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A MODERN author says,
" Let me caution you to avoid all argument on points of doctrine : excuse yourself by simply answering that such is the faith of the Church. The Catholic Church has succeeded to the authority possessed by Moses and the prophets ; and they who wish to dispute her doctrines should first disprove her authority. Until they have done that, it is sufficient for you and for them that the doctrine in question is taught with her sanction."
This is most excellent advice. But such as may ask, in the spirit of honest enquiry, what is the foundation of this your reliance upon the infallibility of the Church, you may remind that contradictory doctrines cannot all be true : and that, according to the words of Christ him. self, there can be only one true church, only one church that teaches a true doctrine: St. John X.
16,“ And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” Eph. iv. 4, 5" There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
That the church once established by Christ must continue for ever to teach the true doctrines of Christ, is evident: Matt xvi. 18, 19—" And I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Chap. xxviii. . 20—“ Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." St. John xiv. 16, 26—" And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Chap. xvi. 13_“Howbeit when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth : for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak : and he will shew you all things to come.”
No variation whatever from the doctrine of that church appears to be admissible: St. Matt. v. 19-"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach
them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
God, therefore, ordained that there should be only one true church, and that his Holy Spirit should always direct that church and keep it from teaching false doctrines. In accordance with this merciful design, the Apostles always' declared all teachings, in any degree different from those of the one faith which was preached to all men (“ beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke xxiv. 47), to be displeasing to God. Eph. iv. 11, 144" And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists ; and some, pastors, and teachers. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Heb. xiii. 9, 17— “ Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves : for they watch for your souls, as they must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief : for that is unprofitable for you." 1 John iv. 6-"We are of God : he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
You may be answered that these passages do not convey the same meaning to the mind of the person who questions you. What then? Do
we admit his right to interpret scripture according to his own private judgment ? No: for St. Peter complains (in 2 Peter ii. 15, 16, 17) that even in his time the “ unlearned and unstable” wrest some things in the epistles of St. Paul, as they do also the other scriptures to their own destruction. You, therefore, brethren,” he continues, “knowing these things beforehand, take heed, lest, being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own stedfastness."
No. Let all read scripture, an they will; and we wish them to do 80: but the church alone has a right to interpret scripture authoritatively. The commission given to the apostles and their successors was to “TEACH all nations," (Matt. xxviii. 19) not to write certain books only, for the nations to understand or to misunderstand as they best might. Why the art of printing has not been invented 400 years : before that time, the scriptures were written out by hand; and were, necessarily, so expensive that not one private person in a parish could afford to purchase them. And even if they had been more plentiful, not one private person in a parish knew how to read. Could not any of these people be saved during the 1400 years that intervened between the preaching of Christ and the discovery of the art of printing ? Even now, can one person in fifty of the christian world read ? and are the forty-nine others, who cannot read,
debarred from salvation ? No. As our blessed Lord said of the brethren of the rich man,“ they have Moses and the prophets,” so he now says they have the church to teach them their faith :
He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me;": Luke x. 16. Finally, St. Matthew declares (xviii. 17.) “ if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican."
Should the person who enquires of you be really and seriously anxious to discover the truth, you will, of course, follow the precept of the 1st of St. Peter iii. 15, and “be ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you :" and we would recommend you moreover to introduce him forthwith to one of our exemplary pastors. But should the enquirer question you—as is too often the case in this country--merely to satisfy his own idle curiosity and the doubts and fears which necessarily accompany the self-conceit of upstart private judgment, we would conclude the argument with the following startling suggestion, taken from that excellent sermon on “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” preached by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Baines.
“ Were you, my protestant brethren,” he says,
" to behold upon a stormy sea a fleet of many sail, bound to some distant'shore whither you were obliged to go; if