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wages is not death. They are excusable-mere peccadillos. We recognise no such sins. We think with St. Paul, that “cursed is every one that continueth not in all things 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 bear 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 ways" we 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
sting. 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 mindPurgatory. 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 exercises. This is the sage note.
Now here is an acknowledgment that the ideas of repentance and amendment are intended in the ori
ginal word. Why then is a translation of it adopted, wnich excludes both repentance and amendment. If the original includes them, yet their translation does not. A man may do penance, and yet neither repent nor amend-neither be sorry nor better. These translators must have thought that repentance and amendment, though included in the original word, were of little importance, otherwise they would not have supe pressed them in their translation. They must have judged them too insignificant to be taken notice of in their standard version ! As for us Protestants, we think that to be sorry and to reform are very important parts of repentance.
But, besides repentance and amendment, they say the original word signifies “punishing past sins, by fasting,” &c. This is their assertion.
Where are their proofs? I would like to see some of them, for the dictionaries tell us another story. Well, they appeal to the Scriptures and the fathers, "according to the use of the Scriptures and the holy fathers.” Here are two authorities, though of very unequal weight in my estimation. I wish these translators had said where the Scriptures use this word in their sense. I suppose they would, if they had been able. The truth is, the word is never so used. It does not include this idea of theirs. Punishing! Repentance don't mean punishing. Punishing past sins! This is no very eligible phrase. It is quite too figurative for an explanatory note. And punishing them, how? By fasting. How does fasting punish sin? I cannot see how any fasting punishes sin; but I am sure the Catholic fasting does not. Do you know what Catholics mean by fasting ? Not abstaining from food. No, to
But changing their kind of food. Only ab stain from meats, according to the prediction, 1 Tim. 4:3, and you may eat what else you please. Fasting, according to the opinions held by Catholics in the region of country where I live, and I suppose it is so elsewhere, consists in reducing one's self down to the low diet of fish, (after all their kinds,) eggs, oysters, , terrapins, with all manner of vegetables, and
every variety of desert! That is fasting, because there is no butchers' meat eaten. You may eat what is sold anywhere else but in the shambles. Now I cannot see any thing very punitive in such fasting. A man's sin must be exceedingly sensitive to feel the infliction of such abstinence. I do not believe that sin is to be starved out of the soul in this way.
It is well enough sometimes to try the value of an explanation upon a passage in which the thing explained occurs, as for example, “ God now commandeth all men every where to punish their past sins by fasting and such like penitential exercises.” How does that sound? Do you really think that it is what the Lord meant.
33. A Fast-Day Dinner.
Some plain, honest people may be surprised at the heading of this article, because it implies a dinner of some sort on a day of fasting, whereas, according to their old-fashioned notions there should be no dinner