« السابقةمتابعة »
elaborate defence of so plain a position as this, that it is one thing to be what the world styles an honest man, and another to be a Christian; a distinction, obvious as it is, sufficient to solve the whole mystery, and to account for the conduct of Mr. L. without adopting the unmeaning jargon of his biographer, who styles bim, in innumerable places, the venerable confessor. How repugnant the language we have been endeavoring to expose, is to that which was held in the purest and best ages of the church, must be obvious to all who are competently acquainted with ecclesiastical history. The Marcionites, we are informed by Eusebius, boasted of their having furnished a multitude of martyrs, but they were not the less on that account considered as deniers of Christ. Hence, when orthodox Christians happened occasionally to meet at the places of martyrdom with Montanists and Manichæans, they refused to hold the least communion with them, lest they should be supposed to consent to their errors.* In a word, the nature of the doctrine professed must be taken into consideration, before we can determine that profession to be a Christian profession; nor is martyrdom entitled to the high veneration justly bestowed on acts of heroic piety, on any other ground than its being, what the term imports, an attestation of the truth. It is the saint which makes the martyr, not the martyr the saint.
* Euseb. L.. 5. C. 14.
A Summary of the Principles and History of Popery, in Five Lectures, on the Pretensions and Abuses of the Church of Rome. BY JOHN BIRT. 8vo. pp. 176.
Ar a time when Popery is making rapid strides, and Protestants in general have lost the zeal which once animated them, we consider the publication we have just announced as peculiarly seasonable. What may be the ultimate effect of the efforts made by the adherents of the Church of Rome to propagate its tenets, aided by the apathy of the opposite party, it is not for us to conjecture. Certain it is, there never was a period when the members of the papal community were so active and enterprising, or Protestants so torpid and indifferent. Innumerable symptoms appear, of a prevailing disposition to contemplate the doctrines of Popery with less disgust, and to witness their progress with less alarm, than has ever been known since the Reformation. All the zeal and activity are on one side; and while every absurdity is retained, and every pretension defended, which formerly drew upon Popery the indignation and abhorrence of all enlightened Christians, we should be ready to conclude, from the altered state of public feeling, that a system once so obnoxious had undergone some momentous revolution. We seem, on this occasion, to have interpreted, in its most literal sense, the injunction of "hoping all things, and believing all things." We persist in maintaining that the adherents to Popery are materially changed, in contradiction to their express disavowal; and while they make a boast of the infallibility of their creed, and the unalterable nature of their religion, we persist in belief of its having experienced we know not what melioration and improvement. In most instances, when men are deceived, it is the effect of art and contrivance on the part of those who delude them in this, the deception originates with ourselves; and instead of bearing false witness against our neighbor, such is the excess of our candor, that we refuse to credit the unfavorable testimony which he bears of himself.
There is, in the mean time, nothing reciprocal in this strange method of proceeding; we pipe to them, but they will not dance. Our concessions, instead of softening and mollifying, seem to have no other effect upon them, than to elate their pride and augment their arrogance.
An equal change in the state of feeling towards an object which has itself undergone no alteration whatever, and where the party by which it is displayed profess to adhere to their ancient tenets, it would be difficult to specify. To inquire into the causes of this singular phenomenon, would lead to discussion foreign to our present purpose. Let it suffice to remark, that it may partly be ascribed to the length of time which has elapsed since we have had actual experience of the enormous cruelties of the papal system, and to the fancied security we possess against their recurrence; partly to the agitation of a great political question, which seems to have had the effect of identifying the cause of Popery with that of Protestant Dissenters. The impression of the past has in a manner spent itself; and in many, its place is occupied by an eagerness to grasp at present advantages, and to lay hold of every expedient for shaking off the restraints which a narrow and timid policy has imposed. The influence of these circumstances has been much aided by that indifference to religious truth which too often shelters itself under the mask of candor; and to such an extent has this humor been carried, that distinguished leaders in Parliament have not scrupled to represent the controversy between the Papists and the Protestants as turning on obscure and unintelligible points of doctrine, scarcely worth the attention of enlightened minds; while a beneficed clergyman of some distinction, has treated the whole subject as of no more importance than the idle disputes agitated by the schoolmen. It was but a few years since, that a celebrated nobleman, in the House of Peers, vehemently condemned the oath of abjuration for applying the term superstitious to the doctrine of transubstantiation. In exactly the same spirit, the appellation of Papist is exchanged for Catholic,a concession which the adherents of the Church of Rome well know how to improve, as amounting to little short of a formal surrender of the point at issue. For, if the Papists are really entitled to the name of Catholics, Protestants of every denomination are involved in the guilt of schism.
This revolution in the feelings of a great portion of the public, has probably been not a little promoted by another cause. The present times are eminently distinguished by the efforts employed for the extension of vital religion: each denomination of Christians has taken its station, and contributed its part toward the dif fusion of evangelical sentiments. The consequence has been, that