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Lochderg, or the Red Lake, reputed to be sacred; and, to this place, immense shoals of misguided Papists are sent by their spiritual guides to wash away their sins, precisely as is done in India, under the tuition of the heathen priests." The author then gives a long account of the ceremonies practised at this holy lake; but they are so similar in extravagance, impiety, and folly, to what I gave in my fifty-fourth number, that I need not repeat them.
I conclude this subject with the remark, that it would be unreasonable to expect to find any thing better than idolatry in popish worship. Popery, as I have said in some of my papers, is the religion of corrupt human nature. Every man by nature is an idolater; that is, he places his chief delight, and pays his chief respect, nay, he pays the whole devotion of his heart, to something else than the true God. Real Christianity produces such a change in the heart and character of men, that they are led to renounce dependance on every thing else, and to devote themselves entirely to the service of God. This change is nothing less than being created anew, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is what Christ himself calls being born again; and without this there is no real Christianity. But in popery there is no new creation—no change greater than that which a priest can effect by the act of baptism. To speak of the necessity of any other change, would be no less than heresy; and, those who are deluded by this, and other errors of popery, must continue idolaters in one form or another.
SATURDAY, November 13th, 1819. Having been occupied for about six months in exposing the idolatry of the church of Rome, it is now time to proceed to something else. I propose to myself a serious investigation of some other popish errors, such as are taught concerning purgatory and prayers for the dead; but before entering upon such grave subjects, I shall treat my readers with a number or two of lighter matter, and a specimen of my correspondence.
Though I have received almost a chest full of letters on the subjects of my work, I have had only one from a professed Papist, besides the two from Mr. Scott, printed in my eighth, and the short note from Mr. Simeon in
my fiftieth number. I have, indeed, had one also from a Papist in disguise; or, perhaps a weak minded Protestant, who misnames himself " liberal minded,” who has descended to act a popish and Jesuitical part, in a silly attempt to defend Mr. M'Hardy: but there is only one avowed Papist who has condescended to address me, with remarks upon my publication, and a defence of his church. As he writes with pretty good temper, and some degree of modesty; and as I believe he expresses the sentiments of the more sensible Papists in this country, I shall give his letter entire, and follow it with a few remarks:
" Edinburgh, 14th August, 1819. "SIR :- I take the liberty of writing you concerning the charge you have made and promised, Deo volente,' to pursue against the system
of popery and its adherents; I never intended to write a word on the subject, (though it merits attention if properly handled,) until I read in your fifty-first number, your intention of treating on the errors of popery; which, according to your belief, are not few. Among the first and greatest are, 'idolatry of the mass, purgatory, prayers for the dead, auricular confession, clerical celibacy, extreme unction, cruelty of the Jesuits,' &c. &c.; and a good many more supposed errors, which it is not necessary for me to mention here. The only point I intend to speak of is idolatry, which is the most infamous charge against the church of Rome, notwithstanding every one of her children has as much hatred against idolatry as any man in the world, or even the purest Puritan in the city of Glasgow. If our Saviour's prophecy was to be fulfilled,
that the gates of hell would never prevail against that church which he purchased with his blood,' this promise, in my opinion, shakes the foundation of the reformation, and every branch that has sprung from it. I would wish very much to be informed when the supposed errors of popery came to be fashionable, without any records of them. There is no heresy whatever, nor any point of discipline, that is, or ever was practised in the church of Rome, or any other church whatever, but what is recorded by some historian; but we have no such records of the supposed errors of the Catholic church; surely, then, they have dropped from the clouds, and got full possession of the universal church without being perceived by any body, till the clear sighted Martin Luther made the happy discovery; for, truly, I can think of no other way to render it possible that it should get admittance all at once, without any opposition whatever. This, however, being somewhat out of the way, and proper only for machinery exploits upon the theatre, we must rather suppose Protestants will say it came in by degrees; be it so, but then it is reasonable they should give us a satisfactory answer to a few questions, and prove the truth of the facts from unquestionable records: as, who was the first priest that said mass, who invented the custom of praying for the dead, who instituted confession, extreme unction, invocation of saints, the custom of having images in the churches, and of giving them a relative honour, celebrating mass in Latin, the doctrine of transubstantiation, &c. &c. If these questions can be answered, from unquestionable records, to favour the reformation, then, no doubt, popery is leading us upon the ice; if the church be in an error, which most certainly is contrary to the promises of God in the Bible, and of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The reformation was not only erroneous, but open rebellion against the majesty of heaven and earth. We can easily trace the church of Rome back to the apostles, by an uninterrupted succession of bishops in the chair of St. Peter, to the present pope. There has been about two hundred and fifty-three popes in the chair of Peter the apostle (himself being the first of them) since the commencement of popery. I shall now say something of the charge of idolatry, as it is the greatest error a Christian can fall into. I never could find a Protestant that would tell me who was the first priest who said mass, but I have seen some of the writings of St. Ignatius, the disciple of St. John, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian, St. Martial, and Tertullian, teaching the doctrine of the mass, the substance or essence whereof consists precisely in its being an unbloody sacrifice offered to
God, by the priests of the new law, upon the altar; or what amounts to the same, an external oblation of the body and blood of Christ, under the form of bread and wine. St. Irenæus says, That Christ taught a new oblation in the New Testament, which the church, receiving from the apostles, does offer throughout the whole world. Iren. I. iv. c. 32. St. Cyprian says, That the priest is Christ's representative, and offers sacrifice to God the Father. Cyp. 1. ii. c. 3. And the fathers in all ages have declared the same doctrine, which makes popery as ancient as Christianity in every fundamental point: and as for the cruel charge of idolatry, I shall here insert what every child that is brought up in the Catholic faith will answer from their catechism. , 'Q. Do Catholics
pray to images ? A. No, by no means! we pray before them, indeed, to keep us from distractions, but not to them, for we know that they can neither see, nor hear, nor help us. Q. What benefit then have we by them? A. They movingly represent to us the mysteries of our Saviour's passion, and the martyrdom of his saints. Q. What benefit have we by honouring and canonizing saints ? A. It strongly moves us to imitate their example, by showing their rewards. Q How do we honour saints and angels ? A. With an inferior honour, as the friends and creatures of God, not as gods, nor with God's honour. Q. Is it lawful to honour relics of saints? A. Yes, with a relative honour, as above explained; for the handkerchiefs and aprons, which had but touched the body of St. Paul, cast out devils, and cured all diseases, Acts, chap. xix. verse 12. I will finish this subject with another quotation from another work, which, perhaps, you have not perused so much as ‘Free Thoughts :' it speaks as follows, ' Cursed is he who commits adultery, it should be idolatry,) who prays to images or relics, or worships them for God, R. Amen. Cursed is every goddess worshipper, who believes the Virgin Mary to be any more than a creature, who worships her, or puts his trust in her more than God, who believes her above her Son, or that she can in any thing command him, R. Amen. Cursed is he who believes the saints in heaven to be his redeemers, who prays to them as such, or who gives God's honour to them, or to any creature whatsoever, R. Amen. Cursed is he who worships any breaden god, or makes gods of the empty elements of bread and wine, R. Amen. Cursed is he who believes that priests can forgive sins, whether the sinner repent or not, or that there is any power on earth or heaven that can forgive sins without a hearty repentance, and serious purpose of amendment, R. Amen. Cursed is he who believes there is authority in the pope, or any other person, that can give leave to commit sin, or that for a sum of money can forgive him his sins, R. Amen. Cursed is he who believes that independent of the merits and passion of Christ, he can obtain salvation by his own good works, or make condign satisfaction for the guilt of his sins, or the pains eternally due to them, R. Amen. Papist Misrep. and Rep. pp. 98, 99.—I shall not trouble you with any more quotations, as very possibly it will be but time and labour lost; but
am very much surprised that a gentleman, of any merit or candour, would conduct a controversy in the manner you have hitherto done: if you would banish prejudice from your mind, you would see that their own doctrine is the system you ought to engage, and not charge them with doctrines they hate as much as you do yourself
. I do not
suppose that any of them is so very stupid, as to expect that an image of any creature can give them any help or assistance whatever. If you would give their religion from their own books, (without misrepresentation,) and then condemn them, if you can, with cool reasoning and fair argument, then your undertaking may be of some service. I suppose you would not wish to be tried by your enemies before a court of justice, if your life or character was at stake? Another cruel and unjust charge you have made against us is, that our mode of practice is ‘rebellion against God:' very well, then, be it so: let us be justified by the doctrine of the church of Scotland ; part of it is as follows: •Q. What are the decrees of God? A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.' Short. Cat. pp. 1, 2. According to this doctrine, all our actions, good and bad, are all set before us, without exception, nor can we escape one of them. If this doctrine be true, what comes of our free will ? Like. wise, if this doctrine be true, why are we in the esteem of other Christians, if every thing we do is laid before us as a necessity ? Lastly, If this doctrine be genuine, all Europe is guilty of the same rebellion since the foundation of the world. If any person is guilty of treason, murder, or theft, he is tried and punished for it; and is it not rebellion against God to punish a man for doing what is not in his power to avoid ? Be this doctrine true or false, Mahomet I. was the inventor of it; yet, if you can prove the church of Rome to be in an error in any one point of faith, I shall leave her as soon as I see any proof, for I am but a late convert from the church of Scotland, in which I was educated from my youth; and if I thought it possible to obtain salvation in any other, I would not be another day in her communion; but yet I believe that those who wish earnestly to know the truth may be saved, in whatever church he is in, if he is a Christian, provided he wish earnestly from his heart to serve God, with all his strength.
“I am very sorry that the distance between us is so far, or else I would have wrote a larger sheet; however, I shall see what you will say against Papists in future, and if you can prove them (from undoubted records) to be so bad as you call them, I shall soon be reconverted back again : but you must bring better testimony than you have hitherto done; and, likewise, you must not twist the quotations you bring from Papist books, or else you may depend on being less respected. For my own part, I am no way bigoted, I wish to see the weight of both sides of the question, and then I am better able to see which is the most just. I have only to recommend to you to give the faith of Papists from their own books, (without any misrepresentations or false constructions,) and you will be more respected by Protestants and Papists. “I remain, Sir, your very humble servant, a lover of the truth,
“W. D.” There is one thing in which W. D. and I are agreed, and which I shall notice first. I believe that a man may be saved, whatsoever church he is in, if he be a Christian. There never was a more important if; and if W. D. be a Christian, I call upon him to keep his word, and leave the church of Rome immediately. He says, “If I thought it possible to obtain salvation in any other, I would not be
another day in her communion.” Well, he admits that he may be saved in any church, if he wishes earnestly to know the truth, and if he be a Christian, provided he wish earnestly from his heart to serve God with all his strength; then, surely, it is possible for him to be saved in the church of Scotland, to which I invite him to return. If he shall remain another day in the church of Rome, after reading this, he is not a man of his word, and is therefore not a Christian, but only a Papist, and one who does not wish from the heart to serve God with all his strength. I am disposed, however, to hope favourably of this person, from his candid declaration; and whatever church he may join, when he has left Rome, I advise him to serve God in reality, and not to satisfy himself with earnestly wishing to do so. There is, I am afraid, a great and very prevalent error couched under these words. Persons who are conscious that they are not serving God, but their own lusts, attempt to quiet their consciences by an idea, that they earnestly wish to serve God if they could; and they hope he will take the will for the deed; but no man, who does not really serve God, ever earnestly wished to do it. When God, by his grace, brings a sinner to himself, he teaches him both to will and to do.
From the short acquaintance which W. D. has had with the church of Rome, he seems to have found out that she is no better than she should be; for he declares he would not stay in her another day, if it were possible to obtain salvation in any other. This is as much as to say, that he is heartily tired of her communion; he has no attachment to her for her own sake, or for the sake of her Head, but merely because somebody has persuaded him that he cannot be saved in any other, though he immediately disavows this persuasion. But let him join the true church of Christ, in whatsoever form she appears in the world, and if he be a Christian, he will love her communion for its own sake, and for the sake of Christ, who is the Head of the church, and who not only will save him, but who has saved him already, if he be a Christian.
The reader will observe, I use the word Christian in the Bible sense. A Christian is one who believes the gospel, who is born again, who is really a disciple of Christ; that is, one who believes what Christ teaches, and does what he commands: for they were disciples who were called Christians first at Antioch, and the inspired writers never gave the name to any other. Now, the apostle Paul says to such, not merely ye shall be saved, but “ by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephes. ii. 8. Again, he “ hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and
grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Tim. i. 9. It is true that, in respect of perfect holiness, and perfect happiness, salvation is future; but every Christian in this world is so far a saved person, that he is delivered from wrath and condemnation, is justified before God, and created anew for his service; and without this a man is not a Christian, whether he belong to the church of Rome, or any other church. I hope my readers will not suppose I am going to give them another sermon; I am only dropping a word for the instruction of my correspondent, who, I suspect, has not found peace to his conscience in the church of Rome.