« EelmineJätka »
wrought, but that ye may receive a full reward. Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, nor say to him, God speed you; for he that saith to him, God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works," 2 John, verse 8. Here, then, it is manifest, that every fellowship with those who have not the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which is "a communication in their evil works," that is, in their false tenets, or worship, or in any act of religion, is strictly forbidden, under pain of losing the "things we have wrought," the reward of our labours, the salvation of our souls. And if this holy apostle declares that the very saying, God speed to such people, is a communication with their wicked works, what would he have said of going to their places of worship, of hearing their sermons, joining in their prayers, or the like? From this passage the learned translators of the Rheims New Testament, in their note, justly observe, "That, in matters of religion, in praying, hearing their sermons, presence at their service, partaking of their sacraments, and all other communicating with them in spiritual things, it is a great and damnable sin to deal with them.' And if this be the case with all in general, how much more with those who are well instructed and better knowing in their religion than others; for their doing any of these things must be a much greater crime than in ignorant people, because they know their duty better.
Q. 13. These laws are all very clear and strong; but has the Christian Church always observed, and enforced the observation of them?
A. The Spirit of Christ, which dictated the holy Scriptures, and the Spirit which animates and guides
the Church of Christ, and teaches her all truth, is the same; and, therefore, her conduct in this point has been uniformly the same in all ages with what the holy Scripture teaches. She has constantly prohibited her children to have any communication, in religious matters, with those who are separated from her communion; and this she has sometimes done under the most severe penalties. In the apostolical canons, which are of very ancient standing, and for the most part handed down from the apostolical age, it is thus decreed: "If any bishop, or priest, or deacon, shall join in prayers with heretics, let him be suspended from communion," Can. 44. Also, "if any clergyman or laic, shall go into the synagogue of the Jews, or the meetings of heretics, to join in prayer with them, let them be deposed, and deprived of communion,' Can. 63. So also, in one of her most respectable councils, held in the year 398, at which the great St. Augustine was present, she apeaks thus : "None must either pray or sing psalms with heretics; and whosoever shall communicate with those who are cut off from the communion of the Church, whether clergyman, or laic, let him be excommunicated," Coun. Carth. iv. 72 and 73, The same is her language in all ages; and in this she shews herself to be the true mother, who will not suffer her children to be divided. She knows her heavenly spouse has declared, that, "no man can serve two masters; we cannot serve God and Mammon;" and, therefore, she must either have them to be hers entirely, or she will not have them at all. She knows his holy apostle has protested, that there can be no "participation, no fellowship, no concord, no part, no agreement betwixt the faithful and the unbeliever;" and, therefore, she never can allow any of her faithful children to have any religious communication with those of a false religion and corrupted faith.
Q. 14. Are there any other particular reasons for avoiding all communication with those who are separated from the Church, in those countries where the number of the faithful is small, and where they live amidst multitudes who are of different religions?
A. Yes, there are, and very strong ones. For, (1.) In these countries, if any of the faithful appear in the public places of worship, whether of the established kind, or of those permitted by law, their doing so is generally looked upon as a defection from their own faith, and a joining with those who are separated from it, which is denying their faith before men. (2.) In these circumstances, when a member of the Church goes to such religious meetings, whether to be present at their service, or hear their sermons, it never fails to give the greatest scandal; it is a matter of triumph, and sometimes of derision, to those who are without, and gives the most feeling affliction and offence to the rest of the faithful. It is an encouragement to weak people to do the same, lessens their esteem and respect for their holy faith, and gives those who are without, a handle to bring such unhappy examples, as a motive to induce others to do the same, as experience itself teaches to have been too often the case. (3.) It can seldom or ever be done, especially among the more unlearned sort, without evident danger of seduction, as is found also from experience. All which considerations, as we have seen above, make all communication with those of a false religion doubly criminal, and most strictly forbidden by the law of Jesus Christ, even though done in appearance only, and without any internal joining in the mind. (4.) There are also some particular laws of the Church, expressly forbidding the faithful to have any religious communication in these circumstances with those of a different religion.
Q. 15. What are these particular laws of the Church?
A. I shall only mention the two following; the first is a rescript of the head of the Church, Pope Paul IV., to the Catholics in England, at a time when the most severe persecutions were raised against them, unless they agreed to go from time to time to the public churches: "Great," says the holy Father, "has been the grief of our mind for the tribulations and calamities ye have constantly undergone for your adherence to the Catholic faith; and, as we understand that these trials are become more severe at present, our affliction is increased exceedingly. For we are informed that ye are compelled, under the most grievous penalties, to go to the churches of heretics, to frequent their meetings, and be present at their sermons. Indeed we are fully persuaded that ye who, with so much fortitude and constancy, have hitherto undergone almost infinite miseries, that ye might walk without stain in the law of the Lord, will never consent to be defiled by communicating with those who have forsaken the divine law. Nevertheless, urged by the zeal of our pastoral duty, and from the paternal solicitude with which we daily labour for the salvation of your souls, we are forced to admonish and conjure you, that on no account you go to the Churches of heretics, or hear their sermons, or join in their rites, lest ye incur the wrath of God, for it is not lawful for you do such things, without dishonouring God, and hurting your own souls." In consequence of which authentic decision, the Catholic pastors there have most strictly prohibited all such communication, by their special regulations.
The second is taken from the regulations made by the Catholic pastors in Scotland, which were authenticated and confirmed by the Holy See: in which it is expressly ordained, "That if any of
the faithful shall be present at the service of those of a different religion, or go to hear their sermons, they shall be obliged to do public penance for the scandal so given, and that they all be expressly forbidden to be present even at their private prayers?" and then it is added, "Certain it is, that all communication in holy things with heretics, has, at all times, been condemned by the Church with the greatest detestation. And in Scotland, the distinctive sign of the faithful from others, is, that the Catholics do not go to their churches ; and for the most part, nothing else is required of Catholics as a profession that they have forsaken their own Church, than to go to the meetings of others, which, if they do, they are no longer esteemed Catholics, but apostates from their faith.” Which last words shew, that, in Scotland, it is particularly criminal to go to such places, as including a denial of their holy faith, in the estimation of the world, and in the eye of the law, and, on that account also, must be attended with greater offence and scandal to all the faithful.
Q. 16. After such strong prohibitions, both by the holy Scripture, the general laws of the Church, and the statutes of particular Churches, where the occasion requires it, one is at a loss to imagine what any man could say to the contrary: can any kind of authority be brought from the Scripture to favour the liberty of going to such places?
A. That is impossible; the Scripture can never contradict itself; and we see that the whole tenor of the Scripture, in the strongest terms, expressly forbids it. Nor is it in the New Testament alone that all religious communication is forbidden with those of a false religion; the conduct of the divine providence, in this point, was uniformly the same from the beginning; and the people of God, in the old law, were forbidden all such communication, under the severest penalties, as appears from num