PDF pp. 239-278 of Lessius' book: A Consultation what Faith and Religion is Best to be Imbraced (PDF pg. 1-179) (transcribed, updated spelling from Early Modern English)
Whether Everyone may be Saved in His Own Religion
We have before in the Preface to our Consultation, set down and briefly confuted a certain gross error, which holds it enough for our salvation to believe in Christ and that he died for our sins. But because it is much spread, and has sunk deeply into the minds of many; I was requested to treat of the matter more at large, and therefore now I will divide it into several Questions, bringing arguments for either part.
The first question shall be, Whether it be sufficient for salvation to believe in God and do no man injury? which is as much to say as, Whether every man may be saved in his own Faith which he professes, if therein he endeavor to live honestly?
The second Question, Whether it be sufficient to salvation to believe in Christ, and that he died for our sins, although we believe not many other articles of faith?
THE I. QUESTION.
CONCERNING the first Question many in these times do hold & are of opinion that every man may be saved in his own religion, & their principal reason wherewith they are moved to this, is, because it seems unto them incredible that all Jews and Turks, many of whom do devoutly worship God, and deal justly with their neighbors, should perish for all eternity, only because they have not believed in Christ, especially since for want of this belief they seem not to deserve much blame, they being from their infancy trained up in a religion different from Christianity. For why, say they, should God who would all men to be saved, so straiten the way unto heaven? Why should those miserable souls, who according to their capacity do their best to please him, & do wrong to no man, & do lead a just and honest life, be condemned to eternal pain for the ignorance of that thing wherein they were never sufficiently instructed?
The I. Reason.
But this opinion of theirs, although in natural reason it may seem to carry some color of truth & equity, yet considering those things which are revealed unto us in holy Scriptures, it is a mere paradox. For if every Turk and Jew may be saved in their belief, then in vain have the Apostles and holy Fathers so much labored in preaching & planting of the Christian faith. In vain so many martyrs by all manner & kind of torment have shed their blood, and spent their life in the confession thereof. For they might have abstained from this doctrine & profession without any prejudice to their salvation, and have rested contented with the Jews in the profession and acknowledging of one God. I add further: Then in vain was Christ made man; in vain did he work so many Miracles, that so he might be acknowledged and believed to be the Messias & Savior of the world; in vain was he crucified, and died. For none of all these things was necessary to man's salvation, it being sufficient to send preachers about the world to persuade men to the belief of one God. After this manner reasons the Apostle Gal. 2. If justice be by the Law, then in vain (sayth he) is Christ dead: which is as much to say, if Justice can be obtained by the knowledge of one God, and observation of the Law, in vain was Christ crucified, because then the death of Christ had not been necessary for our salvation.
The 2. Reason.
Besides, hence it must necessarily follow, that the whole Scripture is false, since that it tells us [Rom. 3. Apoc. 1.&7. Act. 4] how Christ is our Savior, Mediator, and Redeemer, and propounds him unto us as a propitiation by faith in his blood, by whose Sacrifice we are reconciled unto God by his blood, our sins are washed away, and with whose faith we are justified. Neither is there any other name under heaven given unto men in which they ought to be saved. Thus speaks the holy Scripture: and all this must needs be frivolous and false, if every man may be saved in his own Religion.
But some may perhaps object, that Christ is indeed our Redeemer, and that all our good comes from him, yet his faith not withstanding is not absolutely necessary. For it is sufficient that we believe, that all our good comes and proceeds from the bountiful goodness of God unto us: neither is it needful for us to know by what means it is bestowed upon us.
But this not only repugns to the holy Scripture, but also it is against the reason of the holy Scripture, because the said holy Scripture doth evidently teach us that Christ's redemption is not applied unto us but by faith, and therefore, all such as are destitute of the faith of Christ are void of their justification; and remaining still guilty of sin, are the children of wrath, and in danger of eternal damnation.
It repugns to reason, because to the end that we may become partakers of any great and unaccustomed benefit, all reason requires, that we acknowledge the benefit, and our benefactor, & that we honor him as it becomes us, with all thanksgiving: for both the condition of the benefit and of our benefactor doth require of us this gratefulness of mind. Seeing therefore that the benefit of our redemption is so great and unaccustomed, & he who bestowed it upon us so great and famous, as also the means whereby he bestowed it upon us, so strange and marvelous; it is requisite we should acknowledge all these things, lest we should live an die ungrateful toward so great a benefactor, and lest instead of blessing & thanking him after the manner of the Jews, we curse and blaspheme him. It is therefore an absurd thing, to esteem those who do not believe in Christ, to be partakers of eternal salvation prepared for us by Christ. The which also by this may be confirmed, because none can be saved who doth not know God and the benefit of his creation: for otherwise all Idolators might be saved: neither therefore can he be saved, who doth not know the benefit of his redemption, because the benefit of our redemption is far greater and more admirable, and doth more appertain to the Glory of God, and of Christ our Redeemer, and requires also of us greater honor, service, & thanksgiving.
Neither is it sufficient for us to know in general that all good things come unto us from God, for this is not sufficient for the honor and gratitude which is due unto him, but we must also know what and how great the benefit is, as also by what manner, way, and means he bestowed it upon us: that is to say, that he hath delivered us from sin, and everlasting death, and that he hath opened unto us the way to eternal life, & that after a most admirable manner, to wit by joining our nature unto his, and by suffering therein death for us. For this especially commends his charity, mercy, and justice: this also exacts at our hands all duty, praise, and thanksgiving, these therefore are most necessarily to be known to salvation.
The 3. Reason.
If everyone may be saved in his own faith, then therefore that faith is sufficient to salvation which is not a gift of God, but an human persuasion, conceived by our private judgment, relying upon human authority, & built upon a deceitful foundation. For the Turks, although they believe one God to be the Creator of heaven and earth, and to be the rewarder of both good and evil works, [The ground of faith among the Jews & Turks is false] their faith notwithstanding is not of the holy Ghost, but of their own private judgment, or rather of the devil: for they do not believe so because God hath revealed it unto men by any true Prophet, but because Mahomet, whom they think to be the Prophet of God, & his instrument to teach mortal men, hath so set it down in his Alcoran [Koran]. Albeit therefore that which they believe, be true, yet because the ground of their belief, and the whole reason thereof is false and pestilent, to wit, that Mahomet is a Prophet of God; the faith itself whereby they believe, is deceitful, and the foundation thereof whereupon it is grounded is hurtful to salvation, necessarily inclining and forcing the mind to cast itself into all the pestiferous errors of that sect. How therefore can that faith be called sufficient for them unto salvation, or that they can be saved by that faith? How can that which is uncertain, deceitful, & pestiferous, be made the foundation of our justice before God, or of eternal salvation?
In like manner, albeit the Jews do believe the same, or rather more things agreeable unto truth, yet the faith whereby they do believe them, is deceitful and void of the spirit of God. For the whole reason or cause of their belief is, because the Rabbis and doctors of their synagogue, do so interpret the holy Scriptures unto them. For they are the rule of their belief, or which is all one, the holy Scripture, as it is subject to their interpretation. But this whole reason of their belief is deceitful, and no less hurtful and dangerous, than that of the Turks: for it is no less hurtful to believe, that their Rabbi's interpreting the holy Scriptures are endued with the spirit of God, than to believe that Mahomet is the Prophet of God: neither are they drawn into lesser absurdities by the force of that principle. How therefore can that faith be the foundation, or ground of salvation?
The 4. Reason.
Finally this opinion makes no difference betwixt Turcism [Islam], Judaism and Christianity, but in some few indifferent matters, and nothing necessary unto salvation; insomuch that it is all one in what religion thou livest; seeing that thou may indifferently in all of them obtain thy salvation; the which is nothing else, but to open the way to the Alcoran, & to make Mahomet equal with Christ, or rather manifestly to bring in Atheism. For to approve every Religion is to take away all Religion, and to think none necessary, seeing that the true Religion can be but one.
The fundamental reason whereupon this opinion especially relies, is of no moment. For first, if it be not incredible that God for the space of some thousands of years hath left the whole world in Idolatry, excepting only the Jewish nation being but a little portion or corner of the whole world, and to have permitted it to be utterly overthrown, albeit there were so many rare wits among them, so many diligent worshipers of God, and all human justice, and honesty; it should not also seem incredible, if we say that now, also he suffers the Turks and Jews to perish.
Secondly, the Turks and Jews are less to be excused now, in that they do not believe in Christ, than the Heathens were in times past in not acknowledging one God to be the Creator of heaven and earth. The reason is, because when almost the whole world was in Idolatry, the fervent heat of the common custom carried all by force away with it: neither was there any reason offered unto private men why they should greatly doubt of their Religion: neither if there had been doubt objected unto them could they find out any easy way to know the truth. But now after that the faith and Religion of Christ is divulged throughout the whole world, and that Christians are everywhere extant, it cannot be, but that many occasions are offered unto the Turks and Jews of doubting of their Religion. They are bound therefore to discuss, and confer the matter with the Christians dwelling nigh unto them; the which if they do not, but avert their minds from these kind of thoughts, by reason of the hatred they bear unto Christian Religion, or upon some other cause, they make themselves inexcusable before God: for the business of our Religion & salvation is of so great weight and importance, that it ought to be preferred before all other things, & when there is any just reason of doubting offered, it must withal diligence be examined, albeit we should for that purpose be forced to go into far countries for our resolution.
Lastly, if there be any who have heard nothing of Christian Religion or which do think that there is nothing whereby they may be justly moved to any further inquisition, those men shall not be damned for the sin of infidelity, that is to say, because they have not believed in Christ, but for some other things, which they have done against the law of nature, the which by help of God they might have eschewed: for God hath not let them so destitute of his providence and help, but that they may avoid those sins which they do commit, if they would; as they may & ought to cooperate with God's holy inspirations, and take comfort and pleasure therein. None therefore can impute his damnation unto God, albeit the way be strait unto salvation, but unto himself, to his own negligence, I say, and wickedness, whereby he hath neglected God's holy inspirations, and contemned his profitable admonitions, and willingly and wittingly against his own conscience hath thrown himself headlong into sin, it being his utter overthrow.
THE II. QUESTION.
THE other question is, whether it be sufficient to salvation to believe in Christ, and that he died for our sins albeit we will not believe many other things. Many, especially of the common sort of people, do esteem it sufficient, so that those things be believed which are set down in the Apostle's Creed, of God and Christ; other things they account indifferent, and every one may believe what with a good faith he pleases, but they will have the Apostle's Creed believed of everyone, in that sense which seems best unto any of them. They conclude therefore, that any who confesses Christ may be saved in his own faith, whether he be a Papist, or a Lutheran, or a Calvinist, or an Anabaptist, or of any other sect, for all these have the same head, which is Christ, all do rely upon the same Foundation which is Christ Jesus; [Colloss. 2, I. Cor. 3.] they cannot therefore be deceived of their salvation albeit they disagree in all other things. Hereupon some noble men who do use these new religions to the establishment and increase of their power and dominions, do labor very much to make one Church of the Lutherans and Calvinists, and they go about to persuade us, that there is no difference amongst them, but in some small points, & indifferent matters.
But this opinion does include in it many inconveniences.
The I. Reason.
First, because it saves almost all the ancient heretics: for most of them did confess Christ & believe Creed in their own sense. The Arians therefore might be saved in their heresy who denied God the Son to be consubstantial with his Father. The Macedonians who made the holy Ghost lesser than God the Son. The Nestorians who affirmed there were two Persons in Christ. The Eutichians who held that the flesh of Christ was converted into his divinity. The Apollinarists who said that the divine Word was united in Christ, as a reasonable soul is united to the body. The Monothelites, who affirmed that there was one only will and operation in Christ. The Pelagians, who denied original sin, and taught that a man by his natural forces might deserve the Grace of God, and his salvation. The Donatists who affirmed that the Church of God was everywhere perished, but only in Donatus's company. The Novatians who denied penance to those that had denied their faith. The Montanist who thought Montanus to be the Holy Ghost. All these according to this opinion, everyone in his own faith and heresy might be saved, because they believed in Christ, & did hold the Apostle's Creed no less to be believed, than now-a-days the Lutherans and Calvinists do. But what can be said more absurd or more like a paradox in the Church of God? For if eternal salvation may be obtained by this kind of faith, why have there been held so many Councils against those heresies, the Bishops throughout the whole world being assembled together with so great labor and charges? why have those heresies been so often condemned by Excommunication? why have the holy Fathers so much labored in the extirpation thereof? why have Catholics so much detested the conversation and company of those heretics? why would some of them rather choose to suffer banishment, death, and all kind of torments than to subscribe unto any of these heresies? All these things truly have been done in vain, foolishly and wrongfully, if in these sects eternal salvation might have been obtained: the which seeing no wise man can say, we must of necessity confess, that those heresies were the plagues of souls, and that salvation could by no means consist with them.
The 2. Reason.
Secondly, because it condemns all antiquity of error, who hath always judged, that heretics cannot be saved, and therefore it hath opposed itself so vehemently against them, and has always very diligently confuted them.
The 3. Reason.
Thirdly, because it condemns the Apostle himself, who in his third to Titus commands us in this sort: Eschew an heretic after one or two admonitions, knowing certainly, that he which is such a one, is overthrown, and sins, being condemned by his own proper judgment. Why doth he command him to be eschewed, if his error be not a hindrance to salvation? why doth he say, that he is overthrown & condemned? In like manner in his 2. Tim 2. Their speech (sayth he) creeps as a canker. Even as therefore the canker is a disease which kills a man's body unless it be cut away, so is an heretic unto a company of Christians and Catholics.
But some peradventure will object, and say, that none is to be accounted an heretic, but he who rejects Christ, or denies something belonging unto the Creed. But this is absurdly, & unwisely spoken, for so he should not be an heretic who should take away both the old and new Testament and should say, that those things are either feigned, or written by the spirit only of a man, and as the writings of profane authors subject to many errors. He were not an heretic who should deny hell; or the eternity of the pains thereof, or should affirm that all the devils should once be saved, seeing that there is no mention made of these things in the Apostle's Creed: he should not be an heretic who should forbid marriage, and who should say that marriages were ordained by the devil, who also should affirm that some kind of flesh is of its own nature unclean; all whom notwithstanding the Apostle judges to be heretics I. Tim. 4. He were not an heretic, who should say that there are two persons in Christ, whom notwithstanding S. John calls an heretic, and Antichrist Epist. I. 6. 4. He were not an heretic, who should deny Baptism, and all other Sacraments. And finally none of those of whom we have spoken before, were to be accounted heretics: the which is contrary to all antiquity, and all the doctors who have lived in these ten or twelve ages past.
The 4. Reason.
Fourthly, this opinion doth make all the foresaid heresies, and sects equal with the Catholic faith and Religion, affirming that we may as well be saved in them as in it. The Catholic Religion therefore shall be no better than Arianism, Pelagianism, Nestorianism, Eurichianism, and other false Religions; the which both in itself is most absurd, and nothing else but to induce a new Atheism. For to affirm all Religions to be good, and that it little imports the work of our Salvation what Religion we profess, is to make no account of any Religion: for if there be any Religion, it cannot be but one, as there is but one Truth, one Justice, one Faith, one happiness, one Lord and God, and one Man Jesus Christ, mediator of God and man.
The 5. Reason.
Fifthly, it is a scornful thing to say, that is is sufficient for everyone to believe the Creed according to their own sense and understanding thereof, seeing there is but one only Truth, to the which if we do not attain, we believe that which is false: but a false faith avails nothing to salvation. It is therefore all one whether thou believest the Creed after such a manner, or after no manner at all: one therefore may be saved albeit he doth not absolutely believe many articles. The same also may be said of the holy Scriptures. For if it be sufficient to believe the holy Scriptures understood in their own sense, seeing that this sense may often times be erroneous, it will not suffice, albeit thou dost not believe them at all; for a false faith can be no more needful to salvation than no faith at all, that is to say, whereby one doth absolutely believe nothing at all.
If thou doest say, that the Creed must be believed in a true sense, then thou condemns all the sects of this time, whereof there is none which believes all the articles of the Creed in the same sense with Catholics, or which doth not differ one from another in the explication of the Creed. Wherefore seeing that there is but only one Truth, it necessarily follows, that all Religions saving one do err from the truth, & therefore are not sufficient to salvation.
But it is evident, that they differ much in the understanding of the Creed, for that Article, And in Iesus Christ his only Son, the Arians, Tritheitans, and many Calvinists affirming the Son lesser than the Father, do otherwise explicate it than the Lutherans, & Catholics do, who hold God the Son to be equal ad consubstantial with his Father. The article of Christ's descending into hell, the Calvinists do otherwise understand, who do think that Christ suffered there the torments of the damned souls, and that he doubted of his salvation, and that he was afraid lest he should be wholly consumed by everlasting death: otherwise Catholics and Lutherans hold, who say that such an exposition is not the sense of that Article, but the blasphemy of Calvin. The article of Christ's ascending into heaven, is otherwise understood by the Lutherans, and Ubiquitarists ho hold Christ's body to be present everywhere and in all places, as his divinity is present everywhere: otherwise the Calvinists and Catholics hold, who do not doubt to affirm, but that by this exposition the whole Creed is overthrown, and that Christ's Incarnation, Nativity, Passion, death, ascending to heaven, and his coming to Judgment is thereby quite taken away. The article of judging the quick and the dead, the Catholics do otherwise expound, who hold that God shall so judge us that he will reward our good works with heaven, and punish our evil deeds with hell: otherwise the Calvinists and Lutherans, who deny all reward to good works, and that God only in his divine judgment will principally esteem, and reward a special faith only. The article of the Holy Ghost, the Catholics, and Lutherans do otherwise understand than the Arians, and many Calvinists. The article of the Church, the Lutherans and Calvinists do understand of the invisible congregation of those which are predestinate: the Catholics do understand it of the visible company of Catholics, wherein many are predestinate, many are reprobate. The article of Communion of Saints, the Lutherans and Calvinists do so extenuate that they take away almost all the communion held by Catholics. The article of Remission of Sins, they explicate of not imputation only, not acknowledging any inward renovation by inherent justice and the infused gifts of God, after which manner the Catholics do hold that sins are forgiven.
By these it is manifest, how great a difference there is in the understanding of the Creed. Seeing therefore that there is but only one Truth, and this in our Consultation we have showed to be among Catholics; it necessarily follows, that all other sects do hold a false doctrine, and faith of the Creed. If therefore a true faith of the Creed be necessary, it cannot possibly be, that everyone may be saved in his own faith and Religion. If a false faith suffice, how can a false faith help us to salvation?
The 6. Reason.
Sixthly, the Holy Scripture is of no less authority than the Apostle's Creed, neither doth he a less injury unto God, who denies anything clearly expressed in Holy Scripture, than he who rejects some article of the Creed: there is therefore no reason why faith should be restrained unto the Creed only, and that we may believe at our pleasure in all other things what we list, seeing that we are no less bound to know distinctly all such things as are in Holy Scripture, we are bound notwithstanding in general to believe all things; insomuch that without the sin of heresy, we may not reject as false and doubtful, anything contained therein. By what color therefore or probability can it be said, that it little imports, how in other matters thou believest, so that thou believe still in Christ and his Creed. Why must the Creed rather be still kept than all the Holy Scripture, seeing that the authority of the Creed is no greater than that of the Holy Scripture? this fancy truly is very foolish and simple, and altogether void of any good ground whereon it may rely.
The 7. Reason.
Seventhly, in every act of faith we must not only regard what we do believe, but also, and that principally, upon what ground we believe, & what is the whole reason of our belief; for of what kind the motive or reason of our belief is, of the same is our faith: if it be certain and infallible: if it be uncertain, our faith also will be uncertain, and subject to error; as for example's sake: The Turk believes there is one God Creator of all things, because his Alcoran doth teach him so, which he thinks to be written by the spirit of God; his faith, albeit he believe that which is true, relies upon a false and deceitful reason: by the force whereof he is moved to believe many false and blasphemous things; as that there are not three Persons in the B. Trinity, and that Christ is not God, and that Christ is inferior to Mahomet, and that Circumcision & the like are still to be kept. That faith therefore by reason of the foundation is both deceitful and hurtful: the same happens unto all heretics, the which being supposed I urge the argument in this manner.
That faith which relies upon a false foundation, albeit it believes some things which are true, cannot be sufficient to salvation: but the faith of all the sects of this time relies upon a false foundation: it cannot be therefore sufficient for salvation. The first proposition in manifest in itself, for how can that which is deceitful & uncertain be the foundation of our eternal salvation? How can the true Religion whereby we please God, be grounded in a false deceitful faith? Truly it is no less repugnant to reason, than if thou should say, that truth is grounded upon lies, wisdom upon error, and virtue upon folly.
The second proposition, to wit, that all sects are grounded upon a false and deceitful foundation, I prove in this manner: for either they believe their opinions for the authority of their Apostles Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Zwinglius &c. whom they judge to be endued with the spirit of God, or because every one of them in their own private judgment do believe those things to be conceived in holy Scripture, or lastly because their own private spirit doth inwardly testify unto them, that those things are true, or that this is the meaning of holy Scripture: for whatsoever the sects of these times do believe, they are moved thereunto by one of these three reasons, and they appoint one of them to be the foundation or reason of their belief: but these foundations and reasons be altogether false and deceitful.
As for the first reason, to wit the authority of Luther, Calvin, and the rest who first invented these new Religions, that it is deceitful, is manifest, because we see by experience that both they might, and have been often deceived, for they have revoked many things, corrected many things, and in many things have they contradicted themselves, as hath been declared in our Consultation of Religion in the 9. Consideration, and the sixth Reason. Hence it comes to pass that few nowadays will rely upon their authority, because they say, they were men, and therefore subject to error, wherefore their followers also do leave them at their own pleasure, when they think they have found anything fitter for their purpose: their authority therefore is deceitful, & uncertain, even by the judgment of their own scholars, and followers.
Neither is the other, to wit, their private Judgment, whereby they expound the Holy Scripture, less deceitful: for many false things by that private judgment seem to be true, and many things which before seemed true are afterward judged false. From hence arises so great variety and inconstancy in many of them concerning matters of faith, because indeed man's judgment is weak, especially in the mysteries of our faith, and the understanding of Holy Scripture, the which far exceeds the reach of man's wisdom and reason.
Many do answer, that they do not rely upon their judgment in matters of faith, but upon the Holy Scriptures which cannot err: wherein how miserably they are deceived by this appears, because almost all the sects do say, that they rely upon Holy Scripture, whereas notwithstanding they differ among themselves in most of the matters, one teaching contrary unto another, the which could by no means come to pass, if they did not rest upon their own judgments, but upon the lawful and common understanding of the Holy Scripture: for the Holy Scripture is no where contrary unto it. lf, neither doth it anywhere disagree from itself: that therefore they so greatly jar & disagree among themselves, is caused, by that they make a sense to the Holy Scripture according to their own private judgment, the which is diversly framed by them, according to the diversity of judgments and understanding among them: they rely therefore upon the Holy Scripture, not as it is interpreted by the Catholic Church & the holy Fathers, but as they in their private judgment do interpret it: for the virtue and force of the holy Scripture doth not only consist in the bear words, but in the sense and meaning thereof: but the private judgment invents this sense, and joins it to the words of the Scripture as life unto the body : the whole reason of their faith therefore is their private judgment, the which how deceitful oftentimes it is, may easily be declared by the disagreement of so many sects. For it is all one whether thou say that thou rely upon Scripture as it is interpreted by they proper judgment, or that thou rely upon thy own judgment precisely in itself.
Finally, the third reason whereupon many nowadays do rely, is most deceitful and scornful of all, a manifest sign whereof is that among the Anabaptists, who above all others are guided by the instinct of the spirit, there is the greatest variety of sects, and disagreement of faith; the which could not be, but that the spirit whereupon they rely, and by whom they are governed is deceitful and variable. The same also is to be seen among Calvinists, and Lutherans, and amongst their sects and divers factions, for their own opinion is certain an evident unto every one of them by the testimony of their own private judgment, the which inwardly reaches every one of them and affords the testimony of truth unto everyone of them, whereby it is manifest that this spirit is not the Holy Ghost, the spirit of truth, who cannot teach contraries, or be opposite unto itself; but it is a wicked spirit, spirit of error, who is a liar from the beginning, & the father of lies, who works in the children of incredulity, of whom the Apostle says, Because they have not received the charity of truth, he will therefore send them the operation of error, that they may believe in lies. [2. Thess. 6.] And in another place. In the last days there shall some depart from their faith attending to the spirits of error, and doctrines of the devil. For every heresy is the doctrine of the devil. And S. John says, Do not believe every spirit but try their spirits, whether they be of God or not. For many false prophets are gone out into the world. [I. Tim. 4]
This therefore is the spirit which bears rule in the hearts of heretics, whose testimony & operation they feel inwardly engrafted in their hearts, and yet they think it to be the work of the Holy Ghost, who so blinds their mind, and fantasizes, that they judge light to be darkness, and darkness light, that they think the most clear truth of the Catholic faith to be an error, and most filthy errors to be the clear truth. And truly if they were not wholly blinded & bewitched, they might easily perceive that spirit whom they feel inwardly, not to be the spirit of God, or at the least they might begin to doubt thereof, seeing that all sects among whom there is so great assention & variety of opinions, do all equally feel, boast of, and follow that testimony of this spirit, and rely upon it in the confirmation of their most contrary opinions: but this happens by the just judgment of God: for as the Jews who would not receive Christ were permitted o be blinded by the devil, as it is manifest by the Apost 2. ac Thes. 2 so heretics because they have forsaken the Catholic faith (the which is no less a fault than that of the Jews) are delivered unto him, that he may as it were bewitch their minds, & drive them into all kind of error.
[The devil doth sooner bewitch heretics than Jews]
But if any will attentively consider he shall easily perceive a more potent operation of the devil an bewitching of minds in our heretics, than either in Jews or Mahometans, and that for two reasons. First because the Jews agree in the same faith, neither is there any variety of sects among them; among the Mahomets there are only two sects and there is no great difference betwixt them. But among heretics of these times here are many sects, some arising by the increase of new opinions, who condemn one another's heresy, and all there are risen within the space of 90. years, the which is a manifest sign, that the devil marvelously possesses inwardly the hearts of these men troubling their fancies, perverting their imaginations and judgments, that they cannot remain or be quiet anywhere.
Secondly, because the common sort of people among the Jews and Turks do not rely upon their own judgment, or upon the testimony and instinct of the private spirit, but upon the judgment of their doctors, or (which is all one) upon their own Scripture, as it is interpreted unto them by the doctors of their Religion; they have therefore the rule of their faith and ground of their belief conformable as it were to reason, that is to say, the common consent of their predecessors, or the Scripture explicated unto them by the consent of the doctors of their Religion. But most of the heretics of these times do not respect their Superiors and Apostles from whom they first received this new Gospel, but they forsake them as men subject to error, and they rely wholly upon their own judgment, or upon the testimony of the private spirit, or which is all one, upon the Scripture only, understood after the sense of their own Judgment & private spirit, the which is an evident sign, that Satan doth so effectually work in them & bewiten their minds, that not only every one feigns unto himself new heresies and opinions, but also that he places the foundation of his belief & rule of faith in himself, & in his own inward sense and judgment: for everyone thinks himself to be taught by our Lord and endued with the Magistery of the spirit, albeit they be women & young girls, & therefore to be free from error, and all the holy Fathers to have been men subject to error. The same they judge of their Apostles and ministers. But what greater bewitching or deceiving of people can there be, than this? hence it comes to pass that they have no certain and established opinions among them, neither can they set down or frame any body of doctrine and religion, but they must wander up and down in uncertainties, as the private spirit leads them; neither can there any disputation be made with them concerning their opinions, seeing that they do not defend any one opinion, they being by reason of the ignorance of their predecessors altogether unlearned. But of this spirit of folly & madness we have written more at large in our Consultation in the 9. Consideration, & the 11. Reason.
By these it is manifestly concluded that all the ground and foundation of faith whereupon the sects of our times rely, is false and uncertain, and therefore their faith which relies thereon is unprofitable, and avails nothing to salvation.
The 8. Reason.
Eightly, if everyone who doth acknowledge Christ may be saved in his own faith, why is there so great disagreement among religions? Why do they excommunicate and condemn another of heresy? Why do Lutherans refuse to acknowledge the Calvinists for their brethren: and in their public sermons and books do call them wicked & blasphemous persons? Why do the chief of the Calvinists, among whom Theodore Beza, the Father of them all, & as it were their pope next after Calvin, handle the Lutherans like manner? why do the Anabaptists call those only of their own sect, to be the faithful, & Christians, and account all others as Infidels? Whereby it is evident, that this new opinion of doctrine is not only contrary to Catholic Religion, but to all other sects also, who have in them any zeal of piety & religion, & to be banished as Atheism only.
The 9. Reason.
Ninthly, that any man be saved it suffices not to keep only one, two, or three commandments, but it is necessary to keep all, according to those words of Christ Matth. 19. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. As if any be an adulterer, or thief, albeit he keep the other commandments he may not be saved, as the holy Scripture often teaches. In like manner therefore it is not sufficient to salvation to believe two, three, or four articles, but it is necessary to believe all those things which God hath revealed and set down to us in his Church to be believed, for faith is no less necessary to salvation than obedience of the commandments of the law of God: neither should faith be less perfect than the obedience and keeping of the law of God. As therefore obedience must extend itself to all the commandments, so must faith extend itself to all things which are revealed; the which may be confirmed by the words of S. James in the 2. Chap. Whosoever hath keep the whole Law, but offends in one, he is made guilty of all: for he who said, thou shall not commit adultery, said also thou shall not kill: as if he should say, he is made guilty of all, and shall be punished as a breaker of the whole law, because he hath despised the law-maker, who is the author of the whole law, In like manner therefore he which shall deny one article, although he believe all the rest, is made guilty of violating his whole faith and Religion, because he contemns God who is the first Truth, who no less revealed this than the other: he contemns the Catholic Church the spouse of Christ, who is the pillar & strength of Truth, whereby he hath no less determined we should believe this than the other. And this is the reason why he is no less an heretic who with pertinacity denies one point of faith, than he which denies a hundred, because in that he denies one, he contemns God, who is the first truth and did reveal it: he contemns the authority of the Church, the which did propose it unto us: he makes the Church subject to error and a liar, whereby he is made also uncertain of all the rest, and looses all his divine faith: for the ground of his divine faith being taken away, his whole faith must needs perish, and consequently there remains only an opinion or human faith, subject to error, whereby he believes all the rest.
The 10. Reason.
Tenthly and lastly, this opinion is very dangerous is the practise thereof, for it makes a man that he cares not what religion he hold, what he believes or not believes: he doth not therefore seek after the truth, and he doth as easily and with as great security lay hold on false as true things, yet all men not only Catholics but even the more principal sects, & those which are learned wisemen do absolutely affirm, that none can be saved without the true faith and religion, and whosoever are deprived thereof shall perish forever. The followers therefore of this opinion are condemned of all, and they only promise unto themselves salvation without any author, testimony or reason for it, relying and trusting only in their own vain imagination of their foolish brain: let then therefore hear out of S. Fulgentius what antiquity hath always held and what the Catholic Church hath taught in all ages. Thus therefore he writes, setting down the rules of our common faith in his book de fide ad Petrum Diaconum, Cap. 38. Believe assuredly (sayth he) and doubt nothing at all, that not only all Pagans, but also all Jews, Heretics and Schismatics who shall die out of the Catholic Church shall go into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his Angels. And in the 39. Cap. Believe assuredly & doubt nothing, that every heretic or Schismatic christened in the name of the Father, & of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, if he be not withing the number of those which are of the Catholic Church, what alms soever he hath made, albeit he shall shed his blood for the name of Christ, can be no means be saved: for neither baptism, nor large and charitable alms, nor death itself suffered for Christ's sake, will avail that man, who doth hold the unity of the Catholic Church, as long as his heretical or schismatical wickedness which leads to perdition, shall continue in him.
This hath always been the faith of the Catholic Church, and the most certain and undoubted doctrine of the holy Fathers: the which I would to God all those who remain out of the Church of God would attentively and diligently consider; they would truly and easily perceive in how dangerous a state they continue. Thou, O Christ, the light of the world, shine unto their minds, and enlighten their hearts. Amen.
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