« PreviousContinue »
The principles of the Roman Catholic religion have become widely circulated in every part of our country, since the repeal of the penal statutes, which tended so powerfully to prevent their diffusion. In particular districts, the numbers of those who profess them have greatly increased ; and in some of our larger towns, their places of worship are distinguished by a splendour and magnificence which render them almost equal to the churches of our national establishment, and exhibit visible proofs of the opulence and advancement of their communion. Their publications are numerous; their clergy are highly respectable in character and talents; and their exertions in support of their own principles are zealous and incessant. It is not unusual for their priests to deliver lectures once or twice in the week, during the season of Lent, on those subjects which naturaily involve the points at issue between themselves and the Protestants; by which
means considerable interest and curiosity are excited, and persons of all denominations are occasionally attracted to their chapels.
To these facts, the Author has adverted, not for the purpose of censure and animadversion, but to shew the necessity of corresponding zeal and activity on the part of Protestants in the defence and explanation of those great principles, which constitute the basis of their secession from the Church of Rome. Whatever regret he may feel, at the success of the means employed in the dissemination of opposite principles, he can feel none, at the liberty enjoyed by his neighbours : nor would he wish his opposition to their religious systein, to be considered as resulting in any degree from the influence of political motives. On the contrary, if there be any sentiment, which he is disposed to hold with the most tenacious grasp, it is this—that every individual and every sociéty possess an unalienable right to worship God, according to the dictates of their consciences; and that all secular interference on account of religion, by penalties or 'restrictions, is irrational, impolitic and anti-scriptural. The only effectual means of counteracting error, are persuasion and argument, and these alone comport with the sacredness of truth and the dignity of religion.
The substance of the following Lectures, was delivered some years ago, in a series of discourses to the Author's congregation, in consequence of the zealous efforts of the Roman Catholic Priest, then resident in Blackburn, in the public vindication of his own principles. As this vindication led to frequent animadversions on the Protestant cause, and excited by its novelty unusual interest and attention, the Author felt compelled to enter on the course, which, with considerable altera tions and enlargements, he now presents to the public. It has been his wish to exhibit a conpendious view of the leading points of controversy between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. He is aware that those, whose voluntary or professional studies have made them well acquainted with this department of polemic theology will not expect any thing new on the subject : but as the controversy demands attention, from the repeated attacks which are made on the Protestant separation-as serious apprehensions of the revival of the Papal religion are entertained, especially since the restoration of the House of Bourbon—and as it is desirable that the rising generation should be well informed on the reasons of our secession from the Church of Rome, it is hoped, this volume will be found to contain a faithful exposition of the principles on which that secession is founded, and contribute a portion of influence to the support of a cause, which is identified with the interests of religious liberty, the diffusion of Christian truth, the happiness of man, and the glory of God. To all these high and sacred ends, the Author considers the principles of Protestantism as directly subservient; and he would deprecate indifference concerning them, as highly injurious to the welfare of mankind, and the prosperity of the Church of Christ. It is on the ground of this conviction, that he offers no apology for the warmth and interest which may be occasionally manifest in some of the following discourses. He trusts there will be found no violation of candour, and he is conscious that there is no intentional misrepresentation. He has endeavoured to ascertain the principles of the sys