Page images
PDF
EPUB

swered without delay.... saying he would rather be sent into the other world : for it doth not become our age, said he, to dissemble, where by many young persons.... through my dissimulation, and for little time of a corruptible life, should be deceived, and I thereby bring a stain and a curse upon my old age ; for though, for the present time, I should be delivered from the punishment of men ; yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty neither alive nor dead.... and he was forthwith carried to execution,” Machab. iv. 19.

(4.) That when a person living among those of a false religion, conceals his faith, though he keeps it in his heart, and in order to conceal it, neglects all the external duties of it, and even transgresses the sacred laws and precepts of the Church for fear of being discovered, lest forsooth he should meet with any temporal inconveniency, he is guilty of a sin; because he is ashamed of the faith of Christ, disobeys his holy Church, and prefers bis own worldly ease and interest, to the glory of his God and the honour of his holy Gospel.

(5.) That if this person, the more effectually to conceal his religion, not only neglects its duties, but even joins in acts of the false religion of those with whom he dwells, by assisting at their prayers, or going to their Churches, his crime is still more atrocious; because he positively professes a false religion, denies the true religion of Jesus Christ before men, and, therefore, must expect to be denied by him at the great day. Of such as these the Scriptuse says, " When they worship the Lord, they serve also their idols," 4 Kings, xvii. 33, 41. And their great misery is, that they conceal their worship of the Lord, being ashamed or afraid to shew it, and worship their idols openly, to wit, their worldly views of interest, favour of men, or the like,

(6.) That if any outward action, or manner of dress, or the like, be either of its own nature, or by the laws of any country, or by the custom of the place, looked upon as a distinctive sign of any false religion, it is always unlawful and a sin in any member of the Church of Cbrist to do that action, or wear that dress, whatever his private intention may be in doing so ; because, in the eye of the world, his doing so is an open professing of that false religion, nor does it depend upon his private intention to make it otherwise. Hence the Church severely condemned the practice of some Christains living among the Turks, who, whilst they privately attended their Christian duties, took Turkish pames, and used the Turkish dress, that, by this means, being taken for Turks, they might enjoy some privileges in trade, and freed from some taxes which the Christians were obliged to pay. All such dissimulation in religion is detestable in the sight of God, not only for the reasons given above, but also because of the hurt it does to his holy religion itself; for when it is discovered, as it seldom fails sooner or later to be, it gives the enemies of our holy faith a handle to believe, that it approves such dissimulation, and increases their hatred and aversion to it,

(7.) Every action or way of speaking which either includes, or seems to include, a contempt and disapprobation of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, or an approbation of what is contrary thereto, and which scandalizes weak brethren, or tends to lead them into error or sin, is still inore detestable in the eyes of God; as besides all the other evils above mentioned, it also tends to the ruin of those souls for which Christ died. We have seen how much this consideration weighed with that holy servant of God, Elcazar, to keep bim from doing a

thing lawful in itself, but which having the appearance of evil, would have proved a scandal to others; and St. Paul, in the strongest manner, shews us the greatness of the crime of giving scandal in things that regard religion above all others.

Q. 8. What is the doctrine deliverd by St. Paul on this head ?

A. It consists of several most necessary points: for, (1.) He lays down three different kinds of hurt we may do to our neighbour's soul, by giving bad example of any kind, but especially in what regards our religion ; first, To scandalize him, that is, to encourage our neighb uor to do evil, or to be the cause of inducing him to sin: secondly, To offend him, that is, to give him pain and trouble of mind, on seeing our evil doings ; thirdly, To make him weak, that is, to weaken his esteem and zeal for his religion, by seeing or hearing us do or say any thing slightingly of it. Now all these things be exhorts us to avoid, by abstaining even from the most innocent actions, if our neighbour, through weakness, take offence at them, “ It is good,” says he, "not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother is offended, or scandalized, or made weak," Rom. xiv. 21. “ Put not a stumbling-block, or a scandal in your brother's way....but if, because of thy meat, thy brother be grieved, thou walkest now not according to charity. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died,” Rom. xiv. 13, 15.

(2.) He declares, that when a person thinks any thing a sin, which is not so in itself, and commits it, he becomes guilty, by acting against his conscience, “ All things," says he, "are clean, but it is an evil for that man who eateth with offence .... for he that discerneth, (that is, thinks some

VOL. II.

2 1

meats clean, and some unclean,) if he eat is condemned, because not of faith,” that is, not according to, but against his conscience, Rom. xiv. 20.23.

(3.) He affirms, that, if we do a thing innocent in itself, but wbich bas tbe appearance of evil, and much more so if it be evil, by which our brother is encouraged, or otherwise induced to do it, who believes it to be evil, or knows it to be such, we commit a grievous sin, by ruining our brother's soul, and sinning against Christ, who died for our salvation. Meats offered to idols, in reality contract no uncleanness on that account, because an idol is nothing, and, therefore, may, in themselves, be eaten without any scruple; yet allare not of that opinion; and,“ if any one eats with the conscience of the idol," (that is, thinking it unlawful to do so,) “his conscience, being weak, is defiled.” Now, though another, who has knowledge, may lawfully eat such meat, yet, if his doing so induces his weak brother to do the same, he is guilty of the ruin of his brother. “ Take heed,” says lie, “lest, perhaps, this, your liberty, become a stumbling-block to the weak; for if a man see him that hath knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to idols ? and through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish for whom Christ died ? Now, when ye sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ,” 1 Cor. viii. 9.

Wherefore, (4.) He concludes, that for his part if meat scandalize my brother, I will never taste flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother,” 1 Cor. viii. 13. And a little after gives this general command to all, “Give no offence to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God," 1 Cor. X. 32. From all which it is manifest, that every

word or action which includes, or seems to include, à contempt of religion, by which our brethren may “ be offended, or scandalized, or made weak," is very offensive in the sight of God, from this consideration alone, that it tends to make them perish for whom Christ died, wounds their weak con. science;" and, through them, is a “sin against Christ." And how severe a judgment Christ will pass against all those who scandalize their weak brethren, appears from his own words, when he says,

" He that shall scandalize one of those little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world, because of scandals; for it must needs be that scandals come, but nevertheless, woe to that man by whom,scandal cometh,” Matth. xviii. 6. And the holy Eleazar declared, that, bad he been guilty of that crime, though by an action which was in itself lawful, and to save his own life, yet “neither alive nor dead should he escape the band of the Almighty ” 2 Mach. vi.

(8.) Lastly, that it is always criminal to expose one's self, without necessity, to the probable danger of losing one's faith, or being corrupted in their religion ; for the Scripture declares, that “ He that loveth the danger, shall perish in it," Ecclus. iii. 27. And our Saviour commands us to pluck out our eye, or cut off a hand or foot, and throw it from us, if it be a scandal to us; that is, to fly from, separate ourselves from, and avoid every person, thing, or employment, which puts us in the dangerous occasion of ruining our souls, though as near and dear or useful to us as an eye, a hand, or a foot ; and he adds this cogent reason, For it is better," says he, “ for thee that one of thy members should perish, than that thy whole body should be cast into hell-fire,” Matth. v. 29.

« PreviousContinue »