Page images
PDF
EPUB

simple instructions of their Lord, as required to aid the Gospel in accomplishing its most glorious results.

And it is deserving of particular observation, that never does the reproof of St. Paul wax louder, than when opposing the attempts which were made to blend the observances of the Gospel with those of Judaism, as in the churches of Galatia, or to assimilate them to the popular festivities of heathenism, as in the church at Corinth.* That which rendered the conduct of the Galatians criminal, was the fact that the matters which they had associated with their worship were symbolical of opinion, and of opinion which was not that of the Gospel; while the offence of the Corinthians is particularly marked as consisting in their departure from that simple mode in commemorating the death of Christ, which they had learnt of the Apostle, and which he had been careful to introduce among them precisely as he had received it of the Lord. The only conclusion to be derived from these facts is, that as it is with the doctrines and the precepts of the Gospel, so is it in reality with its institutes-nothing is to be added to them, nothing is to be taken from them. Over all the same authority is extended, and with respect to each the same prohibition is evidently applied. It ought indeed to have been always obvious, that whatever in Paganism was symbolical of itself, whatever in Judaism was symbolical of itself,--and nearly all their ritual observances were so,--can have no appropriate connexion with the Gospel, which is not only distinct from both, but of a different character from both, and designed to remove them both. We are not ignorant of the quibbles which are resorted to with a view to mar the general application of statements like these. We contend, however, that the very few subordinate particulars which are left in any measure undetermined by the precepts or example of inspired men, are abundantly provided for by certain great principles which those men have laid down, and reiterated, with a plainness that may not be innocently mistaken. Now, instead of cherishing this reverence for the sufficiency of Holy Writ, the Romish priesthood have asserted their right to model the polity, the discipline, and the worship of the church at pleasure, and accordingly they have done so.

* 1 Cor. ix. 17–34.

Thus we have endeavoured to place before you the nature of the papal apostacy, as it affects the right of private judgment, the doctrines and morality of the Gospel, and various matters relating to ecclesiastical government, and modes of worship. The substance of our statement is this the liberty of men to judge for themselves as to what the Scriptures contain, is denied by the Romish priesthood, and in the place of all conclusions so adopted, their own dogmas are exhibited as being alone the truth; so that the knowledge of God, which would seem to be the chief object about which the reason of man should be employed, is in truth the only department of knowledge about which it is not to be concerned. We do not deny that some men are found within the pale of the church of Rome who are familiar with the truths of the Gospel, and unquestionably devout; but we contend that these are exceptions to the general state of her votaries, the general tendency of the system being to obscure the Christian salvation, and to put in its room a multitude of inventions more congenial to the earthly nature of mankind. We do not deny, either, that the morality of the Gospel has been frequently so far respected by the Romanist, as to render him the benefactor of pagan tribes, when they have been brought to an acknowledgment of his creed; but we contend that this too has been so far corrupted as to be made to take nearly all the vices of humanity beneath its patronage, yielding, and often adding impetuosity, to the current of those propensities which it should have checked and destroyed. Instead, also, of those merely moral distinctions, which comport with an equality strictly fraternal, and which once contributed so much to the harmony and efficiency of the Christian ministry, we have seen all that official precedence and secular ascendancy introduced, which has generally obtained in political societies, and from which so much desolation has come on the kingdoms of this world. That paternal discipline — that shepherd-like control which was vested in the first pastors and their churches, we have seen exchanged for a mode of government to be exercised by the clergy alone; and one so artfully devised as to extend alike to

een

the body and the soul, and to have alike at its command the tortures of this world, and the terrors of the next; and, finally, that beautiful, that majestic simplicity which marked the worship of this, the last, the perfected dispensation of heaven to mankind, appealing, as it does, to our rational nature as approaching maturity, and rendered equal to the contemplation of heavenly things—this have we seen deserted in favour of those symbolical modes of worship which were in place with the imperfections of Judaism; and these again have we seen corrupted through their admixture with every species of that mummery and craft by which idolaters have been beguiled, besotted, and destroyed. All this, popery has been; all this, with a few exceptions, it still is.

When we thus glance at the nature of this apostacy, and remember how many nations have been ensnared by its sorceries, and through how long an interval it has been allowed to maintain its ascendancy, we can hardly fail to be desirous of knowing, if possible, what its fate is yet to be. And should any portion of the Scriptures be found to relate to the destinies of the Christian church, it is only reasonable to expect, that we should be able to discover in them some marked references to this, the most signal revolution connected with its history. Now it is certain that many passages of Holy Writ do refer to the circumstances of the Redeemer's kingdom in these later ages; that while some of these predictions have been fulfilled, others are in

a course of accomplishment; and that not a few point our anticipations to a state of things, yet unseen, and to which there is but little conform- able in the present aspect of the world. In these prophetic announcements we not only recognize the papal usurpation, but we find it prominently associated with nearly every thing that has been, that is, and that shall be. In the age of the Apostles this mystery of iniquity began to work; with the most momentous revolutions of the church and the world, during the last fifteen centuries, it is conspicuously interwoven ; and its coming destiny may be traced in that shadowy, but impressive outline, which depicts the appaling convulsions that are to usher in the millennial reign of the Son of Man. TOUSIVA

As the prophecies relating to this power belong to different periods, and as they successively afford a nearer and more complete development of its nature and its doom, we shall notice them in chronological order, placing the sum of their testimony within as brief a space as possible. Yet it will perhaps be well to advert to these predictions, in the first instance, only so far as may be necessary to show that the papal apostacy is indeed the subject to which they relate; we shall then come with more confidence to a consideration of what they suggest with respect to its duration.

155) marts II. The image in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, composed of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, was explained to the prophet Daniel, as referring to four empires that should succeed each other.

« PreviousContinue »