« PreviousContinue »
severe penalties were inflicted on those who had been guilty of any sins, whether public or private ; and in particular they were forbidden, for a certain time, to partake of the Lord's supper, or to hold any communion with the church. General rules were formed upon these subjects ; but as it was often found expedient to make a discrimination in the degrees of punishment, according to the different circumstances of the offenders, and especially when they shewed marks of contrition and repentance, power was given to the bishops, by the Council of Nice, to relax or remit those punishments as they should see reason. Every favour of this kind was called an indulgence or pardon.
In course of time, however, this wholesome discipline began to relax and degenerate, and some few ambitious and designing men, in those dark ages, began to make a bad use of it: in the Vary teeth of their own religious tenets and doctrines, these indulgences were actually bought and sold, just as in our own times church-livings, advowsons as they are called, seats in parliament, lucrative and honorary offices in church and state, are sold. The doctrine itself implies neither more nor less than a merciful relaxation of some severe ecclesiastical discipline ; and the practice, though not the name, is still retained by many of the sects of the present day.
At present, the utmost length to which the use of indulgences is carried in the Church of Rome, is their extension to the dead: and here the Catholics tuil us, they are not granted by way of absolution, since the pastors of the church have not that jurisdiction over the dead ; but are only available to the faithful shepherd, by way of suffrage, or spiritual succour, applied to their souls out of the treasury of the church.
They have also what they call a jubilee ; and so called from the resemblance it bears to the jubilee in the old Mosaic law; which was a year of remission, in which bondmen were restored to liberty, and every one returned to his possessions.—The Catholic jubilee is a plenary or entire indulgence granted every twenty-fifth year, as also upon other extraordinary occasions, to such as, being truly penitent, shall worthily receive the blessed sacrament, and perform the other conditions of fasting, alms, and prayer, usually prescribed at such times.
There are other plenary indulgences, differing from a jubilee. A jubilee is more solemn, and accompanied with certain privileges, not usually granted upon other occasions, with regard to their being absolved by any approved consessor from all excommunications, and ober reserved cases ; and having vows exchanged into the performance of other works of piety. To which may be added, that as a jubilee is extended to the whole church, which at that time joins as it were in a body, in offering a hoiy violence to heaven by prayer and penitential works ; and as the cause for granting an indulgence is usually more evident, and greater works of piely are prescribed for the obtaining of it.
the indulgence, of consequence, is likely to be more certain and
In the ordinary, or what may be called the every day practice, indulgences extend only to the granting of the laity to eat certain meats, or abstain froin certain formal fasts and observances, from considerations of sickness, convenience,
&c. This is the sum of that dreadtul bug-bear at which we have so long startled with horror, and shrunk back from with indig. nation: the practice may be absurd ; but it is not wicked when rightly understood, and observed in conformity with the spirit and tenure of the rest of the Roman Catholic religion.
I do acknowledge the holy Catholic and apostolic Roman Church to be the mother and mistress of all churches ; and I do promise and swear true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, and the Vicar of Jesus Christ.
Ecposition.—This article has reference chiefly to what has been, somewhat improperly, called the pope's supremacy ; it ought rather to be called the pope's primacy.
The Catholic doctrine is as follows : That St. Peter was head of the church under Christ--that the pope, or Bishop of Rome, is at present head of the church, and Christ's vicar upon carth. This they attempt to prove by the unanimous consent of the fathers, and the tradition of the church, and say that St. Peter translated his chair from Antioch to Rome. Hence the see of Rome in all ages has been called the see of Peter-the chair of Peter; and absolutely the see apostolic ; and in that quality has, from the beginning, exercised jurisdiction over all other churches.
The Church of Rome they call the mistress and mother of all churches; because her bishop is St. Peter's successor, and Christ's vicar upon earth, and consequently the father and pasior of all the faithful; and therefore this church, as being St. Peter's sce, is the mother and mistress of all churches.
Pope Boniface VIII. in his canon law, asserts and decrees as follows; “
Moreover we declare, and say, and define, and pronounce to every human creature, that it is altogether necessary to salvation, to be subject to the Ronion pontiff."
It is proper here to caution the reader against the notion that Roman Caiholics, in admitting the pope's supremacy, or primacy, hold that the pope's power over the Christian world is of a temporal nature : it has no such extension ; no such reference ; for how often have the pope's spiritual subjects, catholic kings and emperors, gone to war with his holiness? Kings do not now hold their crowns at the disposal of any one except of the laws and of their own subjects. The pope's authority over his own temporal dominions, which he holds as any other sovereign, is, of course, not purely of an ecclesiastical kind ; and his spiritual power is greatly limited, even in Catholic countries, ás France,
Spain, &c. The French or Gallican church, in particular, is very independent. As far as relates to local discipline, the pope has but a limited authority ; even in the church of which he is recognized as the head.
I do undoubtedly receive and profess all other things that are delivered, defined by the sacred canons and ecumenical couneils, and especially hy the holy Synod of Trent : and all other things contrary hereunto, and all heresies condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the church, I do likewise condemn, reject, and anathematize.
This, it must be confessed, is a sweeping article: but even here we shall do well not to mistake or misrepresent. The intolerance here manifest is evidently directed against things” rather than persons. They are heresies, real or supposed, that are condemned, rejected, and anathematized, and not the persons of the heretics. It ought not, however, to be denied or concealed, that this famous bull, as it is called, which bears date Nov. 1564, repeatedly denounces curses on all those who dare dispute its statements. This solemn “bull, concerning the form of an oath of profession of faith,” all ecclesiastical persons, whether secular or regular, and all military orders, are obliged to take and subscribe as follows : “ This true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved, which at this present time I do of my own accord profess and sincerely hold, I, the same N. N. do promise and vow, and swear, and God assisting me, most constantly to retain and confess, entire and unviolated, to the last breath of my life ; and so far as in me lies, I will likewise take care that it shall be held, taught, and preached by my subjects, or those the care of whom belongs to me, in the discharge of my office."
The exclusive character of the Roman Catholic religion is its worst feature ; in doctrines, of a purely theological nature, it differs little from the Calvinist, or at best from the reformed churches : in morals it is equal to the best of them : in discipline it is more rigid than any of them : but in the exclusive spirit, which it almost every where breathes, it is more uniformly explicit, and expressive than all the others. It is true, that in the Church of England, we boldly pronounce wrath and everlasting damnation" on all who do not believe, or hold, or “ keep whole and undefiled,” the creed of St. Athanasius. It is cqually true, that the Calvinian churches do not admit salvation without faith, meaning thereby faith as understood and expressed by them.
Nor is it less á fact, that many sects and parties “ do not see how a man can be saved holding such and such a creed, differing from their own ;” but, then, we do not, like the Roman Catholics, call persons heretics, and anathematize them at the repetition of every doctrine, consigning them to the blackness of darkness for ever and ever, because they do not say our Shiboleth in every particular. We
do not finally and fully condemn for every trivial error: it is only the man who disputes the most material of the “ Five Points” that we all of us give over to Satan. If a man believes the holy trinity, original sin, vicarious sacrifices, and eternal punishment_if he holds the imputed righteousness of Christ-the final perseverance of the saints—the extraordinary influence of the Holy Spirit, and has taken the oath of abjuration, and that also against transubstantiation, we all admit that such an one is, at least, in a salvable state. But bow different this from the creed of the Roman Catholics, which calls all men heretics, except the invincibly ignorant, who do not believe all the articles of the Christian faith ?
I should not do justice to the religious opinions of the present race of Roman Catholics were I to omit the insertion of the following address, issued a few years ago, expressive of the general sentiments of this body of Christians on some of those points on which they have been so grossly misunderstood. I extract it from my work, the “Portraiture of the Roman Catholic Religion,” not having the original paper before me :-
“ An address of several of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, to their Protestant tellow-subjects. His majesty's Roman Catholic subjects flattered themselves that the declarations they had already made of the integrity of their religious and civil tenets-the oaths they had taken to bis majesty's person, family, and government,--the eroic exertions of a considerable proportion of them in bis majesty's fleets and armies,—the repeated instances in which they have come forward in their country's cause,—their irreproachable demeanour in the general relations of life,-and above all, the several acts of parliament passed for their relief, avowedly in consequence of, and explicitly recognizing, their meritorious conduct, would have been a lond, to secure to them for ever, the affection and confidence of all their fellow.subjects, and to make any further declaration of their principles wholly unnecessary :
“But with astonishment and concern, they observe, that this is not altogether the case :-they are again publicly traduced ; and attempts are again made to prejudice the public mind against them :
" We, therefore, English Roman Catholics, whose names are here under-written, beg leave again to solicit the attention of our countrymen, and to lay before then the following unanswered and unaswerable document, of the purity and integrity of the religious and civil principles of ALL his majesty's Romani Catholic subjects, in respect to their king and their country. “We entreat you to peruse them ;-and when you have
perused them to declare, -Whether his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects maintain a single tenet inconsistent with the purest loyalty ; or interfering, in the slightest degree, with any one duty which an Englishman owes his God, his king, or his country?
"1.-The first document we present to you, is the oath and
declaration prescribed by the British Parliament, of the 31st of his present majesty, and which is taken by all English Catholics.
"* I, 4. B., do hereby declare, that I do profess the Roman Catholic religion.
:1, A. B., do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to bis majesty King George the Third, and him will defend to the utmost of my power, against all conspiracies and attempts whatsoever that shall be made against his person, crown, or dignity : and I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to his majesty, his heirs, and successors, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies, which may be formed against hiin or them : And I do faithfully promise to maintain, support, and defend, to the utmost of my power, the succession of the crown ; which succession, by an act, entitled, “An act for the further limitation of the crown, and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject,' is, and stands limited to the Princess Sophia, Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being protestants ; hereby utterly renouncing and abjuring any obedience or allegiance unto any other person claiming or pre tending a right to the crown of these realms. And I do swear, that I do reject and detest, as an unchristian and impious position, that it is lawful to murder or destroy any person or persons whatsoever, for, or under pretence of their being heretics or infidels ; and also that unchristian and impious principle, that faith is not to be kept with hereticts or infidels : And I further declare, that it is not an article of my faith ; and that I do renounce, reject, and alojure the opinion, that princes escomunicated by the pope and council, or any authority of the see of Rome, or by any authority whatsoever, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any person whatsoever : And I do promise, that I will not hold, maintain, or abet any such opinion, or any other opinions contrary to what is expressed in this declaration : and I do declare ihat I do not believe that the pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, state or potentate, bath or ought to have, any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm : And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of ihis oath, without any evasion, equivocation; or mental reservation whatever, and without any dispensation already granted by the pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, or any person whatever, and without thinking that I am or can be, acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration, or any part thereof, although the pope, or any other person or authority whatsoever, shall dispense with or annul he same, or declare that it was null or void.
" " So help me God.' €11.-The next documents we present to you are, the oaiks