Centuries before Luther nailed his theses to the church door in Wittemburg, the Lord was preparing both nations and individuals for the accomplishment of this great work. The weakening of the papal power and the increasing boldness of the witnesses, foretold what was approaching.
In our contemplations of Rome, we must always distinguish between the catholic church and popery, or the ecclesiastical and the temporal power. The church, though fallen and enslaved, was still the church; protestant in heart and faithful in measure to Christ; but to venture in her pious services beyond the defined limits of Roman orthodoxy subjected her to its severe discipline. The papacy vowed destruction on all trespassers. Immorality, irreligion, might be passed over, at least with a slight censure; but heresy or schism — in other words, any form of dissent from the Roman church, must be rooted out by fire and sword, and all heretics consigned by pontifical sentence to eternal death.
During the long reign of papal terror, the true saints of God witnessed and prophesied in sackcloth. But the silver line of sovereign grace was preserved unbroken from the days of the apostles, under the sheltering wing of the living God. He preserved His witnesses from the devouring dragon in the secret places of the earth; in mountains, valleys, and caverns; and in many quiet convents in the remote regions of Christendom.
But it may be interesting, first of all, to renew our acquaintance with the state of Christianity in some of the countries which we have already noticed. In this way we shall naturally fall in with our long line of witnesses, which go down to the days of Luther. And, first in order, we will notice the state of
Centuries have rolled on since we last looked at the state of things in the sister island. St. Patrick left behind him at his death in 492, a band of well-educated, devoted men, who greatly venerated their master and sought to follow in his footsteps. The fame of Ireland for its monasteries, missionary schools, and as the seat of pure scriptural teaching, rose so high, that it received the honorable appellation of "The isle of saints." On the testimony of Bede we learn that, about the middle of the seventh century, many of the Anglo-Saxon nobles and clergy repaired to Ireland, either for instruction, or for an opportunity of living in monasteries of a stricter discipline.
We have already noticed the labors of the Irish clergy as missionaries. The Culdees of Iona owed their origin as a Christian community to the preaching of the Irish apostle Columba. Britain, France, Germany, the low countries, and different parts of the continent of Europe, were mainly indebted to Irish missionaries for their first acquaintance with divine truth. Charlemagne, himself a man of letters, invited to his court various eminent scholars from different countries, but especially from Ireland. For many ages she maintained her independence of Rome, rejected all foreign control, and acknowledged Christ only as Head of the church. But the invasion of the Danes about the beginning of the ninth century, and their occupation of the country, quenched the light, and changed the character of "the isle of saints." These piratical and predatory hordes wasted her fields, slew her sons, or dispossessed them of their inheritance, demolished her colleges, and maintained themselves in the country with the cruelty and arrogance of usurpers. Moral, spiritual, and literary darkness followed, and prepared the way for Romanism. Up till this time religious institutions, and the labors of the ecclesiastics, form the chief subjects of her history; but since then, intestine wars, turbulence, crime, and desolation.
Various attempts had been made by Roman pontiffs to subject the Irish church to the See of Rome, but without success until the reign of Pope Adrian IV. He was an Englishman, known by the name of Nicolas Breakspear; born in poverty and obscurity, he became a monk of St. Alban's, and was afterwards elevated in the revolution of human affairs, to the pontifical dignity. Though suddenly raised from indigence to opulence, his pride and arrogance were extreme. He took great offense at the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa for omitting to hold his stirrup, and refused to give him the kiss of peace. Frederic declared that the omission was the result of ignorance, and, submitting to the service as equerry to his Holiness, was forgiven, and received the kiss.
Amongst the earliest acts of this modest pontiff, was the assumption of authority over Ireland, and making a grant of it to Henry II., king of England. The ground on which the pope rested his right to make this grant was thus expressed: "For it is undeniable, and your majesty acknowledges it, that all islands on which Christ the sun of righteousness hath shined, and which have received the Christian faith, belong of right to St. Peter and the most holy Roman church." In virtue of this right, he authorizes Henry to invade Ireland with a view to the extension of the church, the increase of religion and virtue, and eradicating the tares of vice from the garden of the Lord; on condition that a penny shall be yearly paid from each house to the See of Rome.
From this period, 1155, the Irish church came to be essentially Romish in its doctrines, constitution, and discipline. Long before the Reformation, "Nearly six hundred monastic establishments, belonging to eighteen different orders, were scattered over the entire face of the country. Ghostly friars, black, white and grey, swarmed in countless multitudes, practicing upon an ignorant and deluded people." In 1172, Henry completed his conquest of the country; an assembly of the Irish clergy convened at Waterford, submitted to the papal dictation, proclaimed Henry's title to the sovereign dominion of Ireland, and took the oath of fidelity to himself and his successors. Rapid declension now marked the church in Ireland. Her far-famed spirituality and intelligence were gone. At one time she had about three hundred bishops; at the dawn of the Reformation, we believe the number was under thirty. Jealousies, contentions, and rebellions, have blotted almost every page of her history, both civil and ecclesiastical, from the ninth to the present century.
CHRISTIANITY IN SCOTLAND
We have already seen, that the Roman clergy experienced great difficulty in obtaining a permanent footing in Scotland. The Culdees — whom we are disposed to honor for their works' sake — continued for centuries to resist the encroachments of popery and to maintain their ground, notwithstanding all the efforts put forth by the church of Rome to crush and exterminate them. For they held fast by the word of God, like the reformers of a later day, as the only infallible guide and authority in all matters of faith and practice. Even Bede, the monk historian, in candor admits that "Columba and his disciples would receive those things only which are contained in the writings of the prophets, evangelists, and apostles; diligently observing the works of piety and virtue." But Rome at length triumphed: the faithful Culdees, long oppressed, diminished in numbers, weakened in energy, through the sorceries of Jezebel, disappear from the page of history, and Scotland is again enshrouded in darkness and superstition. Monasteries rose rapidly, and soon overshadowed all the land; and as they reached a height of wealth and power, unsurpassed in any other portion of Europe, we must give them a brief examination.
The great mania for enriching churches began with Charlemagne: Alfred the Great imitated his example, and soon all Christendom was infected by this superstition. In the person of Margaret, the Saxon princess, it traveled northward. The invasion and conquest of England by the Normans, and the establishment of a new dynasty in that country, produced the most important effects on the history of the church in Scotland. Many of the Saxons fled into Scotland to escape from their new masters; and among others Margaret, who became the wife of the Scottish king, Malcolm III, and the mother of Alexander I, a powerful and vigorous prince, and of David I, who was a bigoted supporter of Romanism. Margaret's piety, charity, and ascetic life are celebrated with enthusiasm by her confessor and biographer, Turgot, a monk of Durham, and bishop of St. Andrew's. Malcolm, animated by the devout spirit of his beloved wife, made some donations to the church; but the royal munificence of his son David in the endowment of bishoprics and abbeys has been rewarded by the praise of all monastic writers, although James I. speaks of him as "a sore saint to the crown." Yet his extravagant superstition tended not only to impoverish the crown, but to the oppressive taxation of the people. "He founded the bishoprics of Glasgow, Brechin, Dunkeld, Dumblane, Ross, and Caithness... The same pious liberality called into existence a multitude of abbacies, priories, and nunneries; and monks of every order and in every
The superior civilization of the Anglo-Saxon refugees, and their attachment to the English hierarchy, tended greatly to its establishment in Scotland. The Celtic element was depressed, while the Court took an English tone and character. From this period, we are informed, a stream of Saxon and Norman settlers poured into Scotland. They soon acquired the most fertile districts from the Tweed to the Pentland Firth; and almost every noble family in Scotland now traces from them its descent. These new proprietors, following the example of the monarch, lavished their riches on the church. The passion to found and endow monasteries became so great, that long before the Reformation, there were upwards of a hundred monasteries spread over the country, and more than twenty convents for the reception of nuns.
A brief sketch of two or three of these religious houses may not be uninteresting to the reader; which will also show the state of things introduced by the Romish hierarchy into that once simple and primitive country. The statistics are taken from Mr. Cunningham's history.
Jedburgh, one of the noblest abbeys in Scotland, was held by the red friars. Among the donations made to it by a succession of pious benefactors, we find — the tithe of the king's hunting in Teviotdale, a house in Roxburgh, a house in Berwick, pasture for the monks' cattle along with those of the king, timber from the royal forests according to their wants, the multure of the mill — a measure of corn — from all the men of Jedburgh, a saltpan near Stirling, exemption from any exaction on their tuns of wine, a fishing in the Tweed, acres, ploughgates and exgangs of land, with a villein to till, and several parish churches, with their tithes and other revenues. They followed the rule of St. Augustine, which bound them to devote the first part of the day to labor, and the remainder to reading and devotion.
Paisley — The Abbey of Paisley was anciently one of the richest religious houses in Scotland. It was founded by Walter Fitz-Allan, the high steward, about the year 1160, for Cluniac monks, who followed the order of St.
Benedict. They were first located at Renfrew, but afterwards removed to Paisley, and were soon richly endowed by the pious liberality of successive high stewards, and by some of the great lords of Lennox and the Isles. In the thirteenth century, they were in possession of thirty parish churches, with all their revenues; and about two-thirds of the whole soil of the extensive parish of Paisley had passed into their hands, with acres and ploughgates in almost every district in the west of Scotland. The stewards had moreover given them the tithe of their hunting, and the skins of all the deer taken in the adjoining forests, pasture for their cattle, a mill at Paisley, a salmon-net in the Clyde at Renfrew, a fishing at Lochwinnoch, the liberty of quarrying both building stones and lime stones for burning at Blackhall and elsewhere, of digging coal for the use of their monasteries, its granges, smithies, and brew-houses, of making charcoal of dead wood, and of cutting turf for covering in the charcoal, of green wood for their monasteries and grange buildings, and for all operations of agriculture and fishing.
Such were the monks, and such their revenues in those days. They might well rejoice in the abundance of all the good things of this life; but the parish priest, strange to say, was left in a state of poverty and dependence. The revenues of the parish were appropriated by the bishops and religious houses, so that a very scanty income was reserved for the parochial clergy. All went to fatten the idle friars; who, whatever their primitive virtues may have been, were now the scandal of the church. At the time of the Reformation, of the thousand parishes in Scotland, about seven hundred had been appropriated to bishops and religious houses. The more thorough and regular division of the country into parishes and dioceses took place about the beginning of the twelfth century.
Some of our youthful readers may be disposed to inquire, why it was that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries more especially, the kings and nobles of the earth strove with each other to enrich the church. Many causes combined to produce this state of things. The feudal charters in those days were signed with the king's +, as he could not write his own name; and all his subjects were rude, ignorant, and superstitious. The monks and friars had a high reputation, as we have frequently noticed in our history, for superior holiness, for the fervor of their devotions, and the austerity of their lives. These things attracted the attention and won the veneration of a credulous and superstitious age. Besides, the donor was assured that his donations would secure the repose of his soul after death, which then meant eternal life. It was by means of this great religious imposture that the clergy attained to such a degree of opulence and power; that the rich became their worshippers, and built them those beautiful houses, the very ruins of which still attract the traveler, and excite his admiration."
Before the Reformation, according to the most trustworthy accounts, more than the half of the wealth of Scotland belonged to the clergy, and the greater part of this was in the hands of a few individuals. The effect of such a state of things, as it has always been in every age and country, was the corruption of the whole order of the clergy, and of the whole system of religion. "Avarice, ambition, and the love of secular pomp, reigned among the superior orders. Bishops and abbots rivalled the first nobility in magnificence, and preceded them in honors; they were privy councillors, and lords of session as well as of parliament, and had long engrossed the principal offices of state. A vacant bishopric or abbacy called forth powerful competitors, who contended for it as for a principality or petty kingdom. Inferior benefices were openly put to sale, or bestowed on the illiterate and unworthy minions of courtiers; on dice-players, strolling bards, and the natural sons of bishops. The bishops never, on any occasion, condescended to preach; from the erection of the regular Scottish Episcopacy down to the era of the Reformation, history mentions only one instance of a bishop preaching, and that was Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, for the purpose of excluding the Reformer, George Wishart."
The lives of the clergy, corrupted by wealth and ignorance, became such a scandal to religion, and such an outrage on decency, that we canner transfer the description of the most conscientious historian to our pages. But all historians are agreed, both Catholic and Protestant, that monasteries and all religious houses became the nurseries of superstition and idleness, and ultimately the haunts of lewdness and wickedness. Yet it was deemed impious and sacrilegious to speak of reducing their numbers or alienating their funds. "The kingdom swarmed with ignorant, idle, luxurious monks, who, like locusts, devoured the fruits of the earth, and filled the air with pestilential infection; with friars, white, black, and grey; canons regular, Carmelites, Carthusians, Cordeliers, Dominicans, Franciscan conventuals, and observantines, Jacobins, Premonstratensians, monks of Tyrone, and of Vailis Caulium, and Hospitallers, or Holy Knights of St. John of Jerusalem; nuns of St. Austin, St. Clair, St. Scholastica, and St. Catherine
Without an adequate knowledge of the state of Christendom before the Reformation, it would be impossible to form a just estimate of the necessity and importance of that most merciful revolution. At this distance of time and with such a changed state of society before us, it is difficult to believe that such enormous abuses then prevailed in the church. Of the doctrines of Christianity almost nothing remained but the name. At the same time we as firmly believe, that the Lord had His hidden ones — His true witnesses, who mourned over the evil ways and intolerance of the high and dominant party. The Lord Himself in His address to Thyatira, speaks of a remnant then in separation from the corruptions of Jezebel, and that their good works increased as the darkness thickened. "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." The lives, faith, and works of this remnant were no doubt regulated by the word of God; but this very circumstance ensured their obscurity, and their absence from the page of history. The silver line of God's sovereign grace could never be interrupted, and tens of thousands from the darkest ages shall reflect the glow of that grace for ever. In quietness they fulfilled their peaceful mission, and as peacefully passed off the scene, but left no record of their labors of love on the pages of the annalist. Not so with the proud, the ambitious, the fanatic, the hypocrite: all such stand prominent on the pages of ecclesiastical history. But there is another tribunal besides that of posterity before which both must stand, and be measured by God's own standard.
But we return to our theme — the state of religion in Scotland before the Reformation.
The word of God, which is able to make men wise unto salvation, was locked up from the people. Even the bishops were not ashamed to confess that they had never read any part of sacred scripture, except what they had met with in their missals. The religious service was mumbled over in a dead language, which many of the priests did not understand, and some of them could scarcely read; and the greatest care was taken to prevent even catechisms, composed and approved by the clergy, from coming into the hands of the laity. The sacrifice of the mass was represented as procuring forgiveness of sins to the living and the dead; and the consciences of men were withdrawn from the precious sacrifice — the finished work — of the Lord Jesus Christ, to a delusive reliance upon priestly absolutions, papal pardons, and voluntary penances.
"They were taught," says the eminent historian of John Knox, "that if they regularly said their aves and credos, confessed themselves to a priest, punctually paid their tithes and church-offerings, purchased a mass, went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of some celebrated saint, refrained from flesh on Fridays, or performed some other prescribed act of bodily mortification, their salvation was infallibly secured in due time; while those who were so rich and so pious as to build a chapel or an altar, and to endow it for the support of a priest, to perform masses, obits, and dirges, procured a relaxation of the pains of purgatory for themselves or their relatives, in proportion to the extent of their liberality. It is difficult for us to conceive how empty, ridiculous, and wretched those harangues were which the monks delivered as sermons. Legendary tales concerning the founder of some religious order, his wonderful sanctity, the miracles which he performed, his combats with the devil, his watchings, fastings, flagellations; the virtues of holy water, chrisre, crossing, and exorcism; the horrors of purgatory, and the numbers released from it by the intercession of some powerful saint; these, with low jests, table-talk, and fireside scandal, formed the favorite topics of the preachers, and were served up to the people instead of the pure, salutary, and sublime doctrines of the Bible.
"The beds of the dying were besieged, and their last moments disturbed, by avaricious priests, who labored to extort bequests to themselves or to the church. Not satisfied with exacting tithes from the living, a demand was made upon the dead: no sooner had the poor husbandman breathed his last, than the rapacious vicar came and carried off his corpse-present — or a present from the corpse to the vicar — which he did as often as death visited the family. Ecclesiastical censures were fulminated against those who were reluctant in making these payments, or who showed themselves disobedient to the clergy. Divine service was neglected; and, except on festival days, the churches, in many parts of the country, were no longer employed for sacred purposes, but served as sanctuaries for malefactors, places of traffic, or resorts for pastime.
"Persecution, and the suppression of free inquiry, were the only weapons by which its interested supporters were able to defend this system of corruption and imposture. Every avenue by which truth might enter was carefully guarded. Learning was branded as the parent of heresy. If any person, who had attained a degree of illumination amidst the general darkness, began to hint dissatisfaction with the conduct of churchmen, and to propose the corrections of abuses, he was immediately stigmatised as a heretic, and, if he did not secure his safety by flight, was immured in a dungeon, or committed to the flames. And when at last, in spite of all their precautions, the light which was shining around did break in and spread through the nation, the clergy prepared to adopt the most desperate and bloody measures for its extinction."
It will now be unnecessary to trace the origin and progress of popery in other lands. The above sketch of the condition of things in Scotland, from the thirteenth till the sixteenth century, may be sufficient to illustrate the state of all Europe, and for the purpose of history. As a system it is the same in all ages and in all countries. Its grand dogma has ever been — the Unity of the Roman Catholic Church. Whether it be in the immediate vicinity of Rome or in the far distant regions of the north, its spirit is the same, and must be so, until it comes to its end by the direct judgment of the Lord Himself from heaven
"How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." (Re 18:7-8.)
From the time of Innocent III. Roman Catholic writers boast of the missionary zeal of the mendicant orders. They are spoken of as most assiduous in visiting prisons, hospitals, and places of imminent peril, in caring for the spiritual wants of the poor; and that they were also the most active servants of the church in the propagation of Christianity among remote and savage nations. So far this appears to have been the case in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; but as all history goes to prove, that these mendicants were the most zealous agents of the Holy See in all its ambitious schemes and worst practices throughout Christendom, it is difficult to give them credit for pure Christian zeal. From the methods they pursued and the results of their missions, it is more than obvious that they had chiefly in view their own advancement or the extension of the papal sovereignty. Still, there may have been pious men amongst them, who were animated by higher motives, and labored with disinterested devotion; and as the vices of the mendicants in general are notorious, we should be glad to record all the good of them we can.
From the time of the religious wars of Charlemagne to the exterminating wars in Languedoc, the Roman missionaries usually preached the gospel of peace at the head of an army headed by bishops, and laid the pathway for its reception open by the sword; but in the thirteenth century, pious missionary bands of Dominicans and Franciscans were sent by the Roman pontiffs to the Chinese, the Tartars, and the adjacent countries. Large numbers among these nations professed the Christian faith. John of Monte Corvino, a Franciscan, was distinguished by the success of his labors; and in 1307 Clement V. erected an archiepiscopal see at Cambalu, that is, Pekin, the modem capital of China. The same pontiff sent seven other bishops, also Franciscans, into those regions; and this distant branch of the hierarchy was carefully nourished by succeeding pontiffs. "So long as the Tartar empire in China continued, not only the Latins, but the Nestorians also had liberty to profess their religion freely all over northern Asia, and to propagate it far and wide. But that most potent emperor of the Tartars, Timur-Bec, having embraced Mahometanism, persecuted with violence and the sword all who adhered to the Christian religion. The nation of the Tartars, in which such numbers once professed Christianity, universally submitted to the Koran. Thus the Christian religion was overthrown in those parts of Asia inhabited by the Chinese, the Tartars, the Moguls, and other nations, whose history is yet imperfectly known. At least no mention has been found of any Latin Christians resident in those countries, subsequent to the year 1370. But of the Nestortans living in China, some traces can be found, though not very clear, as late as the sixteenth century."
Among the European princes, Jagello, duke of Lithuania, Poland, was nearly the only one that still adhered to the idolatry of his ancestors. And he, in the year 1386, embraced the Christian rites, was baptized, and persuaded his subjects to do the same thing. What remains there were of the old religions in Prussia and Livonia, were extirpated by the Teutonic knights and crusaders with war and massacres. In Spain the Saracens still held the sovereignty of Granada, Andalucia, and Murcia; and against them the Christian kings of Castile, Arragon, and Navarre, waged perpetual war; and, though with difficulty, triumphed, and became sole masters of Spain
REFLECTIONS ON THE HISTORY OF POPERY
We have traced, however briefly, the origin, progress, and loftiest height of the papal system. This was reached by the great abilities of Innocent III. But how varied and full of all contrarieties and contradictions is that marvellous and mysterious history! We pause for a moment to reflect on the hypocrisies and tyrannies, the assumed piety and positive cruelty, of that woman Jezebel. It was she who sent the choicest of her children in early times to dwell in the lonely mountain cave or the secret cloister, under the pretense of there peacefully contemplating the glory of God and being transformed to His image. But again we hear her with altered voice rallying the myriad hosts of Europe to go forth and rescue the Holy Land from the foul grasp of the uncircumcised Philistines, and defend the banner of the cross on the holy sepulchre. Now she becomes callous to the common feelings; of nature, insensible to the miseries of mankind, and stained with the blood of millions. For two hundred years she employed all her power in promoting the destruction of human life by the ruinous expeditions to the Holy Land. And as each successive Crusade proved more hopeless and disastrous than the former, she redoubled her exertions to renew and peiloetuate those scenes of unequalled folly, suffering, and bloodshed.
But turn again and behold the double aspect of her character at the same moment. When the Crusaders came in sight of Jerusalem they alighted from their horses, and uncovered their feet, that they might approach the sacred walls as true pilgrims. Loud shouts were raised, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! as if holy fear were moving their hearts. But when the governor offered to admit them as peaceful pilgrims, they refused. No, they were determined to open their way with their swords, and to wrest by military ardor the holy city from the hands of the unbelievers. Hardly had they scaled the wails when they rushed forth to the indiscriminate massacre of Mahometans and Jews, and filled the holy places with blood. And then, for a little while, the work of carnage and plunder was suspended, that the pious pilgrims might perform their devotions; but the places on which they came to kneel in adoration were covered with slaughtered heaps. This is a true picture of the spirit and character of Jezebel as manifested in all ages and countries. When Dominic himself grew ashamed of the bloodstained missionaries of Innocent in Languedoc, having seen thousands of the peaceful peasantry murdered in cold blood, he retired to a church and prayed for the success of the good cause; and the victories of Montfort and his ruffians were attributed to the prayers of the saintly-minded Spaniard. This was a crusade, not against Turks and Infidels, but against the saints of the Lord, because they dared to speak of certain abuses in holy mother church. And, the more effectually to chastise her children, she invented the Inquisition, that engine of domestic persecution, torture, and death.
And, strange as it may seem now-a-days, and cruel beyond all compare, wholesale destruction of human life and property was the very life-blood of popery. She grew rich by appropriating the contributions that were raised for the purposes of the Crusades; and she grew strong through weakening the monarchs of Europe by exhausting their treasures and depopulating their countries. Thus was the papal zeal inflamed to a burning passion for the Crusaders; and thus it passed from Urban II. and the Council of Clermont down to his successors. Every thought of the papal mind, every feeling of the papal heart, every mandate that issued from the Vatican, had but one object in view — the enriching and strengthening of the Roman See. No matter how subversive of all peace, how baneful to all society, she pursued her own interests with a callous uncompromising obduracy. Excommunications were used for the same purposes of papal aggrandisement. "The heretic forfeited not only all dignities, rights, privileges, immunities, even all property, all protection of law; he was to be pursued, taken, despoiled, put to death, either by the ordinary course of justice — the temporal authority was bound to execute, even to blood, the sentence of the ecclesiastical court — or if he dared to resist by any means whatever, however peaceful, he was an insurgent, against whom the whole of Christendom might, or rather was bound, at the summons of the spiritual power, to declare war; his estates, even his dominions if a sovereign, were not merely liable to forfeiture, but the church assumed the power of awarding the forfeiture, as it might seem best to her wisdom.
"The army which should execute the mandate of the pope was the army of the church, and the banner of that army was the cross of Christ. So began crusades, not on the contested borders of Christendom, not in Mahometan or heathen lands, in Palestine, on the shores of the Nile, among the Livonian forests or the sands of the Baltic, but in the very bosom of Christendom; not among the implacable partisans of an antagonistic creed, but on the soil of catholic France, among those who still called themselves by the
Such was, and is, and ever must be, the spirit and character of the church of Rome. How dark the picture! How sad the reflection, that she who calls herself the true church of God, the holy mother of His children, and the representative of Christ on earth, should have been transformed, by Satanic agencies, into a monster of the most sickening hypocrisies, and "abominable idolatries!" She became the foster-mother of the most open, unbounded, saint, relic, picture, and image worship — of the theory of transubstantiation, and the practice of the confessional. Outwardly her unscrupulous ambition for secular glow, her intolerance in persecuting to extermination all who ventured to dispute her authority, her insatiable thirst for human blood, have no parallel in the most barbarous ages of heathenism.
And is this the church, thou mayest well exclaim in thy reflections — is this the church that so many are joining in the present day? Yes, alas, alas; and so many of the upper and intelligent classes! Such conversions, surely, can only be the fruit of the blinding power of Satan, the god of this world. (2Co 4:3-4.) Many young ladies from the best families in England have submitted, in blind devotion, to be shorn of their natural covering, and imprisoned in a nunnery for life; and many of the aristocracy, both lay and clerical, have joined the communion of the Romish church. But she is not changed: the change is with those whose light has become darkness, according to the word of the prophet:
"Give glory to the Lord your God, before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness." (Jer 13:16.)
As she was in the days of Gregory VII., Innocent III., Cardinal Pole, and bloody Mary, so is she today as to her spirit, had she only the power. But what must be the guilt of the English converts, with the New Testament before them and seeing the contrast between the blessed Lord and His apostles, and the pope and his clergy; between the grace and mercy of the gospel, and the intolerance and cruelty of popery! Rather let my reader remember the exhortation,
"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues... for by her sorceries were all nations deceived; And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." (Revelation 18.)
Chapter 28 - The Decline of Papal Power