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come down to us. Science, it is true, may by means of analogies, and the general plan of animal construction, fill up a whole skeleton from a few bones; but we cannot do that with a thing so unique as a Divine revelation.
But, it may be argued, half a loaf is better than no bread. True; but that only half a loaf in this case should be left us, that we know less of the Christian faith than the first Christians did, would imply an imperfection, a
a. partial failure in the work of God; it would mean that He undertook to make a revelation to the world, and failed to take the means necessary to perpetuate it.
If, driven from this idea by its inconsistency with the Divine Omnipotence, we say that all necessary Christian truth must have come down to us in the Bible, we are simply begging the question whether or no anything has come down to us outside the Bible. We cannot dispose of this by objecting to some teachings of the Roman Church; there still remains a possibility that somewhere or other some body of believers, such as the Greeks for example, may be in possession of the entire revelation. We cannot be excused from satisfying ourselves · by thorough investigation on this point. And we should also be sure that the teachings of Rome are really inconsistent with the Bible. Can you say that by your own study you are
sure of this, or that you know by actual inquiry, from Catholic authorities, what the teachings of Rome really are?
If Almighty God had in the Bible or elsewhere told us that this book contained the whole of Christianity, we should be on good ground. If Christ Himself had written the book and set it forth as a text-book, so to speak, of His religion, we could rest securely in it, and have no need to inquire farther.
That the Bible is not a book, like the Koran for instance, set forth by the founder of the religion as its authoritative exposition, is in fact the fundamental weakness of Bible Protestantism. If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one? Of His ability to do so there can, for the Christian, be no question.
But the Bible, so far from being such a book, is simply, as far as the New Testament, its important part for us, is concerned, a collection of Christian writings, on its face not essentially more conclusive than the works of other early Christian writers would be, especially if we consider the Gospel of St. Mark, and the Gospel and Acts of St. Luke; for no special reason is evident why their words should be infallible. They were not apostles; and we do not read of
their having any peculiar Divine commission to teach Christianity to the world.
Now, this consideration opens another chasm under the feet of Bible Protestants, which would be of itself fatal to them. It is this : what certainty have they, after all, that the books of the Bible were written by inspired men, and that no others were? Wliy do they admit just these, and reject others? How do they know for sure even that these were written by the authors to whom they are commonly ascribed ? For one thing, do they know for sure who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, or even the Gospels themselves ? May it not have been some quite irresponsible or merely private author ? What critical or scholarly ability or learning can ever give us the certainty we need on matters like these, where Divine faith is so much needed, and error so dangerous ?
The fact is, that this blind faith in the Bible, as Protestants have the book, got together for us English-speaking people under King James, but trusted in as if it had been brought to earth visibly and publicly by an angel from heaven, is an act far more unreasonable and groundless than any which they even charge us Catholics with making.
If they choose to make such a blind act, urging the example of so many good men who have done the same, or claiming that
the Spirit of God teaches them to do it, well and good; but let them not claim any special superiority of intelligence, or any particular reasonableness in so doing. Let them not pretend that it is anything more than an assumption, in itself, to say the least, no better than that of one who would believe the Pope to be infallible simply because so many other good people believe the same, or because God seems to inspire him with that conviction.
Reason is as much abandoned in one case as in the other; but the latter view is not that of a Catholic, and I think we shall see that in fact reason has a good deal more to say in favor of the genuine Catholic. position.
And I will repeat in conclusion, lest I should seem to despise this holiest of books, that Catholics believe in it and revere it as much as and even more than Protestants; but we have, while they have not, a rational and consistent ground for so doing,
THE CATHOLIC IDEA OF CHRISTIANITY.
THOUGH others beside Bible Protestants
have from time to time separated themselves, and are now separated, from the Catholic Church, there seems to be no distinct theory on which they have done so which we need especially consider. For either they stand on ground similar to that taken by Catholics, which we are about to describe, or they pretend to some new revelation supplementary to that of Christ, which puts them outside the class to whom this book is specially addressed; or they have ceased to regard Christ as a Divine, or at least infallible, teacher, being in fact eclectics in the matter of religion, and not believing, strictly speaking, in any one true religion at all, and therefore equally outside of our direct scope.
We will then take up at once the Catholic idea, or theory if you wish to call it so, of the Christian religion, as distinguished from that which we have been discussing.
This theory simply is that the Christian faith has been taught, and was intended by its Divine Founder to be taught, in all ages on the same plan that was adopted in the beginning;