Friday, 29 July 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 121.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada


The second part of the distinction denies the Church to be infallible in points that are not fundamental. This I shall prove to be a contradiction to the word of God. First, it is inconsistent with our Saviour's promise, " that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Because the gates of hell would prevail effectually against the Church, if she should ever fall into any heresy, let that heresy be what it will.

It is true, some heresies strike more directly at the root of Christianity than others, and those may be called fundamental heresies. But every heresy, whether it be fundamental, or not, destroys all divine faith; so that if the Church should teach any one point of doctrine, contrary to the revealed word of God (which I call heresy) she would lose all faith; she would be no longer the Church of Christ, but the school of Satan, and the gates of hell would prevail against her. For the devil is certainly the " father of lies," and much more of heresy, which is the worst of lies, because it gives the lie to the revealed word of God. And would not then the devil prevail against the Church, if he made her become the mother of lies, and even of such lies, as are a contradiction to God's own word ? I think the matter will bear no manner of dispute.

Nor is it anything to the purpose, whether the lie be in a matter, or relating to an object, that is fundamental, or not. Because whatever its immediate object be, the whole theological virtue of faith, is as much destroyed by it, as the whole theological virtue of charity is destroyed by any one mortal sin.

To pursue this comparison, which will help to set the matter in a clear and easy light, we may say, that faith is to the Church, what charity is to the soul: and heresy is just as opposite to faith, as mortal sin is to charity. Now, though blasphemy, for example, be a more grievous sin than calumny, yet charity is lost, and the soul receives a mortal wound by the one, as well as the other. In like manner, therefore, though a fundamental heresy, as the denying the divinity of Christ, be more impious with reference to its immediate object, than one that is not fundamental ; yet the one, as well as the other, gives a mortal wound to faith : and, by consequence, if the Church should teach any such heresy, she would be without faith, and the gates of hell would prevail against her; though the immediate object of that heresy, were not relating to any matter of importance, or in itself necessary to salvation.

The principle, whereon this doctrine is founded, is because divine faith is grounded upon revelation, and not upon the importance of its immediate object, or as the belief of that truth, is of itself a means necessary to salvation. As, f<pr instance, it is not a fundamental point, whether Balaam's ass spoke, or not; or whether Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass, or with the jaw-bone of a horse. Mankind without all dispute, might have been saved, though these two scriptural events had never happened. Yet, if I should presume to deny, or dispute either of them, I should be a rank heretic for my pains. Because, by so doing, I should call in question, the whole authority of the Bible ; which, if it can lie in any one point, may do so in all the rest. And so the whole law and prophets would be rendered precarious. Nay, I should lose all divine faith, though I believed every thing else: because faith is not barely a belief of things revealed, but the principal motive of our belief of them must be precisely, because they are revealed. And, therefore, if I deny, or question any one revealed point, though ever so inconsiderable in itself, I believe nothing upon the motive of divine revelation ; and by consequence, my whole faith is destroyed.

Whence it plainly follows, that if the Church should err in any one single point of faith, whether it be fundamental as to its object, or not, she would lose all divine faith, and a Church without divine faith is no longer the Church of Christ. She is no longer that virgin-Church without spot, or blemish, which Christ espoused to himself for ever, but becomes an adulteress, and is delivered up to the power of Satan ; which is a contradiction to what our Saviour has positively promised.

Secondly, It is no less a contradiction to his promise, that "the Holy Ghost shall teach his Church all things." Because this promise is not only without limitation, but is a full answer to any distinction, that puts a limitation upon it. For the word, "all," is comprehensive and universal, including every revealed truth, that comes within the determination of the Church; and to restrain it, is to offer violence to the sense, it naturally imports.

Thirdly, It is a contradiction to St. Paul, saying, that the Church "is the pillar and ground of truth." Because a Church guilty of errors opposite to any revealed truths whatever, whether fundamental, or non-fundamental, cannot be called " the pillar and ground of truth," without violently wresting words v from their obvious and natural signification.

Fourthly, Neither can it easily be reconciled with these words of St. Paul to the Ephesians, iv. ii, 14. "He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. . . . that we be no more like children tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine." For who sees not that this end designed by Christ, is in a manner frustrated by limiting the Church's infallibility, to fundamentals only? Because the number of these being wholly precarious (as I shall show hereafter) if there be no infallible Church to fix our belief in reference to all revealed truths whatsoever, we shall still be children in faith, and " every wind of doctrine " will suffice to toss us from one belief to another.

This appears plainly in the numberless divisions, and diversity of opinions in the reformed churches; not any two of them agreeing in the same system of religion. And it is morally impossible men should agree, when everyone is encouraged by the practice of the very founders of his Church to make his own private judgment the rule and standard of his faith ; and no unerring judge is allowed of to appeal to in doubtful cases.