Monday, 25 July 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 117.


REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

THEY, who in spite of the most solemn promises of Christ, are resolved that there shall be no such thing as an infallible Church, have found out two ways to elude the force of them: 1. By tacking a condition to all God's promises, which shall be fully answered hereafter. And, 2. By distinguishing between fundamentals and non-fundamentals; whereby they pretend to baffle all the evidence Catholics produce to prove their point.

They say, then, that the promises of Christ, as also the words of St. Paul, regard only such articles of faith, as are fundamental, that is, absolutely necessary to salvation, according to their system. And so they allow the Church to be infallible in them, but not in other points, which are not fundamental.

With this distinction, they think themselves safely entrenched; though it be in reality using the word of God as familiarly as a logical question, in which any precarious distinction is laid hold of, that but serves to stave off an argument, and keep the defendant from being non-plus'd. But surely some more respect is due to the sacred word of God; and before a person undertakes to limit the sense of it, he ought to consider very seriously, whether such a limitation be grounded in the word of God itself; whether he offers no violence to the text, by wresting it from the sense intended by the Holy Ghost, to one prompted by the prejudice of a party-cause; whether his interpretation be in any manner agreeable to the sense of the ancient Church. Finally, whether by so limiting the word of God, he will not draw on himself this curse pronounced by St. John, in his Revelations, "If any one shall add unto these things, God will add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of this book, God will take away his part out of the book of life." Rev. xxii. v. J 8. If the enemies of infallibility had taken these precautions to heart, we should never have been acquainted with their distinction between fundamentals and non-fundamentals. For it is not only without any ground in the sacred text, but a mere forced interpretation upon it. However, I presume it is to the first part of this distinction we are principally indebted for that charity which Protestants so much boast of, in allowing salvation to be attainable, and by consequence, all means necessary to it to be found in the Church of Rome. Antonius de Dominis, an apostate Archbishop of Spalatro, is said to have first imported this contraband merchandise into England, and it was greedily taken up, and is used by many Protestant writers. Dr. Potter tells us, p. 63, " That the most necessary and fundamental truths, which constitute a church, are on both sides unquestioned." Dr. Stillingfleet assures us likewise in his u rational account of the grounds of the Protestant religion'' p. 54, that "the Church of England makes no articles of faith, but such as have the testimony and approbation of the whole Christian world of all ages, and are acknowledged to be such by Rome itself." And Mr. Thorndike, in his Epilogue, p. 146, says: "I must, and do freely profess, that I find no position necessary to salvation prohibited, none destructive to salvation enjoined to be believed by the Church of Rome."

This important concession (which will always rise up in judgment against reformed churches) extorted from our adversaries by the evidence of truth, was but a few years ago confirmed in the most solemn and authentic manner, by the Protestant university of Helmstat, (April 28, anno 1707) upon occasion of the match proposed between the princess of Wolfembuttel, and the emperor Charles; who insisted upon this condition, that the princess, who was a Protestant, should conform to the Church of Rome. Whereupon, the duke her father, sent the divines of Helmstat, to have their decision of the following case, viz.: " Whether a Protestant princess, who is to be married to a Catholic prince, may with a safe conscience embrace the Roman Catholic religion ? " And their decision, which is contained in a large printed sheet, begins thus :

"We answer, that the question propounded, cannot be solved solidly, without deciding first, whether, or no, the Catholics are in fundamental errors, or such as are inconsistent with salvation ? Or, which amounts to the same, whether the constitution of the Romish Church be such, as one may practice in it the true worship of God, and attain to salvation ? Our answer to this second query, on which the first depends, is without hesitation in the affirmative, for these three reasons."

Then they proceed to expound their reasons, which are too long for me to insert. But the following words are remarkable: " Neither can it be deemed, that the Romish Church is not a true Church, wherein the ministry of God's word, and the use of sacraments subsists. For, if she were no more, or had never been a true Church, all her members would be in a state of damnation, and irrevocably lost; which none amongst us would dare to advance. Nay, Melancthon himself has maintained, that the Roman Church, did not cease being the true Church," etc., and towards the end, I find this paragraph : " Having demonstrated, that the foundation of religion subsists in the Roman Catholic Church, so that one may be orthodox, and live and die well, and obtain salvation in it, it is easy to decide the question propounded." They, therefore gave their judgment, that the princess of Wolfem-buttel might safely change her religion, and become a member of the Church of Rome, to qualify herself for her marriage.

Here we have the judgment of a whole Protestant university given on a very solemn occasion, 1. That the true worship of God is practised in the Church of Rome. 2. That she never ceased to be a true Church, for which we quote Melancthon's authority. 3. That her members may be orthodox, and live and die well, and obtain salvation. Nay, that none amongst them dare maintain, that the members of the Church of Rome are in a state of damnation. And all this they infer from this avowed principle, viz.: " Because that Church was never guilty of any fundamental error."