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was to be pursued in the last extremity for rescuing the church from that state ? If there is not in the least, not a word upon this subject, if it is not even contemplated as possible, thus we shall want a provision which was made in the old law, and which doubly necessary in the new.
But the church then is supposed to have fallen into grievous error of faith and morals at some period or other. Now I would ask you to fix at what time this was? There are only two opinions with which I am acquainted that can pretend to have anything like an appearance of a consistent reason assigned for them. The first is that which I have heard sometimes advanced, that it was precisely at the very council of Nicea, of wbich I spoke before, in which the divinity of Christ was defined, that the church first: erred from the faith ; and I have heard the assertion made by & Protestant, of the deepest research and of the most superior abilities, that that is the most consistent period that can possibly be fixed. The ground given was this, that upon that occasion, for the first time, dogmas. of faith were defined, and the authority of tradition, a different rule of faith from the Scriptures, was introduced into the church : so that you have consequently upon this principle to suppose that within three hundred years after Christ, the church sunk into an absolute state of error and of fatal corruption, and that it continued in that state for twelve or thirteen centuries before the Reformation re-introduced the true principle of the rule of faith. Another places it at the other extremity of the chain, and the author from whom I before quoted a long extract regarding the discipline of the ancient church, says “ We cannot place the defection (or the apostacy as he calls it) of the Church of Rome at any other period consistently than the council of Trent; in other words, after the Reformation had already commenced; that whatever might have been the corruption of previous centuries; that whatever might be the errors, it was still the true church of Christ till that moment." Now all agree, however opposed they may be to our dogmas, that no new doctrine was introduced into the Catholic Church between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, consequently, that at least for three or four centuries the church had been in a state of absolute, corrupt, and fatal error, and there was not in the church sufficient energy or power to raise it from that degraded state. Now I ask, if we come three centuries later up, what was the ground, what the power of development of any internal principle and energy in the church which had been formed by our blessed Saviour, what the power to shake off the corruptions cast upon it by men, and to stand forth once more in its original purity and perfection ? If in the church there was the latent energy and power by its own inbred virtue, of thus restoring itself to purity, how comes it to pass that three or four centuries were allowed to pass over without this power being exerted? Was it not natural that the moment that
corruption had arrived, that that power which should, as it were, in the designs of providence, let loose the spring which gave its power and tone to the action that was to ensue, that that should then have come into operation upon that mass of corruption which the church bad collected and accumulated for centuries before? Why was not this power and energy called instantly into action ? It cannot then have been from any inbred power in the church to renew itself which had existed in it at the time; it must have been some extraordinary collation of authority or power given at that particular moment. And when you come to speak to me of something not provided for in Scripture, of something not contained in the Bible as essential for the purification of the church, I ask you for another order of proofs. For we find, whenever God has sent men out of the ordinary line of his providence, he has given them ways of showing that they were sent extraordinarily from him; and, therefore, if you say that there was particular authority given to certain men at that period, I wish to know upon what that authority was based. But you see at once how the two opinions I have mentioned mutually throw the whole argument into our hands : for, upon the one hand it is said, that the first general council, after the time of the apostles, was the introduction of the corruption of principle, of a false rule and standard of religion. Now, if so, the whole of Christianity was corrupted at a period so early, that it seems that the other side (that is, those who hold the opinion of its having taken place at the other extreme) will themselves allow that it is unworthy of God's providence, and they will ackrowedge that it is incredible that doctrines, such as that of the Trinity or the incarnation of Christ, should have been for the first time formally defined and inculcated as an essential principle, to which all must subscribe in the church upon the introduction of a false principle of decision.
But those persons who depart from that principle again those who place the corruption, that is, in the first council, say, in their turn, that if you do not allow the first step to have taken place there, where can you stop? If you allow the first general council, that is, the authority of the church to meet together to define articles of faith upon the authority of tradition, can you refuse it the second time, can you refuse it the third, and thus go from one general council to another, till the council of Trent--and the council of Trent having been convoked, as the others were, you have no resource but to acknowledge its authority to condemn the new doctrines which then appeared.
Thus, therefore, whichever extreme you take, you are involved in difficulties, difficulties which the holders of each opinion will acknowledge to be perfectly irreconcilable with truth. The fact is, there is only one means of reconciling all that is, to believe that the same principle which was adopted by the apostles continued for ever in the
church, and has been handed down till the present day—that there lives and reigns in the church a living principle-that is, the Holy Ghost and his inspiration, to teach from the time of Christ, in the successors of his apostles, that will not allow it to fall into error. I can hardly believe that men of any persuasion would, if they were presenting the history of Christianity to those who were not convinced of its truth, for the purpose of showing that an all-wise providence had kept guard over it, and that it was something worthy of his wisdom and of his powerI can hardly believe that he would induce himself to give such a picture of the miserable lot of Christianity as the opposite system supposes. I cannot believe that any one would represent it, as having been in three centuries from the beginning in a state of abject persecu. tion; that it should, in this respect, have resembled the life of its blessed Founder-that, from the very cradle, as it were, of its being, men should have sought to put it to death, and that it should have been saved and snatched with difficulty from them; and that, borne up, as it were, in the arms of prophets and saints for a brief space, then atterwards, instead of having a period of glorious exaltation, (as we should say of our blessed Redeemer's life) instead of a resurrection and glorification by that heavenly splendour, which so compensated him for all the obstruction and all the sufferings of his life-that, instead of this, it should scarcely have become strong and full grown till it fell into a course of abominable wickedness and corruption, such as might hardly be matched in the most erroneous systems of antiquity. And to suppose that this should be the ordinary state of the church—the state in which it was for twelve or thirteen centuries; to suppose that it should have been so completely destroyed upon earth—that either we must have recourse to the idea of a small invisible church existing in some mountainous corner of the earth to preserve the lamp of Christianity through these ages, or else to suppose that it must have been in a state of total and final corruption, and then to think that the result of all this was the springing up, as it were, of it in two or three select communities, that are to represent in themselves in one or two distant islands of the globe the whole church which Christ came upon earth to found—I am sure there is no one who, in his own mind, would not shrink from such a contemplation of the course of providence, such an idea of the end of all bis magnificent promises in the old law— I am sure that there is no dispassionate mind but would rather love to contemplate it as the fixed and unfalling edifice, standing amidst every thing human. Any one, who truly contemplates it through all ages, must see this great universal church towering over every object much in the same way as,
in travelling through the country, you will see a splendid cathedral which is erected, the edifices built and re-built, and crumbling again to dust, that it saw raised about it, while it looks down unaltered and unchanged,
the most striking and beautiful figure wherever it is placed. Or I could even dilate and dilate, till all the feelings of my heart were kindled upon other and still more striking emblems of its durability : for I would, with pleasure, if I could, transport you with myself in imagination to that place towards which the Catholic looks, if he looks outwards, to satisfy the necessary principles of the human heart, towards which he looks, even as did the Jew, when he looked toward the temple at Jerusalem, or the Greek to the Delphi, or the Druid, when he looked to the sacred Island, or the Indian and the Orientalist, when he looks towards his sacred place of worship_he looks in the same way, from a principle essential and necessary to man, who must have some object, as it were, definitely to which all may look, as containing the purest essence and perfection of his religion. And I would there show you proofs of how tenacious the Catholic Church has always been of every doctrine, since she has and ever must take such pains and such care to preserve the slightest monument which can recal to her mind the past times, or which has recorded upon it a doctrine or a discipline of older and happier ages. I could show you, for instance, churches, standing not indeed like the lofty and magnificent palaces which you see in this country, but the humble path whereby you enter untrod, standing now alone among tracts, once the most populous perhaps on earth, and adorned with the most sumptuous buildings which the world ever bebeld ; now standing alone, and appearing great, as it were, by their solitude ; and you would ask me, perhaps, what it was that had preserved these humble churches of the early Christians, where there is now no congregation to go into them, and I would tell you, that they were once situated indeed in populous districts, and so close to one another, that the most crowded parts of this city are not more near to each other than were these in these now uninhabited tracts. If you would ask me what it was that had preserved them from ruin amidst the devastation which had thrown to the ground beauteous amphitheatres and the palaces and monuments of emperors, I would tell you that the latter were built of the most sumptuous marble, and had their foundations, as it were, grasping the very rocks on which they were built, and were covered with brass and iron, and yet they have fallen to decay; whereas the former, on the other hand, are formed of the feeblest and most ordinary materials : but I would tell you how it was, that religion seemed to have embalmed them in the sweet savour of holiness, which the rust and moth could not consume-how, when the barbarian passed by, determined to destroy and to despoil them in his fury, religion marked their door-posts with blood, and the outpost and the invader bowed bis head and spared them, and made them the refuge of the destitute and the oppressed in the time of the wildest riot and bloodshed. You would find that, from that time, all care has been taken to preserve them in the most perfect integrity. You would see all those ornaments in the church at this day, which supposed a state and order of things totally different from what we have now ; you would see the very places where those catechumens, of whom I spoke, used to stand in the church, the porch marked out, that so they might retire when the service began; and where set, the different orders imploring the prayers of the faithful, and the very pulpits from which the gospels and epistles were read; and, in short, whole churches, now standing as they did of old, and with such a calm and majestic solemnity about them, that you would fancy it was but yesterday that martyrs prayed therein. And wbat is all this but connected with that feeling which has always existed in the human breast? But, inasmuch as these records of older times were not merely kept for the wants of the people, but from the feelings of the heart, from that attachment to all that remains to us of the bappier and better times of our forefathers, it is to us a pledge that the same tenacity has always kept hold of 'the doctrines wbich were then taught, and which the very construction of these edifices supposes to have then existed.
But, my brethren, I have allowed myself to be carried away too far; and therefore I will only entreat you to preserve as much as you can in your mind the course of argument, which I have hitherto pursued ; and I shall endeavour, at our next meeting, to enter upon the important point which I before hinted, and that is upon the subject of missions, of the success of the preaching of the gospel, according to the two methods; after which I shall go on with one or two points, necessary to develop the same train of argument which I have kept scrupulously in view till now. All that I entreat of you is, that if any one has come here with any dispositions but those of desiring to make himself acquainted with that which we believe and the grounds thereof, he will endeavour, as we go ou, at least to clear away from his mind all feelings of prejudice and antipathy. I entreat that he will examine them in the word of God with all the earnestness in his power; that he will make it the subject of prayer, that God will teach him to see them aright. I desire no other test but that we should be judged by that alone, and tbat our doctrines should be proved consistent or inconsistent with it. But if he shall find, as he proceeds, that, by what has been already said, and that which shall come hereafter, an impression has been made upon his mind; if he finds that we have much more to say for ourselves than he believed ; if he begins to see that we are not believers in the tissue of absurdities and ungrounded assumptions which he has perhaps been in the habit of thinking, I entreat bim not to harden his heart, but to listen in a spirit of liberality and of docility, if I may so say, to those doctrines taught him, and I am sure that a beneficial effect must come from this, even with regard to those who may not be induced to join us