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ject, the very mention of which will excite displeasure in the minds of my popish readers. It is, however, by no means my intention to displease them; and if they should feel themselves hurt by what follows, they ought to ascribe it to the subject, and not to the author, whose duty it is to expose all that he knows to be antichristian, and inimical to the happiness of society, in that church which ruled long over the kings of the earth; which is again assuming an imposing attitude in our own country; and which can gain the ascendancy only upon the ruins of civil and religious liberty.
* In argument, Papists sustain many disadvantages; but they are disadvantages of their own choosing, and from which they might free themselves, if they would occupy the independent ground which belongs to them as rational and accountable creatures,—that of forming their own judgment on all matters of faith and religious practice, without respect to the opinions of any man, or class of men, of ancient or modern times. I should find it impossible to defend the Protestant religion, if I were not at full liberty to form and express my own opinion of whatever was done by individuals or councils in the reformed churches. I do not know of one individual since the apostles' days, or of one ecclesiastical council, to whose acts and canons I would implicitly subscribe. I am as free to form an opinion, and have as good a right to publish it, as Luther or Calvin, or as the synods of Dort or Westminster. If I have the happiness to agree with these in matters of Christian doctrine, it is not from any authority which I acknowledge in them, but because I see such doctrine taught in the word of God.
I am, therefore, not under the necessity of concealing or denying any thing which I believe to have been wrong in the doctrine or discipline of any reformed church. If, for instance, a Papist should tell me, that Protestant churches maintained intolerant principles, I am not obliged, for the sake of consistency, to tell a falsehood, and say, it never was so. I can readily acknowledge that the subject of religious liberty was ill understood by most of the reformed churches for more than a century after the reformation; I can join in condemning persecution, for conscience' sake, by whomsoever practised, and rejoice that it is now disapproved of by Protestants in general.
But when I say to a Papist, Your church maintains the principle that faith is not to be kept with heretics, he is not at liberty to admit the truth of this, or of any thing that is dishonourable to his church at any period of her existence. He dares not say, I am sorry to acknowledge that it was so at one period, but such a doctrine is now disavowed; because this would be to admit that his church had been wrong, which he considers impossible. He is driven, therefore, to the miserable expedient of denying the fact, however well attested, and of boldly asserting that it nerer was so; and the only argument which he has to oppose to the evidence of history is, that he and his brethren abjure upon their most solemn oaths the abominable principle imputed to them.
It is true that Papists in Britain declare upon their solemn oaths, that they do not hold the doctrine that faith is not to be kept with heretics. This is well so far as regards them; and it would be utterly unwarrantable to accuse them of believing what they swear they do not believe; but then they ought to be candid, and confess that in so
far they are dissenters from the faith of their church; or that the church herself has departed from the faith explicitly avowed by many of her divines, and confirmed by the highest ecclesiastical authority. This they will not do, for the church was never wrong, and can never change. They are placed in the most pitiable condition imaginable, between the well known fact that such a doctrine was held by their church, their own ahjuration of it, and the principle that the church is infallible and unchangeable.
I believe the doctrine in question is generally disavowed by the church of Rome, in the present day; because it is one that cannot bear the light of the age.
The late Mr. Pitt, while directing his mind to the subject of what is called Catholic emancipation, addressed certain queries to six of the principal universities belonging to the church of Rome, viz. LOUVAIN, Dovay, ALCALA, VALLADOLID, SALAMANCA, and Paris. His object was to obtain accurate knowledge of the principles professed by these bodies, with regard to the power which the pope is understood to have over civil governors, and the subjects of states; and how far he has a right to influence the conduct of subjects towards their governors. All these bodies, of course, reply in a conciliating style. Their religion was always a very harmless thing, and it never interfered with the civil goverment of any country; in proof of which, one quotes the authority of Christ, to give unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's, and the doctrine of Paul, Romans, xiiith chapter, on submission to the powers that be.
One of the questions addressed to them all, is as follows :—"Is there any principle in the articles of the catholic faith, by which Catholics are justified in breaking faith with heretics, or others, who differ from them in religious opinions ?" The universities, with one voice, answer in the negative. Some content themselves by declaring there is no such principle maintained by the church; others declare that it nerer was a doctrine of the Catholic church; and one of the universities (Louvain) is struck with astonishment that such a question should, at the end of the eighteenth century, be proposed to any learned body by the inhabitants of a kingdom that glories in the talents and discernment of its natives. Proceeding to a more direct answer to the above question, they say, “ The said faculty of divinity (in perfect wonder that such a question should be proposed to her) most positively and unequivocally answers, that there is not, and that there never has been, among Catholics, or in the doctrines of the church of Rome,
law, or principle, which makes it lawful for Catholics to break their faith with heretics, or others of a different persuasion from themselves, in matters of religion, either in public or private concerns.”
Perhaps some of my readers will be “struck with astonishment," and “perfect wonder," at the effrontery of this learned body of divines. I cannot suppose them ignorant of the fact, that the principle which they disavow was publicly maintained and acted upon in numerous instances, by those who directed the affairs of their church; and therefore their affected astonishment at the proposal of the question, is only a piece of artifice to give the more effect to their declaration, and for commending their religion, and those who profess it, to the good opinion of the British government.
In my last number, I gave the bull, or indulgence, granted by Pope Clement VI. to the king and queen of France, by which he gave them liberty to break any vow, with certain exceptions, which they might have made, and which they did not find it profitable to keep, provided their confessor was willing to commute it for something else. This privilege was granted not to the king and queen only, but to all their successors, and is in full force at the present day; and as none of the exceptions regard vows or oaths to heretics, the sovereigns of France have full liberty to break faith with heretics, though bound by oath, whenever they shall find it not profitable to keep such oaths. I do not say that his most Christian majesty will ever do any such thing; but I do say he has the leave of the head of the church to do so whenever he pleases. In short, it is declared to be lawful for him to break faith with heretics, or any body else, provided he has the consent of his confessor, who is authorized to prescribe some good work as a compensation for the violation of his vow.
Gregory VII. made a decree prohibiting all to keep faith with excommunicated persons, until they made satisfaction. Martin V., in epistle to Alexander, duke of Lithuania, says, “Be assured thou sinnest mortally if thou keep thy faith with heretics.” This is more than making it lawful to break faith with heretics,-it is making it sinful to keep faith with them. Gregory IX. makes the following law : “Be it known to all who are under the jurisdiction of those who have openly fallen into heresy, that they are free from the obligation of fidelity, dominion, and every kind of obedience to them, by whatever means or bond they are tied to them, and how securely soever they may be bound.” On which, Bishop Simanca gives this comment: “ Governors of forts, and all kinds of vassals, are, by this constitution, freed from the bond of the oath whereby they had promised fidelity to their lords and masters. Moreover, a Catholic wife is not obliged to perform the marriage contract with a heretical husband. If faith is not to be kept with tyrants, pirates, and other public robbers who kill the body, much less with obstinate heretics who kill the soul.Aye, but it is a sad thing to break faith. But, as saith Merius Salo. monius, faith promised against Christ, if kept, is verily perfidy. Justly, therefore, were some heretics burnt by the most solemn judgment of the council of Constance, although they had been promised security. And St. Thomas also is of opinion, that a Catholic might deliver over an intractable heretic to the judges, notwithstanding he had pledged his faith to him, and even confirmed it by the solemnity of an oath.” Free Thoughts, p. 119, with the authorities.
Contracts," saith Bonacina, “made against the canon law are invalid, though confirmed by oath: and a man is not bound to stand to his promise, though he had sworn to it.” Pope Innocent, in his bull against the Waldenses in 1487, by his apostolical authority declares, that all those who had been bound and obliged by contract, or any way whatever, to grant or pay any thing to them, should not be under any manner of obligation to do so, for the time to come." Pope Pius V. by his legate, Commendone, endeavoured to persuade the emperor, nec fidem aut sacramentum infideli esse servandum ; that nor oaths were to be kept with an infidel." And through his
persua. sion, Maximilian was induced to revoke the permission he had granted
for the Lutherans to preach in Austria. Charles V., having given his promise and safe conduct to Luther to prevail on him to come tu Worms, was afterwards urged to violate it, by arresting Luther, on this ground, that "he was a man of that character to whom he was not obliged to keep his word :" to which he replied, " When good faith may be banished from all the earth, it ought to be found with an emperor.” Ibid.
But that I may not rest on the authority of individual divines, however high in estimation, or the decrees of mere popes, though generally considered infallible by their adherents; I shall go to the highest possible authority in the church of Rome, that of a general council, and one of the very greatest general councils,—that of Constance; at which were assembled from all quarters, 346 archbishops and bishops, 564 abbots and doctors, and 450 prostitutes, with a sufficient number of barbers, musicians, cooks, jesters, &c. &c., of which a very particular account is given by Fox, ihe martyrologist. The council has at least as good a title to infallibility as any general council that ever assembled. It met to judge, and did judge and depose a pope, and appoint another. It established, as an unalterable law of the church, that the laity should not partake of the cup of the Lord's supper; and this law has been universally obeyed in the church of Rome to the present day. The same council established and exemplified this other tenet, that faith is not to be kept with heretics, which never having been repealed, remains to this day as much a law of the church, as communion without the cup; though it is too odious to be openly avowed in the present state of society. The following is the council's doctrine on this subject :
“ The holy synod of Constance declares concerning every safe conduct granted by the emperor, kings and other temporal princes, to heretics, or persons accused of heresy, in hopes of reclaiming them, that it ought not be of any prejudice to the Catholic faith, or ecclesiastical jurisdiction, nor to hinder but that such persons may and ought to be examined, judged, and punished, according as justice shall require, if those heretics shall refuse to revoke their errors, although they shall have come to the place of judgment relying on their safe conduct, and without which they would not have come thither : and the person who shall have promised them security, shall not, in this case, be obliged to keep his promise, by whatever tie he may have been engaged, when he has done all that is in his power to do.” Ibid. p. 120.
The council having established this as a doctrine of the church, proceeded to practise it with savage and ostentatious triumph in the face of all Europe. The case is well known. John Huss, of Bohemia, was summoned to the council to answer a charge of heresy. His friends, fearing something like what actually took place, procured for him, from the highest secular authority, the Emperor Sigismund, letters of safe conduct to the seat of the council, and back to the place of his residence. These letters were given with due solemnity; and the emperor, in effect, pledged his honour for the safety of the Bohemian. He came to the council,—was soon led to speak on matters of faith; and being found a heretic, was, as a thing of course, condemned to the stake. The emperor (at whose request the council had been
called) interposed, pleaded his safe conduct to Huss, and plighted faith to transmit him home in safety: but the ghostly fathers taught him that faith plighted to heretics was not binding to the detriment of ecclesiastical discipline. Sigismund yielded; and Huss was committed to the flames.
Now, I challenge all the universities in Europe to produce higher authority for any doctrine or principle of the church of Rome; and this must be the doctrine of the church still, notwithstanding the solemn abjuration of British Papists, unless she has undergone a change, which, in their opinion, is impossible.
The last general council was that of Trent. This body distinctly recognised the canon of Constance with regard to not keeping faith with heretics; and as there has been no general council since, it is impossible that such a doctrine can have been struck out of the popish creed by any competent authority. The universities may declare what they please; and they may deceive the British ministry by a false representation of their principles ; but the universities are not the church. Papists will not be bound by their canons or declarations, while every popish priest is bound by a solemn oath to adhere to all the canons of a general council, particularly that of Trent.*
This council was held subsequent to the reformation, and partly with the design of discussing certain points at issue between the church of Rome and the reformers, and for healing the great schism. Protestants were invited to come to the council to answer for themselves, and give their reasons for leaving the church; but they, knowing what had taken place at Constance more than a hundred years before, and that it had been declared by that council that faith was not to be kept with heretics, did not choose to venture their lives in the hands of the ghostly fathers at Trent. This was the time to have disavowed the obnoxious doctrine, if it had not really been a doctrine of the church; and if it had not been a doctrine which the holy fathers of Trent approved, they might, by the high authority with which they were invesied, have expunged it from their creed. But they did no such thing; and since that time there has been no authority in the church that could do it. So far from declaring that the Protestants were mistaken, and that there was no such principle of their church, as that faith plighted to heretics might lawfully be violated, they virtually admitted the principle; and by a solemn act, aster long discussion, they agreed to exempt the Protestants on that occasion from the application of it; which they did in the following terms. “Moreover, all fraud and guile apart, ihe synod faithfully and truly promises, that she will neither openly nor secretly search for any pretence, nor use, nor suffer any person to make use of any authority, power, law, statute, privilege of laws, or canons, or of councils, particularly that of Constance
* The following is the form of the declaration, which every popish priest is required to make upon oath.--"I do acknowledge the holy catholic and apostolic Roman church, to be the mother and mistress of all churches; and I do promise and swear true obedience to the bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and the vicar of Jesus Christ. I do undoubtedly receive and profess all other things which have been delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred canons, and æcumenical councils, and especially by the holy synod of Trent; and all things contrary thereunto, and all heresies condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the church; I do likewise condemn, reject, and anathematize." Free Thoughts, p. 220.