A review by J C Philpot of ~
Epistles of Faith.
By the late Mr. Huntington. - (September, 1853.)
It was the firm belief of Dr. Gill and Mr. Huntington that Popery would once more lift up its head and become the dominant religion in this country. Both of them were, we know, men of great mental capacity, deep insight into the Scriptures, of which they were most diligent and unwearied students, and endowed, Mr. Huntington in an extraordinary degree, with the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God.
But though they both decidedly maintained that Popery would preveil, yet they as firmly believed its reign would be short. Considering that the witnesses (Rev. 11:7) would be slain at that period, and taking the "three days and a half" to signify, in prophetical language, so many years, they limited the dominion of Popery in this country to the space of three years and a half.
The concurrence of two such eminent servants of God on these points is the more remarkable when we take into consideration that in their day Popery was at the lowest ebb. In the time of Dr. Gill, Romanism seemed to be almost a breathless corpse; and Mr. Huntington lived in the days of the first French Revolution, when the Roman Catholic worship was proscribed in France, and afterwards when Rome was formally annexed to the French Empire and the Pope was a prisoner in the hands of Bonaparte. To judge according to appearances, there seemed at that time no prospect of Popery reviving from its prostrate, humiliated condition. The cloud which we have seen to gather was then but as a man's hand in the far horizon. Nor was the channel then apparent through which Popery was to enter. External violence, such as a French invasion, was expected to be the means of its conquest rather than internal treachery. But we have lived to see, what might after all have been justly anticipated, that the citadel which could not be taken by storm might be captured by treason. On one point we have long differed from Mr. Huntington. He viewed the Church of England as the great outward bulwark against Popery. We believe just the contrary - that it is its main fortress. John Knox, speaking of the old monasteries and cathedrals in Scotland, used to say, "Cut down the trees, and the rooks will fly away." In England the trees were left standing, or at least only a few outer branches were cut away; and what is the consequence? That the nests are all ready for the Popish rooks when they have driven out the Puseyistic jackdaws. What more can they want? There are the churches and cathedrals all ready for the mass when they have been duly sprinkled with holy water; there are palaces ready for the bishops and the parsonages for the priests, requiring no alteration beyond pulling down the nursery; there are the tithes to support them, the titles to honour them, the organs and choristers to chant to them, and the bells to ring to them. In fact, they will only come back to their own, for all these were their inventions.
There is such a just and deep-seated antipathy to Popery in this country, it is so opposed to all those principles of civil and religious liberty which beat in every truly English heart, that it was well nigh impossible for it to come in in its real shape. Popery, as it appears in really Popish lands, such as Spain, Portugal, or Italy, would not be tolerated in Protestant England, at least would not have been some years back. It could, therefore, only come in under a disguise. It could not enter through the front gate, therefore slipped in through the back one; crept down the area steps of the Church of England, and sneaked in through the kitchen door of Puseyism. This plan was tried two hundred years ago. King Charles I. and Archbishop Laud held what is now called Puseyism, and laboured hard to force it on the nation. But the stout hearts and stout hands of our Puritan ancestors, by the favour of God, overthrew their designs, and cut the sinews both of tyranny and Popery in the most decisive and effectual manner.
One remarkable characteristic, however, of Popery is its undying energy and tenacity of purpose. Penetrated to the very core with corruption both in doctrine and practice, it yet does not die of mortal disease. So far from being weakened by age, it gets stronger as it grows older, and is pushing its conquests in all directions. Sixty years ago, it was death throughout France to be a Roman Catholic priest. "Priests to the lamp-post"* was the cry of the mob in Paris and all the great towns. The priests throughout that large empire control, if they do not constitute, the governing power. In the beginning of the present century Popery was scarcely heard of in England. There were a few old Roman Catholic families in whose private chapels mass was administered chiefly by priests educated abroad; and there were a few scores of French refugee priests who had fled to our hospitable shores from proscription and death. But this mere passive Popery, like a sleeping body, neither stirred nor spoke. It was as torpid as a snake in its hole, or a toad in a cucumber frame during the month of December.
* At that period there were, properly speaking, no lamp posts in Paris, but the streets were lighted by a large lamp, or lantern, suspended across the centre of the street from a rope. The sanguinary mob of Paris found out that this mode of suspension formed a ready means of hanging on the spot, without judge or jury, a priest or an "aristocrat," or any one to whom the said sovereign mob had conceived a dislike. At the cry of "Pretres a la lanterne," ("priests to the lamp,") the wretched man was seized, the lamp lowered from one side of the street, a noose fastened round his neck, and the lamp drawn up again, by the side of which dangled, in dying agonies, the victim of mob law. On one occasion, as some priests were conveyed to prison in a coach, a man mounted on the steps with a knife in his hand, and stabbed every one either to the heart or wherever he could best reach, so that the blood flowed through the carriage into the street.
But what a change have we lived to see! The snake has crawled out and is laying its eggs in every corner. Popery has come forth disguised as Puseyism; and there are hundreds of parishes where the doctrine inculcated from the pulpits by young, active, energetic ministers is essentially and radically Popish. Mr. Huntington's view that the Church of England was the outer court which protected the inner was justified by the circumstances of his time. Fifty years ago the Church of England was mainly divided into two sections, one the old High Church "Orthodox" party, as they called themselves; the other, the Low Church or "Evangelical" party. These were quite opposed in doctrine, but were on one point fully agreed - opposition to Popery, though on different grounds, the Orthodox chiefly for political reasons, the Evangelical for religious. As types of the two parties we might take Lord Eldon and Mr. Wilberforce, the former the grand supporter of the Orthodox, the latter of the Evangelical party, and each their leader and mouthpiece. But both these parties are well nigh extinct. A new body has sprung up, said to number of positive adherents four thousand clergy, and probably including, besides the main army, an almost equal number of allies, who, though they may hover, as if undecided, on the outskirts of the camp, are really with them in heart.
People wonder sometimes at the progress of Puseyism. But when we look at it a little more closely, there is nothing extraordinary in its growth and progress, at least among the clergy. It is worth observation that it is chiefly the young clergy who are most deeply tainted with its principles, and that this circumstance is the main cause of its extension. There is thus a gradual introduction of it through the length and breadth of the land. The process is very gradual, and scarcely observable, but not less real. Here is a quiet country village, where the old rector dies - a harmless man, whom religion never troubled, and who never troubled himself about religion; or a new church is built in a populous district. Soon a young man makes his appearance with a frock coat down to his heels and a waistcoat buttoned up to the chin, over which peeps a white stock. Who is this? The new rector or the young curate who is come to take possession of the church, and become the pastor of the parish flock. But why notice his dress? What is there in a man's clothes? A good deal, or we should not allude to it. This is the Puseyistic livery, an imitation of the dress of the Popish priest, accustoming the eye and gradually paving the way for the full-blown Popish canonicals. There is no noise nor commotion in the parish beyond a little staring at the new minister. Few care to inquire what doctrine he will preach. Now, if there were a Catholic chapel built and a regular priest sent from Stoneyhurst, the Protestant feeling would be roused, the whole parish thrown into alarm and up in arms; but the new rector comes in without any suspicion being created, and yet is at heart a rank Romanist. He has the ears of the whole place, and without suspicion can advance one Romish doctrine after another till he gradually leavens the parish. And even if the people begin to perceive what is going on, they have no remedy. Of what use is it to appeal to the bishop or the patron, who are both probably Puseyites too? There is indeed one remedy - to leave; but the author of the mischief is still there, who, fortified by the bishop's favour and the laws of the land, can almost preach what he pleases and do as he pleases. Were he a Calvinist, the bishop would try to turn him out; but he may go to the very verge of Romanism, and stand high in his diocesan's favour. Could Rome devise anything better than this to promote her ends? It is doing for her what she could not do herself; and, if Satan and the Pope could lay their heads together, each of them would say that this was the very best thing that could be done for their mutual interest.
But why should this youth be a Puseyite? A great deal, of course, is due to the example and influence of others, especially the air that he has been breathing lately at the University, which is as much loaded with Puseyism as Manchester is with smoke, or the Scotch mountains with mist. But this would not be of much aveil were not the whole bent of the system to exalt the priest. That is the grand secret of its success among the young clergy. All men love power and influence. It feeds their pride and ambition. Now every Romish doctrine gives power to the priest. That he is a mediator between the sinful laity and God is the spirit of all their doctrines. To whom must sin be confessed? To the priest. Who gives absolution? The priest. Who offers sacrifice for the living and the dead? The priest. Who administers every ordinance? The priest. He has the keys of hell and death, unlocks purgatory, and opens paradise. The Lord Jesus is virtually dethroned, and the priest put into his place. Now this is genuine Popery. How can we wonder, then, that a number of youths, as ignorant of vital godliness and spiritual religion as the wild Arab, should embrace a system which, with a magical touch of the bishop's hand, transforms nobodies into somebodies; which takes a raw lad, who in the army would be but a marching ensign, or in the law a briefless barrister, and transplants him into a parish as a privileged dispenser of the favours of heaven? The very man who a few months back hacked and hammered through a University examination, pale as a sheet and dripping to his very fingers' ends, now mounts the pulpit as the only teacher of religion to the people, the only channel of grace, to turn away from whom is to despise God, and in whose assembly not to worship is to commit the deadly sin of schism. Looking at the darkness of the mind of man, and at the bewitching influence of Satan, the great juggler, who does not see that a system which puts a man from the bottom to the top of the tree at one step must be acceptable to the natural heart? A man's good sense may revolt against such absurd intolerance; but every real Churchman is a Puseyite in heart.
Now this is the door through which Popery will come in, if it should ever prevail in this country. In fact, it is in already as much as a thief is in the house whose finger is lifting up the kitchen window. The first step is to preach under a disguise Popish doctrines, and then, when these are generally received, to introduce Popish practices.
The Romish system is a complete chain, the links of which are so connected that the introduction of the first necessitates the drawing on of the second. This is true as regards both her doctrines and her practices; and this makes us view with suspicion the least approximation to one or the other.
One of the worst, if not the worst of Popish practices is that of CONFESSION. This is indeed one of the depths of Satan. "Confess your faults one to another," says James. What faults? Why, where brethren have wronged or misunderstood each other, let them mutually acknowledge their error. On this text has Satan built up the doctrine and practice of confession to a priest of every sin that the penitent can remember. To assist his memory and drag sin to light, the priest is instructed to ask questions of the most searching, and in many cases of the most revolting nature. In Popish countries it is the greatest crime, in some instances punishable with death, to take the sacrament without going first to confession and obtaining absolution from the priest. All young persons must "make," as the term is, "their first communion" when they are about fifteen or sixteen. The questions which the priests are not only authorized but directed to put to young females are so revolting, we may say hideous, that we dare not allude to them. Now think of our daughters, at the age of sixteen or seventeen, kneeling before a lecherous priest questioning them on topics which their mothers dare not hint at. Shall Protestant England ever submit to see her modest daughters thus profaned under the mockery of religion? But what if the penitent be ignorant of the priest's meaning. Why, he must make her understand him by using plainer language. Or what if, from modesty, she remain silent? She must answer ever question under penalty of mortal sin and being denied absolution and the Lord's supper - a prey to a guilty conscience and a disgrace to her friends. The confessional is Rome's chief instrument of power. Here family secrets are wormed out; here every circumstance is traced out which can affect the church. It is Rome's secret police, giving her access to every hearth, and, like a spider, weaving a web round every home. To turn and twist a text of Scripture like that of James into this mighty engine, to seek to destroy female modesty by confession of sin, and to hold in the hands of Rome the domestic secrets of every family, is double-distilled devilism. Now, there are hundreds of Puseyistic clergy in this country who, with the least encouragement from the public, would set up the confessional in their churches. With the setting up of the confessional would come all the intolerable evils which we have alluded to, for there can be no half confession of sin before a man authorized to search your conscience; and then where is domestic confidence or female purity, when English wives are questioned about their husband's affairs, and English daughters on subjects fit only for a brothel?
Mr. Huntington, in the work before us, has unmasked Popery with a masterly hand. We hope, in a following Number, to furnish a fuller account of the work before us, which is a cheap republication of his correspondence with Miss Morton, a Roman Catholic lady who was chiefly by his instrumentality converted from the errors of Popery; but the following extract will, to those who never read his admirable letters, give a good idea of his cogent and scriptural style:
"The religion of Jesus Christ consists in being a partaker of that faith, which is of the operation of the Spirit of God, of evangelical repentance towards God, and of being born of God; this makes us new creatures in Christ. In Christ Jesus 'circumcision and uncircumcision aveileth nothing, but a new creature; and faith which worketh by love.' (Gal. 6:15, and 5:6.)
"This religion is of Christ, and Christ is the substance of this religion; it came from Christ, and will lead to, and end in Christ; he will own it, and honour it, when all others will appear like 'a garment that is moth-eaten.' A religion of human contrivance is all outside; it stands in 'bodily exercise, which profiteth little;' (1 Tim. 4:8; ) in 'will worship;' (Col. 2:23;) in 'voluntary humility;' (Col. 2:18;) in 'divers washings,' (Heb. 9:10; ) in 'abstaining from meats;' (1 Tim. 4:3; ) in 'sham fasts;' (Isa. 58:5;) in 'making a fair show in the flesh;' (Gal. 6:12;) in bowing to idols, wafers, and relics, in 'worshipping angels;' (Col. 2:18;) saints and sinners. Their confidence stands in 'lying wonders;' (2 Thess. 2:9;) in 'devils' miracles;' (Rev. 16:14;) in 'dead men's bones;' (Matt. 23:27;) in 'old wives' fables;' (1 Tim. 4:7;) in 'observance of days;' (Gal. 4:10;) in 'priestcraft;' (Eph. 4:14;) and 'fleshly wisdom.' (2 Cor. 1:12.) And all this by 'philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.' (Col. 2:8.)
"Such devotees perform their devotions as punishments for their sins, which makes it eye-service, performed in the shackles of a slave, in servile fear, after the doctrines and commandments of men. Such devotion is perfect bondage; there can be no joy nor happiness till it be over, and the poor slave slips his feet out of the stocks. Groping in the tombs, bowing to skeletons, and cringing to bones, make professors look more like moles and bats than the 'wings of a dove, covered with silver and her feathers with gold.' (Ps. 68:13.)"
Our next extract is from a letter of Miss Morton to Mr. Huntington, in answer to some of his inquiries concerning confession and other Roman Catholic practices:
"My soul abhors the remembrance of 'auricular confession.' I am a living witness of this abomination. David 'confessed his transgressions to the Lord, and he forgave him the iniquity of his sin.' I really never felt, when a Catholic, any satisfaction in confessing my sins to the priest, but I have found it in pouring out my broken petitions before God by myself in private. Surely this is a most vile and sinful practice.
"I shall open to you the whole mystery without reserve, as you have questioned me so close on the subject. 'Reward her,' says God, 'even as she rewarded you; and double unto her double according to her works.' (Rev. 18:6.) It is a shame for a woman to approach these confessionals; if they were never wise in the scenes of iniquity before, the priest will be sure to instruct them, by asking such filthy and indecent questions that a modest woman would blush to think of. I declare to you that I was confined three days to my bed from my first confession; and thought then I never could have gone to confession a second time, being so abashed and confounded by the abominations that he had put in my head. I was truly terrified at a sinful thought, more from the idea of telling it to the priest than a fear of offending the Almighty God. O what a penance was this! At the same time, when it was over, my cursed pride was nursed, and I was congratulated as being an angel, without a sin on my conscience.
"But if it is mental purity you mean, judge ye of their minds, who, contrary to all the laws of God, of modesty, and decency, are constantly exposed to the filthy and lewd interrogations of such carnal priests; notwithstanding God has fixed a bar of modesty on every female mind, this is perpetually broken through, by putting questions to them on such subjects as the Scriptures declare ought not so much as 'to be named amongst the Gentiles.' (1 Cor. 5:1.)"
Popery may well be called "the masterpiece of Satan." Its singular adaptation to man's fallen nature, its flexibility, its deceptiveness, its subjecting to its dominion and casting into its peculiar mould every mind which submits to its influence, its pride, prejudice, and bigotry, its persecuting, demoniacal enmity against the saints of the Most High, its perversion of the word of God, its lying miracles, its gaudy pomp and show, its hardening, searing effect on men's consciences, the license it gives to sin, and its undying hatred to the gospel - all these features stamp Popery as the masterpiece of that Enemy of God and man, who combines the subtlest intellect with the most infernal malice. As a divine influence accompanies the gospel when it is made "the power of God unto salvation," so a Satanic influence accompanies the doctrines and practices of Popery. Of this we see daily instances in those who are justly called perverts. Men of the highest, acutest, and most logical intellect, believe the living legends of Romish saints, invented in the dark ages, and put their pretended miracles on a par with those in the Scriptures.* Men, who previously shrank from the least approach to falsehood, no sooner embrace Romanism, than they outvie even Papists themselves in Jesuitical equivocations; and those who once stood forth free men, no sooner crouch at the feet of a priest than they sink into the most abject bondage, not daring to read, or inquire, or examine on which side truth or error lies. All these circumstances show that a peculiar influence accompanies Romanism, which will account both for its daily spread and amazing power.
* There is now a lying fable current in France, and accredited by the Pope, about the Virgin Mary appearing at Salette, near Grenoble, to two children, and giving them a certain message. The invention of this fable has been traced up to an innkeeper, who wanted to bring customers to his inn, and sell, as miraculous, bottles of water from the well near which the Virgin was said to appear. This lying tale has just been imported into this country, and indulgences have been issued by the Pope for the pardon of the sins of those who worship this divine "Virgin of Salette."
All error, like common slander, is either based on truth, is mixed with truth, or passes current for truth. It would not otherwise get into circulation. Who would take base coin unless it resembled the true? The way to get a lie believed is to mix a dash of truth with it. A naked lie soon dies of cold and starvation; but a lie clothed with the garment of truth finds many a house to take it in, and almost becomes one of the family before it is exposed and turned out of doors. So with the doctrines and practices of Popery. They are so based on truth, mingled with truth, or dressed up in the garb of truth, that their deceptiveness does not at first sight appear.
Take, for instance, the institution which is making great progress in this country - that of monasteries and convents. On what truth is this institution based? On separation from the world, its ensnaring pleasures and employments, and entire devotedness of body, soul, and spirit to God. What can seem better at the first glance? If the salvation of his soul is and ever must be to the awakened sinner the main concern of life; but if, from the weakness of the flesh, he is overcome by the temptations of the world; if prayer, meditation, searching the Scriptures, Christian conversation, nurture the life of God; if solitude, fasting, hard labour, seclusion, be means of subduing the rebellious lusts of the flesh - if these premises be true, who can well deny the conclusion, that a monastery is the very place where every grace and fruit of the Spirit may best flourish, and sin be most effectually repressed and subdued? It was on these principles, apparently so scriptural and true, yet really involving radical error, that monasteries and nunneries were founded. See how truth and error are mixed together in these principles. To be separate from the world is good; it is a divine precept and truly Christian practice. But to come out of the world in spirit and to come out of the world in person are two different things. The apostle has settled this point, 1 Cor. 5:10; "for then must ye needs go out of the world," which a Christian is not called on to do, but to continue in it in person and calling, though in heart and spirit separate from it. God looks to the heart. One man may go out of the world into a monastery and have his heart full of it, as indeed it must be without the grace of God; another may continue in the world and yet by grace be utterly, in heart and spirit, separate from it. But these blind guides know no other way of coming out of the world than shutting a man up in a monastery, like the prisoner in a penitentiary, and no other way of crucifying the flesh than spare diet and cat-o'-nine-tails.
It is foreign to our present purpose to trace out the rise and progress of monastic institutions. A few words, however, may not be amiss on this point.
It was some time in the middle of the third Century that, during the Decian persecution, (A.D. 252) men called Hermits* arose in Egypt. These men, of whom one called Paul? was the most distinguished, fled from the persecution to the stony deserts of Upper Egypt, where they dwelt alone in caves, spending, or rather professing to spend, their time in prayer, meditation, maceration of the body, and what they called communion with God.
* The word is properly "Eremites," which means literally, "inhabitants of the desert."
? Paul the Hermit, a very different character from his namesake, Paul the Apostle, lived in a lonely cave in Upper Egypt, more like a wild beast than a man, for about ninety years, where, according to the lying legends of the day, he wrought miracles, defeated Satan, subdued every sin, and rose to a sort of semi-angelic state?the ne plus ultra of Roman Catholic sanctity.
As error, superstition, and self-righteousness gradually increased, so did the number of these hermits, or anchorites,* as they were sometimes called, of both sexes, until a monk, named Antony, in the fourth Century persuaded some of them to form themselves into a community, and to live together under certain fixed rules. This was the origin of monasteries, which spread with amazing rapidity, first over the East by the disciples of Antony, into Italy by Athanasius, and into Gaul and the West of Europe by Martin, Bishop of Tours, towards the close of the fourth Century.
* The word "anchorite," or more properly "anchorete," signifies one who withdraws himself, that is, into the desert, out of the world.
We should not waste words upon this subject were not England threatened with an inundation of monks and nuns.
These lazy drones were well broomed out at the time of the Reformation, and their hives overthrown. Such an exposure was then made of their flagitious practices and crimes that they were driven away amidst the hisses of the nation. But of late years their number has fearfully increased, especially nunneries, and there is every symptom of their rapid and continual multiplication. Almost all our Catholic aristocracy educate their daughters at these nunneries, and a practice is preveiling of immuring the younger sisters whom it is inconvenient to portion in marriage in these wretched institutions, where they, for the most part, drag out a miserable existence.
The monastic orders have always been the strongholds of Popery; and just now, when Rome is pushing her forces in all directions, she establishes, wherever she can, monasteries and convents, as so many advanced posts and fortresses in which to concentrate her strength. Humanly speaking, nothing can or will stop Rome in her projects to re-conquer these isles but the force of public opinion. Laws and enactments cannot do it, nor can Government or the Houses of Parliament. Rome can easily elude or baffle all their opposition. But enlightened public opinion, which now really governs this country, and, to a certain extent, influences the whole of the continent, Rome cannot withstand. This public opinion can, however, only be formed and extended by means of the press. Hence the value of all those publications which unmask and expose Popery. It was Luther's writings which, under the blessing of God, gave it such a deadly wound in Germany and brought on the Reformation. His powerful preaching was heard by comparatively few, but his pungent writings, full of the keenest wit and simple manly eloquence, penetrated the length and breadth of the land.
We want this bold, energetic, and enlightened spirit now. As a nation we seem half drugged from the wine cup of the Babylonish harlot. The most glaring instances of bigotry, tyranny, and superstition, which in any other sect would rouse the whole nation from one end of the land to the other, are passed by almost unregarded. Were any other denomination to immure young women in convents, detain them there, willingly or unwillingly, prisoners for life, deny all access to them from relatives and friends, except in the presence of a spy of their own party, appropriate all their property, confine them in close dungeons if disobedient to certain arbitrary rules, and throw a vail of impenetrable darkness over all their proceedings, - were any other religious body to do all this, what an outcry would fill the length and breadth of the land. The police would break in the doors, the mob would be ready to tear down the walls, the magistrates would meet, the Houses of Parliament would interfere, and such a storm of public indignation would rise that all would be swept before it. But Rome, trusting to her ancient name, and relying on her thousands of zealous and steadfast adherents here and abroad, may dare anything and do anything, - insult the Queen, laugh at Parliament, entrap heiresses into convents,* besiege dying beds to sweep into her coffers the only support of the widow and fatherless, burn Bibles, and persecute, where she can, those who read them; and when she has done the most infernal deeds, neither repent nor confess them, but glory in them, as done for the honour and interest of the only true Catholic and Apostolic Church.
* The Hon. Mrs. Petre has just sold property to the amount of ?250,000. As she is a nun in an English nunnery, the whole of this immense sum falls to the convent. It is in this way that funds are obtained to spread Popery in this country.
But look at the basis on which all monastic institutions rest. It is avowedly to devote body and soul to the service of God. But how can this be done without grace? What blindness and folly to think that going into a convent can win the favour of God, procure the pardon of sin, cast out Satan, overcome the world, or subdue the evils of the heart.* Let them fast, watch, mumble prayers, macerate their bodies, wear hair shirts, scourge their backs, keep their midnight vigils, their early matins, and their late vespers; let them wear their miserable apparel till filth and vermin rot it off their flesh; let them kneel and confess and receive absolution again and again; and let them wear out a miserable life in their gloomy cell, - will all this servile drudgery bring them to heaven? Can all these human contrivances mortify or subdue one sin? The rage and power of indwelling lust will break through all these self-devised inventions, as the foot of the traveller breaks through the gossamer threads of the autumn meadow. Where in all this wretched monkery is grace, the blood of the Lamb, faith, hope, or love, and the teachings of the Holy Ghost? If this be the way of getting to heaven, Christ has died in vain, and works of human merit are the ladder of salvation. The whole principle is wrong, root and branch, taken under its most favourable aspect, and assuming that in this country the convents are free from immorality. But knowing what human nature is, and what man can and will do when temptation and opportunity combine, and a shroud of darkness covers all deeds, we need not wonder that a convent now may become what they undoubtedly were at the time of the Reformation - little better than a brothel.
* That part of the experience of Joseph Perry in our present Number, to which we have called our readers' attention, is very much to the point on this subject.
Public opinion should, therefore, be enlisted against the existence and increase of nunneries in this country; and this is the main reason why we have travelled out of our usual domain to dwell on the subject, and why we recommend the work at the head of the present article.
Miss Morton was a young woman whose father attended the ministry of Mr. Romaine, and she was therefore, of course, brought up a Protestant; but being a governess, and finding her deficiency in the French language, she went to Boulogne to attain it, and boarded there in a convent. It was there she was converted, or rather perverted to Popery; but returning to England, she was induced chiefly by curiosity to hear Mr. Huntington, whose ministry fell with great weight on her mind. She therefore wrote to him a long letter, which he answered in an epistle of equal or greater length. A further correspondence ensued, which was eventually published in the "Epistles of Faith." The edition which we have thought desirable to notice is a cheap reprint, and will amply repay reading. Mr. Huntington's letters are weighty and his arguments clear and powerful. He seems to have had a clear and remarkable insight into the nature and spirit of Popery, and has attacked it with scriptural weapons, mingling the whole with that peculiar vein of wit and humour which makes his writings so pungent and lively. The letters of Miss Morton are, of course, inferior to his; but there is in them a good deal of curious and authentic information about nunneries as they existed at that period, and they are probably little altered now. The following extract will give a good idea of Mr. Huntington's keen and powerful pen: -
"As for the 'holy Catholic Church,' I read of no such church in the Bible, nor you either; it is a name that the disciples of Christ have nothing to do with. The grace of faith, the word of faith, and Christ the object of faith, must all be in a man's heart, if ever he be saved. The word 'Catholic' is stuffed into the Common Prayer Book, but what have the saints of God to do with that?"
"God never tells me to approach him with any creeds, nor with any forms of prayer of human composition. A man must 'know his own sore, and his own grief,' (2 Chron. 6:29.) and pray by the 'Spirit, if he preveils with God.' The holy Catholic Church that you contend for is national, which the church of God is not, nor ever was; for though Israel were all called God's people, yet the promises were applied to none but the remnant of his heritage. All the world, if they choose, may belong to your church. Christ's kingdom is not of this world; he takes them out of it, as he did the elect Jews, one of a city, and two of a tribe.
"The whole world is said to wander after the beast, but not the elect of God, for they are not of it, but are chosen out of it; as it is written, 'My kingdom is not of this world; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me out of it;' but your Catholic Church consists of whole nations; thieves, robbers, murderers, persecutors, haters of God, whoremongers, mockers of God, burners of the Bible, and makers of idols, - all are members of the Catholic Church. Pray what became of the church of God for 4,000 years before the dragon gave the Pope his power, and his seat, and great authority?' (Rev. 13:2.)
"Is charging the word of God with errors, a sign of a holy church, when Christ says his word 'is all right to him that understandeth, and shall never fail or pass away?' Is blotting out the second commandment and many other parts of the Scriptures, and introducing their own fables instead thereof, a sign of the true church, when God threatens that man with all the curses in his book that does it, and with no part in it that takes a word from it? (Rev. 22:18, 19; Deut. 4:2; 12:32.) If he be threatened that adds a word, or diminishes a word, what damnation shall they be thought worthy of that burn the whole? Were not the King of Judah, his servants, and all Israel sent into captivity for burning Jeremiah's roll? Are not these the men that 'take away the key of knowledge?' that enter not into heaven themselves, and hinder others? Is it not 'life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent?' And can we know him without the Bible? Does not 'faith come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God?' Are burning the saints, hanging of them, drawing them to pieces with horses, devouring them with wild beasts, blowing them up with gunpowder, and cursing them with bell, book, and candle, any characteristics of the church of Christ? Are a bloody inquisition, racking upon the wheel, persecuting with fire and sword, extorting confessions that no understanding can comprehend, and which they themselves can never explain, - I say, are these the weapons that Christ furnished his disciples with, to convert souls to the faith of the gospel?
"If the whole word of God declares that there is but one Mediator, one Advocate, one Intercessor, and that God sent Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company into the pit alive for wanting to multiply mediators, and rebukes Aaron, and smites Miriam with leprosy for interfering with the one Mediator; what shall we say of them who have brought in saints of God's making, and saints of their own canonising, angels, men, and women, as intercessors, mediators, and advocates? God has set up his son Jesus Christ upon his holy hill of Zion; but who set up all these?
"When Christ says, 'Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you,' (John 6:53,) does it imply that the Son of God is to be turned into a wafer? And when Christ says, 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,' (John 6:63,) does the Saviour mean that the mumbling over a few words by a blind priest shall turn or transubstantiate a wafer into what Christ calls 'Spirit and life?' It is the Holy Ghost that quickeneth: 'The words that I speak, they are spirit, and they are life.' Shall a juggling priest turn a wafer into immortality and eternal life? If Christ's expressions of 'eating his flesh and drinking his blood' are spirit and life, does he mean that so gross a substance should be turned into divinity? If the Saviour's meat and drink be an entertainment for the bowels, instead of the mind and conscience, a body thus fed should never die. 'This is the bread that came down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die.' (John 6:50.) But by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, pardon, peace, and eternal life are meant, which are procured by his death, and conveyed to the soul by his Spirit; and that is the entertainment that you want at this time; and the soul that is thus blessed and fed shall never die the second death; nor shall a final separation ever take place between God and such a happy soul.
"Are such relics as the tail of an ass, the splinters of a cross, the milk of a woman, a bit of a stick at the bosom, the bones of dead saints, and the tricks of living ones, - I say, are these the ornaments of Christ's church? Does not God command us not to 'seek the living among the dead?' Did not our Saviour cast the legion of devils out of the crazy Gadarene, that he should grope among the tombs no more? and did he ever do it till the devil was in him? Did not the angels rebuke the pious women for peeping into the Saviour's tomb, telling them that he was risen, that they might be 'begotten again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead,' and not settle their hopes in a grave?"