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Having, therefore, in view, these words of Christ as our motto, we shall leave to others the subtlety of disputation, conscious that the poor and the little ones are our clients ; and our cause, the interests of their salvation.”
After a long and very able argument, on the method adopted by Christ of communicating and preserving his doctrines among mankind, or, in other words, on the Rule of Faith, the learned writer goes on to say:
“To preserve these truths, then, which will never cease to inform and vivify the great Catholic body, there must be an authority to guard them. This authority resides in the living pastors of the Church, who transmit the sacred doctrine, which they inherited, to their immediate successors. Between them and those successors, there is a sacred covenant not to violate this inheritance. The study of each individual is to preserve unaltered the precious deposit, which he has received; and thus, while the Protestant, like the prodigal child, dissipates his share of the patrimony, the Catholic is careful to treasure it up in the house of his Father.
“In vain will it be insinuated, that in the Catholic Church, this treasure is studiously locked up from the necessities of the faithful. No, they are encouraged to use it, they are forbidden to abuse it. The treasure is destined for purchasing an everlasting inheritance; and not for being wasted according to each one's caprice, in profligacy and riot. For, alas, how often have the profligate abused the authority of the sacred text, in giving a sanction to their own disorders! In teaching the principles of morality, her instructions are always enriched by ihe truths of revelation; and, in illustrating her own doctrines, she appeals to its written testimony. In the great voyage through life, the Protestant may have the chart,
but, wanting the knowledge which it requires, and bereft of a guide, he is exposed to all the perils of the way; while the Catholic enjoys all the confidence inspired by the two-fold assistance of chart and guide. If he be ignorant, he trusts to the guide that has already conducted thousands through the same path; and if he be enlightened, so far from his confidence being diminished, it is still heightened when he beholds the Church fearlessly spreading the Scripture before his view; and finds the most admirable accordance between the instructions of the chart, and the skill of his conductor...."
“ Thus, the New Testament contains the inheritance which Christ has bequeathed to his children. Though destined for the benefit of all, therefore, it does not follow that all have a right to its administration. Nay, it is for the benefit of all, that this right should be reserved to a particular body, whose authority and wisdom might moderate those disputes, which could not fail to spring from the passions or ignorance of the people. Behold, then, the simple but infallible rule, by which the Catholic is guided—an adherence to the traditionary doctrine of those, to whom the Redeemer promised that they should never go astray. But it may be asked: is not this infallibility of the Church proved solely from the Scripture? No: its promise is registered in the Scripture, it is true, but its operation lives and is felt through the entire history of the Church. Thus, infallibility was in operation before the promise which sustained it was committed to writing. If, therefore, it never had been recorded in the Scriptures, our certainty of its existence would be still the same, since it reaches us through the equally infallible medium of the writings of the Holy Fathers; and through the still more unequivocal medium of the power which the
Church has always exercised. In the uniform authority which her pastors always enforced, and in the uniform reverence with which her decrees were received, notwithstanding the angry passions, which this exercise of power often awakened in the discontented, we behold a stronger evidence of the promises of Christ, than any writings
“How different, therefore, the confidence of him, who thus relies on the collected wisdom of all ages and nations of the Christian Church, from the perpetual anxiety of the man, who trusts solely to his own, or to the fleeting opinions of a few individuals? But is not the confidence of the Catholic unreasonable, who thus reposes on the authority of others ? Not more unreasonable, than when he commits his life and property to the guardianship of the civil authority of the state. If the moral and metaphysical truths, which form the source of our obligations to God and to society, are inherited by children from their fathers, without the reproach of credulity, why not communicate the more mysterious truths of revealed religion, through the same medium of authority? Those principles which are connected with the preservation of society, are suffered to be strengthened by all the natural prejudices of infancy and education; are the saving truths of the gospel, the only ones that should not be allowed to take such strong root, but be rudely torn from the soil, under the pretext that man himself had no share in planting them? Alas! in spite of all our efforts, the prejudices of education will prevail, and those who attempt to deprive truth of their alliance, must give their strong assistance to error. As well, then, might you say, that man is unreasonable when he adopts, on the authority of mankind, those metaphysical truths, which he cannot comprehend; as that
the Catholic is unreasonable, when he reposes on the authority of the Catholic Church. Every assent which is not founded on previous examination, is not, therefore, unreasonable. If it were, the number of truths of which we should enjoy conviction, would be limited indeed. Is it by a previous process of reasoning, that each individual is fortified in the conviction of the existence of a supreme Being? If so, it is a process which few are able to analyze. Though it forces itself on the conviction of every mind, still it is so vague in the mode of its conception, that no one can define its form, or trace its origin. Yet
, however undefinable, it is still so strong in its operation, that its faith could not be shaken in the most illiterate mind. The evidence of truth, then, is quite distinct from the process of reasoning, hy which it is unfolded. Nay, the truths which are the simplest in their nature, and the least susceptible of argumentation, are those which act most strongly on our convictions. Such is the order of nature, observes St. Augustine, that when we learn any thing, reason is anticipated by authority. This profound observation is illustrated by the universal influence of authority over our education. But though truth may be poured into our infant minds, before we could distinguish it from error, we are not, on that account, when our faculties are developed, the less sensible of its evidence or force. This is the reason of the calm and settled tranquillity which accompanies the Catholic through life : and which the Protestant may mistake for an unreasonable prostration of his intellect. Having found the truth by that method by which it has been transmitted, it would be folly for him to enquire for that, of which he is already in possession; and, hence, he is secure from that anxiety which must agitate those who wander from one error to
another. All the arguments of uniformity, antiquity, and universality, which fail not to strike every mind, have their silent but powerful influence on the education of every Catholic, and must operate in checking those doubts which are generally the associates of error. From infancy to manhood, from the narrowest state of his intellect to the utmost expansion it can assume, the Catholic finds, in the treasures of his religion, sufficient truth to satisfy all the cravings of his mind.
“If, in his youth, he is indebted to his parents for the rudiments of his faith, it is because, as St. Augustine remarks, the relations of nature require such subjection. His feeble mind must be yet fed with the milk of Christian doctrine, because it is incapable of stronger nourishment. He then receives those seeds of Christian faith, of which he beholds in every future instruction, nothing else but a fuller developement. Examination, therefore, instead of awakening doubt, only strengthens conviction. From his pastor he learns the same doctrine which he learned under his mother's tutelage, with this difference only, that it is accompanied with stronger reasons, which are accommodated to his growing understanding. Could we suppose that the activity with which man thirsts after knowledge, should prompt him to distrust the narrow source from which his science has been hitherto derived; his distrust is checked or anticipated by the instruction which refers him to more abundant sources of information. He hears his pastor confidently declare : “ The doctrine which I preach is not mine, but that of him who sent me.” (John, vii. 16.) Instead, therefore, of requiring that any rest their faith on his authority, the pastor raises the confidence of his people to a still higher authority on which his own is dependent. The Catholic, then, far from seeing his curiosity checked,