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give something to mankind in permanence, it is reasonable to suppose that He will take measures to secure that permanence. And could any simpler measures, any requiring less interposition on His part, be adopted, so far as we can see? Protestants give us a book; they acknowledge that it is naturally obscure in some parts, but say that God will enlighten the reader as to its meaning. I say nothing about the confutation of this theory by actual experience; but in itself it is plain that it requires even more interposition on God's part for each individual Christian than the Catholic one does for the Pope alone.
Catholics claim that the Pope is infallible on certain occasions; Protestants that each and every one of them is infallible all the time. Which claim is the greater or the more reasonable?
Some one must be infallible, now and then at least, or certainty with regard to the Christian faith becomes impossible. Why should it not be the Pope, who occupies, as is admitted even by Protestants themselves, the most prominent position in Christendom?
But let us see briefly whether there are not arguments, drawn from the Holy Scripture itself, to show that the Pope must be the one to whom this special prerogative has been given, if given to any.
We find, if we read the Gospels attentively, that our Lord, though giving to each of the apostles the same general commission to teach all nations (Matt. xxviii. 19), did not treat them on terms of absolute equality. Peter, James, and John were, in the first place, specially selected by Him as witnesses of His transfiguration, and His agony in the garden of Gethse
Of these James had the privilege of being first called to join His Master in heaven; John of being His specially beloved disciple, and the one to whom Jesus on the cross entrusted the care of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But it was to Peter that He gave the most marked signs of a special pre-eminence over the rest. Especially do we see this in the celebrated passage (Matt. xvi. 18) where Clirist says to him, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”; the word Peter meaning a rock. And in St. Luke's Gospel we read (Luke xxii. 31): “The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sist you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren." (The italics are, of course, our own.) And St. John tells us (John xxi. 15-17) that our Lord thrice committed in a special way the charge of His lambs and sheep to Peter, in
response to his protestation of love for his Master : “Feed my lambs, feed my lambs, feed my sheep."
Protestants try, of course, to explain away these passages; but it is hard to imagine that they do not place St. Peter in some way at the head of the apostolic college, and as having in a special way the right of governing and teaching the faithful which all the apostles enjoyed. The real question is rather whether or no this pre-eminence of Peter passed to any one at his death; whether he had any successor in his special privileges.
But one thing seems quite clear: that there could be no one to whom any special preeminence could be assigned as a permanent institution in the Church, except some one who was in some special sense the successor of St. Peter.
Now, no one has even claimed to be the successor of St. Peter in any special way whatever except the Bishop of Rome, in which city, by the common consent of Christians, it has been generally agreed St. Peter fixed his ultimate residence, and in which he suffered martyrdom. No one else except the Bishop of Antioch, which city St. Peter first chose for his see, could reasonably make such a claim; and on his part no such claim has been urged.
If, then, there is any one who has a claim
founded in Scripture to any pre-eminence over the bishops of the Church in general, that one must be the bishop of St. Peter's see of Rome ; and indeed this distinction has been generally accorded in some way or shape to this bishop, or, in other words, to the Pope, even by those who have separated themselves from his control.
There is, in short, no plausible candidate for the leadership of the Church except the Pope; and there never has been one except him, who could rest his claim on Scriptural grounds.
If, then, this office of infallible teacher of the faith, or restorer of it when it may in the lapse of time become doubtful, this office which has been shown to be the means by which the faith could be preserved with the minimum of Divine interposition, belongs to any one, it is to the Pope that it would naturally belong; and he is the only one who has permanently claimed or exercised it, no pretensions on the part of others having, we may say, been seriously made or entertained.
It would seem, then, that the Catholic claimi of the Pope's infallibility, after the manner which has been described, is both reasonable and Scriptural. I do not propose here to go into a further proof of it, or å defence of it against objections which might be made; to do
so properly would require a volume; and such volumes have been written, and can be consulted by all. But I do submit that this Catholic claim or theory, so far from being superstitious or unreasonable, is prima facie the most reasonable one that can be urged (especially when we consider actual historical facts), if assume that the Christian religion was a definite teaching of supernatural truths to be perpetuated to the end of time; and that its superiority in reasonableness to the theory either that the Bible was originally intended to be, or that it now has become in the providence of God, the only means available for this end, is obvious on the very surface to any one who will give the matter any serious consideration.
In the next chapter I will proceed to explain the exalted opinion which Catholics have, and the use which we make, of that most holy and venerable book, the Bible; to show that we regard it as truly the Word of God, and to state the reasons which we have for doing so,