Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

6thly. That the doctrine of a figurative presence in the sense of Protestants, was held by numbers of Christians since the beginning of the eighth century, is beyond all controversy. It is plain that the Church, since the time of the second Council of Nice, was divided, upon this head, into three different parties; one for a real presence by Transubstantiation, another for a real presence by Consubstantiation, or a physical union of the bread with Christ, and the third for a figurative presence ouly; That this figurative presence was held by the Iconoclasts or Image-breakers, (of whom I shall speak more at large hereafter.) and all the councils, crowned heads, &c, that opposed the Council of Nice is plain from this single circumstance, viz. that Transubstantiation, private masses, prayers for the dead, the worship of angels and saints, relics, &c. went hand in hand since that time, so that to this day, whoever was found to affirm or deny the one, was found also to affirm or deny all the rest. There was not one of those Councils, &c. that did not expressly condemn one or more of those articles, nay some of them have expressly condemned all.

Now I shall shew that the doctrine of the real presence has no foundation in Scripture; and then I shall point out how it first sprung up in the Church, I shall confine myself to those passages of Scripture, where the advocates for this doctrine seem chiefly to rest, viz. the 6th chapter of St. John, the words of the institution, and the Ilth chapter of St. Paul's first epistle to tbe Corinthians.

As to the 6th of John, it is plain from the order of time when these words were spoken, being, long before the institution of the Eucharist, as also from the occasion, the connexion and design of the whole discourse, that this chapter has no relation to the last supper. Our Saviour took occasion from the miracle of the loaves, mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, to establish the doctrine and characterize the benefits of the incarnation by the figures of bread and wine, &c. the usual style of the Old Testament upon similar occasions, as was before observed. Nor did the murmuring disciples find fault with the obscurity or boldness of his allusions, for they bad been well used to such a figurative style, but with his saying that there was no salvation without believing and professing the incarnation in the whole extent of his doctrine, as they conceived it. For in order to convince them of his divinity, which was the main object of his discourse, he asked them (verse 62) whether they would not believe it when they should see him ascend to where he was before. Besides, St. John had no occasion to speak of the last supper, that being sufficiently established by the other three Evangelists. The main design of his gospel, as he sufficiently signifies by what he says, chapter 20. 31. was to assert the divinity of Christ. When Cerinthus and Ebion started up and denied the divine incarnation, the bishops of Asia prevailed upon this Apostle to supply the deficiencies of the other three Evangelists upon this point.

Moreover, our Saviour's words are true when understood of the benefits of the incarnation ; but absolutely false, when understood of the last supper. For he says, unless one eat of the flesh of the Son of Man. &c. he shall have no life in him. Now certainly, the receiving the sacrament is not necessary to the temporal life, and our adversaries do not pretend it is vecessary to salvation, it being with them only a sacramentum vivorum. Add to this, that whosoever eateth the flesh of Christ, &c. in the above sense, and which was that of St. Augustin and several others, hath eternal Jife as much as it is possible by an act of faith ; whereas there are thousands that eat and drink in the sacramental way, who have no right to eternal life. As to the words of the institution, it is plain from what I have said on the style of Scripture relative to sacraments, last wills or testaments, moral instructions,'&c. that a figurative sense is what paturally occurred to the apostles, and what they must have understood those words in. For no one bad ever heard since the creation, that the substance of one body was at any time changed into the substance of another, the accidents and appearances remaining the same as they were before. How then could the apostles think of such a change? They had often heard, as I have already observed, the sign of a thing called by the name of the thing signi. fied, and every inanimate thing called by the heathens, the body or part of the body of God; but such a change as we are talking of, had never entered

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

into the thoughts of any man. Whatever obscurity there might have been in our Saviour's words, be sufficiently cleared it up, by ordering the apostles to take bread and wine, which by a figure of speech well known among the Jews, he called his body and blood, as a sign, a memorial, and commemoration of his incarnation, passion, &c. just as the paschal lamb was by the same figure of speech, called the Lord's Passover, and ordered to be taken as a sign, a memorial and commemoration of the same Passover.

The institution of this sacrament, whether understood in a Popish or Protestant sense, would have been a mere idle ceremony, if it did not serve as a means for conveying to us some of the benefits of the incarnation. Now i ask if some of those benefits be not conveyed to us by baptism ? And is the water transubstantiated ? What occasion then for transubstantiatiog bread and wine, when those spiritual benefits could be communicated here as in baptism.

When they are pressed by the impossibility of his transubstantiation, whereby our saviour's body should exist in several thousands of places at once they allege a new kind of reproduction, the strangest paradox that was ever heard of, whereby they maintain that the self same identical soul, for instance, may, at one and the same time, be possessed of the joys of heaven and suffer in the flames of hell; and that the same soul may begin to exist 20, or an 100 or a 1000 years after it first began to exist, though it continaed'in existence all along. These are contradictions that the heathens were strangers to.

They never held, as the Romanists do, that the same identical soul and body could exist in different places and times at once ; nor that a man could receive his mouth into his mouth, and his head and body and all into his mouth and stomach, and his stomach into his stomach, &c. If these be not contradictions I defy any man upon earth to shew me one.

As to St. Paul's words in the eleventh chapter of bis first epistle to the Corinthians, I shall clear them up by pointing out the rise and progress of real prescence and transubstantiation.

There was a custom established, in the primitive times of christianity, of bringing meat and drink to the place of public worship, and taking it in common together; and then the Lord's supper in commemoration not only of his death and sufferings, but also what he and the apostles did at the Hast supper. The design of this custom was, that the poor should equally partake of those feasts with the rich, and that they should all meet

and enjoy and part with each other in christian love and decency. But, even in the apostle's times, the contrary fell out, as generally happens on occasions of public joy and festivity ; people got drunk and quarrelled and committed the most scandalous irregularities. This St. Paul inveighs against in the above-mentioned chapter. This he calls not discerning the Lord's body or feast from their other commou meals or feasts. This he calls eating and drinking unworthily, a phrase not to be found any where else in scripture, as by it the primitive design of those love-feasts was utterly perverted.

As those Agape's or love-feasts gave occasion to such abuses, they were in process of time utterly abolished, and a custom was introduced of receiving the sacrament fasting. But such is the depravity of human nature, that men fell upon this occasion from one extreme into another. The custom of receiving the sacramentfasting though harmless in itself and wise for the above reasons, gave birth to the notion of a real presence of the body of Christ, just as the mistaken meaning

of the Egyptian, and other symbols, tho' harmless and useful in their primitive institution, gave birth to all the the idolatry and șnperstition of the heathen world. It gave the people an occasion of conceiving a high notion of the sacrament, especially as they heard it called the body of Christ ; and as they had been passionately fond of mysteries, and had their imaginations still infected with a taint of idolatry, they figured to themselves, that the bread of the eucharist must be the body of Christ in the heathen sense already mentioned, and which they had been well acquainted with. Thus the notion of a real presence was introduced by the ignorant vulgar. But according as this potion spread pew systems were multiplied, and every one began to philosophise in his own way to justify the popular opinion and worship. As many of the heathen philosophers held, that the whole material world was the body of God

[ocr errors]

and therefore that the people were justifiabie in worshipping inanimate things as being at least so many parts of the body of God, so, many of the primitive fathers as they had been originally bred heathens and consequently brought many heathen notions with them into the christian religion, for instance, the pre-existence of souls and their detrusion into human bodies, there to be punished for the sins they had committed in that pre-existent state) in order to justify the popular worship of the bread, and to account for Christ's call. ing the bread his body, supposed that the bread was phisically united to his divinity; and to illustrate their opinion, they alleged a parallel instance of the union wrought in the virgin's womb between his divinity and humanity. Accordingly they used to say that Christ held his body in his head, whichi

, in the supposition any man may easily conceive. But, as the bread was still bread, and though according to this bypothesis it was become the body of Christ, yet could not be called the body that was born of the Virgin and suffered on the cross, others struck out into new paths and at last hit upon the system of transubstantiation ; and according as this new notion prevailed, the patrons and abettors of the other were by way of ridicule called Stercoranists, because they held what was the natural consequence of their doctrine, that the body of Christ was felt, tasted, broke, digested in the stomach, and passed into the draught like all other aliments.

Thus it was that the doctrine or Transubstantiation was first broached. But still it gained no established footing before the eighth century. It was by the second council of Nice held in the year 787, that it was first solemnly adopted. The pope and his faction at Nice, of whom I have already spoken under the article of image-worship, found their account in it, as they thought to baffle the arguments and measures of the image-breakers. Now religion began to degenerate by wholesale. Now miracles began to multiply to support the credit of this imposture. At last it was carried into a law when the eclipse of the church was in its greatest darkness.

This doctrine of transubstantiation served two other important purposes. It helped to inspire the pour ignorant people with an extraordinary veneration for the sacrament, and to raise priests to the same exorbitant power they enjoyed in heathenism, and make them transcend God bimself, which Seneca says, every wise man does. For, by it they pretend to make their Maker, and command him down upon their altars when they please. For which purposes, they turned religion into what would feed the devotion, and please the imagination of the vulgar best, a system of pompous but mystical pageantry. Thus this doctrine, that was spawned by ignorance, was nursed by credulity and established by avarice, faction, and ambition.

AURICULAR CONFESSION

Has been likewise established upon a false interpretation of scripture, or, rather scripturesserved only as a colourable pretext to give it sanction. The pri. mitive christians, as is usual with all those who profess a new religion, carried their devotional zeal, almost in every thing to extravagance. The heathens used to reproach them with their not having such pious, austere, mortified people, nor such perfect professions and states of life as they had. This raised an emulation among the christians and gave occasion to the austerities, mortifications and penitential devotions of the primitive times It was this scrupulous zeal that, for instance, made them administer the rites of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist, to children all at one and the same time. They were blinded so far by it as to think that there was po salation without all three. It has been customary enough since the beginning of the world, with friends and intimates to confess their faults one to another, especially in cases of personal inquiry. St. James, in order to promote friendship, mutual love and confidence among christians, recommended to them to do the same. As the primitive christians were upon the extreme, they brought one another to make this confession publicly before the congregation ; but the discipline was so indiscreet, and produced such latal effects that at last it was entirely suppressed. In the mean time the christian clergy, according as they got any established footing, set themselves to work upon the plan of the politics, maxims, rites, &c. of the heathen as was already observed. They bethought themselves that nothing would render them more absolute and consequently more respectable, than a know. ledge of the secrets of hearts. They remembered how formidable the Greek parasites and danglers made themselves at Rome by the art of discovering the secrets of families. They availed themselves of the popular zeal and accordingly struck out the discipline of auricular or private confession, whereby St. Jame's words were sufficiently fulfilled in the eyes of the ignorant mul. titude, the inconveniences of public confession obviated, and their own ambi. tious views gratified and secured ; and to give sanction to this discipline, they alleged the words of our Saviour: “ Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth sball be bound in heaven," &c. and pretended that they were thereby invested with an absolute authoritative power of remitting and retaining sins which they pleaded they could not exercise, without a correlative obligation bound upon the people to make a distinct confession of their sins to them. Thus it was, that the discipline of auricular confession was first established. And to shew that this discipline was instituted principally in favour of the clergy considered in contrast with the laity, there is no punishment specified any where in the whole body of the canon-law to be inflicted on any ecclesiastic, who reveals the secrets of confession; whereas, when the pope and his clergy are considered in contrast with each other, the injunctions and punishments are precise, rigorous, and exorbitant. If any man, for instance, counterfeits opens, or secrets any of the pope's bulls, rescripts or letters, he incurs an excommunication by the very fact, whereas no such punishment is incurred for theft, robbery murder or the like. The reason is, the former is necessary to assert the papal power, the latter is not.

Now such is the notion the people entertain of the magic power of absolu. tion, that this discipline is rather an incentive to vice and degeneracy, than a remedy for spiritual disorders. It rather confirms than roots out evil habits. A man who confesses his sins and perhaps performs the penance enjoined, ne. ver thinks more of them except to repeat them the next day, and perhaps the next hour, and repeat the confession accordingly; whereas, the man who receives no absolution of this kind, 'works his salvation with fear and trembling*' he knows that nothing will be available without his own personal repentance and amendment, and therefore, he will always be afraid that he has not done enough towards obtaining a remission of his sins. This will keep him alert and make him often think of the same sins, and as often renew his endeavours to perfect his repentance; 'whereas those who receive the popish absolution, are so far from thinking of their past sins with fear and trembling, that sometimes they insolently declare at the gallows after a juridicial and public conviction, that they are not guilty of the crimes for which they are justly punished. A remarkable instance of this kind happened at Tralee, the third of September the year 1768, as inserted in the Leinster Journal, when Daniel Higgins denied at the place of execution, the fact of which he had been juridically convicted, and which he confessed in the presence of Nicholas Madgett and Martin O'Connor. This prevarication deserves the more to be noticed as one of the witnesses is, if I be not mistaken, parish priest of Tralee and tituJar bishop of Kerry. As therefore the common people cannot be withheld, by an apprehension of punishment in the other world, from committing outrages in this, while the discipline of absolution is tolerated, I think with submission to the wisdom of the legislature, a law ought to be made and sufficiently promulgated, whereby popish priests might be restrained from going to any of those felons, either in private or public. How monstrous it is in a christian country, where idolatry is discountenanced by law, to suffer a priest to put a crucifix into the hands of a convict at the gallows, in I may say the face of the nation, and encourage him to kiss and hug that idol. To tolerate this practice in so public a manner, is indirectly encouraging idolatry

• Philip 2, 12

and superstition. I am as averse to persecution as any man, for nothing can be more diametrically opposite to the spirit of the gospel; but to avoid one extreme, we are to take care not to run into another. It is usual with some to say, that one drop of zeal is enough to contaminate the ocean, for which reason they disclaim all zeal in matters of religion. But, with submission to superior learning and judgment, I think that zeal is one of the noblest things in the world. Religion is the ornament and glory of the creation, and the basis of our happiness in this and the other world; yet how often has the abuse of it filled the world with confusion and desolation. It is even so with zeal. The best things are the worst when abused. There is a golden mean to be observed in all things without wbich nothing can be right. Though a hot and inordinate zeal be the bane of religion and government, yet without zeal we shouid have neither religion nor government. It was by zeal that the christian religion was propagated, and so many thousands of martyrs were enabled to fight the glorious fight of faith, and to conquer the enemies of the gospel by shedding their own blood in defence of it. It was zeal that gave birth to the glorious reformation, and enabled so many christian champions to burst from the fetters of idolatry and superstition, to brave the terrors of inquisitionary persecutions and cruelties, and restore religion to its primitive simplicity and beauty. It is zeal that makes our military heroes wade through fields of blood in defence of their king and country. In a word, though the abuse of zeal has often involved the world in a deluge of evils, yet I may say that zeal is the blood and soul and life of religion and government. Hence it follows that a man who has no zeal has no religion, and consequently, he that has religion must pecessarily have as much zeal as will point out a track of light for him, that shall run uniformly between too much Jenity on the one hand, and too much severity on the other. Therefore though the spirit of the gospel is utterly abhorrent from sanguinary laws and persecutions, yet the same gospel teaches, that certain legal restraints are no way inconsistent with the spirit of true religion. For such is the rebellious disposition of the sons of Adam, that if they be not fettered by salutary laws, they will at last make such bounds as to leap over all bounds and break down the inclosures of all rule and order.

EXTREME UNCTION

or essence.

Is another piece of superstitious mummery supported like the rest by a false interpretation of scripture. There was a custom among the Jews and the heathens, from time immemorial, of annointing both heal and sick for the benefit of strength and health. They found by experience that rubbing the sick with oil was an excellent restorative; and when the heal annointed themselves they found new vigour diffused through their joints. It was usual with people, when they went into company, to perfume themselves with oil

Oil was made use of upon the solemn occasions of inauguration &c. and even for annointing the mummies and other dead bodies before they were deposited in the earth. There are above thirty passages in the old testa. ment where the use of oil is mentioned. It was used for all the above purposes in our Saviour's time. Accordingly we find, that when he sat at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came and perfumed his head and feet with precious ointment, whereupon he complained that the man of the house had not prevented her, hy paying him that compliment which was usually paid to strangers. He took occasion therefrom to put them in mind, as he often did before, that he was to suffer, and said, in allusion to the above customs, that she did it for his burial. Hence it is, that some women went the third day after his death to his grave with spices and ointments to embalm his body. Now, as the use of oil for these purposes was never condemned, St. James recommends, that when the sick were rubbed with oil, it should be

* Math. 26. 7. Lake 7. 46.

« PoprzedniaDalej »