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and see so many paintings, and statues, and images, and relics.-Sure I am, that St. Paul's spirit would be stirred within him, were he now alive, and to witness what now passes in a Roman Catholic place of worship: here he would see one poor suppliant kneeling before a crucifix, and gazing intently on it, as if it were animated and able to help him !—there he would see another bending before the statue of some favourite saint, repeating his prayers, presenting his offerings, and purchasing, as it were, by the trinkets that he leaves, and the candles that he lights, the saints' intercession : he would see different services going on at different altars, with distinct congregations around them, just as the inclinations of the people lead to the worship of this or that particular saint.-It is in vain to say, that they worship the Saviour through the saint, and the invisible God through the visible image. A few reflecting minds may do this. But, as human beings, we are strongly influenced by what is before our eyes; and the habit of bowing down before the sign, will lead us in time to venerate the sign itself, and to give to the saint those affections which are due to the Saviour only. And I could not but observe, that the offerings to the Virgin, or some tutelary saint, for benefits received, or evils averted, often exceeded those that were presented to the Son of God himself."
When the nations of Europe were overspread with ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, which had continued for many centuries, it pleased God to bring forth light out of darkness. The Reformation began to dawn, and proper instruments for carrying it on were raised up, in different countries. Indeed, the Waldenses, a inhabiting the valleys of Piedmont, were steady and constant witnesses to the truth, who, though pursued by fire and sword, never withdrew their testimony, but continued to prophesy, though in sackcloth.
a Peter Waldus or Waldo, of Lyons, was the founder of the sect of Waldenses. His own convictions of the truth originated from his having employed a priest, Stephanus de Evisa, about the year 1160, to translate the four Gospels from the Latin into French, with other books of Scripture, and the most remarkable sentences of the ancient doctors. He soon perceived the essential difference between the religion of the Romish Church and the principles of the Gospel. Uniting with other pious men who adopted his sentiments, he became a public preacher, in the year 1180; and religious assemblies were at length formed in France, Lombardy, and different parts of Europe.-Cox's Life of Melancthon, Appendix, No. 1.
The confession of an enemy, when truth is the object, is of importance. Reinerus, their bitter foe, gives this account of them:
66 That of all sects that ever were, none were so pernicious to the Church of Rome as the Leonists or Waldenses ; and that for these reasons-1. For their antiquity and long continuance, even from the time of pope Sylvester (who was made pope in the year 316, or, as others have affirmed, from the very time of the apostles. 2. For the generality of that sect, because there was scarce any country where they were not. 3. When all other heretics, by reason of their blasphemy against God, were abhorred, the Waldenses had a great appearance of piety; because they lived justly before men, believed all things well of God, and held all the articles of the creed, only they blasphemed the Church and Clergy of Rome." a
John Wiclif, born in the parish of Wiclif, near Richmond, in Yorkshire, in the year 1324, was raised up by a special providence, to detect and expose the corruptions of popery, and was an able and successful instrument in this work. He was educated at Oxford, and being advanced to the honourable and important situation of divinity professor, his authority and influence were considerable, and he nobly advocated the cause of the Reformation, both in his sermons and writings. “He published a defence of Edward III. against the pope, which introduced him to court. In 1377, papal bulls were issued, requiring the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London to secure and imprison him as a heretic, and the king and the university of Oxford to deliver him up. Wiclif, however, protected by the Government, and by the citizens of London, eluded the persecution. He published a book on the Truth of the Scriptures, and what he termed “Sixteen Conclusions, directed against the papacy. But his principal work was a literal translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate."
a Contra Waldenses, cap. xiv.
The Rev. H. H. Baber, in his Memoirs of the Life of Wiclif, observes, “ It was necessity which first occasioned the Scriptures to be generally received throughout the western world, in a Latin version ; there being no other language, intelligible to an European, in which the books of holy Writ were translated, when Christianity was first planted in our quarter of the globe. As the Latin tongue became a dead language, the Romish hierarchy were too crafty to encourage any translation of the sacred volume, which would place the key of divine knowledge in the power of the people. They plainly saw, that as long as they had the keeping of this treasure in their own hands, they could impose upon mankind, for doctrines of revelation, whatever articles of faith they pleased, and thus pursue their schemes of interest with less fear of contradiction. Wiclif, who saw the advantage they enjoyed, and had detected their abuse of it, had long been persuaded that if ever the prejudices which had fastened themselves upon mankind, were to be effectually loosened, it must be by laying the Bible open to the people. To effect this, he had from an early period of his life, devoted his various learning, and all the powerful energies of his mind, and at length, by intense application on his own part, and with some assistance from a few of the most learned of his followers, he had the glory to complete a book, which, alone, would have been sufficient to have procured him the veneration of his own age, and the commendations of posterity. To prepare the world for this production, he not only asserted, both in his sermons and his writings, the necessity, and pleaded, with great force of argument, the right of the people to read the Scriptures in the vernacular tongue, but, moreover, reprimanded, with much severity, those who ought to watch over the church for good, as wickedly withholding, through secular motives, this pearl of inestimable price from mankind in general. Having used every means that his bold and prolific genius suggested, and that his industry could accomplish, for creating a longing desire in the people to consult the inspired records of their religion, he published, in the year 1380, the translation of the Old and New Testament.” a
This learned and judicious man, having translated the Bible from the Latin into the vulgar tongue, he, in a large preface to which, openly exposed the corruptions of the Romish clergy, condemned the worshipping of saints, denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, and earnestly exhorted the people to study the holy Scriptures. He also wrote several excellent books of divinity.
a Memoirs of the Life of Wiclif, prefixed to a new edition of Wiclif's New Testament, p. 20.
These, under God, were the means of opening the eyes of many persons to see through the mystery of popery, Though the Reformation was not perfected till upwards of one hundred and eighty years afterwards ; yet, now, the seeds of it were sown, which grew up by degrees to maturity.
This distinguished English reformer, after much labour and success, fell a victim to the palsy; it seized him Dec. 28, 1384, whilst attending divine service, in his church at Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, and, on the third day after, put a period to his valuable life. The Council of Constance, in the year 1415, not only condemned fortyfive articles of Wiclif's doctrines, but his bones to the flames. This brutal sentence was not enforced till the year 1428, when Pope Martin V. commanded Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, to execute the decree of the Council. His remains were accordingly disinterred, then burnt, and afterwards cast into the Swift, a streamlet which runs by Lutterworth,
John Huss, born in Bohemia in the year 1376, educated at Prague, where he became Professor of Divinity in the University, and ordinary pastor in the church of that city, was also an eminent instrument in the great work of the Reformation. It is said that he derived his light from the writings of Wiclif; which, having been introduced into Bohemia, he, as Cochlæus says, a “translated into his mother tongue.” He exclaimed with vehemence against the vices of the clergy, and from the year 1408 exerted his utmost endeavours to withdraw the University of Prague from the jurisdiction of Gregory XII. He recommended in the most public manner the writings of Wiclif, which produced an accusation against
a Hist. Hussit. Lib. i. p. 8.