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THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH THE ONLY REVEALED WAY
In the first part of this work I endeavoured to show the nature of the Unity of the Church considered as a matter of fact : in the second, I attempted to ascertain its idea and moral design : in this third and last Part, I shall go on to examine what may be called the faults or anomalies in the actual state of the Church as compared with the doctrine of unity here laid down.
But I would not be thought to do so for the purpose of adding fresh proof to what has been before established. The doctrine stands upon its own positive evidence. By this it must stand or fall. It is equally irregular either to affirm or to object on apparent à posteriori arguments. The proof of the principle lies in the first Part: its moral import in the second; and my intention is to apply it in
the last, on which we are now entering. The application of the principle, however, is of no small moment, for it will be found that almost all popular objections to the Catholic doctrine of unity are drawn from the supposed difficulties which result on applying the rule to the existing state of Christendom. It is thought to disinherit of their portion in the One Church many large bodies of Christian people ; to invest with this inestimable birthright a
larger body who are deemed to have fainter traces Il c?mcome of the ancestral character ; and to render doubtful
the legitimacy of our own Catholic and Apostolic branch of the one true Church.
Into all these several topics we shall enter in due order; and that we may do so with the fullest apprehension of the principle before us, I will take up a point which was dropped at the end of the last, and reserved for the present Part.
We there saw that in the objective Unity of the Church, and in no other way, is salvation offered to mankind;' or, in other words, that the One Holy Catholic Church is an institution divine in its original, and sacramental in its character—that is, moral, mystical, and immutable, and necessary to the salvation of all to whom it is sufficiently propounded.
In bringing this principle to bear on the actual state of the world, we are met by two remarkable phenomena: the one, that to two-thirds of all man
kind this revealed way of salvation has never been proposed at all; the other, that of the remaining third, a large body, perhaps nearly one-sixth of the whole, do not belong to the visible Unity of the Church. If, then, the one only Church be the one only way of salvation, what must we believe of their condition before God? This question has so many aspects and so many shades of difference, that no one general answer can be given. We must, therefore, carefully distinguish the several forms of the question, and reply to each in order.
And, first, of the great majority of mankind to whom this way of salvation has never been proposed at all. It is plain that we need not dwell long on this part of the subject. This mystery in the dealings of God is a stumbling-block to the Deist and the Infidel, but to no Catholic Christian. To him, indeed, it is an inscrutable secret at variance with his own anticipations. But Holy Scripture throws lights enough, if it be only athwart the difficulty, to indicate the solution. In the ages before Christ's coming, it is evident that God had true servants known to Himself scattered abroad throughout the world. Such was the condition of men in the patriarchal times down to the call of Abraham. And after this peculiar investiture of one family, God did not withdraw himself from men of other nations. The history of Job and of his friends is a sufficient proof of this. The vision of warning to Abimelech ; the dreams of Pharoah
and Nebuchadnezzar, and the history of Balaam, are all evidences that God held communication with those to whom He intrusted no formal revelation and no positive institutions. So again we find the providential government of God extended over the kingdoms of the heathen. The prophet Jeremiah denounces God's punishment against all nations that would not serve the king of Babylon. St. Paul also asserts that the Gentiles were "a law unto themselves;” and that they should be judged accordingly. The difference between them and the chosen people of God seems to be this. To the Jews was intrusted the office of transmitting and testifying the promise of a Saviour; and to them was given the pledge that He should be born of their lineage after the flesh. And this St. Paul declares when he answers his own question :
" What advantage, then, hath the Jew, or what profit is there of circumcision ? Much every way. Chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” 3 They were to the nations what the tribe of Levi was to Israel, the bearers and keepers of the Lord's tabernacle. In like manner, at the first preaching of the Gospel, St. Paul found among the Gentiles at Antioch many that were “ disposed to eternal life."4 And in the city of Corinth the Lord had much people.
All these things strongly sup
See Newman's History of the Arians, 87-91.
Jerem. xxvii. 8. 3 Rom. iii. 1, 2. * Acts xiii. 48. Tetayjévoi.
5 Acts xviii, 10.*