Page images
PDF
EPUB

in any man I ever knew; and knowing that his allegiance was to me, to me he came. • Never shall I forget the day of his arrival, nor the peculiar expression with which he came to me. I saw that he was wrought up to the highest pitch, and that the first thing for him was to rest. Day after day he sought to engage me in the topic, and day after day I avoided it. At last when he became solicitous to hear my views, I told him, no; he was to make out his own case. I gave him then, on a small slip of paper-I have it now-a single point * in the great controversy between the Truth and Rome ; and told him to go into my library, and satisfy himself; when that was mastered, he should have the next. He spent five weeks with me. I never dictated to him even the shadow of an opinion. He traced the truth up to its first foundations. He looked for Popery in Holy Scripture and ancient authors; and it was not there. He perfectly satisfied himself that the claims of Rome were arrogant and unfounded. He settled perfectly in the conviction, that the Church of his choice was a true and living branch of the Catholic Church of Christ. And he went forward, from that moment, increasing in wisdom and in stature, through the grace of her communion; and growing in knowledge and in virtue, by the wholesome nutriment of her divine instructions. Never did he cease to rejoice, that He had taken him from the mire and clay, and set his feet upon a rock, and ordered bis goings. Never did he speak of that eventful moment of his life, but with devoutest gratitude to Him, who had delivered him from the snare of the fowler.

I have put this narative here, as part of the true history of the lamented subject of this memoir, on the one hand, that it may correct their error who underrate the dangerous attractions of the Church of Rome; and on the other, that it may prove their calumny who connect the teachings of the Catholic Church of Christ with the corruptions of the Papal schism. Multitudes lie within the reach of the danger which Winslow was beset. The searching spirit of inquiry into old foundations, which is now abroad, if rudely checked, or wrongly guided, infinitely increases their danger. Meanwhile, Rome lies her wily wait. Is he one for whom Antiquity presents its just attractions ? Rome is ready

* It was this :-THE PAPAL SUPREMACY ;-1. Can the primacy of Peter in authority and power be established ? 2. If established, can it be shewn that it was to be transmitted ? 3. If designed to be transmitted, can it be proved to appertain to the Bishop of Rome? The appeal to be, i, to Scripture; 2, to ancient authors.

with her claims to primitive antiquity. Is Unity relied on? Rome presents her claim to perfect unity. Are the associations of taste, and the sympathies of nature, and the refinements of art, seductive ? Rome is skilful to combine them all, and make them most seducing. Now, false and groundless as the pretensions are to antiquity and unity, on her part; and ineffectual as is her utmost use of all “ appliances and means to boot," to hide the mass of error and corruption which festers at her heart, it is not the bare denial of her claims, far less vituperation and abuse, that will restrain the tide, when once it strongly sets towards Rome. Unless there be the unquestionable argument of Holy Scripture, as interpreted by the consent of ancient authors, her pretensions will prevail : and unless there be a system, palpable, that men can grasp it; venerable, that men may reverence it; affectionate, that men will feel it, and respond to it, and sympathize with it; the well compacted, well drilled, well directed, Romish system-hollow, as it is, at heart, and hateful—will get the advantage. Man's heart is warm, and cannot live with cold abstractions. Man's heart is social, and will not dwell alone. Man's nature is dependent, and must lean on something. Man's nature is religious, and must look up to that on which it leans. The system which meets these necessities of our condition will be the prevailing system. Rome would prevail, could it be shewn that Rome alone could meet them. It is incumbent on us, then, to shew-which is the truth—that men may have them all, without a pilgrimage to Rome: nay, that there they will not find them.-Hence the Catholic system ; “its services, its frequent communions, its weekly fasts, its holy anniversaries ;" “ an attempt to realize heaven upon earth, to make God all in all, to bind them together by the ties of Christian brotherhood, to promote those tempers of childlike submission, and humility, and unselfishness, which no believer in divine Revelation donbts to be the distinctive feature in the Evangelical character.” Hence the duty, incumbent on the Church, to develop her full system ; that it may meet, to the full, the natural wants of men.

But I must check myself; I have entered on a theme to fill a volume. Enough, if what I have rather hinted at than said, shall move Churchmen to a better estimate of the high privileges which they enjoy, as “ fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

“Fortunati, sua si bona norint.” Enough, if I shall arrest but one, whose face is turned towards

that “ city of shadows," and whose “ feet" now " stumble upon the dark mountains;" and lead him, by the example of the sainted Winslow, to the light, and peace, and steadfast trust, of that true city “ which hath foundations," the type and pledge, on earth, of “ that great city, the holy Jerusalem,” into wbich“ there shall in no wise enter” “any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.”

“Mother of cities ! o'er thy head
Bright Peace, with healing wings outspread,

For evermore shall dwell:
Let me, blest seat! my name behold
Among thy citizens enrolled,

And bid the world farewell !"

THE CHURCH BEFORE THE REFORMATION.

BY THE REV. W. GRESLEY. The Church of England was founded in the first age of the Christian era—as some suppose by St. Paul, or one of the Apostles; from which time down to the present it has formed a branch of the Church catholic, or universal; has held the same creeds, enjoyed the same sacraments, and maintained the succession of its ministers unbroken. During its course it has gone through many persecutions, depressions, and revivals, and seen many corruptions and reformations. At an early period the Pelagian heresy widely infected the Church of England; but a reformation was effected through the instrumentality of St. Germain, a Gallican bishop. In the fifth century the Christians were driven from the fairest portion of England by the heathen Saxons, who were themselves converted to the faith by St. Augustin; and, in course of time, became united in one flourishing Church with their British brethren. Another terrible persecution was brought upon the Church by the Danes, who destroyed her establishments and well-nigh banished learning and civilisation from the land. From this miserable state the Church was raised by the exertions of the great and wise Alfred, and regained her ascendency over the mixed races who inhabited England. But the continued wars and troubles of the times greatly weakened the Church; and England, in common with the other nations of Europe, which during the same period were equally barbarised by the invasions of heathen tribes, gradually lapsed more and more into the superstition and errors which characterised the middle ages. Not that the dark ages," as they have been termed, were of that impenetrable

blackness with which certain modern historians have been pleased to invest them; for in the worst times the flame of learning still burned, through with a feeble ray; and we have ample evidence that the pure faith of genuine Christianity, little corrupted with the alloy of superstition, lived in many pious hearts. Still, the days were dark and lowering; and we can attribute it only to the special providence of God, and the instrumentality of the Church, that the Christian faith was preserved.

The Norman conquest was a new era in the history of the nation. By this time the pope of Rome had begun to exercise å powerful influence in Christendom, which, in the different contests waged between rival princes, or between princes and their subjects, each party was anxious to conciliate; and, for this purpose, was often willing to concede claims to a power which thus went on increasing to a monstrous extent. William the Conqueror, an unscrupulous politician, availed himself of the authority of the pope to prop bis doubtful title, and drive out the ancient English clergy who occupied posts of honour or emolument. They were succeeded by a host of foreign ecclesiastics, who had their castles and retainers, and lived more like military chiefs and barons than as Christian bishops. A vigorous prince like William was able to avail himself of the power of the Roman pontiff to effect his purposes; but his less able successors became, in their turn, the instruments of the pope's aggrandisement. The great principle of popery,—that the Roman pontiff is universal bishop, and paramount over every other diocese,—was conceded in the reign of Henry I. by William of Corboil, then archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the vain hope to strengthen himself, accepted the office of legate to the pope-an office which the aspiring prelate soon transferred into other hands; thus establishing a Church-officer superior to the archbishop, through whom he soon usurped the power of convening and presiding over synods and councils; and so destroyed for a time the independence of the English Church. Another principal source of the influence of the pope was the rage for, building monasteries, which arose, soon after the conquest, amongst the Norman barons. These monasteries became independent of the bishops in whose dioceses they were established, and subject only to the authority of the pope: thus being, in point of fact, places of schismatical worship. It was in the time of King John that the power of the pope attained in England its highest pitch of extravagance. During the reign of that weak and vicious monarch the whole of England was placed under an interdict; that is, all the churches in

the land were shut up, and the ordinances of religion discontinued; altars were despoiled of their ornaments; the bells removed from the steeples; no religious rite was administred, except baptism to new-born babes; and the dead, refused interment in consecrated enclosures, were buried in ditches or common ground. All this continued for four years, by the order of a foreign bishop. The king himself was excommunicated, and his dominions given to the king of France. Nor was the interdict taken off, nor the excommunication removed, until John resigned his kingdom into the hands of the pope, and had agreed to hold it thenceforth as feudatory to the Church of Rome, paying a thousand marks annually to the pope by way of acknowledgment. It should be remembered, however, that such monstrous usupations as these were acquiesced in only by weak kings, or ambitious prelates for their own private interests, and were never sanctioned by the English Church or nation.*

A reader of the history of the middle ages is, at the first view, at a loss to account for the extravagant pretensions of the Church of Rome, and still more for the tameness with which they were submitted to by successive monarchs. We are accustomed, perhaps, too much to regard the Church of Rome as a mere mass of corruption and usurped authority. But it is not likely that the pope should have arrived at such a height of authority as to depose kings and bishops, and wield the whole power of Christendom, unless some moral influence had been present beyond what appears on the mere surface. The secret was, that the Church possessed in a great measure the affection of the people. It had in each country the mass of the community as its devoted adherents; and the cause of their devotion was, that they derived from it a degree of protection and benefit which was not in their temporal rulers. The fabric of ecclesiastical power, notwithstanding the un-catholic appendage of papal supremacy erected over the western division, was, in truth, the real Church of Christ, however debased and corrupted. It still spread its shadow over the nations like a mighty tree, and the fowls of the air lodged in its branches. Though its trunk was greatly decayed, its corruption had been so gradual, that no generation discerned how different it had become from the Church of the Apostles. It still retained not only the general outward form, but also the creeds and sacraments of primitive times: and men perceived not that these had been crusted over with a mass of dross. Nay,

* See Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography, vol. i. p. 23.

« PreviousContinue »