Seventh Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Mat. 7.v.15 Tuesday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
ANDREA DEL CASTAGNO
GOSPEL Matthew 7:15-21
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that saith to Me: Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
As we may discern a wolf from a sheep by his voice, though he cover & hide himself never so cinningly in a sheep-skin, so may we discern himby his sheeps-skin also, though he had the voice of a sheep, if we observe him well, for though he should cover himself never so cunningly & closely with a sheeps-skin; yet becaue it is not natural, but artificial, it will not come so home every where, but that it will appear in his feet, or claws, or ears, of snowt, or tail, or some where or other: For though they did say (as they do) that they are Catholics, and believe the holy Catholic Church,and so had the voice of sheep, and besides did clothe themselves in the skins or clothing of sheep, that is to say, in the outward practice and exercise of some act ceremonies and virtues of Catholic Religion, as Catholics do; yet unless they did it in all things, their sheep-skins would not cover them so fully, but that they might appear to be false Prophets,and ravening wolves: as for example, though they should do other things that Catholics do, saving only fasting the Lent and other fasting days, or not pray for the dead, or abolish the Mass,or the practice of religious vowes, of the Sacrament of Confession, if they obstinately refuses to practice any one of these, or the like, as unlawful, they discover themselves to be false Prophets and ravening wolves; and they must needs discover themselves in one thing or other, they cannot practice all that the Catholic Church doth, if they should, either they should practice as they believe and so cease to be heretics, or as they believe not,and so dissemble their faith; which if they hold to be lawful, is the heresy of the Helchisaites already condemned; if not, they are grievous sinners, against their own conscience or supposed knowledge.
And therefore this is that sign which Christ giveth here, for all men to know Heretics by, saying, you shall know them by their fruits. For though the other of their voice or howling be an infallible sign of wolves;yet Christ did not give us that, because it is a sign only for the learned sort to judge, by their doctrine: but Christ would give us a sign for all, as well unlearned as learned, and therefore he sent us to their outward practice or works, which all may easily discern, whether it be in all things agreeable to the practice of the universal Church or no, in which case men be they never so simple or illiterate, may securely say this of them: I know not, nor I care not what their opinions are, nor how they can defend them; but sure I am, they do not practice in all things with the Catholic Church, and therefore I know them by their fruits, that they are false Prophets & ravening wolves.
Nay if a man should not only practice all points of Catholic Religion but one, but also believe them, and obstinately deny one.he had no divine faith at all, because if he did truly believe all the rest for the authority of the Catholic Church (as we must do to make our faith a true divine faith) he would believe that one, as well as the rest, which if he do not,he fail in all, as St. James argue concerning the commandments of God, that if a man keep all the rest, & break one, he is guilty of all, because he hath lost the love of God,in breaking of one, which he can do no more if he break all, the love of God being the fulfilling of the Law.
So he that obstinately deny one point of faith, proposed by the Church, though he hold all the rest, hath lost all, because the authority and proposition of the Church in matters of faith, is the fulfilling of faith, which we contemning in one point, we can do no more if we should contemn all.
But you will object, if this be so, it is a vain thing to think of any new Religion, or alteration of the old, which always hath been practiced generally in the world since the primitive Church.
Surely it is indeed, as vain a thing as to think of a new God, or of an alteration of the old. For as St Paul sayth, there is one God,one Baptism, one faith,and no more,without any multiplication,or alteration thereof, without which one sayth it is impossible to please God unto salvation.
Another sign of Heretics in general, which Christ doth here touch upon, is that they go not into Countries that are not Christian, to convert them to their Sect, but only endeavor to pervert them that be already converted, being such according to the parable of Christ in the Gospel, as do not sow the ground first with wheat,but superseminate or sow upon it afterwards their Cockle or darneil, to choke and starve the wheat;and so much doth Christ signify here when he biddeth his disciples to beware of false Prophets, that should come unto them,that is to say, to them that are already converted to Christ,to seduce them, and not to them that are not, for the Devil hath them fast enough in possession already, that he need do no more.