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preach with power, it is expressly enjoined on us, also, to preach in sweetness, and in long-suffering, and in the Holy Ghost; that we should avoid any thing in that which we deliver, which could, in any wise, hurt the interests of the dearest virtues of the Son of God. Whatever may be the strength and the efficacy with which we endeavour to deliver our doctrines, they should be so tempered as to wound and hurt the feelings of no man. But there is yet a third quality in our ministry, prescribed by the Apostle, which seems most particularly adapted to the circumstances of these times; and it is, that we should preach our doctrines through good report and through evil report; through honour and dishonour; as deceivers, and yet true; as not known, and yet well known ;-that is to say, that we must expect, that while some, indeed, will listen in the true spirit of sincerity, and kindness, and liberality, we must expect from others, only an evil report of that which we shall say. With many, it must be to us a source rather of dishonour than of credit; we must expect-however conscientious we are in delivering those doctrines, of the truth whereof we are firmly convinced-we must expect to be treated by many, perhaps even by those that hear us, as merely practised and artful deceivers of men. It is, therefore, in this spirit, and having fully before me those consequences which the apostle of God has shown, and wherewith he has admonished us-it is having these fully before me, that I open this evening a course of instruction, to which that which I shall deliver at present shall serve as a general introduction.
I have, for the present, undertaken to confine myself to one point only; that is to say, to examine, in a series of evening lectures, the principles, the essential ground of separation, between us and our church, and those brethren, whom we would gladly see united to us in unity; that is to say, to explain, in the simplest manner possible, what are the grounds whereupon we receive the very principles of faith; what it is on which we build all those doctrines which we profess, and many of which have been so constantly traduced; it is to examine, in other words, whether we are justified in admitting for the authority for all that we believe an authority, a living authority established by Christ in his church-in contradistinction to that principle which admits of no authority, no doctrine, but the written word of God.
It is in reference, therefore, merely to this courseoccupy, perhaps, six or seven lectures-that I wish, this evening, to preface some remarks, upon the objects for which, and upon the method in which, they will be conducted.
First, as to the object which I propose to discuss. If we ask any of our brethren who are separated from us, why it is that they are not Catholics, undoubtedly you would receive a multiplicity of answers,
according to the peculiar character of each one whom you interrogated; but I have no doubt, that the essence, the substance of each reply would be this-that the Catholic church is infected with innumerable errors, that she has engrafted upon the revelations of Christ many doctrines unknown to him, and which are the invention of man; that she has received many principles of morals and practice, which are directly at variance with those which he and his apostles inculcated; that however truly she may have been once joined to the true and one church of Christ, she has allowed herself, as it were, to be gradually separated from it, by allowing innumerable errors, gradually to creep in, and then sanctioning them with her authority as divine.
But, if you were to press the inquiry still closer, I am sure that you would find, that the whole of these various grounds would be gradually reduced to one. You would be told, that the great, the condemning sin, of the Catholic church is, that it has rejected the word of God; that all those different corruptions which I have enumerated, have only been produced by the admission of the false principle, as it is called, of human authority; and that, consequently, all others are, as it were, but minor considerations, which merge in this only one.
It is evident, therefore, that this question divides itself into two distinct ones; the one involving a question of facts, the other of right. For, whether each of these individual instances, which may be produced, is to be considered a corruption-considered an invention of man-considered contradictory to the true revealed word of Christ; whether it is to be considered a deviation from that which our Saviour instituted as essential to Christianity-all these belong to matters of separate consideration, involving merely distinct facts, each resting upon its own peculiar grounds. But, it is evident, no less when you come to examine the grounds whereon these have been introduced; when you find that Catholics uphold them all exclusively by the same principle that they maintain them to be right, because they are grounded upon a proper authority, then it is evident, that the whole of these various independent questions of facts are united, as it were, and concentrated in one; that is, whether there was any authority which could sanction them, whether there be any authority upon which we are justified in believing them.
This, therefore, is an important consideration: because, it is evident that, if we can establish that right whereon alone we base all the particular doctrines; that, if we can prove that, besides the written word of God, there is an infallible authority existing, which always has existed in the Church-which, under the guidance of God, cannot be deceived in sanctioning any thing that has been revealed by him-assuredly, we have also made good all those different points on which we are charged with having fallen into error. Therefore it is
manifest, that however, for the sake of entirely convincing the minds of those who doubt, and for the purpose of more easily gaining access to their peculiar difficulties, we may be induced to treat them singly; it is evident, still, that all are virtually and essentially demonstrated, if this one leading fundamental proposition can be proved.
Now, my brethren, I will observe, that this line of conduct is completely different from that which is pursued, if I may use the expression, on the other side; that is to say, that, not considering the manner in which these questions hang together, nothing is more common than to hear, or read, of preachers who represent, for instance, the withdrawing of the word of God from the faithful, as it is called, for the doctrine of tradition, as one among what are considered the corruptions of the Catholic religion.
As these questions are necessarily based upon that one, Whether the word of God is the only rule of faith? it is evident that, first of all, that question is, as it were, taken for granted which is involved in the dispute: for, it is first assumed, that the word of God is essential; that is to say, that it is exclusively the only rule of faith; and then we are blamed for withholding it from the faithful- then we are blamed for substituting something else in its place. But, whether this is wrong or not, depends upon the previous question; and, therefore, it follows that, first, the subject of the dispute is taken for granted; and, then, we are tried by the conclusion which is assumed.
So much, therefore, for those grounds which would be given were we to interrogate any one who is separated from the Catholic church, Why he is not a Catholic?
But, supposing now that we proceed farther with the scrutiny, and ask him, Why he is a Protestant? the answer must assuredly be different; for no religion can stand upon mere negative grounds. You cannot believe one doctrine rather than another, simply because another, which is proposed by some men, is false. Each religion must have grounds of demonstration essentially existing in itself, and independent of the existence of any other. We should have been able to prove the divinity of Christ, even if Arianism and Socinianism had not existed. Had any one asked us for a demonstration of that doctrine, it would not have been any ground, that Arianism was confuted, or that Socinianism had been proved false; but the dogma, the system itself, which takes the divinity of Christ for its foundation, must have its own fundamental reasons, independently of the rejection of another doctrine. Hence it is, that each one, if asked, not simply, why he is not a Catholic? but, moreover, questioned, why he is a Protestant? must have reasons to give why he is a member of that communion.
Now, my brethren, I wish to draw your attention to a very important distinction, and one which, I fear, is not often sufficiently observed;
it is, the distinction between the grounds of adhesion to, or communion with any church; and the grounds of conviction of its truth. I am sure, that if those who have been educated as Protestants-the great majority of them—if they inquire, and ask in their own minds, why they do profess that religion, they would give an answer such as is a justification in their own minds for their remaining in that communion, but which does not involve the fundamental grounds of that religion. They would say, for instance-and I am sure that many, if they search in their own breasts, will find, that it is a reason that has great weight -they would say, that they were born in that religion; that it is the religion of their country; that they have been educated in it; that they think it shameful to abandon the religion of their forefathers: and these are all grounds therefore, why they are Protestants. They are precisely the same grounds which might be given for a thousand ordinary opinions; they are the very grounds which you might give why you are attached even to your country; but it does not include in its consideration the essential, the radical reasons, upon which Protestant doctrines are based. It is a motive which justifies the individual in his own idea in remaining in that communion; but, certainly, it is not a motive, not a demonstration which, in any way, tends to prove the truth of the doctrine which it teaches. Others will tell you, that they are of that persuasion because they take it for granted that the thing is demonstrated; they have been accustomed to hear it spoken of as a thing satisfactorily settled; they have not thought it necessary to trouble their minds in inquiring farther; learned men have done it; the controversy is one in which the victory is always on one side; Catholics have been answered most sat ctorily upon every point; and, therefore, the doctrine is thus received. And, another reason which I might add to these is, that they have been accustomed to hear Catholics so spoken of, that it is impossible that they can, for a moment, think of retiring from their religion to join the other; that they have heard their doctrines again and again held up to public notice in the pulpits which they have attended; that they have been in the habit of hearing Catholic doctrines most minutely analyzed; and that they are quite satisfied that they can have no foundation; and, therefore, that they remain, in other words, still Protestants, because they see no ground for becoming Catholics.
Now, I will suppose, therefore, that you lived in a country, or in any place, any portion, any part of this country, where there was not within your reach a single Catholic; where, consequently, it had not been necessary that their doctrines should be held up to your execration, that there would have been no opportunity given you even of hearing them. It is evident, that you could not have been Protestants upon this ground; it is evident, that such as build their faith, if I may so
say, upon such considerations, build it merely upon negative and relative grounds, simply upon the exclusion of another system, and not upon the demonstration of their own.
Such, therefore, is the first class of evidences to which I beg to turn your attention. You perceive-and I am sure, that a minute examination would only serve to demonstrate it--that the greater part of those who are Prostestants would only give you such reasons for it as satisfy, as it were, their continuance in their religion—the embracing of it, even, if you please; but they are not reasons which can affect the grounds on which Protestantism justifies its original separation from the Church; for the fundamental principle of Protestantism is this, that THE WORD OF GOD ALONE IS THE TRUE STANDARD AND RULE OF FAITH. But, to arrive at this, there is a long course of complicated and severe inquiry. You must, step by step, have satisfied yourselves, not merely of the existence of a revelation; but, that that revelation is really confided to man in these very books; that these books have been handed down with such testimonials of their authority, that it is impossible for you to doubt that they are the word of God; that they have been given to you in such a state, that the originals have been so preserved, that the translations have been so made, that you are confident, that in reading them you are reading those words which the Spirit of God dictated to prophets and to apostles; that you have acquired, or that you do possess, some particular lights which are necessary to you to be able to understand those books; you must be satisfied, not merely that it [the Bible] has been given as the word of God; but you must meet the innumerable and complicated difficulties which are brought by others against the inspiration of particular books, or individual passages: so that you can say, that you are, of yourselves, of your own knowledge and experience, internally convinced, that you have in that book the inspired word of God, in the first place; and, in the second, that you are not only authorized, but competent, to understand it. But, my brethren, how few are there that can say, that they have gone through this important course; and, yet, it is essential to Protestantism, that each one, who is to be considered responsible to God for a particular doctrine which he professes--that each one must have studied the word of God, and must have drawn from it the doctrines which he holds; and, unless he does all this, he has not complied with those conditions which his religion imposes upon him; and thus, therefore, it will be found, that, while he has reasons within himself which appear to him to justify his external adherence to that religion which he professes, yet, that he has not gone through that process which is necessary to convince his mind of the grounds on which he believes.
But, my brethren, not only, I will observe, are these two different