16 By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles?
As the true Church is known by the four marks of its being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, so heretics and false teachers are known by certain vices, and the pernicious effects of their novelties in religion. As the true Church is one, by its members submitting with humility to the authority established by Christ, (he that will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as the heathen and the publican. Matthew 18: 17) so are false teachers known by their separation from the ancient Church, and their divisions among themselves, the necessary consequences of rebelling against the authority established by Christ, and alone capable of determining controversies. The same pride and other secret vices which make them despise government, (2 Peter 2: 10) make them also not afraid to bring in sects of perdition, blaspheming, and this in civil government as well as ecclesiastical. Those that call themselves Reformers, in the beginning of the 16th century, of all others were remarkable in this. What bloody tumults and wars were there not produced in Germany, by the first Reformers in that country! Calvin overturned the government of Geneva; and his followers, under the name Hugonots, filled France for a great length of time with slaughter and civil wars, frequently shaking the throne itself. In this country (England - JG), the first cause of its separation from the universal Church, was the unbridled passion of a tyrant: the effects were adultery, and the murder of the successive queens that he had taken to his adulterous bed. In the reign of his successor, the insatiate avarice of a corrupt nobility, gratified with the sacrilegious plunder of the Church, established what is called the Reformation. The fear of being compelled to disgorge the fruits of their rapine (plundering; taking by force - JG), contributed much to the confirmation of that order of things in the reign of Elizabeth. She was inclined to it by the circumstances of her birth, which could not be legitimate, if her father's marriage with Catharine of Arragon was valid, as the first authority in the Catholic Church had declared. The natural spirit of this heresy, though checked a while and kept under by the despotical (tyrannical - JG) government of this queen, appeared in its own colours soon after, and produced its natural fruits in the turbulence of the times that succeeded, and the multiplicity of sects that are continually springing up to this very day.
As the true Church is holy, recommending various exercises of religion tending to purify human nature, and render men holy, as fasting, confession of sins, evangelical counsels, &c. so false teachers cast off all these, promising liberty, (2 Peter 2: 16) and giving full rein to the lustful passions, thus giving a liberty of living, as well as a liberty of believing. --- Another fruit of false teachers is, separation from what was the Universal Church before their time, and which continues to be still the far greater part, not being confined to one state or country. If some modern principles, of not allowing any communion of religion out of each state, were admitted, as many religions should have been established by Heaven as men think proper to establish different states; nor could Christ have given one for all mankind, under whatever state or form of government they might live. --- Finally, false teachers are to known by their not being able to shew, that they have received their doctrine and mission from the apostles, in a regular succession from them. Some of our modern divines would spurn at the idea of holding their doctrine and orders from the Catholic Church, such as it existed at the time of the Reformation, which is precisely such as it exists at the present moment. --- In answer to this it has been retorted, that the fruits of the Catholic religion have been as bad, or worse; and the horrors of the French revolution are particularly mentioned, as a proof. ... That great crimes have been committed by those who professed themselves Catholics, is not denied; but that they were prompted to them by the nature of their religion, is certainly not admitted. The revolution of France in particular, was the effect of the people falling off from their religion. As well may the Puritans, that brought Charles to the block, be said to be Catholics, because they or their parents once had been such: as well may the present bench of Protestant bishops be said to be Catholics, because the bishops of their sees once were so; or that Robespierre, Marat, and the Jacobins that persecuted catholicity in France, and brought its too indulgent sovereigns to the guillotine, were Catholics, or directed in the least by Catholic principles. (Haydock)
Saint Lenten Feria, ora pro nobis!