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THE PRESENT POSITION AND ASPECTS OF
AND THB DUTY OF
EXPOSING THE ERRORS OF PAPAL ROME.
FIRST DELIVERED IN SHEFFIELD,
DECEMBER 12, 1839,
AND AFTERWARDS IN YORK, MANCHESTER,
BY JAMES DIXON.
PEART, BIRMINGHAM: AND MAY BE HAD OF ALL ROOKSELLEKS.
is. And the rest of the men, which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented
not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood: which neither can see, por ihear, nor walk : weither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, vor of their thefts.”—Rev. ix., 20, 21.
« THE PRESENT POSITION AND ASPECTS OF POPERY, AND THE DUTY OF EXPOSING THE ERRORS OF PAPAL RONE," are the terms which designate the Lecture I'am called upon to deliver. Neither the place I occupy, as the first, in the order of time, to commence this new and somewhat responsible course ; nor the topics I am about to handle, are of my own selection. However, being urged by the voice of my brethren to treat the subject they have selected, no choice remains; they have a right to my most cheerful obedience to their call, and on such a subject it is accorded with much readiness, though with an unfeigned impression of great inadequacy for the task.
Advantages and difficulties, both, arise out of the general and somewhat discursive nature of the topics selected for consideration. The advantages consist in the scope which is afforded for extended remark and discussion ; the difficulties are, those of selection, accuracy of observation, and a just and sober analysis of facts, principles, and opinions as they present themselves in the ever-moving panorama of public affairs. It is also requisite to guard against anything approaching to a false estimate of danger on the one hand, or of means of defence on the other; of the morbid spirit of the alarmist, who can behold nothing but the imps and fairies of the Popish limbo rising, flitting, and performing their task of desolation in every storm which descends in darkness on our earth ; or, on the other hand, of
slupid and purblind imperception of real danger.
It is essential, to a true estimate of the power of Popery to do mischief in the world, to ascertain its internal state.
Any institution, whether existing for civil or religious purposes, must be powerful for the accomplishment of its proposed objects, primarily, from its internal organization, the spirit by which it is animated, the number and character of persons comprising its devoted partisans, and the talent, judgment, courage, and perseverance by which its machinery is made to work on the contemplated result. Å series of accidents, auspicious times, the clasking and shifting policy of parties, the repose of peace, or the casualties and changes produced by war, together with innumerable other circumstances, may further or
retard the progress of such an institution for a season, but it must depend mainly on the innate strength of its own body. The means possessed by Popery to maintain her assumed ascendency, to enforce her laws and establish her hierarchy, in this and other states, to place her yoke of despotism on the necks of a prostrate and enslaved world, and to cause her superstition, like the darkness of night, to obscure and put out those lights which the Bible, faithful preaching, the Christian education of ihe people, and the noble spirit of piety which true religion have united to create amongst us--we say, the power to effect all this, must depend, humanly speaking, on the organization of the Romish Church itself. Our facilities of arriving at an accurate knowledge of the real power of Popery, together with the kind of agency she employs, and the means she adopts to carry out her schemes of aggrandizement, are necessarily limited. Her system is secret ; she moves in the da.k, a visor is on her countenance, and she only reveals just so many facts as may emblazon her own fame, and encourage her disciples. However, these precautions are now, in consequence, it is presumed, of the progress already made, and the prospect of certain, universal, and final triumph before her, beginning to give way, and the veil is partially removed. Froin her own publications, together with the evidence of sense and fact, we invite you to the following particulars respecting the present position and aspects of Popery :
1. THERE IS EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT POPERY, AS A RELIGIOUS SENTIMENT AND FEELING, HAS GREATLY REVIVED, AND BEEN MUCH STRENGTHENED, IN RECENT TIMES, AMONGST ITS OWN DISCIPLES,
We now find a warmth of enthusiasın, of zeal, and of devotedness, both amongst the Clergy and Laity of this community, which were not witnessed in ancient times. This is unquestioned as to the fact. Every Roman Catholic we now meet with, however poor in his circumstances, servile in his occupation, or dependent in his condition, is found well instructed in the dogmas of his religion,' a confessor in his spirit, and by all the humble means in his power, prepared to support and extend the power of the Church to which he is attached.
Now, the difficulty is to account for the phenomenon, that a religious principle and feeling can grow up in the midst of ignorance and vice.' Weil may it be felt as a difficulty by all those who are only accustomed to associate feeling, principle, devotedness, and suffering in a religious cause, to personal piety, the power of God, the animating hopes of immortality, and the grace of ihe Saviour in the heart. You must recollect, my dear Brethren, that there is a false as well as a true religion ; that there is such a thing as superştition as well as a pure faith ; that the sympathies of the soul may be enlisted on the side of phantoms, and of imaginary powers, as well as on the side of God and his truth; and that it is just as possible to petrily man through his fears, and thus fasten him down as a statue in midst of the idols he adores, as to melt, purify, and exalt him, through the medium of his sanctified affections.
Then, by a growing zeal for religion in the Roman Catholic Church,
is meant, au increased enthusiasm on the part of its disciples for its peculiar doctrines and services. It is believed that the external exeriions of the Church, are animated and sustained by a corresponding vivification, impulse, and power within. That instead of being decayed, rotten, and ready to perish, by the superincumbent weight of its own enormous corruptions, these corruptions are in a course of concentration, ihe evil elements are heating into a state of fusion, and assuming new forms of mischief and misery-if, indeed, a system which has employed the ingenuity of more than a dozen centuries to produce monsters of both-can by possibility originate any thing new. And, moreover, that which has been much relied upon as a remedy, viz: an increased knowledge of principles of general truth, together with the relations, obligations, and duties of men both to God and each other, has entirely failed. It follows, that if general knowledge fails to wean men, and by consequence a nation, froin the superstitions, idolatries, falsehoods, contradictions, and fallacies of Popery, it fails in establishing the very first principle of religious truth in the mind. It may well produce conviction of the inefficiency of mere huinan science to emancipate the mind from its thraldom, when with all their means of information, and the boastful perfection of a worldly philosophy, the disciples of Popery are still seen to press to her shrines. The fact is unquestioned, that a greater number of minds within the pale of the Popish Church, are imbued with the hideouš doctrines of her system, than has been the case for many ages. It is a question, indeed, whether at any time so many of the people were ever so thoroughly brought under the power and influence of their dogmas. In the middle ages, and in countries where the Papacy reigned in simple and undisputed sovereignty, the system existed more as a negation than as a principle. If the people were kept from heresy, guarded against the encroachments of the Protestant wolf, remained within the circle of the hierarchy, and obeyed the mandates of the Priesthood, neither numerous, nor irksome, all was left in peace. Nothing was necessary to this, but the absence of a stray spirit. But recent times and events have taught the Priesthood that a mere fence and enclosure could not keep their flocks. They have discovered that their people could not be held to their allegiance by a set of prohibitionis. Hence, with great industry, they have given themselves to the task of inoculating them, and especially at the period of childhood, with all the dogmas of the Church.
These dogmas have great power, though, generally speaking, false in sentiment, or at least only a partial exposition of the truth. Indeed, the poor Roman Catholic is disarmed and rendered utterly powerless at the threshold of his initiatory course.
He is met by two assumptions which effectually do this. He is first taught that his instructor is infallible, and possesses the unquestionable right to propound all articles of faith ; and then, secondly, that he, the disciple, has no right to exercise his own private judgment.
All the rest will follow as a matter of course. Once fully possessed by these two principles, of this masterpiece of diabolical knavery, it must be perfectly easy to fill the mind, even to satiety, with all the other salsehoods of