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offenders, and pointed out the various penalties that were fuitable to the different claffes of tranfgreffions. This new difcipline, though of Grecian origin, was eagerly adopted by the Latin churches. Its duration however was but tranfitory, for in the eighth century it began to decline, and was at length entirely fupplanted by, what was called, the new canon of indulgences, in which the bishops and clergy began to trade in the twelfth century, when the univerfal reign of ignorance and fuperftition was dexterously, but basely, improved to fill their coffers, and to drain the purfes of the deluded multitude. All the various ranks and orders of the clergy had each their peculiar method of fleecing the people.
The bishops, when they wanted money for their private pleasures, or for the exigencies of the church, granted to their flock the power of purchasing the remiffion of the penalties imposed upon tranfgreffors, by a fum of money; which was to be applied to certain religious purposes; or, in other words, they published indulgences: which became an inexhauftible fource of wealth to the Epifcopal orders, and enabled them,
as is well known, to form and execute the most difficult fchemes for the enlargement of their authority, and of the external pomp and fplendor of the church.
When the Roman Pontiff's caft an eye on the immenfe treasures, which the fale of these indulgences brought in to the inferior rulers of the church, they limited the power of bishops in remitting the penalties impofed on tranfgreffors, and affumed, almost entirely, this pro-. fitable traffic to themselves. In confequence of which, Rome became the general magazine of indulgences; and the Pontiffs, in order to fupply their coffers, published, not only an univerfal, but also a complete, or, what they called a plenary remiflion of all the temporal pains and penalties which the church had annexed to certain tranfgreffions.
Afterwards they proceeded farther, and not only remitted penalties which the civil and ecclefiaftical laws had enacted against tranfgreffors, but audaciously ufurped the divine prerogative, and impiously pretended to abolish even the punishments of the next world; a step this, which the bishops, with all their X 3
pride and prefumption, had never once ventured to take.
Such proceedings ftood in need of a plaufible defence, but this was impoffible. To juftify, therefore, these scandalous measures of the Pontiffs, a most monftrous and abfurd doctrine was invented" that there actually existed 66 an immense treasure of merit, compofed of the pious deeds and virtu"ous actions which the Saints had performed beyond what was necessary for their own falvation, and which "were therefore applicable to the be"nefit of others-that the guardian and "difpofer of this precious treafure was "the Pope, and therefore he was em
powered to affign to fuch as he "thought proper, a portion of this " inexhauftible fource of merit, fuitable "to their respective guilt, and fuffici"ent to deliver them from the punish"ment* due to their crimes.' This horrible fuperftition is retained and de
Bellarmine fays of these indulgences, that they extend as well to the high forum, or tribunal of our Saviour CHRIST, as to the internal forum, or court of holy church; that they even profit the dead, and avail them by way of fatisfaction or application. See Abf. of Hift. of Popery, vol. i. p. 173. quarto, 1735. and Bellarm. de Indulg. Lib. i. c. v. p. 28, 31.
fended in the church of Rome to thisday! it was happily banished from England at the reformation; pity but the former fort of indulgences had followed it out of our church! but they are still retained, under the more plaufible, but more explicit term of commutation, which fignifies changing one thing for another, as the punishment of fin for money. Though therefore indulgences and commutations differ in name, they entirely agree in their nature. Their being given, or pretended to be given, to pious ufes, no more falves the offence of taking* fuch money, than a certain lady's giving, or pretending to give, her winnings to the poor, atoned for her playing at cards on a Sunday.
Whatsoever these things may be called, they are certainly judicial abfolutions, and
*To make laws for the punishment of offences, and then to waive or fufpend their execution, for a fum of money paid by the offender, and especially where fuch laws are made on no better principle than with a view to fuch extortion-which I take to have been chiefly the cafe with refpect to the laws of penance-may bring to one's mind Virgil's account of one of the tormented in Tartarus; concerning whom he faith-Æn. vi. 1. 622.
Hic fixit leges pretio atque refixit. He made, and unmade, laws for gold.
Which fufficiently fhews even an heathen's fentiments of fuch a practice.
such as never were heard of in the Chrif tian church till Popery introduced them, See Mofheim, vol. i. 327, 595. edit. Maclaine.
That there were cenfures on offenders against religion and good manners in the apoftolical times-fuch as private admonition, 2 Theff. iii. 15.-public rebuke, and even of a sharp kind, Tit. i. 13.—rejection for obftinate herefy, Tit. iii. 10.and even excommunication itself for grievous and fcandalous offences, 1 Cor. v. 1-5.) is most evident; but I fhould imagine, that if a fum of money had been offered to buy off the cenfures of the church, the offerer would have been anfwered as Simon Magus was-Thy money perifh with thee, &c. Acts viii. 20.
See 13 Edw. I. ftat. 4. commonly called the ftatute of Circumfpecte agatis ;
and 9 Edw. II. ftat. 1. c. 2. and c. 3. See alfo before, vol. i. p. 63, n. and Burn. tit. Penance.