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and well-regulated system in their Church as they are accustomed to boast, are men endued with sense and reason. Let them answer me in a word, whether deaconship be a license for theft and robbery? If they deny this, they will also be obliged to confess, that they have no such office left; seeing that among them the whole administration of the revenues of the Church has been openly perverted into a system of sacrilegious depredation.
XVII. But here they advance a most plausible plea. They allege that the dignity of the Church is becomingly sustained by this magnificence. And such is the impudence of some of their faction, that they dare to boast in express terms, that this princely state of the priesthood constitutes the only fulfilment of those predictions in which the ancient prophets describe the splendour of the kingdom of Christ. It is not in vain, they say, that God has made the following promises to his Church; “ The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him.” (n) “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, o Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem.”(0) “ All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee.” (p) If I should dwell long on a refutation of this presumption, I fear I should expose myself to the charge of folly. Therefore I am not inclined to spend my words in vain. But I ask, if any Jew were to abuse these passages in the same manner, what reply would they make to him? There is no doubt but they would reprove his stupidity, in transferring to the flesh and the world things which are spiritually spoken of the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah. For we know that, under the image of earthly things, the prophets have represented to us the heavenly glory of God, which ought to shine in the Church. For of those external blessings which their words express, the Church never had less abundance than in the days of the apostles, and yet it is acknowledged by all that the kingdom
(11) Psalm 1xxii. 10, 11.
(0) Isaiah iii. 1.
(p) Isaiah Is. 6, 7
of Christ then flourished in its greatest vigour. What then, it will be asked, is the meaning of these passages? I reply, that every thing precious, high, and excellent, ought to be in subjection to the Lord. In regard to the express declaration, that kings shall submit their sceptres to Christ, cast their crowns at his feet, and consecrate their wealth to the Church, when (they will say) was it more truly and fully exemplified, than when Theodosius, casting off the purple robes, and relinquishing the ensigns of imperial majesty, submitted himself, like one of the common people, to do solemn penance before God and the Church? than when he and other such pious princes devoted their cares and exertions to the preservation of pure doctrine in the Church, and to the support and protection of sound teachers? But how far the priests of that age were from rioting in superfluous riches, a single expression of the council of Aquileia, at which Ambrose presided, sufficiently declares. “ Poverty is honourable in the priests of the Lord.” It is true that the bishops at that time had some wealth, which they might have employed to display the honour of the Church, if they had considered them as the Church's real ornaments. But knowing that there was nothing more inconsistent with the office of pastors, than to display and to pride themselves on the luxury of their tables, the splendour of their apparel, a large retinue, and maguificent palaces, they followed and retained the humility and modesty, and even the poverty which Christ has consecrated in all his ministers.
XVIII. But not to dwell too long on this point, let us again collect into a brief summary, how very much the present dispensation, or rather dissipation, of the property of the Church, differs from that true office of deacons, which the word of God commends to us, and which the ancient Church observed. That portion which is employed in the ornaments of tempies, I assert, is grossly misapplied, if it be not regulated by that moderation which the nature of sacred things requires, and whith the apostles and holy fathers have prescribed both by precept and by examples. But what is there seen like this, in the temples at the present day? Whatever is conformable, I do not say to that primitive frugality, but to any
honourable mediocrity, is rejected. Nothing pleases, but what savours of the profusion and corruption of the present times. At the same time they are so far from feeling any just concern for the living temples, that they would suffer thousands of the poor to perish with hunger, rather than convert the smallest chalice or silver pitcher into money, to relieve their wants. And, not of myself to pronounce any thing more severe, I would only request my pious readers to indulge this one reflection. If it could happen that Exuperius, that bishop of Thoulouse whom we have mentioned, if Acatius, if Ambrose, or any other such, should be raised from the dead, what would they say? In such extreme necessity of the poor, they surely would not approve of the riches of the Church being applied to another use, and that an unnecessary one. I forbear to remark, that these purposes for which they are employed, even if there were no poor, are in many respects injurious, but of no utility whatever. But I will not appeal to the authority of men. The property has been dedicated to Christ, and therefore ought to be dispensed according to his will. It will be useless for them to allege, that this portion has been employed for Christ, which they have squandered in a manner inconsistent with his command. To confess the truth, however, there is not much of the ordinary revenue of the Church lost in these expenses. For there are no bishoprics so opulent, no abbeys so rich, in short no benefices so numerous, or ample, as to satisfy the voraciousness of the priests. Wishing to spare themselves, therefore, they induce the people, from superstitious motives, to take what ought to be bestowed upon the poor, and apply it to the building of temples, the erection of statues, the purchase of chalices and shrines for relics, and the provision of costly vestments. This is the gulf which swallows up all the daily alms.
XIX. Of the revenue which they derive from lands and possessions, what can I say more than I have already said, and which is evident to the observation of all men? We see with what fidelity the principal portion is disposed of by those who are called bishops and abbots. What folly is it to seek here for any ecclesiastical order? Was it reasonable that they,
whose life ought to be an eminent example of frugality, modesty, temperance, and humility, should emulate the pomp of princes, in the number of their attendants, the splendour of their palaces, the elegance of their apparel, and the luxury of their tables? And how very inconsistent it was with the office of those, whom the eternal and inviolable decree of God forbids to be greedy of filthy lucre, (9) and commands to be content with simple fare, not only to lay their hands upon towns and castles, but to seize on the largest provinces, and even to assume the reins of empire! If they despise the word of God, what reply will they make to those ancient decrees of councils, by which it is ordained that a bishop shall have a small house near the Church, a frugal table, and humble furniture? What will they say to that sentence of the council of Aquileia, which declares poverty to be honourable in the priests of the Lord? For the direction given by Jerome to Nepotian, that poor persons and strangers, and Christ among them, should be familiar guests at his table
, they will perhaps reject as too austere. But they will be ashamed to contradict what he immediately subjoins; " that it is the glory of a bishop, to provide for the poor, and the disgrace of all priests, to seek to enrich themselves.” Yet they cannot receive this, but they must all condemn themselves to ignominy. But it is not necessary to pursue them with any farther severity at present, as it was only my intention to shew, that the legitimate office of deacon has long been entirely abolished among them, to prevent their continuing to pride themselves on this title, for the purpose of recommending their Church. And this design, I think, I have fully accomplished.
(9) Titus i. 7.
The Primacy of the Roman See.
HITHERTO we have treated of those ecclesiastical orders which existed in the government of the ancient Church, but which afterwards, in process of time being corrupted and gradually more and more perverted, now in the papal Church merely retain their names, while in reality they are nothing but masks. And this we have done, that by the comparison the pious reader might judge what sort of a Church the Romanists have, for the sake of which they represent us as guilty of schism, because we have separated from it. But the head and summit of the whole establishment, that is, the Primacy of the Roman see, by which they endeavour to prove that the Catholic Church is exclusively theirs, we have not yet touched on; because it originated, neither in the institution of Christ, nor in the usage of the ancient Church, as did the other offices, which we have shewn were handed down from antiquity, but since, through the corruption of the times, have degenerated and even assumed altogether a new form. And yet they endeavour to persuade the world, that the principal and almost only bond of the unity of the Church is adherence to the see of Rome, and preseverence in obedience to it. This is the foundation on which they principally rest, when they wish to deny us all claim to the Church, and to arrogate it to themselves; that they retain the head, on which the unity of the Church depends, and without which it must be torn asunder and crumble to pieces. For their notion is, that the Church is like a mutilated and headless body, unless it be subject to the Roman see as its head. Therefore when they dispute respecting their hierarchy, they always com mence with this axiom, that the Roman pontiff, as the vicar of Christ who is head of the Church, presides over the universal Church in his stead, and that the Church cannot be well constituted, unless that see holds the primacy above all