Rev. Ingram Cobbin M.A. (1896 AD)
Protestant writers often seem to take up the pen rather in self-defence than as assailants of Popery; or, at least, they do not think of assailing it till it has assumed an imposing posture, and threatened their faith by its daring advances. Such is the relative position of Popery and Protestantism among us at the present moment, though in many other countries the former is on the decline; and every true servant of Christ is called upon to use his best efforts to repel the artful destroyer.
Though apologies are offered for truth, truth needs no apology. We are accused by Papists as schismatics and heretics; but the so-called schism consists in separating from their church, and not from the church of Christ; and our heresy is shunning their tradition, and not the word of God—the only standard of truth and infallible guide of our judgments. Whatever does not come from the fountain of truth in doctrine, and whatever does not accord with the practice of the primitive church before the Fathers wrote, or human creeds were invented, or Popish councils assembled, should be avoided as we would avoid the most destructive pestilence, On these grounds would we warn against Popery as the moral Upas-tree —to come within the atmosphere of which is to inhale the most deadly poison for the soul. The limits to which this [Essay is restricted, require us to plunge at once into the heart of the subject, without further introductory remarks:—
THE CHURCH OF ROME IS ERRONEOUS IN ITS DOCTRINES. The Papists, with us, believe (1) in original sin, its defiling and ruinous nature, its being entailed from one child of Adam to another; but for the cure of this they have, as they imagine, a special remedy, which is baptism, "rightly administered according to the forms of the church :" in which ordinance the merits of Christ are applied, and thus what was contracted in generation is cleansed away by this sort of regeneration! The same doctrine is now notoriously enforced by the semi-papists who have started up in the church of England—a doctrine which at once sets aside the need of a change of heart, and deludes thousands with the idea that they have by this ordinance been made Christians, instead of having only received "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," which if they do not afterwards possess, will cause them to fall short of that qualification which fits for the kingdom of heaven.
(2) The doctrine of Justification lies at the root of the tree of life. Without an entire faith in the merits of a better righteousness than our own, we can never be saved. So conscious are mankind of guilt in the sight of God, that all the world have virtually at least acknowledged it. Infidels themselves, in moments of danger, have trembled at the thought of eternity, and have even prayed. "How shall man be just with God?" is a question of the utmost moment; yet, deceived by the arch-adversary, men have ever been ready to prefer a religion of external forms, to a religion of the heart—an outside, to an inside cleansing: a religion in which they fancy there is much merit, rather than one in which they must be indebted wholly to Divine grace. Popery panders to this lust of pride. One article, among many others on the subject, by the council of Trent, the indisputable standard of popery, says, "If any one shall affirm that good works do not preserve and increase justification, but that good works themselves are only the fruits and evidence of justification already had, let such an one be accursed." If justification is to be preserved by us, then the justification wrought out by Christ is, at best, but a precarious justification; and if we eau increase it, then it is incomplete justification. If we appeal to the Bible standard, the question there occurs, "It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?" But popery is a jumble on this great doctrine; it makes Christ to do part and the sinner to do part, and undervalues the efficacy of the atoning blood and all-sufficient righteousness of "the Lord our Righteousness." Thus one of its acknowledged standard authors says, "These penitential works, he [the papist,] is taught to be no otherwise satisfactory, than as joined and applied to the satisfaction Jesus made upon the cross; in virtue of which alone, all our good works find a grateful acceptance in God's sight." Here is the most complete confusion. A man's works must be joined and applied to the satisfaction of Christ; and yet it is in virtue of Christ's satisfaction that our good works can be acceptable to God! If we ask how hr the efficacy of Christ's atonement extends, we are told that it extends to all mortal sins, as if there could be any sin not mortal, and exposing us to eternal death; but then there are sins from which we must be justified by our own deeds, venial transgressions, which prayers, fastings, almsgiving, penance, and purgatory may in the end remove. While many poor souls are deluded by this doctrine of mixed justification, partly by Christ and partly by the sinner himself, the Roman Catholic church, by working on the pride of the human heart on the one hand, and on the fears of trembling souls on the other, derives no small advantage from these misnamed meritorious labours and toils.
Moreover, in addition to his own good deeds, the papist can help himself from the stock of others, who need to perform them no longer! Those saints who have lived such immaculate lives, that they have done more than their duty to God and man, and have got safe to heaven with a treasure of works of supererogation to spare, are kind enough to allow the pope for the time being to assign to such as he thinks proper "a portion of this inexhaustible source of merit, suitable to their respective guilt, and sufficient to deliver them from the punishment due to their crimes!" This doctrine was first invented in the twelfth century, and modified and embellished by St. Thomas in the thirteenth. To suppose that a sinful creature, who is bound to love God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, could with his sinful nature perform more than is here required, is one of the most preposterous ideas that ever entered into the mind of man. The belief of such a doctrine is "the firstborn of delusion;" it need be answered but very briefly from the words of our Divine Lord himself," When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do," Luke xvii. 10. And could we serve and worship God incessantly, with the purity and ardour of the burning seraphs around the eternal throne, we should still do no more than our duty.
(3) Absolution is a power presumed to belong to the popish priesthood By this the priest pronounces remitted the sins of such as are penitent. The council of Trent and that of Florence declare the form or essence of the sacrament to lie in the words of the absolution," I absolve thee of thy sins!" According to this, no one can receive absolution without the privity, consent, and declaration of the priest: therefore, unless the priest be willing, God himself cannot pardon any man. They found this doctrine on John xx. 23: "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Had the words implied power to pardon sins, still that power could not, from this warrant, go beyond the apostles on whom it was conferred, as was the power of working miracles. But we see no such power claimed. The apostles preached the forgiveness of sins to those that repented and believed, (Acts iii.19, etc.) and in all eases their theme was the same, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," Acts xiii. 38. It was, therefore, no more than a declarative absolution, assuring sinners that "He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel." No power here belongs to the priest; it is God only who can forgive sins.
(4) Indulgences. Nearly allied to the doctrine of absolution, is the power of granting indulgences, or "a remission of the punishment due to sin, granted by the church, and supposed to save the sinner from purgatory." With alt his absolution, the good papist stops short of heaven at last; for the moment his breath is out of his body, he enters purgatory. But the keys of heaven being committed to St. Peter, and the popes in succession, they can unlock the gates, and let in the vilest sinners that ever corrupted the world! For various prices souls may be redeemed out of purgatory, and any one may make his friends a present of a plenary remission of all sins! This is too ridiculous to merit notice, but for the awful delusion with which it is connected. The popish priest having asserted his power to forgive sins, poor souls who give credit to his assertion are naturally anxious to obtain pardon from him. But in order so to do, he requires that to him they should make confession.
(5) Purgatory must here be noticed. It has been defined as "a place m which the just who depart out of this life are supposed to expiate certain offences, which do not merit eternal damnation." Now, all sin is sin; and every sin is "the transgression of the law," 1 John iii. 4; and sin, then, must merit death, "for the wages of sin is death," Rom. vi. 23. Nor does the Scripture tell us anything about the wicked being in punishment for a limited time, or even going to an intermediate state, or passing from hell to heaven. It tells us that the duration of the misery of the wicked is like that of the happiness of the righteous, which is forever, Mark ix. 44; 1 Thess. iv. 17, etc.; that the good go instantly into the paradise of God, Luke xxiii. 43, Phil. i. 23; and that the wicked as instantly lift up their eyes in torments—torments from which escape to heaven is rendered impossible by an impassable gulf, Luke xvi. 26.
There are two scriptures on which the papists found their doctrine of purgatory, Matt. xii. 32, and 1 Pet. iii. 8—20. The language of the former is a strong mode of expressing the unchangeable punishment of him who sins against the Holy Ghost. "It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." But it does not warrant us to say that any are forgiven in the world to come; and St. Paul assures us, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," 2 Cor. vi. 2. The second passage must be greatly wrested if we attempt to make anything more from it than what appears on its very face. Christ, who by his Spirit inspired Noah the preacher of righteousness, preached to the antediluvian sinners, now, and when the apostle Peter wrote, confined in the prison to which all unbelievers are for ever consigned. This doctrine of purgatory is, however, in harmony with the other parts of the popish creed, as it evidently leaves the work of pardon through Christ incomplete, and leaves even the best to make atonement to justice in another world!
(6) The sacrifice of the mass is one of the peculiar doctrines of popery. For not believing in this, many a one has been sent by the papists in a chariot of fire, to join "the noble army of martyrs." The mass is similar to what Protestants call the communion service. High mass is the same thing more lengthened and showy. In the early ages of the church, the congregation was dismissed before the celebration of the Lord's Supper, none but the communicants being allowed to remain. The officiating minister said, "Ita missa est," and the congregation withdrew; hence in process of time arose the name. The mass is held to be a true and proper sacrifice for sin; and a sacrifice for the living and the dead! Here again is a reflection on the merits of the Divine Redeemer, and a vile anti-scriptural doctrine, the work of human invention. When Christ died on the cross, his work was "finished," John xix. 30; and the apostle assures us that "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," Heb. x.14, Besides, a sacrifice must have a victim; but at best it is but the commemoration of the offering of the one only and spotless Victim—" the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Every time that mass is offered, Christ is insulted and dishonoured. There is no praise to the mass, any more than to human merit, given by the redeemed in heaven; but their song is, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing," Rev. v. 12.
(7) Transubstantiation is closely connected with the preceding doctrine. A momentary glance only can here be taken of this leading article of popery. In the Romish church the belief of this doctrine was often made a test of the faith of an individual, and was admirably evaded in those memorable lines of queen Elizabeth:—
"Christ was the word that spake it;
He took the bread, and brake it;
And what that word doth make it,
That I believe and take it."
Revelation is often above reason; as, for example, in describing the nature and existence of God: "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" Job xi. 7. Revelation is not contrary to reason, nor contrary to common sense; but nothing can be more absurd than the popish pretence of making a bit of wafer to be the body of Christ, which body, in that case, has been multiplied like the loaves and fishes, and eaten over and over again in all places, for many ages to the present time! And the words on which this doctrine is founded are known to every scholar of the humblest pretensions to mean no more than "this represents my body." A man must want common sense to suppose that Christ really gave his body to his disciples, when he administered the last supper, and yet that the same body was afterwards crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. The bread is bread that the priest gives, and the wine is wine; and what pretence soever he may make, he can make nothing more of it.
Having thus briefly touched on the leading doctrines of Popery as its ground-work, the due notice of which would furnish matter for volumes, our space will only admit of a rapid glance at its practice:—
I. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS ARBITRARY IN ITS DISCIPLINE. There is laxity enough among its priests, but woe be to the poor laity that fall within its power, even if they be monarchs on their thrones. All must lick the dust before the sentence of popes, councils, cardinals, inquisitors, and priests! Operating on the peace of whole nations, the curse or excommunication of the pope has unseated the monarch on his throne, and sent the potentate on his knees to ask the restoration of his crown! It will be sufficient to mention the cases of Henry IV., emperor of Germany, and of king John of England. Penances the most absurd and degrading have been submitted to by the slaves of popery, for which there is not the shadow of authority in the word of God, and which could never in their nature show real sorrow of heart, or make the least atonement for sin. What can be the real benefit derived from repeating continually as many Ave Marias, Paternosters, or Credos, as the priest may determine? from walking barefoot? from licking the dust? consigning the penitent to a hair-shirt, or obliging or advising the poor devotee to inflict sharp castigations on his naked body?
II. THE CHURCH or ROME IS presumptuous IN ITS claims. Its popes, besides claiming to be successors of St. Peter, claim to sit in the seat of God himself. The man who has suffered himself to be called "Dominus Deus Noster Papa"—"OUR LORD GOD THE POPe" —is surely the apostate of Scripture, who, "as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," 2 Thess. ii. 4. No being, how great soever he may be supposed to be, can forgive sins, but God only, Mark ii. 7; but this the bishop of Rome and his priests, authorized by him, claim as their prerogative. With great artifice they will pretend that this is ultimately the work of God; but with the most presumptuous assumption they dare to teach their deluded votaries that it is the work of the pope and the church! The catechism of the council of Trent declares that the Almighty has given to his church the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and that the penitent's sins are forgiven by the minister of religion, through the power of the keys. The arrogance that presumes to dispose at pleasure of heaven itself, may easily be supposed to claim no inferior power on earth. Hence the bull of pope Sixtus V. against Henry, king of Navarre, and the prince de Condé, claims an authority which exceeds all the powers of earthly kings and potentates. "And if," says the bull, "it find any of them resisting the ordinance of God, it takes more summary vengeance upon them, and hurling them from their throne, debases them as the ministers of aspiring Lucifer, whatever may be their power, to the lowest abysses of the earth!" Acting under this supposed authority, pope Pins V. excommunicated queen Elizabeth, asserting that "him God hath constituted prince over all nations and kingdoms, that he might pluck up, destroy, dissipate, overturn, plant and build!" In fact, the claims of popery for its head, have gone so far as to attribute to the pontiff all power in heaven and on earth; and it has been asserted that "the pope could do all things, sin excepted;" that "the sentences of God and the pope were one;" that his "indulgence remitted even the punishment of hell;" and that "no appeal could be made from the pope to God, because he is the Christ of God!" Accursed apostasy! where a sinful man, whose carcase must soon pay the forfeiture of sin, and rot in corruption, the best emblem of his own church, presumes to claim the homage of mankind, and the prerogatives that belong only to Deity!
III. THE CHURCH OF Rome is INIQUITOUS IN ITS PRACTICES. And what else is to be expected from a church which gives permission to do whatever is sinful. The daring sale of indulgences by Tetzel, when they excited the abhorrence of Christendom, was publicly condemned by the nuncio of pope Leo X. Tetzel, in his zeal to raise money for the holy see, probably went further than it was thought prudent to express so publicly, for he even asserted that any one might be permitted to commit the grossest debauchery, and offer violence to the holy Virgin herself, and be forgiven by the power of the pope, whose arms were equal to the cross of Christ! But after the death of Tetzel, A.D. 1519, a list of fees to the people for absolutions, dispensations, etc., was published in Paris, A.D. 1520. Absolution for fornication in a church was to be obtained for nine shillings; for murdering a layman, seven shillings and sixpence; for killing a father, mother, or wife, ten shillings and sixpence; for a priest keeping a concubine ten shillings and sixpence; for a layman keeping a concubine, the same sum; and for other crimes the mention of which would but defile these pages. "Such is the celebrated tax-book of the Apostolic Chancery, the publication of which stamps the church of Rome with eternal infamy." This publication was indeed, at last, partially condemned, but not till it had been a hundred years in circulation.
But let us see if the holy popes have been more holy than their doctrines, licenses, or agents. No; a worse set of men never corrupted the earth. From the time of Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, to the latest period, the popes have been more or less of abandoned principles. There have been covetous popes, proud popes, profane popes, unchaste popes, dishonest popes, murdering popes, all of whose names and characters may be seen in any impartial history of these pretended representatives upon earth of Him who was "holy, harmless, and undefiled!"
As were the popes, so we must expect to find the priesthood. The "forbidding to marry," a gross mark of the man of sin, has led the popish clergy to practise all kinds of iniquity with greediness; and the secret interviews, at the confessional, with females of every class and character afford facilities for the indulgences of forbidden propensities, of which the priests have not failed to avail themselves. Facts in abundance could be related to justify this charge, but it is not pleasant to dwell upon them, and they are too well known to require reference to authorities. The monasteries and nunneries have been often described as the seats of iniquity; and, in fact, the latter were no better than brothels, of the very worst description. In the days of Henry VIII., when these monasteries were fully explored in England, the abbots, priors, and monks kept as many women each, as any lascivious Mohammedan could desire, and their crimes renewed the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah!
IV. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS CRUEL IN ITS SPIRIT. Those who are conversant with its writers know the hatred which it breeds towards heretics. The council of Trent, besides anathematizing all the great doctrines of the gospel, consigned their defenders to eternal torments. "Cursed be all heretics," cried the cardinal of Lorraine, at the close of its last session; and "Cursed! cursed!" responded all the prelates. "Cursed! cursed!" echoed back the lofty dome of the old cathedral of Trent. Never had there been so much cursing "in any other synod, since the world was made." Here, too, the pages might be filled with specimens of this spirit. But let it suffice to remark how different from the spirit of Jesus, when he reproved his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans: "He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," Luke ix. 55. Carrying out her principles, the popish apostate bas deluged the earth with the blood of her victims. The murders committed by queen Mary, and by the Irish papists, are facts too welt known in history to be denied. Hundreds of martyrs have perished at the stake, thousands in dungeons, and millions form the aggregate of unfortunate Protestants, that have fallen under the bitter spirit of popery. Papists have imitated Saul of Tarsus, when he was the messenger of death to Damascus, and haled men and women, committing them to prison; and are the fac-similes of those persecutors whom our Lord warns his disciples to expect: "Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service," John xvi. 2. Torturing, shooting, hanging, strangling, burning alive, starving to death, in short every variety of suffering that diabolical ingenuity could invent, has been employed to glut the infernal appetites of the demons of the papacy! Among these the holy fathers of the inquisition have shared no inconsiderable part, and have become "drunk with the blood of the saints." Spain and Italy have been the slaughter-houses for the Protestants. Nor are the barbarities of popery confined to those lands; at the present moment their horrid cruelties are not unknown in Sclavonia, and bordering countries. We may say of these blood-thirsty men, as Jacob said of Simeon and Levi, "Instruments of cruelty are in theft habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united!" Gen. xlix. 5, 6.
V. THE CHURCH oF RoME IS WORLDLY IN ITS POLICY. Its object is to gain dominion; to get a footing in every court; to direct the affairs of kingdoms and empires; and to accumulate wealth. The Jesuits, though at times expelled or pretendedly so from Rome, have been its awful emissaries to augment its power. The intrigues and deceptions of these men would fill volumes, and the conveniency of their creed to deny or affirm anything, or assume any profession as it may serve their purpose, is too well known to need recapitulating here. These men have at times assumed so much that every papal state has alternately ejected them; and large numbers are now in this country—doubtless many under false colours —waiting the most favourable opportunities to corrupt the rising generation, and, as hr as possible, restore the dark days of former ages. The Jesuits are unchangeable. So is Popery. And to show that these observations are not without being confirmed by facts, one sufficiently strong may here be quoted. After the Reformation had been carried a considerable length in the minority of king James VI. of Scotland, it was in danger of being overthrown by the artifice of the duke of Lennox, a papist and a creature of the Jesuit court, who had acquired undue ascendancy over the young king. The ministry of the church were alarmed, and more especially when they saw several Jesuits and seminary priests arrive from abroad, and by the open revolt of some who had hitherto professed the Protestant faith. They warned their hearers of the state of things. Lennox at once publicly renounced the popish religion. But the jealousy of the nation was revived and inflamed by the interception of letters from Rome, granting a dispensation to the Roman Catholics to profess the Protestant tenets for a time, provided they preserved an inward attachment to the ancient faith, and embraced every opportunity of advancing it in secret. This discovery was the cause of originating the national covenant.
Confession is of most important use in establishing this dominion over men, and even over states and cabinets. Every member of the family is inadvertently made a spy. Every secret is known to the confessor. The king and the subject become alike the slaves of the church! Such a machinery is one of the most profound pieces of policy that could ever be employed by arbitrary states, Entering into the deepest recesses of the human bosom, it brings to light every hidden thing, and at once assumes the control of every heart. Thus have papists learned to rule the world!
VI. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS SELFISH IN ITS MOTIVES. There is nothing in it noble, expansive, or benevolent. While it calls itself the "Catholic" church, it is the most sectarian of all churches, shutting from heaven all that do not enter within its pale. It never teaches its votaries to wish "grace, mercy, and peace" to any but those of its own community. If the most lovely Christians in the world are not papists, they cannot offer up for them the benevolent wish, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."
Whatever the church teaches, or whatever it does, doctrines, sacraments, discipline, all are made to operate in filling her own gaping coffers, ever crying, "Give, give!" Idolatrous as she is in other matters, money is her chief idol. Her churches have been notorious for accumulating wealth, and so also have her convents and monasteries; and the contrivances for that purpose have been most subtle and successful. The doctrine of purgatory, in particular, has been a mine of wealth to the church. By con. signing good and bad to that indescribable yet horrible state, and keeping them there at the pleasure of the keys, mass upon mass has been heaped up mountains high, like Ossa upon Pelion; so that the poor deluded relatives of the departed have exhausted their money and patience in raising the golden ascent, by which to scale the heavens with more facility!
Without going back to the disgusting period which called forth the Reformation, it is sufficient to state, that these vile sources of revenue are still especially made productive at certain periods. The Jubilee bulls every twenty-five years call the faithful to Rome by promising "a plenary indulgence, remission, and pardon of all their sins." In Spain, a lucrative traffic is driven in this article of papal merchandise. Four bulls containing special indulgences are annually sent thither from Rome, which are bought by almost all the Spaniards, at prices suited to the condition of the purchasers. One bull gives plenary indulgences to commit what would otherwise be a mortal sin, by eating various articles of food during Lent. Another relates to frauds on property, allowing the guilty participants to retain it under certain qualifications. And what is called the Defunct bull obtains a plenary indulgence for any dead person, if his soul should happen to be still in purgatory! But no release from purgatory without money! Not a single mass nor paternoster can be offered up for a poor stoner without money! And the pope and the priest will allow the soul to suffer all the horrible torments which in their books and pictures are described as inflicted on the impenitent through countless ages, unless they have money to turn the keys, and release the poor victims from their misery. Truly, the "spirit of Popery" is the spirit. of the evil one —"the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
VII. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS IDOLATROUS IN ITS WORSHIP. The worshipping of any creature, how exalted soever he may be, or the likeness of anything "in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath," is idolatry. The Virgin Mary, the popes, the saints, the very bones of the saints, have been and are the objects of papal idolatries. So much homage is paid to the Virgin Mary that it has been well observed by a modern deceased writer, that it looks as if the papists thought that there were four subsistences in the Godhead, the Virgin Mary being the fourth. The "One Mediator," "Jesus Christ the righteous," is lost in the crowds, or rather the clouds of petitions offered up to the Virgin. This idolatry has no seeming authority anywhere in the Scriptures but in the angelic salutation, "Hail! highly favoured, the Lord is with thee! blessed art thou among women!" and Mary’s words, "From henceforth ail generations shall call me blessed," Luke i. 28, 48. Blessed rather signifies "happy;" and not a word is here respecting worship to be offered to Mary by future generations. But "it is a favourite mode of declaiming amongst Roman Catholic divines," says Fletcher, "to represent Jesus Christ as far more willing to listen to the prayers and intercession of the Virgin, than to those of other saints. The consequence of such representations is obvious. More prayers are addressed to the Virgin in the Roman Catholic Church than to any other saint; and in some services there are ten Ave Marias for one Paternoster," One exhortation in the Catholic school-book is, "Have recourse to her in all your spiritual necessity; and for that end offer to her daily and particular prayers." The same book says, "She is most powerful with God to obtain from him all that she shall ask of him. She is all goodness in regard to us, by applying to God for us. Being mother of God, he cannot refuse her request; being our mother, she cannot deny her intercession, when we have recourse to her. Our miseries move her, our necessities urge her; the prayers we offer her for our salvation bring us all that we desire." And St. Bernard is not afraid to say, that "never any person invokes that Mother of mercies in his necessities who has not been sensible of the effect ~f her assistance." The prayers to the Virgin in the Breviary are generally known; they are in harmony with the above declarations.
The following are a few of the appellations of the Virgin: Holy Mother of God; Refuge of Sinners; Comforter of the Afflicted; Queen of Angels, of Patriarchs, of Apostles, of all Saints; Mirror of Justice; Seat of Wisdom; Mystical Rose; Tower of Ivory; House of Gold; and others equally extravagant. In the former, the honour due to Father, Son, and Spirit is given to a mortal—to the Virgin Mary; and the latter are too ridiculous to require comment. Popery is the same now as it was in the dark ages of the church; and the worship of the Virgin is still one of the favourite tenets of Romanism, as shown in the following extract from an encyclical letter of Plus IX.—"In order that our most merciful God may the more readily incline his ear to our prayers, and grant that which we implore, let us ever have recourse to the intercession of the most holy Mother of God, the immaculate Virgin Mary, our sweetest mother, our mediatrix, our advocate, our surest hope and firmest reliance, than whose patronage nothing is more potent, nothing more effectual with God!"
VIII. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS ABSURD, RIDICULOUS, AND BLASPHEMOUS IN ITS PRETENSIONS. These absurdities and blasphemies are so numerous, and so notorious, that a few only need be selected; and on these it is unnecessary largely to expatiate.
(1) Transubstantiation is one of the most notorious absurdities of their doctrine. A greater insult was never offered to the human understanding. A wafer and wine are transformed by the priest into the real body and blood of Christ; and though eaten and drunk millions of times, still it is so transformed, eaten, and drunk. Truly, Catholic priests must be knaves, and those of their community who really believe this absurdity must be numbered amongst the most silly of fools. The latter deserve pity, the former only to be ranked with the greatest and most dangerous rogues in society.
(2) Relics have brought no small revenue to the churches in which they have been deposited; and these have rivalled each other in the absurd inventions of popery. At Rome are the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, encased in silver busts set with jewels; a lock of the Virgin’s hair; a phial of her tears; a piece of her green petticoat; a robe of Jesus Christ, sprinkled with his blood; some drops of blood in a bottle; some of the water which flowed out of the wound in his side; some of the sponge; a large piece of the cross; all the nails used in the crucifixion; a piece of the stone of the sepulchre on which the angel sat; the identical porphyry pillar on which the cock perched when he crowed after Peter denied Christ; the rods of Moses and Aaron, and two pieces of the wood of the real ark of the covenant;—this is Rome in the nineteenth century! We might fill columns with relics of sacred bones, beards, hair, etc., but we must desist. In the church of the Escurial only, in Spain, there are no less than eleven thousand of these ridiculous impositions on the credulity of the weak and superstitious. The most extraordinary efficacy is ascribed to some of these relics, greatly benefiting the churches which have the good fortune to possess them.
(3) Patron saints are another happy invention to bring in grist to the mill. For the accommodation of the worshippers, there are in many churches altars belonging to a variety of these. These eminent saints are many of them doctors of’ high repute. St. Anthony cures diseases; St. Anthony of’ Padua delivers from water; St Barbara protects against thunder and war; St. Blass cures the throat; St. Lucia, the eyes; St. Nicholas helps young women to husbands; St. Ramon protects the pregnant; St. Lazaro serves the purpose of a nurse in giving childbirth; St. Polonia preserves the teeth; St. Domingo cures the fever; and St. Roche guards against the plague!
(4) The Agnus Dei is a wonderful little article. It is made chiefly of virgin wax, and has the image of the Lamb of God on it. The pope consecrates the Agnus Deis the first year of his pontificate, and every seventh year afterwards. It is the object of much devotion; for, kept about the person, it preserves from spiritual and temporal enemies, from the dangers of fire, water, storms, tempests, thunder, lightning, and sudden and unprepared death; puts devils to flight, takes away the stains of past sins, and produces other extraordinary benefits.
(5) Pardons. The marvellous ways in which these might be obtained were published in 1517, in a work entitled the Customs of London. Some of these were as follows :—In St. Peter’s at Rome, beneath the image of our Lord at the door, was one of the pence that God was sold for, the looking upon which obtained each time fourteen hundred years of pardon! Beholding a cloth made by our Lady, and exhibited on the Lady-day Assumption, obtained four hundred years of pardon! All who sat in Pope Accensius’s chair obtained a hundred thousand years of pardon!
(6) Miracles must be classed among popish absurdities. St. Raymond de Pennafort laid his cloak on the sea, and sailed thereon from Majorca to Barcelona, a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, in six hours! The miracles of other saints are of a like kind. The story of the house of our Lady of Loretto being carried through the air from Nazareth by angels is another prodigious absurdity. The priestly juggle of the annual liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples is well known. Nor are these miracles yet finished: Prince Hohenloe recently revived them in Germany, and the Earl of Shrewsbury has attested a new one in Italy. How unlike are these "inventions" of Popery to the miracles of Christ and his apostles, which were wrought before the world, attested by competent witnesses, designed to confirm their mission and were all acts of benevolence. The "Miracles of the Popery" may be dismissed by writing simply beneath them "LYING WONDERS."
(7) Pilgrimages have for ages been of great repute in the Church of Rome. Tribes emerging from barbarism may through this delusion have become acquainted with the blessings of civilized life; but that pilgrimages should be undertaken in the nineteenth century is another proof that popery loves darkness rather than light. A famous shrine of the Madonna, near .Leghorn, is constantly visited; and the Dominicans have lately found an image of the Virgin there, which has brought their order into great repute.
IX. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS INSULTING TO THE WORD OF GOD. It is too notorious, that in all countries where popery prevails, the Bible is not permitted to enter. If some favourable opportunities for its access are embraced, it is soon again interdicted. The darkness of popery cannot bear its light. Numerous proofs could be brought forward that the word of God has always been hated and destroyed by popes and priests. The church substitutes numerous inventions for Scripture authority. Hence its pope, falsely called the successor of St. Peter, who never was at Rome; its seven sacraments, two only of which are found in sacred writ—baptism and the Lord’s Supper; hence its purgatory pilgrimages images, and other absurdities. Though Christ has left the command, "Search the Scriptures," and apostolic authority records another, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," the church of Rome takes the greatest pains to keep the people in ignorance, and prevent the clear shining of this light. If it had free course, it would soon consume all her false doctrines, and shame all her absurdities and wickednesses. Nothing is hated more by popes and priests than the Bible, and the Bible Society. Against the latter a tremendous bull was thundered forth by the pope only as recently as the year 1824. If the Bible is occasionally found in circulation, it is grossly interpolated, its phrases are adapted to the inventions of the popish church, and its price too high for general use; and indeed, from the ignorance of the people in papal states, hut. few could use it. ‘Even then the authority of the church is paramount to everything, and nothing is to be believed in the Bible if it is not believed by the church! The Bible, God’s book, is fallible; the church of Rome its head, is infallible!
X. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS INIMICAL TO FREEDOM. To the present moment popish rulers, under the guidance of their priests, have suppressed knowledge, fettered the press, prevented free inquiry after truth, and the labours of Protestants. Papists claim everything for themselves in free countries; but popish countries allow no such liberty to Protestants. Truth is not afraid of papal error, but popery fears the truth. How numerous have been the martyrs in old France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and other popish countries. And where now is the liberty of worship in most of them? They domineer over the minds of men, and chain both their consciences and their understandings with fetters of iron. Books adapted to enlighten the mind are excluded, while fabulous accounts of the saints are abundantly circulated. Catechisms indeed they have, but they altogether omit the second commandment. Everywhere in the churches you are urged to pray for the dead, and to drop a little money for masses for their poor souls in purgatory; but no effort dare you make to enlighten the living. In all the nations where the Reformation burst forth, it was extinguished by persecution and the inquisition.
XI. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS UNHOLY IN ITS INFLUENCES. Its breath is poison, to morality. Its doctrines are calculated to encourage men to sin, because they can always obtain ghostly pardon. From its bosom spring a generation of the worst infidels, disgusted with its fooleries and enormities; and who, for want of better light, confound superstition with religion. Its trickeries and crimes which have occasionally been brought to light, have made hosts of genuine unbelievers. The practices discovered in its monasteries—often sinks of vice—and the lives of many of its clergy, have all aided to make men secret infidels, where they have not been weak enough to become dupes. Religion and pastime have been mingled together to defraud the people. The Sabbath may be desecrated by the covetous dealer or the mountebank; and the songs of the opera be listened to after the chants of the church. The fourth commandment is set aside, like the second, and papists defy the moral authority which says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." The scenes of commerce, pleasure, dissipation and vice, which abound in continental cities on the Sabbath, mark them at once as under the dominion of "the man of sin."
XII. THE CHURCH OF ROME IS COMPARATIVELY MODERN IN ITS ORIGIN, PRINCIPLES, AND CUSTOMS. Its antiquity is often a boast of the advocates of popery; but if antiquity stamped excellency on a religion, then Paganism and Judaism are older than Popery. The church of Rome, however, boasts of its antiquity without cause. The question has been proposed by the papist to the Protestant, "Where was your religion before the days of Wickliffe?" "Where?" was the reply; "why, where yours never was—in the Bible." Primitive Christianity bears no resemblance to popery. We find there no popes; no cardinals; no monks, nor nuns; no holy wafer, nor holy water; no baptism of bells, nor canonization of saints; no mass, nor giant candies; no chrism, nor cross; no repeating of Paternosters nor Ave Marias; no saints’ days, nor popes’ jubilees; no plenary indulgences, nor purgatories; no bulls, nor inquisitions; in fact, we find nothing like popery, except what is under the ban of heaven, and doomed to everlasting destruction: the "man of sin—the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.—-That Wicked, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the work of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved," 2 Thes. ii. 3, 4, 8, 10. The Bible further delineates Popery with unmistakable accuracy: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth." "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour; and decked in gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND .ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto one, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition," 1 Tim. iv. 1—3; Rev. xvii. 1-8.
Every part of Popery corrupts Christianity, and its corruptions have crept into its church by degrees. The Bible was not proscribed till the fourth century—this’ proscription was a novelty; the idolatry of popery did not commence till then—this was another novelty; the clergy were not forbidden to marry till then—another novelty. Infallibility was not claimed till the seventh century; the service was not performed in an unknown tongue before that time; purgatory was then introduced. Transubstantiation was not introduced till the eighth century. Half-communion was not begun till the eleventh century. Priestly absolution and excommunication were powers not claimed till the twelfth century; nor till then was it determined that there should be seven sacraments. The sacrifice of the mass, the worship of the host, and auricular confession, were established only in the thirteenth century. Tradition did not make its claims before the sixteenth century. Thus it appears that popery is a monster of slow growth, and all its parts have not been perfected till within a few centuries.
Such is the church against whose iniquities, doctrines, and practices the martyrs protested, and sealed the truth with their blood. It is heathenish new-modelled, and Christianity foully corrupted. It is doomed to perish, but yet struggles for existence. Its throne totters, but many hands yet strive to hold it up. Its subtle agents are at work to renew its influences in this land of martyrs. The Jesuit, like a sly serpent, creeps into every hole and corner. The "slimy viper" stealthily crawls into our families, schools, colleges, universities, and senate. We trace its existence under the mitre and the cassock; we see it polluting the pulpit and the press. We should beware of its corruptions in innovating ceremonies creeping under the Protestant altars, and in leading articles published in our most popular newspapers. If we would not again fall a prey to the reptile foe, let us learn dextrously to handle the sword of the Spirit, which it cannot resist; and let us say to each other, as Jesus to his disciples—WATCH!