Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 147



I shall, therefore, leave the adviser to fight it out as well as he can with the book of Homilies. But he has a more formidable enemy to deal with, I mean a whole multitude of authentic writers, bearing testimony, that Popery was established in England full three hundred years before the tenth century. Venerable Bede, whose learning and veracity were never called in question, and who lived in the very next age after England had received the Christian faith, is one of the writers I speak of. So that, whoever desires to be satisfied of the truth of the fact, I insist upon, needs but read his ecclesiastical history of England in the third tome of his works; and he will find that the religion called Popery, was planted in this island by St. Augustine and his companions ; with a full account of its growth, and establishment in the seventh century.

Besides, it is a known truth, that the reformation made the first change of religion in England, after its conversion. The consequence whereof is, that as England knew no other religion than Popery immediately before the reformation ; so it received that very religion from St. Austin. And this saint, who confirmed the doctrine he preached by unquestionable miracles, (which are related by holy Bede) taught no other than the faith of the universal Christian church at that time. Which is a full demonstration, that Popery was not beholden to the adviser's Egyptian darkness for its establishment in the world; since that darkness came at least three hundred years too late.

But thirdly: the adviser has no less a man than Martin Luther himself, with the whole college of reforming apostles against him. For in the beginning of the reformation, their usual language was, " what do we care for the fathers ?" And Luther was above all remarkable for it. "I care not a rush," says he, " if a thousand Austins, or a thousand Cyprians stood against me." Tom. 2, fol. 344. " Neither do I concern myself what Ambrose, Austin, or councils say,—I know their opinions so well, that I have declared against them," fol. 345. He speaks with the same contempt of St. Jerome. Whence it is evident, that he looked upon all these fathers as teachers of papistical doctrine, and enemies to the reformation.

What pity is it, that the friendly adviser did not come time enough into the world to tell Martin Luther that his rejecting the fathers of the fourth and fifth century would spoil the most ingenious system, that ever was invented to make Popery pass for a novelty, brought into the Church in dark ages, far distant from the time of those fathers ! For if so great a man as Luther stuck not to confess, that Popery was taught by the most eminent saints and doctors in the very brightest and most learned ages of the Church; who will after that believe the adviser's tale of a tub, that it came sneaking in many hundred years after, only by the means of a universal ignorance, and Egyptian darkness ? And therefore, the learned Mr. Napier, of whom I have already spoken, is to be highly commended for his sincerity in owning that Popery reigned universally, in the very beginning of the fourth century. For this is speaking like a true disciple of the principal Apostle of the reformation.

But, though there were none of these facts to disprove the adviser's system, it would be fully confuted by the very improbability, nay, moral impossibility of the principal supposition, whereon it is grounded, viz.: " That an universal ignorance and stupidity, which he calls an Egyptian darkness, reigned in the world for the space of near six hundred years. That in all this time there were no persons eminent either for wit, or learning; and that this gave the politic guides of Rome full opportunity to impose such opinions on the Church as might best serve their own ends, and made the world apt and easy to be abused with the most absurd and monstrous doctrines."

This is the adviser's supposition to support his system, expressed in his own words. Which, though malicious in the highest degree, yet at the same time is so very extravagant, that it proves my pity rather than anger. For we have here whole Christendom fairly divided into two classes of men, commonly known by the honorable titles of knaves and fools. The popes with their ministers and agents, according to this charitable supposition, were all knaves, void of religion, honor, and conscience: and the rest of Christendom, both laity and clergy, were all fools and blockheads, led by the nose, and abused with the most absurd and monstrous doctrines. And all this lasted for the space of many hundred years.

A most stupendous imagination, and only fit for the learned inhabitants of Moorfields! It is true, indeed, some ages may produce more persons of a superior genius than others: and liberal arts and sciences may flourish more at one time than another; because most things have their ebbings and flowings in the sublunary world. But that ignorance and stupidity should become universal for many hundred years together, and the greatest part of mankind turned into mules and asses, ready saddled and bridled to be ridden by the popes just as they pleased; may pass, indeed, for a very dull poetical fiction, but never for a good theological argument against Popery.