Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

outset that an act of faith can be elicited in some way, and therefore must admit, that, if not elicitable in the way we allege, it must be in some other way ; for we assume no such thing. We assert in the outset, and we labor throughout the argument to prove, that an act of faith is elicitable in no way, but by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church ; and, if in any part of the argument we reason on the assumption of its possibility, it is only on the ground that its possibility is conceded by Protestants in their assumption of the possibility of salvation.

An analysis of the whole argument of the article in question, so far as it bears directly against Protestants, will give us the following:

1. According to the admissions of Protestants, 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.

2. According to the admissions of Protestants themselves, it is possible to elicit an act of faith, since they admit the possibility of salvation, and that salvation is not possible without faith.

But it is not possible to elicit an act of faith without the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, it must be possible to elicit an act of faith with the Roman Catholic Church.

The major, in both instances, is assumed to be conceded by Protestants. The dispute, then, must turn on the minor ; for, admitting both premises, no one will dream of denying the conclusion. The Observer, then, evidently cannot refute us in the way it imagines. The argument with which it proposes to refute us, if we may be allowed to reduce it to form, is, - It is impossible to be saved without eliciting an act of faith, transeat, or we concede it. But it is not possible to elicit an act of faith with the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, it is possible to elicit an act of faith, or to be saved, without the Roman Catholic Church.

But this argument is faulty, for the conclusion does not follow from the premises ; because faith, if not elicitable with the Roman Catholic Church, may not be elicitable at all. The Observer, in order to refute us, must go a step further, and maintain this argument, namely : — It is impossible to be saved without eliciting an act of faith, transeat, or we concede it. But an act of faith is elicitable without the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, it is possible to be saved without the Roman Catholic Church.

This argument, if sustained, would be good against the argument we adduced, because it is its direct negative ; but it would not, after all, be conclusive against Catholicity. The conclusion follows ad hominem, not necessarily ; for there may be something besides faith necessary to salvation, and which is attainable only through the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, if sustained, it would unquestionably refute the argument on which we in our essay relied to establish the insufficiency of Protestantism. But the Observer does not sustain it ; does not even seriously attempt to sustain it. It merely attempts to retort upon us, and show that it is as difficult to elicit an act of faith on Catholic ground as we allege it is on Protestant ground. We tell it, therefore, again, since what it attempts to prove is not the negative of our proposition, even assuming that it has done all it has attempted, which it of course has not, it has not refuted us, or relieved Protestantism in the least of the very grave objections we urged against it. We are rather surprised that even the

editor of the Observer, who, though by no means a theologian or a disciplined reasoner, is yet a man of at least ordinary natural ability, should think of controverting this. He must know that the whole question, as we presented it, turns on the sufficiency or insufficiency of Protestantism to the eliciting of an act of faith, and that, till he has proved its sufficiency, he has proved nothing to his purpose. Protestantism, if good for any thing, must be able to stand on its own merits, and be capable of being sustained, not by the assumed error of some other system, but by its own positive truth. Its advocates show but little confidence in its intrinsic strength, when they refuse to bring forward positive arguments in its defence, and seek to sustain it solely by abusing the Church, calumniating her sovereign Pontiffs, misstating her history, and misrepresenting her teachings. They themselves admit that faith is a condition sine qua non of salvation, and therefore must admit, that, if faith be not elicitable on Protestant ground, no man living and dying a Protestant can be saved. Why, then, do they not see the necessity, before all, of establishing the fact that faith is elicitable on their ground ? Why do they so studiously evade the question ? The question is for them a question of the gravest magnitude. Their eternal all is at stake. If they are wrong in assuming that they can have faith as Protestants, as we think we have proved they are, they have and can have no well grounded hopes of salvation. How, then, can they treat this question with indifference? Can a reasonable being rest satisfied with his condition, so long as he has room to fear that he is out of the way of salvation ? Is the eternal destiny of the soul a matter to be trifled with ? “What doth it profit, if a man gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?

[graphic]

or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? " St. Matt. xvi. 26. It may be humiliating to the Protestant to descend from that pinnacle of human pride and self-sufficiency on which bis assumptions place him, and consent to receive instructions, as a little child, from the Church against which he has for so long a time protested, — to prostrate himself at the foot of the cross which he has despised, and to be called by a name he has done his best to make a name of reproach ; but it is better even to submit, it is better to own that he has been wrong, that he has deceived and been deceived, that he has sinned before God, blasphemed his holy name, and become unworthy to be called a son in his Father's house, than to eat husks with the swine and to lose his own soul for ever. Let the prodigal son come to himself, and ask if he can have life in the “ far country ” where he has wasted his substance and is perishing with hunger, and he will not refuse to say, “ I will arise and return to my Father's house, where there is bread enough and to spare.”

Would that our Protestant brethren would once seriously reflect on their own position, once seriously ask themselves, in the solitude of their own self-communings, if they have faith, if they can have faith without returning to the bosom of the Church; they would then soon find that where they are they have and can have no foundation on which to build, no ground of hope in God's mercy, or of a share in the heritage of the saints.

In our July number we charged the Observer with ignoring the position, which we had assumed in the article he was laboring to refute, that what one is required to believe in order to be saved is truth, not falsehood ; that is, truth without mixture of error. The editor, in his reply, appears to admit the charge, but labors to justify his neglecting the position, on the ground that it was of no consequence to him. “ It was,” he says, " of no consequence to us that he (Mr. Brownson) labored long to prove that the somewhat 'the Christian must believe, in order to be saved, is truth without any mixture of falsehood; for his only object, in getting up his “exact' theory, was to create a necessity for an infallible witness ' ; and if it

p. 325.

turned out in the end that he could not legitimately authenticate the authority of the witness, it would follow of necessity that there is no such thing as faith, or that illicit processes of reasoning had betrayed Mr. Brownson into a false presentation of its claims."

Therefore, the position and reasoning were of no consequence in the refutution of our argument !

The Observer, in the first place, labors under a mistake in saying, our “only object in getting up the exact theory was to create a necessity for an infallible witness.” We merely attempted to show, from the nature of faith itself, and of its object, that without an infallible witness there can be no such thing as faith. The necessity, if we were right in our reasoning, was not of our creating, but in the nature of the case. It was the Observer's business, not to assume we created or imagined a necessity where none exists, but to prove that the necessity we alleged does not exist in fact. We cannot understand how otherwise he was to refute us.

In the second place, the Observer distinctly admits, that, if our position and the processes of reasoning we adopted be admitted, it follows of necessity, either that there can be no such thing as faith, or that the infallible witness we contended for, that is, the Roman Catholic Church, must be accepted, — precisely what throughout the whole argument we were laboring to prove.

And this is assigned as a reason why, when avowedly attempting to resute us, it was of no consequence to controvert our position, or show the fallacy of our reasoning ! You fatter yourself with having “ the pleasure ” of refuting an opponent. If you grant bis position and reasoning, you own you must accept his conclusions ; therefore, in order to refute him, it is of no consequence to overthrow his position or set aside his reasoning. This would be a novel way, and, by the by, rather an easy way, of refuting an opponent, and no doubt has many attractions for our friend of the Observer ; yet we would thank him to tell us, er professo, what in an opponent's argument he regards it as necessary to refute in order to refute the argument.

Nevertheless, the editor says he did not entirely overlook the matter ; but, all unimportant as it was, had special reference to it in stating one of the points we maintained, which needed looking after, to be, " That, unless the nice theological shades of meaning in God's word are appreciated, one cannot be saved.” — p. 326. But we complained of him, first, for omitting, when giving professedly a synopsis of our argument, an important position which we had assumed, and without which the argument would be incomplete and without force ; and, secondly, for ascribing to us a proposition we neither adopted nor implied, and reasoning against it as if it were ours, and giving his readers no means of discovering it to be not ours. These two just causes of complaint, we are sorry to say, be suffers to remain. He has grossly mutilated and misrepresented our argument, and will neither acknowledge his injustice nor afford his readers the means of detect

ing it.

Our proposition was, simply, that what one is required to believe in order to be a Christian believer, in order to be saved, is truth, not falsehood, truth without any mixture of falsehood; or, in other terms, -as we elsewhere expressed ourselves, - the word of God in its purity and integrity. The editor of the Observer tells his readers that we maintain that, unless the nice theological shades of meaning in God's word are appreciated, one cannot be saved.” We submit to the candid, nay, even to the uncandid reader, if these two propositions are identical ; if, indeed, there is not a wide difference between them. The first proposition the editor omitted, and substituted for it the second. This was grossly unjust. All his reasoning, professedly against our proposition, was directed solely against the one falsely ascribed to us ; and he seemed to his readers to be refuting us, when he was really only refuting a proposition which he had himself fabricated, and without any authority asserted to be ours. Here was both falsehood and deception, from the guilt of which the editor hardly attempts to clear himself, — whether through simplicity or malice it is not for us to decide.

But let us examine these two propositions. The one the Observer ascribes to us evidently makes theology a condition sine qua non of salvation. This must be admitted. 1. Because it speaks of the “ nice theological shades of meaning in God's word.” The adjective theological is necessarily used here to designate the subject of the shades of meaning, and by its proper force determines that subject to be theology. If this had not been the intention of the framer of the proposition, assuming him to have attached some meaning to the words he adopted, he would have omitted the word theological, and have written simply, “ Unless the nice shades of meaning in God's,” &c. 2. Because the proposition affirms unless the nice

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »