« PoprzedniaDalej »
fall by sin after baptism, is most true, but the Catholic Church has ever held the eucharist itself to be that sacrament, as may be seen in the Liturgy of St. Basil, “ make this bread to become the holy body of the Lord God Himself, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and for eternal life, to them who partake of it.” Renaudot, i. 68. So that of St. James, “ Make this bread the holy body of thy Christ, and this cup the precious blood of thy Christ, that all who are partakers thereof may obtain remission of their sins.” Brett's Collection, p. 18. And their own canon and offices witness to the same truth. “O Lord Jesu Christ, thou Son of the living God .... deliver mne by this Thy most sacred body and blood, from all my iniquities,” &c.
Page 250, CHAPTER 3.
The Tridentine Fathers, in the third chapter on the eucharist, define a sacrament to be a visible form of invisible grace. In the tenth canon of the sacraments in general, they affirm with anathema, that all Christians have not the power to administer these visible forms of invisible grace : in this chapter they declare the matter, i. e. the visible part of the sacrament of repentance, to consist of the contrition and confession and satisfaction of the penitent himself. I will not stop to point out the unreasonableness and absurdity of the definition, but merely to observe that, if this be so, then, unquestionably, every penitent is the minister of this sacrament. But all men stand in need of repentance ; so that either this rite has no visible form or matter, in which case it is no sacrament; or it must be admitted that every Christian, priest or layman, has power to administer a sacrament. They seem themselves to have felt the difficulty. For, endeavouring to put out of sight that the form of a sacrament must be visible, according to their own definition, they tell their people that the words “I absolve thee,” are sufficient to constitute the form of this would-be sacrament. I suppose some of their advocates will tell us that the motion of the priest’s lips, which may be seen in uttering these words, is sufficient to constitute a visible sign.
PAGE 252, CHAPTER 4.
Two things are worthy of note in this chapter ; 1st. that contrition, with the wish for the rite of penance, will reconcile a sinner to God without the rite. 2. That attrition, or the mere fear of punishment, is a sufficient disposition for attaining the grace of God in this would-be sacrament.
Page 255, CHAPTER 5.
Here an attempt is made to invest the Christian priesthood with the prerogative of the Most High, who is a searcher of the hearts, and a discerner of the thoughts; in forgetfulness of the very distinction which God drew between Himself and all men—"man looketh to the outward part, the Lord trieth the heart.” As Christ has invested His ministers with no power to do this of themselves, the Tridentine Fathers have sought to supply what they must needs consider a grievous omission on His part, by enjoining all men to unlock the secrets of their hearts at the command of their priest, and persons of all ages and sexes to submit not only to general questions as to a state of sin or repentance ; but to the most minute and searching questions as to their most inmost thoughts. The extent to which the confessors have thought it right to carry these examinations on subjects concerning which the Apostle recommends that they be not once named among Christians, and which may be seen either in Den's Theology, or Burchard's decrees, c. 19. Paris, 1549, affords a melancholy, painful, and sickening subject for contemplation ; especially, when it is considered that they were Christian clergy who did this, and that it was done in aid, as they supposed, of the Christian religion. The fearful effects of these examinations upon the priests themselves, I will do no more than allude to ; he who may think it necessary to satisfy himself upon the point, may consult the cases contemplated and provided for (among . others), by Cardinal Cajetan, in his Opuscula, Lugd. 1562, p. 114. In the Bull of Pius IV., Contra solicitantes in confessione, dated Ap. 16, 1561. (Bullarium Magn. Luxemb. 1727. ii. p. 48), and in a similar one of Gregory XV., dated Aug. 30, 1622. (Gregor. XV. Constit. Rom. 1622. p. 114), there is laid open another fearful scene of danger to female confitents from wicked priests, "mulieres penitentes ad actus inhonestos dum earum audiunt confessiones alliciendo et provocando.” Against which flagrant dangers, and the preparatory steps of sapping and undermining the mental modesty of a young person by examinations of particular kinds, it is vain to think that the feeble bulls of the Bishops of Rome can afford any security. These observations apply to the system of the Roman Church, peculiar to itself, of compelling the disclosure of the most minute details of the most secret thoughts and actions. As to encouraging persons whose minds are burthened with the remembrance of fearful sins, to ease themselves of the burthen by revealing it to one at whose hands they may seek guidance and consolation and prayer, it is a totally distinct question, and nothing but wilful art will attempt to confound them. On this point I see no reason to withdraw a regret which I have before expressed as to its disuse in the Church of England; for I cannot but believe that, were it more frequently had recourse to, many a mind would depart the world at peace with itself and with God, which now sinks to the grave under a bond of doubt and fear, through want of confidence to make use of ghostly remedies.
The claim of the Roman system to divine institution and to being necessary to salvation, will be considered under the sixth canon.
Page 261, CHAPTER 6. As to the first part of this, which relates to the persons qualified to administer this sacrament, I would refer my reader to the note above on chapter 3. I am not called upon to extricate the Romans out of their own net. For the latter part of this chapter, which relates to the judicial power of the priests, the note on canon 6 below, will bear upon it. But the concluding sentence of it may not be passed over without direct notice. Here, after all we have heard about a true sacrament, divine institution, and necessity for salvation, we are let into the light in which the matter is regarded among some at least of the priests themselvesnamely, that of a mere empty farce, of which they feel themselves at liberty to make a joke. And here it is worthy of observation how they turn the tables upon themselves; for they say that a confitent who knows the confessor to absolve in joke, is careless of his salvation unless he seek out another who will do it seriously. Hitherto we had been told that the priests were judges of the people; here it is evident that the people are made judges of the priests ; and, according as they judge him to be in earnest or in joke, they are to be content or not with his ministration.
PAGE 263, CHAPTER 7. Here, priest and no priest, valid an invalid, are predicated of the same persons in the administration of the same rites. He has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the judicial power of forgiving sins, and yet his acts are invalid, in any case which it may please his Bishop or his Pope to reserve. One would have thought that here if ever the maxim would apply, “ Fieri non debet, factum valet.” But it appears that, according to the Church of Rome, the acts of a layman, in administering baptism and admitting to the kingdom of heaven, (which, surely, if any other, is an exercise of the keys), are more valid than those of a priest in remitting the sins of a penitent who is a
Is not this to “strain at a gnat, and
member of that kingdom. swallow a camel ?”
PAGE 265, CHAPTER 8. This is a remarkable chapter. The repeated expressions of reference to our blessed Lord, “in whom we live, in whom we merit, in whom we make satisfaction when we perform worthy fruits of repentance, which from them have power, by Him are offered to the Father, and through Him are accepted of the Father,” plainly show how keenly alive the Tridentine Fathers were to the danger of men considering their own penances as irrespective of our Lord's death and mediation, against which error they thus endeavour to guard. But the other error of making God, or God's ministers in His behalf, through vengeance of past sins, and not merely for the correction of the offence, insist upon penal satisfactions from those who, with true repentance, and with faith in Christ, have forsaken their sins, as though the vicarial punishment inflicted upon the Son of God were not sufficient to satisfy the divine vengeance, is left, and must needs be left, untouched. But how great injury this does to the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of our Lord, and how great injury also to the character of our heavenly Father, there need no arguments to prove. The passages cited by the publishers of the Tridentine decrees, Genesis iii. 2 Sam. xii. Numbers xii. and xx. being all taken from the old dispensation, cannot be pressed, because the analogy of God's dealings before and after the sufferings of our Lord, will not altogether hold: besides, they all relate to cases of open sin, in which, for the edification of others, temporal punishment was inflicted, from which no argument whatever can be adduced in behalf of vindictive penalties for secret sins, which have been repented of, confessed, and forsaken, with faith in Christ. It would seem from the expressions in line 8, p. 267, compared with line 7, p. 269, that they consider the practice of the virtues most opposed to the sins committed, among the vindictive penalties for sin. A strange and most unhappy light in which