Church, and confine their authority to spiritual matters, for which alone it was given. If, indeed, any clergyman should happen to prove such a traitor to his trust, as to give out a doctrine different from that of the Church (a matter which would immediately spread an alarm), or if he should be imprudent enough to enforce his authority, which is spiritual, in matters that are merely temporal, every one knows, that in the former case he must, and in the latter he may be disobeyed; because he then ceases to be invested with the authority of the Church and of Jesus Christ; and thus we are secured from the danger of being (what the enemies of our religion are so apt to call us) dupes of the clergy.

However, from all that has been said on this subject, no one can doubt but that, whilst a clergyman goes on in the ordinary course of those functions the Church has cut out for him, he is entitled to the respect and obedience due to the minister of the Church of Jesus Christ, this quality is never to be overlooked, on account of any

frailties of the person ; and obedience cannot be refused without overturning the very foundations of faith : hence a disposition of revolt against the clergy, of disobedience to their authority, of aversion and contempt of them, carries with it all the malice and guilt of heresy ; for by such a disposition every heresy is already formed in its cause; and from thence each particular heresy flows as a stream from its source.

How do you shew that the Roman Catholic Religion is the religion which, of all others, shews best our Saviour's love for mankind, and holds him forth to us in the most amiable light?

From what has been already said, it plainly appears, that the Roman Catholic Religion is the only one that represents our Divine Redeemer as fulfilling the duties of the best of parents ; in procuring us instructions the most proper and most suitable to our nature; in becoming even himself our instructor, and thus performing his loving promise, that he would not leave us orphans ; in giving us (beside himself, the invisible guide) a visible one, we cannot mistake, that will guard us against going astray, and will direct us in that belief which, under pain of being eternally lost, is required of us. Our Divine the ways

Redeemer, however, is held forth to us by the Roman Catholic Religion, as providing us with the most precious food for the preservation of our spiritual life; no other indeed, than his own ever adorable flesh and blood, which he gives for nourishment of our souls in the sacrament of the altar. Whoever considers this, and has a heart sus. ceptible of the love of his God, though he were not convinced of the truth of the Roman Catholic Religion, yet he should naturally wish it was true ; as it must be our greatest happiness in this life to have such visible tokens of our Saviour's love, in the secure means of salvation he has left us ; and to be so firmly assured of the ardent desire he has of being for ever united with us in heaven, by

his love found out to be united with us in the closest manner on earth. Such is the amiable light in which our Saviour is held forth to us by the Catholic Religion ; a light in which it is plain the tenets of any other religion will not allow us to view him.

How do you shew that the Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian Society that can, in a manner plain to the weakest capacity, trace up its origin to Christ and his Apostles ?

As the Roman Catholic Church is a body of Christians united in faith and communion with the Pope or Bishop of Rome, their visible head : a Roman Catholic therefore, in order to trace up his Church to Christ and his Apostles, has nothing mor to do, than count back from the present Pope through the catalogue of his predecessors, till he comes to St. Peter, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, to whom Christ * committed the care of feeding his lambs and his sheep; that is, his entire flock. In this catalogue of Popes, not one has broke off from the line of succession, but all continuing on in the same commu• nion, governed each in his turn the Church he found established before him. Thus the Roman Catholic has a regular chain of head Pastors of his Church-a chain, whose links are closely joined, and hang one to the other, from the first to the last: and every one must perceive with what ease a Roman Catholic may, by only following this chain, trace his Church to Christ and his apostles.

# John xxi, 15, 16, 17.

But if we attempt to trace the origin of any other sect or society of Christians, we find ourselves stopped as soon as we come to the author of that sect, and the time of its forming a separate congregation :-here the chain is broken, the line of succession is cut short: from that time only, and not higher, can the origin of that sect or society of Christians be dated ; just in the same manner (to use an example) as the Republic of Holland cannot be traced higher than about two hundred years ago, when the seven United Provinces shook off the yoke of Spain, and formed themselves into a separate state; and as also the American Republic began only the other day, by separating from the empire of Great Britain, and cannot therefore attempt to date its origin at any earlier period. Such exactly is the case of every Christian Society, except the Roman Catholic Church, whose origin reaches up to the apostles, whilst each of the others can go no higher than the time of its separation. And hence it appears plain to the weakest capacity, that it is only the Roman Catholic Church which can trace up its origin to Christ and his Apostles. How do


shew that the Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian Society that has not violated the ninth Article of the Creed?

The ninth article of the Creed is, I believe the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints ; by which words we declare, that we hold as an article of our belief, a true Church of Christ constantly subsisting on earth, which is holy, which is Catholic (that is, universal), and which is that communion wherein the saints are found. Now it is plain, that breaking off from this Church, which we thus in the creed profess to believe, is certainly violating or going against the ninth article of the Creed. But the Roman Catholic Church stands totally free from this charge, having, as all the world knows, never broken off from that standing body of Christians, which in all ages has been called the Catholic Church ; being in fact itself, that

very Church that has all along subsisted and borne the name of Catholic:-every other society of Christians, on the contrary, has broken off from this standing body, has quitted its communion, and formed as its origin a new church and congregation separate from all that was before it. By which it is evident, that every one of these sects, however they may attempt to assign reasons for their separation, have by this very separation violated the ninth article of the Creed.

To render this argument quite short and decisive, we may thus reason with each and every one of these sects: -At the time your church formed a separate communion, either there was a true Church of Christ subsisting on earth, or there was not :- If there was, your Church, by forming a separate communion, quitted and renounced this true church of Christ :- If you say there was not, then you give the lie to the Creed, in as much as you make it propose as the object of our belief, a thing that did not exist.

Thus, without further inquiry, we see at once, that all the different sects of Christians who are separated from the nan Catholic Church, carry on the very face of them their own condemnation.

But is it not very uncharitable to believe, that the Roman Catholic Church, besides being the only true Church, is the only one in which salvation can be obtained ?

It is by no means uncharitable to believe this; no more than it is uncharitable to believe any awful truth which God has revealed. No Christian can be justly charged with a want of charity, for believing that many are called, but that few are chosen ; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than

for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven; that he who will not believe, is al ready judged; that without

faith it is impossible to please God; that there is but one Faith, one Lord, and one Baptism ; that he who will not hear the Church, must be considered as the heathen and the publican ; or, in short, that Christ at the last day, shall thus sentence the reprobate : Go, ye cursed, into eternal fire. As the firm belief of all these, and the other terrifying truths which frequently occur in holy writ, and which are manifestly damnatory of the great majority of mankind, as well at this day as in all former ages, do not clash with charity: so neither does the doctrine of exclusive salvation. Our Saviour, who was charity itself; his Prophets and Apostles, who were animated with the same divine spirit, did all respectively deliver these formidable oracles, while their

hearts glowed with the tenderest love of the unhappy objects who had fallen under God's displeasure. Turks, Jews, Atheists, and the numberless infidel tribes, may as justly upbraid with a want of charity every denomination of Christians who assent to the Athanasian Creed, or who admit the necessity of baptism and divine faith, as our separated brethren upbraid us Roman Catholics, for believing that there is only one true religion revealed by the God of Truth, and that the Roman Catholic Religion is that true one. If separated Christian communities have, in their own opinion, an indisputable claim to charity, while they unhesitatingly pronounce the Roman Catholic Religion damnable and idolatrous, though professed by the greater part of Christendom, it is doubtless because they conceive that such sentiments and language are dictated by truth, and because their conscience bears them testimony that they are sincerely well affected to Roman Catholics and infidels, while they thus, however reluctantly, condemn them. Now Roman Catholics feel warranted to assert their claim to the tenderest charity upon the very same grounds. To them it appears as undeniable as the very existence of the Godhead, that the Religion revealed by him, must be essentially One, consistent throughout, and perfectly accordant in all it prescribes and professes. To assert that God can declare to one body of Christians that certain points are to be believed, and to another that they are not to be believed, is to attribute to him what is incompatible with his very nature : it would authorize the infidelity of the Atheist, who may then triumphantly boast, that he can never be justly condemned for refusing to believe in a God who contradicts himself. It is not less incredible, that among the multitude of religions, more than one can be right. But while Roman Catholics, weighing maturely the distinctive qualities of the Church established by Jesus Christ, perceive that these qualities exclusively belong to that ancient and widely extended body of Christians in communion with the Šee of Rome; they at the same time declare, in the face of heaven and earth, that they are strictly bound to love their neighbour, and that every human being, let his religion, his practice, or his prejudice be what they may, is that very neighbour whom they are

« VorigeDoorgaan »