« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
it to be so; and have said a thousand times, that a sick bed is a blessed thing : it brings us: nearer to God, and God nearer to us. Often have I sat up in my bed at night, (for I can never sleep till the drugs stupify me, and they begin to lose their effect,) but often have I sat up and prayed to my Saviour, and meditated on his suffer ings for me, till I have forgotten my own. My neighbours sometimes talk ignorantly, and wonder why God should afflict me so heavily, who have never been, so to speak, a wicked woman, though I know my own siufulness :--but I silence them, and say that his ways are far above out of our sight;—it is good for me to have been in trouble, for I know in whom I have trusted; and that my light afflictions which are but for a moment, shall work for me a far more exceeding weight of glory.' : So here you have one distress, at least, which cannot be said to be caused by Religion: and probably this is one out of 50,000 similar cases èxisting in this single couňtry: Th may be
very useful to a sick and ignorant old woman, returned Alciphron, which is very unprofitable to the younger and wiser part of mankind.
To which I answered, I cannot easily believe that to be useful which is false or erroneous : or that to be false and erroneous, which supports those who have no other consolation, and gives wisdom to those who have no other learning. Therefore I argue that it would be the greatest possible - misfortune, if the Religion which you so unjustly vilify could be proved an imposture.
Small hopes of that, replied Alciphron, whilst such an army of wellpaid priests is leagued together to keep up the deceit. expect them to take the hood off the eyes of their own victims ?
You forget, I said, how many of their victims can see as well as themselves. So you have really been persuaded by Paine and his disciples to imagine, that a Christian minister, for the sake of lucre, imposes on the credulity of his hearers a system of Religion which he knows to be without foundation"! I little expected an insinuation like this from any adversary less ignorant than Carlile or less vulgar than Paine. But to meet you here also. You forget that the benefices which engage your well-paid army to practice this baseness do not average a hundred pounds per annum : you forget how many follow their profession to the grave, without ever obtaining one of the lowest of its prizes. Would not the same education, and the same talents, exerted in any other profession, ensure a much higher reward ? Depend upon it, if the Clergy had no other than a temporal inducement to maintain the Christian faith, it would not continue twenty years. For example : Mr. - - Curate of the very parish in which we are talking. He has two thousand persons under his care, who take up his time to the exclusion of every other concern, who occupy his thoughts even to the injury of his health, and make him a return of a hundred pounds per aprum: much less than he annually spends amongst them in charity. What inducement has he to preach a Gospel which he does not believe? He has fortune
enough to live at ease ini retirement, he has talents which would raise him to eminence in any way of life which he chose to pursue ; yet he prefers to serve God, and promote the highest interests of man in laborious obscurity : and what will you say of him ; is. he a deceiver, or is he himself deceived ? If you argue that he is a deceiver, I ask - what interest he has in deceiving : if you think that he is deceived, I ask whether his talents do not furnish a strong presumption the other way. He is one of the well-paid army which you speak of as interested in maintaining an error ; and there are five thousand others in this country of the same body, who have as little or less' worldly reason to bias them. Imposture is commonly more sharpsighted, and its object more lucrative.
What answer Alciphron might have found to this, I know not : but it seemed to me that he felt much relieved by the sudden appear. ance of a mutual friend, who just then came up, and put an end to our conversation.
LIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER,
Our blessed Lord, ere his return to glory, had prophecied that the pure doctrines of the Gospel would be soon corrupted through the ignorance and presumption of sinful men; and that the true faith would be exposed to continual struggles, even to the end of the world.
The history of the first century affords striking proofs of the fulfile ment of this prophecy. The early Christians, indeed, maintained an unshaken fidelity to their Great Master amidst the fiercest persecutions'; but when the Church had rest from her outward enemies, false doctrines crept in, and numberless errors were preached by ignorant or designing men, whịch corrupted the pure faith of the Gospel, and distracted the Church with endless disputes and divisions.
The opponents of our Faith, ever watchful of occasion to bring it into disrepute, have most unjustly charged upon Christianity all the abuses which have been thus introduced ; and instead of assigning them to the wickedness and pride of man, they have endeavoured to cast a reproach upon the Gospel as the cause of those crimes which are expressly condemned by the Gospel.
Because the rage of party led some to open violence in maintaining their mistaken opinions, one historian has impiously condemned the Religion itself as the author of these contests.
Because the pride and folly of others have led them to withdraw from the Church, and set up for themselves opinions and practices directly contrary to Christ's commands, these divisions have been brought forward by another writer, as a proof that the Religion cannot be true which is liable to such perversions. The enemies of Christianity have industriously collected every account of these una happy contests, tò make inconsiderate people believe that the gre body of Christians has always been engaged in these controversies.
But it should be remembered, that true Religion is of a retired and peaceful character. Those whose lives are most earnestly devoted to the service of God are seldom seen in public ; their habits of life are little disposed to show ; while a few proud anıbitious men have kept the world in perpetual tumult with their rival struggles. In opposition to these, indeed, many eminent men of learning and piety have stood forward from time to time, to confute the artifices of the infidel and the profane, and bravely exposed themselves to all the violence and calumnies of their antagonists, and cheerfully devoted themselves in defence of the truths of Christianity.
Such was Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformed Religion ; a man who has rendered more eminent service to the cause of Chris, tianity than individual who has appeared since the time of the Apostles,
The father of Luther had wrought in the Mines of Mansfeld'; and returning to Eisleben, in Saxony, his illustrious son Martin was born there, in 1483. lle gave early promise of those wonderful talents which he afterwards displayed, and was designed by his father for the profession of the law; but having witnessed the instant death of a dear companion by a stroke of lightning, he was brought to a deep sense of religion, and threw himself into the Augustine Conrent at Erfurth in 1505, to the great mortification of his father, Though educated in the scholastic learning of his time, he was a stranger to true religion, till by accident he fell in with a Latin Bible, in the earnest study of which, and of the Commentaries of St. Augusa tine, he became familiar with the great trutủs of the Gospel. He was made a priest in 1507, and appointed a professor in the University of Wittemburg, then highly patronized by Frederick, Elector of Saxony, a prince of great wisdom and piety, who thenceforward proved his steady patron and protector. In 1510 he was sent to Rome, where he witnessed so much of the errors in principle and practice of its chief professors, that on his return be devoted himself with increased fervour to the examination of the Scriptures, In 1512 he was reluctantly raised to the degree of Doctor in Divinity,
Luther had been bred in the most rigid discipline of the Popish faith ; and such was the influence of early prejudice, that for. many years he maintained strict obedience to the Pope's authority, though he secretly lamented its abuses. Even long after he had commenced an open opposition to these abuses, he declared his implicit faith in the Pope's supremacy. The light of truth did not suddenly blaze upon his mind; it cost him much painful and laborious enquiry to bring himself to a clear perception of the falsity of that supremacy. Incessant prayer, accompanied by unwearied investigation of the Scriptures, gradually led him to the true doctrines of the, Bible; and such is the only effectual way for us in like manner to arrive at the same conviction.
The hand of the Almighty is eminently displayed in accomplishing the great work of the Reformation. A concurrence of extraordinary circumstances led the way to these changes in publiq
opinion. There arose at that period, an unusual number of learned men, who, by deep study of the Scriptures, guided by the pure spirit of the Gospel, were led to perceive the errors of the Romish Church. The political struggles of Europe afforded singular facilities to remove the darkness which had for ages obscured the truths of Christianity. History thus shews us how often the Almighty converts the wickedness of men into the means of rendering them wiserand better.
It was not until the 7th century after Christ, that the Bishops of Rome had presumed to claim peculiar honour, and assume to themselves the distinction of unerring authority. Step by step they availed themselves of the ignorance of the people ; and at length had the impious presumption to maintain that the Pope was invested by God with the power of pardoning sin, and that an unreserved belief in such power was necessary to salvation.
Shocking as such a doctrine may now seem to our readers, this and other tenets, equally profane and unfounded, were made the distinguishing principles of the Romish Church. Such pardons were granted, under the seal of the Pope, to all who could obtain them, until at length they were actually set to sale, and an enormous revenue was thus raised in all the countries of Europe to enrich the See of Rome.
Pope Leo X. having determined to complete the erection of the famous Church of St. Peter, availed himself of the corrupt praetice of selling Indulgencies to raise the funds requisite for this undertaking. His Ministers were commissioned to levy such contributions through all the countries of Europe. In Germany, Albert, Archbishop of Mentz, employed the services of one Tetzel, a Dominican Friar of Leipsic, for this purpose, who offered these pardons for sale in the most indecent and barefaced manner. He had even the assurance to declare to a Saxon nobleman, that his absolutions would secure pardon even for sins he intended to conmit. took him at his word, paid the money, and received the proper diploma. Tetzel soon after proceeded' from Leipsic with a large sum produced by this iniquitous trallic, and being intercepted on the road, was robbed of the chest of money, and severely beaten, being told at the same time, that was the sin the robber intended to commit, and for which he had already secured absolution.
Luther warmly opposed these infamous proceedings of Tetzel, and exposed the profligacy of the Pope's Ministers so employed. As he proceeded in his examination of the principles maintained by the Church of Rome, every day brought fresh proofs to his mind of the errors and corruptions which had been ingrafted on the pure faith of Christ. Still he acted with extreme caution, and did not publicly preach against them until fully convinced of the necessity of removing this fatal darkness from the minds of the people. His enemies meanwhile took every occasion to load him with infamy and contempt; one while threatening him with violence, at another challenging him to public disputations, in every one of which he completely triumphed over their wretched arguments, hy the soundness of his doctrines, and the force of his eloquence
This person He put forth several works in justification of his principles; and such was the effect of his preaching and writings, that all Germany began to perceive the gross abuses of the Papal authority,' and espoused the doctrines of Luther as founded in truth.
Leo X., devoted to luxury and ease, for a long period surveyed these contests with indifference; but roused at length from his torpor by the rapid progress of Luther's influence, which shook the Papal throne to its foundation, and threatened his authority with speedy dissolution, he yielded himself to the persuasion of his Ministers, and issued a furious Bull, condemning his doctrines in fortyone articles, commanding his works to be burnt, and his person to be seized, unless he immediately recanted.
Luther, nothing daunted by these threats, perceived that the time was now arrived for throwing off the authority of the Pope, and, on the 1st December, 1520, he publicly burnt the Pope's Bull in presence of the University of Wittemburg.
The Pope, thus treated with defiance, was highly enraged, and jesolved to silence the opinions of Luther, and to put an end to the further progress of the Reformation in the most public manner. He prevailed on the Emperor Charles V. to summon a general assembly of all the princes and ecclesiastical authorities of the German empire, in the city of Worms, before whom Luther solemnly defended his doctrines. Such was the weight of his arguments, that he was suffered to depart at the conclusion of his defence, and return to Wittemburg, without any sentence being pronounced against him ; nor was it until great part of the Council had quitted the city, that the Emperor judged it prudent to issue a declaration condemning his opinions in the name of the Pope, and commanding him thenceforward to observe strict silence on these points of dispute.
Frederick, Elector of Saxony, who through the whole controversy had shewn himself the steady patron of Luther, was sensible that the power of his enemies was too great to be resisted ; and that notwithstanding the Emperor had granted him a safe conduct, he would inevitably fall a sacrifice to their violence on his return to Wittemburg. Having privately communicated his plan to Luther, he caused him to be intercepted on his journey by a troop of horsemen in disó guise, and conveyed to the Castle of Wurtzburg, where he was kept secure from all the designs of his enemies, until their phrenzy had somewhat subsided. He spent this period in unceasing study, and composed several works in defence of his opinions ; but being at length weary of retirement, he suddenly appeared again at Wittemburg in March 1522, and was received by his followers with the warmest affection.
In 1524, Luther having long since abjured the Pope's authority, threw off the monastic habit, and in the following year married Cath. de Bore : this step not only gave offence to the Roman Catholics, but also to many who had adopted the reformed Religion, their early prejudices still disposing them to condemn the marriage of the Clergy.
Meanwhile great troubles had conyulsed the empire of Germany,