« ElőzőTovább »
better concealed. Never was there a constitution so subject to these religious and political fevers, which, as it hath not vigour enough to throw them off, fall heavily on its vitals, religion, loyalty, and common honesty. Unless the fashion of religion is changed as often as that of our clothes, we are presently out of humour with it. It is old; it is stale; it looks as
our ancestors had worn it quite out. Then we are all for cutting and modelling; and he who hath the best talent at new and whimsical inventions, is our most orthodox doctor, and our ablest politician.
And what benefit hath the community derived from the eternal changes, from the endless reformations, made among some, and artfully recommended to all ? Why, in diversifying the form of religion, they have almost destroyed the substance; whereas that which they ought to have reformed, was the petulance and conceit of their own giddy minds.
Changes, it is true, are always to be wished for, when there is reasonable hope of putting matters on a better footing. But to love changes, merely for the sake of novelty, is a despicable humour; and to push for them, in obedience to party-prejudice, is a very dangerous practice. On these, when once become rampant, if designing persons or factions should happen to lay hold, to forward their own private ends, there is no foreseeing what mischiefs may attend the innovation, during the struggle to bring it about; nor how deep, how general, how dangerous, a discontent may arise out of it, after it is brought to bear. The persons, who most eagerly wished for it, may happen not to find their account in it; and they who did not, are never likely to be reconciled to it.
On the whole, it is the duty, it is the interest, of every one in authority, to shew his love for the country he belongs to, by using all his influence to promote the credit of religion, the parent of sobriety, industry, liberty, justice, and all the public virtues; and to suppress infidelity, the source of all wickedness, of private misery, and public calamity.
If some of those who preside over us shall continue, as they have for some time done, to neglect this duty; nay, to act a part directly contrary to it, to make a jest of religion, both in their discourse and actions, and to encourage every upstart innovation therein; they ought to know, that such
a proceeding is the sure way to make slaves and beggars of their posterity; because it is the sure way to undo that country, in which, unhappily for others,they now bear their foolish heads so high. Hence it is, that irreligion prevails so much among the lower ranks of people. Hence it is, that the vulgar hardly think of any other power, than that of the next little man who is over them; that oaths of office are forgotten as soon as sworn; that oaths of evidence are bought, sold, and used, like any other tools; and that, 'because of swearing, the land mourneth' under rapine, injustice, and oppression. It would be happy for us, ' if every man did that which is right in his own eyes, as if we had no king;' but they do that which in their own consciences they know to be wrong, as if they had no God. If these things do not, as they unavoidably must, ruin our country of themselves, yet shall not he, to whom all power and authority over all the nations of the earth belongeth,' visit for these things ? Shall not his soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Though the Lord hath instructed it, and though he hath kept it as the apple of his eye; though, as an eagle stirreth upon her nest, fluttereth over her young ones, spreadeth out her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead it; though it hath been as the signet on his right hand,' yet, if it continues thus to treat Him, and his religion, 'he will pluck it thence, and give it into the hands of them that seek its destruction; he will set his face against it for evil, and not for good. That which he hath built, will he break down; and that which he hath planted, will he pluck up; even this whole land. He who so often fought for it when it sought and served him, shall himself fight against it with an outstretched arm, with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath, if his displeasure is not averted by a speedy return to his service.
And now to the infinitely wise, just, and powerful God, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, ascribed, as they do of right belong, now, and for evermore. Amen.
THE MARKS OF DANGEROUS CORRUPTION FOUND
IN THE CHURCH OF ROME,
1 ST. JOHN iv. 1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God;
because many false prophets are gone out into the world. ALThough the holy Evangelist levels this caution against those early heretics, who denied that ‘Christ was come in the flesh,'yet, as he couches it in general terms, it is of universal use to all Christians, in times like these we live in, when there is such a variety, not only of teachers, but of churches, maintaining principles too opposite to one another to be all right and sound, and often of too much consequence in themselves, to be either received or rejected, without the utmost care and circumspection. We may safely venture to say, it was never more necessary than at present, 'to try the spirits' of all who undertake to teach others, whether they be of God or not.' I need not, in proof of this, tell you, who know it as well as I do, how many different kinds of professions, or persuasions, of teachers, of churches, there are now in the Christian world, nor on what important, nay, fundamental, articles of doctrine they oppose one another. But it is worth while to remind you, that unless you duly lay to heart the admonition in my text, you are in danger of being seduced from the faith, of falling from that virtue and goodness which is the end of true religion, and of thereby making shipwreck of your souls.
But here you will naturally ask, how the spirits are to be tried ? By what signs those teachers, or churches, that either artfully insinuate, or arbitrarily presume to impose, false doctrines, may be distinguished from such as inculcate the truth, and nothing but the truth? In regard to the passions and prejudices of mankind, which have always been too busy in matters of religion, it is indeed no easy task to assign the marks whereby this distinction may be made; because every
man is too apt to take that for a sign of truth, which having been long connected in his mind with his old opinions, speaks the pleasing language of his heart. But to the eye of unprejudiced reason, and of common sense, to which alone the Author of truth, as such, addresses himself, in his word, the signs by which this important distinction may be made, are there too evidently declared, to be mistaken. All we are to believe and do, is, with the utmost plainness, set forth in holy Scripture; and besides, the genuine characters, both of the true and false teachers, are therein made as clear and glaring as we can desire.
Cardinal Bellarmine, that most distinguished champion of the church of Rome, hath given us fifteen notes or marks, which he takes to be those of the true church, and whereby he endeavours to prove that his own, and no other, is that very church, He observes, very justly, that such marks as serve for this distinction, ought, with full and sufficient notoriety, to be found in the true church, and in that alone. Unhappily for him and his cause, some of his marks are not to be found in any church; many of them not in his; some of them are not marks either of a true or false church; and others, while they are manifestly wanting in his, are as manifestly found in such as he condemns of heresy. These things have been fully made out against him, by the answers of our Protestant divines.
His method, however, is good; and he fails only in the application and execution, which, as it cannot be ascribed to his want of talents, must, we may presume, have been owing purely to the badness of the cause he espoused. Give me leave, in pursuance of his method, to point out the signs of a corrupt church, or a church so exceedingly depraved, that he who communicates with it, must, by so doing, endanger the salvation of his soul; and to shew that these signs are found in the church of Rome. In doing this, I shall proceed on fair reasons, and unsophisticated Scriptures; so that he who contradicts me, shall be forced to contradict the common sense of mankind, and the word of God.
Let the first sign of such a church be this, that it opposes sense and reason, and makes it impossible for any man sincerely to communicate with it, who is not ready to believe and, in consequence of his belief, to act, directly against the testimony of those senses God hath given him, as the only inlets, and that reason bestowed on him, as the only test, of all his knowledge. That church must certainly be a very depraved one, which, in any instance, degrades its members, not only below the rank of human creatures, by prohibiting the use of their reason, but even below that of brutes, by obliging them to disbelieve their very senses, and that in pain of damnation. God, who knows we can receive no possible evidence of revelation, but through sense and reason, could never have intended to try our faith, by a flat contradiction to both. The source of truth and goodness knows we can have no apprehension of any revelation, but by our senses, nor judge of its meaning, but by our reason; and therefore cannot be supposed to have required of us the belief of any thing, as revealed by him, which those senses, and that reason, pronounce, and must invariably pronounce, impossible. It would be as needless to enlarge on the proof of this, as on that of his goodness, or any other attribute essential to him. It is enough, it is even more than enough, to observe, that, throughout his word, he deals with us according to the perceptions and faculties he hath given us. He condescends to prove the points he would have us believe, by miracles wrought before our eyes. Christ, in order to satisfy John of his mission, said to the messengers, 'Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up.' In delivering his doctrines, he appeals to our senses ; 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear;' and upbraiding his hearers, who knew the signs of the weather, for not distinguishing the much more evident and certain signs of his coming, he calls them to the use of their own reason; 'Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right ?'
Notwithstanding all this, the church of Rome hath made it a part of her creed, and denounces damnation against every one who cannot believe it, that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are transubstantiated into that very flesh and blood of Christ which hung on the cross, and are now in heaven, although our senses tell us, as clearly as they do any thing else, that these elements are still real bread