John Cumming (1850)
REVERERE VULTUS ET VULNERA TOT FORTIUM VIROILUM, QUOTQUOT PRO LIBERTATE TAM STRENUE DECERTARUNT, MANES ETIAM EORUM QUl IN IPSO CERTAININE OCCUEUERUNT. -- MILTON'S DEFENSIO SEGUNDA.
No book, with the exception of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, has been so extensively, and at the same time so deservedly, popular as Fox's Book of Martyrs. It has almost invariably made its appearance under the auspices of some discerning spirit, at the moment its lessons needed to be most widely learnt, and its truths most profoundly felt. No sooner has popery begun to lift its head, like Marius of old, amid the marshes of Minturnæ, aiming even from its ruins at supremacy and making proselytes, than the Acts and Monuments have come forth to resist its spread and crush its hopes. It is here literally true, "he being dead yet speaketh." Nor is this to be wondered at. The scenes which Fox so graphically depicts, the tragedies he records, very often from personal knowledge, to have been acted upon them, the names of the holy men who fell victims to the emissaries of the papacy, the truths taught at the stake, which superstitious priests hoped to annihilate in the flames that consumed their advocates, and the Bibles they tried to bury in the graves that contained the ashes of the "noble army of martyrs;" -- - these and other stirring facts are well fitted to arouse long dead recollections, to lead us to pity, not to proscribe, the poor Romanist, who is the victim of a cruel sacerdotal tyranny, and to bless and praise the Lord our God, who gave to our fathers grace to labour, and to us the high privilege of entering into their labours. The volumes of Fox are the faithful registers of the awful deeds of the Church of Rome, the transcripts of those dreadful principles which have made every country in which they have obtained the ascendency, from the wilds of the Arab to the steppes of the Cossack, a very Aceldama. The numerous editions through which the Acts and Monuments have passed show plainly that the martyrologist speaks a tongue that finds an echo in the hearts of the people. They feel his volumes to be the comments only on a sacred cause, to which were devoted the strength of manhood and the grey hairs of age. They reverence the martyrs that sealed it by their blood. May they draw from the earth that contains their honoured ashes motives to persevere in the paths they travelled. May we never forget that husbands, wives, brethren, sisters, sons, and fathers fell, like the beauty of Israel, in their high places, "contending for the faith once delivered to the saints." Our sweetest and most precious privileges are, under God, the fruits of their travail, the price of their lives, freely given, that we, their offspring, may live free.
Originally Fox's Martyrs appeared in Latin, and bore the following title:-- Commentarii rerum in Ecclesiâ gestarum a Wiclefi temporibus usque ad annum MD, 8vo. 1554; or, An Account of Transactions in the Church from the times of Wycliff to the year 1500. Five years after this a much larger volume was issued, bearing the following title:-- Rerum in Ecclesiâ gestarum, maximarumque per Europam persecutionum, ac sanctorum Dei Martyrum Commentarii, in folio, Basileæ, 1559; or, Records of Transactions in the Church, and of the leading Persecutions of the Saints and Martyrs of God throughout Europe. About four years after the appearance of this edition, i. e. about A.D. 1563, one Henry Pantaleon published at Basle a continuation of the Acts and Monuments, which seems to have been subsequently incorporated with the original. The date of the first edition in English is, according to Dr. Dibdin, A.D.1563, Its title is as follows:--ACTS AND MONUMENTS of these latter and perilous Days, touching Matters of THE CHURCH; wherein are Comprehended and described the great Persecutions and horrible Troubles that have been wrought and practised by the Roman Prelates, especially in these Realms of ENGLAND and SCOTLAND, from the Year of our Lord a thousand, unto the time now present. Gathered and collected according to the true Copies and Writings, Certificatory as well of the parties themselves that suffered, as also out of the Bishops' Registers who were the Doers thereof, By JOHN FOX. London, 1562-3, from the press of JOHN DAY.
A second edition also in English was printed and issued by Day in 1570, with additional wood cuts and illustrations.
A third edition appeared in 1576, entitled, The first Volume of Ecclesiastical History. The Sufferings of the Martyrs newly recognised and enlarged by the Author, J. Fox. 2 vols, folio, 1576.
The fourth edition appeared in 1583. Its title is as follows:--"ACTS AND MONUMENTS of Matters, most special and memorable, happening in THE CHURCH, with an Universal History of the same; wherein is set forth at large the whole Race and Course of the CHURCH, from the primitive Age to these latter Times of ours, with the bloody Times, horrible Troubles, and great Persecutions against the true Martyrs of CHRIST, sought and wrought as well by Heathen Emperors, and now lately practised by ROMISH PRELATES, especially in the Realm of ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND. Newly revised, and now the fourth time again published.
By JOHN Fox. 1583.
The last edition of the sixteenth Century appeared in 1596, and bore the following title:-- ACTS AND MONUMENTS of Matters happening in THE CHURCH, with an Universal History, &c., as it was recognised by the AUTHOR, Maister JOHN Fox. The fifth time newly imprinted. Anno 1596.
All these editions are in black letter. The best and most authentic is understood to be that of 1563. Accordingly, it has been selected as the basis of the present edition. From 1684 to the present time every edition has been in the Roman letter.
We cannot afford space to enumerate recent editions. Their great number is proof of the universal esteem and value of the work. But it may probably be asked, What necessity is there for another edition, seeing there have been already so many? Our answer is the reason of our labours. Almost every edition has been either a collection of all the extraneous and irrelevant matter by which Fox's narratives are frequently cumbered, of great bulk, and of greater expense; or mere abridgements, fit for fashionable circulating libraries, but unnerved, and despoiled of the greatest excellences and most precious chapters of the hoary martyrologist. Seeley's noble reprint is fit for the libraries of universities, the archives of museums, the tables of scholars. It is a literal and exact reprint. But its price and its shape repel the ordinary reader. The compilations that have preceded and followed it are entitled to the name of Fox's Acts and Monuments for no other reason than that the main facts and incidents have been gathered from the pages of the venerable chronicler. It does therefore seem to be most desirable that a complete and yet popular edition of the Acts and Monuments of Fox should appear. Such an edition we now profess to lay before the public. In this it will be found that Latin quotations and references, including extracts and letters to and sometimes from the martyrs, and repetitions in the shape of headings, are substantially all that have been removed. The bulk of the work is thus reduced, while the original matter remains almost unaltered and unimpaired. We have extracted only a few weeds, in order that those plants which our heavenly Father planted may appear in all their goodly proportions. The features of the martyrs themselves are not touched or altered in the least; incrustations only are removed. The present edition is in all respects fitted to instruct the learned, to interest the ordinary reader, and to present to both neither a dull nor a deficient edition of the Acts and Monuments of Fox.
All the early editions were illustrated by frequent but rude wood cuts. The engines of perverted mind for torturing the confessors of the faith were so intricate, the modes of martyrdom so varied, but all in the infliction of pain exquisite, and some of the scenes at the same time so extraordinary, that these illustrations became almost essentially necessary. All that was historically and topographically correct in the wood cuts of the early and authentic editions will be retained in the present. The manipulation, style, and execution only will be of the first excellence. Other subjects arising out of the body of the work will be illustrated; and thus an edition of Fox will be got up that will be an acquisition to the libraries of the learned and unlearned.
Something must be said of the veracity and faithfulness of our martyrologist. Since his records came to occupy a large share of patronage and popularity, objections have been urged, not only from papal sources, as was to be expected, but from professing protestants. One of the most bitter papal opponents of Fox was the wily Harding. The following are some of the chaste and indigenous terms in which this Jesuit speaks of our author: "There have not so many thousands of your brethren been burned for heresy in these last twenty years as ye pretend; and this is the chief argument ye make in all that huge dunghill of your stinking martyrs, which ye have entitled Acts and Monuments." To this Bishop Jewel makes the following free and faithful reply: "Ye have imprisoned your brethren; ye have stript them naked; ye have scourged them with rods; ye have burned their hands and arms with flaming torches; ye have famished them; ye have drowned them; ye have summoned them, being dead, to appear before you; ye have taken up their buried carcasses and burned them; ye have thrown them out unto the dunghill; ye took a poor babe newly born, and in a most cruel and barbarous manner threw him into the fire. All these things are true, they are no lies. The eyes and consciences of thousands can witness to your doings. Ye slew your brethren so cruelly, not for murder, or robbery, or any other grievous crime they had committed, BUT ONLY THAT THEY TRUSTED IN THE LIVING GOD. The worst word that proceeded from their lips was, 'O Lord, forgive them; they know not what they do: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' In the mean while, ye stood by and delighted your eyes with the sight. Oh! Mr. Harding, your conscience knoweth these be no lies; they are written in the eyes and hearts of many thousands. These be the marks of your religion. Oh what reckoning will ye yield, when so much innocent blood will be required at your hands!"
Milner, a zealous and subtle Romanist, in his work entitled The End of Controversy, declares that "Cranmer and others of the protestants were consigned to the flames because they had been. guilty of high treason. Fox is a liar, and not to be believed even when he speaks the truth." All this may be exceedingly convenient to the champions of the papal hierarchy, but they know well that the martyrs in the days of Queen Mary, who, Lingard the Romish historian says "was one of the best of the English princesses," suffered not for infringement of civil law, but for the maintenance of gospel truth. The policy of the Jesuits is always to father on protestants the very crimes of which they themselves are guilty. Milner and Lingard show how well they have studied in the school of Ignatius Loyala. The protestants burned in the days of Queen Mary were burned, as legal and civil documents still accessible demonstrate, simply for disclaiming transubstantiation, the supremacy of the pope, and the assumed right of the Romish priesthood to debar the laity from reading the sacred Scriptures. But, on the other hand, the papists who suffered in the days of Elizabeth were, as the indictments and other authentic records show, executed for high treason, for regicide principles, and for open or disguised, but clearly proved, opposition to the dynasty and sceptre of Elizabeth. A convicted murderer of unrenewed heart will of course naturally impeach judge, jury, and evidence. The papacy however has not put down the gospel, which embosoms the glory and the functions of Christ; and it shall not crush the humbler records, which stamp his true character on the exploits of antichrist. Neale, a far abler and purer witness than Milner, or Lingard, or Harding, confirms the testimony of Jewel in these words: "Fox was a person of indefatigable labour and industry, and an exile for reigion in Queen Mary's days; he spent all his time abroad in compiling the Acts and Monuments; which were published first in Latin, and afterwards when he returned to his native country with enlargements. Vast were the pains he took in searching records and collecting materials for his work; and SUCH WAS ITS ESTEEM, THAT IT WAS ORDERED TO BE SET UP IN ALL THE PARISH CHURCHES IN ENGLAND." "No book," continues the historian of the puritans, "ever gave such a mortal wound to popery as this."
It may be objected, that the same necessity does not now exist for the republication ofthis celebrated work. This is a great mistake. If the Romish hierarchy had renounced the canons, decretals, bulls, and rescripts, that embody the worst elements of persecution, it would be ungenerous to upbraid them with the deeds of their predecessors. But they neither have renounced, nor can, as Romanists, renounce, the principles that received the stamp of infallibility in days that are passed. The Church of Rome cannot recede one jot from her ancient pretensions without renouncing the ground on which she stands. It would be suicide to admit that her most sanguinary canons were sinful and erroneous. Nor does she wish to make any such concession. She may cast dust in the eyes of protestants, she may profess all meek and merciful things; but this is designedly, and for a specific end. Depressed, she arrays herself in all the pomp and splendour of universal liberality and good will; but upon an uncontested throne, in Spain, in Italy, and in Britain too, if she were what she would be, these attractive assumptions drop off, and the woman drunk with the blood of martyrs trampling on the name of Christ, and on the hopes and happiness of believers, starts into bold and prominent relief.
Persecution, it is only fair to admit, has certainly been practised by individuals claiming to be the children of the protestant faith, but never has the principle that originated it been incorporated in any of the creeds of the protestant churches. This is precisely the difference between papal persecution, and such instances of severity as have been ascribed to protestant reformers and ministers. Persecution is embosomed in the canons of the Romish Church, whereas it is abjured and reprobated in the creeds of the protestant church. If a Roman catholic persecutes, he acts in full accordance with the principles to which he has subscribed; if a protestant persecutes, he acts in diametrical opposition to the articles he professes to adhere to. When a Roman catholic disclaims persecution, he thereby impugns the infallibility and retreats from the ground occupied by his Church; when a protestant persecutes, he thereby renounces his faith, and enters on territory infamously sacred to Rome. The rule of faith and conduct held by the Roman catholic is, "The Bible or written word, and tradition or the unwritten word, and both propounded and expounded by the Church." Now the two last limbs of this triple rule have been dyed in blood, They have been the fountain-heads out of which the Inquisition drew numerous precedents, Dominic most ample instruction, and the fourth Lateran its anti-social canons. The rule of faith held by protestants, on the other hand, is, THE BIBLE ALONE, in which we defy the acutest sceptic or bitterest papist to extract one precept to persecute, or one precedent for ecclesiastical extirpation of heretics. When, therefore, Roman catholics persecute, their rule of faith applauds them; when protestants persecute, their rule of faith condemns them. The former rule is the nurse of persecution, the latter the extinguisher of it. The one carries the faggot, lights the flames, and cheers the actors in the auto-da-fe; the other brings living waters from life's most merciful fountain, to quench the fire and to refresh the martyr, and, it may be, to convert the murderer. Hence in the papal Church Pius V. and Dominic are canonized and beatified; and to keep their sanguinary conduct fresh in the minds of their descendants, there are collects with special reference to these persecutors in the English Missal for the use of the Roman catholic laity, used on the proper Sundays in every papal chapel in England. What can be clearer evidence of the animus of the Roman catholic hierarchy, or of the justice of our charge against these principles, than the following reference to a canonized! or beatified! persecutor in the English Missal for the use of the laity: "O God, who has enlightened thy church by the eminent virtues and preaching of blessed Dominic, thy confessor, grant that by his prayers we may be provided against all temporal necessities, and daily improve in all spiritual good." Again, "Sanctify, O Lord, the gifts we have offered thee, and by the merits of blessed Dominic thy confessor, grant that they may be healing to us."
This man was employed by Pope Innocent III. to trace out and punish those heretics the pious and holy Albigenses. His weapons were persecution, the blood of saints is on his robes, and were the papacy improved such a collect as that we have extracted would be expunged from the Missal.
In the protestant church such men are branded as guilty persecutors, and thanks and glory rendered unanimously to Him who has made us to differ. If it may be replied, that some of the protestant Reformers persecuted, we admit it. This ought not to be denied, as some with more enthusiasm than discretion have done, May we not ask, Is this to be wondered at? The Reformers had been nursed at the bosom of a Church in which persecution is incorporated as a vital and essential element, and applauded in precedent and urged in precept. The earliest lesson they had been taught was the propriety of extirpating heretics in order to put down heresy; and the wonder is not that they used carnal weapons in one or two isolated instances, but that they so soon abjured the unholy spirit, exorcised it from the creeds they drew up, and abandoned it, rejoicing in a holier faith in their after-conduct. The Church of Rome never can in her corporate character renounce persecution. She must let go her assumption of immutability and infaffibility, if she disclaim the principles or abjure the patrons of persecution. Some of the most illustrious councils of the Roman Church enacted persecuting canons. The Councils of Tours, Narbonne, Beziers, and Thoulouse passed a variety of anti-social and cruel laws against those witnesses for Christ, the Albigenses and the Waldenses. The third Council of the Lateran, and above all the fourth, and subsequently the fifth, issued decrees that stain the history of man, and present the papal hierarchy to future ages visibly with blood upon its most gorgeous robes. Ultimately the scattered efforts of the Romish hierarchy were concentrated and systematized in the institution of the Inquisition. Languedoc, Spain, Portugal, and Goa all testify to the deeds of this dreadful incubus on freedom, faith, and happiness. The soil of those lands, it is true,bears no traces of the innocent blood shed upon it. Vineyards, and golden harvests, and rural hamlets now meet the eye, where murder and falsehood, cruelty and bloodshed, fused into one, composed the character of the murderer, and where mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, blended into one, made up the temper of the martyrs; but the wounds inflicted on Christianity, on man, and on the glory of God, are fresh and bleeding, and will re-open, should we ever prove forgetful of the deep debt ofobligation we owe the "noble army of martyrs," or become dead to the yet profounder gratitude we must now feel to that gracious God, who, in his mercy, has cast our lot in better, even in halcyon days.
It is almost supererogation to furnish proofs of these assertions. Romanists must smile at the scepticism of some protestants. We might refer to the massacre on the eve of St. Bartholomew, as a proof not merely of the sanguinary spirit then cherished by the Romish apostacy, but of their yet unabandoned adherence to it at this day. At Paris, in 1572, the poor Hugonots, who had been decoyed and deceived by false professions, were murdered to the number of five thousand according to Mezerai, six thousand according to Bossuet, and ten thousand according to Davila. "The streets of Paris flowed with blood. Charles IX. and his queen feasted their eyes on the dead that floated down the Seine. The day-light, which discovered so many crimes, which the darkness of an eternal night ought for ever to have concealed, did not soften their ardour by these objects of pity, but exasperated them the more. The populace and more dastardly, being warmed by the smell of blood, sixty thousand men, transported with this fury and armed in different ways, ran about wherever example, vengeance, rage, and the desire of plunder transported them. The air resounded with a horrible tempest of the engines, blasphemies, and oaths of the murderers, of the breaking open of doors and windows, of the firing of pistols and guns, of the pitiable cries of the dying, of the lamentations of the women whom they dragged by the hair, of the noise of carts, some loaded with the booty of the houses they pillaged, others with the dead bodies they cast into the Seine; so that in the confusion they could not hear each other speak in the streets; or if they distinguished certain words, they were those furious expressions, "Kill, stab, throw them out of the window." Some were shot on the roofs of houses, others were cast out of the windows; some were cast into the water, and knocked on the head with blows of iron bars; some were killed in their beds -- wives in the arms of husbands, husbands in the bosoms of their wives, and sons at the feet of their fathers. They neither spared the aged, nor women great with child, nor even infants." Mezerai's History ofFrance. See vol. ii. p. 1098. Paris, 1646.
The question naturally occurs, How would our blessed Lord have looked on such a scene? What verdict would he have uttered over such a record? He would have wept over the wickedness of man, and deplored the dreadful catastrophe that so cruelly overtook the innocent and the helpless. His professed successor and representative, the pope, however, "went in procession," according to the testimony of Mezerai, "to the church of St. Lewis, to render thanks to God for so happy a victory;" and his legate, in the pope's name, congratulated the French king on his exploits; and in the Roman Missal or Prayer Book, used in every Roman catholic chapel throughout the kingdom, this poor people are taught to pray on the festival of Pius V., who urged Charles IX. to the murderous massacre, in the following words:
"O God, who wast pleased to raise blessed Pius to the dignity of chief bishop, in order to depress (i. e. crush) the enemies of the church."
This keeps persecution fresh before the people. Pope Gregory XIII., only regarding the good which he thought likely to result from this to the catholic religion in France, and to perpetuate the memory of this event, caused several medals to be struck; whereon he himself is represented on the one side, and on the other side an angel, carrying a cross in one hand, and a sword in the other, exterminating the heretics, and more particularly the Admiral Coligné. In Spain the same deed was praised in the presence of King Philip, and they dared to call it the triumph of the church militant. See Fleuri's Eccles. Hist. vol. xxiii. Book 173, p. 557. Nismes, 1780.
The BULL UNIGENITUS, which, according to the evidence of Dr. Murray, the Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin, is received by the Romish Church throughout all Ireland, decrees that, if required, the secular arm is to be called in to compel and coerce those who hold the truths of the gospel to recant and renounce them. Its words are, "We moreover charge our venerable brethren, the patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops, and other ordinaries of districts, and the inquisitors of heretical wickedness, utterly to coerce and compel, by the above-mentioned censures and penalties, and by the other remedies of law and deed, THE AID OF THE SECULAR ARM BEING INVOKED FOR THIS PURPOSE IF IT BE NECESSARY, all who oppose and resist."
The Catechism of the Council of Trent asserts, that those who quit the Church of Rome may "be judged, punished, and anathematized."
Dr. Delahogue in his Class Book for the instruction of the priests educated at Maynooth, states that the Church retains her jurisdiction over all baptized persons, as a commander retains authority over deserters, and may denounce and decree for them similar and severe punishments.
The worst and bitterest persecutors in the past history of the Romish Church are, we find, canonized and beatified as saints. St. Dominic, the harbinger, if not the founder, of the Inquisition, St. Thomas Aquinas, whose secunda secundæ are replete with persecuting principles, St. Ferdinand of Castile, a burner of heretics, and Pius V., are embalmed in the devotions, and presented as models to the imitation, of the Roman catholics of Great Britain.
We do not so much condemn the laity of the Church of Rome. They do not know the full extent of the wickedness of that apostacy of which they are the victims. We pray for them. We pity them. Our present work is for them as for ourselves. It is another warning cry to come out of Babylon. Fox's Book of Martyrs is republished in its present popular form, not only to warn protestants against the subdued pretences of this awful and unchanged superstition, and thereby to prepare them to resist and repel it by Scripture, fact, and argument; but also to stir up Roman catholics to abjure a Church so branded in the tablets of universal history, and so doomed in the pages of the word of God. We here enter on no crusade against their rights or privileges as citizens. We seek higher and nobler objects. We thus beseech them to flee from Babylon as from a crumbling ruin, replete with the prestiges of approaching destruction. It is our heart's desire and prayer unto God for them that they may be saved. But our affection to them, however intense, must not induce us to compromise our faithfulness to protestants. We desire to awaken and impress them especially. We desire to resuscitate and nourish in their hearts a more thrilling sense of the privileges they enjoy, a profounder impression of the gratitude they ought to cherish toward their martyred fathers, and of the responsibilities, the solemn and weighty responsibilities, that devolve on them.
The loudest boast made at the present day by the Church of Rome is her UNITY, and with the exhibition of this she expatiates at no ordinary length on the dissensions of professing Protestants. We do not in these few observations attempt to vindicate the unity of protestants, but rather to show that the Romish assumption of unity is totally devoid of truth. We must not forget that the value of unity depends on the nature of the things of which it is composed. Concord becomes conspiracy when it is against the truth of God and the rights of humanity. Aaron the high priest, and a vast multitude besides, were united to a man in the worship of the golden calf. Korah and his people, and the ten tribes at Beth-el, were each thoroughly united, but are one and all Scripturally and justly condemned. The Samaritans were more united than the Jews, having no sects or divisions. Satan and his angels are as united as Michael and his. Hell is the site of unbroken unity; for unity is an essential mark of the kingdom of Satan, who knows, and acts upon the knowledge, that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We must therefore look at the things in which men are united, in order to elicit a just estimate of the value of their union. If we apply this test to the Church of Rome, we shall find it a gigantic conspiracy against the Prince of peace -- the concord of unenlightened minds and unsanctified spirits, to raise the creature to a level with the Creator, and to exalt the church above Christ.
It will be found that the unity of which the Church of Rome so repeatedly boasts springs from one of two sources, IGNORANCE or COMPULSION. It arises first from ignorance, and is dissolved the moment that the light of truth shines upon it. The Ephesians enjoyed uninterrupted unity when they, ignorant of the one living and true God, simultaneously shouted, "Great is Diana of Ephesus." The Jews almost unanimously concurred in the dreadful sentiment, "Not this man, but Barabbas." During the middle ages all the doctors of Christendom were perfectly united in holding that the earth stood still, and that sun, moon, and stars revolved around it; and so the Church of Rome is perfectly united in the worship she pays the Virgin Mary, and the implicit faith she cherishes in the sacrifice of the mass. But in her case, as in the others referred to, light introduced breaks up the false harmony, and evolves a powerful discord. Paul threw a handful of living sunbeams on Ephesus; the gospel was made to bear on the population of Jerusalem by the apostle of the circumcision; and the demonstrations of Galileo descended on the dogged resistance of the Vatican, and unity gave way to division at the moment that error gave way to truth.
The unity of the Church of Rome is, in the next place, the product of compulsion. It is that of the iceberg. All heterogeneous substances are compressed into one mass, not by the sweet attractions of homogeneous elements ab intra, but by the compression of all antagonist materials ab extra. It lasts as long as it is unvisited by light and warmth, but dissolves and separates as soon as the genial sunbeams fall upon it. In Spain no other faith dare be professed. In Rome protestantism is treason. No wonder there is an external and apparent unity. Bayonets are far more effective quellers of discord than the Thirty-nine Articles. Hands are therefore united, while the hearts they belong to are at the antipodes of each other. The Church of Rome in fact confounds unity and uniformity; and for this latter, which never has been, and never can be secured in the physical, moral, or spiritual world, she has sacrificed hecatombs of holy men, and furnished the elements of that solemn and ever-resuscitated testimony against her, FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS.
The Apocalyptic cage of unclean beasts and birds is the meet symbol of the Church of Rome. These are merely coercion without, and corruption within; a scene
"Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds
Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,
Abominable, unutterable, and worse
Than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived,
Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire."
Let me here avail myself of the opportunity of impressing upon all protestants the necessity of greater and more cordial unanimity. Never was Christian union more urgently required. Never were the prospects of such concord more brilliant. United truth must prevail against conspiring heresy; but divided brethren will barely maintain their ground. We do not ask protestants to compromise principles in order to secure concord. This were wrong, as it is unnecessary. But we do beseech them to concede prejudices. This is Christian. Let us look more intensely at the truths wherein we agree, and less censoriously at the points wherein we differ. The former are weighty as gold, the latter lighter than chaff. Our points of coincidence and compact are as the great mountains; our points of divergence as molehills. The differences are jots and tittles, and positively microscopic. Our common faith, common hope, common creed, are mighty and majestic, as the God that gave them. The sweetest sounds in the Vatican are our quarrels; the greatest barrier to the conversion of Roman catholics is our strifes. Let us show them, that though there are tabernacles, we have yet but one city; that though there are many streams, we have yet but one river. There are many baskets, but one bread. There is ONE BODY, and ONE SPIRIT, ONE HOPE, ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD and FATHER OF ALL.
Such is the apostolic church. Such let pray and labour to be now.
Another very lofty pretension put forward by the Roman catholic Church is her ANTIQUITY. She proclaims all protestants to be mere upstarts, and their church throughout all its sections to lie offshoots from her.
This objection is specious, but false. Certainly one circumstance is very presumptive against the claims of the Romish Church, viz. those doctrines peculiar to her, and in which she differs from us, are not in the Bible, whereas the very truths she condemns in our creed as novelties are wholly in the Bible. She withholds the cup from the laity; we give it: which side is Scriptural? "Drink ye ALL of it," is a decisive reply. Here, at least, we keep to the ancient practice, and in this point our faith is the old and apostolic, and that of Rome the modern. The Church of Rome has determined that the clergy shall live in perpetual celibacy. The protestant church leaves it optional. How does Scripture decide? "Peter's WIFE'S mother." "Marriage is honourable in ALL." "A bishop the husband of one wife." The very name, "husband bishop," would be an abomination in the eyes of the Romish hierarchy. Whether worse things do not universally obtain among them we do not at present inquire. We might go over every tenet of the papacy, and laying it side by side with a protestant tenet, demonstrate that our articles and creeds are coeval and coincident with the Scriptures, and that those of the Church of Rome are all posthumous to the apostles, and very many of them not older than the Council of Trent. This assumption also of the Rornish Church, and her assault upon us, presumes that the Reformers constructed a new church. This is a misapprehension. They merely corrected and purified the old one. They removed the accumulated layers of rubbish that concealed the beauties of the pearl of great price. They purified and healed, under God, a leprous church, by bringing her to her long-lost birth-right, the true Bethesda, the blood of Jesus. The Reformers did with the papal Church as our Lord did with the Jewish. They drove out the moneychangers, overturned their tables, took down the symbols and the records of idolatry, and hung up visibly before all the everlasting record, "My house shall be called the house of prayer." We admire not the Reformation for its own sake, but for the transcendent benefits even its most tempestuous storms wafted to all lands, and deposited as germs of life and rudiments of a new and holier faith. Let us never forget that the Church of Rome received its present shape at the Council of Trent; and so true is this, that if we were to profess all the ancient creeds, the Apostolic and the Nicene, and cleave to these alone, we should be denounced by the Romanists as heretics and schismatics. If we were to adopt all the articles in the creed of Pope Pius IV. except papal infallibility, we should yet be heretics. Nay, if we were to sign that creed to-day, and the pope to-morrow to send forth a new article of faith, we should still be heretics, unless we received the last with the same faith and confidence with which we receive the gospel. Nothing short of our frustrating judgment, conscience, senses, and all we are and have, at the footstool of a deified hierarch, will be tolerated. The Church of Rome is a new and upstart communion, built up of the spoils of religion, reason, human right, and social affection. In the protestant churches alone, we hail and revere the grey hairs of age and of ancient times, and we rise and venerate the august and holy form. All that our Reformers did, and all we desire to do, is to detach the meretricious finery and fantastic rags wherewith the Lady of Babylon has decked out the church, and marred her fair aspect, and present her as the apostles did, bright with the signatures of primeval truth, arrayed in the robes and adorned by the likeness of Jesus, and inlaid with the inner glories of the Holy Spirit.
The Church of Rome will twit us with the question, If our articles be erroneous, tell us when and where they were introduced. We can tell when they were not, and pretty clearly when they were introduced. But if we were unable to lay down the dates of their rise, this inability would not prove they were Scriptural. Was the Nile non-existent when geographers could not state the longitude, latitude, and locality of its spring-head. Who can tell what Rabbi introduced the successive superstitions of the Jews? The Reformation had respect not to the date of the error, but to the error itself.
Let it also be observed that error does not flash upon the world, broad, palpable, and at once. It creeps in by stealth, under a variety of shapes and ever-adjusting chameleon colours. Truth, like the fabled Minerva, comes at once and in full glory from above; error dares not do so. Hence it is easy to mark the introduction of a great truth, but it is not so easy to trace the commencement of an ultimately overshadowing heresy. It is sufficient for us to know that these dogmas, on which popes and councils have struck, with their mightiest pressure, the counterpart of infallibility, never bore the image and the superscription of the Son of God. But it is unnecessary to enter into elaborate proofs that ours is the primeval faith. History with its thousand tongues attests it; revelation with its one, but decisive, voice attests it.
It may not be, in closing these remarks, an uninteresting or unimportant inquiry, What has been the result of all the persecutions the church has endured from the first martyr Abel to the present time? We venture to assert, that in every instance it has been proved that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. Persecution purifies, never mars the church.
That we may obtain a satisfactory view of the successive combats which have taken place, let us take a retrospective glance at the records of their time and their locality, and we shall find that not only has the wholesale result of the past been favourable to the cause of Heaven, but that in every single struggle the serpent's head has received an additional bruise, though the heel of the woman's seed may not have got off unscathed. We shall find that the kingdom of Jesus in consequence of persecution has been impeded in its march athwart the length and breadth of the world, but at the same time that blows have been dealt to the tempter's sway and prospects, from which he has not easily rallied. What makes the upshot of every onset with the persecutor more delightful to the Christian soldier, is the fact that the very schemes which the serpent devised and set in operation for the overthrow of the kingdom of heaven have been inverted, and made to hasten the ruin of his own. Let us allude to some proofs of this, furnished by the word of God.
When Cain, the first papal hierarch, hurried on by the author of evil, lifted up his hand and slew his righteous and believing brother, the first protestant martyr, the readiest presumption is, that the cause of God and its advocate suffered, while that of Satan and his servant prevailed. Death, the curse and the consequence of sin, fastens first on a child of God, and passes by a child of the devil. But from this persecution, so painful, two important lessons were deduced. Adam and Eve were convinced that sin was a much more fearful thing than they had previously supposed it to be, and were thereby led to appreciate and admire more fully that promise of mercy and those typical indices of a coming Saviour which had been revealed. The keener our perception of guilt, the deeper is our admiration of the blood that washes it
away. But a tangible instance was also given of God's punishment of sin. It would have been mercy to Cain had the knife that entered the bosom of his brother started upward, and buried itself in his own; but a severer doom descended on his head; he was branded as a criminal, and driven with restless and reluctant foot to proclaim to the gathering multitudes of posterity the Almighty's hatred of iniquity, and his immovable pmpose to visit with severe chastisement them that perpetrate it. While the promise, on the one hand, whispered in the ears of mankind that there was mercy in heaven, and thus prevented despair, Cain, the wandering herald of wrath, the visible proof of punishment following the footsteps of guilt, proclaimed that in heaven there was holiness, and justice, and truth, and thereby made men careful not to presume. From this scene there arose a fore-reflected shadow of that righteous One, who came to his own, and his own received him not; whose blood, nevertheless, speaketh better things than the blood of Abel; for while the latter cried to Heaven for vengeance, the former cries at this moment for mercy upon them who have shed it, and "crucified the Lord of glory, and put him to an open shame."
Satan, the determined persecutor, did not account his discomfiture ground of despair. He began the work of contagion with increased vigour; and so successful were his desolating efforts, that all who dwelt upon the earth became subject to his sway, and apostates from Heaven, with the exception of eight "faithful among the faithful few." But here his victory was not destined to yield much or abiding joy; for by the righteous judgments of God his myrmidons were swept from the bosom of the earth, and the followers of holiness and truth alone were left. From this occurrence a new lesson respecting the mode of God's dealings with men was elicited, namely, that there is an accepted time and a day of salvation, at the close of which mercy retires, and judgment occupies her place. There was also presented to the believer a type of that better Ark, Jesus Christ the Saviour. in whom the church is to be borne in safety across the turmoils and troubles of earth, the billows of Satan's wrath, and the descending showers of judgment, which shall overwhelm a guilty and a godless world. In this matter the heel of the woman's seed was wounded, but the head of the serpent was bruised.
In the history of Joseph and his brethren we have truth amid persecution exhibiting again.
Just because the image of his God shone forth in him with conspicuous splendour, because his words, and works, and ways were ordered according to the will of his heavenly Father, his wicked and envious brethren, acting as the missionaries of Satan, conspired against his life. His trials and temptations were strong as his integrity was great. He was abandoned by his brothers, sold as a slave, consigned to a dungeon, tempted by a sensual woman, and after all these thrustings of Satan at him, and through him at righteousness and truth, he came forth more than conqueror through Him that loved him. The firmness of Joseph amid his sore temptations proved that in the true child of God there is a principle superior to all the charms of earth, and even in this estranged world a prosperous termination to a life of virtue, which never applies to a life of vice. The very machinations which Satan instituted, with a view to destroy Joseph, were made conducive to the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of the people of God, aud, more suprising issue still, to the conquest, but the saving conquest, of those his brethren who had so unmerci fully dealt with him. The patriarch Joseph was, by Satan's instrumentality, made an illustrious type of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for those who condemned him to die, and fed with the bread of life his brethren who denied him a place whereon to lay his head. In this case the heel of the woman's seed was bruised a little, in consequence of Joseph's early sufferings; but the head of the serpent was bruised by the felicitous end to which all things connected with him came. When in the providence of God the children of Israel were subjected to the bondage of Egypt, and when Satan had been permitted to lord it over Pharaoh so far as to drive him to the most barbarous measures, that he might extirpate the seed of the woman, as contained in the church of Israel, we find that the very plans which tended ostensibly to accomplish the destruction of the people of God contributed really to their ultimate advancement and well-being. The cause of God appeared to be in the utmost jeopardy, for it depended on a babe persecuted by Pharaoh, committed to an ark of bulrushes, and left to float upon the waves of the Nile; but what was the result? The household of Pharaoh, the flower of Satan's chivalry, were, contrary to their expectation or desire, made the instruments of bruising their master's head, and touching scarcely their adversary's heel; for the daughter of Pharaoh rescued and educated the child that was to be the minister of judgment to the first-born of their native land, and eventually to bury in the Red Sea the chariots, and horse, and men of war. The infatuated pursuers of the children of God were overwhelmed by the collapse of the waters of the Red Sea, and driven to the regions of eternal darkness, to bear the tidings of defeat to its despot, and to present another
instance of the fruitlessness of coping with Omnipotence. But Satan was not to be discouraged; he followed them through the wilderness, and made an extensive havoc. But if the church's sufferings were great, her hopes were proportionably bright; her course was onward, amid the most exhilarating promises and the most expressive types. If we proceed adown the stream of time, we shall discern in the biography of David another illustration of the church's bruised heel, and of the serpent's bruised head. The shepherd king put forth to do battle with opposing principalities, and to bring down spiritual wickedness on high places, anointed, sealed, and separated, was made, in a peculiar manner, the object of Satan's attacks, as he was in a high degree the subject of God's grace. He was persecuted to the edge of ruin. He fell once and again; but "greater was He that was for him than all that could be against him." He proved himself, notwithstanding, a polished shaft in the hands of Heaven, a monument of mercy possible to the chiefest of repentant sinners, and a most striking type of that best "Beloved," who summed up in his single character the scattered excellences, and excluded all the blemishes, of those that went before him. If we were to go over the lives of the ancient men who were commissioned in succession to add their respective light to the brightening dawn that ultimately burst forth into noon-day, we should find that the sins and short-comings, into which the serpent dragged them, so far from furthering the cause of spiritual darkness, contributed to its overthrow, in virtue of that sleepless superintendency of the great Head of the church, which has ever made the wrath of man to praise him. The weapons which the enemy brought into the field turned their points against himself, and disabled them that brandished them. The heel of the woman's seed was no doubt bruised, for the march of truth was retarded, and the terminating conquests of its advocates put a little further off in the world's history; but what the Redeemer's kingdom lost in time it gained in extent, what it lost in speed it gained in glory; and the longer still its progress is opposed, the more comprehen sive and brilliant its final triumphs will assuredly be.
It is the peculiar characteristic of great and true principles to advance slowly and firmly, and to strike their roots deeply before they spread their branches. But the never to be forgotten field on which Satan's head received its direst bruise, and his cause its most desolating shock, was the field of the most formidable persecution, viz., Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary. Little did the devil imagine that all his attacks were to be stepping-stones to Christ; little did he dream that the apparatus he had prepared for the extirpation of the church was to be wrenched from its intended scope, and to be made subservient to the cause he hated and struggled to overwhelm. Little did he anticipate that the blight he had superinduced upon the spiritual and physical creation, and the eclipse he had brought on the glory of God, as far as it shone on this remote planet, was destined to be made the basis of a more magnificent and felt exhibition of all the attributes of Heaven, and of a more exalted elevation of the fallen creature. Jesus Christ, the Root and the Offspring of David, the eternal Son of God, came down from the hills of the heavenly land, where the tear of sorrow never dropped, where the cry of want was never heard, and dwelt in flesh as in a tabernacle, and wandered on this polluted earth, and wept, a pilgrim and a stranger, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet did he present himself also as a Leader and a Captain on that battle field, on which the destinies of unborn millions were gathered, to rise or to sink as he should conquer or give way. He entered on the scene of action through the varieties of being which usher in the multitudes of human kind. He was in the womb, and dandled on the knees of a mother; he was a boy and a stripling like one of us; and out of all these estates of life he came into that of perfect manhood, untouched even by the instantaneous transit of a sinful feeling or imagination. Oh what a contrast was there between the young Messias and Adam's young descendants, his coevals! In the one was inherent infinitely more than Adam's loftiest excellence, but in the others were developed the accumulated consequences of Adam's guilt. Here was one whom no sinful pursuits could seduce, whose heart was impervious to the devil's temptations and the world's guilt, whose conformity to his Father's will was not to be lessened by any sublunary force. No doubt Satan knew that the great bruiser of his head was come, and if he remained inactive, it was the inactivity of wonder and dismay; it was the fearful pause that intervenes between the strong resolve and the contingency of irretrievable ruin, the agonizing interlude of conflicting motives, which tear the heart in opposite directions. At last he decided to present the front of a persevering opposition, and to improve every probability of victory the instant it should appear. He saw Jesus led out in the arrangements of Heaven to that wilderness which had witnessed the fastings of Moses and Elijah of old, and here he resolved to track his footsteps, and to try his constancy in every practicable way. Here was presented the sacred arena of a second spiritual contest, on the issues of which the fate of humanity hung. In the first assault which Satan made on Adam, amid the loveliness of Eden, and with the right to its fruits and flowers, and countless immunities, with no sensations of hunger, and no possibility of want, with little incentive to disobey, and every motive to obey, our first progenitor fell, and entailed on his posterity the numerous "ills that flesh is heir to;" but the Son of God, suffering the gnawings of protracted hunger, and bearing all along, from his Cradle upward, the imputed guilt and deserved penalties of man, stood untarnished, and upheld himself in infinite spotlessness. Before the Son the old serpent stood; and by calling in question his omnipotence, and appealing to the faintness of his bodily frame, endeavoured to involve in doubts the faithfulness and the providence of his heavenly Father. Jesus, however, repelled the temptation as soon as it was presented, by merging all present sensations, and directing even the fallen angel's attention to the protestant's rule of faith, the word of God: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." Satan seeing that the Son of Joseph was set on a high design, and superior to the urgency of nature's calls when they might not be lawfully answered, shifts the points of attack, and plies him with such arguments as his apparent destitution of means and his meditated enterprise could naturally suggest. He offered him the kingdoms of this world and their glory, the wealth of Rome, the experience of her courts and the prowess of her ablest Champions, to enable him to become the worlds emperor. He showed him many a fair champaign, and many a glebe, productive of oil and wine, the necessaries and luxuries of life; and with these he invited him to contrast the fountainless desert and the barren earth, his present and only possession; and all he asked in return for these gifts was, what so great resources seemed justly to challenge, the recognition of his lordship, and right to the homage of men and the territories of the world, "Get thee behind me, Satan; it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve," was the reply of the Son of God. Satan was overcome, and the Redeemer, pained, it is true, by the very hearing of the tempter's blasphemy, was undisputed victor. Abaddon fell like lightnthg from heaven. Hell felt her empire narrowing, and gathering inward to the Centre, and Jesus proceeded to follow up the conquest he had won, by expelling the devils from the bosoms of men, controlling the winds and waves, the troubles and diseases of the human family, and inculcating the principles of love, and mercy, and truth. But the powers of darkness concentrated again their wiles, and by the instrumentality of the Jews put in operation every conceivable design against the life and growing influence of the Son of Joseph. All the sophistry of the lawyers was enlisted on the side of Satan, and many a perplexing case of casuistry propounded. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Calsar?" The reply was as admirable as the question was involved. "Moses in the law commanded us that such as this woman,who was taken in adultery, should be stoned; but what sayest thou?" These and many more were the meshes in which they endeavoured to entangle the Redeemer. At length they got Judas, one of the twelve, to betray him; Peter, another of the twelve, to deny him; Pilate, the Roman governor, to deliver him up; and his countrymen, the Jews, to put him to a painful and ignominious death. No doubt, when the Divine antagonist of the powers of evil hung on the accursed tree, in agony of soul and body inconceivable, the gloom of hell was lightened by a transient gleam of malignant hope, and the countenances of the damned smoothed with a momentary smile, as there was now an expectancy that he who had the keys of hell, and death, and the grave was crushed, and the power of going in and coming out permitted them for ever. Satan, racked on the wheel, because of former failures and discomfiture, gathered courage yet again, and felt almost sure that the reins of universal sovereignty were lodged in his hands; and when he saw the Redeemer taken from the cross to the tomb, when he saw the sun set and the sepulchre sealed, and the fearless warriors of Rome appointed to sentinel the spot, he doubted not that all was his own; though the remembrance of ancient prophecies fulfilled, and the Saviour's exertion of supernatural power in the last tremors of dissolution, shaded at intervals his brightest hopes. The second day dawned and closed, and all was still; but scarcely had the sun of the succeeding day reached the horizon, when the hearts of the Roman veterans quailed, and helplessness fell upon them and made them as dead men. The massive stone was rolled aside from the sepulchre, and the grave's long grasp of man was relaxed; the winding-sheet, the napkins, and the other pale insignia of death, were left behind, to demonstrate his reign at length terminated, and the Redeemer rose and ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and ready to give gifts unto men. Satan's schemes were baffled, his hopes were blasted, death and the grave, his ancient allies, were stripped of their sting and their triumph, and bitter remorse and fell despair were his only company. What made the devil's defeat trebly galling and disastrous, the very plans he had devised and put in operation were made to recoil upon himself, and to expedite the very results which he feared and struggled to avert. The machinery he set in motion to perpetuate darkness evolved more glorious light; the emissaries he employed to add to death, and all our woe, unwittingly diffused life and immortality, and more enduring joys. From Jesus' sufferings man's salvation sprung, and from his death our eternal life, and from his resurrection our destined mastery of all the powers of earth and hell, and entrance into everlasting blessedness. Hell's gloom grew deeper, and the despair of its fallen spirits more fearful; its worm that never dies began to make wider havoc, and its fire which is never quenched to burn with more intensity.
Satan, though driven to the verge of utter despair, determined not to remain inactive. He felt that if he could not entirely destroy the Son of God, and the children whom the Father had given him, he might vex them, and impair their peace. After he had raised the Jews, from Dan to Beersheba, against the unbefriended preachers of the cross, and driven the first converts before him to the remotest provinces of the Roman empire, he found that this dispersion, instead of arresting, hastened the march of Christianity over the surface of the world, and struck its doctrines deeper in the hearts of its persecuted sticklers. Anxious, therefore, to suppress the gospel in provinces beyond the boundaries of Judea, he enlisted in this his foreign service a bold and a reckless missionary, whose name was Saul of Tarsus. His hot passions, his fervid eloquence, and his determination to do and to dare to any extent in the service of error, and in opposition to the truth, seemed to the serpent to prognosticate no ordinary havoc among the unresisting "men of the way," as the disciples were frequently called. Little did Satan know that he was in this matter deepening his own catastrophe; little did he expect that this polished shaft, which he had culled from the ranks of intellect, would be inverted and made to quiver in his own bosom; little did he expect that the powers of reasoning and impassioned oratory which Paul possessed would soon play against the bulwarks of the kingdom of darkness, and contribute mainly to its overthrow. But such was the issue. Paul was snatched from the service of hell, and arrayed under the banners of heaven; and was more instrumental in shaking idols on their pedestals, and idolaters even on their thrones, than all the college of apostles besides. Satan was foiled again. The heel of the woman's seed was wounded, but the head of the serpent was severely bruised. He did not yet give over, but marshalled his devoted bands, and placed them on the battle field. He saw the apostles and the other preachers of the truth going forth with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and the shield of faith, and the helmet of hope, and the other spiritual weapons of a spiritual warfare, to make new conquests over sin, and fresh accessions to the gospel of Christ. Against them he brought out a phalanx sufficient to abash all but those who know that God is on their side; a phalanx composed of the 'learned philosophers ot Greece, to grapple with the untutored fishermen of Galilee; the wealthy potentates and magistrates of Rome, to confront the needy and naked preachers of the cross; and the eagle ensign of the western empire, that had flapped its victorious wings over thousands of the fallen brave, and the colours that had waved in the four winds of the earth, to meet the banner of the cross, the motto of which was, "My kingdom is not of this world." His phalanx was composed of malignant Jews, ready to burn the servants as they had crucified the Master; of debased voluptuaries, who could not bear the streams of their enjoyment to be stemmed; and of interested craftsmen, who were ready to shout with greater or less intensity, according to the risk their craft was exposed to, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The records of Christianity declare what numbers sealed their testimony with their blood, and entered into their rest from excruciating pains and bitterest bereavements. Here the serpent seemed to prevail; but what was the ultimate effect? The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church. From the momentary victory of Satan, from the thousands he dragged to the altars of superstition, and immolated there, we deduce the most satisfactory proofs of the sincerit of the first apostles of the truth and of the Divine origin of those principles they taught. No second causes are sufficient to account for the rapid diffusion of Christianity, or for the fact that it remained, like the burning bush on Horeb, unconsumed by the flames that surrounded it. Our holy faith descends to us impressed with a tenfold more powerful demonstration than any system, or history, or circumstance in the world's annals; and, admirable instrumentality! Satan, its most bitter adversary, has been the unexpected means of accomplishing this result. The storm he raised, while indeed it disturbed the followers of the Lamb, whistled nevertheless with most disastrous fury amid the habitations, the temples, and the shrines which were dearest to him; and the streams of blood he shed undermined his kingdom, and sapped the deepest foundations of his throne. Satan, unable to crush Christianity in its cradle, determined to harass its professors and its preachers to the uttermost, He therefore went the round of all the churches in Asia Minor, and sowed among them the most pestilent errors and destructive heresies; and when he saw the extensive success with which his efforts were crowned, he imagined that the scale was for ever turned in his favour. If he could not stem the streams of living waters, he resolved to intermix with them the most fatal poisons. But here again he failed, and here again the antidote administered by Heaven proved more extensively useful than the poison proved deleterious. The apostles saw the thickening delusions in which their converts were enveloped, and with a view to dissipate them wrote those admirable Epistles which are now embodied in the records of inspired truth. Satan had induced the Roman brethren to corrupt the fundamental article of the Christian creed, justification by faith; but Paul, to vindicate its value, and to open up its nature, wrote the Epistle to the Romans. Again, the efforts of Judaizing teachers to leaven the doctrines of the gospel with the obsolete rites of Moses, and to make the mixture essential to salvation, drew forth the Epistle to the Galatians, in which the apostle strips the truth of every earthy accretion, and places the distinctive features of the Christian scheme in the most satisfactory and triumphant light. Again, Satan engaged his servants to persecute and vex the Christian brethren scattered throughout the Roman empire; but the consequence was the composition of those rich and consolatory Epistles of Peter, and John, and James, which have ever been the exhaustless well-springs of the sweetest comfort to the suffering children of God. The devil made way for God's abounding joys to his people. Hell prepared this fittest opportunity for Heaven to shower down blessings co-extensive with the wants and existence of the human race. It is delightful to see the arrows shot by Satan against the children of God rebound and penetrate himself, and every step he took against the woman's seed increase his own discomfiture, and every stone he brought to build withal the temple of darkness, taken from him, cut and prepared for a place in the temple of light, and every weapon he brought into the field wrenched from his hands, and added to the arinoury of heaven.
Had Satan never vexed the churches with heresy and cruel havoc, we had not, humanly speaking, been favoured with the most important books of the Bible. The wrath of hell, as well as the wrath of man, shall be restrained, and the remainder of it made to praise God. Let the powers of earth and darkness combine together against the Lord, and against his Anointed; let all their energies be summoned into play, and all their plans brought into operation; and at that very moment when the wreath of victory is ready to encircle them, and the seal of success ready to be set, the scene shall be changed, and the foreordained purposes of God shall evolve, and twist the apparatus and machinery of Satan so entirely to their subserviency and accomplishments, that uninformed spectators cannot help supposing that Satan has all along been lending his best efforts to the cause of God, and to the furtherance of every Christian virtue. At length Constantine threw the shield of temporal and imperial power around and above Christianity, throughout the Roman territories. The devil felt that this state provision for the clergy might lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of Zion, and contribute to the more speedy dissolution of his kingdom. He therefore meditated deeply and long, with a view to neutralize such good effects as must flow from the new recognition which the church had received. After much meditation and conference, he hit upon his masterpiece, the papacy. Persecution was a blunder in Satan's policy; Arianism was also a blunder; for these, instead of benefiting, injured his cause. He now resolved to uproot Christianity no longer by an open andingenuous warfare, but by stratagem, and deep manceuvring within the camp, he determined to deal his bitterest stabs in the garb of a friend. Being convinced that the Pantheon could no longer be filled with the statues of Jupiter, and Mars, and Venus, he zealously emptied their niches, and placed in their stead those of Paul, and Peter, and the Virgin Mary, and many more saints, who never had a local habitation and a name before. He baptized the idols, the rites and temples of pagan Rome, and found for them a welcome reception in the Vatican, and among the bishops, priests, and monks, and friars that acted under its power. He just coloured over paganism with the outward tints of Christianity, and thereby formed popery; a religion which bears less relationship to true Christianity, than the gilded bauble to articles composed of pure and solid gold. It was indeed a cunning contrivance. Satan took the temples, and the shrines, and the priests set up to propagate Christian truth, and anointed them to destroy and debase it. Under the covert of zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of men he reared the Inquisition, and martyred saints in every land. With hands reeking with the blood of holy men, he went to the house of prayer with attendant and professed ministers of Jesus, and gave thanks to God that he had fulfilled his promise, "Lo! I am with you to the end of the world;" and, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against you."
Nothing indicates the deceit of Satan or the blindness of men more clearly, than the fact that the devil was allowed to seal up the Bible under the pretence of its tendency to mislead men, and to keep them in the most palpable darkness, lest peradventure they should die through the excess of the light and the wisdom of God. Has Satan nevertheless triumphed here, and escaped unscathed? We say no. The Book of Martyrs is a living witness that the power of religion, during the iron reign of the papacy, was exemplified most gloriously in the sufferings of faithful men; and the constancy, to death, of the Albigenses and the Waldenses showed, that even in the last extremities of darkness and desolation, light is sown for the righteous. As the manna that descended from heaven, and the waters that gushed from the riven rock, bespoke to the children of Israel the love and the presence of God even in the wilderness; in like manner the refreshment of the spiritual heritage, in the midst of Babylon, proclaimed most clearly that a mother may forget the child she bare, but that his church never can be forgotten nor forsaken of Jehovah, that she is engraven on the palms of his hands, and nearest and dearest to him. But we believe that the bondage of the church in mystic Babylon, during the middle ages, was a meant punishment, inflicted perhaps for her pride and forgetfulness of her Deliverer when the sword of persecution was sheathed. At all events, there cannot be a doubt that the church has learned lessons from her fearful condition at that time which will not be soon erased from her memory. Experience teaches communities, as well as individuals, best. We are now armed at all points against the evils of hell. We know him alike in the garb of a friend and in the garb of a foe. We will now prize more highly that blessed book which he shut so widely. We will now value and cherish those pure truths which apostles instituted, and the venerable Reformers revived. A season of darkness is often the precursor of a season of more glorious light. The long day of moral paralysis is followed often by a more vigorous and uninterrupted period of exertion. Perhaps the church must live under the same law as individual members of it. The smile will appear only where mourning has been. The waters of life roll only in the channels that have been made by a flood of tears. At all events, at the period of the Reformation, the church came forth from her wilderness condition "bright as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners," enriched with additional experience of the enmity of Satan and the plans he pursues to destroy her. We grant that Satan prevailed awhile during the reign of the papacy; but we assert that the Reformation quaslled his power and bruised his head, and brought the church from her imprisonment, with her heel bruised very sore to be sure, but soon again to be healed, and her pace athwart the regions of the globe to be accelerated in an unprecedented degree. The pressure being removed, Christianity rose up with an elasticity and onward movement that astonished and confounded Satan, while it delighted all its advocates. With one simultaneous burst printing was discovered, Bible Societies organized, and the universe made eloquent again with the mighty motives and appeals of uncorrupted truth; missionaries were sent forth, and the whole Christian church animated with a spirit of exertion more than proportionate to its former apathy. Thus baffled, he had recourse again to the assistance of undisguised infidelity, and has succeeded in gaining to his side the subtle powers of Hume and Diderot, and the sarcastic genius of Voltaire, and the splendid but hollow descriptions of Gibbon. But the misrepresentations and the sophistry with which these men have without exception essayed to overthrow the doctrines of the Bible have all been met and repelled, and the truth has come forth like fine gold from the furnace, more brilliant than before its trials and testings began, and Satan's machinations have again been made to recoil and destroy his cause. The sun in the firmament, by the intensity of his beams, draws between him and us vapours and clouds, which seem for a while to intercept his influences, and to threaten the earth with barrenness and darkness; but presently the same sun dissolves them into gentle showers, which fertilize the soil, and cool the air, and promote the growth of vegetation on all sides. In the same way the Sun of righteousness, by his very brilliancy, exhales clouds of infidels, and atheists, and sceptics, whose writings are met by mightier arguments, and the truths thus called into question are exhibited in clearer light, and cherished with warmer feelings of regard. Since the Reformation Satan has brought no new stratagem into the field. In fact, hisingenuity seems entirely exhausted, his imagination paralyzed, and his resources done, and this bitter conviction left him, -- that all he has achieved has served but to hasten and to deepen his final catastrophe.
We gather this consolation from the review we have laid before you, and from the serpent's recent recurrence to obsolete and defeated schemes, that he can bring no new device against us, that he can discover no vantage ground which he has not already occupied. He looks at his quiver, it is empty. He looks to his counsellors, they are in despair. He looks at death, its sting is gone. He looks at the grave, its strength and its triumph are dissipated. He looks to the past, and he sees only blasted hopes and foiled attempts, and fountains of pain, and sorrow, and remorse. He looks to the future, and he espies a gathering glory he cannot tarnish, and an approaching victory he cannot impede, and in his own case a fearful inheritance of burning, and blackness, and agony he cannot avert. All he can do at present is to ply the old instruments, and bait his hook with former seductions. His head is deeply bruised. He is giddy, on the edge of inevitable ruin. Let us go forward, fellow Christians; a gulf of ruin will soon entomb our foe, and a land of bliss imbosom our spirits. Let us lift our eyes and our hearts towards the hills from whence comes our aid, and towards the God of battles, unto whom the shields of the earth do belong, and resist boldly, and Satan will flee; for he is a vanquished enemy, he bites the dust. Never more shall he lord it over the Messiah's heritage. The distant isles of the ocean, and the far-spread continents of the world, and all kindreds, and tribes, and tongues, shall yet come forth from the darkness of spiritual death, and from the fetters of the devil's despotism, and subscribe themselves by the name of Jesus. The symptoms of the ruin of Satan's kingdom already appear. The crescent of the Ottoman wanes fast. The triple crown sits loosely on the head of the man of sin, and the thunder stamp of revolution is heard at the doors of the Vatican, and the lightning gleams of truth, made more vivid by long opposition, are seen and felt in the darkest chambers of the Inquisition. A spirit of awakenment seems to have arrested the Jew, and a wider and more cordial welcome of the cross to have touched the heart of the Gentile. We tread upon the fallen, though yet unextinguished, body of the enemy. We have only to read the venerable annals of Fox to see that we move across the ground that is strewed with the trophies of former victories, and consecrated by the blood of holy martyrs, and hallowed by the resting-places of their earthly remains, and smoothed and made even by the pioneers of the cross that have preceded us to glory. Jesus, the Captain of our faith, and the noble army of martyrs that took up their cross and followed him, have already borne the brunt of the battle, and formed a rampart by their graves, that we may stand behind their shelter and gather the remaining laurels of spiritual conquest. From the first century even to the present, the successive ranks of believers have undergone vicarious substitution for them that have followed, "each stepping where his comrade stood the instant that he fell," and have thus, at the expense of their blood and comfort, left us less opposition to be met in our course to glory. Let us therefore wrap around us the mantles they have left behind them in their flight to immortality, and, animated by their example, and above all by the example of the Author and the Finisher of our faith, let us neither slacken our efforts nor curb our zeal till the church shine forth in her millennial glory, or we individually enter into "the rest that remains for the people of God." Only let us remember, that besides the conflict that is waged in the world without, there must be a stiffer tug of battle carried on in the bosom within. We must remember that none can enter the ranks of the redeemed warriors around, who cannot exhibit the unquestionable proofs of victory gained in the bosom within. While Satan battles it out in the open arena of earth against the prevalence and progress of Heaven's truth, his zeal is also as hot and his struggles as incessant for the mastery of a single heart, as for the mastery of the whole church. To us personally it matters little whether the cross or the crescent is uppermost, whether hell or heaven triumphs, if we are yet in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. We must bruise the serpent's head in our own bosoms before we can contribute to bruise his head in the world. Our life is not a life of peace, nor ease, nor retirement; but a life of conflict, and of struggle, and of watchfulness. Time is the hour of battle, and eternity is the hour of triumph; earth is the battlefield, and heaven is the victor's home; the cross is our companion now, and the crown our prize hereafter. We feel the serpent's life within, but feel we not the Spirit's life more powerful still? We must feel the foul current of poisoned waters coming in contact with the streams of purity and love, but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us. Let us break the fetters that bind to the ways and works of earth, for the Spirit and strength of Omnipotence are with us; let us be slaves no more. Be ye freemen whom the truth makes free. Soon the struggle will be done, and the head of the serpent will be bruised, and amid the opening climes of heaven we shall see our glorified relations, and friends, and long-lost comrades in the contest, stretching forth their hands to welcome us to the mansions which the Saviour has prepared in his Father% house. "Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever." Amen.