Page images
PDF
EPUB

and stedfastly join in promoting the interest of the English church? Let the question be proposed to any Catholic university; and, though I am fully aware of the inexhaustible resources of casuistry, I should not fear to stake the force of my argument upon its honest and conscientious, anSWer. The author of the Book of the Roman Catholic Church rejects as a gratuitous imputation whatever is attributed to that church, without the express authority of one of her definitions of faith. I will only remind those who are well acquainted with the Roman Catholic system of divinity, that, in what relates to moral and practical principles, such references cannot fairly be demanded. The definitions of your church upon such points are very few. Some moral doctrines have been censured as lax, some as being of a depraving tendency; but the consciences of Catholics are guided by the broad rules of action acknowledged by all Christians. In the application of these rules there is, indeed, some variety of opinion among your moralists; for as they often dwell upon imaginary

cases, an ample field is left to ingenuity for all the

shifts and turns of expediency. The doctrine, however, that he, who being able to prevent a sin allows its commission, is guilty of that sin and its consequences, requires no sanction from Pope or council. No Christian will ever deny this position; and even a deist, if he is to preserve consistency, will be obliged to admit its justness. This being so, it follows with unquestionable certainty that a Roman Catholic cannot, without guilt, lend his support to a Protestant establishment, but is bound, as he wishes to save his soul, to miss no opportunity of checking the progress of heresy: the most grievous of all moral offences, according to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church. Murder itself is less sinful, in the judgment of the Roman see, than a deliberate separation from her communion and creed. I need not prove this to those who are disposed to recognize the Roman Catholic doctrines in the face of the world; but if any one still doubts the place which heresy holds in the Roman Catholic scale of criminal guilt, let him explain away, if he can, the following passage of the papal bull which is every year

published in the Spanish dominions, under the title of The Cruzade. By that bull, every person who pays a small sum towards an imaginary war against infidels, is privileged to be released from all ecclesiastical censures and receive absolution at the hands of any priest, of all, whatever sins, he may have committed, “even of those censures and sins which are reserved to the apostolic see, the crime of heresy eacepted".” Is it then to cherish, foment, and defend this heinous crime—the crime which , the Pope exempts from the easy and plenary remission granted to the long list of abominations left for the ear of a common priest—is it this crime, as established, honoured, and endowed by the law of England, that you are anxious to sanction with your votes in parliament? Suppose, for a moment, that it were possible for such a state as that of the Old Man of the Mountain or Prince of the Assassins, to have grown into a powerful nation, and reduced a Christian people under its dominion, without extinguish* “Que puedan elegir Confesor Secular o Regular, de los aprobados por el ordinario, y obtener de el plenaria indulgencia, y remision de qualquiera pecados y censuras, aun de

los reservados, y reservadas a la Silla Apostolica, ecepto el crimen de heregia.” Bula de la Cruzada.

[graphic]

ing their faith: the condition of these Christians would have greatly differed at two different periods. Before a sad experience had convinced them of the inadequacy of their power to overcome those enemies of God and man, they would naturally have fought openly and manfully against the assassin establishment, or died martyrs in passive resistance. When finally subdued, two courses alone would be left open : either to keep their hands clean from blood, by declining all participation in the acts of the government, or join it with the intention of checking, by indirect means, the commission of an interminable series of crimes, secured by the constitutional laws of the state. Is there, I ask, any difference between this case and that of real Roman Catholics under a Protestant government, whose very essence is to maintain a separation from the communion of Rome, thereby placing millions of souls in a state which, you are bound to believe, cancels their title to salvation as Christians? I am aware that a practical sense of the absurdity of this tenet of your church has forced

many of you to avert their eyes from it, and E

persuade themselves that it is possible to be a Roman Catholic without holding the absolute exclusion of heretics from the benefits of Christ's redemption. This, believe me, is an error. Examine that profession of faith in which your church has set forth her fundamental doctrines, and you will find that she positively confines salvation to her members, and makes this very article a necessary condition for reception within her pale”. Your English catechisms endeavour to throw a sort of veil on this doctrine, by stating that Protestants may be saved if they labour under invincible ignorance of the true Roman Catholic faith; leaving such as are unacquainted with their theological language to understand, that by invincible ignorance, is meant unconquerable conviction. But has the church of Rome ever modified her declarations against heretics, even with that poor and degrading exemption of ignorance?

Will the learned conviction of a Melancthon, a

* “This true Catholic faith, out of which NoNE cAN BE saved, which I now freely profess and truly hold, I. N.

promise, vow, and swear, most constantly to hold,” &c. &c. Creed of Pius IV.

« PreviousContinue »