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RECAPITULATION CHURCH AUTHORITY.
JOHN IV. 20.
"Our fathers adored on this mountain, but you say that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore.”
Such, my brethren, was the question which divided men—and men who believed in the only one God-at the time of our Saviour's mission, and precisely the same is the question which may be said to divide us There are some of us who say, that only in the way which we follow is the true path of salvation; that only where we adore is the true sacrifice to be offered up to the living God. And there are those who say that because this is the place where their fathers have adored, this is the religion which they have been taught by their ancestors, that therefore they cannot be called to abandon it on account of the pretended claim of the other, and more exclusive system.
Happy, brethren, should we be, if we, like the Samaritan woman, had one to whom we could refer our dispute; to whose judgment we could all submissively bow! Happy would it be for us, could our blessed Redeemer appear amongst us, and examine, if necessary, the respective claims which we have to be considered the only true church of Christ; and that we could be sure with the certainty of his decision that the conclusion to which we should come, was that which God himself had sanctioned.
But unfortunately, my brethren, unfortunately, I say, for us, though justly no doubt in the decrees of his eternal providence, it is not given to us to have that absolute and complete decision in our doubts; but it makes it our duty, consequently, in all the true offices of charity, to endeavour so to lay our respective claims, and especially we who consider
that we possess them upon the most solemn, and the most dignified, and the most highly sanctioned grounds; so to endeavour, if it be possible, to bring to some conclusion those endless disputes upon the subject of religion, which have so long divided us, and those who have gone before us in this land.
I have, my brethren, as far as circumstances would allow me, endeavoured to lay before you a simple and unvarnished exposition of the Catholic doctrines beginning with the rule of faith. I have, as much as it was in my power, expounded to you the grounds, founded upon the authority of God's unerring word, wherefore we believe that we are bound to submit to the decision of an authority which we conceive was originally established by him; and, after having carried my subjects through so many succeeding evenings, and having, consequently, some reason to fear by being thus dilated, the arguments I have laid down may have lost some of their force, I propose to myself, before entering on a new and important topic, this evening to condense and lay before you some of the arguments which I have endeavoured to present to you in so many successive discourses, that so its strength may be more completely and more strikingly presented to your consideration.
I need not state to you again what is the great and important difference between us. It is that difference, of which an eminent divine of the Established Church, the one who has written the most strongly in favour, perhaps, of its ground of faith, observes, that "The whole of modern religions may be said to differ essentially upon this one pointupon what is the ground work whereon faith hath to be built."
I explained to you in my preliminary discourse, what were the opinions of the two respective churches; and I particularly developed to you the principle of Catholic faith, consisting in the belief that an authority was constituted by God as a living teacher among men; and that he gave a divine promise that he would always be with the constituted body of teachers, instructing through them to the end of time in such a way that the Church, or organized society, which is made the depository of his truth, should not be liable to the smallest error.
Such was the Catholic doctrine as I expounded it to you, and placed it in opposition to that principle of faith, which consists in each individual judging for himself what he has to believe, and putting the sacred volume, purporting to be God's revealed word, into his hand, and telling him that it is his duty individually to discover, and to believe upon his own conviction, that which is there said to be taught by God.
Now it may be observed, that the truest and best proof of any hypothesis, simply considered as such, is to ascertain how far it answers every part of the difficulty which it is intended to meet. It is like the solution of a problem which, if it answers the question that it contains, and answers it in such a way that, trying one portion by another, they shall
all still seem to accord together, we are satisfied that the solution is correct. It is only upon this principle, I may say, that the best grounded and most universally admitted theories of philosophy have been based : it is upon such a rule as this that the whole system of the heavens-the Newtonian system of natural philosophy, may be said to depend. We can have no means of arriving at any intuitive or direct knowledge of the construction and constitution of things; but when we find the law laid down, even arbitrarily, corresponds exactly to all the phenomena that are observed; when we find that this law leaves nothing undecided, nothing vague, but includes within itself all the conditions which were required to be explained, we conclude that the answer must necessarily be right, and that is indeed the great practical proof to which every system of truth is ordinarily put.
Now, it is upon this form of argument that I have endeavoured to proceed. First of all, I considered the constitution of Christ's church, or the outward form in which he meant his religion to exist as a state foreshown and constituted. Existing as a state foreshown, inasmuch as I pointed out to you, how God had worked in a certain course or order of providence for the preservation of the truth amongst mankind; how he made certain provision as the only means by which the doctrines and hopes which he had revealed to mankind (which experience had shown were lost in the corruptions that ensued among them) were preserved by him through the constitution of certain forms, of certain provisions directed to that purpose. I then showed you that this system was every where spoken of as merely figurative of one that was to come. I showed you that the various figures, all the imagery, all the reasoning which was applied to the former state, was also applied to that which was to succeed it, as though it were to be nothing more than the perfecting, the completion, the fulfilment of it. I endeavoured to show you also, how it was the natural order of God's providence, that the course he had once commenced should go on in persevering obedience until the end; and though we might expect perfection and fuller developement, and further manifestation, yet we had no right to expect on the contrary we should be violating all we know of his methods of acting in this world, if we expected a sudden complete interruption and change in those providential courses which he had before established. showed you, moreover, that there were clear indications of the necessity of some provision corresponding to that which existed of old for the preservation of the truth, and to be really the perfection of that which existed before; that it was necessary that its tendency should be not merely to remove, but actually to correct error. This, therefore, is one portion of the hypothesis. It is necessary that whatever is laid down as the ground plan of God's church, should be such as to fill up the outline that was presented to us in the old law. If we come then to the new law, we find indeed
the same expressions once more used. All that can be required to connect the two establishments is again and again brought before our view. There are precisely those expressions which lead us to see a certain constituted form, an expectation now repeated as if to show that that which was then established was really to be the fulfilment of that expectation. We found that it corresponded to the former class of demonstration; that it required precisely the Catholic interpretation of those passages, and that if that was rejected, there could be found necessarily no parallel between the new institution, and that which was its figure: and thus we had, as it were, a first and preliminary application, because the Catholic doctrine, the Catholic system of faith, the belief in an infallible church persevering to the end for teaching all that Christ had commanded, formed the only connecting link that had been established between the prophecy and its fulfilment.
Thus, therefore, we obtain two different data, and two different descriptions which this rule of faith, or constituted religion of Christ, was to fulfil.
Coming down and examining more minutely the constitution of this religion, not simply with reference to that which was past, but to its own internal laws, as based upon the authority of our blessed Saviour, we saw a series of texts, and examined minutely, not only each individually, but with an exact analysis of words and phrases, explained them by no other authority, but by a reference to other passages on which there could be no doubt. We saw by these, that Christ again did institute a society which, considered merely in itself, seemed to comprise itself in a body compactly formed, having in itself a unity, possessing within itself power, constituted to rule with authority, authorized to collect under its sway the entire human race; and we saw, that with this body our blessed Redeemer himself promised he would teach till the end of time; and that he would teach in such a way-or, in other words, assist it in such a manner, as that whatever he had given in commissions to his apostles and their successors to teach, the whole world should be effectually taught, until the dissolution of all things.
Here, then, we have, I may say, another and a new point which is to be verified in the constitution of Christ's kingdom, or in the forms of his church.
In the next place, we found that there was a promise of the power of dilating and expanding the gospel; that it was given it in charge to preach the truths of Christ to all nations, and make his name known unto those people that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; and therefore, that in other words, there was given the power and the faculty for carrying this commission into execution, and that it was to be the chosen instrument of God for spreading the blessings of Christianity over the world. In fine, descending into some particulars of this con
stitution, we examined also the provision which Christ might have been expected to make, and which we found he did make, for securing unity by the only means whereby we could conceive unity in a social body to be preserved; that is, in constituting a central point, towards which all the most distant parts of the system might look; towards which all might cry for succour, and for those consolations and that assistance, which the nature of religion required, but which the frailty of the component parts made it impossible almost otherwise to preserve.
Such, my brethren, were the conditions we had to solve; such were the points we had to verify; and no system can be the true religion of Christ, which does not fill up all that I have sketched out; which does not represent and correspond with every one of these elements of demonstration.
Now I can hardly think it necessary to go into the proof, how every one of these conditions is satisfied in the church of Christ, as showed to exist amongst us-I say, it can hardly be necessary, because I am sure that any one inclined to be upon his guard, against the form of argument which I pursue; and more particularly, any one who should have been cautioning his mind against being led away by this outline which I have laid before him from what we discover in the gospels, and in the Old Testament, regarding the constitution of Christ's church, will have perceived from what I have said in my present and in my former discourses, that instead of giving a picture of what is to be there discovered, I have only laid down to him, in so many words, that system of church government and church authority which we maintain. For it is impossible for any one acquainted with the Catholic doctrine upon this head, not to see, that it exactly corresponds, part by part, to all those different lines of argument which are thus brought together; that it was foreshown of old that the kingdom of Christ was to be formed of a church; that in that was to be conferred the authority of the priesthood as of old; that in that was to be such a living power, such a certainty in decision, as that all who joined it were necessarily to be taught of God, and that all who were within its palace, were to be brought under its protection. Most assuredly it is only in the Catholic church, which holds out such a system, which proposes such a plan for a church, as can exactly exemplify, or rather verify these images and types.
In like manner, if it be said, that in the New Testament we find the fulfilling of these figures by the constitution of the authoritative system which I have described, it is certain that there is no church that pretends even to the possession of these rights, and there is none that professes to be so constituted, except the Catholic church.
Again, we went, in detail, into the examination of how far there was a power existing in the church to propagate the truths of Christianity and I flatter myself, that I sufficiently proved, that while comparatively