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least offence, though it should decide nothing. Among other things, it was determined that good works are, of their own nature, meritorious to eternal life; but it is added, by way of softening, that it is through the goodness of God that he makes his own gifts to be merits in us. It is the opinion of many in the church of Rome, and seems, says Burnet, to be established by the council of Trent, that remission of sins is previous to justification, and freely given by Christ; in consequence of which a grace is infused, by which a person becomes truly righteous, and is considered as such by God; but this, he adds, seems to be a dispute about words.
At the council of Trent, Catarin revived an opinion which was said to have been invented by Occam, and supported by some of the schoolmen, viz. that God has chosen a small number of persons, as the blessed virgin, and the apostles, &c. whom he was determined to save without any foresight of their good works, and that he also wills that all the rest should be saved, providing for them all necessary means for that purpose, but, that they are at liberty to use or refuse them. This opinion was that of Mr Baxter in England, from whom it is frequently with us, and especially the Dissenters, called the Baxterian scheme. Upon the whole, the council of Trent made a decree in favor of the Semipelagian doctrine.
At first Bellarmine, Suarez, and the Jesuits in general, were predestinarians, but afterwards the Fathers of that order abandoned that doctrine, and differed from the Semipelagians only in this, that they allowed a preventing grace, but such as is subject to the freedom of the will.
The author of this which is commonly called the middle scheme or the doctrine of sufficient grace for all men, was Molina, a Jesuit; from whom the favorers of that doctrine were called Molinists, and the controversy between them and the Jansenists (so called from Jansenius, a great advocate for the doctrines of Augustine) has been as vehement as any controversy among protestants on the same subject. And though besides the council of Trent, whose decrees are copious enough, appeals were frequently made to the popes, and their decisions were also procured, the controversy still continues. Of so little effect is the authority of men to prevent different opinions in articles of faith. Different popes have theinselves been differently disposed with respect to these doctrines; and on some occasions a respect for the Jesuits, who were peculiarly devoted to the popes, was the means of procuring more favor to the tenets which they espoused, than they would otherwise have met with,
Among protestants, there are great numbers who still hold the doctrines which are termed Calvinistic in their greatest rigor; and some time ago they were usually distin. guished into two kinds, viz. the Supralapsarians, who maintained that God had originally and expressly decreed the fall of Adam, as a foundation for the display of his justice and mercy; while those who maintained that God only permitted the fall of Adam were called Sublapsarians, their system of decrees concerning election and reprobation being, as it were, subsequent to that event. But if we admit the divine prescience, there is not in fact, any difference between the two schemes; and accordingly that distinction is now seldom mentioned.
It is evident, that, at present the advocates for the doctrine of absolute and unconditional election, with the rest that are called Calvinistic, consist chiefly of persons of little learning or education ; and were the creeds of the established protestant churches to be revised, the articles in favor of those doctrine's would, no doubt, be omitted. But while they continue there, and while the spirit of them is diffused through all the public offices of religion, the belief of them will be kept up among the vulgar, and there will always be men enough ready to accept of church preferment on the condition of subscribing to what they do not believe, and of reciting day after day such offices as they totally disapprove.
Things have been so long in this situation, especially in England, where the minds of the clergy are more enlightened, and where few of them, in comparison, will ever pretend that they really believe the articles of faith to which they have subscribed, according to the plain and obvious sense of them; and the legislature has been so often applied to in vain to relieve them in this matter, by removing those subscriptions, that we cannot now reasonably expect any re.. formation of this great evil, till it shall please divine provi. dence to overturn all these corrupt establishments of what is called christianity, but which have long been the secure retreat of doctrines disgraceful to christianity. For they only serve to make hypocrites of those who live by them, and infidels of those who, without looking farther, either mis.
take these corruptions of christianity for the genuine doctrines of it, or, being apprized of the insincerity of the clergy in subscribing them, think that all religion is a farce, and has no hold of the consciences of those who make the greatest profession of it. With all this within ourselves, how unfavorable is the aspect that these doctrines exhibit to the world at large, and what an obstruction must they be to the general propagation of christianity in the world.
I cannot help making this general reflection at the close of these three parts of my work, which relate to those gross corruptions of christianity, which exist in their full force in all established protestant churches. In what follows, the Catholics, as they are called, are more particularly concerned; though, it will be seen, that even with respect to them, many protestant churches are far from being blameless.
CORRUPTIONS OF CHRISTIANITY.
REMAINING PARTS, WITH THEIR APPENDICES,
A BRIDGE D.
THE HISTORY OF OPINIONS RELATING TO SAINTS AND ANGELS.
The idolatry of the christian church began with the deification and proper worship of Jesus Christ, but it was far from ending with it. For, from similar causes, christians were soon led to pay an undue respect to men of eminent worth and sanctity, which at length terminated in as proper a worship of them, as that which the heathens had paid to their heroes and demigods, addressing prayer to them, in the same manner, as to the Supreme Being himself. The same undue veneration led them also to a superstitious respect for their relics, the places where they had lived, their pictures and images, and indeed every thing that had borne a near relation to them ; so that at length, not only were those persons whom they termed saints, the objects of their worship, but also their relics and images and neither with respect to the external forms, nor, as far as we can perceive their internal sentiments, were christians to be at all distinguished from those who bowed down to wood and stone in the times of paganism.
OF THE RESPECT PAID TO SAINTS AND ANGELS. The foundation of all the superstitious respect that was paid to dead men by christians, is to be looked for in the principles of the heathen philosophy, and the customs of the pagan religion.
The first step in this business was a custom which cannot be said to have been unnatural, but it shows how much attention ought to be given to the beginnings of things. It was to meet at the tombs of the martyrs, not by way of devotion to them, but because they thought that their devotion to God was more sensibly excited in those places; and few persons, perhaps, would have been aware of any ill consequence that could have followed from it.
It was also an early custom among christians to make offerings annually in the name of the deceased, especially the martyrs, as an acknowledgment, that though they were dead, they considered them as still living, and members of their respective churches. These offerings were usually made on the anniversary of their death.
The beginning of this superstitious respect for the martyrs seems to have been at the death of Polycarp, (A. D. 166) and in forty years afterwards it had degenerated into this gross superstition.
The respect paid to martyrs was gradually extended, in some degree, to others, who also were considered after their deaths as those who had triumphed over the world, and were gone to receive the prize for which they had contended. In imitation of carrying in triumph those who won the prizes in the Grecian games, christians interred their dead with singing of psalms and lighted tapers.
Since in the lapse of time, the dates of the martyrs’ deaths had been lost, the festivals in honor of their memory were appointed on the anniversary pagan holidays. This suited the common people, who had no objection to forsake their old religion, and embrace Christianity, if they could be allowed the same entertainments and indulgences as before.
The result was, that with a change of name from Pagan to Christian, there was but little change of the heart and life, and the heathen were heathen still. As the christians had been used to meet, for the purpose