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and vice. These were the dark ages, aptly so denominated. No writers are found of any purity, or of any authority. All literature is deadall discussion is silenced—all freedom of opinion trampled and held down by the universal dominion of the popish church.
But we have come to the worst. We have come to the final consummation of that power, which God, no doubt for wise purposes, permitted to oppress the world for a time. We have seen the original purity, simplicity, and fidelity with which our primitive church for the first six centuries, observed the celebration of the Eucharist. We have then traced the gradual decline of this simplicity in the seventh and eighth centuries, by the doctrines of image worship, and by the addition of external ceremonies, suited to the increase of wealth and temporal power, which the church had acquired. We have then gone rapidly down; rapidly as the lead that sounds the depths of the ocean, into the darkness of a sensual, depraved, and fanatic religion, no more like the pure and holy religion of Christ crucified, thạn darkness is to light. We have found the Eucharist, the simple memorial of our Lord, “Do this in remembrance of me,” perverted into a splendid, outward, exciting display for the imagination, leaving the heart untouched. We have seen the bread and wine transubstantiated into the actual body and blood of Christ by the word of the priest. We have seen the body and blood of Christ, so transubstantiated, set forth as an object of worship and adoration ; the host or victim thus sacrificed, offered to the gaze of the multitude, and the people bowing the knee in prayer to a deified piece of bread of their own creating. We have seen the simple bread, which was, by our Lord's example, to be broken, represented by a consecrated wafer made of paste. We have seen the wine, of which our Lord commanded all to drink, totally denied to the majority of his people. We have seen the very name,“ The Lord's Supper," or
“EUCHARIST,” which the primitive teachers of Christianity gave to this holy sacrament, perverted and changed into that of “THE Mass ;” and this mass performed, not only as the communion or participation of the living in the benefits of Christ's death, but by the priest alone as a sacrifice for the benefit of the dead. We have seen the body and blood of Jesus, as sacrificed upon the cross once for all, undergoing a new sacrifice in the hands of each individual priest, and the benefits of that sacrifice estimated and obtained, not by purity of heart, righteousness of intention, or liveliness of faith ; but frequently purchased and made bargain for, by the wages of sin, and the mammon of unrighteousness.
FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY TO THE
1 Cor. XI. 26.
For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do
shew the Lord's death TILL HE COME.
THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
The great historical events which distinguished the fifteenth century, are the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the invention of the art of printing. By the fall of Constantinople the Christian church in the east was destroyed, at least so far destroyed as the union of the church with the state may be considered to demonstrate its political power. Christianity was expelled from the seat of her early years ; the bishops and pastors of the church were scattered and impoverished, and all further opposition to the opinions and doctrines of the west was for ever abandoned. But this loss in political strength was more than compensated by the increase which was now beginning to be felt in moral and intellectual power. The great invention of printing seemed at once to promise the deliverance of mankind from those bonds of superstition and ignorance which it had been the delight of the church of Rome to extend. Information and knowledge were the only requisites which men needed, in order to fling away the superstitious trappings of popery, and to assert themselves once more the disciples of Jesus Christ. In England the followers of Wickliffe, in spite of all opposition, were rapidly increasing, under the name of Wickliffites, or Lollards. In Bohemia, John Huss, an eminent professor in the university of Prague, endeavoured openly to withdraw the university from the jurisdiction of Rome, and recommended in public the doctrines and opinions of Wickliffe. His progress, however, was not propitious. His zeal and courage only ended, as far as himself was concerned, in his discomfiture and death : but the good was not entirely lost. The numerous followers who quickly sprung up to vindicate his memory may be said to be the seeds of that great reformation which was waiting its opportunity to take root and flourish.
One of the doctrines of Huss and his followers was, that the cup in the sacrament of the Eucharist was to be administered to all, laity as well as clergy; and from this circumstance they were called Calixtines, from calix, a cup, or chalice. The very name thus appropriated betrays the general opinion of the church. It had been decidedly decreed in the twelfth century, by Pascal, that the cup was to be denied to the laity, but still some few churches, together with Huss, now ventured to violate this decree. The anger of the papal power was in no ordinary degree called forth. Huss and Jerome, of Prague, were summoned to be tried for heresy. Wickliffe, whose opinions they had adopted, though long since dead, was at the same time arrayed before the spiritual tribunal of Rome; and at the great council of Constance, while Huss was condemned to be burned alive, the church proceeded to their famous decree on the 14th June, 1415, which ordered, that the cup was to be entirely withdrawn from the laity, and the Eucharist to be administered in one kind only. This decree, though previously understood as the doctrine of the church, now, for the first time, received the force of law.*
may not be amiss, in order to remind the reader of the uncharitable supremacy from which he is now by God's grace delivered, to give a few extracts from the council of Constance, on the points above referred to.
I. Of Wickliff, A.D. 1415, Session viii.
“Wherefore the procurator fiscal being urgent, and the edict having been set forth for hearing sentence on this day; this