Advice for the True Taking of the Old Faith

In times of doctrinal confusion, how are we to know what God will have us believe? Some advice from St. Thomas More:

I will advise you therefore, good readers, for the true taking of the old faith, and for the discerning thereof from all new, to stand to the common, well-known belief of the common-known Catholic Church of all Christian people; such faith as by yourselves, and your fathers, and your grandfathers, you have known to be believed; and have, over that, heard by them that the contrary was in the times of their fathers, and their grandfathers also, taken evermore for heresy.

We must also, for the perceiving of the old faith from new, stand to the writings of the old holy doctors and saints, by whose expositions we see what points are expressed in the Scripture, and what points the Catholic Church of Christ hath, beside the Scripture, received and kept by the Spirit of God and tradition of his apostles.

And specially must we also stand, in this matter of faith, to the determinations of Christ’s Catholic Church. [Referring, of course, not merely to the latest communications from reigning prelates, but to all the determinations of the Church as collected in approved sources.]

Now, if any man will bear other in hand that this point or that point is not determined, or that the holy doctors of the Church write not in such wise but the contrary, then whosoever is not of such learning as to perceive by himself whither of those two say true that hold therein contrary parts—then, except the article be a plain, open-known thing of itself, not doubted before—let him not be light of credence in the believing either the one disputer or the other, though they would both preach high praises of their own cunning, and say that besides all their much worldly business they had spent many years about the study of Scripture, and boast that their books of divinity were worth never so much money, or that by the Spirit they were inspired and with the celestial dew suddenly sprung up divines, as lusty, fresh, and green as after any shower of rain ever sprung any bed of leeks.

Let no man, I say, be light in believing them, for all that; but let him, by my poor counsel, pray God inspire himself to believe and follow the thing that may be his high pleasure; and let him thereupon appoint with himself to live well; and forthwith, to begin well, get himself a good ghostly father, and shrive him of his sins; and then, concerning the question, ask advice and counsel of those whom himself thinketh, between God and his new-cleansed conscience, for learning and virtue most likely, without any partial leaning, indifferently to tell him truth.

And thus finish I this matter concerning heresies, beseeching our Lord and Savior, for his bitter Passion, that as his holy sacraments thereof took their strength, so by the prayer of all those holy saints that have both by their holy doctrine and example of living, some of them planted the faith and some of them in sundry times well watered the plants, so himself will of his goodness specially now vouchsafe as the warm sun (the very, eternal, only-begotten Son of his eternal Father) to spread his beams upon us, and aspire his breath into us, and in our hearts, as Saint Paul saith, give his faith strength and increase.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: