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by that political prince. Yet I admire the wisdom of the legislator, who introduced a plan of softening the savage manners of his uncivilized subjects, and smoothing the asperity of stubborn nature by religious awe. Those who are unacquainted with the nature of confession, may consider it as priest-craft, yet neither master nor landlord will ever lose by the imposture; when their servants and tenants kneel to a priest, whose duty is to revive in their minds the notions of probity and virtue. Thus, the wisest of the Protestant churches have never discountenanced confession: the form of absolution, and the previous dispositions required on the part of the penitent are set down at large in the liturgy; and as to the power of forgiving sins, granted to the ministers of religion, express mention is made of it in the Scriptures. Mr. Wesley must acknowledge the power, whether it consists in the priestly absolution, or in the preaching of the Gospel, or 'in pious canticles, sung with a skilful tongue and 'harmonious voice, lifting the rising soul and plunging it into 4 a mvstical slumber, as soothing and soft as the balm of 'Gilead.'*
Such Christians as acknowledge original sin, and the virtue of baptism to cancel the unavoidable debt, must acknowledge that the minister of religion eflaces the stain by applying the elements. If the Catholics believe that by the institution of Christ, the minister of religion can forgive sins; they are convinced at the same time, that he is no more than a subordinate agent, who derives his power from a superior being, in absolving the adult, as he derives his power from the same source, when he purifies the soul of the infant. I know full well that God could change the heart of man, and forgive sins in young and old, without the interposition of a human being. The prophet, who was consulted by two Jewish kings, and before he would give an answer, called for a harp, could have received the prophetic inspiration, without touching the strings of the tuneful lyre. Christ could have restored the blind man to his sight without applying
* See an abridgment ef Wesl»y's journal, where he compare! the impressions lie made on his hearers to the balm of Gilead. As far as I can recollect, be relates in his large journal a surprising history of one of his acquaintances, who fell into a pious slumber, which deserves to be recorded in the History of the Beven Sleepers'.
(he mud to his eyes, and converted the world without exposing his apostles to martyrdom. But am I to bring him to an account for using intermediate agents; or what I think to be an institution of the Divinity, is it not my duty to abide by rt? Happy those who can save themselves without the assistance of any other! Thrice happy Mr. Wesley! who is already registered in the book of life, and empowered to grant inamissable security to others for the anticipated enjoyment of eternal bliss. He can sum up the number of the holy souls who have climbed up the steps of the mystical ladder, and on the highest step of all, as on the ramparts of an impregnable fortress, reckon so many souls confirmed in a state of inamissable sanctity ;* whilst I am so miserable as not to know whether I am worthy of love or hatred, and have millions of times more reason than St. Paul to solicit the prayers of my fellow-christians, lest that in praying for others, I myself may become a reprobate.
In our communion, Gentlemen, we never hold forth our confessions and absolutions as licences for guilt, but as curbs to the passions. Our priests make iheir confession, as well as the laity; for no priest can absolve himself, nor flatter himself with impunity in committing present or future crimes.—Our directors point out the path to the wayfaring pilgrim, between the two extremes of despair and presumption: to guard against the first, the gates of penance are thrown open, as so many avenues that lead to mercy; to guard against the second, the dread of God's judgments, the uncertainty of the last hour, the abuses of God's graces, which, if neglected, swell the long list of crimes and punishments, are held forth in all their terrors.
We represent to the guilty conscience, sinking under a weight oi anxieties and crimes, the penitent thief crying out for mercy, and obtaining pardon. We represent to the obstinate and presumptuous sinner, the impenitent thief,
* See Wesley's journal, where he declares, that on his visitation, he met so many sanctified, so many justified, and so many cnnfirnied in love. Qui potest capiat. I cannot comprehend this mystical diviuity. By continuation in love he must mean, that whoever believes himself once arrived at that happy state, can sin no more. I am glnd to seea fellow-creature confirmed in the love of God. But I am sorry to find some so ill-confirmed in thelove of their neighbour, as to lell half Europe to their faces, that they are perjurers, and to apologize for a rabble, who set fire to their neighbours houses. This is what we call an Ardent, or Buenisg Iovk.
threatening reprobation. We know, that whilst the serpent is raised up in the wilderness, no wound is incurable: we know, on the other hand, that, when criminal cities had filled ap the measure of their iniquity, in vain did Abraham lift up his hands to heaven, to solicit their pardon. If we place between the J udge and the sinner a great Mediator; though the Mediator and Judge be the same, yet we place between the Mediator and sinner an awful Judge. We earnesly recommend the frequent use of confession, because man is so frail that he stands in frequent need of it. But still we recommend it, not as loose reins to humour the sinner's passions, but as a stiff bridle to check their sallies. We never encourage our penitents to new disorders, but inspire them with detestation for former guilt, and fear of swelling the score; for we know the danger of affronting mercy by new crimes, but cannot know the fatal point where paternal goodness is limited. Thus we lead our penitents in the intermediate path between despair and presumption, by the delicate clue of hope and fear, until they reach the critical term, where the soul, after bursting the chains of its earthly prison, takes its flight into the vast region of spirits; and even when arraigned before the judgment seat, we tremble for its destiny. ■ Such, Gentlemen, is the nature of confession, whether you consider it in a useful or abusive light . - . ,
Had Mr. Wesley, who, after publishing twenty-six volumes, knows every thing, even the language of birds, known its nature, he would not have adduced it as an argument in justification of intolerance, but rather left the imputed power of forgiving all kinds of sin, past, present, and to come, as a flower of rhetoric to grace the garden of the Cynics. Away then with his priestly absolutions and dispensing powers.-— lie assumes more power than any priest could pretend to. Away with violation 6f faith with heretics: we acknowledge no heresy in the duties of social life, or the obligations of Christian virtues.
Such, Gentlemen, are the principles of the Roman Catholics, they are quite the reverse of Mr. Wesley's charges.— Let the impartial public decide, whether a set of perjurers, authorised to commit all kinds of crimes i#ith impunity, (such as the Roman Catholics are painted) would sufier one week on the score of conscience? In our faith we follow the maxim of St. James, 4 Whoever transgresses the law in 4 one point, is guilty of all.' The same rule holds good in moral; in allowing that a man is bad in committing one crime,.we do not allow that he is guiltless in committing another. The sacrifice must be entire; and grace never sanctifies a divided victory. The fabric of our religion is so closely cemented-—the links of the chain which unites all the articles of our faith, are so fastened within -each otherf that if you take off one of the links, or loosen a stone in the edifice, the whole system is entirely destroyed. If then all the horrors fixed upon us by the dark pencil of misrepresentation, be articles of our belief, when we disclaim them upon oath, we are real heretics, and as well entitled to every legal indulgence, as those who go to church, and swear against Transubstantiation. '- '*«
We admire the integrity of Regulus, who suffered the most exquisite tortures, rather than violate an oath given to his enemies. In the administration of distributive justice, the magistrate must give credit to the Heathen, who swears' by his false gods, to the Jew, who swears by the Old Testament, and to the Turk, who swears by the Koran. In cases' of life and property, he gives credit to the oath of a Roman Catholic, whether he appears as a witness or juror. In giving no credit to the oaths of Roman Catholics, when they disclaim perjury, dispensations for frauds, rebellion, treachery, &c. he betray* his judgment, and insults humanity. But, if judgment has been ever betrayed, or humanity insulted, they are now betrayed and insulted by those persons who compose what they call the Protestant dissociations, of whom Mr. Wesley is become the apologist. In taking up the pen to conclude this letter, I received their Appeal to the People of Great Britain, printed in London by J. W. Pasham.
Mr. Wesley, who has abridged hit own journal to give it a greater circulation, has abridged this six-penny pamphlet, in his first letter. In the beginning of the American war, he published his 4 Calm,Address,' in order to nnite the colonies to the mother country. The 4 balm of Gilead' proving ineffectual beyond the Atlantic, he now has recourse to caustics at home. Three years ago he intended to unite us: novr he intends to divide us. Thus we find Penelope's web in his religious looms: what he wove three years ago, he now unravels. „' ■ •• • ;f^i
In this 'Appeal,' on which he passes such encomiums, and the design whereof he declares to be 'benevolent,' you can perceive the dormant seeds of antiquated fanaticism sprouting anew, and vegetating into religious frenzy, which has deluged the earth with an ocean of calamities, and which would give heathen princes room to glory, that the Gospel has never been preached in their dominions. An apothecary's shop has never been stocked with more drugs, than this 'Appeal' is stocked with massacres. They have inserted in it, the bull, 'In Ccena Domini,' which has never been received in any Catholic kingdom; and from an old book, which was foisted on the public in the beginning of the Reformation, as containing the fees of the Roman chancery, they conclude, that 'a Roman Catholic can sleep with a 4 woman in a church, and commit there other enormities, by
* paying nine shillings;' and that 'he may murder a man,
* and commit incest,* on paying seven shillings and six'pence,' though shillings and six-pences are English coins,
- not current in Italy; and in Catholic countries, the murderer expires on the wheel, and whoever commits incest, or profanes the churches by carnal sins, is burnt at the stake. What is more surprising, Gentlemen, these new apostles of the Gordonian Association, who, to use the words of our old friend, Hudibras, i
• Th«ir holy faith do found upon
imagine that they are delegates of heaven for the salvation of souls: their hands do not brandish the glittering spear on the American plains, where d'Estaing and Prevost dispute the laurel; but, like Samuel, deploring the loss of Saul, their eyes are bathed in tears, and their 'bowels yearn* for mil'lions of spirits that have no existence but in the prescience 'of God,' who can pity an error, and forgive it, and who is
more concerned in their salvation, than Lord G G
or Mr. Wesley.
* See the "Appeal from the Protestant Associations," p. 18—Printed by Pasham.