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(3.) The Romanists, I know, will tell us, that they do not pray to the imaye, but to the person whom it represents.
This however does not mend the matter. Their demonolatrous predecessors of the pagan school, as we are expressly taught by themselves, did not absolutely pray to the block out of which the image of Jupiter was formed, but to the god represented by the image and supposed by a certain divine energy to animate it * : and we have yet to learn, even if the decalogue had not strictly forbidden prostration before any image, on what scriptural authority or on what sound Christian principles the Romanists invoke the saints and the virgin Mary t.
say with the less or more intense worship which is paid to the “ saints or the Virgin; then must the image also be worshipped “ with Dulia or Hyperdulia.”
It seems, that some over squeamish persons even in the Romish Church were subject to qualms as to the orthodoxy of image-worship: but James Naclantus assures them, that they may safely swallow the worship of the very images themselves without any scruple or doubt or roundabout explanation,
* Such we learn to have been the case from Porphyry and Jamblichus and Hermes Trismegistus : so that Arnobius does not belie them, when he gives exactly the same account. See Mede's Apost. of the latter times. chap. v. p. 632. See also Æneid. lib. ii. ver. 171-174. from which the Romish miraclemongers seem to have taken some hints for the benefit of the Virgin's statues. See Whit, on the Rev. p. 341.
+ Can they justify their practice, I will not say by a direct quotation from Scripture, but even by a fair train of inductive reasoning from any single text? Yet have they cruelly persecuted hundreds to death because they would not bow down before senseless stocks and stones.
Our modern Papists in England, ashamed (I suppose) of the gross idolatry of their fathers and their Spanish contemporaries, will say, that they only beg of the saints and the Virgin to intercede for them, just as we ask the intercessory prayers of any pious living man.
But this will not serve their turn; even if they could shew the same scriptural authority for asking the prayers of the departed, as we can shew for asking the prayers of the living. Supplications of a very different stamp are yet extant, in which the Virgin and the saints are directly and unreservedly invoked to give what God alone can bestow*. Do
+ I cite the two following, out of many similar prayers, to shew, that intercession alone is not that which the Romanists supplicate from their demon-gods.
“ Comfort a sinner, and give not thine honour to a stranger or “ the cruel; I pray thee, Queen of heaven. Have me excused “ with Christ thy son, whose anger I dread; for against thee “ only have I sinned. O virgin Mary, be not estranged from
me, thou who art full of heavenly grace. Be the guardian of
my heart ; impress me with the fear of God; bestow on me in“ tegrity of life; and give me honesty of manners : and grant, " that I may avoid sin and love what is righteous, O virgin “ sweetness.'
To those, who should use this prayer, Pope Celestine granted three hundred days of pardon,
“ We now beg you, patron, industrious preacher, holy Alban, “ who art our true glory, loose the crimes of thy servants by thy “ supplications.” Coll. et Hymn. in usum Sar. Paris 1520. apud Burnet's Records. numb. 29. Such blasphemy might be renounced by the modern Papists;
they allow these prayers to be orthodox? What then becomes of the allegation, that their prayers to the Virgin and the saints are merely intercessory? Do they deny them to be orthodox? What then becomes of St. Vincent's golden rule and the infallible sense of the Catholic Church?
3. But it may be urged by a Romanist, that we Protestants of the Church of England are guilty of a inanifest inconsistency : for, while we declare the Bible to be the sole rule of faith, we nevertheless require subscription to those mere huinan and confessedly fallible expositions of it, the Articles and the Homilies.
It will, I presume, be granted, that, if men congregate together for any given purpose, they must adopt by mutual agreement certain rules or laws by which to shape their sentiments and to regulate their conduct. Without such a compact, it is perfectly clear that they would constitute an absolute Babel: without such a compact, they could no more form an harmonious body politic, than the builders of the tower when their language was r.iraculously confounded.
On this obvious principle, if I mistake not, the Articles and Homilies of the English Church were framed and composed. She had thrown off the osurped authority of the Roman bishop: and she had openly declared of those in communion with bim, that she had come out from among them that she might not be a partaker of their sins and that she might not receive of their .plagues *. Under such circumstances, most strange and inconsistent would have been her conduct, had she not given a distinct exposition of her own religious sentiments; that so it might lucidly appear to the whole world, wherein and on what grounds she differed from those whom she had left. But this were of small emolument in the internal arrangement of her discipline, if she did not carefully learn from her ecclesiastical children, previous to her admitting them to minister in her communion, whether their views of revealed religion as deduced from the Bible were the same as her own: for, without such a precaution, every heresy, which had disturbed and corrupted the Catholic Church from the very days of the Apostles, might be confidently preached within her pale ; various doctrines and opinions, not in themselves absolutely damnable and heretical, but which rest upon no sure and certain warrant of Holy Scripture, might be impertinently advanced and unwisely insisted upon by insulated individuals; and thus, while discord and confusion raged within her walls, she might well be exposed to the scorn and derision of her adversaries as a rude and indigested and turbulent chaos.
but unfortunately, as Bp. Walmesley says, “ the Catholic “ Church speaks but once, and her decree is irrevocable.” The strange dogma of Infallibility is as a mill-stone round the necks of the Romanists: it renders every acknowledgment of error, either in doctrine or in practice, impossible.
Hence originated the necessity of demanding from her clergy a forinal subscription to her own avowed sentiments, as expressed in her Articles and her Homilies and her Liturgy: her very existence as a body politic, just as the very existence of any other body politic, plainly and wholly depended upon
it. But what then? Does she profess to be infallible in her exposition of Scripture ? Does she presumptuously anathematize all who differ from her in the least particular, as manifest and convicted heretics? Does she unchurch all Christian societies, which have been led to differ from her on some points whether of doctrine or of practice? Does she deny to those other Churches the same right of searching the Scriptures and of promulgating for their own members their respective confessions of faith and schemes of discipline, which she justly claims for herself?
Nothing of the sort. This is indeed the principle and practice of the pretended Catholic Church of Rome, but it is neither the principle nor the practice of the national Church of England; however, in the evil days of the arbitrary Stuarts, some bigoted and mistaken men may have thought fit to misrepresent her. She asserts, it is true, that the Church has authority in controversies of faith : but let us hear her explain her own assertion ; and nothing can be more reasonable and modest. What then is this authority, which she claims for the Church? Is it an infallible authority, from which there lies no appeal? Is it a final authority, to which