The New Zealand Evangelist
Notices Of Books
Notices Of Books.
Enchiridion against Articles No. 15, 17, 18, & c. of the New Zealand Evangelist, on the Most Holy Eucharist. By the Rev. J. J. P. O'Reily.
Our reason for again taking up this pamphlet is, that we have here an authorised exposition of the doctrines of popery. Nothing is more common when Protestants charge Roman Catholics with holding certain doctrines, than to meet with the reply, accompanied by a Sardonic laugh, “Oh! we don't hold such and such views; some ignorant persons may say so and so, but no good catholic ever believes such things.” In this way popery undergoes such Proteus-like changes of form, and such cameleon-like changes of colour, that simple Protestants who have not read the creed of Pius iv., are often sadly non-plussed to know what Romanists really believe, and what the doctrines of the Church of Rome really are. But when a publication issues from the pen of the “Catholic Pastor of the Catholic Faithful,” there can be no doubt but its contents are the doctrines of genuine popery, as calculated for the meridian of Port Nicholson.page 412
There is one point to which Mr. O'Reily has given great prominence in all his publications; but to which, as it was not the ground of our original controversy, we have avoided making any reference, that is, the Authority of the Church. Mr. O'R. assumes that the Church of Rome is the only true Church of Christ,—that Christ is always present by his spirit with the Popes and Bishops of this Church—that “in the teaching of this Church no error in faith or morals can exist,”—and that consequently implicit obedience under pain of damnation is due to the declarations and decisions of such a tribunal. We agree with him when he says “The question of the Authority of the Church rightly resolved, solves every difficulty,” and deem this a favourable opportunity for making a few remarks on the subject.—There is much plausibility but little force in the way that a few texts of scripture are constantly quoted and applied to the Church of Rome, as, “Lo, I am with you always, &c.” “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another paraclete, or comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” If this argument has any force it must mean, that on the part of the Romish clergy, there is something like an absolute physical necessity, that they shall always think and speak correctly on all Scriptural subjects, however ignorant, indolent, or wicked they may be.—that the same spirit of inspiration which infallibly guided the sacred penmen in writing the Scriptures, must ever rest on the Pope, Bishops, and Clergy of the Church of Rome in expounding them—that the sermons of Mr. O'Reily are as infallibly true in every particular as the Gospel of John; and the pages of this Enchiridion are as free from error (typographical errors excepted) as the Epistles of Peter and Paul! for “In the teaching of this Church no error in faith or morals can exist.”
Although it could be proved (which it cannot) that the Church of Rome is the only true Church of Christ on earth, and all the Protestant Churches that reject her authority worse than heathens and page 413 publicans, it would not follow that her teaching is infallible, and necessarily exempt from error. The Jewish Church was the only true Church of Christ for fifteen hundred years. Christ not only promised to be with them, but he was visibly present among them in the Pillar and the Shekinah. The people were the descendants of Abraham, the Priests were the legitimate sons and successors of Aaron, and the Kings were of the royal line of David; they could all trace their descent up to patriarchs, priests, and prophets, with immeasurably greater certainty than the Romish Clergy can trace their succession from the Apostles. But did these external privileges secure the people and the princes from idolatry; or the priests before the Lord's altar from error, immorality, and spiritual as well as ceremonial defilement? The Scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses seat; the Pharisees could say, “we have Abraham to our father;” the priests were the true successors of Aaron;—as far as external privileges went, they were the priests, and prophets, and select members of the true Church; yet John the Baptist calls the Pharisees and Sadducees a generation of vipers; and our Saviour pronounced woe after woe upon them, for taking away the key of knowledge, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and leaving their proselytes two-fold more the children of hell than they found them. Their external relation to the Church of the patriarchs and the prophets did not preserve them from error, nor prevent them from crucifying their own promised Messiah. The Jews of the present day can give the most undeniable proofs of their relationship to Abraham, and their claim to all the promises made to the father of the faithful, and confirmed and enlarged by Moses and the prophets; but beyond their wonderful and distinct preservation, what more of these promises are they now enjoying? Because they continue as a nation to reject Christ, he continues to reject them. The apostacy of the Church is as clearly revealed as the infidelity of the Jews, and history records the one page 414 as faithfully as the other. The promises of God's presence and blessing to the Israelites were not absolute but conditional. The promises to the New Testament ministers and people are the same. It is only in the way of obedience and through the channel of appointed means that these promised blessings are to be obtained.
The mere sound of a word often deceives many. The word Church is found in the New Testament, with certain definite meanings. The same word is still in current use; but without enquiring whether it is used in the same sense, all that is affirmed of the New Testament Church is said by popish writers to be true of the Church of Rome. The fallacy of this reasoning might easily be shown. For example, the blood or juice of the grape, simply pressed out or otherwise prepared, is called wine in Scripture. It was promised as a blessing to the Israelites, and proved a nourishing and refreshing article of daily use. In process of time wine was adulterated in various ways to a great extent, till now a mixture is often manufactured of brandy, logwood, lead, and other noxious ingredients, with scarcely a particle in it of the juice of the grape, and sold for wine; and because the genuine wine was a good substance and a blessing from God; and because these noxious counterfeits retain the same name, and present the same appearance, and are used for the same purposes as the genuine wine, there are great numbers of people who do not discover the cheat. And because the counterfeited or adulterated wines are better suited to a depraved and vitiated taste than the genuine, many, whose taste has been vitiated, think these noxious wines better than the pure and genuine, and prefer them accordingly; while among many of those who use these counterfeits, and especially those who are interested in their manufacture or sale, all the promises and commendations connected with good wine in Scripture, are plausibly brought forward as applying to those noxious compounds that have nothing scarcely in common with the page 415 wines drank by our Saviour, but the colour and the name. It would be easy to trace some historical connexion between the modern counterfeits and the ancient wines; they are manufactured more or less in the same countries, stored up in similar vessels, or vessels bearing the same names, and used for similar purposes; but agreement in these accidental circumstances will not establish an essential identity.
The same remarks may be applied to the word Church. There was a Church of Christ in Rome, to which Paul wrote an Epistle; its faith was spoken of throughout the world; and it possessed all the characteristics of a true Church of Christ. In modern times there is a Society of men who can trace some historical relationship to this Church, who retain their name, and a few of their doctrines and forms, but mixed up with a vast amount of what is essentially different from any thing known, believed, or practiced by the primitive christians; but because they call themselves the Church, can trace some historical connexion to the primitive church, and can point out some other accidental similarities, they stoutly affirm that all the promises made by Christ to his true followers belong exclusively to them; although they have no more in common with the primitive Church, than the encyclical letters of Pius ix have with Paul's epistle to the Romans.
Christ has pledged his word for the security of his Church on earth, and for the continuance of his presence by his spirit with his people; but the promise is secured to no particular society of men unconditionally. Christ cast off his ancient people for their unbelief and disobedience. He removed the candlestick from the seven Churches in Asia. And so far is the Church of Rome from exhibiting the characteristics of the bride, the lamb's wife, that, as an old divine has said, were the “hue and cry” raised to apprehend the “Mother of Harlots” as described in Rev. xvii, xviii, the officers in pursuit would proceed direct to Rome. The spirit and grace of Christ are page 416 not confined to any church or society of men, nor do the sacraments or the ordinances of the gospel operate by any physical necessity, as food nourishes and fire burns; they depend for their efficacy on the blessing of Christ, the working of his spirit, and the faith of the recipients. Christ will always secure members to his church more or less, according to his sovereign pleasure, by communicating his saving grace to those who diligently, honestly, and perseveringly, use the means of his appointment.—He will pardon their sins, accept of them as righteous, and renew and sanctify their nature. Those who are thus saved by God, and made partakers of his Spirit, will naturally seek the fellowship of the saints,—of those who are like-minded with themselves. It becomes the duty of the Church—the Christian Society, to ascertain whether these candidates for fellowship can produce the evidences of visible saint-ship, and if such are found, to admit them to the privileges of the Church, and recognise them as christian brethren. Every saint thus derives his spiritual life direct from heavan, and every society of persons who are thus partakers of faith and holiness, whether confined to a single family, or comprising the population of an empire, is a Church of Christ, with whom he is present so long as they seek and obey him.
Christ secures a perpetual succession of ministers in the same way. He does not communicate his spirit from one minister to another. He communicates his gifts and graces direct from heaven. The holy ichor does not trickle down from the fingers of one bishop to the head of another, from the Apostle Peter, in unbroken succession to Pio Nono. But by conferring certain natural endowments, and granting his blessing on the cultivation of those powers, a sufficiency of Scriptural and secular knowledge is thus acquired, and men are thus furnished with the requisite gifts and graces for discharging the duties of the christian ministry. As man is formed for activity, and feels delight in the page 417 exercise of every faculty with which he is endowed—the child attempts to walk and speak, as soon as he feels the power within him of doing so—so in like manner those who become possessed, by the blessing and grace of Christ, of ministerial qualifications, naturally desire to exercise them; and when such members of the Church offer their services for the benefit of their brethren and of the christian community, they are to be tried as to the reality of these gifts and graces; and if they are found to possess them, they are to be recognised and set apart to the office of the ministry. They are to be ordained because they possess “the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit “; but they do not receive the gifts of the Spirit in consequence of their ordination. Ordination is the setting apart of a person so qualified to the office of the ministry; it confers ministerial authority, but communicates no ministerial gifts or graces. It is the commission of God, certified by the imparted qualifications, that clothes the minister of the gospel with his highest claim to ministerial authority; the commission of man is necessary, principally for the sake of external order, to prevent confusion in the Church, and that every one may know and attend to his proper duties. The doctrine of Apostolic succession and Episcopal or-dination go for little among those who look to Christ himself for ministers and ministerial gifts. The conferring of the Holy Ghost was one of the extra-ordinary powers vested in the Apostles, and even in Apostolic times the Holy Ghost was given direct from heaven without the laying on of their hands. When Peter preached to the Gentiles at Cesarea, the Holy Ghost fell upon those who heard the word, and he baptised them in consequence of their having received the Holy Ghost. It is by the continued communication of his Spirit that Christ thus raises up members and ministers, and that his Church can never fail. He has pledged himself that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. But these promises cannot be claimed by any society of men to page 418 the exclusion of all others. It is possessing the characteristics of christianity, and not having the mere name, that entitles to those promises. It is union with the living head in heaven, not connexion with any earthly head, that constitutes a living Church and secures the promises respecting Christ's presence. Separation from any particular Church on earth does not necessarily forfeit this privilege, or it would have been lost in the days of the Apostles. Paul and Barnabas separated from each other, and were each followed and listened to by others.— Which party here was the true Church? With whom was Christ and his Spirit present? At Corinth there were divisions; some were followers of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas or Peter, and others simply of Christ. Which party here was the true Church? Was it found only in the followers of Peter? When our Saviour was on earth there was one who cast out devils in Christ's name, but followed Him not with the other disciples; but Jesus said “forbid him not.” Christ is infinitely more charitable than the Church of Rome “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness (protestant or papist) is accepted with him.”
True christians are known by their character, not by their name only. “By their fruits ye shall know them.’ The protestant and the popish aspects of Christianity have been in operation side by side for three centuries. Both systems have borne fruits. What have been their respective effects upon national character? Contrast the most thoroughly Popish countries with the most thoroughly Protestant; Spain with Great Britain; South and Central America with the United States. At the Reformation Spain was one of the leading powers in Europe. Since that time she has been most devotedly Popish. Protestantism was entirely banished and has been excluded ever since. If Popery is the true, and consequently the best form of Christianity, we should naturally expect that that country, where page 419 Christianity in its best form has been so long, so fully, and so freely developed, would naturally and necessarily become the most eminent for knowledge, civilization, industry, peace, and every species of moral excellence. Is this the case with Spain and her South American Colonies? Before the Reformation, when England was wholly Popish. she was only a second or third rate power in the European Commonwealth; but as soon as she became Protestant she immediately rose, and has ever since kept her place among the first of the nations of Europe. The United States of America have long done the same. The difference of religion more than all other causes has produced these striking contrasts. If men are prevented from exercising their minds on the highest and most important of all subjects; if the mind is subjected upon this point to the authority of a selfish priesthood, its faculties will soon become cramped for application to other subjects. The traveller from Popish Conaught to Protestant Ulster, can easily trace the difference of creed by the external aspect of the soil, and the state of cultivation and comfort. Some will be disposed to attribute this difference to the indomitable energy of the Saxon character. If so, how did the Saxton character lie so much dormant till the reformation, and awaken with such power then? And do we not see the Celtic Protestant as energetic in every respect as the Saxon, although he has to acquire all his knowledge through the medium of a foreign tongue? Before the Reformation the Church of Rome possessed uncontrolled power, she united Europe in one society; but the centuries of her power are known as the dark ages! The revival of learning and the reformation were coeval; they acted reciprocally as causes and effects. It was said of the ancient Romans that when they had unpeopled a region, so that there were none left to bear arms, they said, they had given peace to that country. When the Church of Rome has suppressed the Bible, and extinguished every spark of independent thought, she says, she has secured peace and page 420 unity to that people. The model of her millenium is the dark ages, and to this blissful condition she is bending all her energies to conduct us!
We are accused of want of respect to the Mother of Jesus. “We Catholics,” says Mr. O'R., “adhering closely to the Holy Scriptures, call this Lady not curtly the Virgin Mary, but in accordance with Scripture, the Blessed Virgin Mary… The more highly that faithful Christians venerate the ever Blessed Virgin, as the purest and holiest of creatures, and whose dignity, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, is almost infinite, the deeper sense shall they entertain and manifest of His Divine Nature, whom She bore. … On the contrary those who have assailed the veneration of the Virgin Mother, have easily failen into the denial of the Divinity of Her Son.” Mr. O'R. must surely have been dreaming over the Missal and not searching the New Testament, before he penned these and similar sentences. The angel no doubt said, “Blessed art thou among women,” and she herself said, “All generations shall call me blessed;” but these are slender grounds on which to build the system of Mary-olatry—such a prominent part of the Popish faith and worship. Our Saviour could not address her in any terms but those of the highest respect, and yet both at the marriage in Cana and on the cross, he addresses her simply by the name of “woman.” And when one of the crowd cried out “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked.” Christ said, “Yes, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” Every believer in Christ is as much blessed—as much benefitted by his obedience and death as his Virgin Mother herself. The historian Luke calls her simply “Mary the Mother of Jesus; “and after the day of Pentecost, her name never occurs in the inspired history of the Church. Although the Apostle Paul introduces one or other of the names of our Saviour in almost every chapter throughout his whole fourteen epistles, and in many chapters in almost every verse, yet he never mentions the name of Mary so much as page 421 once; he merely alludes to her as follows, “God sent forth his son made of a woman.” Must Paul be classed among the heretics and the impious? did he deny the Divinity of Christ, or regard devotion to the Virgin as an outwork of the Church? Paul was a heretic; for after the way which the Romanists call heresy he worshipped the God of his fathers! The Church of Rome may not create dogmas, she may simply declare them authoritatively; but certainly the Roman Missals and the Pauline epistles have nothing in common about the honours due to the “Mother of Jesus; “and if the defence of the immaculate conception rest on any other authority than that of the Pope, it is not on the authority of Scripture. The only connection that we can trace between it and Scripture is to the words of our Saviour, Matt. xv. 3. “Why do ye transgress the commandments of God by your traditions?” Were the Virgin Mary on earth she would be the first to rebuke those who render her an idolatrious respect; she would say, “See thou do it not. I am thy fellow-servant; worship God.” The doctrines taught by Christ and his Apostles we receive with the most implicit confidence, but the dogmas developed from tradition by Popes and Councils, we unhesitatingly reject as inventions of the Father of lies.