Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

66 7. Whoever shall affirm, that the church has erred in teaching, according to the evangelical and apostolic doctrine, that the marriage bond cannot be dissolved by the adultery of one of the parties, and that neither of them, not even the innocent party, who has given no occasion for the adultery, can contract another, marriage while the other party lives; and that the husband who puts away his adulterous wife, and marries another, commits adultery ; and also the wife who puts away her adulterous husband and marries another ; [whoever shall affirm, that the church has erred in maintaining these sentiments :] let him be accursed.

«8. Whoever shall affirm, that the church has erred in decreeing that, for various reasons, married persons may be separated, as far as regards actual cohabitation, either for a certain or an uncertain time: let him be accursed.

“9. Whoever shall affirm, that persons in holy orders, or regulars, who have made a solemn profession of chastity, may contract marriage, and that the contract is valid, notwithstanding any ecclesiastical law or vow; and that to maintain the contrary is nothing less than to condemn marriage; and that all persons may marry who feel that though they should make a vow of chastity, they have not the gift thereof: let him be accursed—for God does not deny his gifts to those who ask aright, neither does he suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.

" 10. Whoever shall affirm, that the conjugal state is to be preferred to a life of virginity or celibacy, and that it is not better and more conducive to happiness to remain in virginity or celibacy than to be married :* let him be accursed.

“11. Whoever shall affirm, that to prohibit the solemnization of marriage at certain seasons of the year is a tyrannical superstition, borrowed from the superstition of the pagans; or shall condemn the benedictions and other ceremonies used by the church at those times : let him be accursed.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

* “ The words increase and multiply,' which were uttered by Almighty God, do not impose on every individual an obligation to marry; they declare the object of the institution of marriage; and now that the human race is widely diffused, not only is there no law rendering marriage obligatory, but, on the contrary, virginity is highly exalted and strongly recommended in scripture as superior to marriage, as a state of greater perfection and holiness.” -Catechism, p. 328.

12. Whoever shall affirm, that matrimonial causes do not belong to the ecclesiastical judges : let him be accursed.”*

Certain enactments accompanied this decree, purporting to provide for the “reformation of matrimony." Clandestine marriages are condemned, and ancient canons are renewed, enjoining the public solemnization of the ceremony, after due notice, and in the presence of witnesses. The parties are exhorted to confess their sins and receive the eucharist three days before marriage. One sponsor only of each sex is allowed in baptism and confirmation, in order to lessen the inconveniences arising from spiritual affinity. Marriage within the prohibited decrees, if wilfully contracted, is punished by the separation of the parties, without hope of dispensation : and with regard to dispensations, it is enacted, that they should be very rarely given; in the second degree, not at all, “ unless to great princes, and for public reasons.” Excommunication is threatened to persons keeping concubines, unless, after being thrice admonished by the ordinary, they put them away. The times in which the celebration of marriage is prohibited are, from the first Sunday in Advent till Twelfth-day, and from the first Wednesday in Lent till Low Sunday, inclusive.

By the present constitution of the church of Rome, all ecclesiastics, or persons in holy orders, of whatever degree, are bound to perpetual celibacy. It is not a recommendation, but a law, rigidly enforced, and, as history shews, with unspeakable injury to religion and morality. In the legends of the saints, embodied in the Breviary, nothing is so common as lavish commendations on a life of chastity ; which, indeed, seems to have constituted the principal part of the holiness of many of those individuals. Hence an opinion of the superior virtue and excellence of that state gradually acquired a stronghold on

* John Ficler, a divine who was present at the council, tells us, that on the day of the session the weather was very unfavourable, and the atmosphere cloudy and damp. But about mid-day, just as they were chanting the words, “That thou would'st vouchsafe to rule, govern, and preserve this holy council,” the sun thrice broke through the clouds and filled the church where they met with dazzling splendour. “God Almighty grant,” he adds, “ that from the sun of his mercy and grace light may flow into the hearts of the heretics, that at length they may agree with us in the same sentiments, as the Catholic church is one with Christ, and Christ with the church !"-Le Plat, vii. pars. ii. p. 392.

the public mind. A prejudice against married priests began to prevail, and was sedulously cherished by the Roman Pontiffs, for reasons which will at once occur to every reflecting person. From being considered inferior in merit to those who professed celibacy, they were at last deemed unfit for their office. Long and arduous struggles ensued; but at length Rome conquered, though not without great difficulty.* And what have been the results ? Every reader of ecclesiastical history knows how to answer the question. That some are chaste and continent is admitted : but how numerous are the instances of a different character ! The unblushing violation of the laws of decency, the crimes and miseries of unbridled lust, in innumerable cases, proclaim the folly and impiety of attempting to destroy the affections of our nature, and subvert the arrangements of Providence.t

* “ It was a struggle against the natural rights and strongest affections of mankind, which lasted for several ages, and succeeded only by the toleration of greater evils than those it was intended to remove. The laity in general took part against the married priests, who were reduced to infamy and want, or obliged to renounce their connexions. In many parts of Germany, no ministers were left to perform divine services. But, perhaps, there was no country where the rules of celibacy met with so little attention as in England. It was acknowledged in the reign of Henry I. that the greater and better part of the clergy were married ; and that prince is said to have permitted them to retain their wives: But the hierarchy never relaxed in their efforts ; and all the councils, general or provincial, of the twelfth century, utter denunciations against concubinary priests. After that age we do not find them so frequently mentioned ; and the abuse by degrees, though not suppressed, was reduced within limits at which the church might connive.”-Hallam, ii. pp. 249–252.

t“ I cannot think of the wanderings of the friends of my youth without heart-rending pain. One, now no more, whose talents raised him to one of the highest dignities of the church of Spain, was for many years a model of Christian purity. When, by the powerful influence of his mind and the warmth of his devotion, this man had drawn many into the clerical and the religious life, (my youngest sister among the latter, he sunk at once into the grossest and most daring profligacy. I heard him boast that the night before the solemn procession of Corpus Christi, where he appeared nearly at the head of his chapter, one of two children had been born, which his two concubines brought to light within a few days of each other. Such, more or less, has been the fate of my early friends, whose minds and hearts were much above the conimon standard of the Spanish clergy. What, then, need I say of the vulgar crowd of priests, who, coming, as the Spanish phrase has it, from coarse swaddling clothes, and raised by ordination to a rank of life for which they have not been prepared, mingle vice and superstition, grossness of feeling and pride of office, in their character ? I have known the best among them; I have heard their confessions; I have heard the confessions of young persons of both sexes, who fell under the influence of their suggestions and example; and I do declare that nothing can be more dangerous to youthful virtue than their company. I have seen the most promising men of my university obtain country vicarages, with characters unimpeached, and hearts overflowing with hopes of usefulness. A virtuous wife would have confirmed and strengthened their purposes ; but they were to live a life of angels in celibacy. They were, however, men, and their duties connected them with beings of no higher description. Young women knelt before them in all the intimacy and openness of confession. A solitary home made them go abroad in search of social converse. Love, long resisted, seized them, at length, like madness. Two I knew who died insane; hundreds might be found who avoid that fate by a life of settled systematic vice.”—Practical and Internal Evidence against Catholicism, pp. 132–138. The “ Confessions of a French Catholic Priest," before quoted, contain some horrible disclosures on this subject. See chap. XIII.

314

CHAPTER XIII.

MONASTICISM.

Origin of Monasticism-Sketch of its History—Its injurious Tendency and

Effects—Decree respecting the Monastic Orders—Notices of the Jesuits.

Among the corruptions that were early introduced into the Christian church, monasticism holds a prominent place; an invention which is equally incompatible with the constitution of man, the welfare of the social system, and the design of Christianity. Ours is an active religion, adapted to the existing state of society, and never intended to interfere with the ordinary relations and duties of life. The Saviour would not pray that his disciples might be taken out of the world, but that they might “ be kept from the evil."* Instead of withdrawing from his fellows, and thinking to serve the Divine Being better by mere acts of contemplation and devotion, the Christian is commanded not to be “slothful in business," while he is 5 fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,”tto combine the contemplative with the active, to “abide in his calling with God,” and to fulfil the respective obligations arising out of the domestic and social state. The religion of the New Testament is not hostile to the laws of nature or the general intentions of providence. Its purpose is not to alter but improve our actual condition in this world, by inspiring the mind with those principles and feelings which will lead to a life of moderation, uprightness, and piety, and the exhibition of a bright example to all beholders. In a word, if genuine Christians are made better men by their Christianity, its effects must be seen and acknowledged; and in order to this, they must so conduct themselves as to be, each in his own sphere, the “lights of the world,” the “salt of the earth.”

Monasticism originated in Egypt.“ In the Decian perse

* John xvii. 15.

Rom. xii. 11.

| 1 Cor. vii. 24.

« PoprzedniaDalej »