Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 113.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

What reason, then, is there to think, that Christ should withdraw his divine spirit from the Church at a time, when his assistance was most needful to her ? Or that the engagement of an unlimited, and unconditional promise should ever become void, whilst the sole end and motive of it was not only fully subsisting, but rather more pressingly calling upon it, than at first ? Or must we accuse Christ of inconstancy, and say he was less tender of his Church in process of time, than when he espoused her first, and sealed the contract with his precious blood? If so, then St. Paul made choice of a very improper pattern to set before the Ephesian husbands, in exhorting them " to love their wives as Christ loved his Church." Eph. v. v. 25. But St. Paul remembered these words of Hosea: " I will espouse thee to me forever—I will espouse thee to me in faith." Hos. ii. v. 19, 20, and therefore, hazarded nothing in recommending the love of Christ to his Church, as a perfect pattern of a constant and unchangeable love; of which it would come very short, if he should ever leave her to be corrupted and adulterated with false doctrine, as Protestants say he has.

But St. Paul foresaw no such change. He doubted not, but Christ would be forever faithful to his spouse; and as the most effectual pledge of his love, " present her to himself without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Eph. v. v. 27. He therefore, calls the Church, "the pillar and ground of truth." 1 Tim. iii. v. 15, which would be flatly false, if she were capable of teaching anything contrary to God's revealed word. For the same reason, Christ himself has declared, that "he, who will not hear the Church, shall be reputed as a heathen and a publican." Matt, xviii. v. 17. And can any man deserve these infamous characters, for not hearing a Church, that shall teach false doctrine ? Finally, for the same reason, Christ has pronounced, that, "he who believes shall be saved, and he who believes not shall be damned." Mark xvi. v. 16. But what is it we are bound to believe under pain of eternal damnation ? It is, doubtless, the doctrine of that Church, which Christ established on earth: for there can be no other true one. And is it possible, that Christ should oblige mankind under pain of eternal damnation, to believe a Church, which he foresaw, would seduce them in process of time ? Shall a man be damned for not believing a seducer?

This implies a contradiction to another part of Christ's own doctrine, who expressly commands us " to beware of false prophets." Matt, vii. v. 15. For if we are bound to beware of them, and yet the Church herself may turn false prophet, and mislead us; then we are both commanded to beware of her, and at the same time, threatened with eternal damnation, if we refuse to believe her. What strange stuff is this! What incoherence do men run themselves into, when they once abandon the truth? But Christ in commanding us to beware of false prophets, has set a mark of infamy upon all broachers of new doctrine to distinguish them from his Church, which therefore, he commands us to believe under pain of eternal damnation; and by laying this command upon us, he showed plainly, that it was his intention to establish an infallible Church upon earth: a Church, that should be a safe and unerring guide, to those who followed her doctrine: finally, a Church, that should be taught and guided by the spirit of truth, even unto the end of the world.

Thus we see the many sacred testimonies, upon which the belief of an infallible Church is founded. I know very well, that no text of holy scripture is so clear, but persons of much wit and little sincerity, may find interpretations to perplex it, or set it in a false light. The true sense of it, may be eluded by precarious distinctions, or perverted by false glosses: as scarce any man can express himself so clearly, but wit and malice may put a misconstruction upon his words. But the question is not, whether the texts I have produced, may with some pain and study, be interpreted otherwise, than the Roman Catholic Church has always understood them, but whether in their natural, obvious, and literal sense, they do not lead an unbiased reader to the idea and belief of an infallible Church? This certainly is a point, which deserves to be taken seriously into consideration, by all sincere lovers of truth.