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at length, the circle of human errors, by resting upon one when driven from another, until, finding no new ground on which to repose, it turned upon that authority by which it had been pursued through the labyrinth of its wanderings. This is the new feature that discriminates the errors of modern times. If the Donatists protracted their schisms, it was because they pretended the bishop of Carthage, from whom they separated, in consequence of the crimes with which he was charged, had been absolved by corrupt and interested judges. If the followers of Eutyches defended that there was but one nature in Christ after the incarnation, it was, they said, because such a doctrine was included in the definition of the Fathers of Ephesus. The.council of Chalcedon, it is true, soon corrected their mistake, and those who were animated with a love of truth and unity, soon returned to the bosom of the Church: such, however, as resisted the authority of the council of Chalcedon, affected to believe that it was opposed to that of Ephesus, and thus would fain palliate their resistance under the mask of respect for authority. These observations are applicable to almost every error that deformed the faith of the Church as well as to every schism that disturbed its tranquillity during fifteen centuries. The necessity of some coercive authority was generally acknowledged by all, while, in the application of this truth, they ingeniously discovered reasons to justify them in eluding its exercise. The doctrines of one, it was said, had been misrepresented by envy: malevolence had imputed false crimes to another. The Roman Pontiff had been often imposed on by the artifices of individuals, interested in misinforming him on distant transactions; and the Fathers of a general council were not unfrequently represented as the factious
partisans of some powerful patriarch, jealous of the influence of a rival. Such were generally the arguments by which the heretics of former times endeavoured to shield themselves against the spiritual terrors of the Church, and such are the apologies that are still advanced by those historians who are partial to their memory. It was reserved, how. ever, for the spirit of a later age, to assert an unlimited independance of thinking, on the most important subjects of religion. Not content with controverting the truth, it controverts the authority by which truth has been decided. While others have sought to diminish Christ's doctrine, by the subtraction of some previous article of belief: it is now attempted to dissipate the whole, by wresting it from the possession of those to whom it has been entrusted. Heretofore, the New Testament was considered as a precious inheritance, bequeathed by Christ to his spouse, for the benefit of her children. To protect it from profanation, it was confided to the apostles as a sacred deposit, and transmitted by them to their successors, who were to guard it with similar care. Equally vigilant against the craft of the thief and the violence of the robber, they have preserved it unimpaired. When persecutors strove to destroy this legacy, by consigning the Sacred Volume to the flames, it was preserved by their zeal from the danger with which it was threatened ; and when the prodigal children of the Church, abusing her bounty, would fain squander their portion of the inheritance, and wander into a far country, like a tender parent she wept over their errors, recalling them again to feast in their father's house, and to partake of the banquet, in which they might still share, but which she would not suffer to be dissipated.
Now, however, the Church experiences a revolt unex
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ampled in the history of former ages. The natural alliance which mutually converts the Testament of Christ and its guardians—an alliance sealed with his blood-is violated; and the rich deposit which he bequeathed, is attempted to be scattered abroad; not only to be enjoyed by the observers, but to be rifled by the violators, of his covenant. Mixed with the impure errors that cover the earth, the truths of this divine Testament, when dispersed out of the Catholic Church, gradually disappear. Like the manna which fed the Israelites from heaven, and which, if collected as God had prescribed, became substantial nourishment, but vanished from those who sought it any other way; the Word of God becomes life to those who seek it from the Church, while it eludes the search of all who follow their own caprices. In vain, then, is the world inundated with bibles: the dead letter may be circulated, without being informed by the Spirit, which maketh wise unto salvation.
All may be invited to slake their thirst with the divine word, but let them recollect, that after being forced out of the inclosures of that Church which is called, 'the sealed fountain,' its contents, instead of being pure, are the poisoned 'waters of the broken cistern.'
“Hence, the strange alliance between infidelity and fanaticism, that characterises our period. Retaining, by the principle of resistance to authority, the very root of infidelity, men still affect to insult the inspired writings for what they ought to believe; the result is such as might be expected. Under the common name of Christianity, infidelity lies disguised; and from the latitude of belief which has resulted from each one's sense of the inspired writings, unbelievers have discovered that to abandon them to the interpretation of each individual, is
the most effectual plan to propagate their infidelity. The contest does not now, as heretofore, turn on any peculiar tenet of the Catholic Church: its very authority is aimed at; and the abettors of the perfectibility of the human mind flatter themselves that they have superseded the authority of the Church, by having erected the monstrous system of Bible Societies. This is but giving another name to the principle of private judgment, from which the pretended Reformation sprang. The spirit of man is inventive, and one folly quickly succeeds another. However, in this vast design of reducing the world to a uniformity of faith, by the dumb authority of the Bible, the ancient feuds of the sectaries seem to suffer a temporary respite. In the hope of deposing that authority which equally proscribes them all, they forbear advancing their own claims to any peculiar election. Weary of an incessant struggle, in which they had wasted each other's strength, without any prospect of victory, they have adopted more moderate counsels, in order to effect a stronger opposition against the authority of the Church. But this confederacy will soon be dissolved: the elements of discord, of which it is composed, are incapable of strong or lasting cohesion. Like the leagues which were often formed against the Church, this too will soon pass away, and its fleeting existence will be only remembered as another trophy of the strength of that Church, whic it was intended to overthrow.
“ To fix then the faith of the true believer, as well as to enable those who have strayed from the paths of truth, to retrace their wandering footsteps, shall be the object of the succeeding chapters. In the prosecution of a work, in which the elucidation of truth is my aim, I shall abstain from every topic that can be considered only a subject of
barren disputation. If candour and temper are deemed essential qualities in every writer, who wishes to make a farourable impression, much more necessary is it for bim who labours to promote the interests of charity and the salvation of mankind, to lay aside every acrimonious feel. ing. In entering on a discussion, in which the spiritual interests of millions are involved, a writer must not lose sight of the nature of the object in which he is engaged. It is not a philosophical discussion, of which the issue is to depend upon the subtlety of argument, or the variety of learning, with which either champion shall vindicate his
Much learning and ingenuity may be displayed in the support of an erroneous position; and, if truth were never supposed to triumph, until the spirit of cavil should yield, the sum of certain and indisputable principles would be reduced to a small number. Of the force of subtle and metaphysical arguments, the people are incompetent judges; nor can he be supposed the best calculated to guide their belief, who leads them through a labyrinth where but few can follow. The advocate of one system may be satisfied with the evidence by which it is supported. But if the process of reasoning, by which he has arrived at his conclusions, be intricate, while he displays the force of his own mind, he ought to reflect that such a process is not obvious to every capacity. As the present controversy, then, regards principally the great bulk of mankind, it might happen that the mode of reasoning, in which most ingenuity could be displayed, would be the least adapted to their apprehensions. We are to recollect that it is to the poor that Christ chiefly preached the gospel, and that he gave thanks to his heavenly Father, for having revealed to the little ones, what he had hidden from the wise and prudent of the world.' (Luke x. 21.)