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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
Art. I.-The Variations of Popery. By SAMUEL EDGAR. Second
Edition, revised, corrected, and enlarged. London: L. and G. Seeley,
Pp. xxiv. 551. 8vo. 1838. There are, we doubt not, many of our readers who turn with disgust from the continued discussion of the Popish question, with which publications of every description and every party teem at the present day; but participating ourselves, to a certain extent, in this feeling, we nevertheless cannot consent to remain supine, when even the most superficial observer catches the shadow of coming events, pregnant with the destinies of a mighty nation.
It may be said that the mystery of iniquity, by which Popery is characterised, has been sufficiently denounced, both by the Protestant pulpit and Protestant press; that the loud accents of controversial theology should at length cease--that the odium theologicum, which is made a stigma upon all religion, ought to vanish before the preaching of the gospel of peace—and that something is to be conceded to even mistaken prejudices. We reply that we quarrel not with prejudices, but errors. We denounce not the professor, but his doctrines. We feel a brotherly love for Christians of all denominations, and for the whole scattered family of God; but this very love will not permit us to see them standing on the brink of a precipice, without raising our voice to warn them of their danger—this very love compels us to say to them in sincerity and truth, “ This is the way, walk ye in it.”
It is well observed by Mr. Parkinson, in his admirable Hulsean Lectures, that “ It has been the complaint of all times that errors, once apparently subdued, are still springing up as vigorous and as fresh as ever.” “Errors," observed the philosophical and judicious Powell, “which we thought buried in oblivion, are again called forth ; and though relating only to some nice and difficult subjects, which require
the utmost attention of the learned and contemplative, are industriously spread in small treatises among the common people : whilst we, the Clergy, are urged to examine anew matters which we had long considered as certain; and are told that our system of Christianity, transmitted to us, it seems, from ages of ignorance and bigotry, may and ought to receive improvements, corresponding to those which the present enlightened age has made in every other science. The reputation of modern philosophers is turned to the disgrace of modern divines; as neither emulating the example, nor accepting the assistance which the discoveries of those strict reasoners might afford them."
If we take a review of the state of the world in this our day, a precisely similar argument will hold good. The statement is in fact a universal truth, and as such, applies with certain modifications to all ages. And this melancholy fact imposes upon all, who may be placed in the situation of public instructors, the imperative duty of being always vigilant. The evil of Popery, then, possessing a pertinacious vitality, it becomes the peculiar province of the members of the Established Church, to encounter it in its strongholds, not to be deceived by any apparent modification of its tenets, not to be seduced by its specious advocates, who preach up christian forbearance and christian toleration with their lips, but in their hearts denounce us as heretics, and secretly plot our overthrow.
Popery, we maintain, is the same in all its main features in the nineteenth century, as it was in the sixteenth. The formularies of faith decreed at the Council of Trent, are embodied in the works of Dens, Murray, and Maguire. The same persecuting spirit characterises her disciples. A continued sneer pervades all their writings, when the Church of England is mentioned; the failings and faults of the earlier Reformers are ostentatiously paraded forth, as if the cause of the gospel rested on the individual sanctity of professors, or the Church depended for its stability on the justice of their proceedings, and the purity of their motives, instead of resting solely on the promises of Christ, contained in his unadulterated word, and its strict conformity to the Book of God, and primitive Catholicism. Nor is this charge confined to the more violent polemics. BUTLER, who professes to adopt the mildness and proverbial urbanity of St. Francis of Sales, is no less bitter than his contemporaries. He ventures to draw a parallel between Reformed and Popish England, and has the hardihood, in the face of facts of every-day occurrence, to yield the palm to the latter. We will not here direct the attention of our readers to France, or Spain, or Italy, or any other country, where the religion of the Church of Rome has never ceased to bestow her temporal blessings on the human race. But we appeal to the official documents with which the tables of the Houses of Parliament groan, wherein the habits and ferocity of the Irish peasantry, over whom the priesthood exercises unlimited authority, are written in letters of blood.
With these preliminary observations, we turn to the black record of popish crime recorded by Mr. Edgar. We some time ago expressed our satisfaction at the republication of Foxe's Martyrology, and on the same grounds we recommend the present volume. The hideous deformities of the Roman Church cannot be too extensively exposed; the spirit by which she was, is, and ever will be actuated, cannot be too well understood; especially when dominant in Ireland, under the tutelage of bold, bad men, she casts a longing eye over the fertile plains and rising cities of England, and almost predicts the very day when the cathedrals and churches of our Canaan, will be once more profaned by popish rites and superstitions.
The object of Mr. Edgar, and the plan by which he proposes to execute it, will perhaps be best gathered from his own words :
The attack, in this essay, is directed against the pretended unity, antiquity, and immutability of Romanism. These have long been the enemy's proud, but empty boast. Catholicism, according to its abettors, is as old as the year of our redemption ; was derived from the Messiah, published by the apostles, taught by the fathers, and is professed, in the popish cominunion of the present day, without addition, diminution, or change. The design of this work is to shew the groundlessness of such a claim. The subject is the diversity of doctors, popes, and councils among themselves; with their variations from the apostles and fathers : and these fluctuations are illustrated by the history of the superstitions which have destroyed the simplicity, and deformed the beauty of genuine Christianity. The variety of opinions, which have been entertained by Romish theologians, constitute one principal topic of detail.-P. x.
Popish variations from the apostles and fathers also claim a place in this work.--P. xi.
The history of papal superstitions traces the introduction of these innovations into Christendom.
The history of these innovations will expose their novelty, and discover their aberrations from the original simplicity of the gospel.-P. xi.
This work is designed to employ against popery, the argument which the celebrated Bossuet wielded with ingenuity, but without success, against protestantisn. The reformers disagreed in a few unimportant points of divinity. Their disagreement, however, was rather in discipline than in faith or morality. These dissensions the slippery Bossuet collected: and, what was wanting in fact, he supplied from the fountain of his own teeming imagination. The discordancy, partly real, but chiefly fanciful, the bishop represented as inconsistent with truth and demonstrative of falsehood. The Variations of Popery are intended to retort Bossuet's argument. The striking diversity, exhibited in Romanism, presents a wide field for retaliation, and will supply copious reprisals. The author of this production, however, would, unlike the Romish advocate, adhere to facts and avoid the Jesuitical bishop's misrepresentations.-Pp. xii. xiii.
Such is a brief outline of the leading propositions of Mr. Edgar: but perhaps our readers will form a more correct estimate of the laborious nature of the task, if we give a brief recital of the heads of the chapters. The Introduction, which is a most valuable portion of the book, maintains, with considerable ability and strength of argument, “ The Unity of Protestanism."_" Chap. I. Popes. II. Councils. III. Supremacy. IV. Infallibility. V. Deposition of Kings. VI. Persecution. VII. In validation of Oaths. VIII. Arianism. IX. Eutychianism. X. Monothelitism. XI. Pelagianisın. XII. Transubstantiation. XIII. Communion in one Kind. XIV. Extreme Unction. XV. Image Worship. XVI. Purgatory. XVII. Celibacy of the Clergy.
That all these erroneous and unchristian principles have, at different periods, crept into the Church of Rome, and that in the present century they all, in a greater or less degree, are maintained by papal authority, is clearly and satisfactorily proved in the " Variations of Popery." And the evidence adduced in support of the charges, has not been drawn from the hostile writings of Protestants, but from those arsenals of superstition, the Vatican, Louvain, and the popish colleges both of · England, Ireland, and the continent; from whence have sprung these champions of error, of whom, including a few of the fathers, no less than ONE
HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT are cited in proof of the allegations: and this mass cf evidence is strengthened by the testimony of missals, breviaries, catechisms, and other officially recognised textbooks of Popery.
Amongst the various topics discussed in this volume, none perhaps possesses such general interest as the “ Invalidation of Oaths."
The Roman pontiffs, unsatisfied with the sovereignty over kings and heretics, aimed, with measureless ambition, at loftier pretensions and more extensive domination. These vice-gods extended their usurpation into the moral world, and invaded the empire of heaven. The power of dissolving the obligation of vows, promises, oatlis, and indeed all engagements, especially those injurious to the Church and those made with the patrons of heresy, wag, in daring blaspliemy, arrogated by those vicegerents of God. This involves the shocking inaxim, that faith, contrary to ecclesiastical utility, may be violated with heretics. The popedom, in challenging and exercising this authority, has disturbed the relations which the Deity established in his rational creation, and grasped at claims which tend to unhinge civil society and disorganize the moral world. Christendom, on this topic, has witnessed three variations.
The early Christians disclaimed, in loud indignation, the idea of perfidy. Fidelity to cnotracts constituted a distinguished trait in the Christianity of antiquity. A second era commenced with the dark ages. Faithlessness, accompanied with all its foul train, entered on the extinction of literature and philosophy, and became one of the filthy elements of Romish superstition. The abomination, under the patronage of the Papacy, flourished till the rise of Protestantism. The Reformation formed a third era, and poured a flood of light, which detected the demon of insincerity, and exposed it to the detestation of the world.
Fidelity to all engagements constituted one grand characteristic of primeral Christianity. Violation of oaths and promises is, beyond all question, an innovation on the Christianity of antiquity, and forms one of the variations of Romanism. The attachment to truth and the faithfulness to compacts, evinced by the ancient Christians, were proverbial. The christian profession, in the days of antiquity, was marked by a lofty sincerity, which disdained all falsehood, dissimulation, subterfuge, and chicanery. Death, say Justin and Tertullian, would have been more welcome than the violation of a solemn promise. A Roman bishop, in those days of purity, would have met an application for absolution from an oath with holy indignation; and the humblest of his flock, who should have been supposed capable of desiring such a dispensation, would have viewed the imputation as an insult on his understanding and profession.
But the period of purity passed, and the days of degeneracy, at the era of the dark ages, entered. The mystery of iniquity, in process of time, and as Paul of Tarsus had foretold, began to work. Christianity, by adulteration, degenerated into Romanism, and the popedom became the hot-bed of all abomination. Dispensations for violating the sanctity of oaths formed, perhaps, the most frightful feature in the moral deformity of popery.-Pp. 245, 246.
The question here naturally arises—"Is this a tenet of Popery in the nineteenth century?” We answer,
We answer, “Unquestionably.” Bailly, in the class-book used at Maynooth, to which our Protestant government annually subscribes 10,0001.!!! ascribes to the Romish Church this dispensing power. The words in the Maynooth report are,
“ Existit in ecclesia potestas dispensandi in votis et juramentis." Peter Dens, whom the Popish prelates have, by their late publication, sanctioned as the organ and mouth-piece of Popery, says, “ The dispensation of a vow, is its relaxation by a lawful superior in the place of God, from a just cause. The superior, as the vicar of God in the place of God, remits to a man the debt of a plighted promise. God's acceptance, by this dispensation, ceases; for it is dispensed in God's name.” Thus the judgment of man supersedes the word of God. And can those who believe, or profess to believe, in this power vested in a Popish priest, be safely entrusted with the interests of a nation, the government and established religion of which pronounce their faith superstitious, and their practice idolatrous ? If they are faithful to their own Church, they must be hostile to all others. They may swear allegiance and fidelity, but it is with a mental reservation, and a knowledge that they have only to ask a dispensation, and they receive it. Those who, after this, think Popery innocuous, and the Papists harmless, we would only advise to pause over the following article of their creed :
“ I also profess and undoubtedly receive all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and general councils, and particularly by the holy council of Trent; and I also condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto.”
The present edition of “ The Variations of Popery” is enriched with a valuable Index, which makes a referer.ce to any particular subject easy. And the only faults we have to find are, an occasional absence of refinement in the language, which betrays a want of tact and taste, and a somewhat diffuse style, when the subject would have been better illustrated by brevity and terseness. A good and cheap abridgment would be serviceable.