Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 130.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Since, therefore, the Church in communion with the see of Rome, is acknowledged to have been formerly the true Church, to which all the consequence, that Church, to which all the promises were made; since she was in possession of her title for some ages, nothing less than unquestionable evidence, that she has since changed her faith, can deprive her of it. Nay, this evidence, whether from Scripture, or undeniable tradition, must be so clear, according to St. Austin, that no man can doubt of it. Veritas tarn manifesta, ut in dubium venire non possit. Or (as Dr. Stilling-fleet explains in his rational account, p. 539) " Such as being proposed to any man, and understood, the mind cannot choose but inwardly assent to it." Which the doctor required of all those, that pretended to contradict the decisions of his Church, not reflecting that the first reformers never could produce any such evidence against the Roman Catholic Church. For it would have been very strange indeed, that if there had been any such evidence against her, she should not have seen it for the space of above eight hundred years, in which the book of Protestant homilies allows her to have had possession of whole Christendom before the reformation : and it would be no less strange, that the Roman Catholics in Great Britain should not be clear-sighted enough to perceive it; or if they saw it, that they should not yield to it; when it is so much their interest to do it; and conscience, which would then be on the same side with their interest, would oblige them to it.

I prove it, fourthly: Christ committed his whole flock to St. Peter, and made him a promise, that his Church should be built upon him. Christ, then, has no other Church on earth, than that, which is built upon St. Peter; and to this alone, the promises of a perpetual assistance were made. But no other Church can be said to be built upon St. Peter, than that, which has St. Peter, and his successors for its head; and this no other, than the* Church in communion with the see of Rome, which was St. Peter's seat, as appears from the aforementioned passage of St. Austin, and has always been the episcopal seat of his successors ; therefore, that alone is Christ's infallible Church on earth, as being alone the Church, to which all the promises of a perpetual assistance were made; and to which no separate communion can have any title.

I prove it, fifthly: The infallibility promised by Christ must be lodged either in the Church of Rome, or in some other Church, from which the Church of Rome has separated herself: and then that Church, in which it is lodged, and from whose communion the Church of Rome has separated herself, must in all ages have had a succession of bishops and pastors, teaching a doctrine directly opposite to what is now called Popery. But no history has ever informed us of a Church, wherein there has been a perpetual succession of bishops and pastors teaching a doctrine opposite to that of the Church of Rome, and from whose communion that Church separated herself; nay, the very enemies of our Church confess that " Popery reigned universally and without contradiction for many hundred years," as we shall see in the following chapter: therefore, the infallible Church established by Christ, can be no other than the Church of Rome: which Church alone can truly show a perpetual succession of bishops teaching the same doctrine from age to age, and from which all other Churches went forth, and separated themselves. Unless any one will say, that when children run away from their father's house, the house runs away from them. For in all the changes of religion, that have ever happened, the Church of Rome has acted no other part, than to keep where she was before. And so the change was in those, who fell from the faith they once possessed, but not in the Church, that maintained it.

I prove it, sixthly, and lastly, thus. Towards the end of the sixth century, when St. Gregory sent missionaries to convert England; there was only the Church in communion with the see of Rome (which was the great body of Christians spread over most nations both of the east and west) and some separate communions consisting of the remains of Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Donatists, Pelagians, and such others, who are looked upon as heretics by Protestants themselves. These, therefore, were no part of the true Church of Christ, as being cut off from it. I ask, then, whether Christ had at that time a Church on earth, or not? If not, then whosoever pronounced this article of the Nicene Creed, " I believe One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," made profession of a falsehood; which is absurd. If he had, it was the Church then in communion with the see of Rome: and, therefore, if the Church now in communion with that see be in her faith, the same she was in pope Gregory's time, it follows manifestly, that as she was then, so she is now the only true, and by consequence, infallible Church of Christ on earth.

It remains, then, only to show, that her faith is the same now, as it was then. For proof, whereof we have the concurring testimonies of historians, both Protestant and Catholic; who agree unanimously, that St. Austin brought that religion into England, which is now called Popery. Some Protestants, indeed, are pleased to say, that it was converting England from one idolatry to another. But it is no matter in what language they express it, so they own the fact. Besides, it is notoriously known to all, who have but read the chronicles, that England never changed its faith for nine hundred years. That is, from its conversion to Christianity under pope Gregory, till the twenty-third year of Henry VIII. whom bishop Tillotson styles the postillion of the reformation. It is, therefore, demonstration, that Roman Catholics in Great Britain, hold now the same faith, and profess the same religion, as was planted by St. Austin in England, when it was first converted by him. And, by consequence, as St. Austin was then a member of the true Church of Christ, so Roman Catholics cannot but be so at present.

These surely are arguments enough, both for their number and strength, to prove a thing which will bear no manner of dispute, if there be an infallible Church on earth; as I hope I have proved effectually there is. So that, whoever is convinced of it, must be fond of losing his labor, if he goes about to seek it elsewhere, than in the Roman Catholic Church. It is for this reason, all Protestant writers muster up their whole strength against this article of our faith: and when fair arguing fails them, employ their best talents to ridicule, what they cannot confute. Because, in this dispute their all is at stake: and if this one article be proved against them, the whole reformation falls to the ground of course, as having nothing to support it.

I am sensible, however, I have one powerful enemy to deal with, and but one. I mean the prejudices of education ; which, as they are the strongest bias upon men's judgment, so are they usually of so tenacious a nature, that to reason a person out of a prepossession of a long standing, and deeply imbibed, is almost as hard a task, as it would be to undertake to reason him out of his natural complexion. A Protestant, who from his tender years has been prepossessed against the Church of Rome, and scarce ever heard of her but in libels and invectives against her, will say thus to himself: What! Is it possible, that a Church corrupted with so many errors, as the Church of Rome has always been represented to me, should be infallible in her doctrine! Can such good and learned men as our preachers are, deceive us ! This (though it be no more, than every Jew, or Mahometan may say for himself) especially, if joined with the consideration of interest, which has a very persuasive power, will suffice to frustrate the strongest and clearest proofs.

However, this shall not discourage me from doing justice to an injured Church, or endeavoring to vindicate her from the aspersions her enemies have thrown upon her to color their own apostasy, and separation from her. In order to do it, I shall endeavor to convince the reader, that the pretended errors laid to her charge, are really and truly the ancient faith of the Church : that is, the doctrine taught by Christ and his apostles. For proof whereof, I shall demonstrate that no Church, teaching a doctrine opposite to the pretended errors of the Church of Rome, ever appeared in the world before her. For if this can be made evident, it will follow, first, That the pretended errors of the Church of Rome have antiquity on their side; which is one necessary mark of truth: Because all truths belonging to the Christian faith, being derived from Christ himself, and his Apostles, must of necessity be more ancient than their opposite errors. It will follow, secondly, That the doctrine of the reformation came too late into the world, to be the doctrine of the Apostles. By the doctrine of the reformation I mean every branch of it, that is opposite to what is now called Popery.