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may be so far done, that the men who should have conducted their votaries to a blissful immortality, shall themselves be plunged far beneath them in the regions of despair.
Of the degree in which judicial infatuation has been interwoven with such painful events, we cannot speak. We know, however, that it was because they did not like to retain God in their knowlege, that heathen nations were once given up to a reprobate mind; and that upon others a strong delusion was sent, that they should believe a lie, and perish in believing it, because they slighted the counsels from above, and had pleasure in unrighteousness. And assuredly the flesh of every professor of religion should move with fear as he begins to regard iniquity in his heart, and thinks on these terrible examples. Perilous, truly, is the conduct of that man, who, while affecting to search after truth, is turning aside to his crooked ways. It is an all-discerning Spirit that is with him, and one who has led many such delinquents forth as no common workers of iniquity.
The connexion of these observations with the subject before us will appear if it be remembered, that, in our view, the papal apostacy exhibits a system equally remarkable for sanctity of pretension, and depravity of character—a system sustained by an order of men, who from sinning against the greatest light, were to proceed to the practice of the most revolting crimes. Never did priesthood despoil their victims of so much, and never did priesthood retain their bad pre
eminence with so little regard to the claims of religion, of justice, or humanity. Against each of these they sinned in corrupting the gospel, and beyond example in maintaining those corruptions when matured. Still, in what they have done to preserve their dominion, there is little that should awaken surprise, when we reflect on all that was resisted with a view to give that dominion existence. With the Scriptures before them, they could fashion the worship of the New Testament after the grossest models of paganism, and could transform the Christian church into a kingdom of this world, completely assimilated in its laws and its penalties to the mechanism of a secular empire. The men who could do this, may well be expected to avail themselves of the worst expedients in worldly policy, when engaged in the defence of their acquisitions, or in efforts to extend their authority. The thing itself was no longer the same, and it was but fitting that the weapons of its warfare should be changed. It was no longer a spiritual kingdom, and it was no longer to be sustained by spiritual means; and as it arose, in our esteem, from a perversion of whatever is excellent in principle, we wonder not that it should lead, in many instances, to whatever is atrocious in practice. It is true, nearly all the elements of popery were in existence, long before the papacy itself became a formidable power. But those elements, nevertheless, are properly regarded as belonging to the papal superstition; not only because the pontiffs readily adopted them in the face of all that had been
opposed to them, and of all the evils which they had then produced ; but because the wider and more permanent influence of the whole, is to be traced chiefly to their connexion with Rome.
1. To ascertain the nature of the papal apostacy it will be proper to consider,—What Christianity is, as described in the pages of the New Testament; and what it is, as presented in the maxims and history of the church of Rome. To determine the character and extent of the disagreement of the two systems, it will be necessary to institute this kind of comparison between them. In attempting this too, our course will be rendered more simple, by adverting separately to those departments of the first system which are most obviously corrupted or abandoned in the second. You will perceive, that the subject committed to me demands a reference to Popery, both as it is and as it was, and as embraced by the many no less than by the few. It has its permanent principles, and it has had its local and occasional excesses; but while a distinction is to be observed between these, there are also points in which they betray their intimate relation to each other.
1. We may notice, in the first place, the distinctness with which the New Testament writers recognize the right of private judgment, and enjoin its exercise. By the right of private judgment, we mean the liberty with which every man is endowed to form his own conclusions as to what the Scriptures teach with respect to the great questions of truth and duty. To prevent mistake, however, on this subject, it cannot be too distinctly remarked, that the liberty of forming our own opinions, as to what the sacred word inculcates on such points, is inseparable from an obligation to the diligent and the devout use of all the means which may conduce to render those opinions correct. It is the artifice of men, who would tyrannize over the conscience of others, to represent this leading tenet of protestantism as vesting every wayward or benighted mind, with authority to reject established opi-. nions without inquiry or reflection-or by a process precluding the least influence from the conclusions of other men, however much those conclusions may appear to be the result of peculiar attainment, experience, or devotedness. But they should know, and indeed they cannot but know, that the men who have been loudest in asserting this right in behalf of their brethren, have been the most fervent in urging on all who would profit by its exercise, the necessity of attention to reading, meditation, and prayer, That there is a freedom conferred on every man to whom the gospel is addressed to form his own judgment of what it contains, we regard as the doctrine of Scripture. On the same authority we contend, that the thing which in this case may be done, is the thing which ought to be done, and one to the well doing of which it is strictly requisite that we avail ourselves of means both natural and supernatural; that we give special heed to the light of Revelation, and to that which comes from the Spirit who indited it.
In this instance, what it is our privilege to do, it is our duty to do, and it is of importance no less than infinite that we seek to do it wisely and honestly. In proportion as we have sought the truth with humility, faithfulness, and labour, may we hope that we have found it. In that proportion only are we entitled to expect that other men should treat our opinions with deference; and in proportion as they appear to have so done, their creed, be what it may, possesses a claim on our serious and candid investigation.
The tendency of this doctrine, therefore, is not to inflate the mind with vanity and petulance. On the contrary, by creating a feeling of accountableness to the Supreme Being, with respect to all that we believe, and feel, and do, its direct influence is to induce a gravity of temper, a disposition to examine and reflect, and, in a word, all those habits of thought and desire which, matured above, include whatever is meant in the Scriptures by a conformity to the Divine nature.
It is true, there has ever been a numerous class of the untaught and unreflecting, who, availing themselves of this tenet, have assumed a confidence of rectitude, said to be grounded on individual impression and inquiry, which approaches very nearly to that spirit of infallibility which the papacy assumes as her heritage from above. The convictions of these persons as to truth, and as to what constitutes an experimental acquaintance with the truth, are of so positive and dogmatical a character, that they become almost