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the practice of the priests shaving their heads, and taking the form of a crown, but from the priests of ancient Egypt? On what else are the present nunneries founded, but upon the ruins of the Vestal Virgins? What is the holy water of the Romish church, but an imitation of the lustral water of the Pagans? Whence came the Romish purgatory, and penance, and canonization of saints, and processions, and pilgrimages, but from heathen sources ? Indeed I venture to say that there is scarcely a peculiarity of Romanism but had its origin, either directly or indirectly, in Pagan superstition. Some of the Romish churches in Europe were originally heathen temples; and, if I am correctly informed, some of the caryed emblems which were used in the Pagan worship, are used at this day in the Romish service.
No fact is better established than that Christianity, at her first introduction, was at war with Paganism; that she would not consent on any ground to hold the least communion with it :-what then are we to think of a system which, under the name of Christianity, bears so much of a Pagan character? I propound it as a serious question to every one who has intelligently and impartially examined this subject, whether the Romish system, as it now exists in the authorized canons of the church, bears a stronger resemblance to the systems of ancient Paganism, or to the system which is inculcated in the New Testament?
2. Another obvious inference from this subject is, that Romanism is the sworn enemy of Freedom.
In the Pope she recognises a supreme earthly potentate, in whose hands all power on earth, and I had almost said in Heaven too, is vested. He is styled by Romish writers, "the infallible one;" "another God on earth;"
;"" the Lord our God the Pope;" and Clement
VII. and his cardinals, in their letter to Charles VI. say, “ As there is only one God in Heaven, so there cannot and ought not to be, but one God on earth.” And in full accordance with these arrogant assumptions, the Pope has claimed, and in numerous instances, exercised, the prerogative of vacating thrones by a word, and thrusting kings into obscurity. He professes to hold the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and to open the gates to none but those who die in the Holy Catholic church; and hence the bull of Pius V. against the Queen of England was entitled “ The Damnation of Queen Elizabeth.” Let those be inquired of who have travelled in Papal countries even now, since the arm of Romish power is, in a great degree, withered, and they will testify that they have mingled with an enslaved population; that there is a system of oppression there which reaches not only to the body but to the mind; and that they are convinced, if men bear it patiently, it is either because they dare not rebel, or because they have been so thoroughly trained to a habit of servitude, that there is an utter extinction of all the native lofty tendencies of the soul: And they will tell you that while they have been sojourners in those countries, they have longed to breathe the fresh air of freedom; and that when they came back to their native land, they trod the earth with a freer step, they gazed upon the skies with a sublimer pleasure, the foliage seemed more verdant, and the air more fragrant, and all nature more beautiful, because every thing around them proclaimed that they were in a land of liberty.
You may ask perhaps whether the liberties of this country are likely to be endangered by the influence of Romanism. I answer the question only by repeating what I have already said, that Romanism is essentially and theoretically a system of slavery; and every Ro
manist on the face of the earth, if he understands his own system, acknowledges a power which may absolve him from every obligation to yield obedience to civil rulers. That the predominance of such a system must be fatal to the liberties of any country, no one can doubt; but whether or not there is danger that this will ever be realized here, I will not take it upon myself to judge.
3. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Ro manism puts at fearful hazard man's immortal interests.
I here assume the fact that it is the true gospel, and that alone, which is the power of God unto salvation; and that whatever obstructs or counteracts its influence, must, in, the same proportion, jeopard the souls of men. But have we not seen that Romanism in various ways actually produces this effect? While therefore I would not intimate a doubt that the Romish church may include many who will be saved, I cannot resist the conviction that they will be saved so as by fire. When I contemplate the great mass of them sunk in ignorance and superstition, scarcely knowing more of the gospel than the inhabitants of Hindoostan, and apparently substituting a round of senseless ceremonies for an intelligent and living faith, much as I may wish to believe that they are in the way to Heaven, I cannot believe it so long as I hold to the Bible. I deplore the condition to which multitudes of them are subjected in the present life; but I contemplate with incomparably deeper anxiety their prospects in reference to the world to come.
There is another view to be taken of this point:-Romanism, as we have seen, has much in it to foster the evil propensities of the heart;-it not only tolerates sin but encourages it; it not only wipes off the guilt of past offences for money, but it secures the privilege of com
mitting future sins, provided money enough can be furnished to pay for it. But what is it but sin unrepented of by man, and unforgiven by God, which destroys the soul? And what is the doctrine of penance, and the doctrine of absolution, but the merest mockery? Romanism then endangers the soul, as it encourages and fosters that which alone causes the soul's destruction.
Yet another view :This system tends directly to infidelity. Its doctrines are too gross for a cultivated intellect to digest; its practices too absurd for reflecting men to adopt. Let the mind become enlightened, and it will not be likely to receive the dogmas of any church without examination: it will require evidence for whatever is proposed as a matter of faith. Just then imagine the condition of an intelligent Romanist who, from his general habits of thought and investigation, directs his attention towards Christianity as it is presented in the canons of his own church: at once its absurdities glare upon him, and his Reason instantly rejects them. But in rejecting them, he gives up the only form of Christianity which perhaps has come under his observation; and though, from considerations of policy, he may not choose openly to avow his defection from the church, yet he remains in it not as a papist but as an infidel. This was just the experience of Blanco White as related by himself; and that, notwithstanding he was a Romish priest; and those who have been familiar with the more intelligent class of Romanists in Europe, have unhesitatingly expressed the opinion that far the greater part of them have no belief in Revelation. Surely then, if Romanism ministers to the cause of infidelity, it puts in jeopardy the souls of men; for Jesus himself has declared that he that believeth not shall be damned."
4. Our subject suggests the proper mode of encountering the Romish religion.
It is not by burning down their convents, nor by assailing them with abusive epithets, nor by attempting to rob them of any of their legitimate privileges; but it is by subjecting their system to scriptural and reasonable tests, and diffusing correct information in regard to its tendencies and results. I would be an advocate for their having the same civil rights which I myself enjoy; and in all the intercourse of life would know nothing else toward them than Christian kindness and courtesy; but I would not let my kindness and courtesy carry me so far as to lead me virtually to connive at their errours; while yet I would endeavour to expose them only by means of truth and argument. These are the only weapons with which I would encounter them, save the still mightier weapon of prayer; and on this last I should chiefly rely, because hereby faith wields the energies of Omnipotence. I know how many obstacles there are in the way of their being approached; nevertheless I would say, give them light to the extent of your ability, and in proportion as you do this, you are likely to work a cure for their errours. Much has been apprehended from the prevalence of Romanism in our great Western world: And here again, I would say, endeavour to counteract their influence only by the diffusion of light;—the light of science and learning,—the light of genuine Christianity, Romanism, as we have seen, has its appropriate element in intellectual darkness: if the darkness be continued, it will live; if it be dissipated, it will die.
You will greatly misapprehend me, my friends, if you imagine that the design of this discourse has been to excite in you any hostility towards that portion of our community, whose religious system I have felt myself called