Imágenes de páginas

he discovered the temper of the dignified clergy of that age. “Give me, O emperor," said he," the earth cleared of heretics, and I in return will give you heaven: assist me in destroying the sects, and I will assist you in subduing the Persians." The young emperor complied with the favorite patriarch, and deprived the Novatians of their churches. The bishops of Asia proceeded against them in the same manner. Anthony, bishop of Germa, was exceedingly severe, and wearied out their patience by his cruelty. At length one of the sufferers, forgetting the spirit of the gospel, had the temerity to assassinate him. Nestorius also soon received his reward. By following his friend Anastasius in separating the divine and human nature of Christ, he filled the church with tumult, and was deposed and banished from the city.*

XIII. Among the patriarchs who claimed ecclesiastic sovereignty, the bishop of Rome was foremost. He was emboldened to this by his situation in the im-* perial city, which for ages had accounted herself the mistress of the world. He founded his claim on Matthew xvi. 18. He argued, that the Lord here constituted Peter the rock and head of the church; that he invested him with power to forgive sins, and to bind and loose the souls of men in purgatory; (a place which has no existence, for the souls of departed men go immediately either to heaven or hell.) The pontiff further alleged, that he was invested, as St. Peter's successor, with infallible power to judge and determine all causes and controversies which concerned the church. But the Lord did not say that he would build the church on frail Peter; he alluded to the eternal rock which the name Peter expressed. Upon this Petram, as Cyprian quotes it, and only upon this, he has built his church. The power of remitting sins was given to all the apostles as well as Peter: and it signified no more than the power of applying the promises of pardon and comfort to the penitent.


* Socrat. Hist. Eccles. lib. 7. cap. xxvii. to xxxiv.


Peter referred Simon Magus to his maker: "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, Acts viii. 22. The Roman pontiff was no more the successor of this apostle than the bishop of Jerusalem, or the bishop of any other city in which Peter had preached. Still, in defiance of shame and all refutation, the pontificate has uniformly asserted its sovereignty and infallibility of judgment.

After the publication of these haughty doctrines, deposed bishops generally appealed to Rome, and provided they acknowledged the supremacy of that see, they were sure to find an asylum, whatever were their crimes, or their real opinions. This gave such umbrage, that Rome was frequently called," the impious refuge of the clergy."

Rome having published the supremacy of her pontificate, supported it with incredible confidence. Every quarrel which happened between princes, was embraced as a happy occasion to extend its sovereignty, by espousing the cause of the strongest prince. But after all, it was not till the commencement of the eleventh century, that she could, in a proper sense, be said to have realized her pretensions over the west. From this period the catalogue of excommunicated emperors and kings became very large. If the decretals of his holiness were not carried into immediate effect, he would lay an interdict on the whole kingdom, which blasphemously interrupted the worship of Almighty God, and enjoined the subjects to rebel against their lawful sovereign. The pontificate made no scruple to deluge whole kingdoms in blood, in support of its supremacy. Boniface VIII. boldly decreed, that no human creature could be saved, unless he became subject to the see of Rome.* After this, the adage was in every one's mouth," there is no salvation out of the church."

The erroneous doctrines of the pontificate, it may

* Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanæ creaturæ declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate, salutis,

uniformly be observed, tended either to extend its
sovereignty, or to augment its revenues. On the su-
premacy was founded the claim of investiture to all
ecclesiastical preferments. This brought the papal
see a vast influx of wealth by simony. But the kings
could never be prevailed upon to yield more than a
partial submission to this enormous claim. The doc-
trine of the two swords, so warmly debated when first
advanced, was founded on a mutilation of our Sa-
viour's words to Peter, "put up thy sword." By this
his holiness inferred, the necessity of having both a
temporal and a spiritual sword. The former, by re-
gular forces and crusades of pilgrims to fight against
heretics; and the latter, to denounce anathemas
against the incorrigible. But the main part of the
text was omitted, "they that take the sword shall
perish by the sword." Hereby the pontiff associated
in his own person the high offices of Moses and Aaron,
and aided by seventy cardinals, in imitation of the
seventy elders, or the seventy disciples, reigned as a
god in the universal church. The doctrine of infal-
libility, brought litigated causes into the papal court,
in the form of an appeal; and he whose cause was
wanting in equity, would not be defective in bribes.
The worship of saints brought crowds of pilgrims an-
nually to particular churches; and in paying their de-
votion, they did not appear before the Lord empty.
The doctrines of penance and absolution, of auricu-
lar confession, at least once a year, and the sale of
indulgences and dispensations, to live in fornication
or adultery, were equally productive to every descrip-
tion of the clergy. Of the same description, are the
doctrines of purgatory; masses for the dead; and the
keys, or power of binding and loosing in heaven.
They produced a terrific effect on the minds of dying
people, and often induced them to wrong their chil-
dren by donations to the church. The doctrine of
transubstantiation, or power of changing the bread

d wine into the real body and blood of Christ by
nsecration, operated as the sacramental seal to all

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the preceding errors. Perhaps the age will come when it will scarcely be credited that ever a mortal priest presumed to create his immortal Saviour. Error and interest being here so artfully combined, it will easily be perceived that the pontificate could never be reformed by argument. A good man had no opening but to enter his closet, and weep for the desolations of the sanctuary.

It should, however, be observed, in honor of the ancients, that each of these errors was warmly controverted. The priests, finding their antagonists assail them with arguments from the primitive fathers, were assiduous to interpolate those venerable works with sentiments in favor of these lucrative errors, and to suppress all those passages which militated against them. Daillè, a French protestant minister of incomparable learning, has largely proved, in his treatise on the right use of the fathers, that none of their writings have escaped corruption. The sacred scripture also did not escape their sacrilegious hands; and in very many passages, though sure of detection, for this book was diffused in languages and nations far beyond the influence of Rome. They particularly suppressed the second commandment, and divided the tenth into two, to keep up the number in the decalogue. But the political state of the world favored the introduction of the papal errors. The disorganization of the ancient empire permitted the northern nations to pour forth in successive armies over all Europe: they overturned governments, destroyed learning, and gradually changed the language of whole kingdoms. The dark ages ensued, and the people were left entirely in the hands of the clergy. The irruption of these nations must be regarded as the Scourge of Almighty God on his apostate and carnal church. The same may be observed with regard to the success of the Saracens in the east. Consequently, in this pontificate, or reigning priesthood, which struggled to take heaven and earth into its own hands, we are presented with the Anti-christian Empire,

which forms a very conspicuous part of the scripture prophesies. But having wearied the reader with an afflictive subject, we shall consider those predictions in the succeeding section.

May the all-wise and gracious Spirit of God enlighten our understandings, and regenerate our hearts, that we may learn by the church the manifold wisdom of God. Amen.



Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this pro phesy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand. Rev. i. 3.

THE sacred prophesies have been generally couched in terms somewhat dark and obscure, yet not so obscure but they could animate the church with the hope of deliverance, though she could not clearly ascertain the nature, nor calculate the time of that deliverance. The veil of prophesy was not to be lifted up too far, lest it should interfere with our moral freedom, or lay open the divine counsel to evil angels. Hence the primitive fathers could not know what was intended by "the man of sin" sitting in the temple of God, or by the beast who should make war with the saints. Some of them really thought that the Anti-christ would be a great prince who for fortytwo months would bring the greatest desolation on the church. If the prophesies on this subject were open enough to guard the church against apostacy, and to support her under tedious sufferings, with the assured hope of deliverance, it was at that period quite sufficient. As soon as the man of sin revealed his own character, he was immediately known. The court of inquisition had not been long established, bere the sufferers began to make very free in bestow

« AnteriorContinuar »