by Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Bishop and Doctor of the Church
From the "Catholic Controversy" (originally published by Burns and Oates, London 1886)
Translated by Rev. Henry Benedict Mackey, O.S.B.
The lack of mission in the ministers of the new pretended church leaves both them and their followers without excuse.
That the pretended reformers had no mediate mission either from the people or from the Bishops.
The pretended reformers had no immediate or extraordinary mission from God.
An answer to the two objections which are made by the supporters of the theory of immediate mission.
That the invisible church from which the innovators pretend to derive their mission is a figment, and that the true Church of Christ is visible.
Answer to the objections made against the visibility of the Church.
That in the Church there are good and bad, predestinate and reprobate.
Answer to the objections of those who would have the Church to consist of the predestinate alone.
That the Church cannot perish.
The counter-arguments of our adversaries, and the answers thereto.
That the Church has never been dispersed or hidden.
The Church cannot err.
The ministers have violated the authority of the Church.
The lack of mission in the ministers of the new pretended church leaves both them and their followers without excuse.
FIRST, then, your ministers had not the conditions required for the position which they sought to maintain, and the enterprise which they undertook. Wherefore they are inexcusable; and you yourselves also, who knew and still know or ought to know, this defect in them, have done very wrong in receiving them under such colours. The office they claimed was that of ambassadors of Jesus Christ Our Lord; the affair they undertook was to declare a formal divorce between Our Lord and the ancient Church His Spouse; to arrange and conclude by words of present consent, as lawful procurators, a second and new marriage with this young madam, of better grace, said they, and more seemly than the other. For in effect, to stand up as preacher of God’s Word and pastor of souls, - what is it but to call oneself ambassador and legate of Our Lord, according to that of the Apostle (2 Cor. v. 20): We are therefore ambassadors for Christ? And to say that the whole of Christendom has failed, that the whole Church has erred, and all truth disappeared,-what is this but - to say that Our Lord has abandoned his Church, has broken the sacred tie of marriage he had contracted with her? And to put forward a new Church, - is it not to attempt to thrust upon this sacred and holy Husband a second wife? This is what the ministers of the pretended church have undertaken; this is what they boast of having done; this has been the aim of their discourses, their designs, their writings. But what an injustice have you not committed in believing them? How did you come to take their word so simply? How did you so lightly give them credit?
To be legates and ambassadors they should have been sent, they should have had letters of credit from him whom they boasted of being sent by. The affairs were of the greatest importance, for there was question of disturbing the whole Church. The persons who undertook them were extraordinaries, of mean quality, and private persons; while the ordinary pastors were men of mark, and of most ancient and acknowledged reputation, who contradicted them and protested that these extraordinaries had no charge nor commandment of the Master. Tell me, what business had you to hear them and believe them without having any assurance of their commission and of the approval of Our Lord, whose legates they called themselves? In a word, you have no justification for having quitted that ancient Church in which you were baptized, on the faith of preachers who had no legitimate mission from the Master.
Now you cannot be ignorant that they neither had, nor have, in any way at all, this mission. For if Our Lord had sent them, it would have been either mediately or immediately. We say mission is given mediately when we are sent by one who has from God the power of sending, according to the order which He has appointed in His Church; and such was the mission of S. Dennis into France by Clement and of Timothy by S. Paul. Immediate mission is when God Himself commands and gives a charge, without the interposition of the ordinary authority which He has placed in the prelates and pastors of the Church: as S. Peter and the Apostles were sent, receiving from Our Lord’s own mouth this commandment: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark xvi. 15); and as Moses received his mission to Pharaoh and to the people of Israel. But neither in the one nor in the other way have your ministers any mission. How then have they undertaken to preach? How shall they preach, says the Apostle, unless they be sent?(Rom. x. 15)
That the pretended reformers had no mediate mission either from the people or from the Bishops.
AND first, as to the ordinary and mediate mission, they .have none whatever. For what they can put forward is either that they are sent by the people and secular princes, or else that they are sent by the imposition of the hands of the bishops who made them priests, a dignity to which at last they must have recourse, although they despise it altogether and everywhere.
Now, if they say that the secular magistrates and people have sent them, they will have two proofs to give which they never can give, the one that the seculars have done it, the other that they could do it, for we deny both the fact and the right (factum et jus faciendi).
And that they could not do it the reason is absolute. For (1.) they will never find that the people and secular magistrates had the Power to establish and Institute bishops in the Church. They will indeed perhaps find that the people have given testimony and assisted at ordinations; yea, perhaps, that the choice has been given to them, like that of the deacons, as Luke tells us (Acts vi.), which the whole body of the faithful made; but they will never show that the people or secular princes have authority to give mission or to appoint pastors. How then do they allege a mission by people or princes, which has no foundation in the Scripture?
(2.) On the contrary, we bring forward the express practice of the whole Church, which from all time has been to ordain the Pastors by the imposition of the hands of the other Pastors and bishops. Thus was Timothy ordained and the seven deacons themselves, though proposed by the Christian people, were ordained by the imposition of the Apostles’ hands. Thus have the Apostles appointed in their Constitutions; and the great Council of Nice (which methinks one will not despise) and that of Carthage- the second, and then immediately the third, and the fourth, at which St. Augustine assisted. If then they have been sent by the laity, they are not sent in Apostolic fashion, nor legitimately, and their mission is null.
(3.) In fact, the laity have no mission, and how then shall they give it? How shall they communicate the authority which they have not? And therefore S. Paul, speaking of the priesthood and pastoral order, says: Neither doth any man take the honour to himself but he that is called by God, as Aaron was (Heb. v. 4). Now Aaron was consecrated and ordained by the hands of Moses, who was a priest himself, according to the holy word of David (Ps. xcviii. 7), Moses and Aaron among his priests and Samuel among those who call upon his name; and, as is indicated in Exodus (xxviii. 1) in this word, take unto thee also Aaron thy brother, with his sons…that they may minister to me in the priest’s office; with which agree a great army of our Ancients. Whoever then would assert his mission must not assert it as being from the people nor from secular princes. For Aaron was not called in that way, and we cannot be called otherwise than he was.
(4.) Finally, that which is less is blessed by the better, as S. Paul says (Heb. vii. 7). The people then cannot send the pastors; for the pastors are greater than the people, and mission is not given without blessing (John xiii. 16). For after this magnificent mission the people remain sheep, and the shepherd remains shepherd. (5.) I do not insist here, as I will prove it hereafter, that the Church is monarchical, and that therefore the right of sending belongs to the chief pastor, not to the people. I omit the disorder which would arise if the people sent; for they Gould not send to one another, one people having no authority over the other; and what free play would this give to all sorts of heresies and fancies? It is necessary then that the sheep should receive the shepherd from elsewbere, and should not give him to themselves.(Acts xv. 24) The people therefore were not able to give legitimate mission or commission to these new ambassadors. But I say further that even if they could they did not. For this people was of the true Church or not: if it was of the true Church why did Luther take it therefrom? Would it really have called him in order to be taken out of its place and of the Church? And if it were not of the true Church, how could it have the right of mission and of vocation? -outside the true Church there cannot be such authority. If they say this people was not Catholic, what was it then? it was not Lutheran ; for we all know that when Luther began to preach in Germany there were no Lutherans, and it was he who was their origin. Since then such a people did not belong to the true Church, how could it give mission for true preaching? They have then no vocation from that source, unless they have recourse to the invisible mission received from the principalities and powers of the world of this darkness, and the spiritual wickednesss against which good Catholics have always waged war. Many therefore of our age, seeing the road cut off on that side, have betaken themselves to the other, and say that the first masters and reformers – Luther, Bucer, Oecolampadius- were sent by the bishops who made them priests; then they sent their followers, and so they would go on to blend their rights with those of the Apostles.
In good sooth it is to speak frankly and plainly indeed, thus to confess that mission can only have passed to their ministers from the Apostles by the succession of our bishops and the imposition of their hands. Of course the case is really so: one cannot give this mission so high a fall that from the Apostles it should leap into the hands of the preachers of nowadays without having touched any of our ancients and foregoers: it would have required a very long speaking-tube in the mouth of the first founders of the Church to call Luther and the rest without being overheard by any of those who were between: or else, as Calvin says on another occasion, not much to the point, these must have had very long ears. It must have been kept sound indeed, if these were to find it. We agree then that mission was possessed by our bishops, and particularly by their head, the Roman Bishop. But we formally deny that your ministers have had any communication of it, to preach what they have preached. Because (1.) they preach things contrary to the Church in which they have been ordained priests; therefore either they err or the Church which has sent them errs; - and consequently either their church is false or the one from which they have taken mission.
If it be that from which they have taken mission, their mission is false, for from a false Church there cannot spring a true mission. Whichever way it be, they had no mission to preach what they preached, because, if the Church in which they have been ordained were true, they are heretics for having left it, and for having preached against its belief, and if it were not true it could not give them mission.
(2.) Besides, though they had had mission in the Roman Church, they had none to leave it, and withdraw her children from her obedience. Truly the commissioner must not exceed the limits of his commission, or his act is null. (3.) Luther, Oecolampadius, and Calvin were not bishops: how then could they communicate any mission to their successors on the part of the Roman Church. which protests always and everywhere that it is only the bishops who can send, and that this belongs in no way to simple priests? In which even S. Jerome has placed the difference between the simple priest and the bishop, in the Epistle to Evagrius, and S. Augustine (De Haer. 53) and Epiphanius (Haeres. 75) reckon Aerius with heretics because he held the contrary.
The pretended reformers had no immediate or extraordinary mission from God.
THESE reasons are so strong that the most solid of your party have taken ground elsewhere than in the ordinary mission, and have said that they were sent extraordinarily by God because the ordinary mission had been ruined and abolished, with the true Church itself, under the tyranny of Antichrist. This is their most safe refuge, which, since it is common to all sorts of heretics, is worth attacking in good earnest and overthrowing completely. Let us then place our argument in order, to see if we can force this their last barricade.
First, I say then that no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he prove it by miracles: for, I pray you, where should we be if this pretext of extraordinary mission was to be accepted without proof? Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries? Arius, Marcion, Montanus, Messalius- could they not be received into this dignity of reformers, by swearing the same oath?
Never was any one extraordinarily sent unless he brought this letter of credit from the divine Majesty. Moses was sent immediately by God to govern the people of Israel. He wished to know his name who sent him; when he had learnt the admirable name of God, he asked for signs and patents of his commission: God so far found this request good that he gave him the grace of three sorts of prodigies and marvels, which were, so to speak, three attestations in three different languages, of the charge which he gave him, in order that any one who did not understand one might understand another. lf then they allege extraordinary mission, let them show us some extraordinary works, otherwise we are not obliged to believe them. In truth Moses clearly shows the necessity of this proof for him who would speak extraordinarily: for having to beg from God the gift of eloquence, he only asks it after having the power of miracles ; showing that it is more necessary to have authority to speak than to have readiness in speaking.
The mission of S. John Baptist, though it was not altogether extraordinary, -was it not authenticated by his conception, his nativity, and even by that miraculous life of his, to which our Lord gave such excellent testimony? But as to the Apostles,- who does not know the miracles they did and the great number of them? Their handkerchiefs, their shadow, served for the prompt healing of the sick and driving away of the devils; by the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done amongst the people (Acts xiv. 5) and that this was in confirmation of their preaching S. Mark declares quite explicitly in the last words of his Gospel, and S. Paul to the Hebrews (ii. 4) How then shall those who in our age would allege an extraordinary mission excuse and relieve themselves of this proof of their mission? What privilege have they greater than an Apostolic, a Mosaic? What shall I say more. If our sovereign Master, consubstantial with the Father, having a mission so authentic that it comprises the communication of the same essence, if he himself, I say, who is the living source of all Ecclesiastical mission, has not chosen to dispense himself from this proof of miracles, what reason is these that these new ministers should be believed an their mere word? Our Lord very often alleges his mission to give credit to his words: As my Father hath sent me I also send you (John xx. 21); My doctrine is not mine, but of him that sent me (ibid. vii. 16); You both know me, and you know whence I am; and I am not come of myself (ibid. 28). But also, to give authority to his mission, he brings forward his miracles, and attests that if he had not done among the Jews works which no other man had done, they would not have sinned in not believing him. And elsewhere he says to them: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? Otherwise believe for the works themselves. (ibid. xiv. 11, 12). He then who would be so rash as to boast of extraordinary mission without immediately producing miracles, deserves to be taken for an impostor. Now it is a fact that neither the first nor the last ministers have worked a single miracle: therefore they have no extraordinary mission. Let us proceed.
I say, in the second place, that never must an extraordinary mission be received when disowned by the ordinary authority which is the Church of Our Lord. For (1.) we are obliged to obey our ordinary pastors under pain of being heathens and publicans (Matt. xviii. 17): - how then can we place ourselves under other discipline than theirs? Extraordinaries would come in vain, since we should be obliged to refuse to listen to them, in the case that they were, as I have said, disowned by the ordinaries. (II.) God is not the author of dissention, but of union and peace (I Cor. xiv. 33), principally amongst his disciples and Church ministers; as Our Lord clearly shows in the holy prayer he made to his Father in the last days of His mortal life. (John xvii.)
How then should he authorise two sorts of pastors, the one extraordinary, the other ordinary? As to the ordinary- it certainly is authorised, and as to the extraordinary we are supposing it to be; there would then be two different churches, which is contrary to the Most pure word of Our Lord, who has but one sole spouse, one sole dove, one sole perfect one (Cant. vi.) And how could that be a united flock which should be led by two shepherds, unknown to each other, into different pastures, with different calls and folds, and each of them expecting to have the whole. Thus would it be with the Church under a variety of pastors ordinary and extraordinary, dragged hither and thither into various sects. Or is Our Lord divided (I Cor. i. 13) either in himself or in his body, which is the Church?-no, in good truth. On the contrary, there is but one Lord, who has composed his mystic body with a goodly variety of members, a body compacted and fitly joined together by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part (Eph. iv. 16).
Therefore to try to make in the Church this division of ordinary and extraordinary members is to ruin and destroy it. We must then return to what we said, that an extraordinary vocation is never legitimate where it is disapproved of by the ordinary.
(3.) And in effect where will you ever show me a legitimate extraordinary vocation which has not been received by the ordinary authority. S. Paul was extraordinarily called -but was he not approved and authorised by the ordinary once and again? (Acts ix. 13). And the Mission received from the ordinary authority is called a mission by the Holy Spirit (ibid. xiii. 4.). The Mission of S John Baptist cannot properly be called extraordinary because he taught nothing contrary to the Mosaic Church, and because he was of the priestly race. All the same, his doctrine being unusual was approved by the ordinary teaching Office of the Jewish Church in the high embassy which was sent to him by the priests and Levites (John i. 19), the tenor of which implies the great esteem and reputation in which he was with them; and the very Pharisees who were seated an the chair of Moses,- did they not come to communicate in his baptism quite openly and unhesitatingly? This truly was to receive his mission in good earnest. Did not Our Lord, who was the Master, will to be received by Simeon, who was a priest, as appears from his blessing Our Lady and Joseph; by Zachary the priest; and by S. John? And for his passion, which was the principal fulfilment of his Mission,-did he not will to have the prophetic testimony of him who was High Priest at that time.
And this is what S. Paul teaches when he will have no man to take the pastoral honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was (Heb v. 4) "For the vocation of Aaron was Made by the ordinary, Moses, so that it was not God who placed his holy word in the mouth of Aaron immediately, but Moses, whom God commanded to do it: Speak to him, and put my words in his mouth; and I will be in thy mouth, and in his mouth (Ex. iv. 15). And if we consider the words of S. Paul, we shall further learn that the vocation of pastors and Church rulers must be made visibly; and so with Our Lord and Master; who, being sovereign pontiff, and pastor of all the ages, did not glorify himself, that is, did not take to himself the honour of his holy priesthood, as S. Paul had previously said, but he who said to him Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; and, Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. I beg you to ponder this expression - Jesus Christ is a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech . Was he inducted and thrust into this honour by himself? No, he was called thereto. Who called him? His eternal Father. And how? Immediately and at the same time mediately: immediately at his Baptism and his Transfiguration, by this voice: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him; mediately by the Prophets, and above all by David in the places which S. Paul cites to this effect from the Psalms: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech. And everywhere the vocation is externally perceptible: the word in the cloud was heard, and in David hear and read; but S. Paul in proving the vocation of Our Lord quotes only the passage from David, in which he says Our Lord had been glorified by his Father; thus contenting himself with bringing forward the testimony which was perceptible, and given by means of the ordinary Scriptures and the received Prophets.
I say, thirdly, that the authority of the extraordinary mission never destroys the ordinary, and is never given to overthrow it. Witness all the Prophets, who never set up altar against altar, never overthrew the priesthood of Aaron, never abolished the constitutions of the Synagogue. Witness Our Lord, who declares that every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and a house upon a house shall fall (Luke xi. 17). Witness the respect which he paid to the chair of Moses, the doctrine of which he would have to be observed. And indeed if the extraordinary ought to abolish the ordinary, how should we know when, and how, and to whom, to give our obedience. No, no; the ordinary is immortal for such time as the Church is here below in the world. The pastors and teachers whom he has once given to the Church are to have a perpetual succession for the perfection of the saints . . . till we all meet in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ. That we may not now be children, tossed to and fro, an d carried about with every wind -i doctrine, in the wickedness of men and in their craftiness (Eph. iv. 1) Such is the strong argument which S. Paul uses to prove that if the ordinary pastors and doctors had not perpetual succession, and were liable to have their authority abrogated by the extraordinary, we should also have but an irregular faith and discipline, interrupted at every step; we should be liable to be seduced by men, who on every occasion would boast of having an extraordinary vocation. Thus like the Gentiles we should walk (as he infers afterwards) in the vanity of our mind (ibid. 17), each one persuading himself that he felt the movement of the Holy Ghost; of which our age furnishes so many examples that this is one of the strongest proofs that can be brought forward in this connection. For if the extraordinary may talge away the ordinary ministration, to which shall we give the guardianship of it - to Calvin or to Luther, to Luther or to Paciomontanus, to Paciomontanus or to Brandratus, to Brandratus or to Brentius, to Brentius or to the Queen of England? - for each will draw to his or her side this pretext of extraordinary mission.
But the word of Our Lord frees us from all these difficulties, who has built his Church an so good a foundation and in such wise proportions that the Bates of hell shall never prevail against it. And if they have never prevailed not shall prevail, then the extraordinary vocation is not necessary to abolish it, for God hateth nothing of those things which he has made (Wis. xi. 25). How then did they abolish the ordinary Church, to make an extraordinary one, since it is he, who has built the ordinary one, and cemented it with his own blood?
An answer to the two objections which are made by the supporters of the theory of immediate mission.
I HAVE not been able hitherto to find but two objections amongst your masters to this reasoning which I have just made, one of which is taken from the example of Our Lord and the Apostles, the other from the example of the Prophets.
And as to the first - tell me, I pray, do you think it right to place in comparison the vocation of those new ministers and that of Our Lord? Had not Our Lord been prophesied as the Messias- had not his time been determined by Daniel? - did he do a single action which had not been described almost exactly in the books of the Prophets, and prefigured in the Patriarchs? He changed the Mosaic law from good into better; but had not this change been predicted? He consequently changed the Aaronic priesthood into that of Melchisedech, far better: is not all this according to the ancient testimonies? Your ministers have not been prophesied as preachers of the word of God, nor the time of their coming, nor a single one of their actions. They have made a revolution in the Church much greater and holder than Our Lord made in the synagogue; for they have taken all away, only putting back certain shadows: but testimonies to this effect have they none. At any rate they should not elude their obligation of bringing forward miracles in support of such a change, whatever pretext you may draw from the Scriptures, since out Lord dispensed not himself from this, as I have shown above. But whence will they Show me that the Church was ever to receive another form, or a like reformation to the one which our Lord made?
And as to the Prophets, I see many persons under a delusion. It is supposed that all the vocations of the Prophets were extraordinary and immediate. A false idea: for there were colleges and congregations of the Prophets approved by the Synagogue, as may be gathered from many passages of the Scriptures. There were such in Ramatha, in Bethel, in Jericho where Eliseus dwelt, on Mount Ephraim, in Samaria; Eliseus himself was anointed by Heli; the vocation of Samuel was recognised and approved by the High Priest; and with Samuel the Lord began to appear again in Silo, as says the Scripture (I Kings iii. 21); whence the Jews regard Samuel as the founder of the congregations of Prophets.
It is supposed that all those who prophesied exercised the office of preaching; which is not true, as appears from what occurred with the officers of Saul and with Saul himself (Ibid. xix.): in such sort that the vocation of the Prophets has no bearing on that of heretics or schismatics. For (i.) it was either ordinary, as we have shown above, or else approved by the remainder of the Synagogue, as is easy to see in their being immediately recognised, and in their being highly esteemed everywhere amongst the Jews, who called them "men of God:" and he who will attentively examine the history of that ancient Synagogue will see that the office of priests was as common among them as that of preachers amongst us.
(2.) Never can be pointed out Prophet who wished to overthrow the ordinary power; on the contrary, all followed it, and spoke nothing contrary to the doctrine of those who sat upon the chair of Moses and of Aaron; indeed, some of them were of the priestly race, as Jeremias son of Helcias, and Ezechiel son of Buzi. They have always spoken with honour of the priests and the sacerdotal succession, though they have reprehended their lives. Isaias when about to write in a great book which was shown him, took Urias the priest, though the things were yet to come, and Zacharias the prophet as witnesses, (Isa. viii. I, 2),as if he were taking the testimony of all the Priests and Prophets. And does not Malachy bear witness (ii. 7) that the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth: because he is the Angel of the Lord of hosts?-so far were they from ever having withdrawn the Jews from the communion of the Ordinary.
(3). How many miracles did the Prophets work in confirmation of the prophetic vocation? I should never end if I were to enter upon the computation of there: but at such times as they did a thing which had an appearance of extraordinary power, immediately miracles followed. Witness Elias, who, setting up an altar on Mount Carmel according to the instinct which the Holy Spirit had given him, and offering sacrifice, showed by miracle that he did it to the honour of God and of the Jewish religion.
(4.) And finally, it would well become your ministers to usurp the power of the Prophets-they who have never had either their gift or their light! It should rather be for us to do so for us, who could bring forward an infinity of Prophets an our side. For instance, S. Gregory Thaumaturgus, an the authority of S. Basil; S. Anthony, an the testimony of Athanasius; the Abbot John, an the testimony of S. Augustine; S. Benedict, S. Bernard, S. Francis, and a thousand others. If, then, there is question between us of the prophetic authority, this is an our side, be it ordinary or be it extraordinary, since we have the reality; not with your ministers, who have never given the shadow of a proof of its possession; unless they would call a prophecy Zwingle's vision in the book called Subsidium de Eucharistia, and the book entitled Querela Lutherii, or the prediction he made in the twenty-fifth year of this century that if he preached two years more there would remain no Pope, nor priests, nor monks, nor belfries, nor mass. Truly there is but one defect in this prophecy-just want of truth. For he preached nigh twenty-two years longer, and yet there are still found priests and belfries, and in the chair of Peter sits a lawful Pope.
Your first ministers then, gentlemen, are of the prophets whom God forbade to be heard, in Jeremias (xxiii.): Hearken not to the words of the Prophets that prophesy to you and deceive you, they speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord. …I did not send prophets yet they ran; I have not spoken to them yet they prophesied. . . . I have heard what the prophets said, that prophecy lies in my name, and say, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. Does it not seem to you that it is Zwingle and Luther, with their prophecies and visions? that it is Carlstadt, with his revelation which he pretended to have had about the Lord's Supper, and which gave occasion to Luther, to write his book Contra scelestos prophetas. At any rate they certainly possess this property of not having been sent; it is they who use their tongues, and say, The Lord saith it. For they can never prove any right to the office which they usurp; they can never produce any legitimate vocation. And how then shall they preach? One cannot enrol oneself under any captain without the approval of one's prince: how then were you so ready to engage yourselves under the command of these first ministers, without the permission of your ordinary pastors, and so far as to leave the state in which you were born and bred, which is the Catholic Church? They are guilty of having made this disturbance by their own authority, and you of having followed them, in which you are inexcusable. The good little Samuel, humble, gentle, and holy, having been called thrice by God, thought all the time that it was Heli who was calling him, and only at the fourth time addressed himself to God as to the one calling him.
It has seemed to your ministers that God has thrice called them, (i.) by peoples and magistrates; (2.) by our bishops; (3.) by his extraordinary voice. No, no! Let them not bring this forward, that Samuel was called thrice by God, and in his humility thought it was a call by man, until, instructed by Heli, he knew that it was the divine voice. Your ministers, gentlemen, allege three vocations of God, by secular magistrates, by the bishops, and by his extraordinary voice. They think that it is God who has called them in those three ways: but you do not find that when they are instructed by the Church they acknowledge that theirs is a vocation of man, and that their ears have tingled to the old Adam; by no means do they submit the question to him who, as Heli did, now presides in the Church.
Such then is the first reason which makes your ministers and you also inexcusable, though unequally so, before God and men in having left the Church. On the contrary, gentlemen, the Church, who contradicted and opposed your first ministers, and still opposes those of the present day, is so clearly marked an all sides that no one, blind as he may be, can pretend that his is a case of ignorance of the duty which all good Christians owe her, or that she is not the true, sole, inseparable, and dearest Spouse of the heavenly King, which makes the separation from her all the more inexcusable. For to leave the Church and disregard her commands is evermore to become a heathen and a publican, let it be at the persuasion of an angel or a seraph. But, at the persuasion of men who were sinners on the largest scale against other private persons, who were without authority, without approval, without any quality required in preachers or prophets save the were knowledge of certain sciences, to break all the ties of the most religious obligation of obedience which is in the world, namely, that which is owing to the Church as Spouse of our Lord! -this is a fault which cannot be covered save by a great repentance and penitence - to which invite you on the part of the living God.
That the invisible church from which the innovators pretend to derive their mission is a figment, and that the true Church of Christ is visible.
OUR adversaries, clearly perceiving that by this touchstone their doctrine would be recognised as of base gold, try by all means to turn us from that invincible proof which we find in the marks of the true Church. And therefore they would maintain that the Church is invisible and unperceivable. I consider that this is the extreme of absurdity, and that immediately beyond this abide frenzy and madness. I speak of the militant Church of which the Scripture has left us testimony, not of that which men put forward. Now, in all the Scripture it will never be found that the Church is taken for an invisible assembly. Here are our reasons.
(1.) Our Lord and Master sends us to the Church in our difficulties and variances (Matt. xviii. 16, 17). S. Paul teaches how we ought to behave in it (I Tim. iii. 15); he called together the ancients of the Church militant (Acts xx. 17); he shows them that they are placed by the Holy Ghost(ibid. 28); he is sent by the Church, with S. Barnabas (Ibid. xiii., 1, 3). He is received by the Church (ibid. xv. 4); he confirmed the Churches (ibid. 41); he ordained for them priest sin every Church (ibid. xiv. 22); he assembled the Church (ibid. 26); he saluted the Church at Caesarea (ibid. xviii. 22); he persecuted the Church (Gal. i. 13). How can all this be understood of an invisible Church? Where should one seek it to lay complaints before it, to converse in it, to rule it? When it sent S. Paul, and received him, when he confirmed it, ordained priests in it, assembled it, saluted it, presecuted it- was this n figure or in faith only, and in spirit? I am sure that everybody must see that these were visible and perceptible acts on both sides. And when he wrote to it, did he address himself to some invisible chimera?
(2.) What will be said about the Prophets, who represent the Church to us as not only visible, but quite distinct, illustrious, manifest, magnificent? They depict it as a queen in golden borders clothed round about with varieties (Ps. xliv. 14, 15); as a mountain (Isa. ii. 2); as a sun (Ps. lxxxviii.); as a full moon; as the rainbow, a faithful and certain witnessof the favour of God towards men, who are all of the posterity of Noe[Noah]: such is the signification of this Psalm in our version: Et thronus ejus sicut sol in conspectu meo, et sicut luna perfecta in aeternum et testis in coelo fidelis.
(3.) The Scripture everywhere testifies that she can be seen and known, yea, that she is known. Solomon, in the Canticle of Canticles (vi.), speaking of the Church, does he not say that And thus introducing the daughters, full of admiration he makes them say: Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array? Is this not to declare her visible? And when he makes them call upon her thus: Return, return, O Sulamitess; return, return, that we may behold thee; and makes her answer: What shalt thou see in the Sulamitess but the companies of camps? - is not this again to declare her visible? If one regard those admirable Canticles and pastoral representations of the loves of the celestial Bridegroom with the Church, one will see that she is throughout most visible and prominent. Isaias speaks of her thus (xxxv. 8): This shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein; - must she not be displayed and easy to see, since even the simplest shall be able to guide themselves by her without fail?
(4.) The pastors and doctors of the Church are visible, therefore the Church is visible. For, I ask you, are not the pastors of the Church a part of the Church, and must not pastor and sheep know each other, must not the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and follow him, must not the good shepherd go seek his sheep that is lost, and recognise his enclosure and fold? This would indeed be a fine sort of shepherd, who could not know or see his flock. I know not whether I am to prove that the pastors of the Church are visible; things as evident are denied. S. Peter was a pastor, I suppose, since Our Lord said to him >I>Feed My sheep; so were the Apostles, and they were seen. I suppose that those to whom S. Paul said Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath placed you, to rule the Church of God; I suppose, may I, that they saw him; and when like good children they fell upon the neck of this good shepherd, hiding his face with their tears, I presume that he touched, and felt, and saw them; and what makes me still more sure of it is that they were chiefly grieved at his departure for the word which he hd said that they would see his face no more. And then, Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Luther, Calvin, Beza and Musculus are visible; and as to the two last many of you have seen them, and yet they are called pastors by their disciples. The pastors then are seen, and consequently the sheep also.
(5.) Is it the property of the Church to carry on the true preaching of the Word of God, the true administration of the Sacraments, - and is not all this visible? How then would you have their subject invisible?
(6.) Do we not know that the twelve patriarchs, the children of the good Jacob, were the living spring of the Church of Israel? And when their father had assembled them to bless them, they were seen and saw one another. Why do I delay on this? All sacred history testifies that the ancient synagogue was visible, and why not the Catholic Church?
(7.) As the patriarchs, fathers of the synagogue of Israel, of whom was Christ according to the flesh (Rom. ix. 5), formed the visible Church, so the Apostles with their disciples, children of the synagogue according to the flesh and spirit, gave beginning to the Catholic Church visibly, as the Psalmist says (xliv. 17): Instead of thy father, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.
For twelve patriarchs are born to these twelve Apostles , says Arnobius (Arnobii (Junioris)Comm. in Ps. xliv.). Those Apostles being gathered together in Jerusalem with the little company of the disciples and the most glorious Mother of the Saviour formed the true Church, - and of what kind? Visible without doubt, yea so visible that the Holy Spirit came to water those holy plants and seed-plots of Christianity.
(8.) How did the ancient Jews begin their course as the people of God? By circumcision, a visible sign; - and we by baptism, a visible sign. By whom were those of old governed? By the priests of the race of Aaron, visible men; we by the bishops, visible men. By whom were the ancients taught? By the prophets and doctors, visibly; - we by our pastors and preachers, visibly. What religious and sacred food had the ancients to eat? The paschal lamb, the manna, it is all visible; - we have the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, a visible sign though of an invisible thing. By whom was the synagogue persecuted? By the Egyptians, Babylonians, Madianites, Philistines, all visible nations: - the Church by the Pagans, Turks, Moors, Saracens, heretics:- all is visible. Goodness of God! – and we are still to ask whether the Church is visible! But what is the Church? An assembly of men who have flesh and bones; - and are we to say that it is but a spirit or phantom, which seems to be visible and is only so by illusion? No, no; Why are you troubles, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See her hands; behold her ministers, officers and governors: see her feet; look at her preachers how they carry her east and west, north and south. All are flesh and bones. Feel her; come as humble children to throw yourselves into the bosom of this sweet mother. Consider her throughout her whole body, entirely beautiful as she is, and you will see that she is visible; for a spiritual and invisible thing hath not flesh and bones, as you See her to have (Luke ult.).
Answer to the objections made against the visibility of the Church.
SUCH are our reasons, sound under every test. But they have some counter-reasons, which, as they fancy, they draw from the Scriptures, but which are very easy of refutation to any one who will consider what follows.
(1.) Our Lord had in his humanity two parts, body and soul; so the Church his spouse has two parts, the one interior, which is as her soul, invisible-Faith, Hope, Charity, Grace, - the other exterior, as her body, and visible - the Confession of Faith, Praises and Canticles, Preaching, Sacraments, Sacrifices. Yea, all that is done in the Church has its exterior and interior. Prayer is interior and exterior; Faith fills the heart with assurance and the mouth with confession; Preaching is made exteriorly by men, but the secret light of the Heavenly Father is required in it, for we must always hear him and learn from him before coming to the Son; and as to the Sacraments, the sign is exterior but the grace is interior, as every one knows. Thus then we have the interior of the Church and the exterior. Its greatest beauty is within, the outside is not so excellent, as says the Spouse in the Canticles (iv.): Thy eyes are doves’ eyes besides what is hid within…Honey and milk are under thy tongue, that is, in thy heart; - behold the interior. And the smell of thy garments as the odour of frankincense;- behold the exterior service. And the Psalmist (xliv.): All the glory of the King’s daughter is within:- there is the interior. Clothed round in golden borders with varieties; - there is the exterior.
(2.) We must consider that as well the interior as the exterior of the Church may be called spiritual, but differently. For the interior is spiritual purely and of its own nature; the exterior of its own nature is corporeal, but because it has a reference and tendency to the spiritual, the interior, we call it spiritual, as S. Paul calls those who made the flesh subject to the spirit, although they were corporeal; and although each person be particular, of his own nature, still when he serves the public he is called a public man. Now, if one say that the Evangelical law was given on the hearts interiorly, not on tablets of stone exteriorly, as Jeremias says (xxxi. 33), the answer is: that in the interior of the Church and in its heart is all the chief of its glory, but this fails not to shine out over the exterior, by which it is known and recognized. So when it is said in the Gospel (John iv. 23) that the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorer shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth, - we are taught that the interior is the chief thing, and that the exterior is vain if it do not tend and flow towards the interior to spiritualise itself therein. In the same way, when S. Peter calls the Church a spiritual house (! Pet. ii. 5), it is because all that proceeds from the Church tends to the spiritual life, and because its greatest glory is interior; or again because it is not a house made with lime and sand, but a mystical house of living stones, to which charity serves as cement.
The holy Word says (Luke xvii. 20), The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: but the kingdom of God is the church, therefore the Church is no visible; Answer: the kingdom of God in this place is Our Lord with His grace, or, if you will, the company of Our Lord while He was in this world; whence it continues: for behold the kingdom of God is within you; and this kingdom did not come with the surroundings and glory of a worldly magnificence, as the Jews expected; besides, as we have said, the fairest jewel of this King’s daughter is hidden within, and cannot be seen. As to what S. Paul says to the Hebrews (xii. 18), that we are not come to the mountain that might be handled , like Mount Sina, but to the heavenly Jerusalem- he s not proposing to show that the Church is invisible: for S. Paul shows in this place that the Church is more magnificent and richly endowed than the Synagogue, and that she is not a natural mountain like that of Sina, but a mystical; from which it does not follow that it is in any way invisible. Indeed, it may reasonably be said that he is actually speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, that is, the triumphant Church; wherefore he adds the company of angels, as if to say that in the Old Law God was seen on the mountain after a terrible manner, and that the New leads us to see Him in His glory there in Paradise above.
Finally, here is the argument which everybody loudly asserts to be the strongest, - I believe in the Holy Catholic Church: if I believe in it, I do not see it, therefore it is invisible. Is there anything feebler in the world than this phantom of a reason? Did the Apostles not believe that Our Lord was risen again, and did they not see him? Because thou hast seen me, He says himself to S. Thomas (John xx. 27): thou hast believed; and to make him believing He says to him, See my hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side, and be not faithless but believing. See how sight hinders not faith but produces it. Now Thomas saw one thing and believed another; he saw the body and he believed the spirit and the divinity; for it was not his seeing which led him to say, My Lord and my God! - but his faith. So do we believe one Baptism for the remission of sins; we see the Baptism, but not the remission of sins. Similarly, we see the Church, but not its interior sanctity; we see its eyes as of a dove, but we believe what is hidden within: we see its richly broidered garments, in beautiful variety, with golden borders, but the brightest splendour of its glory is within, which we believe. In this royal Spouse there is wherewith to feed the interior and the exterior eye, faith and sense, and all for the greater glory of her Spouse.
That in the Church there are good and bad, predestinate and reprobate.
To prove the invisibility of the Church each one brings forward his reason; but the most feeble of all is that derived from eternal predestination. Certainly it is with no little artfulness that they turn the spiritual eyes of the militant Church upon eternal predestination, in order that, dazzled by the lightnings of this inscrutable mystery, we may not perceive what lies before us. They say that there are two Churches, one visible and imperfect, the other invisible and perfect, and that the visible can err and can be blown by the wind of errors and idolatries, the invisible not. And f one ask what is the visible Church, they answer that it is the assemblage of those persons who profess the same faith and sacraments, which contains bad and good, and is a Church only in name; and that the invisible Church is that which contains only the elect, who are not in the knowledge of men, but are only recognized and seen by God.
But we will clearly show that the true Church contains the good and the bad, the reprobate and the elect; - and here are the proofs.
(1.) Was no the true Church which S. Paul called the pillar and ground of truth and the house of the living God (I Tim 3:15)? Certainly; - for to be a pillar of truth cannot pertain to an erring and straying Church. Now the Apostle witnesses of this true Church, the house of God, that there are in it vessels unto honour and unto dishonour (2 Tim. 2:20), that is, good and bad.
(2.) Is not that Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18) the true Church? Nevertheless there are therein men who have to be loosed from their sins, and others whose sins have to be retained, as Our Lord shows us in the promise and the power He gave to S. Peter in this matter. Those whose sins are retained - are they not wicked and reprobate? Indeed, the reprobate are precisely those whose sins are retained, and by the elect we ordinarily mean those whose sins are pardoned. Now, that those whose sins S. Peter had power to forgive or to retain were in the Church is evident; for them that are outside the Church only God will judge (I Cor. 5:13). Those therefore of whom S. Peter was to judge were not outside the Church but within, though amongst them there were some reprobate.
(3.) And dos not Our Lord teach us that we are offended by some one of our brethren, after having reprehended and correcting him twice, in two different fashions, we should take him to the Church? Tell the Church; and if he will not hear the Church let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican (Matt. 18:17). Here one cannot escape – the consequence is inevitable. There is question of one of our brethren who is neither heathen nor publican, but under the discipline and correction of the Church, and consequently member of the Church, and yet there is no inconsistency in his being reprobate, perverse, and obstinate. Not only then do the good belong to the true Church, but the wicked also, until such time as they are cast out from it, unless one would say that the Church to which Our Lord sends us is an erring, sinful, and antichristian Church. This would be too open a blasphemy.
(4.) When Our Lord says The servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth for ever (John 8:35); - is it not the same as if he had said that in the house of the Church the elect and the reprobate are for a time? Who can this servant be who abideth not in the house forever except the one who shall be cast into exterior darkness. And in fact Christ clearly shows that he so understands it when he says immediately before, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. Now this man, though he abide not forever, yet abideth during such time as he is required for service. S. Paul writes to the Church of God which was at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2), and yet he wishes them to drive out a certain incestuous man (ibid. 5). If he be driven out he was there, and if he were there and the Church is the assemblage of the elect, how could they drive him out? The elect cannot be reprobate.
But why may we not lay down that the reprobate and the wicked are of the true Church, when they can even be pastors and bishops therein? That is certain: is not Judas reprobate? And yet he was Apostle and bishop; according to the Psalmist (cviii. 8), and according to S. Peter (Acts i. 17), who says that he had obtained part of the ministry of the apostolate, and according to the whole Gospel, which ever places him in the number of the college of the Apostles. Was not Nicholas of Antioch a deacon like S. Stephen? -and yet many ancient Fathers make no difficulty on that account of considering him an heresiarch; witness, amongst others, Epiphanius, Philostratus, Jerome. And in fact the Nicolaites took occasion from him to recommend their abominations, of whom S. John makes mention in the Apocalypse (ii. 6), as of real heretics. S. Paul declares to the priests of Ephesus that the Holy Ghost had made them bishops to rule the Church of God (Acts xx. 28), but he assures them also that some of their own selves would rise up speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. He speaks to all when he says that the Holy Spirit has made them bishops, and speaks of those very same persons when he says that from amongst them shall schismatics arise. But when should I have finished if I would here heap up the names of all those bishops and prelates who, after having been lawfully placed in this office and dignity, have fallen from their first grace and have died heretics.
Who, for a simple priest, ever said anything so holy, so wise, so chaste, so charitable as Origen? No one could read what is written of him by Vincent of Lerins, one of the most judicious and learned of Church writers, no one could ponder over his accursed old age, after a life so admirable and holy, without being filled with compassion, to see this grand and brave Pilot, - after so many storms weathered, after so many and such lucrative voyages to Hebrews, Arabs, Chaldieans, Greeks, and Latins, -on his return, full of honour and of spiritual riches, suffer shipwreck and perish in port, an the edge of the tomb! Who would dare to say that he had not been of the true Church, he who had always fought for the Church, and whom the whole Church honoured and hold as one of its grandest Doctors? And yet behold him at last a heretic, excommunicate outside the Ark, perishing in the deluge of his own conceit!
All this corresponds with the holy word of Our Lord (Matt. xxiii. 2), who considered the Scribes and Pharisees as the true pastors of the true Church of that time, since He commands that they should be obeyed, and yet considered them not as elect but rather as reprobate. Now what an absurdity would it be, I ask you, if the elect alone were of the Church? That would follow which is said of the Donatists, that we could not know our prelates, and consequently could not pay them obedience. For how should we know whether those who were called prelates and pastors were of the Church, since we cannot know who of the living is predestinate and who is not, as will be said elsewhere? - and if they are not of the Church, how can they hold the place of elect there? It would indeed be one of the strangest monsters that could be seen-if the head of the Church were not of the Church. Not only then can one who is reprobate be of the Church but even pastor in the Church. The Church then cannot be called invisible an the ground that it is composed of the predestinate alone.
I conclude all this discourse by the Gospel comparisons which show this truth clearly and completely.
S. John likens the Church to the threshing-floor of a farm, on which is not only the wheat for the barn, but also the chaff to be burnt with unquenchable fire(Matt. iii. 12); are these not the elect and the reprobate? Our Lord compares it to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kind of fishes good and bad (ibid. xiii. 47) to ten virgins, five of them foolish, and five wise (ibid. xxv. 2); to three servants, one of whom is slothful, and therefore cast into the exterior darkness (ibid.14); finally, to a marriage feast, unto which have entered both good and bad, and the bad, not having on the nuptial garment, are cast into exterior darkness (ibid. xxii.) Are not all these so many sufficient proofs that not only the elect but also the reprobate are in the Church? We must therefore close the door of our judgment to all sorts of notions of this kind, and to this one amongst them, by means of that never-enough-pondered proposition: Many are called, but few are chosen(ibid.) All those who are in the Church are called, but all who are therein are not elect; and indeed Church does not mean election but convocation.
Answer to the objections of those who would have the Church to consist of the predestinate alone.
WHERE will they find the Scripture passage which can furnish them any excuse for so many absurdities, and against proofs so clear as those we have given? Yet counter-reasons are not wanting in this matter: never does obstinacy leave its followers without them.
Will they then bring forward what is written in the Canticles (iv.) concerning the Spouse; how she is a garden enclosed, a fountain or spring sealed up, a well of living waters, how she is all fair, and there is not a spot in her; or, as the Apostle says, how she is glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, holy, without blemish (Eph. v. 27)? I earnestly beg them to consider the conclusion they wish to draw, namely, that there can be in the Church none but saints, immaculate, faultless, glorious. I will, with the same passages, show them that in the Church there are neither elect nor reprobate. For is it not the humble but truthful saying, as the great Council of Trent declares, of all the just and elect, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. I suppose S. James was elect, and yet he confesses (iii. 2), In many things we all offend. S. John closes our mouth and the mouth of all the elect, so that no one may boast of being without sin; on the contrary, he will have each one know and confess that he sins (1 John i.) I believe that David in his rapture and ecstasy knew what the elect are, and yet he considered every man to be a liar (Ps. cxv. 11). If then these holy qualities given to the Spouse, the Church, are to be taken precisely, and if there is to be no spot or wrinkle anywhere in it, we must go out of this world to find the verification of these fair titles, the elect of this world will not be able to claim them. Let us then make the truth clear.
(1.) The Church as a whole is entirely fair, holy, glorious, both as to morals and as to doctrine. Morals depend on the will, doctrine an the understanding. Into the understanding of the Church there never entered falseness, nor wickedness into her will. By the grace of her Spouse she can say with him, Which of you, O sworn enemies, shall convince me of sin? (John viii. 46.) And yet it does not follow that in the Church there are no sinners. Remember what I have said to you elsewhere: the Spouse has hair, and nails, which are not living though she is living; the senate is sovereign, but not each senator; the army is victorious, but not each soldier - it wins the battle while many of its soldiers are killed. In this way is the militant Church always glorious, ever victorious over the gates and powers of hell, although many of her members, either straying and thrown into disorder like yourselves, are cut to pieces and destroyed, or by other mishaps are wounded and die within her. Take then one after another the grand praises of the Church which are scattered throughout the Scriptures and make her a crown out of them, for they are richly due to her; just as maledictions are due to those who being in so excellent a way are lost. She is an army set in array (Cant. vi. 9), though some fall out of her ranks.
(2.) But who knows not how often that is attributed to a whole body which belongs only to one of the parts? The Spouse calls her beloved white and ruddy but immediately she says his locks are black (ibid. v. 10, 11). S. Matthew says (xxvii. 44) that the thieves who were crucified with Our Saviour blasphemed him, whereas it was only one of them who did so, as S. Luke relates (xxiii. 39). We say that lilies are white, but there are yellow and there are green. He who speaks the language of love readily uses such expressions, and the Canticles are the chaste expressions of love. All these qualities then are justly attributed to the Church an account of the many holy souls therein who most exactly observe the holy Commandments of God, and are perfect-with the perfection that may be had in this pilgrimage, not with that which we hope for in our blessed fatherland.
(3.) Moreover, though there were no other reason for thus describing the Church than the hope she has of ascending, all pure, all beautiful, to heaven above, the fact that this is the sole term towards which she aspires and runs, would suffice to let her be called glorious and perfect, especially while she has so many fair pledges of this holy hope.
He would never end who should take notice of all the trifles which they stay examining here, and on which they raise a thousand false alarms amongst the poor common people. They bring forward that of S. John (x.); I know my sheep, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand : and they say that those sheep are the predestinate, who alone belong to the fold of the Lord. They bring forward what S. Paul says to Timothy (2 Tim. ii. 19) The Lord knows who are his; and what S. John has Said to apostates: they went out from us, but they were not of us (1 John ii. 19). But what difficulty is there in all this? We admit that the predestinate sheep hear the voice of their pastor, and have sooner or later all the qualities which are described in S. John but he also maintains that in the Church, which is the fold of Our Lord, there are not only sheep but also goats. Otherwise, why should it be said that at the end of the world, in the Judgment, the sheep shall be separated, unless because, until the Judgment, whilst the Church is in this world, she has within herself goats with the sheep? Certainly if they had never been together they would never be separated. And in the last instance, if the predestinate are called sheep, so also are the reprobate.
Witness David: Why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture? (Ps. lxxiii. 1) . I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost (cxviii. ult.). And elsewhere, where he says: Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel; thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep(lxxix. 1): -where he says Joseph, he means those of Joseph, and the Israelitish people, because to Joseph was given the primogeniture, and the eldest gives the name to the race. But who known not that among the people of Israel every one was not predestinate or elect, and yet they are called sheep, and all are together under one shepherd. We confess then that there are sheep saved and predestinated, of whom it is spoken in S. John: there are others damned, of whom it is spoken elsewhere, and all are in the same flock.
Isaias (liii. 6) compares all men, both the reprobate and the elect, to sheep: All we like sheep have gone astray; and in verse 7 he similarly compares Our Saviour: He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter. And so throughout the whole of chapter xxxiv. of Ezechiel, where there is no doubt but that the whole people of Israel are called sheep (John vi. 67) on account of the doctrine of the real eating of his flesh, and yet he received them as people over which David has to reign (v. 23).
And in the same way, - who denies that Our Lord known those who are his? He knew certainly what would become of Judas, yet Judas was not therefore not one of his Apostles. He knew what would become of those disciples who went back. It is a quite different thing to belong to God according to the eternal foreknowledge, as regards the Church Triumphant, and to belong to God according to the present communion of Saints for the Church Militant. The first are known only to God, the latter are known to God and to men. "According to the eternal foreknowledge," says S. Augustine, "how many wolves are within; how many sheep without! " Our Lord then known those who are his for his Triumphant Church, but besides these there are many others in the Militant Church whose end will be perdition, as the same Apostle shows where he says that in a great house there are all sorts of vessels and utensils, some indeed unto honour, but some unto dishonour (2 Tim. ii. 20).
So, what S. John says: They have gone out from amongst us, but they were not of us is nothing to the purpose. For I will say, as S. Augustine said: They were with us numero, but they were not with us merito : that is, as the same Doctor says (In Joh. lxv.) "they were with us and were ours by the Communion of the Sacraments, but according to their own individual vices they were not so.” They were already heretics in their soul and will, though they were not so after the external appearance. And this is not to say that the good are not with the bad in the Church: an the contrary indeed, how could they go out of the company of the Church if they were not in it? They were doubtless in it actually, but in will they were already without.
Finally, here is an argument which seems to be complete in form and in figure. "He has not God for Father who has not the Church for mother” (Cyp. de unit. Ecel. v.); that is certain: similarly he who has not God for Father has not the Church for mother; most certainly: now the reprobate have not God for Father, therefore they have not the Church for mother; and consequently the reprobate are not in the Church. But the answer is this. We accept the first foundation of this reason; but the second - that the reprobate are not children of God - requires to be well sifted. All the faithful baptized can be called sons of God, so long as they are faithful, unless one would take away from Baptism the narre of regeneration or spiritual nativity which Our Lord has given it. If thus understood there are many of the reprobate who are children of God, for how many persons are there, faithful and baptized, who will be damned, men who as the Truth says, believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away (Luke viii. 13). So that we totally deny this second proposition, that the reprobate are not children of God. For being in the Church they can be called children of God by Creation, Redemption, Regeneration, Doctrine, Profession of faith; although our Lord laments over them in this sort by Isaias (i. 2): I have brought up my children…and they have despised me. But if one say that the reprobate have not God for their Father because they will not be heirs, according to the word of the Apostle, if a son an heir also (Gal. iv. 7)-we shall deny the consequence: for not only are the children within the Church, but so are the servants too, with this difference, that the children will abide there for ever as heirs; the servants shall not, but shall be turned out when it seems good to the master.
Witness the Master himself in S. John (viii. 35), and the penitent son who knew well and acknowledged that many hired servants in his father's house abounded in bread, while he, true and lawful son, was amongst the swine, perishing with hunger, a proof of the Catholic faith in this point. O how many princes are walking on the ground as servants (Eccles. x. 7)! How many unclean animals and ravens in the Ark of the Church! O how many fair and sweet-smelling apples are an the tree cankered within yet attached to the tree, and drawing good sap from the trunk! He who had eyes clear-seeing enough to see the issue of the career of men, would see in the Church reason indeed to cry: many are called and few are chosen; that is, many are in the Militant Church who will never be in the Triumphant. How many are within who shall be without; as S. Anthony foresaw of Arius, and S. Fulbert of Berengarius. It is then a certain thing that not only the elect but also the reprobate can be and are of the Church. And he who to make it invisible would place only the elect therein, acts like the wicked scholar who excused himself for not going to the assistance of his master, an the ground that he had learnt nothing about his body but only about his soul.
That the Church cannot perish.
I SHALL be more brief here, because what I shall say in the following chapter forms a strong proof for this belief in the immortality of the Church and its perpetuity. It is said then, to escape the yoke of the holy submission which is owing to the Church, that it perished eighty odd years ago; that it is dead and buried, and the holy light of the true faith extinguished. All this is open blasphemy against the Passion of our Lord, against his Providence, against his goodness, against his truth.
Do we not know the word of our Lord himself: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself (John xii. 12)? Was he not lifted up on the cross? did He not suffer? - and how then having drawn to himself the Church, should he let it escape so utterly from him? how should he let go this prize which had cost him so dear? Had the prince of the world, the devil, been driven out with the stick of the cross for a time of three or four hundred years, to return and reign a thousand years? Would you make so absolutely vain the might of the cross? Is your faithfulness in judgment of such a sort that you would thus iniquitously divide our Lord, and henceforward place a certain comparison between the divine goodness and diabolical malice? No, no: When a strong man armed keepeth court, those things which he possesseth are in peace; but if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armour and will distribute his spoils (Luke xi. 22 23).
Are you ignorant that Our Lord has purchased the Church with His own Blood? and who can take it from him? Think you that He is weaker than his adversary? Ah! I pray you, speak honourably of this captain. And who then shall snatch his Church out of his hands? Perhaps you will say He is one who can keep it, but who will not. It is then his Providence, his goodness, his truth that you attack. The goodness of God has given gifts to men as he ascends to heaven . . . apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, doctors for the perfection of the saints in the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ (Eph. iv. I2). Was the perfection of the saints already accomplished eleven or twelve hundred years ago? Had the edification of the mystical body of our Lord, that is, the Church, been completed? Either cease to call yourselves edifiers or answer no:- and if it has not been completed, as in fact it has not, even yet, why wrong you thus the goodness of God, saying that he has taken back and carried away from men what he had given them? It is one of the qualities of the goodness of God that, as S. Paul says (Rom. xi. 29) his gifts are without repentance: that is to say, he does not give in order to take away.
His divine Providence, as soon as it had created man, the heavens, the earth, and the things that are in heaven and an earth, preserved them and perpetually preserves them, in such a way that the species (generation) of each tiniest bird is not yet extinct. What then shall we say of the Church? All this world cost him at the dearest but a simple word: he spoke and all were made (Ps. cxlviii. 5); and he preserves it with a perpetual and infallible Providence. How, I ask you, should he have abandoned the Church, which cost him all his blood, so many toils and travails? He has drawn Israel out of Egypt, out of the desert, out of the Red Sea, out of so many calamities and captivities; and we are to believe that He has let Christianity be engulfed in infidelity? He has had such care of his Agar, and he will despise Sara! He has so highly favoured the servant who was to be driven out of the house, and he will hold the legitimate wife in no esteem! He shall so greatly have honoured the shadow, and will abandon the substance! Oh! how utterly vain and good for nothing would be the promises an promises which he has made of the perpetuity of this Church.
It is of the Church that the Psalmist sings: God hath founded it for ever (xlvii. 8); In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away for ever (lxxi. 7). What peace, what justice, except in the Church? His throne (he is speaking in the person of the eternal Father, of the Church, which is the throne of the Messiah, David’s son) ) shall be as the sun before me and as the moon perfect for ever, and a faithful witness in heaven (lxxxviii. 38). And: I will make his seed to endure for evermore; and his throne as the days of heaven (30); that is, as long as heaven shall endure. Daniel ii. 44 calls it: A kingdom which shall not be destroyed for ever. The angel says to Our Lady that of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke i. 33), and he is speaking of the Church, as we prove elsewhere. Did not Isaias prophesy thus of Our Lord (liii. 10): If he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, that is, of long duration: and elsewhere (lxi. 8): I will make a perpetual covenant with them; and: all that see them (he speaks of the visible Church) shall know them?
Now, I ask you, who has given Luther and Calvin a commission to revoke so many holy and solemn promises of perpetuity which Our Lord has made to his Church? Is it not Our Lord who, speaking of his Church, says that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it? How shall this promise be verified if the Church has been abolished a thousand years or more? How shall we understand that sweet adieu our Lord made to his Apostles: Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world (Matt. ult.), if we say that the Church can perish? Or do we really wish to violate the sound rule of Gamaliel, who speaking of the rising Church used this argument: If this design or work be of men it will fall to nothing; but if it be of God, you are not able to destroy it (Acts v. 38, 39) Is not the Church the work of God? and how then shall we say that it has come to nothing? If this fair tree of the Church had been planted by man's hand I would easily acknowledge that it could be rooted up, but having been planted by so good a hand as is that of our Lord, I could not offer better counsel to those who hear people crying at every turn that the Church had perished than what our Lord said: Let those blind people alone, for every plant which God hath not planted shall be rooted up (Matt. xv. 13, 14)
S. Paul says that all shall be made alive; but each one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ…afterwards the end ( I Cor xv. 22, 23, 24). Between Christ and those that are of Christ, that is, the Church, there is no interval, for ascending up to heaven he has left them on earth; between the Church and the end there is no interval, since it was to last unto the end. How! was not our Lord to reign in the midst of his enemies, until he had put under his feet and subjected all who were opposed to him (Ps. cix. 2)? - and how shall these authorities be fulfilled, if the Church, the kingdom of our Lord, has been ruined and destroyed? How should he reign without a kingdom, and how should he reign among his enemies unless he reigned in this world below?
But, I pray you, if this Spouse had died, who first drew life from the side of her Bridegroom asleep an the Cross, if, I say, she had died, who would have raised her from the dead? Do we not know that the resurrection of the dead is not a less miracle than creation, and much greater than continuation or preservation? Do we not know that the re-formation of man is a much deeper mystery than the formation? In the formation God spake, and man was made, he breathed into him the living soul, and had no sooner breathed it into him than this man began himself to breathe: but in his re-formation God employed thirty three years, sweated blood and water, yea, he died over this re-formation. Whoever then is rash enough to say that this Church is dead, calls in question the goodness, the diligence and the wisdom of this great Reformer. And he who thinks himself to be the reformer or resuscitator thereof, attributes to himself the honour due to Jesus Christ alone, and makes himself greater than the Apostles. The Apostles have not brought the Church back to life, but have preserved its life by their ministry, after our Lord had instituted it.
He then who says that having found the Church dead he has raised it to life -does he not in your opinion deserve to be seated an the throne of audacity? Our Lord had cast the fire of his charity upon the earth, the Apostles blowing on it by their preaching had increased it and spread it throughout the world: you say it has been extinguished by the waters of ignorance and iniquity; who shall enkindle it again? (In Ps. ci., S. 2) Blowing is of no use: what is to be done then? Perhaps we must strike again with nails and lance an Jesus Christ the holy living stone, to bring forth a new fire:-or shall it be enough to have Calvin or Luther in the world to relight it? This would indeed be to be third Eliases, for neither Elias nor S. John Baptist did ever as much. This would be leaving all the Apostles far far behind, who did indeed carry this fire throughout the world, but did not enkindle it. "O impudent cry!" says S. Augustine against the Donatists, (s. 79 in Cant.) "the Church is not, because you are not in it!" "No, no," says S. Bernard, "the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock(Matt. vii. 25), and the rock was Christ(1 Cor. x. 4)”
And to say the Church has failed - what else is it but to say that all our predecessors are damned. Yes, truly; for outside the true Church there is no salvation, out of this Ark every one is lost. Oh what a return we make to those good Fathers who have suffered so much to preserve to us the inheritance of the Gospel: and now so arrogant are their children that they scorn them and hold them as silly fools and madmen.
I will conclude this proof with S. Augustine (De Unit. Eccl.xvii.), and say to your ministers: “What do you bring us new? Shall it be necessary to sow again the good seed, whereas from the time of its sowing it is to grow till the harvest? If you say that what the Apostles sowed has everywhere perished, we answer to you: read this to us from the Holy Scriptures: this you shall never do without having first shown us that this is false which is written, saying, that the seed which was sown in the beginning could grow till the time of the harvest. The good seed is the children of the kingdom, the cockle is the wicked, the harvest is the end of the world (Matt. xiii.). Say not then that the good seed is destroyed or choked, for it grows even to the consummation of the world.”
The counter-arguments of our adversaries, and the answers thereto.
(1.) Was not the Church everywhere destroyed when Adam and Eve sinned? Answer: Adam and Eve were not the Church, but the commencement of the Church. And it is not true that the Church was ruined then, or yet that it had been, because they did not sin in doctrine or belief but in act.
(2.) Did not Aaron the High Priest adore the golden calf with all his people? Answer: Aaron was not as yet high priest, nor head of the people, but became so afterwards. And it is not true that all the people worshipped idols: for were not the children of Levi men of God, who joined themselves to Moses?
(3.) Elias lamented that he was alone in Israel (3 Kings xix. 14). Answer: Elias was not the only good man in Israel, for there were seven thousand men who had not given themselves up to idolatry, and what the Prophet says here is only to express better the justice of his complaint. It is not true again that if all Israel had failed, the Church would have thereby ceased to exist, for Israel was not the whole Church. Indeed it was already separated therefrom by the schism of Jeroboam; and the kingdom of Juda was the better and principal part; and it is Israel, not Juda, of which Aarias predicted (II Par. xy. 3), that it should be without priest and sacrifice.
(4.) Isaiah says (i. 6) that from head to foot there is no soundness. Answer: these are forms of speaking, and of vehemently detesting the vice of a people. And although the Prophets, pastors and preachers use these general modes of expression, we are not to understand them of each particular person, but only of a large proportion; as appears by the example of Elias who complained that he was alone, notwithstanding that there were seven thousand faithful. S. Paul complains to the Philippians (ii. 21) that all seek their own interest and advantage; still at the end of the Epistle he acknowledges that there were many good people with him and with them. Who knows not the complaint of David (Ps. xiii. 3), that there is none that doth goos, no, not one? - and who knows not on the other hand that there were many good people in his day? These forms of speech are frequent, but we must not draw a particular conclusion about each individual. Further, -such things do not prove that faith had failed in the Church, nor that the Church was dead: for it does not follow that if a body is everywhere diseased it is therefore dead. Thus, without doubt, are to be understood all similar things which are found in the threats and rebukes of the Prophets.
(5.) Jeremias tells us (vii. 4) not to trust in lying words, saying: the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord. Answer: who maintains that under pretence of the Church we are to trust to a lie? Yea, on the contrary, he who rests an the judgment of the Church rests on the pillar and ground of truth; he who trusts to the infallibility of the Church trusts to no lie, unless that is a lie which is written: the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We place our trust then in the Holy Word, which promises perpetuity to the Church.
(5.) Is it not written that the revolt and separation must come (2 Thess. ii. 3), and that the sacrifice shall cease (Dan. xii. 11), and that the Son of Man shall hardly find faith on earth at his second visible return (Luke xviii 8), when he will come to judge? Answer: all these passages are understood of the affliction which antichrist will cause in the Church, during the three and a half years that he shall reign mightily; but in spite of this the Church during even these three years shall not fail, and shall be fed and preserved amid the deserts and solitudes whither it shall retire, as the Scripture says (Apoc. xii.).
That the Church has never been dispersed or hidden.
THE ancients had wisely said that to distinguish correctly the different times referred to in the Scriptures is a good rule for interpreting them aright; for lack of which distinction the Jews continually err, attributing to the first coming of the Messias what is properly said of the second: and the adversaries of the Church err yet more grossly, when they would rnake the Church such from the time of S. Gregory to this age as it is to be in the time of antichrist. They wrest to this sense that which is written in the Apocalypse (xii. 6) that the woman fled into solitude; draw the consequence that the Church has been hidden and secret, trembling at the tyranny of the Pope, this thousand years, until she has come forward in Luther and his adherents. But who sees not that all this passage refers to the end of the world, and the persecution of antichrist, the time three years and a half being expressly determined therein; and in Daniel also (xii. 7)? And he who would by some gloss extend this time which the Scripture has limited would openly contradict Our Lord, who says (Matt. xxiv. 22) that for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened. How then do they dare to transfer this Scripture to an interpretation so foreign to the intention of the author, and so contrary to its own circumstances, refusing to look at so many other holy words which prove and certify, loudly and clearly, that the Church shall never be in the desert thus hidden until that extremity, and for that short time; that she will be seen to flee thither and be seen thence to come forth?
I will not again bring forward the numerous passages previously cited, in which the Church is said to be like to the sun, the moon, the rainbow, a queen, a mountain as great as the world -and a multitude of others. I will content myself with putting before your consideration two great captains of the ancient Church, two of the most valiant that ever were, S. Augustine and S. Jerome. David had said (PS. xlvii. 1) : The Lord is great and exceedingly to be praised, in the city of our God in his holy mountain. "This is the City," says S. Augustine (In Ps. xlvii.),"set an a mountain, that cannot be hid. This is the light which cannot be concealed, nor put under a bushel, which is known to all, famous to all:" for it follows: With the joy of the whole earth is Mount Sion founded. And in fact how would Our Lord, who said that men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel (Matt. v. 15) have placed so many lights in the Church to go and hide them in certain unknown corners?
S. Augustine continues (In Ep. i- Joan. Tr. i. The order is slightly changed [Tr.].) : "This is the mountain which covers the whole face of the earth: this is the City of which it is said: A City set an a mountain cannot be hid. The Donatists (the Calvinists) come up to the mountain, and when we say to them, ascend; it is not a mountain, say they, and they rather strike their heads against it than establish their dwelling an it. Isaias, whom we read yesterday, cried out (ii. 2): In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on top of mountains, and all nations shall flow into it.
What is there so visible as a mountain? - Yet there are mountains unknown because they are situated in a corner of the earth. Who amongst you knows Olympus? No one, I am sure, any more or any less than its inhabitants know our Mount Giddaba. These mountains are in parts of the earth: but that mount not so; for it has filled the whole face of the earth. The stone cut from the mountain, without any new operation (Dan. ii) is it not Jesus Christ, springing from the race of the Jews without operation of marriage? And did not this stone break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, that is, all the dominations of idols and demons? - did it not increase until it filled the whole earth? It is then of this mountain that is said the Word, prepared on the top of mountains; it is a mountain elevated above the heads of all mountains, and all nations shall flow into it. Who can get lost, or can miss this mountain? Who knocks against and breaks his head against this? Who fails to see the city set an a mountain? Yet no; be not astonished that it is unknown to those who hate the brethren, who hate the Church. For by this they walk in darkness, and know not where they go. They are separated from the rest of the universe, they are blind with anger."
Such are the words of S. Augustine against the Donatists, but the present Church so perfectly resembles the first Church, and the heretics of our age those of old, that by merely changing the names the ancient reasons press the Calvinists as closely home as they did those ancient Donatists.
S. Jerome (Contra Lucif. 14, 25.) enters into the fray from another side, which is just as dangerous to you as the former; for he makes it clearly evident that this pretended dispersion, this retreat and hiddenness, destroy the glory of the cross of Our Lord. For, speaking to a schismatic who had rejoined the Church, he says: "I rejoice with thee, and give thanks to Jesus Christ my God, in that thou hast turned back in good earnest from the heat of falsehood to that which is the sweetness and savour of the whole world. And say not like some do: Save me, 0 Lord, for there is now no saint (Ps. xi. i); whose impious voice makes vain the cross of Christ, subjects the Son of God to the devil, and understands that grief which the Saviour has poured out over sinners to be expressed concerning all men. But let it never be that God should die for nothing, the mighty one is bound and despoiled of all, the Word of God is accomplished: ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession (Ps. ii. 8).
Where, I pray you, are those too religious, yea, rather too profane persons, who declare there are more synagogues than churches? How shall the cities of the devil be destroyed, and at last, that is, at the consummation of the world, how shall the idols be thrown down, if Our Lord has had no Church, or has had it only in Sardinia? Certainly he is become too indigent." Yes, indeed, if Satan possess at the same time England, France, the East, the Indies, barbarous nations and every place,-how would the trophies of the cross be collected and squeezed into one corner of the world. And what would this great man say of those who not only deny that it has been general and universal, but say that it was only in certain unknown persons, and will no specify one single little village where it was eighty years ago? Is not this greatly to bring down the glorious trophies of Our Lord? The heavenly Father, for the great humiliation and annihilation which Our Lord had undergone on the tree of the cross, has made his name so glorious that all knees were to bow and bend in reverence of Him; but these people do not value the Cross or the actions of the Crucified, taking from this account all the generations of a thousand years. The Father had given him as his inheritance many nations because he had delivered his soul to death (Isaiah liii. 12), and had been reputed with malefactors and robbers; but these people make his inheritance narrow indeed, and so cut away his portion that hardly during a thousand years shall he have a few secret followers, yea, shall have had none at all!
For I address myself to you, O predecessors, who bear the name of Christian, and who have been in the true Church. Either you had the true faith or you had it not. If you had it not, O unhappy ones, you are damned; and if you had it why did you conceal it from others, why did you leave no memorials of it, why did you not set yourselves against impiety, idolatry? In no wise were you ignorant that God has recommended to each one his neighbour. Certainly with the heart we believe unto justice; but for salvation we must make confession of our faith (Rom. x. 10), and how could you say: I have believed, therefore have I spoken (Psalm cxv. 1)? O miserable again for having so excellent a talent and hiding it in the earth. If the case is so ye are in the exterior darkness; but if, on the contrary, O Luther, O Calvin, the true faith has always been published and continually preached by all our predecessors, yourselves are miserable who have a quite opposite one, and who, to find some excuse for your wills and your fancies, accuse all the Fathers either of impiety if they have believed ill, or of treachery if they have kept silence.
The Church cannot err.
ONCE when Absalom wished to form a faction and division against his good father David, he sat in the way near the gate, and said to each person that went by: There is no man appointed by the king to hear thee..O that they would make me judge over the land, that all that have business might come to me, that I might do them justice(2 Kings xv). Thus did he seduce the loyalty of the Israelites. O how many Absaloms have there been in our age, who, to seduce and distort the people of Our Lord from obedience to the Church and her pastors, and to lead away Christian loyalty into rebellion and revolt, have cried up and down the ways of Germany and of France: there is no one appointed by God to hear doubts concerning the faith and to answer them ; the Church itself, the rulers of the Church, have no power to determine what we are to hold as to the faith and what we are not; we must seek other judges than the prelates, the Church can err in its decrees and rules.
But what more hurtful and audacious proposition could they make to Christianity than that? If then the Church can err, O Calvin, O Luther, to whom shall I have recourse in my difficulties? To the Scripture, say they. But what shall I, poor man, do, for it is precisely about the Scripture that my difficulty lies. I am not in doubt whether I must believe the Scripture or not; for who knows not that it is the Word of Truth?
What keeps me in anxiety is the understanding of this Scripture, is the conclusions to be drawn from it, which are innumerable and diverse and opposite on the same subject; and everybody takes his view, one this, another that, though out of all there is but one which is sound:- Ah! who will give me to know the good among so many bad? who will tell me the real verity through so many specious and masked vanities. Everybody would embark an the ship of the Holy Spirit; there is but one, and only that one shall reach the port, all the rest are an their way to shipwreck.
Ah! what danger am I in of erring! All shout out their claims with equal assurance and thus deceive the greater part, for all boast that theirs is the ship. Whoever says that our Master has not left us guides in so dangerous and difficult a way, says that he wishes us to perish. Whoever says that he has put us aboard at the mercy of wind and tide, without giving us a skilful pilot able to use properly his compass and Chart, says that the Saviour is wanting in foresight. Whoever says that this good Father has sent us into this school of the Church, knowing that error was taught there, says that he intended to foster our vice and our ignorance. Who has ever heard of an academy in which everybody taught, and nobody was a scholar? - such would be the Christian Commonwealth if the Church can err. For if the Church herself err, who shall not err? and if each one in it err, or can err, to whom shall I betake myself for instruction? - to Calvin? but why to him rather than to Luther, or Brentius, or Pacimontanus?
Truly, if I must take my Chance of being damned for error, I will be so for my own not for another's, and will let there wits of mine scatter freely about, and maybe they will find the truth as quickly as anybody else. We should not know then whither to turn in our difficulties if the Church erred. But he who shall consider how perfectly authentic is the testimony which God has given of the Church, will see that to say the Church errs is to say no less than that God errs, or else that he is willing and desirous for us to err; which would be a great blasphemy. For is it not Our Lord who says: If thy brother shall offend thee . . . tell the Church, and he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican ( Matt. xviii.) Do you see how Our Lord sends us to the Church in our differences, whatever they may be? How much more in more serious offences and differences!
Certainly if by the order of fraternal correction I am obliged to go to the Church to effect the amendment of some evil person who has offended me, how much more shall I be obliged to denounce him who calls the whole Church Babylon, adulterous, idolatrous, perjured? And so much the more because with this evil-mindedness of his he can seduce and infect a whole province ; the vice of heresy being so contagious that it spreadeth like a cancer(2 Tim. ii. 17) for a time. When, therefore, I see some one who says that all our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have fallen into idolatry, have corrupted the Gospel, and committed all the iniquities which follow upon the fall of religion, I will address myself to the Church, whose judgment every one must submit to.
But if she can err then it is no longer I, or man, who will keep error in the world it will be our God himself who will authorise it and give it credit, since he commands us to go to this tribunal to hear and receive justice. Either he does not know what is done there, or he wishes to deceive us, or true justice is really done there; and the judgments are irrevocable. The Church has condemned Berengarius; if any one would further discuss this matter, I hold him as a heathen and a publican, in order to obey my Saviour, who leaves me no choice herein, but gives me this order: Let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.
It is the same as S. Paul teaches when he calls the Church the pillar and ground of truth ( 1 Tim. iii. 15). Is not this to say that truth is solidly upheld in the Church? Elsewhere truth is only maintained at intervals, it falls often, but in the Church it is without vicissitude, unmovable, unshaken, in a word steadfast and perpetual. To answer that S. Paul's meaning is that Scripture has been put under the guardianship of the Church, and no more, is to weaken the proposed similitude too much. For to uphold the truth is a very different thing from guarding the Scripture. The Jews guard a part of the Scriptures, and so do many heretics; but they are not an that account a column and ground of truth. The bark of the letter is neither truth nor falsehood, but according to the sense that we give it is it true or false. The truth consists in the sense, which is, as it were, the marrow. And therefore if the Church were guardian of the truth,the sense of the Scripture would have been entrusted to her care, and it would be necessary to seek it with her, and not in the brain of Luther or Calvin or any private person. Therefore she cannot err, ever having the sense of the Scriptures. And in fact to place with this sacred depository the letter without the sense, would be to place therein the purse without the gold, the shell without the kernel, the scabbard without the sword, the box without the ointment, the leaves without the fruit, the shadow without the Body.
But tell me, if the Church has the care of the Scriptures, why did Luther take them and carry them away from her? And why do you not receive at her hands the Machabees, Ecclesiasticus, and the rest, as much as the Epistle to the Hebrews? For she protests that she has just as jealous a care of these as of these. In short, the words of S. Paul cannot suffer this sense that you would give them: he speaks of the visible Church, for where would he direct his Timothy to behave himself? He calls it the house of Our Saviour; therefore it is well founded, well ordered, well sheltered against all storms and tempest of error. It is the pillar and ground of truth ; truth then is in it, it abides there, it dwells there; who seeks it elsewhere loses it. It is so thoroughly safe and firm that all the gates of hell, that is, all the forces of the enemy, cannot make themselves masters of it. And would not the place be taken by the enemy if error entered it, with regard to the things which are for the honour and service of the Master? Our Lord is the head of the Church,-are you not ashamed to say that the Body of so holy a head is adulterous, profane, corrupt?
And say not that he is head of an invisible Church, for, since there is only a visible Church (as I have shown above) our Lord is the head of that; as S. Paul says :And he hath made him head over all the Church (Eph. i. 22); not over one Church out of two, as you imagine, but over the whole Church. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, he is in the midst of them (Matt. xviii. 20). Ah! who shall say that the assembly of the universal Church of all time has been abandoned to the mercy of error and impiety? I conclude then that when we see that the universal Church has been and is in the belief of some article, - whether we see it expressly in the Scripture, whether it is drawn therefrom by some deduction, or again by tradition, - we must in no way judge, nor dispute, nor doubt concerning it, but show obedience and homage to this heavenly Queen, as Christ commands, and regulate our faith by this standard: And if it would have been impious in the Apostles to contest with their Master, so will it be in him who contests with the Church. For if the Father has said of the Son: Hear ye him, the Son has said of the Church: If any one will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.
The ministers have violated the authority of the Church.
I AM not now concerned to show how your ministers have degraded the holiness and majesty of the Spouse of Jesus Christ. They cry out loud and clear that she has remained eight hundred years adulterous and antichristian, from S. Gregory to Wicliffe - whom Beza considers the first restorer of Christianity. Calvin indeed would shield himself under a distinction, saying that the Church can err in things unnecessary for salvation, not in others. But Beza openly confesses that she has so far erred that she is no longer the Church. And is this not to err in things necessary for salvation, although he avows that outside the Church there is no salvation? It follows then from what he says-let him turn and turn about as he likes - that the Church has erred in things necessary for salvation. For if outside the Church there is no salvation, and the Church has so gravely erred that she is no more the Church, certainly in her there is no salvation. Now she can only lose salvation by giving up the things necessary for salvation; she has therefore erred in things necessary for salvation; otherwise, having what is necessary for salvation, she would be the true Church, or else men can be saved outside the true Church, which is impossible. And Beza says that he learnt this way of speaking from those who instructed him in his pretended religion, that is, from Calvin.
Indeed if Calvin thought that the Church of Rome had not erred in things necessary for salvation he would have done wrong to separate himself from it, for bring able to secure his salvation in it, and true Christianity residing in it, he would have been obliged to stay therein for his salvation, which could not be in two different places.
Perhaps I may be told that Beza says indeed that the Roman Church, as it is now, errs in things necessary for salvation, and that therefore he left it; but that he does not say the true Church has ever erred. He cannot, however, escape in that direction; for what Church was there in the world two, there, four, five hundred years ago, save the Church Catholic and Roman, just exactly as it is at present? There was certainly no other, therefore it was the true Church and yet it erred; or there was no Church in the world - and in that case again he is constrained to confess that this disappearance of the Church arose from intolerable error, and error in things necessary for salvation. For as to that dispersion of the faithful, and that secret Church that he fancies he can bring forward, I have already sufficiently exposed the vainness of it. Besides the fact that when they confess the visible Church can err, they dishonour the Church to which Our Lord directs us in our difficulties, and which S. Paul calls the pillar and ground of truth. For it is only of the visible Church that these testimonies are understood, unless we would say that Our Lord had sent us to speak to an invisible and unperceivable thing, a thing utterly unknown, or that S. Paul instructed his Timothy to converse in a society of which he had no knowledge.
But is it not to violate all the respect and reverence due to this Queen, this spouse of the heavenly King, to have brought back into the realm almost all the rout which with such cost of blood, of sweat, and of travails, she had by solemn penal sentence banished and driven from these her confines, as rebels and as sworn enemies of her crown? I mean this setting up so many heresies and false opinions which the Church had condemned, infringing thereby the sovereignty of the Church, absolving those she had condemned, condemning those whom she has absolved. Examples follow.
Simon Magus said that God was the cause of sin, says Vincent of Lerins (Com. Ium c. 34). But Calvin and Beza say no less; the former in the treatise an eternal predestination, the latter in his answer to Sebastian Castalio (See Claude de Sainetes an Atheism; Francis Feuardent in his Dialogues; Bellarmine Controv. Tom. iv. Lib. ii. c. 6 [where find quotations from Calvin and Beza. Tr.]; Hay in his Questions and Answers.): though they deny the word, they follow the things and substance of this heresy - if heresy it is to be called, and not atheism. But of this so many learned men convict them by their own words that I will not stay upon it.
Judas, says S. Jerome (in Matt. xxvi. 48), thought that the miracles he saw worked by the hand of Our Lord were diabolical operations and illusions (Porphyry and Eunomius did the same. (See Jerome adv. Vig. (10).) I know not whether your ministers think of what they are saying, but when we bring forward miracles, what do they say but that they are sorceries? The glorious miracles which Our Lord does, O men of this world, instead of opening your eyes, how do you speak of them? (See Calvin in Pref. to Instit. ; the Centuriators ; Peter Martyr (a viii. Ind. de Harr. c. 27).)
The Pepusians, says S. Augustine (De Haer. 27.) (or Montanists and Phrygians, as the Code calls them), admitted women to the dignity of the priesthood. Who is ignorant that the English brethren hold their Queen Elizabeth to be head of their Church?
The Manicheans, says S. Jerome (Praef. in Dial. c. Pelag.), denied freewill: Luther has composed a book against free-will, which he calls de servo arbitrio: for Calvin I appeal to yourselves. (The Saint adds in marginal note : Amb. Ep. 83 (Migne Ep. xxiii. ) " We rightly condemn the Manicheans an account of their Sunday fasts.")
The Donatists believed that the Church was destroyed throughout the world and remained only with them (Aug. de Haer. 69): your ministers say the same. Again, they believe that a bad man cannot baptize (lb. contra Pet. i. 7); Wicliff said just as much, whom I bring forward in mockery, because Beza holds him for a glorious reformer. As to their lives, their virtues were such as these: they gave the most precious Sacrament to the dogs, they cast the holy Chrism upon the ground, they overthrew the altars, broke the chalices and sold them, they shaved the heads of the priests to take the sacred unction from them, they took and tore away the veil from nuns to reform them (See Optatus de sch. Don. ii. 17, vi. 1.)
Jovinian, as S. Augustine testifies (De Haer. 82 : and see Jerome cont. Jov.), he would have any kind of meat eaten at any time and against every prohibition ; he said that fasting was not meritorious before God, that the saved were equal in glory, that virginity was no better than marriage, and that all sins were equal. Your masters teach the same.
Vigilantius, as S. Jerome says, (Cont. Vig.; and Ep. ii. adv. eundem.) denied that the relics of the Saints are to be honoured, that the prayers of the Saints are profitable, that priests should live in celibacy; [he rejected] voluntary poverty. And what of all those things do you not deny? (here and in the preceding paragraph the Saint refers to Luther (De Nat. B.M.; in I Pet. Ep.; and Epithal.); and Calvin (in Antid. S. vi.))
About the year 324, Eustathius despised the ordinary fasts of the Church, ecclesiastical traditions, the shrines of the holy Martyrs, and places dedicated to their honour. The account is given by the Council of Gangra (in proef.) in which for those reasons he was anathematized and condemned. See how long your reformers have been condemned.
Eunomius would not yield to plurality, dignity, antiquity, as S. Basil testifies (Contre Eun. I) He said that faith alone was sufficient for salvation, and justified (Aug. haer. 54). As to the first point, see Beza in his treatise an the marks of the Church; as to the second, does it not agree with that celebrated sentence of Luther's, (de Cap. Bab. i) whom Beza holds to be a most glorious reformer: "You see how rich is the Christian, that is, the baptized man, who even if he wishes is not able to lose his salvation by any sins whatever, unless he refuses to believe"?
Aerius, according to S. Augustine (H. 53), denied prayer for the dead, ordinary fasts, and the superiority of a bishop over a simple priest. Your masters deny all this.
Lucifer called his Church alone the true Church and said that the ancient Church had become, instead of a Church, a house of ill-fame (Jer. contra Lucif.) and what do your ministers cry out all the day?
The Pelagians considered themselves assured and certain of their justice, promised salvation to the children of the faithful who died without Baptism, held that all sins were mortal. (Jerome adv. Pet. ii. and iii.; S. Aug. contra Jul. vi.) As to the first, this is your ordinary language, and that of Calvin (in Antidoto, p. vi).The second and third points are too ordinary with you to have anything said about them. The Manicheaus rejected the sacrifices of the Church, and images, ( S. Aug. contra Faustum xx) as your people also do.
The Messalians despised Sacred Orders, Churches, Altars, as says S. Damascene (Haeres. 8o); and S. Ignatius says (Apud Theodoret. Dial. 3, called Impatibilis.): They do not admit the Eucharist and the oblations, because they do not acknowledge the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, which the Father mercifully raised up. Against whom S. Martial has written (II Epist. ad Burdigalenses (apocryphal Tr.).).
Berengarius taught the Same, long afterwards, and was condemned by three Councils, in the two last of which he abjured his heresy.
Julian the Apostate despised the sign of the Cross. Xenaias did the same (Niceph. xvi. 27), the Mahometans treat it no worse (Damas. 100.). But he who would see this at full length, let him look at Sanders (viii. 57) and Bellarmine in his Notes of the Church. Do you see the mould on which your ministers lay and form their reformation?
Now, ought not this agreement of opinions, or, to speak more rightly, this close parentage and consanguinity which your first masters had with the most cruel, inveterate, and sworn enemies of the Church, ought not this alone to dissuade you from following them, and to bring you under the right banner? I have not cited one heresy which was not held as such by that Church which Calvin and Beza confess to have been the true Church - that is, in the first five hundred years of Christianity. Ah! I pray you, is it not to trample the majesty of the Church under foot thus to produce as reformations, and necessary and holy reparations, what she has so greatly abominated when she was in her purest years, and which she had crushed down as impiety, as the ruin and corruption of true doctrine? The delicate stomach of this heavenly Spouse had scarcely been able to bear the violence of these poisons, and had rejected them with such energy that many veins of her martyrs had burst with the effort, and now you offer them to her again as a precious medicine! The Fathers whom I have quoted would never have placed them an the list of heretics if they had not seen the Body of the Church hold them as such. These Fathers being in the highest rank of orthodoxy, and closely united with all the other Catholic bishops and doctors of their time, we see that what they held to be heretical was so in reality.
Picture to yourselves this venerable antiquity in heaven round about the Master, who regards your reformers and their works. Those have gained their crown combatting the opinions which the ministers adore; they have held as heretics those whose steps you follow. Do you think that what they have judged to be error, heresy, blasphemy, in the Arians, the Manichaeans, Judas, they now judge to be sanctity, reformation, restoration? Who sees not that this is the greatest contempt for the majesty of the Church that can be shown? If you would be in the succession of the true and holy Church of those first centuries, do not then oppose what it has so solemnly established and instituted. Nobody can be partly heir and partly not. Accept the inheritance courageously; the charges are not so great but that a little humility will give a good account of them - to say good-bye to your passions, and to give up the difference which you have with the Church: the honours are infinite - the being heirs of God, co-heirs of Jesus Christ in the happy society of all the Blessed!