APRIL, 1855.

No. II.



On the eighth day of last December, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-four, in the metropolis of the Romish Church, in its vast and wonderful Cathedral, amidst an assembly of ecclesiastical dignitaries from many nations, surrounded by every demonstration of solemnity, the so-called Vicar of Christ and Sovereign Head of the Church on earth, seated on the throne of his majesty, proclaimed the decree of "the Immaculate Conception" of the Virgin Mother of Christ. By that decree, a new "Article of Faith" was added to the creed of the Church of Rome, and made obligatory upon the consciences of all Christians, to deny which henceforth is heresy, to continue in the denial of which to the end is, according to the Romish faith, eternal damnation. Justly has it been said that this event is at least one of the great facts of the century. No thinking mind can fail to see its exceeding interest, especially in its influence on the future position and destiny of

Vol. H—11.

that great mystical City, (the name of which, in the Apocalypse 17 : 5, we need not mention,) in connection with the governments of the earth, the progress of the Gospel, and the eternal welfare of our race.

The way for the entrance of this new and now essential, feature of papal Christianity was not unprepared. Sundry heralds went before to make the paths straight. Among others, there was a publication from the press of the Propaganda, by Professor Francesco Costa, a Romish Priest', entitled, " Reflections regarding the expected dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception," etc. To that work it is convenient now to refer for an authentic explanation, to our readers, of precisely what is embraced in the new decree. In answer to the question, "What is this Immaculate Conception V the writer answers: "When the faithful venerate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, they must be understood to venerate that special favor, that privilege, whereby God, in respect of the merits of Jesus Christ, preserved exempt from the stain of original sin, the soul of the blessed Virgin, from the first instant of its creation and union with the body." For greater precision, the writer proceeds: "It follows that neither the perpetual virginity and immunity from all stain of actual sin, even the most venial, nor the sanctification of the Virgin before her birth, must be confounded with her miraculous conception."

The Apostle of the Gentiles had said: "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." The successor of St. Peter is wiser than St. Paul, and scruples not, in the most public manner, to contradict him, and to declare and require all people, as an article of a Christian's creed, to believe, that Mary should have been excepted from the Apostle's sweeping declaration, that as the Church of Rome has long since decided that she had no sin actual, so now it is decided that she had no sin original. We have thus revealed to us what we never expected to hear of a human being, descended by both parents from Adam, who nevertheless never shared in his fall, was never, in any sense, among the number of the lost; never, therefore, was in need of a Saviour, either for regeneration of nature or justification from sin; never needed any thing for acceptance with God but her own perfect holiness.

We are aware that, considered controversially, as a dogma to be encountered and vanquished theologically, by a Protestant, caring not a straw for a Pope's insulated dictum, and demanding, for all matters of faith, the sure warrant of holy Scripture, this new-fledged article is simply contemptible. Argument in refutation would be a foolish waste of precious time.

But, however unworthy of notice as an antagonist of the Protestant faith, it may deserve most earnest attention as to its reactive influence for the ruin of that which it is intended to aid; as it opens a new window into the inner temple of Popery; as it proves the desperate condition of a cause which must resort to such devices; as it shows what ropes of sand are the old professed securities of Romish Faith, Scripture and Tradition, when circumstances make their confinement inconvenient; as it exhibits the Church of Rome in a suicidal denial of those very notes of the true Church, unity, universality, apostolicity, and unchangeableness, on which ever before she has rested her claim to be the Mother and Mistress of all; as marking upon her brow the prophecy of "the Man of Sin," and saying. "■Thou art the Man;" as disclosing how rapidly and certainly the evil spirit out of the tombs, having taken possession of the whole cause of Anti-Christ, is hurrying it down a steep place into the deep sea of its final destruction.

Tinder some of these aspects, we propose now to present the late decree.

L In the Pope's recent inauguration of the Immaculate Conception, he has imposed upon the Creed of the Church, and the consciences of all who acknowledge his authority, a new Article of Faith.

In the language of the schools, an Article of Faith is that of which the denial is heresy, and the "explicit" belief of which is required under pain of damnation. Now that, by the late "dogmatic decree," such an article has been added to the faith of the Church of Rome, requires no proof. It is universally conceded. For instance, Cardinal Wiseman, in his recent Pastoral Letter, addressed from Rome, to his diocese of Winchester, and read in all the Romish Chapels of London, says that the Immaculate Conception is "henceforth, by virtue of the Pope's decree, to be believed by all with explicit faith—that is, as a distinct and separate dogma, no longer involved in the general belief of what the Church teaches." And the Tablet, the organ of Cardinal Wiseman in London, says, (Dec. lGth,) "The Immaculate Conception is now a solemn Article of Faith;" of course saying, inferentially, that it was not so before. And as to its force, the Tablet says: "It is henceforth and for ever an article of Catholic betief, which no one can hereafter deny, impugn, or doubt, without losing his faith and becoming a heretic."

But while the novelty of this doctrine, as an article of faith, is thus conceded, it will be useful to look back into the history of the Church, and see from what beginning this idea has grown into its present exalted and portentous magnitude.

Mr. Newman, now Father Newman, head of the new Romish College in Dublin, in his "Theory of Development," is obliged to acknowledge that the Primitive Christians were so taken up with "the actual superstitions and immoralities of Paganism before their eyes," that they "were not likely to determine the place of St. Mary in our reverence;" so that (he says) "In the first ages there was no public or ecclesiastical recognition of the place which St. Mary holds in the economy of grace. This was reserved for the fifth century." Prior to the fifth century, Mr. Newman acknowledges that there was no agreement even as to "the perpetual virginity" of Mary; and when this came in that century to be more generally held, it is considered not as the consequence of its evidence having been discovered in the Scriptures, where Mr. N. owns it is not taught, nor in the oral traditions of the apostles; but only as "the natural and legitimate development of principles taught by the Apostles," (a historical fact developed from moral principles,) "such as the blessedness of celibacy, the sacramental efficacy of proximity to our Lord, the unspeakable dignity to which human nature is raised by the Incarnation, etc., etc." {Brit. Critic, July, 1842.) In the fourth century, near its conclusion, the churches in Arabia and adjacent countries were involved in the agitations of what Mosheim calls "a new controversy." On one side were those who denied the perpetual virginity, and maintained that Mary, after the birth of Christ, had other sons. On the other were those who went to an opposite extreme, and worshipped the blessed Virgin, and sought her favor by libations, sacrifices, and oblations. These, from the cakes they offered in their worship, {CoUyridce,) were called Collyridians.* Women particularly favored that worship. It was therefore known as "the heresy of the women? Epiphanins, a renowned Bishop of that time, in his condemnation of their superstition, shows how the worship of Mary was then regarded in the Church. "Although Mary (he says) be beautiful and holy and honorable, yet is she not to be adored. But these women, worshipping St. Mary, renew the sacrifice of wine mingled in honor of the goddess Fortuna, and prepare a table for the devil, and not for God."f

To a Protestant mind, the above evidence that in the fourth century it was heresy and wickedness to worship Mary, is not a conclusive argument in proof that, in that age, there was no belief in her Immaculate Conception; because, to such a mind, the acknowledgment of the latter is no warrant for the propriety of the former. But to a Romish mind of this day it is quite different. A Romanist of present Rome can not suppose that doctrine to have been believed where that worship was so condemned. If in all those ages, as far down as "the dark ages," there occurs no evidence of the denial of that doctrine, it is sufficiently explained by the fact that there is no evidence of its assertion. It was not till the twelfth century that this doctrine was introduced to the observation of the Church4 During that period, certain churches in France, particularly that of Lyons, began to celebrate a festival in honor of the alleged Immaculate Conception. No sooner did the famous St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairval, become acquainted with the proceedings at Lyons, than he wrote to the canons of the cathedral, in language of the severest censure, strongly condemning

• Mosheim, Cent . IV, § 35.

\ Epiph. Op. Adv. Hscr., quoted in Jowol's Def. of Apol., (P. Soc. Ed.,) p. 576.

I Wheatlcy on tho Book of Common Prayer, says that the question concerning the Immaculate Conception "was first started by Peter Lombard, about the year 1160." Mant, in his Commentary, copies this from Wheatley. Wheatley, P. 11, Sect . xiL, §2.

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