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offenders, and pointed out the various penalties that were suitable to the different classes of transgressions. This new discipline, though of Grecian origin, was eagerly adopted by the Latin churches. · Its duration however was but transitory, for in the eighth century it began to decline, and was at length entirely supplanted by, what was called, the new canon of indulgences, in which the bishops and clergy began to trade in the twelfth century, when the universal reign of ignorance and superstition was dexterously, but basely, improved to fill their coffers, and to drain the purses 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 remision of the penalties imposed upon transgreffors, by a sum of money; which was to be applied to certain religious purposes ; or, in other words, they published indulgences : which became an inexhaustible source of wealth to the Episcopal orders, and enabled them,
as is well known, to form and execute the most difficult schemes for the enlargement of their authority, and of the external
pomp and splendor of the church.
When the Roman Pontiffs cast an eye on the immense treasures, which the sale of these indulgences brought in to the inferior rulers of the church, they limited the power of bishops in remitting the penalties imposed on transgresors, and assumed, almost entirely, this profitable traffic to themselves. In consequence of which, Rome became the
gea neral magazine of indulgences; and the Pontiffs, in order to supply their coffers, published, not only an univerfal, but also a complete, or, what they called a plenary remission of all the temporal pains and penalties which the church had annexed to certain transgressions.
Afterwards they proceeded farther, and not only remitted penalties which the civil and ecclesiastical laws had enacted against transgressors, but audaciously usurped the divine prerogative, and impiously pretended to abolish even the punishments of the next world; a step this, which the bishops, with all their
pride and presumption, had never once ventured to take.
Such proceedings stood in need of a plausible defence, but this was impofsible. To justify, therefore, these scandalous measures of the Pontiffs, a most monstrous and absurd doctrine was invented" that there actually existed
an immense treasure of merit, composed of the pious deeds and virtuous actions which the Saints had performed beyond what was necessary for their own salvation, and which
were therefore applicable to the be“ nefit of others that the guardian and
disposer of this precious treasure was “ 'the Pope, and therefore he was em“ powered to angn to such as he
thought proper, a portion of this “ inexhaustible source of merit, suitable “ to their respective guilt, and suffici
ent to deliver them from the punish“ ment * due to their crimes.” This horrible superstition is retained and defended in the church of Rome to this day! it was happily banished from England at the reformation ; pity but the former sort of indulgences had followed it out of our church ! but they are still retained, under the more plaufble, 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 uses, no more salves the offence of taking * such 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.
* Bellarmine says 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 satisfaction or application. See Abl. of Hift. of Popery, vol. i. p. 173. quarto, 1735. and Bellarm. de Indulg. Lib. i. c. V. p. 28, 31.
Whatsoever these things may be called, they are certainly judicial absolutions, and
* To make laws for the punishment of offences, and then to waive or suspend their execution, for a sum of money paid by the offender, and especially where such laws are made on no better principle than with a view to such extortion—which I take to have been chiefly the case with respect 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.
such as never were heard of in the Chrif, tian church till Popery introduced them, See Mosheim, vol. i. 327, 595. edit. Maclaine.
That there were cenfures on offenders against religion and good manners in the apostolical times—such as private admonition, 2 Theff. iii. 15:-public rebuke, and even of a sharp kind, Tit. i. 13:--rejection for obstinate heresy, Tit. iii. 10.and even excommunication itself for grievous and scandalous offences, 1 Cor. v. I-5.) is most evident; but I should imagine, that if a sum of money had been offered to buy off the censures of the church, the offerer would have been answered as Simon Magus was-Thy money perish with thee, &c. Acts viii. 20. See 13
Edw. I. stat. 4. commonly called the statute of Circumspecte agatis i and 9 Edw. II. stat. 1. c. 2. and c. 3.
See also before, vol. i. p. 63, n. and Burn, tit. Penance.
c H A P.