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It is a circumstance affording no ordinary gratification to the ingenuous mind, that in exposing the errors of Popery, we no longer assail the proscribed or the fallen. This equality of the parties at issue warrants a freer use of the weapons of controversy. The recent conduct of our Legislature may have been wise or foolish; but this result is unquestionably good and important. Nor is this the only advantage arising from the fate of the Catholic Question, independent of its abstract merits. The persons who number penal statutes among the legitimate means of aiding the pretensions of the Gospel, may be expected henceforth to apply themselves with a new energy to the less doubtful methods of forwarding so good a cause. And those who maintain that reason and persuasion are alone appropriate to this warfare, may be fairly challenged to abandon their favourite maxim, or
to afford some practical evidence of its correctness.
Such discussions as occur in the following pages are frequently discarded by political theorists as the squabbles of theologians, or as the natural fruits of worldly policy. But in this instance the Author has no ecclesiastical dignity or emolument at stake. In his apprehension also, the principles of the papal apostacy are such as menace the liberties and the happiness of mankind, and such as are not to be prevented from manifesting this evil tendency, except in a state of society which the system itself can never be the means of producing. · Should the concluding remarks of the Discourse be thought to partake at all of severity, it will be proper to remember that they are not addressed to episcopalians in general, but simply to the persons, who with so little charity, and so little consistency, have chosen to appear in the character of aggressors. In the language of Scripture, he is the schismatic, whether prelate or pauper, whose sectarian partialities are allowed to separate his affections from the good men of any communion.
2 THESS. II. 3.
“ Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day
shall not come, except there come a falling away 1 (the apostacy) first.” .
In the divine nature, our most exalted conceptions of excellence are realized and immeasurably surpassed. The laws which emanate from such a nature can include nothing opposed to itself. They must, on the contrary, harmonize in all respects with the majesty and beauty peculiar to their great Parent. Hence, in the language of the inspired writers, to be opposed to the divine nature is to be opposed to the divine law.* This state of alienation from the perfections of the Most High, and from those reflections of them which are before us in his enactments, is also affirmed to be the moral condition of the whole race descending from Adam. It must not, however, be supposed that the human mind is lost to every true apprehension of right and wrong. Whether the capacity be innate or
* Rom. viii. 7.
induced, we certainly find men susceptible of favourable impressions when approached by some of the manifestations of moral greatness. There are certain laws of natural equity which they do not infringe, until the faculties which render them accountable beings have been much obscured by sophistry, or impaired by violence. The maxim occurring to the vicious man as an obstacle, occurs as such, because it is seen to be just; and the more obvious its justice is, the more powerful must the process be which prepares the heart for a violation of it; and the greater too must be that general deterioration of character which follows upon every such trespass. A defective humanity is criminal, -a defective patriotism is more so; but even that is a small delinquency, when compared with an insensibility to the ties of friendship, or an estrangement from the nearer bonds of brother and sister, of parent and offspring. The man who is an offender in this last respect, has done most violence to the better convictions and better feelings of his nature;~nost accordingly towards a sort of spiritual suicide, and is therefore most prepared for sinning without measure or remorse. Upon this principle, while the ancient heathen offending against the light of nature, shall not go unpunished, it is affirmed of the man despising the law delivered by Moses, that he “shall die without mercy,” and also that a still sorer punishment is in reserve for those who shall treat the blood of the new and better testament as a common thing. These louder threatenings suppose
the existence of a greater turpitude, and the increase of guilt in these instances arises from the greater evidence that is resisted, and the greater manifestation of goodness that is set at nought. Every circumstance that added to the reasonableness of faith, added to the guilt of unbelief ; and every new disclosure of the greatness and the mercy of God, conferred a new enormity on the devotionless and ungrateful temper of man.
From these facts we are warranted in anticipating, that the most criminal offenders to appear before the bar of heaven in the last day, will be found among those who were distinguished alike by the possession and the abuse of religious privileges. In other words, that to find human nature in its worst estate, our scrutiny should not be extended so much to the regions overspread with the darkness of heathenism, as to those where the light of revelation has shone, and even to those where it has shone the brightest. The most relentless foes of the Son of God were not among the Gentiles, but the Jews-men with the blood of Abraham in their veins, clothed in the garments of sanctity, and ministering at the altar of Aaron. It was a professor of our very faith who sold his Master for a mere pittance in return; and by the accredited guardians of the oracles of God, that Messiah whom those oracles had so distinctly foretold was crucified and slain! We need not pass beyond the pages of the New Testament, therefore, to be persuaded that even a divinely appointed priesthood may subvert the ends of its own institution; and this it appears