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DIFFERENCES AMONG HERESIES

Howbeit, we make a difference of heresies, accounting them in the next degree to infidelity which directly deny any one thing to be which is expressly acknowledged in the articles of our belief; for out of any one article so denied the denial of the very foundation itself is straightway inferred. As, for example, if a man should say, "There is no Catholic Church," it followeth immediately hereupon that this Jesus whom we call the Saviour is not the Saviour of the world; because all the prophets bear witness that the true Messias should "show a light unto the Gentiles," [Lk 2:32; Acts 26:23] that is to say, gather such a church as is catholic, not restrained any longer unto one circumcised nation. In a second rank we place them out of whose positions the denial of any of the foresaid articles may be with like facility concluded. Such are they who have denied either the divinity of Christ, with Ebion, or with Marcion his humanity, an example whereof may be that of Cassianus defending the incarnation of the Son of God against Nestorius bishop of Antioch [a slip for Constantinople], who held that the Virgin, when she brought forth Christ, did not bring forth the Son of God but a sole and mere man; [NOTE: Many scholars now doubt that Nestorius did indeed teach the heresy which has been named after him] out of which heresy the denial of the articles of the Christian faith he deduceth thus:

If thou dost deny our Lord Jesus Christ to be God, in denying the Son thou canst not choose but deny the Father; for, according to the voice of the Father himself, "He that hath not the Son hath not the Father." [see 1 Jn 2:23] Wherefore denying him that is begotten thou deniest him who doth beget. Again, denying the Son of God to have been born in the flesh, how canst thou believe him to have suffered? Believing not his passion, what remaineth but that thou deny his resurrection? For we believe him not raised, except we first believe him dead; neither can the reason of his rising from the dead stand without the faith of his death going before. The denial of his death and passion inferreth the denial of his rising from the depth. Whereupon it followeth that thou also deny his ascension into heaven: the Apostle affirming that "he who ascended did first descend." [Eph 4:9] So that, as much as lieth in thee, our Lord Jesus Christ hath neither risen from the depth, nor is ascended into heaven, nor sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, neither shall he come at the day of final account, which is looked for, nor shall judge the quick and dead. And darest thou yet set foot in the church? Canst thou think thyself a bishop when thou hast denied all those things whereby thou didst obtain a bishoply calling? [John Cassian, DE INCARNATIONE DOMINI CONTRA NESTORIUM, 6:17f]

Nestorius confessed all the articles of the creed, but his opinion did imply the denial of every part of his confession. Heresies there are of a third part, such as the Church of Rome maintaineth, which, being removed by a greater distance from the foundation, although indeed they overthrow it, yet because of that weakness which the philosopher noteth in men's capacities when he saith that the common sort cannot see things which follow in reason, when they follow, as it were, afar off by many deductions; therefore the repugnancy between such heresy and the foundation is not so quickly nor so easily found but that an heretic of this sooner than of the former kind may directly grant, and consequently nevertheless deny, the foundation of faith.

If reason be suspected, trial will show that the Church of Rome doth no otherwise by teaching the doctrine she doth teach concerning works. Offer them the very fundamental words, and what one man is there that will refuse to subscribe unto them? Can they directly grant and deny directly one and the selfsame thing? Our own proceedings in disputing against their works satisfactory and meritorious do show not only that they hold, but that we acknowledge them to hold, the foundation notwithstanding their opinion. For are not these our arguments against them: "Christ alone hath satisfied and appeased his Father's wrath; Christ hath merited salvation alone"? We should do fondly to use such disputes, neither could we think to prevail by them, if that whereupon we ground were a thing which we know they do not hold, which we are assured they will not grant. Their very answers to all such reasons as are in this controversy brought against them will not permit us to doubt whether they hold the foundation or no. Can any man who hath read their books concerning this matter be ignorant how they draw all thelr answers unto these heads?

That the remission of all our sins, the pardon of all whatsoever punishments thereby deserved, the rewards which God hath laid up in heaven, are by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ purchased and obtained sufficiently for all men; but for no man effectually for his benefit in particular, except the blood of Christ be applied particularly unto him by such means as God hath appointed it to work by.

That those means of themselves being dead things, only the blood of Christ is that which putteth life, force, and efficacy in them to work, and to be available, each in his kind, to our salvation.

Finally, that grace being purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and freely without any merit or desert at the first bestowed upon us, the good things which we do, after grace received, are made satisfactory and meritorious.

Some of their sentences to this effect I must allege for mine own warrant. If we desire to hear foreign judgments, we find in one this confession:

He that would reckon how many the virtues and merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ have been might likewise understand how many the benefits have been that are come unto us by him, forasmuch as men are made partakers of them all by the means of his passion: by him is given unto us remission of our sins, grace, glory, liberty, praise, peace, salvation, redemption, justification, justice, sanctification, sacraments, merits, doctrine, and all other things which we had, and were behoveful for our salvation. [Lewis of Granada]

In another we have these oppositions and answers made unto them:

All grace is given by Christ Jesus. True; but not except Christ Jesus be applied. He is the propitiation for our sins; by his stripes we are healed; he hath offered up himself for us: all this is true, but apply it. [cf 1 Jn 2:2; Is 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24; Heb 7:27; 9:14; 10:12] We put all satisfaction in the blood of Jesus Christ; but we hold that the means which Christ hath appointed for us in this case to apply it are our penal works. [Francis Panigarola]

Our countrymen in Rheims [a gathering-place for Roman Catholic expatriates from England, and the site of a Jesuit seminary for the training of English priests] make the like answer, that they seek salvation no other way than by the blood of Christ, and that humbly they do use prayers, fasting, alms, faith, charity, sacrifice, sacraments, priests, only as the means appointed by Christ, to apply the benefit of his holy blood unto them: touching our good works, that in their own natures they are not meritorious nor answerable unto the joys of heaven; it cometh by the grace of Christ, and not of the work itself, that we have by well-doing a right to heaven and deserve it worthily.

If any men think that I seek to varnish their opinions, to set the better foot of a lame cause foremost, let him know that since I began throughly to understand their meaning I have found their halting in this doctrine greater than perhaps it seemeth to them who know not the deepness of Satan, as the blessed Divine speaketh. [Rev 2:24] For, although this be proof sufficient, that they do not deny directly the foundation of faith, yet, if there were no other leaven in the whole lump of their doctrine but this, this were sufficient to prove that their doctrine is not agreeable with the foundation of Christian faith. The Pelagians, being over-great friends unto nature, made themselves enemies unto grace, for all their confessing that men have their souls and all the faculties thereof, their wills and the ability of their wills, from God. And is not the Church of Rome still an adversary unto Christ's merits, because of her acknowledging that we have received the power of meriting by the blood of Christ? Sir Thomas More setteth down the odds between us and the Church of Rome in the matter of works thus:

Like as we grant them that no good work of man is rewardable in heaven of his own nature, but through the goodness of God, that list to set so high a price upon so poor a thing, and that this price God setteth through Christ's passion, and for that also they be his own works with us (for good works to God-ward worketh no man, without God work in him); and as we grant them also that no man may be proud of his works for his own imperfect working; and for that in all that man may do he can do no good, but is a servant unprofitable and doth but his bare duty; as we, I say, grant unto them these things, so this one thing or twain do they grant us again, that men are bound to work good works if they have time and power, and that whoso worketh in true faith most shall be most rewarded; but then set they thereto that all his rewards shall be given him for his faith alone, and nothing for his works at all, because his faith is the thing, they say, and forceth him to work well. [Thomas More, A DIALOGUE OF COMFORT, I, 12]

I see by this of Sir Thomas More how easy it is for men of great capacity and judgment to mistake things written or spoken, as well on one side as on another. Their doctrine, as he thought, maketh the works of man rewardable in the world to come through the mere goodness of God, whom it pleaseth to set so high a price upon so poor a thing; and ours, that a man doth receive that eternal and high reward, not for his works, but for his faith's sake by which he worketh; whereas in truth our doctrine is no other than that which we have learned at the feet of Christ: namely, that God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for his worthiness who is believed; God rewardeth abundantly everyone who worketh, yet not for any meritorious dignity which is, or can be, in the work, but through his mere mercy, by whose commandment he worketh. Contrariwise, their doctrine is that, as pure water of itself hath no savour, but if it pass through a sweet pipe it taketh a pleasant smell of the pipe through which it passeth, so also, before grace received, our works do neither satisfy nor merit; yet after, they do both the one and the other. Every virtuous action hath then power in such sort to satisfy that if we ourselves commit no mortal sin, no heinous crime, whereupon to spend this treasure of satisfaction in our own behalf, it turneth to the benefit of other men's release on whom it shall please the steward of the house of God to bestow it; so that we may satisfy for ourselves and for others, but merit only for ourselves. In meriting, our actions do work with two hands: with the one they get their morning stipend, the increase of grace; with the other their evening hire, the everlasting crown of glory. Indeed, they teach that our good works do not these things as they come from us, but as they come from grace in us; which grace in us is another thing in their divinity than is the mere goodness of God's mercy toward us in Christ Jesus. [perhaps based on a passage in Panigarola; see also Trent, VI, chs 7,10]

If it were not a strong deluding spirit which hath possesion of their hearts, were it possible but that they should see how plainly they do herein gainsay the very ground of apostolic faith? Is this that salvation by grace whereof so plentiful mention is made in the sacred Scriptures of God? Was this their meaning who first taught the world to look for salvation only by Christ? By grace, the Apostle saith, and by grace in such sort as a gift, a thing that cometh not of ourselves, not of our works, lest any man should boast and say, "I have wrought out mine own salvation." [Eph 2:8f; NOTE that the injunction of Phil 2:12, "work out your own salvation," is not an exhortation to save oneself by one's works, but a challenge to put one's salvation to work.] By grace they confess; but by grace in such sort that as many as wear the diadem of bliss, they wear nothing but what they have won. The Apostle, as if he had foreseen how the Church of Rome would abuse the world in time by ambiguous terms, to declare in what sense the name of grace must be taken, when we make it the cause of our salvation, saith, "He saved us according to his mercy"; [Tit 3:5] which mercy, although it exclude not the washing of our new birth, the renewing of our hearts by the Holy Ghost, the means, the virtues, the duties which God requireth at their hands who shall be saved, yet it is so repugnant unto merits that to say we are saved for the worthiness of anything which is ours is to deny we are saved by grace. Grace bestoweth freely, and therefore justly requireth the glory of that which is bestowed. We deny the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we imbase, disannul, annihilate the benefit of his bitter passion, if we rest in those proud imaginations that life everlasting is deservedly ours, that we merit it, and that we are worthy of it.

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