Imatges de pÓgina
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bad conferred orders of priesthood. It is natural at the approach of death, for a sensitive and apprehensive soul to revert to the religion of its early years. Decency alone would have required of the bishop, that at least at his death he should give an example of edification to the flock to which he had given so much scandal by his life. But he was so deeply exasperated against his clergy as to declare that not a single individual of those whom he had himself ordained was really and truly a priest; that all their acts in the capacity of priests were null and void ; and that he never entertained the intention of conferring any sacrament.

Such reasoning seems certainly characteristic, and just such as might be expected from a drunken man: the priests of Mans might have replied to him-It is not your intention that is of any consequence, but ours. We had an ardent and determined desire to be priests; we did all in our power to become such. We are perfectly ingenuous and sincere; if you are not so that is nothing at all to us. The maxim applicable to the occasion is, . quicquid accipitur ad modum recipientis accipitur,' and not ad modum dantis.' When our wine-merchant has sold us a half a hogshead of wine, we drink it, although he might have a secret intention to hinder us from drinking it; we shall still be priests in spite of your testament.*

Those reasons were sound and satisfactory: however, the greater number of those who had been ordained by that bishop did not consider themselves as real and authorised priests, and subjected themselves to ordination a second time. Mascaron, a man of moderate talents, but of great celebrity as a preacher, , persuaded them, both by his discourses and example, to have the ceremony repeated. The affair occasioned great scandal at Mans, and Paris, and Versailles ; but like everything else was soon forgotten.

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* One of the articles of the Church of England wisely provides against the nullity of ordinances and sacraments, in consequence of the unworthiness of the priest. Were not this the case, certain recent Irish episcopal gambols must have annihilated much sanctification.-T.

ORIGINAL SIN.

SECTION I.

This is a subject on which the socinians or unitarians take occasion to exult and triumph. They denominate this foundation of christianity its original sin.' It is an insult to God, they say; it is accusing him of the most absurd barbarity to have the hardihood to assert, that he formed all the successive generations of mankind to deliver them over to eternal tortures, under the pretext of their original ancestor having eaten of a particular fruit in a garden. This sacrilegious imputation is so much the more inexcusable among christians, as there is not a single word respecting this same invention of original sin, either in the Pentateuch, or in the prophets, or the gospels, whether apocryphal or canonical, or in any of the writers who are called the first fathers of the church.'

It is not even related in the book of Genesis, that God condemned Adam to death for eating an apple. God

says to him, indeed,“ in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But the very same book of Genesis makes Adam live nine hundred and thirty years after indulging in this criminal repast. The animals, the plants, which had not partaken of this fruit died at the respective periods prescribed for them by nature. Man is evidently born to die, like all

Moreover, the punishment of Adam was never, in any way, introduced into the Jewish law. Adam was no more a Jew than he was a Persian or Chaldean. The first chapters of Genesis (at whatever period they were composed) were regarded by all the learned Jews as an allegory, and even as a fable not a little dangerous, since that book was forbidden to be read by any before they had attained the age of twenty-one.

In a word, the Jews knew no more about original sin than they did about the Chinese ceremonies; and, although divines generally discover in the scripture everything they wish to find there, either totidem

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verbis,' or 'totidem literis,' we may safely assert that no reasonable divine will ever discover in it this surprizing and overwhelming mystery.

We admit, that St. Augustin was the first who brought this strange notion into credit; a notion worthy of the warm and romantic brain of an African des bauchee and penitent; manichean and christian; toles rant and persecuting—who passed his life in perpetual self-contradiction.

What an abomination, exclaim the strict unitarians, so atrociously to calumniate the Author of Nature as even to impute to him perpetual miracles, in order that he may damn to all eternity the unhappy race of man:kind, whom he introduces into the present life only for so short a span! Either he created' souls from all i eternity, upon which system, as they must be infinitely more ancient than the sin of Adam, they can have no possible connection with it; or these souls are formed whenever man and woman sexually associate, in which case the Supreme Being must be supposed continually watching for all the various associations of this nature that take place, to create spirits that he will render eternally miserable; or, finally, God is himself, the soul of all mankind, and upon damns himself. Which of these three suppositions is the most absurd and abominable? There is no fourth. For, the opinion that God waits six weeks before he creates a damned soul in a fetus is, in fact, no other than that which creates it at the moment of sexual connection: the difference of six weeks cannot be of the slightest consequence in the argument.

I have merely related the opinion of the unitarians; but men have now attained such a degree of superstition that I can scarcely relate it without trembling.

this system

SECTION II.

It must be acknowledged, that we are not acquainted with any

father of the church before St. Augustin and St. Jerome, who taught the doctrine of original sin. St. Clement, of Alexandria, notwithstanding his profound knowledge of antiquity, far from speaking in any

one passage of his works of that corruption which has infected the whole human race, and rendered it guilty from its birth, says in express words,* “ What evil can a new-born infant commit? How could it possibly prevaricate? How could such a being, which has, in fact, as yet done no one thing, fall under the curse of Adam?"

And it is worth observing, that he does not employ this language in order to combat the rigid opinion of original sin, which was not at that time developed, but merely to show that the passions, which are capable of corrupting all mankind, have, as yet, taken no hold of this innocent infant.

He does not say—This creature of a day would not be damned if it should now die, for no one had yet conjectured that it would be damned. St Clement could not combat a system absolutely unknown.

The great Origen is still more decisive than St. Clement of Alexandria.

He admis, twoud, ins 1.sition of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, that sin entered into the world by Adam, but he maintains that it is the inclination to sin that thus entered ; that it is very easy to commit evil, but that it is not on that account said, man will always commit evil, and is guilty even as soon as he is born.

In short, original sin, in the time of Origen, consisted only in the misfortune of resembling the first man by being liable to sin like him.

Baptism was a necessary ordinance; it was the seal of christianity; it washed away all sins; but no man had yet said, that it washed away those which the subject of it had not committed. No one yet asserted, that an infant would be damned, and burned in everlasting flames, in consequence of its dying within two minutes of its birth. And an unaswerable proof on this point is, that a long period passed away before the practice of baptising infants became prevalent. Tertullian was averse to their being baptised; but, on the persuasion that original sin (of which these poor innocents could not possibly be guilty) would affect their reprobation, and expose them to suffer boundless and endless torture, for a deed of which it was impossible for them to have the slightest knowledge: to refuse them the consecrated bath of baptism would be wilfully consigning them to eternal damnation. The souls of all the executioners in the world, condensed into the very essence of ingenious cruelty could not have suggested a more execrable abomination. In a word, it is an incontestable fact, that christians did not for a certain period baptise their infants, and it is therefore equally incontestable that they were very

* Strom. book iii.

far from damning them.

This however is not all; Jesus Christ never said: The infant that is not baptised will be damned. He came on the contrary to expiate all sins, to redeem mankind by his blood; therefore, infants could not be damned. 'Infants would, of course, à fortiori,' and preferably, enjoy this privilege. Our divine Saviour mpyar hiptired way perous řaui circumcised his disciple Timothy, but is nowhere said to have baptised him.

In a word, during the two first centuries the baptism of infants was not customary; it was not believed therefore that infants would become victims of the fault of Adam. At the end of four hundred years their salvation was considered in danger, and great ụncertainty and apprehension existed on the subject.

In the fifth century appears Pelagius. He treated the opinion of original sin as monstrous. According to him, this dogma, like all others, was founded upon a mere ambiguity.

God had said to Adam in the garden: "In the day in which thou shalt eat of the tree of knowledge, thou shalt die." But, he did not die; and God pardoned him. Why then should he not spare his race to the thousandth generation? Why should he consign tó

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* In St. John, Jesus says to Nicodemus (chap. iii.) that the wind, the spirit, bloweth where it listeth, and that no man knoweth whither it goeth; that it is necessary to be born again; that a man cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless he is born agaiu of water and the spirit. But he does not mention infants,

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