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To prevent abuse, the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV.) has decreed, that “no new relics are to be received, and no new miracles admitted as authentic, without the privity and approbation of the Bishop,” assisted by the advice of theologians and other pious men.
The evidences of Christianity rest upon a firmer foundation than the legends of the dark ages. Neither can we compare the long list of unauthenticated, absurd stories, respecting the Virgin Mary and the Magdalene; St. Dominic and St. Francis; St. Denis and St. Winifred ; and the innumerable others, which provoke the smiles and the contempt of Protestants, and largely try even the faith of a Romanist,-with that sublime collection of well-authenticated miracles, which demonstrate the divine origin of our common faith. The Protestant may reject the opinions which reason or Scripture convince him are absurd. The Romanist is permitted to reject nothing which his Church has once sanctioned. “The ecclesiastical miracles,” says Justin, “that were wrought after the Church was supported by the State, were usually such as would make fools stare, and wise men suspect. As they began, so they ended, in vain; establishing nothing, or what was worse than nothing. If false, the tricks of deceitful men; if true, the frolics of fantastic demons.” This spirit of delusion, this determination of allowing the people to be deceived in every possible way that can attach them to the Romish communion, is most glaringly evinced in the annual jugglery performed
at Naples, under the eyes of the Pope. The patron-saint of that town is a saint Januarius, part of whose blood, though shed in martyrdom, as they say, (for there is no dependence on these reports, even as to the existence of some of the Roman Catholic Saints,) more than fifteen hundred years ago, is still preserved in a phial. On the day of the Saint's festival, the Bishop, surrounded by a crowd of Priests, and a multitude of lighted tapers, and clouds of the smoke of frankincense, takes the phial in his hands, where a red lamp appears in an upper division. The people, in crowds, are kneeling in the Church, expecting the yearly miracle, with the greatest anxiety, while the Bishop handles the phial every way, till the lump begins to melt, and falls, in drops, into the lower part of the glass. Upon this, the bells are rung, the guns are fired, and the whole town is in a state of rapture. The trick is so gross, that there is not a Priest, or a man of common sense at Naples, that is not convinced that the red clot is a certain composition, that melts with very little heat, the heat that the hands of a Priest, and a crowded Church will produce. Among the numerous instances of miraculous events, which, to the mind of a Roman Catholic, attest the truth of his religion, the following are selected as by no means an invidious specimen:— In one of the Roman Churches, they show a picture of the Virgin, which, as their writers affirm, was brought down from heaven with great pomp, and after having hung awhile, with surprising lustre, in the air, in the sight of all the Clergy and people of Rome, was delivered by angels into the hands of Pope John the First, who marched out in solemn procession, in order to receive this celestial present. Nothing is more common among the miracles of Popery, than to hear of images that, on certain occasions, had spoken, or shed tears, or sweat, or bled: and do we not find the very same stories in all the heathen writers? They show at Rome an image of the Virgin, which reprimanded Gregory the Great, for passing by her too carelessly: and in St. Paul's Church, a crucifix, which spoke to St. Bridgith. Durantus mentions another Madonna, which spoke to the sexton, in commendation of the piety of one of her votaries. There is also a church here, dedicated to St. Mary the Weeper, or to a Madonna, famous for shedding tears. They show an image, too, of our Saviour, which, for some time before the sacking of Rome, wept so heartily, that the good Fathers of the monastery were all employed in wiping its face with cotton.
They have another church, built in honor of an image which bled very plentifully, from a blow given it by a blasphemer.
In the Pantheon, at Rome, is an image of the Virgin Mary, which is the principal object of adoration, on account of a miracle which, it is pretended, was wrought there. A woman, in great apparent distress, knelt before the statue of the Madonna, tears flowing from her eyes, as she offered up her supplications. Two young Englishmen advanced towards her at the moment, and, with all their characteristic liberality, gave her some money, and hastened out of the church, to avoid her exclamations of gratitude. She declared that her prayer was heard, and that, in the hour of her calamity, the Virgin had sent two angels from heaven to relieve her. The miracle resounded from mouth to mouth, and attracted round the image the adoring multitude, who decked it with splendid robes, and put a crown of gold on its head; and, to pay farther homage, the Pope and Cardinals attended, going through the usual form of consecration. At present it is hung round with the votive offerings of many who ascribe to the Madonna the miraculous cure of various maladies.
“We shall find them,” says Middleton, “always the most numerous, and the most confidently attested, in proportion to the absurdity of the doctrine or practice, in whose favour they are alleged; as in the case of Transubstantiation, Purgatory, the Worship of Images, Relics, Crucifixes, Indulgences, and all the tricks of Monkery, as if miracles were of no other use but to subvert the reason and senses of mankind, and confound all the distinctions between right and wrong. But if there be any rule of judging of their reality, or any power in man to discern truth from falsehood, we must necessarily conclude, from the nature and end of the Popish miracles, that whatever testimonies may be brought to support them, they were all, without exception, either wrought by wicked spirits, or forged by wicked men.”
THE Trent Council (Decret. de Purgat. Sess. XXV.) declares “ that the Holy Bodies of Martyrs and other Saints, (which bodies, when living, were members of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and will hereafter be raised by him to eternal life, and glorified,) are to be venerated by the faithful; by which Bodies many benefits are conferred by God
and it consigns to utter condemnation “ all who affirm, either that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of Saints; or, that the honour paid to them, and to the other sacred memorials, (1.) is useless ; and who say that it is in vain, for the sake of obtaining their aid, (the aid of Relics and other sacred memorials,) to frequent the sepulchres of the Saints.” “I adore, and honor, and salute, the Relics of the Saints, as of those who have wrestled on behalf of Christ, and who have received grace from him, to accomplish healing, and to cure disorders, and to eject demons.” (Concil. Nicen. Sec. Labbe, Vol. VII. p. 60.) By the 25th Sess. Conc. Trid., it is decreed “ that no Relics are to be received as genuine, till so declared by the Pope, and by him appointed to be venerated and adored, or by the Bishop, with the assistance of Divine and other holy men.” (2.)
(1.) —“being full of their holy relics, images, shrines, and works of overflowing abundance, ready to be sold. And all things which they had, were called holy; holy cowls, holy girdles, holy pardons, holy beads, holy shoes, holy rules, and all full of holiness. And what thing can be more foolish, more superstitious, or ungodly, than that men, women, and children, should wear a Friar's coat, to deliver them from agues, or pestilence? or, when they die, or when they be buried, cause it to be cast upon them, in hope thereby to be saved? Which superstition, although, thanks be to God, it hath been little used in this realm, yet in divers other realms, it hath been, and yet is, used among many, both learned and unlearned.”—(Hom. of Good Works.)
(2.) The following is a Catalogue of the Relics forming the most valuable possessions of the Clergy in the Cathedral church of Seville. “A tooth of St. Christopher; an agate cup used at Mass by Pope Clement, the immediate successor of St. Peter; an arm of St. Bartholomew ; a head of one of the 11,000 Virgins; part of St. Peter's body; ditto of St. Laurence, and St. Blaise; the bones of St. Servandus, and Germanus; ditto of St. Florentius; the Alphonsine Tables, left to the Cathedral by King Alphonso, the Urse, containing three hundred relics; a silver bust of St. Leander, with his bones; a thorn from our Saviour's crown ; a fragment of the true Cross.” On Festival Days these are all borne in splendid procession, by great numbers of the Clergy; and before a gazing populace this farce from the dark ages, is, at this day, but too successfully repeated.
In the church of St. Mary the Great, the homely cradle of our Saviour is, every Christmas-day, exposed on the high altar to the adoration of the people. “Rome,” says Baronius, “is now in possession of that noble monument of Christ's nativity, made only of wood, without any ornament of silver or gold, and is made more happily illustrious by it, than it was of old by the cottage of Romulus, which, though built only with mud and straw, our ancestors preserved with great care for many ages.”
“And because Relics were so gainful, few places there were but they