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apostle particularly exercised his ministry, after having, for some years, preached the Gospel to the church at Antioch.
Behold, my children, how I obtained the assurance that these two mighty springs of the Romish church, purgatory and papacy, had not, at least, been forged by the authors of the Gospel. Though before this discovery, I had not been very zealous in the belief of the papists on these two points, I cannot tell you what a singular interest I took in the opinions I had just acquired. The New Testament, which I was then far from regarding as the deposit of Divine Revelation, appeared to me a collection of precious documents; and I can assure you that it began, from that time, by presenting me a new means of power, to inspire me with more confidence, than it had ever before done.
Engaged by the two readings which I had just completed in an effort of of mind, which, though new and laborious for a poor mechanic like myself, nevertheless did not cease to offer some attractions, I felt myself excited to continue my researches.
I have already informed you, my dear children, of my invincible repugnance to commune after the manner of the Romish church. I have told you, that nothing on earth could have persuaded me to this action, by which they pretend that the creature eats his Creator, and I never could think of it without uneasiness and horror. This dogma, which teaches that Jesus Christ is present in body and in soul, in the host, and that every communicant is nourished in reality, by his flesh and his blood, is, of all the dogmas of papacy, that which inspired me with the most aversion for the Christian religion, to which I attributed it, and which contributed the most to detain me in infidelity.
My whole attention was directed to this dogma, when I re-commenced my researches of the Gospel. I read the New Testament a third time without quitting it, entirely occupied, as before, with the one object which I had in view.
I found nothing in the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, or St. Luke, which led me to suppose that the authors might have believed in the real and corporeal presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The words at its institution, related by the first, chapter xxvi. 26, 28, by the second, chapter xiv. 22–24, and by the third, chapter xxii. 19, 20;-these words, related, with some slight variations, by the three Evangelists, and which I took great care to bring together and compare, offered to my mind no other idea than that of a commemorative ceremony, designed to preserve and retrace the remembrance of the sufferings, the passion, and death of Christ. In the miserable state of infidelity in which I then was, they could not make me feel the grandeur, the sanctity, and the efficacy of the sacrament; nevertheless, they gave me ideas of it which I still retain.
I did not then find the dogma of the real presence taught there; but I thought I had found it formally established in the Gospel according to St. John, vi. 51, 53–57. When I read these words: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever ; and the bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” When I had read these words, it appeared to me, that they had probably given rise to the belief of the Roman Catholics. I even thought, that he who had committed them to writing, had only a view to found the doctrine of the real presence. I was then tempted to stop, and to carry no farther my researches on a doctrine, which I believed I had found clearly taught, and whose absurdity had always been so shocking to me. I felt then an extreine disgust to the Gospel. Nevertheless, inwardly excited by an invisible Power, which was then unknown to me, but which I now recognize as the Holy Spirit, the author of Divine Revelation ; drawn, as if against my will, by the Spirit of God, who would one day make me appreciate and receive the truth of his word, and, for the moment, preserve me from an error, which would perhaps have forever removed me from the fountain of living waters ;-inwardly excited and drawn by the Holy Spirit, I took up my Testament, which I had for a moment cast aside, and having re-commenced the 6th of John, I read it through, which I had not done before.
When I arrived at the 63d verse, I was struck, as if by a ray of light, which suddenly discovered to me the mistake I had at first made, concerning the signification of the six verses transcribed above, and which made me attach a new value to the Gospel. After having read: “ It is the Spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are lite." I had the key of the chapter, and the dogma of the real presence was no longer found there for me. I saw that it was not at all a question there, to receive into the mouth, grind between the teeth, and introduce into the stomach, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I understood that the words eat and drink were there figuratively used, and signified nothing but to know Christ, to come to him, and believe on him, as it is explained in verse 35th, of the same chapter, in which Christ says: “I am the bread of life ; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” It was, then, demonstrated clear as the day, that Jesus Christ expected to be eaten and drank only spiritually, and, as I now understand it, by faith, which, when it is living and acting in our hearts, unites us to him in a wonderful manner, and clothes us with his infinite merits, at the same time that it purifies and sanctifies our views, our sentiments, our desires, and our wills.
After having thus discovered my error, I felt more inclined than ever to pursue my reading, and to see if the dogma of the real presence would not be better established by what remained to be read. The farther I advanced, my dear children, the more I was convinced, that neither Christ nor his apostles, had ever thought of it. It would doubtless take too long to relate here, all the passages expressly contradicting this revolting dogma. It will be sufficient to quote a few.
I found in the book of Acts, i. 9 and 11, that the apostles saw Christ raised to heaven, supported by a cloud which took him out of their sight, and that two angels appeared to them, and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Has a priest, said I, has a Roman Catholic, assisting at the mass, and ready to commune, ever seen Jesus Christ come from heaven in this manner to place himself in the host ? Yet the angels said that he would come from heaven in like manner.
I found in the same book, iii. 21, that heaven must receive Christ until the times of restitution of all things. He is not then bodily present upon earth, said I again.
I found in the Epistle to the Colossians, iii. 1, that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, from which I drew the conclusion, that he was not present in body and soul on so many altars, and in so great a number of hosts, as this doctrine supposes.
I found, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ix and x, the strongest declarations, not only against the real presence, but against the whole system of the mass, by which they pretend to renew daily the passion and sacrifice of Christ. St. Paul says, that “ Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;" and he also says, that "he was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation." He has said, that "by the will of God we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all ; who, after he had offe
once for all : who, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forerer sat down on the right hand of God.” All this demonstrated, with the utmost evidence, that the dogma of the real presence and all that follows from it, was as remote from the faith of the apostle, as the east is from the west, or paradise from hell.
In short, my dear children, the words of the institution, which I found related by St. Paul, 1 Cor. xi, and on which I stopped and returned several times, left me not the shadow of doubt, that the doctrine of the Romish church on the eucharist, was without foundation in the Gospel, and consequently taken from another source.
In effect, all the discourse of Christ in instituting the Lord's Supper, positively announces, that it is a memorial which he established, and which he wished to leave behind him. After having taken, blessed, and broken the bread, he commands that it should be eaten in remembrance of him. After having prerented the cup to drink, he adds ; “Do this in remembrance of me, as often as ye drink it.” The words, “ This is my body; this cup is the now testament in
my blood," appeared to me only what they really are, that is, figurative expressions, which signify that the bread represented his body, and that the wine represented his blood. These words neither change nor modify in any way the principal idea, the idea of memorial, which appears in all this act of Jesus Christ. And if it had been possible that they could deceive me, and that I could take them in the sense of the reality, I should have been soon undeceived by reading the words which immediately follow, which, alone, overthrow the doctrine of the real presence, and the whole edifice of the mass. These are the words; “ For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.”
After this declaration, joined to so many others, what more proof was necessary that St. Paul did not believe that the host was Jesus Christ? I saw, then, that he taught clearly by that, that it is bread which is eaten at the communion, and roine which is drank, and not the real flesh and real blood of the Son of God. I saw that he taught, that the Lord is not present at the sacrament, in the sense of the Romish church, since he says, that, in partaking of it, we show the Lord's death till he come. I saw that, according to St. Paul, it is false that the priests hold in their hands the body and blood of Christ, and that they offer it a sacrifice in the mass.
Here, my children, I suspended my researches. Convinced, as deeply as possible, that the dogma of the real presence was not taught in the New Testament, my conclusion was, that it must have the same origin as papacy and purgatory. • I had been absent from my ordinary employment the whole of the time, occupied by my study and meditation; and being obliged to get my bread and yours by the sweat of my brow, and having no other object at that time, which held my mind in suspense, and demanded exainination, I returned to my daily occupations, and discontinued the reading of the Gospel. My Testament bad certainly gained much in my estimation ; but without stopping to inquire here on what account it had become precious to me, I can say, it was not as containing the word of God, and all the principles of knowledge which belong to piety. Thus, not exciting any real interest in my heart, it was again banished to the place which it had so long occupied on the chimney-piece of my room; and eighteen months or two years passed away without a thought of consulting it again.
In this interval, I contracted my second marriage. Your weakness, young as you were, the thousand cares which your age required, and which my employment and absences made it impossible for me to bestow, were the motives which induced me to take this step. God, in his fatherly kindness, deigned to direct my choice, although I did not think of praying for it, and you found a second mother in her who has never ceased to be to me the best and most esteemed of friends.
In this interval, also, I was more than ever brought back to the thoughts of religion. Although I had only read the Gospel to satisfy my curiosity on the three points of the Catholic doctrine above mentioned, and although my attention had been exclusively directed to what concerned these particular points, it is probable that I had, without suspecting it, received some of the impressions which the word of God is calculated to produce, and that I was already under its secret influence.
I can affirm, that from this period, a vague and confused idea of religion was constantly before my mind. Several times I found myself occupied with the origin of the universe, the vicissitudes and the end of so many beings who present themselves for a few moments on the stage of the world, and who so soon disappear from it. My own destiny then employed my thoughts. But I was far from ascribing it to Him, upon whom it entirely depends. In all these meditations, God was not in the place which he ought to hold. Having only false or uncertain ideas of him, I was as far as possible from regarding him as the living principle, which animates and beautifies every thing to the eye of the Christian, and as the pure light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.
(To be continued.)
(Continued from p. 74.) We proceed now to assert another right for the churches—Inat of holding and controlling their own property. Many of the churches of Massachusetts came early into the possession of property, to a very considerable amount. Some of this was acquired by purchase, and some by gifts or grants from the proprietors of cominon lands, or from pious and charitable individuals. "In regard to the property given to the churches, the object to which it should be applied was, in some cases, specified; and in others, not. In either case, the property was given to the churches, to be disposed of according to their direction and order. Now what we claim for the churches, is, the plain, simple, natural right of holding and managing their oron property, according to their own discretion. We ask not that the church may be allowed to seize and appropriate the property of the parish, but we do ask that it may have the disposal of its own. Says the good man in the parable, “ Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?”
As the right of the churches to hold and manage their own property is thought to depend upon their political existence, we shall endeavor to prove, from their early and subsequent history, that they have been regarded as bodies politic, known in law, exercising the powers of a legal incorporation. In support of this position, let it be considered,
1. That the original churches of Massachusetts were gathered according to law. They were gathered with the consent and approbation of the civil powers. For several years after the beginning of the settlement, whenever a church was intended to be gathered, the approbation of the magistrates must be first obtained.*
Soe Winthrop's Hist. vol. i. pp. 160, 217,075, &e,
be disposa property of ihurch may ording to y
And in 1641, a law was passed, giving free liberty to gather churches, with the approbation of the magistrates “ and the eliers of neighbor churches ;" but in no other way.* This certainly looks as though the churches were to be regarded as legally organized and established.
2. The churches in Massachusetts, or rather their members, were for many years entrusted with great civil power. From 1631, until 1662, none were entitled to the right of suffrage, or could be chosen or appointed to any office, who were not members of some regularly established church. The churches, therefore, for more than thirty years, had the power of excluding any person in the country from any office, and even from exercising the rights of a freeman.-- Is it possible that bodies possessing so much power were not regarded as bodies politic—bodies recognized and incorporated by the laws ?
3. We have evidence that in the early settlement of Massachusetts, the churches exercised parochial authority. They had similar corporate powers to those which parishes now exercise. What is now a precinct or parish? “A precinct or parish,” says Chief Justice Parker, “is a corporation established solely for the purpose of maintaining public worship, and their powers are limited to that object. They may raise money for building and keeping in repair their meeting house, and supporting their minister, but for no other purpose.”I But there is evidence that the churches, in the early settlement of this Commonwealth, exercised all the power here ascribed to parishes. They built and owned the first meeting houses, and had the power of levying and collecting money for this object. In 1640, says Gov. Winthrop, “the church of Boston (the CHURCH) were necessitated to build a new meeting house, and a great difference arose about the place of situation, which had much troubled other churches, on the like occasion; but after some debate, it was referred to a committee, and was quietly settled. It cost about one thousand pounds, which was raised out of the weekly voluntary contribution, without any noise or complaint ; when, in some other CHURCHES, which did it by way of rates, there was much difficulty and compulsion by levies, to raise a far less sum.”ll
The churches, at this period, had the power of raising money by tax for the support of their pastors. Says Gov. Winthrop again, in 1642, “ the churches held a different course, in raising the minister's maintenance. Some did it by way of taxation, which was very offensive to some. Amongst others, one Briscoe of Watertown, being grieved with this course in that town, the rather because himself and others, who were no MEMBERS, were taxed,
*Colony Laws, p. 100. + Ibid. p. 117.
Pickering's Reports, vol. i. p. 97. || History, vol. ü. p. 31.