Trialogus. Chapter 4. The Preceding Statements Confirmed by Argument
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5 min read
I am pleased to find that a man must be shut up, as it seems, to one of two courses,—denying the evangelist, as an archheretic, or admitting what you require concerning this sacrament. Will you now add a few arguments to the authorities you have brought forward, for we all admit that God can do nothing without good reason, that he cannot destroy a guiltless existence, or put confusion on that intelligence which he has implanted in our nature, unless some greater good, or better reason shall induce him?
I am pleased with your manner of expressing confidence in God. We must, in order to the end now proposed, proceed in the way which the arguments on this topic require, that the truth of our faith may the more clearly appear. Let us lay it down, then, that of all the external senses which God has bestowed upon man, touch and taste are least liable to error in the judgments they give. But this heresy would overturn the evidence of those senses without cause; and the sacrament which does that must be a sacrament of Antichrist. With regard to the evidence of touch in the sacrament, the certainty of experiment, which the heretic will not deny, shows us that this consecrated bread, when but newly baked, differs in its manner of breaking, in the degree of brittleness, and the sort of sound produced in breaking it, from bread that is stale, and which is of greatest toughness in damp weather. Now accidents of this sort, hardness, softness, brittleness, toughness, cannot exist per se; nor can they be the subjects of other accidents: it remains, therefore, that there must be some subject, as bread, or some thing by which they are made subjects. For since this sacrament, which is always the same, is found at one time hard, at another soft; at one time brittle, at another tough; the philosopher plainly sees, that there must be a subject of some sort besides, as the seat of qualities, which undergoes these respective changes, (for, otherwise, all distinction between such accidents must be denied,) or else, in such a transmutation, a new sacrament is continually created. But if the first be granted, then no accident is distinguished from a material substance; and since those accidents remain, they would then become the material substance, as in the first instance.
In the same way in the sacrament of the cup, the same applies to the sense of taste, since it may happen that the wine, though retaining at first its taste and sweetness, might, by remaining in the vessel a day, lose its taste and become sour. Now according to the judgment of our taste, and our reason, we must supply a subject of some sort, whose qualities are thus changed. For quantity, such as length, breadth, and thickness, does not admit of the predication of qualities of this sort concerning them. We must therefore admit a subject besides quantity, which is changed by qualities of this sort, since the quantity must always be existing whenever the substance is rarified or condensed.
But I have argued at length on this point elsewhere, and brought against this error the testimony of Augustine in many places. I proceed, therefore, to remark, in the third place, on the great perplexity consequent on the delusion to which our internal faculties are subject, since when the knowledge obtained by our external senses is insufficient, the inward senses must be subject to delusion; and no heretic of this sort will affirm, in the terms of the schools, that he is acquainted with the quiddity, or the differentia of sensible substances. On the contrary, he will admit, with ignorant philosophers, that of such sensible existences, he knows nothing; so that, it being admitted that many hosts consecrated and unconsecrated, may be mingled together by men who are not aware of it, then the heretic cannot distinguish his accident from bread, just as we cannot distinguish between consecrated and unconsecrated hosts, inasmuch as the effect of consecration is not sensible, but beyond the perception of the senses. Mice, however, have an innate knowledge of the fact, that the substance of bread is retained, as at first; but these unbelievers have no such knowledge, since they know not what bread or what wine are consecrated, except as they have seen the act of consecration performed. That which is consecrated does not admit of a second consecration, because, if so, an accident, per se, without bread or wine, may be consecrated. It is plain, accordingly, that they must ever be in doubt as to whether they do truly consecrate. What, I ask, could move our Lord Jesus Christ, thus to take away the power of judgment from his worshippers? In no way doth it redound to their good, nor can it be established by reason or Scripture, that it is necessary for men to be so deceived; for bread and wine, retaining their old form, would be a fitter representation of the body and blood of Christ, than an accident without a subject; and the body and blood of Christ can be as well in any part whatever of such a body, as in any particle of such a most monstrous accident; and then would Scripture faith be preserved, the advantage on all sides more, and the reverence for God greater. In like manner, such blasphemers convict the prelates, beyond escape, of a culpable negligence as regards the duties of the grammarian. For the schoolmaster teaches the translation of the aforesaid Latin words, according to the common understanding of them; but to avoid the danger of heresy, it should be enjoined upon such persons to teach their boys to translate them in accordance with that blasphemous absurdity. The apostles knew the Lord in the breaking of bread, i.e., in the breaking of an accident without a subject; for otherwise a boy of capacity might imagine that the bread had been substantially broken by God—a most perilous notion according to these heretics. The schoolmaster would be culpable who did not explain such an equivocation as—the dog shines in the sky, but were to teach, according to the ordinary meaning of the word, that a barking animal and not a star shone there. Much more culpable would he be, then, if he should fail to explain an equivocal expression in a matter involving such an injury to the faith. But blessed be the Lord of goodness, that he hath so confounded the wisdom of these heretics, that to this very day they know not how to construe the aforesaid words of the Gospel, so as to make them yield the sense they affix to them. For neither in construing nor in preaching do they themselves understand their own words, when they say that the apostles knew Christ in the breaking of bread, i.e., of an accident without a subject. And so Antichrist, in this heresy, overturns grammar, logic, and natural science; and, what is more lamentable, destroys the meaning of the Gospel. But God, as he always preserveth a natural understanding among the laity, so he hath always kept the catholic sense among some of the clergy, as in Greece, or elsewhere, according to his pleasure. Oh who can excuse the friars, and other apostates, in that they know not how, or do not dare, or through jealousy do not wish, to instruct the people on these points, from whom, to say nothing of their obligation to love the brethren, they receive so great emolument? Verily the natural understanding of man would condemn false brethren of this sort, for like foes at home, they would do more than idolaters abroad, to perplex the simple populace. What greater blasphemy than to assert that Christ, who is God, and the Lord of truth, hath given special authority to errors of this sort among his people? Without a doubt the chief cause is a departure from the commandments of the Gospel. Thus these false followers of Antichrist show themselves more ignorant than brutes or pagans.