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Chapter XXI.

Exposition of St. Paul’s Words.—1 Tim. vi. 20.

[51.] Such being the case, when I think over these things, and revolve them in my mind again and again, I cannot sufficiently wonder at the madness of certain men, at the impiety of their blinded understanding, at their lust of error, such that, not content with the rule of faith delivered once for all, and received from the times of old, they are every day seeking one novelty after another, and are constantly longing to add, change, take away, in religion, as though the doctrine, “Let what has once for all been revealed suffice,” were not a heavenly but an earthly rule,—a rule which could not be complied with except by continual emendation, nay, rather by continual fault-finding; whereas the divine Oracles cry aloud, “Remove not the landmarks, which thy fathers have set,”495495    Prov. xxii. 28. and “Go not to law with a Judge,”496496    Ecclus. viii. 14. and “Whoso breaketh through a fence a serpent shall bite him,”497497    Eccles. x. 8. and that saying of the Apostle wherewith, 147as with a spiritual sword, all the wicked novelties of all heresies often have been, and will always have to be, decapitated, “O Timothy, keep the deposit, shunning profane novelties of words and oppositions of the knowledge falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith.”498498    1 Tim. vi. 20.

[52.] After words such as these, is there any one of so hardened a front, such anvil-like impudence, such adamantine pertinacity, as not to succumb to so huge a mass, not to be crushed by so ponderous a weight, not to be shaken in pieces by such heavy blows, not to be annihilated by such dreadful thunderbolts of divine eloquence? “Shun profane novelties,” he says. He does not say shun “antiquity.” But he plainly points to what ought to follow by the rule of contrary. For if novelty is to be shunned, antiquity is to be held fast; if novelty is profane, antiquity is sacred. He adds, “And oppositions of science falsely so called.” “Falsely called” indeed, as applied to the doctrines of heretics, where ignorance is disguised under the name of knowledge, fog of sunshine, darkness of light. “Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” Professing what? What but some (I know not what) new and unheard-of doctrine. For thou mayest hear some of these same doctors say, “Come, O silly wretches, who go by the name of Catholics, come and learn the true faith, which no one but ourselves is acquainted with, which same has lain hid these many ages, but has recently been revealed and made manifest. But learn it by stealth and in secret, for you will be delighted with it. Moreover, when you have learnt it, teach it furtively, that the world may not hear, that the Church may not know. For there are but few to whom it is granted to receive the secret of so great a mystery.” Are not these the words of that harlot who, in the proverbs of Solomon, calls to the passengers who go right on their ways, “Whoso is simple let him turn in hither.” And as for them that are void of understanding, she exhorts them saying: “Drink stolen waters, for they are sweet, and eat bread in secret for it is pleasant.” What next? “But he knoweth not that the sons of earth perish in her house.”499499    Prov. ix. 16–18. Who are those “sons of earth”? Let the apostle explain: “Those who have erred concerning the faith.”

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