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all the progress of the age, and all the discoveries of modern science.
It is to this form of Christianity, accepted as the true one by the great mass of those who call themselves Christians, and understood well by them, though a mystery to you, that I propose very shortly to invite your attention. Let us not only admit that it may be true, but see just what it is, and if there is any good reason why it should not be true.
But first let us find out what is the inherent weakness of the Christian systems to which you have been accustomed; why it is that they cannot reasonably command your assent, as being based on an unreasonable assumption.
HAT is the assumption of which I have
just spoken, which I say is the cause of the weakness of Christianity as generally understood by Englishmen and Americans, and which to some extent justifies them in thinking, as I have said many do think, that religion is a matter of the heart, not of the head ; that it commends itself to our sentiments, but not to our rational nature ?
It is that the Bible is the sole foundation on which the Christian religion must rest; not only that it is the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, but that nothing else is the word of God.
Before proceeding farther, I would ask you to observe the precise point here noted. It is not that the Bible is an inspired book, and the only inspired book recognized by Christians; for in that the Catholic Church agrees with Protestants, except that she recognizes as belonging to the Bible a few books which are also known and read by Protestants, which though sometimes given in their Bibles, and used by them in their churches, are considered of doubtful or of
merely human authority. So we cannot complain of their considering the Bible as God's Word; for all that they recognize as such, we also recognize in like manner.
It is true that there is a certain unreasonableness, which I shall speak of shortly, in Protestants maintaining that just these writings are inspired which they have selected for their Bible; in their feeling sure that every one of them is inspired from beginning to end, and that no other writing is. Catholics have a reason for confidence in their Bible, as will appear later on; but Protestants have none except the general acceptance of these writings by Christians, unless they fall back on the proof which we employ; but to do so would remove the whole basis of Protestantism itself, as will be seen when we come to speak of that proof.
But still belief in the Bible is not in itself a fault in Protestants; on the contrary, though it is somewhat illogical in them, we should and do thank God that they have retained it; and we wish it to be distinctly understood that Catholics have the same belief in and reverence for it that they have, and even more, as based on a more sufficient reason. We, even more than they, regard it as the Word of God, inspired by Him, and of conclusive authority in matters of religion. Our sermons, like those of Protestants, are founded, as a rule, on its text, and de
voted to an explanation of its meaning. Our people are recommended to read it with the reverent and careful attention which so holy a book requires and deserves.
That the Bible is, then, a foundation, and a great and certain foundation, of the Christian religion is not the assumption which is the principal weakness of Protestantism ; though in a sense, as being with them an unreasonable assumption, it is a weakuess too. But after all, a belief, even though not well or logically established in a man's mind, is good if it be really true ; nothing false or ruinous is going to come from it; on the other land, it has in itself the germs of strength and life.
This, then, is 110t the dangerous assumption which has split Protestantism into so inany sects, and made it incapable of commanding the rational assent of man. It is not the belief that the Bible is a sure foundation for the Christian religion that has done the harm; no, it is the belief that it is its sole foundation.
This belief is absolutely unreasonable ; for it is either demonstrably false, or destructive of Christianity itself. Taken in the sense that it is the only foundation Christianity ever had, it is clearly false. In the sense that it is the only one now remaining, the foundation it gives is obviously inadequate ; Christianity becomes something whiclı once existed, but which has passed
into oblivion; it is as hopeless for us to acquire a sufficient knowledge of it as it would be to know thoroughly the manners and customs of the ancient Assyrians. We cannot tell whether some parts of our religion have not perished, quite as important and essential as those which the Bible contains. Practically, then, it is destroyed; it exists simply as a wreck.
Let us examine these two statements, and see if they are not correct. The first one is, that the Bible cannot have been the only foundation that ever existed for Christianity.
This is, we may say, self-evident; that is, it requires only the most elementary knowledge of history to make it clear to any one. At the time when the apostles set out to preach the gospel, and convert the world, the Old Testament was the only part of the Bible that had been written. But evidently it was not the Old Testament which they preached, though they certainly used it to confirm their preaching, in very much the same way, it may be remarked, that the Catholic Church uses the whole Bible to-day.
No; the bulk of their preaching was their own personal testimony to the great revelation which had been committed to their care. They spoke, as SS. Peter and John said (A.cts iv. 20), the things which they had seen and heard; as St. John says more explicitly