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changing of a greater punishment into a less. " The first, he says, is done in baptism, the second in the case of sins committed after baptism.” And here he gives us the authority of the council of Trent, to support his assertion, namely, “ The power to grant indulgences has been committed to the church by Jesus Christ, and the use of them is beneficial to falvation." Those, he observes, who depart this life indebted to divine justice for some of the pains reserved, must suffer them in another life in the state of purgatory.”.
Reliefs are however provided in this case also ; the benefit of indulgences extends, it seems, beyond the grave, and the doctrine of commutation for of fences, applied in real practice by the friends of the deceased, was held to be valid in heaven. The foundation of all this system was generally believed to be this : There was supposed to be an infinite treasure of merit in Christ and the Saints; which was abundantly more than sufficient for themselves; thus, what is strictly true of the Divine Saviour, was asserted also of Saints, namely, that they had done works of supererogation. This treasure was deposited in the church, under the conduct of the See of Rome, and was sold,--for literally sold it was for money,-at that See's discretion to those who were able and willing to pay for it; and few were found willing to undergo the course of a severe penance of unpleasant austerities, when they could afford to cominute for it by pecuniary payments. The popes, and under them the bishops and the clergy, particularly the Dominican and Franciscan friars, had the disposition of this treasure; and as the pontiffs had the power of canonizing, new faints at their own will, the fund was ever growing; and so long as the system could maintain its credit, the riches of their church, thus fecularized under the
of religion, became a Sea without a shore. No impartial examiner of authentic records will say, that I have overcharged this account of indulgences. In fact, these were the symptoms of the last. stage of papal depravity; and as the moral evils, which they encouraged, were plain to every one not totally destitute of discernment, they were the first objects, assaulted by the reformers.
2. But the views of those wife and holy personages were far more extensive. They saw, that a practice so scandalously corrupt, was connected with the groffest ignorance of the nature of Gospel-grace. The doctrine of justification, in its explicit form, had been lost for many ages to the Christian world. If men had really believed, that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ salvation was obtained, and that God “ justifies the ungodly” through faith alone, how could they have been imposed on by the traffic of indulgences? In whatever manner the papist might subtilize and divide, he was compelled by his system to hold, that by a compliance with the rules of the church, either in the way of indulgences, or by some severer mode, pardon was to be obtained; and that the satisfaction of Christ was not sufficiencly meritorious for this end ; in other words that the gift of God is not eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord*. And in fact the preachers of indul. gences, whether popes themselves or their ministers, held out to the people with sufficient clearness, thac the inheritance of eternal life was to be purchased by indulgences. Proofs of this have already appeared in the course of this history, and more will be given hereafter. The testimony of Sleidan, one of the moft judicious and dispassionate historians, to the nature of indulgences, well deserves to be transcribed in this place. It is contained in the
beginning See Rom. vi. end.
beginning of his excellent history. “Pope Leo X. making use of that power, which his predeceffors had usurped over all Christian churches, sent abroad into all kingdoms his letters and bulls, with ample promises of the full pardon of fins, and of eternal falvation to such as would purchase the same with
Even when the traffic of indulgences was checked by the pontiffs, as being carried on in too gross a manner, no clear account was given in what the abuse consisted. In fine, it was evident, that no reformation could take place through the medium of qualifying and correcting abuses of this traffic. The fyftem itfelf was wholly impious, and the right knowledge of Justification was the only remedy adequate to the evil. This, therefore, the reader is to look for, as the most capital object of the reformation : and thus, in the demolition of one of the vileft perversions of superftition, there suddenly arose and revived, in all its infant simplicity, that Apoftolical doctrine, in which is contained the great mystery of the Scriptures.
3. The state of mankind at that time was peculiarly adapted to the reception of so rich a difplay of Gospel-grace. God sent a plentiful rain, whereby he did confirm his inheritance, when it was weary *. Men were then bound fast in fetters of iron : their whole religion was one enormous mass of bondage.
Terrors beset them on every fide; and the fiction of purgatory was ever teeming with ghosts and apparitions. Persons truly serious,and such there ever were and will be, because there ever was and will be a true church on earth, -were so clouded in their understandings by the prevailing corruptions of the hierarchy, that they could find no access to God by Jesus Christ. The road of simple faith, grounded on the divine promises, con
Ps. Ixviii. 9.
nected always with real humility, and always productive of hearty and grateful obedience, was stopped up with briars and thorns. No certain rest could be afforded to the weary mind, and a state of doubt, of allowed doubt and anxiety, was recommended by the papal system. What a joyful doctrine then was that of the real gospel of remiffion of fins through Christ alone received by faith! doctrine, which is indeed to be found every where in the Scriptures ; but these were almost unknown among the people at the beginning of the reformation.
4. Should the Philosophical sceptic, or the Pharifaical formalift express his surprise, that I should lay so great a stress on the Christian article of Justification, and wonder that any persons should ever be at a loss to discover the way of obtaining true peace of conscience, it may be useful towards fatiffying his scruples, to remind such a character of a FOURTH mark of corruption, which much prevailed in the times previous to the reformation. This is, the predominance of the Ariftotelian philosophy in Europe at that period, -a philosophy, which knew nothing of original sin and native depravity, which allowed nothing to be criminal but certain external flagitious actions, and which was unacquainted with the idea of any righteousness of grace, imputed to a sinner. How many in this age, who neither know nor value Aristotle, do yet altogether follow his self-righteous notions of religion! These are congenial to our fallen nature, and are incapable, while they prevail in the mind, of administering any cure to papal bondage, except that which is worse than the disease itself. They tend to lead men into the depths of Atheistic profaneness
. But the person, whom God raised up particularly at this time to instruct an ignorant world, was most remarkably eminent for self-knowledge. Only characters of this fort are qualified to inform mankind in subjects of the last importance towards the attainment of their eternal happiness.-Luther knew himself; and he knew also the scriptural grounds on which he stood in his controversies with the ecclefiaftical rulers. His zeal was disinterested, his courage undaunted. Accordingly, when he had once erected the standard of truth, he continued to uphold it with an unconquerable intrepidity, which merits the gratitude and esteem of all succeeding ages,