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she is not. If the church of Rome, at the time of the reformation, was a true church of Christ, and enjoyed his Spirit, then the church of England is schismatical, having cut herself off from Christ and his Spirit, by leaving his people; in which case the succession is good for nothing, since their lordships, the bishops, have left the Spirit behind them. If the church of Rome was a false church, which God had deserted, then the separation is justified, but the Spirit is lost; for the popish bishops could not give the Holy Ghost to protestants, if they had it not themselves. This is a two-edged sword, which cuts both ways; for, whether
you justify the separation or not, you destroy the succession.
If it were true that the Holy Ghost is given to bishops, not to render them virtuous, but to give efficacy to their ministrations, it must follow, that they could not fall into heresy; because God cannot give his blessing to the preaching of false doctrine. Upon this point the catholics are consistent: they make their pope infallible, and maintain that their church cannot err. But has there never been an instance of a prelate broaching heresy? Did not hundreds of bishops, supposed to be in the succession, once embrace Arianism, which our bishops hold to be a damnable heresy ? What council can be named which did not curse some bishops, the validity of whose ordination was never disputed, for holding opinions contrary to the catholic faith? And, even in this country, do all the clergy who have received episcopal ordination, preach the same doctrines ? It is true they have all subscribed to the same creed, and conform to the same rites and ceremonies of devotion; but it is too notorious to be denied, that the articles, homilies, and liturgy, are often contradicted, and their doctrines ridiculed, in the pulpit. Among the clergy are Arians, Socinians, Swedenborgians, Arminians, and Calvinists; and even the celebrated impostor, Joanna Southcote, boasted of a trinity of parsons in her train of deluded votaries. And how could there be those fierce contentions between the evangelical and rational divines, as they are called, if they were all kept by the Holy Ghost of the same mind and of the same judgment? Does not the church of England attempt to justify her separation from the church of Rome, on the ground that the pope is fallible, and that his church has erred ? If those, therefore, who possess the Holy Ghost are preserved by him from error in doctrine, is it not certain, that neither popish nor protestant priests enjoy his influence ?
The pretence that the Holy Ghost is not given to preserve from all errors in general, but only from fundamental errors in particular, will not serve the cause of the succession. The church of England has adopted the creed of Athanasius, which declares, that all who reject his explication of the Trinity shall, without doubt, perish everlastingly. Now, it is a fact, that at one time, nearly all the clergy in Christendom were Arians; and yet the Arian bishops were in the succession, or else ours are out of it. The homilies of the church of England, to which every clergyman subscribes, as containing a godly and wholesome doctrine, fit to be read in churches by ministers, declare, that “ the popes and prelates of Rome, for the most part, are worthily accounted among the number of false prophets and false Christs, which deceived the world a long while ;” and
that the gospel of Christ may be preached and received in all parts of the world,“ to the beating down of sin, death, the pope, the devil, and all the kingdom of antichrist."'* But these wretches, the Roman bishops, who are here classed with sin, death, and the devil, as enemies to Christ, are supposed to have filled our bishops brimful of the Spirit of Christ, for the office and work of governors in the church. Here are incontrovertible proofs, if the church of England may be credited, of bishops, whom churchmen believe to have been in the succession, erring in fundamentals. Hence the laity should be upon their guard, and not implicitly receive the dogmas of their spiritual guides; they may pay dear in the next world, as well as in this, for being priest-ridden.
* Homily for Whitsunday, part 2nd.
The canons suppose, that ignorance is a sufficient reason for annulling an ordination, because no man can teach religion who does not understand it. Pope Gregory VI. could neither write nor read; was he not admirably well qualified to discharge the spiritual duties of his exalted station? Sculphus was made archbishop of Rhemes, when he was between four and five years of age; was this grave and venerable prelate filled with the Holy Ghost, to teach and govern the church, when he was only just got out of his nurse's leadingstrings ? There have been thousands of priests as illiterate as Gregory, and others who never saw the sacred writings; but the magic touch of a bishop's band, it seems, transformed these ignoramuses into infallible guides.
But what shall we say of professed infidels in the chair of St. Peter? A council was called at Rome in the year 963, by the emperor Otho, to examine the conduct of pope John XII., when it was proved by many witnessess, “ That he ordained bishops for money; and ordained a boy of ten years old, bishop of Tudortine. That he was guilty of sacrilege, there needed no witness but eye-sight; and that he was chargeable with adultery, they affirmed, who certainly knew that he abused the widow of Ragnerius, and his father's concubine, and Anna, a widow, and her niece; and made the holy palace a common bawdy-house and stew. That he put out the eves of his spiritual father, Benedict, and killed him thereby. That he killed John, a cardinal sub-deacon, by cutting off his ! That he set houses on fire, and went armed and harnessed as a soldier. They all, both clergy and laity, cried out, that he drunk a health of wine to the devil. That at his play at dice, he would crave the help of Jupiter, Venus, and other demons,” etc. The bishops, deacons, clergy, and people of Rome, swore to the truth of the above depositions in these words: “If both the things read by Benedict the deacon, and filthier and greater villanies were not
committed by pope John, let not St. Peter absolve us from the bonds of our sins; let us be found tied with the bonds of Anathema, [or cursed from Christ,] and be set at Christ's left hand at the last day, with those that said to God the Lord, ‘ Depart from us, we would not have the knowledge of thy ways.'”
The council deposed John, and set up Leo. John called a synod of bishops, who styled him, “ The most godly, and most holy pope,” and cursed Leo and all his followers. The next year, he was caught in bed with another man's wife, and the incensed husband dispatched his holiness, by knocking out his brains. Baronius and Binius, two celebrated historians of the Romish church, make John the true pope to his death, (in opposition to Leo,) and trace the succession through him.* An infidel, a simonist, a drunkard, an adulterer, a murderer, a worshipper of idols and devils; a thing in human shape, worse than a beast, and bad as Beelzebub, is made Christ's vicar upon earth; has the
power of saving and damning whom he pleases; is full of the Holy Ghost, is the father of the faithful, and the dispenser of all spiritual blessings! All this must be believed, or the succession is lost! It certainly must require all the faith of a priest, to swallow so strange a compound of things spiritual, carnal, and devilish.
This is not a solitary instance of the most shocking wickedness in the superior clergy. Unnatural lusts were so frequent and public, that St. Bernard, in a sermon preached to the clergy of France, affirmed sodomy to be so common in his time, that bishops with bishops lived in it.f Nothing can be a stronger proof of the degraded state of morals among the clergy in those times than the following: “It is an amazing thing,” says Burnet, “ that in the very office of consecrating bishops, examinations are ordered concerning those crimes, the very mention of which give horror; De coitu cum masculo, et cum quadrupedibus.” ! If
* Baxter's Church History, p. 328–331. t Burnet's Exposit., Art. xxxii., p. 333, fourth edition. I Burnet's Exposit., Art. xxviii., p. 308.
these monsters were under a divine influence, the devil can scarcely be supposed to be without it; and if their inspiration be denied, the succession cannot be supported.
In the Universal Magazine for June, 1758, a very entertaining account is given of the election of a pope; from which the reader may judge how far the Holy Ghost is concerned in the business. It is stated, that
during the whole time of the conclave's sitting, the city abounds with pasquinades, copies of which are daily, in a secret manner, sold in the coffee-houses to foreigners; but they are, for the most part, wretched performances. As all magistracies now cease, many disorders and outrages are every day committed, especially in the country; and in Rome itself, it would be imprudent in foreigners, who have no connexion with the candidates, and consequently should have nothing to fear, to be out of their lodgings after it is dark; twenty or thirty persons being generally murdered in its streets, before the election is concluded."
“ The conclave is the scene where the cardinals principally endeavour to display their parts in artful intrigues; and many transactions pass here, which are far from showing that they are divinely inspired. It is a notorious fact, that whilst they sat to elect a pope in 1721, their animosities ran so high, that they proceeded to blows, with their hands and feet, and threw the standishes each at the other. It is, therefore, not in the least surprising, that among the other officers of the conclave, are one or two surgeons.”
The English reformers were no advocates for the episcopal succession : they freely admitted a sentiment which is fatal to it; namely, that there is no difference in point of order betwixt bishops and presbyters, according to the New Testament. The archbishops, bishops, and clergy, in their book, entitled, “ The Instruction of a Christian Man,” which they subscribed with their hands, and dedicated to the king in the year 1537, expressly declare, in the chapter of orders, " That priests and bishops by God's law are one