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procession, and the exhibition of the Bon Dieu to the eyes of an admiring populace. Henry VIII., the worse than Vandal of our English story, destroyed the inhabitants and the memorials which belonged to our ancient character, and exerted himself to the best of his power to make us forget we ever had ancestors. He who would picture to himself the religion of the time of Chaucer must employ his fancy in rebuilding these ruined edifices, restoring the violated shrines, and collecting again the scattered ariny of their guardians.
Besides every other circumstance belonging to the religion of this period, we are bound particularly to recollect two distinguishing articles of the Roman Catholic system ; prayer for the dead, and the confession of sins. These are circumstances of the highest importance in modifying the characters and sentiments of mankind. Prayer for the dead is unfortunately liable to abuses, the most dangerous in increasing the power of the priest; and the most rediculous, if we conceive their masses (which were often directed to be said to the end of time) and picture to ourselves the devout of a thousand years ago shoving and elbowing out, by the multiplicity of their donations of this sort, all posterity, and leaving scarcely a bead to be told to the memory of the man who yesterday expired. But, if we put these and other obvious abuses out of our minds, we shall probably confess that it is difficult to think of an institution more consonant to the genuine sentiments of human nature; than that of masses for the dead. When I have lost a dear friend and beloved associate, iny friend is not dead to me. The course of nature may be abrupt, but true affection admits of no sudden breaks. I still see my friend ; I still talk to him. I consult him in every arduous question ; I study in every difficult proceeding to mould my conduct to his inclination and pleasure. Whatever assists this beautiful propensity of the mind, will be dear to every feeling heart. In saying masses for the dead, I sympathise with my friend. I believe that he is anxious for his salvation ; I utter the language of my anxiety. I believe that he is passing through a period of trial and purification ; I also am sad. It appears as if he were placed beyond the reach of my kind offices ; this solemnity once again restores to me the opportunity of aiding him. The world is busy and elaborate to tear him from my recollection ; the hour of this mass revives the thought of him in its tenderest and most awful form. My senses are mortified that they can no longer behold the object of their cherished ratification ; but this disadvantage is mitigated, by a scene, of which my friend is the principle and essence, presented to my senses.
The practice of auricular confession is exposed to some of the same objections as masses for the dead, and is connected with many not less conspicuous advantages. There is no more restless and unappeasable propensity of the mind than the love of communication. The desire to pour out our soul in the ear of a confident and a friend. There is no more laudable check
upon the moral errors and deviations of our nature, than the persuasion that what we perpetrate of base, sinister, and disgraceful, we shall not be allowed to conceal. Moralists have recommended to us that, in cases of trial and temptation, we should imagine Cato, or some awful and upright judge of virtue, the witness of our actions; and that we should not dare to do what he would disapprove. Devout men have pressed the continued recollection of the omnipresence of an all-perfect Being. The Roman religion, in the article here inentioned, directs us to some man, venerable by character, and by profession devoted to the cure and relief of human frailties. To do justice to the original and pure notion of the benefits of auricular confes. sion, we must suppose the spiritual father really to be all that the office he undertakes requires him to be. He should have with his penitent no rival passions nor contending interests. He is a being of a different sphere, and his thoughts employed about widely different objects. He should have with the person he hears, so much of a common nature, and no more, as should lead him to sympathise with his pains, and compassion: ate his misfortunes. In this case we have many of the advantages of having a living man before us to fix our attention and satisty our communicative spirit, combined with those of a superior nature which appears to us inaccessible to weakness and folly. We gain a friend to whom we are sacredly bound to tell the little story of our doubts and anxieties, who hears us with interest and fatherly affection, who judges us uprightly, who advises us with an enlightened and elevated mind, who frees us from the load of undivulged sin, and enables us to go forward with a chaste heart and purified conscience. There is nothing more allied to the barbarous and savage character than sullenness, concealment, and reserve. There is nothing which operates more powerfully to mollify and humanise the heart than the habit of confessing all our actions, and concealing none of our weaknesses and absurdities.
Several other circumstances in the Roman Catholic religion, as it was practised in the fourteenth century, co-operated with those which have just been mentioned, to give it a powerful ascendancy over the mind, and to turn upon it a continual recollection. One of these is to be found in the fasts, and abstinences of the church. These were no doubt so mitigated as scarcely to endanger any alarming consequences to the life or health of the true believer But they at least interfered, in some cases, to regulate the diet, and in others to delay the hours of customary refection. One hundred and twenty-six days nay easily be reckoned up in the calendar, which were modified by directions of this sort. Thus religion, in its most palpable form, was continually protruded to the viery, and gained entrance into every family and house.
The preparation for death is one of its foremost injunctions, The Host, that is, the true and very body of his Redeemer, is conducted in state to the dying man's house, conveyed to his
chamber, and placed upon his parched and fevered tongue ; he is anointed with holy oil; and, after a thousand awful ceremonies, dismissed upon his dark and mysterious voyage. Every thing is sedulously employed to demonstrate that he is a naked and wretched creature, about to stand before the tribunal of an austere and rigorous judge ; and that his blameless life, his undaunted integrity, his proud honour, and his generous exertions for the welfare of others, will all of them little avail him on this tremendous and heart-appalling occasion.
The foregoing account of the Catholic Church is principally, from a respectable English author, who writes with a good deal of feeling, and discovers, in some parts of his account, a partiality in favour of the Catholics, and, in others an unnecessary severity. The Catholics are to be considered a large part, and at the present day, a very interesting part, of the visible Church of Christ. They have their errors, great errors, but they have always held the Scriptures to possess the highest authority, and their Creeds, in highest repute, are scriptural and evangelical. The exertions of the present day to disseminate the scriptures among the Catholics, have been eminently successful. Much less opposition to this work is experienced than was generally expected. And, so far as opportunity has been afforded, catholics discover an unexpected solicitude to procure and read the sacred Volume. There is no more devoted or successful labourer in the Bible cause, at the present time, than the eminent Professor Van Ess, a catholic clergyman at Marburg in Germany.
The state of the catholic church has greatly meliorated since the Reformation, and their progress in improvement was never more rapid than at the present time. The number of persons devoted to the ascetic life, withdrawn from society and from usefulness, confined to the idleness of the convent, is daily diminishing. The odious tribunal of the Inquisition, if it be not already, finally abolished, surely must be soon. The increase of education and the establishment of common schools, in all catholic countries, a distinguishing characteristic of the present tuins, will gradually destroy many of the offensive features of their iL'irious system. The intercourse between Cutholics and Protestants is cunstantly increasing, and this will lead good inen to see their own deficiencies, as well as the excellencies of their Christian brethren. A system of religion that is stable, maintaining the primary principles of the gospel of Christ, not to be withdrawn from its own steadfastness, is always more safe, and a greater security to the cause of righteousness than one that is carried about with every wind of doctrine.
No civil government was ever more attentive to passing events, and to the general state of mankind, than the court of Rome. The events of the present age have given an impulse to the moral world which is irresistible. The religion and government of nations must and will be adapted to the state of the times. Individual opinion must be respected, and the minds of