Obrazy na stronie

eternity, is praised and honoured. Yes, dear child, methinks, as thou reclinest there upon those tressels before the officiating minister, and the words of truth are spoken over thee, and the sweet promises that thou shalt come again when Jesus brings his saints with him in glory; methinks the very time-darkened pannellings of those oaken pews, the grave festoonings of those crimson draperies which hang along the galleries, the formal carvings of that desk and pulpit which uprear their antique outlines against the golden light that streams in through the eastern window, the marble tablets which bestud the walls, all around seem to do thee kind and Christian reverence; and, whispering tranquillity, to say to a father's heart-" leave her with us."

But ah! there is another journey farther yet. Even still my loved one, thou must remove a little farther-though but a very little. Slow through the church-yard path,' I see thee borneand the church-yard of a great city is a gloomy spot. Pent round with crowded dwelling-places, and unvisited by the sweet fannings of the mountain breeze; its pallid vegetation of docks, of nettles, and those other thick-growing weeds, rises with a melancholy rankness, while the few elms that spread their stunted boughs over the place of graves look grimly, as the smoke-fog blackens their half-expanded leaves. Here is no resting-place like that which holds the village dead, where the clear ripplings of some upland brook wheel their tiny leaves of molten silver round the grey fence of its moss-tinted walls; walls, where the heron lights to smooth his ruffled plume, and under whose shade the limping hare lays down her breast in peace upon the fern. Here no elder spreads its clustering blossoms over the narrow house, no thorn rears its bower from whence the red-breast may pour out his vespers to the setting sun. A thick and misty air hangs over the tombs which crowd and press each other in a space so scanty, while the distant jar of machinery, the ceaseless hum of business, the shout of pleasure as it passes by in pomp and pageantry, sound in unharmonious strangeness over the dusty cells of the departed. But for the dead-what reck they where they lie? We feel anxious; but as for them, the heaving bosom of the deep wave, the greensward of the village buryingground, the stony fences of the city cemetery, all are alike to them.

And now the coffin is laid down. Just at the head of that rude stair, whose broken steps wind down into subterranean darkness, the bearers have laid down their load. And now the last prayer is uttered, and the father follows down his beloved one into those long and branchy passages, till, guided by the glimmers of those few tapers which glance in their rusty sockets along the mildewed walls, he stands at length before the lowbrowed door of the last resting-place. My child! my child! so: often pillowed on my breast, and is it here that I must leave thee? thee, the child of a thousand cares, under this damp dropping vault of rugged stone, raised from the earth which sinks and spunges under my feet only by the wretched frame-work of that rotten fungous-covered stillion? Even so. Here must thy

father leave thee. He may not stay even a moment or two in this suffocating air, to drop a tear over the plate which tells thy little name, and thy little record of a four years' brief existence. No-they to whom death is a way of living, and the accompaniments of the cold grave, are things of work and business-their looks hurry him out-they say, 66 we cannot wait." True, he has friends about him; even now a friend lends him the ready ministerings of his arm-but can he comfort him? Nothere is but ONE can do it, and he does. Jesus! Saviour! God! Thou indeed hast an arm on which to lean in such an hour. Thou hast a voice which can indeed speak peace. Even here" thy consolations refresh the soul." We now ascend from lower darkness to the upper air; and so also shall that frail body which we leave behind us to waste in loneliness. Death for the present seems triumphant. He has broken up the circle of a peaceful family. Nor will he rest here. Every member of it must in turn be laid low. The hand which now writes these lines, must lie motionless. But the hour of restoration cometh; -"For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Then I and mine made "more than conquerors, through him who loved us," shall stand and see our enemy destroyed: washed by the precious blood of Christ; and clothed in the fair vestments of his spotless righteousness, we shall stand and behold the breaking of the golden morning of eternal joy. Our God shall come, the Sun of our new world, with healing in his beams. And while his

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

"Death and hell," those enemies which now so sorely afflict us, shall be cast" into the lake of fire.”



Many are they among departed princes, primates, and potentates, who, were they permitted to revisit earth, would view with astonishment the present occupiers of their places, and utterly disown the right of inheritance claimed by those who called themselves their successors. Of all who had thus been once possessed of name, distinction, or pre-eminence, there is not assuredly one who would now encounter his living representatives with a thousandth part of the surprise that St. Peter would his usurping inheritor, the Pope or Bishop of Rome. I cannot for my own part conceive any two characters more distinct and opposite than those of the Galilean fisherman, who probably never wore a better dress than his humble station afforded; and the purple-vested ecclesiastical Ruler, whose brows are encircled by a triple crown. Respecting their disparity in worldly things, there cannot for a mo

ment be the smallest question, and to him who diligently compares the religion of the New Testament with that which is professed by those who bow to the authority of the presumed successor of St. Peter, the difference will appear to be very little, if at all less, in spirituals. It is true the Pope still subscribes himself fisherman, and great fishers of men their Holinesses have undoubtedly been, though their piscatorial apparatus bore little resem. blance to that of their pretended Prototype. In this consists the only titular similitude between him whose boat was miraculously filled with fishes of the Galilean lake, and those who, embracing the world as their fishing ground, regarded every thing worth taking, as the lawful prey of their metaphorical net. One would think that St. Peter himself was pretty good authority for St. Peter's titles to rank, pre-eminence, and power; and this authority, not only uncontradicted, but admitted by the Church of Rome, lies before us. We have the further testimony of four Evangelists, and four Apostles, all whose writings are, or ought to be, received by Christians as the infallible Word of God. If their testimony be not true, the whole scheme of Revelation falls to the ground, and Christianity is no more than what I am afraid the conduct of too many ecclesiastical Potentates proves them to have regarded it, a system of cunningly devised fables.' If their testimony be true, that two added to two make four, is not a more incontrovertible proposition than that whatever militates against their testimony must be false. To enter into the various discrepancies between the word of Rome and the word of God would open too wide a field, and the subject having already employed so many abler pens, stands in no need of my feeble contribution. My present purpose is to shew from his own written and indelible authority Peter against Pope, the great Apostle of primitive, at utter variance with his pretended successor of modern days; and therefore that the Church of Rome, if it be infallible, must look to some other foundation for that superhuman character than the sanction of St. Peter, or the Word of God.

Many found their adhesion to the church of Rome on the argument drawn from length of possession, as if that which for convenience is allowed to constitute a title to an estate, should be admitted as a principle to establish the usurpation of a church--as if time possessed an inherent charm of converting wrong into right; as if rectitude was to be estimated by arithmetic; and as if error was to be perpetual because it was of long duration. Truth eternally the same, stands upon its own basis, independent of, and suffering neither increase nor diminution from, the fleeting and transitory nature of time. A thousand years,' says St. Peter, are in the sight of God but as one day, and one day as a thousand years; and, if so, the error which a thousand years have maintained derives as little sanction from its date, as the error of a single day. This plea of duration is much insisted on by Romanists, and the futility of their argument only serves to shew the imbecility of their cause. On none but the ignorant could it impose for a moment; because, if age be admitted as an arbiter, the Church of Rome is inferior in the rights of long establishment to the super

stitions of China and the idolatries of Juggernaut. Age, however, only serves to prove how incapable time is to rectify the errors of a false creed. Those heathen nations who have no written standard of truth to which they can refer, must wait the gradual diffusion of evangelical light. Christians, (and with what ineffable gratitude should they cherish the divine gift,) do possess such a standard, and consequently have themselves alone to blame when they depart from the right rule. Plain as this rule is in all essential points, the numerous and lamentable deviations perpetually occurring admit of an easy solution. They arise from man's corrupt propensities, which are for ever warring against the humility of holiness, and the purity of evangelical truth. The carnal mind,' says the inspired Apostle, 'is at enmity with God.' Hence the necessity of a written, a fixed, and an unalterable standard of truth becomes obvious to the intelligent mind. For as every human heart is naturally carnal, and as passions lead men to sensual, selfish, and unlawful gratifications in a thousand ways, there is no other mode of rectifying those manifold abuses which ignorance, selfishness, pride, ambition, and hypocrisy will necessarily produce. The very existence of the written law proves its necessity, for God would not have given it had it not been required. Every infraction of it therefore must be criminal, every deviation from it a dangerous error. We shall now proceed in our enquiry into the legitimacy of the titles, the authority and powers which the Pope of Rome claims as Head of Christ's Church, Vicar of God, and infallible director of spiritual concerns, under the assumed character of successor to St. Peter.

That historical portion of the New Testament, entitled The Acts of the Apostles, gives a minute account of the great events which took place subsequent to the resurrection of our blessed Lord. The principal agents in the propagation of our divine religion were St. Peter, and St. Paul, the commencement of the book relating almost entirely to the former; as the subsequent part does to the latter, himself a miraculous convert to the truths of the Gospel. The distinguished part which St. Peter then took in the ministry affords the best comment on those particular passages of the evangelists, upon which the Roman pontiffs found their title to pre-eminence as successors of the apostle. He took the lead upon that occasion, and on the day of Pentecost, standing up with the eleven,' not, be it observed, as their head but as their associate; not as permanent master, but as temporary leader, not as first in authority, but in readiness of speech, he addressed the wondering multitude, unfolded the nature of the new dispensation, invited believers to accept the salvation offered, and by his preaching, on that same day were added to them three thousand souls.' Here remarkably were fulfilled the charge of the keys, and the assimilation to the rock.* The door to the propagation of the Gos

* It is worthy of remark, that the passage relating to the rock and the keys occurs only in one Gospel, that of St. Matthew. This indeed is sufficient authority for the authenticity of the expression, but not for the meaning ascribed by the Ro

[ocr errors]

pel by oral testimony and exhortation was unlocked by him, and in that sense he became the human foundation upon which the church was, or rather began to be, built. This is the plain and obvious meaning of those expressions, and indeed the only one that can be reconciled to the sense of Scripture, for that St. Peter never enjoyed, assumed, or contemplated any other pre-eminence is perfectly evident from the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of Paul, John, James, Jude, and the Epistles of Peter himself. The divine commission to teach all nations was given without distinction of persons to the faithful eleven, who afterwards, under the same sanction, admitted a twelfth. St. Paul was subsequently invested with similar authority from on high, and he at least did not look upon himself to be behind or inferior to any, nay we have his own assurrance that, he laboured more abundantly than them all.' He even reproved Peter for unauthorized concessions to the Jewish converts, a presumption on which he would hardly have ventured, if St. Peter had been in his time Vicarius Dei in terris, supreme head of the Church, absolute master of consciences, and unquestionable dispenser of sacred truth. That St. Peter neither claimed nor enjoyed these lofty attributes during the lives of the other apostles must, therefore, be regarded as an unquestionable fact. But St. John survived him many years, when, therefore, did this vaunted supremacy commence ? Not till a long time after his death. A very fit season, according to the practice of the Roman church, for conferring saintship upon those who had been no saints before, but a very awkward time for conferring sovereignty. We have heard of bodies disinterred, that they might undergo that punishment which they had escaped when living. This I believe is the only instance of a coronation being deferred until after the demise of the person by whom the diadem was to be worn.

There was a time when, through a considerable part of Europe, it was held to be ample authority for any doctrine, dogma, or opinion, that it had the sanction of the Romish church. The means through which this was effected, however unsuited to a learned and inquisitive age, were admirably fitted to a time when to read and write were rare qualifications even for a parochial preacher, and when some of the greatest monarchs could only set their marks. The title of infallibility was annexed to the triple crown, as held by the successor of St. Peter, and on this simple basis was created that astonishing structure of ecclesiastical domination and tyranny, which for many ages involved a great portion of the world in more than mental slavery. I need not say how happily for the spiritual interests of mankind, the active energies of

manists. A distinction so important would surely have been noticed by all, bad it been thought to convey infallible dictation and imperial primacy. St. Mark, at least, who was believed to have written his Gospel for the particular edification of Roman converts, would hardly have failed to invest an appointment so flattering to their apostolic primate. Yet it is singular enough, that, though he relates the rebuke which Peter received from our Lord, he takes no notice of the compliment, and both occur in the same chapter of St. Matthew,

« PoprzedniaDalej »