Page images

may have been the obstacles to complete conviction, when once he has embraced it and received it, it takes as strong a hold upon his affections and his thoughts, as it could have done, if he had been educated in it from his infancy. It is, if I may illustrate it by a comparison, like a shoot or a slip, which is forced into the ground, and which requires a certain degree of violence to do so. It must be by a sharp and wound. ing point that it is made to penetrate the hard surface of the earth; but no sooner has it once been there placed, than it sends forth, as it were, shoots, to go and suck the nourishment on every side, and the earth that has so received it, closes, and entwines itself around it, and becomes kindly attached to it; so, that if you should, after a short time, have to root it up, you would have to tear the earth in pieces, into which originally it seems to be driven, as it were, against its will.

But now, allow me to contrast with this example, which I have just. now given you, others of a different class.

I have told you, that in perusing the works of men who have within these few years become members of the Catholic church-men of talent and erudition—I bave not found two of them agree upon the grounds which they propose to us as having induced them to embrace the Catholic religion. But, on the other hand, I have also read the works of another class, purporting to give the grounds upon which several individuals have abandoned the Catholic church, and become members of some Protestant communion. It is, indeed, very seldom, that men of any considerable ability, men in any way known to the public for learning, have written such treatises ; but still they have been, generally, widely disseminated. It has been considered an interesting thing to throw them into a cheap form among the public, and particularly among the lower orders, that they may see these examples of conversion from the Catholic religion. Now I have read these, and I have discovered, that instead of that rich variety of motives which brought learned men to the Catholic church, that there is a sad meagreness of reasoning; that they all, without exception, give me but one argument. The history, in every case, is simply this, that the individual — by some chance or other, through the ministry of some pious person, or from the benevolent designs of Providence - happened to become possessed of the word of God, of the Bible; that he perused this Book; that he could not find in it transubstantiation ; that he could not find in it auricular confession; that he could not find one word in it of purgatory, nothing of worshipping images. He perhaps goes to the priest; he tells him that he cannot find those doctrines ; his priest argues with him, and endeavours to convince him that he should shut up the book that is leading him astray: he perseveres, he abandons the communion of the church of Rome--that is, as it is commonly expressed, the errors of that churchand becomes a Protestant. Now in all that, the man was a Protestant

before he began his inquiry; he started with the principle, that whatever is not in that book, is not correct—that is the principle of Protestantism. He took for granted Protestantism, therefore, before he began to examine the Catholic doctrine. He sets out with the supposition, that whatever is not in the Bible, is no part of God's truth; he does not find certain things in the Bible; he concludes, therefore, that the reli. gion which holds these, is not the true religion of Christ. The work was done before ; it is not an instance of conversion; it is only an instance of one who has lately, and perhaps, unconsciously to his own mind, had his breast filled with Protestant principles, coming openly to declare it; because the ground on which the enquiry should have been conducted, was not to assume, in the first place, that there is no truth but what is expressly contained in the Bible ; but to examine whether that is the only rule of faith, or whether there are not other * means of arriving also at a knowledge of God's revelation : and this,

therefore, my brethren, forms a very strong and important contrast with those examples which I gave you before.

So much, therefore, my brethren, as to the object which I shall have in view in the discourses which I shall deliver to you.

The next point on which I wish to say a few words is, the manner in which the inquiry shall be conducted. You will, of course, at once suppose, that they will be of the nature of what are commonly called controversial lectures. I must own that I have a great dislike—almost, I will say, an antipathy—to the name, for it supposes that we consider ourselves as in a state of warfare with others; that we adopt that principle which I reprobated at the commencement of my discoursethat of establishing the truth of our doctrines by the overthrow of others. Now, my brethren, it is not so. We consider, that the demonstration of our belief, with the grounds of it, may be conducted without the slightest reference to the existence of any other system. I can demonstrate the doctrines of the Catholic church to you, precisely as I should were I addressing an eastern audience, who had never, perhaps, heard even the name of Protestantism. I could show the grounds on which they believe, and on which we believe, without ever adverting to the existence of any opposing system. do not consider that we have adversaries or enemies whom we have to attack; we consider all those who are separated from us, as in a state indeed of error, but of involuntary error. We believe that, baving been educated in certain principles and opinions, not having had, perhaps, leisure to examine sufficiently into the grounds of their belief, or perhaps baving had their first impressions so far strengthened by subsequent efforts of their instructors, that it is impossible, almost, for any impression to be made contrary to that which they have received; so that we consider them as rather separated from us


than standing in opposition against us; and hence, it is not in the way of controversy, it is not as attacking others, it is not as wishing to gain a victory, to have a triumph, that I intend to address you. I will avoid, as much as possible, the examination of the opinions of others ; because I am satisfied, that the course of argument which I intend to pursue, will be such as, by establishing our doctrines, will establish them in such a way, as not mer to prove them true, but exclusively true. The method, therefore, which I shall follow, is what I would rather call demonstrative than controversial. It will consist in laying before you, the grounds of our doctrines, rather than in endeavouring to overthrow those of others. The method, also, will be inductive—that is to say, I will not take any one single principle for granted, which will possibly bear a dispute. I will begin with the simplest elements, and they shall, as they go on, develop themselves, as it were, by their own power.

It shall be my endeavour, to conduct the inquiry precisely as one who has neither prejudice nor feeling one way or the other ; but, having a certain degree of sugacity or instructive skill, in tracing out a course of proofs, would proceed in working to discover what was right and what was correct - that is to say, we will open the word of God; we will examine it by such principles as all must admit; we will discover wbat is the only consequence that can be drawn from it, and for whom the consequence will be. We will embrace that which is the simple method, and which I intend to follow ; and this will certainly exclude what I fear has been too common elsewhere, and exclude it, not merely because the method itself will not allow it to enter, but because I trust, that whatever method were pursued in this holy place, it would not admit it:-1 mean, the system of misrepresentation upon the doctrines of others, which is, alas ! too common in this city. I bave no hesitation in saying, that never yet has an attempt been made to explain or to confute the Catholic doctrines, in any other place of worship, without those doctrines being most strangely misrepresented-without their being, in the first place, exposed as totally different from that which we believe ; and then, as being supposed to be proved on grounds which we absolutely reject.

Now, as I said before, I shall not have to touch the opinions of others; I do not intend to involve myself in any one question regarding what one sect or section of Christians believe; I will only lay down to you, what the Catholic doctrine is, and will endeavour to show what are the proofs of that doctrine ; and if I have to answer objections which will be extremely seldom – I shall always make it a point to give you the objection, as much as possible, in the words of some acknowledged and accredited defender and supporter of the Protestant religion.

The last quality and characteristic which I shall be anxious to observe

in this course of instruction, will be that which the epistle which I quoted to you, is particularly inculcating—that is, a spirit of mildness, of gentleness, the avoiding of any expression which can possibly wound the feelings of any individual; the using of any term of reproach, of any name which is reprobated and disliked by those of whom we speak. It shall be my endeavour to keep clear, at least as much as possible, of individuals, except when it is necessary to quote their words to justify the expressions I have used; and which I will say, is the practice, and always has been, amongst us. It has been our rule, as much as possible, in treating of the differences between us and many of our fellow-countrymen, to speak of them, as much as we can, with charity and compassion. We are accused, indeed, of an eager spirit of proselytism, of going from door to door, to gain converts; and assuredly, were there any bitterness in our heart, were there any feeling of dislike, of antipathy to others, were there any thing but the true spirit of sweetness, and charity, and love to God and to our neighbours, as the motives of that which we do in our ministry, assuredly we would not take the trouble and the pains which we are proved to be taking.

Now, my brethren, it has indeed been the fate of the Catholic religion at all times, but never so much so as it is now, that it has to be preached, not so much in honour as in dishonour - in evil repute rather than in good repute It is impossible — in whatever way we may propose our doctrines it is impossible for them not to be misrepresented and reprobated too. We may say, as did our Saviour to the Jews, “ Unto whom shall I liken the men of this generation ? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you,

have not danced ; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking ; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children.” If the Catholic church enjoins the doctrine of severe mortification and penance, it is immediately traduced as contrary to the word of God, as substituting the efficacy of man for the merits of Christ. If, at other seasons, she seems to relax that severity others would desire, and allows feelings of innocent mirth to mingle with the close of that day which God has dedicated to his service, then is she, on the contrary, represented as being relaxed in her morals, and as encouraging the profanation of God's holy seasons. It is, in like manner, impossible, whatever we do, what. ever doctrine we teach, whatever practice we inculcate, it is sure to be found unsatisfactory, and some ground or other is easily discovered, whereon it is to be condemned.

and ye

But, my brethren, I may say to all you who know this religion, you know the principles which have been inculcated by your teachers and preachers; you know how often you have been told, that in this respect, it was meet that your religion and your faith should resemble its divine Founder; that it is only to be expected, that as he was always calum. niated, as he was always persecuted, as he was always ill-treated by man, that so must you expect, also, that—whether in prosperity or whether in adversity - your doctrines, your faith, and your charity, should be held up to the execration and to the dislike of men. But remember, that while your Redeemer submitted in every other respect to the will of his persecutors—that while he allowed himself to be bound, and scourged, and crowned with thorns, and mocked, and scoffed, and even crucified for your sins—that there was one thing only, in the history of his passion, in which he refused to yield to the design of his enemies; that there was one thing in which he would not submit to their inflictions; and that was, when they placed gall and vinegar to his lips, and when he had tasted it he would not drink. And in this respect only, therefore, do you refuse to submit to that which others may press upon you. Allow nothing which they may say-allow no excesses on their parts--to lead you to the utterance of one word of bitterness or acrimony. Let them not ever gain the triumph over you of making you like themselves, and of bringing reviling words and scoffing, instead of sound and solid argument.

And, in conclusion, brethren, I will merely say, that it is only the grace of God which can give us mutual strength to go through the task which I have proposed; that all our efforts will fail; that your attendance will be without profit, and my ministry will be without fruit, unless God send his blessing upon us ; unless he give force and efficacy to my unworthy lips ; and unless he gives a blessing upon your hearts; unless he makes you docile, and teachable, and anxious to learn, and you are moved to come here, not merely by idle curiosity, or a desire to hear something new ; but with a real anxiety to learn every day more and more, and to improve yourselves, not merely in the knowledge of your faith, but in the practice of all it inculcates and teaches you, that so you may be not merely hearers of the word, but also doers — a blessing which I pray God to grant you evermore.

« PreviousContinue »