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can be proved to be an independent rule of faith, and to have been delivered to us in this capacity, which the Catholic Church has always proved NOT to have been the case, by ancient usage and
practice, — the mere silence of Scripture cannot be taken in evidence. And as to the speaking and positive testimony of the Sacred Writings, this unerring rule of ancient usage and practice will shew that the Church, and the Church alone, has ever been considered as the authorized expounder of it.
In evidence of this, I will here content myself with citing the sentiments of only one of those great and learned men, whom all Christendom has agreed to honour with the distinctive title of Fathers of the Church. St. Irenæus, writing during the second century, observes ::
“ Paul says : ‘God appointed in his Church Apostles, prophets, and doctors.' Where, therefore, the holy gifts of God are, there must the truth be learned; with them is the succession from the Apostles, and there is the society whose communication is sound and irreproveable, unadulterated and pure. These preserve the faith of one God, who made all things; increase our love towards his divine Son, and expound, without danger, the Scriptures to us, not blaspheming the name of God, nor dishonouring the patriarchs, nor contemning the Prophets.' (Adversus Har. l. iv.
c. 45, p. 345.)—“To him that believeth that there is one God, and holds to the head, which is Christ -to this man all things will be plain, if he read diligently the Scriptures with the aid of those who are the priests in the Church, and in whose hands, as we have shewn, rests the doctrine of the Apostles.” (Ibid. c. 52, p. 355.)
The infallibility of the Church of God, in expounding the Scriptures, and delivering the doctrines of Christ, is the only question which our adversaries have any right to attack; for till this point be carried, all others must remain invulnerable : but it wears'a panoply against which every arrow falls blunted to the ground.' There is no proposition more true than this—that if a Catholic be once separated from that great sheet-anchor of his faith, the indefectibility of the Church of Christ, he is drifted as a mere wreck upon the waters, and, in point of religious belief, becomes as mutable as the waves, and as uncertain as the winds. “ Where such are the pretensions advanced,” vix. to infallibility, says the writer of the Charge to which I have alluded, “ the truth or the falsehood of particular articles of faith becomes a secondary question. If Christ has appointed the Church of Rome the exclusive possessor of his promises, the sole depositary of his authority, the infallible judge in controversies regarding the faith, it is useless to debate on other matter. If this point is decided
in her favour, our only resource is to acknowledge our errors, to sue for reconciliation, and accept the system of doctrines which is proved to be true by her sanction.”—(p. 16.) Now, if this point be not decided in her favour, by the Bishop's own rule,-the language of Fathers and of Bishops, and from the genuine records of ancient usage and practice,-) pledge myself to desert her communion on the morrow.c)
re) Any one who chooses may see the proofs in the work from which the following extracts are taken.—The Faith of Catholics confirmed by Scripture, and attested by the Fathers of the first four Centuries of the Church. Booker, 1812.
The learned Dr. Machale, whose immortal work* on the “Evidences and Doctrines of the Catholic Church," has just appeared, thus introduces his argument on the authority of the Church :
“Having thus conducted my reader to the establishment of the Christian Church, it might have been naturally imagined that our labours would here terminate. But, unfortunately for the repose of the world, those who have thus far combatted for the truth, now strenuously controvert the nature of the revelation ; and no sooner do they triumph over the enemies of Christianity, than
* In this work, worthy to be incased in cedar and gold, the philosophy of Christianity has been delineated with a beauty and sublimity worthy of the subject. The most refined and classic elegance, united with the rich genius of the writer, has strewn the rugged paths of theological disquisition with the choicest flowers, and bestowed fresh life and fertility on the trodden and exhausted field of controversy.
their strength is mutually wasted in intestine contention. Hence, every age has witnessed the most angry controversies amongst those, who, acknowledging the truth of the Christian religion, have zealously disputed its genuine possession.
“In vain, then, should we have proved the existence of the Christian Church, if we were not able to distinguish it from the counterfeit impostures with which it is attempted to be confounded. It is not enough to show that revelation has been once imparted; it is likewise necessary to prove that this revelation has reached us unadulterated. Among the various claimants to the inheritance of Christ, we must determine who are they whose pretensions are best founded. The name of Christianity does not necessarily imply the true pro fession of the religion of Christ, since Christianity itself has branched out into as great a variety of discordant systems as the ancient philosophy. Yet, amidst this strange confusion, all are equally confident that they have inherited the religion of Jesus Christ. As then, the true Church, whatever it may be, can pretend to nothing more than the faithful possession of the Christian doctrine, it must be confessed that that Society is best entitled to the name, whose principles are best calculated to preserve and perpetuate its purity.
“Important as the controversy always has been, it has acquired fresh interest since the era of that religious revolution, called the Reformation ; in no country, however, more than our own, where the division of Christians into two powerful bodies has kept alive an incessant contest among the adherents of the rival Churches. Though there are many points at issue between Catholics and Protestants, on which much of polemical skill has been
displayed, yet the simple question of the authority of the Church, is that which is most deserving of their mutual attention. Instead of an intricate maze of disputation, through which one might wander for ever, without coming to any definite conclusion, the controversy on the authority of the Church is palpable to every apprehension. It is one which, though not beyond the reach of the humblest capacity, may yet employ the range of the most vigorous and excursive intellects. Hence, ever since the celebrated conference of Bossuet and Claude, the two most distinguished champions of their respective creeds, the authority of the Church has been an important and unceasing theme of discussion. As it has been the centre of the union of Catholics, it has been the common point of the hostility of Protestants; and however adverse the creeds, and rancorous the jealousies of the reformed sects, their mutual impatience of control has often suspended their intestine division, to league them in opposition to that authority by which they have been proscribed.
“ In contemplating the character of the revolution, which, in the sixteenth century produced the separation of a large portion of the Church from the parent stock, we shall find it marked by a peculiarity which distinguishes it from every other. Each preceding error was opposed to some particular tenet of Catholic belief; and if it was cherished for some time, it was because authority was rather eluded than resisted. The most contumacious unbelievers were ready to profess their respect for the decisions of the proper tribunals; and if they refused acquiescence, it was because they affected to doubt the legitimate exercise of its power, rather than to question its existence. The restless love of novelty exhausted,