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It would not be just to attribute such idolatries and superstitions to those Romanists who deny or reject them ; but it is lamentable to observe that no effective measures have ever been taken by the Roman Church to remove these scandals. Aware, as some of its bishops and pastors are, of the gross superstitions which exist, they do not venture to oppose themselves to the mass of prevailing error. Fearful lest by so doing they might seem to acknowledge the necessity of the Reformation, and to justify those who were engaged in it; and impressed with dread of that cry of heresy, which would be assuredly raised against any vigorous measures; they deem themselves unequal to the task of purifying their Church, or are content with feeble and unavailing methods of checking the growth of superstition.
The principles of Christian morality have become much relaxed in the Roman Churches through the influence of the Jesuits. The modern practice with reference to confession and absolution has contributed to the same effect. It has been assi. duously inculcated, that confession to a priest, with a proper degree of sorrow (which the Jesuits have reduced to a very low degree), and certain external works of satisfaction, such as fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, &c., are sufficient to atone for any sins, however enormous. Hence absolution is regarded as an infallible mode of removing sin; and less difficulty must be felt in the commission of sin which can be so easily pardoned. The doctrine of purgatory also, which supposes that a portion of the penance or repentance due for sins in this life is expiated by punishments in the next world, and that the remission of such punishments may be obtained by the prayers and offices of the living, is calculated in some degree to lead men to neglect the duty of repentance in this life, and to rely on
the prayers of others. It is also to be observed, that the system of questioning adopted at confession must tend to disseminate vice, by presenting unhallowed images to the minds of youth.
FRUITS OF FAITH IN THE ROMAN CHURCHES.
COWEVER deeply we may deplore the
abuses and corruptions which exist in
the Roman Churches, and however cerH
tain it be that many errors injurious
to Christian piety, and many offences against Christian morality, are found in that communion, still it would argue a prejudiced and uncharitable mind to close our eyes on several bright examples of Christian holiness that have adorned the Roman communion in later ages, and refuse to recognise the impress of Divine grace on lives adorned by every virtue which can flow from a lively faith and charity. The contemplation of such examples will tend to remove any feelings of spiritual pride which might arise from imagining that virtue and goodness are restrained to some particular branch of the Church of Christ, while the great mass of Christendom is given over entirely to darkness and to sin.
FRANCIS XAVIER, the apostle of the Indies, was born in 1506, in Navarre, of an illustrious family, and was pursuing his studies at the university of Paris, when he became the friend and ultimately one of the disciples of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order of Jesuits, a man of an enthusiastic turn of mind, and of a piety which was deeply tinged with
superstition. In 1537 Xavier was ordained priest, and took the vows as a member of the new order. The following year, while Ignatius and his disciples were at Rome, whither they had gone to place themselves under the directions of the pope as to their future destination, an application was made by the King of Portugal for the assistance of some of these zealous men to preach the Gospel in the East Indies. In compliance with this request, Francis Xavier was sent to Portugal in 1540, whence, in the following year, he sailed for India, with various powers and recommendations from the pope. During the voyage he considered the crew of the vessel in which he sailed as entrusted to his peculiar care. He instructed the sailors in their catechism, preached every Sunday before the main-mast, visited the sick, converted his own cabin into an infirmary, while he himself lay on the deck ; and, with the ascetic spirit of his order at that time, subsisted entirely on charity, being possessed of nothing himself. In short, during the whole voyage he evinced a spirit of zeal and piety which afforded a pledge of the success of that great work which he was about to undertake.
In 1542 he landed at Goa; and having obtained the sanction of the bishop, he commenced his mission. The state of religion amongst professing Christians in that place was most lamentable. The Portuguese inhabitants were full of revenge, ambition, avarice, and every description of wickedness; all sentiments of religion seemed extinguished in them. The sacraments were neglected; there were scarcely any preachers ; and the heathen, immersed in every sin, were neither led by precept nor example to forsake their errors and superstitions. Xavier beheld with grief the scandalous example of the nominal Christians around him; and he resolved to labour for their conversion and reformation in the first instance,
He began by instructing them in the principles of religion, and by forming the youth in the practice of piety. Having spent the morning of each day in the hospitals and prisons, assisting and comforting the distressed, he walked through the streets of Goa, with a bell in his hand, summoning all masters, for the love of God, to send their children and slaves to be catechised. The children gathered in crowds around him; he led them to church, taught them the creed and practices of devotion, and impressed on them strong sentiments of piety and religion. The effect produced on the youth soon became manifest ; the example began to spread; the whole town was influenced to turn from sin. After a time, Xavier preached in public, and visited the people in their houses ; and a most extraordinary and universal reformation in their morals and habits ensued.
After six months spent in these successful labours, Xavier, hearing that many of the Paravas, a people on the eastern coast of India, near Cape Comorin, had some years before permitted themselves to be baptised, in order to gratify the Portuguese ; and having gained some knowledge of their language, went thither with two young clergy who understood the language sufficiently well. Here Xavier preached the Gospel with such success, that these people were converted in thousands ; and so great were the multitudes whom he baptised, that sometimes, from the fatigue of administering that sacrament, he could hardly move his arm.
Xavier says, that on one occasion his prayers were blessed to the recovery of a sick person; and a belief in such signs, whether well or ill founded, seems to have had much influence in contributing to the extraordinary success of his ministry. His labours, indeed, were incredible : while he lived only on rice and
water, like the very poorest of the people, he was able to devote his whole day and night, except three hours of sleep, to the exercise of his ministry and the duties of devotion.
Xavier had laboured for more than a year in the conversion of these people, when he was obliged to return to Goa for assistance. He came back in 1544 with several missionaries, some of whom he stationed in different towns, to continue the instruction of his converts; the others he brought with him to the adjoining kingdom of Travancore, where he baptised ten thousand Indians in one month ; and in a very few months almost the whole kingdom of Travancore embraced Christianity. He afterwards visited several other parts of India, where he founded churches. Xavier then sailed to Malacca, a famous mart for merchandise, where he arrived in 1545; and by the irresistible ardour of his zeal reformed the Christians in that place, and converted many pagans and Mahommedans. He next preached in the Spice Islands, Amboyna, the Moluccas, and Ceylon, in all of which he brought great numbers to the faith.
In this mission he experienced many sufferings and dangers; but his zeal for God caused him rather to rejoice in those things. “ The dangers to which I am exposed," said he, “and the toils I undergo for the interest of God only, are an inexhaustible spring of spiritual joys, insomuch that these islands, bare as they are of all worldly necessaries, are the very places in the world for a man to lose his sight through the excess of weeping --but they are tears of joy. I never remember to have tasted such inward delights; and these consolations of the soul are so pure, so exquisite, so constant, that they take from me all sense of my corporeal sufferings.'
Having returned again to Goa, Xavier soon after