Obrázky stránek

jury. We therefore desire to be enabled to exclude them by tests which can exclude only those who are incapable of deceiving us or forswearing themselves.

We make treaties with Austria, Spain, France, Italy, and the young republics of South America; we toast "No Popery," as long as we can stammer, in wine, (ungrateful as we are,) the very creature of a treaty with Portugal; and thus we admit that engagements are binding on them. In our own country we act on the testimony of Catholics in cases affecting even life; and thus we admit that oaths are binding on them. We established and endowed the Roman Catholic religion in Canada, and equality of privilege has been given to it in Hanover by the same august Personage that sways the sceptre of these realms; and thus it is admitted that there is nothing in that religion to interfere with the allegiance of subjects to His Majesty's person and government.

But a Roman Catholic is an idolater! In whatever terms a direct and total denial of a fact can be the most distinctly expressed, in those will I as a Protestant deny and repel this outrageous imputation on my fellow Christians of the Roman Catholic persuasion. In one sense, indeed, I do hold the adoration of the Consecrated Elements in the sacrifice of the Mass to be idolatrous: that is, disbelieving as I do the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and not being able to discover authority for addressing the throne of God through the intercession of Saints, in me such acts would be idolatrous. But in Catholics, who believe in the efficacy of such intercession, it is the more reverential approach to the Deity through those means, and therefore not idolatry;-in Catholics, who believe in the actual bodily presence of the Deity in the bread and wine, it is the worship of the Deity in those elements, and therefore not idolatry. But, as a specimen of the tone and temper in which some persons permit themselves to indulge on these subjects, here is a monstrous creed of three parts, to which both you and I have in our time heard it roundly asserted that every Roman Catholic in Christendom subscribes a creed that enjoins idolatry; a creed that annuls all bond of good faith entered into with heretics; a creed that justifies the deposal or assassination of heretic princes. Suppose such a charge were published against any individual of that persuasion. Let us suppose a libel published, not against the Duke of Norfolk, nor Lord Shrewsbury, nor Lord Arundel, nor any of those great historical names the very mention of which has too much the sound of declamation, but published against the poorest, meanest, most unknown man in England. That he is an idolater; which, if believed, would subject him to contempt and reprobation from all who worship an eternal invisible God. That he regards not the obligation of his word or his oath; which, if

believed, would banish him from all trust and communion with his fellow-creatures. That he only waits the occasion for treason or murder; the greatest of crimes against society, and the only crimes against which our law pronounces a sentence extending beyond death itself. Is there any doubt that in the Court of King's Bench any jury would inflict on such a libeller the severest penalty by which the law of England protects the fortunes and fame of those who live within its influence? The libeller, then, whose fate this would inevitably be if he were so to malign any one human being, is unpunished only when he proclaims the slander against seven millions and more of British subjects. Idolatry is the breach of the first and second Commandments; murder is the breach of the sixth; injustice and fraud of the eighth. The wilful, deliberate, habitual rejection of four Commandments is a serious imputation to cast on about nineteen-twentieths of the Christian world. We should do well to remember, that on the same Divine Authority, and in the same Decalogue, there is another Commandment," Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

But we are invited to look at certain ancient Bulls of Popes, and Canons of Councils, and Apophthegms of Popish doctors. I have occasionally so done; very superficially, certainly; but, if I had never seen one, I should esteem myself, with regard to the question we are considering, to have made by so much a more profitable use of my time; and, with respect to any practical inference, I say it not carelessly nor flippantly, but very much in sober earnest, that I think it matter of very unnecessary solicitude what they may contain. It appears to me more reasonable to judge men by the evidence of their conduct than by that of imputed tenets of discipline, adopted, if ever adopted at all, in times of much fury, retained, perhaps, in a spirit of some obstinacy aggravated by persecution, and construed by us without much allowance for the spirit of the times, or even for the idiom of the language in which they were delivered. Let us make it our own case. The Church of England would repel with anger and scorn, and most justly, any attempt to fix on her the doctrine of Exclusive Salvation; although the accusing party were to refer to a declaration which we are enjoined to make publicly fourteen times in the year, pronouncing that all who differ from us in our human definition of a divine mystery," without doubt shall perish everlastingly." The Church of England would repel with anger and scorn, and most justly, any attempt to fix on her the doctrine of a power of Unconditional Absolution in her priests; although the accusing party were to refer to the wording of an absolution which she originally derived from the Romish Church,

but which she uses with this singular difference, that in the Romish service there is a material condition expressed, which, in the service of the Church of England, has been omitted. Do I say this in reproach of our Church? Indeed I do not. I hope I am as firm in my attachment to the reformed religion, as those whose protestantism is of a more exclusive character. But I believe that there never was a code of Church discipline established and upheld by human institution, however purified by the efforts of good men, that can bear to have every part of its history, nay of its written law, critically and hostilely commented on.


I wish to direct Protestant attention particularly to the following vow, to be found, doubtless to our great scandal and peril, on the books of an order which has long subsisted, and still subsists, in this land. It is taken by each member on his admission: "That well and truly he shall accomplish and entertain all the statutes, points, and ordinances; and of all this shall make a general oath, all and so as if they were read to him from point to point, and from article to article, swearing and promising on the Holy Gospels for to keep and entertain them, without any fraud or delusion, and on this he shall touch the book, and kiss the cross. Among these ordinances, so deeply sworn to, I find that, having duly kept, by processions, &c. the feasts and vigils of certain saints (unless such feasts, &c. "should fall out on any fish-day or fasting-day," or interfere with "divine service ordained by the Holy Church for the double feasts of St. Mark, Philip, or Jacob, or the invention of the Holy Cross,") every member is bound, on the feast of the patron saint of the order, to "go and hear divine service solemnly sung for the souls of all the members of the order which be departed and deceased, and for all Christian souls." Also, that thirteen clerks and thirteen choristers are now maintained, in this Protestant land, and in a county adjoining to our own, and fearfully near to the person of his most sacred Majesty himself, at the charge of the same order, "for to sing and to pray unto God for the prosperity of the order, and also for the souls of all the order departed, and for all Christian souls." To these Popish observances, a great number of the first men of this country, (some of whose names would be thought a sufficient security against such encroachments,) are bound by solemn and

Form of Absolution in the service for the Visitation of the Sick. After exhortation to confession, and setting forth God's mercy to those who repent, it proceeds, “And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name, &c." In the Romish service, throughout, there is no form of Absolution to which, in the body of the absolving clause itself, this condition is not annexed; "as far as I have power, and thou hast need."

stringent oath "for to keep and entertain them without fraud or delusion," except in such, from which, by a later provision, they "shall have received a dispensation" from the supreme head of the order. And no dispensation from these observances, as I find on anxious inquiry, is ever given, although (what makes it worse) dispensations are regularly given on other minor points, by no means affecting any of these religious duties, under the whole weight of which, therefore, the members of this order are left." This is not the society of Jesuits at Stoneyhurst, nor, as I am credibly informed, are the principal obligations of this oath observed. But why are they not? and why are the illustrious members of this order not therefore held perjured? Why, because we do not judge men by words only, but by the fair, honest, customary meaning of an engagement, as explained by the genius of the times, and explained by the known interpretation put on it by the parties who undertake, and by those who impose it. I only ask the same liberal interpretation of the obsolete obligations of alt other Popish ordinances.

In stating opinions on a general and elementary view of so large a subject as this, it is difficult to keep within the limits of a few of the principal objections popularly urged by our adversaries. To take, one by one, all that, at different times, have been grounded on irrelevant apprehensions, on inconclusive premises, or on imperfect or untrue information, is a task to which, fortunately for the patience of readers, the memory of the writer cannot extend. Am I desired to say one word on that strangest of all grounds of hesitation, the wording of the Coronation Oath? I should think not; plainly because the Coronation Oath cannot be tortured into bearing any reference to this, or to any other question that can ever become matter of legislative interference. It is among those observations which no man can be found to make, who has the slightest recollection of what the station is that the sovereign of England bears in the constitution, as one of the three legislative powers of the realm, or who has ever read that Oath itself, and the debates on its framing and enactment. I will say, then, on this subject, one word only, and it shall be one of reference. I refer to the debates of those who framed the Oath, to show that, though such a cavil was not unforeseen by them, it was dismissed as too flimsy to call for even a proviso, and that Mr. Somers, Mr. Finch, Mr. Treby, Sir Robert Sawyer, Mr. Hampden, and your own ancestor, Sir Thomas Lee, and all the others who took a part in that great discussion, although differing as to

See the oath of the Knights Companions of the Order of the Garter. Statute 12, et seq.


the mode of wording the oath, yet were unanimous in their opinion of the absurdity of supposing that any one of the three branches of the legislature could bind itself by oath against passing any bill that might hereafter at any time appear to be just or expedient to the Commonwealth. The Coronation Oath merely obliges the sovereign, as the first magistrate in the state, to observe and execute the laws; and an amendment and proviso were rejected by those to whom we must look as first authority to expound,namely the framers of it,-distinctly on this ground, that "it cannot be imagined that any bill from parliament can ever go to destroy the legislative power."

And here I take leave of the subject of the objections the most generally urged, on which if I have been tedious I cannot consent to take more than one-half of the blame, dividing it with those by whom such objections are generally put forward.

We may, I think, collect from what we know of the ordinary feelings of men, that, by admitting all to a community of political benefits, we should remove a material impediment that now presents itself to the advances of proselytism to our established mode of worship; particularly assuming, as we do, that it is the purest, and that the disfranchised mode is supported only by superstition and priestcraft. By external pressure and restraint things are compacted as well in the moral as in the physical world. Where a sect is at spiritual variance with the Established Church, it only requires an abridgment of civil privileges to render it at once a political faction. Its members become instantly pledged, some from enthusiasm, some from resentment, and many from honorable shame, to cleave with desperate fondness to the suffering fortunes of an hereditary religion. Is this human nature, or is it not? Is it a natural or an unnatural feeling for the representative of an ancient Roman Catholic family, even if in his heart he rejected the controverted tenets of his early faith, to scorn an open conformity to ours, so long as such conformity brings with it the irremovable suspicion that faith and conscience may have bowed to the base hope of temporal advantage. Every man must feel and act for himself: but, in my opinion, a good man might be put to difficulty to determine whether more harm is not done by the example of one changing his religion to his worldly advantage, than good by his openly professing conformity from what we think error to what we think truth. Whether, with no advantages of superior privilege, the Reformed Church would attract converts from

1 Debates on going into Committee of the House of Commons on the Coronation Oath, and on the third reading of the same, 1693.-Cobbett's Parliamentary History, vol. v. p. 199 et seq. and p. 208 et seq.

« PředchozíPokračovat »