SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
CHAPTER IV. The Church of Rome Vindicated.
SECTION I.—THE STATE OF RELIGION IN CHRISTENDOM BEFORE THE PRETENDED REFORMATION.
|Luther (death portrait)|
MARTIN LUTHER, an Austin friar, began his pretended reformation in the year of our Lord, 1517. The Greek and Latin Churches, though they had been united in the general council of Florence, were then again divided. Muscovy followed the fate of the Greek Church, and the Spanish West-Indies were, as they are now, in the communion of the Church of Rome. The Greeks differed from the Latins only in the article relating to the procession of the Holy Ghost, as I have already observed. Which, however, drew unavoidably after it that of the supremacy. In all other doctrinal points whatever, they agreed with the Church of Rome, as they do at present. For proof, whereof, I refer the reader to the learned book, entitled, The Church of Christ showed by the etc., part i. chap. i. p. io, ii, 12, 13, 14. Where he may likewise be satisfied, that the Nestorians, Armenians, Cophtes, Syrians, and Ethiopians, also reject the doctrine of the reformation in all points, wherein it differs from the Roman Catholic Church.
As the Latin Church, that is, the Church in communion with the see of Rome, at the time when Luther set up for a reformer^ she was spread over all the principal kingdoms of Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, the whole empire, with the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands, the large kingdoms of France and Spain, all Italy, with the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, etc., were all united in the same faith, acknowledging the pope for their common father, the true vicar of Christ, and supreme head of their Church. So that Luther had not any in the whole world to communicate with. And was it not a presumption even to a degree of madness for a private monk to set up his own private judgment in opposition to all Christendom, and stand single against the whole world? Truly, it would look like a dream, rather than a serious truth, were it not attested by all writers, and Luther himself.
For in the preface to his works he boasts, that he was alone at first. Primo solus eram. And in his preface to the book de abroganda Missa private he writes thus: " With how many medicines, and powerful evidences of Scripture have I scarce yet settled my conscience to be able alone to contradict the pope, and to believe him antichrist; the bishop his apostles, and the universities his stews? How oft did my heart tremble, and reprehend me by objecting their strongest and only argument; art thou alone wise ? And do all err." It seems the good man had some terrible gripes of conscience, before he could work himself into a belief, that the successor of St. Peter was antichrist; that all the bishops in the world were the devil's apostles; and the great nurseries of piety and learning his stews. How troublesome is it to have too tender a conscience ! But Kate Boren cured him soon after of all gripes and qualms.
Calvin owns the same truth, Epist. 141. " We have been forced," says he , " to break off from the communion of the whole world.' A toto mundo discessionem facere coacti sumus. Nay, many Protestant writers glory in Luther's separation from the whole world. "If there had been right believers," says one, " who went before Luther in his office, there had been no need of a Lutheran reformation" Georgius Billius, in Aug. Conf. Art. 7, p. 137. "It is ridiculous," says another, " to think, that in the time before Luther, any had the purity of doctrine, and that Luther should receive it from them." Bened. Morgestern de ecclesia, p. 145.
This gentleman, like a drag-net, sweeps all before him; fathers, councils, doctors; nay, I fear the Apostles themselves will scarce escape.
It is, then, an incontestable truth, that Luther did not only separate himself from his own mother-Church, but that there was not any pre-existent visible Church of Christians in the whole world, into which he could incorporate himself. But how long had the Roman Catholic Church, from whose communion he separated himself, already had a being before the reformation ? This is a point of great importance, and challenges a serious examination.
It is certain, she was venerable for her antiquity, even at the time when Luther took upon him to reform her. For, first, all separate Christian communions then extant in the world had either gone out immediately from her, or spawned from those that had ; and some of these were very ancient, as Nestorians, Eutychians, and such others.
Secondly : The four first general councils were all in communion with the bishop of Rome. The first of Nice against the Arians, anno 325, was in communion with pope Sylvester, whose legates, together with Osius presided at it.
The second of Constantinople, against the Macedonians, anno 381, was in communion with pope Demasus, whom the fathers of that council in their synodical letter to him, thank for calling them to a council as his members; and Demasus in his answer, styles them his most honorable children.
The third of Ephesus against Nestorius, anno 431, was in the communion of pope Celestin; whose legate told the council that his master was their head, and the successor of St. Peter; whose place and authority the bishop of Rome held, Act 2. T. 3, Conc. p. 619; Act 3, p. 626, against which, not one in the council made the least exception. So that it even proves a great deal more, than is necessary for my present purpose.
The fourth of Calcedon, against Eutyches and Dioscorus, anno 451, was in communion with St. Leo; to whom the council wrote in this manner: Rogamus igitur, et tuis decretis honora nostrum judicium; et sicut nos capite in bonis adjecimus consonantiam, sic et summitas tua filiis quod decet adkibeat. That is, "We desire you to honor our judgment with your decrees: and as we have agreed with our head in all good things, so may your highness grant to us, your children, that which is fitting." Conc. Calced. in Epist. ad St. Leonem, Tom. 4, p. 837, D. E.
I only mention these four general councils, because they are allowed of by the Church of England. Act 1. Eliz. c. And the time in which they were held, witnesses their antiquity; for the first was held near twelve hundred years, and the last of the above a thousand and fifty years before the reformation.
Whence it follows, first, that the Church in communion with the see of Rome, not only had a being, (whereof no man doubts) but was wholly incorrupt and free from errors, both from the time of the Apostles to the first general council, and in .the whole interval of time between that and the fourth, or last council allowed of by the Church of England. The reason is clear, because not one of the four first councils accused her of any errors; and had she been guilty of any, it cannot be doubted, but those councils would have called her to an account, and condemned her, as they did the Arians, Macedonians, Nestorians, and Eutychians. Nay, it is manifest, that the faith of those councils, and the see of Rome was one and the same; for otherwise, they would not have been in the same communion; and since the Church of England allows of those councils, it is no less manifest, that she believes their faith was orthodox.
Whence it follows, secondly: that the Church of England, which owns the authority of the four first councils, must likewise acknowledge, that the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church in communion with the see of Rome, was at least free from corruptions till the middle of the fifth century, in which the fourth general council was held.
Now, then, if we can but make the Popery, which Luther reformed, shake hands with the religion of those times; that is, if it can but be clearly proved, that the very same doctrine which was professed by the Church of Rome, when Luther began to reform was likewise professed by the Catholic Church in those ancient tines in which she is acknowledged to have been free from corruptions; will it not be a demonstrative proof, that the doctrine called Popery, and the Church which professes it, are as ancient as Christianity itself? The evidence will certainly be beyond all manner of dispute. Let us then make some inquiry into this important matter, and see how far the doctrine called Popery, may be traced, even from the concessions of such Protestant writers, as are beyond exception.