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once delivered to the saints by the inspired apostles of Christ. The Reformers, on the other hand, denied the truth of this assumption, and averred that the primitive system had become changed, deformed and corrupted in her keeping. The Church of Rome claimed the exclusive title of Catholic, and branded all without her pale as cut off from Christ as heretics, guilty of mortal sin. The Reformers denied that she had the exclusive right to the name of Catholic, or Universal, maintained that the term Catholic grew into use amongst the primitive Christians in the second and third centuries, and that they themselves were in far truer agreement with Christianity, as it was then understood by the Church of Rome herself, than the modern Church of Rome under the Papal system. Now these contrarieties are still asserted as strongly as ever, and therefore the necessity for defending the ground taken by our forefathers, is in no respect done away.
Secondly, however, the peculiar position of our own Church seems to call for a much more general and complete discussion of this controversy on our part, in justice to others as well as to ourselves. For in the wilderness of jarring opinions throughout the Christian world, we regard our Church as placed between extremes, far removed from the Church of Rome on the one part, not a little from many of the various modern Churches on the other, and therefore liable, of course, to be misunderstood and misrepresented by all. But if this be, in some respects, a disadvantageous position, in other respects we should regard it as a privilege which involves a special responsibility, because the voice of truth, coming from the centre, is more likely to be heard on either side; and thus, under God, we might hope that it would produce a better and a holier influence.
And thirdly, I must acknowledge-though with much regret—that the difficulty of finding a thorough, and yet temperate and friendly discussion of this deeply important subject,
has been my strongest motive to the work of controversy. The Roman priesthood, ever since the days of Bossuet, have pursued a course in all Protestant countries, which makes it by no means easy, even for a cultivated intellect, to understand their real principles. Adopting the words of the apostle, Being crafty, I caught you with guile, they have applied them to a totally different purpose, by presenting their doctrines and their history under a modern and specious garb, far more inviting and plausible than truth would sanction; and thus they have prevailed on many an ardent and noble mind, to think them a sadly misrepresented and persecuted people. With such admirable agreement and adroitness have they pursued this plan, that even our own peace has been somewhat disturbed by it. Even some churchmen of unquestionable learning and talent, as well in England as amongst ourselves, yielding to a generous though misguided feeling, have devoted themselves to the defence of Rome, as of an injured party, and openly maintained that there was far less need of the Reformation, and far less benefit derived from its success, than was commonly supposed; that strictly considered, there was but little substantial difference between the Roman and the Anglican systems, and that re-union with Rome, even as she now is, was not impossible. The startling demonstrations of this strange hypothesis during the last few years, in our mother Church especially, have excited a fresh interest in the real merits of the controversy; and have made it necessary for all men who would not be deficient in Christian intelligence, to ascertain, with candour and with fairness, the precise limits of truth. To minister to this necessity, with honesty and frankness, but without prejudice or asperity, and thus supply an acknowledged defect of satisfactory information, is a main object of the following course. I trust, therefore, that in these lectures, you will find truth and kindliness linked faithfully together. The spiritual interests of the Christian are never advancing,
when the intellect triumphs at the expense of the heart; for, as saith the apostle, knowledge puffeth up, BUT CHARITY
The plan of our course may next demand a brief explanation. It will be the same in substance, as that which has been pursued by the learned Dr. Wiseman, whose lectures in defence of the Church of Rome are the most recent, and perhaps I may add, the most plausible of the present day. The writer, for some years, filled the honourable post of Rector of the English College at Rome, where he attained a distinguished rank amongst the accomplished scholars of Europe. His lectures were delivered in London, first in 1835, and again in 1836. They were published soon afterwards in England, and republished in the United States; and their importance has been enhanced by the appointment of their author to be one of the papal Vicars Apostolic, with the title of Bishop, in partibus infidelium.
I do not design, however, to content myself with merely taking the statement of Roman Catholic doctrine from this writer, nor from any of the controversialists of the present age; because it is a part of my design to show the change which the Reformation has wrought in the Church of Rome herself: and therefore I shall set before you the acts of their councils, the dogmata of their schoolmen, the declarations and bulls of the Popes, their canon laws, their authorized forms of worship, their catechisms, their breviary, the statements of their historians, and of their distinguished bishops; pursuing in every instance, the rule laid down by the courts of justice in all civilized nations, viz: that the best evidence of which the nature of the case admits, shall be given. On our side we shall adduce, first, the authority of the Scriptures, and next the testimony of the earlier fathers which the Church of Rome has herself handed down to us, whose names are placed upon her list of saints, and inscribed with honour in her canon law.
And I trust, my brethren, that the result of the whole will be not only a reasonable measure of important religious knowledge, but an increase of your gratitude to God for the privi leges which your own branch of the Universal or Catholic Church secures to you, and a correspondent increase of your zeal for "the faith once delivered to the saints." Yet along with these, I would fain hope that one of the fruits of our labour may be an increase of charity towards those who differ from us; that charity which willingly thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth only in the truth. If I had not this hope, I should lose all relish for the work I have undertaken. Controversy, God knows, has had too much to do with the carnal weapons of acrimony, and sarcasm, and slander, and a studied effort to put every thing connected with the adversary in the most odious light. Be ours the endeavour, made at least in humble sincerity, to use only the spiritual weapons of candour, sobriety and moderation. Thus only can our task be approved by the Prince of peace. Thus only can we ask that the God of truth and love will grant it his blessing.
In concluding this introductory discourse, my beloved brethren, I have two requests to make, which I trust you will not deny me. The one is, that you will not expect the discussion to be enlivened by any of those tales of pious frauds, of inquisitorial cruelty, of monastic atrocity, and conventual abomination, which multitudes have been in the habit of connecting with all their ideas of the Church of Rome, but which fair and candid minds dismiss at once, as having no proper place in well regulated controversy. I do not mean to question the truth of the facts which historians relate in connexion with these subjects. The Church of Rome has held the most prominent place in the Christian world ever since the days of the apostle Paul, and it would be strange indeed if many abuses could not be found in her history, especially as several centuries of that history were passed among the dark ages of feudal
tyranny and ignorance. But principles and doctrines are the most proper topics of religious discussion. Practices which did not necessarily flow from principles, and errors which are lamented as grievous abuses by Roman Catholics themselves, and which are confined to particular persons or grew out of particular circumstances, may indeed furnish very interesting materials for the poet, the novelist, or the historian, but deserve no serious notice in our contemplated undertaking.
My other request is founded upon a high authority, the example of the great apostle, when he said to his Thessalonian converts, BRETHREN, PRAY FOR US. (1 Thes. v. 25.) Who giveth wisdom, knowledge, sound discretion, patient research, and that peculiar power which penetrates the veil of ingenious sophistry, and discovers the hidden truth, but God alone? Grant me then, my beloved brethren, what none can need more than I do, the aid of your prayers; that the humble enterprise commenced in the service of the Church of Christ, may have the guidance of his grace, and be made an instrument, in some small degree, for the promotion of his glory.