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It has long been the desire of the Protestant public that general access might be obtained to the Moral. Theology of Peter Dens; and ever since my attention has been more directly called to the Romish controversy, my mind has been impressed with the importance of the work, which I have at length undertaken. Owing to the pressing duties incident to an extensive pastoral charge, the translation has hitherto progressed but slowly; and I have frequently been constrained to leave it untouched for weeks at a time. Years would probably have elapsed before the manuscript could have been put into the printer's hands, if I had deferred the publication until the completion of the whole work, as it will require no small amount of labour to prepare a synopsis from seven closely printed volumes of from 500 to 600 pages each, with annotations, &c. Protestant ministers have frequently urged me to the work which I have commenced, by reminding me of the important service which a book of this kind would render to them, when attempting to expose the monstrous errors and strong delusions of the Church of Rome. Dens' Theology has long been a text-book in Popish Seminaries on the continent of Europe, and in Ireland especially, from which country our largest importations of priests are made; and I consider myself providentially favoured in having procured from Germany, through the intervention of a friend, the late
Mechlin edition of 1838. The copy in my possession is from the Archbishop's own press, and is therefore stamped with all the authority which the most scrupulous and fastidious Romanist could desire.
The work in question is necessarily accessible to few, both on account of the high price, and the extreme difficulty of procuring a copy; and even were these impediments to an extensive circulation removed, it would still be covered with a Latin veil, which must screen it effectually from the eyes of all, except the learned. If I had been writing a book merely for Protestant ministers, I should probably have contented myself with a simple translation; but as I know the common people, both Protestant and Papist, will read it, I have thought it best to furnish the antidote with the poison. For the correctness of my translation, I can and shall, at the proper time and place, present the most satisfactory vouchers. In preparing my remarks, I have conscientiously adhered to what I firmly believe to be the truth; and I am persuaded that no one, whether friend or foe, can prove
any of my statements of facts or doctrines have been warped by prejudice. When I can approve a sentiment of Peter Dens, I will do it, not for the love of Popery however, but for the love of God's truth; but when I find doctrines that are an abomination before God and man, no consideration shall hinder me from reprobating them as they deserve.
I am well aware that it is a common thing for Popish priests to deny the authority of any works, even though published by their most approved authors, whenever citations are made from them in illustration of the peculiarities of their system. But if they say that
the Church is not responsible for the theological opinions of private individuals in her communion, be they Archbishops, Bishops, or Priests, how can they pretend that their church is always " free from pernicious errors,” and how will they dare to teach again the words of their authorized catechism, in which they attempt to prove their infallibility by such arguments as the following ?
1. “ Because as we have seen above, from Matt. xvi. 18. our Lord Jesus Christ, who cannot tell us a lie, has promised, that his church should be built upon a rock, proof against all floods and storms, like the house of the wise builder, of whom he speaks, Matt. vii. 25, and that the gates of hell, that is, the powers of darkness, should not prevail against it. Therefore, the Church of Christ could never cease to be holy. in her doctrines, and could never fall into idolatry, superstition, or any heretical errors whatsoever.
2. “Because Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, John xiv. 6, has promised, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20, to the pastors and teachers of his church, to be with them always, even to the end of the world. THEREFORE THEY COULD NEVER GO ASTRAY BY PERNICIOUS ERRORS. For how could they go out of the right way of truth and life, who are assured to have always in their company, for their guide, Him, who is the way, the truth, and the life?
3. “Because our Lord has promised to the same teachers, John xiv. 16, 17, I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth:' and, v. 26, he assures them that this Spirit of Truth • will teach them all things:' and chap. xvi. 13, that
TRUTH BY ERRORS
he shall guide them into all truth.' How then could it be possible that THE WHOLE BODY OF THESE PASTORS AND TEACHERS of the church, who, by virtue of these promises, were to be for ever guided into all truth, by the Spirit of truth, SHOULD AT ANY TIME FALL FROM THE
FAITH ?” &c. How then, I ask, could it be possible that Peter Dens, who had received the Holy Spirit by the imposition of the Bishop's hands at his ordination, "should at any time fall from the truth by errors in faith ?” And how is it possible that the Archbishop, who has given to the world the late edition of Dens' Moral Theology, revised and corrected, and who has endorsed and amended it, should have fallen “ from the truth by errors in faith,” especially when it is remembered that extraordinary spiritual gifts and illumination must have been conferred upon him during his passage from one ecclesiastical dignity to another ?
The whole body of pastors and teachers who have received the promise of the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit, can, of course, not be preserved from error, unless this promise is verified in each individual member. If one may err in matters of faith, two may do the same, and if two, then twenty, and so—a hundred or more, until the whole body may finally apostatize from the faith. Hence we see the firm foundation upon which the orthodoxy of the Archbishop and his favourite theologian is based.
Surely, we shall not be told that the Spirit of Truth, (whose infallible direction in matters of faith the priests of Rome claim for themselves as accredited pastors and teachers,) can possibly teach one doctrine in Europe and its opposite in America! No! no!
The ever-blessed Spirit will never accommodate himself to the variations of Popery, for he is what the Church of Rome falsely claims to be," always and everywhere the same” in the lessons of eternal truth, which he inculcates. The claim to purity of doctrine, to freedom from “pernicious errors,” which is so strenuously advocated by the friends of Romanism, will, therefore, appear to be what it really is, a monstrous, absurd, and preposterous delusion, when the morals inculcated in some parts of Dens' System of Theology are compared with the pure teachings of the Holy Spirit, as they shine upon the pages of God's blessed word.
I have marked with quotation signs every passage which purports to be as literal a translation of the original Latin, as idiom will allow.
Where quotation signs are omitted, I have merely given the sense of the more important paragraphs, and have endeavoured to condense as much as possible. I have been careful to avoid making garbled extracts; and I certainly should deem it a misfortune if I had, in any instance, unwit. tingly perverted a sentiment by detaching it from its connection. If any such error should be detected, it will give me pleasure to make the correction. It will be observed that my own remarks are distinguished from the Synopsis and Translation by the difference of the type.
I ask a candid and prayerful perusal of the following pages from those individuals in the communion of the Church of Rome, who are not to be deterred by any human interdict from examining for themselves the grounds of their hope of everlasting happiness. I beseech them to pause before they condemn; I pray