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Fourthly, the primitive Church, in the prayer for the remission of sins, relied solely on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ,” looking to His blessed atoning sacrifice as the only ground of her hope and consolation. And the modern Church of Rome retains this likewise, while she unites with it, in the same breath, her pestilent inventions, by saying, “May the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the blessed Virgin and of all the saints; may whatever good thou shalt do, or whatever evil thou shalt suffer, be to thee unto the remission of thy sins, the increase of grace, and the recompense of life everlasting."
The Romanist can not see that in the first of these abuses he is obliged to commit an act of mental idolatry, by invoking the departed saints as if they were present; when he ought to know that it is impossible they should be able to hear the supplications addressed to them all over the world, unless they possess the divine attribute of ubiquity. But no created being can possess the attributes of the Creator. And hence the homage which requires us to invest the saints with the incommunicable Omnipresence of the Deity, involves the gravest offense against the majesty of that God who has said, “I WILL NOT GIVE MY GLORY TO ANOTHER.
The second of these abuses can not be called a sin so much as an irreverent absurdity. For what else is it to ask the Lord that He will « absolve the sin. ner from every bond of excommunication and interdict," when no such sentence has been pronounced or even intended against him?
The third involves an equally gross and yet more offensive incongruity. For the priest first prays that THE LORD would absolve the sinner, and then pronounces “ I ABSOLVE THEE," while the Catechism of Trent expressly declares that the prayers which ac
company the form “ are not deemed necessary," but that the power with which the priest is invested is that which “really absolves from sin."* It is not thus that the primitive Christians appealed to the divine majesty; nor is it thus that we act, as when, in baptism, we first pray that God would baptize the candidate with the Holy Spirit, and then proceed to apply the outward element of water, saying, 6. I baptize thee." For here we do not ask the Almighty to perform the ministerial act which He has committed to His servants, but we beseech Him to do the spiritual work which we can not do, and yet without which all our ministry amounts to nothing. With the Roman priest, however, this reasoning has no force, since he can see no inconsistency in beseeching the Lord to do the very same thing which he is about to do himself, and then gravely telling us that the prayer is an unnecessary form, while it is his power which confers the real blessing of absolution.
And the fourth abuse is of a similar character; for here the atoning sacrifice of Christ is bound ир
in the same sentence with the merits of the Virgin and the saints, and even with the good works and sufferings of the sinner himself, as the procuring cause of the remission of his sins, the increase of grace, and the reward of life everlasting! How strange the blindness which can not see the impiety of such a conjunction! How strange! that the Lord, who trod the wine-press of His Father's wrath ALONE; who is ALONE the way, the truth, and the life ; whose blood ALONE cleanseth from all sin ; who ALONE has the keys of death and hell; who ALONE is our great High-priest, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; who ALONE is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the
* Ursuline Manual, p. 242.
brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His Person; who ALONE has power on earth to forgive sins—that He should have His divine prerogative thus shared, as if in partnership, with the Virgin and the saints, and even with the paltry works and ordinary trials of the sinner; while those who should abhor, applaud the profanation !
But such is Romanism. All the original truths of divine revelation, the Scriptures, the creeds, and the primitive forms of the purest ages, are displayed on the one side by that treacherous Church, while on the other she presents an awful mass of innovations, borrowed from every source of superstition, willworship, and false expediency, and to these she binds her subjects, and on these she erects her papal throne, and requires all men to bow down before her assumed infallibility. In the plenitude of her usurped dominion, she erects a new tribunal for the remission of sins, and creates new objects of worship, and establishes new articles of faith, and makes new sacraments, and proclaims a new kind of empire in the unseen world, and affects a new government over the souls of the departed, and places new saints in heaven, and invents new curses for all who presume to dispute her title to be the sovereign mistress of the world. And thus she stands, a mystery of contradictions. A true Church, by reason of the apostolic system which she still retains, and yet a false Church, by reason of her fraudulent assumptions. The spouse of Christ through her original covenant of faith, and yet a foul adulteress through her numerous acts of infidelity against her Lord and Master. A patroness of sanctity, and yet indulgent to licentiousness. An adorer of benevolence, and yet a tyrant persecutor. A worshiper of charity, and yet a cruel dispenser of dungeons, and racks, and flames. Full of attraction to the artist, the musician, the architect, the sculptor, the poet, the men and women of romantic tastes and sentiment; and yet far more full of repulsion to the enlightened followers of the Word of God, who know how to reverence that solemn warning of the Almighty Redeemer : “IN VAIN THEY DO WORSHIP ME, TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.
The task which I proposed at the commencement is done, and I am conscious that it is done imperfectly. But I trust that my pledge has been redeemed, and that the reader has been enabled to form, so far as the nature of the subject allowed, a clear historical view of the rise, progress, consummation, and character of the Confessional.
My object has been to treat the topic with a view to its avowed and authoritative principles, and by no means with respect to its scandalous details. For this reason, I have taken no notice even of the Bull of Paul IV., contra solicitantes; nor of the disclosures of Llorente in his history of the Inquisition; nor of the alarming and atrocious offenses published by the various priests who have from time to time abandoned the Roman communion. Doubtless a different course in this respeot might have made my work far more interesting to many readers, but it would not have shed any light on the main question which I proposed, nor should I have felt satisfied in merely repeating what is just as accessible to every other person as it is to me. In a word, I wished to consider the growth and character of the confessional as a skillfully-concocted sysTEM OF PRIESTLY POWER, involving serious and dangerous errors of doctrine and of discipline, but not as a convenient instrument for individual transgression. Therefore I have generally confined myself to those documents which were of the highest and most responsible kind, the fathers, the councils, the Roman theologians and historians, and have endeavored to put upon them all the same fair and reasonable construction.
For it is far from my desire to depreciate the priesthood or the members of the Church of Rome in Protestant countries, either as men or citizens, when compared with the average standard around them. Conscientiously and irreconcilably opposed as I am to their religious system, and believing that its proper tendency, on the broad scale of general experience, is decidedly unfavorable to morality, I am yet none the less persuaded that, wherever it is found transplanted to a Protestant soil, the product of the combined influences under which it works is beneficially affected and happily improved. Nor have I any doubt that there always have been, and now are, many thousands in that corrupt communion throughout the world, whose hearts have turned away with dislike or with indifference from the errors and superstitions of their Church; who have cherished, through the grace of God, only those doctrines which are true, and whose names might justly claim a lofty rank among the brightest of their race for intelligence and virtue.
But, dismissing this topic, I would conclude by pre