Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 119.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

The Bones Of St. Peter

It follows, secondly, from the first part of the distinction, that both the first reformers were inexcusable for beginning, and that the Churches established by them can give no satisfactory reasons for continuing their separation from the Church of Rome. For how can they justify their separation from her, if she be orthodox in all fundamentals, that is, in all points necessary to salvation ? The ground of this query is, because in matters of religion (the end whereof is the salvation of souls) nothing is of any solid weight, or moment, but what has a reference to this end. Which made our Saviour say, that " there is but one thing necessary;" and without all dispute, salvation is this one thing. And therefore since, according to the Protestant distinction, all things necessary to salvation, are to be found in the Roman Catholic Church, there can be nothing to give a just pretence to a breach of communion, and separation from her. For is it any ways justifiable to raise, or maintain a schism from a Church, which has all means necessary to salvation infallibly secured to her? This cannot hold with any manner of reason, if we consider the nature of schism, how fatal its consequences are, and that even the sin of rebellion in a government is seldom attended with so great a train of evils, as a schism in the Church. Now, the very greatest advocates for rebellion, will scarce allow it to be justifiable in any other case, than when the very constitution, and fundamental laws of the kingdom are invaded. For then the sovereigns may be said to err in fundamentals. But all faults in governments of an inferior nature are sufficient even to give a colorable pretence to the sin of rebellion against a lawful sovereign.

Let us apply this to schism, which is a rebellion against the Church, and as heinous in its nature, as that against the State: and, therefore, ought to have at least as just a pretence to color it: so that, if it were possible for the Church to err in fundamentals, it is the only case, in which a schism would be justifiable: because in any other case, the remedy is worse than the disease. And if this be so in all schisms whatsoever, that, which was caused by the leaders of the reformation, and threw all Europe into disorder and confusion, is much less capable of being justified upon any other grounds.

Whoever is the least versed in history, cannot be ignorant of the deplorable calamities both in Church and State, to which it gave birth: as subjects revolting from their sovereigns: the empire torn to pieces, by the different factions of princes, either opposing, or espousing the cause of Martin Luther. The kingdom of France engaged by the Huguenots in a bloody civil war for many years: sacred places profaned, religious houses pillaged and burnt, the revenues of the Church seized by the secular power, thousands of families utterly ruined; and, in a word, all the scenes of horror and desolation, which an obstinate and bloody war, carried on by parties mutually incensed can produce, were the fruits of this fatal schism. Nay, has it not been even of late years, the occasion of bloodshed in several parts of Europe? And is it possible, the dreadful profanations I have mentioned, and the spilling of so much Christian blood, should have no other pretence to justify it, than the interest of a few speculative questions, or points of religion, not at all fundamental, or in any manner necessary to salvation. 

The Bones Of St. Peter
Truly, were I to have judged of the importance of the cause, from its dismal effects, I should have concluded without hesitation, that the very essentials of religion were at stake in those unhappy times: that the Church was threatened with nothing less than a total subversion: in a word, that Christianity was upon the point of being abolished, and the alcoran just going to take place of the bible. For then I should not have been surprised to see all Europe in a flame, and prodigal of its best blood, for the defence of so great and good a cause. But, God be praised, the Protestant distinction has prevented all such mistakes. Christianity never was in danger, the bible is yet safe in Catholic hands, and all the fundamentals of religion stand firm. The very enemies of the Roman Catholic Church, declare, she has never erred in fundamentals, that is, in any point necessary to salvation. And what can they desire more? What reasonable grounds can there be for a schism? Why are the members of that Church persecuted ! Why are they deprived of their birthright, and the privileges of all other subjects? Why are Jews, Quakers and Anabaptists preferred before them ? Since they teach nothing that is contrary to salvation ? For is not eternal salvation, and all means necessary to it, sufficient to answer all the ends and purposes of religion?

But can any of the reformed churches promise themselves as much ? There are some weighty reasons for the negative. First, they are all fallible ; and may, therefore, be mistaken in their belief, that they want nothing necessary to salvation. Secondly, They have the whole body of Roman Catholics, all the world over, against them; and their judgment is not without weight. Thirdly, Their very owning that salvation is attainable in the Roman Catholic Church, is a strong proof of their being excluded from it. For, since St. Paul has positively declared these two things, namely, that there is but " one faith," because God cannot reveal contradictories: and that "without faith it is impossible to please God," I cannot see how they, who own salvation possible in the Church of Rome, which, therefore, has the faith required by St. Paul, can flatter themselves with the hopes of it in any other communion ; since all other Churches, by continuing in their schism, break that unity of faith, which St. Paul requires, as necessary to please God; and by consequence, to salvation.