Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 126.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

The truth of the whole matter is this. The compilers of the thirty-nine articles had a hard task to perform. Something was to be said of course, concerning the Church's authority. But it was dangerous to say too much, for fear of running insensibly into the Popish error of infallibility : which would have ruined the whole pretence of the reformation. They were, therefore, under an unhappy necessity of building with one hand, and pulling down with the other. And so they first granted, " that the Church has authority in controversies of faith." For to set up a Church, without giving her any authority at all, would not have looked decent. This, therefore, had a handsome appearance. But lest this concession should render the first reformers wholly inexcusable, in not having submitted to that authority in their mother-Church, they took care, that the very next lines tacked to it should give it a mortal stab; by insinuating, that the Church is not incapable of the grossest errors both in doctrine and practice. In practice, by ordaining things contrary to the word of God: and in doctrine, by expounding one place in Scripture so, that it be repugnant to the other. Which, though it was chiefly designed for an innuendo, that the Church of Rome had been guilty of both; yet every one may without much logic, conclude from it, that the Church of England, which is directly spoken of in the article, is no less fallible, than her mother-Church was supposed to be; and by consequence, if her own children should judge her guilty of errors, they have the same title to reform her, as she had to reform the Church of Rome. For what was warrantable in her, cannot be unwarrantable in them; according to the old proverb, " what is sauce for a goose is sauce for a gander." Nay, the thing has already happened; for the Presbyterians, Quakers, and Independents, who pretend to have several articles of impeachment against her, have effectually separated themselves from her communion on that score : and let any man then judge, whether this does not render all Church authority precarious.

But God forbid the Church of Christ should be suspected capable of such an absurdity, as to make the word of God contradict itself. Nay, whatever Church is capable of it, is manifestly convicted not to be of divine extraction, but of a spurious breed. She has too much of an earthly complexion to be the beautiful spouse of Christ: neither has the spirit of truth, but the father of lies for her guide. The Church of Christ is the " pillar and ground of truth," according to St. Paul. She is without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, according to the same Apostle. Christ " has espoused her to himself for ever;" Osea ii. And the spouse of Christ cannot be an adulteress, but is incorrupt and pure, according to St. Cyprian.

This made St. Augustin depend so entirely upon her authority, that he declared, " he would not believe the gospels themselves, unless the authority of the Church induced him to it;" Contra Epist Fund. c. 4. And since he received the Scriptures themselves barely upon her authority, it cannot be doubted, but he believed, she might likewise be safely trusted with the interpretation of their true sense and meaning. So that this learned and ancient father was not for precautioning his readers with suppositions, that she could "ordain any thing contrary to the word of God, or make Scriptures contradict themselves." Nay, in the heat of his zeal for the Church of God, he would have called it u an abominable and accursed calumny, full of presumption and deceit; void of all truth, wisdom and reason; idle, rash, and pernicious;" Enar. 2. in Psalm 101. And therefore to confound all such injurious suppositions, and show the entire confidence he had in his guide, he made the aforementioned declaration; which though it raises the Church's authority to its highest pitch, it only places it upon its true and proper basis.