Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 140.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

These surely, and other such remarkable facts will be the subject of the histories written in, or about the time, in which they happened. But if no account of them appears in any ancient, or creditable history, I must repeat, what I have already laid down, as a principle, viz. : That such a silence, in a matter of the greatest importance, is a proof amounting to a moral demonstration, that they never happened at all; that the pretended change from a total denial, or ignorance of the mass, to an entire establishment of it, is altogether fictitious; and that, by consequence, the mass had its beginning from the institution of Christ, and the doctrine and practice of the Apostles, according to St. Austin's judgment, who, writing against the Donatists, gives this for a rule: " That when any doctrine is found generally received in the visible Church, in any age whatsoever, whereof there is no certain author, or beginning to be found; then it is sure, that such a doctrine came down from Christ and his Apostles." L. 4. de bap. c. 6, v. 24, as also L. de Unit. Eccl. c. 19.

If any one pretends, that the mass crept in by insensible degrees, and so made no noise, or disturbances to be taken notice of by any historian; the answer is so very weak, that I am almost ashamed to confute it seriously. For first: The thing is without example; and I defy Protestants to produce one single instance of the like nature in any considerable heresy owned as such by both sides. For let them name what heresy they please, as that of the Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monothelites, Pelagians, Donatists, Novatians, etc., they all caused great disturbances in the Church; histories of them have been written, and we can show how, where and when they began; what progress they made, what fate they met with, and other particulars: and to pretend that Popery alone, supposing it to be a compound of gross errors, or any branch of it, but particularly the mass } should steal into the Church like a thief in the night, without being perceived, or opposed by anybody, is as mere a whim, as ever was hatched in a distracted brain.

But, secondly: The thing will appear to be altogether impracticable, if we consider how watchful the Church has always been in discovering any heresy, and how vigorous in opposing the growth of it. So that many have been suppressed at their very appearance, as Quietism was toward the end of the last century. And it is an undeniable truth, that the Church has exerted herself with the same watchfulness and vigor in all ages, without the least regard to the dignity, or character of the persons, who by mistake, or otherwise, endeavored to corrupt the purity of the Christian faith.

Thus, though Tertullian and Origen were two great pillars of the Church in their time, and their orthodox writings are justly valued by all men of learning, yet the Church was watchful enough to discover the tares that grew up amongst the wheat; and the reputation neither of their wit, nor learning could save their errors from being condemned. The same may be said of some errors held by Lactantius, Arnobius, Cassianus, and others, which could not escape the watchful eye of the Church, and were accordingly censured by her. Nay, what is most remarkable, the error of the holy bishop and martyr, St. Cyprian, who was a man of an extraordinary character, was very warmly opposed, and underwent the same fate. So true it is, that the Church has always been extremely jealous of the purity of her faith; watchful, in detecting the least error against it; and inflexible, in doing justice upon it. And is it then possible, that a thing so odious to Protestants, as the mass, should either creep into the Church without being perceived: or if perceived, should not be immediately opposed and condemned! Is it probable, that the gross errors of Popery should be the only criminals, that escaped the hands of justice? But the thing is so very gross in itself, so contradictory to experience, and inconsistent with reason that it confutes itself. I shall add two short remarks of no small importance.