« ПредишнаНапред »
“ But the church of Rome does not confine her excommunications, or censures, entirely to men and women; for even animals and reptiles must be subject in their turn. When it happens that much of the fruits of the earth are damaged by rats, mice, locusts, or caterpillars, then the church censures become necessary. The priest is obliged to transmit to the bishop an account of the damage done by these creatures, and then the bishop orders the priest to repair to an eminence in his parish, where he is to put on his surplice, and sprinkle himself and his clerks with holy water. Having repeated some prayers prescribed by the bishop, the priest walks over the adjacent fields, and sprinkles them with holy water, in form of a cross. He commands the caterpillars, locusts, &c. to depart from the place immediately, otherwise they are to be excommunicated and accursed.
“Of this species of superstition we have a most striking instance in the Miscellanies of the Marquis D'Argens, who tells us, that, in the year 1738, Provence, in France, was much infested with locusts. Application was made to the pope, who sent his bull to the bishop, ordering them to be all excommunicated. The bishop obeyed the order, but the locusts refused to comply, which gave no small uneasiness to the farmers; it surprised them much to find that the locusts refused to comply with the apostolical order, but one more sagacious than the others observed, that the bishop was a Jansenist.
"An account of this was transmitted to the pope, who, from the whole of his conduct, seems not to have been a fool, for he sent an injunction to a bishop, who was orthodox in the faith, (a Jesuit perhaps,) to let the locusts alone till the beginning of November, and then to go out with his priests and excommunicate them. Here the pope acted a very wise part, for locusts seldom survive the first week in November; whereas, had he excommunicated them sooner, the ceremony would not have had its proper effect. This, however, was considered as a miracle, because it served to point out that the Jansenists are not to expect the divine blessing upon their works; whereas, all those who are orthodox, are certain that God will hear them whenever they call upon him, and that he will in the most signal manner grant their requests.”—Hurd's History, p. 229.
NATURE OF SCRIPTURAL
FURTHER REMARKS ON THE SUBJECT OF EXCOMMUNICATION.
PAPISTS IGNORANT OF THE TENDENCY OF THEIR RELIGION. TWO INSTANCES OF INDIVIDUAL EXCOMMUNICATION, ILLUSTRATING THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO CONDUCTED THEM,
SATURDAY, December 12th, 1818. I HAVE been endeavouring, in some of my late numbers, to represent the church of Christ and the church of Rome, by way of contrast, particularly in the matters of discipline and excommunication. These, in the church of Christ, are a process of kindness and mercy; --in the church of Rome, a system of cruelty and oppression. The utmost that the church of Christ can do with an offending and irre. claimable member, is to put him away; but this, even when represented
by the apostle Paul, under the strong language of delivering unto Satan, is a process of mercy: it is declared to be " for the destruction of the flesh." This last expression, the flesh," signifies the evil propensities of the human heart, the corrupt desires and passions, which, in a man, are the source of all his misery in this world; and which, if not destroyed, must issue in misery everlasting. That which effects such destruction is a process of mercy. It was effectual in the instance of the person of whom the apostle speaks, 1 Cor. v, and 2 Cor. ji. His being turned over to the world, which is the kingdom of Satan, and thus declared to be unworthy of the fellowship of the church, made him reflect on his own character and condition. Finding himself an outcast from the kingdom of Christ on earth, because of his wickedness, he could have no hope of seeing the kingdom of Christ in heaven, but must have been overwhelmed by a fearful apprehension of being sent away into everlasting punishment with the devil and his angels. This effected the destruction of his flesh; he was brought to genuine repentance, restored to the fellowship of the church; and, persevering to the end, his spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The same apostle, 1 Tim. i. 19, 20, speaks of some who had made shipwreck of the faith and of a good conscience; they had abandoned some important truth, and embraced some fatal error. This, in the view of the apostle and the church, so far as regarded Christian fellowship, was as bad as gross immorality. The apostle, therefore, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, delivered such persons to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme. Though not favoured with the personal presence of the apostle, any church, by authority of his writings, is warranted to do the same thing; that is, to excommunicate blasphemers and persons who deny the faith of the gospel. But this is not to punish them. Every society has a right to see that its members be agreed about the fundamental principles of their association. If there be any who reject such fundamental principles thy have no right to be in it; and putting them away is doing them no wrong. It is, indeed, doing them a favour; for, if error and blasphemy be ruinous to their souls, the measure of putting them away, as unworthy of Christian fellowship, is calculated to impress them with a sense of their sin and danger, and by this means to save their souls.
Now, there is reason to expect that the laws of Christ, faithfully administered for the correction of immorality or error, will produce the effect intended by them; for he has promised to be with his people always to the end of the world; to give efficacy to his word, and bless the administration of his laws. The design of Christ, by all that is done in the church in his name, is to promote the salvation of lost sinners :-By the preaching of the gospel, to turn them from the power of Satan unto God; and, by the same means, together with the discipline of his church, to recover those who, after professing the faith, have fallen into sin. It is this that makes the whole a process of mercy; and which manifests the discipline of the church to be a privilege rather than a punishment.
This reasoning might be corroborated by the history of every church in which discipline has been faithfully administered. I shall mention only one fact, which is of recent occurrence, which has been
certified to me by the reverend gentleman under whose administration it happened; and which shows the good effects which result from an honest adherence to the divine rule of letting a sinner know explicitly the condition in which sin places him, with regard to the church; and that he cannot enjoy her fellowship without repentance.
A woman who had once and again been guilty of a sin which in. curred the censure of the church, in the way of public rebuke, presented herself before the parish session, that she might be taken under discipline, expecting as a thing of course, that she would have to stand in the church, and that then she would be restored to church privileges. But appearing to the minister and elders to be a person who had no just sense of the evil of her sin, and exhibiting no signs of repentance, she was told that she could not be admitted to the privilege of the discipline and censure, which could be properly applied only to the penitent, and could be of no use to the hardened and insensible, such as she appeared to be. She went away greatly disappointed, because she was not to be rebuked as she expected. She was in effect, though not in form, excommunicated.
But the matter did not rest here. The sinner could find no peace in her own conscience. The idea haunted her by night and by day. She began to reflect on her own character and conduct. She thought she must be a wicked creature indeed, seeing she was not reckoned worthy, so much as to give public satisfaction for her sin. She was, in short, brought to serious consideration, and deep repentance on evidence of which, she was restored to church communion; and she maintained a good character all the rest of her life. When she applied to the session, she was very ignorant, and could not read, but when awakened to a sense of her guilt, she immediately learned to read, so as to be able to peruse her Bible, and made it appear that she had profited by the merciful discipline of the church.
The contrast which I have been endeavouring to draw, may be expressed in one sentence, the design and tendency of Christianity is not to destroy men's lives, but to save them; the design and tendency of popery is not to save men's lives, but to destroy them.
When I speak of the design of popery, I must be understood as looking beyond human agents; for I am taught by the word of God, that this system originated with the enemy of all righteousness; and I have no doubt his design by it was to oppose the benign influence of the gospel ; and, by presenting to the world a counterfeit, instead of real Christianity, to prevent the salvation, and actually to destroy and ruin the souls of men. The apostle Paul gives a lively description of the system, 2 Thess. ii. 3—12, and tells us that its “coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” As for Papists themselves, I cannot allow myself to doubt that they believe their religion to be the only true one, and the only safe one ; and I believe they are not aware of the design of its author. We are told by the apostle, in the passage above referred to, that when men did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God sent them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. What was foretold of this system has been awfully verified. It was from not liking the simple truth of the gospel, that many who professed to receive it, began to corrupt it by human inventions. They were, in righteous judgment, abandoned to believe their own errors. Thence arose that monstrous fabric of superstition, and spiritual domination, which has oppressed Europe for many hundred years.
It was the design of the Author of Christianity to save men's lives, that is, to save their souls; the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost. But it was the design of the author of popery to ruin the souls of men by a system of error and delusion; and he has carried his plan into effect, by enticing men to become the dupes, and the agents, and then the victims of that delusion.
That the tendency of popery corresponds with its design, is evident by its whole history, and by the principles which it inculcates. We learn from the word of God, that there is no salvation for a sinner, but in the way of depending solely and entirely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ; but popery rejects this as the sole ground of dependance, and directs its deluded adherents to depend less or more upon their own merit, and the merits of some whom they call saints; who are, however, mere creatures like themselves, and many of them of very doubtful character. This part of the system does not make such a figure in history as the wars and bloody persecutions which popery has excited, because from the very nature of the thing, it is not capable of being made the subject of history. It is the subject of individual experience in that most important hour, to every man, when he must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ : and if it be true, as it most certainly is, that only he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned, then that system of religion which flatters men with the idea of being saved by some other way than believing on Christ, stands chargeable with this unavoidable consequence,—it tends not to save men's souls but to destroy them. With regard to the destruction of men's bodies, we know from history that popery has slain its thousands and ten thousands; but with regard to the ruin of souls, from this fatal error, no man can tell the millions who have been by popery deceived to their everlasting destruction.
I am aware that I am here treading on delicate ground, and that many who take themselves for Protestants, will accuse me of uncharitableness, but I care not while I know that I am upon sure ground, as I consider myself to be, while I proceed upon the plain declarations of the word of God. There is no name under heaven, given among men, by which a sinner can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ, and there is no way of being saved, even by him, but in the divinely appointed way of believing on him. Popery holds out another way, namely, that of believing in the church, -receiving implicitly the dogmas of fallible men; praying to, and trusting in saints and angels; and doing whatever the church prescribes. Now, without pretending · to ascertain the condition of individuals of ancient or modern times, I am guilty of no uncharitableness, and no presumption, when I say, that this is the direct road to everlasting perdition, and that he who travels in it to the end must perish, and that for ever.
I shall, however, be better understood by some of my readers, and I shall perhaps make a deeper impression on their minds, by returning to the tendency of popery, with regard to the bodies and the property of men. Here, most evidently, its tendency is not to save but to de. stroy. I have partly proved this already, by showing its insidious and incessant interference with the affairs of kings and kingdoms, and exciting war and persecution. I shall now give some instances of a more private nature, but which are well calculated to show the spirit of the system, and its tendency to destroy men's lives, as well as to rob them of their property.
The popish sentence of excommunication was used as an instrument of oppression and destruction against private and obscure individuals, as well as against princes; and this use of it continues to the present day. The following is the form of “excommunication pronounced by Philip Dunn, a popish bishop in Ireland, against Francis Freeman, who embraced the Protestant religion in 1765;—found among the bishop's papers, in his house in the county of Wicklow :
"By the authority of God the Father Almighty, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Peter and St. Paul, and all the holy saints, we excommunicate Francis Freeman, late of the county of Dublin, but now of Tuck-mill, in the county of Wicklow, that, in spite of God and St. Peter, and in spite of all the holy saints, and in spite of our most holy father the pope, (God's vicar on earth,) and in spite of our right reverend father in God, Philip Dunn, our diocesan, and worshipful canons, who serve God daily, hath apostatized to a most damnable religion, full of heresy and blasphemy: excommunicated let him be, and delivered over to the devil, as a perpetual malefactor, and schismatic; accursed let him be, in all cities, and in all towns, in fields, in ways, in yards, in houses, and in all other places, whether lying or rising, walking or running, leaning or standing, waking or sleeping, eating or drinking, or whatsoever thing he does; besides, we separate him from the threshold and all good prayers of the church; from the participation of the holy Jesus; from all sacraments, chapels, and altars ; from the holy bread, and holy water; from all the merit of God's holy priests and religious men, and from their cloisters, and all pardons, privileges, grants, and immunities, which all the holy popes have granted them; and we give him over utterly to the fiend; and let him quench his soul, when dead, in the pains of hell fire, as this candle is quenched and put out. And let us pray to God, our Lady, and St. Peter, and St. Paul, that all the senses of his body may fail, as now the light of this candle is gone; except he come, on sight hereof, and openly confess his damnable heresy and blasphemy, and, by repentance, make amends, as much as in him lies, to God, our Lady, St. Peter, and the worshipful company of this church; and as the staff of this holy cross now falls down, so may he, except he recants and repents. Signed, Philip Dunn." Free Thoughts, page 422.
This is the true spirit of popery. Here there is nothing of mercy; of course, nothing like the discipline of the church of Christ. All is vengeance, fire, and fury, against the man, whose only crime is, that he has presumed to think for himself on the subject of religion, and become a Protestant. When a member of the church of Christ falls into sin or error, and if it is even necessary to excommunicate him, he has still the benefit of the church's prayers for his recovery; but, in the church of Rome, the excommunicated person is declared to be separated from all good prayers of the church; and, with a fiendlike malice, he is utterly given over to the fiend, that he may quench his