Friday, 22 July 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 115.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada


In the beginning of the sixteenth century, that is, just before the pretended reformation, the article of infallibility was believed and professed by the whole Catholic Church. And the Church of England, in her homily, concerning the peril of idolatry, third part, (of which we shall have more hereafter) tells us, that Popery had then been the religion of whole Christendom for eight hundred years and more. This brings the doctrine of infallibility, which is an essential part of Popery, as high as the seventh century. Here, then, Protestants are obliged to show, in which of the preceding ages, this doctrine was first broached, and regarded by the Church as a novelty. For if they cannot, they must confess it to be derived from the Apostles themselves.

But I shall save them this fruitless labor, by showing, that it was taught in the primitive ages. The Church of England has received the four first general councils, act. 1. EHz. c. 1. The first of which was held, an. 325, and the last of them, an. 451. Now let us see whether these councils, which were the representatives of the Catholic Church, were not held to be infallible in their decisions of faith, St. Greg. Epist. 24, speaks thus of all four together: "I do profess to reverence the first four councils, as I reverence the four first books of the gospel." And I presume St. Gregory believed the gospels to be infallible in their doctrine. St. Leo, Epist. 73, says, u the council of Calcedon, was assembled by the Holy Ghost." St. Cyril, Epis. and Anast. writes thus of the council of Ephesus: " How can it be doubted that Christ did preside in that holy and great council ?" And St. Athanasius, ad Episc. Afric. says, "the word of God by the Nicene council does remain forever." This, certainly, is the language of persons believing the Church to be infallible in the decisions of her representatives, the general councils. Let us now see what the Fathers have written of the Church in general.

St. Irenaeus, who lived in the age immediately after Christ and his Apostles, has the following words, Lib. iii. c. 4: " Truth is not to be sought from others, which you have easily from the Church; with whom the Apostles have fully deposited all truth; that whosoever desires it, may have from it the living waters." ' This cannot be said of a Church, that is capable of leading her children into errors. For a Church, that can err, has not all truth deposited with her.

St. Cyprian, who lived in the third century, writes thus: "Christ in the gospel, when his disciples went away from him, as he was speaking, turning to the twelve, said: What! will you also leave me? Peter answered him: ' Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe, and have known, that thou art the Son of the living God.' Peter speaks there, upon whom the Church was built, declaring in the name of the Church, that though great numbers of such stubborn and self-willed people, as will not submit, become deserters, yet the Church will never fall from Christ: Which Church is the people united to the priest; and the flock following their Pastor." Cypr. epist. 69, ad Florentium Papinimum.

Again. Lib. de Unit. Eccl. "The Church having received the light of Christ, spreads its rays through the whole world. Yet it is one light, which is thus diffused. Neither is the unity

of the body at all injured by it. By her fertility, her branches reach over the earth, and every place is watered by her copious streams ; yet there is but one head, and one fountain, one mother rich in her numerous issue. By her fruitfulness we are born ; we are nourished with her milk, and we are enlivened by her spirit. The spouse of Christ cannot be an adulteress; she is uncorrupt and pure. She knows but one house, and with a chaste modesty secures the sanctity of one chamber. She it is, that preserves us for heaven; and gives to her children, whom she has brought forth, the inheritance of a crown.

If St. Cyprian's testimony be of any weight, we have here the doctrine of infallibility clearly taught by him. He tells us, in the first passage, " that the Church will never fall from Christ." Therefore, she will always maintain the doctrine, which Christ has taught. And, in the second, " that the spouse of Christ cannot become an adulteress, but that she is uncorrupt and pure. Therefore, she cannot be corrupted with false doctrine; which is just what Roman Catholics now believe and teach.

St. Cyril of Alexandria. Dial de Trin. Lib. 4, writes thus: " He gave the name of rock to nothing else, but the unshaken and constant faith of the disciple: on which, the Church of Christ is so settled and established, as never to fall, but to bear up against the gates of hell, and so to remain for ever."

The first part of this passage, is very much magnified by Protestant writers, against St. Peter's supremacy. But this being foreign to my subject, I shall only throw a rub in their way, and so proceed. As St. Cyril says, "that Christ gave the name of the rock to nothing else but the unshaken and constant faith of St. Peter;" so St. Jerome, Epist. 61, ad Pammachium, says as expressly, " that it was not St. Peter's body, but his faith, that walked upon the waters, T. 2. p. 254. Now both these fathers waived the literal meaning of the scriptural text, and delivered only the allegorical, or causal sense of it; as being fittest for their purpose, when they wrote. And in that sense their expressions were not improper; because St, Peter's faith was the only meritorious cause both of his walking upon the waters, and of Christ's promise, that his Church should be built upon him. And, therefore, as it would be impertinent to conclude from St. Jerome's words, that St. Peter's body, or person, did not walk upon the waters ; so it does not very much recommend the good sense of Protestant writers to conclude from St. Cyril's words, that he intended to exclude St. Peter's person from being the rock, upon which Christ promised to build his Church.