Trinity Sunday The Gospel Mat. 28 v.18. Wednesday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 28:18-20
At that time, Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
Devines hold that the more understanding and wiser sort of men, may by the creatures of God, without the light of faith, come to understand there is a God, & according to this St.Paul writing to the Romans, & of the Romans who were many of them such kind of men as having subdued the whole world unto them, more by their wisdom and policy , then by force of arms, sayth, They might have known there was a God,though invisible, by the visible creatures, and therefore not glorifying God accordingly,they were without excuse in that behalf: this is the Sum of his words.
And the wise man sayth in the Scripture, Sap.13.v.5. By the greatness of the beauty of the creature, the Creator of them may be known: this did many of the philosophers know.
St Jerome writing to Paulinus sayth, Pythagoras the philosopher was put to banishment by the Athenians, because he affirmed there was one God. And St Augustine sayth, that Socrates held there was one good and true God, & being accused hereof, was put to death.
This did Plato and Aristotle find out by the light of natural reason: but Aristotle went further & found out, that there were certain immaterial substances, such as we call Angels, or Spirits, substituting in themselves, without any corporeality of materiality at all, which he called Intellectual, and that they had these three faculties Memory, Understanding, and Will, as men have; and knowing there were such substances, and that they were the most perfect of all other, he could not but think that God, which was the principal of all other things was of that kind, and had these three faculties of memory, understanding, & will, & so had an imperfect, and obscure confused knowledge of God,as he is indeed a Spirit, with such a threefold faculty,but that these three were all of one nature & essence with God, and that they made three persons & one God, that they could not come near nor no man living ever can, by the light of natural reason: and say we could, by the force of natural reason attain unto the perfect knowledge thereof,or of the blessed Sacrament of the Altar,or of the Resurrection of our bodies,or any other supernatural mystery of our Religion, it would not avail us to Salvation, unless we did assent unto it, not because we understand it by natural reason, but because God hath revealed it unto us, For without faith,as St. Paul testifieth, it is impossible to please God: and St Gregory the great telleth us, Where human reason giveth us an experiment, faith (that is to say,assent unto matters of faith for human experiment) hath no merit. neither is it any honor to God,but rather a dishonor to believe no further then we understand by natural reason, or our sense, like St Thomas that would not believe unless he saw & felt: but to believe a supernatural verity because God hath said it, or a natural thing, not for human proof, but for the authority of God, captivating, as St.Paul termth it, our understanding unto the obedience of Faith, that is the greatest honor we can do God,and so much the greater, by how much the more difficult, and unintelligible the thing is.
But in this point all the question is, how we may know what the things are that God hath revealed,and whether he hath revealed them or no, and what the true sense and meaning of them is,to wit, whether that which we call Bible,be the word of God,what be the books, and what the sense of them? In all these there is no such certain way in the world,as the general Consent of the whole Christian world or the greater part thereof, from time to time,that is to say the holy Catholic or universal Church.
There is a common Proverb,that the general voice of the people of God,is the voice of God. A General Council is the general voice of the people of God, therefore the voice of God. A General Council represents the universal or Catholic Church, therefore the voice of the Catholic Church is the voice of God.
Of this have some of the Fathers of the Church, no less confidently, then wisely protested, that if the Church err they are contented to err with her, because it is impossible she should err, even in human reason; or if she should err, it were a thing not beseeming to God,to condemn us for following her, it being the most prudential course we can take, without any comparison : yet must we not follow her, out of the motive of human reason,but for that it is an article of our Faith, agreed upon, and received from the Apostles of Christ; to believe the Catholic Church which cannot deceive us, because Christ hath promised, his holy spirit of truth to be always with it, to guide it into all truth.
It is also called (Holy) namely the Holy Catholic: If it be holy,then it cannot err nor deceive us, and that these words of Christ to the Apostles (I will send you the spirit of truth, which shall remain with you (for ever) and guide you into all truth) were not meant to the Apostles only during their life (for they lived not for ever) but to the Church for ever after them, it appeareth plainly out of the words of Christ in another place, where after Christ had given the Apostles Commission and Command to go & preach the Gospel, throughout the world,and baptize in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and the holy Ghost, which was not given to them only, but to their Successors also, he added these words (and behold I am with you all days,unto the consummation of the world) to wit by sending the holy Ghost , the Spirit of truth,to direct you into all truth: but the Apostles were not to continue all days to the end of the world, therefore he meant their successors also.
The Prophet Isaias also, calleth it a Holy way, and so easy to be found, that very fools may find it out, which must be understood of the Church,or Scriptures: not of the Scriptures, for they are hard, as Saint Peter testify, to be understood; therefore of the Church.
But as St Paul said of the Romans,as aforesaid, that whereas they might have known God by the Creatures, yet through the love of their own glory and other vices and vanities of the world, not willing to look seriously into the matter least they should loose their worldly contentment, they vanished away in their foolish cogitations,and their hearts were so obscured, that to hold their own ways, they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of the Image of corruptible men, and beasts,and birds, and serpents, adoring them for Gods, God giving them over for their punishment to their own desires: So there be some, that though they may know by the Catholic Church undoubtedly, and easily what God hath revealed to be believed, partly out of their own private prejudicial opinions, that the universal Church hath grossly erred and is become Anti christian, and the chief bishop thereof Antichrist, and partly out of the great liberty of the contrary doctrine which, they are unwilling to loose, they vanish away in their cogitations, and lack that faith out of which there is no salvation, God giving them over for their punishment to their own desires, and taking the words of God not according to the sense of the Catholic Church, but according to their own private sense, do not only err in their faith but may,in some sense be said to commit Idolatry, making to themselves a false God, that is to say,another manner of God in his doctrine then he is, yea to make him a liar, affirming him to say that which is false.
Let us give humble and hearty thanks to God,for making us members of his holy Catholic Church, which only is the teacher and keeper of the true faith, whereby we must be saved.