Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

is consonant with human nature; for experience tells us that it is a succeeding generation, with whom sorrow is lost in veneration, that searches after and preserves relics of great benefactors. When one considers the anxieties, the toils and the dangers, and the travels of the apostles and first Christians in their missionary enterprise, it is, in the absence of any sort of evidence, a probability amounting to a certainty, that the original cross was not preserved by them, and that it was lost and destroyed in the awful ruin of Jerusalem at the end of thirty-seven years from the great crucifixion. After the dispersion of the Christians from Jerusalem, and the spread of Christianity through various countries of Western Asia and Europe, the sign of the cross was regarded with reverence; and in the second century, that sign was used in the rite of baptism and other ceremonies in the worship of God. In the third century, the reverence for the sacred symbol deepened to a shade of superstitious feeling. It was supposed to administer victorious power over all sorts of trials and calamities, and no Christian engaged in any important affair without the possession of this triumphant sign. * The fourth century was the epoch of the display and triumph of the material cross and its sign ; and when this subject shall be examined in all its details, and the consequences traced down through the history of the world for fifteen hundred years, it will probably be made manifest that the ostentatious uprearing and display of the physical cross has been one of the principal causes of the retardation and depression of true Christianity in the world.

The mother of Constantine, in clearing away the walls and rubbish of buildings for the foundation of a church to commemorate the death and burial of Christ,

* Mosheim’s “Eccles. History."

is said to have discovered the original sepulchre, and in the excavation it is also affirmed that the true cross, together with the other two crosses, were found. This was in the year 326 after Christ. We put the case of the genuineness of the cross, as discovered on that occasion, hypothetically, because a striking miraculous power is claimed for the timber which composed it; but of the three crosses there was no way of distinguishing the true one until a sick person by a touch of it was cured. But

a more wonderful

power

of miracle was added. When the discovery of the true cross was announced to the world, the demands for pieces of it were extremely numerous from all quarters, and full prices paid by the faithful for the precious relics. The greediness of the priests or monks who had charge, increased in the ratio of the diminution of the wood, and an assurance was given that the holy timber remained entire, notwithstanding the innumerable bits that were cut from it. The kind of wood is not described, and a conjecture can only be formed from the nature of the trees which grew in Palestine, and were cut down for building and other purposes about the time of the crucifixion. The cedars and firs of Lebanon were chiefly used. As botanical and animal chemistry is now much cultivated, it would form a curious series of experiments, were examinations made of various bits of wood, said to be of the true cross, and other relics, said to be the bones of saints, collected from different countries, and an analysis made of their substances. Out of three bits of wood, said to be from the true cross, if there should turn out three different kinds, there would be ligneous proof that two of them were spurious, and even the third might be questionable. Pious Roman Catholic laymen of scientific knowledge would do well to insti

tute a series of experiments which might save their money and at the same time turn their faith to the truth.

We have gone into these details in illustration of the present position of ecclesiastical pretensions. Saint Peter was one of the witnesses of the Crucifixion, and had he considered the information of any importance he would doubtless have written an account of the material cross, but he says nothing about it; and in reference to false teachers that should come in at some future time, he intimates, “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you."

The individual, whoever he may be, who fills the office of bishop of Rome, claims to derive the power that was conferred by Christ on Peter ; and he claims thus to be Christ's representative and the head of the Catholic church through the world. This same bishop claims to be infallible in the consecration of pieces of the true cross, and all other holy relics whatever; and while he is now extending churches, and putting forth pretensions of spiritual pre-eminence in every region of the earth, causing an increased demand for relics, it becomes the duty of sincere, pious, and scientific members of the Roman church to examine accurately and minutely the matters both physical and spiritual of the Papal power.

.

* 2 Peter ii.

CHAPTER II.

Although there are no injunctions in the Scriptures to preserve

the wood of the Cross, or to reverence its figure, there are commands against the desecration of holy things and places.

Three sources of profanation of Sacred places, in Idols, Human Blood and War, and Lucre.—War and Slavery appear the Normal State of Man as a heathen. — History is written almost in blood. The advent of the Prince of Peace was to regenerate man and restore peace to the world.

Although there are no injunctions by the Saviour or his apostles to regard the sign and the mathematical figure of the cross with feelings allied to the adoration of it, and indeed there is no reference to it which, even by implication, would lead to its selection as an object of special reverence ; on the other hand, the natural tendency of the mind of a Christian is to contemplate it with respectful and serious emotions. Good taste, and the holy courtesy to which it leads, would condemn the use of that sacred emblem in

any

action or display which should be contrary to the spirit and inimical to the design of Christianity as described in the volume of revelation. But we may go further in this argument, and affirm, that an improper use and irreverent application of things dedicated to sacred purposes are condemned in Scripture. Next to the denouncement of idolatry, in all forms, and in the sternest language, is the prohibition of the desecration of things and places appointed for divine worship.

There are three sources of profanation of sacred places and things to be discovered in the Scriptures :-idolatrous objects, human blood and war, and lucre, or the covetous action. Of the latter, there is a striking instance in the procedure of the Saviour against the traffickers and money-changers in the temple, when he indignantly turned them out, with the command to “ Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise." * The second commandment of the moral law against making any graven image, or the likeness of anything in heaven, or earth, or in the waters, to adore them, or bow down to them, or serve them, effectually prevented the approach of any object of idolatry to the places of worship. God emphatically declared himself to be jealous of every object that was raised as an idol between Him and the souls of men. War, with its human blood, was not to come nigh to holy places, or be connected with the worship of God.

War, with its victims slaughtered on the march, or in the battle, and its slaves saved from the sword to be condemned to perpetual bondage, appears to be inherent in the social condition of man in an unregenerated state; and we need not be surprised at this, because wars proceed from the evil spirit of man, and give unrestrained and fearful development to the strongest passions of his corrupt nature, hatred, revenge, lust, and avarice. Taking the widest survey of the history of the human race, in all its branches of tribes, and peoples, and nations, we read on every page the accounts of battles and massacres, and the ear of the imagination is pierced by the incessant sound of the trumpet to the onslaught or the retreat. The very eye-balls of the mind become bloodshot by

* John ii. 16.

« ForrigeFortsæt »