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and proves that there are arguments in favour of christianity and the protestant faith, that are intelligible by the lowest capacity, and at the same time sufficient to satisfy an upright and unprejudiced mind."
The truth is, however, that the Roman catholic hierarchy would willingly exonerate the laity from investigating doctrines, not only by the perusal of the sacred volume, but by an examination of historic documents relative to past transactions of the church ; for a correct acquaintance with such documents would be fatal to such cherished errors as the supremacy of the Roman pontiffs,-the infallibility of councils,—the unity of the church of Rome, &c. Roman catholics, instead of being awakened to inquiry by their priests, are invited to repose on the pillow of tradition, conveniently placed under the head to induce soft slumbers, and to remove the pain of thinking. By the ingenious device of tradition, or the pretended unwritten word of God, Roman catholics are unhappily cajoled to believe statements laid before them, without the evidence of recorded fact, and against the evidence of sense. Where credulity is thus deplorably substituted for faith grounded on rational investigation, and assertion unsupported by proof is received as truth; the conduct of those who pay the teachers of
error for assurance of absolution, and heavenly joys, resenibles that of the inhabitants of a village, who, believing with undiscerning simplicity the assertion of a solicitor, that if they would give him a sum of money, he would, on the ground of some ancient tradition, ensure the whole of a neighbouring county to them and to their heirs for ever, are so unwise as to take the bait, without once requiring substantial proofs that the tradition existed, or if it existed that it was of sufficient authority for the alleged purpose.
Nicole's method of arguing affords a specimen of the manner in which the sophist aims to impose upon the credulous, whilst his antagonists at once take the open path of candid and manly argument. Thus, for instance, the celebrated French pastor Daillé, vindicating the separation of the reformed churches, reduced his argument to this form:
We ought not to remain united to a society that compels us to profess fundamental errors, in what respects faith, and to practise an idolatrous worship:
But the church of Rome does oblige us to profess fundamental errors, and to practise idolatrous worship;
Consequently we ought not to remain united to the church of Rome ; but, if convinced that
its doctrines are erroneous, we ought to separate from that church.
How did Nicole attempt to elude the force of so plain and convincing an argument ? Aware that by denying the minor, or second step in the argument, he should be obliged to discuss the point, whether the doctrines and practices of the church of Rome are conformable to scripture or not, (which he foresaw to be a difficult and dangerous enterprise, since it might end in shewing that the doctrines of the reformers were true, and those of the church of Rome false;) Nicole, anxious to maintain that the separation was schism, without inquiring whether the Romish doctrines were true or false, denied the major, or first step in the argument, as well as the minor, and thus maintained the revolting sentiment, (from which the upright religious mind cannot but shrink with horror,) that even if the church of Rome were justly charged with heresy and idolatry, the reformers were not justified in their separation! The bishop of Pignerol's reasoning, as the moderator remarks, coincides with that of Nicole.
P. 229. “ La tyrannie de ses pontifes les débordemens affreux de son clergé ...... la corruption de la morale chrétienne.”—The proofs that history furnishes of the tyranny exercised by the Roman pontiffs, form a theme for
volumes ; but not to multiply them, the reader may be referred, for a few instances in point, to the " Appendix to the Letters to Cardinal Pacca,” in this volume, pp. 177, 178. 182-5. 194-6.
The extreme degeneracy of the clergy of the church of Rome stands recorded in the most unquestionable form, namely, in the acts of a council of its own bishops ; for the council of Basil, held in the year 1431, was summoned, Mosheim observes, principally for two objects, “ the union of the Greek and Latin churches, and the reformation of the church universal, both in its head and in its mcmbers, according to the resolution that had been taken in the council of Constance. For that the Roman pontiffs, who were considered as the head of the church, and the bishops, priests, and monks, who were looked upon as its members, were become excessively corrupt; and that, to use the expression of the prophets in a similar case, the whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint, was a matter of fact too striking to escape the knowledge of the obscárest individual ......
...... The assembled fathers were in earnest .. Eugenius IV. was much alarmed at the prospect of a reformation, which he feared above all things, and beholding with terror the zeal and designs of these spiritual physicians, he attempted twice the dissolving of the council.” Did not the failure
” of the repeated efforts of the more conscientious members of the church of Rome, to remove, by the authority of the superior pastors, the enormous abuses in doctrine and discipline that prevailed within its precincts, justify at length the bold and more successful attempt of Luther and his associates at the reformation?—an event that should be regarded, not as a schismatical departure from the church universal, but as a return to the doctrines and institutions of the primitive church, by throwing off an intolerable load of corruption that had accumulated for ages.
Amongst other Roman catholic writers who have borne testimony against the reigning errors and corruptions of the church of Rome, we find an author to whom much is due for his efforts to promote the revival of literature in Europe Petrarch, whose sonnets thus severely characterize the apostate church :
“ L'avara Babilonia ha colmo 'l sacco
D'ira di Dio, e di vizj empi, e rei