« הקודםהמשך »
, other privilege than that of being servant to all the rest. That Peter was the prince of the Apostles, my dear father, I cannot believe, except I have some sufficient proof of it: and even that proof, if it could be produced, would be of no advantage to your cause, unless it could be also proved that the apostles had successors. Our Lord chose twelve men to be witnesses of what he did and taught, whom hc sent into the world for that purpose ; on which account, as you well know, they were called Apostles. When one of these had become a traitor, as the Scripture had foretold he would, they chose another, in obedience to the Scripture, to fill up his place, from those who had been with them from the beginning. The last person appointed to that office was Paul : but his apostleship was not of men, neither by any authority which he received from man, but was immediately conferred upon him by Jesus Christ, and by God the Father, who raised him from the dead. It is indeed impossible to conceive how the apostles should have any successors, if we consider what they were commissioned to do. The Holy Spirit was to bring to their remembrance all that they had seen and heard, in order that they might bear testimony to the truth whereever they went : and they were to take care that the same things were committed to writing, that the churches might have them in remembrance after their decease. Those very apostles, therefore, who saw Christ in the flesh, continue to be God's ambassadors to the churches, in their writings, to this mornent, and will be so to the end of time. The bishop of Rome, indeed, pretends to have the power of binding and loosing, of absolving from sin, and of anathematizing, in which he is imitated by many who call themselves protestants. But men are only justified or condemned now by what the apostles continue to say in their writings. It is thus they continue to remit and to retain sins; and they have not delegated their authority to any one. And, indeed, my dear father, if the writings of those apostles who saw our Saviour personally, contain my sentiments, and justify my conduct, though all the popes of Rome that ever existed should curse me, I would disregard it ; for I have the fullest conviction that the bishop of Rome, who has usurped the authority of God, and who sits in his temple as if he himself were God, is no other than the great head of mystical Babylon, and that it is the duty of Christians to depart out of that city, which is devoted to everlasting destruction.
My sister was red with fury, and said that my breath was pestilential, and that I deserved the most cruel of all deaths for the blasphemies which I had uttered against the vicar, of Christ. My father was moved both with grief and an. ger. Eusebia, cried he, contrary to the duty which you owed to me, to yourself, and, above all, to the holy church of Rome, you have kept company with heretics, and have read heretical books; and, not having the fear of God be, fore your eyes, you have apostatized from the holy universal church, and are wandering you know not whither. This church, however, like a true and tender mother, is ready to receive returning sinners; and I have yet hope concerning you, that, like the prodigal who wandered from his father's house, you may yet be induced to bethink yourself, and to ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and to walk therein, that you may find rest to your soul, Consider, Eusebia, consider, my child, for so I would still wish to call you, whither these new-fangled opinions will lead you. What ! Had Christ no church before the time of those arch-heretics Luther and Calvin ? Fy upon you, Eusebia ; you have sadly made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and that at a time when I thought you proof against any of those impostors who lie in wait to deceive the unwary. Come, child, (turning to my sister, let us leave her to her own reflections, which I should imagine must be more severe than any thing we can say.
You will easily believe, Madam, that I had but little sleep that night. Indeed I was so ill, that I did not rise till the afternoon of the next day.My sister was sent by my father several times to see how I did, and every visit was accompanied with some ill-natured reflection : but I would not enter into conversation, having had sufficient experience that what I said was not attended to. Those persons who entertain no doubt of the goodness of their cause, are apt to pay too little attention to the arguments of their opponents.
This is the fourth day since I came from Barnwell; and as I have spent the chief of my time in my study, I have had an opportunity of writing which I thought it would be inexcusable to neglect. My dear Mrs. Worthington's letters to me must be inclosed in those to her niece, who will seal them, and send them to Thomas Livingstone's. I was a few minutes last night at that good man's house. He encourages me to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. I pray that the divine Being will enable me to persevere.
And very humble servant,
From Mr. Charles Clifford to Miss Eusebia Neville.
I HAVE destroyed two letters which I had written to you; and should I write this and ten more, it is possible I should not please myself. The sum of what I have to relate is this:
When I was with you and Miss Barnwell. I did not disguise my sentiments. I had long ago inbibed prejudices against a religion, which, thanks be to God, I am now convinced is worthy of him who gave me my being I know it is from God. I have read the Xew Testament, and compared it with the Old, and have found that they have every internal niark of being dictated by the Spirit of truth. Like two parts of an indenture, they exactly correspond. The writers breathe the same spirit, and have one design, namely, the glory of God in the salvation of sinners. How-unwise have I been in making an estimate of a religion, se holy, and so well calculated to make those who receive it happy, from the lives of those who are destitute of its spirit, and ignorant of its design.
Having blessed God for his mercy exercised toward me, permit me, dear Madam, to thank you for the goodness you manifested in endeavouring to bring me to a right mind. A divine blessing attended what you said. I have returned to an insulted God, whom I found to be more ready to give than I was to ask, and have experienced great peace and joy in prostrating my soul before him.
I entreat you to give me credit when I tell you, that I am no longer the same Charles Clifford I was. When you conversed with me, I resembled a person at sea without a compass, sailing he knows not whither. I possessed knowledge enough, derived from divine revelation, to render me miserable, and therefore attempted to extinguish the glorious luminary from which that light proceeded.
My father, who has been in your company since I had that pleasure, speaks greatly in your praise. I pray that what you have said to him may have a happy effect.
I know that your friends are strict Roman catholics : but when I conversed with you, I was convinced that this was not your case : and my father has since confirmed it. He tells me that it is but very lately that you have left the Romish church, and that he does not know whether your friends are yet acquainted with it. · I lament my folly and guilt in taking it for granted, after beholding the absurdities and abominations to be found in popish countries, especially among the clergy, that the Christian religion was a fable invented by legislators and priests. I now perceive that worldly men, under a clerical habit, not only among catholics, but among protestants, have impiously turned a religion of divine origin into an instrument for awing and plundering the ignorant mul. titude. How remote are their ostentatious places of worship, their pompous ceremonies, and their princely dignities, from the writings and the practice of the apostles ! When a thinking person beholds at Rome, altars smoking with incense, and the pope, the cardinals, and the bishops, clothed in their magnificent pontificals, rioting in luxury and idleness, and supported by the labour of the miserable laity, it is scarcely possible to avoid despising and abhor. ring the Christian religion ; unless, indeed, the person who beholds those enormities be wise enough to consider, that there are no more Christians than there are followers of the faith and practice of Jesus and his humble disciples. To confound the religion of an antichristian clergy with Christianity is a fatal absurdity ; and yet how many millions, falling into this gulf of error, sink into everlasting perdition!
My dear Miss Neville, I should add something more ; 'but my hand will scarely hold my pen. You are acquainted with my having made proposals to Miss Barnwell, which she prudently rejected. I had not then conversed with Eusebia Neville. I do not know how to speak to her upon such a subject, because I fear I have not fortitude enough to receive a denial ; nor do I desire a union with her, unless it shall please God to preserve me in the faith. · I have too great a regard for her to wish her to be united to an infidel. ' I forward this from Holyhead, as I am about to embark for Ireland, where my stay is uncertain. I hope it will not be long. In the meantime believe me to be, with the . greatest regard,