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crimes, even in their religious worship. In a word, their whole religion was described as a system of folly and superstition, grounded on no one rational principle..
“ St. Justin and Tertullian, in their Apologies for the Christian religion, endeavoured to dispel these misrepresentations, by exhibiting the real doctrines and precepts, and explaining some of the sacred rites of the Christian religion. They showed that these injurious misrepresentations were, in many instances, the inventions of men, who, unable to withstand the evidences of the divine establishment of Christianity, endeavoured to excite prejudices against it in the uninds of the people, by holding out its doctrines as absurd and impious, and its professors as the causes of every public calamity.
“St. Augustin complained of the calumnies which were circulated against the Catholic church, by the Manicheans and Donatists in his age. He humbly confessed and lamented, that he himself had employed the same weapons against the church, when he was attached to the former of these sects,* and acknowledged that he then blindly, and rashly, and falsely, accused the Catholic church of doctrines and opinions, which, he was at length convinced, she never taught, believeil, or held.
“ The Catholics of Great Britain have to lament and to complain that the doctrines and religious rites which, as Catholics, they are taught by their church to believe and observe, have been long grossly misconceived and misrepresented in this country, to the great injury of their religious character and temporal interests.
“ They are persuaded that many, who are opposed to them on account of their religion, suppose, without inquiry, that the Catholic church really teaches all that she is reported by her adversaries to teach; and imagine that she is responsible for every absurd opinion entertained, and for every act of superstition performed, by every individual who bears the name of Catholic.
“ We hope that all who are animated with a love of truth, and with sentiments of Christian charity, will be disposed willingly to listen to the sincere declarations of their Catholic fellow-countrymen, and will never impute to their religion, principles or practices which, as Catholics, they do not hold or observe, and which their church condemns as errors or abuses.
“ In this hope and persuasion, the British Catholics have made repeated declarations of their religious doctrines, and have shewn, they trust to the satisfaction of all who have paid attention to them, that they hold no religious principles, and entertain no opinions Aowing from those principles, that are not perfectly consistent with the sacred duties which, as Christians, they owe to Almighty God; with all the civil duties which as subjects, they owe to their sovereign and the constituted civil government of their country; and with all the social duties which, as citizens, they owe to their fellow-subjects, whatever may be their religious creed.
“ They had Aattered themselves that the numerous and uniform expositions of their religious doctrines, given in public professions of the Catholic faith, in Catholic catechisms, in various authentic documents, and in declarations confirmed by their solemn oaths, would have abundantly sufficed to correct all misrepresentations of their real tenets.
“ But they have to regret that some grievous misconceptions, regarding certain points of Catholic doctrive, are, unhappily, still found to exist in the minds of many, whose good opinion they value, and whose good-will
Gaudens erubui ; non me tot annos adversus Catholicam fidem, sed coutra carnalium cogitationum figmeuta latrasse,
they wish to conciliate. To their grief they hear, that, notwithstanding all their declarations to the contrary, they are still exhibited to the public as men, holding the most erroneous, unscriptural, and unreasonable doctripes-grouuding their faith on human authority, and not on the word of God—as enemies to the circulation and to the reading of the Holy Scriptures--as guilty of idolatry in the sacrifice of the mass, in the adoration, as it is called, of the Virgin Mary, and in the worship of the saints, and of the images of Christ and of the saints; and as guilty of superstition in invoking the saints, and in praying for the souls in purgatory; -as usurping a diviue power of forgiving sins, and imposing the yoke of confession on the people—as giving leave to commit sin by indulgences—as despising the obligation kan oath -as dividing their allegiance between their king and the pope--as claiming the property of the church establishment--as holding the uncharitable doctrine of exclusive salvation, and as maintaining that faith is not to be kept with heretics.
“ We are at a loss to conceive, why the holding of certain religious doctrines, which have no connection with civil or social duties, whether those doctrines are taken in the sense in which they are misconstrued by others, or in the sense in which they are uniformly understood by Catholics, should be made a subject of crimination against British Catholics, by those who assume to themselves liberty of thinking what they please, in matters of religious belief. It is difficult to understand, why doctrines purely' religious, in no wise affecting the duties which Catholics owe to their sovereign or to civil society, should be brought forward at all when the question relates only to the civil rights and privileges which they claim as British subjects. It is much to be wished that those who declaim against what they call the errors and superstitions of popery, would first learn froin Catholics themselves, by inquiry, what their real doctrines are, on the points above alluded to, and in what sense Catholics understand the terms by which their doctrines are expressed. They would perhaps find that they have been hitherto contending, not against the Catholic faith, but against the fictions of their own imaginations, or against their own misconstructions of the language of the Catholic Church.
Though we might refer to former expositions of the faith of Catholics, which we deem amply sufficient to correct the misconceptions, and to refute the misrepresentations of our doctrines; yet, it having been stated to us, that by publishing at the present time, a plain and correct declaration of our real tenets, on those points which are still so much misrepreserlted, or misconceived, a better understanding may be established among his Majesty's subjects, and the advancement of religion and charity may be effected; hence, we, the urdersigned Catholics, the Vicars Apostolic and their Coadjutors in Great Britain, have thought it our duty to publish the following declaration, in the hope, that it will be received by all who read it, with the same love of truth, and the same good-will, with which it is given.”
All the assumptions of the preamble are fairly made : my investigation must commence with the sections of the Declaration. I would have given the document as a whole, were it not that it would nearly fill my Number, and leave me but little room for observation. As my view is not to cavil with, but to instruct the modern Catholic, I shall take care not to garble a passage nor to give one incomplete in its sense by omissions. The second and third paragraphs of the first section are thus set forth, as the
foundation of Catholicism; and if I shew that foundation to be bad, the fabric cannot be securely occupied :* “ All those doctrines, and only those doctrines, are articles of Catholic faith, which are revealed by Almighty God.
“ Whatsoever is revealed by God, who knows all things, as they are in themselves, and who caunot deceive us, by teaching falsehood for truth, is most true and certain ; though it may entirely surpass the comprehension of created minds."
In answer to the first, I have to observe, that, if there be no proof of doctrines revealed by Almighty God, the Catholic Church has no articles of faith. The word only excludes all other; and the next step on the part of the Declarators should have been a proof that God Almighty has revealed certain doctrines to mankind.
The second paragraph contains a contradiction which annuts the weight of both. It states that what God has revealed is most true, though it muy entirely surpass the comprehension of created minds. Where there is no comprehension there can be no revela tion. Revelation implies comprehension. Without it, there can be no knowledge of truth. To reveal that which remains beyond comprehension is one of those contradictions which an Almighty God, and, what is more, an intelligent inan cannot reconcile. So far it will be seen that nothing is proved for the doctrines of the Catholic religion.
The third and fourth paragraphs beg the question as to divine revelation and truth, upon that begging of the question draw the most absurd and unwarrantable conclusion, and found a series of physically erroneous assumptions, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, and future distinct life to an identical dead body. · The sixth paragraph states, that, “ The Catholic is fully persuaded, that all the articles of his faith are really revealed by Almighty God." Upon what is that persuasion founded? Persuasion should be preceded by demonstration, or, at least, by argument. This Declaration avows persuasion without shewing any foundation for it. The question of the seventh paragraph as to whether the Catholic is not entitled to the liberty of thought as well as others, bears not on the point. The fault is not that he is not allowed to think; no power can hinder him from thinking; but the fault is, that the Catholic will not or does not think for himself; the fault is, that he does not claim that right from bis priest, and that he blindly submits to what that priest teaches him. This point we find admitted in the second section, and as this section is pithy upon the whole question of dispute, I insert
it at large.
“ SECTION II.
“ On the grounds of the certitude which a Catholic has, that all the Doctrines
which he believes, as articles of Catholic Faith, are really revealed by Almighty God.
“ Catholics are often charged with grounding their faith on mere human authority, and not on the word of God.
“ Catholics deny this, because they are convinced, that their faith is grounded on the word of God, proposed to them by the authority of that ministry, which Cbrist established, and appointed to teach his revealed doctrines to all nations.
“The Catholic believes all those doctrines, which God has revealed.
“ The question, what are those doctrines, whịch God has reveated, is a question of FACT. It appears. reasonable that the existence of a fact should be ascertained by the evidence of testimony.
“ The body of the doctrines, precepts, and institutions, which were delivered by Christ to his apostles, constitutes the new or the Christian law; as the body of the doctrines, precepts, and institutions, which were delivered by the Almighty to Moses, constituted the old law.
“ The true and certain knowledge of what is commanded by any law, is generally communicated and obtained by the authoritative promulgation of the law.
“ By the ordinance of God; the doctrines and precepts of the old law were made known to the Israelites and Jewish people, by Moses, and the priests in succession, till the end of the law,
“ By the ordinance of God, the doctrines and precepts of the new law were to be made known to all nations, in all ages, by the apostles and their successors, to the consummation of the world.
“.On the spiritual authority of the apostles and their successors, who were divinely commissioned to promulgate and teach the law of Christ to all nations ; and on the uniform and universal testimony, belief, and practice of all Christian Churches from the beginning, the certitude of the Catholic is grounded, that all the doctrines which he believes, as articles of Catholic Faith, and all the sacred precepts and rites, which he observes, as the ordinances of Christ, were really revealed and instituted by Almighty God: and are the same, as were originally delivered by Christ to his apostles, and by them promulgated over all nations.
“ The Catholic is fully satisfied, that this method which he follows, for ascertaining what are the revealed doctrines of divine faith, is the right rule, and that it leads him to the unity of truth.
“ Is he not at liberty to follow a rule which gives such satisfaction and security to his mind?
“Is it fair for others who, by following a different rule, ale led into a countless variety of contradictory doctrines on matters of Christian belief, to disturb the tranquillity of the Catholic on this head, or to condean him, for his submissiom to the authority of a ministry, which he is convinced was established by Christ for the purpose of bringing all nations to the certain knowledge of his law, and to the unity of faith? Is not this rule perfectly natural and reasonable? Can any human legislator condemn the principle and rule of the Catholic in this regard ?”
All the great points on which the fabric of the Christian religion rests are here assumed as established and indisputable. I
grant that the Roman Catholic Church, by succession, is nearer to the first Christians than any other Church in the west of Europe. I grant that its authority to dictate and its foundation are greater than those of any other Church, except the Grecian; but I cannot grant the false premises assumed in this section, that the whole Christian religion is not founded upon fable, that a person called Christ and other persons his companions did really exist and leave a new doctrine behind them. I see no testimony for these premises. I find them, by examination, to be matters of late invention, when compared with the assigned time of their origin. The words Almighty God are words which carry no weight to a critical mind; when examined, when fairly weighed against existing things, as all words should be weighed, they are found to have been an almighty delusion. With the Catholics, we find the Reverend Robert Taylor, A. B. and M. R. C. S. Chaplain of the Society of Universal Benevolence, and Orator of the Christian Evidence Society, giving notice of his intention to perform divine service and worship to, for, or at Almighty God, on Sunday next. Thomas Paine had an Almighty God. Every Jew, Christian, Mahometan, and Theist, has an Almighty God, and yet this almighty author or source of religion has never kept his votaries from cutting each other's throats about the superiority or inferiority of each system of worship. If there were an Almighty God well-disposed toward, and valuing the worship of, mankind, it was his duty so to have made himself known, that there could have been no dispute about him. As it now stands, this creator of all things has created nothing but confusion on that most essential point-a revealed knowledge of himself. The Catholic has no fact, testimony, or certitude, upon the subject; and all the written documents are without ancient authority; they are all comparatively modern forgeries.
The third section states the conditions on which the Catholic Church encourages the reading of the Bible, and, to other Christians, those conditions are unanswerable on the ground of religious disputation. The Christian religion abounds with errors and evils : in the matter of reading the Bible, the Catholic priests preserve the lesser evil.
The fourth section gives an able answer to the charge of idolatry and superstition made by other Christians upon the Catholics-able with reference to the general idolatry and superstition of the Christians ; but proving nothing in reference to the first principles of idolatry and superstition.
The fifth section explains the principle of absolation of sins in the Catholic Church, and quotes enough of holy scripture authority for what is done on that head, if that authority were good for any thing.
The same may be said for the sixth section on indulgences. The seventh asserts the seriousness and validity of all oaths