A DOCTRINAL CATECHISM of 1846; on Protestantism
CHAPTER I. – Divine Faith
Q. Is it possible to be saved without Divine faith?
A. No; for St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. xi, says—”Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that come to God must believe that he is: and is a rewarder to them that seek him. (Heb11:6)
What two particular qualities must faith have that it may be divine?
A. It must be firm and undoubting; and must be PRUDENTLY firm and undoubting?
Q. Why firm and undoubting?
A. Because, otherwise, it will not be divine faith, but mere human opinion. Divine faith is incompatible with doubt; rather than call the smallest particle into doubt, we must be ready to lay down our lives; for God, the author of faith, cannot deceive.
Q. Why do you say that faith must be prudently firm?
A. Because, no matter how strong and firm the inward conviction be, if it be irrational—that is, grounded on false reasoning—it is not a virtue, but rather the effect of a vicious, because willful, obstinacy; such is the faith of the Turk, and the Heretic of every sect.
Q. Where do you find the two above-mentioned conditions of divine faith?
A. Only among Catholics; because they only follow a rule of faith, which places the truth of their belief beyond the possibility of doubt.
Q. What is that which you call a rule of faith?
A. That which guides us to the belief and practice of all that God has revealed and commanded.
Q. What is the Catholic rule of faith?
A. The whole Word of God, understood infallibly in its true sense.
Q. Is not the written word of God alone a sufficient rule of faith?
A. No; because it is susceptible of different senses, and the interpreter may give it a wrong sense. Hence, that it may be to us an infallible rule of true faith, we must be absolutely certain that we understand the disputed passages correctly.
Q. Have Catholics on this head any certainty?
A. Their certainty is entire, because they receive from the Church, which they prove to be infallible, the exposition of the Scripture.
Q. Have not Protestants this same certainly?
A. No; for each Protestant explains the Scripture according to his own particular light, or fancy, or prejudice. Hence, he can never be certain that he is right, as he can never be absolutely certain that he is not deceived in his interpretation.
Q. What does St. Peter say to the faithful in his 2d Epistle, chap. i. 20? [pg. 75] A. That they should all understand, “that no prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation;“ and after denouncing sects and heresies and crimes, in order to show that private interpretation is the cause of them, he adds, in the last chapter, that certain things in St. Paul’s Epistles are hard to be understood “which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
CHAPTER II — Faith of Protestants
Q. Show us, more at length, why those who are not Catholics, can have no other than a doubting or vacillating faith?
A. It is, because there are three essential points, upon which they have no real certainty. In the first place, they have no real certainty as to the canon of Scripture; secondly, they can have none as regards their versions or translations of Scripture; and, thirdly, they can never be certain that their interpretations are the genuine meaning of God’s word.
Q. Why cannot Protestants know, with infallible certainty, what books of Scripture are canonical and divine?
A. Because they profess to believe nothing but what is expressly laid down in Scripture. Now the Scripture does not tell us what books are canonical,—that is, what, and how many, books are God’s divine word; this is admitted even by the most learned Protestants.
Q. Cannot they know the books that are divine, by their excelling beauty and thrilling expression, as you know honey or sugar by their sweetness?
A. No; for if that could be, then all Protestants would have acknowledged the same books as canonical, and yet we know they have not agreed upon this point. The first Protestants rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse or Revelations, whilst the Protestants of the present day receive these books as divine. Calvin called the Epistle of St. James, an Epistle of gold, whilst Luther styled the same, an Epistle of straw.
Q. May they not say, that they know the canonical books by their titles?
A. If we must receive the Gospel of St. Matthew, because it bears his name, we should, for the same reason, receive the Gospels of St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew, because they bear the names of these Apostles, and yet all Christians reject these two Gospels as Apocryphal.
Q. May they not say, that they receive the true books of Scripture on the authority of tradition?
A. No; they reject tradition, on every other question, as a doubtful source of truth; hence, every doctrine drawn from it must be, for them, uncertain. Divine faith, they say, cannot rest on tradition as a foundation; if, therefore, they know what books are divine only from tradition, it evidently follows that they do not, and cannot, believe these books to be God’s word with divine faith.
Q. What happened at Strasbourg in the year 1598?
A. The Protestants expunged from their canon of Scripture, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of St. James, and the Apocalypse; and seventy-four years after, they again replaced them. This fact may be seen in their old Ritual, in the chapter ON DOCTRINE, and in the new Ritual, page 7.
Q. What do you conclude from this?
A. That they were all certainly wrong, either in expunging or receiving these books; that if they were evidently wrong in a matter of such awful importance as is the integrity of the Scripture, they can have no certainty that they are right in any thing; that, in fine, their faith resting thus, not upon any rational or certain foundation, but on the mere whims of men, cannot be prudently firm, and, by a necessary consequence, cannot be divine faith.
CHAPTER III. Uncertain Bible is Free of Error
Q. Why have you said, that those who are not Catholics, can never be certain that their translations from the original Scriptures are correct or faithful?
A. Because few, if any of them, understand the original languages; so that they are incapable of judging whether their translations are conformable to the originals.
Q. May they not reply, that they have every necessary security from their translators, whose knowledge of Greek and Hebrew was indisputable?
A. No; for these translators have given very different and contradictory versions; and how, in this case, are men of ordinary education to know which to adopt?
Q. What did Zwinglius say of Luther’s translation of the New Testament?
A. He said, that Luther had corrupted the Word of God.
Q. What said Luther of that of Zwinglius?
A. He called it the work of fools, asses, and Antichrists.
Q. Did Beza give an opinion on the version of Œcolampadius, published at Bale?
A. Yes; he declared it impious, and opposed to the Spirit of God. The English declared the version of Geneva, the worst and the most unfaithful that had appeared.
Q. What does Luther himself avow as regards translations of Scripture?
A. That he had added the word “ONLY” to the text of St. Paul, (chap; iii, to the Rom.,) for “we account a man to be justified by faith,” he has, “by faith ONLY.”
Q. How did he justify himself when reproached with this? (Tom. iii, Edit. de Jena, pp. 141, 144.)
A. “I know well,” he says, “that the word only is not to be found in the text of St. Paul; but if any Papist plague you on the subject, tell him at once, that it was the will of Dr. Martin Luther that it should be added; and please to say further, that a Papist and an ass are one and the same thing.” “I am sorry,”; says he, in addition, “that I have not added other words. This word ‘ONLY’ will remain in my New Testament, until all the Papists burst themselves with spite.”
Q. What do you conclude from this?
A. That no prudent man can have any confidence in a Protestant Bible, since he can never be certain that it is properly translated. The English versions are of the same stamp with the German. (See D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, Edit. 1843, vol. iii, p. 530, et. seq.) Hence, Butler (Hudibras) says:
“Religion spawned a various rout,
Of petulant, capricious sects,
The maggots of corrupted
Q. Can you draw any further inference?
A. Yes; that the faith of Protestants, grounded as it is on doubtful versions of Scripture, is not prudently firm, and, consequently, is not divine.
Q. But have the Catholics themselves an absolute certainty as to the number of the sacred books, and the truth of the translations from them?
A. Yes; the Catholics are perfectly certain as regards both points. The Church points out the books that are canonical, and the correct versions of these books. Now, a fundamental principle of the Catholic religion is, that the Church is infallible; because Christ says—”the gates of hell shall not prevail against her;—that He will be with her all days;—that His holy Spirit will teach her all truth for ever.” Hence, the Catholic grounds his faith on what is certainly God’s word, and his faith, consequently is certainly divine.
CHAPTER IV. – Uncertain Sense of the Bible
Q. Why have you said that Protestants have no certainly or security as regards the true sense of the Scripture?
A. The passages of Scripture which regard controverted points, may be tortured into two different, and sometimes opposite, meanings) now the Scripture itself does not, and cannot, tell us which is the true sense,
Q. Have not Protestants said, that they are individually inspired to understand, in its true sense, any passage of Scripture?
A. Yes; but they have said many very absurd things. According to this blasphemous assertion, it was the Spirit of God who taught Luther the real presence, whilst the same spirit taught Calvin the figurative presence; it is God who inspires the Church of England to have bishops, and the Church of Scotland to reject them; one sect of Protestants to admit good works as necessary to salvation, and another sect to reject them; one minister to account baptism necessary to salvation, and another to repute it as a mere ceremony. Surely, if they were inspired, they would all believe the same set of doctrines.
Q. May they not say, that the ambiguous texts are easily explained by those that are clear?
A. Yes; they may say any thing; but it so happens, that each flatters himself, that the texts which appear to support his peculiar notions are abundantly clear. Thus, to prove that Christ is not God, the Unitarians think these words: “My Father is greater than I;” and these other: “That Christ is the first-born of creatures,”—very clear indeed. The Presbyterians, to prove that the Sacrament is only bread and wine, think these words: “The flesh profiteth nothing, the words which I speak to you are spirit and life,” the clearest portion of Scripture; as if any Christian in his senses could believe, that the flesh of Christ, by which, in union with the Divinity, the world was redeemed, profited nothing. The Anabaptists, to prove that infants should not be baptized, bring forward, what they imagine is very clear, these words: “TEACH all nations, baptizing them:” and, “he who BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved.”
Q. Do other Christians think these clear also?
A. Yes; some think them very clear in proving the opposite doctrines, and others think them the most obscure passages in the Inspired Volume.
Q. Do these sects quote other texts to prove their peculiar notions?
A. Yes; they will quote texts by the dozen, to prove any doctrine you please. It is quite clear to the Free Kirk of Scotland, from Scripture, that the Established Kirk is Antichrist; and to the latter, the Scripture as clearly proves the Free Church to be schismatical. To some, Joanna Southcote was the mother of the Messiah; to some of the followers of Wesley, the greatest crimes are only spots upon God’s children; whilst to the Muckers of Prussia, immorality is virtue.
Q. What inference would you draw from all this?
A. That a wise God must have left in his Church some judge perfectly qualified to decide, authoritatively, on all religious disputes, and to point out, with certainty, the true sense of the Inspired Volume.
Q. Enforce this truth by a comparison.
A. As a legal process could never be terminated, if the counsel were allowed to appeal merely to the book containing the law, so religious disputes can never be settled by an appeal merely to the Scriptures; and as a lawfully commissioned judge is necessary for the settlement of civil matters, so is a divinely appointed judge necessary for the decision of the more difficult and more important mater of religion.
Q. Who is that judge?
A. The teaching body of the Church of the Christ, whom he sent to preach his Gospel to all nations, and to whom he promised the continued guidance of his Spirit, even to the end of time.
Q. What do you understand here by the teaching body of the Church?
A. I understand the Pope, either acting alone in his decisions ex cathedra on faith and morals, or in General Councils convened by him of the bishops, who are in communion with the See of Rome, and acting with them.
CHAPTER V. – Catholic rule of Faith
Q.What are the qualities of the Catholic rule of faith?
A. The Catholic rule is UNIVERSAL, CERTAIN and CLEAR or EASY.
Q. Why universal?
A. It is a rule for all, the learned as well as the ignorant; it relieves the former of all doubt and uncertainty, and spares the latter the trouble of a difficult inquiry and examination for which they are in no way qualified.
Q. Why do you say it is certain?
A. Because it is no other than the Word of God, explained by God’s appointed organs, in the very sense intended by the holy Spirit, and of course God can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Q. Why do you say it is clear?
A. Because it tells clearly, in what sense all ambiguous portions of God’s Word are to be understood.
Q. What are the peculiar advantages of the Catholic rule of faith?
A. In the first place, it banishes all doubt; secondly, it decides finally every dispute; thirdly, it preserves unity. When an infallible judge decides, there can be no room for doubt or division.
Q. What say you of those who would examine, personally, every controversial point, and abide by what, they in their wisdom think, the Scripture teaches?
A. That they adopt a rule which, for the great mass of mankind, is an impossibility; because, to form a proper judgment from the Scripture on any controverted point, one should know, in the first place, all the texts of Scripture that are for or against such point; secondly, it would be necessary to compare these texts, one with the other, to weigh their respective force, to illustrate the obscure by others more clear; thirdly, to be absolutely certain, that all of them are understood in their true sense and no other. Now, this is evidently a business far beyond the reach, at all events, of the ignorant who form the great mass of mankind.
Q. But may not the learned aid the ignorant in this inquiry?
A. Such is the absurdity to which error always reduces its votaries. You refuse to submit to the decision of the whole Church—to the decision of all the learned, pious, and enlightened prelates of the Church, with the sovereign Pontiff at their head, men of all others the best qualified to judge of religious matters ; you reject their opinion, whilst you would blindly follow the crude notions of one layman pretending to learning, of one Calvinistic or Lutheran minister, for the truth of whose opinions you have no security whatever.
CHAPTER VI. – Tradition connected to Rule of faith
Has tradition any connection with the rule of faith?
A. Yes; because it is a part of God’s revealed word, properly called the unwritten word as the scripture is called the written word.
Q. What is Tradition? A. The doctrines which the Apostles taught by word of mouth, and which have descended through every successive generation even to our times.
Q. Are we obliged to believe what tradition teaches, equally with what is taught by Scripture?
A. Yes; we are obliged to believe the one as firmly as the other; because, what the Apostles preached is as true as what they wrote: it was the same holy Spirit who spoke by their mouths and by their pen.
Q. Repeat the words of St. Paul. 2d Thess., chap. ii, ver. 14.
A. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the TRADITIONS which you have learned, whether by WORD, or by our Epistle.” (See also 2d Thess. iii, 6; 1st Corinth, xi, 2; 2d Tim. ii, 3.)
Q. Do the Protestants believe many things not clearly laid down in Scripture?
A. Yes; they believe many things essentially necessary to salvation, which are not contained in Scripture.
Q. Mention a few of them.
A. The Scripture does not anywhere say, that all the books composing itself are the Word of God;—it cannot tell us, whether our copies of it are correct:—whether our translations from these are faithful;—whether the books of Scripture that are lost are a necessary part of the rule of faith;—it does not tell us whether infants should be baptized;—whether the obligation of keeping Saturday holy has been done away with;—whether Sunday should be kept in its place, or at what hour the day of rest should commence and terminate: all these and twenty-four other necessary points, are not clearly laid down in the Sacred Volume.