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WHEN, towards the end of 1844, I transmitted to a private friend (alas, now no more) a translation of Rongé's letter to Bishop Arnoldi, together with a sketch of the effects it had produced, and was producing, expressing at the same time my conviction, that we should yet have occasion to exclaim respecting it, “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth,” I was far indeed from anticipating that I should be led providentially to take my stand on the watchtower of observation, thence to announce to the British public, month by month, in “The Continental Echo,” the advances or the hindrances of the reform cause, neither voluntarily withholding truth, "nor setting down aught in malice." Still less did I then dream of being induced to attempt giving permanency to those fugitive pieces, by adding to the number of books, of which we at least equally with Solomon may assert, that“ of making such there is no end.”
In publishing this sketch of the modern secession from Popery, I felt prepared to lie under very serious disadvantage, in being debarred, by my continental residence, from guarding against errors of the press, by a personal correction of the proof sheets; and I own to a painful foreboding, that many more errata may be found, claiming the reader's indulgence, than would have escaped the Argus eye of an author. But that the statements contained in the following pages would require either guarantee or defence was no ways suspected by me, till a very few weeks ago. Since, however, the larger portion of the present work was in type, some of the principal actors in the scenes described, have been mercilessly and publicly attacked; their principles impugned; their motives maligned; and the whole reform movement depicted alternately as a piece of consummate charlatanerie, or a tissue of wilful exaggeration. Even within the present month, I have been assailed by assertions against Czerski, so positive, and from a quarter so respectable, as for a moment to appal me with dread, lest I should have been the dupe and the abettor of a deceiver; and so severe was the blow, that even my bodily health staggered under it. I thank God, however, that the inquiries I have since set on foot (in quarters wholly unconnected with the movement itself), enable me, with a good conscience, to send forth the following plain unvarnished tale (which, under other feelings, I should unhesitatingly have suppressed), in the persuasion that what I have from the very commencement felt will prove permanently true, viz., that
a great, momentous, and, in its consequences, incalculable breach, has been made in the walls of Rome's citadel, by the Catholic reform movement. That a large proportion of those who have followed, as well as some prominent leaders in it, are actuated solely by a desire of emancipation from Roman tyranny, and a love of ecclesiastical, as intimately connected with civil liberty, has been my declared conviction from the first; and with these the Reform consists chiefly in an abandonment of a hypocritical profession, the rationalistic views they now avow, having ruled in their hearts, though cloaked by an occasional compliance with Roman Catholic rites. To such, Ronge's letter was the opening of the prison door by the master key of public opinion; and their gain, though infinitely below what it would be, did higher principles guide, is still not small, since habits of duplicity on the most sacred subjects cannot but essentially harden the heart and sear the conscience, while free access to the Scriptures, and the necessity (imposed by their acknowledgment of their supreme authority) of appealing to them in defence of their new views, as it must lead to an examination of the inspired volume, may realise, in their happy experience, the fulfilment of that Divine promise, “my word shall not return unto me void.” But never should I have deemed the history of such a reform worthy the employment of my time in writing, or of the Christian public in reading it. I cordially believe Czerski, and those who uphold, with him, the doctrines of positive Christianity, to be sincere and true men.* If I am deceived, I am so by written and published professions, the falsehood of which, if it exist, the Searcher of Hearts alone can detect; and I err in company with many of God's dear people in this country, who rest with the fullest reliance on the Christian sincerity of Czerski and his party, as well as with the admirable Merle D’Aubigné. † I myself have never yet seen Czerski. Illness had compelled me to a temporary absence from home at the period when he came personally to express his thankfulness for my instrumentality in making his cause known, and the consequent aid he obtained from England, whither he was then en route. And yet, this man has been represented as denying having received any aid from Britain, and that, too, when about to proceed to London by means of that very aid, and to the very editor of “The Continental Echo,” who had sent it to him. Nothing short of insanity could have explained this ; and, in accordance with the rule in logic, that what proves too much, proves nothing, I must own, that this assertion chiefly enabled me to wait with calmness the issue of my inquiries respecting the other less palpably ridiculous charges.
After all, human opinion can only be effectually met by facts. I fervently hope that the conduct of those whom party spirit on the one hand, and unchristian retailing of gossip on the other, have combined to assail, will be such as to live down all that disappointed malice or credulous inconsideration have heaped up against them. They have enrolled themselves among the disciples of a crucified and risen Saviour ; woe be unto them should any prove a Judas ! It would“ be good for that man that he had never been born." But let those who speak against them, without sure ground, remember another declaration from the lips of our common Lord, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” There is a day coming in which the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, and when we shall know even as we are known. May the God of mercy grant that that day, for which all other days were made, may prove to thousands who have, or may yet cast off, Roman fetters, for Christ's easy yoke, as well as to the writer of this imperfect record, an entrance into that blood-bought "joy of their Lord,” which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the human heart to conceive.
* See Appendix B. † See “ Continental Echo,” for Sept. 1846, p. 287.