It follows that the Roman Catholic Church alone is the one true Church of Christ.
There are men foolish enough to talk of Protestantism as if it were a name for some religious faith, system, or organization! They even speak of the Protestant religion, or the Protestant Church! There is nothing of the kind. There is, and there can be, but one true religion. The word "religion," says St. Augustine, is derived from the Latin word re-eligendo (to reelect), because, after having lost our Lord by sin, we ought to reelect, or choose him again, as our true and only Lord and sovereign Master. But, according to the same saint, the word "religion" is derived from religando (to reunite), because, it reunites man with God, with whom he was primitively united, but from whom he voluntarily separated by sin. Hence, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, religion is a virtue which teaches us to live in union with God. Now, to live in union with God is to keep our will united to his; in other words, it is to do the will of God. Religion, therefore, is the knowing and doing of God's will. He alone who knows and does the will of God has religion is a truly religious man. Hence religion has always been one and the same:
1: in its Author, who is God, who taught man his will, either in person or through those to whom he made his will known;
2. in its doctrine.
As God has always taught man the same truths concerning himself, man, the world, morality, divine worship, grace, the object of religion, and the means to preserve and spread it, it is clear that religion must always have been one and the same from the beginning of the world. As to himself, God has always taught, from the beginning of the world, that he alone is the only one God, infinitely perfect, the Creator and Redeemer of all things; that the Redeemer would save the world, and that we would be sanctified by his Spirit. These truths, however, are more fully known to Christians than they were to the Jews. Concerning man, God has always taught that he created him to his likeness, being composed of a body, and a soul which is spiritual, free, and immortal; that man fell through his own fault; that all men are born in a state of sin and degradation; that they will all rise at the last day, and that there will be eternal rewards for the just, and eternal punishments for the wicked. With regard to the world, God has always taught that he created it out of nothing, that, by his infinite power and wisdom, he governed and preserved it, that he will purify it by fire, and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
As to morality, God has always taught the same laws, the same distinction between good and evil; always commended the same virtues, and condemned the same vices. As to his worship, God has always taught the same two essential acts of worship, viz. : prayer and sacrifice.
As to grace, God has always taught that it was necessary for every man to be saved, that he would give it, on account of the Redeemer, to all those who would use those means through which he wished to bestow it.
As to the object of religion, God has always taught that it was to destroy sin, and to lead men to true happiness.
As to the means of preserving and spreading it, God has always used the same means, choosing certain men, and investing them with his own authority, to teach his religion authoritatively, and with divine certainty. So that to hear and believe the infallible teachers chosen and sent by God, is to hear and to believe God himself. Such infallible teachers were, as we have seen, the patriarchs and Moses and the prophets, before the coming of the Redeemer; and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his teaching Church, St. Peter and the other apostles, and their lawful successors, in the New Law. As religion has always been one and the same from the beginning of the world, because the same God has always taught one and the same religion, in like manner the teaching authority has always been the same, which is God's own infallible authority, invested in those of whom he said: "He who heareth you heareth me." There has, therefore, always been but one and the same religion, but one and the same Church. As man, by passing through the different stages of life, does not cease to be the same man, so religion has never ceased to be the same, though it has not at all times been taught as fully as it is at the present day; and the Christian religion, as taught by Christ in the Roman Catholic Church, is far more perfect, and is far richer in graces, than it was before the coming of the Redeemer.
It is, therefore, quite absurd to speak of Protestantism as of a religion or church; the truth is one, errors are many; the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, is one, sects are many that deny the truth and the Church's infallible authority to teach truth. Every sensible man, then, seeing a class of men drawn into a whirlpool of end less religious variations and dissensions, is forced to say: "This is only an ephemeral sect, without substance and without any divine authority, it is a plant not planted by the hand of Almighty God, and therefore it will be rooted
up, it is a kingdom divided against itself, and therefore it will be made desolate; it is a house built on sand, and therefore it cannot stand, it is a cloud without water, which is carried about by the winds, a tree of autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, by the want of faith and morality, and therefore it will be plucked up by the roots; a raging wave of the sea, foaming out its own confusion, a wandering star, to which the storm and darkness are reserved forever, a withered branch, cut off from the body of Christ, the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, which alone is established by Christ on earth as his pillar and ground of truth in one fold, watched over by his one chief shepherd, ever immovable amid the storms of hell; with unshaken faith, amid the variations of philosophical systems, the infernal persecutions of the wicked, the revolutions of empires, the attacks of interest, of prejudice, of passion, the dissolving labors of criticism, the progress of physical, historical, and other sciences, the unrestrained love of novelty, the abuses which sooner or later undermine the most firmly-established human institutions. The faith of this Church alone is divine, because she alone teaches with divine authority. "This is clear to every unprejudiced and well-reflecting mind." Mr. T. W. M. Marshall relates the following, in one of his lectures: "A young English lady, with whom I became subsequently acquainted, and from whose lips I heard the tale, informed her parents that she felt constrained to embrace the Catholic faith. Hereupon arose much agitation in the parental councils, and a reluctant promise was extorted from the daughter that she would not communicate with any Catholic priest till she had first listened to the convincing arguments with which certain clerical friends of the family would easily dissipate her unreasonable doubts. These ministers were three in number and we will call them Messrs. A, B and C. The appointed day arrived for the solemn discussion, which one of the ministers was about to commence, when the young lady opened it abruptly with the following remark: 'I am too young and uninstructed to dispute with gentlemen of your age and experience, but perhaps you will allow me to ask you a few questions? Anticipating an easy triumph over the poor girl, the three ministers acceded with encouraging smiles to her request. 'Then I will ask you,' she said to Mr. A, 'whether regeneration always accompanies the sacrament of baptism?' 'Undoubtedly' was the prompt reply 'that is the plain doctrine of our Church.' 'And you, Mr. B' she continued, 'do you teach that doctrine?' 'God forbid, my young friend' was his indignant answer, 'that I should teach such soul-destroying error ! Baptism is a formal rite, which' etc., etc. 'And you, Mr. C' she asked the third, 'what is your opinion?' 'I regret,' he replied with a bland voice, for he began to suspect they were making a mess of it, 'that my reverend friends should have expressed themselves a little incautiously. The true doctrine lies between these extremes and he was going to develop it, when the young lady, rising from her chair, said: 'I thank you, gentlemen; you have taught me all that I expected to learn from you. You are all ministers of the same church, yet you each contradict the other, even upon a doctrine which St. Paul calls one of the foundations of Christianity. You have only confirmed me in my resolution to enter a Church whose ministers all teach the same thing.' And then they went out of the room, one by one, and probably continued their battle in the street. But the parents of the young lady turned her out of doors the next day, to get her bread as she could. They sometimes do that sort of thing in England.
Another friend of mine, also a lady, and one of the most intelligent of her sex, was for several years the disciple of the distinguished minister who has given a name to a certain religious school in England. Becoming disaffected toward the Episcopalian Church, which appeared to her more redolent of earth, in proportion as she aspired more ardently toward heaven, she was persuaded to assist at a certain Ritualistic festival, which it was hoped would have a soothing effect upon her mind. A new church was to be opened, and the ceremonies were to be prolonged through an entire week. All the Ritualistic celebrities of the day were expected to be present. Her lodging was judiciously provided in a house in which were five of the most transcendental members of the High Church party. It was hoped that they would speedily convince her of their apostolic unity, but, unfortunately, they only succeeded in proving to her that no two of them were of the same mind. One recommended her privately to pray to the Blessed Virgin, which another condemned as, at best, a poetical superstition. One told her that the pope was, by divine appointment, the head of the Universal Church ; another, that he was a usurper and a schismatic. One maintained that the Reformers were profane scoundrels and apostates ; another, that they had at all events good intentions. But I need not trouble you with an account of their various creeds. Painfully affected by this diversity, where she had been taught to expect complete uniformity, her doubts were naturally confirmed. During the week she was invited to take a walk with the eminent person whom she had hitherto regarded as a trustworthy teacher. To him she revealed her growing disquietude, and presumed to lament the conflict of opinions which she had lately witnessed, but only to be rewarded by a stern rebuke; for it is a singular fact that men who are prepared at any moment to judge all the saints and doctors, will not tolerate any judgment which reflects upon themselves. It was midwinter, and the lady's companion, pointing to the leafless trees by the roadside, said, with appropriate solemnity of voice and manner: "They are stripped of their foliage now, but wait for the spring, and you will see them once more wake to life. So shall it be with the Church of England, which now seems to you dead." "It may be so" she replied, "but what sort of a spring can we expect after a winter which has lasted three hundred years?" You will not be surprised to hear that this lady soon after became a member of a Church which knows nothing of winter, but within whose peaceful borders reigns eternal spring. And why do we see an eternal spring within the peaceful borders of the Catholic Church ?
The reason is contained in the answer to the question :
To be continued . . . . . . . .