The Scripture is a True Rule of Christian Faith
I well know, thank God, that Tradition was before all Scripture, since a good part of Scripture itself is only Tradition reduced to writing, with an infallible assistance of the Holy Spirit. But, since the authority of Scripture is more easily received by the reformers than that of Tradition, I begin with the former in order to get a better entrance for my argument.
Holy Scripture is in such sort the rule of the Christian faith that we are obliged by every kind of obligation to believe most exactly all that it contains, and not to believe anything which may be ever so little contrary to it: for if Our Lord Himself has sent the Jews1 to it to strengthen their faith, it must be a most safe standard.
The Sadducees erred because they did not understand the Scriptures2; they would have done better to attend to them, as to a light shining in a dark place, according to the advice of St. Peter3, who having himself heard the voice of the Father in the Transfiguration of the Son, bases himself more firmly on the testimony of the Prophets than on this experience.
When God says to Josue: Let not the book of this law depart from thy mouth4, He shows clearly that He willed him to have it always in his mind, and to let no persuasion enter which should be contrary to it.
But I am losing time; this disputation would be needed against free-thinkers (les Libertins), we are agreed on this point, and those who are so mad as to contradict it can only rest their contradiction on the Scripture itself, contradicting themselves before contradicting the Scripture, using it in the very protestation which they make that they will not use it.
How Jealous We Should Be of Its Integrity
On this point, again, I will scarcely delay. The Holy Scripture is called the Book of the Old and of the New Testament. When a notary has drawn a contract or other deed, when a testament is confirmed by the death of the testator, there must not be added, withdrawn, or altered, one single word under penalty of falsification.
Are not the Holy Scriptures the true testament of the eternal God, drawn by the notaries deputed for this purpose, duly sealed and signed with his blood, confirmed by death? Being such, how can we alter even the smallest point without impiety?
“A testament,” says the great Ulpian, “is a just expression of our will as to what we would have done after our death."5 Our Lord by the Holy Scriptures shows us what we must believe, hope for, love, and do, and this by a true expression of His will; if we add, take away, or change, it will no longer be the true expression of God’s will. For Our Lord having duly expressed in Scripture His will, if we add anything of our own we shall make the statement go beyond the will of our testator, if we take anything away we shall make it fall short, if we make changes in it we shall set it awry, and it will no longer correspond to the will of the author, nor be a correct statement.
When two things exactly correspond, he who changes the one destroys the equality and the correspondence between them. If it be a true statement, whatever right have we to alter it? Our Lord puts a value on the iotas, yea, the mere little points and accents of His Holy words. How jealous then is he of their integrity, and what punishment shall they not deserve who violate this integrity! Brethren, says S. Paul, 6 (I speak after the manner of man), yet a man’s testament, if it be confirmed, no man despiseth, nor addeth to it. And to show how important it is to learn the Scripture in its exactness he gives an example. To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed. He says not and to his seeds as of many, but as of one; and to thy seed, who is Christ. See, I beg you, how the change from singular to plural would have spoilt the mysterious meaning of this word.
The Ephrathites [Ephraimites] said Sibboleth, not forgetting a single letter, but because they did not pronounce it thickly enough, the Galaadites slew them at the fords of the Jordan7. The simple difference of pronunciation in speaking, and in writing the mere transposition of one single point on the letter scin caused the ambiguity, and changing the janin into semol, instead of an ear of wheat expressed a weight or a burden. Whosoever alters or adds the slightest accent in the Scripture is a sacrilegious man, and deserves the death of him who dares to mingle thr profane with the sacred.
The Arians, as S. Augustine tells us8, corrupted this sentence of S. John i.1: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: by simply changing a point. For they read it thus: Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat. Verbum hoc, &c.: instead of: Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: They placed the full stop after the erat, instead of after the verbum. They so acted for fear of having to grant that the Word was God; so little is required to change the sense of God’s Word. When one is handling glass beads, if two or three are lost, it is a small matter, but if they were oriental pearls the loss would be great. The better the wine the more it suffers from the mixture of a foreign flavour, and the exquisite symmetry of a great picture will not bear the admixture of new colours. Such is the conscientiousness with which we ought to regard and handle the sacred deposit of the Scriptures.
What Are the Sacred Books of the Word of God
The Council of Trent gives these books as sacred, divine and canonical: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four Books of Kings, two of the Paralipomenon, two of Esdras (a first, and a second, which is called of Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, one hundred and fifty Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharius, Malachy, two of Machabees, first and second: of the New Testament, four Gospels, — S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, S. John — the Acts of the Apostles by S. Luke, fourteen Epistles of S. Paul — to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews — two of S. Peter, three of S. John, one of S. James, one of S. Jude, and the Apocalypse. The same books were received at the Council of Florence, and long before that at the third Council of Carthage about twelve hundred years ago.
These books are divided into two ranks. For of some, both of the Old and of the New Testament, it was never doubted but that they were sacred and canonical: others there are about whose authority the ancient Fathers doubted for a time, but afterwards they were placed with those of the first rank.
Those of the first rank in the Old Testament are the five of Moses, Josue, Judges, Ruth, four of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras and Nehemias, Job, one hundred and fifty Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, the four greater Prophets, the twelve lesser Prophets. These were formed into the canon by the great synod at which Esdras was present. and to which he was scribe; and no one ever doubted of their authority without being at once considered a heretic, as our learned Genebrard, fully proves in his Chronolog9.
The second rank contains the following Esther, Baruch, a part of Daniel (the history of Susanna, the Canticle of the Three Children, and the history of the death of the dragon in the fourteenth chapter), Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees 1 and 2. And as to these there is a great probability in the opinion of the same Doctor Genebrard10 that in the meeting which was held at Jerusalem to send the seventy-two interpreters into Egypt, these books, which were not in existence when Esdras made the first canon, were placed on the canon, at least tacitly, because they were sent with the others to be translated, except the Machabees, which were received in another meeting afterwards, wherein the preceding were again approved. But however the case may be, as the second canon was not made so authentically as the first, this placing on the canon could not procure them an entire and unquestionable authority among the Jews, nor make them equal with the books of the first rank.
Coming to the books of the New Testament I say that in the same way there are some of the first rank, which have always been acknowledged and received as sacred and canonical. These are the four Gospels, S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, S. John, all the Epistles of S. Paul except that to the Hebrews, one of S. Peter, one of S. John. Those of the second rank are the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of S. James, the second of S. Peter, the second and third of S. John, that of S. Jude, the 16th chapter of S. Mark, as S. Jerome says, and S. Luke’s history of the bloody sweat of Our Lord in the garden of Olives, according to the same S. Jerome; in the eighth chapter of S. John there has been a doubt concerning the history of the woman taken in adultery, or at least some suspect that it has been doubted, and concerning verse seven of the last chapter of S. John’s First Epistle.
These are, as far as we know, the books and parts of books concerning which it appears there was anciently some doubt. And these were not of undoubted authority in the Church at first, but as time went on they were at length recognised as the sacred work of the Holy Spirit, and not all at once but at different times. And first besides those of the first rank, whether of the New or of the Old Testament, about the year 364 they were received at the Council of Laodicea11, (which was afterwards approved in the sixth general Council12), the book of Esther, the Epistle of S. James the Second of S. Peter, the Second and Third of S. John, that of Jude, and the Epistle to the Hebrews as the fourteenth of S. Paul.
Then some time afterwards at the third Council of Carthage ( i.e. in Canon xxxvi. of the Council of Hippo, approved in third Council of Carthage13 (at which S. Augustine assisted, and which was confirmed in the sixth general Council in Trullo), besides those of the second rank just mentioned, there were received into the canon, as of full authority, Tobias, Judith, First and Second Machabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and the Apocalypse. But of all those of the second rank, the book of Judith was first received and acknowledged as divine, in the first General Council of Nice, as S. Jerome witnesses in his preface to this book. Such is the way in which the two ranks were brought together into one, and ever made of equal authority in the Church of God, but progressively and with succession, as a beautiful morning rising, which little by little lights up our hemisphere.
Thus was drawn up in the Council of Carthage, that same ancient list of the canonical books which has ever since been in the Catholic Church and which was confirmed in the sixth general Council, at the great Council of Florence 160 years ago for the union of the Armenians by the whole Church both Greek and Latin, in our age by the Council of Trent, and which was followed by S. Augustine14. Before the Council of Carthage they were not all received as canonical by any decree of the general Church.
I had almost forgotten to say that you must not therefore make a difficulty against what I have just laid down because Baruch is not quoted by name in the Council of Carthage. For since Baruch was secretary of Jeremias, the book of Baruch was reckoned by the ancients as an accessory or appendix of Jeremias, being comprised under this; as that excellent theologian Bellarmine proves in his Controversies. But it is enough for me to have said thus: my brief outline is not obliged to dwell on every particular. In a word, all these books, whether of first or second rank, with all the parts, are equally certain, sacred and canonical, and are received in the Catholic Church.
First Violation of the Holy Scripture Made By the Reformers: By Cutting Off Some of Its Parts
Such are the sacred and canonical books which the Church has unanimously received and acknowledged during twelve hundred years. And by what authority have these new reformers dared to wipe out at one stroke so many noble parts of the Bible? They have erased a part of Esther, and Baruch, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees. Who has told them that these books are not legitimate, and not to be received? Why do they thus dismember the sacred body of the Scriptures?
Here are the principal reasons, as far as I have been able to gather from the old preface to the books which they pretend to be apocryphal, printed at Neufchastel, in the translation of Peter Robert, otherwise Olivetanus, a relation and friend of Calvin, and again from the newer preface placed to the same books by the professors and pretended pastors of the Churhc of Geneva, 1588.
- They are not found either in Hebrew or Chaldaic, in which languages they (except perhaps the Book of Wisdom) were originally written: therefore it would be very difficult to restore them.
- They are not received as legitimate by the Jews.
- Nor by the whole Church.
- S. Jerome says they are not considered proper for corroborating the authority of Ecclesiastical doctrines.
- Canon Law condemns them;
- as does also the Gloss, which says they are read, but not generally, as if to say that they are not approved generally everywhere.
- They have been corrupted and falsified, as Eusebius says15;
- notably the Machabees,
- and particularly the Second of Machabees, which S. Jerome says he did not find in Hebrew. Such are the reasons of Olivetanus.
- “There are in them many false things,” says the new preface.
Let us now see what these fine researches are worth.
And as to the first, are you unwilling to receive these books because they are not in Hebrew or Chaldaic? Receive Tobias then, for S. Jerome attests that he translates it from Chaldaic into Latin, in the Epistle which you yourselves quote16, which makes me think you are hardly in good faith.
And why not Judith, which was also written in Chaldaic, as the same S. Jerome says in the prologue? And if S. Jerome says he was not able to find the Second of Machabees in the Hebrew, what has that to do with the first? This then receive as it deserves; we will treat of the second afterwards. I say the same to you about Ecclesiasticus, which S. Jerome had and found in Hebrew, as he says in his preface on the books of Solomon.
Since, then, you reject these books written in Hebrew or Chaldaic equally with the others which are not written in one of these languages, you will have to find another pretext than that which you have alleged for striking out thee books from the canon. When you say that you reject them because they are not written in Hebrew or Chaldaic, this is not your real reason; for you would not reject on this ground Tobias, Judith, the first of Machabees, Ecclesiasticus, which are written either in Hebrew or Chaldaic.
But let us now speak in defence of the other books, which are written in a language other than that which you would have. Where do you find that the rule for rightly receiving the Holy Scriptures is that they should be written in these languages rather than in Greek or Latin?
You say that nothing must be received in matter of religion but what is written; and you bring forward in your grand preface the saying of jurisconsults: “We blush to speak without a law.” Do you not consider that the controversy about the validity or invalidity of the Scriptures is one of the most important in the sphere of religion? Well then, either remain confounded, or else produce the Holy Scripture for the negative which you maintain. The Holy Spirit certainly declares Himself as well in Greek as in Chaldaic. There would be, you say, great difficulty in restoring them, since we do not possess them in their original language, and it is this which troubles you.
But, for God’s sake, tell me who told you that they were lost, corrupted or altered, so as to need restoration? You take for granted, perhaps, that those who have translated them from the originals have translated badly, and you would have the original to compare them and judge them. Make your meaning clear then, and say that they are therefore apocryphal because you cannot yourselves be the translators of them from the original, and cannot trust the judgment of the translator. So there is to be nothing certain except what you have had the control of. Show me this rule of certitude in the Scripture.
Further, are you fully assured that you have the Hebrew texts of the books of the first rank, as pure and exact as they were in the time of the Apostles and of the Seventy? Beware of errors. You certainly do not aways follow then, and you could not, with good conscience. Show me this again in the Holy Scripture.
Here, therefore, is your first reason most wanting in reason.
As to your saying that these books which you call apocryphal are not received by the Jews, you say nothing new or important. S. Augustine loudly exclaims: “It is the Catholic Church which holds the Books of Machabees as canonical, not the Jews."17 Show me from Scripture that the Christian Church has not as much power to give authority to the sacred books as the Mosaic may have had. There is not in this either Scripture or reason to show for it.
Yes, but the whole of the Church does not receive them, you say. Of what Church are you speaking? Unquestionably the Catholic, which is the true Church, receives them, as S. Augustine has just now borne witness to you, and he repeats it, citing the Council of Carthage18. The Council in Trullo the 6th General, that of Florence, and a hundred ancient authors are [witnesses] thereto. I name S. Jerome, who witnesses for the book of Judith that it was received in the first Council [of Nice].
Perhaps you would say that of old time some Catholics doubted of their authority. This is clear from the division which I have made above. But does their doubt then make it impossible for their successors to come to a conclusion? Are we to say that if one cannot decide at the very first glance one must always remain wavering, uncertain, and irresolute?
Was there not for some time an uncertainty about the Apocalypse and Esther? You would not dare to deny it: my witnesses for Esther are too sound, S. Athanasius19 and S. Gregory Nazainzen20: for the Apocalypse, the Council of Laodicea: and yet you receive them. Either receive them all, since they are in equal position, or receive none, on the same ground.
But in God’s name what humour takes you that you here bring forward the Church, whose authority you hold to be a hundred times more uncertain than these books themselves, and which you say to have been erring, inconstant, — yea apocryphal, if apocryphal means hidden? You only prize it to despise it, and to make it appear inconstant, now recognizing, now rejecting these books.
But there is a great difference between doubting whether a thing is to be accepted and rejecting it. Doubt does not hinder a subsequent resolution, indeed it is its preliminary stage. To reject presupposes a decision. Inconstancy does not consist in changing a doubt into resolution, but in changing from resolution to doubt. It is not instability to become settled after wavering, but to waver after being settled.
The Church then, having for a time left these books in doubt, at length has received them with authentic decision, and you wish that from this resolution she should return into doubt. It belongs to heresy and not to the Church thus to advance from bad to worse. But of this elsewhere.
As for S. Jerome whom you allege, this is not to the purpose, since in his time the Church had not yet come to the resolution which she has come to since, as to the placing of these books on the canon, except that of Judith.
And the canon Sancta Romana, which is of Gelasius I. — I think you have taken it by guess, for it is entirely against you; because, while censuring the apocryphal books, it does not name one of these which we receive, but on the contrary witnesses that Tobias and the Macchabees were publicly received in the Church.
And the poor Gloss does not deserve to be thus glossed, since it clearly says that these books are read, though not perhaps generally. This “perhaps” guards it from stating what is false, and you have forgotten it. And if it reckons the books in question as apocryphal, this is because it considered that apocryphal meant the having no certain author, and therefore it includes as apocryphal the Book of Judges: and their statements are not so authentic that they must pass as decisive judgment; after all it is but a Gloss.
And these falsifications which you allege are not in any way sufficient to abolish the authority of these books, because they have been justified and have been purified from all corruption before the Church received them. Truly, all the books of Holy Scripture have been corrupted by the ancient enemies of the Church, but by the providence of God they have remained free and pure in the Church’s hands, as a sacred deposit; and they have never been able to spoil so many copies as that there should not remain enough to restore the others.
But you would have the Machabees, at any rate, fall from our hands, when you say that they have been corrupted; but since you only advance a simple assertion I will return your pass by a simple negation.
S. Jerome, you say, could not find the Second in Hebrew; and although it is true that it is only as it were a letter which Israel sent to their Jewish brethen who were then out of Judea, and although it is written in the best known and most general language of those times, does it thence follow that it is not worthy to be received? The Egyptians used the Greek language much more than the Hebrew, as Ptolemy clearly showed when he procured the version of the Seventy. This is why this Second book of Machabees, which was like an epistle or commentary sent for the consolation of the Jews who were in Egypt, was written in Greek rather than in Hebrew.
It remains for the new preachers to point out those falsehoods of which they accuse these books; which they will in truth never do. But I see them coming, bringing forward the intercession of Saints, prayer for the dead, free-will, the honouring of relics, and similar points, which are expressly confirmed in the Books of Machabees, in Ecclesiasticus, and in other books which they pretend to be apocryphal.
For God’s sake take care that your judgment does not deceive you. Why, I pray you, do you call false, things which the whole of antiquity has held as articles of faith? Why do you not rather censure your fancies which will not embrace the doctrine of these books, than censure these books which have been received for so long a time because they do not jump with your humour? Because you will not believe what the books teach, you condemn it; why do you not rather condemn your presumption which is incredulous to their teaching?
Here now, I think, are all your reasons scattered to the winds, and you can bring no more. But we may well say: if it be thus lawful indifferently to reject or make doubtful the authority of those Scriptures, about which there was formerly a doubt, though the Church has now decided, it will be necessary to reject or to doubt of a great part of the Old and the New Testament. It is then no little gain to the enemy of Christianity, to have at one stroke scratched out of the Holy Scripture so many noble parts. Let us proceed.
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 themselves 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 altogether 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 common 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 ecclesiastical 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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 text21 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 respandue 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."22] And elsewhere: “We receive the New and the Old Testament in that number of books which the authority of the Catholic Church determines."23 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.
Answer To an Objection
But here is the difficulty. If these books were not from the beginning of undoubted authority in the Church, who can give them this authority? In truth the Church cannot give truth or certitude to the Scripture, or make a book canonical if it were not so, but the Church can make a book known as canonical, and make us certain of its certitude, and is fully able to declare that a book is canonical which is not held as such by every one, and thus to give it credit in Christendom; not changing the substance of the book which of itself was canonical, but changing the persuasion of Christians, making it quite assured where previously it had not been so.
But how can the Church herself define that a book is canonical? For she is no longer guided by new revelations but by the old Apostolic ones, of which she has infallibility of interpretation. And if the Ancients have not had the revelation of the authority of a book, how then can she know it?
She considers the testimony of antiquity, the conformity which this book has with the others which are received, and the general relish which the Christian people find in it. For as we can know what is a proper and wholesome food for animals when we see them fond of it and feed on it with advantage, so, when the Church sees that the Christian people heartily relishes a book as canonical and gains good from it, she may know that it is a fit and wholesome meat for Christian souls; and as when we would know whether one wine is of the same vintage as another we compare them, observing whether the colour, the smell and the taste are alike in the two, so when the Church has properly decided that a book has a taste, colour and smell and holiness of style, doctrine and mysteries — like to the other canonical books, and besides has the testimony of many good and irreproachable witnesses of antiquity, she can declare the book to be true brother of the other canonical ones.
And we must not doubt that the Holy Spirit assists the Church in this judgment: for your ministers themselves confess that God has given the Holy Scriptures into her charge, and say that it is on this account S. Paul calls her the pillar and ground of the truth.24 And how would she guard them if she could not know and separate them from the mixture of other books? And how important is it for the Church that she should be able to know in proper time and season which Scriptures is holy and which not: for if she received such and such Scripture as holy and it was not, she would lead us into superstition; and if she refused the honour and belief which befit God’s Word to a holy Scripture, it would be an impiety.
If ever then Our Lord defends his Church against the gates of hell, if the Holy Spirit assisted her so closely that she could say: It hath seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,25 — we must firmly believe that he inspires her on occasion of such great consequences as these; for it would indeed be to abandon her at her need if he left her at this juncture, on which depends not only an article or two of our faith, but the substance of our religion.
When, therefore, the Church has declared that a book is canonical, we must never doubt but that it is so. We [are] here in the same position. For Calvin and the very bibles of Geneva, and the Lutherans, receive several books as holy, sacred, and canonical which have not been acknowledged by all the Ancients as such, and about which there has been a doubt. If there has been a doubt formerly, what reason can they have to make them assured and certain nowadays, except that which S. Augustine had [as we said above]: “I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me;” and “We receive the New and the Old Testament in that number of books which the authority of the Holy Catholic Church determines.”
Truly we should be very ill assured if we were to rest our faith on these particular interior inspirations, of which we only know that they exist or ever did exist, by the testimony of some private persons. And granted that they are or have been, we do not know whether they are from the false or of the true spirit; and supposing they are of the true spirit, we do not know whether they who relate them, relate them faithfully or not, since they have no mark of infallibility whatever. We should deserve to be wrecked if we were to cast ourselves out of the ship of the public judgment of the Church, to sail in the miserable skiff of these new discordant private inspirations. Our faith would not be Catholic, but private.
But before I quit this subject, I pray you, reformers tell me whence you have taken the canon of the Scriptures which you follow? You have not taken it from the Jews, for the books of the Gospels would not be there, nor from the Council of Laodicea, for the Apocalypse would not be in it; or from the Councils of Carthage or of Florence, for Ecclesiasticus and the Machabees would be there. Whence, then, have you taken it?
In good sooth, like canon was never spoken of before your time. The Church never saw canon of the Scriptures in which there was not either more or less than in yours. What likelihood is there that the Holy Spirit has hidden himself from all antiquity, and that after 1500 years he has disclosed to certain private persons the list of the true Scriptures?
For our part we follow exactly the list of the Council of Laodicea with the addition made at the Councils of Carthage and Florence. Never will a man of judgment leave these Councils to follow the persuasions of private individuals. Here, then, is the fountain and source of all the violations which have been made of this holy rule; namely, when people have taken up the fancy of not receiving it save by the measure and rule of the inspirations which each one believes and thinks he feels.
How Greatly the Reformers Have Violated the Integrity of the Scriptures
Now, how can an honest soul refrain from giving the rein to the ardour of a holy zeal, and from entering into a Christian anger, without sin, considering with what presumption those who do nothing but cry, Scripture, Scripture, have despised, degraded, and profaned this divine Testament of the eternal Father, as they have falsified this sacred contract of so glorious an alliance!
O ministers of Calvinism, how do you dare to cut away so many noble parts of the sacred body of the Bibles? You take away Baruch, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Machabees: why do you thus dismember the Holy Scripture? Who has told you that they are not sacred? There was some doubt about them in the ancient Church; but was there not doubt in the ancient Church about Esther, the Epistle to the Hebrews, those of S. James and S. Jude, the Second of S. Peter, the two last of S. John, and especially of the Apocalypse? Why do you not also erase these as you have done those? Acknowledge honestly that what you have done in this has only been in order to contradict the Church.
You were angry at seeing in the Machabees the intercession of Saints and prayers for the departed: Ecclesasticus stung you in that it bore witness to free-will and the honour of relics. Rather than do violence to your notions, adjusting them to the Scriptures you have violated the Scriptures to accommodate them to your notions: you have cut off the holy Word to avoid cutting off your fancies: how will you ever cleanse yourselves from this sacrilege?
Have you degraded the Machabees, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, and the rest, because some of the Ancients have doubted of their authority? Why then do you receive the other books, about which there has been as much doubt as about these? What can you oppose to them except that their doctrine is hard for you to accept?
Open your heart to faith, and you will easily receive that which your unbelief shuts out from you. Because you do not will to believe what they teach, you condemn them: rather condemn your presumption, and receive the Scripture.
I would chiefly lay stress on the authority of those books which exercise you the most. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. v. 5, &c.), Cyprian (Ep. lxv.), Ambrose (de fide iv.), Augustine (Ep. ad Oros. contra Prise.), and the rest of the Fathers consider Ecclesiasticus canonical. S. Cyprian (Serm. de op et Deem.), S. Ambrose (lib. de Tobid, i.), S. Basil (de avar.), honour Tobias as Holy Scripture. S. Cyprian again (de exhort. mar.), S. Gregory Nazianzen (orat. de Mach.), S. Ambrose (de Tacob et vit beat. x. xi.), believed the same of the Machabees. S. Augustine protests that: “it is the Catholic Church which holds the Books of Machabees as canonical, not the Jews.” What will you say to this? that the Jews had them not in their catalogues? S. Augustine acknowledges it; but are you Jews, or Christians? If you would be called Christians, be satisfied that the Christian Church receives them.
Is the light of the Holy Spirit extinguished with the synagogue? Had not our Lord and the Apostles as much power as the synagogue? Although the Church has not taken authority for her books from the mouth of the Scribes and Pharisees, will it not suffice that she has taken it from the testimony of the Apostles?
Now we must not think that the ancient Church and these most ancient doctors would have had the boldness to rank these books as canonical, if they had not had some direction by the tradition of the Apostles and their disciples who could know in what rank the Master himself held them; unless, to excuse our imaginations, we are to accuse of profanation, and of sacrilege, such holy and grave doctors as these, and the whole ancient Church. I say the ancient Church, because the Council of Carthage, Gelasius in the decree de libris canonicas, Innocent I in the epistle to Exuperius, and S. Augustine, lived before S. Gregory, before whose time Calvin confesses that the Church was still in its purity, and yet these bear witness that all the books which we held to be canonical when Luther appeared were already so in their time. If you would destroy the credit of those holy books, why did you not destroy that of the Apocalypse, about which there has been so much doubt, and that of the Epistle to the Hebrews?
But I return to you, gentlemen of Thonon, who have hitherto given ear to such men; I beseech you, let us say in conscience, is there any likelihood that Calvin knows better what grounds they had who anciently doubted of these books, and what grounds they who doubted not, than the Bishops and Councils of these days?
And still, all things well considered, antiquity received them; what do we allege to the contrary? Oh! If it were lawful for men, in order to raise their opinions on horseback, to use the Scripture as stirrups, to lengthen and shorten them, each one to his own size, where, I beg you, should we be?
Do you not perceive the stratagem? All authority is taken away from Tradition, the Church, the Councils, the Pastors: what further remains? The Scripture. The enemy is crafty. If he would tear it all away at once he would cause an alarm; he takes away a great part of it in the very beginning, then first one piece, then the other, at last he will have you stripped entirely, without Scripture and without Word of God.
Calvin takes away seven books of the Scripture:26 Baruch, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and the Machabees; Luther has removed the Epistle of S. James, that of S. Jude, the second of S. Peter, the 2nd and 3rd of S. John, the Epistle to the Hebrews; he ridicules Ecclesiastes, he holds Job as a fable.
Reconcile, I pray you this false spirit, who takes away from Luther’s brain what he puts back in that of Calvin. Does this seem to you a trifling discord between these two evangelists? You will say you do not hold Luther’s intelligence in great account; his party think no better of that of Calvin. But see the progress of your fine church, how she ever pushes on further. Calvin had removed seven books, she has further thrown out the 8th, that of Esther:27 in Daniel she cuts off the canticle of the Three Children (c. iii.), the history of Susanna (c. xiii.), and that of the dragon slain by Daniel (xiv). In the Gospel of S. John is there not doubt among you of the history of the woman taken in adultery?
S. Augustine had indeed said formerly that the enemies of the faith had erased it from their books, but not from all, as S. Jerome says. Do they not wish to take away these words of S. Luke (xxii. 20), which shall be shed for you, because the Greek text clearly shows that what was in the chalice was not wine but the true blood of our Lord? As if one were to say in French: Cecy est la coupe du Nouveau Testament, en mon sang, laquelle sera respandue pour vous: this is the chalice, the New Testament in my blood, which (chalice) shall be shed for you? For in this way of speaking one sees clearly that what is in the cup must be the blood, not wine, since the wine has not been shed for us, but the blood.
In the Epistle of S. John have they not taken away these noble words: every spirit who dissolveth Jesus is not of God (iv. 3)? What say you, gentlemen? If your church continues in this liberty of conscience, making no scruple to take away what she pleases, soon the Scripture will fail you, and you will have to be satisfied with the Institutes of Calvin, which must indeed have I know not what excellence, since they censure the Scriptures themselves!
How The Majesty of the Scriptures Has Been Violated in The Interpretations and Versions of the Heretics
Shall I say further this word? Your fine church has not contented itself with cutting off from the Scripture entire books, chapters, sentences and words, but what it has not dared to cut off altogether it has corrupted and violated by its translations. In order that the sectaries of this age may altogether pervert this first and most holy rule of our faith, they have not been satisfied with shortening it or with getting rid of so many beautiful parts, but they have turned and turned it about, each one as he chose, and instead of adjusting their ideas by this rule they have adopted it to the square of their own greater or less sufficiency.
The Church had universally received (more than a thousand years ago) the Latin version which the Catholic Church proposes; S. Jerome, that most learned man, was the author, or corrector of it; when, in our age, behold arise a thick mist created by the spirit of giddiness,28 which has so led astray these refurbishers of old opinions formerly current, that everybody has wanted to drag, one to this side, one to that, and always according to the inclination of his own judgment, this holy and sacred Scripture of God.
Herein who sees not the profanation of this sacred vase of the holy letter, in which was preserved the precious balm of the Evangelical doctrine? For would it not have been a profanation of the Ark of the Covenant to maintain that everybody might seize it, carry it home, take it all to pieces, and then give it what form he liked provided that it had some semblance of an ark?
And what but this is it to maintain that one may take the Scriptures and turn and adjust them according to one’s own sense? And in just the same way, as soon as we are assured that the ordinary edition of the church is so out of shape that it must be built up again new, and that a private man is to set his hand to it and begin the process, the door is open to presumption. For if Luther dares to do it, why not Erasmus? And if Erasmus, why not Calvin or Melancthon, why not Henricus Mercerus, Sebastian Castalio, Beza, and the rest of the world, provided that they know some verses of Pindar and four or five words of Hebrew, and have close by some good Thesaurus of the one or other language? And how can so many translations be made by brains so different, without the complete overthrow of the sincerity of the Scripture?
What say you? that the ordinary version is corrupt? We allow that transcribers and printers have let certain ambiguities of very slight importance slip in (if, however, anything in the Scripture can be called of slight importance). The Council of Trent commanded that these should be taken out, and that for the future care should be taken to print as correctly as possible. For the rest, there is nothing in it which is not most conformable to the meaning of the Holy Spirit who is its author, as has been shown by so many learned men of our Church,29 opposing the presumption of these new reformers of religion, that it would be losing time to try to speak more of it; besides that it would be folly in me to wish to speak of the correctness of translations, who never well knew how to read with the points in one of the languages necessary for this knowledge, and am hardly more learned in the other.
But how have you improved matters? Everybody has held to his own views, everybody has despised his neighbour’s; they have turned it about as they liked, but no one speaks of his comrade’s version. What is this but to overthrow the majesty of the Scripture, and to bring it into contempt with the people, who think that this diversity of editions comes rather from the uncertainty of the Scriptures than from the variety of the translators, a variety which alone ought to put us in assurance concerning the ancient translation, which, as the Council says, the Church has so long, so constantly, and so unanimously approved.
An example or two will suffice. In the Acts30, where there is: Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell (animam in inferno), they make it: Thou shalt not leave my corpse in the tomb (Cadaver in sepulchro). Whoever saw such versions? Instead of soul (and it is Our Lord who is spoken of) to say carrion, and instead of hell to say sepulchre! Peter Martyr (in def. de Euch. p. 3a, p. 392) cites I Cor. x. 3, and they all eat the same spiritual food as we (nobiscum) he inserts this nobiscum to prove his point. I have seen in several bibles in this country a very subtle falsehood, in the mysterious words of the institution of the most Holy Sacrament: instead of hoc est corpus meum, cecy est mon corps: they had put: c’est cy mon corps.31 . Who does not perceive the deceit?
You see something then of the violence and profanation your ministers do and offer to the Scriptures: what think you of their ways? What will become of us if everybody takes leave, as soon as he knows two words of Greek, and the letters in Hebrew, thus to turn everything topsy turvy? I have therefore shown you what I promised, that this first rule of our faith has been and still is most sadly violated in your pretended church; and that you may know it to be a property of heresy thus to dismember the Scriptures, I will close this part of my subject with what Tertullian says,32 speaking of the sects of his time. “This heresy” [of the Gnostics] says he “does not receive some of the Scriptures” and if it receives some it does not receive them whole… and what receives in a certain sense whole it still perverts, devising various interpretations.”
Of The Profanations Contained in The Versions Made Into The Vulgar Tongue
But if the case be thus with the Latin versions, how great are the contempt and profanation shown in the French, German, Polish, and other languages! And yet here is one of the most successful artifices adopted by the enemy of Christianity and of unity in our age, to attract the people. He knew the curiosity of men, and how much one esteems one’s own judgment; and therefore he has induced his sectaries to translate the Holy Scriptures, every one into the tongue of the province where he finds himself placed, and to maintain this unheard-of opinion, that every one is capable of understanding the Scriptures, that all should read them, and that the public offices should be celebrated and sung in the vulgar tongue of each district.
But who sees not the artifice? There is nothing in the world which, passing through many hands, does not change and lose it first lustre: wine which has been often poured out and poured back loses its freshness and strength, wax when handled changes its colour, coins lose their stamp. Be sure also that Holy Scripture, passing through so many translators, in so many versions and re-versions, cannot but be altered. And if in the Latin versions there is such a variety of opinion among these turners of Scripture, how much more in their vernacular and mother-tongue editions, which not every one is able to check or to criticise? It gives a very great license to translators to know that they will only be tested by those of their own province. Every district has not such clear seeing eyes as France and Germany.
“Are we sure,” says a learned profane writer,33 “that in the Basque province and in Brittany there are persons of sufficient judgment to give authority to this translation made into their tongue; the universal Church has no more arduous decision to give;” it is Satan’s plan for corrupting the integrity of this holy Testament. He well knows the result of disturbing and poisoning the source; it is at once to spoil all that comes after.
But let us be frank. Do we not know that the Apostles spoke all tongues? How is it then that their gospels and their epistles are only in Hebrew, as S. Jerome witnesses34 of the Gospel of S. Matthew; in Latin, as some think concerning that of S. Mark;35 and in Greek, as is held concerning the other Gospels? Which were the three languages chosen at Our Lord’s very cross for the preaching of the Crucified. Did they not carry the Gospel throughout the world? And in the world were there no other languages but these three? Truly there were and yet they did not judge it expedient to vary their writings in so many languages. Who then shall despise the custom of our Church, which has for its warrant the imitation of the Apostles?36
Now for this, besides the great weight it should have to put down all our curious questionings, there is a reason which I hold to be most sound: it is that these other languages are not fixed, they change between town and town; in accents, in phrases, and in words, they are altered, and vary from season to season and from age to age. Take up the Memoires of the Sire de Joinville, or of Philip de Comines, and you will see that time has entirely altered their language; and yet these historians must have been among the most polished of their age, both having been brought up at Court. If then we were to have (particularly for the public services) bibles each in our own tongue, every fifty years it would be necessary to have a revolution, and in every case with adding to, or taking away from, or altering, much of the holy exactness of the Scripture, which could not be done without a great loss. In short, it is more than reasonable that so holy a rule as is the holy Word of God should be kept in fixed languages, since it could not be maintained in this perfect integrity within bastard and unstable languages.
But I inform you that the holy Council of Trent does not reject translations in the vulgar tongue printed by the authority of the Ordinaries; only it commands37 that we should not begin to read them without leave of superiors. This is a very reasonable precaution against putting this sharp and two-edged sword38 into the hands of one who might kill himself therewith. But of this we will speak by and by.
The Church, then, does not approve that everybody who can read, without further assurance of his capacity than that which he persuades himself of in his own presumption, should handle this sacred memorial, nor truly is it right that she should so approve.
I remember to have read in an Essay of the Sieur de Montaigne’s (see above), “It is certainly wrong that there should be seen tossing about in everybody’s hands, in parlour and in kitchen, the holy book of the sacred mysteries of our belief. … It is not casually or hurriedly that we are to prosecute so serious and venerable a study; it should be a reflective and steady act, to which should always be added that preface of our office: sursum corda, and for which the body itself should be brought into a behaviour which may betoken a particular attention and reverence … and I moreover believe that liberty for everybody to translate it, and by this means to dissipate words so religious and important into all sorts of languages, has much more danger than profit.”
The Council also commands39 that the public services of the Church shall not be celebrated in the vulgar tongue, but in a fixed language, each one according to the ancient formularies approved by the Church. This decree takes its reasons from what I have already said; for if it is not expedient thus to translate, at every turn, province by province, the venerable text of the Scripture, the greatest part, and we may say all, that is in the offices being taken from the Holy Scripture, it is also not becoming to give these in French.
Indeed, is there not a greater danger in reciting the Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue at public services, on this account that not only the old but little children, not only the wise but the foolish, not only men but women, in short both he who knows and he who knows not how to read, may all take occasion of erring, each one as he likes?
Read the passages of David where he seems to murmur against God concerning the prosperity of the wicked; you will see the unwise people justify themselves by this in their impatience. Read where he seems to demand vengeance against his enemies, and the spirit of vengeance will cloak itself under this. Let them see those heavenly and entirely divine loves in the Canticle of Canticles; from not knowing how to spiritualize them these will only profit them unto evil. And that word of Osee40: Vade et fac tibi filios fornicationes, and those acts of the ancient Patriarchs, would they not give license to fools?
But pray give us some little reason why we should have the Scriptures and Divine Services in the vulgar tongue. To learn doctrine thereby? But surely the doctrine cannot be therein found unless we open the bark of the letter, in which is contained the intelligence: I will show this directly in its place. What is useful for this purpose is not the reciting of the service but preaching, in which the Word of God is not only pronounced but expounded by the pastor. And who is he, however well furnished at all points (tant houppé soft il et ferré), who can understand without study the prophecies of Ezechiel, and others, and the Psalms? What, then, will the people do with them when they hear them except profane them and cast a doubt on them.
At any rate we who are Catholics must in no wise bring down our sacred offices into vernacular languages; but rather, as our Church is universal in time and in place, it ought also to celebrate public offices in a language which is universal in time and in place, as is Latin in the West, Greek in the East; otherwise our priests could not say Mass nor others understand them outside their own countries. The unity and the great extension of our brethren require that we should say our public prayers in a language which shall be common to all peoples. In this way our prayers are universal, by means of the number of persons who in each province can understand Latin, and it seems to me, in conscience, that this reason alone should suffice; for if we consider rightly, our prayers are heard no less in Latin than in French.
Let us divide the body of a commonwealth into three parts, according to the ancient French division, or, according to the new, into four; there are four sets of persons: the clergy, the nobility, they of the long robe, and the people or third estate. The three first understand Latin or should understand it, if they do not rather make it their own language; there remains the lowest rank, of which, again, a part understand; and truly as for the rest, if one do not speak the jargon of their country, it is only with great difficulty that they could understand the simple narrative of the Scripture.
That most excellent theologian, Robert Bellarmine41, relates, having heard it from a most trustworthy source, that a good dame in England having heard a minister read the twenty-fifth chapter of Ecclesiasticus (though they only hold it to be an ancient book, not a canonical one), because it there speaks the wickedness of women, rose up, saying: What! — is this the Word of God? — of the devil rather. He quotes from Theodoret42 an excellent and true word of S. Basil the Great. The chief of the Emperor’s kitchen wishing to play the sage, began to bring forward certain passages of the Scripture: “It is yours [said the Saint] to mind your dishes, not to cook divine dogmata” as if he had said: Occupy yourself with tasting your sauces, not with devouring the divine Word.
Of The Profanation Of The Scriptues Through The Facility They Pretend There Is In Understanding Scripture
The imagination must have great power over Huguenot understandings, since it persuades them so absolutely of this grand absurdity, that the Scriptures are easy to everybody, and that everybody can understand them. It is true that to bring forth vulgar translations with honour it was necessary to speak in this manner; but tell me the truth, do you think that the case really runs so? Do you find them so easy, do you understand them so well? If you think you do, I admire your credulity, which goes not only beyond experience, but is contrary to what you see and feel.
If it is true that the Scripture is so easy to understand, what is the use of so many commentaries made by your ministers, what is the object of so many harmonies, what is the good of so many schools of Theology? There is need of no more, say you, than the doctrine of the pure word of God in the Church. But where is this word of God? In the Scripture? And Scripture — is it some secret thing? No — you say not to the faithful. Why, then, these interpreters and these preachers?
If you are faithful, you will understand the Scriptures as well as they do; send them off to unbelievers, and simply keep some deacons to give you the morsel of bread and pour out the wine of your supper. If you can feed yourselves in the field of the Scripture, what do you want with pastors? Some young innocent, some mere child who is able to read, will do just as well.
But whence comes this continual and irreconcilable discord which there is among you, brethren in Luther, over these words, This is my body, and on Justification? Certainly S. Peter is not of your thinking, who assures us in his 2nd Epistle43 that in the letters of S. Paul there are certain points hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as also the other Scripture to their own Perdition.
The eunuch who was treasurer-general, of Ethiopia was certainly faithful.44 since he came to adore in the Temple of Jerusalem; he was reading Isaias; he quite understood the words, since he asked of what prophet that which he had read was to be understood; yet still he had not the understanding nor the spirit of them, as he himself confessed: How can I, unless some one shows me? Not only does he not understand, but he confesses that he has not the power unless he is taught. And we shall see some washerwoman boast of understanding the Scripture as well as S. Bernard did!
Do you not know the spirit of discord? It is necessary to convince oneself that the Scripture is easy in order that everybody may drab it about, some one way, some another, that each one may be a master in it, and that it may serve everybody’s opinions and fancies.
Certainly David held it to be far from easy when he said45: Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
If they have left you the Epistle of S. Jerome to Paulinus in the preface of your bibles, read it, for it treats this point expressly. S. Augustine speaks of it in a thousand places, but particularly in his Confessions. In the 119th Epistle he confesses that there is much more in the Scripture of which he is ignorant than there is of what he knows.
Origen and S. Jerome, the former in his preface on the Canticles, the latter in his on Ezechiel say that it was not permitted to the Jews before the age of thirty to read the three first chapters of Genesis, the commencement and the end of Ezechiel, or the Canticle of Canticles, on account of the depth of the difficulties therein, in which few persons can swim without being submerged. And now, everybody talks of them, everybody criticises them, everybody knows all about them.
And how great the profanation of the Scriptures is in this way nobody could sufficiently believe who had not seen it. As for me, I will say what I know, and I lie not. I have seen a person in good society who, when one objected to an expression of hers the sentence of Our Lord46 — To him that striketh thee on the one cheek offer also the other, — immediately explained it in this sense: that as to encourage a child who studies well we lay our hand lightly with little pats upon his cheek to excite him to do better, so Our Lord meant to say be so grateful to one who may find you doing right and who may caress you for it that he may take occasion another time to treat you still better and to caress or fondle you on both sides. Is not that a fine meaning and a precious? But the reason was even better, — that to understand this text otherwise would be against nature, and that while we must interpret Scripture by Scripture, we find in Scripture that Our Lord did not do so when the servant struck him: this is the fruit of your translated theology.
An honest man, and one who in my opinion would not lie, has related to me that he heard a minister of this country, treating of the Nativity of Our Lord, assert that he was not born in a crib, and expound the text (which is express on the other side) figuratively, saying: Our Lord also says that he is the vine, yet for all that he is not one; in the same way, although it is said that he is born in a crib, yet born there he is not, but in some honourable place which in comparison with his greatness might be called a crib.
The character of this interpretation leads me still more to believe the man who told me, for being simple and unable to read he could hardly have made it up. It is a most curious thing to see how this pretended enlightenment causes the Holy Scripture to be profaned. Is it not doing what God says in Ezechiel47: Was it not enough for you to feed upon good pastures; but you must also tread down with your feet the residue of the pastures?
On The Profanation Of The Scriptures In The Versified Psalms Used By The Pretended Reformers
But amongst all profanations it seems to me that this comes out above the rest, that in the temples publicly, and everywhere, in the fields, in the shops, they sing the rhymes of Marot as Psalms of David. The mere incompetence of the author, who was utterly ignorant; his licentiousness, which he testifies by his writings; his most profane life, which had nothing whatever of the Christian about it, caused him to be refused the communion of the Church. And yet his name and his psalms are, as it were, sacred in your churches; they are recited among you as if they were David’s, — whereas who sees not how the sacred word is violated? The measure and restrictions of verse make it impossible that the sacred meaning of the Scripture words should be followed; he mixes in his own to make sense, and it becomes necessary for this ignorant rhymester to choose one sense in places where there might be several.
What! is it not an extreme violation and profanation to have left to such an empty-headed witling a judgment of such great consequence, and then in the public prayers to follow as closely this buffoon’s selection as one ever did formerly the interpretation of the Seventy, who were so particularly assisted by the Holy Spirit? How many words and how many sentences has he secreted therein which were never in the Scriptures? This is a very different thing from ill-pronouncing Scibboleth48.
At the same time it is well known that there is nothing which has so delighted busybodies, and above all women, as this authorisation to sing in the church and at the meetings. Certainly we forbid no one to sing devoutly, modestly, and becomingly; but it seems more proper that Ecclesiastics and their deputies should sing as a general rule, as was done in the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple. O how delightful to get one’s voice heard in the church! But do they not betray you in the songs they make you utter? I have not leisure or convenience for going into the matter further. When you shout these verses of the 8th Psalm: — Thou hast made him such that no more remains to him except to be God; but as to all else thou hast, &c. — how delighted you are to be able to chant and sing these French rhymes Marotées49. It would be much better to keep to the Latin than to blaspheme in French.
Accept this warning. When you sing this verse, whom do you suppose you speak of? You speak of Our Lord, unless, to excuse the audacity of Marot and of your church, you also erase the Epistle to the Hebrews from the holy Bible: for S. Paul clearly there (ii. 6, 7, 8) expounds this verse of Our Lord. And if you speak of Our Lord, why do you say he is such that no more now remains for him except to be God? Questionless if anything now remains to him to be God he will never be it. What say you, poor people? — that it “remains” for Jesus Christ to be God?
See how those men make you swallow the poisoned morsel of Arianism, in singing these sorry rhymes. I am no longer astonished that Calvin confessed to Valentine Gentilis, that the Name of God by excellence belongs only to the Father. Behold the splendid eversions of the Scripture with which you are well pleased; behold the blasphemies which your Church sings in a body, and which she makes you repeat so often.
And as to this fashion of having the Psalms sung indifferently in all places and during all occupations, who sees not that it is a contempt of religion? Is it not to offend His Divine Majesty to say to him words as excellent as those of the Psalms, without any reverence or attention? To say prayers after the manner of common talking, is this not a mocking of him to whom we speak? When we see at Geneva or elsewhere a shop-boy laughing during the singing of the Psalms, and breaking the thread of a most beautiful prayer, to say: What will you buy, sir? Do we not clearly see that he is making an accessary of the principal, and that it is only for pastime that he was singing this divine song, which he at the same time believes to be of the Holy Spirit?
Is it not good to hear cooks singing the penitential Psalms of David, and asking at each verse for the bacon, the capon, the partridge! “That voice,” says De Montaigne, “is too divine to have no other use than to exercise the lungs and please the ears."50 I allow that all places are good to pray in privately, and the same holds good of every occupation which is not sin, provided that we pray in spirit, because God sees the interior wherein lies the chief and substantial part of prayer. But I consider that he who prays in public ought to make exterior demonstration of the reverence which the very words he is uttering demand: otherwise he scandalises his neighbour, who is not bound to think there is religion in the interior when he sees the contempt in the exterior.
I hold, then, that both in singing as divine Psalms what is very often an imagination of Marot’s, and in singing them irreverently and without respect, they very often sin in that reformed church of yours against that word: God is a spirit, and those who adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.51
For besides that in these Psalms you very often attribute to the Holy Ghost the conceptions of Marot contrary to the truth, the mouth also cries in streets and kitchens: O Lord! O Lord! when the heart and the spirit are not there but in traffic and gain, as Isaias says52: You draw near God with your mouth, and with your lips glorify him, but your heart is far from him, and you have feared him according to the commandments and doctrines of men.
It is quite true that this impropriety of praying without devotion occurs very often among Catholics, but it is not with the advertence of the Church: and I am not now blaming particular members of your party, but your body in general, which by its versions and liberties bring into profane use what should be treated with the greatest reverence.53 In chapter 14 of the 1st of Corinthians, the Let women keep silence in the churches seems to be understood of hymns (cantiques) as much as of the rest: our nuns are in oratorio non in ecclesia.
Answer To Objections, and Conclusion Of The First Article
Now follows what you allege in your defence. S. Paul seems54 to want to have the service performed in a language intelligible to the Corinthians; you will see that at the same time he does not wish the service to be diversified with all sorts of languages, but only that the exhortations and hymns which were uttered by means of the gift of tongues should be interpreted, in order that the Church where any one might be should know what was said: And therefore he that speaketh by a tongue, let him pray that he may interpret.
He intends, then, that the praises which were made at Corinth should be made in Greek: for as they were made not now as ordinary services, but as the extraordinary hymns of those who had this gift, for the gladdening of the people, it was reasonable that they should be made in intelligible language, or be at once interpreted. This he seems to show when he says lower down: If, therefore, the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned persons or infidels, will they not say that you are mad? And further on: If any speak with a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and in course, and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him hold his peace in the church, and speak to himself and to God.
Who sees not that he is not speaking of the solemn offices in the Church, which were only performed by the pastor, but of the hymns which were made through the gift of tongues, which he wished to be understood? For in truth if they were not, it distracted the assembly, and was of no benefit. Several ancient Fathers speak of these hymns, and amongst others Tertullian, who, treating of the holiness of the agapes or love feasts of the ancients, says: “After the washing of hands and the lamps, — each one is pressed to sing publicly to God as he is able, out of the Holy Scriptures or his own heart."55
This people glorify me with their lips, but their heart, &c.56This is meant of those who, singing and praying in any language whatever, speak of God mechanically, without reverence and devotion; not of those who speak a language unknown to them but known to the Church, and who, moreover, have their heart rapt unto God.
In the Acts of the Apostles they praised God in all tongues. So they should do; but in universal and Catholic offices there is need of a universal and Catholic language. Except for this, every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father.57
In Deuteronomy58, it is said that the commandments of God are not secret or sealed up; and does not the Psalmist say: The commandment of the Lord is lightsome: thy word is a lamp to my feet? That is all very true, but it means when preached and explained, and properly understood. How shall they believe without a preacher!59 And all that the great Prophet David has said is not to be understood of everybody.
But you object to me: in any case, ought I not to seek the meat of my soul and of my salvation? Poor man, who denies it? But if everybody goes to pasture like the old ewes, what is the need of shepherds? Seek the pastures, but with your pastor. Should we not laugh at the sick man who would find his health in Hippocrates without the help of the doctor, or at him who would seek out his rights in Justinian without betaking himself to the judge? Seek, one would say to him, your health by means of doctors; seek your right and gain it, but by the hands of the magistrate.
“What man of moderately sound mind does not understand that the exposition of the Scriptures is to be sought from those who are doctors in them?” says S. Augustine60 But if no one can find his salvation except the one who can read the Scriptures, what will become of so many poor ignorant people? Surely they find and seek their salvation quite satisfactorily when they learn from the mouth of the pastor the substance of what they must believe, hope for, love, do, and ask of God.
Believe that also according to the spirit that is true which the Wise Man says: Better is the poor man walking in his simplicity than the rich in crooked ways (Prov. xxviii. 6); and elsewhere: The simplicity of the just shall guide them (xi. 3) and : He that walketh sincerely walketh confidently ( x. 9), where I do not mean to say that we must not take the trouble to understand, but only that we must not expect to find our salvation and our pasturage of ourselves, without the guidance of those whom God has appointed unto this end, according to the same Wise Man: Lean not upon thy prudence, and be not wise in thy own conceit (iii. K, 7). Which they do not practice who think that of their own wisdom they know all sorts of mysteries; not observing the order which God has established; who has made amongst us some doctors and pastors, — not all, and not each one for himself.
Indeed, S. Augustine found that S. Anthony, an unlearned man, failed not to know the way of Paradise; and he with all his doctrine was very far therefrom, at that time amid the errors of the Manichaeans.61
But I have some testimonies of antiquity, and some signal examples, which I would leave you at the end of this article as its conclusion.
S. Augustine62 “Your charity was to be admonished that confession (confessionem) is not always the voice of a sinner; for as soon as this word of the Lector sounded, there followed the sound of your striking your breast; that is, as soon as you heard that the Lord said: I confess to thee, Father, immediately the word I confess sounded, you struck your breasts; now to strike the breast, what is it but to signify what lies in the breast, and with a visible stroke to chastise an unseen sin? Why did you do this but because you heard I confess to thee, Father? You heard I confess, but you did not take notice who was confessing. Now therefore take notice.”
Do you see how the people heard the public reading of the Gospel, and did not understand it, except this word: I confess to thee, Father; which they understood by custom, because it was said just at the beginning of the Mass as we say it now. It was, no doubt, because the reading was in Latin, which was not their vulgar tongue.
But he who would see the esteem in which Catholics hold the holy Scripture, and the respect they bear it, should regard the great Cardinal Borromeo, who never studied in the Holy Scriptures save on his knees, it seeming to him that he heard God speaking in them, and that such reverence was due to so divine a hearing.
Never was a people better instructed, considering the malice of the age, than the people of Milan under the Cardinal Borromeo; but the instruction of the people does not come by force of hurrying over the holy Bible, or often reading the mere letter of this divine Scripture, nor by singing snatches of the Psalms as the fancy takes one; but by using them, by reading, hearing, singing, praying to God, with a lively apprehension of the majesty of God to whom we speak, whose Word we read, evermore with that Preface of the ancient Church: sursum corda.
That great servant of God, S. Francis, of whose glorious and most holy memory the Feast was celebrated yesterday63 throughout the whole world, showed us a beautiful example of the attention and reverence with which we ought to pray to God. This is what the holy and fervent Doctor of the Church, S. Bonaventure, tells of it.64 “The holy man was accustomed to recite the Canonical Hours not less reverently than devoutly; for although he was labouring under an infirmity of the eyes, the stomach, the spleen, and the liver, he would not lean against wall or other support while he was singing, but recited the hours always standing and bare headed, not with wandering eyes, nor with any shortening of verse or word; if sometimes he were on a journey he then made a fixed arreangment of time, not omitting this reverent and holy custom on account of pouring rain; for he used to say: If the body eats quitetly its food which, with itself, is to be food of worms, how great should the peace and tranquillity with which the soul should take the food of life?”
John v. 39. ↩︎
Mark xii. 24. ↩︎
Ep. 2, i. 19. ↩︎
Jos. i. 8. ↩︎
Test. i. ff. Qui test. facere possunt. ↩︎
Gal. iii 15, 16 ↩︎
Judges xii. 6. ↩︎
De Doc Chris. iii. 2. ↩︎
Ad ann. 3638 ↩︎
Ib. seqq. Et ad ann. 3860. He quotes S. Epiph., de mens. et pond., and Josephus, contra App. ii. S. Epiph speaks only of Baruch. ↩︎
Canon lx. ↩︎
i.e. in Canon ii. of the Council in Trullo (or Quinisext), which is called by the Greeks the sixth General Council, as being a continuation or supplement of it. Such canons of this Council as were not opposed to previous decrees were approved by Rome. See Hefele Cone. Bk. xvii. The Saint’s words are well defended by Alibrandi in the processus Respons. pp. 8o, 81. [Tr.] ↩︎
i.e. in Canon xxxvi. of the Council of Hippo, approved in third Council of Carthage. [Tr.] ↩︎
De doc. Chr. ii.8 ↩︎
Hist. Eccl. Iv. 22. ↩︎
Ep. Ad Chrom. et Heliod. ↩︎
De civ. Dei. xviii. 36. ↩︎
The necessary references and explanations are given in notes to preceding chapter. [Tr.] ↩︎
In Synopsi ↩︎
In carm. de lib. sac. ↩︎
Note toi in the Dative, agreeing with aimati, but toe 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.] ↩︎
Conta Ep. Fund. v. ↩︎
Sermo de Temp. cxci ↩︎
1 Tim. iii. 15. ↩︎
Acts xv. 28. ↩︎
In prologis Bib. Et horum lib. ↩︎
At this time the so-called reformers did not decidedly accept the book of Esther as canonical. It is now accepted by their followers up to chap. x. v. 4. [Tr.] ↩︎
Isa. xix. 14 ↩︎
Genebrard in proef. Psalt.; Titelman, Toletus, in apol. Bellarminus et a1ii. ↩︎
ii. 27. ↩︎
Here is my body, instead of This is my body. [Tr.] ↩︎
de Proescr. xvii ↩︎
Montaigne. Essaies I. 56. See Preface. ↩︎
Prol. in Matt. ↩︎
In Pontificali Damasi. The Saint mentions the opinion, but he himself held the now universal sentiment of Doctors that S. Mark wrote in Greek.[Tr.] ↩︎
Of this we have a notable trace and evidence in the Gospel : for the day Our Lord entered into Jerusalem, the crowds kept crying out Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: hosanna in the highest (Matt. xxi. 9.) And this word, hosanna, has been left in its integrity in the Greek text of S. Mark and S. John, to signify that it was the very word of the people. Now hosanna, or hosaanna (for one is the same as the other in this language, the learned tell us) is a Hebrew, not a Syriac word, taken, with the rest of that praise which was given to Our Lord, from the 117th Psalm. These people then were accustomed to recite the Psalms in Hebrew; yet the Hebrew was no longer their vulgar tongue, as one may see by several words said in the Gospel by Our Lord, which were Syriac and which the Evangelists have retained: as Abba, Haceldama, Golgotha, Pascha, and others. Learned men tell us that these were not Hebrew but Syraic, though they may be called Hebrew as being of the vernacular tongue of the Hebrews after the captivity of Babylon. ↩︎
Reg. iv. Indicis. ↩︎
Heb. iv. 12 ↩︎
Sess. xxii. ↩︎
On this question ↩︎
Hist. iv. ↩︎
Acts viii. ↩︎
Ps. cxviii. 73. ↩︎
Luke vi. 29. ↩︎
xxxiv. 18 ↩︎
Judges xii. 6 ↩︎
i.e. of Marot [Tr.] ↩︎
Same essay. ↩︎
John iv. 23. ↩︎
xxix. 13. ↩︎
The following sentence is in the autograph placed between bars, and seems meant to be amplified. [Tr.] ↩︎
Cor. xiv. ↩︎
Apol. xxxix. See the notes of Messire Aemar Ennequin, bishop of Rennes, on Book vi. c. 2 of S. Augustine’s Confessions ↩︎
Isaiah xxix. 13. ↩︎
Phil. ii:11 ↩︎
Romans x. 14. ↩︎
De Moribus Eccl. ↩︎
Confess. viii. 8. ↩︎
De Verbis Domini. Serm. viii. ↩︎
written probably October 5, 1595 ↩︎
In Vita Fr. ↩︎