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THE CATHOLIC RULE OF FAITH. FURTHER PROVED.
1 TIMOTHY, iii. 15.
'Know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and the ground
of Truth.” JAD you, my brethren, seen the exact and finished design for some sumptuous building, such as it proceeded from the hands of one, all whose works are necessarily most perfect, and who has the power to accomplish whatever he designeth, and did
know that it had been put by him into the hands of zealous, and willing, and competent workmen, by whom it might, under his superintendence, be brought into execution, I am sure you would consider it superfluous to inquire, whether the command had been fulfilled, and whether that which was so beautiful in its design was not confessedly more so, and endowed with ten-fold perfection, when in work accomplished. Now,such, precisely is the position wherein we stand with regard to the present inquiry. I have endeavoured, by the simplest course possible, to trace out from the beginning the plan by Divine Providence manifestly laid down, for the communication of truths to mankind, and for their inviolable preservation among them.
After having, in my preliminary discourses, explained to you the different systems adopted, by us and by others, regarding the rule of faith; after having shown you the complicated difficulties which arise incessantly in the one, and the beautiful simplicity and harmony which reign throughout the other; I endeavoured, commencing with the very first and less perfect system adopted by God in His communications with man, to show you what would be naturally and neces
sarily required, to give at once consistency and perfect beanty to the course which He had commenced, and what would be necessary to give solidity and reality to the typical and symbolical method pursued of old. I essayed, also, with the clear and explicit words of prophecy, to construct, in a manner even before its appearance, that fabric of religion which the Son of God came down from heaven to establish; and then, unfolding before you the Sacred Volume, I endeavoured, to the best of my power, to discover the exact tally and correspondence between the two, to show how that which was most beautifully foreshown, was much more beautifully fulfilled; so that we might conclude it impossible to construct any other system, but that which the Catholic Church maintains and teaches, competent to fulfil either the prophecies of the Old Testament, or the institutions of the New.
And having thus, therefrom deduced what was the work placed in the apostles' hands, what the commission entrusted to their
care, what the ground-plan on which they were to erect God's Church, it must, I am sure, appear an almost needless search, to ascertain how far these faithful followers and dutiful disciples carried into execution, the plan committed to them for these purposes. But still, my brethren, it must be interesting and useful too, to follow the same course as I have begun, and ever going simply forward, in the form of historical investigation, see the full and final completion of that which had been foretold and instituted, and trace, in the conduct of the apostles and their first successors, clear evidences of the impossibility of any other rule of faith having then been adopted, save that which the Catholic Church maintains at present. And such is the simple inquiry through which I am anxious to conduct you this evening. The investigation will merely consist in the statement of a few historical facts; and I shall be careful to support it by what must be considered incontestible authority; indeed, to base it on such admitted grounds, as, I trust, will leave no room for cavil or objection.
Christ, then, in completion of the work which He had begun,
gave a commission to His apostles to go forth and preach His gospel to all nations, with the injunction to teach them all things whatever He had commanded, and with a promise that He himself should assist them, and all those who succeeded them in their ministry, to the consummation of the world. Such a promise, as we saw by comparing those words of the New Testament with other passages of Scripture, leaves no room to doubt, that thereby was guaranteed the preservation of God's entire and complete truth in the Church of Christ, to the end of time.
In explaining the grounds of the Catholic rule of faith, I dwelt chiefly on those passages which expressly argued the supernatural assistance of God towards preserving His Church from error; but I felt then, and I feel as yet, that I was far from doing ample justice to my subject. Nor can I even now, from the course which I have marked out for myself, and must necessarily pursue, supply my deficiency; but I must unwillingly pass over a great deal of strong confirmatory matter, that should justly have come in, to complete the views which I gave in my
last discourse. I should, for instance, have dwelt upon those different commissions, which our blessed Saviour gave to his apostles; where He appointed them the governors of His flock; and where, under different symbols of authority and power, such as giving them the keys of His kingdom, commanding them at discretion to bind and to loose, He bestowed upon them, as on another occasion you will see, great jurisdiction and authority over men. I might have led you to consider, how this principle of authority not only forms the basis and groundwork of faith in the Christian Church, but pervades its minor departments, in a descending, consistent scale of gradations, even into its inferior orders:-how,
member of it becomes refractory, he was to be subject to an authority vested even in its smaller divisions;* and, above all, I should have dwelt at full length, on those important passages, wherein supreme jurisdiction is given to one; and so the very substruction
* Mat. xviii. 17-19.
and foundation-stone of Church authority is laid. But this will form hereafter the subject of a particular discourse.
I have rehearsed these examples, to show how argument upon argument might have been piled up before you; but, at present, I will content myself with recalling to your mind one or two texts, before only hinted at, and request your attention to them only for a moment.
I allude to those passages in which Christ manifestly transferred His authority to His aposties—where He tells them that even the Father had sent Him, so also does He send them,"*—where He
He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me.”t. No doubt, the apostles well knew, and fully understood, the authority and sanction which He had from God to teach and enforce His doctrines; the sanction, not only of His Father, but of His own divine nature; and, therefore, when we find Him constituting them His vicegerents on earth, with the full deposit of truths come down from heaven in their hands, when we see them sent forth in such terms to preach and instruct, we cannot but understand how they must have felt themselves possessed of authority to teach, and to decide, and to exact homage from man's individual reason, to their superior and divinely authorised instruction.
How, then, did the Apostles go forth? what was the principle on which they conducted their instruction? In the first place, we do not observe that they on any occasion suggested the necessity of individual examination of the doctrines of Christianity. We find that they endeavoured to narrow their proofs as much as possible; that they reduced them to one single point, their testimony to some principal evidence of their truth. Thus, for instance, the doctrines of Christianity were made to rest on the truth of Christ's resurrection; and we find that they were content with bearing witness to their having themselves seen Christ after he rose from the dead. * John xx. 21.
† Luke x. 16.
And although you may say that the miracles which they wrought were a motive which induced men to believe their testimony, yet is it no less true that the grounds on which they were believers, was really the authority with which by miracles they proved themselves empowered to teach. It is necessary for you to retain a distinct idea of some observations which I made in my first, or opening discourse, on this important subject; for although, no doubt, a great many of the first believers were brought to give credence to the preaching of the Apostles, in consequence of the miracles they wrought, it is nevertheless certain that their faith was not to be built on their miracles, but on the truth of the doctrines proposed to them by Christianity. After these motives had brought them to embrace it, there must have been a security given them that all the doctrines which would be proposed must be true. The
fact of its evidences being placed and accepted on so narrow a point, as the demonstration of the resurrection, shows that a principle existed among them, which secured the assent of the convert to all that should be taught him. This could only be implicit reliance on the teaching of his instructors—in other words, the Catholic principle of an infallible authority to teach.
We find not, in the second place, when they preached, the slightest intimation given by them that there was a certain book, which all Christians must study and examine, and thereon ground their faith. We hear them appeal to the Old Testament whenever they address the Jewish people, because therein were truths contained which they clearly admitted, and which necessarily referred to the gospel for their completion, so as to serve for an easy guide and introduction to the demonstration of Christianity. But we never find the slightest intimation, that the history of our Saviour's life, or the doctrines which they taught, were to be necessarily committed to writing, and thus proposed to the individual examination of the faithful.
Instead of this, we discover another much more important