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to the practice of virtue, or from the circumstance of a threat of punishment, in the event of disobedience, I am free to confess, I am not possessed of an extent of understanding sufficient to discover. The only discovery, however, which I can possibly make, on this occasion, is a tacit acknowledgment, on the part of this Gentleman, that the Church to which the Apostle was writing, and the CathoLIC Church of this day, are the same Christian Societies;—that these Societies, by some misfortune or other, have been led into the errors, against which he was endeavouring to guard them -and that they have in consequence, been subjected to the punishment, with which they were So solemnly threatened. The first of these concessions would be extremely important, and such as, I think, Mr. * * *
* * is neither disposed nor has intended to make: and the other is one, which if there be any dependence on the promises of Christ, is a task, which I have no hesitation in saying, is far beyond either the learning, or the ability of any man to prove, in a clear and satisfactory manner.
I remain, &c.
Bath, Jan. 15, 1814.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
THE next point, on which I have undertaken to satisfy you, is, that, on the subject of marriage, the Catholic Church is not involved in the charge of St. Paul, contained in his epistle to Timothy. If Mr. *
* * be of a dif. ferent opinion, I think, he has not bestowed on the consideration of this important question, all the seriousness of attention, which it really deserves. Before he can hope to establish the charge, in question, it will be necessary for him to prove, either, that we conceive a state of celibacy, as a necessary injunction of God, with respect to some individuals;—or that it is a state which is perfectly incompatible with the character of man. A clear and a perfect knowledge of the doctrines of the Catholic Church, will, however, inform him, that we do not teach the former of these opinions;—. and the latter surely we cannot, on any principle of justice, or of charity, presume is the case.
By the discipline of the Catholic Church, it is required, indeed, that certain individuals of her communiun, strictly and exactly observe vows of celibacy, which they have freely imposed on themselves. But those vows are not made, nor encouraged, on any supposition, that marriage is not an honorable, and virtuous state, but because she is instructed by that very same St. Paul, whose authority is called in against her, that virginity is a means of acquiring a state of greater perfection, and because it is natural to suppose, that a situation, which is not exposed to the cares, and the solicitudes, arising from the condition of marriage, is best adapted to the labours, and to the duties of a clerical life. A man, indeed, it is certain, will be attached to this world, and in the same proportion, it is equally certain, will be detached from the next, according to the greater, or the less number of ties, which connect him with life. Many duties arise out of the clerical state, which a man, who is free from the anxieties, and the expenses of a married life, will be both able, and disposed to discharge, and from which a man, in that state, will be restrained by a variety of powerful considerations.
Although a greater latitude is allowed to her clergy, by the regulations of the established church of this country, yet Mr. * * * himself will not deny, that, that church herself, in some instances, is found to act on this principle; and that, there are, in that communion, some situations, which require a state of celibacy, as long as those situations are held. This goes very plainly to shew us, that the principle itself is unobjectionable, and that, in some cases, it is thought even by the Protestant, to be necessary, in order to secure a proper attention to duties, which would otherwise be exposed to the danger of some degree of neglect. To these men, indeed, it is true, a passage is opened, whenever they please, to the enjoyments of matrimony: and in this, but in no other respect, does it differ from the rules of the Catholic Church. But does not the regulation itself go plainly to shew, that the observance is not judged to be beyond the powers of man, unless we suppose, that, during the continuance of these men, in the situations in question, their lives, in secret, are a scene of disorder, and of crime? Does it not go to shew, that, in the regulation itself, there is nothing which is in opposition to the precepts of the Gospel ;-nothing, which is at variance with the strictest principles of Christian morality? Were a state of celibacy necessarily productive of any of those disadvantages, with which it is supposed by some men, to be surrounded, then it would be criminal to tolerate it for a single moment of time; and consequently the establishment of England would be not much less unreasonable, nor much less antichristian, than the establishment of Rome.
possibly refrain from what he is taught by the principles both of religion and of reason, is of a criminal, and prohibited nature? What judgment then, are we to form of the great bulk of mankind, who, at the very period of life, when the current of passion is peculiarly strong, have been hitherto prevented, by circumstances, from passing into that state, which he seems to imagine is destined to be the only safeguard to the virtues of man?-What judgment are we to form of our armies, and of our navies?-What judgment are we to form of that numerous and respectable class of individuals, who are prevented by the natural modesty of the sex, from soliciting the honors of a different condition, or who are excluded from it by a thousand other considerations ? * * * * *
* must either allow, that all these classes of society are strangers, in secret, to the purest virtues of the Christian religion, or he must allow, that the state of celibacy is not necessarily exposed to all the inconveniences, which the ima. gination of a protestant is apt to present to his mind.
On a full and fair view of this subject, you may, therefore, securely conclude, that the regulations of the Catholic Church, in regard to the celibacy of her clergy, and of other individuals, who have entered into a state of perpetual religious retirement, are not liable to the numerous objections,