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THE ONE HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
I CANNOT proceed to the subject of this evening's discourse, without expressing the gratitude which I felt last Sabbath, at the interest which was taken in the subject of the opening Lecture of this series, “The one source of religious truth.”—And for the sake of those who were not present on that occasion, as well also with a view of refreshing the memories of those who were, I will repeat, in few words, the conclusions to which we came; which, I am bold to say, must have been undeniable in the view of every candid Catholic or Protestant who was present.
Our time was chiefly occupied in defending three Protestant principles :
First, we entered our protest against any addition whatever to the Holy Scriptures as binding upon the faith and practice of the Church.
We showed (1) that Protestants reject the Apocrypha, on the authority of the Universal Church of Christ for the first four centuries of its existence, and on the distinct authority of the earliest fathers; in support of which statement we adduced the testimony of the celebrated Catholic historian Dupin.
We showed (2) that Protestants reject all oral traditions as a rule of faith, because there is no satisfac
tory evidence that such traditions exist; and we farther quoted the opinion of Theophilus Alexander and Jerome, that no truth or doctrine can be established but by the authority of the written word of God.
We showed (3) that Protestantism rejects the authority of the fathers as a rule of faith; we pointed out their inconsistencies with themselves and their disagreements with each other; and we gave you an illustration from the works of Cardinal Bellarmine, of the manifold difference of their views on texts of importance in the Protestant controversy ; thus demonstrating the positive inconsistency of the oath taken by every minister of the Roman Catholic Church, _“I will never take nor interpret the Scriptures, but by the unanimous consent of the Fathers."
The SECOND principle of Protestantism which we defended, was the absolute sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for the guidance of the Church in all matters of doctrine and practice. This was supported principally by an appeal to the Scriptures themselves as rendered in Roman Catholic versions of the Bible.
The THIRD principle of Protestantism, for which we contended, was thus enunciated : “It is the privilege of every man to approach the fountain of truth, the Bible, and to draw freely from its streams.” This principle was maintained on three grounds; on the presumptive evidence derived from the facts that the Scriptures were written in the vulgar tongue, and that they were delivered either by mouth or epistle to the people generally; on the direct evidence which the Scriptures furnish by both precept and example, that it
behoveth every Christian to search the Scriptures; and on the authority of the ancient Fathers, who, as we demonstrated from their own writings, enjoined upon the members of the Church in their day, the general reading of the Word of God.
From these several considerations, arguments and testimonies, we reached the conclusion that " BIBLE IS THE ONE ONLY SOURCE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH."
I most cordially repeat, this evening, the twofold profession which I volunteered a week ago, namely, that it will be my continual purpose to avoid the utterance of a single word that shall even offend the taste, and much less grieve the mind of any of my hearers ; and that unless there be a distinct announcement to the contrary, every passage of Scripture quoted in support of the principles of Protestantism will be taken verbatim from one of the Roman Catholic versions of the Sacred Scriptures.
And now I invite you to a serious and prayerful contemplation of the subject to be brought before you this evening,
“THE ONE HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.”
This is a subject which will afford an opportunity of educing some of the leading peculiarities of the Protestant system, those I mean which especially distinguish it from Roman Catholicism. I have chosen as my text, a passage which occurs in the epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, and which you will find in the first chapter,
at the 18th and 19th verses. It is thus rendered in the Douay Bible :
“ AND HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH, WHO IS THE BEGINNING, THE FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD; THAT IN ALL THINGS, HE MAY HOLD THE PRIMACY : BECAUSE, IN HIM, IT HATH WELL-PLEASED THE FATHER, THAT ALL FULNESS SHOULD DWELL."
Our investigation this evening will comprehend two general enquiries :
First, What is the Church, the Catholic Church
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? And it may be well to announce at once, that the principle upon which I shall pursue this inquiry is that which is laid down by St. Augustine in his controversy with the Donatists : " Let them," says he, “ show me their Church ; not in the councils of their Bishops, not in the writings of disputers, not in the miracles and prodigies of which they boast; but let them show it me in the ordinances of the law, in the predictions of the prophets, in the songs of the Psalms, in the preaching of the Evangelists, and in the canonical authorities of the sacred books. This is our foundation, to which we inviolably attach ourselves, reposing only upon this Scripture which is come from the Prophets and Apostles.”
As my special object in these Lectures is to expound the principles of Protestantism, it will be necessary here to state what Protestants mean by “the Church,” as well as by the epithet “Catholic," which they not unfrequently prefix to it. We mostly adopt that member
of the Apostle's creed, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” But then what meaning do we attach to the expression? As an answer to this demand I shall transcribe the definition of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, who met about the year 1645, and agreed upon that celebrated “ Confession of Faith,” which was afterwards ratified by both ecclesiastical and parliamentary authority, as “part of the covenanted uniformity in religion betwixt the Churches of Christ in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland :"
“ The Catholicor Universal Church,” say they, “which is invisible, consists in the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
“ The visible Church,” say they again, “ which is also Catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined (i. e.) to one nation as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children ; and is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”
The article of the Church of England on this subject is as follows:
“ The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful
men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."
The literal meaning of the Greek word ékkAnoia