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passing some solitary hour under the lofty vault, among the superb arches and columns of any of the most splendid of these edifices remaining at this day in our own country. If he has sensibility and taste, the magnificence, the graceful union of so many diverse inventions of arts, the whole mighty creation of genius that so many centuries since quitted the world without leaving even a name, will come with magical impression on the mind, while it is contemplatively darkening into the awe of antiquity. But he will be recalled,—the sculptures, the inscriptions, the sanctuaries enclosed off for the special benefit after death, of persons who had very different concerns during life from that of the care of their salvation, and various other insignia of the original character of the place, will help to recall him,—to the thought, that these proud piles were in fact raised to celebrate the conquest, and prolong the dominion of the Power of Darkness over the souls of the people. They were as triumphal arches, erected in memorial of the extermination of that truth which was given to be the life
5 As he looks round, and looks upward, on the prodigy of design, and skill, and perseverance, and tributary wealth, he may image to himself the multitudes that, during successive ages, frequented this fane, in the assured belief, that the idle ceremonies and impious superstitions which they there performed or witnessed, were a service acceptable to Heaven, and to be repaid in blessings to the offerers. He may say to himself, Here, on this very floor, under that elevated and decorated vault, in a dim religious light like this, but with the darkness of the shadow of death in their souls, they prostrated themselves to their saints, or their queen of heaven; nay, to painted images and toys of wood or wax, to some ounce or two of bread and wine, to fragments of old bones, and rags of clothing. Hither they came, when conscience, in looking either back or forward, dismayed them, to purchase remission with money or atoning penances, or to acquire the privilege of sinning in a certain manner, or for a certain time, with impunity; and they went out at yonder door in the perfect confidence that the priest had secured, in the one case the suspension, in the other the satisfaction, of the divine law. Here they solemnly believed, as they were taught, that, by donatives to the church, they delivered the souls of their departed relatives from their state of punishment; and they went out at that door resolved to bequeath some portion of their possessions, to operate in the same manner for themselves another day, in case of need. Here they were convened to listen in reverence to some representative emissary from the Man of Sin, with new dictates of blasphemy or iniquity to be promulgated in the name of the Almighty ; or to witness the trickery of some detestable farce, devised to cheat or fright them out of whatever remainder the former impositions might have left to them of sense, conscience, or property. Here, in fine, there was never presented to their understanding, from their childhood to their death, a comprehensive, honest declaration of the laws of duty, and the pure doctrines of salvation. To think! that they should have mistaken for the house of God, and the very gate of heaven, a place where the Power of Darkness had so short a way to come from his appropriate dominions, and his agents and purchased slaves so short a way to go thither. If we could imagine a momentary visit from him who once entered a fabric of sacred denomination with a scourge, because it was made the resort of a common traffic, with what aspect and voice, with what infliction but the rebuke with flames of
fire, would he have entered this mart of iniquity, assuming the name of his sanctuary, where the traffic was in delusions, crimes, and the souls of men ? It was even as if, to use the prophet's language, the very - stone cried out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answered it,' in denunciation ; for a portion of the means of building, in the case of some of these edifices, was obtained as the price of dispensations and pardons.
“ In such a hideous light would the earlier history of one of these mighty structures, pretendedly consecrated to Christianity, be presented to the reflecting Protestant
When Christianity was first promulgated, violent persecutions were raised against it, to prevent its growth, by Rome pagan—of the reality and fierceness of which, the pages of Ecclesiastical History give ample information. Notwithstanding that bold opposition of the legal authorities, their penal acts, and profuse shedding the blood of the pious Christians, the religion of Christ, in its purity and power, exceedingly flourished. Great multitudes of people embraced the gospel, and openly professed their faith ; being encouraged so to do by the holy lives and joyful triumphs of the Christian martyrs, when enduring the most cruel tortures that infernal subtilty could invent, and hellish malice inflict.
Though that was a season of severe trial, both of bodily and mental suffering; yet, concerning the state of religion and its effects, it was one of purity of doctrine, zeal for Christ, and brotherly affection. Christianity, in its divine origin, was believed, in its perfect sufficiency was acknowledged, in its active and transforming energy was xperienced, and in its moral excellence was exemplified.
& Forster's Essay on the Evils of Popular Ignorance, p. 54.
Adversity has always proved of more advantage to the true Church of Christ than prosperity.
Here we may observe, that the Christian religion is entirely contained in the writings of the Old and New Testament; here is the canon, the rule, the only rule of faith and practice; and should even “ an angel from heaven” endeavour herein to unsettle men, and preach
any other gospel,” they would have divine authority to pronounce him “ accursed.” The gospel contains the complete, the only rule to Christians, containing all things necessary to be believed and practised; the infallible judge of controversies; the standard to which they are to appeal in cases of disputes about articles of faith; and by which their doctrines are to be directed and settled.
As the Scripture is the only divine rule given to men, so every man is at liberty to judge of its meaning for himself, otherwise it would be no rule to him. At the same time, he has a right, if he pleases to exercise it, to avail himself of any human help for this purpose, within his reach. But no men, nor any order of men, have any authoritative right, as expositors of Scripture, to impose any sense of it, or any part thereof, or to require acquiescence, without impartial inquiry, and deliberate and free consent, in their determinations.
The doctors among the Jews, having arrogated to themselves the power of dictators in religion, their glosses on the law, and resolutions of cases of conscience, were generally, according to the phraseology of the Talmud, called loosing and binding: when they declared this or that lawful, they loosed, that is, gave the people liberty to do it; when it seemed otherwise to their wisdom, and they thought fit to declare it unlawful, then they bound, that is, laid the people under restraint: and this they did in numerous instances, when there was no scriptural
66 Be not ye,
reason for it, but merely their own personal caprice and humour. a
Our blessed Saviour, aware that ministerial encroachments would be made in the Christian Church, has left on record a clear and pointed caution. therefore, called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth : for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters, for one is your Master, even Christ.” He will not allow in his Church such Rabbi's as these, with authority in matters of faith: he is the great Prophet, concerning whom it has been announced with unquestionable authority from heaven, -“ Hear ye him.” Thus the authority of Christ, and the rule of his word, are what are chiefly to influence and determine Christians. General Councils, Assemblies, Convocations, &c. are not that authority by which we are to be governed ; neither are creeds, catechisms, canons, confessions, or articles of faith, drawn up and agreed on, by this or that Church, our rule. All these are subordinate to Scripture, and are of no value but so far as they are grounded upon and accord with it.
Now it was setting up an exorbitant power in the pastors of the Church, to declare the sense of Scripture, enact new laws, enjoin prescriptions, &c. without any divine sanction, that led the way to the great apostacy from the truth as it is in Christ, and helped Antichrist to his throne. It was raising the power of the Church too high, that generated the antichristian apostacy.
This is evident from the visible and extensive change which took place in the affairs of religion in the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor ; for, under his
• Dr. Whitby on Matt. xxiii. 8.