Sidor som bilder

in the days of the Law, even so also was it in the days of the Gospel. The same pride of heart, the same intractable spirit, the same wish to fetter the hearts and consciences of men by bonds forged by the craft of human invention, and the same corrupt desire of perverting the best feelings of the many into an instrument for promoting the temporal interests of a few, which led the Scribes and Pharisees of old to “ lade men's shoulders with a burden which was too heavy for them to bear,”-exerted their injurious influence also with those who were the ministers of a religion whose “ yoke” was emphatically declared by its Founder to be “easy, and its burden light.” Corruption after corruption crept in upon the church, all based upon the crime which the language of the text so awfully denounces—for they all spring either from adding to the word of God the devices of man, making observances a duty which the Gospel has not declared to be a duty, and ceremonies a virtue which the Gospel has not declared to be a virtue—or by diminishing from its just authority, pronouncing that its rules may be broken on conditions which the word of God has not sanctioned, and its punishments evaded by artifices which the word of God discountenances and abhors. It is difficult for us to conceive how any particular church could have so far deluded the minds of the Catholic church of Christ, as to lead that Catholic church to believe that any power remained in the world, after the close of the sacred canon of scripture, which could authorize any individual church to impose new rules of faith and new articles of doctrine on the whole Christian community. Yet such was the power which the Church of Rome asserted, and at one period well-nigh exercised, over the universal household of the Saviour. And when a spiritual power, especially a power supported by the temporal sword, had once established a right in any way to modify the written word of God, there was obviously no limit to the exercise of such a preponderating authority, except the interests of those who wielded it, and the patience and intelligence of those over whom it was exerted. Now self-interest is boundless; and intelligence may be repressed or almost annihilated by unlimited power. Hence with every generation sprung up a new series of corruptions; and the Holy Scriptures, by accumulations on the one side, and mutilations on the other, had almost passed away from the memory of the Christian world. There were intelligent men, indeed, in almost every generation, who, exasperated by the prevalence of some particular corruption, with which circumstances brought them more immediately into contact, rose up in rebellion against the power which propagated it, pointed out its mischievous and degrading effects, and shewed, from arguments drawn from reason or the decrees of the church itself, that such corruption was no integral part of the original gospel of Christ. Still such efforts, though they might have the momentary effect of drawing men's minds to the consideration of the truth, and awakening curiosity at least, if not doubt and suspicion, seldom produced more than a passing influence on the public mind. A gleam of light had just glanced upon the horizon, but authority soon resumed its iron sway, and darkness once more settled down upon the people. The true reason why these struggles for spiritual liberty were thus abortive, was that they were all made in the wrong direction. The captive mind was uneasy and restless in his dungeon; but his efforts to obtain his freedom were ineffectual, because, rendered blind by the tyranny of his rulers, he could not discover the right key which was to open his prison doors. That key was at last found, in the assertion and maintenance of the great truth which is thus judiciously stated in the sixth Article of the Church of England.“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein,

or may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary for salvation." It was this declaration, thus temperately stated, that first gave the deathblow to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, and placed the Catholic, that is, the universal Church of Christ, on a basis which can never be shaken. It established the true principle, that every doctrine of the Gospel of Christ was to be sought for, and fairly to be deduced, from the only pure and uncorrupted fountain, the Books of the New Testament. When this point was once discovered and established, all the various corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church fell one by one to the ground, like the walls and battlements of an old tower when its foundations have been once undermined. The energetic Wickliffe might protest against the monstrous and unscriptural doctrine of transubstantiation. -Luther might be shocked at the open and disgraceful sale of indulgences for sin—the notion of purgatory might offend the common sense and right feelings of mankind, and the worshipping of images and reliques, might not only corrupt and mislead the ignorant, but excite the feelings of inexpressible disgust in the minds of the more intelligent part of the community-still, while nothing was appealed to for the refutation of these monstrous absurdities but the conclusions of reason and the authority of the church, reason was smothered by sophistry, and the authority of the fathers overborne by the exercise of temporal and spiritual power. But when once the great truth was established that Holy Scripture ALONE was the sole rule of faith and practice, all these weeds of the dark ages fell like grain before the hand of the reaper. "I do not find it in my Bible”-was a sufficient answer to every one who attempted to impose on the consciences of men a doctrine at which reason and scripture alike revolted. Then it was, that the blessed Reformation not only proceeded, but proceeded on right grounds. Its champions not only pulled down old errors, but built up new truths. Taking the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets for their foundation, and interpreting it by the concurrent testimony of uncorrupted antiquity, they at once burnt up the wood, hay, and stubble which had been piled upon that immoveable ground-work, and then the original outlines of the Church of Christ once more appeared, beautiful in their proportions, and founded on the Rock of Ages! Upon this, they erected that Church of which all we who are here assembled, have the honour and the privilege to be

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »