appeal is made to the individual consciousness. “You know you have often done wrong—you feel yourself a sinner. You feel that you deserve the torment of hell for ever. Those feelings are convictions of sin, wrought in you by the Spirit of God. You know, too, that you cannot save yourself. You feel that you need a Saviour. Well, this Saviour, Jesus, has been provided for you. We are authorized to present him for your acceptance.
Believe on him, and you are saved."
Some persons, however, perhaps the majority, do not feel thus, and it would seem that people generally are less susceptible of such convictions than they were a few generations ago. And many there are who distinctly reject the inference of eternal damnation, from the consciousness of sin. The “bad conscience" of former days readily accepted this doctrine; the more civilized “moral faculty” of this latter part of the nineteenth century decidedly rejects it, so that, though still believed in, it is generally on other grounds than the affirmation of conscience.
“But,” says the advocate of Evangelical Protestantism, "does not the story of the Cross carry with it its own evidence? That God, the Creator and Lord of the Universe, moved by Infinite Love, should become man, and suffer death at the hands of his creatures to atone for their sins, and save them !! Could fallen man have invented this ? "
To which we may reply, without calling in questión the scriptural doctrine of atonement, that we are not compelled to choose between accepting the popular doctrine as a Divine Revelation, and rejecting it as a human invention. Nor does the request for evidence of the necessity for such a sacrifice imply any doubt that Infinite Love would willingly have made it, if the necessity had existed.
"Well,” replies our Evangelical friend, “the evidence you request is readily producible. Have you not known a foul-living man, a contemner of all things sacred-at length, his hardened soul reached by the Gospel message; a cold horror seizes him, his heart is chilled and heavy with the fear that the hell he deserves will be his doom. Yet see him half an hour after, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. An'unutterable tenderness'has come over him; he is experiencing all the silent heaven of love. What though the big tears are, all unheeded, swiftly succeeding each other down his cheek, his face is radiant with a divine joy. He knows that his sins are forgiven, his leprosy cleansed. He is amazed, overwhelmed at the long-suffering love of Jesus-such love to him. And now, see, he is ready 'to testify to all around, that he, even he, has mercy found.' That man's life is henceforth changed.