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ner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."
On another occasion He set forth the principles of His religion thus. “I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”+ And so His Apostles, when they were converted to the full knowledge of the Spirit of the Gospel use the same language ; “Be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.”+
But oh, how different from the gentle temper of CHRIST, the open honesty of Truth, and the peaceful forbearance of the Gospel, was that cruel and deceitful, and murderous zeal, which, but for the merciful interposition of Providence, would have burnt up without pity or discrimination so many great and good men! How very far removed from God's Truth, and justice, and mercy must that religion be which could suggest and justify such conduct !
Surely the petition of our text rises to the lips when we contemplate the astounding perversion of sacred Truth which this history exhibits, when we consider that this most foul murder was to have been perpetrated under the sanction of the Holy Name of Christ,—“Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.”
For heavenly Truth must be converted into a lie, love and justice into deceit, before such dark and treacherous deeds can be plotted under cover of religion, and can dare to claim the authority of God. And this is the lesson which I design to draw from this anniversary, viz. that there is something fearfully wrong, something opposed to truth, honesty, and fair dealing, as well as contrary to tender mercy in the principles and policy of the Church of Rome.
This is a heavy charge to bring against any body of Christians, and the charge is not less weighty, because it is not our wont to indulge in frequent invectives, and indiscriminate abuse against the Church of Rome.
* Luke ix. 54.
† Matt. v. 44.
# Eph. iv. 32.
It is painful, very painful to reflect that any of the family of Christ, any of those, whom the Son of God has called into His vineyard, should turn His truth into a lie, and justify wholesale murder and rebellion on the score of religion. It behoves us to make such a charge very cautiously, as charitably as possible, remembering, too, that the hearts of all of us are naturally deceitful, and prone to effect what we deem right, often by very questionable means.
Surely the men who could resolve deliberately to commit so detestable a crime, are deserving our deepest commiseration. That the judgment and moral sense should be so wretchedly perverted as to imagine they were thus doing God service, is a phenomenon which ought to excite our unfeigned pity as well as astonishment, and our anxious search, lest, in a lesser degree, the same principle of evil may be lurking in disguise among ourselves. Let us extract this lesson also from our subject.
1. The charge, then, which we bring against the Church of Rome, or rather against that Popery which is identified with the later history of that Church, is not only that she has unintentionally perverted the truth and become corrupt, but that she does not reverence the truth, that she does not speak the truth, that it is in many instances her design and policy to conceal the truth. She does not supremely love the truth, and willingly make sacrifices for it, but she often deliberately “ does evil that good may come;" loves a lie when it can forward her ends, nay, turns the truth of God itself into a lie, suppressing, concealing, denying the very doctrines of truth, when it is imagined that such conduct can promote the cause of her Church.
Observe, we do not bring this charge against all the individual members of that Church, God forbid ! but against the system. Doubtless, the great majority of her members are altogether guiltless of designedly opposing or of concealing the truth. Doubtless, that Church has her thousands and her ten thousands as faithful believers, as devout and charitable, and as truth-loving as the members of the Anglican Church. As to the guilt of individuals, I believe they are rather to be regarded as sinned against than sinning; as entangled in a system over which they have no control, as dragged at the wheels of a mighty engine, which is hurrying on to its destiny.
Even the chief performers in the false pageant which she enacts I believe often feel acutely the abject slavery and moral degradation of the part they have to play. From the humblest Jesuit to the Pope himself, there are many puppets who exhibit themselves reluctantly. But the maintenance of the clergy, the general safety of the Church, is made to sanction the evil, and the danger of interfering with established usages reconciles them to the deceit.
While, then, we protest, as a solemn duty, against the “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits" of the Church of Rome, we do not "glory in the title of Protestants," for why should we glory in the shame of Christendom? why should we feel proud of a title which our Church has never adopted ? how can we exult in the divisions of the family of Christ? how can we feel a satisfaction in saying, if it must be said, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are ?”
Let us speak ever humbly of ourselves, and charitably of others. Let us hope the best. And though we dare not but protest boldly and honestly against the grievous corruptions and most intolerable evils of Popery, let us hope that the Church of Rome is not yet “apostate" and irrecoverably lost, but that she may be restored at length, through our prayers, to the unity of the faith, and the bond of Catholic communion, and become with us one fold under one Shepherd
It is quite beside my present purpose to enumerate the various doctrines in which the Church of Rome has departed from the truth, or the many practices in which she is open to the charge of deceit and falsehood. It must suffice generally to assert, in the words of the Twenty-second Article, that “the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
I wish rather, on the present occasion, to show, that having
once abandoned the sacred light of God's TRUTH, as contained in Holy Scripture, rightly interpreted by Catholic antiquity, they have adopted a guide which has committed them in many instances to the most extravagant falsehoods, and most debasing morality. So that the practice of the Church of Rome cannot be defended, nor her popular religion justified, by any subtle disputations upon the above subjects of purgatory, pardons, &c.; and even if these could be proved to be Scriptural (which they cannot), still she would have to render an account for an endless variety of falsehoods and frauds, at once blasphemous and absurd, perpetrated under the name of religion at different places to this very day, if not with her direct sanction, at least with her tacit permission and acquiescence. So that the question resolves itself into this-not whether relics, for example, may be venerated, but whether notoriously false and pretended relics are to be palmed upon the people as true, and whether the people are to be permitted to offer to them an idolatrous adoration.
The question is not whether miracles are or are not within the present power of the Church of Christ, but whether such miracles as those which the Church of Rome exhibits periodi. cally in some countries are not a disgrace to her system, and convict her of loving and making a lie.
So again, as regards her doctrines, the question is not whether she does not hold the great fundamental verities of the Gospel, but whether practically her people make these doctrines the foundations of their religion ; whether they are taught to look to Jesus Christ and Him crucified alone for pardon, help, and salvation ; or whether, on the contrary, they do not call upon the name of the Blessed Virgin as their most approachable saviour, and divine protector, and successful advocate.
The question is not so much how many Sacraments there are, but whether there are more than two ordained by CHRIST Himself as means of inward grace. It matters little how the two Sacraments of the Gospel are superseded, if they are superseded, and deprived of their proper position and prominency in the economy of grace:-whether their efficacy is openly denied, as it is by the Puritans and Dissenters, or neutralized, by the bringing forward of other ordinances and ceremonies to a like prominency with them. This is the way of Rome, who has, among other additions to the faith, erected her Church into a sacrament of supereminent efficacy, just as some Protestants make the Bible alone (independently of its true meaning) the all-important means of grace in their religious system.
As it is the error of some heretics to deny the truth, so it has ever been the habit of the Romish Church to pervert the truth, and to exhibit some false image of it in its stead. Thus a reverence for the opinions of others, and a respect for authority, (both admirable virtues under proper limitations,) have degenerated into a slavish prostration of the reason, and an implicit faith in the judgment and doctrinal decrees of the living head of the Church of Rome.
The maxims of the order of the Jesuits exhibit this doctrine of implicit obedience to a human superior in the most extravagant degree; and it is from the awful results of these maxims that we form a just estimate of their character: “By their fruits ye shall know them,”—is not more the voice of Scripture than of common sense. And we may safely condemn those principles as Anti-Christian, which turn the truth of God into a lie, contradict the plainest dictates of reason and morality, and use the vilest means to compass the end in view.
The history connected with this day illustrates, in a very striking manner, the falseness of that religious system, which could suggest such a hecatomb of human sacrifices, and believe so atrocious a deed would be agreeable to the will of God, and the morality of the Gospel. “The dreadful secret, though communicated to above twenty persons, had been religiously kept, during the space of nearly a year and a half. No remorse, no pity, no fear of punishment, no hope of reward, had induced any one conspirator, either to abandon the enterprise, or make a discovery of it. The holy fury had extinguished in every breast every other motive."*
* Hume's History of England.