Friday, 11 March 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 17.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Q. I will leave these, and the rest I mentioned, to make out their universality, which I find they can have no pretensions to, and come nearer to our own times. Are not our modern reformers extended all over Europe, and equal in number to the whole body of those in communion with Rome ?

A. It is true, the number of pretended reformers is greatly increased in several northern kingdoms; but it is far from equaling what may be found adhering to the Church of Rome, even in Europe. They reckon the British dominions, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and some principalities in Germany. Those in communion with Rome, reckon France, Flanders, Spain, and greater part of Germany, Italy, and all the islands in those seas; they reckon also Portugal, with their dominions, in the East and West Indies: the two great kingdoms of Mexico and Peru; where they are all in communion with the Church of Rome, without any mixture of other professions; whereas, in Holland, Ireland, and among the Protestant princes in Germany, there is so great a mixture, that in some of these kingdoms there is a superior number of the inhabitants in communion with the Church of Rome; in some an equal, and in others a number little inferior. If to this we add, that the kingdoms in communion with Rome, do far exceed the reformers in power, riches, universities, episcopal sees, and all the outward advantages and appearances of an universal Church, there is no room for making a comparison as to place. But then, as to the other two requisites: universality of time and doctrine, the reformers cannot have the least pretence to insist upon them. As to time, they appeared but as it were yesterday, they were so far from being universal as to time and place, that for above twelve hundred years they covered not a foot of land, and have been so divided as to doctrine, that they are of different professions, and different communions; so that their Church in no sense can be called universal.

Q. But pray give me leave to make one observation in their favor, especially with regard to universality of place. Do they not possess several tracts of land, and have they not colonies abroad, in both the Indies ?

A. Those are mere rays of a Church, and no part of Christ's seamless garment, when compared with those vast countries, which are united to the Church of Rome, where we meet with so many archbishoprics, bishoprics, parishes, and great numbers of religious communities, who are governed regularly by and under one spiritual pastor, the bishop of Rome. What are a few planters of sugar and tobacco, a strong fort erected on the shore, half a dozen of tippling houses to entertain sailors, and warehouses for their merchandise ? What is a consul residing at Aleppo, at Constantinople, Venice, or Lisbon, in order to obtain the name of an established, and universal Church in those parts, especially considering, that they profess a different religion, one from another, and are of different communions ? Now the case is quite otherwise with those in communion with Rome, who observe the rule, and carry the mark of universality, mentioned by Vincentius Lyrinensis, viz.: Professing a faith that is the same without any difference in doctrine and government.

Q. Let us now proceed to the fourth mark of the Church, viz.: Apostolic. What is imported by that title ?

A. The immediate and express meaning is, that the true Church of Christ, ought to have the Apostles for its founders.

Q. This all must pretend to, because the Apostles were the first builders, employed by Christ: But what follows from hence, in order to fix a distinguishing mark upon the true Church ?

A. What I infer from thence is, viz.: That the true Church must be very ancient, viz.: As old as the Apostles- And the next inference is, that antiquity is a mark of Christ's Church, or that the society of true believers was prior in time to any body of men divided from them. And, thirdly, it follows, that the true Church of Christ must derive its succession from the Apostles.

Q. The two first inferences are plain and undeniable, and that succession is also a mark of the true Church, by what I have sometimes observed in the writings of Tertullian, St.Augustine, and other orthodox fathers, who urged the antiquity of the Church; and in order to prove it, trace the succession of the true pastors to the Apostles: whereas those who were taxed with novelties, could run up no higher than certain persons, who first broached those errors, since the Apostles' days; and to render their proof more plain, and as it were to the eye, they produce a list of the orthodox bishops, but particularly of the bishops of Rome, successors to St. Peter. But what I further desire is, to be convinced that the bishops and pastors, and such as now are in communion with Rome, do succeed the Apostles.

A. This succession appears by the catalogues in every nation, faithfully preserved, of all the kings, popes, archbishops, bishops, etc., who, in all parts of the world, have governed every kingdom, and diocese, and constantly professed what their ancestors taught, and practised. I shall not run abroad into foreign nations, but only observe, how the succession was carried on, in the British Isles, and some neighboring countries; France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Swedeland, etc., can produce lists of their kings and bishops, from their first conversion to Christianity, without any interruption, all living in communion with Rome, till some dropped off, upon Luther and Calvin's appearing. As for the British dominions, the reformers themselves own, and Catholic writers have demonstrated from public records, and the histories and writings of every age, that every king, archbishop of Canterbury, and so respectively, that every bishop and learned man lived in communion with Rome, and made profession of the Romish faith; from Henry the VIII's reign upwards for five hundred years, to the Norman conquest. The same unity of doctrine, and Church government, is owned by the reformers; and proved in the same manner, by Catholic writers: as to the Saxon monarchs, and during the heptarchy, from the conquest, till the Saxons were converted from Paganism, which comprises about five hundred years. So that there is an uncontested succession of the Church, in communion with Rome, for a thousand years without any interruption. As to the British Church, it lay under great oppression after its first establishment, the latter end of the second century, by the Roman governors, the Dioclesian persecution, the Picts invasion, and Saxon usurpation, who being all Pagans, gave a disturbance to the succession; yet as far as their imperfect records are able to inform us, we have an account of several of their princes, bishops, and monk 45 , who lived in communion with Rome, and professed the same faith with the universal Church abroad, and joined with the Saxons upon their conversion.

Q. I cannot see any way reformers can have to refuse this mark of apostolical succession; and therefore they endeavor to evade the force of the argument, by rendering the mark of antiquity insignificant. Hence they distinguish, between a personal and doctrinal succession. The first, they say, is not material, because a personal succession may be continued by intruders, and false teachers; whereas a doctrinal succession is made out, by showing a conformity of doctrine, with the Scriptures, the primitive pure ages, at, and soon after the Apostles' time, as also by adhering to such as had an apostolic spirit, and undertook to reform the Church, this makes it apostolic.

A. This doctrine, between a personal and doctrinal succession, is a mere evasion, and in itself a contradiction: there cannot be a quality, without a subject of adhesion; nor a doctrine conveyed, without hands to convey it; so that what you call a succession of doctrine, supposes a succession of persons. I own, a personal succession only, is not a sufficient mark of truth, for the reasons you insinuate; but other circumstances are required, to show that the persons are not innovators ; but then a succession of doctrine is unintelligible, when conveyances are wanting.

Q. I do not see, that such a succession of doctrine is unintelligible, (though I own it is very improperly called succession, for want of persons to convey it) yet, at the same time, if the doctrine is conformable to the Scriptures, to the faith of the Apostles, and the primitive ages, it may truly be called apostolical in the sense of the article.

A. By this method of appealing to Scriptures, etc., all heretics, whatever, may have a pretence of justifying their innovations; and it was the method they made use of in every age, when they appeared. The Marcionites, Manicheans, Arians, Donatists, etc., constantly appealed to the Scriptures, and had passages ready to allege in defence of every error they maintained. But how did Tertullian, St. Epiphanius, St. Augustine, and the rest of the orthodox fathers, proceed against them ? They owned the Scriptures were a good rule, for inquiring into the truth, but could not be a judge in the case; if either any of the books were rejected, or erroneously expounded; and therefore, they . urged the authority of the Church, which was commissioned to determine these matters. They produced catalogues of bishops, and ancient fathers, to give testimony of what was the true sense of the Scriptures. They called upon heretics to name the persons who had handed down their errors, from the Apostles; now if ancient heretics, who lived so near the times of the Apostles, were at a loss upon this account; how can modern reformers, make out their succession, after so many ages of interruption, or what pretence can they have of justifying themselves who have no arguments to urge, but what all heretics made use of, viz.: Appealing to Scriptures, expounded according to their own private judgment ? As for the noise they make about the primitive and pure ages, which they pretend to follow ; they can have no claim, either to the doctrine or discipline of those times, and therefore, they refuse to stand by any such evidence, but appeal both from fathers and councils to the word of God.

Q. I own the want of personal succession is a great inconvenience; and therefore, some of the reformers have attempted to avoid it, and to this purpose, have offered a list of persons, through whose hands the truth has been conveyed to them, viz.: The Albigenses in France, the Hussites, in Bohemia, and the Wycliffites in England; who were forerunners of the Reformation, and held out a light for Luther and Calvin, etc.

A. What can this chain of a few broken links, effect to their purpose? Can it reach through so many ages as is required? Or can the reformers with all their skill, join the links together ? The defects, which may be observed in this pretended succession, plainly shows the desperateness of the defence : I will only mention some of them. Those pretended successors of the Apostles were heretics, condemned, by the universal Church at that time. They did not immediately succeed one another, there being a gap of some ages between them. They had no communication, but lived in different places, and at different times. They varied in essential points from each other. ( See Mona Bossuet's Hist, of the Variat, L. xi.) They were only a few ignorant, obstinate persons, without government, bishops, or pastors, and a mere mob; and in open rebellion against the lawful powers under whom they lived. In fine, they were all reduced to nothing, long before the Reformation, and innovation of Luther and Calvin; and therefore, could not be their immediate predecessors, as to time, much less as to doctrine; their tenets being directly opposite to the Reformation, in many essential points; and this kind of succession, can be no more 'prejudicial to the claim of God's Church, than a list of rebels can be prejudicial to the royal succession of kings, if by beginning with Oliver Cromwell, a catalogue should be made of all the rebels, that opposed the crown, in every reign since the conquest.

Q. I own these are but scandalous and dirty channels, for conveying the waters of life, and the reformers appear to have dug themselves cisterns, which cannot hold them. But they have still another way of maintaining their succession: they might lurk invisibly in the body of the universal Church, and as they received the Scriptures with all the necessary points of the Christian religion, excepting the additional articles, and superstitious practices of the Church of Rome; they might claim a succession through that channel.

A. The more the reformers struggle, the more they are entangled. Was there ever any system more inconsistent with itself, and more absurd in all its consequences? A system destructive to all government, both civil and ecclesiastical; a system, that opens a gap to rebellion, disobedience, schism, and heresy; and puts it in the power of any body of men, or even single persons, to justify their defection, both in Church and State. And, in the first place, what proofs are there of this invisible state of the Church? Would it not be a madness to pretend, there is now an invisible army of Spaniards, lurking in our kingdom, without any further proof? But, as they cannot be serious upon this point, as it imports a total invisibility, they have recourse to the members of the Church of Rome, as the channels of truth, and chain of their succession. And pray, how was this ? Why, during those ages, wherein the reformers were destitute of a regular succession of pastors; this want was supplied by popish pastors, who during all those ages, are to be conceived as monsters, consisting of two opposite natures; half papists, and half reformed clergy: if considered as holding all the points essential to Christ's Church, they were reformers and continued the succession as true pastors. If considered as practising, holding and imposing, additional articles contrary to the gospel, they were false teachers, and in that respect, had no succession from the Apostles. Now, reformers claim their succession under the first consideration, and allow popish teachers to have been the channel through which passed all the essentials of the true religion; but now, observe the circumstances of this whimsical succession. Is not the true faith, as much destroyed by additional articles, as by subtracting from them? If the popish pastors, during several ages, imposed additional articles, inconsistent with the true faith, they could not be orthodox teachers. No man can act lawfully without a commission, and what commission can false teachers give, who are themselves without commission? But, the absurdity of this plea, will appear further, when the late reformers fly to the Church of Rome, for their consecration, episcopal, and sacerdotal; such as sufficiently qualifies them to preach and govern the Church. For in the first place, few of them ever pretended to this consecration, being neither bishops, nor priests; others cannot make out their consecration, and scarce any of them esteem that consecration to be necessary. But of what advantage is consecration, in case they could be favored with it? The ancient heretics, viz.: Arians, Donatists, Pelagians, etc., received the orders of espiscopacy, and presbytery, from orthodox pastors, but this gave them no authority, to teach heretical doctrine: and though both they, and the late reformers, receive the Scriptures from the orthodox party, they are not well qualified thereby, to expound it in their own sense. Those who laid hands upon them, gave them no such commission, but, on the contrary, obliged them to submit to the powers that ordained them, both as to jurisdiction, or doctrine.

Q. After all, I do not see why pastors, sufficiently qualified by ordination, parts, learning, and zeal, may not have a right of reforming the church, when those who consecrated them, neglect their duty, which was the pretended case of the reformers, in these latter times. No commission is required to perform good actions; the law and the gospel, gives every man a commission in those circumstances; so that all the noise about succession, is little to the purpose.

A. You now touch the heart of the cause, and the plea has a plausible appearance, but it lays open the nakedness of the pretended reformation, in all its parts. The thing signified by reformation, is making things better. Now the character, parts, and zeal, are very useful qualifications ; yet they are not sufficient, without other ingredients. We are to inquire into their power, what it is that wants reformation ? Their motive, the effects, etc. It is an easy matter to cry out reformation, reformation: but, in the first place, who were to be reformed ? In what were they to be reformed ? Who undertook to reform? What motive had they? What was their method? Did they actually reform the faith of the Church ? This I will inquire into, through each particular; they pretend to reform those to whom Christ had given a special commission to govern and reform others, and to whom he had given frequent promises of his assistance, that they should always teach the truth; so that there could be no occasion for the reformation, unless Christ broke his promise. They pretend to reform the Church, in matters of faith, and points of discipline. As to the first, there could be no occasion for it since Christ has promised in the 16th chapter of St. John, the 28th chapter of St. Matthew, that he, and his holy spirit will abide with his Church, and teach her all truth to the end of the world, and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her; by which it is evident, that she could not err in matters of faith. As to her manners, if there was any occasion, it was to have been done, and was continually done in every age, by councils, general, national and provincial, as it appears by the canons, still extant for that purpose. Nor would our late reformers have done amiss, had they proceeded no further, and observed the usual methods of reforming, and shown due respect to superiors in the undertaking. Those who pretended to reform, were persons of scandalous lives, and such instruments as God never would make use of to carry on a good work. As to their motives, they were avaricious, ambitious, sacrilegious, carnal, and rebellious ; opening a gap to any private person, to reform the established laws, both of Church and State; upon a pretence of errors committed by the supreme powers. Now, whether they actually did reform the Church or no, appears by the consequences. The doctrines they advanced tended to liberty, and vice ; they destroyed all Church authority, and gave it to the laity, contrary to the doctrine of the gospel. The denying of free will, merit of good works, confession, fasting, and decrying of voluntary poverty, chastity, and obedience, were manifest oppositions to a good life ; destroying pious foundations, designed for the poor, and God's service; seizing their lands, and throwing them away among debauched court favorites, were the very reverse of a reformation.

Q. In the next place, you are to satisfy me as to the two other marks of the Church, viz.: Miracles, and the conversion of heathenish nations. And as to the first what is it you call a miracle?

A. It is a surprising work, above the reach of art or nature, and which speaks an almighty power.

Q. A work of that kind cannot be mentioned as a mark of truth, upon several accounts. First, because jugglers are often known to impose upon men by tricks, which appear to be above either art or nature. Secondly, the devil, and wicked persons by combination with him, do often perform surprising things, which fall not under the power either of art or nature, that we can discover. Thirdly, to make wonderful performances a certain mark of truth, or that the divine power is employed in them; we must be capable of discerning how far art and nature can extend in their productions. Again, heathens can work miracles.

A. As to the first, what jugglers perform are easily discovered by the inquisitive and learned, as we find by experience. As to the second, the devil, it is true, has a great insight into both art and nature, and is capable of performing wonderful things, which we cannot account for; but there being many things he cannot effect, and even what wonders he does perform, are always detected, and proved not to be the works of divine power. As to the third, though we cannot dive into all the secrets of art and nature, so as to discover every particular effect, and form a judgment, that it proceeds not from a divine power; yet, there are several performances, which we are sure can have only God for their author, as, namely, raising the dead to life, prophesying, or foretelling future contingencies, and curing distempers, naturally incurable, without any applications either from art or nature. As for miracles being performed by heathens, and heretics, they were commonly detected to be impostures, and not miracles: and though God should have made use of such instruments, to perform miracles; yet we never find he did it in confirmation of their doctrine.

Q. What construction then do you put upon the wonders, performed by Pharaoh's magicians, by Simon Magus, by Apollonius Tyaneus, and those that antichrist will perform ? These are to be performed to confirm the doctrine he will teach.

A. Great numbers will be carried away by them, not merely by the force of those proofs, but by blindness, and obstinacy, in punishment of sin: for God never permits false prophets and magicians, but he raises up the workers of miracles to oppose them> and detect their forgery. Moses and Aaron detected Pharaoh's magicians; St. Peter detected Simon Magus, and Enoch and Elias will confront antichrist. So that as God's power is employed in working true miracles, his goodness and justice interpose to detect false ones.

Q. When miracles are true, and done by the power of God, all the world must confess, Protestants as well as Catholics, Jews and heath- 1 ens themselves; that those who work miracles to confirm their doctrine, are true Apostles, and that the faith they teach is true: for miracles are certainly a divine attestation of truth, and as such are urged in the Scriptures both old and new, appealed to by Christ himself, as a testimony greater than that of St. John, to prove himself the Messiah. St. John v. 33, 36. And by St. Paul, as the signs and seal of his Apostleship. 2 Cor. xii. 12. And if it were once clearly proved, that you have had any of these extraordinary persons in the Church of Rome, professing the faith of that Church, who have been workers of miracles, like Christ and the Apostles, in curing the sick, the lame, the blind, and raising the dead to life; we should be worse than infidels, if we did not own the Church of Rome to be the true Church, and the Roman faith the true faith. Have you any authority that may be depended upon, that such miracles have been done by the saints of your communion ?

A. We have as good authority for the truth of many surprising miracles, done by such as believed and preached the Roman faith, as can be had for the truth of any historical fact: for instance, the miracles wrought by St. Augustine, our Apostle, at the conversion of England, in confirmation of the Roman Catholic faith, viz.: The mass, transubstantiation, invocation of saints, prayer for the dead, etc., attested by venerable Bede, and all our Chronicles; Hollingshead, Stow, Goodwin, and others. The miracles done at St. Stephen's relics, related at full length by St. Augustine the Great (L. xx. de Civ. Dei. Chap. 8.) as an eyewitness to many of them: and can any one doubt, but St. Stephen himself, as well as St. Augustine, the relater of these miracles, preached the same faith as those persons did, who came to venerate his relics, and implore his intercession, for the cure of their sick, and raising of their dead? The public miracles done by St. Bernard, (before thousands of people), preaching the Roman Catholic faith against the Henricians, and Albigenses, who were a branch of the Manichean's sect; attested by all the histories of those times. The miracles done by St. Dominick, and St. Francis; one the founder of the Dominican, the other of the Franciscan Order, both strongly united to the Church and See of Rome; related by St. Antoninus.(Hist Part. ii. L. 23.) The miracles done by St. Francis Xaverius at the conversion of the Indies: Mr. Pory of Cambridge, in his Geographical Dictionary, page 410, witnessing, that this great saint and Jesuit, and preacher of the Roman Catholic faith, did miraculously cure the deaf, the dumb, the lame, the blind, the sick, and raised the dead to life. In a word, a volume would not suffice to relate the miracles done by the saints of our communion; public, certain, uncontested, and prodigious miracles; the truth whereof is so undoubted, that they are published to the world for truth by Protestants themselves, as may be seen in the Protestant Centuriators of Magdeburg, in the 13th chapter of their history of every century. The truth of these miracles, the learned part of Protestants own, and the most incredulous part, have nothing to object against them, but what might formerly with as good reason, have been objected by the Jews and heathens, against the miracles of Christ and the Apostles: for all they can say against them is, that they are reported by Catholics, and that they will not believe Catholics : and may not Jews and heathens say, that the miracles of Christ and his Apostles, were reported by Christians, and that they will not believe Christians: whereas miracles being facts, can have no other proof but the credit of historians, to recommend the truth of them: they being the last and highest proof of doctrine, can have no other proof for themselves but the evidence of sense, to those who saw them done, and their testimony and report to others. In the proof of miracles, no one can go higher than to make it appear by the most creditable authors; that such miraculous things were done, at such a time and place, in the sight of whole multitudes of people; by which means we may be as certain of the truth of a miracle, as of any other fact we see or hear. Cannot I prudently believe such persons, as St. Antoninus, venerable Bede, St. Augustine the Great, St. Ambrose, etc.? On the other hand, if such men may be reputed forgers, this will overthrow the credit of those men, and writings, which convey all the proofs we have for the miracles of the primitive Christians, and the divine establishment of the Christian religion; either then own our miracles to be true, or if you take the liberty to give the lie to all the world, who attest the truth of them; any one inclined to be an infidel, may with as good reason question all the facts, by which the Christian religion is proved to be divine; or any other facts, under pretence that there is no geometrical or metaphysical certainty for such things. In a word, we have all the evidence that the nature of miracles can admit of; the highest human testimony that can be had for the truth of them, and all the authority that can be had for the truth of any; and he that requires more, is a prejudiced and unreasonable man.

Q. It only remains, concerning the marks of the Church that you add a word or two, of the conversion of infidels, which appears to me an unquestionable proof, if the facts be true. And in the first place, let me understand the nature of this argument; what nations have been converted, and who were the instruments employed by Almighty God in that great work?

A. The propagation of the Christian religion, has always been looked upon as an undeniable effect of divine power, as the circumstances plainly declare. The persons first employed, were unqualified as to any human means. The doctrine they established was directly opposite to the interest and affections of all mankind, and the method they made use of, in all appearance, was destructive to the cause they undertook ; the Apostles were persons without power, interest or learning, the doctrine they taught was a denial of all the pleasures of life; and the conquest they gained, was by being overcome, and being put to death by their enemies, so that nothing but the force of truth, and justice of their cause, could prevail upon mankind, and bring about their conversion. As to the truth of the fact, it depends upon historical credit, which informs us, that there were such persons as Christ and his Apostles, and that by their means such a conversion was made.

Q. All this must be owned by every party that professes itself Christian, but the Apostles not living long enough to complete the work, how was it carried on ? The heathenish worship was the prevailing religion, for three hundred years after, in all parts of the world, and in some nations nothing was done, in order to their conversion, till several ages after.

A. What you have insinuated is very much to our present purpose. Christianity was but gradually propagated, during the first three hundred years after Christ; and even after that time, only few nations entirely embraced it. The remaining part of the labor, was undertaken and completed by persons in communion with the See of Rome, who professed the same doctrine, that is now taught by Roman Catholics. The conversion from Paganism to Christianity, is entirely owing to them; they were the instruments employed in converting the French, Spaniards, English, as also Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and all the principalities of Germany; and of late years, persons of the same religion, have brought to the Christian faith infinite numbers of the inhabitants of both the East and West Indies.