N*. Well, M., if you are so disposed, I will come and see you, and look more into this matter. If Mr. O. still deign to visit and seek to keep you, or recover you to his communion, we shall have the matter fairly discussed; and if not, we have “Milner,” the book which led you to go over to the Roman communion, and which is commonly used to lead others the same way.
Bill M. I shall be very glad to see you, sir, for I feel more in confusion than ever I did, and begin to feel it is not such a light thing to settle the ground of one’s faith. There are things I never heard or knew of; I do not see clear, but maybe I acted hastily. I do not think I could do so now. I think James has a kind of happiness, and a certainty too, that I do not know anything about. I do not want to doubt the word of God, but I have not the kind of faith in it he has, which makes him so sure of everything he finds in it. I do not understand how he can be; yet, to be sure, one ought, if it is the word of God. But, to say the truth, I never studied it; so it is no great wonder perhaps. Any way, I should like to know the bottom of it; and I am sure Father O. will come to call me to account, and he will hardly come here again; so if you will kindly come, sir, I shall be glad.
N*. You need the grace of God with the word, M.—just as Christ opened the disciples’ understanding—to understand the scriptures. If you look to Him, He will give it to you. It is written, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”
Bill M. Is that in scripture?
N*. Yes; in the Epistle of James i:5.
Bill M. Well, it gives comfortable words, any way; it is not hard on you, like the priest.
N*. It would be far happier to look directly into the contents of that blessed book, where God has given us His own thoughts in the midst of the darkness of this world, and told us, especially in these last and evil days, when there is a form of godliness, and the power of it denied, to have recourse to it; but I suppose we must go into all they have to allege as the ground of faith, and see whether it is solid. That the scriptures are, they do not deny—remember that; and we can examine all by them, as we have already done as to many points. The scriptures, we are sure, are divine; they do not deny it, only they say you cannot understand them. Why unwritten traditions should be easier or surer, it would be hard to say. The Lord treats tradition in His day as most mischievous and evil. However, we can go into all this if we meet. I shall be very glad to come and see you, and we will examine all that is to be said for the system which they uphold. Good-night to you all now.
Bill M. Good-night, sir.
James. Well, Bill, I should have liked to have heard it all; but if it is useful to you I am content, and my mind is at rest, and it might be curiosity on my part; for I see now that it is not the true doctrine of salvation they have, and the rest is not so much matter. They would save us by works and ordinances, and that is not God’s way; and, after all, they do not know whether they are saved or not, and God never meant us to be in misery that way; and a man that has his conscience awakened, and judgment before him, must be miserable till he knows he is in God’s favour—till his conscience is purged, and he has peace with God; and scripture is as plain as can be as to that, just as plain as it is that we must lead a godly life. But there was a thing Mr. N*. said to me which made plain where that came in, as plain as anything can be, only we have no sense really in the things of God till He teaches us. It was this, Bill i that a man’s duties flow from the place he is already in; they cannot be the means of getting it, or they would not be duties. A man’s child, or his servant, or his wife, has to obey and be dutiful because they are his child, and so on. What they are bound to do could not be their duty if they were not children, or servants, or wife. Now, if I am a child of God, as scripture speaks, and know I am one, that is the very reason I am bound to behave as a child. That is my duty, and cannot be my duty till I am one, and then we get strength as well as the duty. Scripture says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace,” and “My grace is sufficient for you.” So it is just when I know I am a child of God that my duty becomes clear.
Bill M. But you do not mean to say we may do as we like till we are what you call children of God?
James. Nay, nay; but we have done what we liked, a deal too much, little else when we could; but on that ground we are lost. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. But I was answering what has been said—that, if I know I am saved, I can go on as I like after; whereas, if I am saved, I am a child of God, and all my duties as a child of God just begin then. Instead of doing as I like, I am bound to walk, not merely as an honest man, but as a child of God, because I am one; and then that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and delights in the things of God, though he may have to resist temptations from within and from without, and, if he is not watchful, he will fail. And then they that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. But I speak of duty.
Bill M. Well, that is plain enough, that if we are in a place, the duties of the place belong to us, and we are bound to fulfil them. But, as for me, I want to know how to get into the place. Not that I understand well what it is, either; and I do not understand how you can be so sure of yourself.
James. Not of myself, as you mean the words, Bill; God forbid! but I am sure of what God says. True, the grace and Spirit of God must work to dispose our hearts to care for such things, and to give us understanding with such hearts and minds as we have; but the thing in itself is very simple. As scripture speaks, when I receive the Lord’s testimony, I set to my seal that God is true, and hence am fully assured of what I find in His word.
Bill M. Of course what God says is true; that is plain enough.
James. Well, if Christ, or even His apostles, have said anything, it is God’s word, and we have to believe it.
Bill M. Of course, if we know what they have said.
James. Well, there it is. The Spirit and grace of God bring the word of God home as His word to the heart. It is not my poor wits setting up to judge about it, or teach; a great deal I do not understand yet, and I must wait and hope to get on; but the word comes down on me and tells me what I am (and I know it is true), and what God is and His holiness and love and judgment of sin are revealed to my soul. Now I find there that by Christ all that believe are justified from all things; that He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification; that he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; that God will remember their sins and iniquities no more; and many, many more comfortable words, and I believe them—I am sure they are true, because God has said so—just as sure as I am that, if God had entered into judgment with me for my sins, I should have been lost. I know I was lost in my sins, but Christ came to seek and to save what was lost, and died for our sins, according to the scriptures. I believe in Him. I know He is the Son of God, and God has pronounced His judgment on those that believe in Him, that they are justified and have eternal life; and I believe Him with all my heart. And it is because I see that He has His own self borne our sins in His own body on the tree that I have peace with God. That I could not say till I believed in Him, but I can say it now.
Bill M. Well, I can’t say it: of course if you can, you must be happy; anybody would.
James. I understand that too; I could not myself once, but God is very gracious, Bill. I was no better, and in myself am no better, than you. I do not say you see clear, but I believe you are a changed man, Bill—thank God for it.
Bill M. Well, I do not see that I am changed, unless it is to be worse, and more unhappy than I was.
James. That is the very reason I say you are changed. You have found out somehow that there is badness in you, and it makes you unhappy. It is not flippantly judging me because I trust with assurance in the Lord Jesus, nor talking of the church that you know nothing about for yourself, only repeating it from others who had got hold of your mind. Now there is a real want in your own soul of something better, and of peace; that is what the Holy Spirit always produces in us. It is not levity and judgment of others He puts into us, but a want in our hearts, and tenderness of conscience; and the gracious God will surely meet such a want, and make all plain in His own wise time. Doubtless, you may get help from others, as I did; but the work within is all His own. Till that is done, nothing is done; and He will do it for you, Bill. I feel confident the Lord is leading you on in His own blessed grace.
Bill M. I hope He may. I am not there yet; but I do feel different towards you and in myself too; and somehow my confidence is shaken in Father O. Still I am afraid of denying the true church. The Lord guide me right.
James. He will, He will, Bill; trust Him for it.
Bill M. Well, good-night now; I must be home. But I’ll let you know how it all goes on.
James. Good-night, Bill. The Lord be with you.
* * * *
Bill M. Good evening, Mr. O., will you kindly sit down. I am thankful to you for coming to see me; and Mr. N*., as I mentioned to you, is here.
Father O. I am sure it is of very little use arguing on these subjects; but I was willing to make one effort to save you from abandoning the church and ruining your soul for ever. For it is certain, as the holy fathers have said, that he who has not the church for his mother has not God for his Father. But I have little hope of you; for when once a person has begun to judge for himself and despise the faith of all holy men in all ages, to say nothing of the authority of the church, he proves himself to be in a state of pride, which makes him incapable of receiving the truth at all. However, the good shepherd will care for his flock, and I have consented to make one effort more. I had indeed much rather have seen you at my house, where I could have spoken seriously to you without any controversy; and this gentleman—I say it without wishing to be guilty of any offence—is a confirmed heretic, which makes it a still more unsatisfactory way of treating these holy subjects. However I have consented to make a last effort to rescue you from falling down the fatal precipice, on whose edge you are standing; only remember that eternity is before you. This world will soon pass away, and if you are not in the true church, then where will your soul be? Remember what a solemn and terrible thought eternity is, and think of your soul’s salvation, and let no carnal or interested motives come in competition with that.
Bill M. Well, Mr. O., I have just begun to get really anxious about my salvation. As to interested motives, I can honestly eat my bread, any way, and nobody has offered me anything to go back to where I was. And one thing that greatly attracted me to the Catholics was, that they were so kind to me. I am much obliged to them, but that won’t save a man’s soul. As to eternity, I begin to feel it is a very solemn thing; and it is not only dread I feel, for that is all it was when I turned Catholic, but I want to be saved. Now James and this gentleman tell me, and bring scripture for it, that if a man believes in the Lord Jesus Christ in his heart, he will be saved; and that if any one has the Spirit of Christ, he belongs to the true church; that all such are united to Christ, who is the head of the church, and that their lives will prove whether this is really so; and you tell me that I must belong to the one true holy Roman Catholic and apostolic church, or I cannot be saved, and I want to know the truth of it. I see what this gentleman says is in scripture; but then I have been brought to think there must be a true church, and I should not like to be out of it; and what is the true church is the very thing I have to learn.
Father O. It is just this pretending to read and judge of scripture which will be the ruin of you. How do you know whether it is true, or how can you get at the right sense of it? St. Augustine says he would not have received the gospel but for the church. And then, besides that, you have only got a false translation.
Bill M. Excuse me, Father O., I have got the Catholic Testament as well as the Protestant one, and it is what has troubled me more than ever, because, though there are hard words I do not understand in the one you approve of, and it is not such fine reading as the Protestant, yet one sees in a minute it is the same thing in the main—different words sometimes, but the same book. I do not pretend to judge all about it, of course; but I can see that the truths they insist upon are in your Testament as in theirs. I found, where it was said in the Protestant Testament, there is no more offering for sin, it is said in the other, there is no more oblation for sin. And then, too, that He should not offer Himself often, for then He ought to have suffered often; and that dashed me greatly about the Mass that I used to think so much of. And it says in your Testament, too, that by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and that is just what James tells me. And then, too, I found in your Testament that it is said, he that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and, I believe in the Son of God sure enough, and why should I not believe I have eternal life too? I do not see clear, that is true, for I know I am not what I ought to be; but there is what they tell me in what you say is the word of God, and the true translation.
Father O. How should you be clear, pretending to judge all these things, and perplexing your mind with what you are quite unable to interpret, ignorant as you are? We had better see at once what the true church is, and then you will be rightly guided. There is no end of disputing out of scripture. Why there is no end of sects and heresies, and all come from the Bible.
Bill M. If you please, sir, I shall be very glad to hear about the church; but you will allow me to say, sir, that I do not find what I was saying so hard to understand, not harder than many things you say, nor so hard. When it says, he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, it is a great comfort, but it is not hard to understand. I may doubt sometimes, if I really believe, when I see how bad I am, though I do not think I can doubt it; but the words are plain enough. And when it is said there is no more oblation for sin where there is remission of sins, it is plain enough too, and I do not see how the Mass can be true; and I see then that, if there was another oblation, it must have been a real one, and that therefore Christ must have suffered, and He cannot do that in the Mass. As to Augustine, I do not know anything about him, but these things I read in the scriptures that the church has given us.
Father O. Who gave them to you? You are not properly prepared to read them; you are not in a state of mind, docile and subject to the church, to do it properly, and so are perplexing yourself. And the Council of Trent very justly forbids any having them without a written permission from his pastor, and I never gave you one; and we may see in your case the wisdom of the church making such an order.
Bill M. And why may I not read them if they are the word of God, and I have read them in a copy approved by the church? There it is with Archbishop Troy’s sanction. And the pope says there that we should above all read the holy scriptures. And I cannot see, if God has written so many blessed things for us, so many good words of the Lord Jesus, and the letters of apostles, why those who want to be saved, and know God’s will, should not read them. It looks strange.
Father O. They are given to the church, and she dispenses the food in due season.
Bill M. But am I not in the true church if I am a Catholic? and yet it is only we that are not allowed to read them.
Father O. You will get from your pastors meat in due season.
Bill M. But I want to know what God has said Himself, and why may not I know that? Why should my pastor keep that from me?
Father O. Because there are things you cannot understand, and will pervert; as St. Peter says, “which the unstable and unlearned wrest to their own destruction.”
Bill M. That is a very solemn warning surely, sir, not to let one’s mind be prying and judging beyond one’s depth; but if we only want humbly to learn, and not to twist anything, may not one trust in God’s goodness to keep one from rashness, and pretending to go out of one’s depth? I only want to know God’s truth; and will He not give me it? I remember hearing of Mary that sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. May not I do that, and believe He will teach me too? Surely His words will not lead me astray, if I only listen to Him, to learn from Him.
Father O. But you do not know what part of His words to take. He could tell Mary just what was fitting for her, and how do you know what is fit for you? It is this wilfulness and presumption that is ruining you.
Bill M. I do not wish to be presumptuous, sir; I shall be very thankful to be helped, and I do not doubt a great many could do that. Only I do not want to be shut out from the word of God, and not hear what Christ and His apostles say.
Father O. Well, if you listen to the church, you will get just what is fit for you, and you will be helped. It is just what I have been insisting on with you.
Bill M. Yes, but you want me to hear the church, instead of having what God says for myself, having it direct from Himself; and that is what I feel I want, and begin to have a great desire for, though very thankful to hear what you, or any that knows better than me, can say to help me, only so as I have the word of God itself; and what even as your own archbishop says is the right reading. And forgive me, sir, if I make bold to say a word as to twisting the scripture. That warning comes from scripture, does it not?
Father O. Yes, from 2 Peter 3:16; and do you take heed to it.
Bill M. But then the scripture comes to save us from the danger. The scripture itself stops us, and corrects us, if we are willing to mind it, where we might otherwise go astray. If I began to pry into things too deep for me, and hard to be understood, the scripture itself is there, if I mind it, to stop me. It does not tell the people not to read them, but God writes in the scripture what is necessary to guard them against the danger. So I see it is good to read it all, though I may not be able to understand it all, as I am not; one learns nothing all at once. And I begin to feel one may trust to the grace of God to help one. You will forgive my saying so much, sir, but my heart is getting concerned in it; and I have found, now I have read in the Testament, a great deal I cannot understand, and I am obliged to leave it, hoping I may; but a great deal that is very plain, and holy, and very comforting, which shews how gracious the blessed Lord Jesus is to poor sinners, and how He never turned them away; and a great deal that is uncommon comforting, though it pierces one’s conscience through, too, very often. But I beg your pardon, sir; I was just letting out what was in my heart, and I will listen to all you have to say.
Father O. It is little use when once you have got into this sort of confidence in yourself, and talk about the word of God as if you were a learned man, when you can know nothing about it. But I came to speak of the church, and the right it has to be heard and obeyed. It just shews what you are, pretending thus to reason and teach those who must know better than you. But I will shew you what the proofs of the church are, and, as I have told you, if you are not in that, there is no salvation for you. You ought to know all this, and you have learnt it, and that is what makes me tremble for you. And I must beg not to be interrupted, neither by you nor by this gentleman—though I do not know if I ought to have consented to speak before one who is evidently rooted (if any such falsehood can have a root) in his heretical views—while I set before you the plain irrefragable proofs of the one true church, and that that church is the church of Rome.
N*. I will not interrupt you, sir. It is quite fair you should have opportunity to say all you wish, and as fully as you please. I will examine what you say on each point when you have done.
Father O. I will proceed, then, to state the grounds on which everyone is bound to receive the Catholic church as the only true one, and out of which there is no salvation, as the Fathers all testify. So says Irenseus, so Cyprian, so Augustine, so St. John Chrysostom. All declare emphatically that salvation belongs to the church alone.45 And if you take the views which all Christendom acknowledges, we shall easily find the marks by which it is known.
The Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in the holy Catholic church,” and the Nicene,” one Catholic and apostolic church.”46 The church, then, is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
Now if we look amongst the rival communions, we shall have no ground to hesitate a moment as to which is the true church. In the Catholic church alone you find unity of doctrine, of all that is essential in her worship and in her ecclesiastical constitution and government. Her doctrine is the same from the Council of Nice to the Council of Trent. Every Catholic— English, Indian, Canadian, and of whatever nation under the sun—will join in the same worship in any Catholic chapel here. So, wherever they are, the faithful submit to their pastors, the pastor to his bishop, the bishop to the supremacy of the successor of St. Peter. Take the most ignorant Catholics, they are alike in doctrine substantially; and, however ignorant, will declare their belief in this—I believe whatever the holy Catholic church believes and teaches. Whereas Protestants are split up into a hundred sects, and the same sect varies in its doctrine from one century to another. I must be brief; but the statements I have made are corroborated by facts which everyone can take cognizance of; he has only to ask the first Catholic he meets, or attend the service in any Catholic place of worship.
The next mark is that it is the holy Catholic church. That the church should be holy no Christian can deny; as belonging to God, and sanctified by Christ, to present to Himself without spot; Eph. 5:25-27.
The Catholic church is holy in doctrine, in the means of holiness, in the fruits of holiness, and, lastly, in the divine testimony of holiness. She is holy in doctrine, especially in that of the Unity and Trinity, in the incarnation, death, and atonement of the Son of God. And she has always been the same. If she was holy in doctrine in the apostles’ age, she is holy in it now.
Next, she is holy in the means of holiness; and the principal and most efficacious means are the sacraments, which the Protestants have reduced to two; but all other communions— Greek, Nestorian, Eutychian, Russian, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian—before as after their defections, agree with Catholics in making them to be seven. By these all the wants of Catholics are supplied, and the faithful, having free will, and not putting an obstacle in the way, through them have justification, or sanctification, conferred and increased. The fruits of holiness are to be seen in a multitude of saints, in all ages, whose names would be far too many to enumerate here, but whose sanctity has been attested by the miracles they have performed. These last are a divine attestation of sanctity, and have been the stamp of approval and divine recognition put upon the Catholic church in all ages.
I might add other marks, as antiquity, the confession of enemies; but they would only be the development of those I have noted, and it is needless. These are a sufficient proof to a reasonable mind that the Catholic church alone is the church of God, out of which there is no salvation; a doctrine which, however obnoxious, is held by St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and the early Fathers; and is stated in the strongest language. It is this one only Holy Catholic Apostolic church, called Roman, because the supreme pontiff and successor of St. Peter has his See in Rome; into which you, M., had been graciously brought, out of one of the various sects of Protestants which condemn each other, which are confessedly of yesterday; have no pretension to be Catholic, confess they have no miracles; and whose doctrine, or at least what it was at the outset—for they fall into every sort of opinion—is utterly immoral: that no matter how great a sinner any man is, if he believes, he is saved; who have rejected five sacraments, and of the two they profess, have made one a mere memorial, contrary to scripture; and if the other remains, it is administered with such carelessness that we can hardly practically say whether anyone among them has the benefit of it nor not.
And it is not only antiquity, to which I briefly alluded, but an uninterrupted succession of prelates in every see, and especially at Rome, from the apostles and their successors; at Rome from the prince of the apostles down to this day; and we have the record of all their names, preserving the transmission of both grace and truth to us. Take care you do not fall from this one place of safety into the uncertainty and darkness of that from which you have been delivered. My object is to warn you; I might multiply proofs; they may be seen in Milner, more largely in Bellarmine; one you have read, and your very catechism teaches you the same. If you do not receive proofs so plain, no reasoning of mine could hinder your ruin. I have done. Of course, sir, you can now say what you wish. But I must beg you to keep to the point, and not launch out into vague charges; but shew where unity, catholicity, sanctity, and apostolicity, are found elsewhere than in the holy Roman Catholic church.
N*. Well, Mr. O., we have patiently listened to you, and you have given us a summary of Milner, or indeed what may, as you say, be found briefly in any Roman Catholic catechism— the common doctrine of the Roman Catholic body, though of course more fully developed in one book than in another. As to Indians, Americans, Canadians, etc., all coming to the same worship, there is a very simple reason for it; they are all on the same ground. Not one understands a word that is said, for it is all in Latin, and where the service is only an outward form, kneeling to a wafer when a bell rings, of course all can do it together. But there is a point which you have assumed, which, when I have answered your statements, I shall touch upon: whether God has not shewn us in His word that through the sin of man the church outwardly in this world would lose this unity and catholicity of character and sanctity too. Not surely that the unity of the body of Christ as built up by Him for eternity would be lost. That cannot fail, nor the gates of hell prevail against it; but does that blessed security, assured by Christ’s power to what He builds, affirm that, as an outward body and whole system in the world trusted to man’s faithfulness, it would continue in its integrity to the end? I affirm that God in His word teaches us the contrary. There is another point which presses very strongly upon me, which I will with the Lord’s help touch upon. It will suffice to speak of it at the close as a most weighty one, and as to which the ground on which the Roman argument stands is profane.
Father O. Profane!
N*. I do not use it as a hard word, but as the one which expresses strictly my meaning. We shall see whether it be just when we come to it. But I will first reply to the pretensions of unity, catholicity, etc., directly.
Father O. That is the best way. And I must beg you to be as brief as you can. I cannot give up all my time to a fruitless discussion.
N*. I will try to be brief. But it takes more time to disprove a statement than to assert it. When you say that the succession of Roman pontiffs, of whom Milner gives a list, is known from Peter to Pius IX, it is easy to say it, and Dr. Milner may make a fair show of it without betraying the weak points of it, but I cannot reply without shewing them. It is to me quite indifferent whether they have so succeeded or not. Truth is in God’s word, not in a succession of prelates. Still I am to answer you, and consequently must go into the facts. However I will be as brief as I can. And forgive me if I use the word ridiculous. The statement as to unity and catholicity seems to me to be such. You tell me we are to see which of rival communions is one and Catholic. Now, if there are rival communions, there is neither unity nor catholicity. I do not say that the fact of heresies existing, where individuals have been excluded for denying fundamental truths, in the least affects unity or catholicity, because the one Catholic body, if such there be, has done its duty, and rejected a sectarian head of error. There is in such case a one Catholic body out of which he is put.
But that is not the case we have to consider. You call upon our friend M. here to leave the body he was in, and to choose, on certain grounds, another. He has to choose between rival communions. If he takes his own sphere of knowledge, he finds your sect a very small minority, and your place of worship called a chapel, and the one he is leaving, the church. If I go beyond his field of view, then I find rather the majority of Christians condemning your sect, and the pope’s claims as corrupt, false, and unfounded, and by a vast body of Christians held to be the corrupt Babylon of scripture. If he goes to the United States, every place of worship is alike called a church. The greater part of Europe and Asia hold your pretensions to be false.
Not only that: I find the most ancient churches as to which you often allege that they agree with you against Protestants, the churches founded by the apostles, and before Rome, refusing communion with you, denying some of your doctrines, refusing your claims of supremacy for Rome altogether; you call them schismatic. But if they are more ancient than you, and some sixty millions of Christians, and a hierarchy pretending with good reason to be yet older than yours, and even as to Peter insisting that they are in possession of his most ancient see, Antioch, how am I to know you are not the schismatics? One thing is certain, that, besides some eighty or ninety million Protestant-professing Christians, there are all the Greeks, more ancient than yourselves.
I do not here decide who is right, but this is a clear matter of fact, that there is no catholicity to be found, nor unity. It is a palpable falsehood as to fact if I look at the outward professing body. You insist on the word Catholic, and on your adversaries admitting the term; this is equally false. The Greeks never call you Catholics, nor intelligent Protestants either, and were it otherwise it would be no more than calling Protestant places of worship churches, and yours and others’ chapels; it proves really nothing. To use a lawyer’s maxim: Allegatio ejusdem rei cujus dissolutio petitur, nil valet (to allege that as proof which is the thing sought to be disproved has no force). There is the Greek body, the Latin body, the Established church, the Lutherans of Germany, each established in different countries, in America all on the same footing. Unity or catholicity does not exist. You know as well as I do that all I say is the simple fact.
Father O. Yes, but the Catholic church maintains unity in itself.
N*. You allege you are at unity among yourselves. A little body like the Moravians could say as much. It proves nothing. This I admit, that the Roman system is admirably organized, that centralization47 (which was in no way the case in the early ages) has been carried out with admirable skill. That its leaders have known how to draw into its effective force the means at its disposal in an admirable way as to skill, that it has used its power over the populations to make kings and the civil power subservient to it, is all true. Every intelligent person is aware of and owns this. There have been serious divisions within itself, as Gallicanism, Jansenism, etc. It does not hold on some really important points what its greatest doctors once held, and as to many of its own dogmas, there have been great changes. I do not mean from original truth now, from which it has fatally departed, for that is not our subject, but on the seat of religious authority, which, in its present form, dates only from the Council of Trent; upon the doctrine of election, as to which Thomists and Scotists, Dominicans and Franciscans, have been altogether divided, as they were upon the immaculate conception. I do not insist upon them because the papacy has succeeded in reducing them all to order. Centralized power has prevailed. As to infallibility and the seat of certain truth, surely an important point, the Roman creed is not quite one year old at the present moment, and general councils confirmed by popes held to be in error. On the immaculate conception some eight or ten years old; on transubstantiation some six hundred and fifty. Still the pope has succeeded in bringing all the Roman body into unity of dependence on himself, and he can decree what he likes as a matter of faith, but only for his own body. The Greeks reject his authority and doctrine, the Protestants look with horror on his taking a place which belongs to God only, that is, the greater part of professing Christendom. Unity and catholicity do not exist. But you seem to wish to make some remark. It will not interrupt me.
Father O. Merely that while you admit the Catholic system has resulted in unity and subordination, and, I add, to Christ’s vicar upon earth, the Protestant has issued not merely in a multitude of sects, but in rationalism so-called and infidelity.
N*. Forgive, me, I deny the contrast altogether. Protestantism has produced such fruits; that is, the mind of man, breaking loose from the authority of God’s word, has taken its own thoughts as its guide, and pretends to judge God and the revelation He has given of Himself. But the mind of man in popish countries has done the same with the authority of what you call the church, and with the word, too. Infidelity is far more general, I do not hesitate to say, in many Roman Catholic countries, than in Protestant ones. I am not at all denying the great evil that exists in the latter. It is more published perhaps in Protestant countries because there is more intellectual activity and greater freedom. Nor is it only my own judgment that I express. Not only the French Revolution was in a Roman Catholic country, and spread its principles over such; but, in more modern times when the violent reaction against the papal system was over, Gregory XVI gives us this account in his Encyclical letter of 1832, “We speak, venerable brethren, that which ye behold with your own eyes; which therefore we deplore with united tears. An unrestrained wickedness, a shameless science, a dissolute licentiousness, are triumphant. The sanctity of holy things is despised!…” After stating that the church was exposed to the hatred of the people, he adds, “the academies and schools resounded in a dreadful manner with new and monstrous opinions, by which the Catholic faith is no longer assailed secretly and by mining, but a horrible and impious war is now openly waged against it,” and then refers to “attacks on the order of the church by members of the clergy and associations of them.”
You see, while I recognize the deadly evil of infidelity and corruption, the Roman Catholic nations are not more exempt from them than the Protestant. Nay, no man acquainted with Roman Catholic and Protestant countries but knows that faith and morality are more common in the masses in Protestant than in Roman Catholic countries. Abject superstition, devotion if you please to call it so, is to be found in the darker parts of the land in Roman Catholic countries, but closely connected very commonly with violence and corruption. The Italian brigands are most devout, and in Spain houses of ill fame supply the needed certificate of priestly absolution to commercial travellers who never troubled themselves with priests, when these documents were needed for their journey off the great routes. Whether the recent revolution has made a change I cannot tell. But no one can have been in Western papal Europe without knowing the universal spread of infidelity where there was any energy of civilization, and the degradation and corruption which pervades those countries. This is not in the same way the case in Protestant Europe. Plenty of evil I full admit. Scripture predicts an apostasy and I doubt not we are in the high road to it. But if we are forced to compare them, the evil is greater in Roman Catholic countries. I have replied to your remark, but we were speaking of unity and catholicity.
Wherever external Christendom exists, the Greeks, whom you call schismatics, but who are older than you, have the same succession to boast of. They do not call you Catholic, but the Latin or Western church, and declare you have departed from the truth. It is in vain to say they hold, as against Protestants, the same truth as you do. It only strengthens my argument, that unity is gone, and consequently catholicity. And your friend, Dr. Milner, knows it well and feels it, so that, as I said, what he says is plain self-contradiction even to absurdity. He tells us the true church is Catholic or universal in three several respects—as to persons, as to places, as to times. It consists of the most numerous body of Christians, it is more or less diffused wherever Christianity prevails, and it has visibly existed ever since the time of the apostles. Now this last it partakes with a body half as large as itself, the Greek church—the more ancient of the two. This therefore gives me no help in discovering which is right. But we seek what is universal, and I am told it consists of the most numerous body of Christians. That is, it is not universal as to persons— nay, very far from it indeed. As to places, it is more or less diffused wherever Christianity prevails; that is, again, it is not universal. In fact, in many countries, it is a very small minority. But on the face of the argument it breaks down altogether. It constitutes the main stock of Christianity. But if it is only the main stock, it is not Catholic.
I conclude, what every one who is acquainted with the facts knows, that unity and catholicity are not to be found embodied anywhere in Christendom. Whoever be right and whoever be wrong, the unity does not exist, and the Roman or Latin body is not Catholic because it is Roman or Latin, as constantly called by itself, by popes, and councils. When it insisted on Rome’s being supreme, catholicity and unity departed, even in outward form, from Christendom. All the tirade of Dr. Milner on free will and Calvinism I pass over as being a question of doctrine; only saying that he is here really dishonest, for he knows as well as I do that Augustine (the most eminent and influential perhaps of all the Latin fathers) held it, and that it was the doctrine of T. Aquinas and of all the Dominicans, that is, of all the greatest doctors of Rome in her most flourishing state. Dr. Milner treats it as something frightful, and spends pages on it in order to attack the Protestants. I offer no comment on the question now. But if it be so horrible (‘no impiety can be more execrable’ he tells us) he condemns the most famous doctors of Rome; the most famous father of the church, and, till the Jesuits arose, the most famous order of the monks. This is strange unity. I might quote a host of the most celebrated prelates of those ages who held it.
Father O. But the church never held it as her faith.
N*. I did not say she had; I only say that Dr. Milner conceals the fact that the most famous doctors and ecclesiastical body, the judges of heretical pravity, held this view, which he charges on Protestants as having held and given up. If it be so, which universally they have not, they would only have done what (according to you in point of fact, though there may be no decree upon it) Rome has done.
But we were speaking of unity and catholicity, and on these points I have done. It is clear from facts that there is none such to be found in the external body of Christendom.
Father O. Then the gates of hell have prevailed against it, which is impossible.
N*. By no means: Christ will build His church in spite of all this sad and humbling failure of man. Of this I will speak. All we have found now is that by your own admission, and by the force of facts, Rome is not that church and because (mark it) she is Rome. The existence of the Greek church, to say nothing of the claims of Protestants or the English episcopacy, is a standing protest against the claims of Rome to Catholic unity. I only add here that I have accepted your four marks of the true church which are those of Milner, and generally given. Were I to search further, my objections on the one hand, and, if I were inquiring, my difficulties, would be proportionately multiplied. Bellarmine (lib. 4, cap. 3, 3, 4) tells us that these marks are variously designated and enumerated by different persons: for Augustine there are six, for Jerome two, Vincentius, three. Of the moderns, one gives three others; Cardinal Hozius four, Sanders six others, Medina has given ten, adding an eleventh in another place, another (he thinks) thirteen. Bellarmine himself gives fifteen. Now, if a sincere soul is seeking to find the true church on your plan, in what confusion he finds himself! How can he find the grounds of a divine faith here? Your doctors give him different marks of the true church, and, if he has found out half, perhaps he cannot make out the rest.
But, further, to say that he has found the church by them, either he must take for granted the whole matter, or know the history of the church in all ages, or how can he tell they are there? How can he tell whether Rome has had always the same doctrine? How can he tell whether Vincentius’ rule “what everywhere, what always, what by all” has been verified? The last statement of the rule he knows cannot be true, for common doctrines are not held by all now, or he would not be inquiring. And in all the North of Europe, and North America, all the most learned men will tell him, Rome, as to her distinctive doctrines, does not hold what was held at first. But, when he looks into his Bible, he finds the truth for himself. At any rate he is lost in finding that the greatest doctors have different sets of marks, some of which he knows do not hold good. And this leads me to the point I said I would touch upon, and which I have already alluded to in our conversations, but which comes in naturally here and I return to it as of all importance.
Rome, by the confession of her own teachers, has no divine ground of faith at all, and this in a way I call profane if God has given a testimony. Thus Bellarmine on the marks of the church, lib. 4, cap. 3, “They do not make it evidently true that it (the Catholic) is the true church of God, but they make it evidently credible.” “We say therefore, that the notes of the church which we bring forward do not give evidence of the truth simply, since otherwise it would not be an article of faith, that this church is the true church. Nor would any be found who would deny it.” Now the words which Bellarmine here uses prove distinctly that, on Roman Catholic principles, no article of faith can be founded on the simple evidence of truth.48 That is, in Roman Catholic faith, there is no divine faith; for it would be a simple blasphemy to say that, if God had spoken, what is said is credible but not simply true. How I thank God that I believe simply in His word as His servant John the Baptist teaches: “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.”
Nor does Mr. Newman, who became a Romanist, give any other ground for his having changed from Anglicanism to Romanism; no other ground for faith. Keble had told him it was probability as put to account by faith and love. These moral qualities, or what is called the pious affections of believing (see Pet. de Inc., 8, 12-16) I make no difficulty about, that is, a divine disposition given by grace, inclining the will, as Augustine also teaches; but their belief is only probability. Mr. N. says, “My argument is in outline as follows:—That that absolute certitude which we were able to possess, whether as to truths of natural theology, or as to the fact of a revelation, was the result of an assemblage of concurring and converging probabilities; and that, both according to the constitution of the human mind and the will of its Maker, that certitude was a habit of mind, that certainty was a quality of propositions “(Apol. pro VitS suS, p. 70). “I say that I believed in God on a probability; that I believed in Christianity on a probability; and that I believed in Catholicism on a probability; and that all these were about the same kind of probability, a cumulative and a transcendent probability, but still probability; inasmuch as He who made us has so willed, that in mathematics indeed we arrive at certitude by rigid demonstration; but in religious inquiry we arrive at certitude by accumulated probabilities; inasmuch as He who has willed that we should so act cooperates with us in our acting, and therefore bestows on us a certitude which rises higher than the logical force of our conclusions” (232). His faith, then, does not rest on divine testimony, but on logical conclusions.
Mr. Newman has since written a book (Grammar of Assent) in which he speaks of a transcendent adhesion of mind, intellectual and moral, when assent follows on a divine announcement, and a special self-protection beyond the operation of these ordinary rules of thought; but adds—which alone have a place in my discussion—from some Roman Catholic divine that faith is more certain than even natural truth; and that concerning those things which it is certain (constat) are revealed by God, no one can be disturbed. (Gram, of Assent, 180, 2nd ed.). But we have not a word how it is certain they are revealed by God, or on what faith rests. The quotation is happy as far as it goes, it would be blasphemy to say the contrary, but it does not touch the question how we get the faith. I notice it because it sounds well. But nobody in his senses would say, if it was certain that God revealed anything, anyone could doubt it. “It is impossible for God to lie,” as the apostle says: the question is, what is the ground of faith? how is it certain to us? But even this question, Mr. Newman, in his new book, declares he is not writing about, but the laws of thought, on which I think him exceedingly poor and illogical, though right on some points—but that is not our question now—for he does not get beyond what he calls concrete certainty, that is, practical certainty for matters in this life, which nobody denies.
Dr. Milner assures us distinctly of the same thing; though he, sensible of where it placed him, seeks to smother it up in a note to make it less apparent, calling it a vulgar objection (Letter n on True Rule). “I believe the Catholic church; and, therefore, everything which she teaches, upon the motives of credibility, namely, her unity, sanctity, etc., which accompany her.” Nothing can be clearer than that these statements shew that the Roman Catholic system has no divine ground of faith at all. All rests on motives of credibility (that is, the rules of ordinary human thought where we may be misled), not on any divine testimony. There is no divine faith. I do not deny individuals may through grace have it from God, though in the system and in spite of it; but Romanism has no divine testimony or faith as its basis for my soul, but motives of credibility only.
I am aware that Mr. Newman objects to requiring an infallible proof; that is, one as to which no doubt can exist for the infallibility of the church. But there can be no divine faith without [not indeed an infallible proof (which has no real sense), proof is only the ground of inference, which Mr. Newman justly distinguishes, but] a testimony we know to be infallible, or rather without absolute truth.
In his account of himself (Apologia pro Vitâ suâ), he openly —and his Grammar of Assent carefully, but not openly— confounds the certainty on which men have to act, and must act, with the certainty of divine faith, which is quite another thing. Chillingworth was perfectly right; but Mr. Newman never had, or has lost, the idea of what divine faith is; what it is to say, “impossible for God to lie.” Not that he would deny this: but if I am not certain, with divine faith, that God has spoken, I cannot be certain of what is said, that it is divine truth. There can be no divine faith. He argues very hard for concrete certainty; that is, practical assurance on which to act; but so as to exclude divine faith. The church, I am told, tells me a book is divine; and so I have divine faith in what is said in the book. But I have, on their own shewing, only human grounds for believing that the church tells me the truth. I cannot, therefore, have certainty which is of a divine order, that God has said what is in the book; I have only a fallible, or human ground, for believing it.
Remark further, that the church, on its own confession, reveals nothing. It professes to be preserved in the faith and to define it when it is called in question. It is only infallible in knowing and expressing what is revealed already; that is, its representatives, or representative and head, are. The question is, ought not the church to have directly what is revealed? This is what is objected to. The faithful are incapable of understanding what Paul, and Peter, and John, or Christ Himself, said to them; though they did say it, and address it to them expressly. This is the real point. The faithful who do believe, that is the church, cannot have, without a written permission, what the apostles said and have left written for them; but of this we have spoken. Infallibility belongs to God. God has spoken and left written records of what He has addressed to the church; the church professes to reveal nothing; but only to hinder the faithful from having what God has revealed.
And remark further, that this is to get in authoritatively between God and the soul; so that God should have no direct authority over it. It is admitted that the mass of truths revealed are the matter of faith, always accepted and taught; only definition is necessary, when heresies or questions spring up; but the thing defined was always believed.
Father O. Just so.
N. But the church can have none of them directly; not even the undisputed truth, unless by written permission. Besides, I deny the fact. The pope’s infallibility was never dreamt of, but denied by the early church; though when disputes as to worldly precedence began, a wholly unchristian and antichristian thing, precedence was allowed to him because he was the prelate of the ancient capital city of the empire, and expressly on this ground, and his prescribing in matters of faith, or even order in the council, or Rome’s rank49 is expressly denied in the Council of Chalcedon.
But this is not my object now, and has been spoken of. But, if it defines what was always the faith of the church, still these things were not held as of faith before; though, if revealed to be faith, and that is what is defined, they were always of faith in nature and obligation, yet never really held and possessed by the church; nay, often denied. Thus, the infallibility of the pope is now alleged to be a matter of faith. This was denied by the assembled hierarchy representing the whole church at Constance and Basel—to say nothing of Pisa— was denied formally by the Gallican church, synodically; never held by the Greeks; and in fact denied in every possible way by the acts of all the various parts of the church; for theoretically it was never dreamt of for centuries. The Council of Chalcedon would not accept of Leo’s famous letter defining the faith, when required to do so; but because it agreed with other more authoritative documents.
Now I am not discussing the infallibility, but using it to shew that the pretension to define the faith by the church is really a proof that, on matters of faith, the church, at least what has been called such, had been in error as to matters of faith; the whole, or very large parts of it, for centuries.
For the defined point was, it is alleged, matter of faith always, but not believed; often denied, till defined: as, for instance, the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary; which the greatest body in the church—the authorised judges of heresy— constantly denied, and openly wrote against for five centuries, that is, almost as long as they existed, and to our own days.
Father O. Yes, but they were not obligatory as matter of faith, till they were defined.
N*. How not obligatory? Were they not always revealed, and really articles of a faith which never changes?
Father O. Yes, but till they were defined the faithful were not bound to hold them as such.
N*. Worse and worse. This is terrible. Here it is acknowledged that truths were revealed of God, always part of the faith in themselves; but, though God had revealed them, the faithful were not bound to hold them till they were defined by ecclesiastical authority. That is, God’s truth when revealed is not obligatory till the church makes it so.
Father O. We do not say that. But it was not put forward as such till the church was obliged to define it by its being called in question.
N*. But it was revealed; and if held, the authority of the church is not necessary to receive the truth. But further, the contrary to what has been since defined has been held by large bodies of the church, or even all of it; so that the subject was before the minds of the faithful, and before doctors, and even assembled councils; and they have been in error as to matters of faith, when the question was before them.
And now tell me this, Was not every soul bound, for its salvation, to believe in the divinity of the blessed Lord before the Council of Nice? That, when truth is denied, godly care should be taken, individually and collectively, to maintain it, is all very right. But this is not the question; but whether the church’s definition makes it obligatory. Were not souls bound to believe in the divinity of Christ before the Council of Nice, as a truth their soul’s salvation was concerned in?
Father O. Of course they were. It was always the true faith.
N*. Very well—they were bound to believe what is divine truth before the church so called defined it. But they were not bound to believe in the immaculate conception or the pope’s infallibility, and in point of fact very large bodies, counted orthodox now, hold these to be wrong, or the whole church did not hold these doctrines. Yet there was no peril of their salvation. Now there is. Nay, there were those, and many called saints among those, who openly denied what is now necessary to salvation as being 01 the faith, and i» is alleged, always was.
It is thus evident that the whole system is false; that, according to your system, the church so called gives divine authority to these doctrines, an authority which they could not claim before, though God had revealed them. The persons might be wrong, as you say. Be it so. But the doctrines they denied had no divine claim on their faith till the so-called church gave it. They died denying it, in the odour of sanctity. You hold the faithful are bound to believe in the infallibility of the pope because the church has defined it; but that it was revealed before already, really a matter of faith, yet nobody bound to believe it. That is, God’s revelation gave it no authority; the church’s statement of it does. Yet even you dare not deny that there are truths which a man must believe at the peril of his soul’s salvation, before even they are defined at all. You know very well that there is a faith that saves, and notions convenient at times to be established as such.
And here I have to accuse your writers of want of honesty, even in their statements in these matters. Thus Dr. Manning says, quite quietly, there had been eighteen councils before this last at Rome;50 but says nothing of Pisa, Constance, Basel. But he cannot honestly leave them out; for parts at least of them were confirmed by the popes. They are called general by Bellarmine. Pisa deposed two popes and appointed a third, Alexander V; and the next Alexander calls himself VI, so that Bellarmine says its authority is so far owned. It is therefore neither approved nor disapproved. But then its authority was superior to the pope. The same is true of Constance. The popes have no existence but by its authority; and, as I have said, parts of it at any rate are confirmed.
Many allege, from positive historical documents, that the pope did confirm it as a council. The facts are these. When all was ready for the dissolution of the council, the ambassadors of Poland and Lithuania demanded the formal condemnation of certain errors. Then follows, in the Acts of the Council (Sess. 45), “Our most holy lord the pope said, in replying to the aforesaid, that he would hold and inviolably observe all and singular the things conciliarly determined, concluded, and decreed, and never go against them in any way, and approved and ratified the things themselves so conciliarly done, and not in any other way. And that the same he caused to be said by the organ of Augustine de Pisa, the aforesaid fiscal and advocate of the sacred consistory, who, in the name of the pope, sought public instruments to be made (acts to be drawn up) by the proto-notaries, and notaries ordained and deputed to write the acts of the said council.”
He further, formally, by a public act, confirmed, not only the condemnation of Huss, Jerome, and Wicklifle, but the following test of faith to whosoever was suspected of favouring them:—It contained (in what he confirmed) “whether he believes that that which the sacred Council of Constance, representing the universal church, has approved, and approves to the advantage (favorem) of faith and salvation of souls; that this is to be approved and held by all the faithful of Christ; and that what it has condemned and condemns as being contrary to faith and good morals, this is to be held, believed, and assented to by the same for condemned.”
This the pope confirms of his proper movement and certain knowledge, with all the usual papal formalities (Hard., Conc. 9, 914). That he was an intriguing, unprincipled, tyrannical man, so that his own cardinals were against him, is true, and it was only by word of mouth he confirmed all conciliarly done, though the instruments were called for. But the testing question which owned Constance fully is signed. No honest man could deny he confirmed it. He may have meant to play fast and loose and to deceive. Did Martin declare this to be a general council or not? That he did in writing. As to order in the church, he was not pope if the council had not title to make him so. Nor is there any true succession at all. Why does Dr. Manning say there are eighteen, and keep a profound silence as to this? There are twenty-one more or less owned by Roman Catholics; but these three are (as Paul Sarpi says of one of them) one of the secrets kept close at Rome. The councils are above the popes if they are councils; the popes are not popes if they are not.
I do not go further into Basel. Bellarmine recognizes that some particular decrees were confirmed, and that it was well begun but badly ended; a singular thing, if it was under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, which, if well begun, it certainly was; and if pope and council and all can turn away from the Holy Ghost’s guidance, how can we trust them? The conduct of Pope Eugenius as to it was a miserable tissue of political intrigue, and we have already spoken of it. He set up another council, and the council set up another pope, and there was a compromise. My object now is to shew that you cannot trust the statements of papal advocates, even if they are archbishops. There is no real doubt that Eugenius’ friends stole the seal of the Council of Basel to use it for a decree to suit his purposes.
But we may return to the marks of the true church. We have found little security in them as yet. We have still to look at holiness and apostolicity.
You first allege doctrines, and speak of the Trinity and the Incarnation, death and atonement of the consubstantial Son of God. Now these are most holy and fundamental doctrines. We cannot esteem them too highly, or hold too fast to them, through grace. But where is the person, according to your system, to have learned them when he has not yet got the church? Your whole system fails in its base here. Either the seeker after the true church has learned all these immensely important, saving, and vital doctrines without the church, or cannot use them to find it. Your ground of reasoning is absurd. I can understand natural conscience making a man feel that what professes to be of God ought to be godly. But that such doctrines as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and con-substantiality of the Son are the means of judging of the true church, if the true church is to teach and give authority to the scriptures, is simply absurd.
Upon the face of it you suppose a person to be a true orthodox Christian, holding fast the deepest doctrines of Christianity, so as to use them for a test before he has found the true church, according to your view of it. He is a true, good, orthodox Christian, and all Dr. Milner’s talk about rinding a book printed by the king’s printer, etc., is nonsense, an attempt to throw dust in people’s eyes; for he supposes a man to have learned the most important truths of Christianity without the church at all, and to use them as a means to judge which is the true one.
But then he is in a greater difficulty. The Greek church holds the doctrines, the Protestant Episcopal church, the Lutheran, the Presbyterian.51 So that as a means of learning which is the true church, the confession of these truths is of no avail, for many rival communions hold them. I have already remarked that the distinctive doctrines of popery are very unholy, as that the church has provided an easier way for remission than contrition, and that penance can be commuted for money.
Our friend Dr. Milner next comes to the means of holiness. Here we are in greater perplexity; for I must hold not only fundamental truths, but all the Roman sacramental system, to be able to find the true church. This is the cart before the horse with a vengeance.
Now the early church called a hundred and fifty things a sacrament—every solemn truth mysteriously expressed. And as to what is now called a sacrament, if I look at Justin Martyr,52 Tertullian,53 Chrysostom,54 Cyril of Jerusalem,55 Augustine,56 I find two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, distinctly referred to, and the rest ignored. Anointing accompanying baptism is spoken of as fully by Cyril or TertuUian, but no other such ordinances are taught; and Lombard does not attempt, nor does T. Aquinas (De Sacr., 45); nor I am assured (for I do not pretend to have read them all) do the rest of the schoolmen, who make seven, attempt to quote the Fathers for them. It was Lombard defined them as seven (Lib. 3, Diss. 2, etc.).
If I turn to scripture, which alone has authority with me, I find distinct reference in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, and an allusion in chapter 12:13 to these two ordinances as characterizing Christians, while their institution by the Lord is unquestioned. Thus if I take ancient authority even—still more if I take the sure word of God—I find you wrong as to the sacraments; if I would take modern, you allege the Greek church. But this is an additional difficulty; for then how am I to choose between you by this sign? I find two who have it, and both unscriptural.
Father O. And what do you make of extreme unction?
N*. Anointing was used not for the dying, but as a sign when people were healed. Your sacrament of extreme unction has not the least ground to stand upon. Thus, in Mark 6:13 we read, the disciples, sent forth to work miracles, anointed many that were sick with oil, and healed them. So in James, the elders of the church were by the prayer of faith to restore to health, and the Lord should raise them up. But if your anointed sick man, on the contrary, is raised up, the unction goes thenceforth for nothing; it is only pretended to wipe away the remains of sin when men are dying; and yet people go to purgatory after all.
But we may have a word on another point—miracles as a proof of holiness—before we turn to the real question. I speak of them only as a true proof of the church. I deny entirely, in the first place, that miracles are the criterion of truth. Many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles that He did; but Jesus did not commit Himself to them, for He knew all men. That is, a faith founded solely on miracles was of no value whatever. Again, in the time of the great tribulation there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they should deceive the very elect. Again, of the man of sin, the son of perdition, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. Jannes and Jambres wrought many, though God confounded them before Moses. So, in Deuteronomy 13, the case is put of a man giving a sign or a wonder, given as proof and happening, to lead away from the truth of the divine testimony and Jehovah Himself; and it is said, “Thou shalt not hearken to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” It is certain, then, that miracles are positively not a criterion of truth, and, indeed, a number of Fathers insist on this.57 When truth and especially the revelation of Christ came, God graciously gave miracles confirming the word; but He begat souls by the word of truth, never by miracles, though, when the truth was received and the heart disposed by grace, the works surely confirmed the word. So scripture puts it, Hebrews 2, “confirming the word by signs following.” And in John 15, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but,” etc. And elsewhere the Lord says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” In a word, the word testifies of Christ and the Father’s love; and to establish its efficacy and claim, the works are added. And the character of the miracles is of all importance here. Christ’s miracles (the cursing the fruitless fig-tree alone excepted, which only confirmed the truth of what I say, for there rebellious Israel, man under the old covenant, was figuratively judged as having leaves but no fruit) were the expression of the power of divine goodness present in the world in man, the incarnate Lord, who, by a word, removed every fruit and effect of sin.
Again it is striking in Israel. Signs are wrought to establish God’s religion under Moses—they were wrought by Elijah and Elisha in the midst of Israel, when Israel had departed from Jehovah; but in Judah (save one sign given by Isaiah) where God’s word was already owned, and His temple as yet stood, no miracles whatever are wrought. The effect of the word in the conscience is what is looked for. Further, if we compare saints’ pretended miracles, or other legends of the kind, the difference in their nature strikes the heart and conscience at once. In Christ, or even in His apostles by His power, we find a perfect conformity in the miracles to His Person and mission, and word: the hungry fed, or as He says to John’s messengers, “the sick healed, the dead raised, the lame walk, the blind see, demons are cast out, the gospel is preached to the poor,” the effect, “blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.” As I have already said, His divine power present in goodness, setting aside in men the power of Satan already vanquished. The strong man being bound, his goods were spoiled, as the Lord expresses it. In that He, as man, in His sovereign goodness, had entered into conflict with him in the wilderness, afte.r His baptism by John, the outward effects of sin being in the world, were set aside.
Now if we compare legendary accounts, what do we find? I am almost ashamed to recount such things of the blessed Lord. I do not speak of the Roman church receiving all the miracles I refer to, but I cite them to shew the taste of early ecclesiastical writers and their frauds. The Lord and other boys were playing, and one fell from the top of the house, the rest fled, and the Lord remained. The parents of the dead child came and charged Him with throwing him down; He approached the dead child and said, Zenuine, who threw you down? The dead child answered, You did not throw me down, but such an one did. His mother sent Him to the well to get water, and when He took the vessel up full, it was broken, and so He brought the water gathered up in His cloak, and His mother hid all these things, and kept them in her heart. He was with other boys making fish-ponds and mud-sparrows. A boy came to destroy them because it was the sabbath; he destroyed the children’s fish-ponds, and the child Jesus laid His hands on the sparrows, and they fled away piping. The boy came near His fish-pond, and the water disappeared; and He said, “As the water has disappeared, so shall you,” and immediately he dried up. Another boy met Him as He was returning home in the evening, and knocked Him over in running hastily; “As you have knocked against me,” said He, “so fall, and do not rise again”; and the boy tumbled down the same hour and expired. A master was teaching Him his alphabet, and, on the child asking the meaning of “aleph,” stretched out his hand to strike Him, when his hand dried up, and he died. And then Joseph and Mary would not let Him go out any more; for whoever opposed Him, they said, was struck with death. Other stories there are of many boys bitten by serpents also, and healed by His clothes by the hand of divine Mary—but I suppose we have enough. “But Dr. Milner has quoted, among others, those of the great St. Martin of Tours, and of St. Francis Xavier. Let us take these two patterns of Romish miracle—eminent examples and at different periods, some one thousand years apart, and surely men devoted to the cause they had at heart. I will recount some alleged miracles of St. Martin, called the apostle of Gaul, as St. Francis Xavier is called the apostle of the Indies. I quote from the same book as Dr. Milner, his life by Sulpitius Severus. “When Martin put his foot out of his cell, a couple of miles from the church, all those possessed with devils in the church shewed he was coming, so that the others knew the moment. I saw,” says the historian biographer (Dial. 3, 6), “one caught up into the air as Martin was coming—suspended on high, with his hands stretched out, his feet unable to touch the ground. St. Martin prayed for them. There were those who, their feet being carried up on high, hung as if from a cloud, yet their garments did not fall down over their face lest the naked part of their body should put people to shame. He met a furious cow that had gored several and was rushing at him. He told her to stand, and she did; and then he saw a devil on her back, and ordered him off; and he went, and the cow was quiet. The cow knew very well what had happened, and came and knelt down before Martin, then, on Martin’s order, went and found the herd “(Dial. 2, 9). He was very familiar with demons, knew when it was Jupiter and when Mercury, the most troublesome of all; and when Sulpitius and Gallus went to see him, they had to wait outside—he was talking, as he told them afterwards, with Agnes and Thecla and Mary (deceased persons held to be saints); he said he was often talking with Peter and Paul. Then suddenly a whole lot of devils came, whom Martin denounced by their names. Jove was a brute, he said, and stupid. They beset his dying bed (Let. 3, to Bassula). “Why are you standing there, bloody beast? he said. [He did not imitate Michael the archangel, at any rate.] Thou shalt find nothing in me, O fatal one.” In these conversations he had promised pardon to the devil if he repented, telling him the judgment-day was near, crimes were pardoned by the conversation of a better life, and if he even then left off following after men and repented of his deeds, he himself, trusting in the Lord, promised him the mercy of Christ.
Now compare this with the Lord’s life and words and the miracles themselves, and let any Christian man say, have they the least similitude? Are they a testimony to the Son of God, to the very nature and dealings of God toward the world in grace? or are they vaunting an individual by absurd exploits? One of the anchorites in Egypt was visited by an enormous lioness; the anchorite followed it; her cubs were blind, the anchorite stroked them and gave them sight, and the lioness brought him the skin of a curious beast to wear (Dial. 1, 9). Another lived naked on Mount Sinai, and, when at last seen, said, “He who was visited by men could not be by angels.”
I may mention another, as shewing the character of the miracles and the credulity of men’s minds when once this system was given in to. Paulinus, the same that complains of their mixing drunkenness with their celebration of his patron saint, St. Felix, relates that a countryman had two capital bullocks which were stolen; the countryman sought them in vain; no marks were to be found where they have been driven. He goes to the said St. Felix, pleading with him to send the bullocks back; that he had trusted him, he really had kept his bullocks, and he was answerable for them; that as he kept them, he should hold him for being in league with the robbers if he did not bring them back; that he saw and knew all things, and therefore could do it, for he knew where they were. He might pardon the robbers, but he must have the bullocks (the pardon belonging to the saint, but the bullocks to himself); he would not go after them nor leave the place; he would give up his life on the threshold if he did not bring them back; and so spent the whole day praying. The martyr heard him joyfully, and laughed with the Lord at his reproaches. He helps him. He is thrust away from the face of Felix to shut the doors at night, and goes and lies down in his stable, crying still on the saint; and frightened by a noise outside, there are the oxen come home without a guide! It may be said this is only the credulity of a rustic. But the account is of Paulinus of Nola, a saint, a prelate, a correspondent of the famous Augustine. (S. Pauhni Opera, 433, Ed. Mur., Verona, 1736.)
It has been remarked by others that up to a.d. 350 the heathen ridiculed the Christians for worshipping a dead man; after that, for worshipping saints’ and martyrs’ tombs; and Augustine tells us that, above all, the monks drove a lively trade in relics. We have already seen it forbidden. Strange to say, the heathen insisted on the one universal God and Father, reproaching the Christians with going to martyrs and their memories, as they were called.
Father O. But they did other miracles than these.
N*. Which rest on the same authority and spiritual discernment as these do, and no one can read the accounts of them without seeing that they are legends adapted to the taste and spirit of the age in which they are related. And remark, dear sir, you are increasing the difficulty to a sincere soul, because in saying this you admit that instead of incontrovertible miracles proving the word (and Martin, you cannot deny, was quite unsound too in doctrine, for he offers pardon to Satan as the day of judgment was near), the miracles themselves have to be proved which is quite another thing. Christ’s miracles were done openly when no man could deny them, and day after day, always, uniformly the power of Satan quailed before Him, and so of the apostles. Fleury admits the quantities of miracles and false relics that credulity believed in, and Dr. Milner admits they have to be proved. He says indeed Rome proves them carefully. But Rome, who proves them and approves them, accredits herself by them. It was not so with Christ’s. He appeals to all the world, to His adversaries. They were open, constant and accrediting God’s glory, not man’s fame. The name of Jesus was made glorious by it; not Ignatius Loyola, or F. Xavier. Did giving sight to a lioness’ cubs, and a lioness bringing the spoils of some poor slain beast glorify God’s nature and character, or set up an anchorite and his wonderful doings? And, remark, Rome’s provings are after the miracle-doer is dead, and it is not a living power which constantly proves itself, and the present interference of God’s goodness to everybody around. It is accrediting the man, and the party he belongs to, nothing else. You and Dr. Milner are using it to that end. And the court of Rome approves the miracle in order to its being approved itself.
“I admit,” says Dr. Milner, “that a vast number of incredible and false miracles, as well as other fables, have been forged by some and believed by other Catholics in every age of the church.” They then have to be proved, and all is still uncertain. Not only so that many false miracles have been forged by Roman Catholics, but the Fathers admit that the heretics have done miracles. Irenaeus tells us that heretics cannot do miracles of goodness, nor cast out all devils, only those they have introduced themselves, though one might think these were all (lib. 2, 31); and in lib. 1, 13 he states that a certain Marcus wrought miracles, and made others prophesy. Cyprian tells us that miracles are no proof in themselves of any one being in the right way though admirable things, quoting Matthew 7:22 (De Unitate Ecc. 114, ed. Fell). So Jerome in his Commentary on Galatians (lib. 1, c. 3, v. 5) distinctly states that heretics do many miracles and think they have a proof of their faith by it, and appeals to Matthew 7 as the Lord’s testimony that they do not prove that they are right. Augustine again, refers to Pontius and Donatus working miracles, and says if they removed mountains and had not charity they are nothing. He refers to Mark 13, that false christs and false prophets shall arise, doing signs and wonders: therefore he says the Bridegroom has warned us that we ought not to be deceived by miracles (Evang. Joh. Tract. 13).
But others of the Fathers are still stronger. I do not quote the imperfect work of St. Chrysostom, which says that miracles are wholly done away (levata). It is accused of being Arian, and Baronius rages against it for more reasons than that, I suspect.58 But the statement of the author as to the fact may have weight as having no connection with his heresies if guilty. He declares, as a notorious fact, that miracles had wholly ceased. But the true Chrysostom says that in his time signs were not to be looked for, were restrained (sunestalmena), and were no criterion of a saint according to scripture; that in the beatitudes they are not spoken of and in the reprobate whom he rejects they are (Vol. i, 136, 7, Ben. ed.).
And again Augustine (De Unit, Ecc, c. 49 or 19) says, Do not let him say it is true because Donatus or Pontius has done such-and-such wonderful things, or because he has been heard at the memories of our dead, or has had such a vision in dreaming. Let such figments of lying men or potents of deceiving spirits rather be removed. For either they are not true, or if any wonderful things are done by heretics, we ought to be the more on our guard, and he then quotes Matthew 24:25; 1 Timothy 4:1.
Again, Bernard, proclaimed after his death by others as the greatest miracle-worker that ever had been (Life by Philip de Claravelli, Opera, vol. 2, 1176, and Bellarmine de Nat. Ec. 4, 14), declares himself that miracles were not wrought in his age or by excessively few at any rate (perpauci); he comforts the monks as to the text, * these signs shall follow them that believe,’ that then nobody would be saved, if believers were to work these signs, for they were not wrought, but that new tongues were spoken when pious religion replaced vicious, and holiness, poisonous lusts, and so on (Sermo 1, de Asc. Dom., vol. 1, 918, par. 1719).
Dr. John Henry Newman goes farther; he tells us that no Catholic is bound to believe for the most part any particular miracle, only in general that the church has power to do them. His words are these, “Though it is a matter of faith with Catholics that miracles never cease in the church, still that this or that professed miracle really took place is for the most part only a matter of opinion, and when it is believed, whether on testimony or tradition, it is not believed to the exclusion of all doubt whether about the fact or its miraculousness” (Gram, of Assent, 2nd ed. 193, 4). Here clearly the miracle is an object, not a means of faith. In his hands they cease wholly to be a proof. For supposing I doubt of each particular one, my belief in the church’s power to do them is gone, or rests on wholly different ground. In the first life of Ignatius by Ribadeneyra there was no hint of miracles;59 when Ignatius was to be canonized, the account of his life is full of them. Among the rest he raised a hen, accidentally drowned, to life, Xavier invoking him in India, and the hen remained in absolute celibacy ever after; and Xavier routed a great army by his presence. Within a few years, it was alleged that the Virgin had visited a little peasant girl on a mountain in France. The local prelate issued a pastoral against it, but it was attractive. The government took it up and proved the fraud in open court; but then the wind turned round, and church authorities made a great deal of it, and pilgrimages were made there.
But we must have a few words on St. Xavier, surely a self-sacrificing man—one would fain hope from the best motives, but if so, only proving the evil of the system he was in. He carried on his work by the force of the arms of the Portuguese; one of his miracles was Ignatius’ miraculous appearance in India, heading the troops, and routing the infidels. The first multitudes whom he is said to have converted already called themselves Christians, but had been made so by the arms of the Portuguese without knowing a word of what it meant. They did not understand the Portuguese nor the Portuguese them. Xavier got some who knew his and their language a little, and translated the creed, the commandments, Lord’s prayer, and a supplication to the Virgin, learned them by heart (though subsequent statements give him the gift of tongues) himself, made them repeat them, and say, Lord give me to believe, and then a short word to the Virgin, and then, as sufficiently tested, baptized them. It went so far both in the conduct and relapses of the converts that Ignatius himself was dissatisfied. “Sometimes,’* writes Xavier, “I baptize a whole city in a day. Much of this success is to be attributed to the Viceroy of India. By his endeavour we have now thirty cities of Christians on this coast. He has lately given four thousand pieces of gold to those who with all diligence profess the truth in the cities of the Christians.” Xavier promotes in the same way the Viceroy’s efforts, organizing expeditions, and enforcing the Christians to behold Jesus Christ crucified before their eyes during the battle. And he announced far away from the scene, “Jesus Christ has conquered for us, the enemy is routed with very great slaughter.” But what was the result? He left India in a few years, disgusted and avowing himself useless, and went to Japan.
Now as to some of the miraculous events:—One night as he was praying to the Virgin the devils attacked him in crowds, and beat him so that he was half-dead with the blows, and forced to keep his bed for some days. He spoke so that in one sentence people of ten languages understood him all the same time. An island was infested with tigers; he sprinkled holy water on them and ordered them to leave and never come back, and so it was. I may remark here that Ignatius Loyola himself is stated to have been horribly beaten by devils so as to cry out, and another ran in twice to see what was the matter, and then was forbidden to come.
But to return to Xavier. On a voyage a child fell into the sea. Xavier asks the Mahometan father, Would he believe if his child were restored? He said, Yes. Three days after, the child appeared on the deck; neither he, nor anyone, knew whence it came. Again he gave a chaplet of the Virgin Mary to an infidel. The ship was wrecked; they made a raft, he thought himself with Xavier as in ecstasy; and when he recovered his natural sense, found himself safe on shore, all his companions lost. It is said he raised the dead several times. It is stated he spoke with tongues; but it is quite certain, both in India and Japan, by his own statement, that he used interpreters to begin his work. His conversions were really none.60 He converted a whole island, and built churches, in some three years, and left; when gone, through the influence of the chief of another island, the churches were pulled down, and all turned idolaters again. The Portuguese sent an expedition, and they all turned Christians again. That he was a man of indomitable energy and rare courage, is unquestionable. But all his work in India, Japan, and in general the Jesuits’ work there and in Abyssinia, has come to nothing. Where European dominion has been established, the Roman Catholic system has continued, as in Brazil, and similar countries.
Now that God can do miracles at any time, if He pleases, no Christian can deny as to His power to do it; that He should interfere extraordinarily for faithful men, or martyrs sacrificing their life for Christ, would be no surprise to me. That He answers the prayer of faith, so that the sick should be healed—where the prayer of faith is—I do not doubt a moment either. James tells us so, and John likewise. Nay, that one having the Spirit of Christ should control the power of Satan, and cast him out, ought to be the case. But when I find in scripture, that true miracles confirm the truth and word of God, and the truth is not present; that faith, founded on miracles, the Lord accounts of no value; that there is no testimony in these to Christ, but to the Virgin Mary, and Ignatius or some other ambitious human being, or head of a party, to make good his party claims; when I find them multiplied continually in the accounts of these persons, as occasion called for them; when I find, that instead of having power over demons, it is alleged that Satan had dreadful power over them, and the demons beat them furiously; when I find the miracles suited entirely to the superstitions of the age, and the object not to be the truth of Christ and the word, I see ground to disbelieve the most, altogether; and if power be manifested in some, to judge that it is not the power of God. That, if a devoted man—if even superstitious men were devoting themselves to God in sincerity—God should extraordinarily help him in difficulty, I have no disposition to deny.
God gives counter-checks that His people may not be deceived. Miracles must be for the truth, or they are not to be received. If they are for what is not the truth, the worker of them is to be utterly rejected; Deut. 13. I add that it is revealed that Satan will work wonderful signs, to deceive, if possible, the elect; and further, that it is only on the side of Satan, that signs and miracles are stated to occur in the last days. Then they will. It is the sign of the coming of the man of sin. It cannot therefore indeed by itself be the test of truth.
Further, false and pretended miracles began early in the professing church, because there was this desire to aggrandize men by wonders. In the earlier history of the church, this was resisted. An imperial edict of a.d. 386 forbade carrying and selling a martyr. At a council held at Carthage in a.d. 401 it was ordered that all false martyrs’ memories, and unauthenticated relics, should be destroyed; and if popular tumults hindered it, the people should be warned (Can. 14); and the connection is pretty evident with Can. 15, when the emperors are to be begged to destroy the similar remains of idolatrous holy places, fixed by dreams or like superstitions.
We have already seen how deliberately, by Gregory Thaumaturgus, and in Africa, the martyrs’ relics, and memories, so-called, were deliberately substituted for pagan holy places, to draw the people off from them. And they got drunk in church to their honour; as they had to Theseus or Hercules. And the Virgin Mary, mother of God, displaced Cybele, the mother of the gods, with the church’s, so-called, full sanction. Our friend, Martin of Tours, was useful in this in Gaul. A martyr altar, consecrated by bishops, and frequented by the pious, he suspected, as old priests could not tell whose it really was; so he went to it, and asked the Lord to shew whose it was, and then saw a sordid fierce ghost on his left. He commanded him to tell his name and deserts; and he confessed he was a thief and no martyr; he in punishment, and the martyrs in glory. I add another, that follows in Severus (Sulp. Sev. Vita Martini, 8, 9). He met a crowd, which he supposed to be an idolatrous procession, with an image. It was really a funeral. At some distance, he lifted up the cross and commanded them to stop and lay down their burden. They could not move, with all their efforts, and at last rolled round with a ridiculous vertigo, and laid down their burden. Finding that it was a funeral, he lifted up his hand and gave them the power of going away and taking the body. This is astonishingly like mesmerism.61 I forgot to add, that in imitation of Saul, in the thief’s ghost case, his companions heard the voice of him that spake, but saw no person.
The present use of miracles is not to testify of Christ, but to what is called the church; and individual glory is the fruit of superstition, used to confirm false teaching; and many are confessedly false, so that the civil power had to forbid hawking relics about for sale, once opposed by the ecclesiastical authority, now gloried in, in its most absurd and superstitious shapes. But, I repeat, I wholly reject miracles as a test of the truth. They confirmed the word, but the word is the test of truth. When it was settled62 that no church could be consecrated without relics, a supply was to be found. The catacombs at Rome supplied them; and when no one knew anything about the bones they got, they gave a saint’s name to them; and it was called baptizing them (Mabillon, Posth. Works, 2, 257-287, quoted by Maitland, Catacombs, 181).
And now allow me to suggest that there is another witness of holiness, which it would be important to have if we are to judge of the church by it; and that is, the church itself being holy, really and practically. In that there is something; for “by their fruits ye shall know them.” But I never find this in the holiness alleged as proof of the true church by Romanists. Dr. Pusey reminds Mr. Newman that it is only by faith we can know the church to be holy. What a bitter sarcasm! If it is to be a proof, would it not be a nice way to know it by fact, not by a few individuals of questionable sanctity; but the body being taken in the mass, by the practical holiness produced by the Spirit of God? And here I shall be brief, for it is dismal to think of: but the church of Rome has been the unholiest body of persons probably ever found in the world; and their leaders, the clergy, the worst of them; and the popes, perhaps the worst of them all. Even so early as Cyprian, he declares (De lapsis, 124, Ox. ed.) that the Decian persecution was a light chastisement for nominal Christians. Jerome (Ep. ad Nep., 52, ed. Vail., 1, 261) has to mourn that the Emperor has to make an edict to prevent the clergy surrounding dying beds, to get money from the sick by legacies, an edict not needed for heathen priests; and declares that they were characterized by excessive luxury. Drunkenness in church to celebrate the martyrs’ memories was common; Augustine speaks of it (Ep. 22, 29, ed. Ben.) in Africa and elsewhere; and Prudentius in Europe, both testify it. Not only does he state the fact that they mixed their cups with the holy thresholds (Natal. 9 and elsewhere); but, though regretting and disapproving it, he thinks such errors are to be pardoned, because error breaks into rude minds, fancying the saints delight in it. A strange holiness for teachers and taught! This was in the fourth century. Long before this, the pretended holiness of great saints was sleeping with the other sex; proving how holy they were above sinning. And this was common enough to have a name given to it, and, at last, to be forbidden.63 I mention so sad a thing here with reluctance, only because it came in quite early in the primitive church, as it is called. It was prevalent in the second and third centuries, and is freely spoken of as excellent, in a book read in the churches (the Shepherd of Hermas, 3, torn. 9, 11), in the middle of the second century, long believed to be the Hermas known to Paul. Irenaeus charges the Gnostics with it. Later down, what pretended to be the church became a sink of corruption.
Thus, in the tenth century, Ratherius, bishop of Verona, charges the clergy with corrupt avarice, and universal incontinency; the popes, he says, many being married, were warriors, perjurers, heretics, gamblers, and drunkards. There were among the clergy, bigamists, concubine-keepers, conspirators, perjurers, drunkards, usurers. The cause of the ruin of all the people was the clergy. The Italian clergy despise the canons the most, because they are the most given to impudicity and minister to this vice by ragouts, and excess of wine (Dupin, vol. 8, 19, Fleury, 12, 193).
Damianus, a great champion of Rome, who reduced Milan, till then independent, under its authority, declares the clergy were given up to unnatural crimes. And it was alleged they could not be deposed, as people must have the sacraments. He demanded they should be deposed. The pope answered, they deserved it; but he would depose (out of clemency) only the most immoral. The canons imposed only trifling penances for fornication: Damianus insisted they must be forgeries. Fleury remarks on the pope’s answer, “which leads us to suppose that the numbers were too great to treat them with rigour.” Pope Alexander II got Damianus’ book, and hid it; of which he complains bitterly. In the Romish Council of 1059 he wished to take the matter up; but it was refused, as likely to produce scandal (Fleury, 12, 532, Dupin). Already in 888, in two councils (Mog. and Met., Hardouin 6), canons were made against the danger of incest among the clergy; and in the Council of (Enamheuse, like, and, as it is said there, worse disorders are denounced. In 1045 Rome was full of robbers and assassins, who drew the sword at the altar, to carry off the offerings to use for wickedness.
The pope threatened and excommunicated in vain, and at last met it with arms, and drove them away.
Father O. But these were the dark ages, when everything was in disorder and confusion.
N*. The last things I have spoken of were. But this is the church, to be proved such by the mark of holiness, and never to fail; and, allow me to ask, was it not in these very ages that the popes and their church had the greatest power and influence?
Father O. And if they had, they used it to great blessing, establishing the Truce of God, and protecting the weak.
N*. They may have balanced, as the only central power, the rude warriors of feudal times; but, after all, history shews them using it persistently, and with constant craft, for self-aggrandisement, till the pope made the Emperor give his neck to mount on his mule by. But with this I have nothing to do here. We are looking for holiness as a mark of the true church. Can you honestly say it was found here?
Father O. You see yourself there were holy men condemning it all, and the pope too; and canons were made against it.
N*. Canons imposing trifling penances on habitual fornication, and the ecclesiastical authorities not daring to enforce them even; and a Roman council refusing to take it up, for fear of scandal. I have quoted your own authors for these statements.
Father O. Dupin and Fleury were very far from respecting the chair of St. Peter as they ought.
N*. But they are sincere and respectable Roman Catholics, and refer to contemporary writers, partisans of the Roman See; and Baronius, whom you cannot deny to have been as attached to it as possible, we have already seen declaring that for a hundred years he must quote the popes to date his history by; but how could he own as popes people put in because they were sons of powerful mistresses of the Marquis of Tuscany, or of the popes themselves? No, if holiness is to be taken as a mark of the true church, the church of Rome is not that true church. If you allow me, I will say a word of what scripture says as to the whole subject before I close; but I am now only following what is alleged as to the true church. That there were those inside and outside the Romish body who sighed and groaned over the abominations committed, is true. Your St. Bernard declared that all that was wanting in his day was to have Antichrist revealed; and hunted saints who left Rome were a witness to the revolt of consciences against these enormities.
Father O. But they were heretics and Manicheans.
N*. I think it can hardly be denied that one class of the Albigenses were, another not. But the Waldenses were not at all so. That is evident by the sentences pronounced by the Inquisition itself, who only treat them as schismatics.64 There were many of whom no certain judgment can be formed, as may be seen by the letter of Evervinus of Cologne to Bernard, and Eckbert’s tract. Those who came to England, led by a certain Gerard, were, says William of Neuburg, sound in substance as to the Supreme Physician, but unsound as to the remedies; that is, they were sound in faith as to Christ, but rejected Roman superstitions as to the sacraments.65 The state of professing Christendom was such, that it gave occasion to convulsive efforts for good, and for evil under protest of good. Waldo sought what was good; and somewhat later such men as Gerard, Groot, Thomas-a-Kempis, and the fratres vitæ communis; even Wickliffe, Huss, Jerome; and, on the other hand, there were the Brethren of the Free Spirit, who were very bad; Beghards, Beguines, Lollards, whose real character it is often hard to determine. But all these— generally persecuted indeed, were they good or evil, if not subject to Rome—did not alter the general state of Christendom, which had in every way become intolerable, though nobody knew how to mend it.
Bill M. I beg your pardon, sir; I would not, of course, interrupt you, and I wished to know if Mr. O. would reply to what you say of the Catholic church. But, your reverence, what is the meaning of the church being holy, if all this be true, and Mr. N*. quotes from Roman Catholic books which I do not know, but which you do not deny to be such? If these things are true, it was not holy at all. I am all upset by what I hear.
Father O. I told you that you would be. You cannot judge from all these things, collected to blacken the church, which must be holy. Indeed, when you set about to judge for yourself, you cannot but go wrong; and I see plainly you are on the high road to infidelity.
Bill M. Well, such conduct in the church is enough to make a man an infidel. But you told me that I should look for the marks of the true church, and Dr. Milner, whom you approve so highly, tells me so; and how can I know whether it was holy or not without knowing what it was, and what it did? and surely all this dreadful wickedness was not holiness. It might turn a man an infidel; but I begin to think the word of God is something more than ever I thought of, and that there is something I can believe there surely. There are the words of the blessed Lord, and the apostles, and the rest, as you do not deny; and if I believe them, I shall not be an infidel.
Father O. Well, you must go on your own way, and be ruined, I suppose. I do not know whether I should stay and listen to any more, only that I hoped to save you from ruin.
I do not understand what pleasure Mr. N*. can have in raking up all the wickedness he can find of unfaithful men, who are found everywhere, instead of looking at the bright and blessed examples of sanctity that are found in the Catholic church alone.
N*. Pleasure I have none, nor have I searched out the course of wicked men. The history would have been insupportable if I had. I have taken Roman Catholic accounts of the general state of their own body, and merely broad general statements—what you cannot escape if you read ecclesiastical history. You give holiness as one of the marks of the church, the best you allege. Truth you do not attempt to give as a mark, though you slip it under the head of holiness, because, if a mark, then we must seek the truth first outside the church, to know what it is, and see if your church has it; but holiness, which natural conscience, if not corrupted, seeks in that which is of God, at least when the true God is at all known, you call one to judge of the church by, in seeking the true one. How can I do this but by inquiring if the body you present to me as such is holy? That is what I have done, and not by accusations from without, but by complaints of honest men within. If you can prove it to be a body characterized by holiness, you have only to do so; but the shameless corruptions are written on every page of her history. These awakened Wick-liffe and Huss to denounce the state of things. These put Wessal in prison. You would refuse their testimony to the evil, however notoriously true; one was burnt for his pains by the Council of Constance, after it had pledged its faith to him, because faith was not to be kept with heretics; the other, defended during his life by the Duke of Lancaster, had his bones dug up and cast away.
But I have quoted your own writers. As to saints being only found in the Roman body, I wholly deny it. That there were some godly men I do not deny, though generally persecuted, and very dark as to truth; and many called saints, anything but such; but the truest saints were hunted down on every side, then burned by your prelates and inquisition for the truth they held, giving their lives rather than give it up. There were many such, whose names live, though often in hidden archives, but whose record is rather on high. And as to the kind of saints you pretend to—those canonized by men— the Greek church have a full complement of them, and some of them as far from sanctity as need be, and those among the most famous, too, as St. Cyril, a most violent and unprincipled man; St. Jerome, the bitterest and most unforgiving and abusive; others, as Cyprian, independent of, and opposed to, Rome; or Augustine, who led the way in an African council in excommunicating all who appealed to Rome after they had decided anything in Africa. The pretension to have all the saints may do very well for ignorant people, who know nothing about the matter, but will not do for those who do. If a calendar is a proof, the Greeks have about as full a one as you. I do not know if they have St. Veronica too.
Bill M. Who is that, sir?
N*. It is a curious history enough. There was a story, as there are many such, that some woman gave a handkerchief to wipe the face of the blessed Lord on His way to Calvary, and, as a reward, His likeness was imprinted on it. This was copied, and sold everywhere in Italy at any rate. The word Veronica is a corruption of true likeness, and then was taken to be the name of a woman; and she is in the calendar, and worshipped as such, and the handkerchief exposed to the worship, I must call it, of the multitude at St. Peter’s in Rome. One dreads mixing up the very name of the blessed Lord with such things, but it is well to know how that blessed name has been brought down to profanation by the system of Roman superstition.66 Sure I am, if any one did so serve in truth that blessed One, she will not lose her reward. Happy she to have been permitted such a service. But it is not in having a handkerchief worshipped in St. Peter’s, and what is a fable in itself turned into the name of a woman. Roman superstition really debases all it touches. Forgive me, Mr. O., if the feeling which bringing the holy name of the Lord into such things has led me to express itself severely.
But I will pursue, as briefly as I can, what remains of this sad history, and see if holiness is a mark to be found in the Roman ecclesiastical system, in order to recognize it as the true church. One of your own saints, Bernard, says, in his sermon on the conversion of Paul, “The whole Christian people, from the least to the greatest, has conspired against God. It is not the time to say, ‘as the people, so the priest,’ for the people are not even as the priest is. They are the ministers of Christ, but serve Antichrist. All that remains is, that this ‘ man of sin’ should be revealed.” I refer to this because it attests the universality of the corruption; and, further, that what you look up to as the church—namely, the clergy—were the source of it. It was about this time that the celibacy of the clergy began to be enforced, giving occasion to endless and universal corruption. Still many priests were married, though the popes treated their wives as concubines. And people were desired to receive the sacraments from them if they were dying; only their sons were not to inherit their parishes, for these were even given as portions to daughters. In England it is admitted all the best priests were married; but the king took money for it, and so did the bishops in different countries, for allowing them to live, as they said, in concubinage, so that councils had to forbid it; but it continued (Hard. Cone, 7, 1147, 1804, 1807, 8, 31). Canons as to it are found in Hardouin, from a.d. 1217 to 1302.
Thomas Aquinas advises them to have a wife secretly, as being better than general fornication. In the canon law (Distinction, 81, c. 6) a clergyman convicted of having begotten children in the presbytery was to be deposed. But the gloss says, it is generally said a clergyman is not to be deposed for simple fornication, for few can be found without that sin. All this system of corruption went on increasing if possible; and in an address to Pope Leo, the very year of the Reformation, W. F. Picus, Lord of Mirandola, nephew of the famous Pic de Mirandola, states that the priests, having got into the state described in Romans 1, parents gave meritorious boys to them, and these, when ruined, afterwards became priests. At an earlier period than this, before the Council of Pisa, during the schism in the papacy, Clemangis, the rector of the University of Paris, says, after a general description of the avarice and debauchery of the highest clergy, “if any one is lazy—if any one hate to work—he flees to the priesthood. As soon as he has attained to it, they diligently frequent brothels and taverns, and spend their time in drinking, eating, dining, singing, playing at dice and games; gorged and drunken, they fight, cry out, make riots, and execrate the name of God and His saints with their most polluted lips.” And he, as was commonly done, complained of their going from their nightly wickedness to serve at the divine altar. Clemangis further states that the nunneries were brothels of Venus, and that to make a girl take the veil was to give her up to prostitution.
This is the testimony of a most respectable Roman Catholic, the correspondent of kings and popes, labouring to heal the papal schism, the rector of the first university in the world. In Innocent IV’s time, Matt. Paris, p. 319 (a citation I cannot myself verify, not having his history), gives the parting address of Cardinal Hugo at Lyons, where a so-called general council had been held, saying that they had been very useful to the city; for that when they came there were only three or four brothels in it, now there was only one, but it was the whole town from the eastern gate of the city to the western. That the popes were no better I shall quote only Baronius to shew. That reprobate, Sergius (908, 2), the slave of all vices, the most iniquitous of all men—what did he leave unattempted? Again (912, 7), one pope undid all the acts of another. “What, then, was the state of the holy Roman church? How filthy, when the most powerful and basest harlots ruled at Rome, at whose will sees were changed, bishops given, and, what is horrible and unutterable to hear of, their lovers were introduced into the See of Peter, who are only to be written in the catalogue of Roman pontiffs to mark such times! For who can say that persons intruded without law in this way by harlots can be said to be legitimate Roman pontiffs? The clergy never elected, nor is there afterwards any consenting mention.”
I shall have to touch on this as to apostolicity and succession; I only refer to it now as to the mark of holiness. Is it not a solemn mockery to say, “What, then, was the face of the holy Roman church,” and then to give such a description? What is “filthy” holiness? I have done. One has only to consult the canons of councils to see the horrible state things were in, or the complaints of the laity, or any sober Roman Catholic writer. The laity tauntingly said to the clergy, sin is one thing for you, and another for us; for us to have one wife is no sin, but to have to do with another woman is; for you it is a sin to have one lawful wife, but you can have a hundred others. And for a century or two it was an outcry for reformation in head and members. If holiness is a sign of the church, the Roman body is not the church of God. It is not holy in doctrine, teaching that God provides by the church an easier way to get forgiveness than true contrition, because that is too hard;67 and that alleged wholesome discipline for sin, or proportionate pain in purgatory can be remitted for money. As to holy practice, we have seen what the facts are. Can you deny the statements I have made?
Father O. I do not deny that there was evil, or that these statements exist; but it seems to me a sad thing to pass over all that is good, and fasten on the corruption, and specially that of those dark ages. No doubt there were times when the church sank very low; but it has been kept and preserved through all. They were the manners of the age.
N*. Is that—that they were the manners of the age—an excuse for the church when holiness is in question, and we are referred to it as a proof of the true one? I have not turned to accusers, as I said before, but to the most respectable Roman Catholic writers, and, among the rest, the great Jesuit historian, Cardinal Baronius; and I have not gone into details, of which many are to be found, edited with biting sarcasm; but quotations which shew the awful depth of depravity to which all were sunk under the influence of Romanism, its universality, the clergy being the worst, and the popes, if anything, the worst of all. Has the Roman body the mark of holiness to prove it is the true church? It is more decent since the Reformation, but still frightfully corrupt through enforced celibacy.
Bill M. But is all this so, Mr. O.? It is terrible to think of. Please tell me, is it true?
Father O. You have heard what I have said to this gentleman. But I do not see what is to be gained by continuing the discussion on such a ground as this. I came in hopes to rescue M. Of that I have no hope; and you must excuse my pursuing the argument any farther. If it is only to throw reproach on the only true church in the world, it is a scandal to a true Catholic, and shakes the foundation of all faith.
N*. Well, Mr. O., we can still take Milner, and see what he has to say. You will please to remember that it is the ground you put it on yourself in presenting holiness as one of the marks of the true church. I have followed you on your own ground, which is indeed that of all Roman Catholic controversialists and catechisms. Only you give a proof of this, that the Roman body has no ground of faith at all. No believer could speak as you do. They know the word of God is true; have received it as God’s word. You have only the church; and when your boasted marks, only affording us at best a human ground of judgment, break as a reed, and pierce your hand, you have no ground of faith at all, but are cast on the wide sea of infidelity without a compass.
We remember the loving apostle’s word, when he foresaw the evil that was breaking in upon the church: “I commend you to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.” To that grace and to that word we trust. You trust the church, which he said was going to be invaded by wolves, and even corrupted by those within, commending the individuals to God and the word of His grace. We trust not the professing body, assailed by wolves from without and corrupters within, but God and the word of His grace, which is able to build us up; Acts 20:29-32. As I see you are preparing to go, though I have to acknowledge your courtesy in so long listening to what must have been painful to you, and indeed to every one, though you doubtless know something of it from your own writers, I should have been glad to state what it seems to me scripture states of this sad moral ruin of the professing body of Christendom. We have already seen what the apostle says in Acts 20 and in 2 Timothy 3. He describes its state pretty nearly in the very terms which he applies to heathen depravity in Romans 1, adding the form of piety, and tells us to look to the scriptures as our sure resource.
Father O. I have no wish to have your biblical expositions. I am content to hear the church, as its Master directs us. If you and M. will go after your own minds, you must answer for it yourselves. I have felt it useless replying to a system of calumniating what is holy. It is just the way with you Protestants. I will wish you a good evening.
JV*. Good evening. You will only remember that I have quoted only your own writers attached to the Roman hierarchy and system on the point you raised yourself.
Bill M. Good evening, sir.
N*. Well, M., I must go, I think, too. Mr. O., I suppose, will not return. If so, we can follow Milner with James; and Mr. O. could give us no more, only I was glad you should have been here. It was a very sorrowful and painful part of the inquiry; but when they make holiness a mark of the church, it must be inquired into. Happily I could only go into the general statements, which are full enough; for if details were given, it would be endless and every way unprofitable. But Mr. O. could not deny it, because the state of things is described by their own contemporary writers and admitted by their historians.
Bill M. Well, I am confounded. I never thought of such a thing; and then they seem so holy and devout.
N*. That is what the apostle says, “having the form of godliness,” but he tells us to turn away from them.
Bill M. I see that the mark of holiness is wanting, for they avow it in these past ages; and they all say it is always the same church. I do not know how they can dare to give holiness as a mark.
45 Milner’s “End of Controversy,” lib. 2, c. 13.
46 Milner’s “End of Controversy,” lib. 2, c. 14.
47 This centralization has been very diligently carried out. Not only in early ages was one universal episcopacy insisted on, contrasted with a central power, but in details the process of centralization has been carried on. After canonization of saints came in, prelates besides the pope did it till a decree of a pope in the middle ages appropriated it to the See of Rome. So with indulgences, all prelates gave or sold them. That too was appropriated by the pope.
48 Bellarmine continues—“Nor would any be found who would deny it as none is found who denies sentences which mathematicians demonstrate, but they make an evidence of credibility according to the Psalm 92:5. Testimonia tua credibilia facta sunt nimis [a bad translation of a bad translation, the Latin from the LXX]. But with those who admit the divine scriptures, and histories, and writings of the Fathers, they make them evidence of truth. For although the truth of articles of faith cannot be absolutely evident to us, yet it can be evident to us hypothetically, that is, the truth of the scripture being supposed.” (De N. E., 4, 8.) Now, several things are to be noted here. First, the scriptures must be first believed before I have the truth of the church or any marks of it. Secondly, in order to confound all divine grounds of faith, the writings of the Fathers and histories are put upon a level with God’s word. Thirdly, when we have the scriptures, the marks of the church are only known by inferences deduced. It is a very solemn thought that the Roman system has no divine foundation of faith, that is, in principle, it denies the direct claim of authority of God’s word over the heart of man.
49 Zosimus expressly owns that the decrees of the Fathers gave Rome this place.
50 Note this, which is the common enumeration, denies, and justly, the meeting in Acts 15 to be a general council. The list began with Nicaea.
51 That many individuals in Protestant bodies have turned infidel is sadly true, and so they have in popish countries, as Gregory XVI tells us; and in France as openly as in Protestant countries.
52 Second Apology, 93, 97 (Col. 1688).
53 Tertull. De Cor. 3.
54 Chrys. in Joannem, 85 B. or 84.
55 Cyril, Cal. 19, sive Myst. I and following.
56 Aug. Ep. ad Januar., lib. 54.
57 See an excellent summary in Ribadeneyra’s life of Ignatius Loyola, written by command of the Jesuit general, of the grounds on which he or any may be accounted a saint, without performing miracles (Lib. 5, c 13).
58 The writer speaks in the strongest way of the scriptures as the only criterion.
59 Far from it, it is a curious piece of Roman sign-making, and shews what these things are really worth. In Ribadeneyra, the disciple and companion of Ignatius himself, we find (lib. 5, 10, Mad. 1586, 335) a long proof in the objection that he did no miracles, that they were not to be sought as proofs. He quotes Gregory, saying the proof of sanctity is not in doing signs; quotes John 15, that disciples were to be known by love to one another; that John the Baptist did no sign; those (Matt. 7) whom He rejected do them. He cites Aug., quoting Matthew 24, Jerome on Matthew 7, 1 Corinthians 13, Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory Naz., and Nyss. Athanasius wrought no miracles. Then he refers to 1 Corinthians 12; gifts were various. All these are reasons for Ignatius not doing any. Two hundred well-proved ones were produced for his beatification, as is stated by the Père Bonhours. (Vide St. Ig., lib. 6, 3rd ed. p. 540.) It is a striking thing that, whatever was the reason, Ignatius died without the sacraments. It is asserted that he died in terror. I dare say it is disputed, too, but certainly he died without the sacraments.
60 In writing to Francis Henry, a missionary desponding in the work, and thinking of leaving (Epist. 2, 24, Bononiae, no date), “You profit more than you think in preparing infants, diligently obtained for heaven by baptism; for if you are willing to look round in your mind, you will find that out of the Indians, white or black, few come into heaven but those who depart this life under fourteen years in the innocence of baptism.”
61 It is related by a Roman Catholic eye-witness, M. Huc, that a great tree, said to spring from the hair of Tsong Kaba, a Buddhist saint, bears Thibetan characters on every leaf, and no fraud in it. (Voyage dans le Thibet, vol. 2, chap. 3.)
62 The second Council of Nice so decided, Canon 7.
63 Besides canons made against it, it is denounced by Cyprian ad Pomponium (Ep. 4, ed. Ox). Chrysostom denounces it in two treatises against the men (1, 228, ed. Ben.), and against the women, 248; and in this declares the meretricious acts of the virgins were intolerable. It is degrading in character. (Compare Hieron. Ep. 22, 1, 38, ed. Vail, ad Eustochium.)
64 The records of the Inquisition of Toulouse were published by Limborch. The history of the Albigenses is full of interest. A man escaped from the Saracens gave the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles to a man who gave him hospitality. A very great awakening took place, and many companies of saints were gathered. The Eastern Emperors attacked them, and, unhappily, they took arms, and for long years withstood the Greeks; but retreating into Persia, it seems they got infected with Manicheism, which joined with them in rejecting images and superstition. At last the Emperor made peace with them, and transported them to Bulgaria, as a check against the northern hordes. Thence they spread by Lombardy to Spain. There were two classes, the Albanenses and the Balioli. The former held two principles, a good and an evil one; the Balioli, not.
65 This all of them were accused of. In general they were accused of denying marriage. But it is plain that it was only the Romish sacrament as to it, which they denied; for their wives and widows are spoken of. (Elliott, Hor. Apoc, part 3, ch. 7.) Section 4 gives a pretty full account of all these revolters from Rome. As those who went to, and perished in, England were Germans, and were pronounced sound in faith as to Christ, probably those at Cologne, in Germany, and elsewhere, were also. But it is quite possible some, in breaking loose from the horrible iniquities and superstitions of Rome and Romanists, may have been misled in some points too by heresy. Evervinus’ letter is interesting; there is heart and conscience in it, though he saw them all burnt.
66 See Baronius 34, 133, where it is distinguished from the napkin found in the sepulchre.- He quotes from Bede. The latter is said to have been given to Charlemagne. Pope Urban erected a statue to the supposed Veronica, and an altar. The superstition is a late one. Mabillon puts the scene in Gethsemane, and Ducange on the way to Calvary. In 1083 it was alleged to have cured the Emperor Tiberius of leprosy, Christ being now dead. This was supported by a false quotation from Methodius. It is now an object of gorgeous worship at Rome. The English reader may see Maitland, “Catacombs “260. But the general fact will be found in any history treating of such subjects.
67 As to this, Dr. Milner states what is absolutely false.