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The Apostle declares : Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the foundation of the spiritual edifice ; the beginning of man's salvation. Without faith no man can obtain justification here, or glorification hereafter. If any man walk not by faith in this world, he cannot arrive at the reality in the world to come; apart from faith, a man's whole labor and good works are barren and fruitless. The man who would without the true faith strive to please God, is like the man in quest of his happy home ; he never arrives there, if he know not the true way, but goes by crooked and devious paths that will surely lead him to the precipice and doleful death. But the faith is smothered and lost amidst the briars and thistles, amidst worldly cares and sensual pleasures : for they who desire to grow rich, fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition, I. T'im. VI. As the frivolous youth amuses himself with the empty and fleeting bubbles on the pool, so worldings take delight in false riches and sensual pleasures, which will vanish from their hands, like the transient shadow, at the hour of death. Morever, these riches and pleasures which infatuated man so eagerly pursues and covets do not bring with them the contentment that was anticipated. St. Cyprian declares : “ The whole life of man upon earth is a continual warfare with the devil : if avarice is subdued, lust shoots up ; if lust is overcome, ambition succeeds ; if ambition is vanquished, anger ioflates, pride puffs up, fury drives ahead, malice breaks the peace, envy rips the harmony."
The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have left on record beautiful pictures of the importance and dignity of the Catholic faith, and of the terrific malignity of heresy : St. Augustin in several books, and especially in his Sermo I, de Verbis Apostoli, saith : “ No riches are greater, no treasutes, no honors, no worldly substance, more precious, than the Catholic faith; it releases the sinners, enlightens the blind, strengthens the weak, baptizes the catechumen, confirms the faithful, heals the penitents, justifies still more the just, crowns the martyrs, protects the virgins, widows and spouses, in Evangelical chastity, ordains the clergy, consecrates the priests, prepares the people for the heavenly kingdom and communes with the angels in the eternal inheritance."
On the contrary, no evil is more dreadful, no plague more fatal to society, than heresy. St. Epiphanius proclaims that heresy is more terrific than infidelity ; and ss. Augustin and Cyprian affirm that the heretic is by far more dangerous than the heathens or the publicans, or any other sinners whatever. Such sayings may appear severe to the weak and the ignorant ; however no pen or tongue could draw a true picture of the hideous malignity of heresies and heretics. The shocking depravity, both of the one and the other, was sorely felt and understood during the convulsions created by the Arians, Nestorians, Eutecheans and Manicheans in the early ages. Arius, a small spark in the beginning, soon swelled into a mighty flame and conflagration throughout Christendom. Also the bitter fruits of heresies and heretics were gathered during the 16th and 17th centuries, in Germany, France, England and Ireland ;
where the Lutherans and Calvinists had sown the seed of malice and discord, of civil wars, sacrilege and massacres. Even in our own days, heresies and contempt of the law of God and his Church are the manifest cause of the awful condition of human affairs, and of the black cloud over hanging. Heretics, true to their calling, faithful tools of their infernal master, strive to raise insurrection in all countries, to rip up the whole frame of societies, to spur up the people to cut one another's throats.
Certainly, our good and merciful Lord who knows how to bring good out of evil, would never permit heresies to grow, had it not been his wise purpose to develope by them the glory of his name and the splendor of his faith : for by heresies and schisms are the firmness and constancy of the Catholics tried, who sooner forfeit property and all worldly allurement, and even life, than submit to the blasphemies of the innovators. Our firm faith would never shine before men, nor our constancy be crowned with glory in heaven, if we do not suffer with Christ, if we are not tempted and tried by the unbelievers.
Moses, Deut. XIII. 3, saith to the Israelites in regard to the false prophets : The Lord your God trieth you that it may be made manifest whether you love him with all your heart, and with all your soul, or not. And the Apostle, 1 Cor. XI. 19, saith : There must be also heresies, that they who are approved may be manifest among you.
As the disputed deed is cared for and preserved with greater diligence, so the sacred Deposite, when it is assailed by the heretics, is defined, fenced, and defended with more vigor, by the holy Pastors and Doctors. As the ancient Jews, on their return from the Captivity, were interrupted in rebuilding the Temple, by the Samaritans, they worked with one hand and wielded the sword against the enemy with the other,
, so the faithful pastors, in building up the house of God, in bringing us all into the unity of faith and knowledge of God, feed the flocks with sound doctrine and repel the gainsayers with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It was thus that Irenæus, Polycarp and Tertullian armed themselves against Basilides, Valentinian and Marcion ; Basil, Athanasius, Hilary, Optatus, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustin, against Arius, Donatus, and Pelagius; and several other holy Fathers also took the field against the heretics, not alone by defending in thick folios the Catholic faith, but by watering it with their blood. Even in these latter days, so prolific in heresies, Christ Jesus withholds not his promised assistance from the Church : for as soon as the Reformers, in the sixteenth century, vomited their poison, our blessed Lord, in fulfilment of his sacred promise that he will be with us all days, even to the end of the world, called out numerous champions in all quarters, who stood opposite as a strong wall for the house of Israel, broke the enemy's attacks, stopped the lion's mouth and were strong in battle. By their labors and research were the disputed points of the Christian doctrine dressed out for posterity in all their native beauty and splendor.
There are two rules of faith : the Written Word of God, and Tradition, which consists of the definitions of the holy Fathers, and the decrees and sanctions of the Pope and sacred Councils. As to the holy Scriptures, Christ Jesus appealed to them on various occasions against the scribes and pharisees, the Jews and Gentiles ; and the Apostle Paul declares that the faithful are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ bimself being the chief corner stone. Nay, all theologians set down the Scriptures as the primary rule to distinguish truth from error, the believer from the unbeliever. Certainly, the Redeemer refers the pharisees and saducees to the Scriptures, and confirms his disciples from Moses, Psalms, and the Prophets. And the Apostles, Peter, Paul, John, James and Jude use in their epistles the Scriptures, in confirmation of their doctrine. See Matt. XXII, Luke XXIV, John V. 2 Pet. III. And St. Augustine, Tract. 2 in epist. Joan, saith :
66 All things