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then, that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth.”(0)
Again, in a most learned, temperate, and conciliatory work, from the pen of an eminent French divine, (now Archbishop of Strasbourg,) we find the following note :-“What shall we say of that multitude of Protestants who daily die without confession, without even knowing that it was ordained by Jesus Christ for the remission of sin? A firm faith, and involuntary and insurmountable error, are powerful titles to the divine mercy, and may obtain from heaven that disposition of mind which would induce us to fly with eagerness to the tribunal of confession, if we were only aware of its necessity. This species of implicit desire—this indirect, though. blind preparation — this wish, though ill expressed, yet comprehended by an omniscient God, joined to a lively repentance and a perfect charity, may, it is true, supply the place of the actual confession of our sins.”p)
(0) Rom. xiv. 4.
(p) Discussion Amicale, vol. ii. p. 178. London, 1817.The passage continues as follows: “ We fondly wish to suppose this high degree of contrition and of love in all those who die without the assistance and the graces of the sacrament; but, unfortunately, we cannot dissemble to ourselves, and must fear that it is rarely to be found, though it is the only resource with which we are acquainted, even for excusable ignorance.”
It would be useless to swell these pages with numberless other quotations in proof of the charitable and liberal interpretations of our exclusive doctrine, since the most sceptical must acknowledge, that sufficient has been advanced to expose the mistake of those who accuse Catholics in general of bigoted and uncharitable tenets. But if there be any individuals amongst us whose outrageous zeal might induce them to entertain opinions on these points, which their creed neither obliges nor authorizes them to hold, let not those opinions be imputed to the whole body.--The bare dogmatical tenet, that “out of the Catholic church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation,” unaccompanied by any explanation, and which is so to be found both in our formularies of faith and in the writings of our most able and most liberal controvertists, might, at first sight, appear to warrant the charge of bigotry against
But when it is considered that in the application of this doctrine we always hold those only to be heretics who wilfully believe or obstinately profess errors in matters of faith ;-that, in declaring the Protestant religion to be a heresy, we do not condemn its professors as heretics,” (“which
(9) We do not say, You are a Protestant, and therefore a heretic, and, consequently, have no chance of salvation; we only say (and it is the doctrine which we all learn in our catechism) that he only is a heretic who wilfully believes or obstinately professes errors in matters of faith.
appellation implies guilt as well as error”);--that we leave the guilt of every individual between his God and himself;--that we count all within the pale of Catholic unity, who do not perversely refuse to enter it;-and lastly, that the Church contents herself with the simple declaration, that “wilful heresy is deserving of condemnation;"—there is surely clear and ample evidence on which to acquit us of bigotry and illiberality.
It now remains to be seen if we cannot more justly charge our adversaries with that, of which I trust it now fully appears, they have most unjustly accused us.
Protestants, as well as Catholics, hold the Athanasian Creed, which says, “ that unless a man doth keep entire and inviolate the Catholic faith, without doubt, he shall perish everlastingly." We have collected the meaning and interpretation attached, by us, to this dogma; let us see if the doctrine of any of the Protestant Churches will give them an equal right to so charitable an explanation. The eighteenth article of the Established Church is couched in the following harsh terms: “They also are to be had accursed, that presume
every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law, and the light
So that when the church pronounces judgment against heretics, she always pre-supposes that they have a knowledge of their errors, but have not the will to correct them.
of nature." The Protestant Church of Scotland holds, that out of their Church," there is neither life nor eternal felicity to be hoped for, and that it is blasphemy to affirm, that men who live according to equity and justice shall be saved, in whatever religion they may have lived.”—The Protestant Church of France propounds in her catechism : " that no one obtains pardon of his sins, who is not incorporated with the people of God, and the unity of their Church, out of which there is nothing but death and damnation.”-How the Roman Catholic Church can be accused of bigotry and illiberality, by men who profess tenets like these, I am at a loss to understand; and how the excluding doctrine, couched in such harsh and forbidding terms, can possibly be susceptible of the same charitable interpretation which we give to our declaration, “that out of the Catholic Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation,” it is equally difficult to imagine. Still, among the many inconsistencies of Protestant belief, many of her most learned Divines have admitted, that we can be saved by the faith of the Catholic Church, since all points necessary for salvation are contained in that faith." The Protestant Divines of the university
(o) See the third chapter of The Faith and Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, proved by the Testimony of the most learned Protestants, &c. 1813. Keating, Brown, and Keating
of Helmstadt decided, in 1708, that Catholics are not in fundamental errors, and such as are opposite to salvation :thus disowning the exclusive doctrine altogether, and virtually making a renunciation of Protestantism; for, as the Catholic Church is the parent stock from which allother sects and religions are derived, by what arguments can she defend her separation, if she admit that every necessary truth, nothing opposed to salvation is taught and practised by it? I am the true vine, says our Saviour, and my Father is the husbandman....As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine ; so neither can you, unless you abide in me. By your act of unjustifiable separation, you have ceased to abide in me .... you are cast forth as a branch, and shall wither.") — These strange inconsistencies produce strange dilemmas. If Protestants reject the excluding doctrine altogether, they surrender the principles upon which they separated from the Church of Rome ; if they maintain it, according to their authenticated tenets, they stand
(0) Whoever is curious to examine the motives for this candid and liberal decision, may find them detailed at length at the end of a little pamphlet, entitled: The Duke of Brunswick's Fifty Reasons for abjuring Lutheranism, and embracing the Roman Catholic Religion; to be had of all Catholic booksellers.
(St. John, xv. 1. & 4.