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sel a little book, full of good matter, written by the Reverend John Gother. It has been cited by Mr. Ri. ker. It is entitled, 'The papist misrepresented and represented. It contains a two-fold character of popery: giving on one hand a sum of the superstitions, idolatries, eruelties, treacheries, and wicked principles laid to their charge; and on the other it lays open that religion, which those termed papists own and profess; the chief articles of their faith, and the principal grounds and reasons which attach them to it. I shall read but one page of this little work, which I think will be satisfac. tory to the court. It is page 24, of the first American, from the nineteenth London edition.
66 OF CONFESSION." Só The papist, misrepresented, believes it part of his religion to make gods of men; foolishly thinking that these have power to forgive sins. And therefore as often as he finds his conscience oppressed with the guilt of his offences, he calls for one of his priests; and having run over a catalogue of his sins, he asks of him pardon and forgiveness. And what is most absurd of all, he is so stupid as to believe, that if his Ghostly Father, after he has heard all his villainies in his ear, does but pronounce three or four Latin words over his head, his sins are forgiven him, although he had never had any thoughts of amendment, or intention to forsake his wickedness."
There spake bigotry !
“ The papist truly represented, believes it damnable in any religion to make gods of men. However he
firmly holds, that when Christ speaking to his apostles said, John xx. 22. Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgire, they are forgiren ; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained ; he gave them, and their successors, the bishops and priests of the catholic church, authority to absolve any truly penitent sinner from his sins. And God having thus given them the ministry of reconciliation, and made them Christ's legates, 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 20. Christ's ministers and the dispensers of the mysteries of Christ. 1 Cor. iv. And given them power that whosoever they loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matt. xviii. 18. · He undoubtedly believes, that whosoever comes to them making a sincere and humble confession of his sins, with a truc repentance and a firm purpose of amendment, and a hearty resolution of turning from his evil ways, may from them' receive absolution, by the authority given them from heaven; and no doubt but God ratifies above the sentence pronounced in that tribunal; loosing in heaven whatsoever is thus loosed by them on earth. And that, whosoever comes without the due preparation, without a repentance from the bottom of his heart, and real intention of forsaking his sins, receives no benefit by the absolution ; but adds sin to sin, by a high cona tempt of God's mercy, and abuse of his sacraments."
There spake charity!--Let us chuse between them.
No wonder then, this latter being the true character of confession, if the bitterest enemies of the catholic faith have still respected it; and that discerning minds have acknowledged the many benefits society might
practically reap from it, abstracted from its religious character. It has, I dare say, been oftener attacked by sarcasm than by good sense. The gentleman who argued against us, has respected himself too much to em. ploy that weapon, and I believe he has said all that good sense could urge against it, which we take in very good part.
But while this ordinance has been openly exposed to scoff and ridicule, its excellence has been concealed by the very secrecy it enjoins. If it led to licentious. ness or danger, that licentiousness, or that danger, would have come to light, and there would be tongues enough to tell it. Whilst on the other hand, its util. ity can never be proved by instances, because it cannot be shewn how many have been saved by its. how many of the young of both sexes, have been in the most critical juncture of their lives, admonished from the commk lion of some fatal crime, that would have brought the parents hoary hairs with sorrow to the grave. These are secrets that can not be revealed.
Since however, the avenues that lead to vice are many and alluring; is it not well that some one should be oper to the repenting sinner, where the fear of punishment and of the world's scorn, may not deter the yet wavering convert? If the road to destruction, is easy and smoothy. si facilis descensus averni, may it not consist with wis-, dom and policy, that there be one silent, secret path, where the doubting penitent may be invited to turn aside and escape the throng that hurries him along? Some, retreat, where, as in the bosom of a holy hermit, with in the shade of innocence and peace, the pilgrim of this checquered life, may draw new inspirations of virtue
and repose. If the thousand ways of error, are tricked with flowers, is it so wrong that somewhere there should be a sure, and gentle friend, who has no interest to betray, no care, but that of ministering to the incipient cure? The syren songs and blandishments of pleasure, may lead the young and tender heart astray, and the repulsive frown of stern authority, forbid return. One step then gained or lost, is victory or death. Let me then ask you that are parents, which would you prefer, that the child of your hopes should pursue the course of ruin, and continue with the companions of debauch and crime, or turn to the confessional, where if compunction could once bring him, one gentle word, one well timed admonition, one friendly turn by the land might save your child from ruin, and your heart from unavailing sorrow ? And if the hardened sinner, the murderer, the robber, or conspirator, can once be hrought to bow his stubborn spirit, and kneel before he trail fellow may, itvite him to pronounce a penance sud to his crimes, and seek salvation through a full repebånce, there is more gained, than by the bloodiest spectacle of terror, than though his mangled limbs were broken on the wheel, his body gibbetted or given to the fowls of the air. If these reflections have any weight at all; if this picture be but true in any part, better forbear and leave things as they are, than too rashly sacrifice to jealous doubts, or shallow ridicule, an ordinance sanctioned by antiquity, and founded on experience of man's nature. For if it were possible for even faith, that removes mountains, as they say, to alter this, and with it to abolish the whole fabrick, of which it is a vital part, what next would follow? Hundreds of millions of chris.
cians would be set adrift from all religious fastening! Would it be better to have so many atheists than só many christians ? Or if not, what church is fitted to receive into its bosom, this great majority of all the chris. tian world. Is it determined whether they shall become jews or philanthropists, Ohinese or Mahommedans, lutherans or calvinists, baptists or brownists, materialists, universalists or destructionists, arians, trinitarians, presbyterians, baxterians, sabbatarians, or millenarians, moravians, antinomians or sandemanians, jumpers or dunkers, shakers or quakers, burgers, kirkers, independents, covenanters, puritans, Hutchinsonians, Johnsonians, or muggletonians. I doubt not, that in every sect that I have named, there are good men, and if there be, I trust they will all find mercy, but chiefly so as they are charitable each to his neighbour. And why should they be otherwise ? The gospel enjoins it; the constitution ordains it. Intolerance in this country could proceed from nothing but a diseased affection of the pia mater, or the spleen.
The constitution is remediate of many mischiefs, and must be liberally construed. It is also declaratory, and pronounces toleration. What toleration ? Not that exotic and sickly plant, that in other countries subsists by culture, bearing few blossoms and no fruit. No, but that indigenous tree, whose spreading branches stretch towards the heavens-in which the native eagle buildis his nest. It is holy as the Druid's oak and sacrilege to wound it. If its authors are yet alive, or if looking down from a happier abode, they have now any care of mortal things, how must they rejoice to see it flourishi, to see that all these churches, are but so many temples of one