The New Zealand Evangelist
General Religious Intelligence
General Religious Intelligence.
Rome. Alleged Renunciation Of Popery By The Romans.
We publish to-day the Roman document to which we referred in our columns of Wednesday. We take it as abridged in the Evangelical Christendom, the conductors of which periodical in form us that it was transmitted to them from Rome, after some detention in the Post Office,—that it had been issued by the Popular Club at Rome, circulated in thousands of copies throughout that city, and received with universal acclamation by the Romans. The document is a most remarkable one in all respects, and we see no reason to doubt its authenticity, unless on the ground that it indicates a maturity of knowledge, both as regards fundamental doctrines of revelation, and the great scriptural principles which regulate the constitution and government of the Church, which might be scarce deemed possible, considering the peculiar circumstances of the Romans, and the shortness of the time they have page 346 had to study these matters. But this impossibillity vanishes when we take into account, that recently not fewer than seventy thousand Bibles have been distributed in Rome,—that under the excitement of late events there has been an extrnordinary quickening of the Roman mind,—and that the necessity has been forced upon the Romans of sifting the truth and foundation of things hitherto received without question. Besides, the document bears internal evidence of being the product of an Italian mind; and though possibly Dr. Desanctis and the other eminent men in Malta who take a deep interest in the Italian movement, and are watching it with intense anxiety, may have aided by their advice the compilers of this document, yet it is so admirably adapted to the circumstances and mental condition of the Romans at this moment, that it is not at all likely to have been written out of Rome. It places the truth before the Italian mind, not in the form of dogma, but inferentially and by suggestion. It contains a wonderfully clear exhibition of all the great principles that compose the Church's doctrine, and that regulate her government. The truth on which Luther built his Reformation,—justification by faith alone,—it unequivocally proclaims. It asserts the vital doctrine, which it has all along been the grand aim of Popery to obscure,—that there is one Mediator between God and man. It affirms that the Head of the Church is, and only can be, Jesus Christ; and it teaches, moreover, like our own Reformer Knox, that the Pope and the priests do not constitute the Church, but that the “congregation of believers” is the Church; and that the Christians assembling at Rome are the Roman Church, which is holy if they are holy, and apostolic if they adhere to the doctrine of the apostles. It claims also, in behalf of the Church so defined, the right of changing her bishop, and puts to Pius IX. this question,—whether he would think it absurd should the people of Rome, who are strictly the Roman Church, repudiate him “an apostate, treacherous, and bombarding bishop, and choose for themselves another,—faithful, truthful, and beneficent?” and asks in the event of the Roman people doing so, of what Church he would be Pontiff? All these important truths, and others scarcely less vital and important, are boldly set forth in this remarkable document.
The French and the English papers observe a profound silence regarding this greal evangelical movement, which, it would appear, is now in progress in Rome. It is not the manner of these journals to bestow attention on such matters, seeing they can discover no weight in them. But it is plain that some great obstacle exists at Rome to the restoration of the Papacy, which has not yet been avowed. It is now a month since the French entered the city, avowedly for the purpose of restoring the Pope; and yet for anything that appears, that event is about as distant as ever. And hence, too, the strong remonstrance and warnings reiterated from day to day, of the Roman correspondent of the Times, who is himself a Papist, that if the Pope shall return in the plentitude of absolute power,—in other words, if the tempornl be not disjoined page 347 from the spiritual sovereignity,—it is all over with Rome, that is, with the Pope And with this agree the lamentations of Father Ventura, that heretics were multiplying every day at Rome, and that the very existence of the Church was in peril in the seat and centre of her authority. It is plain, too, from the frightfully bitter and malignant epithets which the Pope and his creatures apply to the Romans, that some movement is in progress at Rome which gives unspeakable mortification and alarm to the adherents of the Papacy. Rome is described in the Papal manifestos as “a den of raging beasts,” and those who inhabit it are termed “apostates.” “heretics,” “furies of hell,” et cetera.
All these facts corroborate the statements of the Chritian Times and Evangelical Christendom, respecting the origin of the document, and the effects which it has produced. Viewed in this light, we must regard the document as indicating an event which has had few occurrences to equal it, in point of magnitude, in Europe since the Reformation. The Romans had already dethroned the Pope as a temporal prince; and now, it would appear, they have dethroned him as a spiritual sovereign.
The Wesleyan Conference And The “Fly Sheets.”
A good deal of excitement has been occasioned in England by the expulsion of the Rev. Messrs. Everett, Dunn, and Griffiths, Jun., from the Wesleyan Conference, on account of their supposed connexion with the Fly Sheets. The Fly Slects, some of our readers may not know, were certain anonymous publications, attacking in a most violent manner the Wesleyan Conference and its leading men, such as Drs. Bunting and Newton, and accusing them for mal-administration, especially in the appropriation of their mission funds. No 1 of the Fly Sheets, was published in 1844 or 5; No. 2 in 1846; and No. 3, and a second edition of No. 1 in 1847. The Conference of 1847 passed a resolution, from which there were only two dissenting voices, strongly condemning the Fly Sheets, and the Rev. G. Osborne was permitted to present to the ministers for signature a short declaration, disavowing all connexion with the authorship of the Fly Sheets. This declaration was largely subscribed, but a considerable number declined subscribing, on the ground that the resolution of the Conference was sufficient. The writers of the Fly Sheets continued their opposition unabated, and the promoters of the declaration seeing the advantage that was taken of the minority of 256 ministers, out of the whole connexion, who did not sign, opened the declaration anew, and procured a great number of names to be affixed to it. The minority was gradually lessened, till the three ministers already mentioned, still refusing to submit to this page 348 method of procedure, were finally expelled from the Conference.
From our neutral position as members of the Evangelical Alliance, we can neither be the defenders of the expelled ministers, nor the apologists of the Conference, The three ministers are men of considerable standing, in years, talents, and acquirements; a great amount of sympathy is expressed towards them, both among other denominations and in their own; and the proceedings of the Conference certainly bear a rather inquisitorial appearance, and are of a somewhat unprecedented character. On the other hand, the Fly Sheets were published without the name of either the writers or printers, but they furnished internal evidence of being the productions of Wesleyan preachers. If it was a real desire to redress the evils complained of why not bring the matter openly forward in some constitutional way? Why resort to this stiletto warfare? The perfect unanimity of the Conference in expelling them, appears strange, if they were innocent. In such a large body, where the circumstances were all well known, if the sentence had been really unjust, humanity and christianity are both, changed, if some independent spirits had not stood forth in their defence; but for two of them, only one hand beyond their own, and for one of them, not a single hand was lifted up.
We mourn on account of this painful occurrence, but rejoice to learn that in all other respects the prospects of the Wesleyan Conference in its efforts to advance Christianity, were peculiarly cheering.
The Sabbath Question,—
One of the most keenly contested points at present between the Church and the world, is the possession of the Sabbath. In Scotland the meetings of railway directors is invariably the arena for a tough and vigorous contest. But the Sabbath has ceased to be simply a Scottish question; though, like many other momentous questions, originating there, it has crossed the Tweed, and is now a British question. The British Parliament and the City of London are now also the theatres of the conflict. Mr. Locke's Sunday Trains Bill was cast out of the House of Commons, but there is reason to fear it will be renewed. Another alarming innovation has been threatened in the Post Office Department of the Metropolis. “On Wednesday evening,” says the Christain [sic: Christian] Times, “Mr. Rowland Hill announced to the Post Office, that the Lords of the Treasury had sanctioned the arrival and departure of all the mails, in connexion with the metropolitan office on the Sabbath, and that this new arrangement would commence on Sunday, 14th October next. We learn that at present about twelve bags arrive, on the Lord's day, from the principal ports, a mail from Scotland and Ireland, and two or three foreign mails. The work thus entailed on the Post Office occupies six or seven clerks, and a few sorters and messengers, all of whom attend voluntarily. The alteration contemplated will involve the arrival of 650 bags, which will bring the bulk of the letters which at present arrive on Monday morning. This work will bring the majority of the clerks, sorters, and messengers on Sunday duty. At present, only 8,000 letters arrive on page 349 Sunday morning; by the projected plan, 200,000 will require sorting, and to be prepared for despatch by the Sunday evening mails. The whole machine will be set at work, whether there be many or few letters, and the ultimate result must be, that every postal operation will be in action, as on ordinary days. The letter-carriers will have to go their rounds, after having first officiated as sorters, and thus will the sanctity of the Sabbath be insulted by a Government Trading Establishment, while the same Government upholds a State Church!” The friends of the Sabbath were actively bestirring themselves. A general meeting of the merchants, bankers, and traders of London was called to petition against the measure, at which the Lord Mayor was to preside.
The Sabbath, however, is no longer even a British, it is fast becoming a European question. At Wittemberg, where Luther published his famous theses, and where the ashes of the great reformer and his coadjutor Melancthon have reposed for some three centuries, a conference of upwards of 600 pastors and others, have met to promote an “Alliance of Churches” and kindred objects. At this conference the Sabbath question was taken vigorously up. The divine obligation of the Lord's-day seems never to have been so well understood, or so fully admitted and acted on, on the continent as in Britain. “Luther himself (said pastor Walther at this conference,) once took the pen out of the hand of Melancthon, as he was writing the ‘confession of Augsburg,’ saying, ‘dear friend, misuse not the Lord's-day,’ “The practice of females knitting during divine service prevails in many parts to a very great extent; and though it is so strange to out’ ideas of public worship, it was promoted by the excellent Oberlin. The truth is, the Sabbath is almost practically lost on the Continent; and this the godly feel, and sigh for the Sabbaths enjoyed in Britain. At this conference great attention was paid to the devising of means for securing the observance of the Sabbath. Pastor Mann presented to the chairman copies of the “Pearl of Days,’ and of the three Essays by working men, for which Mr. John Henderson, of Glasgow, gave prizes. Two prizes, the one of £70 and the other of £57, have been offered through Dr. Marriott, of Basle, for the two best essays in German on the observance of the Lord's-day. Steps are also about to be taken for the publishing of a magazine devoted exclusively to the subject of the Sabbath, and edited in the spirit of the “Sabbath Tracts for the Times.”
Men and Books.—
It is stated, on the authority of professor Tholuck, of Halle, that “the so-called Reformed German Catholics were fast diminishing and would soon disappear, some becoming Protestant Lutherans, but most rationalists and infidels. Ronge himself had cut loose from all religious and moral restrants, and was now living the life of an abandoned libertine. Doviat, the coadjutor of Rong, has been imprisoned for sedition, and had lately published an avowal that he and his party had only made religion a mask under which they might work out their political schemes. And Czerski, though a good man, was weak and wavering.”page 350
A translation into German of Dr. Merle d'Aubigne's History of the Reformation, was commenced two years ago by Dr. M. Runkel. It is to be completed in five or six volumes. It is published at a very low price, so as to become an “Evangelical book of the people.”
From Dr. Kitto's Journal of Sacred Literature we learn that the anthor of “Ancient Christianity,” Isaac Taylor, suspending his half-finished translation of Josephus, has sent forth an original volume entitled “Loyola; and Jesuitism in its Rudiments,” The work is divided into two equal parts, the first being devoted to the personal history of “Loyola” and the second to “Jesuitism in its rudiments,” that is, as set forth in what may be regarded as the canonical writings of Jesuitism.
The first portion is an admirable dissertation on the career of a most remarkable man. The history of Loyola is here related with much animation and strength of style; his character is delineated with masterly discrimination; and the principles developed in his career are indicated with marvellous distinctness. In every page we trace the mind of one who is gifted with a rare tact for the discovery of the beautiful and the true, wherever it may be found; and for detecting the foul and the false, in whatever dark corners it may be hidden. Loyola has never till now had a biographer so willing and so able to do full justice to all the good in his character and principles, and so resolute and keen in laying bare all the evil in both.
The chapter near the close, on the purport of Jesuitism, contains many sagacions and profound observations which will be read with great interest.
“It is probable,” Mr. Taylor says “that the Jesuit Society, not slow to read the lesson which events are placing in its view, will abandon what it may deem a desperate endeavour to rule the world as from the depths of closets and cabinets, and may at once address itself to a task which, if it be more arduous and more perilous, is more stimulating—that of ruling it by placing itself in immediate communication with the masses of the people; and by offering itself to ride foremost on the surges of popular agitation.
Henceforward, as we may surmise, it will not be in the way of intrigue that the society will make itself felt—for intrigue is not an engine that can be brought to bear on millions of men, but as the promulgators of a political and social creed acceptable to these masses in a sense of which it may seem to be susceptible when expounded to rude ears; but which in its inner and true meaning, carries entire the principles of an absolute despotism. In times gone by, Jesuitism sought to rule the world by putting itself near and nearer still to the throne: or by actualiy edging itself on to seats of power. But in times to come, as we may imagine, it will seek to compass the same design by standing the most forward in every popular assault upon thrones. So long as monarchies rested solidly in their places upon the field of Europe, the Jesuit Society wished to stand upon the same terra firma; page 351 but now that this ground trembles beneath the foot, it will com mend itself upon its own raft to the mighty deep—the many, the ‘many waters,'—the people!”—(p. 322.)
Sydney. The Presbyterian Marriage Question.
Judicial persecution, like judicial murder, is the most cruel and tantalizing of all persecution; although happily it is the only form that is available in present times. Persecution is not now carried on, as of old, by such rude weapons as the sword, the fire, and the gibbet. The troopers of Claverhouse are disbanded. The fires of Smithfield are extinguished. The Star Chamber and the High Commission Courts are abolished. The storming Lauderdale and the brow-beating Jeffries have no successors, because their “occupation is gone.” Men are not now shot for reading their Bible, singing Psalms, or attending a Conventicle: but under the embodiment of legal forms the spirit of persecution exhibits nearly as much vitality as in the times of the martyrs. Acts of Parliament that have slumberred on the statute-book for centuries, are dragged eagerly forth to light, and made vital with the spirit of high churchism. Judges “dressed in a little brief authority,” parade these statutes as the very essence of the Constitution, and profess that they are obliged, in obedience to the dictates of their conscience, and under the awful obligation of their official oaths, to give decisions in conformity to the very letter of these laws. Within the last few years, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, abundant examples have been furnished of this legal persecution. With the Shore and Gorham cases our readers are all more or less familiar. Many will also remember the famous Irish Presbyterian Marriage question, and the excitement that was occasioned some ten or twelve years ago, by decisions in the Irish Courts, based upon statutes enacted nearly as far back as the days of William the Conqueror.
A case similar to the Irish-Presbyterian Marriage Question has been tried just now in Sydney. A page 352 full report of the trial has been given, and some forcible strictures have been made upon it, by our able, evangelical contemporary, “The Voice in the Wilderness.”
The facts are simply these. In a trial for bigamy, it appeared that the defendant had been first married by an Episcopalian Minister; this marriage was admitted on all sides to be legal. Some years after, while his wife was still alive, he was married a second time, by the Rev. Dr. M'Garvie, of the Established Church of Scotland. It is this marriage that is sought to be set aside, on the ground that Dr. M'Garvie omitted an unimportant legal formality, —the signing of a declaration that one of the parties was a Paesbyterian. Had the pending decision affected only this solitary case, it would have been a matter only of individual interest; but it is raising a question likely to affect the whole Presbyterian Marriages in the Colony. The law of the case is this:—
In 1834, an Act was passed by the Legislative Council of New South Wales, to remove all doubts as to the validity of certain marriages; and to regulate such marriages in time to come. By this Act the following among other conditions are required in all Presbyterian Marriages.
1st. That one or both of the parties must, in point of fact, “be members of, or hold communion with, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.”
2nd. That one or both of the parties must make a declaration in writing to that effect.
3rd. That the Minister officiating must be “an ordained Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.”
The first thing that strikes us in this Act; is the vagueness of the language employed. It is imposisible to say whether it is all the five, or only one of the five Presbyterian Churches that is included in the words “Presbyterian Church of Scotland,” or whether it is to apply to English and American Presbyterians. Equally vague is the description of page 353 persons, being members of, or holding communion with this Church. The glorious uncertainty of the law had never choicer elements on which to work. The partial character of this Act is equally striking. Episcopalian Ministers may evidently marry any parties, and their marriages will be held valid under any circumstances; but Presbyterian Ministers can marry only in those cases where both or one of the parties are bona fide Presbyterians, and if any formality is omitted, the marriage can be called in question. We say nothing at present on the invidious elevation of one class of Ministers above another, who are equally well educated, equally orthodox, equal in character, set apart to the office of the ministry with equal publicity and solemnity, and who are equally recognised as Ministers by their Congregations, by the public, and by the law of the land,—our own New Zealand Marriage Ordinance is not, even yet, altogether free from this exclusive spirit,—for this, though a grave, is but a secondary matter. But we caunot reprobate in language too strong, that enacting and expounding of statutes, in such a way as to throw doubts, not on a single marriage, but on a whole class of marriages. No question that can be raised involves such important points, affecting morals, character, and property, as the question of the validity of marriages. Persecution could not invent a more cruel engine of torture, than by getting a court of law to throw doubts upon the validity of the marriages of any religious denomination. It is injecting poison at the very fountain head of domestic happiness.
If this marriage be declared void, as there is reason to believe it will, an element of insecurity will be introduced into every Presbyterian Marriage solemnised in New South Wales. We shall look with much interest for the decision. But, however this case may be decided, we fondly hope that our Presbyterian friends, and every lover of truth and justice in that colony, will spare no exertion until this question, affecting so intimately, not only our page 354 common Christianity, but even the interests of our common humanity,—be placed upon a basis of perfect equality, and thorough security.