MoboReader> Literature > By What Authority?

   Chapter 16 THE COMING OF THE JESUITS

By What Authority? By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 45674

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The effect on Anthony of Mr. Buxton's conversation was very considerable. He had managed to keep his temper very well during the actual interview; but he broke out alone afterwards, at first with an angry contempt. The absurd arrogance of the man made him furious-the arrogance that had puffed away England and its ambitions and its vigour-palpable evidences of life and reality, and further of God's blessing-in favour of a miserable Latin nation which had the presumption to claim the possession of Peter's Chair and of the person of the Vicar of Christ! Test it, said the young man to himself, by the ancient Fathers and Councils that Dr. Jewel quoted so learnedly, and the preposterous claim crumbled to dust. Test it, yet again, by the finger of Providence; and God Himself proclaimed that the pretensions of the spiritual kingdom, of which the prisoner in the cell had bragged, are but a blasphemous fable. And Anthony reminded himself of the events of the previous year.

Three great assaults had been made by the Papists to win back England to the old Religion. Dr. William Allen, the founder of Douai College, had already for the last seven or eight years been pouring seminary priests into England, and over a hundred and twenty were at work among their countrymen, preparing the grand attack. This was made in three quarters at once.

In Scotland it was chiefly political, and Anthony thought, with a bitter contempt, of the Count d'Aubigny, Esmé Stuart, who was supposed to be an emissary of the Jesuits; how he had plotted with ecclesiastics and nobles, and professed Protestantism to further his ends; and of all the stories of his duplicity and evil-living, told round the guard-room fire.

In Ireland the attempt was little else than ludicrous. Anthony laughed fiercely to himself as he pictured the landing of the treacherous fools at Dingle, of Sir James FitzMaurice and his lady, very wretched and giddy after their voyage, and the barefooted friars, and Dr. Sanders, and the banner so solemnly consecrated; and of the sands of Smerwick, when all was over a year later, and the six hundred bodies, men and women who had preferred Mr. Buxton's spiritual kingdom to Elizabeth's kindly rule, stripped and laid out in rows, like dead game, for Lord Grey de Wilton to reckon them by.

But his heart sank a little as he remembered the third method of attack, and of the coming of the Jesuits. By last July all London knew that they were here, and men's hearts were shaken with apprehension. They reminded one another of the April earthquake that had tolled the great Westminster bell, and thrown down stones from the churches. One of the Lambeth guards, a native of Blunsdon, in Wiltshire, had told Anthony himself that a pack of hell-hounds had been heard there, in full cry after a ghostly quarry. Phantom ships had been seen from Bodmin attacking a phantom castle that rode over the waves off the Cornish coast. An old woman of Blasedon had given birth to a huge-headed monster with the mouth of a mouse, eight legs, and a tail; and, worse than all, it was whispered in the Somersetshire inns that three companies of black-robed men, sixty in number, had been seen, coming and going overhead in the gloom. These two strange emissaries, Fathers Persons and Campion-how they appealed to the imagination, lurking under a hundred disguises, now of servants, now of gentlemen of means and position! It was known that they were still in England, going about doing good, their friends said who knew them; stirring up the people, their enemies said who were searching for them. Anthony had seen with his own eyes some of the papers connected with their presence-that containing a statement of their objects in coming, namely, that they were spiritual not political agents, seeking recruits for Christ and for none else; Campion's "Challenge and Brag," offering to meet any English Divine on equal terms in a public disputation; besides one or two of the controversial pamphlets, purporting to be printed at Douai, but really emanating from a private printing-press in England, as the Government experts had discovered from an examination of the water-marks of the paper employed.

Yet as the weeks went by, and his first resentment cooled, Mr. Buxton's arguments more and more sank home, for they had touched the very point where Anthony had reckoned that his own strength lay. He had never before heard Nationalism and Catholicism placed in such flat antithesis. In fact, he had never before really heard the statement of the Catholic position; and his fierce contempt gradually melted into respect. Both theories had a concrete air of reality about them; his own imaged itself under the symbols of England's power; the National Church appealed to him so far as it represented the spiritual side of the English people; and Mr. Buxton's conception appealed to him from its very audacity. This great spiritual kingdom, striding on its way, trampling down the barriers of temperament and nationality, disregarding all earthly limitations and artificial restraints, imperiously dominating the world in spite of the world's struggles and resentment-this, after all, as he thought over it, was-well-was a new aspect of affairs. The coming of the Jesuits, too, emphasised the appeal: here were two men, as the world itself confessed, of exceptional ability-for Campion had been a famous Oxford orator, and Persons a Fellow of Balliol-choosing, under a free-will obedience, first a life of exile, and then one of daily peril and apprehension, the very thought of which burdened the imagination with horror; hunted like vermin, sleeping and faring hard, their very names detested by the majority of their countrymen, with the shadow of the gallows moving with them, and the reek of the hangman's cauldron continually in their nostrils-and for what? For Mr. Buxton's spiritual kingdom! Well, Anthony thought to himself as the weeks went by and his new thoughts sank deeper, if it is all a superstitious dream, at least it is a noble one!

What, too, was the answer, he asked himself, that England gave to Father Campion's challenge, and the defence that the Government was preparing against the spiritual weapons of the Jesuits? New prisons at Framingham and Battersea; new penalties enacted by Parliament; and, above all, the unanswerable argument of the rack, and the gallows finally to close the discussion. And what of the army that was being set in array against the priests, and that was even now beginning to scour the country round Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and London? Anthony had to confess to himself that they were queer allies for the servants of Christ; for traitors, liars, and informers were among the most trusted Government agents.

In short, as the spring drew on, Anthony was not wholly happy. Again and again in his own room he studied a little manuscript translation of Father Campion's "Ten Reasons," that had been taken from a popish prisoner, and that a friend had given him; and as he read its exultant rhetoric, he wondered whether the writer was indeed as insincere and treacherous as Mr. Scot declared. There seemed in the paper a reckless outspokenness, calculated rather to irritate than deceive.

"I turn to the Sacraments," he read, "none, none, not two, not one, O holy Christ, have they left. Their very bread is poison. Their baptism, though it be true, yet in their judgment is nothing. It is not the saving water! It is not the channel of Grace! It brings not Christ's merits to us! It is but a sign of salvation!" And again the writer cried to Elizabeth to return to the ancient Religion, and to be in truth what she was in name, the Defender of the Faith.

"'Kings shall be thy nursing fathers,' thus Isaiah sang, 'and Queens thy nursing mothers.' Listen, Elizabeth, most Mighty Queen! To thee the great Prophet sings! He teaches thee thy part. Join then thyself to these princes!... O Elizabeth, a day, a day shall come that shall show thee clearly which have loved thee the better, the Society of Jesus or Luther's brood!"

What arrogance, thought Anthony to himself, and what assurance too!

Meanwhile in the outer world things were not reassuring to the friends of the Government: it was true that half a dozen priests had been captured and examined by torture, and that Sir George Peckham himself, who was known to have harboured Campion, had been committed to the Marshalsea; but yet the Jesuits' influence was steadily on the increase. More and more severe penalties had been lately enacted; it was now declared to be high treason to reconcile or be reconciled to the Church of Rome; overwhelming losses in fortune as well as liberty were threatened against all who said or heard Mass or refused to attend the services of the Establishment; but, as was discovered from papers that fell from time to time into the hands of the Government agents, the only answer of the priests was to inveigh more strenuously against even occasional conformity, declaring it to be the mortal sin of schism, if not of apostasy, to put in an appearance under any circumstances, except those of actual physical compulsion, at the worship in the parish churches. Worse than all, too, was the fact that this severe gospel began to prevail; recusancy was reported to be on the increase in all parts of the country; and many of the old aristocracy began to return to the faith of their fathers: Lords Arundel, Oxford, Vaux, Henry Howard, and Sir Francis Southwell were all beginning to fall under the suspicion of the shrewdest Government spies.

The excitement at Lambeth ran higher day by day as the summer drew on; the net was being gradually contracted in the home counties; spies were reported to be everywhere, in inns, in the servants' quarters of gentlemen's houses, lounging at cross roads and on village greens. Campion's name was in every mouth. Now they were on his footsteps, it was said; now he was taken; now he was gone back to France; now he was in London; now in Lancashire; and each rumour in turn corrected its predecessor.

Anthony shared to the full in the excitement; the figure of the quarry, after which so many hawks were abroad, appealed to his imagination. He dreamed of him at night, once as a crafty-looking man with narrow eyes and stooping shoulders, that skulked and ran from shadow to shadow across a moonlit country; once as a ruddy-faced middle-aged gentleman riding down a crowded street; and several times as a kind of double of Mr. Stewart, whom he had never forgotten, since he had watched him in the little room of Maxwell Hall, gallant and alert among his enemies.

At last one day in July, as it drew on towards evening, and as Anthony was looking over the stable-accounts in his little office beyond the Presence Chamber, a buzz of talk and footsteps broke out in the court below; and a moment later the Archbishop's body-servant ran in to say that his Grace wished to see Mr. Norris at once in the gallery that opened out of the guard-room.

"And I think it is about the Jesuits, sir," added the man, evidently excited.

Anthony ran down at once and found his master pacing up and down, with a courier waiting near the steps at the lower end that led to Chichele's tower. The Archbishop stopped by a window, emblazoned with Cardinal Pole's emblem, and beckoned to him.

"See here, Master Norris," he said, "I have received news that Campion is at last taken: it may well be false, as so often before; but take horse, if you please, and ride into the city and find the truth for me. I will not send a groom; they believe the maddest tales. You are at liberty?" he added courteously.

"Yes, your Grace, I will ride immediately."

As he rode down the river-bank towards London Bridge ten minutes later, he could not help feeling some dismay as well as excitement at the news he was to verify. And yet what other end was possible? But what a doom for the brilliant Oxford orator, even though he had counted the cost!

Streams of excited people were pouring across the bridge into the city; Campion's name was on every tongue; and Anthony, as he passed under the high gate, noticed a man point up at the grim spiked heads above it, and laugh to his companion. There seemed little doubt, from the unanimity of those whom he questioned, that the rumour was true; and some even said that the Jesuit was actually passing down Cheapside on his way to the Tower. When at last Anthony came to the thoroughfare the crowd was as dense as for a royal progress. He checked his horse at the door of an inn-yard, and asked an ostler that stood there what it was all about.

"It is Campion, the Jesuit, sir," said the man. "He has been taken at Lyford, and is passing here presently."

The man had hardly finished speaking when a yell came from the end of the street, and groans and hoots ran down the crowd. Anthony turned in his saddle, and saw a great stir and movement, and then horses' and men's heads moving slowly down over the seething surface of the crowd, as if swimming in a rough sea. He could make little out, as the company came towards him, but the faces of the officers and pursuivants who rode in the front rank, four or five abreast; then followed the faces of three or four others, also riding between guards, and Anthony looked eagerly at them; but they were simple faces enough, a little pale and quiet; one was like a farmer's, ruddy and bearded;-surely Campion could not be among those! Then more and more, riding two and two, with a couple of armed guards with each pair; some looked like country-men or servants, some like gentlemen, and one or two might be priests; but the crowd seemed to pay them no attention beyond a glance or two. Ah! what was this coming behind?

There was a space behind the last row of guards, and then came a separate troop riding all together, of half a dozen men at least, and one in the centre, with something white in his hat. The ferment round this group was tremendous; men were leaping up and yelling, like hounds round a carted stag; clubs shot up menacingly, and a storm of ceaseless execration raged outside the compact square of guards who sat alert and ready to beat off an attack. Once a horse kicked fiercely as a man sprang to his hind-quarters, and there was a scream of pain and a burst of laughing.

Anthony sat trembling with excitement as the first group had passed, and this second began to come opposite the entrance where he sat. This then was the man!

The rider in the centre sat his horse somewhat stiffly, and Anthony saw that his elbows were bound behind his back, and his hands in front; the reins were drawn over his horse's head and a pursuivant held them on either side. The man was dressed as a layman, in a plumed hat and a buff jerkin, such as soldiers or plain country-gentlemen might use; and in the hat was a great paper with an inscription. Anthony spelt it out.

"Campion, the Seditious Jesuit."

Then he looked at the man's face.

It was a comely refined face, a little pale but perfectly serene: his pointed dark brown beard and moustache were carefully trimmed; and his large passionate eyes looked cheerfully about him. Anthony stared at him, wholly fascinated; for above the romance that hung about the hunted priest and the glamour of the dreaded Society which he represented, there was a chivalrous fearless look in his face that drew the heart of the young man almost irresistibly. At least he did not look like the skulking knave at whom all the world was sneering, and of whom Anthony had dreamt so vividly a few nights before.

The storm of execration from the faces below, and the faces crowding at the windows, seemed to affect him not at all; and he looked from side to side as if they were cheering him rather than crying against him. Once his eyes met Anthony's and rested on them for a moment; and a strange thrill ran through him and he shivered sharply.

* * *

And yet he felt, too, a distinct and irresistible movement of attraction towards this felon who was riding towards his agony and passion; and he was conscious at the same time of that curious touch of wonder that he had felt years before towards the man whipped at the cart's tail, as to whether the solitary criminal were not in the right, and the clamorous accusers in the wrong. Campion in a moment had passed on and turned his head.

In that moment, too, Anthony caught a sudden clear instantaneous impression of a group of faces in the window opposite. There were a couple of men in front, stout city personages no doubt, with crimson faces and open mouths cursing the traitorous Papist and the crafty vagrant fox trapped at last; but between them, looking over their shoulders, was a woman's face in which Anthony saw the most intense struggle of emotions. The face was quite white, the lips parted, the eyes straining, and sorrow and compassion were in every line, as she watched the cheerful priest among his warders; and yet there rested on it, too, a strange light as of triumph. It was the face of one who sees victory even at the hour of supremest failure. In an instant more the face had withdrawn itself into the darkness of the room.

When the crowds had surged down the street in the direction of the Tower, yelling in derision as Campion saluted the lately defaced Cheapside Cross, Anthony guided his horse out through the dispersing groups, realising as he did so, with a touch of astonishment at the coincidence, that he had been standing almost immediately under the window whence he and Isabel had leaned out so many years before.

* * *

The sun was going down behind the Abbey as he rode up towards Lambeth, and the sky above and the river beneath were as molten gold. The Abbey itself, with Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament below, stood up like mystical palaces against the sunset; and it seemed to Anthony as he rode, as if God Himself were illustrating in glorious illumination the closing pages of that human life of which a glimpse had opened to him in Cheapside. It did not appear to him as it had done in the days of his boyish love as if heaven and earth were a stage for himself to walk and pose upon; but he felt intensely now the dominating power of the personality of the priest; and that he himself was no more than a spectator of this act of a tragedy of which the priest was both hero and victim, and for which this evening glory formed so radiant a scene. The old intellectual arguments against the cause that the priest represented for the moment were drowned in this flood of splendour. When he arrived at Lambeth and had reached the Archbishop's presence, he told him the news briefly, and went to his room full of thought and perplexity.

In a few days the story of Campion's arrest was known far and wide. It had been made possible by the folly of one Catholic and the treachery of another; and when Anthony heard it, he was stirred still more by the contrast between the Jesuit and his pursuers. The priest had returned to the moated grange at Lyford, after having already paid as long a visit there as was prudent, owing to the solicitations of a number of gentlemen who had ridden after him and his companion, and who wished to hear his eloquence. He had returned there again, said mass on the Sunday morning, and preached afterwards, from a chair set before the altar, a sermon on the tears of the Saviour over apostate Jerusalem. But a false disciple had been present who had come in search of one Payne; and this man, known afterwards by the Catholics as Judas Eliot or Eliot Iscariot, had gathered a number of constables and placed them about the manor-house; and before the sermon was over he went out quickly from the table of the Lord, the house was immediately surrounded, and the alarm was raised by a watcher placed in one of the turrets after Eliot's suspicious departure. The three priests present, Campion and two others, were hurried into a hiding-hole over the stairs. The officers entered, searched, and found nothing; and were actually retiring, when Eliot succeeded in persuading them to try again; they searched again till dark, and still found nothing. Mrs. Yate encouraged them to stay the night in the house, and entertained them with ale; and then when all was quiet, insisted on hearing some parting words from her eloquent guest. He came out into the room where she had chosen to spend the night until the officers were gone; and the rest of the Catholics, some Brigittine nuns and others, met there through private passages and listened to him for the last time. As the company was dispersing one of the priests stumbled and fell, making a noise that roused the sentry outside. Again the house was searched, and again with no success. In despair they were leaving it, when Jenkins, Eliot's companion, who was coming downstairs with a servant of the house, beat with his stick on the wall, saying that they had not searched there. It was noticed that the servant showed signs of agitation; and men were fetched to the spot; the wall was beaten in and the three priests were found together, having mutually shriven one another, and made themselves ready for death.

Campion was taken out and sent first to the Sheriff of Berkshire, and then on towards London on the following day.

* * *

The summer days went by, and every day brought its fresh rumour about Campion. Sir Owen Hopton, Governor of the Tower, who at first had committed his prisoner to Little-Ease, now began to treat him with more honour; he talked, too, mysteriously, of secret interviews and promises and understandings; and gradually it began to get about that Campion was yielding to kindness; that he had seen the Queen; that he was to recant at Paul's Cross; and even that he was to have the See of Canterbury. This last rumour caused great indignation at Lambeth, and Anthony was more pressed than ever to get what authentic news he could of the Jesuit. Then at the beginning of August came a burst of new tales; he had been racked, it was said, and had given up a number of names; and as the month went by more and more details, authentic and otherwise, were published. Those favourably inclined to the Catholics were divided in opinion; some feared that he had indeed yielded to an excess of agony; others, and these proved to be in the right when the truth came out, that he had only given up names which were already known to the authorities; though even for this he asked public pardon on the scaffold.

Towards the end of August the Archbishop again sent expressly for Anthony and bade him accompany his chaplain on the following day to the Tower, to be present at the public disputation that was to take place between English divines and the Jesuit.

"Now he will have the

chance he craved for," said Grindal. "He hath bragged that he would meet any and all in dispute, and now the Queen's clemency hath granted it him."

On the following day in the early morning sunshine the minister and Anthony rode down together to the Tower, where they arrived a few minutes before eight o'clock, and were passed through up the stairs into St. John's chapel to the seats reserved for them.

It was indeed true that the authorities had determined to give Campion his chance, but they had also determined to make it as small as possible. He was not even told that the discussion was to take place until the morning of its occasion, and he was allowed no opportunity for developing his own theological position; the entire conduct of the debate was in the hands of his adversaries; he might only parry, seldom riposte, and never attack.

When Anthony found himself in his seat he looked round the chapel. Almost immediately opposite him, on a raised platform against a pillar, stood two high seats occupied by Deans Nowell and Day, who were to conduct the disputation, and who were now talking with their heads together while a secretary was arranging a great heap of books on the table before them. On either side, east and west, stretched chairs for the divines that were to support them in debate, should they need it; and the platform on which Anthony himself had a chair was filled with a crowd of clergy and courtiers laughing and chatting together. A little table, also heaped with books, with seats for the notaries, stood in the centre of the nave, and not far from it were a number of little wooden stools which the prisoners were to occupy. Plainly they were to be allowed no advisers and no books; even the physical support of table and chairs was denied to them in spite of their weary racked bodies. The chapel, bright with the morning sunlight that streamed in through the east windows of the bare Norman sanctuary, hummed with the talk and laughter of those who had come to see the priest-baiting and the vindication of the Protestant Religion; though, as Anthony looked round, he saw here and there an anxious or a downcast face of some unknown friend of the Papists.

He himself was far from easy in his mind. He had been studying Campion's "Ten Reasons" more earnestly than ever, and was amazed to find that the very authorities to which Dr. Jewel deferred, namely, the Scriptures interpreted by Fathers and Councils and illustrated by History, were exactly Campion's authorities, too; and that the Jesuit's appeal to them was no less confident than the Protestant's. That fact had, of course, suggested the thought that if there were no further living authority in existence to decide between these two scholars, Christendom was in a poor position. When doctors differed, where was the layman to turn? To his own private judgment, said the Protestant. But then Campion's private judgment led him to submit to the Catholic claim! This then at present weighed heavily on Anthony's mind. Was there or was there not an authority on earth capable of declaring to him the Revelation of God? For the first time he was beginning to feel a logical and spiritual necessity for an infallible external Judge in matters of faith; and that the Catholic Church was the only system that professed to supply it. The question of the existence of such an authority was, with the doctrine of justification, one of those subjects continually in men's minds and conversations, and to Anthony, unlike others, it appeared more fundamental even than its companion. All else seemed secondary. Indulgences, the Mass, Absolution, the Worship of Mary and the Saints-all these must stand or fall on God's authority made known to man. The one question for him was, Where was that authority to be certainly found?

There came the ringing tramp of footsteps; the buzz of talk ceased and then broke out again, as the prisoners, with all eyes bent upon them, surrounded by a strong guard of pikemen, were seen advancing up the chapel from the north-west door towards the stools set ready for them. Anthony had no eyes but for Campion who limped in front, supported on either side by a warder. He could scarcely believe at first that this was the same priest who had ridden so bravely down Cheapside. Now he was bent, and walked like an old broken man; his face was deathly pale, with shadows and lines about his eyes, and his head trembled a little. There were one or two exclamations of pity, for all knew what had caused the change; and Anthony heard an undertone moan of sorrow and anger from some one in a seat behind him.

The prisoners sat down; and the guards went to their places. Campion took his seat in front, and turned immediately from side to side, running his dark eyes along the faces to see where were his adversaries; and once more Anthony met his eyes, and thrilled at it. Through the pallor and pain of his face, the same chivalrous spirit looked out and called for homage and love, that years ago at Oxford had made young men, mockingly nicknamed after their leader, to desire his praise more passionately than anything on earth, and even to imitate his manners and dress and gait, for very loyalty and devotion. Anthony could not take his eyes off him; he watched the clear-cut profile of his face thrown fearlessly forward, waited in tense expectation to hear him speak, and paid no attention to the whisperings of the chaplain beside him.

* * *

Presently the debate began. It was opened by Dean Nowell from his high seat, who assured Father Campion of the disinterested motives of himself and his reverend friends in holding this disputation. It was, after all, only what the priest had demanded; and they trusted by God's grace that they would do him good and help him to see the truth. There was no unfairness, said the Dean, who seemed to think that some apology was needed, in taking him thus unprepared, since the subject of debate would be none other than Campion's own book. The Jesuit looked up, nodded his head, and smiled.

"I thank you, Mr. Dean," he said, in his deep resonant voice, and there fell a dead hush as he spoke. "I thank you for desiring to do me good, and to take up my challenge; but I must say that I would I had understood of your coming, that I might have made myself ready."

Campion's voice thrilled strangely through Anthony, as the glance from his eyes had done. It was so assured, so strong and delicate an instrument, and so supremely at its owner's command, that it was hardly less persuasive than his personality and his learning that made themselves apparent during the day. And Anthony was not alone in his impressions of the Jesuit. Lord Arundel afterwards attributed his conversion to Campion's share in the discussions. Again and again during the day a murmur of applause followed some of the priest's clean-cut speeches and arguments, and a murmur of disapproval the fierce thrusts and taunts of his opponents; and by the end of the day's debate, so marked was the change of attitude of the crowd that had come to triumph over the Papist, and so manifest their sympathy with the prisoners, that it was thought advisable to exclude the public from the subsequent discussions.

On this first day, all manner of subjects were touched upon, such as the comparative leniency of Catholic and Protestant governments, the position of Luther with regard to the Epistle of St. James, and other matters comparatively unimportant, in the discussion of which a great deal of time was wasted. Campion entreated his opponents to leave such minor questions alone, and to come to doctrinal matters; but they preferred to keep to details rather than to principles, and the priest had scarcely any opportunity to state his positive position at all. The only doctrinal matter seriously touched upon was that of Justification by Faith; and texts were flung to and fro without any great result. "We are justified by faith," cried one side. "Though I have all faith and have not charity, I am nothing," cried the other. The effect on Anthony of this day's debate arose rather from the victorious personality of the priest than from his arguments. His gaiety, too, was in strange contrast to the solemn Puritanism of his enemies. For instance, he was on the point that Councils might err in matters of fact, but that the Scriptures could not.

"As for example," he said, his eyes twinkling out of his drawn face, "I am bound under pain of damnation to believe that Toby's dog had a tail, because it is written, he wagged it."

The Deans looked sternly at him, as the audience laughed.

"Now, now," said one of them, "it becomes not to deal so triflingly with matters of weight."

Campion dropped his eyes, demurely, as if reproved.

"Why, then," he said, "if this example like you not, take another. I must believe that Saint Paul had a cloak, because he willeth Timothy to bring it with him."

Again the crowd laughed; and Anthony laughed, too, with a strange sob in his throat at the gallant foolery, which, after all, was as much to the point as a deal that the Deans were saying.

But the second day's debate, held in Hopton's Hall, was on more vital matters; and Anthony again and again found himself leaning forward breathlessly, as Drs. Goode and Fulke on the one side, and Campion on the other, respectively attacked and defended the Doctrine of the Visible Church; for this, for Anthony, was one of the crucial points of the dispute between Catholicism and Protestantism. Anthony believed already that the Church was one; and if it was visible, surely, he thought to himself, it must be visibly one; and in that case, it is evident where that Church is to be found. But if it is invisible, it may be invisibly one, and then as far as that matter is concerned, he may rest in the Church of England. If not-and then he recoiled from the gulf that opened.

"It must be an essential mark of the Church," said Campion, "and such a quality as is inseparable. It must be visible, as fire is hot, and water moist."

Goode answered that when Christ was taken and the Apostles fled, then at least the Church was invisible; and if then, why not always?

"It was a Church inchoate," answered the priest, "beginning, not perfect."

But Goode continued to insist that the true Church is known only to God, and therefore invisible.

"There are many wolves within," he said, "and many sheep without."

"I know not who is elect," retorted Campion, "but I know who is a Catholic."

"Only the elect are of the Church," said Goode.

"I say that both good and evil are of the visible Church," answered the other.

"To be elect or true members of Christ is one thing," went on Goode, "and to be in the visible Church is another."

* * *

As the talk went on, Anthony began to see where the confusion lay. The Protestants were anxious to prove that membership in a visible body did not ensure salvation but then the Catholics never claimed that it did; the question was: Did or did not Christ intend there to be a visible Church, membership in which should be the normal though not the infallible means of salvation?

They presently got on to the a priori point as to whether a visible Church would seem to be a necessity.

"There is a perpetual commandment," said the priest, "in Matthew eighteen-'Tell the Church'; but that cannot be unless the Church is visible; ergo, the visibility of the Church is continual."

"When there is an established Church," said Goode, "this remedy is to be sought for. But this cannot be always had."

"The disease is continual," answered Campion; "ergo the remedy must be continual." Then he left the a priori ground and entered theirs. "To whom should I have gone," he cried, "before Luther's time? What prelates should I have made my complaint unto in those days? Where was your Church nine hundred years ago? Whose were John Huss, Jerome of Prague, the Waldenses? Were they yours?" Then he turned scornfully to Fulke, "Help him, Master Doctor."

And Fulke repeated Goode's assertion, that valuable as the remedy is, it cannot always be had.

Anthony sat back, puzzled. Both sides seemed right. Persecution must often hinder the full privileges of Church membership and the exercise of discipline. Yet the question was, What was Christ's intention? Was it that the Church should be visible? It seemed that even the ministers allowed that, now. And if so, why then the Catholic's claim that Christ's intention had never been wholly frustrated, but that a visible unity was to be found amongst themselves-surely this was easier to believe than the Protestant theory that the Church which had been visible for fifteen centuries was not really the Church at all; but that the true Church had been invisible-in spite of Christ's intention-during all that period, and was now to be found only in small separated bodies scattered here and there. How of the prevailing of the gates of hell, if that were allowed to be true?

* * *

At two o'clock they reassembled for the afternoon conference; and now they got even closer to the heart of the matter, for the subject was to be, whether the Church could err?

Fulke asserted that it could, and did; and made a syllogism:

"Whatsoever error is incident to every member, is incident to the whole. But it is incident to every member to err; ergo, to the whole."

"I deny both major and minor," said Campion quietly. "Every man may err, but not the whole gathered together; for the whole hath a promise, but so hath not every particular man."

Fulke denied this stoutly, and beat on the table.

"Every member hath the spirit of Christ," he said, "which is the spirit of truth; and therefore hath the same promise that the whole hath."

"Why, then," said Campion, smiling, "there should be no heretics."

"Yes," answered Fulke, "heretics may be within the Church, but not of the Church."

And so they found themselves back again where they started from.

Anthony sat back on the oak bench and sighed, and glanced round at the interested faces of the theologians and the yawns of the amateurs, as the debate rolled on over the old ground, and touched on free will, and grace, and infant baptism; until the Lieutenant interposed:

"Master Doctors," he said, with a judicial air, "the question that was appointed before dinner was, whether the visible Church may err"-to which Goode retorted that the digressions were all Campion's fault.

Then the debate took the form of contradictions.

"Whatsoever congregation doth err in matters of faith," said Goode, "is not the true Church; but the Church of Rome erreth in matters of faith; ergo, it is not the true Church."

"I deny your minor," said Campion, "the Church of Rome hath not erred." Then the same process was repeated over the Council of Trent; and the debate whirled off once more into details and irrelevancies about imputed righteousness, and the denial of the Cup to the laity.

Again the audience grew restless. They had not come there, most of them, to listen to theological minuti?, but to see sport; and this interminable chopping of words that resulted in nothing bored them profoundly. A murmur of conversation began to buzz on all sides.

Campion was in despair.

"Thus shall we run into all questions," he cried hopelessly, "and then we shall have done this time twelve months."

But Fulke would not let him be; but pressed on a question about the Council of Nice.

"Now we shall have the matter of images," sighed Campion.

"You are nimis acutus," retorted Fulke, "you will leap over the stile or ever you come to it. I mean not to speak of images."

And so with a few more irrelevancies the debate ended.

The third debate in September (on the twenty-third), at which Anthony was again present, was on the subject of the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Fulke was in an evil temper, since it was common talk that Campion had had the best of the argument on the eighteenth.

"The other day," he said, "when we had some hope of your conversion, we forbare you much, and suffered you to discourse; but now that we see you are an obstinate heretic, and seek to cover the light of the truth with multitude of words, we mean not to allow you such large discourses as we did."

"You are very imperious to-day," answered Campion serenely, "whatsoever the matter is. I am the Queen's prisoner, and none of yours."

"Not a whit imperious," said Fulke angrily,-"though I will exact of you to keep the right order of disputation."

Then the argument began. It soon became plain to Anthony that it was possible to take the Scripture in two senses, literally and metaphorically. The sacrament either was literally Christ's body, or it was not. Who then was to decide? Father Campion said it meant the one; Dr. Fulke the other. Could it be possible that Christ should leave His people in doubt as to such a thing? Surely not, thought Anthony. Well, then, where is the arbiter? Father Campion says, The Church; Dr. Fulke says, The Scripture. But that is a circular argument, for the question to be decided is: What does the Scripture mean? for it may mean at least two things, at least so it would seem. Here then he found himself face to face with the claims of the Church of Rome to be that arbiter; and his heart began to grow sick with apprehension as he saw how that Church supplied exactly what was demanded by the circumstances of the case-that is, an infallible living guide as to the meaning of God's Revelation. The simplicity of her claim appalled him.

He did not follow the argument closely, since it seemed to him but a secondary question now; though he heard one or two sentences. At one point Campion was explaining what the Church meant by substance. It was that which transcended the senses.

"Are you not Dr. Fulke?" he said. "And yet I see nothing but your colour and exterior form. The substance of Dr. Fulke cannot be seen."

"I will not vouchsafe to reply upon this answer," snarled Fulke, whose temper had not been improved by the debate-"too childish for a sophister!"

Then followed interminable syllogisms, of which Campion would not accept the premises; and no real progress was made. The Jesuit tried to explain the doctrine that the wicked may be said not to eat the Body in the Sacrament, because they receive not the virtue of It, though they receive the Thing; but Fulke would not hear him. The distinction was new to Anthony, with his puritan training, and he sat pondering it while the debate passed on.

The afternoon discussion, too, was to little purpose. More and more Anthony, and others with him, began to see that the heart of the matter was the authority of the Church; and that unless that was settled, all other debate was beside the point; and the importance of this was brought out for him more clearly than ever on the 27th of the month, when the fourth and last debate took place, and on the subject of the sufficiency of the Scriptures unto salvation.

Mr. Charke, who had now succeeded as disputant, began with extempore prayer, in which as usual the priest refused to join, praying and crossing himself apart.

Mr. Walker then opened the disputation with a pompous and insolent speech about "one Campion," an "unnatural man to his country, degenerated from an Englishman, an apostate in religion, a fugitive from this realm, unloyal to his prince." Campion sat with his eyes cast down, until the minister had done.

Then the discussion began. The priest pointed out that Protestants were not even decided as to what were Scriptures and what were not, since Luther rejected three epistles in the New Testament; therefore, he argued, the Church is necessary as a guide, first of all, to tell men what is Scripture. Walker evaded by saying he was not a Lutheran but a Christian; and then the talk turned on to apocryphal books. But it was not possible to evade long, and the Jesuit soon touched his opponent.

"To leave a door to traditions," he said, "which the Holy Ghost may deliver to the true Church, is both manifest and seen: as in the Baptism of infants, the Holy Ghost proceeding from Father to Son, and such other things mentioned, which are delivered by tradition. Prove these directly by the Scripture if you can!"

Charke answered by the analogy of circumcision which infants received, and by quoting Christ's words as to "sending" of the Comforter; and they were soon deep in detailed argument; but once more Anthony saw that it was all a question of the interpretation of Scripture; and, therefore, that it would seem that an authoritative interpreter was necessary-and where could such be found save in an infallible living Voice? And once more a question of Campion's drove the point home.

"Was all Scripture written when the Apostles first taught?" And Charke dared not answer yes.

The afternoon's debate concerned justification by faith, and this, more than ever, seemed to Anthony a secondary matter, now that he was realising what the claim of a living authority meant; and he sat back, only interested in watching the priest's face, so controlled yet so transparent in its simplicity and steadfastness, as he listened to the ministers' brutal taunts and insolence, and dealt his quiet skilful parries and ripostes to their incessant assaults. At last the Lieutenant struck the table with his hand, and intimated that the time was past, and after a long prayer by Mr. Walker, the prisoners were led back to their cells.

As Anthony rode back alone in the evening sunlight, he was as one who was seeing a vision. There was indeed a vision before him, that had been taking shape gradually, detail by detail, during these last months, and ousting the old one; and which now, terribly emphasised by Campion's arguments and illuminated by the fire of his personality, towered up imperious, consistent, dominating-and across her brow her title, The Catholic Church. Far above all the melting cloudland of theory she moved, a stupendous fact; living, in contrast with the dead past to which her enemies cried in vain; eloquent when other systems were dumb; authoritative when they hesitated; steady when they reeled and fell. About her throne dwelt her children, from every race and age, secure in her protection, and wise with her knowledge, when other men faltered and questioned and doubted: and as Anthony looked up and saw her for the first time, he recognised her as the Mistress and Mother of his soul; and although the blinding clouds of argument and theory and self-distrust rushed down on him again and filled his eyes with dust, yet he knew he had seen her face in very truth, and that the memory of that vision could never again wholly leave him.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares