« הקודםהמשך »
tirely to the holy ordinances and rites of that church." Re vel. lib. 7. c. 19.
How certain and at the same time how terrible are the judgments of God! « Who knoweth the power of thy anger: and for thy fear can number thy wrath ?" Psalm 89. 11, But we must acknowledge that “just and true are thy ways O King of ages.” Apoc. xv. 3. The Babylonians and other pagan nations were the scourge of God's wrath upon the Jews. The barbarous nations of the north went forth, by virtue of a divine sentence, against idolatrous Rome and her empire, both which they demolished. We then see rise up, about the beginning of the seventh century, a new and formidable power, that of the Mahometans, a people inspired by the devil with an implacable hatred to the Christian pame. These seem to be designed by the Almighty to serve as his instrument for chastising his rebellious and bad subjects among the Christians through all succeeding times. They enslaved the eastern countries; and they have swallowed up the Constantinopolitan empire of the Greeks. They will spread havoc and destruction through the Christian Church in the sixth age, as we have seen in the Apocalyptical account of that period of time.
The remarkable transactions that characterize the fifth Age, are more generally known, as they stretch to our own times, and touch us more nearly. The Reformation, first set on foot and propagated by Luther about the year 1520 or 1525, is the Epoch of the present age, the period of which to the pouring out of the Vial consists of three hundred years, of which two hundred and fifty are nearly elapsed.* Many have been the troubles, as we have seen, which the spirit of novelty occasioned in different parts of Christendom. The mischief, which the eastern part had sustained by the defection of the Greeks, was afterwards brought upon the western by the protestants. The Church of Christ sat bewailing the loss of a great number of her children; and she saw besides with unspeakable grief an endless train of disputes, dis. sensions, and animosities, the new heresies had given birth to. Several countries, particularly Germany, were subjected to great calamities, the consequence of wars that were kindled
* This work was first printed in the year 1771.
by the same fire. Dreadful violences were committed, and
severe persecutions followed, in which many suffered death Es for their adherence to the ancient faith. Indeed what else 2. could be expected, the work being carried on by the “ Angel " of Extermination ?"
After the period of about one hundred and fifty years, by a 2. special mercy of the Almighty, the severities exercised by the & reformed against the Catholics began to abate, that spirit of
animosity against the Mother church in some degree cooled; . and at this day, though most of the former persecuting laws
subsist, we have the comfort to see them less attended to, and E not so strictly put in execution. All this was fully intimated,
as we have seen, in the Apocalyptical account of this age. * But though the persecutions be less rigorous in the present ' times, yet we cannot but lament to see the many temptations
that lie in the way, to withdraw the weak, the tepid, the ami bitious, and the covetous, from the right path, and engage
them in an erroneous one that suits better their inclinations. Hence arises a deplorable spectacle to well-thinking persons, of so many that choose to sacrifice their religion to some worldly advantages that are offered them, or to some disorderly passions which they can by their apostacy more freely gratify.
The world was very sensible, that Christ had established his Church, fifteen hundred years before the existence of the reformation, and that he had communicated his spirit to her, by which he had solemnly promised she should be guided through all ages. “I will ask the Father,” said Christ," and he will give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever, the spirit of truth—And he will teach you all things." John xiv. 16, 17, 26. The reforming teachers came therefore fifteen hundred years too late, and as they presumed to publish a doctrine contrary to what was taught in the Church, its novelty became its own condemnation. Nevertheless they were resolved to make it pass upon mankind for divine truth. But to effect this, they should have ascertained it by the intervention of miraculous works, in the same manner as the apostles had originally established Christianity. “Let them prove," said Tertullian, speaking of the heretics of his own time, “Let them prove themselves to be new apostles-let them produce their miracles.” L. de Præscrip. c. 30. But the reformers never were able to procure such a divine sanction.
To supply this defect, and to acquire credit to their new ,
systems, what measure did they take? They employed an artifice, we are sorry to say it, suggested undoubtedly by that angel of the bottomless pit who was their governor and guide, namely, to indulge human nature, by gratifying the passions, by allowing such freedom and latitude in the practice of virtue, as religion had never admitted. They banished at once all those mortifications, which distinguished the Christian religion, and were ordained by its author as the principal exercises to merit eternal life ; such as fasting, abstinence, confession of sins, penance, &c. They pretended that all these practices were of no signification, that they were even intolerable encroachments on Christian liberty, and that faith alone sufficed for salvation. By these means they let loose the human passions, they enfranchised man from all constraint, and in fine, they boasted of having smoothed the way to heaven. But, “thy silver is turned into dross: thy wine is mingled with water.” Isai. i. 22. For, our Saviour had said : “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matt. xvi. 24. But, instead of the thorny way of self-denial and the cross, they opened a path strewed with roses. What wonder then, if so many took them for their guides, and espoused their maxims? Our Saviour again tells us, that “ narrow is the gate, and strait is the way, that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it.” Matt. vii. 14. On the contrary, the new gospellers inform us, that the way to heaven is broad and easy; and they offer to conduct us through it with little or no difficulty, because, say they, our Saviour took upon himself the load of hardships that should have been our portion, and has sustained them in our stead. But,“ wo to them that sew cushions under every elbow: and make pillows for the heads of persons of every age to catch souls." Ezech. xiii. 18. Thus a survey of the doctrine and practical maxims of the reformers points out clearly to us the judgment we ought to pass upon their character, according to the criterion Christ has given us: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them." Matt. vii. 18, 20.
-- It would be a matter of surprise, that men nursed in the bosom of Christianity could adopt and teach such unchristian doctrines, if we did not see the source of it, which lies in the malign influence of their perfidious instructer, Abaddon. He laid open the way to introduce into their minds the most absurd tenets, by separating them first from that Church, “the
pillar and ground of truth," 1 Tim. iii. 15, which had been constituted the repository of genuine doctrine and morality. W e cannot but lament that the perfidious prompter prevailed upon them to renounce the authority of that infallible guide, and to set up their own in its place; and thus he prepared them to receive his dictates, and to change the whole system of the Christian faith. But novelty in faith is an infallible mark of heresy. The doctrinal articles of scripture are not to be interpreted by every man's private conceit, which would be infinitely various, but by the tradition derived from the apostles and perpetuated by their lawful successors. For as St. Vincent of Lerius observes : “ It is the part of true Christian moderation not to impose one's own opinions upon posterity, but to adhere to what has been transmitted to us by our predecessors." Comm. c. 9. The same is urged very strongly by Tertullian : “ The apostles," says he,“ published the faith to the Gentiles, and constituted churches in every city; from which the other churches derived the first principles of faith and seeds of doctrine; and from which also other churches do daily derive in the same manner, or they could not possibly be true churches. For this reason then they have the reputation of apostolic, because they are the offspring of apostolic churches. For every kind must certainly be traced up to its original. And on this account every other doctrine is to be deemed false and spurious, that is not conformable to the truth taught by these apostolic churches." De Præscrip. c. 20, 21. And again :“What was first delivered, was the doctrine of our Lord and of truth; what is of later date, can be no other than the tenets of falsehood, mere fictions. And this observation will stand firm and immoveable against all novel heresies which labour under the consciousness of not having this antiquity to plead in their defence.” Ibid. c. 31.
But the licentious spirit of forming new tenets of faith and new rules of life in this fifth age, not only invaded and set aside the general authority of the Church of Christ, but in particular bent its virulence and rancour against the Church of Rome. The reason was plain : because the special province of that Church is, to oppose all innovations in faith, and to suppress, as far as possible, the tares that spring up among the good corn. Such all antiquity had acknowledged to be the charge committed to that Church. To that Church therefore the reformers owed respect and obedience; to that Church, “the greatest,” as St. Irenæus speaks, “ the most ancient and known to alí, founded at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul, which retains the tradition it received from them, and which is derived through a succession of bishops down to us. Showing which we confound all who any way out of se:f-conceit, love of applause, blindness of false persuasions, embrace what ought not to be taught. For to this Church of Rome, on account of its more chief presidentship, it is necessary that every church, that is, the faithful every where, address themselves.” Lib. 3. contra. Hæres. How happy might it have been for the reformers of these late times, if upon cool reflection they had applied to themselves what St. Optatus in the fourth century spoke to the Donatist heretics : “ You cannot deny,” said he, “that you know the episcopal chair was first given to Peter in the city of Rome, in which first sat the head of the Apostles, Peter; which chair was one, that all others might preserve unity by the union they had with it, and lest the other apostles should erect and defend chairs to themselves : so that now he is a schismatic and an offender, who sets up another against the only chair.” Lib. 2.
We shall here add one general observation relative to the plan, which Christ seems to follow in the government of his kingdom on earth. Whenever he permits an enemy to wrest from him any part of his church by heresy, schism, or infidelity, we see that at the same time he proceeds to conquer new countries by the preaching of the Gospel, and to incorporate them in his dominions. From the first foundation of his kingdom he" went forth conquering that he might conquer," Apoc. vi. 2; which he continues to do through all ages. Thus the breaches made in his church by the heresy of Arius and the Greek schism, he repaired by the conversion of new nations to the faith: as may be seen in ecclesiastical history. But never was this economy more remarkable than at the time of the rise of the reformation. For, about that period, the new great continent of America was discovered, and the Catholic faith carried thither, and diffused over vast countries of it. About the same time the Gospel was also announced to the distant people of the great empire of China with prodigious success; it was likewise carried into the kingdom of Japan, and into most of those immense tracts of land and the islands, comprised under the name of the East Indies, where the preaching of zealous ministers sent by the apostolic see converted multitudes of people, and thus greatly enlarged the dominions of Christ's kingdom. If then the late heresies, under the denomination of the reformed religion, have lopped off a