תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors]

silence of all the Christian writers for four centuries after Christ; for the Romanists can show no mention of this ceremony until the time of Pope Innocent, in the fifth century. After this, when superstition increased among the people, the Priests began to anoint the sick and infirm, when they visited them, using, at the same time, prayers for their recovery. This practice was frequently objected to; and it was the Council of Florence which first ordered, that “this sacrament should not be given to a sick person, unless his death be feared.”

The present custom is, to anoint the organs of the five senses, the Priest repeating these words : “By this holy unction, and through his most bounteous mercy, may God forgive thee whatever thou hast sinned by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching." He then gives the final pardon, for spiritual comfort in the last agony.

If this institution be warranted by Scripture, it is a great matter of comfort ; but if it be not warranted, it is, indeed, very great presumption. When such high pretensions are set forth by the Priests, it is no wonder that the ignorant and superstitious should feel anxious about this ceremony. When a Protestant is dying, the Clergyman visits him, and prays with him ; there is, however, no mystery or secrecy in the business; the family and friends of the sick man are invited to be present, and the service is designed for their instruction also. But when a Romanist is dying, the Priest comes with great ceremony, a candle is lighted; much


and mystery is observed, and while Latin prayers are recited, and various ceremonies are gone through, there is an impression made on the minds of the ignorant, that something is doing for the dying person, which is, they know not how, to benefit his soul, and to help him forward towards heaven. Yet, so great is their ignorance, and so strange the inconsistencies of the Priests' doctrines, that though, in Extreme Unction, they give a final pardon, and are paid for it, yet this final pardon will not free the soul from purgatory : it must go thither notwithstanding, and remain there, until more money is paid for prayers and masses, to bring it out.

The great evil of this, and, indeed, of all the Popish errors, is, that the minds of the people are turned away from the true ground of hope toward God, and they are led to think, that money paid for certain ceremonies, will insure them whatever they can require. It is in vain to say, that money has nothing to do with the efficacy of the rite: for it is well known, that the poorest wretch would part with his last shilling to insure

his anointing, and would be terrified and alarmed, were a charitable Priest to refuse taking the money from him. The Bible gives no encouragement to any man who lives in sin and ignorance, to hope that he will be saved in that state; “all men are called upon every where to repent;" God hath sent his Son to be the Saviour of sinners ; “ he has finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness ;” (Dan. ix. 24 ;) and “whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved ;" because he that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation.” The real Christian feels that sickness or death are sent from his heavenly Father, and he is not only submissive, but resigned ; for he knows that all things shall work together for good to them that love the Lord. He can join humbly in the prayers which are offered to God for his recovery, when he is sick; he can unite in those supplications by which his departing soul is commended to God, if his senses are left him, because he knows in whom he has believed, and is persuaded that he is able to keep that which is committed unto him to the last day. Let common sense, therefore, judge between the two cases:-one man dies happy, because he has been anointed, and has received the rites of his Church; another dies happy, because he knows and feels the grace of the Lord Jesus, who, when “ he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich.” (2 Cor. viii. 9.) Of the one we must say, “He feedeth upon ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand ?” (Isai. xliv. 20.) Of the other, the Scripture saith, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord : even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours.” (Rev. xiv. 13.)

A late writer, in reviewing the Sacraments of the Romish Church, thus strongly, but honestly, expresses the feelings and sentiments of his mind: “Wherever Popery is dominant, no man's house is his castle: its Ministers have the privilege of the entré. Now the most important events in private life, are the circumstances of birth, marriage, and death. They are the three centres, circled by the most influential arrangements of private families.

“In the first of these originated a sacrament, constituted such by Christ himself. He appointed it as a visible means of grace. With the exception of one very limited sect, the members of which consider the injunction as purely spiritual, it has been adopted, and in its plain, literal meaning, by the whole Christian world. This initiatory sacrament became highly useful in the machinery of the Vatican. For, besides the advantage derived from an elaborate process at the baptistery, it domesticated, on the occasion, sacerdotal persons, in houses not their own. It brought them into contact with families, under circumstances peculiarly interesting to family feelings; and taught parents and relations unconsciously to connect the magic of priestly influence with the rising importance of the house. This point being gained, it became necessary to make another grand domiciliary visit, at a moment when nuptial festivi. ties and expectations opened human hearts, and when blessings from the Priest might again be peculiarly welcome. To meet these emotions, marriage was elevated to the dignity of a sacrament. It furnished a new source of intercommunion between the ruler and the subject, and a source, not scanty, in supplying the ecclesiastical government with aug. mented influence, and the governed with a deeper feeling of dependence. It increased the mysterious sensation, that the Priest was a kind of presiding genius over the entire system of private life; it was felt that his sanction was essential every movement of the house, and that only so far as the schemes of a family were connected with the awful institutions of the Church, could they be regarded as promising the least success. But chiefly did the inventors of the sacramental unction, administered to the dying, discover the potency of a rite, which should make an appeal, inexpressibly tender and overpowering to human feelings, at a moment when the parent, the husband, the child, the friend, is retiring within the shades of the eternal world. It was a master-stroke of policy, to ordain the presence and mystic ministrations of a Priest, (I speak not of really pious and pastoral offices, so endeared to the good, and so important to the wicked, at this juncture,) as part of the indispensable attendance among the deepest solemnities of our nature: those which await us in the chambers of sorrow, pain, and death. If, at such times, the heart be most open to the impressions of true religion, it is also open to the gloomy influences of superstition ; so that under such circumstances, even irreligious indifference becomes alarmed at the sight of itself, and is glad, as it were, to find a sanctuary from its terrors in the presence of a Minister of religion, who enters the chamber, as it is supposed, possessed of an ability to communicate pardon and security.



“ Bad men, in the hour of domestic calamity, are compelled to give themselves pause amidst the hurry and thoughtlessness of life, and to stand aside, for an interval, from the crowd with whom they are generally intermingled. Catholicity improves the opportunity. It cannot make them true Christians; neither is this its aim; but it makes a timely effort to draw them into more intimate union with the Church.

Accordingly, when they gather round the bed of their dying relatives and friends, and take, at least, a passive share in the ritual of the Eucharist, and of the Unction in extremities, they obtain from these ceremonies a more mysterious reliance than ever on the pretensions of the Priesthood. They witness a member of that order allowing the Viaticum,---a word, in ecclesiastical lexicography, of no trivial import,-and accompanying the pilgrim in the last stage of his journey, even to the very confines of the unseen state. The impression among the by-standers is, that the administration of the unction has ensured to the departing soul a favorable acceptance at the tribunal of God. Oh! bring me not volumes of controversy, to prove the precise date of the various modifications of Papal imposture! The system is its own accuser, its own witness, its own judge. When a despot would enslave his subjects, he selects what are judged to be efficient instruments, as the exigencies of the moment rise; and, if there be no counteraction, he succeeds, The usages of the Latin Church, in a sick chamber, are nothing better than a splendid form of Antinomianism : that general and cherished heresy of mankind, which relieves our willing souls from the burden of responsibility. It permits, indeed, the ordinary Romanist, (for I speak not of the few enlightened individuals who rise above, and virtually reject, the delusion of their own system,) to transfer, as it were, his guilt to a sinner like himself; and that sinner is an offender, who desperately adds to his other transgressions (not, however, I would hope, in all cases, consciously; for the Priest may believe as firmly in his own power, as the ignorant laic who seeks its efficacy,) the crime of speaking peace, where there is no peace. The Eucharist and the Unction, indiscriminately administered as they are, have a palpable tendency to hide the realities of eternity. They delude the dying with a persuasion of their final safety; and not only soothe the survivors with an impression that all is well with the dead, but that, when their own last hour draws on, they too shall be indulged with the same means of security, and enter the grave of a

believer, after having lived the life of an infidel. They calculate on the expectation, that their passport will, according to the invariable routine of the spiritual office, be duly signed and sealed; and though the bearer may be detained in a separate state of purgatorial anguish for a season, yet that the certificate may at length be confidently presented at the gates of Paradise. “Well may the theologians of the school of the Vatican


their dissertations on the power of the keys! Let it be added, Well may those who have been blessed with a scriptural knowledge of the Gospel, mourn and weep over the spiritual darkness and death of mankind, and breathe out, as the Spirit helps their infirmities, prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, (and these are the true miseries of the Universal Church,) that God would bring into the way of truth all them that err and are deceived! Every feeling of contempt, disgust, abhorrence, and indignation, (for all these are naturally awakened in the bosoms of those who wander among the machinations of Popery,) should be absorbed into emotions of compassion, and into acts of intercession. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!””

[ocr errors]


« הקודםהמשך »