Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

be right; because she could not be in the wrong. But how shall we know, that a church enjoining the belief and practice of such things is infallible? If neither our senses nor our reason are to be trusted in matters so naturally obvious to both, we are incapable of knowing any thing, and consequently can know nothing of her infallibility ; for belief of

; any kind must have some appearance, at least, of sense or reason to build on; and therefore, as we are but mere stocks and stones, it is ridiculous in her to expect we should believe any thing. If, to draw us in, she allows us but the smallest use of either, we shall presently see, by the injunctions just now mentioned, that she is far enough from infallibility. How can popery make a convert? Surely she will not presume to reason with him, in order to his conversion; orif she does, how will he like it, to be reasoned as far as the church door, and then to be stripped of his rationality, that he may the better digest what he finds within ? Need I say more to prove this church deceived herself, and a deceiver of all who communicate with her, to men who are determined to use the senses of an animal, and the reason of a rational animal? Whether it is necessary or not, I will go farther.

Let the second note, or mark, of a corrupt church be this, that she enjoins things contrary to the express injunctions of holy Scripture. I must ask you here, whether you expect I should prove this to be the infallible mark of a corrupt church? Gan that church possibly be a true and pure one, that bids us do what God peremptorily forbids, or prohibits that which he commands? Will the infallibility of the church do on this occasion, wherein it is opposed directly to the infallibility of God ? If we have not been beat out of our reason, it will answer, no. With great modesty, surely, may it venture on that negative, for which it neither hath, nor can have, any other alternative, than downright blasphemy.

But wherein does the church of Rome thus directly countermand the orders of Almighty God? Why, God says, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them; and the church of Rome says, Thou shalt bow down to graven images

[ocr errors]


and worship them. God says of the cup in the Eucharist, • Drink ye all of this:' and the church of Rome says, Ye shall not all drink of this. God says, ' Thou shalt worship

, the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve :' and the church of Rome says, Thou shalt worship the Virgin Mary; thou shalt also pray to her, and serve her. Many other instances, as strongly contradictory as these, though perhaps not altogether so obvious, might be assigned ; but one may be sufficient: for what church shall dare to oppose the will of God ? It is but an aggravation of the presumption, to say, he authorizes us thus to contradict himself.

But, on this head, the church of Rome defends herself, not only with her infallibility, but with her oral traditions. She says, God's word is twofold, either written or unwritten. She says also, that both were committed to her keeping, and subjected to her construction. The oral traditions she calls the unwritten word, and by them interprets that which is written. When the Protestants urge her with the Scriptures, she erects her own corrupt customs into traditions, and would have the Scriptures bend to these. It happens unluckily for her, that from the writings of the fathers, which is tradition on record, and to which therefore we allow its proper weight, we can shew in what remote ages, from the apostolic times, her corrupt customs were introduced. Now, we ask, whether the traditions that authorize these customs lay dormant from the days of the apostles, until the introduction of the said customs ? Whether it was lawful to commit these traditions to writing, or not? Why, if it was, the fathers of the earlier ages do not mention them in their works? Why, if it was not lawful, the Romish writers have ventured to insert them in theirs ? As they are used for a check, to say no worse, on the word of God, we ought to be very scrupulous about their genuineness and authority. We therefore farther ask, whether, as it always happens in things transmitted by word of mouth, through so many reporters, these traditions, supposing they could have had a real apostolical original, may not have been enlarged, mutilated, or corrupted, in a course of so many years, and in passing through so many hands, whereof those in later ages have given us so much reason to suspect their integrity ? For our parts, we think a stream may as well

[ocr errors]

be supposed to run through a hundred dunghills, and come out pure and limpid from the last. But when they happen, as in respect to image-worship, and many other points, flatly to contradict the express appointment of God, there is then no longer room for suspicion; we are sure they could not have flowed from the Spirit of God; and we say to their vouchers, as Christ did to the Pharisees, - Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. We add also, you have left out the particular commandment here hinted at, in many of your manuals, published for vulgar use, and divided the tenth into two, that the ignorant may not perceive they are robbed of one. Is not this a gross and impudent cheat? What ought we to think of a church that dares to juggle thus with the commands of God, and the souls of men ?

Let the third mark of a corrupt church be this, that she is idolatrous; that is, that she both prescribes and practices the worship of creatures. We may amuse ourselves as long as we please with idle distinctions about degrees of worship. The worship so severely prohibited in Scripture, and by all true religion, is prayer to, and dependance on, an absent creature. Either this is idolatry, or there can be no such thing. When either on common occasions, or in our extraordinary distresses, we kneel down, and offer up our prayers to any being, whom we believe in heaven, we attribute to that being the omnipresence or omniscience of God; we love and trust in that being, as more ready and able to help us than any other, or why should we thus address ourselves to him? It is ridiculous to plead humility, when we thus apply to an absent creature, not only because he may happen not to hear us, but because we know God is infinitely condescending to the addresses of his creatures ; or why do we ever presume to pray immediately to him? Because we know he hath commanded us to pray directly to himself; and also because we know, that, so far as we stand in need of a mediator, we have one at the right hand of God; who hath already shewn us infinitely greater marks of his condescension and readiness to help us, than that of attending to our prayers.

Having shewn that praying to absent creatures is idolatry, we ought also to observe, that idolatry is a damnable


sin, and represented to us as such, both by reason and Scripture. Does not reason and common sense tell us, that, since there is but one God, he alone ought to be worshipped, and prayed to ? The love and dependance of an intelligent creature are not to be alienated from its Maker, without an infinite offence to the former, and an equal loss to the latter. But when creatures become, in any degree, the objects of our worship, in the same degree are our hearts estranged and turned aside from God; and turned aside to whạt? Why, to beings as little able to help themselves as we are; to beings, whose happiness, whose very subsistence, results from perpetual acts of worship paid to God, on their own account. Does not the infinitely gracious Being, in condescending to make, to teach, to redeem, to comfort us, call

, up our affections and dependance to himself, and sufficiently encourage our continual addresses? Nay, does he not evidently appear, by all his dealings with us, earnestly to court our love, in a manner infinitely more tender, and more engaging, than that of our fellow-creatures, who cannot be happy without it? And does he not, in his word, represent himself as a husband jealous of our affections on this very subject of his worship? How often does he peremptorily forbid us to have any other object of adoration but himself; awfully inculcating his justice, his power, his majesty, that we may fear him; pathetically pleading his mercy and bounty, that we may love him; and strongly assuring us of his truth and faithfulness, that we may depend upon him? Shall we, thus solicited by the infinite Being himself, fool

, ishly and impiously solicit any other? No, my brethren ; let us, from our very souls, detest the most distant thought of so enormous a practice; and look, with a mixture of horror and pity, on that church which prescribes it, as abandoned to a most unhappy infatuation. Fly far from her, you whom God, in mercy to your souls, hath already taught to see her danger. And you, who have been unhappily educated in her

, communion, hear his voice, who cries from heaven, saying, *Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of ber sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues ; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.'

Let the fourth mark of a corrupt church be this, that she



[ocr errors]

still pretends to the power of working miracles, in confirmation of such doctrines and practices as those I have mentioned, although every rational creature sees she is wholly destitute of that power, and, instead of miracles, only palms on the undiscerning a miserable legerdemain of pranks, so impudent in the performance, and so impious in the application, that she is in the right to extinguish the sense and reason of her votaries, before she attempts to feed their credulity with such a juggle. God was pleased to make use of miracles, truly such, as the best, or, I should rather say, as the only satisfactory proofs of divine revelation. But as real miracles give the highest attestation to the mission of the worker, so, of all things, a pretended miracle detected, is the most apt to throw the imputation of falsity on the cause that employs it; first, Because it amounts, in fact, to a confession, that the want of other proofs makes this necessary; and, secondly, Because there is no believing men, who

presume to deal between God and the world, by a method so impiously disingenuous. He that offers any other kind of proof may think it valid, and therefore, it is not demonstration that he intends to deceive; but, in this kind, every man must know, before he begins, whether he is going to work a real miracle, or to belie the source of all wisdom and power, by a detestable piece of villany, than which, if he should chance to be found out, no one thing in the world can more effectually bring suspicion on real miracles, or so deeply wound the true religion. It follows, therefore, that the worker of a pretended miracle must be considered as a man of no religion, as a most atheistical deceiver. It is true, indeed, that a very wrong-headed man, through an unaccountable species of zeal, or a wrong-hearted one, for some by-ends of his own, may attempt to impose on the superstitious by such a practice, even in favour of the truth. But we are not here speaking of madmen; neither is it our intention to represent any church or cause, as responsible for the unauthorized conduct of fools and knaves. But we insist, that every church, setting herself forth as empowered to work miracles, when she knows she is not, is a fallacious church, and must be held responsible for all the juggling pranks of her party. Now, the heads of a church cannot possibly be ignorant, whether they are intrusted with the


« AnteriorContinuar »