Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

were

worse

ruly, shameless, and full of vice, than they were in the time of Popery ?." Formerly, when we “ seduced by the Pope, men willingly followed good works; but now all their study is to get every thing to themselves, by exactions, pillage, theft, lying, and usury 2.” He again observes, “ It is a wonderful thing, and full of scandal, that, from the time when the pure doctrine was first called to light, the world should daily grow worse and

3." Yet this man had himself signalized his retolt, by the commission of a manifest perjury, and afterwards, in conjunction with Melancthon, Bucer, and five other divines, granted a written licence to the Landgrave of Hesse, allowing him two wives at once! The next testimony I adduce is that of Calvin. “Of so many thousands seemingly eager in embracing the Gospel, how few have since amended their lives ! Nay, to what else do the greater part pretend, except by shaking off the yoke of superstition, to launch out more freely into ever kind of lasciviousness 4.”

The greater part of the people,” says Bucer,“ seem only to have embraced the Gospel, in order to shake off the yoke of discipline, and the obligation of fasting and penance, which lay upon them in the time of Popery, and to live at their pleasure, enjoying their lusts and lawless appetites without controul. They therefore lent a willing ear to the doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, and not by good works, having no relish for them 5." Capito, a Cala vinistic Minister of Strasburgh, says, “ All goes to ruin ; there is not one Church among us, not so much as one, where there is any discipline. Almighty God gives me light to know what it is to be a pastor, and the wrong we have done to the Church, by our injudicious rashness and indiscreet vehemence, in rejecting the Pope. For our people, now accustomed, and, as it were, brought up in licentiousness, have thrown off all subordination, as if, by overturning the authority of the Popish pastors, we had also destroyed the virtue of the sacraments, and the vigour of the ministry. They cry out to us, 'I know enough of the Gospel ; what occasion have I for your help to find out Christ? Go and preach to those who are disposed to hear you 6."" The attestation of the learned Erasmus is not less pertinent: • What an evangelical generation is this ! Nothing was ever seen more licentious and more seditious. Nothing is less evangelical than those pretended evangelics 7." On another occasion he says, " Take notice of this evangelical people, and shew me an individual among them all, who, from being a drunkard, has become sober; from being a libertine, has become chaste. I, on the other hand, can shew you many who have becoine worse by the change 8.” Again, “ Those whom I once knew to have been chaste, sincere, and without fraud, I found, after they had embraced this sect, to be licentious in their conversation, gamblers, neglectful of prayer, passionate, vain, as spiteful as serpents, and lost to the feelings of human nature. I speak from experience 9." What a melancholy picture of the state of religion and morality, after “ the pure doctrine was first called to light,” is here exhibited! But perhaps the licentiousness and irreligion thus noticed was confined to Germany and Switzerland. Alas! it was not so, for the records of every kingdom where the new opinions prevailed testify the contrary.

Aware of the strength of the evidence he is about to combat, and being, it would appear, rather apprehensive of his success, the reviewer, with excellent foresight, but certainly with little judgment or skill, provides a position for retreat, in the extraordinary anti-historical assumption, that all the miraculous events recorded since the Apostolic age are mere delusions or impositions ! The utter absurdity of such an assumption is strikingly apparent, by considering the singular consequences to which it would leail.

To say nothing of the direct denial which it gives to the promise, unlimited as to time, of our Saviour, that miraculous signs were to follow those who

1 Serm. in Post. Evang., 1 Adv. 2 Serm. Dom. 26, post. Trin. 3 In Serm. Conviv. 4 L. iy. de Scand. 5 De Regno Christi., L. 1. c. 4.

6 Ep. ad Farell, among Calvin's Letters. 7 Ep. L. vi. 4.

8 Spong. advers. Hutton. 9 Ad. Frat. Infer. Germ.

believed, (of which the gift of healing was one,) it not only leads to the preposterous inference that the whole fathers of the Christian Church were either dupes or impostors, (as the Edinburgh reviewer " philosophically" considers them,) but turns the truth of all history, whether sacred or profane, into a fable!!! True it is, that false Christs and false prophets were to arise, and shew great signs and wonders, and that false teachers were also to appear, (a prediction which has been repeatedly fulfilled ;) but the antiChristian objects of these lying wonders on the one hand, and the “ fruitsby which false teachers are to be known on the other, are sufficient securities against deception; and it can no more be concluded that there have been no true miracles, because there have been false ones, than that there can be no true, because there have been false teachers. Indeed the reverse of the conclusion is implied by the contrast.

The reviewer even more than insinuates that the false teathers, mentioned in the Gospel, are the pastors of the Catholic Church,—those pastors who have received their mission, by a long and uninterrupted line of succession, flowing from the divine commission of Christ himself, and who have inherited their doctrine from him and his Apostles ! Vain idea! which can only excite a smile at its folly, and the sigh of pity at its impiety. The characters, Sir, of false teachers, are sketched too palpably to occasion any mistake as to their identity on the part of those who candidly seek to discover them. Let us then see what those marks are by which false teachers are to be discriminated. In the first place, they were to “come in the clothing of sheep? ;” that is, they were to assume the characters of true pastors, and, under the cloak of Scripture, pretend that errors had crept into the Church, and seek to reform it. Under this mask, they endeavoured to destroy the ancient faith, and every external mark by which it could be recognised ; and as a reforın in faith (which needed no reform) began in error, so reform upon reform has followed, and endless divisions have succeeded

• As if religion was intended

For nothing else but to be mended." These are soine of the “ fruits” by which false teachers were to be known. But, in the second place, one of the indelible marks by which they were to be recognised is their separation from the trunk or root of unity, the Church. “ These are they who separate themselves, sensual men, not having the spirit3.” “ These are murmurers, full of complaints, walking according to their own desires." The beloved Apostle, alluding to these men, says, “ They went out from us, (that is, from the communion of the Church, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they could no doubt have remained with us: but that they may be manifest that they are not all of us5.” Lastly, false teachers were to be known, not only by their resisting the truth, and separating themselves from the Church, but also, like Core, they were to deny its lawful authority, and to assume to themselves the same authority in explaining doctrines, and ordaining, without having the power, a new race of pastors, unknown to the Church. This has been the uniform practice of every innovator, who thereby condemns himself by his own judgment 6; and " because, by his very appearance as a leader, as the first man of his sect, without being able to name his predecessor, while he thus starts up, he, in reality, pronounces sentence against himself as a manifest innovator, and carries his condemnation upon his forehead?".

Now all these characteristics are clearly applicable to the pretended reformers of the sixteenth century. They came in sheep's clothing, but they

1 Is it anti-Christian to prove the divinity of Christ one of the objects of Prince Hohenlohe's miracles, as stated by the reviewer himself ? Our modern ProtestantArians would at once answer affirmatively, and say, with the reviewer, that miracles were no longer necessary to prove his humanity. 2 St. Matth. vii. 15. 3 St. Jude 19. 4 St. Jude 16. 5 1 St. John. ü. 19. 6 Titus üi. 2.

7 Bossuet's Pastoral Instruction.

soon shewed the dispositions of ravenous wolves. Look at the rebellions which they excited,--at the bloodshed which they occasioned, and the robberies, sacrileges, and cruelties which they exercised, -at the barbarous laws which they enacted and put in execution against the professors of the ancient faith ;-the property of the Church confiscated, and given to heartless and irreligious ruffians,-estates forfeited from their owners, and heavy pecuniary fines imposed and exacted for not conforming to the new-fangled doctrines,-these proprietors again forced from the abodes of their fathers, and from every thing they held most sacred and dear, and obliged to beg bitter bread” in foreign climes ;-churches, which piety had raised to the worship of the true God, on the ruins of Paganism, destroyed or defaced, whose mutilated and crumbling remains still point out their former magnificence and glory,—their sacred ornaments and utensils, the accumulations of ages, and even venerable for their antiquity, either destroyed or made subservient to voluptuousness ;-monasteries, the abodes of virtue, of learning, and of happiness,--the asylums of the care-worn and oppressed, the refuges of the wearied and faint-hearted traveller,-the store-houses of the poor?, pillaged and reduced to ashes,-their pious inmates turned adrift on the world, and made the sport of impiety, and their precious literary treasures given to the winds ;-these were only some of the practical fruits of that pretended reformation so highly extolled by selfish historians, who

“ Call fire, and sword, and desolation,

A thorough, godly reformation." Such were the means adopted by the modern Apostles to advance, as they impiously pretended, the glory of God, and to plant afresh the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus! We have already seen the immoral effects of the change, from the mouths of the reformers themselves, and we see the jarring doctrinal systems which still prevail among their successors, some occasionally disappearing, then reviving,-fresh ones springing up, all at variance with each other, and sometimes inconsistent, by their variations with themselves. But it is vain to expect grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles. Let me not, however, be here understood as insinuating any thing uncharitable or reproachful against those men who have derived their mission from the illegitimate source alluded to, or as meaning that no distinction whatever is to be made between them and the authors of their errors. Educated in mistaken notions of the one Catholic Apostolic faith, their succession must be regarded as a misfortune, and not as a fault; but that misfortune can only be excusable when allied to sincerity, and to a firm conviction (however mistaken) of truth. There have been, and there are, I have no doubt, (nay I know it to be so,) many among them eminent for their private worth, and (setting their prejudices against the religion of their ancestors apart, and who can say he is without prejudice?) of a piety and zeal which would do honour to the better cause ; but placed, as some of them are, in affluence, respected for their acquirements, and dazzled by the false lustre of fixed establishments, they can hardly be expected to bestow that calm deliberation so essentially necessary to form a correct judgment of, or to arrive at a just conclusion upon, the most momentous occurrence which ever engaged the attention of mankind; and they are too apt to suppose, that a possession of 300 years standing can, like prescription in law, complete a title originally defective, from its having been granted by persons non habentibus potestatem, as, I believe, lawyers express it. The mark of sepuration from the Church is, however, too indelible ever to be obliterated, and which no space of time can justify or christianize. The schism of Samaria never lost its original character, although it lasted nearly a thousand years; and as its beginning, and its author, Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, and withdrew them from the chosen city of God and from his temple, were never forgotten, so the origin of the Reforination, and Luther, its founder, will always be remembered. The same language which was employed by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, in the fourth century, in opposing the Arian heresy, will always apply to all sects. Let Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, acquire a name for himself in the East, and let a wide extent of country glory at this day in being called after him; he shall always be brought back to the point of separation, when himself, and his preacher at Constantinople, were the whole of his party; when no one in his own city could bear him, or condescend to hear him; when one single bishop was opposed to six thousand bishops ; when the part disputed against the whole ; when the branch contended againt the tree, and against the trunk from which it had been severed. In like manner, the schism (the Arian) which is seen even now to subsist, shall always be traced back to the Council of Chalcedon, ard to that time when it was so incontrovertibly said that all the East and all the West were united against him. “Thus was it demonstrated, that, whatever duration schism can possible have, it always begins by a number so small, as to bear no sort of comparison with the multitude of the faithful. Let us take a view of all the other sects that were ever yet separated from the unity of the Church : we lay it down as a fact, that not one of them can be mentioned, which, when traced to its origin, will not be found in that particular period when the part contended against the whole,-separated itself from the trunk,-changed the doctrine which it found firmly and immemorially established, and which itself professed, as it were, the day preceding 1!"

i Of all the charges which ignorance or malice have invented against our Catholic ancestors, none have been dwelt upon with a greater degree of gloating delight than that of the alleged voluptuousness of the inhabitants of monastic institutions. Some writers have even given lists (whether correct or not I inquire not) of their provisions, and other articles of good cheer, for the edification of the nation. Poor souls! perhaps they did not know that one of the fundamental rules of all these institutions was abstemiousness, and that the necessaries of life which they contained belonged chiefly to the poor, for whose use they were gathered and applied. The destruction of the English Monasteries, by the lawless Harry and his myrmidons, paved the way for the introduction of the poor-laws of England, and we now behold the appalling result !

But besides the characteristics by which false teachers are to be distine guished, there are certain scriptural marks which point out the true Church, and by which an additional security is thus given against innovators in every age. These marks are numerous, but I propose to treat only of four principal ones, which are so comprehensive as to include all the rest, namely, unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.

Ist, The Church is one; that is, her members are all united in one common faith, are under the administration of the same sacraments, and acknowledge the same spiritual authority.

Being thus “

one body and one spirit ," and having one Lord, one faith, and one baptism," she is always “ careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace 5.” To insure this unity, our Saviour is

gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all meet into the unity of faith,” and “ that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine 6." Now, this unity is no where to be found but in the Catholic Church. Although her members compose the great majority of the Christian world, and are scattered over the whole face of the habitable globe, “ even to the uttermost parts of the earth," and differ from one another in customs, language, and government, yet they are all united in the same faith, and acknowledge the same spiritual authority. The experience of 300 years has demonstrated that there can be no unity among Protestants; and indeed the leading tenet of Protestantism, of private interpretation, is utterly subversive of it. It is really astonishing to find Protestants deploring this want of unity, when they must have known that a principle founded on disunion could never lead to unanimity. Dudith, in his epistle to Beza 7,

1 Theod. L. 1. C. 4. Socrates & Theod. L. 1. C. 6. 2 Bossuet's Pastoral Instruction.

3
Ephes. iv. 4.

4 Ibid. v. 5. 5 Ibid. v. 3. 6 Ibid. v. 11, 12, 13, 14. i Beza's Thess. Epist. No. 1.

says, “ What sort of people are our Protestants, struggling to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, sometimes on this side, and sometimes on that? You may perhaps know what their sentiments in inatters of religion are to-day ; but you can never certainly tell what they will be tomorrow. In what article of religion do these Churches agree amongst themselves who have cast off the Bishop of Rome? Examine all from top to bottoin, you will scarce find one thing affirmed by one, which is not iminediately contradicted by another for wicked doctrine.” Dr Wharton, in the preface to his Polyglot, is equally pointed. He observes, " that Aristarchus heretofore could scarce find seven wise men in Greece, but that with us scarce are to be found so many idiots ; for we are all doctors, all divinely learned; there is not so much as the meanest fanatic or jack-pudding who does not give you his own dreams for the word of God. For the bottomless pit seems to be set open, from whence a smoke has arisen, which has darkened the heavens and the stars, and locusts are come out with stings, a numerous race of sectaries and heretics, who have renewed all the ancient heresies, and invented many monstrous opinions of their own. These have filled our cities, villages, camps, houses, nay, our churches and pulpits too, and—” but I spare the conclusion. Some learned Protestants, and among the rest Melancthon and Grotius, could see no possible expedient for restoring union amongst Christians, but by acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope. “ The Pope's supremacy,” says Melancthon, “ would tend much to preserve amongst different nations unity of doctrine, so that, were other points agreed on, the Pope's supremacy might be easily allowed.” Rivetus, in his apology, observes, that “ Grotius is clearly of opinion, as are many others, that Protestants will never be united with each other until they are with those who adhere to the See of Rome, without which no common agreement can be expected; he wishes, therefore, that the rupture now in existence, with the causes of it, were removed, amongst which the supremacy of the Pope cannot be reckoned, as Melancthon himself confesses, who even deems the supremacy absolutely necessary for the preservation of unity 1.

2dly, The Church is holy, a point which we all profess to believe in the creed. The royal prophet foretelling this property of the Church says, “ Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for length of days ??”. And St. Paul remarks, that “ Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water, in the word of life, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, nor any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish 3." The vast number of saints who have died in the communion of the Catholic Church, the miraculous powers with which many of them were invested, the holiness of her doctrine, which cannot be attacked but by calumny and misrepresentation, and the practical lessons of piety, such as alms-deeds, fasting, penance, which she inculcates, eminently en. title her to claim this second mark of truth. On the other hand, what holiness can there be in contradictions, or in a system which repudiates, as superfluous and vain, the pious practices I have mentioned.

3dly, The true Church is also Catholic, or universal, as professed in the creed. This catholicity, or universality, is twofold. Unlike the Jewish Church, which was limited to a small space, the Christian Church is to embrace all nations. Ask of me,” says the Psalmist,“ and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession 1." All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight 5.” It was to accomplish this prophecy that our Saviour suffered, and rose again from the dead, and that he commissioned his apostles and pastors of his Church to“ teach all nations 6 ;" to fulfil which they have been witnesses to him “ in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and

1 Apology, p. 255. See also the first reply, p. 57. 3 Ephes. v. 25, 26, 27. 4 Psalıns ii. 8. 5 Ibid. xxi. 28.

2 Psalms xcii. 5. 6 St. Matt. xxviii, 19. 3 Z*

« AnteriorContinuar »