Page images



HE work of a lecture is usually accom

plished in the hour of its delivery. There seemed to be no reason why these lectures should make an exception to the rule, so at first I refused to have them printed excepting in the public press. But the many requests which were made to me, both by writers in the journals and by private correspondents, at last induced me to change my mind, for the following reason. It was after an illness, which for two years had stayed all progress in my long - promised work on The Church in France, that the lectures were given. I had hoped that their preparation might be the first step towards the resumption of a task, rendered more laborious by the fact that in the interval the ecclesiastical system in France had undergone a revolution. But the slight effort of writing and delivering the lectures laid me aside once again

for a month, and made it manifest that for many more months only a slow advance could be made towards the completion of a work begun nearly eight years ago.

It was pointed out to me that, meanwhile, although many people in England took a lively interest in the religious crisis in France, there was no book, large or small, in the English language to help them to understand the constitution of the Concordatory Church, now disestablished, or to follow the phases of the controversy, which has by no means come to an end with the passing of the Separation Law of last December. I therefore consented to the publication of the lectures in the hope that they may be of some little service to students of contemporary France, and that they may seem more satisfactory to the public than they are to the author. For in places a whole chapter of French history, the result of long labour and research, has had to be compressed into a single sentence; and while such brevity may be agreeable to the hurried reader, it makes

the writer conscious of a lack of proportion which is a feature of concise generalisation always apparent to the careful student.

With the exception of a few footnotes without importance and the modification of one passage the lectures are printed just as they were delivered. The rule of the Royal Institution forbids the discussion of controversial questions on its platform, and my cross-bench mind was well content with that restriction. For the two sides of a burning controversy cannot be summed up in a few words; and, moreover, easy as it is to criticise the excesses of clericals or of anti-clericals in France, it is less easy to foresee whither the issue of their latest and greatest battle will lead the Church and the nation. Only two things seem to be certain. The one is that the abrogation of the Concordat is the first serious breach made in the administrative fabric constructed by Napoleon, which for over a century has preserved France from anarchy through three revolutions and seven changes of régime. The other is that the Separation Law, though the work of anticlericals, is an Ultramontane Act. For the first time since the French people became a nation the Pope is the absolute master of the Bishops and Clergy of France. . Gallicanism, long declining, has received its final death-blow, and Pius X. himself sang its solemn obsequies on Quinquagesima Sunday, when in his basilica of St. Peter at Rome he consecrated the first batch of fourteen non-concordatory Bishops, forming one sixth of the entire French episcopate, --being, it is said, the largest number admitted at one at one time

to the pastoral office since the Day of Pentecost, when it was conferred on twelve overseers of an unestablished Church.

These results of disestablishment, however interesting to those who watch the evolution of modern France, are, it must be avowed, matters of indifference to the French population. Such considerations have affected few of the votes, given on either side, at the elections which are now confirming the policy of Separation. The

age of theories and of ideas is past even in the land of the great Revolution.

Few Frenchmen, beyond a score or so of my learned colleagues of the Institute of France, are perturbed about the death of Gallicanism or the breach made in the great revolutionary settlement of the Consulate—though the latter may have some practical consequences in time of interior trouble. But the ordinary French citizen cares no more for these things than the average English elector dreads the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords, though it would, by abolishing the First Estate of the Realm, destroy the basis of the British Constitution.

The English and the French nation are each undergoing a rapid transformation of character. We English have always been materialistic and practical in tendency, with our materialism tempered by our respect for tradition. The French at the Revolution abandoned tradition for ideas, and during the nineteenth century a basis of idealism has always been found in their acts. Twenty years hence the love of

« PreviousContinue »