SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER. – HERESIES OF THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES. – 1. -Introductory matter. 2.-Rationalists. 3-Hernlmtters, or Moravians. 4.Swedenborgians, or New Jerusalemites. 5 -Methodism; Wesley. 6, 7.-Doctrines and practices of the Methodists. 8. -Johanna Southcott. 9.-Mormonism. 10.-German Catholics.

 

 

 

1. The holy author, as the reader may perceive, concludes his History of Heresies with the account of the famous Bull Unigenitus, which gave the death-blow to Jansenism. He brings down the history of this most dangerous of sects and its ramifications to the Pontificate of Benedict XIV. A little more than a century has elapsed since, and though heresy has produced nothing new for every heresiarch only reproduces the errors of his predecessors still it will not, I hope, be ungrateful to the reader to have before him a succinct account of the sectaries who have since appeared, especially the Methodists, the most numerous, and, on many accounts, the most remarkable body of the present day. It is a fact which every close observer must be aware of, that heresy naturally tends to infidelity.

 

(6) Gotti, Ver. Rel. c. 5.

 

When once we lose hold of the anchor of Faith, and set up our own fallible judgments in opposition to the authority of the Church, we are led on from one false consequence to another, till in the end we are inclined to reject Revelation altogether. Such is the case, especially in Germany at the present day, where Rationalism has usurped the place of Religion, and infidelity is promulgated from the Theological Chair. It is true that in Catholic countries infidelity has also not alone appeared, but subverted both the throne and altar, and shaken society to its very foundations; but there it is the daughter of indifferentism. Lax morality produces unbelief, and those whose lives are totally opposed to the austere rule of the Gospel, are naturally anxious to persuade themselves that Religion is altogether a human invention. This madness, however, passes away after a time. Religion is too deeply rooted in the hearts of a truly Catholic people to be destroyed by it. The storm strips the goodly tree of a great deal of its fruit and foliage, the rotten branches are snapped off, and the dead and withered leaves are borne away, but the vital principle of the trunk remains untouched, and in due season produces again fruit a hundred-fold.   

 

2. That free spirit of inquiry, the boast of Protestantism, which, rejecting all authority, professes to be  guided by reason alone, produced Rationalism. Luther and Calvin rejected several of the most important Articles of the Christian Faith. Why should not their followers do the same ? They appealed to reason so did their disciples; one mystery after another was swept away, till Revelation, we may say, totally disappeared, and nothing but the name of Religion remained. The philosopher Kant laid down a system, by which True and Ecclesiastical Religion were distinguished. True Religion is the Religion of Reason; Ecclesiastical, the Religion of Revelation, and this is only a vehicle for conveying the truths of natural Religion. By this rule, then, the Scriptures were interpreted. Nothing but what reason could measure was admitted; every mystery became a Myth : miracles were all the effects of natural causes, working on an unenlightened and wonder-loving people. Hetzel, Eichhorn, the Rosenmullers, promulgated these blasphemies. Strauss, in his ” Life of Christ,” upsets all Revelation; and Becker teaches that St. John the Baptist and our Lord, with the determination of upsetting the Jewish Hierarchy, whose pride and tyranny they could not bear, plotted together, and agreed that one should play the part of the precursor, and the other of the Messiah. Such is the woful state of Continental Protestantism, and the worst of it is, that it is a necessary consequence of the fundamental principle of the Reformation, ” unrestricted liberty of opinion” (1).

 

3. In contra-distinction to the Rationalists, we have the Pietists in Germany, who cannot so much be called a sect as a party. They date their origin from Spener, who flourished in Frankfort in the sixteenth century, and caused a great deal of disturbance in the Lutheran Church in that and the following age. They are entitled to our notice here, as from some of their doctrines originated some extraordinary sects. Among these may be ranked the Hernhutters, otherwise called Moravians, and by themselves, “United Brethren.” They assert that they are the descendants of the Bohemian and Moravian Hussites of the fifteenth century; but it is only in the last century they appeared as a distinct and organized sect, and now they are not only numerous and wealthy, but have formed establishments partly of a Missionary and partly of a trading character in many parts of the world, from Labrador to Southern Africa. Their founder was Count Zinzendorf, who, in 1721, on attaining his majority, purchased an estate called Bertholsdorf, in Lusatia, and collected round him a number of followers, enthusiasts in religion, like himself. A carpenter of the name of Christian David, came to join him from Moravia, and was followed by many of his countrymen, and they built a new town on the estate, which was at first, from the name of a neighbouring village, called Huthberg, but they changed it to Herren Huth, the Residence of the Lord, and from that the sect took its name. They profess to follow the Confession of Augsburg, but their government is totally different from that of Lutheranism. They have both Bishops and Elders, but the former have no governing power; they are merely appointed to ordain, and, individually, are but members of the general governing consistory. Zinzendorf himself travelled all over Europe, to disseminate his doctrines, and twice visited America.

 

(I) Perron, de Protes.

 

He died in 1760 (2). The doctrines preached by this enthusiast were of the most revolting and horrible nature. All we read of the abominations of the early Gnostics is nothing, compared to the revolting and blasphemous obscenity to be found in his works. An attempt has been made by some of his followers to  defend him, but in vain, and it is truly a melancholy feeling to behold the sacred name of Religion prostituted to such vile abominations (3).

 

4. Emmanuel Swedenborg, the founder of the New Jerusalemites, was another extraordinary fanatic, and his case is most remarkable, since he was a man of profound learning, a civil and military engineer, and the whole tenor of his studies was calculated to banish any tendency to mystic fanaticism which might have been interwoven in his nature. He was born in Stockholm, in 1689, and was the son of the Lutheran Bishop of West Gotha. From his earliest days he applied himself to the study of science, under the best masters, and made such progress, that he published some works at the age of twenty. His merit recommended him to his Sovereign, Charles XII., the warrior King of Sweden, and he received an appointment as Assessor of the College of Mines. At the siege of Frederickshall, in 1713, he accomplished an extraordinary work, by the transmission of the siege artillery over the ridge of mountains which separates Sweden from Norway. It was considered one of the boldest attempts of military engineering ever accomplished. His application to study was continual, and from time to time he published works which gave him a European scientific reputation. It would have been well for himself had he never meddled in theological speculations; but his extravagances prove that the strongest minds, when destitute of faith, fall into the grossest errors. His system was, that there is a spiritual world around us corresponding in every thing to the material world we inhabit. He used himself, he assures us, converse with people in the most distant climes, and was in daily communication with those who were dead for ages. When a man dies, he says, he exchanges his material body, of which there is no resurrection, for a substantial one, and can immediately enjoy all the pleasures of this life, oven the most gross, just as if he were still in the flesh.

 

(2) Encyc. Brit, Art. Zinzendorf and United Brethren.  (3) Mosheim, Cent. XVIII.

 

In fact, a man frequently does not well know whether he is living or dead. Jesus Christ is God himself, in human form, who existed from all eternity, but became incarnate in time to bring the hells, or evil spirits, into subjection. he admitted a Trinity of his own, consisting of the Divinity, the Humanity, and the Operation. This Trinity commenced only at the Incarnation. He travelled through a great part of Europe, disseminating his doctrines, and finally died in London, in 1772, and was buried in the Swedish Church, Ratcliffe Highway. His followers have increased since his death, but they still only form small and obscure congregations. They style themselves ” the Church of the New Jerusalem.”

 

5. The Patriarch of Methodism was John Wesley, who was born in 1703, at Epworth, in Lincolnshire, of which place his father was rector. At the ago of seventeen he was sent to the University of Oxford, and being more seriously inclined than the generality of young men there, applied himself diligently to his studies. One of his favourite books at that period was the famous work of Thomas a Kempis, ” The Imitation of Christ.” During his long and varied life this golden work was his manual, and he published even an edition of it himself in 1735, but, as should be expected, corrupted and mutilated. His brother Charles, a student like himself, at Oxford, and a few other young men, formed themselves into a Society for Scripture reading and practices of piety, and, as the state of morals was peculiarly lax in that seat of learning, they were jeered by their fellow-students, called the Godly Club, and, on account of their methodical manner of living, were nicknamed ” Methodists,” which afterwards became the general designation of the whole sect or society in all its numerous subdivisions. Wesley was ordained in the Anglican Church, and assisted his father for a while as curate, till an appointment was offered him in Georgia. He sailed, accordingly, for America, in company with his brother and two others. He led quite an ascetic life at this period, slept frequently on the bare boards, and continually practised mortiiication. He remained in America till 1738, and then returned to England. He was disappointed in a matrimonial speculation while there, and had a law-suit also on hands.

 

Like all Protestant Apostles, a comfortable settlement in life appeared to him the first consideration. This is one of the principal causes of the sterility of all their missions; if, however, they do not seek first the kingdom of God, they take care that all other things that the world can afford shall he added to them, as the investigations into the land tenures of New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific bear witness. While in America he associated a great deal with the Moravians, and became imbued, to a great extent, with their peculiar doctrines of grace, the new birth, and justification, and on his return paid a visit to Herronhutt, to commune with Zinzendorf. He was not at all popular in America; he appears to have been a proud, self-opinionated man, filled up with an extraordinary idea of his own perfections. Indeed, it only requires a glance at his Diary, which, it would appear, he compiled, not so much for his own self-examination as for making a display before others, to be convinced that he was a vain, proud man. He was always a determined enemy of Catholicity, and for his bigoted attacks on Popery, he received a just castigation from the witty and eloquent Father O’Leary. He dates the origin of Methodism himself from a meeting held in Fetter-lane, London, on the 1st of May, 1738. ” The first rise of Methodism,” he says, ” was in November, 1729, when four of us met together at Oxford; the second was in Savannah, in April, 1736, when twenty or thirty persons met at my house; the last in London, when forty or fifty of us agreed to meet together every Wednesday evening, in order to free conversation, begun and ended with singing and prayer.” Whitfield, a fellow-student of Wesley, began to preach at this time to numerous congregations in the open air. He was a man of fervid eloquence, and the people, deserted, in a great measure, by the parsons of the Anglican church, flocked in crowds to hear him, and as he could not obtain leave to preach in the churches, he .adopted the system of field-preaching.   

 

His doctrine was thoroughly Calvinistic, and this was, ultimately, the cause of a separation between him and Wesley. Indeed it would appear Wesley could bear no competitor, he ruled his society most absolutely; appointed preachers, and removed them, according to his own will changed them from one station to another, or dismissed them altogether, just as he pleased. One of the most extraordinary proceedings of his life, however, was his ordaining a Bishop for the States of America. Both he and Whitfield planted Methodism in our Colonies in North America, and the people, always desirous of religion, ardently took up with it, since no better was provided for them. When the revolutionary war commenced, Wesley wrote a bitter tract against ” the Rebels,” and were it not suppressed in time, his name would be branded with infamy by the patriotic party. The fate of war, however, favoured the ” Rebels,” and our consistent preacher immediately veered round. He was now the apologist of insurrection, and besought them to stand fast by the liberty God gave them. What opinion can we hold of the principles of a man who acts thus ? But to return to the Ordination. Wesley always professed himself not only a member of the Anglican church but a faithful observer of its doctrines, articles, and homilies. His followers in America, however, called loudly for ministers or preachers, and then he became convinced that there was no distinction in fact between Presbyters and Bishops, and thus with the 23rd and 36th articles of his church staring him in the face, he not alone ordained priests, as he called them, but actually consecrated Coke a Bishop for the North American congregations.

 

“God,” says Coke, ” raised up Wesley as a light and guide in his Church; he appointed to all offices, and, consequently, had the right of appointing Bishops.” We would wish, however, to have some proof of the Divine mission of Wesley, such as the Apostles gave, when ” they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working withal, and confirming the Word with the signs that followed” (Mark, xvi, 20). He travelled through England, Scotland, and Ireland, preaching in towns, hamlets, and villages, and, as usual, giving ” Popery” a blow, whenever he had an opportunity. He married, when advanced in years, but soon separated from his wife, by whom he had no children. He appears, on the whole, to be a man of most unamiable character, and though God was constantly on his lips, self was always predominant.  He died in London in 1781, in the eighty-eighth year of his age.

 

6. It is rather difficult to give a precise account of the doctrines of Methodism. Wesley always professed himself a member of the Church of England, and maintained that his doctrine was that of the Anglican Church, but we see how far he deviated from it in the Ordination affair. Whitfield was a Calvinist, and some of the first Methodists were Moravians. Salvation by Faith alone, and sudden justification, appear to be the distinguishing marks of the sect. Their doctrines open a wide door for the most dangerous enthusiasm; the poor people imagine, from the ardour of their feelings, that they are justified, though every Christian should be aware that he knows not whether he is worthy of love or hatred, and this has been productive of the most serious consequences. If only the thousandth part of all we hear of the scenes which take place at a ” Revival” in America be true, it should fill us with compassion to see rational beings committing such extravagances in the holy name of Religion. I will not sully the page with a description of the ” Penitents pen,” the groanings in spirit, the sighs, contortions, howlings, and faintings which accompany the “new birth” at these re-unions. It has been partially attempted in these countries to get up a similar demonstration, but we hope the sense of propriety and decorum is too strongly fixed in the minds of our people ever to permit themselves to be thus fooled.

 

7. The curse of all heresies, the want of cohesion, has fallen also on the Methodist society. They are now divided into several branches, Primitive Wesleyans, &c. They are governed by Conferences, and there are districts, and other minor divisions, down to classes. The form of worship consists generally of extemporaneous prayer and preaching. Wesley established bands, or little companies for selfexamination and confession, and it is rather strange that sectaries who reject Sacramental confession, where the penitent pours into the ear of the Priest his sins and his sorrows, under the most inviolable secrecy, should encourage promiscuous confession of sins, which can be productive of no good, but must necessarily cause a great deal of harm. Hear Wesley’s own words on the subject : ” Bands” he says, ” are instituted, in order to confess our faults to one another, and pray for one another; we intend to meet once a week at least; to come punctually at the hour appointed; to begin with singing or prayer; to speak to each of us, in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our soul, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt since our last meeting, and to desire some person among us (thence called a leader) to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.” Such a shocking practice is only calculated to make men hypocrites and liars, for we know it is not in human nature to confess freely and plainly all the turpitude of their hearts, before five or six, or more, fellowmortals; and did such a thing happen, society would be shaken to its foundations, the peace of families destroyed, and mortal hatred usurp the place of brotherly love. The Methodists have another peculiar custom of holding a love feast, every quarter. Cake and water is given to each person, and partaken of by all, and each is at liberty to speak of his religious experience. There certainly could not be a better nurse of spiritual pride than a practice of this sort. Every year they have a watch-night, that is, they continue in prayer and psalm-singing, till after midnight, on the last night of the year; the new year is then ushered in with a suitable hymn and appropriate service. It is melancholy to see so many people, of really religious dispositions, most of them irreproachably moral, honest, and honourable, led astray by error, buffeted about by every wind of doctrine. Those who are members of the Holy Catholic Church, are bound to praise God daily for the inestimable blessing conferred on them; and, seeing how little in general they correspond to the extraordinary graces they receive by the Sacraments, and the Holy Sacrifice, should be humbled at their own unworthiness, and unceasingly pray to God, that the strayed sheep may be brought into the fold, under the guidance of the one Shepherd. Had Wesley, their founder, been born and disciplined, from his youth, in the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Faith his self-love and spiritual pride corrected by the holy practice of the confessional he might have been one of the lights of his age and, perhaps, have carried the Gospel with effect to the nations still sitting in darkness. But the judgments of God are inscrutable (4).

 

(4) Wesley’s Journal; Centenary Report, and Benson’s Apology, &c.

 

8. Johanna Southcott. This extraordinary woman was born in Devonshire, in 1750, and is no less remarkable for the extravagance of her tenets, than as a melancholy example of the credulity of her numerous followers. She was, in the early part of her life, only a domestic servant, and scarcely received any education. She joined a Methodist society, and being of an excitable temperament, persuaded herself at first, it is supposed, that she was endowed with extraordinary gifts. She soon found followers, and then commenced as a prophetess, and proclaimed herself the “woman” spoken of in the Book of Revelations. She resided all this time in Exeter, and it is wonderful to find that an ignorant woman could make so many dupes. She had seals manufactured, and sold them as passes to immortal happiness. It was impossible that any one possessed of one of these talismen, could be lost. Exeter soon became too confined a sphere for her operations, and, at the expense of an engraver of the name of Sharp, she came to London, where the number of her disciples was considerably increased, and many persons joined her, whom we would be the last to suspect of fanaticism. She frequently denounced unbelievers, and threatened the unfaithful nations with chastisement. She was now sixty years of age, and put the finishing stroke to her delusions. She proclaimed that she was with-child of the Holy Spirit, and that she was about to bring into the world the Shiloh promised to Jacob. This event was to take place on the 19th of October, 1814. This we would imagine would be enough to shake the whole fabric of imposture she had raised, but, on the contrary, her dupes not only believed it, but actually prepared a gorgeous cradle for the Shiloh, and crowded round her residence at the appointed time, in expectation of the joyful event.

 

Midnight passed, and they were told she fell into a trance. She died on the 27th of the following December, declaring that if she was deceived, it must be by some spirit, good or bad, and was buried in Paddington churchyard. A post mortem examination showed that she died of dropsy. Among other reveries, she taught the doctrine of the Millennium. The strangest thing of all is that the delusion did not cease at her death; her followers still exist as a sect, though not numerous. They are distinguished by wearing brown coats and long beards, and by other peculiarities. It is supposed they expect the reappearance of their prophetess.

 

9. A new sect sprung up in the United States of America, only a few years since. They were called Mormons, or Latter- Day Saints. It is very generally believed along the sea-board of the States, that the buccaneers of the seventeenth century, and the loyalists in the late revolution, buried large sums of money, and that all traces of the place of concealment were lost by their death. Several idle persons have taken up the trade of exploring for this concealed treasure, and are known by the name of ” Money Diggers,” calculating, like the alchymists of old, on the avaricious credulity of their dupes. The prophet and founder of Mormonism, Joe Smith, followed this profession. Not he alone, but his whole family, were remarkable for a total absence of every quality which constitutes honest men. Smith was well aware, from his former profession, of the credulity of many of his countrymen; so he gave out that he had a revelation from above that he was received up into the midst of a blaze of light, and saw two heavenly personages, who told him his sins were forgiven that the world was all in error in religious matters and that, in due season, the truth would be revealed, through him. It was next revealed to him, that the aborigines, the “red men,” of America were a remnant of the tribes of Israel, whose colour was miraculously changed, as a punishment for their sins, and whose prophets deposited a book of Divine records, engraved on plates of gold, and buried in a stone chest, in a part of the State of New York. Smith searched for the treasure, and found it, but was not allowed to remove it, until he had learned the Egyptian language, in which it was written. In 1827, he was, at last, allowed to take possession of it, and published an English version, in 1830. His father and others were partners in the scheme. The rhapsody made a deep impression on the uncultivated minds of many especially among the lower orders in the States, and a congregation was formed, usually called Mormonites, from the Book of Mormon, as Smith called it, or, according to the name by which they designated them selves, ” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”   

 

The book, such as it is, is supposed to have been written by a person of the name of Spaulding, as a sort of novel, and offered to a publisher, who declined having anything to do with it, and it eventually fell into the hands of one Rigdon, a friend of Smith; and, as it was written something in the style of the Old Testament, and purported to be an account of the adventures of a portion of the Tribe of Joseph, who sailed for America, under the guidance of a Prophet, called Nephi, and became the fathers of the Red Indians, they determined to pass it off as a new Revelation. It is evidently the production of a very ignorant person, whose whole knowledge of antiquity was acquired from the English Bible. The sect became so numerous in a little time, that a settlement was made in the State of Missouri; but the sturdy people of the West rose up against them, and banished them. They next settled down in Illinois, and founded a city, which they called Nauvoo, near the Mississipi. A temple on a magnificent scale was commenced, and a residence for the Prophet, who took especial care that his revelations should all turn to his own profit. He established two Orders of Priesthood the Order of Melchizedec, consisting of High Priests and Elders, and the Order of Aaron, containing Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; but ” my servant, Joseph Smith,” was, of course, the autocrat of the whole system, and the others were but his tools. Not alone from the States, but even from the manufacturing districts of England, did multitudes flock to the land of promise. Disputes, however, arose. The Prophet, Joe Smith, was killed by a mob last year, at Carthage, in Illinois, and most of his fanatical followers are dispersed. Numbers have emigrated to California, and intend forming establishments in that country, and time alone will tell whether the delusion will have any duration. The temple remains unfinished, like the Tower of Babel, a standing monument of human folly.

 

10. The German Catholic Church. Such was the designation adopted by a party raised up within the two last years in Germany; but the reader will perceive what little right it has to such a title, when, at the last meeting, held at Schneidemuhl, they not only rejected the Dogmas and Sacraments, which peculiarly distinguish the Catholic Church from the various Protestant sects, but openly renounced even the Apostles Creed, denied the Divinity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and, in fact, their whole Creed now consists, we may say, of one article to believe in the existence of God. The origin of this party was thus : In the Cathedral of Treves, it is piously believed, the seamless garment worn by our Lord is preserved; it is usually called the Holy Robe of Treves. From time to time this is exhibited to the veneration of the people. The Bishop of Treves, Monseigneur Arnoldi, published to the Faithful of Germany and the world, that the robe would be exhibited for a few weeks. Hundreds of thousands responded to the pious invitation. From the snowy summits of the Swiss mountains, to the lowlands of Holland, the people came in multitudes, to venerate the sacred relic. Ronge, an unquiet immoral Priest, who had been previously suspended by his Bishop, imagined that it would be just the time to imitate Luther in his attack on Indulgences, and, accordingly, wrote a letter to the Prelate Arnoldi, which was published, not alone in the German papers, but in several other parts of Europe besides. He then declared that he renounced the Roman Catholic Church altogether, and established what he called the German Catholic Church. He was soon joined by another priest of the same stamp, Czerski; and numbers of the Rationalists of Germany having no fixed religious principles of any sort, ranked themselves under the banners of the new Apostles, not through any love for the new form of faith, but hoping to destroy Catholicity. We have seen, however, at their last Conference, that they have abolished Christianity itself, and the sect, as it is, is already nearly extinct.

 

END OF THE HISTORY.