Page images
PDF
EPUB

period now before us. The learning and sanctity of Usher, of Bedel, Andrewes, Beveridge, Bull, would have done honour to the best days of Christianity. In recent times, the spirit of missionary zeal has again revived, and the venerable Societies for the Propagation of the Gospel, and for Promoting Christian Knowledge, have enlarged the spheres of their operations. The foundation of these societies is chiefly to be attributed to the pious zeal of Dr. Thomas Bray, who, at the end of the seventeenth century, was appointed by the Bishop of London as his commissary in Maryland, America ; and who, on his return, established in 1701 the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. This excellent society has for a long series of years devoted itself to the maintenance of Christian missions in North America, and other possessions of the British crown. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had been established in 1698 ; and from that period to the present time it has laboured for the benefit of the Church, in circulating the Scriptures and religious books, in contributing to the assistance of distressed churches, and in maintaining missions to the heathen, especially in India. Nor would it be just, in this place, to omit all mention of the Church Missionary Society, which has been formed within the present century, and has contributed much to the spread of the Christian faith amongst the heathen, especially in the islands of the Southern Ocean.

CHAPTER XXIV.

ON THE ROMAN CHURCHES.

A.D. 1517-1839.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

HE Churches which, either voluntarily

or by compulsion, remained under the papal jurisdiction and rejected the Reformation, were those of Italy, Spain,

Austria, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, France, and part of Germany and Switzerland. The pope's conduct toward the Lutheran and Reformed has already been noticed, as well as the assembling of the council of Trent. This famous synod, which in many of its sessions consisted of about forty or fifty bishops, had at last nearly two hundred. It closed in 1563, having decided in favour of purgatory, transubstantiation, and some other erroneous opinions, which it declared articles of faith; and approved of invocation of saints, honouring of relics, communion in one kind, the celibacy of the clergy, &c. Certain opinions, universally prevalent at that time in the Roman Churches, obliged their members to receive all the decrees of this synod implicitly and without any discussion or examination. One great party believed the pope infallible; the remainder held that a general council was infallible; consequently both agreed that a general council approved by a pope (as the council of Trent was) must be infallible, and that whoever differed from it must be a heretic. All this was widely different from the notions and the practice of primitive times, when the decrees of the councils were examined and judged by the universal Church, and derived their full authority only from universal consent. And hence it

[graphic]

appears that the decrees of Trent were only those of the bishops assembled there, not the deliberate judgments of the whole Roman Church, and still less the judgments of the whole catholic or universal Church. Under the same erroneous opinions alluded to above, the Roman Churches refrained from communicating with the Reformed Churches and communities, and engaged in vehement controversies with them, which have not yet ceased. These controversies were for a long time chiefly managed by a learned and artful society, called the Jesuits, who were founded in 1537 by a Spaniard, named Ignatius Loyola, and who soon became the principal agents of the popes, and the chief support of their power.

The Roman Churches, soon after the council of Trent, became much divided amongst themselves on the questions of Divine grace, of the authority of councils compared with that of popes, and of the immaculate conception of the Virgin. In these disputes the different parties went so far as to charge their adversaries with heresy. It would occupy too large a space to detail these disputes and divisions; but the doctrines of Jansenius, bishop of Ipres, which were made public in 1640, led to infinite divisions and uneasiness in the Roman Churches. These doctrines, which approximated to those of Calvin, were assailed with vehemence by the Jesuits and the popes. But it was in vain that Urban VIII., Innocent X., Alexander VII., and Clement XI., fulminated censures, excommunications, bulls, rescripts, briefs, &c., against the Jansenists. In vain were subscriptions required to formularies condemning their doctrines, and every ingenious device put in force to get rid of this party

All was fruitless--the Jansenists continued to hold their benefices in the Roman Churches, and in the earlier half of last century a

number of the French bishops were of that party. Jansenism has ever since more or less disturbed the Roman communion.

With Jansenism a reforming spirit rose, which produced a variety of innovations. In Germany, about 1760, many theologians decried the papal authority, which they wished to reduce within the narrowest limits; and taught that several of the common practices and opinions were superstitious. The Emperor Joseph II., who began to reign in 1781, acted on these principles, suppressed monasteries, forbade papal dispensations, regulated ceremonies, favoured the Jansenists, removed images from the churches, suppressed some episcopal sees, and assumed the patronage of all the bishoprics in Lombardy which had belonged to the popes. Pius VI. in vain opposed these proceedings; they became embodied in the laws of Austria ; and the churches within that empire in Germany and Italy are more under the temporal power than under the pope. In various parts of Germany the Romish clergy condemn the celibacy of the clergy and communion in one kind, and celebrate divine service in German. The conduct of Joseph II. was imitated in Tuscany by the Archduke Leopold (who forbade all appeal to the popes), in Naples, Parma, Portugal. A number of monasteries were suppressed by the King of Sicily in 1776. In Holland the Jansenists have had bishops of their own since 1723, who claim to be members of the Roman Church, though the popes will not recognise them as such.

The most vehement opponents of the Jansenists were the Jesuists, already alluded to, who chiefly engaged in the defence of the Roman Church against its opponents, in the education of youth, and in the dissemination of Christianity in heathen lands. The leading members of this society were bound by an

oath to go wherever the pope should think fit to send them. Their perfect internal discipline; their entire obedience to their general (thus the head of the order was termed); the art with which they adapted their instructions to every class of people ; the consummate ability, learning, and judgment which they displayed; soon rendered them the most powerful and opulent of the monastic orders. They became the grand bulwark of the papacy, supporting all its claims with unwearied assiduity. The facility with which they relaxed the moral system of Christianity, and accommodated it to the propensities of mankind, rendered them exceedingly popular as spiritual advisers and confessors in the courts of princes, and amongst the wealthy and noble. They soon obtained exclusive dominion in these high places. For a century after the foundation of this society, all the most eminent theologians of the Roman communion were found amongst its members. The names of Salmeron, Lainez, Bellarmine, Vasquez, Petavius, and many others, might be mentioned in illustration of this.

The characteristics of the Jesuits were craft and subtilty. They were perfectly unscrupulous in the use of means for the accomplishment of their ends. Evasions, mental reservations, equivocations, were openly defended and unblushingly practised; even direct falsehood was employed, whenever it was imagined to be necessary for the interest of their

These dangerous principles and practices of Jesuitism were most ably exposed by the celebrated Pascal, in the Provincial Letters, about the middle of the seventeenth century. This powerful and wealthy society, however, was at last destined to fall.

About the year 1760, their evil practices and political intrigues having excited universal jealousy,

cause.

« EelmineJätka »