« AnteriorContinua »
any country, should not strike more than it generally does ; and that on this ground only all civil establishments of christianity should not be exploded; since all christians profess to acknowledge no Father besides God, and no Master besides Christ, and to stand fast in the liberty with which he has made us free.
When that law was made, in the reign of William and Mary, which makes it blasphemy, punishable with confiscation of goods and imprisonment for life, if persisted in, to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, lord Feversham, who had no objection to the doctrine which was to be guarded by that law, expressed his dislike of the civil magistrate interfering to guard it, in very strong terms. He said, that he acknowledged the houses of parliament might lay upon the subject what taxes they pleased, and might even make a king; but he did not like the idea of a parliamentary religion, and a parliamentary God. Such, however, in fact, is the established religion of this country. It is such a religion as the king, lords, and commons of this realm have thought proper to make for themselves, and to impose upon the people; who certainly ought to judge for themselves, in a matter that so nearly concerns them as individuals, and of which they are as competent judges as their superiors. Such an usurped authority as this ought to be opposed; especially when it is considered that the power by which this mode of religion is enforced, is precisely the same with that of the popes, having been transferred from them to our princes.
Exclusive of every thing contained in the religion of the church of England, it is chiefly the authority by which it is enjoined that Dissenters object to in it.
This is the true and solid ground of a dissent from the church of England. It is declaring (and it is the only proper and effectual mode of declaring) that we will acknowledge no human authority in matters of religion ; but that we will judge for ourselves in a business which so nearly concerns us, and not suffer others to judge for us; and that in the worship of God, and what respects our happiness in a future world, we will only obey him whose power extends to that world, that is God, and not man.
F. Simon says there are three popes in Christendom, namely, at Rome, in Sicily, and in England; the two last, however, deriving their power from the first, the kings of Sicily by voluntary concession, and the kings of England by force.
APPENDIX III. TO PARTS X. AND XI.
OF THE AUTHORITY OF TRADITION, AND OF THE SCRIPTURES,
We have seen the pretensions of popes, of councils, and also of civil magistrates, to decide controversies of faith. It may not be improper, in the conclusion of this subject, to consider two other authorities, viz: those of tradition and of the scriptures. As the Jewish and christian religions are of divine origin, it behoves us to examine as carefully as we can, the channels by which these divine communications have been conveyed to us; and these can be no other than oral tradition or writing, and of these the latter is certainly preferable, whenever it can be had, provided we have sufficient evidence that we have the genuine writings of the inspired prophets themselves. But in many cases even tradition ought not to be slighted.
Those christians who were not converted by the apostles themselves, and who lived before the publication of any of the canonical books of the New Testament, could not have had any other foundation for their faith. We ourselves admit these books to be canonical on no other foundation. We observe the first, and not the seventh day of the week, as a day of rest, contrary to the known custom of the Jews, which we believe to have been of divine appointment, upon no other authority than that of tradition; it being supposed to have been the invariable custom of the church from the time of the apostles, and it being impossible to account for the origin of the present custom, and of its being observed without the least variation in churches that differ in almost every thing else, but upon that
supposition. For we do not find in the New Testament, any express order of Christ, or of the apostles, that such a change should be made.
When, therefore, we speak of tradition as an improper foundation for faith and practice, we must mean only pretended, or ill-founded traditions ; such as were alleged by several of those who were called heretics in very early times, or by the church of Rome at present.
The church of Rome has adopted a variety of customs, and founded many claims, upon this authority of tradition. But in what was called the catholic church, no recourse was had to tradition before the second council of Nice, in 787, in which the worship of images was established; when many things which had generally been assented to, and practised before that time, had no foundation in the scriptures, or in the reason of things. This council, therefore, expressly anathematized all those who did not receive ecclesiastical traditions, written or unwritten.
The authority of the books of the New Testament, supu. posing them to be genuine, is the very same with that of the apostles themselves. But, in very early times, this does not appear to have been so great as it came to be afterwards.
Like other credible historians, all the evangelists agree in the main things, but they differ exceedingly in the order of their narrative, and with respect to incidents of little con sequence; and to contend for any thing more than this is in effect to injure their credibility. If the agreement among them had been as exact as some pretend, it would have been natural for the enemies of christianity to have said, that they must have been written by combination, and therefore that the history has not the concurrent testimony of independent witnesses; and if the exactness contended for cannot be proved, the authority of the whole must be given up.
The Jews, in forming their canon of sacred bookas, seem in general to have made it a rule to comprize within their code all books written by prophets; and therefore, though they had other books, which they valued, and might think very useful in the conduct of life; they never read them in their synagogues. These books were afterwards called apochryphal, consisting of pieces of very different character, partly historical,, and partly moral
These apochryphal books were not much used by christians, till they were found to favor some superstitious opinions and practices, the rise of which I have already traced, and especially the worship of saints..
The church having afterwards adopted the version of Jerome, which followed the Hebrew canon, the apocryphalt books began to lose the authority which they had acquired ; and it was never fully re-established, till the council of Florence, in 1442; and it was then done principally to give credit to the doctrine of purgatory. It was for a similar reason that the council of Trent made a decree to the same purpose.
Notwithstanding the apparently little foundation which many.
of the popish doctrines have in the scriptures, it was very late before any measures were taken to prevent the common people from using them. Indeed, in the dark
ages, there was no occasion for any such precaution, few persons, even among the great and the best educated, being able to read at all. The Sclavonians, who were converted to christianity at the end of the ninth century, petitioned to have the service in their own language, and it was granted to them.
But afterwards, Wratislas, king of Bohemia, applying to Gregory VII. for leave to celebrate divine service in the same Sclavonian tongue, it was absolutely refused. For, said this pope, after considering of it, “it appeared that God chose that the scripture should be obscure in some places, lest if it was clear to all the world, it should be despised; and also lead people into errors, being ill understood by their ignorance."
The practice of the church of Rome at present is very various. In Portugal, Spain, Italy, and in general in all those countries in which the inquisition is established, the reading of the scriptures is forbidden. France was divided on this subject, the Jansenists allowing it, and the Jesuits refusing it. For the council of Trent having declared the vulgate version of the Bible to be authentic, the Jesuits maintained that this was meant to be a prohibition of any other version.
After the council of Trent this evil was much increased. For the bishops assembled at Bologna, by order of Julius III. advised that the reading of the scriptures should be permitted as little as possible, because the power of the popes had always been the greatest when they were the least read; alledging that it was the scriptures which had raised the dreadful tempest with which the church was almost sunk, and that no person ought to be permitted to know more of them than is contained in the mass. His successor profit
ed by this advice, and put the Bible into the catalogue of prohibited books.
So much were the Roman Catholics chagrined at the advantage which Luther, and the other reformers, derived from the scriptures, that on some occasions they spoke of them with so much indignation and disrespect, as is inconsistent with the belief of their authority, and of christianity itself. Prieras, master of the sacred palace, writing against Luther, advances these two propositions, viz: that the scriptures derive all their authority from the church and the pope, and that indulgences, being established by the church and the pope, have a greater authority than the scriptures.
All the popes, however, have not shown the same dread of the scriptures. For Sixtus V. caused an Italian translation of the Bible to be published, though the zealous catholics were much offended at it.
So much were the minds of all men oppressed with a reverence for antiquity, and the traditions of the church, at the time of the reformation, that the protestants were not a little embarrassed by it in their controversy with the catholics; many of the errors and abuses of popery being discovered in the earliest christian writers, after the apostolical age. But at present all protestants seem to entertain a just opinion of such authority, and to think with Chillingworth, that the Bible alone is the religion of protestants.
THE HISTORY OF THE MONASTIC LIFE.
THE INTRODUCTION. BESIDES those ministers of the Christian church whose titles we meet with in the New Testament, but whose powers and prerogatives have been prodigiously increased from that time to the present, we find that excepting the Popes alone, no less conspicuous a figure was made by other orders of men, of whom there is not so much as the least mention in the books of scripture, or the writings of the apostolical age. I mean the monks, and religious orders