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it seems to me, that you must necessarily fall into a painful state of hesitation with regard to the genuineness of your church. For certainly one of the most erudite of your ecclesiastical writers has very distinctly, and very truly affirmed, that “it is impossible the true Church should not teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ; because if the Church teach a doctrine different from that of Jesus Christ, or does not teach the doctrines of Jesus Christ, she would cease to be the true Church.*";
And, surely, I have afforded you abundant reason for being persuaded, that this doctrine of celibacy is not conformable to the doctrine of Jesus Christ.' pp. 41, 47–49.
In what manner the Irish Divine regarded the perplexing remonstrance of his Protestant friend, we cannot say, but we should suppose that on a mind open to conviction, the force of such reasoning as is here employed, could not but be felt. The situation in which it fixes him, can admit only of the alternative of sacrificing the authority of God to the impious dicta of the Tridentine Council, or of abandoning a Church whose authority prescribes the reception of all things delivered, defined, and declared by the Holy Council of Trent. The lay members of the Church of Rome have an easy method of extricating themselves from the embarrassment in which they are placed, by a plain inquiry into the grounds of their religious persuasion ; they conclude a truce with their consciences, by referring the whole matter of religion to the clergy, whom they assume to be their proper guide in relation to all its requirements; as a friend of ours was lately answered by an honest Hibernian when questioned on the subject of religion : " Please your honour, we leave all that to God Almighty and the priest :" but when Divine, infallible authority in the Bible, and the decrees of a supposed infallible Council, are directly opposed to, and subversive of, each other, we could wish to be informed in what manner a learned Divine would proceed, and by what reasons he would satisfy his conscience, should he resolve on adhering to the Church.
The Author of these Letters proceeds to inquire by what consideration the superiors of the Roman Catholic Church
can feel themselves sufficiently warranted in prohibiting the clergy from engaging in a state prescribed by God, preventive of concupiscence, and conducive to sanctification. The clergy are certainly not exempt from human appetites. They certainly are required, as well as the laity, to obey the will, and second the designs of God. It certainly is as requisite to prevent concupiscence in them, as in others. And certainly there exists no admissible reason why they should be restrained from the use of any of those means of sanctification, which other Christians enjoy, On the contrary, it being confessedly mcumbent on them to exhibit in their persons, examples of su
* Du Pin, Eccl. Hist. v. i. p. 587. Ed. Dub. 1723.
perior sanctity,“ they ought assuredly to be permitted to resort freely to every hallowed expedient, which they may individually regard as best calculated to contribute thereto.'"
51. Agreeing, as we do, with the Author, in these sentiments, we cannot but dissent from his opinion, that celibacy in the case of the clergy, is somewhat more eligible upon the whole, than matrimony. We cannot conceive that those who are disengaged from what are popularly considered as the duties of husbands and fathers, are, generally speaking, better enabled than those who are involved therein, to discharge with alacrity, precision, and full effect, the various appropriate functions of the Christian ministry. In expressing our dissent from the Author's opinion on this subject, we do not forget the qualifying considerations with which he has accompanied it, namely, the prevailing mode of female education, and the ordinary circumstances of domestic life, and his demand of uniform continence in persons of the clerical profession. We know of pothing in the duties of the ministry, that can give advantage to unmarried men in the endeavour to discharge them. What is there in the obligations of the Christian minister, that can best be fulfilled by his devotedness to a life of celibacy? Nothing: but, on the contrary,
there is much that makes the opposite state extremely proper for them, that as husbands and fathers they may be examples to the flock. The prevailing mode of female education appears to us to be only one of those circumstances which suggest the exercise of great prudence to a Christian minister, with regard to his choice of a matrimonial partner.
But whatever the Author may be disposed to concede in favour of voluntary abstinence from marriage, he condemns in the strongest manner the indiscriminate and compelled celibacy of the Romish Church, and declares without reserve his persuasion, that it must inevitably occasion those spiritual or practical crimes which defile a Christian, and by which men are separated from God, and excluded from his kingdom.
We shall select a few more passages from these Letters for the use of our readers; and should any of them feel an interest in the subject, beyond that which our extracts and remarks may be the means of gratifying, we can cordially recommend the entire volume to their perusal, as furnishing an ample and satisfactory discussion of the whole question. It would evidently be an important service performed, if any of them could succeed in obtaining from the persons who are principally interested in the restraining decrees of the heads of the Church of Rome, an engagement seriously to read these curious and instructive letters.
To the design cherished and pursued in very early times, by many of the professors of Christianity, of bringing its painisters and institutes to a conformity with the priests and rites of Paganism, may be traced several of the corruptions by which the former was disfigured and depraved. If the Christians of the second, and third, and fourth centuries had left behind them, in the temples of heathenisin, which they had deserted, the spirit which was appropriate to the follies and the superstitions those temples protected, and had entered the kingdom of God, as little children, to be trained up by the influence of Christian truth for the reasonable service by which the convert of the Gospel glorifies his Redeemer, a purer state of profession had been provided for, than durivg these and the following ages did prevail. Virginity, and monkery, and the other practices which led the ill-instructed Christian professors of those times from the social business of the world, were completely in the spirit of deviation from the obligations which Christ enjoined upon his followers. These abuses, and the erroneous notions from which they sprang, and by which they were upheld, were too favourable, as means of forwarding the aspiring views of the Roman pontiffs, then rising in eminence and power, to be cverlooked; they were therefore put under requisition, to furnish aid for the establishment and consolidation of their authority.
• To preserve and augment the opulence of the church, and the splendour and power necessarily connected with that opulence, was manifestly and indisputably one of the principal objects of concern, whereby the general conduct of successive popes, with a view to their own ultimate aggrandizement, was effectually governed. But that wealth seemed always in danger of diminution, so long as the clergy were permitted to marry and beget children. Accordingly, the popes, with the aid of obsequious provincial councils, that is, councils swayed by authoritative individuals, attached by personal considerations to the papal government, directed their utmost endeavours to effect the discontinuance of that practice. The thirty-third canon of the council of Agde, in the year 506, which prohibits those bishops, who have neither sons nor grandsons, from appointing any other heir but the church, and the decree of the council of Seville to the same effect, are strong additional proofs of the existence of an operative solicitude for the increase of its riches; and an implied solicitude for the preclusion of that practice whereby they were likely to be dimi. nished. The thirty-first canon of the fourth council of Lateran, in 1215, is a further proof of the latter. The recorded opinion of Cardinal Pio di Carpi, given in a consistory held the 10th of December, 1561, puts beyond all doubt that which, without the information of any document, might have been reasonably suspected ; namely, that in enforcing clerical celibacy, the popes were governed by a persuasion of its being requisite to the confirmation of their power, and the preservation of their wealth.' p. 244–245.
This Protestant opposer of Papal dogmas, possesses an admirable talent of addressing his appeals to the mind of his Roman Catholic friend, of which our readers may take another specimen.
Your popes have successively, without hesitation, affirmed, that in the case of the clergy, between whom and the laity there positively is no discoverable difference whatsoever, with regard to the effects of sexual connexion, marriage is a state of pollution; that it is inconsistent with sanctity; and that ministers of the altar who exercise connubial rights, are unfit to touch the sacred vessels, or even to enter the vestry of a church.
• Does there not, my friend, appear to be a high degree of impiety in holding that state which was ordained by God, and pronounced honourable in all by the most instructive of the Apostles, to be, in any case, a state of pollution ?-Is there not a strange and questionable degree of inconsistency in holding that state to be a state of pol. lution, in the case of the clergy, which you acknowledge and declare to be a state conducive to holiness in the case of the Jaity? Can you possibly believe that a sign of invisible grace, instituted by our blessed Saviour, may, in any case, have the effect of casting down the human mind to earthly things? If you concur with the Gallican prelates in thinking thus unfavourably of matrimony, how can you approve of its being ranked among the sacraments of your Church?
Our Lord distinctly prohibited the separation of man and wife; and St. Paul imperatively required that “ a husband put not away his wife." Yet your popes and their obsequious councils, disregarding the positive command of our Lord, the unlimited, unqualified injunction of his inspired apostle Paul, have required the clergy to dismiss their wives ; and even subjected those among them to penance who yielded to the dictates of nature, and obeyed the will of God. They have not hesitated to dissolve the sacred unviolated bonds of wedlock in which the clergy were engaged; nay, to grant permission to princes to consign to slavery the wives of those ecclesiastics, who, in compliance with the command of God, refused to abandon them.
• Did it become a vicar of Jesus Christ to act in contumacious opposition to his positive command ?--And do you really think it true, my friend, that a priest or pope may be polluted by that which God ordained, and not polluted by the crime of contemptuously disobey. ing the emphatic command of our Lord and Saviour ? No, my friend, I shall never do you the cruel injustice to suspect that you are disposed to answer any of these questions in the affirmative.
pp. 249–254. It will occur to our intelligent readers, to whom this subject is not altogether a novel one, that many of the details which are necessary to the proper consideration of it, are of the most revolting kind. On these, the present Author has not unduly expatiated, and it was evidently impossible for him to be silent on the evormities which have been the effect of that practice which he is exposing. The wickedness of the clergy was every where gross and unbridled. Such was the dread which the people of Switzerland entertained of these reputed representatives of the Holy Ghost, that, as we are informed by Sleidan, they required them, in some of the Cantons, to keep concubines, in order to prevent them from violating their daughters and wives. The same reason induced the senate of Rome, as we learn from Thuanus, to petition the pope for the continuation of the brothels which he had intended to suppress. Gualtier Mapes complained that the priests found means to excite in silly women,
a fear of damnation, if they denied their persons to them. To these, numerous other instances and proofs of the borrible corruption of the Romish clergy, the consequences of that profession of celibacy which the rulers of their Church, in the utter contempt of all reasonable and Divine law, had bouud upon them, are added by our Author, in his twentieth letter. 'A sad catalogue it is of abominable crimes and criminals.
The subject of these Letters, affords the frequent occasion of astonishment at the dreadful temerity of the leaders of the Romish church, and at the delusion of the multitude who follow them. A priest in mortal sin, that is, damning sin, the Council of Trent has determined, still retains the power of remitting sips. A mortal sin, the Romish Divines hold, is one by which persons lose the grace of God, and become liable to damnation. It does indeed seem repugnant, as the Author remarks, to rational and scriptural notions of religion, to believe that a priest, who has forfeited the grace and love of God, and is actually under sentence of eterval damnation, in consequence of his committing those şins which incur the wrath of God, can remit the sins of others, through the means of the Holy Ghost, whose temple his body has ceased to be. It does unquestionably militate against just, rational, and becoming notions of Christianity, to hold, that the imposition of the hands of a man in whom the Holy Spirit does not dwell, is competent' to convey his purifying, enlightening, and sanctifying power.
• How could we be sure of receiving the aid or benefit of the Holy Ghost from the imposition of the hands of an adulterer like Alexander VI. or of an incestuous lecher like Innocent X. or of a sodomite like Julius III. ? It really, my friend, is not a little difficult to entertain a persuasion of this nature. And yet, the maintenance of a doctrine incompatible with this, and directly opposed to the former, was one of the offences for which the pious precursor of Martin Luther, John Huss, that ornament of the continuous church of Christ, was condemned to the flames, in the pontificate of the debauched, simoniacal, schismatical, and heretical John XXIII. I really, my friend, cannot fail to experience a very great degree of amazement, when I find your divines maintaining that, on the one hand, it is heresy, damnable heresy, to hold that a state of celibacy, admired and inculcated, in early times, chiefly by heathens and heretics, is not better and more blessed than that state which God confessedly ordained, and, on the other, that it is not heresy to maintain that a priest, addicted to adultery, incest, sodomy, or other mortal sins of concupiscence, is a true representative of the Holy Ghost ! p. 284.