Monday, 12 September 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 146



But truly, there is scarce a fable in Ovid, to be compared with this wonderful metamorphosis of the Church. That of Ulysses and his companions changed into hogs comes the nearest to it. And I think the friendly adviser has committed an oversight in not making use of this authentic piece to illustrate and adorn his ingenious system. For truly, Ovidius, Lib. 14, Metamorphoses, would have made as beautiful a figure in the margin, as the greatest part of the authors he has quoted.

However, to be somewhat more serious, than the matter really deserves, I shall give a summary of it in his own words. " It cannot be denied," says he, " that from the time of the decay of the western empire, and the irruption of the Goths and Vandals into Europe, there began to be a great decay of learning, and barbarism crept in by degrees. And at length, this ignorance became so universal, that the study of the liberal arts was generally laid aside. Yea, such gross folly possessed the world, that Christians believed more absurd things, than Pagans gave credit to. And that age, which bred many of these errors, is commonly called the obscure age."

(Here he quotes Baronius, anno 900: so that this is the epoch, from which the time of universal darkness is to be dated.) He continues :

" This age was wholly without persons eminent for wit, or learning. The very inferior priests not being able to translate an epistle into Latin; which Egyptian darkness continued in all the western world, till a few years before the reformation."

I confess, six hundred years of Egyptian darkness was a fair time for the popes to play all their tricks of legerdemain, and juggle all mankind out of their senses. It is very strange, however, that in all this time there should not be one single man of the learning and zeal of Martin Luther to prevent so great a mischief.

"This gross stupidity," says the adviser, "must needs make the world apt and easy to be abused with the most absurd and monstrous doctrines : for ignorance is the mother of errors. This made way for the politic guides of Rome to impose such opinions on the Church, as might best serve for their own ends. These tares were sowed, while men slept; Matt viii. 25. And there were many circumstances concurring in those unlucky ages, which contribute to the furthering of the Roman designs. The withdrawing of the emperors into the east, and the first decay of the western empire: then the destruction of the eastern, and the desolation of the famous oriental Churches, by the spreading inundation of the Turks and Saracens. So that the Pope had neither emperor, nor patriarch for a long time to oppose him; the miseries of all Christendom giving him opportunity to make himself sole governor of these parts of the world." Section 3, p. 46, etc.

This, I think, is nonsense enough for one time. But from the words of our friendly adviser, one would be apt to surmise, that from the loss of Constantinople, till the reformation, the popes had either massacred, or deposed all the Christian princes and bishops in the west For what else can the poor man mean, by his saying, " That the Pope made himself sole governor of these parts of the world ?" Which, whether to be meant of his temporal, or spiritual power, is equally absurd. And as to what he says, "That the Pope for a long time had neither emperor, nor patriarch to oppose him it is notoriously known, that since the reign of Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor in the eighth century, the west has never been without Christian emperors, nor the east without its patriarchs, even since the Turks became masters of Constantinople. And, therefore, the adviser either wrote contrary to his own knowledge, or showed himself very ignorant of history.

To say nothing of his blunder in chronology concerning the first decay of the western empire, which happened several hundred years before the age of pretended darkness, let us briefly examine the system itself, and see whether there be any thing either like truth, or probability in it. He tells us then, that the dark times began from the year 900, and that this age, viz.: The tenth, " bred many of the Popish errors." But how does this agree with the book of Homilies, which says positively, that before the reformation, "whole Christendom had been drowned in abominable idolatry for the space of eight hundred years and more ? " For by good computation, this brings Popery two whole centuries (and as much more, as you please) higher than the time unluckily pitched upon by the adviser. Nay, the Homilist assures us, that the abominable idolatry, he speaks of, (which in Protestant language expresses very pathetically the whole body of papistical doctrine) was spread over whole Christendom, even some time before the eighth century. So that, to the great disappointment of all the Popes of the tenth and following centuries, there was nothing for them to do in all that tedious time of Egyptian darkness, in which our friendly adviser, out of his abundance of charity, has cut out so much good employment to keep them out of idleness. For, if we give credit to the Homilist, whose authority will probably carry it, their market was forestalled, and the whole business completed above two hundred years before they could come into play.