Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIII.: THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH DEMONSTRATED BY THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHICH PERTAIN TO HIS POWER. - The Triumph of the Cross
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER XIII.: THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH DEMONSTRATED BY THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHICH PERTAIN TO HIS POWER. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH DEMONSTRATED BY THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHICH PERTAIN TO HIS POWER.
We have, by the assistance of God, proved the truth of Faith by the effects daily visible in the Church of Christ. In further confirmation of our proofs, we can bring forward further arguments, based on the works which Christ wrought in past times, and which were patent to the whole world. As philosophers investigate the natural causes of the things which they see, we will place before our eyes the Triumph of the Cross, described before. And, as philosophers, seeing the greatness and wonderful order and perfection of the Universe, believe God to be the most powerful, the wisest and most perfect Cause of causes, and Prime Mover of all things, we, likewise, from the marvels described in the Triumph of the Cross, desire to show that Christ Crucified has surpassed, in power and wisdom and goodness, all those that have been honoured and adored as gods, and has done incomparably greater and more wonderful things than they have wrought; so that He, most surely, is “a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Ps. xciv. 3).
Let us then begin by considering His power, and by placing before our eyes the Triumph of the Cross. Let us argue in this wise. Either Christ is the True God and the First Cause of all things, or He is not. If He be God, it follows that Christianity is true; and there is no need for further discussion. If He be not God, He must have been the proudest man, and the greatest liar that ever lived. He must also have been exceedingly foolish. For it would have been, indeed, the height of folly for a man, unaided by wealth or worldly power, ignorant of philosophy and of rhetoric, to attempt, merely by virtue of his death, to fight against the Divine Majesty, and to usurp to himself the honour due to It; or to strive to induce learned and powerful men to join a new religion which should change the whole face of the earth, should acknowledge him as God, and should inspire his followers with such fervent love for him, that for his sake they should be ready to lay down life itself. Could any absurdity equal such aspirations as these? If, then, Jesus of Nazareth were not true God, He would be a most foolish and sacrilegious seducer. How could such a man have been able to supersede the Law of Moses, and to struggle successfully against men of authority and learning, against the powers of heaven and hell, nay, against God Himself? Why, O Jews, did not your God take vengeance on Him? For what reason, ye Gentiles, have your deities not overthrown Him? How has it come to pass that a poor and lowly man, put to death by Crucifixion, has accomplished such mighty deeds? What God, I speak not of men, can be compared with Christ?
Again, consider how foolish it is to draw a comparison between Jesus Christ and Apollonius, Pythagoras, Socrates, Cæsar, or any emperor; since none of them has either proclaimed himself God, or done any deed which can be compared to the works of Christ. Mahomet, who never called himself God, attracted a barbarous people to himself by force of arms and by sensual indulgence; he spoke admiringly of Christ, but himself never proposed anything to his followers, above the force of human nature. Jesus Christ did not act thus. His commands to men are most arduous and most difficult to obey; since He would have them believe in a God, One in Nature, Three in Person. His followers must confess that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are true God, Simple Substance, and that He is very God, the Son of God, One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and true Man, the Son of the Virgin Mary, who must be reverenced as the true Mother of God. Furthermore, Christians are bound to confess that the Cross, which used to be an instrument of punishment, is a powerful sign of our salvation, and that a little bread and wine is changed, by virtue of certain words pronounced over it, into the Body and Blood of Christ, the heavenly food of our souls, and as such has to be adored. We must also believe that no one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless he receive the baptism which confers heavenly grace. And we must hold, with inviolable firmness, every point taught by Scripture, however difficult it may be to human understanding.
Neither is Faith sufficient for salvation. We must also love invisible things so much as to despise such as are visible, and to be ready to suffer persecution, and even death itself, rather than offend God in anything. Christ does not promise us in this world riches, or honour, or dignity, but rather poverty, persecution, scourges, exile, prison, and death. He reserves for us hereafter happiness unspeakable, a share in the glory of the angels, the resurrection of the body, and joy which “eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive” (1 Cor. ii. 9). And although the things which our Lord sets before us are most difficult to human nature, innumerable Christians, of all times and conditions of life, have accepted His teaching, and adhered to it so closely, that they have preferred to die rather than to deny it.
Let us, then, place before our eyes Christ living in poverty, the reputed son of a carpenter; and let us question Him as to His thoughts. He will reply: I, poor though I be and an exile on earth, propose to lay down laws for the whole human race, and so to change the face of the world, that, although I shall be crucified, men shall adore Me as true God, One with the Father and the Holy Ghost. And it is My will that the cross and nails and thorny crown, and all the other instruments of My Passion, shall be honoured and held in veneration as most precious treasures. Likewise men shall believe that a little bread and wine is changed into My Body and Blood, and shall adore It as God. They shall confess that the water of baptism cleanses from sin, and that oil and chrism sanctify, and that My doctrine, of which it is not lawful to change one jot or tittle, surpasses all other teaching. My Virgin Mother also shall be honoured and loved throughout the whole world, and My Apostles, who were fishermen, shall be so revered, that men shall honour their very bones and ashes. If any poor man were to speak thus, should we not deride him as a madman?
But, if, in spite of your ridicule, He should say further: It is My will, not only that men should believe these things, but should on their account live in holiness, and should for the sake of invisible things spurn such as are visible, suffering for love of Me poverty, hunger, thirst, labour, torture and death—would you not think that He had lost His senses? And were He to add: I shall accomplish all these things against the will of the whole world, and shall overcome kings and princes, the powers of hell, and the machinations of men—would you not think Him completely mad?
But what would be your opinion of Him, if, when you asked Him with what weapons He proposed to achieve these victories, He should reply: My only arms will be the tongue, used not in rhetorical or philosophical eloquence, but in simplicity of preaching; and I know that by means of this preaching many will be converted to Me, and will for My name endure suffering and death; and the blood of My faithful will become the seed of the Church. And so great will be the power of My doctrine that Peter the fisherman and his successors will become heads of the proud city of Rome, and the chiefs of the world; and emperors will humbly stoop to kiss their feet. And good and learned men shall, in every language, compose innumerable books filled with My praises, and in defence of My doctrine. And when my priests shall, with great reverence and solemnity, pronounce My word, all people shall listen to it, standing with bared heads. And none shall prevail against Me, but My religion shall endure for ever. Would you not have treated such words as foolish dreams? And, surely, when we consider how all these prophecies have been fulfilled, shall we not see that they could not possibly have been accomplished by one poor man, nor by all men, nor by all natural or supernatural power, but only by the infinite power of God? Beholding these things, can we possibly doubt that they are the work of God, and that the Faith of Christ is true? What conjuror, what philosopher, what powerful king has ever performed the like? Can Mahomet, can the heathen gods be compared to Christ, before whose coming none of these things were accomplished, or even imagined? Neither can we say that these marvels happened by chance, for they had been foretold years before their accomplishment by the Prophets and Sybils, whose books are known to the whole world. This is another argument in favour of the truth of Christianity.
In the course of nature some causes invariably produce their effect; others do so nearly always; and others are indifferent as to whether they produce their effect or not. Again, some arguments, i.e., those called demonstrative, infallibly constrain the understanding to accept a proposition; others almost always incline the understanding to receive it; and others sometimes appeal to the mind, and at other times produce no effect upon it. Demonstration abounds in mathematical science, though there is very little of it in natural science, and still less in moral science which treats of sublime and Divine things. For our understanding is so weak, that it does not really know the nature of things; and, therefore, it is with difficulty convinced with regard to things which are not manifest. If, then, it be difficult to persuade the understanding to embrace moral and Divine things, how much harder must it not be to incline it to virtue and contemplation, seeing how the flesh ever rebels against the spirit? But it is, above all things, difficult to incline the intellect to perseverance in good works. In philosophical schools we see many systems under many founders; but few sincerely love what they learn or teach. For, very few who know what really are good works, are, as a consequence, by their knowledge of them, attracted to persevere in their performance. If, then, the greatest philosophers, with all their learning and eloquence, have scarcely succeeded in persuading a few men to believe things dictated by reason—such as, for instance, God’s providence over human affairs and the duty of practising virtue and avoiding vice—how much less able would they have been to induce men to believe things above natural reason, and, above all, to love good works? But the disciples of Christ, unknown fishermen, were able, by their simple preaching, to persuade the world to accept the truths of faith and to love these truths so ardently, and to pursue good works so unflaggingly, that in comparison with them they esteemed all earthly things as dust and ashes, and refused to deny their faith either for promises or threats, or even for death itself. Surely, if Christianity were false, the Apostles could not more easily have persuaded men to accept it, than philosophers had induced them to embrace systems which appealed to natural reason. And the words of the poor fishermen would not alone have sufficed to convert the world, but those words must needs have been confirmed by miracles. And who but God could have enabled them to work their miracles, which surpassed all the powers of human nature? But, supposing that the Apostles worked no miracles at all, surely the wonder of wonders would be that a crucified man should be able, by means of twelve poor fishermen, to persuade, by words alone, the entire world to embrace His doctrine. Therefore, whether the spread of Christianity be due to miracles or not, we cannot deny that the power of Christ has been beyond any natural power. And, since the First Cause is that which is more powerful than other causes, so the true God must be He that is more mighty than any other god. Therefore, Jesus Christ, whose Faith has been victorious over all other forms of religion, must be the true God, and His teaching must be the true religion.