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to retain God in their knowledge, in those characters of infinite holiness and righteousness, under which he had revealed himself, and which would not admit the approach of any of the race of Adam, but by confession of guilt over a sacrifice of atonement.
Sinners, as such, never did like this view of the divine character; and yet if they profess to worship God under any other character, they are worshipping an idol, and not the true God. Cain seems to have been the first avowed idolater; and his idolatry consisted in presenting an offering to the true God under a false character. The divine appointment of worship by sacrifice, was a sufficiently plain intimation, that God was so offended with men on account of sin, that no man should ever approach to him but upon the footing of an atonement. But Cain did not believe that God was so offended with him, that he might not come to him as a friend, without a sacrifice-without a reconciliation. It was not therefore the true God that Cain was thinking of; it was an idol of his own imagination; and this I take to be the origin of all the idolatry that has been in the world.
It was long, perhaps, before the impression of the revelation which God made of himself to the first family, and before the religion of that family were so completely forgotten, that idolatry acquired the grossness of avowed creature worship; yet we know that in process of time the earth was filled with it. So after God was manifest in the flesh; after the great atonement had been made; after all men were invited to confess their sins, and come to God for pardon upon the footing of that sacrifice; and after many churches had been gathered by the preaching of apostles, built upon the foundation of the truth which they preached, and professing to worship God in the name of Jesus Christ; it was some time, I say, after this, before idolatry began to appear in the grossness of creature worship. It soon appeared in its more refined and intellectual form, when some Jewish converts began to make an idol of their conformity to the law of Moses, and when others became ashamed of the doctrine of Christ, and began to corrupt it by inventions and traditions of men. This, though perceptible at first only to the keen spiritual discernment of inspired men, became by degrees palpable enough; and in the course of a few ages, it issued in the gross idolatries of the church of Rome, and the scarcely less gross superstitions of the eastern churches.
There is in the mind of every real Christian a representation of the true God in his revealed characters of goodness and truth, justice and mercy. This is produced by the gospel which he believes; and, continuing in the faith of it, this representation, or image of the living God remains within him. But there are many who receive the gospel only in theory, not in the love of it, and without any experience of its power and sanctifying influence; and there are many, called Christians, who do not know the gospel even in theory. In the minds of both these classes of persons there is an image of something else than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it is the image of an idol which they have set up in their own hearts; and all the worship of such persons is no better than idolatry. For instance, if a man shall imagine that God will accept him upon the footing of his own merits; that God is too good to be strict in marking his failings and imperfections; that he will kindly pass over these, without putting him to the
disagreeable necessity of confessing and forsaking his sins, and imploring mercy in the name of Christ;—such a man is thinking of an idol; his heart is as far removed from the true God as that of the deluded Papist, who worships a fragment of the handkerchief of the Virgin Mary, or the poor Hindoo, who falls down before the image of Juggernaut.
I have a good deal to say on the conformity of popery with heathen idolatry; but the design of the present reflections is to show its conformity with the state of the carnal mind; and that it rises out of that alienation of the heart from the true God, and dislike of his revealed character, which exists in the heart of every man, until he is converted to God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the instrumentality of the gospel.
But when persons have obtained the name of Christian, they do not like to give it up. In countries where Christianity is not persecuted, especially where it is the prevailing and established religion, men may depart from the faith of Christ, and still be called by his name. They call themselves Christians, and their children will be called Christians, though not united to Christ by the faith of the gospel. The living image of Christ is wanting in the hearts of such persons, and they must have something external and visible to supply its place; such, for instance, as a dead image of him which they set up in their churches. They abandon the doctrine of the cross of Christ; but they find a substitute in the timber or image of the cross. Not aware of the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit, to regenerate and sanctify them, they rest satisfied with the act of baptism and the application of holy water. Not receiving Christ by faith in the ordinance which commemorates his death, they are content to receive an image of him in the form of a wafer. The light of the divine word no longer shining from their pulpits, they supply its place by a number of wax candles, even in the face of the sun; and the priests, no longer exhibiting the character of heavenly purity, they clothe themselves with an image of it in the form of a robe of white linen. In this way the doctrines and ordinances of Christ were not merely corrupted, but totally supplanted, by a system of idolatries, and superstitions, and will-wor. ship, which continues to this day to obstruct the progress of the gospel, and to enslave the minds of many millions of the human race.
Now I wish to be understood as distinctly maintaining that there is a tendency to these things in the minds of all who are Christians in name and not in reality. Where the living spirit of Christianity is wanting, men will take up with a dead image of it. If they receive not the gospel in its heavenly simplicity, they will be led away by some earthly representation of it. If they receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved, they may be abandoned to the fatal delusion of believing a lie. The first speculative error may appear small and trifling, but nobody can tell how far it may lead one astray. One degree of obliquity extended, will lead to an infinite distance from the right line. Rome was not built in a day. Admit but the principle, that any thing beside what is contained in the word of God, is to be a rule in religious matters, and this, in the course of time, will lead the minds of men entirely away from the word of God, as it did in the church of Rome, and issue in a system of direct opposition to the divine record.
Let such of my readers as are alarmed for the growth of popery attend to the root of the evil. It lies in the opposition of the carnal mind to the holy and humbling doctrine of Christ crucified. It is highly probable, that if popery shall regain the ascendancy among us, and become the fashionable religion, the worldly part of the community will fall into it; because the fundamental principles of popery and mere nominal Christianity are the same. If any of my readers ask how the growth of popery is to be prevented, I confess I know no proper means of prevention, but by every one receiving and holding fast the truth of the divine word; and by communicating the knowledge of it to all around him. It is only by the word of truth, and the armour of righteousness, on the right hand and on the left
, that Christians can effectually oppose the progress of error; and such opposition, by the blessing of God, will ultimately be successful, even if popery should gain the ascendancy for a time.
BEATIFICATION. RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN PAGANISM AND POPERY IN THIS PARTICULAR.
HOW TO DISCOVER A SAINT AFTER DEATH. STORY OF ST. MAGDALEN OF PAZZI. IN
STANCE OF FRAUD IN THE PRETENDED DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER SAINT. PROCESS OF CANONIZATION. INQUIRY, HOW THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN HEAR THE PRAYERS OFFERED TO THEM ON EARTH. ANSWERS SUGGESTED,
SATURDAY, June 5th, 1819. "Beatification," says Dr. Johnson in his dictionary, "is an acknowledgment made by the pope, that the person beatified is in heaven, and therefore may be reverenced as blessed; but is not a concession of the honours due to saints which are conferred by canonization.” If this be a correct definition of the word, which I have no reason to doubt, it appears that the pope professes to have the faculty of knowing who are in heaven, and who are not, which must excite as great a degree of astonishment, as that of the village rustics at their learned schoolmaster, " That one small head could carry all he knew." It appears farther, that every saint in heaven may be reverenced as blessed, that is, honoured with an inferior degree of worship; but that to those whom the pope has canonized, a higher degree of worship is due. It is not then a matter of mere choice; it is a matter of obligation ; it is the bounden duty of every good 'Papist to worship the idols which the pope has set up; that is, the saints to whom he has given places of distinction in heaven. Mr. Andrews very earnestly inculcates this duty in his school-book, as it regards the Virgin Mary'; and in his edition of St. Wenefride's life and miracles, he is little less earnest in recommending devotion to her. At least he holds her up as an object of religious worship; as one that is able to bestow the greatest temporal blessings, such as the cure of diseases which no human skill can cure; and he furnishes suitable prayers for the use of her devout worshippers, on whom she has not bestowed the ability to make prayers for themselves.
Those who have marked the correspondence that there is between
heathenism and popery, have been struck with the resemblance of popish canonization to heathen deification. “The ancient priests, in order to the credit of their system, felt it necessary to persuade the people, that certain characters, many of whom had, however, been the most ambitious and sensual of mankind, were honoured by the special favour of Heaven; were deep in its mysteries, and even worthy of being placed among the gods themselves: in consequence of which, their public deification took place with all the pomp and circumstance so well calculated to impose upon a gross and idolatrous people. In order, however, to this ceremony, some miraculous intimation of the favour and will of Heaven, as to the individual in question, was required to be duly attested as necessary to the ceremony. Thus in the case of Romulus, one Julius Proculus took a solemn oath, · That Romulus himself appeared to him, and ordered him to inform the senate of his being called up to the assembly of the gods, under the name of Qu s.' Plut. Vit. Rom. Dioniss. Halicar. I. ii. page 124, and in the deification of the Cesars, some of whom were little less than monsters, the established proof of their divinity was an eagle flying out of the funeral pile towards heaven, which was supposed to convey the soul of the deceased, and was also required to be duly attested." Dio. Cass. pages 598, 842. The Papists, in imitation of this pagan original, consider it necessary to their credit, to canonize or beatify certain individuals of their communion, some of whom have, like their heathen prototypes, been of infamous and scandalous lives; and in order to this act they also introduce the machinery of miracles, although with some difference as to the mode of its operation. In this case, the miracles are alleged to have been performed by the saints themselves, and there is as little difficulty in procuring the necessary attestations in modern as in ancient Rome. The creation of saints has in consequence become almost as common as the creation of cardinals, there having rarely been a pope who did not enrich the calendar with some fresh specimens. Benedict XIII. canonized eight in one summer, and his successor Clement XII. four more. Innocent XIII., who succeeded him, beatified Andrew Conti, a member of his own family: and this is another main source of saintship, when, to gratify the ambition of the reigning pope, this honour is conferred on some of his name or family. The present pope has canonized five saints, all of whose banners are at this moment waving in one of the chapels of St. Peter's. The Papists consider this rite as so essential a part of their religion, that they have even perverted the sacred scriptures for the purpose of giving sanction to the practice, having translated the passage in St. James, v. 11, not as it ought to be : "Behold, we count ihem happy who endure,” but “ Behold, how we beatify those who have suffered with constancy;" in like manner as, in order to give a sanction to their religious processions with the host and with relics, &c., they translate the passage in Heb. xi. 30, “ The walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days," "after a procession of seven days.”
“ It costs an immense sum to be made a saint, but pious relatives are sometimes content to bear it. Proofs of the miracles wrought by the deceased must be adduced in due form, in a judicial way. Witnesses are examined, and in order that full justice may be done, coun
sel are appointed on both sides, one undertaking to establish the miracles, and the other combating them; and thus the matter is solemnly argued dans les formes, et selon les regles, and not determined until after a long and expensive process. It is farther remarkable, that some miracle must have been performed by the deceased after his death, as well as during his life; one of these, by the way, being quite as easy to the saint as the other, and each being equally capable of proof. It is unnecessary to observe, that these judicial inquiries invariably terminate in favour of the saint and his family; since the pope and his council are equally interested in the successful issue of the suit: indeed, as an atheistical pope once observed, “What a profitable fable has that of Jesus Christ been to us !'" Ignorus, Letter V., originally published in The Times newspaper. Whence is it that Mr. Andrews has not tried his hand in answering this able writer, who has made such an exposure of the wickedness of popery, and its dangerous tendency, under his own eye?
One of the most usual miracles which saints are said to perform after their death, is to impart to their carcasses a good smell : and it is so much the better if they can preserve this for ages, so that on open. ing their graves all present should be sensible of it. I have before me a number of particulars of the life and miracles of St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, whose bull of canonization “ begins not without good reason," as the author says, “ with that incorruption and good odour of her body which continues to this day.” It is easy to imagine how a parcel of artful monks, by the use of perfumes, might deceive the simple, and impart fragrance to the body of one recently deceased, and even to a chest full of dry bones; and thus it was in their power to lay a foundation for the canonization of any person they pleased. The following is one of the miracles which procured this honour for the idol of Pazzi :—“Then, when her virgin body was after her death exposed in the church, there was a concourse of people of all ages, sexes, and qualities, to see it, touch it, and pay veneration to it. Among others, a young man of an irregular and licentious life, advanced towards the body to touch it. The saint, as if she had been alive, had a horror of that dunghill, and turned her head on the other side. This action touched the young man so to the quick, that he made a firm resolution to amend. This miracle was attested by a reverend Jesuit, who was an eyewitness of it, with many others.". I dare not give more particulars of this saint, lest my readers should throw my paper aside with disgust. Suffice it to say that the story is much more gross than St. Wenefride St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, however, has a distinguished place among the idols papal Rome; and I have received from an intelligent correspondent, an impression of a little image of her, such as her devotees wear about their neck.
I related in my last number how St. Viar was unsainted when it was discovered that he had been no better than a mender of roads, though I believe few of the saints were so honourably and usefully employed. I shall now give an account of one who was in danger of being deprived, and struck
from the calendar, had the credit of his saintship not been established by the smell of his bones. The relation is given by one who was an eyewitness of this, and of innumerable other popish tricks to deceive the people, and who afterwards was so convinced of