Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: PROOFS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION FOUNDED ON ITS EXTERNAL FORMS OF WORSHIP. - The Triumph of the Cross
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CHAPTER X.: PROOFS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION FOUNDED ON ITS EXTERNAL FORMS OF WORSHIP. - Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross 
The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901).
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PROOFS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION FOUNDED ON ITS EXTERNAL FORMS OF WORSHIP.
Our arguments for the truth of Christianity have hitherto been drawn from the interior aspect of that religion. We will now proceed to proofs based on its Sacraments, ceremonies, and other external rites. We will, instead of considering them individually, which would be a lengthy task, group all the ceremonies and Sacraments of the Church under the one which is chief and most venerable, viz., the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist. We know by experience, and since the first days of Christianity it has been proved, that the reverent observance of this exterior worship is the cause, the nourishment, and the perfection of the Christian life; that they who frequent the Sacraments devoutly become more holy day by day; and that they who treat them with irreverent familiarity become more hardened than other men in sin. We see this fact exemplified in priests, who, day and night, administer the Sacraments, and perform the ceremonies of the Church. For, those who do so devoutly, are most holy men, so completely purified from earthly affection, and so closely united to God, that, for love of Him, they fear not to expose their lives.
Those, on the other hand, who perform their sacred duties irreligiously, are worse than any other men; for, besides being guilty of pride, avarice, envy, and other sins, they are in the most hopeless state possible, for they are incorrigible; and the admonitions, reprimands and good examples, which cause others to amend, are for them only an incitement to scorn, hatred, and worse sin. We cannot, therefore, deny that the same Sacraments produce contrary effects in different men. We must now investigate the cause of this phenomenon. It is in no wise repugnant to philosophy, that contrary effects should, by reason of contrary disposition of matter, spring from the same cause. For, we see how the rays of the sun harden the earth, and melt ice, cause a well-planted tree to bear flower and fruit, and wither another whose roots have not struck deeply. The two effects of which we have been speaking, viz., the good effect produced by the Sacraments on good priests and religious, and the bad effect produced on those that are bad, cannot spring from a false or empty cause. For, if the externals of religion did not depend on God, and were not the instruments of Divine virtue and truth, they could not produce an effect so excellent as to give birth to the Christian life, and to nourish and perfect it. For as this life is wholly spiritual and Divine, it cannot proceed from any physical power. Who is there that believes that baptism with water, anointing with chrism, smoke of incense, oblation of bread and wine upon the altar, and other rites and ceremonies of the same description, could of themselves, without any other power, suffice to render a soul perfect? Surely if these things were human inventions, or deceits of the devil, they could not produce holy lives.
But, perhaps you will say, the Christian life is not produced by this external worship, but by the exercise of virtues, and by the credulity of men, who, believing these exterior ceremonies to be Divine, do by means of them lead a good life, and thus make progress in virtue. Why is it, then, we would answer, that other men who practise virtue without the Sacraments, never attain to the same degree of holiness, as these good priests? Surely, if external worship were false and useless, those who abstained from it would become all the better, not being contaminated by error; and priests who despised these rites and ceremonies, and made a jest of them, would be the best of men. Daily experience, however, shows us, that facts are quite otherwise.
Again, it stands to reason that as God is the Supreme Truth, man, the more closely he draws nigh to God, partakes more fully of His light and truth; and the more he becomes involved in error and falsehood, the further he recedes from God. But we know that those who devoutly frequent the Sacraments, and make use of the ceremonies of the Church, become so united to God, that manifest signs of the presence of the Divine light appear in their countenance, and many are rapt in ecstasy, and their faces are then so transfigured, that they appear to all men attractive and venerable. And although such phenomena were more common in past times than at present, these marvels are still often to be seen in our own days, amongst both men and women, learned and ignorant. Whence come these ecstasies, and this holy contemplation, this fervour of spirit, and these tears which accompany exterior worship? In truth, if these external ceremonies are not ordained by God, they are full of absurdities and fallacies; for they are all typical of things spiritual and Divine; and our churches, sacraments, altars, priestly vestments, sacred psalmody, and ceremonies all typify falsehoods, especially concerning Christ, of whom they are a figure, and they amount to nothing save useless lies. But if these exterior rites are a mere mockery, good men would not take such delight in them, nor by their means draw so near to God. For, as we have said, in proportion as men are involved in error, they recede from God. Hence, we must conclude that the ritual of the Church is full of grace and truth. The wonderful ceremonial of the Church, again, and the symbolical signification of her rites wherein there is nothing trivial, nothing irrational—but everything, even the most minute detail, is typical of some mystery—proves, that these rites are not a human invention, but a Divine ordinance. It is not our intention here to enlarge upon the meaning of the ecclesiastical ceremonies, as this subject will be briefly handled in the next Book. If, however, any one wishes to know more of these mysteries without further delay, he will find them explained in the Christian doctrine; and he will see that there is no less harmony and order in the ceremonies of the Church than in the operations of nature. And, unless he be thoroughly perverse, he will be forced to acknowledge, that our worship is the outcome, not of a human, but of a Divine Spirit.