SECOND VIOLATION OF THE SCRIPTURES: BY THE RULE WHICH THESE REFORMERS BRING FORWARD TO DISTINGUISH THE SACRED BOOKS FROM THE OTHERS. AND OF SOME SMALLER PARTS THEY CUT OFF FROM THEM ACCORDING TO THIS RULE:
The crafty merchant keeps out the worst articles of his stock to offer first to buyers, to try if he can get rid of them and sell them to some simpleton. The reasons which these reformers have advanced in the preceding chapter are but tricks, as we have seen, which are used only as it were for amusement, to try whether some simple and weak brain will be content with them; and, in reality, when one comes to the grapple, they confess that not the authority of the Church, nor of S. Jerome, nor of the Gloss, nor of the Hebrew, is cause sufficient to receive or reject any Scripture. The following is their protestation of faith presented to the King of France by the French pretended reformers. After having placed on the list, in the third article, the books they are willing to receive, they write thus in the fourth article: “We know these books to be canonical and a most safe rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and interior persuasion of the Holy Spirit, which gives us to discern them from the other ecclesiasticla books.” Quitting then the field of the reasons preceding, and making for cover, they throw them selves into the interior, secret, and invisible persuasion which they consider to be produced in them by the Holy Spirit.
Now in truth it is judicious in them not to chose to rely in this point on the common accord and consent of the Church; for this common accord has placed on the canon Ecclesiasticus and the Machabees, as much as and as early as the Apocalypse, and yet they choose to receive this and to reject those. Judith, made authoritative by the grand and irreproachable Council of Nice, is blotted out by these reformers. They have reason then to confess that in the reception of canonical books, they do not accept the accord and consent of the Church, which was never greater or more solemn than in that first Council.
But, for God’s sake notice the trick. “We know,” say they, “these books to be canonical, not so much by the common consent and accord of the Church” To hear them speak, would you not say that at least to some extent they let themselves be guided by the Church? Their speech is not sincere: it seems as if they did not altogethe refuse credit to the common accord of Christians, but only did not receive it as on the same level with their interior persuasion:- in all reality however, they hold it in no account at all: they are thus cautious in their language in order not to appear altogether arogant and unreasonable. For, I ask you, if they deferred as little as you please to ecclesiastical authority, why would they receive the Apocalypse rather than Judith or the Machabees? S. Augustine and S. Jerome are faithful witnesses to us that these have been unanimously received by the whole Catholic Church; and the Councils of Carthage, in Trullo, Florence, assure us thereof. Why then do they say that they do receive these sacred books not so much by the ocmmon accord of the Church or by interior persuasion, since the common accord of the Church has neither value nor place in the matter? It is their custom when they would bring forward some strange opinion not to speak clearly and frankly, in order to give the reader a better impression.
And now let us look at the rule they have for distinguishing the canonical books from the other elccleaiastical ones. “The testimony,” they say, “and interior persuasion of the Holy Spirit.” Good heavens! What obscurity, what dense fog, what shades of night! Are we not now fully enlightened in so important and grave a difference! The question is how one can tell these canonical books; we wish to have some rule to distinguish them; – and they offer us something that passes in the interior of the soul, which no one sees, nobody knows save the soul itself and its Creator!
(1) Show me clearly that when you tell me that such and such an inspiration exists; in your conscience you are not telling a lie. You say that you feel this persuasion within you. But why am I bound to believe you? Is your word so powerful that I am forced under its authority to believe that you think and feel what you say. I am willing to hold you as good people enough, but when there is question of the foundations of my faith, as of receiving or rejecting the Ecclesiastical Scriptures, I find neither your ideas nor your words steady enough to serve me as a base.
(2.) Show me clearly that these inspirations and persuasions that you pretend to have are of the Holy Spirit. Who knows not that the spirit of darkness very often appears in clothing of light ?
(3.) Does this spirit grant his persuasions indifferently to everyone. Or only to some particular persons? If to every one, how does it happen that so many millions of Catholics have never perceived them, nor so many women, working-people, and others among yourselves ?If it is to some in particular, show them me, I beg, you,-and why to these rather than to others ? What mark will you give me to know them and to pick them out from the crowd of the rest of men ? Must I believe in the first who shall say: here you are? This would be to put ourselves too much at a venture and at the mercy of deceivers. Show me then some infallible rule to recognise these inspired ones, these persuaded ones, or else permit me to credit none of them.
(4.) But, in conscience, do you think that the interior persuasion is a sufficient means to distinguish the Holy Scriptures, and put the nations out of doubt? How comes it then that Luther throws off the Epistle of S. James, which Calvin receives? Try to harmonise, I pray you, this spirit and his persuasions, who persuades the one to reject what he persuades the other to receive. You will say, perhaps, that Luther is mistaken. He will say as much of you. Which is to be believed? Luther ridicules Ecclesiastes, he considers Job a fable. Will you oppose him your persuasion? He will oppose you his. So this spirit, divided against himself, will leave you no other conclusion except to grow thoroughly obstinate, each in his own opinion.
(5.) Then what reason is there that the Holy Spirit should give inspirations as to what every one must believe to nobodies, to Luther, to Calvin, they having abandoned without any such inspiration the Councils and the entire Church. We do not deny, to speak clearly, but that the knowledge of the true sacred books is a gift of the Holy Spirit, but we say that the Holy Spirit gives it to private individuals through the medium of the Church. Indeed if God had a thousand times revealed a thing to a private person we should not be obliged to believe it unless he stamped it so clearly that we could no longer call its validity in question. But we see nothing of this among your reformers. In a word, it is to the Church General that the Holy Spirit immediately addresses his inspirations and persuasions, then, by the preaching of the Church, he communicates them to private persons. It is the Spouse in whom the milk is produced, then the children suck it from her breasts. But you would have it, on the contrary, that God inspires private persons, and by these means the Church, that the children receive the milk and the mother is nourished at their breasts; an absurdity.
Now if the Scripture is not violated and its majesty offended by the setting up of these interior and private inspirations, it never was nor will be violated. For by this means the door is open to every one to receive or reject of the Scriptures what shall seem good to him. Why shall one allow Calvin to cut off Wisdom or the Machabees, and not Luther to remove the Epistle of S. James or the Apocalypse, or Castalio the Canticle of Canticles, or the Anabaptists the Gospel of S. Mark, or another person Genesis and Exodus? If all protest that they have interior revelation why shall we believe one rather than another, so that this rule supposed to be sacred on account of the Holy Spirit, will be violated by the audacity of every deceiver.
Recognise, I pray you, the stratagem. They have taken away all authority from Tradition, the Church, the Councils, what more remains? The Scripture. The enemy is crafty: if he would take all away at one stroke he would cause alarm. He starts a certain and infallible method of getting rid of it bit by bit, and very gradually: that is, this idea of interior inspiration, by which everybody can receive or reject what seems good to him. And in fact consider a little how the process works itself out. Calvin removes and erases from the canon Baruch, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees; Luther takes away the Epistle of S. James, of S. Jude, the Second of S. Peter, the Second and Third of S. John, the Epistle to the Hebrews; he ridicules Ecclesiastes, and holds Job a fable. In Daniel, Calvin has erased the Canticle of the Three Children, the history of Susanna and that of the dragon of Bel; also a great part of Esther. In Exodus, at Geneva and elsewhere among these reformers, they have cut out the twenty-second verse of the second chapter, which is of such weight that neither the Seventy nor the other translators would ever have written it if it had not been in the original. Beza casts a doubt over the history of the adulteress in the Gospel of S. John (S. Augustine warns us that already the enemies of Christianity had erased it from their books; but not from all,as S. Jerome says). In the mysterious words of the Eucharist, do they not try to overthrow the authority of those words: Which shall be shed for you, because the Greek text [* see footnote] clearly shows that what was in the chalice was not wine, but the blood of Our Saviour? As if one were to say in French: Ceci est la coupe du nouveau Testament en mon sang, laquelle sera respandiie pour vous. For in this way of speaking that which is in the cup must be the true blood, not the wine; since the wine has not been shed for us but the blood, and the cup cannot be poured out except by reason of what it contains. What is the knife with which one has made so many amputations? This tenet of private inspiration. What is it that makes you reformers so bold to cut away one this piece, another that, and the other something else? The pretext of these interior persuasions of the Spirit, which makes them supreme each in his own idea, in judging as to the validity or invalidity of the Scriptures. On the contrary, gentlemen, S. Augustine protests For my part, I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me thereto.” (Conta Ep. Fund. V) And elsewhere: “We receive the New and the Old Testament in that number of books which the authority of the Catholic Church determines.” (Sermo de Temp. cxci) The Holy Spirit can give his inspirations as he likes, but as to the establishment of the public and general belief of the faithful, he only directs us to the Church. It is hers to propose which are the true Scriptures and which are not.
* Note “to” in the Dative, agreeing with aimati but “to” in the Nominative, agreeing with poterion. The Saint represents this in French by the change of gender. It is not clearly expressed in the Latin, and our English translation would seem to favour the wrong meaning. Shall be poured out is more correct, but still ambiguous. [Tr.]