THE CHURCH OF CHRIST EXPLAINED.
Q. What is the Church of Christ?
A. It is the congregation or society of all the true followers of Jesus Christ throughout the whole world united together in one body, under one head; for "we being many," says St. Paul, "are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another," Rom. xii. 5. "And there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd," John x. 16.
Q. In what are all the members of the church united together, so as to compose one body in Christ?
A. First, In one and the same faith, believing and teaching all those divine truths, which Jesus Christ revealed, and his apostles taught, and no other; for there is "but one Lord, one faith, one baptism," Eph. iv. 5.; and of the church, in the time of the apostles, it is said, that "they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles," Acts ii. 42.
Second, In the participation of those sacraments which Jesus Christ ordained for the sanctification of our souls; thus, St. Paul, speaking of the sacrament of baptism, says, "In one spirit were we all baptized into one body," 1 Cor. xii. 13.; and of the holy eucharist he says, "Because the bread is one, all wee, being many, are one body, who partake of that one bread," 1 Cor. x. 17.
Third, In being all governed by one head, and by pastors under him, ordained and authorized by Jesus Christ; for he himself declares, that all who belong to him, "shall be one fold, and one Shepherd," John x. 16. - And St. Paul assures us, that all the different orders of pastors, apostles, evangelists, and teachers, were ordained by Jesus Christ himself, "for edifying the body of Christ," Eph. iv.; that is, for building up and preserving the church in one body.
Q. Of whom is the church composed?
A. Of pastors teaching, and the people who are taught.
Q. Who are the pastors of the church?
A. The successors of the Apostles, ordained and authorized by Jesus Christ to teach the people the truths of salvation and to rule the church.
Q. How do you prove that Jesus Christ authorized the pastors to teach the people?
A. From his own commission to them, laid down in several places of the holy scripture, as follows:
First, He declares, that he himself was sent by God the Father, to preach the gospel, Luke iv. 18 and he says to the apostles, "As my Father hath sent me, I also send you," John xx. 21.
Second, He revealed to his apostles all divine truths: "All things," says he to them, "whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you," John xv. 15. And before he left the world, he gave them commission to teach the same to all nations; "Go ye," says he, "unto the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," Mark xvi. 15.; and again, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations - teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," Matth. xxviii. 19.
Return to Table of Contents
THE COMMISSION OF TEACHING COMMITTED TO THE PASTORS.
Q. Was this commission of teaching to continue with the successors of the apostles?
A. It was;
First, When Christ gave the apostles this commission "to teach all nations," he immediately added, "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world," Matth. xxviii. 20. As the apostles neither did, nor could teach all nations in their own persons, nor were to continue upon earth until the end of the world, it is manifest that this commission was not confined to their own persons, but given to their office, that is, to them and their successors in office, who shall continue to the end of the world, and complete the work of teaching all nations, which the apostles began.
Second, St. Paul was not one of those to whom the above commission was given personally, and yet he declares of himself, "I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, (I say the truth, I lie not,) a doctor of the Gentiles, in faith and truth," 2 Tim. ii. 7.; and "that Christ sent me to preach the gospel," 1 Cor. i. 17.
Third, St. Timothy was ordained by St. Paul to be a pastor of the church, and a successor of the apostles, and St. Paul conjures him faithfully to discharge this duty of teaching: "I charge thee before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming and his kingdom, preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, entreat, rebuke, with all patience and doctrine." 2 tim. iv.
Fourth, He also orders the same Timothy to appoint others to succeed him in the same office of teaching; "The things," says he, "Which thou hast heard of me, before many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also," 2 Tim. ii. 2.
Q. In what light do the scriptures represent us the pastors of the church?
A. First, As the ambassadors of Christ, sent by him to declare to us his will, and reconcile us with God. "For Christ, therefore," says St. Paul, "we are ambassadors, do as it were exhorting by us. For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God," 2 Cor. v. 20.
Second, As the organs of Christ by whom he speaks to us, "He that hears you," says Christ, "hears me, and he that despises you despises me," Luke x. 16.
Third, As the angels of God, from whom we are to know his law; for, "the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth, because he is the Angel of the Lord of hosts," Mal. ii. 7. "I preached the gospel to you heretofore," says St. Paul, "and you received me as the Angel of God, even as Christ Jesus," Gal. iv. 13. Great, indeed, is this dignity; but woe to those priests who vilify it by their conduct!
Q. Are we obliged to hear the pastors of the Church, and to receive the doctrine of our faith from them?
A. Nothing is more strongly or more clearly expressed in scripture, than this obligation:
First, The pastors are expressly authorised by Christ to teach us, consequently, we are obliged to be taught by them.
Second, They are instituted by Jesus Christ, on purpose to keep us all in the unity of the faith; consequently, we are obliged to receive our faith from them.
Third, When Christ gave the commission of teaching to the pastors of his Church, he immediately adds, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 16; consequently, we are obliged by Jesus Christ himself to believe what the pastors of his Church teach, under pain of damnation.
Fourth, He further declares to the pastors of his Church, "He that hears you hears me, and he that despises you despises me, and he that despises me despises him that sent me," Luke x. 16.
Fifth, Lastly, he condemns those that "will not hear his Church as heathens and publicans," Matth. xviii. 17.; that is, as "worshippers of the devil," for such, were the heathens; and "as people abandoned by God," and given up "to a reprobate sense," for such the publicans were reputed among the Jews.
Sixth, The Holy Ghost gives the same command to all by the mouth of St. Paul: "Remember your prelates, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow - and be not led away by various or strange doctrines," Heb. xiii. 7, 9. And
Seventh, St. John, speaking of himself, and the other pastors in his time, gives our submission to them as the sign to distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, and of our belonging to God: "We are of God," says He; "he that knoweth God heareth us, he that is not of God heareth not us; in this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error," 1 Jo. iv. 6.
Q. What are we to think of any doctrine which is contrary to what the Church teaches?
A. As we undoubtedly assured that Jesus Christ will never permit his church to fall into error, or teach false doctrine, but will continue to preserve the sacred truths which he revealed to her, and put into her mouth, at the beginning, unchanged and uncorrupted to the end of the world; so it is evident that the doctrine which the Church teaches is infallibly true; consequently, any doctrine which is contrary to this must necessarily be a false doctrine; and if false it cannot be from God, for God is truth, and cannot deny himself, by speaking contrary to the truth.
Q. From whom then does all false doctrine come?
A. Our blessed Savior says to the Jews who opposed his doctrine, "You are of your father the devil - he abode not in the truth, because truth is not in him - for he is a liar, and the father thereof," Jo. viii. 44. St. Paul also assures us, that, "in the last times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy," 1 Tim. iv. 1.; and St. James says, "He not liars against the truth; for this is not wisdom, descending from above, but earthly, sensual, devilish," Ja. iii. 14, 15.
Return to Table of Contents
THE SPIRITUAL POWERS OF THE PRIESTHOOD TO RULE AND GOVERN THE CHURCH.
Q. What other powers belong to the pastors of the Church besides that of teaching?
A. They are also commissioned and authorised by Jesus Christ to rule and govern the church, and have received from him all the spiritual powers of the priesthood for this purpose.
Q. How is it proved that the pastors are authorized by Jesus Christ to rule the Church?
A. From the words of St. Paul, who, speaking to the chief pastors of the Church at Ephesus, says, "take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed your bishops, to rule the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood," Acts xx. 28.
Q. In what does this power of ruling the Church consist?
A. It includes the whole of their authority, and is described by St. Paul, Ephes. iv. 12, under three heads; when he declares, that different orders of pastors were instituted by Jesus Christ,
First, "For the perfecting the saints;" that is, for conducting souls in the road of Christian perfection, by prescribing such rules to them, and giving them such advices as are necessary or conducive to that end.
Second, "For the work of the ministry;" that is, for the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments.
Third, "For the edifying of the body of Christ;" that is, for regulating all the exterior of religion, by prescribing such rules and ordinances as they judge necessary for the decent performance of all the outward service of the Church, for preventing or punishing all scandals, and for keeping the Christian people in virtuous discipline; so that every thing may contribute to give edification to the whole body, and to promote the honour of God in his Church.
Q. For what end did Christ give such powers to the pastors of the Church?
A. St. Paul goes on, in the same place to tell us, that all this was done by Christ.
First, To bring "all to the unity of the faith."
Second, To enable us all "to become perfect men." And,
Third, "To prevent our being tossed to and fro like children, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive," Ephs. iv. 13, 14.
Q. Are the people obliged in conscience to obey the commands of the pastors of the Church in things concerning religion, and subjected to their authority?
A. They are; for St. Paul says expressly, "Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God, and those that are ordained of God. Therefore, he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resists, purchase to themselves damnation," Rom. xiii. 1. If this be the case with all lawful powers, though they be immediately of human institution, and may be changed and altered by man, both as to their form, and the extent of their authority; how much more must it be with regard to the pastors of Christ's Church, whose power is immediately from Christ himself, instituted expressly by him, and which can be altered by no other whatsoever?
Second, Jesus Christ himself says to the pastors of his Church, in the persons of his apostles, "He that hears you hears me, and he that despises you despises me," Luke x. 16.
Third, He declares the greatness of the sin of disobeying his church in these strong terms: "He that will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heather and a publican," Matt. xviii. 17
Fourth, St. Paul "went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches;" and the means he used to confirm them was, by "commanding them to keep the precepts of the apostles and the ancients," Acts. xv. 41.
Fifth, He expressly requires this obedience and subjection to our pastors, when he says, "Obey your prelates, and be subject to them, for they watch, as being to render an account of your souls," Heb. xiii. 17.
Return to Table of Contents
THE VISIBLE HEAD OF THE CHURCH.
Q. Who is the chief pastor, or head of the Church?
A. Jesus Christ is the invisible supreme head of the church; for God "hath put all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church, which is his body," Eph. i. 22; and therefore he assures us, that he is "with her all days, even to the consummation of the world," and that he animates her by his holy spirit, "the spirit of truth, who abides with her for ever;" and by this means he communicates to her, and to all her members, the heavenly influence of grace and charity, to preserve them in life, and enable them to bring forth fruit, as the vine communicates the nourishment to the branches, Jo. xv.; for "the charity of God is poured abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us," Rom. v. 5.
But, though Christ be thus the invisible head of the church himself, yet he has also been pleased to appoint another under him to be his vice regent upon earth, the chief pastor among men, and the visible head of his church.
Q. Who did Christ appoint for this high office?
A. St. Peter the apostle, and his successors after him.
Q. How does it appear from scripture that Christ made him the visible head of the church?
A. From these following testimonies, among many others:
First, Christ gave him the name of Peter, which signifies a Rock; and declared, that upon him, as "a rock, he would build his church; Matth. xvi. 18
Second, Christ gave him a particular, and to none of the other apostles, "the key of the kingdom of heaven," Matth. xvi. 19. The power of the keys is the ensign of supreme power and authority, according to that of the prophet, "I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulders, and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open," Is. xxii. 22. This was prophesied of Christ himself, who also says on this subject, "Thus said the Holy One, and the True One, he that hath the key of David; he that openeth and no man shutteth; shutteth and no man openeth," Rev. iii. 7.; consequently by saying to St. Peter, "to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven," he manifestly communicates to him this supreme power, as to his viceregent upon earth.
Third, After his resurrection, he gave him the formal commission to feed his whole flock, in these express words, "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep," John xxi.; by which he constituted him the chief pastor of his fold, of which he had said before, "There shall be one fold and one shepherd," Jo. x. 16.
Fourth, When Satan sought to have the apostles in his power, "That he might sift them as wheat," Christ prayed only for St. Peter, "that his faith should not fail," and left him as head of the whole, "to confirm his brethren," Luke xxi. 31.
Fifth, In the lists of the apostles given in the gospel, St. Peter is always named first in order, and the rest are named sometimes in one order, sometimes in another; yet it is certain St. Peter was not first called to Christ, for his brother Andrew was called before him, and introduced him to Christ.
Sixth, St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, in their list of the apostles, take particular notice of the name of
Peter, which Christ gave him, for his own name was Simeon, which indicates the particular privilege annexed to that name; and therefore St. Matthew expressly calls him the first.
Seventh, St. Peter acted in the supreme capacity as head of the church, both when he called the brethren to deliberate about choosing one in the place of Judas, Acts i. and also when he gave the definitive sentence in the council of Jerusalem, after "there had been much disputing," Acts xv. 7.; but when he had spoken, all "the multitude held their peace," verse 12; and submitted to his decision, as did also St. James, who assented to, and confirmed what he had said.
Eighth, The writers of Christianity, and holy fathers in every age, have always attested it as a truth revealed by God, that Jesus Christ did constitute St. Peter prince of the apostles, and visible head of his church.
Ninth, It is an undoubted fact, that his successors have always claimed this supreme authority, and have exercised it throughout the whole church, as occasion required, in every age, from the very beginning.
Considering the nature of man it is evidently impossible that any one bishop of the church should have acquired such authority over all the rest, even in the most different nations, and the most distant kingdoms, or that he could have exercised it every where among them, if it had not been given him from the beginning, and ordained by Jesus Christ.
Q. Why did Christ institute on visible head of his church upon earth?
A. Because, as the Church is a visible body, or society of man, it was most becoming they should have a visible supreme head among them, like to the members of whom the body is composed, Besides, as the Church was ordained to be spread over all nations, differing from one another in language, customs, government, and every thing else, except religion, it would have been morally impossible to have kept them all united in one body, if there were not one common visible head or supreme authority among them, to which all must submit. So that this head of the Church is the centre of unity, by which the Church of Christ, throughout the whole world, is joined in one body!
Q. Who are the successors of St. Peter as head of the Church?
A. The bishops of the city of Rome of which St. Peter was the first bishop, and suffered martyrdom in that city for the faith of Christ, leaving his successors there the heirs of all his power and authority.
Q. Wherein consists the power of the bishop of Rome, as head of the Church?
A. As he is appointed by Jesus Christ to be the supreme head and pastors of the Church under him, to be the spiritual father and teacher of all Christians, with full power to feed and govern the whole flock; therefore he is the supreme judge and lawgiver, in all things relating to religion, whether as to faith, manners, or discipline. The primacy, both of honor and jurisdiction, over all the other bishops, belong to him; and all the members of the Church are obliged to pay the greatest respect, veneration, and obedience to his decrees and orders in all things belonging to religion.
Q. How is the head of the Church commonly called?
A. He is called the Pope, which word signifies Father, and is given to the head of the Church; because, being the vicar of Jesus Christ, he is the common spiritual father of all Christians.
Q. As the power of teaching resides in the pastors of the Church, does the infallibility of the Church preserving the true doctrine, reside only in them?
A. The promise of infallibility, in preserving the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, are of two sorts. Some are made to the Church in general, such as these, "I will build by Church upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. My words which I have put in his (the Redeemer's) mouth, shall not depart out of his mouth, nor out of the mouth of his seed, from henceforth and for ever." The Church is the pillar and ground of truth. By these promises infallibility is secured to the whole church, pastors and people, so that they shall never cease to believe and profess the true faith of Jesus Christ.
But the people are commanded to receive the faith from their pastors, and to believe what they teach; so that the faith of the people depends upon the teaching of the pastors; therefore the second class of promises are made to the pastors in particular; for to the pastors, in the persons of the apostles, our Savior said "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world; the Father will send you the spirit of Truth, to abide with you for ever, and teach you all the truth." Thus both pastors and people are assured that Jesus Christ, and his holy spirit, will always remain with the pastors of his Church, and so assist them by the continual protection of his overruling providence, in the great work of teaching the people, that they shall never alter nor corrupt the true doctrine of Christ, but teach it whole and undefiled, to the end of time.
Q. In whom then does the infallibility properly reside?
A. In the body of the pastors, joined with their head.
First, When the pastors of the Church are called together by the chief pastor, in a general council to decide any thing about religion, whether regarding faith or morals, they are then infallible in their decisions, and their decrees are considered as dictated by the Holy Ghost, according to the example of the apostles, in their council of Jerusalem, who begin their decree with these words, "It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," Acts XV.
Second, When the head of the Church, without calling together the other pastors, publishes any decree concerning faith or morals, and this decree is accepted and received by the body of the pastors, either expressly or tacitly, it then becomes a decree of the whole Church, and of the same infallible authority, as if it had been made in a general council.
Return to Table of Contents
THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE.
Q. When the head of the Church publishes any decree concerning faith or morals, to which he requires submission to all the faithful, is he himself infallible in what he teaches?
A. Yes, the head of the Church is infallible in what he teaches.
Q. What proofs are there in favor of this infallibility?
A. The proofs are taken from scripture, tradition, and reason.
Q. What profs do they bring from scripture?
A. First, The privilege of the particular direction and assistance of God, in teaching true doctrine, was given to the high priest in the old law; and the synagogue being only a figure of the law of grace, and of the Church of Christ, the same privilege must certainly be given to the high priest of the Church also; otherwise the figure would have been more perfect than the thing figured, the shadow more privileged that the substance. As the high priest were so privileged in the old law, appears from this, that the people were commanded, in all their disputes about religion, to have recourse to them as the supreme judges; and God assured them, that they should declare "to the people, the truth of the judgment," and commanded them "to do whatsoever they shall say, that preside in the place which the Lord shall choose, and what they shall teach, according to his law, and to follow her sentence; and not to decline to the right hand nor to the left;" and then concludes, "But he that will be proud, and refuse to obey the commandment of the priest, who ministereth at that time to the Lord thy God, and the decree of the judge, that man shall die, and thou shalt take away the evil from Israel. And all the people hearing shall fear, that no one swell with pride," Deut. xvii. 8.
Second, Jesus Christ said to St. Peter whom he constituted the head of his Church, "Thou art Peter, (that is, a rock,) and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her," Matth. xvi. 18. From this text as we have seen above, the infallibility of the Church, in always teaching the true faith, is most solidly proved; and the grounds of this proof is given by Christ himself, when he says that the firmness and stability of the wise man's house, against all storm and tempest, winds and rain, was precisely owing to this; "for it was founded on a rock," Matth. vii. 25.; that is, on a solid and immovable foundation. Seeing then that St. Peter, as head of the Church, is the rock, under Christ, on which she is built, and seeing that she is therefore infallible, because built on a rock, it necessarily follows that the foundation itself must be infallible also.
Third, Our Lord said also to St. Peter, "Simeon, Simeon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and thou, being converted, confirm thy brethren," Luke xxii. 32. here our Savior shows the rage of Satan against all his followers; but, to disappoint him, Christ prayed for St. Peter in particular, that his faith should not fail, and then commissions him, as the head, to confirm all the rest. When our Savior prayed to his Father to raise Lazarus from the dead, he said, "Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast heard me, and I knew that thou hearest me always," John xi. 41. If, therefore, the prayer of Christ was always heard by his Father, the above prayer that the faith of Peter should not fail, was without doubt heard also. Whence it follows, that St. Peter, as head of the Church, and consequently his successors in office, shall never fail in faith, nor teach false doctrine. Our Savior, in the very text itself, shows that this very prayer for Peter was heard by his Father; "I have prayed for thee," says he, "you have nothing to fear." In consequence of my prayer, you shall be confirmed in the faith, and when you are so, "strengthen your brethren," and "confirm them also." This very commission of confirming others necessarily presupposes that the prayer of Christ was head, by which Peter was confirmed in the faith himself.
The subsequent fall of Peter, in denying his master that very night, does not in any degree weaken this argument, but rather corroborates it; it shows that this promise of our Savior, that Peter's faith should not fail, was made to him, not as a private person, but as the head of the Church; and, therefore, to stand firm in all his successors; and, like all the other promises made to the Church itself, it was not to take place till the coming of the Holy Ghost, who was sent on purpose to establish the Church, and fulfil all the promises Christ made to her, and for that end to "abide with her for ever."
Q. What proofs of the infallibility of the head of the church do they bring from traditions?
A. From the testimonies of the holy father, from the very earliest ages, which shows that his was the belief of the Church in their days. Thus Origen, a celebrated writer in the third age, explaining the text, "Thou art Peter," &c. says, "It is true, though not said expressly, that neither against Per, nor against the Church, shall the gates of hell ever be able to prevail; for, if they could prevail against peter, in whom the church is founded, they would also prevail against the Church." St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, in the second age, confutes all heresies, and all false doctrine, from the authority of the holy See alone; "By declaring," says he, "The tradition and faith of that church which she received from the apostles, and has handed down to our days," Av. Her. 1. 3. cap. 5. And then adds, "To this Church all must have recourse; for in her the apostolical tradition is preserved." So. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, from the text, "Thou art Peter," concludes thus: "According to th is promise the apostolical Church of Peter remains immaculate, free from all seduction and heretical circumvention." Great numbers of others are omitted for brevity's sake. Only we must add St. Augustine, who, when the Palegian heresy was condemned by the Pope, says, "The answer of Rome is come; the cause is ended," Serm. 3. de Verb. Apost.
Q. What proofs are brought from reason?
A. The proofs from reason are founded on facts, and on principles received by all members of the Church as divine truths;
First, There never was an instance of any Pope who proposed any doctrine to be believed by the Church, that was contrary to the sacred rules of faith revealed by Christ; for though there have been a few, and only a few popes, that were bad men in their own practice; yet the most inveterate adversaries of the catholic faith could never yet show that any pope ever taught bad doctrine.
Second, Never yet did any pope issue any decree concerning the truths of faith or sound morality, but it was immediately received by the great body of the bishops, as containing the most solid and wholesome doctrine.
Third, Many different heresies that have arisen in different ages in the church have been proscribed and condemned by the authority of the head of the Church alone, both before the first general council was held, and since.
Fourth, In all controversies of moment that have arisen in the Church about points of faith, the bishops have always had recourse to the head of the Church, as the supreme tribunal for settling them; and, if the obstinacy of the party condemned by him, made it advisable to have recourse to general council, these councils never were found to do any thing else, after the most mature examination, but to confirm the sentence already passed by the head.
Fifth, It is a truth received by all catholics, as Tournely, a French divine, who writes upon the infallibility of the Holy See, expresses it. "That as the Roman and apostolical see is the bond of catholic unity and of catholic communion, no many can be held to be a catholic, unless he be joined with that see in the unity of faith and doctrine." And then, showing that this union is of two sorts, both in the external profession and the internal assent of the mind, he conclude,s "To be unifed in both ways with the see of Rome, was always necessary, and looked upon in all ages as the most certain sign and proof of true faith, and pure doctrine," tom. 1. De Eccl. a. 6.
This same truth is handed down from the very beginning in the writings of the holy fathers in every age, in the strongest terms. Thus St. Jerome, writing to the bishop of Rome says, "I am joined in communion with your holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter: Upon that rock I know the Church is built: Whoever eats the lamb out of this house is profane; whoever is not in this ark shall perish in the deluge - whosoever gathereth not with thee scatters; that is, he who is not of Christ belongs to Antichrist." Epist. 56. and Dama. And St. Augustine, in his psalm against the Donatist schismatics, says to them, "Come, brethren, if you have a mind to be ingrafted in the vine. 'Tis a pity to see you lie in this manner lopped off from the stock. Reckon up the prelates in the very see of Peter; and in that order of Fathers see which has succeeded which. This is the rock over which the proud gates of hell prevail not."
Sixth, The same celebrated Tournely acknowledges, that, if a division among the bishops should happen about any point of faith, "Without doubt," says he, "we must adhere to that part which is united with the head, which is always to be esteemed the better and the sounder part." From all which, the infallibility of the head of the Church naturally flows; for, if Christ obliges all the be united with him in faith and doctrine, he surely is obliged to preserve him from touching false doctrine. From the command of Christ to hear his Church under pain of being considered as heathens and publicans, it is justly inferred that the Church can never go astray. This argument has an equal weight, when applied to the obligation of being united with the Church's head in faith and doctrine.
Q. These are very strong arguments indeed: but what proofs do the others bring for their opinion, that the head of the Church is not infallible?
A. They bring not one text of scripture to prove it; but only show some objections against he above texts, by which they think that the infallibility of the head of the Church is not proved by them; and all their other arguments from tradition are much of the same nature, and tend rather to invalidate the proofs taken from tradition, of his infallibility, than directly to prove the contrary. However, in the Fourth Public Session of the Vatican Council held July 18, 1870, the Dogma of Papal Infallibility was defined and declared by Pope Pius IX., thus ending all controversy concerning this great principle of Authority in the Church.
Q. What consequences flow from these scripture truths concerning the Church of Christ?
A. The consequences that necessarily flow from all that has been said in this and the preceding chapter, are chiefly these three:
First, That the Church of Christ is the sacred rule of faith, and the supreme judge of controversy, instituted and ordained by him to preserve inviolated, to the end of time, all those divine truths which he revealed to man, and on the knowledge and belief of which the salvation of our souls depend; and that she is fully qualified by her divine spouse to discharge this office, so as to pronounce sentence upon every point of revelation, clearly and distinctly, and with infallible certainty.
Second, That this Church of Christ is one body, having all one and the same faith, and governed by one and the same supreme church authority; so that whatever sect is divided from this body, by professing a different faith from her is no part of the Church of Christ, but, at best, a human invention; and the faith they profess, as differing from hers, is all falsehood and error, arising from the father of falsehood and lies.
Third, That the Church of Christ is the only road to salvation; both because it is only in her communion that the true faith of Christ can be found, "without which it si impossible to please God," Heb. xi. 6.; and because Christ has declared, that all who refuse to hear her are condemned by him as heathens and publicans, and that those who despise her pastors despise Christ himself and his Father who sent him.
Return to Table of Contents
OUT OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THERE IS NO SALVATION.
Q. Are there any other direct proofs from scripture to show that out of the Church of Christ there is no salvation?
A. Yes, these two will be mentioned here:
First, Christ, speaking of those who were not yet joined in the communion of his Church, but whom he foreknew would make a good use of the graces he would give them for that purpose, says, "Other sheep I have who are not of this fold, them I MUST BRING, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd," John x. 16.: where he plainly declares, that all those of his sheep, who are not yet of his fold, must be brought to it, as a necessary condition of their salvation.
Second, In consequence of this settled disposition of the divine providence, no sooner did the apostles begin to preach the gospel, than immediately "the Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved," Acts ii. 47. which evidently shows that all who are not added to the Church, are out of the way of salvation.
Q. Is it lawful to have any communication in things of religion with those who are separated from the Church of Christ?
A. By no means; all communion or fellowship in any religious duties, rites or ritual is repeatedly and strictly forbidden by the Church.
Q. How is the Church of Christ known as the true Church?
A. By the marks laid down in the holy scriptures, by which the true Church of Christ can easily be distinguished.
Return to Table of Contents