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Dr. Puser, in Christ Church Cathedral.
The Episcopal Observer does not appear to comprehend what it is it must do, in order to refute the argument urged against Protestants in the article headed The Church against No-Church, in our Review for April last. That argument, formally stated, is, — According to the admissions of Protestants themselves, it is not possible to be saved without eliciting an act of faith.* But it is not possible to elicit an act of faith without the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, without the Roman Catholic Church, it is not possible to be saved. Protestants concede the major, it is evident they can set aside the conclusion only by denying the minor, and proving affirmatively that an act of faith can be elicited without the Roman Catholic Church.
The impossibility of being saved without eliciting faith, that is, without the act of faith, assumed here and throughout the whole argument, is, of course, to be restricted to adults, or persons in whom reason is so far developed as to render them morally responsible for their acts. It is true, universally, that it is impossible to be saved without faith, “ for without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6, and “he that believeth not shall be condemned,” St. Mark, xvi. 16; but it is not universally true that it is impossible to be saved without eliciting faith; for infants are saved by the infused habit of faith received in the Sacrament of Baptism, without the act of faith, of which they are not capable. Nevertheless, restricted to those who have attained to that age in which they become morally responsible for their acts, the assertion in the text is strictly true; and it is only as so restricted we understand it, or wish to have it understood. VOL. III. NO. I.
The Episcopal Observer, however, contends that it will refute us, if it succeed in proving that an act of faith cannot be elicited with the Roman Catholic Church. It supposes the argument may be retorted, and the question made to turn on the merits of Catholicity, instead of the merits of Protestantism. But in this the editor labors under a mistake ; for the point at issue is not what is possible with Catholicity, but what is possible without it. The argument puts Protestantism on the defensive, and requires her to vindicate herself. She cannot retort upon her accuser ; because, even were she to prove
her accuser guilty, she would not establish her own innocence.
The Protestant denies the Catholic Church, and does all in his power to destroy her. Be it so. We do not, in our argument, undertake the defence of the Church against him ; but call
upon him to establish the sufficiency of Protestantism for salvation. He dare not affirm that salvation is possible without faith. But faith, we tell him, out of the Catholic Church, is not possible. He must deny this, and prove that it is possible out of the Catholic Church, or else admit that in denying the Catholic Church he denies the possibility of faith, and, therefore, of salvation. It avails him nothing, even if he prove that faith is not possible with the Roman Catholic Church ; for, until he proves its possibility without it, he can conclude from the fact that it is not possible with it only that it is not possible at all.
The Observer cannot deny this, but it imagines that in an argument
with us it can relieve itself of the necessity of proving affirmatively that faith is elicitable without the Church, by adopting the argumentum ad hominem.
Mr. Brownson, it says, p. 325, assumes in the outset, as well as we, that an act of faith can be elicited in some way.
If we shut the mouth of his witness, he must fall back on Protestant ground, or become a faithless infidel.” If we were so disposed, we could concede the Observer's premises and deny its conclusion. If faith be possible in some way, and not possible on Catholic ground, it must be possible on Protestant ground or on some other, we admit. But, for aught the Observer shows to the contrary, there may be some other than the Protestant ground on which it is elicitable. Therefore, it does not follow, that, even were it to shut the mouth of our witness, we must either become Protestants or infidels.
But the Observer has no right to say that we assume in the