Imatges de pàgina

Jatian Pe- scourge, the stake and the sword, which raised themselves Asia Mibe
riod 4799. against the members of the Churcbes of God. The ridicule of
Vulgar Æra, the satirist-the world's dread laugh-the scorn of the philoso-
96. phical leaders of the public opinion-the reasoning of the learn-

ed-contempt, aud wonder, and pity-all that could move the
affections, or break the resolution—the fear of infamy, which
sbriuks from slander- the love of approbation, which excites to
virtuous and useful actions, and leads men to honourable emi.
nence-all of these, and more than tbese powerful motives of
action, appealed in vain to the bearts of the primitive Chris.
tians. The more their spiritual enemies within, and the turbu-
lent heathen withont, oppressed the Churches of Christ, the
more " they multiplied and grew," till the majority of the
empire professed the faith of the Gospel, and the Emperor of
Rome became the convert and protector of the faith of Christ.

II. From the death of Constantine to the rise of the Papal
power by the grant of Phocas.

Though the philosophy of the Gnostics, the Docetæ, the Marcionites, and others, bad corrupted in many instances the purity of Christianity, the two principal heresies which still divide the Universal Church, commenced at this period. One contaminated the doctrine, the other destroyed the government of the independant episcopal Churches. . The error of Arius, and the usurpations of the Church of Rome, were the two principal sources of all the corruptions which have degraded Christians. Ecclesiastical history ought only to have related the progress of mankind in knowledge, virtue, and happiness : it tells the same sad and melancholy tale of human infirmity, and crime and folly, which profane 'history has given to the world.

The common opinion of any age may be known by the opposition which it has made to those who offer their own conclusions to general acceptance. The primitive ages were careful to preserve the scriptural doctrine of the twofold pature of Christ, and to assert' his humanity while they defended his divinity. The various errors which the spurious philosopby of the three first centuries submitted to the approbation of the Churches, were generally founded on the attempt to exalt the divinity, at the expence of the humanity of Christ. The Goos. tics invented their notion of the Æons—the Docetæ tbeir opipion that the form of Christ was not real, but a phantom only; and that the safferings of Christ in his own persou, was an impossibility. Tbe error of Arius was founded on the opposite extreme. This heresiarch endeavoured to introduce an opinion, which the Universal Church believed to be derogatory to the divinity of its founder, that our Lord was only the first, and greatest, and highest of all created beings. This opinion appeared to him to be more consistent with human reason ; and it became, therefore, a part of bis philosophy, and he rejected the plainer declaration of Soripture, and the evidence of antiquity both of the Jews and Gentiles. The Jews believed their Logos to be a divine being the Christians received Christ as that Logos, because bis own assertions and actions, as well as tbe testimony of St. Joho, appeared to demonstrate the truth. The sources of beresy with Arius, were the same as those wbich influ. ence so many at present. His private speculations were preferred to that interpretation of Scripture which had been uniformly adopted by the Universal Church. He did pot, or would not, remember, that Scripture is superior to reason ; and that the prostration of our intellect, which man cannot demand of man, is an act of worthy and reasonable homage to God.

The vehement disputes which convolsed the whole Charch


731 Julian Pe through these three centuries, and which respectively occasion. Asia Minor. riod, 4799. ed the calling of the first general councils, may be said to bave ValgarÆra, originated id the innovations of Arius. The Councils of Nice, 96.

Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, have confirmed the
general opinions of the primitive Churches, and that also of the
far greater portion of Christians at present, on the subject of
the person of Christ, of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the
Atonement. Our most eminent historian has expressed himself
with the sarcastic bitterness so usual with him when Christianity
is mentioned, respecting these councils. The faults of Churches
and of Cbristians have always been the triumph of infidelity.
Now, as well as formerly, the crimes and follies of David make
the enemies of God to blaspheme. He bas omitted, however, to
relate the influence of these dissensions among Cbristians, upon
the people of the East. The usual consequences of contro-
versy, religious indifference, unscriptural error, contempt of
the zealous maintainers of truth, and general carelessness of
life, prepared the way for any bold teacher, who could triumph
over the increasing igoorance, unite the broken fragments of
truth and falsehood into one system, and arouse the dormant
superstition of the age. There is a fulness of time for error as
well as for truth. As the progressive improvement of the human
race by knowledge and literature, and science among tbe hea-
thens, by revelation among the Jews, and by universal peace
among all nations, rendered the time of our Lord's incarnation
the very fittest period for establishing a religion, founded on
evidences which intreated the careful and deliberate investiga-
tion of all mankind, that they might be satisfied of its truth,
and embrace it upon conviction; so did the progressive dete-
rioration of the ago, by the extinction of learoing among the
heathen in consequence of the political convulsions of the Ro-
man empire, and the savage inroads of the barbarians, by the
puerile attention to trifles among the Jews, by the general con.
tempt in which they were held, and the almost universal mental
debasement, render this the fittest period for the general esta.
blishment of the two great corruptions of Christianity; the
apostacies of Rome, and of Mahomet, the predicted rival ene-
mies of pure religion in the west and east.

It would lead me too far from my object to relate at greater
length the causes of the origin, progress, and suspension of the
con quests of Mahomet; its subsequent temporary revival, the
eptire loss of its political power as the dangerous rival of its
neighbours, and its present increasing weakness by the gradual
separation and independance of its fairest provinces. Our wri-
ters on prophecy have sbewn the great probability, that as these
two nasses of error arose together, their power will be also de-
stroyed at the same time, when the prophetic period of 1260
years, which commenced in the year 606, will have elapsed. I
am not willing, however, to rest any argument upon these inter-
pretations. Time and history are the only certain interpreters
of prophecy, and though the declining power of the Mohammedan
apostacy may appear to sanction this bypothesis, the reviving
influence of the upscriptural errors and political power of Ro-
manism, excites at once our sorrow and surprise, and compels
us to withhold our assent to the desired interpretation, till the
veil is yet nioro withdrawn from the future. Our attention will
be more usefully directed to the causes and growth of the wes-
tern apostacy of the Church of Rome.

The early Churches were united into one society by the observance of one common law, submission to episcopal government. A member of the episcopal Church of one country, was considered a member of the Catbolic Charch of Christ, in every


Jalian Pe- country where he might happen to travel. When Christianity Asia Mior
riod, 4799. began to be more extensively dispersed, the Church at Rome
Valgar Æra, was distinguished above all others by the number and wealth of

its converts. The Bishop of Rome was soon enabled, by the
munificent donations which were made to the Church, to as-
sume greater pomp, and exercise more extensive power, than
other Bishops. Many circumstances occurred to increase and
establish his influence. The provinces had been accustomed to
bring their civil appeals to Rome; this became the precedent
for the members of the provincial Churches to appeal from their
own bishops to tbe Bishop of Rome. A general deference was
paid among the western Churcbes in the first centuries to the
see of Rome, though its more open usurpations were repelled
with contempt. When Victor, who was Bishop of Rome in the
year 195, excommunicated the Churches of Asia, who refused to
observe Easter in the manner which he judged to be right, Iren-
ælis, the Metropolitan of France, reproved bis presumption.
In the year 250, the African Bishops peremptorily refused to
submit to the maodate of the Bishop of Rome, and received again
their beretical bishops. The Church of Spain also, a few years
afterwards, refused submission to the Roman Pontiff, when he
insisted on their restoration, after they had been deposed for
offering sacrifice to idols. These facts prove the early assump-
tion of power, and the coutinued ambition of the Popes in the
primitive ages; and the refusal of the independant episcopal
Churches to submit to their dominion.

The political divisions of Italy in the fourth century copsi.
derably increased the influence and power of the sec of Rome,
the ecclesiastical divisions of the Church being made conform-
able with those of the empire. Every province had its Metro-
politan (Hallam, vol. ii. p. 21), and every vicariate its ecclesias-
tical primate. The Bishop of Rome presided in the latter capa-
city over the Roman vicariate, which comprebended southern
Italy, and the three chief Mediterranean islands. But none of
the ten provinces which formed this division, had any Metropo-
litan, so that the Popes exercised all metropolitical functions
within them, such as the consecration of bishops, the convoca-
tion of synods, the ultimate decision of appeals, and many other
acts of authority. These provinces were called the Roman Pa-
triarchate, and by gradually enlarging its boundaries, and by
applying the maxims of jurisdiction by wbich it was governed
to all the western Churches, the asserted primacy was extended
and strengthened over the fairest portion of the empire. Illy-
ricum, for instance, was added to the Patriarchate of Rome, by
an act of primacy, and no consecration of bishops was permitted
without the sanction of the Bishop of Rome. This took place
before the end of the fourth century.

Another principal circumstance which contributed to the establishment of the power of the Church of Rome, was the removal of the seat of empire from that city, to Constantinople. The political influence always attendant on the immediate presence of the Sovereign, consequently ceased; and the principal magistrate at Rome was the head of its Church. The sudden power which was thus unavoidably, though unintentionally, conferred on the Pontift, was increased by the abandonment of Rome and of Italy, by its principal senators. To this cause of iufluence we must add the progress of the conversion of the northern nations, and the grant of patriarchal power to Pope Damasus, by Gratian and Valentinian, over the whole western Church, sanctioning the custom of appeals to Rome. The renewal of this edict by Valentinian the Third, still further increased the power of the Pontifl. The custom of pilgrimages to

ORIGIN, PROGRESS, AND TRIUMPH OF POPERY. 733 lian Pe- the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul-the introduction of the Asia Minor. d, 4799. Gregorian Litany-and, more than all these, the granting the Igar Æra, title of Universal Bishop by Phocas, completed the worldly

structure of ecclesiastical ambition, which had now usurped tho
name of the Church of Christ, and appeared to be the rolling
stone which should become the predicted mountain, and fill the
whole earth.

III. Progress and triumph of the Church of Rome.

The universal good wbich Christianity will eventually produce to the world, will be accomplished in that one only manner which results from our state of trial, the gradual overruling of evil. The freedom of man's actions counteracts for a time the designs of his Creator. The increasing divisions among pations, the general ignorance, the continued ambition of Rome, and the speculative pbilosophy which founded on words and imaginations, obscured the simplicity of the primitive Christianity. Every corruption was made permanent by the establishment of the power of Rome, by the authority of 'Pbocas. From this period, to the time of the council of Trent, the history of Christianity in Europe presents us with little else than a detail of increasing errors in its doctripes, gradual addition to the temporal dominion of the Roman pontiffs, and continued opposition to the falsehood which abounded on the one side, and to the encroachments which prevailed on the other.

Though many superstitious practices and unscriptural opinions had debased the purity of the early faith, there can be no comparison between the state of religious error when the grant of Phocas conferred political power on the Roman Pontiff, and the extent to which the system of imposturc, deceit, and falsehood, subseqnently attained, by the time when the council of Trent impressed its seal on the great charter of papal slavery. The published works of Pope Leo, who sent Augustine to Eng. Jand, prove that the religious failh of that day was essentially different in the most important doctrines, from the Creed which was sanctioned by the council of Trent. The parallel between the faith of the two periods has been drawn at some length by an eminent divine of the last century. I have elsewbere extracted from Bishop Stillingfleet the passage to wbich I reser(e), It will be seen that the doctrines of solitary masses, masses for the dead, transubstantiation, the supremacy of the pope, the equal authority of Scripture and tradition, the equal authority of the apocryphal with the canonical books of Scripture, the power of good works to deserve salvation, the confession of sins in private to the priest, communion in one kind, and the worship of images, were all condemned by Pope Leo: and were all decreed to be articles of faith, and as such to be implicitly received on pain of damnation, by the council of Trent. This remarkable fact destroys at once the truth of the assertion so generally made, that the Church of Rome has retained an unchangeahle Creed. The faith of that Church is an embodied collection of true and false opinions; partly derived from misinterpreted Scripture, but principally invented in the course of the controversies and discussions which have ever prevailed in the world, and which would have escaped from the memory of mankind, with other absurdities of the age of ignorance ; if they had not been preserved, and sanctioned, and enforced, by the asserted infallibility of the most fallible Church on earth. Like the ghosts, and sorcerors, and witches, and magicians, of the midnight darkness, which the morning beams of our knowledge has dispersed, all would have fled for ever, if the usurper of the throne of God had not said, let there be night, and it was, and is night. The council of Trent, with the Gorgon look of

Julian Pe- an intellectual death, has gazed on the chaos which extends Agia Miez.
riod, 4799. over the ages of ignorance. Spurious decretals, useless
Vulgarðra, vows, abominable doctrines, unreasonable, and idolatrous, and

superstitious practices, are frozen into one solid bridge, and
error aud falsehood pass freely from hell to earth, to enslave,
and to curse mankind.

If the absurdities to which I allude had been harmless and
innocent; if falsehood could be publicly taught, and the peace
and bappiness of nations continue ; be wbo opposed error, and
maintained the cause of truth, might be justly condemned for
disturbing the peace of society, whatever were the falsehoods
which were received by the community. If the volumes of
theologians only recorded the weakness of human intellect, the
tale might excite contempt or pity; and the Protestant objec.
tor to falsehood be regarded with the same lofty contempt as we
now entertain for its proposer and defender. But the history
of Christian nations is nothing else but a detail of the conse
quences of the prevalence of certain religious opinions. Vice
itself is only forbidden by the Deity, because it is injurious to
the happiness of man. The voice of prophecy would not hare
stigmatized the corruptions of Rome by its stern and bitter rem
proach, if the falsehood which it teaches had been consistent
either with the temporal or future happiness of nations. From
considering the gradual success of erroneous priociples, let us.
look to their consequences, as they are recorded by history.
From tbe grant of Phocas, to the age of Lnther, the annals of
Europe are filled with one long catalogue of crime, produced by:
the influence of the corruptions of the Church of Rome. The
depositions of princes, the fomenting of rebellions, the flagitious
lives of the Popes, the scandalous decrees againt the freedom
of opinion, the persecutions of the objectors to the power of
Rome, which disgrace this sad portion of the history of the
world, have been so amply, and so frequently related, that it is
ouly now necessary to allude to them. The principles which
produced these deplorable effects on religion, and liberty, and
happiness, are still maintained. They are triumphant on the
Continent; they are reviving in England. Their defenders are
heard with applause ; their opponents are treated with insult.

IV. The Reformation; its good and bad effects.
The friends of the Church of Rome had long endeavoured to
effect its reformation, before the age of Luther. Indigpant
remonstrances, the most energetic appeals, the most affecting
entreaties, the most bitter and galling satire, were alike in
vain exerted to induce the removal of abuses. The natural
reason of thinking men was shocked at the consequences of the
papal doctrines. I could select, from the writings of the Ro-
manist divines themselves, a collection of recorded immora-
lities, the unavoidable result of the religious principles ineui.
cated by the Church of. Rome, which would not be credible if
they had been related by a Protestant. In this state of tbings,
the injudicious enforcement of one of tbe more objectionable
doctrines of its absord creed, elicited the spark whicb fired the
long prepared train of public indignation. Permissions to com-
mit sin were publicly sold, under the pretence of remitting the
penalties of the guilt which their commission would have con-
tracted; the quarrel between the rival societies of monks, who
were desirous of participating in the profits of this scandalous
traffic, occasioned that gradual, open, and indignant opposi.
tion to the Church of Rome, which ended in the alienation of
its fairest provinces, and the restoration of tbat pure religion,
and unsettored liberty of mind, wbicb it bad been among the
original objects of Christianity to secure to its adherents.

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