Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 148




What! Were there neither schools, nor universities, nor libraries in all the time of this pretended universal ignorance, and Egyptian darkness! Did the popes interdict all wit and learning under pain of excommunication! Or did parents, in compliance with his holiness, renounce their natural concern for their children, and oblige them to spend their youth in idleness, or vice! For all this, or something very like it, must be supposed, to give any color or probability to the adviser's system. All schools must have been suppressed, universities abolished, libraries destroyed, and wit and learning made state crimes against the pope. Nay, and there must have been an universal reform made amongst the bishops and pastors of the Church, by a positive law, that none but dunces and blockheads should be duly qualified for holy orders. And even this would not have fully answered the politic ends of Rome, unless we further suppose, that all the princes of Europe had their eyes put out, and arms tied to render them incapable of seeing, or opposing the absurd and monstrous doctrines, wherewith they were abused by the politic guides of Rome.

How miserably low must the credit of a cause be sunk, when it stands in need of such nonsense to support it! I confess, unless I had quoted the adviser's own words, it might have been reasonably suspected that I had trumped up a ridiculous hypothesis of my own, barely for the pleasure to confute it. Let us but place it in a true light, and consider the extravagance and weakness of it.

Popery was certainly in possession of the universal Church for many hundred years. Some account then was to be given how it came to be established. For, since it is a thing without example, that any nation ever parted tamely with its ancient religion; if Popery was an intruder upon the ancient Church, how could it find means to establish itself without opposition, whilst men were in their right senses? And if it met with opposition, this would have caused disturbances and schisms, and these disturbances would have been recorded by the writers of the times, in which they happened. Now here the difficulty begins to pinch, because no history can be produced of any disturbance, or schism in the Church, occasioned by any man's teaching the discriminating doctrines of Popery; whereas, on the contrary, there never was a doctrine opposite to any branch of Popery started in the Church, but it met with a vigorous resistance in its very birth, and caused disorders, which are related by historians: as that of Berengarius, Wyolif, John Huss, the Waldenses, and others. In order, therefore, to make Popery (though pretended to be a doctrine opposite to the ancient faith) come in without noise, or resistance, our friendly adviser has no other expedient to bring about this wonderful event, than to assert boldly, that Christendom was under a general infatuation for many hundred years together ; and so make Popery steal its way into the Church unperceived, and unopposed in the midst of a thick darkness of universal ignorance and stupidity.

But the thickest darkness cannot hide the extravagance of this ridiculous fable. There are numberless historical facts, that give it the lie. As first, the many learned universities, that flourished in those very ages of pretended darkness. Amongst which, that of Paris, founded by Charlemagne, and that of Oxford, founded by king Alfred, were most famous. Secondly, The great number of ecclesiastical writers, whereof Bellarmine de Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis reckons up between two and three hundred in those very ages : and many of these were as eminent both for holiness learning as any of the ancient writers. Thirdly, besides innumerable provincial and national synods there were about ten general councils held between the ninth and sixteenth century; and some of them were more numerous than any that had been held before. Nor did they meet in cellars underground, like clippers and coiners, but in the face of the universal Church, attentive to every thing, that was transacted in those august assemblies. Nay, and the histories of them are faithfully transmitted to us, without any mention of the least change made in the ancient faith of the Church. Fourthly. The long and warm disputes between the emperors and popes, concerning the privilege of investitures, which lasted some ages, and show that the popes were not arbitrary lords and masters, nor led all Christendom by the nose. And lastly, (to omit many more historical facts for brevity's sake), the Greek schism, which began in the ninth century, and was not ended till the council of Florence, anno 1437. During which time, if the popes had made any false steps in point of doctrine, the sharp-sighted Greeks, who were continually upon the watch to lay hold of any advantage against the Latins, would undoubtedly have reproached them with it. Since they even accused them of shaving their beards, eating hog's flesh, and many other trivial matters.

Now these are demonstrative proofs, that Christendom was neither so stupidly ignorant, as to be unable to discern absurd and monstrous innovations from the ancient doctrine, nor so sheepishly passive, as to submit tamely f to any yoke, the popes should lay upon them. Whence I conclude, that since the adviser's system is a flat contradiction both to history, and common sense, it can do no prejudice to the argument, I have handled in the preceding sections: which, unless some better answer be given to it, is a moral demonstration, that " no Christian Church, teaching a doctrine opposite to Popery, ever appeared in the world before it," and that, by consequence, the Church of Rome teaches no other than the ancient faith of the Church.

But some will say, it is improbable, that any man should attempt to reform the faith of a Church, unless he were sure that some considerable errors had crept into it. I answer, that this, if it were true, would be a good apology for Arius, Socinius, and other such reformers. But St. Paul was of another opinion. For he tells us expressly, "that there must be heresies, that they, who are approved, may be made manifest." 1 Cor. xi. 19. Let us then consider the character of the first, and principal reformer of popery, and judge from it, whether the children of the reformation have any just reason to glory in such a father.