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“ And everything else that has been defined, and declared by the sacred Canons, and by the general Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent, and delivered, defined, and declared by the General Council of the Vatican, especially concerning the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, and his infallible teaching authority.
“ With a sincere heart, therefore, and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy, and sect opposed to the said Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church. So help me God, and these His holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand.”
The preamble, in which it is stated that no one can be saved without the Catholic faith, and that the convert is ready to do what the Church commands, I shall discuss later on, when it will be better understood. At present we will confine ourselves to the definite articles proposed.
In them you have the Catholic creed in all its principal points. There are some others naturally following from or connected with these ; but it is safe to say that none will give you difficulty if these do not. I shall, however, touch on some matters not directly mentioned here ; for it is not the desire of the Church to keep anything back; the “discipline of the secret,” mentioned above, though no doubt necessary in its day, is not observed at present.
But no doubt some of the points given here may present some difficulty, and some you may misunderstand as you read them, either on
account of the brevity with which they are expressed, or because of the false notions about them which you may have entertained. Let us then look at them more carefully and see how much difficulty, if any, remains after our examination.
It is likely that some will; especially as we shall not in these pages discuss matters very minutely, and you will not have a chance to ask questions or propose doubts. I only want now to show you, if possible, that the Catholic faith is not such a monstrous or unreasonable thing as you may have imagined; the only way to settle every question that may occur is to go to some priest, or if you cannot make up your mind to that, to consult' some well-instructed Catholic; but of course the priest is the best one to talk to, for he has made these matters his special study; and he will probably be able to appoint some time to talk to you, if too busy just when you liappen to call on him. You will probably find him to have more in common with yourself than you suppose, even though he may be a foreigner by birth; and he will very likely be an American citizen by birth, not merely by adoption; and it is not so difficult to find a priest who has been a Protestant, and who will understand, by his own experience, just what your ideas and your difficulties are.
Now let us look at the articles of faith given
above. The first is : “One only God in three divine Persons, distinct from, and equal to each other—that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
No doubt this is a doctrine which in itself presents difficulty ; it is a great mystery, one peculiar to the Christian faith, and one which we cannot hope to understand thoroughly, still less to convince ourselves of by reasoning. But then the difficulty which it presents is one to which probably you have been accustomed ; for almost all Christian denominations hold and teach this same doctrine. Protestantism made no protest on this point; the Greek Church of course teaches it, and so do all the churches of the East. So we need not consider it as an objection to the Catholic Church in particular; it would rather be so if she did not teach it; and we may, in spite of the great importance of this doctrine, pass on to something else.
Next we have “the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here again we have something substantially the same as what the great majority of Protestants maintain. I will state—though very probably you know already--what Incarnation means. It means simply that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, took our human
nature, and became map as well as God, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Almost all Protestants, as I have said, also believe this ; but they are not always very clear about just the time and the way in which this wonder ful work was. accomplished. Some, I think, believe that the man Christ became divine only when the Holy Ghost descended on him at the time of his baptism. Some, perhaps, regard him to have been so at his birth, but not before. But the Apostles' Creed, which most Protestants recite or at least believe, is quite clear on this point. It says, “He was conceived by the Holy Ghost.'
What does this mean, except that His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, was the occasion on which this wonderful “Incarnation” occurred ? And the Bible seems really quite plain in its teaching about this matter.
However, as you see, there is no charge or protest against the Catholic Church about its teaching in this respect made by Protestants. The mass of them believe just as we do, that the Son of God became “incarnate"—that is, took human nature upon Himself in the womb of His Blessed Mother, at the time when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, as narrated in the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel.
Now next as to the Passion of Christ. Of course this simply means His sufferings im
mediately previous to and in connection with His death; specially His crucifixion. But what is the meaning of saying that we hold this as a doctrine? For it is simply a well-established fact of history, is it not ? Very few, certainly, doubt it. Both Jews and pagans bore, and still bear, testimony to it.
The doctrine, then, of Christ's Passion and Death must be something different from the mere assertion of the fact that He suffered and died. And it is. The Catholic doctrine about it is not merely that Christ suffered and died, but that He suffered and died for us; that by His suffering and death He accomplished a most wonderful work, making by means of it satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; and not only making a satisfaction, but making the only satisfaction which ever has been, or ever will be, made for our sins; so that it is in that suffering and death of His that all our hope must be placed. The Catholic doctrine of the Passion and Death of Christ is that Christ is our only Saviour and Redeemer ; that, as St. Peter says (Acts iv. 12), “there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”
Well, here again, what charge would Protestants in general want to make against the Catholic Church ? Every Christian who believes that we need to be saved at all, believes