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In a work of M. A. SERRANUS de Septem Urbis Romæ Ecclesiis, there is an account of a great number of small indulgences, extending to perhaps no more, singly, than twelve years, particularly in the Chureh of St. Mary the Greater ; although, in a Bull of Alexander VI. there is promised to the devout visitors of the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem annuatim omnium peccatorum suorum remissionem, &c. But the reserve of this writer is amply compensated by the useful communicativeness of another, and not an incompetent one. D. EUSEB. AMORT, in his work De Origine, &c. Indulgentiarum, 8c. printed at Venice, 1738. At p. 180 commences Indulgentiæ 7, Ecclesiarum Urbis. Respecting the Lateran Church, he introduces a Canon of that Church, CÆSAR RASPONUS, celebrating its Indulgences as beyond the power of enumerating ; and particularly, that the remission of sins was so disposed by apostolic providence, ut Romanis et circumjacentibus millium annorum, Tuscis et Longo ardis duorum millium annorum, sed et his, qui transmeare maria noscuntur, trium millium annorum maneat remissio peccatorum. The account ends, after mentioning some Indulgences not reaching to a hundred years, with those of D. Thomas's chancel, which are prope enumerabiles.* There is a very curious and scarce work by WILLIAM
CRASHAN, entitled Fiscus Papalis, sive Catalogus Indulgentiarum et Reliquiarum septem principalium Ecclesiarum urbis Romæ. Ex vetusto Manuscripto codice vere et fideliter descriptus. London, 1622. It is translated into English, with notes; and there can be no reasonable doubt of its authenticity, as it is in accordance with the representations of writers strictly pontifical. But it certainly would have been desirable to possess more information on this fundamental point. In the account of other Churches, in the two last chapters, Hundreds and Thousands of years of pardon are detailed very liberally. But not to dwell longer on this translator and annotator, we proceed to another of our countrymen who is an original, a most able, an unexceptionable, and most important witness.
I allude to Sir Edwin SANDYS, in his Europe Speculum, A View or Survey of the state of Religion, &c. Hagæ Comitis 1629. And this is his statement, pp. 13, &c. “In the Eremitana of Padova their preachers very solemnly publish a grant of plenary indulgence from baptism to the last confession, with twenty-eight thousand years over for the time ensuing: The pardon of Alexander the Sixth for thirty thousand years to whosoever before the altar of our Lady with Christ, and her mother, shall say a peculiar Ave, importing that our Lady was conceived without sin, is printed anew in Italy, and pictured in fairest sort: but these are for short times. At the sepulchre of Christ in Venice, a stately representation, whereon is written, Hic situm est cor. pus Domini nostri Jesu Christi, (yet inferring no real presence thereby, as I take it) with verses annexed of Conditur hoc tumulo ; there is hanging in a printed table a prayer of St. Austin, a very good one indeed, with indulgence for fourscore and two thousand years, granted from Boniface the Eighth, and confirmed by Benedict the Eleventh, to whosoever shall say it, and that for every day toties quoties, which yet is somewhat worth, that in a few days a man may provide for a whole million of worlds, if they did last no longer than this hath done hitherto." Other Indulgences a pæna et culpa, and to operate in purgatory, although of importance in their place, are here omitted. But lest any should have the littleness of mind to hesitate admitting this statement, as proceeding from a Protestant, I will produce a confirmation of it from a sincere Romanist, less bigotted, indeed, than most of his persuasion,
• It is worth observing, that this author has enumerated the varying opinions on the subject of Indulgences of One hundred and thirty-five different authors of his own united and infallible church.
J. B. THIERS, in his Traite des Superstitions, &c. Tom. iv, chap. xiii, where he sets himself to grapple with what he conceives a difficulty. This author quotes, in a translation, the passage just adduced, with a little addition, as undeniable testimony, and then proceeds to different statements to the same effect from CHEMNITIUS, RODRigues, and the Jesuit SANTAREL. Those who are obliged to vindicate the lost and incorrigible Church to which they belong, are exceedingly disconcerted by these facts, and tax both their ingenuity and invention to the utmost to obtain a solution or escape. But there they are in the net, and they will never be extricated till they come out of their Babylon.
The disgraceful facts which have here been exposed, might be considerably augmented even from the last author, and with more search, I doubt not, from many others. Without, therefore, indulging in the reflections which naturally and almost necessarily arise from the inspection of such a picture, I will content myself with asking the two questions:-Ist, whether these things have ever been condemned by the authority from which alone they have the credit of having emanated ? and 2nd, whether such things are, ever were, or could be, known in any Protestant community or nation?
PROVINCIAL LETTERS TO ROMAN CATHOLICS.
LETTER 5. To the Member of the Church of Rome. SIR, I am sensible that my undertaking to reply to your letter, will be regarded as a work of supererogation, (though not, perhaps, a meritorious one) even by many persons of your own communion. They will take the liberty of pronouncing you to be no member of the Church of
• I was directed by Mr. Scott's continuation of Milner's Church History to a passage in Seckendorf's Comment, de Lutheran, in which are exhibited pardons or indulgences, of most outrageous extent. That inestimable writer says, that the Duke of Brunswick, from his private library, favoured him with the inspection of Descriptio Reliquiarum Halensium, printed in 1520, with plates, in which, after enumerating the most remark. able, he adds, that on a certain day in the year, to the pious beholders of the relics, worshipping and contributing alms to the Church, by the grant of Leo X. were granted Indulgences annorum tricesies novies millenorum millium, ducentorum quadraginta quir. que millium, centum et viginti; dierumque ducentorum et viginti, et præterea quadragenarum series millies et quingenties millenarum, et insuper quadraginta millium. The author prudently adds, that the partakers must be worthy. Lib. iii. Sect. 24. & xci. p. 372.
In an Éccclesiastical History of France, Status Ecc. Gall. printed London, 1676, 4to, By the author of the late “ History of the Church of Great Britain," who signs himself, in a Latin Dedication to the Bishops of London and Rochester, &c., “G. G." but in an English preface to the reader, “W.G." from p. 218 to 228 is a long list of the extended Indulgences under review, said to be taken from a book printed “about this time," (I presume the sixteenth century) “at Chartres, by Philip Hotot." The historian adds, "I transcribe the whole." Can any of your readers give any information respecting either the historian, or the work quoted by him? There is a passage in the MARIALE Busti, by Bernardinus de Busti, an eminent Franciscan of the fifteenth century, well worthy of notice on this subject. It occurs in the twelfth or last part, Sermo. I, part 3, where the Marian idolater after enumerating the different Indulgences for saying Ave Marias and making the crown of the blessed (but, by him and his, dishonoured) Virgin, thus gives “the total of the whole." Et sic in summa erunt 273,758 dies indulgentiæ pro qualibet corona. Felicis autem recordationis Sixtus Papa IIII. omnibus dicentibus in statu gratiæ infrascriptam orationem sive salutationem ipsius virginis quæ a multis dicitur in corona duodecim millium annorum pro qualibet vice qua dicitur. Ave sanc. tissima Maria mater dei, &c. &c.
Rome, but a Protestant in disguise, who has purposely constructed a flimsy fabric in order that some brother controvertist may gain an easy triumph by its demolition; or, that if you are a Roman Catholic, you are, in all probability, some unfledged attorney's clerk
Who pens polemics when he should engrose. Whether this would be correct or not, is to me a matter of no importance ; for whether you are or are not a Romanist, it must be admitted that you talk very like one ; and my concern is not with your person, but your arguments,-not to ascertain your professional designation, but to examine whether you speak the words of truth and soberness.As the question of the right of Christians in general to hear the Scriptures is intrinsically of great importance, and as there is some shew of novelty in the reasons which you have advanced against it, whatever else there may be, I shall briefly discuss their validity; and in so doing, shall strictly confine myself to the matter in debate, studiously abstaining from all insinuations as to your character and person, which, even if well founded, would be nothing to the purpose.
You observe, that “when the doctrines contained in the New Testament were delivered to the primitive Christians, they required no interpretation. The language with which they were clothed, the phraseology made use of, the customs alluded to, and the proverbial sayings which abounded in the language, were well and perfectly understood by those Christians.” This, to a certain extent, we are willing to admit. We allow that the language in which the New Testament is written, was more generally understood in the time of the Apostles, and some ages after them, than at present, and that phrases occur in it, which though obscure to us, would be easily understood by ordinary readers of that period. We are ready to grant too that the Jewish converts would have a considerable advantage over us in understanding the proverbial sayings and the indirect allusions to oriental manners and customs. But it must be remembered that there were Gentile converts as well as Jewish ones, and whether they had any such superior acquaintance with those matters, may very fairly be doubted. We know from the accounts which Tacitus, and other heathens of the first reputation for talents and learning, have attempted to give of the Jews, that they were deplorably ignorant of their manners and every thing relating to them, and we have reason to think that the people of the present day understand the proverbs, on which you lay so inuch stress, at least as well as the heathen inhabitants of Rome or Corinth. And yet, we imagine, you would find it no easy matter to prove that the Apostles and other primitive teachers ever withheld the Gospels from any convert from heathenism, on the ground of his ignorance of Jewish customs and oriental forms of speech. If you have any evidence of such a restriction, we will thank you to produce it.
But you maintain that the people of the present day have not a right to read the Scriptures because they do not understand the language in which the Bible was written. It would indeed be as ridiculous to plead for the right of a man who only understands English, to read hooks written in Greek and Hebrew, as to vindicate his right to fly, or to purchase a large estate when he has not a farthing to pay for it. Tenacious as Protestants are of their liberty in this respect, few of them, I fancy, would complain much at being restricted from reading or hearing the Scriptures in an unknown tongue! Allow me, however, to ask if there is any thing radically pernicious or criminal in such a practiced. If
• However improper it may be to let the people have the Scripture in a language which they do not understand, I suspect that if the Protestant societies in Ireland had conQned themselves to distributing Hebrew Bibles and Greek Testaments, we should never have had such an outcry against their proceedings.
you answer in the affirmative, and tell me that what is contrary to right must necessarily be wrong, I shall feel perfectly easy on my own account and that of my fellow Protestants, but greatly concerned for you and the great bulk of the Roman Catholic Taity. Do your congregations understand the language of the mass and other public devotions of your Church, and of the psalms, epistles, gospels, and other portions of Scripture contained therein: If they do not, what right have they to hear them; or, what becomes of the elaborate arguments of your controvertists to prove that religious services in an unknown tongue are not only lawful but edifying ? Nay more, if nobody has any business to meddle with the Bible unless he is versed in the original languages, it ought to be locked up from a very great proportion of your priests and preaching friars, of whom perhaps one half are ignorant of Greek, and an immense majority know no more of Hebrew than they do of Chinese. You dwell a good deal on the obscurity of proverbs ; there is, however, a homely English one about persons “ whose houses are made of glass,” which you may perhaps be able to interpret and apply without the help of a commentator.
Again, you say the people are not acquainted with the peculiar phraseology of the Bible, the customs of the ancients, and the proverbial sayings. Here, Sir, you seem at once to jump from an unknown tongue to one which is understood by the people ; for it would be absurd to talk of their inability to explain the proverbs, &c. contained in a book, of which they are unable to read a single word. They understand the most obscure parts of it just as well as the plainest, in the same way as a man without eyes can see a mite as distinctly as an elephant.
We seem to discover then that there are such things as translations of the Bible into the vulgar tongue; and if they convey the same sense to the people as the original does to persons skilled in Greek and Hebrew, the objection of an unintelligible language falls at once to the ground. But, perhaps, you meant all the while that an acquaintance with the original tongues is essential to the proper understanding of the Scriptures; that translations are imperfect, or may be faithless; consequently, they who only know the sacred writings through the medium of a version, cannot know them to any good purpose. Do you mean then to assert that all versions of the Bible ought to be suppressed, and that none but good Grecians and Hebraists ought to read it or expound it to others ? If you do, you are treading on dangerous ground, and approaching the very verge of the pit of heresy. If you consult D'Argentre's Collectio Judiciorum, or Dupin's Bibliotheca, you will find that on April 30, 1530, two propositions came under the notice of the Sorbonne; the first of which was That Scripture
cannot be well understood without a kaowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and such like tongues ; and the second -That a preacher cannot explain the Epistles and Gospels aright with. out an acquaintance with the said tongues. The faculty condemned the former proposition as rash and scandalous, and the latter as false, impious, and discouraging Christian people from hearing the Word of God; adding, that they rendered the authors suspected of Lutheranism!! Í hope, Sir, for your sake, that Romish orthodoxy is now estimated by a different standard, or that your confessor will be more indulgent than the doctors of the Sorbonne !
Let us, however, for the sake of argument, wave the point of language, and suppose that the people have translations in their hands, and that they are as good as it is possible to make them ; still, you will say, that in order to understand them, it is necessary to be acquainted with the peculiar phraseology of Scripture, the manners and customs of the ancients, and the proverbial sayings. True, we freely admit that to understand the Bible perfectly, the above particulars and many others must be known; but that a profound and extensive acquaintance with them is necessary to ordinary readers, we positively deny. If you maintain, on the contrary, that such a perfect knowledge is indispensable, we will thank you to mention any one guide of the faithful in your own communion who ever possessed it. If you contend for a competent por. tion of such knowledge, though something short of absolute perfection, we again wish to know whereabouts you would fix the minimum; for it is evident that without some permanent and universal standard, some degree in the scale of learning below which the searcher of the Scriptures must not be allowed to sink, it will be impossible to know with precision what is a competent portion and what is not. What is thought a superabundance in one parish, may be a deplorable deficiency in the adjoining one, and the man who passes for a profound biblical scholar at Preston, may be esteemed a mere ignoramus at Stonyhurst. Lastly, we desire to have it explained in what way the particulars which you have specified, are necessarily connected with faith and morals, or that it is essential to be accurately versed in them in order to be wise unto salvation, or to understand those plain precepts of Scripture which direct us how to abhor that which is evil and chuse that which is good. May we not, for example, understand that it is a sin to worship a graven image, without knowing every minute article of the Egyptian or Grecian mythology,-or abhor the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel without a familiar acquaintance with all the doctrines and ceremonies of the priests of Baal? Let us suppose that, on hearing a Protestant say something about the character and conduct of the Pharisees, you should seize the opportunity of trying to convince him of his unfitness to meddle with the Scriptures, and say :-"The Pharisees ! how should you know any thing about them? Can you tell what the appellation is derived from; or who was the founder of the sect; or the date of its origin? Do you know, in short, all that Josephus, and Epiphanius, and Calmet, have writtén respecting their manners, and customs, and opinions ? If you do not, how can you presume to talk about things which you confessedly do not understand ?” Might not the person thus catechised very properly reply—“I confess that I do not know much about Hebrew etymologies, or obscure points of chronology, nor have I ever read the authors whom you mention; but I can collect a many particulars respecting the said Pharisees from the New Testament, which I dare say are quite of as much importance to a Christian as any thing related of them by uninspired writers. I can learn without any difficulty that they were a class of people neither to be admired nor imitated, and that they were regarded with peculiar abhorrence by our blessed Saviour. They were a kind of exclusive sect, who trusted that themselves alone were righteous, and despised others, and thanked God that they were not as other men. They laid great stress upon certain pretended traditions, which they affected—like the Council of Trent—to place on a level with Scripture. They professed great skill in casuistical divinity, and could distinguish, with great nicety, in what cases the most solemn oaths were not binding. They were great observers of stated days and outward forms; they ostentatiously made long prayers, and punctually fasted twice a week.*
• Not on Wednesdays and Fridays, but on Mondays and Thursdays, for which days they give as subtle and cogent reasons as Pope Innocent alleges for fasting on Saturday. They had also many refined and ingenious distinctions of meats,---allowing themselves, for instance, on some occasions, to eat their fill of lentiles, while they religiously ab. stained from pease and beans, &c. &c. They thought these austerities possessed a sort of justifying efficacy, and that they would be placed to their credit as works of supererogation, and a little after our Saviour's time, they became firm believers in Purgatory. It would be easy to institute a long parallel between Rabbinical or traditional Judaism, and modern Popery, especially between the miracles, the casuistry and mode of ex