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religion is as old as St. Peter, the prince of the Apostles.
Melancthon. As old as St. Peter, O'Leary ! That is nothing to the age of your Church. It is as old as Herod, it is as old as Nebuchadnezzar, it is as old as Moloch, it is as old as Cain, it is as old as him who is said to have been “a murderer from the beginning ;" for your Church, O'Leary, has dealt in human butchery, and defiled every country with human blood, wherever she has been established. O! how unlike Christ, whose church the Papal Church professes to be! He came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. O'Leary. Well, but other churches have
persecuted as well as the Catholic.
Melancthon. I admit they have, O'Leary; but whenever they have done so, they have acted in direct opposition to the leading principle of Protestantism, - the right of private judgment; whereas when your Church persecutes, she acts in accordance with her principles, and under the direct sanction of the decisions and decrees of many of her Councils. To murder heretics is in your Church a meritorious act.
O'Leary. Waving any further observations on this point, I wish to know whether the Catholic Church contains any thing else that is of greater antiquity than St. Peter?
Melancthon. Yes, O'Leary, it does. The worship of angels and departed spirits, and idols, whether of gold, silver, wood, or stone, is a great deal older than St. Peter,-yea, older than Abraham, the father of the faithful. But when I say such worship is older than St. Peter, I do not mean it has been practised by the Christian church ever since his day : on the contrary, it did not find its way into any part of the Christian church till many centuries after the death of the Apostle, as I have fully shown; O'Leary, in my dialogue on angel, saint, and image worship, to which I refer you. .
O'Leary. Do I understand your honour right, when I suppose your honour to say, that the thing existed in the world long before St. Peter's day, but that it did not find its way into the Catholic Church till long after that time?
Melancthon. You do, O'Leary: that is precisely what I mean.
O'Leary. But if so, then there are some things in the Catholic Church which were not in the apostolic church, nor at all known in the Christian church till hundreds of years after apostolic times.
Melancthon. Yes, O'Leary, many things : every thing which distinguishes Popery from Protestantism, is of this character. Purgatory, transubstantiation, penances, pilgrimages, priest
ly confessions and absolutions, supremacy, angel, saint, and image worship, prayers in an unknown tongue, the withholding of wine from the laity in the sacrament, with all the other farrago of Popery, are, when compared with the antiquity of the Christian church, mere novelties.
O'Leary. At any rate, if my religion be not as old as St. Peter, it is at least a great deal older than yours, which sprang from Luther.
Melancthon. No, no; in this you are incorrect, O'Leary: our religion did not spring from Luther. He was one of its Ministers; but its Founder was Jesus Christ, and it had existed one thousand five hundred years before Luther
O'Leary. Existed one thousand five hundred years ! why, your honour surely cannot be serious. If your honour will not be offended, I should like to ask your honour one question.
Melancthon. Offended, O'Leary! not I; you are perfectly at liberty to ask as many questions as you please.
O'Leary. The question I would submit to your honour is this, If, as you say, your religion has existed so long, pray where did it exist before the time of Luther?
Melancthon. You remind me of an anecdote. In the time of King James the Second, of true Popish memory, a coffee-house was set up near Temple-bar, by a number of Popish Priests, who held public debates upon religion. One of them generally took the Protestant side, that he might defend it weakly, and at last seem to give it up as indefensible. It happened one evening that they were debating on the antiquity of the Church, and the question was put,“ Where was the Protestant religion before Luther, or before the Reformation?” As any person was allowed to be present at these disputes, a shoemaker's apprentice had stepped in to listen. At length, thinking that he could speak better upon the subject than the pretended Protestant, he asked whether he might have liberty to speak. They very courteously answered that he might. “ Well then,” said the lad, “I have but little to say, but I insist upon two things : first, that my opponent shall freely answer any question I put to him ; and, secondly, that he shall not be angry at what I ask him.” These preliminaries being agreed to, the boy said, with a significant look, to an old Jesuit, “ Pray, Sir, when did you wash your face?” “What is that to you, you foolish boy?” “Nay, Sir, you promised not to be angry.” “Why, true, I did. Well, child, I washed my face this morning." Sir, where was your face before you washed it?” “Where? why, just where it is now. Where dost thou think it was?” “Ay, Sir," said the boy, " that is the case. Christianity was always the same; but your Church sullied and dirtied it for many years in a most beastly manner. At the Reformation it was washed clean again, and it is now where it was at first, in the Bible !"
The boy, O'Leary, was right. The religion of Protestants is the New Testament, and is as old as the Apostles; whereas, the religion of the Romish Church has its date from the commencement of its apostacy from the truth as it is in Jesus. What is new in religion must be false; but the distinguishing doctrines of Popery are new, for they are not in the Bible; therefore Popery is false.
O'Leary. What, then, does your honour mean to deny that the Romish Church is the oldest Christian church in the world ?
Melancthon. I do indeed, O'Leary. As she now exists she can scarcely be called Christian at all, having for many ages been awfully paganized and idolatrous.
It is indeed true that she retains some of the ancient creeds of the Christian church,-just as the Jews during the period of their idolatrous apostacy retained in their Scriptures the laws of Moses, -but these are buried under a mountain of rubbish ; and the truths which they contain are neutralized by her gross idolatries, and ridiculous and most contemptible superstitions. The Papal Church, as she now exists, is not