Page images
PDF
EPUB

penitent. But if the requisition be doing penance, in that case, there being something necessary which the priest prescribes, he has the poor sipner completely in his power. It makes the salvation to depend on the act of the little low priest. Do you wonder that the priests insist on the translation do penance, and forbid the people to read in a Bible which requires them to repent ?

There is a precious note in the Douay connnected with this subject, which may afford me a topic hereafter.

31. The Hardest Religion.

Among the compliments which our brethren of the Church of Rome pay to their religion, this is one. They say it is the hardest religion-that no other religion requires so much of its votary. Hence they would have it inferred that theirs must be the divine and only true religion. The yoke being so hare, and the burden so heavy, they must of course be Christ's.

I shall examine this claim to the precedence in point of difficulty. And something I am prepared to concede to the Church of Rome on this score. There is a part of her faith which I acknowledge it is exceedingly hard to receive. It requires a powerful effort doubtless to believe the doctrine of transubstantiation, viz. that the bread and wine of the sacrament are changed into

* what? The body and blood of Christ? Not that alone, but also into his soul and divinity! Yes, it is hard to believe it is so, when one sees it is not so, and knows it cannot be so. It is hard to disbelieve at will those long-tried and faithful servants, the senses; and especially that first of the five, the sight. There is difficulty in the Catholic religion truly. It puts a tremendous strain on the mind.

There is also her doctrine about the necessity of baptism to salvation, which some of us find it very hard to believe. One reason of our difficulty is that that doctrine bears so hard upon the heathen, and particularly on the immense multitude of infants who every where die without baptism. According to the doctrine of Rome, that baptism is indispensable to salvation, they are all lost just for the want of a little water ! Poor things, they fare no better than the thief on the cross who died without baptism. They get no farther than Paradise the first day. It is a hard religion. This doctrine is cruelly hard upon children ; as her doctrine that money, by the purchase of prayers and masses, releases souls from Purgatory, is hard upon the poor.

So much for the difficulty of her faith. But all of that is not so hard ; as for example, her doctrine of indulgences. It is never hard to be indulged. There is no hardship, but very great convenience for a delinquent sinner to have such a bank to draw upon, as the accumulated merits of the saints in by-gone ages, who did more than they needed for their own salvation, having loved God with considerably more than “all the heart, and soul, and strength, and mind !" This doctrine does not make the Roman Catholic religion a hard one-neither does the doctrine of venial sins. You know they hold that there are some sins whose wages is not death. They arc excusable-mere peccadillos. We recognise no such sins. We think with St. Paul, that “cursed is every one that continueth not in all ihings which are written in the book of the law to do them."

But perhaps when the Catholics speak of their re. ligion as a hard one; they refer not so much to its faith as to its practice. It is what they have to do that is so hard. But why do they speak of it as hard ? It looks as if it was a task to them-as if they do not find their sweetest and purest delight in it. It would appear as if they did not esteem the service of God as much their privilege as their duty. One would suppose, to hear them talk, that the commandments of God are grievous. I am truly sorry for them that Christ's yoke, which, he says, is easy, they find to be so galling to them. We, Protestants, never think of speaking of our religion as hard. • Wisdom's wayswe find to be “pleasantness, and all her paths peace.” Our language is: “O how love I thy law! How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” But it seems not to be so with Catholics. I have been struck with surprise to hear even the most devout of them speak of the requirements. of their religion as things which they must comply with. “I must," is the language which they use in reference to almost every thing of a religious kind that they do. I have thought with myself how it is possible that their hearts can be in their religion, if they esteem it such a hardship. How will heaven be able to make them happy, if the exercises and acts on earth, most akin to those of heaven, are so irksome that they engage in them only from sheer necessity ?

But I must advert to some of the hard practices which the Catholic religion requires of her rotaries. 'There is that practice of confessing to the priest. Is not that hard! Truly it is. I think I should find it hard to tell every thing, even the most secret thoughts, to any body called a priest. And then to have to perform whatever penance he might please to prescribe. Yes, it is hard-so hard, and so absurd too that God has never required it at our hands. He says to the sinner, come right to me with your broken heart, and make your confession to me, for he is “in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."

Again, fasting is reckoned among the hard things of the Catholic religion-and indeed it is hard not to eat when one is hungry. But that is not their idea of fasting. Their idea of fasting is in accordance with what St. Paul says to Timothy in his prediction concerning them, an "abstaining from meats,or “whatsoever is sold in the shambles." Now there is nothing so very hard in that restriction. He must be very difficult who cannot satisfy his appetíte out of all the variety of the vegetable kingdom, when he has moreover the liberty of the entire fish market.

But there is one thing about the Catholic religion in view of which I suppose I must admit it to be the hardest religion. It belongs strictly neither to faith nor practice. You will guess that I have in my mind Purgatory. Now, as a doctrine, there are many things about it hard to be believed, as, for example, that material fire should be able to act on an immaterial spirit, and thereby purify it too. But hard as purgatory is to be believed, it is still harder to be suffered. Yes, it is hard, after having gone through the whole routine of the sacraments, and lived long a good Catholic, then to die, and go into an intense fire. It is so hard that I, for my part, prefer the religion of poor Lazarus, whom the angels took straight to heaven; and of the penitent malefactor, who spent a part of the day on which he died, in Paradise. By the way, St. Paul could not have been thinking of Purgatory when he said, " to me to die is gain.” But I forget that he lived before the time of the Catholic religion.

32. More abont Penance.

Let us hear both sides. In my former article on this subject, I objected to the translation doing penance, in the Douay Bible. But have the Catholics nothing to say in justification of their rendering? I suppose that whatever they have to say is expressed in a certain note on Matthew, 3: 2. .“ Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is the edifying translation of the passage. Our attention is then directed to this note, agite pænitentiam, metanoeite,” which word, according to the use of the Scriptures and the holy fathers, does not only signify repentance and amendment of life, but also “punishing past sins by fasting and such like penitential exereises.” This is the sage note.

Now here is an acknowledgment that the ideas of repentance and amendment are intended in the ori.

« PreviousContinue »