Friday, 26 August 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 136.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

First, It being a principle of Protestancy, as well as Popery, that Christ alone has the power of instituting sacraments; because he alone can appoint proper instruments to convey his grace to our souls: if Protestancy, which allows but of two sacraments, was the religion taught by the Apostles, and established in the infancy of the Church, I leave any man of common sense to judge, whether five new ones, never heard of in the time of the Apostles, could have been afterwards imposed upon the Church, and rendered an article of her faith without the greatest difficulty, and the most vigorous opposition at least for some time. Would not every good Protestant bishop have immediately stood in the gap, and cried out against such a monstrous innovation? Would they not have written against it, and alleged, that Christ had instituted but two sacraments, that the Apostles never had preached but two, that the number precisely of two, and no more had been handed down to them by the immediate successors of the Apostles; and that, therefore, no human power could make any addition to it without impiety and sacrilege? Finally, would they not have stigmatized the first authors of such an innovation, and cut them off from the communion of the Church? It is certainly most rational to judge, that the bishops and pastors then in being, if they were of the religion which Protestants now confess, would have exerted their utmost zeal and authority in a case of that importance; unless we suppose they were all lain asleep with opium; or doated, and knew nothing of the matter; for no man hitherto has ever heard or read one word of any opposition, or resistance made to the coining of any one of the five sacraments, which are now denied by Protestants; or of any disturbance, that has ever happened in the Church about it. Very strange I That such a change should ever happen without noise, or trouble; or if there were disturbances about it, that no historian should give us any information of it!

Secondly: I should be glad to know, by what secret charm the mass got admittance into the universal Church; if it was neither instituted by Christ, nor introduced by the practice of the Apostles themselves. For, if the popish doctrine relating to it, viz.: " That it is a true sacrifice, or an external oblation of the real body and blood of Christ, under the forms of bread and wine, ordained by Christ himself at his last supper: "If this, I say, be false doctrine, we cannot doubt, but that the Apostles, and their immediate successors were wholly strangers to it; and that by consequence, none of the primitive bishops, or priests ever said mass, as being all true Protestants in this, as well as other articles of faith.

Here, then, lies the stress of the difficulty, viz.: How all the bishops and priests in the world having been brought up, as we must suppose, in the principles of the Protestant religion, and, by consequence, in a total ignorance both of the doctrine and use of the mass, should afterwards not only unanimously agree to embrace this new scheme of religious worship, but even to regard it as the most sacred and solemn part of the public devotion of the Church. What I could all this be done without contradiction, noise, or trouble. Or, if there were contentions, schisms, and disputes about it, as it is morally impossible, but there must have been, unless the whole thing be a fiction, could events of that importance escape the notice of all historians! v But thirdly: Sacramental-confession, has its peculiar difficulty. For it is not a mere speculative point, but of all practical duties "the most repugnant to human nature; and I dare say no man would ever have submitted to it, who was not first convinced, that he could not be saved without it. But what increases the difficulty of introducing the practice of it, is, that no dignity, whether in Church, or state, ever exempted any member of the Church of Rome from the obligation of it. All bishops, kings, and princes, nay emperors and popes themselves, have an equal share in the burden, with the very meanest of the laity. They must all fall prostrate at the feet of their confessors, discover their most hidden sins, submit them to their censure, and perform the penance enjoined them.

Now, if this was not the doctrine of the Apostles; if all the popes and bishops of the primitive Church were brought up in the principles of the reformation; finally, if the obligation of auricular confession be a popish error, and was, by consequence, unknown to antiquity; then I cannot forbear asking this question, which of the two is the most surprising, the extravagance of those, who first took a fancy to impose this heavy yoke both on themselves and others, or the weakness of those, who submitted to it ? For, that it was effectually submitted to, is plain matter of fact. But since the very attempt of introducing a novelty (if it really was one) so burdensome and odious, was no better than a mad and extravagant undertaking, can any one imagine it met not with very great opposition in the beginning, and put the whole Church into disorder and confusion ? Is it not natural to suppose, that both the laity and clergy rose up in defence of the Christian liberty, their fore-fathers had enjoyed; and alleged that since all Christians before them had been saved without stooping to the yoke of confession, they saw no reason, but they might be saved upon the same easy terms? And would not all these particulars (had they really happened) have been recorded in some history of note ? Truly, whoever believes the contrary, is capable of swallowing any improbability whatsoever.

This, therefore, is an incontestable truth, viz.: that a change from Protestancy to Popery, in the particulars, I have specified, could not be effected without great opposition, nor, by consequence, without occasioning troubles and schisms in the Church. For further proof whereof, let us suppose, that a set of men should at present attempt to introduce the number of seven sacraments, the mass, auricular confession, or any noted branch of Popery, into the Church of England; and I appeal to the judgment of all men in their senses, whether those religious zealots would not meet with a very warm opposition from all the bishops, and the whole English clergy.