No; because, in his last hour, such a one may receive the grace to die united to the Catholic Church. It is not our business to say whether this or that one who was not received into the Church before his death is damned. What we condemn is the Protestant and the heathen system of religion, because they are utterly false but we do not condemn any person God alone is the judge of all. It is quite certain, however, that, if any of those who are not received into the Church before their death, enter heaven, a lot which we earnestly desire and beg God to grant them, they can only do so after undergoing a radical and fundamental change before death launches them into eternity. This is quite certain, for the reason, among others, that they are not one ; and nothing is more indisputably certain than this, that there can be no division in heaven : "God is not the God of dissension," says St. Paul, "but of peace." He has never suffered the least interruption of union, even in the Church Militant no earth ; most assuredly he will not tolerate it in the Church Triumphant. God most certainly will remain what he is. Non-Catholics, therefore, in order to enter heaven, must cease to be what they are, and become
something which now they are not.
God, in his infinite mercy, may enlighten, at the hour of death, one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may know and believe the necessary truths of salvation, be truly sorry for his sins, and die in such disposition of soul as is necessary to be saved. Such a one, by an extraordinary grace of God, ceases to be what he was ; he dies -united, at least, to the soul of the Church, as theologians call it. With regard to Catholics, the case is quite different. No change need come upon them, except that which is implied in passing from the state of grace to the state of glory.
They will be one there, as they have been one here. For them the miracle of supernatural unity is already worked. That mark of God s hand is already upon them. That sign of God's election is already graven upon their foreheads. Faith, indeed, will be replaced by sight, but this will be no real change, because what they see in the next world will be what they have believed in this. The same sacramental King (to borrow an expression of Father Faber), whom here they have worshipped upon the altar, will there be their everlasting portion. The same gracious Madonna who has so often consoled them in the trials of this life, will introduce her own children to the glories of the next. They will not, in that hour, have to "buy oil" for their lamps, for they are already kindled at the lamp of the sanctuary. No wedding-robe will have to be provided for them, for they received it long ago at the baptismal font, and have washed away its stains in the tribunal of penance. The faces of the saints and angels will not be strange to them, for have they not been familiar with them from infancy as friends, companions, and benefactors ? And being thus, even in this world, of the household of faith, and the family of God, not only no shadow of change need pass upon them, but to vary in one iota from what they now believe and practice, would simply cut them off from the communion of saints, and be the most overwhelming disaster which could befall them.
We have seen that there is no salvation possible out of the Roman Catholic Church. It is therefore very impious for one to think and to say that "every religion is good." To say every religion is good, is as much as to say: The devil is as good as God. Hell is as good as heaven. Falsehood is as good as truth. Sin is as good as virtue. It is impious to say, "I respect every religion." This is as much as to say : I respect the devil as much as God, vice as much as virtue, falsehood as much as truth, dishonesty as much as honesty, hell as much as heaven. It is impious to say, "It matters very little what a man believes, provided he be an honest man. Let such a one be asked whether or not he believes that his honesty and justice are as great as the honesty and justice of the Scribes and Pharisees. These were constant in prayer, they paid tithes according to the law, gave great alms, fasted twice in every week, and compassed sea and land to make a convert, and bring him to the knowledge of the true God.
Now, what did Jesus Christ say of this justice of the Pharisees?
"Unless," he says, "your justice shall exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt, v, 20.) The righteousness of the Pharisees, then, must have been very defective in the sight of God. It was, indeed, nothing but outward show and ostentation. They did good only to be praised and admired by men j but, within, their souls were full of impurity and malice. They were lewd hypocrites, who concealed great vices under the beautiful appearance of love for God, charity to the poor, and severity to themselves. Their devotion consisted in exterior acts, and they despised all who did not live as they did ; they were strict in the religious observances of human traditions, but scrupled not to violate the commandments of God. No wonder, then, that this Pharisaic honesty and justice were condemned by our Lord. To those, therefore, who say, "It matters little what a man believes, provided he be honest," we answer : "Your outward honesty, like that of the Pharisees, may be sufficient to keep you out of prison, but not out of hell. It should be remembered that there is a dishonesty to God, to one's own soul and conscience, as well as to one's neighbor." You say, it is enough to be an honest man.
What do you mean by an honest man?
The term, honest man, is rather a little too general. Go, for instance, to that young man whose shameful secret sins are written on his hollow cheeks, in his dull, lack-lustre eye : ask him if one can be an honest man who gratifies all his brutal, shameful passions. What will be his answer ? "Why" he will say, "these natural follies and weaknesses do not hinder a man from being honest. To tell the truth, for instance, I am somewhat inclined that way myself, and yet I would like to see the man that would doubt my honesty." Go to that covetous shopkeeper, who sells his goods as if they were of the finest quality, go to that tradesman, that mason, that bricklayer, or carpenter, who does not work even half as diligently when he is paid by the day as when he is paid by the job; go to these men that have grown rich by fraudulent speculation, by cheating the public or government ; go to the employers that cheat the servant and the poor laborer : ask them if what they do, prevents them from being honest people, and they will answer you coldly that they are merely tricks of trade, shrewdness in business ; that they do not by any means hinder one from being an honest man. Go, ask that habitual drunkard, ask that man who has grown rich by selling liquor to drunkards : ask them whether these sins do not hinder them from being honest, and they will tell you, "By no means. They are honest men, very honest men." Go, ask that man or that woman who sins against the most sacred laws of nature, go, ask that doctor who murders the poor helpless babe before it can see the blessed light of day : ask them if those who are guilty of such foul deeds are honest gentlemen, and they will tell you, with the utmost assurance, that such trifles do not hinder one from being a gentleman from being a respectable lady ! True faith requires obedience, humility, and childlike simplicity, it excludes pride, self-will, clinging to our own ideas, and that unwillingness to obey which hurled the angels from heaven, and cast our first parents out of paradise. Faith is a duty which God requires of us, and unless we fulfill this duty sincerely, we can never enter the kingdom of heaven. One may say : "To submit to the yoke of faith is to submit to a spiritual and moral tyranny ; it is to lose one's liberty."
There is liberty, and there is license. To be the slave of vile passions, and seek to satisfy them always, and at any cost, is not true liberty. Surely God is free. But God can not sin. It is, therefore, no mark of liberty to be under the power of sin; on the contrary, it is the very brand of slavery. The power of sin implies the possibility of becoming a slave of sin and the devil. Those, then, who are greatly under the power of sin, and so go to hell, cannot truly be called free men. They are blinded and brutalized by satisfying the promptings of their brute nature, and thus renounce their glorious freedom, to sell it for a bestial gratification. He only is truly free who wills and does what God wishes him to do for his everlasting happiness.
Now, as we have seen, God wishes that all should be saved in the Roman Catholic Church. Those, therefore, who believe and do what the Church teaches do not lose their liberty, on the contrary, they enjoy true liberty, and make the proper use of it. Hence, the greater our power of will is, and the less difficulty we experience in following the teaching of the Church, the greater is our liberty. Accordingly, Catholics, who live up to the teaching of the Church, enjoy greater liberty, and peace, and happiness, than Protestants and unbelievers, because they are the children of the light of truth, that leads them to heaven ; whilst those who live out of the Church are the children of the darkness of error, which leads them, finally, into the abyss of hell. If no one, then, can be saved except in the Roman Catholic Church, all those who are out of it are bound to become members of the Church. This is what common sense tells every non- Catholic. In worldly affairs, Protestants never presume to act without good advice. They never compromise their pecuniary interests or their lives, by becoming their own private interpreters and practitioners of law or medicine. Both the legal and the medical books are before them, written by modern authors, in clear and explicit language, but they have too much practical common-sense to attempt their interpretation. They prefer always to employ expert lawyers and physicians, and accept their interpretations, and act according to their advice. Now, every non-Catholic believes that every practical member of the Catholic Church will be saved. Hence, when there is question about eternal salvation and eternal damnation, a sensible man will take the surest way to heaven. It was this that decided Henry IV of France to abjure his errors. A historian relates that this king, having called before him a conference of the doctors of either Church, and seeing that the Protestant ministers agreed, with one accord, that salvation was attainable in the Catholic religion, immediately addressed a Protestant minister in the following manner: "Now, sir, is it true that people can be saved in the Catholic religion ? "Most assuredly it is, sire, provided they live up to it." "If that be so" said the monarch, "prudence demands that I should be of the Catholic religion, not of yours, seeing that in the Catholic Church I may be saved, as even you admit ; whereas, if I remain in yours, Catholics maintain that I cannot be saved. Both prudence and good sense tell me that I should follow the surest way, and so I propose doing." Some days after, the king made his abjuration at St. Denis. (Guillois, ii, 67.)
Christ assures us that the way to everlasting life is narrow, and trodden by few. The Catholic religion is that narrow road to heaven. Protestantism, on the contrary, is that broad way to perdition trodden by so many. He who is content to follow the crowd, condemns him self by taking the broad way. A man says : "I would like to believe, but I cannot." You say you "cannot believe." But what have you done, what means have you employed, in order to acquire the gift of faith ? If you have neglected the means, you show clearly that you do not desire the end. God bestowed great praise upon his servant Job. He said of him that "he was a simple and upright man, fearing God and avoiding evil." (Job. i, 8.) There is nothing that renders a soul more acceptable to God than simplicity and sincerity of heart in seeking him. There is on the other hand, nothing more detestable to him than a double-minded man, who does not walk sincerely with his God : "Woe to them that are of a double heart, . . . and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways." (Ecclus. ii, 14.) Such a man should not expect that the Lord will enlighten and direct him. Our Saviour assures us that his heavenly Father makes himself known to the little ones, that is, to those who have recourse to him with a simple and sincere heart. This sincerity and uprightness of heart with God are especially necessary for him who is in search of the true religion. We see around us numberless jarring sects, contradicting one another, we see the one condemning what the other approves, and approving what others condemn ; we see some embracing certain divine truths, and others rejecting those truths with horror, as the doctrine of devils. Now common-sense tells every one that both parties can
not be right ; that the true religion cannot be on either side. Among such confusion of opinions, the mind is naturally at a loss how to discover that one true Church in whose bosom the truth is to be found. In the search after truth, one must find immense difficulties. There is prejudice. It is the effect of early training, of life-long teaching, of reading, and of living in the world. It is the result of almost imperceptible impressions, and yet its force, as an obstacle, is such as in many cases to defy human efforts to remove it. It is like the snow which begins to fall, as the darkness sets in, on roof and road, in little flakes that come down silently all the night, and in the morning the branches bend, and the doors are blocked, and the traffic on road and rail is brought to a standstill.
There, again, is the favor of friends, the fear of what the world will say, worldly interest, and the like. All these will be set to work by the enemy of souls to blind the understanding, that it may not see the truth and to avert the will from embracing it. Nothing but a particular grace from heaven can enlighten the mind to perceive the light of truth through such clouds of darkness, and to strengthen the will with courage to embrace it, in spite of all these difficulties. It is, without doubt, the will of God, that "all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. ii, 4) ; but it is also the will of God that, in order to come to this knowledge, men must seek it with a sincere and upright heart, and this sincerity of heart must show itself in their earnest desire to know the truth : "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled." Hence they must labor diligently to find out the truth, using every means in their power for that purpose. Negligence of inquiry, and the evidences of our faith, are great, and therefore the ignorance of many must needs be highly sinful. Man's understanding was given to him, to enable him to embrace holy and salutary truths. Negligence in this is worthy of damnation and as everything tends easily to its natural end, so our natural, intellectual virtue is nearer finding God than it is finding his contrary, for God is always ready to aid those who seek him with a good and honest heart : and thus we find that to Cornelius, a Pagan, yet living religiously, and fearing God, St. Peter was sent to convert him and all his family. God, says St. Thomas Aquinas, will send an angel to a man ignorant of the Christian law, but living up to his conscience, to instruct him in the Christian religion, rather then let him perish through inculpable ignorance.
There are laws to regulate man's will and affections, and so there are also laws to fix limits to his understanding to determine what he should believe, and what he should not believe ; and therefore ignorance is damnable, for men ought to believe what they do not ; and they ought curiously to inquire what are these laws. Whereas, the multitude run, with all their strength, to sin and death as their end, and it is not strange that they should find it. The first and great cause of all these errors is negligence of inquiry ; and the second is, aversion to believe what; ought to be believed of God, and a hatred for the things that would enlighten and convert the soul. If men will not heed either holy words or miracles, it is not strange that they remain in error. They must study religion, with a sincere desire to find out the truth. If they wish to find out the truth, they must not appeal to the enemies of truth. They must consult those who are well instructed in their religion, and who practice it. They must consult the priest. He will explain to them the true doctrine of the Catholic Church. Moreover, sincerity of heart must show itself in a firm resolution to embrace the truth whenever it shall be found, and whatever it may cost the seeker. He must prefer it before every worldly consideration, and be ready to forfeit everything in this life : the affections of his friends, a comfortable home, temporal goods, and prospects in business, rather than deprive his soul of so great a treasure.
The New York Freeman's Journal, Sept. 2d, 1854, contains the following notice on the late General Thomas F. Carpenter. The words of this notice are written by ex-Governor Laurence. The general, when about to become a Catholic, made known his intention to a friend. The friend, of course, was surprised. He instanced the fearful results consequent upon a proceeding so unpopular, the loss of professional practice, the alienation of friends, the scoffs of the crowd, etc. "All such blessings," replied General Carpenter, "I can dispense with, all such insults I can despise, but I cannot afford to lose my immortal soul." The general spoke thus, because he knew, and firmly believed, what Jesus Christ has solemnly declared, to wit : "He who loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me" (Matt, x, 37) ; and as to the loss of temporal gain, he has answered : "What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?" (Mark viii; 36.)
But would it not be enough for such a one to be a Catholic in heart only, without professing his religion publicly ? No, for Jesus Christ has solemnly declared that "he who shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed when he shall come in his majesty, and that of his Father, and of the holy angels." (Luke ix, 26.)
But might not such a one safely put off being received into the Church till the hour of death ?
This would be to abuse the mercy of God, and, in punishment for this sin, to lose the light and grace of faith, and die a reprobate. In order to obtain heaven, we must be ready to sacrifice all, even our lives : "Fear ye not them," says Christ, "that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt, x, 28.) How often do we meet with men who tell us that they would gladly become Catholics, but it is too hard to live up to the laws and maxims of the Church ! They know very well that, if they become Catholics, they must lead honest and sober lives, they must be pure, they must respect the holy sacrament of marriage, they must check their sinful passions; and this they are unwilling to do: "Men love darkness rather than light," says Jesus Christ, "because their deeds are evil." Remember the well known proverb : "There are none so deaf as those that will not hear." They are kept back from embracing the faith, because they know that the truths of our religion are at war with their sinful inclinations. It is not surprising that these inclinations should revolt against immolation. The prudence of the flesh understands and feels that it loses all, if the truths of faith are listened to and taken for the rule of conduct ; that it must renounce the unlawful enjoyments of life, must die to the world and to itself, and bear the mortification of Jesus Christ in its body. At the mere thought of this crucifixion of the flesh and its concupiscence, imposed on every one who would belong to the Saviour, the whole animal man is troubled. Self love suggests a thousand reasons to delay at least the sacrifices that affright them. The prudence of the flesh, having the ascendency, obscures the most simple truths, attracts and flatters the powers of the soul ; and when, afterward, "faith endeavors to interpose its authority, it finds the under standing prejudiced, the will overcome or weakened, the heart all earthly-minded ; and hard, indeed, is it for faith to reduce the soul to its dominion. Those who listen to the prudence of the flesh will never become Catholics.
Finally, those who seek the truth must show their sincerity of heart in fervently and frequently praying to God that they may find the truth, and the right way that leads to it. Faith is not a mere natural gift; it is not an acquired virtue or habit, it is something altogether supernatural. The right use of the natural faculties can, indeed, prepare one to receive faith ; but true faith, that is, to believe, with an unwavering conviction, in the existence of all those things which God has made known, is a supernatural gift, a gift which no one can have of himself; it is the free gift of God : "For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God." (Eph. ii, 8.) God is so great and good, that we cannot merit and possess this good by anything we may do. Now, it is by the gift of faith that we have in some measure a glimpse of all that God is, and that consequently we attach ourselves to this supreme good, and behold ! we are saved. We can say with David, in the truest sense, that in enlightening us the Lord saves us : "The Lord is my light, and my salvation." (Ps. xxvi, 1.) Hence it is evident that this gift is a free gift of God, without the least merit on our part. When this light or grace shines upon the understanding, it enlightens the understanding; so as to render it most certain of the truths which are proposed to it. But this mere knowledge of the truth is not as yet the full gift of faith. St. Paul says (Rom. i, 2) that the heathens knew God, but they would not obey him, and consequently their knowledge did not save them. You may convince a man that the Catholic Church is the true Church, but he will not, on that account, become a Catholic. Our Saviour himself was known by many, and yet he was followed only by few. Faith, then, is something more than knowledge. Knowledge is the submission of the understanding to truth ; but faith implies also the submission of the will to the truth. It is for this reason that the light or grace of faith must also move the will, because a good will also belongs to faith, since no one can believe unless he is willing to believe. It is for this reason that faith is also rewarded by God, and infidelity punished : "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mark xvi, 16.) God will never refuse to bestow this gift of faith upon those who seek the truth with a sincere heart, use their best endeavors to find it, and sincerely pray for it with confidence and perseverance. Witness Clovis, the heathen
King of the Franks. When he, together with his whole army, was in the greatest danger of being defeated by the Alemanni, he prayed as follows : "Jesus Christ, thou of whom Clotilde (the king's Christian wife) has often told me that thou art the Son of the living God, and that thou givest aid to the hard-pressed, and victory to those who trust in thee ! I humbly crave thy powerful assistance. If thou grantest me the victory over my enemies I will believe in thee, and be baptized in thy name ; for I have called upon my gods in vain. They must be impotent, as they cannot help those who serve them. Now I invoke thee, desiring to believe in thee; do, then, deliver me from the hands of my adversaries !" No sooner had he uttered this prayer than the Alemanni were panic-stricken, took to flight, and soon after, seeing their king slain, sued for peace. Thereupon Clovis blended both nations, the Franks and the Alemanni, together, returned home, and became a Christian. Witness F. Thayer, an Anglican minister. When as yet in great doubt and uncertainty about the truth of his religion, he began to pray as follows: "God of all goodness, almighty and eternal Father of mercies, and Saviour of mankind! I implore thee, by thy sovereign goodness, to enlighten my mind, and to touch my heart, that, by means of true faith, hope, and charity, I may live and die in the true religion of Jesus Christ. I confidently believe that, as there is but one God, there can be but one faith, one religion, one only path to salvation ; and that every other path opposed thereto can lead but to perdition. This path, my God ! I anxiously seek after, that I may follow it, and be saved. Therefore I protest, before thy divine majesty, and I swear by all thy divine attributes, that I will follow the religion which thou shalt reveal to me as the true one, and will abandon, at whatever cost, that wherein I shall have discovered errors and falsehood. I confess that I do not deserve this favor for the greatness of my sins, for which I am truly penitent, seeing they offend a God who is so good, so holy, and so worthy of love; but what I deserve not, I hope to obtain from thine infinite mercy ; and I beseech thee to grant it unto me through the merits of that precious blood which was shed for us sinners by thine only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth, etc. Amen." God was not slow to hear so sincere and fervent a prayer, and Thayer became a Catholic. Let any one who is as yet groping in the darkness of infidelity and error, pray in the same manner, and the God of all light and truth will bestow upon him the gift of faith in a high degree. It is human to fall into error, devilish to remain in it, and angelical to rise from it, by embracing the truth which leads to God, by whom it has been revealed and is preserved in his Church.
To be continued . . . . . . . . . . . .