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We are far from supposing, that this tragedy would have met with the individual approval of the majority of Roman Catholics, still the historian remarks, that, through bigotry, they were so devoted to Garnet, who was executed for this horrid crime, that “they fancied miracles to be wrought by his blood; and in Spain he was regarded as a martyr.”
We are justified, therefore, in concluding that this execrable crime was the natural result of the doctrines inculcated by the Church of Rome. It was clearly not the hasty act of reckless and wily politicians, but the deliberate determination of religious men, plotting, as they conceived, for the glory of God, and the advancement of His kingdom. It was not the act of men taken by surprise, driven to desperation, or sud. denly roused to violent action, as in mortal strife, but it was a conspiracy deeply laid, and maturely considered in all the circumstances of its terrible cruelty. Will it be said that the Church of Rome is not answerable for the acts of her individual members? This is a defence which may doubtless often be urged with justice in other cases, but not in this, unless it can be shown that these traitors acted as they did, not as members of that Church, but simply as bad citizens. But the reverse is notoriously the fact. For apart from their religion they were good men; and even in this affair, they acted conscientiously. But the light that should have guided them, led them astray. It was the principles of Rome, which perverted their minds, and hardened their hearts. Again, it cannot be maintained that they misunderstood the principles of their Church,—that they acted unadvisedly ;-for it was their own Clergy,--the Church's authorized instructors and advisers, who being privy to all the particulars of the intended murders, and associating with the conspirators, as their confessors, still not only did not reveal the plot, but did not even take steps to defeat its accomplishment, which might have been done without bringing the traitors to punishment.
Upon these Romish Priests, therefore, and through them, upon their Church, and its dangerous doctrines, rests the heaviest guilt of this transaction. And to say, that under circumstances, involving such momentous interests, they
were bound to silence by the seal of the confessional, only adds to the condemnation of the religion which is prepared to justify such an abuse.*
We must, therefore, conclude that the Pope's pretended right to dethrone kings, and to justify persecution, is no harmless theory, but a well understood claim, justifying, on occasion, wholesale assassination, superseding the commandment of God—“Thou shalt not kill," and giving rise to such events as the Gunpowder Plot, or massacre of St. Bartholomew's day, and the murders which are now so common in Ireland.
May we not, then, with justice, address our Roman Catholic brethren thus, Ye call yourselves Christians, and God forbid that we should call your Church Anti-Christ,-but this we say, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of ;”-ye understand not the true spirit of the religion ye profess. The Gospel is not a cruel persecuting religion, but a religion of forgiveness and mercy. It delights not in treachery but in Truth. Yes ; and so highly do we reverence Divine Truth, and so deeply do we love heavenly mercy, that we dare not, as Christians, deceive you with one falsehood, or perpetrate one base act, much less a cold blooded murder, were it to save our entire Church from destruction. We ARE SURE, AND MOST CONFIDENT that our Church is, notwithstanding our manifold sins and imperfections, A TRUE AND LIVING PART OF THE ONE Holy CATHOLIC CHURCH; her succession is from the Apostles,-her faith is in the Holy Scriptures, which she holds aloft, as a witness of which she is not ashamed. And having this faith, we neither despair, nor are presumptuous. And of all presumption, none surely is so glaring, as that which would make God's Providence stand in need of man's violence to maintain His power and kingdom. Had we, therefore, the power to crush our adversaries, knowing what Spirit we are of, we may not retaliate, nor cease to
The moderation and magnanimity displayed by King James in his speech to the Parliament on this event deserves to be recorded. He observed that “though religion had en
* See Note at the end.
gaged the conspirators in so criminal an attempt, yet ought we not to involve all the Roman Catholics in the same guilt, or suppose them equally disposed to commit such horrible barbarities. Ma iy holy men, he said, and our ancestors among the rest, had been seduced to concur with that Church in her scholastic doctrines, who yet had never admitted her seditious principles concerning the Pope's power of dethroning Kings, or sanctifying assassinations. The wrath of Heaven is denounced against crimes, but innocent error may obtain its favour, and nothing can be more hateful than the uncharitableness of the Puritans, who condemn alike to eternal torments, even the most inoffensive partisans of Popery."
II. Having shown the extent to which Christian morality may be corrupted by the adoption of a false principle, I proceed now to exhibit the extravagant lengths to which the dogmatic teaching of the Church of Rome has been carried in a wrong direction by certain of her accredited entissaries. To this end, I will quote some articles from a confession of faith publicly propounded in Hungary about the year 1672 and prescribed to Protestants in Germany, upon their reception into Communion with Rome.*
“II. We confess that the Pope of Rome is Head of the Church and cannot err.
“III. We confess, and are certain, that the Pope of Rome is vicar of Christ, and has plenary power of remitting and retaining the sins of all men according to his will, and of thrusting men down into hell.
“ IV. We confess that whatever new thing the Pope ordains, whether it be in Scripture, or not in Scripture, and whatever he commands is true, divine, and salvific, and therefore ought to be held by Lay-people in greater esteem than the precepts of the living God.
“ V. We confess that the most holy Pope ought to be honoured by all with Divine honour, with the greater genuflection due to Christ Himself.
“ VI. We confess and assert that the Pope, as our most
* See Dr. Wordsworth’s “Letters to M. Gondon," 2nd Ed. p. 69, and "Sequel," pp. 182–219. Second Edition.
holy father, is to be obeyed by all men in all things, without any exception; and that such heretics as contravene his decrees are not only to be burnt without mercy, but to be delivered body and soul to hell.
“ VII. We confess that the reading of the Holy Scripture is the origin of heresy and schism, and the source of blasphemy.
“XI. We confess that the Pope has the power of changing Scripture, and of adding to it, and taking from it, according to his will.
“XIV. We confess and affirm that they who communicate under one kind receive the whole Christ, and that they who communicate under both kinds only enjoy and eat bare bread.
“ XVII. We confess that Mary the Blessed Virgin is worthy of greater honour from men and angels than CHRIST Himself, the Son of God.
“XVIII. We confess that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of heaven, and that her Son ought to act in all things according to her will.
“ XXI. We confess that Holy Scripture is imperfect, and a dead letter, until it is explained by the supreme Pontiff, and permitted by him to be read by the laity.
“XXII. We swear also, as long as a drop of blood remains in our veins, we will prosecute that accursed Protestant doctrine, by all means in our power, secretly and openly, by violence and stratagem, by word and deed, even with the sword.”
Such are the incredible depths of blasphemous error into which the human mind is betrayed when it departs from the ancient rule of faith,-SCRIPTURE interpreted by primitive tradition. “When the light in men is darkness”—when their religion is faulty inpr inciple—when that which should guide them leads them astray—“ how great a darkness” will necessarily pervade what they think or do. When once it is believed to be a duty to shut the volume of truth from the people, how readily may the worst of crimes be made to assume the appearance of virtues, and the most monstrous dogmas be taught as the voice of God. True Catholic tradition is of inestimable value, but it must be kept in its proper place, used simply as the interpreter of Holy Scripture, and not
be set up as our guide in the stead of Scripture; otherwise it will at length become paramount to it, and in the end contradict it.*
I will now conclude, as a practical application of this subject, with suggesting the constant duty of self-examination, lest some of the root of bitterness, which is so odious in others, should perchance lurk in our own hearts. For "lying lips and a deceitful tongue" are not confined to the Church of Rome; there is a natural popery of the heart which clings more or less to us all.
We are, indeed, God be thanked, members of a Church which deals truly and faithfully with her people, which is not ashamed of the light of God's truth, which is not obliged, for her very maintenance, to uphold pious frauds, and garble her ancient records, and to alter the writings of the Fathers that they may give us false testimony in her favour.
Our maxim is “ Magna est Veritas et præralebit.” As a nation we boast of our honour, honesty, and open dealing in matters of religion, as in all other things. We reverence Divine Truth, and would sacrifice everything to it.
Let us then be consistent. If our Church is a pure and Apostolic branch of the Church Catholic, then let us embrace her system fully and unreservedly; not treating the Prayer Book as the Romanists treat the Bible, suppressing, misinterpreting, altering the text to suit their purpose ; nor
* As might be expected, the Romanists show an anxiety to disclaim this Hungarian Confession, and accordingly its genuineness is denied by the Dublin Review, which affects to consider it a “satirical composition of a Protestant.” Certainly it is little suited to the English taste of the nineteenth century. But no proof is produced of its being a forgery, and Dr. Wordsworth has brought forward another confession, the Silesian, published fifty years earlier, containing propositions equally repulsive. While we should be very sorry to believe that the English Roman Catholics of the present day adopt the precise statements of this Hungarian Confession, we must maintain that the Church of Rome, on her boasted principle of unity, is at least indirectly responsible for this form, inasmuch as it was drawn up by her accredited agents, the Jesuits. If this Confession can be shown among the list of heretical books which the Church of Rome has condemned, we shall be rely rejoiced to acquit her of being responsible for the above extravagant dogmas.