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merited, they tell us, Deliverance from temporary Punishments, as Purgatory is, but from eternal ones only. Why also do their Indulgences declare themselves to bestow the most "full Remission and Forgiveness of all Sins, if they mean only the smallest Part of Forgiveness? These Things are too plainly calculated to deceive poor Wretches into a fatal Belief, that, by such Methods, Wickedness here may become consistent with Happiness hereafter. Repentance indeed is, in Words, made one Condition of obtaining these Indulgences: but this is easily explained away, or overlooked amongst the others joined with it, of saying so many Prayers, going to so many Processions, and paying so much Money. Nay, if their own Historians are to be credited, the Inhabitants of whole Cities at once, upon visiting certain Churches, and paying a certain Sum, have before now been absolved of all their Sins by the Pope, with these very Words added; Even though they had not been contrite for them, nor confessed them. But, as the Reformation was first brought on by the Enormities of Indulgences, so, since the Reformation, they have in many Places, both in this and other Respects, greatly moderated their Practices,
though though they have never effectually disclaimed their Principles. And indeed, as angry as they are with that happy Event, they have great Reason to be thankful for it, on Account of several Changes for the better, which it has produced amongst them, especially where Part of any Country have been Protestants. For elsewhere all their Abuses are kept up. And for one Proof of it, I have now in my Custody a plenary Indulgence granted for a small Piece of Gold at Rome this very Year w to an absolute Stranger, for himself, for his Kindred to the third Degree, and to thirty Persons more, for whose Names a proper Blank is left in the Instrument. So that had not the Reformation given them some Check, God knows whethe: by this Time Christianity had been discoverable under the Changes and Disguises which the prevailing Part of them would have deformed it with. Consider but to what Lengths Matters had already gone, in this one Article .of the Remission of Sins. The Necessity of Confession put the Secrets of every Man's Heart and Life into the Breast of the Priest, and the Power of admitting into Heaven, or excluding from it, forced the bigotted Sinner to do whatever should
Vol. VI. B b be be enjoined him. In how monstrous a Manner this Power was used, the Histories of all Nations dreadfully show. And then to preserve it from growing quite intolerable, an Artifice was added that made it still more satal. It is too well known that Mankind will do any Thing rather than their Duty, and part with any Thing sooner than their Vices. On the Terms therefore of submitting in other Points, they were made easy in this favourite one. The strictest Rules of Life indeed were laid down for such as thought themselves bound to be strict: but for those, who desired to be otherwise, superstitious Observances were allowed to take Place of real Duties; idle Penances to stand instead of true Repentance and Reformation: without a Zeal for such Follies as these, the best Man was reckoned to have but small Hope of future Happiness; and with a Zeal for the Notions and Interests of holy Church, the worst Man was easily secured from future Misery. Absolution, if he were but ever so little sorry for having been a Sinner, would set him clear at once from Hell; and, if he had but either Time to perform a few silly Devotions and Mortifications while he lived, or Money to purchase a good many Prayers for him when he died, his Confinement in Purgatory must soori be over: and thus was the Necessity of a holy Life quite taken away, and the Gospel of Christ altogether made void. Far be it from us of this Church to affright you with such vain Terrors, or deceive you with such vain Hopes. On the contrary, be assured that were all the Priests on Earth to refuse absolving a true Penitent, it would never hurt him; and were they all to join in absolving a Man that hath not repented as the Gospel requires, it would do him no Good. Be assured that no Equivalent in the World will be accepted instead of true inward Piety, nor all the good Works of all the Saints in Heaven compensate in the least Degree for the Want of good Works in any one Man on Earth. Never be moved then by the most confident Pretences of this Kind, but know, for a Certainty, that whoever flies for Refuge from his Sins to those who will flatter him With such wretched Expedients as these; instead of mending his Condition by trusting to them, only makes it worse and more desperate than it was before. The Words of God in the Cafe of the Israelites, are just as applicable in this: Because' ye have said; we have made a Covenant with Death, and with Hell we are at Agreement;
B b a when when the oversowing Scourge /hall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made Lies our Refuge, and under Falshood have we hid ourselves: 'Therefore thus faith the Lord God— Tour Covenant with Death shallbe disannulled, and your Agreement with Hell shall not stand': when the oversowing Scourge shall pass through, then shall ye be trodden down by it. Judgement will I lay to the Line, and Righteousness to the Plummet; and the Hail foall sweep away the Refuge of Lies, and the Waters shall oversow the hiding Place*.
Ye therefore, Beloved, to conclude with the Words of St. Peter, seeing ye know these Things, beware lest, being led away with the Error of the Wicked, ye fall from your own Stedfastnefs: But grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus ChristT. To him be Glory both now and for. ever. Amen.
* If. xxviii. 15, 17, 18. 7 2 Pet. Hi. 17, 18.