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and Spain. The Roman Catholics of England enjoy a liberal grant of plenary indulgences, which may be obtained, on easy terms, at eight distinct periods in every year. By confession of sin to the priest, with sincere repentance; by worthy reception of the eucharist; by giving some alms to the poor, or at least being “ in readiness of mind” to do it; by frequenting catechisms and sermons, as often as it may be done “ without great inconvenience;" by affording assistance to the sick or such as are near their end; or by offering prayers to God for the whole state of the Catholic church throughout the world, the general peace of Christendom, the blessing of God upon this nation, the conversion of infidels and heretics, and the free propagation of the holy faith, full remission of the temporal punishment said to be due to sin is secured.*
The immense profits accruing from indulgences induced the appointment of the centenary jubilee, which was first celebrated in 1300, under the pontificate of Boniface VIII. It was subsequently shortened one-half, (doubtless for pecuniary reasons,) and finally reduced to twenty-five years, at every return of which period, plenary indulgences may be obtained during one year by all the faithful who shall visit certain churches at Rome, and perform the religious exercises enjoined for the occasion. The last jubilee was in 1825, “the year of expiation and pardon, of redemption and grace, of redemption and indulgence ;” at least, it was so styled by Pope Leo XII. in his bull, announcing the jubilee. “ During this year of jubilee,” said his holiness, (profanely asserting that he acted “by the authority of Almighty God,”) “we mercifully in the Lord grant and impart the most plenary and complete indulgence, remission and pardon of all their sins, to all the faithful in Christ, of both sexes, who are truly penitent, and have confessed, and who have likewise refreshed themselves with the holy communion.” The conditions were, visiting the churches specified, and “pouring forth pious prayers to God for the exaltation of Holy Church, the extirpation of heresies, the concord of Catholic princes, and the salvation and tranquillity of Christendom.” The benefits of this jubilee
* Garden of the Soul, pp. vii.-ix. † Mosheim, Cent. xul, part 2. ch. 4.
were extended to other countries in the following year, and continued six months after the publication of the bull in each diocese: the conditions were similar, certain churches being appointed to be visited in each district, and confessors being invested with ample power of absolution, even from reserved cases and censures.* It must be confessed, that whatever advantages the Roman-catholic community in general derived from the jubilee were vastly inferior to the accession of power and influence by the priesthood; to them it was a jubilee indeed; how many confessions were to be heard, and absolutions to be granted, often, doubtless, with much affected difficulty, and penances to be imposed, entirely at the discretion of the confessor! The whole church lay prostrate at the feet of the priests, receiving from their hands “the grace of their absolution and pardon, the grace of their re-instatement in the favour of God, and of their restoration to their lost title to the kingdom of heaven.”+
Roman-catholic writers are very angry with Protestants, for saying that their church “ gives leave to commit sin, and grants anticipated pardon for sins to come by indulgences.”I But their anger is causeless. For though it be not asserted that the Romish church actually gives licence to sin, it cannot be denied that the doctrine of indulgences, so far from repressing evil, powerfully tends to blunt the moral sense, and
*“ Instructions and directions for gaining the grand Jubilee” were published by the “ Vicar Apostolic of the London District.” Take a specimen or two :-“ Embrace, dearly beloved, the benefit that is offered you by the indulgence of the present jubilee. This present life is a time granted you to prepare for heaven. Only sin can exclude you from that kingdom; only the debt of temporal punishment incurred by sin can retard your entrance into glory. Persevere in your career of penance to the end. Avail yourselves of every means of discharging your debt to divine justice. As no man knows whether he be worthy of love or hatred, no man knows what punishments he may still be liable to on account of his sins. The effect that each one will receive from the plenary indulgence will be in proportion to the perfection of the dispositions with which he prepares himself for it.” ....“Enter, enter now, dearly beloved, into the most perfect sentiments of salvation. Spare no pains to prepare yourselves for the remission of your sins, and for the benefits of this plenary indulgence. The happy effects of it will be felt by you in that peace of soul and spiritual joy which the world could never give; and in a well-grounded hope of eternal happiness.”—pp. xxi., xxii. + Ibid.
| Declaration of the Roman-catholic Bishops, p. 12.
encourage the sinner in his vicious courses ;* since he is able, by a very small sacrifice of his property, to secure the remission of the temporal punishment for his sin, for hundreds of thousands of years to come; and he knows that pardon, involving the release from eternal pains, may be obtained without much difficulty from his confessor ; while absolution from such crimes as the sovereign Pontiff only can forgive has its fixed price in the Roman chancery.f On the impiety of such assumptions as are advanced by the church of Rome, and the enormous guilt contracted by those who so awfully deceive the people, it is unnecessary to make any observation. The reader will not, however, fail to note the powerful support given by the inventions of purgatory and indulgences, to those antiscriptural notions of human merit and satisfaction which have been already described and exposed.
The following decree was also passed at the last session of the Council of Trent, respecting the choice of meats and drinks, fasts and feast-days :”—
“ Moreover, the holy council exhorts all pastors, and be
* Speaking of the notoriously depraved state of morals in Italy, Mr. Eustace asks" May it not be ascribed to the corruptions of the national religion, to the facility of absolution, and to the easy purchase of indulgences ?”
-Classical Tour, iii. p. 131. Facts furnish the best answer to these questions. “At Tivoli,” says a modern traveller, “ a man was pointed out to us who had stabbed his brother, who died in agonies within an hour. The murderer went to Rome, purchased his pardon from the church, and received a written protection from a cardinal, in consequence of which he was walking about unconcernedly, a second Cain, whose life was sacred.”—(Graham's Three Months' Residence in the Mountains East of Rome, p. 34. Again : “ Those that have interest with the Pope may obtain an absolution in full from his holiness for all the sins they ever have committed, or may choose to commit." “I have seen one of these edifying documents, issued by the present Pope to a friend of mine. It was most unequivocally worded."-Rome in the Nineteenth Century, ii. p. 271.
† Mr. Butler labours to prove that this is nothing more than a necessary fee of office.—Book of the Roman-catholic Church, p. 111. That does not alter the case. The simple fact is, that absolution of those sins which are reserved for the Pope's pardon is to be had for money-cannot be had without it. The “ Tax-book of the Roman Chancery” has been frequently published, much to the annoyance of the priests and popes. Some stanch Catholic has thus written in the blank leaf of a copy of this book, in the author's possession : “ Calumniator et mendax, ergo liber prohibitus-hereticorum calumnia, mendaciumque vaferrimum, instinctu infernali confictum.”
and religion.ch tend to be choice of
seeches them by the most holy coming of our Lord and Saviour, that, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, they assiduously recommend to all the faithful the observance of all the institutions of the holy Roman church, the mother and inistress of all churches, and of the decrees of this and other ecumenical councils; and that they use all diligence to promote obedience to all their commands, and especially to those which relate to the mortification of the flesh, as the choice of meats and fasts; as also to those which tend to the increase of piety, as the devout and religious celebration of feast-days : admonishing the people to obey those who are set over them; for they who hear them shall hear God, the rewarder, but they who despise them, shall feel that God is the avenger.”
This decree is short, but pithy and important. The fathers here declare their unalterable determination to suffer no retrenchment of the follies and superstitions of the church of Rome, but to enforce obedience to the multifarious canons and enactments that had been accumulating for ages, and had almost exhausted even the inventive genius of priestcraft. None need wonder at such: a resolve; the infallible cannot err, need not change. But mark the character of that religion which audaciously claims the sole right to be called “ apostolic.” Of faith in Christ, love to God, and holiness of life, according to the scriptures, little, very little, is said; but abstinence from meat, eggs, milk, and butter, during Lentand hearing mass, and idleness, on saints' days—together with implicit subjection to the priest, elevate a man to a high rank among the pious, and are imagined to procure for him the special favour of heaven ; while disobedience or neglect of these human inventions is denounced as mortal sin, which exposes the unrepenting offender to endless damnation.*
* See “ Abstract of the Douay Catechism,” p. 44. Slighting or neglecting the precepts of the church, and living in habits of breaking the fasts commanded, or of eating meat on Saturdays or other days of abstinence, without just dispensation, were sins which excluded from the benefits of the jubilee, unless confessed and forsaken in the same manner as drunkenness, swearing, and debauchery.-Instructions and Directions, &c. p. xxiv. But a papal dispensation changes the nature of things : the Spaniard who has paid the Pope for a flesh bull may feast even in Lent; while his neighbour, who has neglected or declined to purchase the privilege, cannot eat an egg, or drink a spoonful of milk, during that period, without committing mortal sin !
Thus the commandments of God are nullified by tradition ; and for true piety, 6 judgment, mercy, and faith,” is substituted “the show of wisdom, in will-worship, and neglecting of the body."*
* It is observable that, in explaining the fourth commandment, the compilers of the catechism place“ Sundays and holidays” on the same level, as if they rested on the same authority. (See pp. 380, 381.) The day of God is scarcely treated with so much honour in the Roman-catholic portions of the continent as some of the saints' days. " When it is spoken of, it is called a fête or holiday, indiscriminately with the Nativity or Assumption of the Virgin Mary ; and these fêtes are the regular seasons of public processions or celebrations. Nay, the newspapers, the theatres, &c., are actually suspended on St. Francis's day, or the feast of the Virgin, but on the Sunday are regularly carried on, and more eagerly followed than ever.”—Rev. D. Wilson's (now Bishop of Calcutta) Letters from an Absent Brother, ii. p. 179.