Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Catholic Doctrine Of The Eucharist. Part 18.



If he be not determined, through passion or prejudice, to close his eyes to the light, his reason will convince him, that nothing is more rational than to submit his limited understanding to infinite power and infallible truth,—that it is sufficient to know that God hath spoken, that we may believe and obey; our Saviour having commanded us, under the most dreadful penalties, to hear the Church, the pillar and ground of truth.1

1 A most learned Catholic Prelate, one of the greatest theologians of the last century, asks, " By what means, setting aside the authority and testimony of the Church, can Protestants be certain of several parts of Scripture, which before the decision of the Church were doubted by some of the greatest lights of antiquity ? " For example, the Book of Esther, (in which, as it is read in the Protestant Bible, God is not once named,) which is omitted by St. Melito, one of the chief doctors of the second century, in his Catalogue of the Canonical Books of the Old Testament, (apud Euseb. Lib. 4, c. 26,) and by St. Gregory Nazianzen, in his Poem concerning the genuine Scriptures; was doubted of by St. Amphilochius, in his lambicks to Seleucus; and rejected by St. Athanasius, in his 39th Paschal Letter; and by the Author of the Synopsis, or Short View of the Scriptures, published with the works of the same Athanasius, p. 128. In like manner, the Epistle of St. James, the 2nd of St. Peter, the 2nd and 3rd of St. John, and that of St. Jude, were all doubted of by several of the ancients, as appears from Eusebius, (Lib. 2, Histor. e. 23, Lib. 3, c. 3); St. Amphilochius, in his Poem to Seleucus; and Origen, quoted by Eusebius, {Lib. 6, Histor. e. 25.) Of the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Jerome, writing upon the 8th chapter of Isaiah, tells us, that the custom of the Latins did not receive it amongst the canonical books of Scripture. And the Apocalypse, or Revelations, by the testimony of the same St. Jerome, (Epist. 129, Edit. Basil. Anno 1565,) and St. Amphilochius writing to Seleucus, was rejected by the greatest part of the Eastern Church. Hence we infer, that if Protestants will set aside the authority of the Church, in judging which books are to be received for Scripture, and which not, they must consequently doubt of all the forementioned books. But if they allow of these books as undoubted canonical Scripture, upon the decision of the Church made some centuries after the Apostles' time, they ought, by parity of reason, to receive her decisions in all other controversies relating to faith. 2nd. We infer that the Sixth of the Thirty-nine Articles of the English Protestant Church, implies a visible contradiction; whilst on the one hand it professes to receive no other Books for canonical Scripture but those of whose authority there never was any doubt in the Church; yet, on the other hand, receives the above-mentioned books, and accounts them canonical, notwithstanding they were, as we have seen, doubted of for several ages, as they are at present by the Lutherans. But it is not only of these books that Protestants will have reason to doubt, setting aside the authority of the ever-flourishing Church of Christ, but of all the rest too. 1st. St. Matthew's Gospel, according to the ancients, was written in the vulgar Hebrew, or Syro-Chaldaick, which original is entirely lost, so that there is not any one copy of it extant in the whole world. Now by what means will your Lordship, or any of your brethren, without having recourse to the authority of the Church, prove that the Gospel of St. Matthew, which we have at present, is agreeable to the Hebrew original ? And if not, how will Protestants be assured that it is the word of God ? 2nd. As to all other parts of Holy Writ, how can you tell, setting aside the judgment of the Church, that they have them pure and uncorrupt ? The authentic copies written by the Apostles and Evangelists are no where extant, nor have there been any for many ages; and the transcribers, to whom we are indebted for the best manuscript copies that we have at present, have made so many slips, and have fallen into so many faults, either through negligence or malice, that there are not perhaps this day in the whole universe two manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures that agree throughout one with the other; and not so much AS ONE that agrees with the Protestant Bible or Testament. And so numerous are the various readings and corruptions which are found in the different copies of Holy Writ, that the learned Mr, Mills, in his Edition of the New Testament in Greek, anno 1707  has made them amount to above thirty thousand in that part of Scripture alone, that is, to almost as many as there are words in the New Testament. And although some of these various readings may seem to be of no great moment, yet it is acknowledged that many of them are very considerable, and such as quite alter the sense of the text. Now by which of the miracles of the Apostles, or by what other means, without having recourse to the authority of the Church, will these gentlemen convince their parishioners, that the Bible which they put into their hands is the pure word of God, when there is scarce a word in it, for all that they know, which may not be corrupted? So far this most learned prelate.

It was well observed by Bishop Walmsley, (the celebrated author of Pastorini,) in a conversation with Edmund Burke, that a remarkable corroboration of the truth of the Catholic doctrine is furnished by the fact, that although there is not a single doctrine held by the Catholic Church which is not denied by one or other of the separatists from her communion, yet that taking them collectively, every doctrine she holds might be proved from the great majority of their various creeds, articles, or confessions,—a fact which proves irresistibly the infallibility of the Church, and stamps her adversaries with the brand of reprobation foretold by St. Paul: viz., they were condemned by their own judgment.