Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 138.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada


Though the gentlemen of the reformation may find it too hard a task to inform us how Popery in general got into the Church, they may, perhaps, be able to give us a better account of some particular branches of it. I shall, therefore, to avoid being tedious, choose only one of the three, I have already spoken of. I mean the mass: which being the most solemn worship both of the Greek and Latin Church, could not easily steal into the world without being perceived, if it had not its beginning from Christ and his Apostles. I must likewise observe, that the mass is, in the opinion of most Protestants, the very rankest part of Popery, and the most hated by them; witness the sanguinary laws, made against it in Queen Elizabeth's time. And therefore, if Protestancy was established in the world before Popery, I leave any man of sense to judge whether the mass could get admittance without the greatest difficulty and resistance imaginable.

However, I shall give one remarkable positive proof of its antiquity: And I make choice of it, because every Englishman, who has but read the chronicles, will easily apprehend the force of it. England was converted from Saxon paganism to Christianity towards the end of the sixth century; that is, about five hundred years before the Norman conquest, and about nine hundred years before the reformation. The persons who converted it were sent from Rome by pope Gregory the Great; and we may be sure preached and established the religion of the place from whence they came; which at that time flourished in all parts of the Christian world. The religion they brought over with them, continued in England without any alteration from its first establishment till the pretended reformation: as the book of Homilies plainly owns in telling us that before the reformation, " whole Christendom had been drowned in abominable idolatry for the space of eight hundred years, and more: " for I presume England was a part of the Christendom it speaks of.

Hence, it follows, first, that as Popery was the religion of England in the beginning of the reformation, so it was that very religion to which it was converted nine hundred years before by St. Austin, and his fellow-missioners.

It follows, secondly, that the mass and Christianity came together into England. Because, as I have already observed, it cannot be doubted but that they, who brought their religion from Rome, and received all their directions from thence, as St. Austin and his fellow-laborers did even in things of much less moment, (witness holy Bede's history of England) it cannot be doubted, I say, but they established the same form of worship in England, as was practised at Rome.

Now, that mass was at that time said at Rome, is manifest from St, Greg. 8, Horn, upon the Gospels, where we find these remarkable words: Quia largienti domino missarum solemnia ter hodie celebraturi sumus, loqui diu de evangelica lectione non possumus. That is, " Since, God willing, I shall say mass thrice to-day, I cannot be very long in my discourse upon the Gospel." This was spoken by St. Gregory on Christmas Day; which is the only day in the whole year, on which every Roman Catholic priest says mass thrice. And it is an unanswerable proof, that the mass so well established in the Church of Rome at the time when England was converted, that even the custom of saying three masses on Christmas day, which is but a point of discipline, was then observed in that Church.

But it follows, thirdly, that at the time, when England was converted, the mass was the public worship of the whole Christian Church. Because we read no where, that there was any schism, or disagreement about that article in pope Gregory's time.

Here, then, we have a clear and intelligible account that the mass was established in the whole Christian Church, nine hundred years before the refonnation ; and so well established that no man can with any color, or probability of reason pretend it was then a new thing: and if any one should pretend it, I can produce unquestionable authority to disprove him.

The most ancient of the fathers have left us an account of the manner of celebrating mass in their times. As St. Justinus, Martyr, Apol. 2. The author of the apostolic constitutions, L. 2. c. 57, and L. 8. c. 5. et seq. St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catech. 5, Mystag. Besides, all learned men own St. Basil and St. Chrysostom to be the authors of the liturgies, that bear their name, and are to this day used in the Greek Church. The Roman liturgy is likewise very ancient, as appears from the sacramentary, or ritual of pope Gregory the Great, who abridged the liturgy of pope Gelasius, a father of the fifth age; and he only put it into some better order, with a few inconsiderable alterations made in it. So that any impartial reader of antiquity will find the whole Church at mass the fourth and fifth century, and a cloud of venerable witnesses to attest it.

But I shall in a few words trace it even to the third and second century; and that, with the help of four substantial Protestant witnesses ; I mean, the four Magdeburgians, or Centuriators, who very honestly own the fact, in censuring St. Ignatius, the disciple of St. John, the holy martyr Irenaeus, St. Cyprian, St. Martial and Tertullian, for teaching the doctrine of the mass ; the substance or essence whereof consists precisely in being " an unbloody sacrifice offered to God by the priests of the new law upon an altar:" or, what amounts to the same: " An external oblation of the body and blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine." For, as to the ceremonies, they belong only to the decency, or solemnity, but are no part of the substance of the mass. And, therefore, as they were gradually introduced in the primitive ages; so, if the Church thought fitting, she might even now make alterations in them.