« AnteriorContinuar »
world, is sufficient to make the theft a mortal sin. Others think that it requires a quantity which, everything considered, inflicts a grievous injury (grave damnum infert) on our neighbour, and deprives him of something particularly useful.......
Nothing can be more prejudicial to morals than to obscure the line of separation between virtue and vice. This should ever be clear and defined ; and, whenever it becomes enveloped in doubt and mystery, the first step is taken toward transgression.
Another Romish dogma, tending to produce irreligion, is the celibacy of the clergy.-For this, at all events, the Papacy has not the sanction of St. Peter's example ; as he, of all the Apostles, is the ouly one of whose marriage we are certain. “ And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.” (Matt. viii. 14.) The celibacy of the clergy, like other enormities, is of comparatively modern introduction. No statute has been more strongly opposed, or more awfully invaded. No trace of its existence is to be found in the lapse of several centuries after the era of our redemption. And, after its enactment, the Priests continued to marry in spite of it, until the final establishment of this iniquitous law by Pope Gregory VII., about A.D. 1080.
That the tendency of such a rule is to produce the most awful immorality and irreligion, cannot be doubted; nor can it be fairly pleaded that the men are better than their system, or that a sense of propriety, and of what is due to their sacred office, restrains them from irregularities and excesses. Auricular confession, coupled with the assumed power of absolution, perfects this system of iniquity, and gives a licentious priesthood the most dangerous facilities of transgression. This transaction, be it remembered, the Romish Church invests with the highest importance. It is a very important part of a Priest's education, to learn how to conduct with dexterity the mysteries of this tyrannical and detestable investigation. Again and again have the evils of the confessional become so prevalent as to demand even pontifical interposition ; and on one occasion the Inquisitors summoned the attendance, at the Holy Office, of all that could inform against the guilty Priests.
III. ROMANISM TENDS TO PRODUCE INFIDELITY.
Two great delusions mainly contribute to this tendency :- The first is,—that the Priests constitute the Church, to the exclusion of the laity; and that of this Church the Supreme Pontiff is the visible head on earth. The second is that of putting the Church, so constituted and understood, in the place of God.
A Romanist would probably deny the truth of both these statements ; but they are not difficult of proof. The former is verified by the common language of their speeches and writings ; in which the property of the Church, the interests of the Church, the privileges of the Church, the opinions of the Church, are invariably understood as referring to the hierarchy of Priests, of which the Pope is the head. Whether or not the Church is put in the place of God, you will be able to judge as the argument proceeds. The assertion is, that Popery tends to infidelity by leading its votary to believe, not in God, but in the Church ; and the proof is now to be submitted.
1. The truth of Scripture is made to depend, not upon its internal evidence of Divine authority, but upon the declaration of the Church that it is to be so received. The accredited position is, that Divine revelation, as proposed by the Church, is the object of faith. One of their principal writers proceeds to illustrate this position by the following monstrous statement :- Sarah, and others of the old world, to whom God spake in private, either by the mouth of angels, of His Son, or of His Holy Spirit, or by what means soever, did not sin against the doctrine of faith when they did not believe God's promises. They did herein unadvisedly, not unbelievingly. Why not unbelievingly? Because the visible Church did not propose these promises unto them !!
Another declares that some Catholics rejected divers canonical books without any danger; and alleges that, if they had been without the Church's certificate for others as well as these, they might without sin have doubted of the whole canon!
This infidel presumption, that the Church only can give authority even to Scripture, has led true Romanists to tamper with the Bible, and adapt it to the views and designs of the Papacy. Extensive and unanswerable proof of this might be adduced from almost every page of the Popish versions of the Scriptures. But it may suffice to refer to the alteration of the Ten Commandments.
In Butler's Catechism, (a work extensively used in Ireland,) they stand thus :
I. I am the Lord thy God : thou shalt have no strange gods before me.
II. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Here the second commandment is entirely set aside; as the Papists knew it would overthrow their image-worship. In three other commandments important omissions occur ;-riz., in regard to the solemn threatening against the profane use of the name of God; the account of the institution of the Sabbath, with the injunction to labour for six days; and the encouraging promise of temporal blessing to dutiful and affectionate children. As, however, the number of the commandments was known to be ten, even by those who knew little of the commandments themselves, the last has been divided into two.
But, in Popish countries, the Decalogue is subjected to a still further mutilation. The Catechism printed at Rome entirely omits the fourth commandment; and, instead of the injunction to observe the Sabbath, the young Italian reads, “ Remember to keep holy the festivals.”
This unwarrantable licence of alteration is only part of an extended and pervading infidelity, which assumes the right of setting aside all the laws of God on the authority of the Church. So it is argued by an historian,—“ It is a quality in Kings very commendable, religiously to observe their oaths: But when the Pope's dignity comes into danger, religion itself is in hazard ; and a preposterous course it were religiously to observe an oath to the overthrow of religion.” Another illustration of our point may be taken from Dens :
“Can a case be given in which it is lawful to break the sacramental seal ?
“Answer. It cannot; although the life or safety of a man depended thereon, or even the destruction of the commonwealth ; nor can the Supreme Pontiff give dispensation in this : so that, on that account, this secret of the seal is more binding than the obligation of an oath, a vow, &c.; and that, by the positive will of God.
“ What answer, then, ought the Confessor to give, when questioned concerning a truth which he knows from sacramental confession only?
“ Answer. He ought to answer that he does not know it; and, if it be necessary, to confirm the same with an oath.
“Objection. It is in no case lawful to tell a lie ; but that Confessor would be guilty of a lie, because he knows the truth : therefore, &c.
“ Answer. I deny the minor ; because such Confessor is interrogated as a man, and answers as a man ; but now he does not know that truth as a man, although he knows it as God.
“What if a Confessor were directly asked whether he knows it through sacramental confession?
“ Answer. In this case he ought to give no answer, but to reject the question as impious: or he could even say absolutely, not relatively to the question, 'I know nothing,' because the word 'I' restricts to his human knowledge.” |
Such quotations afford fresh proof of the tendency of Romanism to produce infidelity. Not only is the Church elevated above God; but there is the blasphemy of accounting the Pope, and even the Priest, to be God! By this awful title the Pope is greeted ; and during the ceremony of his installation he is three times adored ! We may add that the language of Bellarmine concerning the doctrine of transubstantiation is such that one may well hesitate to transcribe it.
The tendency to infidelity may be traced, again, in the doctrine of human merit. Witness the following passage from Vasquez :“Seeing the works of just men do merit eternal life as an equal recompense of reward, there is no need that any other condign merit, such as that of Christ, should interpose, to the end that eternal life may be rendered to them.” Another Romanist tells us that the
* Rom. Cat., p. 24.
+ De fractione sigilli sacramentalis, tom. vi.
intercession of the saints is sometimes more available than that of the Redeemer! Where these sentiments are held, it is no wonder that direct adoration should be paid to saints. The distinction of two kinds or degrees of worship, the latria and dulia, will avail nothing in the face of such facts as are within our knowledge. In regular and formal devotion, Romanists often address ten prayers to the Virgin for one to God! The book of Psalms has been altered throughout by the substitution of the name of the Virgin Mary where the name of God occurs. A Liturgy of the Virgin exists in the Catechism printed at Rome so late as A.D. 1836, in which there are twelve addresses to God and forty-seven to the Virgin. Here is one of the - latter: “We take refuge under thy protection, holy mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, glorious and blessed Virgin!”
Additional evidence arises in the doctrine that the efficacy of the Sacraments depends on the intention of the administrator. No man can be sure of the intention of the Priest, or can have any certainty that he has been properly baptized or absolved. They who consistently pursue this principle do not know that there is one properly ordained Priest, from the Pope down to the lowest Curate, or one duly baptized member in their whole communion. The ridiculous fable of their apostolical succession will avail them nothing unless they can prove the succession of intention. Who can deny the natural tendency of this absence of all certainty, to produce infidelity?
This position might be further illustrated and proved by reference to other doctrines of Romanism,—and especially to miracles. we hasten to observe that as the tendency of the system is now sufficiently indicated, so infidelity has been, in fact, its result. Hume learned from this source his infidel reasonings. In his letter to Dr. Campbell, dated “ Edinburgh, June 7th, 1762," and published in the preface to Campbell's Dissertation on Miracles, Hume says, “ It may perhaps amuse you to learn the first hint which suggested to me that argument which you have so strenuously attacked. I was walking in the cloisters of the Jesuits' College of la Fleche, (a town in which I passed two years of my youth,) and was engaged in conversation with a Jesuit of some parts and learning, who was relating to me and urging some nonsensical miracle performed lately in their convent, when I was tempted to dispute against him; and as my head was full of the topics of my Treatise on Human Nature, which I was at that time composing, this argument immediately occurred to me, and I thought it very much gravelled my companion.” It is to Popery, then, that one of the most subtle adversaries of revealed religion traces his arguments.
Poor Blanco White, in describing the state of his mind on the discovery of Popish imposture, says,—“The confession is painful indeed, yet due to religion : I was bordering on Atheism. If my case were singular, if my knowledge of the most enlightened classes in Spain did not furnish me with a multitude of sudden transitions from the most sincere faith and piety to the most outrageous infidelity, I would
submit to the humbling conviction that either weakness of judgment or fickleness of character had been the only source of my errors.
But though I am not at liberty to mention individual cases, I do attest, from the most certain knowledge, that the history of my own mind is, with little variation, that of a great portion of the Spanish clergy. The fact is certain. I make no individual charge. Every one who comes within this general description may wear the mask which no Spaniard can throw off without bidding an eternal farewell to his country.' In tracing the past struggles of his mind, he shows that it was the doctrine of infallibility that led him to infidelity; and he asserts that, wherever the religion of Rome reigns absolute, there is but one step between it and infidelity.
One other instance shall be given, and the general argument shall be left to the reader's meditation. It is a well-known fact that Cardinal Dubois, himself an infidel, recommended to Louis a man of his own stamp to fill an important office. The Monarch was astonished, and told the Cardinal that the man was a Jansenist (one of the numerous sects into which this one and indivisible Church had been split up and divided): “The man is a Jansenist,” said Louis, “and will never do.” “O no, Sire,” said the Cardinal, “he is only an Atheist.” All was safe, and the man got the priory!
THE INNOCENCE OF THE TONGUE.
TONGUE.-Psalm xxxix. 1. Taus impressively, though with singular abruptness, the ShepherdKing commences a funereal and most pathetic psalm. The first verse seems to express the result of a sorrowful meditation on the perils of life, and on the still more affecting trials of virtue. And it is certain that, both in this particular connexion and in a wider aspect, the Psalmist's vow offers to us matter of ample and most seasonable reflection.
The power of the tongue cannot be calculated by any faculties at our command. Here is, indeed, one of man's highest distinctions. It is remarkable that the singers of Inspiration call the tongue their “glory.” (Psalms xxx. 12 ; lvii. 8.) Without this admirable gift, reason and devotion would be (in an important respect) imprisoned. Speech is the vehicle of all good, and of all evil. Hence arises a tremendous responsibility, which is far too little regarded by many who profess to revere the awful pages in which it is most strongly asserted. All just observation, nevertheless, brings its tribute to the didactics of Holy Scripture. It might inspire the utmost caution in the use of this gift, to remember that words are irrevocable. Rare indeed is the example of a man who has not at some time, and under some impulse, uttered what he would now gladly recal at the greatest possible cost. All ages are eloquent of warning on this