Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Priest and Pharisees." Let us, however, come to the statement itself, which he calls," a sign for unbelievers, and an effect of the promise of Christ."

Some time, it seems, after Easter, 1815, the Reverend author was applied to by the friends of a young woman, a Protestant, who had been married in the beginning of the preceding Lent, and on the week after her marriage became suddenly delirious, and declared that a multitude of infernal spirits surrounded her, with whom she must go: she even threatened to effect self-destruction. This state of mind had lasted for two months, when her medical attendant declared that in all probability she could not survive twenty-four hours. The clergyman of the parish was accordingly called in; but finding the case past his art, he departed. At length, however, a Roman Catholic woman made a tender of her services, which were accepted; when she procured some holy water, with which she made the sign of the cross upon the patient's forehead, who declared she was scalded, but forthwith fell into a gentle sleep. On awaking, the female Catholic put holy water into her mouth, on which she said her throat was scalded, but in a few minutes fell into a comfortable sleep for some hours. Next morning, more holy water was applied, which gave ease, and from that time the danger of death decreased. She then enjoyed, the writer says, lucid intervals, and invariably after the application of holy water fell into a slumber.

It is time, however, that the exorcist himself should make his appearance. He did not, it seems, attend on the first application; but on the Tuesday in Rogation Week he set out, a special messenger having stated that the patient was in a worse condition than ever. It was, he says, the most awful visit he ever made; for during his walk of six miles, and while he remain

ed in the house, it thundered incessantly. The possessed female required two persons to keep her in bed before he entered; but, though she could not see him, she, on his approach, required three, and (still without seeing him) said she knew who he was, and gradually revived. He then explained some of the articles of the Catholic faith, and assured her, that she must believe the holy Catholic Church before she could obtain relief; which she at once declared she did, and had done from the moment she knew what holy water was, and experienced its effects. She then pronounced a long eulogium on it; declared she was not delirious, but knew and remembered all that had passed; upon which the author says that he dipped his finger into the holy water, and made the sign of the cross on her forehead, which she again declared scalded her. The Lord's Prayer was then repeated; but when the patient came to the petitions, she fell into convulsions, and could hardly articulate; after which the exorcisms began, through the whole of which every limb and joint was agitated and convulsed. In the mean time, the Reverend author adds, "the lightning was flashing and the thunder rolling; while I with an imperative voice was commanding the evil spirit to reply to my interrogatories, and to go forth from her." The whole being duly concluded, the patient became calm, and in a few minutes conversed with the same ease as before her affliction. She was then baptized into the Romish Church; and the exorcist adds, that he repeated several acts of contrition, during which "she trembled like a leaf, and again said the holy water gave her as much pain as boiling water." Immediately after the ceremony, she conversed with all the cheerfulness of a person in perfect health and spirits, took her tea, was next day down stairs perfectly well, and has remained so ever since.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The Reverend writer having thus concluded his narrative, proceeds to designate the Protestant Religion as "a sect," and dilates on the surprising efficacy of what he terms mere salt and water blessed by a Catholic Priest." He then adverts to the super-enlightened men of the age," as likely to turn away from such a story as beneath their notice; nor indeed does any very uncommon degree of light appear necessary to produce such a consequence. In an appendix he states, that having visited his patient upwards of a year afterwards, she told him that she knew nothing at all about the Catholic religion, but was convinced that it was the truth, and would acquire a knowledge of it as soon as possible; upon which he promised to send her books of instruction, and left with her two copies of the account of her own exorcism-probably, in order to her more speedy conversion; and he sums up the whole by a solemn declaration, that the ministers of his church have inherited the powers granted by Christ to his Apostles! It is important to observe, that this miracle of Mr. Peach is highly extolled by the Roman Catholics of England, and is recorded with admiration by the editors of two monthly Roman Catholic Journals, which are published in London.

In this relation of casting out a devil by a moderu priest of the Church of Rome, we observe a very convenient and summary mode adopted of getting over the objections which Scripture and reason alike present against continued miracles-that is, to brand all who do not believe them as infidels. A similar mode of reasoning has always been adopted by the Church of Rome, in sup port of transubstantiation, purga. tory, the infallibility of the Church, the saving nature of the sacraments, &c.; in all which cases, as in that of miracles, if a man will not take the testimony of tradition, or rather of the priesthood, he is considered as an infidel or a heretic. But in

fact, it is such corruptions of truth as these which make infidels: it is when the fair form of a scriptural faith comes to be tricked out in such false and meretricious frippery that many persons of good sense in the Catholic Church conceive disgust, and are repelled,even at the threshold of such a creed, from proceeding to examine and embrace it. Many points in Christianity, which are above reason, but without being repugnant to it, have found humble and honest believers even in the strongest and most cultivated minds; but whatever is both below reason, and contrary to it, as are many of the doctrinal errors of the Romish Church, cannot but tend to drive multitudes in every age and nation into the darkness and wickedness of Deism as a refuge; while those who choose to take their religion upon trust, and to believe all that a corrupt church has prescribed, have been always accustomed to rest, like the Jews of old, in the false security of external forms, and have proved themselves any thing rather than the spiritual worshippers required by that Gospel which declares, that " except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven ;”—a birth, not merely by the baptism of water into a visible church, but by the baptism of the Holy Spirit also into an invisible one. To such formalists the reproof of our Lord to the Jews applies with undiminished force: " In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."-With regard to the declaration of the Reverend writer in question, that if our Saviour were to appear again on earth, his miracles would make no impression on certain persons; if he mean to include in this clause the faithful members of the Protestant Church, which he afterwards terms "a sect," he may be briefly answered, that it is simply because the miracles of our Lord do make an impression on the members of

that church, that they refuse to believe in the forgeries and falsehoods which have been since attempted to be added to them.

The two main fallacies of the narrator, as of his church, are1st, his erroneous interpretation of Scripture, by which he would prove that our Lord's gift of miracles to his first followers descended in succession to the end of the world, and that such succession is confined to the Catholic Priesthood; and, 2dly, that, among other splendid miracles, this of casting out devils is a certain proof of the Divine authority of their doctrine.

As to the first of these errors, it is just as reasonable a notion as that the gift of tongues was to continue, and can be as easily disproved.

"All those acts," says Bishop Hall," which proceeded from supernatural privilege, ceased with their cause. Who now dare under take to continue them, unless bold Papists, who have brought in gross magic, instead of miraculous authority?" (See his Letter to the Bishop of Worcester.) And again; "Why should any in these latter times challenge a right of succes◄ sion in one miracle, and not claim it in another? All these were given with one and the same breath, continued by the same Power, and called in and stinted by the same Providence, with their fellow-miracles." (Invis. World, b. iii. § 9.) The limiting of the performance of these wonders to the Catholic Priesthood was an admirable expedient for keeping the world in awe, and subjecting all mankind to the dominion of an ecclesiastical tyranny.Secondly, If the Romish Church could even succeed in proving that the miracle of casting out devils were now in her hands, which I need not say she never can, she would be no nearer the proof of her own infallibility or perfection. The magicians of Egypt certainly performed some considerable wonders; but they were still false prophets. The corrupt Jews had their

true

exorcists, as Christ plainly intimates: " If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your chil dren cast them out?" We read also, in the Acts, of "vagabond Jews," who were "exorcists." And Josephus relates (Antiq. 1. viii. c. 2.), that he saw the Jew Eleazer casting out devils by the help of a magical ring, in the presence of Vespasian and his army. Thus also the disciples told their Lord, that they had seen one "casting out devils in his name, who followed not with them." So far is such a testimony, even if its present existence could be proved, from affording a criterion of a church, that the same gift to Judas did not prove him a true disciple, but left him where it found hima false one. Well, therefore, might our Lord say, "In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." What divines call "gifts and graces," are very distinct things. Moses assigns an infallible test by which the truth of a creed or doctrine may be tried; namely, whether or not the party working a miracle in its own favour inculcate the worship of the true God. If not, his miracle is fallacious, and his condemnation certain. (See Deut. xiii. 1-5.) Thus our Lord foretold the appearance of false Christs and false prophets, whose signs and wonders should even be great: and an ancient Prophet points out the only proper test of miraculous pretensions :"To the law and to the testimony: if they" (the performers of miracles)" speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. viii. 20.) The true and golden rule in this matter is furnished by Justin Martyr: "How shall it be known that our miracles are better than those of the heathen?" The answer to which is, "By the faith and worship of the true God," in adverting to which passage Bishop Hall observes; "Miracles must be judged by the

doctrine they confirm; not the doctrine by the miracles. The dreamer or prophet must be esteemed, not by the event of his wonder, but by the substance and scope of his teaching. The Romanists argue preposterously, while they would prove the truth of their church by miracles; whereas they should prove their miracles by the truth. For example; That power cannot know the prayer which knows not the heart either then the Virgin is God, for that she knows the theart; or to know the heart, and so our prayers, is falsely ascribed to the Virgin; and therefore the miracles which teach men thus to honour her, are teachers of lies, and so not of God. If the practice of worshipping the Virgin be bad, God deliver me from the immediate author of these miracles. Change but one idol for another, and what differ the wonders of Apollo's Temples from those of Romish Chapels." (Epistles.)

The sentiment of St. Chrysostom is important to shew that modern pretensions to miraculous powers will no more prove the Church of Rowe a true church than the acknowledged absence of those powers will prove the Church - of England a false church. " Once," says he, "it was known by miracles, who were true Christians, and who were false: but now that the power of working miracles is wholly taken away, the pretence of it is to be found amongst those who pretend 40 be Christians." With this agrees the opinion of Augustine, who observes ; Against those pretended workers of miracles, God has put me upon my guard, by admonishing me that in the last days there shall arise false prophets, who shall work such signs and wonders as to deceive, if possible, the very elect." And in like manner, Calvin remarks; "To demand miracles of us is highly wrong; for we have not been the inventors of a new Gospel, but we retain that very ospel which has for its confirma

[ocr errors]

tion all the miracles which Christ and his Apostles have wrought."

I would here observe, that a Romish bishop, as well as a Romish priest, has ventured, in this enlightened age, (see Christian Observer for 1817, p. 782,) to put the credulity of some persons, and the patience of others, to the test, by publishing, in this Protestant nation, an account of another miracle performed at a holy well in Staffordshire, and attested by himself, as if to try how far the public mind would endure the exhibition of so much absurdity, and no doubt as a prelude to future experiments upon their common sense and forbearance. See "Authentic Documents relative to the miraculous Cure of Winifred White, at St. Winifred's Well, by the Right Rev. John Milner, D. D. Vicar Apostolic." The pamphlet was published in 1806; and repeated editions have since been issued, and its sentiments remain unretracted,

I would trust that the laity of the Romish Church in Ireland, are likely, before long, to awaken to a sense of their duty, and to burst the shackles of the spiritual tyranny which at present impedes the progress of their country in sound knowledge and piety, as well as in civilization and social happiness. My readers will not have forgotten the memorable meeting at Cavan, in October 1817, when a large assembly of Roman Catholic laymen publicly resolved, that no priest in all the diocese of Kilmore was fit to assist or succeed to their present bishop; whose own incompetence was more than hinted, and he was requested to appoint “some learned stranger" as his coadjutor. In this important discussion, Dr. M'Donald took the lead, and stated, without contradiction, that " notorious and flagrant abuses had long existed"-that " scandalous lives rendered men unfit for the ministry of the Gospel"—that “a superstition of the most monstrous

and detestable description, which would have dishonoured and disgraced the most barbarous ages, bad taken firm root;"-that" the exclusive right of working miracles was now laid claim to by men of the most infamous and profligate characters, who are not only a dishonour to religion, but: a disgrace to human nature; some of whom are so far gone in folly as well as depravity, as to make religion pander to their avarice and profligacy;" -and he declared there were then present the most respectable persons ready to attest the truth of his assertion. The speaker, after urging the bishop to a system of reform, roundly asserts, that "it is in vain to look for reformation from any exertion of the elergy."-This meeting, as might have been expected, produced at the time a great sensation in Ireland. But this is little to the purpose, unless suitable remedies are devised to cure these evils. I would therefore earnestly hope, that Protestants on both sides of the Channel, stimulated by such painful facts as have been mentioned, will continue to persevere, amidst all the disappoint ments, they have experienced, in sending the sacred volume to every cabin in Ireland; and in educating the rising race, as far as the bigotry of the priesthood will allow it, in those scriptural principles which will best enable them to discern the errors and artifices of their misguided and misguiding instructors. This will indeed be an emancipation worthy of the name; emancipation from sin, and wretchedness, and ignorance; and, by the Divine blessing, the prelude to an abundant admission "into the glori ous liberty of the children of God."

an

LAICUS.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. PROFESSOR Leander Van Ess lately sent me a small volume in de fence of "the intermarrying of Protestants and Catholics," written CHRIST, OBSERV. No. 242.

by a Catholic priest in Germany, to which the Professor, himself a Catholic, has prefixed a recommendatory preface, in which he gives his sanction to the principles laiddown in the work, and to the inferences which result from them. To afford a proof of the liberal spirit in which this work is written, a spirit which I have reason to hope actuates no small number of the members of that church in the present day, I beg leave to transmit to you the following translation of a passage in which the author most candidly and ably vindicates the Protestant Church against the charge of heresy. The duty or propriety of such intermarriages as he recommends, is, I think, highly questionable; nor can two conscientious members of churches differing so widely aud fundamentally, hope for that Christian union in marriage which is necessary to the true happiness of that holy state, and to the right discharge of its duties. Still it is pleasing to witness that increasingly candid and tolerant spirit which is beginning to spring up in the bosom of the Romish Church, and which, though at present very limited in its extent and operation, may, by God's blessing, rapidly as. sume a wider range. Let Protes tauts follow the liberal example of some of their Catholic. brethren; and while they contend earnestly for the purity of the faith, aud manfully oppose the errors and delusions of the Church of Rome, let them beware of intolerance and party spirit, and endeavour, by precept and example, to accelerate the arrival of that blessed day when the true members of the church of Christ, however scattered at present, will form one fold under one Shepherd. Such a prospect cannot but highly interest and encourage every Christian mind; and I must venture to express a strong opinion, that the way to hasten its arrival is not by means of bigotry or persecution,-by N

« AnteriorContinuar »