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the professors of serious piety are multiplied, and form at present a very conspicuous branch of the community. The space which they occupy in the minds of the public, is not merely proportioned to their numerical importance, still less to their rank in society. It is in a great measure derived from the publicity of their proceedings, and the numerous associations for the promotion of pious and benevolent objects, which they have originated and supported. By these means, their discriminating doctrines, essential to vital piety, have become better known, and more fully discussed than heretofore. However beneficial, as to its general effects, such a state of things may have been, one consequence, which might be expected, has been the result. The opposition of the enemies of religion has become so virulent, their hatred more heated and inflamed, and they have turned with no small complacency to the contemplation of a system, which forms a striking contrast to the object of their detestation. Popery, in the ordinary state of its profession, combines the "form of godliness" with a total denial of its power. A heap of unmeaning ceremonies, adapted to fascinate the imagination, and engage the senses,―implicit faith in human authority, combined with an utter neglect of Divine teaching,ignorance the most profound, joined to dogmatism the most presumptuous,-a vigilant exclusion of biblical knowledge, together with a total extinction of free inquiry,-present the spectacle of religion lying in state, surrounded with the silent pomp of death. The very absurdities of such a religion render it less unacceptable to men whose decided hostility to truth inclines them to view with complacency, whatever obscures its beauty, or impedes its operation. Of all the corruptions of Christianity which have prevailed to any considerable extent, Popery presents the most numerous points of contrast to the simple doctrines of the gospel; and just in proportion as it gains ground, the religion of Christ must decline.
On these accounts, though we are far from supposing that Popery, were it triumphant, would allow toleration to any denomination of Protestants, we have the utmost confidence, that the professors of evangelical piety would be its first victims. The party most opposed to them, look to Papists as their natural ally, on whose assistance, in the suppression of what they are pleased to denominate fanaticism and enthusiasm, they may always depend; they may, therefore, without presumption, promise themselves the distinction conferred on Ulysses, that of being last devoured.
Whether Popery will be permitted, in the inscrutable counsels of Heaven, again to darken and overspread the land, is an inquiin which it is foreign in our province to engage. It is certain that the members of the Romish community, are at this moment
on the tip-toe of expectation, indulging the most sanguine hopes, suggested by the temper of the times, of soon recovering all that they have lost, and of seeing the pretended rights of their church restored in their full splendor. If any thing can realize such an expectation, it is undoubtedly the torpor and indifference of Protestants, combined with the incredible zeal and activity of Papists; and universal observation shews what these are capable of effecting, how often they compensate the disadvantages arising from paucity of number, as well as almost every kind of equality.
From a settled persuasion that Popery still is, what it always was, a detestable system of impiety, cruelty, and imposture, fabricated by the father of lies, we feel thankful at witnessing any judicious attempt to expose its enormities, and retard its progress. Lectures published some years since by Mr. Fletcher, are well adapted for this purpose, and entitle their excellent author to the esteem and gratitude of the public. "The Protestant," a series of periodical papers composed by Mr. McGavin, of Glasgow, contains the fullest delineation of the popish system, and the most powerful confutation of its principles in a popular style, of any work we have seen. Whoever wishes to see Popery drawn to the life in its hideous wickedness and deformity, will find abundant satisfaction in the pages of that writer.
The author before us has been studious of conciseness, and has contented himself with exhibiting a brief, but a very correct and impressive outline of that copious subject. As these lectures were delivered at Manchester, it is probable the author's attention was more immediately directed to it, by witnessing the alarming progress which the tenets of the Romish Church are making in that quarter. There is nothing in them, however, of a local nature, or which is calculated to limit their usefulness to any particular part of the kingdom. They are adapted for universal perusal, and entitled to an extensive circulation.
The First Lecture is on the claim of the Church of Rome to the appellation of catholic, the futility and absurdity of which the author has confuted, in a concise but highly satisfactory manner. On this part of the argument, he very acutely remarks, That no church which is not coeval with Christianity itself, ought to pretend to be the universal Christian Church.
'The contrary sentiment is evidently unreasonable and absurd; for it supposes, that something which has already a distinct and complete existence, may be a part of something else which is not to come into being until a future period; or, which is equivalent to this, that what is entirely the creation of to-day, may include that which was created yesterday. This would be in opposition to all analogy; and therefore, if the Church of Rome had not an
earlier commencement than all other Christian Churches,-if the origin of that church be not coincident and simultaneous with the first moment of Christianity, then the pretension of the Church of Rome to be the " Catholic Church," is altogether vain. Now, it is clear, from the Acts of the Apostles, that many Christian churches flourished in the East, before the Gospel was even preached at Rome. It was enjoined on the Apostles that their ministry should begin at Jerusalem, and in that city, the first Christian church was actually constituted. Until the persecution which arose about the stoning of Stephen, Christ was not preached beyond the borders of Palestine, and even then, with a scrupulous discrimination, " to the Jews only." In fact, churches were formed in Jerusalem and Judea, at Damascus and Antioch, and the gospel was sent even into Ethiopia, before there is any evidence of its being known at Rome." pp. 10, 11.
The Second Lecture is an historical exposition of the principal events which led to the elevation of the Church of Rome to supremacy; in tracing these, much acumen is evinced, as well as an intimate acquaintance with ecclesiastical history.
The Third Lecture consists of a masterly delineation of the genius and characteristics of the papal ascendency. In this part of the work, the judicious author enters deeply into the interior spirit of Popery. After setting in a striking light, the seeming impossibilities it had to encounter ere it could accomplish its object, he enumerates the expedients employed for this purpose, under the following heads. The votaries of the papal see succeeded, 1. By enslaving the mental faculties to human authority.— 2. By giving to superstition the semblance and sanction of religion. -3. By administering the affairs of their government on the corruptest principles of worldly policy. Each of these topics is illustrated with great judgement, and a copious induction of facts. On the last of these heads, we beg leave to present to our readers the following extract, as a specimen of the style and spirit of this writer.
"My kingdom is not of this world," saith our Lord; "My kingdom is of this world," is truly the sentiment of the Pope; and here lies the difference. The only consistent view of this church, is that of a political establishment, employing indeed religious terms and denominations, but only as the pretext and color of an inordinate pursuit of secular and temporal objects. Read its history as that of a Christian Church, you stumble at every step, and every period shocks you with the grossest incongruities: read the same history as of one of the kingdoms of this world, all is natural and easy, and the various proceedings and events are just what you are prepared to expect. The papal supremacy was conceded by
an earthly monarch-all its interests have varied with the fluctuations of human affairs-and when the princes of this world shall withdraw their support, it will fall, and great will be the fall thereof. The Bishops of Rome have ever pursued, under the guise of religion, some earthly advantage; and thus Pope Leo the Tenth exclaimed most appropriately, "Oh how profitable has this fable of Jesus been unto us!"
The first object of these subtle politicians, was to provide a revenue, ample and permanent. Kings and nations were accordingly laid under tribute, and to the utmost extent of papal influence, the treasures of Christendom flowed into the Exchequer of Rome. On every hand, art, fraud, and intimidation, were equally and successfully employed, in transferring the wealth of the world to the
coffers of the church.
This was effected partly by regular ecclesiastical taxes, but principally by selling every thing the Church of Rome had to bestow, and by perpetually inventing new articles of bargain and sale. Hence the multiplying of sacraments; hence the sale of pardons, indulgences, benefices, dignities, and of prayers for the living and the dead. Every thing was prostituted and under the pretence of being the "bride, the Lamb's wife," this church became the "mother of harlots." In the same spirit, the death-beds of the rich were besieged, that they might bequeath their property to the clergy; and the consciences of opulent criminals were appeased, in return for liberal donations to ecclesiastical funds. Thus an amount of riches almost incredible accrued to the papal treasury.' pp. 94-96.
The Fourth Lecture is occupied by giving a rapid sketch of the most interesting events in the past history of the Romish community. We have seldom, if ever, seen so large a body of facts exhibited with perfect perspicuity within so small a compass: The author's complete mastery of the subject appears from the ease with which he has condensed an immense mass of historical matter, without the least indication of disorder or confusion.
The last of these Lectures presents an animated and instructive view of the prospects which are opening on the Christian Church, and the probable issue of the causes which are in present operation.
The notice we have taken of this publication will, we trust, induce our readers to avail themselves of the instruction and the pleasure which an attentive perusal cannot fail to bestow. It is distinguished for precision and comprehension of thought, energy of diction, and the most enlarged and enlightened principles of civil and religious freedom; nor should we find it easy to name a publication which contains, within the same compass, so much information on the subject which it professes to treat. A little re
dundance of ornament, and excess in the employment of figurative language, are excrescences very pardonable in a young writer, and which more mature years and experience may be safely left to correct. On the whole, we cannot dismiss the work before us, without sincerely congratulating the author on that happy combination of philosophical discrimination with Christian piety, which it throughout displays.
END OF VOL. 1.