Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

circulation of any version but such as she approves. The plain meaning of his words is, the church of Rome permits the reading of some versions of the scriptures, and does not permit the circulation or reading of other versions. I appeal to himself if this be not a correct statement of his sentiments; and I appeal to every reader, whether this be not representing the church of Rome in the most favourable light, with regard to the subject in hand. Now, what I am to prove is, that the assumption of a power to permit the reading of the scriptures, is antichristian presumption, and rebellion against God. I expect Mr. ANDREWS will be overwhelmed by astonishment, and perfect wonder, when he reads this sentence; and he will likely reprint it in large capitals to excite the amazement of his readers. No matter, I am perfectly serious in bringing this charge against his church, and I hope to make it good.

The scriptures contain the word of God, which is addressed to every human creature under heaven. They contain a complete revelation of his will for the salvation of our fallen race. They inform us how our race became fallen and ruined, and of the provision which God has made for the recovery and salvation of miserable sinners, by the incarnation, obedience, and death of his own Son. That part of the Bible which is properly called the gospel, is purely a revelation of the mercy of God to sinners. It is a proclamation of grace and pardon to the very chief of sinners, upon the footing of what Christ has done in the stead of the guilty, when he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. The Bible informs us, how guilty and miserable creatures become interested in what Christ has done and suffered in the room of the ungodly ;—that it is in the way of believing in him; for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, (John ii. 16.) This is good news, it is glad tidings of great joy to all people, (Luke ii. 10;) and by the commandment of the everlasting God, it is to be made known to all people, (Rom. xvi. 26.) Christ gave commandment to his apostles, to go into all the world and preach the gospel, that is, publish the good news to every creature, (Mark xvi. 15.) And he gave them a promise to be with them always to the end of the world, insomuch that their speaking was his speaking,—their words were his words,-he that heard them heard him. The words spoken by apostles, therefore, and the words which they wrote, have all the authority of a voice from heaven. Christ is with his apostles still, and he will be with them to the end of the world, to give power and efficacy to their words, because they are his own words; and whether they are published in the way of reading, or in the way of preaching, he gives them a spirit and a power which effectually subdues the objects of his mercy, and turns them to himself. The preaching, or in any way, the publication of the gospel, is the means of divine appointment for the conversion and salvation of sinners.

In short, the Bible is the word of God addressed to his own creatures; and who are they that presume to permit the Almighty to speak to his creatures? The church of Rome does so, according to the testimony of modern Papists; and it is understood to be great condescension in the church to grant such permission ; for this is the same thing

as granting permission to creatures to hear what the Almighty speaks to them. The reader will observe, it is spoken in the way of boasting, at least in the way of vindicating the church of Rome, that she does not absolutely prohibit, but in certain circumstances she permits, the reading of the scriptures; that is, she permits fallen and miserable creatures to hear what their Creator says to them, which is the same thing as permitting the Almighty to speak to them."

Where was there ever greater arrogance and presumption? Is it possible to imagine greater contempt of divine authority, and more direct rebellion against the Majesty of heaven, than this affected condescension of the Romish church? She does not absolutely forbid the Almighty to speak to his creatures,—she permits it in certain circumstances.

In the Bible, the Almighty addresses us as by a voice from heaven, “ Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. xliv. 22.) The church of Rome stands by, and presumes to decide who shall, and who shall not, hear these words of the Almighty Saviour; and if any person at all hear them, it is by her permission. Surely, then, this church of Rome is that antichrist, that opposing power that exalts itself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. To assume the power of permitting creatures to hear what God shall speak, is assuming a power and authority at least equal to that of God, and a right to control, or at least to regulate the manner of his communicating his will to his own creatures.

I shall suppose a case, which I hope is level to the capacity of all my readers. I shall suppose there were some traitors in our city, or in the neighbourhood, and, suppose the prince regent, acting in name and on behalf of his majesty, extremely averse from persecuting these traitors so as to affect their lives, issued a proclamation, promising a free pardon to all who would submit themselves to the authority of the laws :-Now, suppose that our lord provost and magistrates were to call a council, and make it a matter of consideration, whether or not they would permit the said proclamation to be published in Glasgow; and if they should even come to the decision that they would permit it, would not they themselves be held as traitors, merely for presuming to put their authority on a footing with that of the sovereign, and presuming to permit his proclamation to be published.

This is precisely the case with the church of Rome, upon the most partial view of her conduct, as given by her own friends. The gospel of Christ is a proclamation of mercy to rebels and traitors. It is contained in the Bible. And as the church of Rome claims the power of granting permission, only in certain circumstances, to read the Bible, she places her authority, at least, upon an equality with the authority of God, by determining whether or not the said proclamation of mercy shall be published, who shall, and who shall not be allowed to hear it.

Thus, the very condescension of the church of Rome,-her permitting the reading of the scriptures in certain circumstances, of which her friends make a boast,-is proved to be impious presumption, and rebellion against God. It is arrogating an authority which belongs to no creature, nor to any assembly of creatures, to decide when and to whom the Almighty shall address his overtures of mercy and grace;

and who shall hear that gospel which he commanded to be preached to every creature.

I have hitherto been arguing on the most favourable view of the conduct of the church of Rome, -that she does permit the reading of the scriptures in certain circumstances. The claim of an authority to permit, indicates her antichristian temper; and this very claim implies an authority to prevent the reading of the scriptures, whenever it shall happen that prevention is more agreeable to her than permission. This in general has been the case: and if her assumed authority of permitting, proves her to be the antichrist, much more will her assumed authority of preventing, fix that character upon her.

Amicus VERITATIS says, that I cannot produce any authority of the council of Trent absolutely forbidding the reading of the scriptures. This is admitting that the reading of them is forbidden, but not absolutely; and this is precisely the import of the canon of the said council. The reading of the Bible is forbidden generally; but there are exceptions. It is not forbidden to clergymen. It is not even for. bidden to such discreet laymen as are otherwise secured from being hurt by it, provided they read only such translations as have been made by Catholic authors; but to the great body of the people it is forbidden. The bishops and inquisitors are constituted sole judges, who are and who are not fit to be trusted with the word of God, even after it has been neutralized by the corrupt glosses of translators and commentators: and if any poor layman should be detected with a Bible in his possession, though it should be one of those which have been fenced by popish annotations, he is considered guilty of so great a crime, that he cannot receive the ablution,—the pardon, or washing from his sins, till he has sent away the Bible from his house. This is the express law cé the church of Rome, as it was decreed by the council of Trent, and as it stands at this day; for every popish priest is taken bound by solemn oath to adhere to all the doctrines and canons of that council.

The Almighty addresses his word to every child of Adam: but the church of Rome forbids any of its members to hear or to read it, but a favoured few, who must have a license for the purpose ! This is directly setting up her authority against the authority of God. He calls upon all men to hear him. His voice is to the sons of men. It is addressed to all ranks and classes of the human race without exception. But the church of Rome will not suffer als men to hear the voice of God in his word. She allows it to be addressed only to such as will receive thereby an increase of faith and piety; that is, to persons who are already faithful and pious in some degree. God addresses his gospel to sinners, as such, in order that, hearing and believing it, sinners may be saved. But the church of Rome exercises her authority to prevent, as far as she is able, the word of God from reaching the ears of sinners. Thus, she proves herself to be in league with Satan, for the purpose of keeping men under the bondage of sin, to the everlasting ruin of their souls.

Amicus VERITATIS tells us, in plain words, without dissembling, that the church commands her children not to read any edition of the scriptures but that which she approves ; and he says, the council of Trent and the church merely do this, as if it were a small matter; but

in fact, this was an absolute prohibition of reading the Bible, to at least nine-tenths of the people, for the only edition or version that was approved by the church, for many centuries, was the Latin Vulgate, which none but the learned could read. Commanding her children, therefore, to read no other, was an absolute prohibition to the unlearned. It does not appear that even the original Hebrew and Greek, the very words which were written by prophets and apostles, were approved by the church of Rome. At least, in order to discourage the study of the scriptures in the original tongues, the council of Trent declared the Vulgate to be of equal authority, which is the doctrine of the church on this subject.

I begin to think that my work is rising in public esteem, and that it is exciting great attention; seeing the Socinians have begun to make use of the title, for the purpose of giving currency to their nostrums. I can conceive no other object which a “ Layman" could have in view, in his sixpenny letter to the PROTESTANT, which was published on Wednesday last. This I think, is all the reply that such a publication requires from the PROTESTANT, who is not so idle as to take up the Socinian controversy immediately after it has been so ably handled by Mr. WARDLAW.

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE SUBJECT CONTINUED. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE, AND

THE OPPOSITION OF PAPISTS. WICKLIFFE'S TRANSLATION. TINDAL's. LUTHER'S. ITALIAN VERSION BY POPE SIXTUS V., AND THE CLAMOUR EXCITED BY IT. ANECDOTE OF THE SPANISH AMBASSADOR TO THE PAPAL COURT. SUBSTITUTE FOR A BIBLE IN ITALY. REFLECTIONS ON ITS PREFACE. SNEER AT THE BIBLE SOCIETY.

SATURDAY, February 13th, 1819. Amicus VERITATis tells me that I “cannot produce any decree of the council of Trent, absolutely forbidding the reading of the scriptures." Then he informs me that "the council of Trent, and the church, merely command her children not to read any edition of the scriptures, but that which is approved by the church.” I showed in my last number, that this mere command was, for several centuries, the same thing as an absolute prohibition; for the only version approved by the church was the Latin Vulgate; and the command of the church to read no other, was really a command to the unlearned not to read the scriptures at all. I showed also, that the assumption of a power to grant permission to read the Bible, was no less than assuming a power to permit the Almighty to speak to his creatures, which is antichristian arrogance and presumption.

It is no better, whatever worse, to assume the power of preventing the reading of the Bible. Of this the church of Rome is notoriously guilty; and AMICUS VERITATIS virtually admits the fact, by asserting that she merely commanded her children not to read any version but such as she approved; that is, only the Latin Vulgate. Suppose the people were eagerly desiring instruction; suppose they were hungering for the bread of life, that is, desiring to possess and know the word of God, the church of Rome presents it to them in Latin,-a language

which they do not understand,—and commands them not to receive it in any other language. What is this but giving the people a stone instead of bread? What is it but saying to the poor, Be thou warmed, be thou clothed, and yet not giving them the things which are needful for these purposes ? The apostle James has taught us how to estimate such pretensions to charity.

The word of God was given to the church in Rome, as it was given to other churches, for the instruction and edification of her members, and for the rule of their conduct. I say the church in Rome; for the Bible knows nothing of the church of Rome, but as the antichrist, the grand apostasy that should arise in the latter days. The church in Rome was a company of believers in the saving iruths of the gospel, who made a public and explicit profession of their faith in Christ, and who remained steadfast in the faith, notwithstanding the opposition which they had to encounter; inasmuch, that their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. This church claimed no authority over any other church. It was content to hold communion with the church in Jerusalem, and with every other church of Christ, upon a footing of perfect equality. It was favoured by a letter from the apostle Paul, and by his personal ministry for a time; not by the ministry of Peter, for it has not yet been proved that the latter apostle was ever in Rome.

There is no reason to doubt that while the church in Rome continued to hold the faith of the gospel, they would hold by the scriptures of the Old Testament, and also of the New Testament, as they were communicated to them; and they would consider it the duty of every member to read, and hear, and understand what God said to him, in the holy writings. By reading and understanding these, they would become wise unto salvation, and they would endeavour to communicate the knowledge of them to all around.

But in process of time a deplorable change took place. The church in Rome became the church of Rome. The society of believers in that city was superseded by a motley group of persons of the city,of mere worldly men,—who soon began to mould the church according to the maxims of the world. By the time of Constantine the Great, it had become a worldly society: he took it into union with the state, became its patron, and virtually its head and governor.

Christianity now became popular and fashionable. Multitudes of heathens flocked into the church, and they were cordially received, without any evidence of their having embraced the faith of Christ, and thereby become new creatures. They were old men under a new name, -still heathens under the name of Christians. Such persons could not submit to the simplicity of the gospel. It was necessary to introduce into Christian worship a number of heathen rites, to please the heathen converts; and thus, in a short time, what was called Christianity, was little better than the old Roman idolatry.

In this state of things, it became necessary to keep the Bible out of the view of the common people. Christianity, as represented in that book, was quite a different thing from the system maintained by the Romish priests. They gave themselves out as the only channels through which the blessings of Heaven were dispensed to men. The influences of the Holy Ghost, as they taught, could be communicated

« ПредишнаНапред »