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which have been made against them, by the ignorance, or by the corrupted dispositions of men. We have embraced the principle, in question, not because we disapprove, or condemn the state of marriage, but because we believe, that it is a state, which, with the assistance of divine grace, it is possible for man to observe, and because we believe that it is a state, which is more acceptable to God, and more friendly to the proper discharge of those solemn duties, which are attached to the condition of men, who are devoted to the service of the altar.
If we contemplate the opinions of Protestants, and the opinions of Catholics, on the subject of marriage, it will not be very difficult to determine, which of these Christian societies regard that state, with sentiments of most reverence, and respect. The Protestant views it, as a contract, important and solemn, indeed, but as a contract, which possesses neither dignity, nor advantages, superior to those which it possessed before the establishment of the Christian religion. But the Catholic considers it, in a much more dignified, and honorable light; he considers it as a contract, which differs essentially from every other human contract, however, exalted and solemn, because he believes, that it partakes of all the advantages, and of all the qualities of a sacrament, instituted by the authority of Christ himself. To prove by any argument, that it is a sacrament, is an object, which does not enter into the present question, and therefore I shall abstain from the attempt. But to any man, who will open the seventh chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, with an impartial and unprejudiced mind, it will appear, that in the practice of the Catholic Church, in this respect, there is nothing, which is opposed to the language, but much, which is supported by the authority of scripture. Marriage is there considered, in the same light, in which it is considered by Catholics, as a state, which is both honorable, and lawful; but an abstinence from it is declared to be preferable, because, in the judgment of the Apostle, it is a state, which is more secure from the embarrassments of the world, and which attaches the mind more powerfully to the interests, and the pursuits of a virtuous life.
If the Catholic Church regard the marriages of men, who have vowed a perpetual abstinence from them, as unlawful and sacrilegious, it is not because she condemns the state of marriage, but because she condemns the violation of every solemn engagement. We are permitted by the authority of scripture, to make vows to God, and by the same authority, we are commanded, when they are made, to observe them. * On no one is
the obligation of abstinence from marriage imposed by the authority of the Catholic Church; but from those, who have freely, and without any compulsion, entered into such an engagement, she then requires the perpetual observance. This practice is venerable from its extreme antiquity, in the churches both of the East, and the West; but yet it is no more, than a regulation of discipline, and may be changed, as it was with respect to all the inferior orders of the clergy, by the Greek church, long before the period of her separation from the Latin, if circumstances should be found to require it, or to make it advisable.
It cannot, then, be, it is evident, to the Catho. lic Church, that St. Paul, in his epistle to Ti. mothy, intends to allude. It must be to those sectaries which have separated from her communion, and which have considered marriage as an act unlawful, and criminal, in itself. Such, as St. Chrysostome has remarked, in his explanation of this very passage, are the Eucratites, the Mar. cionites, and the Manicheans.
I remain, &c.
Bath, Jan. 17, 1814.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
ANOTHER ground, on which the Protestant attempts to establish a proof of the eorrupted 'state of the Catholic Church, is her observance of certain days of abstinence from certain kinds of meats; and it is to the weakness of any argument, which proceeds on this ground, I now wish for a moment, to direct your attention. Were the practice, in question, to be considered, indeed, unconnected with its motive, and still more, were its motive considered to be that, which has influenced the conduct of some societies of men, who have professed some of the principles of the Christian religion, then the guilt of that error, which is pointed at by the Apostle, might be justly imputed to the Catholic Church. But the first of these suppositions, a man of liberality will not; and the other, a man of knowledge cannot pretend to adopt.
We have days, it is true, which have been long established amougst us, for the purposes both of fast, and of abstinence, and we teach the necessity
of observing those days, with the most scrupulous
With respect to the people of the Jews, for many centuries before the coming of Christ, it is well known, an obligation prevailed amongst them, of abstaining from the use of pork meats, The slightest deviation from this practice, would have been deemed by that people, a criminal transgression, and their judgment, in such an instance, would have been influenced by the very same