Page images
PDF
EPUB

the great church of Christ, “which is his body, the FULNESS of him that filleth all in all*.” But the church to which the great privileges and graces belong, has characteristic marks which cannot be claimed by any one of the churches on earth; for it is that church “which Christ loved, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemisht.” To become members of that church we should, indeed, “endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peacef;”, but such unity is proposed as the effect of endeavour, and consequently of choice and judgment, not of blind submission to a silencing authority, which is the Roman, bond of union. The true unity of Christians must arise from the “one hope of our calling.” There is indeed for us “one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” but that faith is a faith of trust, a “confidence, which hath great recompense of reward Ś,” not an implicit belief in the assumed infallibility of men, who make a monopoly of the written word of God, prescribe the sense in which it must be understood, and with a refined tyranny, which tramples equally upon Christian liberty, and the natural rights of the human mind, insult even silent dissent, and threaten bodily punishment to such as, in silence and privacy, may have indulged the freedom of their minds”. Such is the saving faith of the council of Trent! How different from that proposed by St. Paul, when he says, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,

* Ephes. i. 23. f Ephes. v. 25–27. : Ib. iv. 3. § Heb. x. 35.

* Praeterea ad coercenda petulantia ingenia, decernit (eadem sacrosancta synodus) ut nemo suoe prudentios innixus, in rebus fidei et morum, ad a dificationem doctrinae Christianae pertinentium, sacram Scripturam ad suos sensus contorquens, contra eum sensum quem tenuit et tenet sancta mater ecclesia, cujus est judicare de vero sensu et interpretatione Scripturarum sanctarum, aut etiam contra unanimem consensum sanctorum patrum, ipsam Scripturam sacram interpretari audeat, etiamsi hujusmodi interpretationes nullo unquam tempore in lucem edendae forent. Qui contravenerint per ordinarios declarentur, et panis a jure statutis puniantur—Decretum Concilii Trident. de editione et usu sacrorum librorum, Sessione IV.

thou shalt be saved *.” “That is the word of
faith which we preach,” says St. Paul; and well
might that faith be made the bond of union be-
tween all the churches which the Apostles saluted,
without requiring a previous proof of their im-
plicit submission. “Grace be with all them that
love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” is St.
Paul’s language. Cursed be they who, whatever
be their love of Christ and veneration for the
Scriptures, yield not obedience to the church of
Rome; is the spirit of every page which has been
published by Popes or councils.
Whatever might be the effect of the prejudices
which the first reformers brought away from their
Roman captivity; whatever the necessity which
Protestant churches still acknowledge of prevent-
ing internal feuds, by proposing formularies of
faith to their members, they have never so mis-
understood “what spirit they are of" as to deny
salvation to those who love their common Lord
and Redeemer. Their churches, indeed, may
differ on points which the subtilty of meta-

* Rom. x.

f

physics had unfortunately started long before the reformation, and even before the publication of Christianity: they may observe different ceremonies, and adopt different views of church hierarchy and discipline; but their spirit is the only one which deserves the name of Catholic in the genuine sense of that word; the only spirit, indeed, which can produce, even on earth, an image of the glorious church which will exist for

ever in one fold, and under one shepherd.

LETTER. V.

Moral character of the Roman Church. Celibacy. Nunneries.

THE attempt to describe the moral character of a collective body, which, constantly changing its composition, can seldom consist of the same elements for any considerable portion of time, will probably appear rash and invidious. A long familiarity with the subject which I have in hand, has, however, convinced me, that if there be any truth in the general observation, that men who act under certain laws and interests, in collective bodies, are swayed by a peculiar influence, which, without borrowing a foreign phrase, might be called Corporation Spirit; the church of Rome

presents the strongest and most marked instance of that moral phenomenon. Its great antiquity, and the gigantic power which it has enjoyed for ages, are the natural and intelligible causes of those fixed views and purposes which, existing at all times in the mass of its living members, must

« PreviousContinue »