have now elapsed, during every one of which the authority of the Roman see has successively declined. Slowly and silently receding from their claims to temporal power, the pontiffs hardly protect their dilapidated citadel from the revolutionary concussions of modern times, the rapacity of governments, and the growing averseness to ecclesiastical influence. But if thus bearded by unmannerly and threatening innovation, they should occasionally forget that cautious policy which necessity has proscribed, if they should attempt an unavailing expedient, to revive institutions which can be no longer operative, or principles that have died away, their defensive efforts will not be unnatural, nor ought to excite either indignation or alarm. A calm, comprehensive study of ecclesiastical history, not in such scraps and fragments as ordinary partisans of our ephemeral literature obtrude upon us, is perhaps the best antidote to extravagant apprehensions. Those who know what Rome has once been, are best able to appreciate what she is; those who have seen the thunderbolt in the hands of the Gregories and the Innocents, will hardly be intimidated at the sallies of decrepitude, the impotent dart of Priam amidst the crackling ruins of Troy?."

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

We now return to trace the peculiar object of this history, the remnant of true believers, for whose sakes we have just recorded a short summary of the most remarkable revolutions and occurrences in that part of the world where they are supposed chiefly to have sojourned. And we have in particular marked the origin and growth of that. Novel Power,' which so long made war against the saints, and overcame them, and which had been clearly predicted in the Scriptures, especially in the prophecies of Daniel and of the Revelation. In returning to our subject, we cannot but be struck with the scantiness of the materials which remain, directly bearing on the point we would investigate.

But besides the common cause that may be assigned

' History of the Middle Ages, vol.ii. p. 124.

for this silence of general history concerning the annals of the poor, and the records of private life, where, for the most part, true religion is wont to manifest itself, we should be aware of a particular reason which may be expected to throw additional obscurity over this subject, in that particular period of history now under review.

It was signified by the Spirit of Prophecy, that there should come a season when the mystic woman, who had brought forth the man-child, - emblematical of the church after the nativity, when she receives the promised seed,-“ would have given to her the wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she should be nourished” “ for the space of twelve hundred and sixty years.” This seems to denote a more than ordinary concealment of the Holy Catholic church. That spiritual communion is, indeed, never an object completely defined to the sight, nor does it ever coincide exactly with the boundaries of the visible external church in the purest of times. She is always existing, however, to the eye of faith, sometimes indeed rendered discoverable, more or less, by the spiritual deeds of her children, and always known, in virtue of Christ's promise, not to have actually perished before the gates of hell. But now her abode is the wilderness ;' there she is nourished in secret, no longer counted among the nations;' and her children may be expected to be met with less frequently among the haunts of men—as strangers in disguise-or, as another Scripture has told us, as “ witnesses” “ that shall prophesy clothed in sackcloth.”

It belongs not to this work to discuss the important question, When the date of this mysterious prophecy is to be fixed, or whether the thousand years of which we are now treating, fall, with respect to their commencement, within the limits of its twelve hundred and sixty years ? I should rather incline to suppose, however, that this is the fact; and if, in treating of the rise and growth of the popedom, I have failed to mark, in the conflict, the precise time, and by whose hand, the abomination of desolation' was fixed in the holy place, our attention is soon awakened to the fact, that the colours of Antichrist are actually flying on the battlements of the temple, and that the new Gentile idolaters have already begun to trample under foot the holy city, which they had so long besieged.

Mr. Milner, who dates the commencement of this sad period later than most writers on this subject, observes, that “ Idolatry, spiritual tyranny, and the doctrine of the merit of works, the three discriminating marks of the papacy, had," at the beginning

of the seventh century, “as yet no settled establishment at Rome.” How abject the spirit of superstition was in the age

of Gregory, is sufficiently evident! At what period it became idolatrous in the eye of God, perhaps it is not for us to say ; the manifestation of the spiritual tyrant is reserved, probably; for the longer confirmed dominion of the foe who has already fought and conquered. And as for the doctrine of the merit of works,' it had, long before this period, impaired the benevolence of the Christian system, and in many hearts had overturned the foundation of the faith. And in measuring the reign of Antichrist, we are perhaps to take into the account, not only the erection of the papacy -- the masterpiece of the deceivableness of iniquitybut also much more of the general apostacy of the Christian church, which prepared the way for the man of sin,' and gave rise to him. In the notes below, taken from a most judicious protestant writer of our own church, it will appear, how widely extended has been that doctrine of merits, on which the papacy is built, as its foundation.

1“ They — the Roman catholics — teach, as we do, that although Christ, as God, be the efficient, and as man, the meritorious cause of our justice, yet in us also there is something required. God is the cause of our natural life; in Him we live : but Ile quickeneth not the body without the soul in the body. Christ has merited to make us just: but as a medicine which is made for health, doth not heal by being made, but by being applied ; so, by the merits of Christ there can be no justification without the application of His merit. Thus far we join hands with the church of Rome.

“Wherein then do we disagree? We disagree about the nature and essence of the medicine whereby Christ cureth our disease ; about the manner of applying it; about the number and the power of means, which God requireth in us for the effectual applying thereof to our soul's comfort." “ Can any man that hath read their books concerning this matter be ignorant how they draw all their answers unto these heads.” “That the remission of all our sins, the pardon of all whatsoever punishments thereby deserved, the rewards which God hath laid up in heaven, are, by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, purchased and obtained sufficiently for all men; but for no man effectually for his benefit in particular, except the blood of Christ be applied particularly to him, by such means as God has appointed that to work by. That those means, of themselves, being but dead things, only the blood of Christ is that which putteth life, force, and efficacy in them to work, and to be available, each in his kind, to our salvation. Finally, that grace being purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and freely, without any merit at the first bestowed upon us, the good things which we do after grace received, be thereby made satisfactory and meritorious." “ Their doctrine is, that as pure water of itself hath no savour, but if it pass through a sweet pipe, it taketh a pleasant smell of the pipe through which it passeth ; so, although before grace received our works do neither satisfy nor merit, yet, after, they do both the one and the other.” “ In meriting our actions do work with both hands; with one they get their morning stipend, the increase of grace; with the other And according to this representation, the doctrine of the merit of works, as opposed to the doctrine of justification by faith, taught in all sound Protestant churches, had an early


their evening hire, the everlasting crown of glory. Indeed, they teach that our good works do not these things as they come from us, but as they come from grace in us; which grace in us' is another thing in their divinity than is THE MERE GOODNESS OF God's MERCY TOWARDS us in Christ Jesus. If it were not a longdeluded spirit which hath possession of their hearts, were it possible but that they should see how plainly they do herein gainsay the very ground of apostolic faith? Is this that "salvation by grace,' whereof so plentiful mention is made in the Scriptures of God? Was this their meaning, which first taught the world to look for salvation only by Christ? By grace, says the apostle, and by grace in such sort as a gift; a thing that cometh not of ourselves, nor of our works, “lest any man should boast,' and say, I have wrought out my sulvation. By grace they confess; but by grace in such sort, that as many as wear the diadem of bliss, they wear nothing but what they won." “ When they,” the Roman catholics, required to shew what the righteousness is whereby a Christian man is justified, they answer, that it is 'a divine quality :' which quality, received into the soul, doth first make it one of them who are born of God: and secondly, endue it with power to bring forth such works as they do that are born of Him; even as the soul of man, being joined to his body, doth first make him to be of the number of reasonable creatures ; and secondly, enable him to perform the natural functions which are proper to his kind: that it maketh the soul amiable and gracious in the sight of God, in regard whereof it is called grace; that it purgeth, puritieth, and washeth out the stains and pollutions of sins; that by it, through the merit of Christ, we are delivered from sin, so from eternal death and condemnation, the reward of sin. This grace they will have to be applied by infusion ; to the end, that as the body is warmed by the heat which is in the body, so the soul might be righteous by inherent grace, which grace they make capable of increase; as the body may be more and more warm, so the soul inore and more justified, according as grace should be augmented ; the augmentation whereof is merited by good works, as good works are made meritorious by it. Wherefore the first receipt of grace in their divinity is, the first justification : the increase thereof, the second justification; as grace may be increased by the merit of good works, so it may be diminished by the demerit of sins venial, and may be lost by mortal sin. Inasmuch, therefore, as it is needful in the one case to repair, in the other to recover the loss that is made, the infusion of grace has her sundry after-meals; for the which cause they make many ways to apply the infusion of grace. It is applied to infants through baptism, without either faith or works, and in them really it taketh away original sin, and the punishment due unto it; it is applied to intidels and wicked men in the first justification through baptism, without works, yet not without faith ; and it taketh away sins both actual and original, together with all whatsoever punishment, eternal or temporal, thereby deserved. Unto such as have attained the first justificat on, that is to say, the first receipt of grace, it is applied farther by good works to the increase of former grace, which is the second justification. If they work more and more, grace doth more increase, and they are more and more just fied. To such as diminish it by venial sins, it is applied by holy water, Ave Marias, crossings, papal salutations, and such like, which serve for reparations of grace decayed. To such as have lost it through mortal

place in the Catholic church, long before she entertained Pelagian notions, which, in a great measure, she afterwards did ; and the disciples of Augustin, who really possessed that inherent righteousness which the Spirit of God begins to work in every true Christian, not clearly understanding that this effect of converting grace was not the righteousness by which they were

that re

sin, it is applied by the sacrament (as they call it) of penance : which sacrament has force to confer grace on men, yet in such sort, as being so conferred, it has not altogether so much power as at first ; for it only cleanseth out the stain or guilt of sin committed, and changeth the punishment eternal into temporal satisfactory punishment here, if time do serve; if not, hereafter to be endured, except it be lightened by masses, works of charity, pilgrimages, fasts, and such like; or else shortened by pardon for term, or by plenary pardon quite removed and taken away. This is the mystery of the man of sin. This maze the church of Rome doth cause her followers to tread, when they ask her the way to justification.

This doctrine of merit, therefore, or of “ justification by infused and inherent righteousness," on which the whole system of popery is built, is certainly to be ascribed more or less to all the fathers, since the time of Justin Martyr or of Origen. Augustin himself, of whatever benefit his works have been to the church, did not supply a sufficient remedy, because he saw not clearly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in the finished work of a Saviour. And this

mystery of iniquity," which led to the revelation of the man of sin, had begun to work, even in the apostle's days : he points it out in the Galatian churches they had “ begun in the Spirit, but sought to be made perfect in the flesh.” It was a more careful study of the Scriptures at the time of the reformation — for the ancient fathers are, in general, poor expositors of the word of God stored the clear knowledge of these precious doctrines to the church, which, when received in love, no longer leave the souls of men the sport of these vain delusions. For the follower of Augustin, depending upon his inherent righteousness, will no more find it sufficient for the comfort of his soul in time of trial, than the Pelagian, who takes all the merit to himself, or the semi-Pelagian, who divides it between grace and nature.

But true Protestantism speaketh on this wise : “ Whether they speak of the first or second justification, they make the essence of a divine quality inherent, they make it righteousness which is in us. If it be in us, then it is ours as our souls are ours, though we have them of God, and can hold them no longer than pleaseth him ; for if he withdraw the breath of our nostrils, we fall to dust : but the righteousness wherein we must be found, if we will be justified, is not our own; therefore we cannot be justified by an inherent quality. Christ has merited righteousness for as many as are found in him. In him God findeth us if we be faithful ; for by faith we are incorporated into Christ. Then, although in ourselves we be altogether sinful and unrighteous, yet even the man which is impious in himself, full of iniquity, full of sin ; him being found in Christ, through faith, and having his sin remitted through repentance — him God beholdeth with a gracious eye, putteth away his sin by not imputing it, taketh quite away the punishment due thereunto by pardoning it, and accepteth him in Jesus Christ as


« VorigeDoorgaan »