« PreviousContinue »
viduals, and render them subservient to the power of their adversaries, and although their bodies have been bound with chains in prisons, and by fire and faggots reduced to ashes; yet who could restrain the limits of their immortal desires, or withhold from them the cheering consolations of God, who promised never to leave nor forsake them ?" Therefore, as God is the strength of his people, let all those who are of a persecuting spirit stay their hands, and establish their doctrine, if they can, by the strength of good example and power of argument, and not by compulsion.
The few observations here presented, are intended to shew that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” 2 Cor. x, 4-5. As justice and truth are due to all, it is but reasonable to say, that altho' the Church of Rome has gone astray and has wandered into the devious wilds of darkness and superstition, yet she acknowledges the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the incarnation of the Eternal Word, the necessity of good works, the resurrection, and eternal rewards and punishments. It is to be regretted that farther concessions cannot be made, but that we must hence-forward behold a tissue of error, causing us to startle and recoil into the bosom of self-preservation, like a man bound to some distant land in a vessel of favourable appearance, but which on a more strict examination is found to be full of leaks and rottenness, from which he flies with speed, to make choice of a
better. And who, in the exercise of cohonion sense, could censure a man that, in a much more important concern, retracts his former engagements on the discovery of danger unseen before the laws of nature and the voice of Heaven crying aloud to him, “Escape for thy life!" Gen. xix, 17. And such is the discovery which one must make before he can escape from the Church of Rome; for this holy mother esteems herself so highly, that almost the first thing she teaches her children, is, that all others are heretics but themselves. This and few other superstitious maxims are the principal part of their religious instruction, for which they think too highly of themselves, and despise others. They must, therefore, receive an honest view of themselves in this case, before any of them can become reputed heretics by the declaration of their holy but offended mother. Such was the case with the writer of these lines, who for nearly nineteen years was as rigid a devotee as ever bowed to the shrine of Popery, and for a considerable time took an active part in the service of the altar as clerk, and strictly attended to all the rites and ordinances of the Popish Ritual. But as a detail of the circumstances which led to his conversion from the errors of Popery would occupy more space than the limits of this work will allow, and as this may be expected at some future period, let it suffice the reader to know, that the Bible was the principal instrument, together with a tedious controversy with an indefatigable protestant antagonist for nearly two years, during which time the writer had recourse to every thing that he thought might afford some strength to his cause. But as bad paint has a greater tendency to bedawb than to adorn; so, the more argument he used, the worse his cause was made to appear, as it brought every thing to the touch-stone of truth, where every existing deformity was exhibited. He then saw the Bible was the word and will of God, and was determined to give it an impartial reading, making it a matter of conscience to em brace the truth wherever it was found to exist; and in order to be undeceived, he procured, by privacy, the Douay Testament, the authorized version of the Popish Church ; for although it is called the authorized version, yet the laity are prohibited to read it. Here he met with a great disappointment, for, instead of finding what would strengthen his old arguments, he met with many things to contradict them; and he even found that the catechism called the Christian Doctrine, which be took so much pains to learn in his youth, completely contradicted itself, as may be seen in part of this work. Thus were the hidden mysteries of darkness brought to light by the reading of the Gospel: then every thing appeared in its proper colours; prejudices were removed, and salvation was the only object in pursuit. As long as the smallest hope of salvation could be entertained in the Popish Church, he could not think of leaving it; but when every thing was examined, as the reader will see in the following pages, all expected hardships and privations were submitted to, in confidence of the fulfilment of that promise of our Lord,~"Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Matt. xix, 29. But this promise was soon put to the test; for no sooner was the Gospel embraced, than the storm of persecution beat hard, and a compliance with former errors, or an open grave, threatened a further progress in the ways
of truth. A silent retreat was preferred to either; and the writer may say to the Bible, as the martyr did when he held it up in the flames, “It was thou that broughtest me hither!"
And now he proceeds to shew his reader the different and particular grounds for his leaving the Church of Rome, founding them on reason and Scripture, making Jesus Christ the sole basis of his superstructure; knowing that, “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. iii, 11. For although Papists acknowledge him to be the Son of God who died to redeem us, and allow him to be sufficient, yet they have many redeemers beside him; which will appear both dangerous and ineffectual, from the following considerations.
That man has fallen from that state of primeval rectitude and spotless innocence in which he was placed by the hand of his beneficent Creator, and has sunk into the lowest depths of degradation and moral depravity, are facts which are too evident to be denied. Thus the whole human race, without exception, are by nature the degenerate posterity of Adam; corrupt branches of the same corrupt stock, “far from God and righteousness, possessing the carnal mind which is enmity against God." Rom. viii, 7. And in this forlorn condition man must have inevitably perished, had not God himself devised a plan whereby to restore his apostate creature to his forfeited bliss; for man having transgressed against an infinite Being, he, as a finite creature, could render no satisfaction for his offence. “ Present for past could "ne'er atone.”
“Rivers of oil and seas of blood must all have flowed in vain;" they could only be a finite oblation, which never could answer an infinite demand.
Angels could not have redeemed man: they are only finite and created beings, and consequently could not offer an infinite satisfaction. Thus all human and angelic merit shrunk into nothing, when the inflexible justice of an offended God cried out against the trembling culprits, saying, “Pay me that thou owest." Here the wretched transgressors must have stood speechless, being unable to answer the demands of justice, or avert the stroke of punishment, had not the heavenly voice of redeeming love sweetly interposed. This is beautifully described by our great Poet, when shewing the miserable and helpless condition of man, the claims of infinite justice against him, and God's address to the host of Heaven relative to his recovery
“To expiate his treason, hath nought left, “But, to destruction sacred and devote,
He with his whole posterity must die. “ Die he or justice must; unless for him “Some other able, and as willing, pay “The rigid satisfaction,-death for death.