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the remission of sins. Nothing can be more manifest than the perfect agreement in this matter, between the pope and this great council; and if we examine the acts of the general councils which came afterwards, it is impossible to discover the slightest intimation of any other principle.
Amongst these, however, the council of Florence stands distinguished; because the English and American Roman Catholics in our day, appeal to the decree of this council, as being the only true declaration of doctrine concerning the power of the pope. It is in the following words:
"We also define, that the holy apostolic see, and the Roman pontiff, hold the primacy through the whole world, and that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him in blessed Peter, full power is given by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, to rule and to govern the whole Church, in like manner as the same is contained in the acts of general councils, and in the sacred canons." (Hard. Con. Tom. 9, p. 986.)
Now here, brethren, is the decree passed by this celebrated general council under pope Eugenius, in A. D. 1439, when two hundred and twenty-four years had elapsed after the great council of Lateran, during the whole of which period the holy wars and the pope's inquisitors had been carrying on the work of exterminating heretics in the face of all Europe, with universal consent and approbation. And what do this council enact upon the subject? Do they say one word to restrain the pope's prerogative? Do they insinuate that he had taken too much upon him? Do they question the correctness of his doctrine, or deny that the duty of exterminating heretics with fire and sword had been truly set forth as a part of the Christian faith? So far from it, that the pope is declared to have full power, not only to feed, but to rule and govern the whole
Church. He is said to be the vicar of Christ, and to be the father and teacher of all Christians. And therefore we have another general council, setting its seal, in large terms, to the widest extent of the papal supremacy, with the pope's theory and practice of religious persecution for more than two centuries standing before them. But truly it seems almost a mockery to refer us to this council, for an amelioration of the pope's authority in the point of persecution, when it was one of their acts to justify the emperor Sigismund in violating his own safe conduct, for the purpose of delivering John Huss, the Bohemian reformer, to the flames.
Lastly, let us ask the council of Trent, whether they undertook to lay down a different doctrine; and we shall receive for answer, that although they knew the indignant censures of the reformers on this point perfectly well, and also knew the strong disapprobation which many of their own Church, especially in France, had manifested towards the Inquisition, yet they passed the whole subject by, notwithstanding the very object of their assembling was avowed to be a general reformation of the Church, both in the head and the members. But although they avoided saying any thing on the direct point of persecution, they recorded a longer list of anathemas or solemn curses against the heretics, than had ever been exhibited before; and in their Catechism they took care to have it universally proclaimed, that heretics are under the jurisdiction of the Church of Rome, in the same manner as deserters are considered to belong to the army from which they have deserted. Add to all this the fact already mentioned, that the Inquisition was not suppressed until 1808, and then not by the Church of Rome, but by Napoleon Bonaparte, and the evidence seems to my mind, conclusive; although the reign of the English queen Mary, and the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and the awful tragedy of St. Bartholomew's day, would of themselves furnish proof more than enough to fill a volume.
But passing by these events, which our limits will not allow me to detail, and resting merely on the very imperfect sketch I have exhibited, no honest Roman Catholic can say that his Church has abandoned the principles of the Council of Lateran, or that her rulers have changed one article of that cruel and sanguinary system which, for the last seven centuries, has endeavoured to protect her creed, by the terrors of the rack and the prison, the sword and the flames.
But, blessed be God! a mighty change has indeed been wrought by the glorious Reformation, although popes and councils, the creed and the rulers of the Church of Rome, are still what they were in the dark ages. Her people, far and wide, have begun to think and to feel rightly upon this subject; her champions themselves struggle hard to cast off the very imputation of her persecuting principles; they strive to bury in utter oblivion the records of the past, and when they are obliged to recall them, they exert their utmost skill to make their greatest severities look like a benevolent anxiety for the salvation of mankind. The truth appears to be, that the Church of Rome is in a transition state, to do justice to which requires careful discrimination. We should gladly distinguish between the system of Rome, and the people who so often profess it, without being fully aware of its obnoxious principles. We doubt not that there are multitudes, even among her priests, who are strangers to many important portions of their own history; and who, in simplicity and sincerity, believe and teach doctrines, which, if they had lived in Italy, or Spain, only one hundred years ago, would probably have brought them to the tortures of the Inquisition. Widely dif ferent from the condition of these, however, is that of the better informed, who know the truth, but have too little moral courage to confess it; who employ their talents in an ingenious attempt to mystify the facts, by distorting the testimony of history; and who thus hope to move along in harmony with the liberal
maxims of the age, without giving up their professed confidence in their Church's infallibility. May the Spirit of Christ give them boldness to follow out their convictions, honestly to oppose what they know to be erroneous, and thus bring their Church home to her first love, according to the pure doctrines of the written Word, and the mild and gentle temper of the Gospel.
Meanwhile, my brethren, it is vain to hope that the complete regeneration of the Church of Rome can ever be brought about by any other ordinary means, than the increased spirit of inquiry amongst the honest-hearted of her priests, and the intelligent portion of her laity. It is in originating and fomenting this spirit of inquiry, that the Reformation has already done them so great a service; and we humbly trust that the progress of light and knowledge will advance amongst them with accelerated speed, until the time shall come for another council, far more general than that of Trent, whose decrees shall openly rebuke the cruel despotism of the dark ages, and re-establish the mild government of the primitive Church once more:-a council which should take the precept of St. Paul for their motto: Bless and curse not; which should grant to others the toleration which they claim for themselves, and leave to HIM who is the only UNERRING JUDGE, the awful work of condemnation.
Having now finished the first part of our series, embracing the preliminary subjects of the rule of faith, the papal supremacy, and the intolerance, anathemas, and cruel persecution connected therewith, I design, by the favour of Providence, to commence the next series with the topic of celibacy, which, in her priesthood, and her hosts of monks and nuns, forms so important a peculiarity of the Church of Rome. And in conclusion, my beloved brethren, let me beseech you to unite with me in practising that precept of our divine Master, which saith, "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despite
fully use you and persecute you." If the Church of Rome, in her Council of Trent, and her creed of pope Pius IV., pours her anathemas upon us, let us pray for a blessing upon her in return. If her rulers had the power, we have every reason to believe that they would indeed despitefully use us and persecute us, and think, as their predecessors did in the destruction of our forefathers, that they were doing God service. But be it our place to pray the Father of mercies to heal their blindness, to reform their errors, and to turn their hearts. And while we praise him with adoring gratitude for the precious jewel of our own Christian liberty, let us do our utmost to extend the privilege to every other portion of the Universal Church, earnestly beseeching the omnipotent Redeemer to hasten the time, when all shall worship the only true God in the unity of the Spirit, and every man shall sit under his own vine and his own fig-tree, with none to make him afraid.