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Christian times which might be used instead of them; and indeed the whole matter of faith reduces to private judgment. The Protestant has no sure ground to rest on; he can only construct his religion by selecting what it seems probable to him was the teaching of Christ. He can, of course, adopt other people's opinions; but they also can have for him no more than a human value.
But after all, it may be urged, how is your own basis a sure one? You have been proving the Church, the infallibility of the Pope, etc., by means of the Bible, and now you turn round and prove the Bible by the Church.
This criticism seems at first to be a very sound one, but it is not so sound as it
appears. For we all have to start with some recorded facts, some testimony of others, in convincing ourselves about any matter of fact which has not come under our own personal observation. And it is absurd, and contrary to common sense, to say that we can never arrive at certainty in this way. If we cannot, then we are not certain about any point of history; we do not know for sure that there was ever such a person as George Washington or Christopher Columbus. Nay more, without depending on testimony we cannot be confident that there is now any such country as England or France, unless we have been there ourselves; even the
answers we receive to letters which we undertake to send there may be part of a gigantic conspiracy set up against us by the Post-office.
Very well then; to prove that there was such a person as Christ, and to arrive at some knowledge of what He said and did, we take the accounts which have come down to us, either committed to writing, or handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. We find then concurrent to a considerable extent, and we find especially those accounts so concurrent which are written in what we call the Bible ; and the very fact that these latter agree well with each other, that they have been considered in all ages as substantially correct, and that we find in history no serious protest against them, and a general agreement as to their authorship, gives us more certainty as to what they contain than we have with regard to almost any facts which occurred at the time they appeared. We have, then, a more reasonable certainty about Christ, and what He did and said, than we have about past events not coming under our own observation.
We find, then, with this reasonable certainty, from the Bible record, that He established a Church, and constituted an infallible authority in it, to last to the end of time; so far, that is, as it is admitted that this really is the testimony of the Bible.
Then, being convinced of the existence of this authority, by means of it we establish, not what we started with, but something different. We are not convinced by the Church that there is a Bible record, and that in its main points it can be relied on with certainty ; for this we knew before. But the Church tells us that this book has more than a merely human thority, that it is the Word of God, inspired by Him; and that just such writings and such alone can be considered as belonging to it. This last is something we did not know before ; but our conviction of it rests on the same rational grounds as our first conviction did that it was a trustworthy book, humanly speaking. One comes from the other.
The argument may be put, in brief, as follows: If the Bible is a trustworthy book, it is more than that; it is inspired. For the Church is infallible, if the Bible is trustworthy; and the Church tells us that the Bible is inspired. The reasoning is very similar to that by which we very properly prove Christ's Divinity. Christ, we say, was a wise and good man, and therefore would not claim to be God if He were not; but he did claim to be God; therefore He really is This must be admitted by every one who believes He did say various things which the Gospels recorded of Him. If He said them, He either was God, or
He was, as the Jews maintained, a blasphemer, either wicked or insane.
But after all, it may be urged that our conviction of the Divine authority of the Bible will never at best rise to a higher certainty than the merely human one with which it began.
In answer to this, it may be said, in the first place, that we do not depend on the Bible alone to prove the infallibility of the Church; numerous other arguments can be given; as, for example, that already spoken of, the actual accordance in its decisions through all these centuries, which could hardly have been secured without Divine interposition.
But the true answer is, that God, by a direct action of grace in our hearts, builds on a merely rational foundation a secure edifice of Divine faith. We believe by faith, not by reason; but our faith is rational, as reason has led us to it.
Faith once implanted by God in our hearts, it will stand secure of its own strength, even if the rational foundation passes from our minds; as a solid stone arch stands after the wooden frame is removed round which it was built.
But though faith itself is thus secure in its own strength, and may even be immediately implanted by God in an individual soul without argument, it is not reasonable to suppose that a faith independent of reason and argument can be intended by Him for adoption by the world.
This is just the point where the Catholic belief in the Bible has the advantage of the Protestant one. The one is rational and logical; the other irrational and blind. The former is founded on good reasons; the latter on what is, comparatively, guesswork.
However, it is not so much the object of this chapter, or of this work in general, to defend the faith of Catholics, as to show just what that faith is,
THE PRINCIPAL POINTS OF CATHOLIC FAITH.
O far my chief endeavor has been to show
what the basis of the Catholic faith is, or what are the sources from which we derive it. I trust that it is perfectly clear to all that we do not believe that new additions are being made to it as time goes on; that we do not hold that the Pope or any other authority in the Church receives from time to time new revelations, and proposes them to the faithful to be received implicitly by them ; but that we believe the faith or doctrine of the Church to have been fully in the possession of the Apostles, and that if anything is promulgated or definitely decreed by the Church as being part of the faith, the