« AnteriorContinuar »
importance, and infinitely to outweigh the greatest discoveries in science; because they turn the hopes, fears, and interests of man into a totally different channel from that in which they must otherwise flow. Wherever these principles are first admitted, there a new dominion is erected, and a new system of law established.
But since all events are under divine direction, is it reasonable to suppose that the great Parent, after suffering his creatures to continue for ages ignorant of his true character, should at length, in the course of his Providence, fix upon falsehood, and that alone, as the effectual method of making himself known; and that, what the virtuous exercise of reason in the best and wisest men was never permitted to accomplish, he should confer on fraud and delusion the honour of effecting ? It ill comports with the majesty of truth, or the character of God, 10 believe that he has built the noblest superstructure on the weakest foundation; or reduced mankind to the miserable alternative either of remaining destitute of the knowledge of himself, or of deriving it from the polluted source of impious imposture. We therefore feel ourselves justified, on this occasion, in adopting the triumphant boast of the great apostle: Where is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
NOTE TO PAGE 38.
The fury of the most sanguinary parties was especially pointed against the Chrislian priesthood, fc.—The author finds he has given great offence to some friends whom he highly esteems, by applying the term Christian priesthood to the popish clergy. He begs leave to make a remark or two by way of apology.
1. It is admitted by all candid Protestants that salvation is attainable in the Roman Catholic church; but he should be glad to be informed what part of the Christian covenant entitles us to expect the salvation of those (where the gospel is promulgated) who are not even a branch of the visible church of Christ. The papistical tenets are either fundamentally erroneous, on which supposition it is certain no papist can be saved; or their errors must be consistent with Christian faith, and, consequently, cannot be a valid reason for excluding those who maintain them from being a part (a most corrupt part, if you please, but still a part) of the Christian church.
2. The popish clergy were persecuted under the character of Christians, not under the notion of heretics or schismatics. They who were the subjects of persecution were certainly the best judges of its aim and direction; and when the Archbishop of Paris and others endeavoured to screen themselves from its effects by a recantation, what did they recant? Was it popery? No; but the profession of Christianity. These apostates, doubtless, meant to remove the ground of offence, which, in their opinion, was the Christian profession. If the soundest ecclesiastical historians have not refused the honours of martyrdom to such as suffered in the cause of truth among the Gnostics, it ill becomes the liberality of the present age to contemplate with sullen indifference, or malicious joy, the sufferings of conscientious Catholics.
3. At the period to which the author refers, Christian worship of every kind was prohibited; while, in solemn mockery of religion, adoration was paid to a strumpet, under the title of the Goddess of Reason. Is it necessary to prove that men who were thus abandoned must be hostile to true religion under every form? Or, if there be any gradations in their abhorrence, to that most which is the most pure and perfect? Are atheism and obscenity more congenial to the Protestant than to the popish profession? To have incurred the hatred of the ruling party of Prance at the season alluded to is an honour which the author would be sorry to resign, as the exclusive boast of the church of Rome. To have been the object of the partiality of such bloody and inhuman monsters would have been a stain udon Protestants which the virtue of ages could not obliterate.