From the third volume of the Hypotyposis [Refuting polycarp leyser in the early 17th century] as translated by Vernon Wagner, OFM, Cap

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi "On Reading Saint Paul"

III. When Leyser set out to deliver his sermon on good works, he decided not to expound this Gospel in its true meaning nor in accord with the mind of Christ, but along the lines of Luther, the antichrist. He decided to speak about good works and to use this Gospel as an opportunity simply to treat and stir up a controversy regarding good works. How successfully, or rather, how unsuccessfully and deplorably he accomplished this, let him be his own judge. For our part, we wish only to say in the interests of truth, first of all, how ineptly and, secondly, how falsely Leyser treated and expounded this dogma concerning good works which is so hotly debated at this time. It seems to me that in this treatise Leyser is like a blind man in a battle or a contest who constantly aims his futile blows only in the direction of the voice of his opponent to the hilarious laughter of the spectators. Heretics always fight like blindfolded gladiators and, as Irenaeus writes, they are “like contestants in a wrestling ring unacquainted with the rules. They take hold of some bodily member of their adversaries with both hands and, even though they themselves are thrown to the ground and subjected to ridicule, they think that they have overcome their opponents because they obstinately maintain that they first grasped a member of their opponent. “So,” Irenaeus says, “heretics lay hold of two or three sayings of Paul and, failing to understand Paul’s meaning and to ascertain the intent of those sayings, they simply lay hold of those bare words as given and remain content in their interpretations while, in so far as in them lies, they vitiate every meaning intended by God.” This is clearly the approach of heretics to all dogmas of the faith, and especially in regard to good works. They cull certain abbreviated passages from Paul’s letters to the Romans and to the Galatians, in which Paul teaches that a person is justified by faith without works and immediately they proclaim that good works are not necessary for salvation and, even more, cannot rightly be called good, righteous, and holy, except by imputation, since these works are all imperfect and polluted like the rags of a menstruating woman, and, in addition, they have no merit in the eyes of God, no reward is due to them, and they are not deserving of eternal life. Almost all heretics have fabricated their heresies from the very inspired doctrine of Paul falsely understood, for they do not understand nor do they even want to understand that Paul’s teaching is difficult and requires explanation to be correctly and rightly understood. As Irenaeus writes: “We need to scrutinize Paul’s teaching and examine his opinions and expound his writings, and to refute whatever interpretations are given by heretics who in general do not understand what Paul is saying and to which they attach other meanings, and to point out the unreasonableness of their folly from that same Paul, from whose writings they raise objections against us, and to demonstrate that they are clearly in error whereas the Apostle is a preacher of truth.” Saint Augustine also witnesses to the fact that the letter of Paul to the Romans is filled with many difficulties, and that it was from passages of this letter badly interpreted that already at the time of the apostles heresies arose which held that faith alone without works was sufficient for salvation. It was in order to totally eradicate this heresy recently spawned that the four apostles, Peter, John, James, and Jude, wrote their so-called “catholic letters”. In order to refute this heresy Augustine himself also wrote an entire book, De Fide et Operibus.

Posted August 5, 2020 [still editing]