Thursday, August 6, 2015

QUOTATION: The Church's Authority

It may be said that the Church has forfeited its early privileges, by allowing itself to remain in a state of sin and disorder which Christ never intended: for instance, "that from time to time there have been great corruptions in it, especially under the ascendancy of the Papal power: that there have been very many scandalous appointments to its highest dignities, that infidels have been bishops, that men have administered baptism or ordination, not believing that grace was imparted in those sacred ordinances, and that, in particular in our own country, heretics and open sinners, whom Christ would have put out of the Church, are suffered, by a sin on the part of the Church, to remain within it unrebuked, uncondemned." This is what is sometimes said; and I confess, had we not Scripture to consult, it would be a very specious argument against the Church's present power, now at the distance of eighteen hundred years from the Apostles. It would certainly seem as if, the conditions not having been fully observed on which that power was granted, it was forfeited. But here the case of the Jewish Church affords us the consoling certainty, that God does not so visit, even though He might, and that His gifts and calling "are without repentance." [Rom. xi. 29.] Christ's Church cannot be in a worse condition than that of Israel when He visited it in the flesh; yet He expressly assures us that in His day "the Scribes and Pharisees," wicked men as they were, "sat in Moses' seat," and were to be obeyed in what they taught; and we find, in accordance with this information, that Caiaphas, "because he was the high priest," had the gift of prophecy—had it, though he did not know he had it, nay, in spite of his being one of the foremost in accomplishing our Lord's crucifixion. Surely, then, we may infer, that, however fallen the Church now is from what it once was, however unconscious of its power, it still has the gift, as of old time, to convey and withdraw the Christian privileges, "to bind and to loose," to consecrate, to bless, to teach the Truth in all necessary things, to rule, and to prevail.

--Blessed John Henry Newman, "The Church Visible and Invisible", Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. 3