Lecture 11. Heretical and Schismatical Bodies No Prejudice to the Catholicity of the Church

Objection:—Many Christians not Catholic
Argument rests on Greek Church
Different means of opposing Truth
Parallels to Greek Church:
Explanation lies in Human Nature
And Hereditary Faith
Hope for Heretics and Schismatics
Persons who inspire Anxiety


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{330} THERE is no objection made at this time to the claims of the Catholic Church more imposing to the imagination, yet less tenable in the judgment of reason, than that which is grounded on there being at present so many nations and races, which have kept the name of Christian, yet given up Catholicism. If fecundity has ever been considered one of the formal notes or tokens of the Mother of souls, it is fair to look out for it now; and if it has told in favour of the communion of Rome in former times, so now surely it may be plausibly made to tell against it. It would seem as if in this age of the world the whole number of anti-Catholics were nearly equal to the number of Catholics, at least so our opponents say; and I am willing, for argument's sake, to grant it. Let it be so, or, in other words, let it be assumed that scarcely more than half of Christendom subjects itself to the Catholic Church. "Is it not preposterous, then," it is asked of {331} us, "to claim to be the whole, when you are but a moiety? And with what countenance can you demand that we should unhesitatingly and without delay leave our own Communion for yours, when there is so little to show at first sight that you have more pretensions to the Christian name than we have?"

This is the argument, put in its broadest, simplest shape; and you, my brethren, would like to avail yourselves of it just as I have stated it, if you could. But you cannot; for it puts together all creeds and opinions, all communions, whatever their origin and history, and adds up the number of their members in rivalry of that of the Church's children. You would do so if you could, as your forefathers did before you; two centuries ago Archbishop Bramhall did so, and you have every good wish to copy him, as in his other representations, so in this. "We hold communion," he says, speaking of the Church of England in contrast with those whom he would call Romanists, "with thrice so many Catholic Christians as they do; that is, the eastern, southern, and northern Christians, besides Protestants." [Note 1] "Divide Christendom into five parts, and in four of them they have very little or nothing to do. Perhaps they have here a monastery, or there a small handful of proselytes; but what are five or six persons to so many millions of Christian souls, that they should be Catholics, and not all the others?" [Note 2] This being the case, as he {332} views the matter, it of course follows that we are but successors of the ancient Donatists, a mere fraction of the Church excommunicating all the rest. "The Donatists," he says, "separated the whole Church from their Communion, and substituted themselves, being but a small part of the Christian world, in the place of the Catholic Church, just as the Romanists do at this day. " [Note 3]

This, certainly, was turning the tables against his opponents, who had been accustomed to consider that the Church of England, granting it was a Church, was in the very position of the followers of Donatus, a fragment of Christendom claiming for itself immaculate purity; but let us observe what he is forced to do to make his argument good. First, of course, he throws himself into communion, whether they will have him or not, not only with the Greek Church, but with the various heretical bodies all over the East; the Nestorians of Chaldęa, the Copts of Egypt, the Jacobites of Syria, and the Eutychians of Armenia, whose heresy in consequence he finds it most expedient to doubt. "Those Churches," he says, speaking of the East, "do agree better, both among themselves and with other churches, than the Roman Church itself, both in profession of faith (for they and we do generally acknowledge the same ancient Creeds, and no other) and in inferior questions, being free from the intricate and {333} perplexed difficulties of the Roman schools ... How are they 'heretical' Churches? Some of them are called Nestorians, but most injuriously, who have nothing of Nestorius but the name. Others have been suspected of Eutychianism, and yet in truth orthodox enough … It is no new thing for great quarrels to arise from mere mistakes." [Note 4] Elsewhere he says: "It is true that some few Eastern Christians, in comparison of those innumerable multitudes, are called Nestorians; and some others, by reason of some unusual expression, suspected of Eutychianism, but both most wrongfully. Is this the requital that he," that is, his Catholic opponent, "makes to so many of these poor Christians, for maintaining their religion inviolated so many ages under Mahometan princes?" [Note 5]

Admitting, as he does, these ancient and distant sectaries to have a portion in the Catholic faith and communion, it is not surprising that he extends a like privilege to the recently formed Protestant communities in his own neighbourhood. "Because I esteem these Churches not completely formed," he says, "do I therefore exclude them from all hope of salvation? or esteem them aliens and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel? or account them formal schismatics? No such thing." [Note 6] "I know no reason why we should not admit Greeks and Lutherans to our communion; and, if he" (that is, his opponent) "had added them, {334} Armenians, Abyssenes, Muscovites. [Note 7] ... For the Lutherans, he does them egregious wrong. Throughout the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden they have their bishops, name and thing; and throughout Germany they have their superintendents." [Note 8]

Such was the line of argument which the defenders of the National Church adopted two centuries back; and, of course, it was much stronger in the way of argument than anything which is attempted now. Now, the Protestants are given up; we hear little or nothing of "Churches not completely formed;" not much account is taken of the "superintendents" of Germany; and as to the episcopacy of Denmark and Sweden, the thing, if not the name, is simply gone. Nor would any adherent of the theological party whom I am addressing, think with much respect either of the Nestorians or of the Monophysites of Asia and Egypt. The anti-Catholic bodies, which are made the present basis of the argument against us, are mainly or solely the Greek and the Anglican communities; and, as the antiquity, prescriptive authority, orders, and doctrine of Anglicanism, are the very subject in dispute, it is usual to simplify the argument by resting it upon {335} grounds which it is supposed we cannot deny; viz., the pretensions of the Greek Church, whose apostolical descent is unquestionable, and whose faith almost unquestioned.


The argument, then, which I have to consider, is an appeal to the imagination of the following kind: The Russian Church, according to the statistical tables of 1835, includes 39,862,473 souls within its pale [Note 9]; the Byzantine, or what is commonly called the Greek Church, is said to number about three millions [Note 10]; so that, excluding the heretical bodies of the East, we may place the whole Greek communion, from north to south, at about forty-three millions [Note 11], with such increase of population as in the last fifteen years it has gained. On the other hand, the whole number of Catholics, which has been placed by some as low as one hundred and sixteen millions, is considered by Catholics at present to reach two hundred. But, whatever be the proportion between the Greeks and ourselves, anyhow so vast a communion as one of forty-three million souls is a difficulty, it is said, too positive for us to overcome. It seems incredible that we can have exclusive claims to be Christ's heritage, if those claims issue in the exclusion of such immense populations from it; it is {336} incredible that we should be the Catholic Church, if we have not the power to take them up into our system, but let them lie in their own place. "If the Greeks are separate from the See of Rome," it is argued, "as we see they are, we too may without hazard be separate also. They are too powerful, too numerous for you to consider them as the subjects of a schism; they are too large a limb to admit of your amputation; they enter into the Church's life and essence; in ejecting them from her bosom, she would be tearing out herself; in excommunicating them, you rather excommunicate yourselves; you are affording us a plain reductio ad absurdum of your Catholicity. And there is a second consideration which urges us, and that is, the frightful cruelty of denying to such multitudes of men, and to so great an extent of territory, a place in the Church, claiming it as they do from generation to generation, and fully believing their own possession of it. Charity, still more than the necessities of controversy, obliges you to acknowledge them as a portion of the fold of Christ."

This is the objection which I am to examine, and you will observe that I am to examine it only as an objection; that is to say, I am supposing that there is sufficient proof on other grounds that the Communion of Rome is the Catholic Church, for to this the movement of 1833 has already been supposed to lead; and then, with this fact sufficiently proved, an objection is brought as an obstacle to our surrendering ourselves to {337} the conviction which follows upon the proof of the fact. What I have to do, then, is to show that the proof already brought home to us of the Catholicity of the Roman Communion, is not affected by the phenomenon in question; or that there are ways of accounting for it, if we do but assume, which I claim to do, that the Church of Rome and Catholicism are synonymous terms.


I observe, then, that this phenomenon is but one instance of a great and broad fact, which has ever been seen on the earth, viz., that truth is opposed not only by direct contradictions which are unequivocal, but also by such pretences as are of a character to deceive men at first sight, and to confuse the evidence of what alone is divine and trustworthy. Thus, if I must begin from the very beginning, the enemy of man did not overcome him in Paradise, except by pretending to be a prophet, and, as it were, preaching against his Maker. "Ye shall not die the death," he said; "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Again, when Moses displayed his miracles before Pharaoh, Jannes and Mambres were allowed to imitate them; in order, so to speak, to give the king a pretext, if he was perverse enough to take it, for rejecting the divine message. When the same great prophet had led out the chosen people towards the promised land, their enemies made the attempt to set up a rival prophet in Balaam, though {338} it was overruled, as in other cases, by their Almighty Protector. When a prophet denounced the schism of Jeroboam, there was an old deceiver who seduced him by the claim, "I also am a prophet like unto thee." The Temple had not long been built before a rival shrine arose on Mount Gerizim, as if with the very object of perplexing the inquirer. "Our fathers adored in this mountain," says the Samaritan woman to our Lord, "and ye say that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore." And He Himself warns us of false Christs and Antichrists, who were to mislead the many with the imitation of His claims; and His Apostles were resisted, and in a manner thwarted, by Simon Magus, and others who set up against them. They themselves distinctly prophesied that such delusions were to be after them, and apparently to endure till the end of all things; so much so, that were such imposing phenomena as the Greek Church taken out of the way, it would be difficult to say how the actual state of Christendom corresponded to the apostolic anticipations of it; nor should we have any cause to be surprised though the effect of such phenomena in time to come were more practically urgent and visibly influential than it has been hitherto. "After my departure," says St. Paul, "ravenous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves will rise up men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." And in his parting words he warns us {339} that "in the last days shall come dangerous times, for men shall be lovers of themselves ... having an appearance indeed of piety," that is, of orthodoxy, "but denying the power thereof." "Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, erring, and driving into error." And "there shall be a time when they will not bear sound doctrine, but according to their own desires they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears." I need not remind you that St. John and St. Jude bear a similar testimony, which the event in no long time fulfilled.

If you would ask me for the most remarkable fulfilment of their warning, I should point to Mahometanism, which is a far more subtle contrivance of the enemy than we are apt to consider. In the first place, it perplexes the evidence of Christianity just in that point in which it is most original and striking: I mean, it professes the propagation of a religion through the world, which I suppose was quite a new idea when Christianity appeared. In the event, indeed, it did but illustrate the divinity of Christianity by the contrast; for while the Catholic Church is a proselytizing power, as her enemies confess, even at the end of eighteen centuries, Mahometanism soon got tired of its own undertaking, and, when the novelty and excitement of conversion were over, it relapsed into a sort of conservative, local, national religion, such as the Greek and Latin polytheisms before it, and Protestantism since. {340} And next, it acted over again, as if in mockery, the part which Christianity had taken towards Judaism, viz., it professed to be an improvement on the Gospel, as the Gospel had been upon the law; and just as Christianity dealt with Judaism, so it pointed to the Christian prophecies themselves in evidence of its claims, which it affected to interpret better than Christians themselves. Moreover, it swept away a considerable portion of the Christian heritage; and there it remains to this day in the countries which it seized upon, lying over against us, and for this reason only not interfering with the arguments of our opponents for the divine origin of Christianity, that England lies north and Islamism is in the south.

Then again, I cannot help thinking that Judaism is somewhat of a difficulty of the same kind; not as if any one were likely to prefer it, any more than Mahometanism, to Christianity; that is another matter altogether; nor, in like manner, do I think that any of you, my brethren, would turn Greek rather than become Catholic: but I mean, that, as the fact of the Greek Church impairs the simplicity of the Catholic argument, by its rival pretensions, so does the existence of Judaism interfere with Christianity; for, compared with it, Christianity is a novelty; and it may be said to Christians, Do not stand midway, but either go on to some newer novelty, such as first Montanus, then Manes, and then Mahomet introduced, and others since, {341} or else go back to the mother of all religions, the Jewish Law, which, as yourselves allow, once at least was a prophet of God. On the other hand, even if we became Jews, as considering Judaism to be the permanent religion which God had given, still this would not get rid of the difficulty I am describing, for the proper claims of Christianity would remain; then, as before, you would have two rival prophets, one true, and one not true, though you would have changed your mind, as to which was true and which was false. Looking, then, at the world as it is, taking facts as they are, you cannot rid yourselves of those difficulties in the evidence of religion, which arise from the existence of bold, plausible, imposing counter-claims on the part of error, such as the Greek communion makes against Catholicism; and you must reconcile yourselves to them, unless you are content to believe nothing, and give up the pretension of faith altogether.

But we need not go to Judaism or Mahometanism for parallels to the Greek communion; look at the history of the Christian Church herself, and you will find precedents in former times of the present difficulty, more exact and apposite than those which can be adduced from the existence of Jew or Mussulman. It may be observed that the Apostle, in the passage already quoted, speaks of the sects and persuasions, which by implication he condemns, not merely as collateral and independent creations, but as born in {342} the Catholic body, and going out from it. "Of your own selves shall men arise," he says; and St. John says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." If this was not fulfilled in the very days of the Apostles on the extensive scale on which it was afterwards, this was simply because large national conversions and serious schisms are not the growth of a day; but, as far as it could exist in the first ages, it has existed from the very first, though far more strikingly in the succeeding centuries of the Church. From the first, the Church was but one Communion among many which bore the name of Christian, some of them more learned, and others affecting a greater strictness than herself; till at length her note of Catholicity was for a while gathered up and fulfilled simply in the name of Catholic, rather than was a property visibly peculiar to herself and none but her. Hence the famous advice of the Fathers, that if one of the faithful went to a strange city, he should not ask for the "Church," for there were so many churches belonging to different denominations that he would be sure to be perplexed and to mistake, but for the Catholic Church. "If ever thou art sojourning in any city," says St. Cyril, "inquire not simply where the Lord's House is, for the sects also make an attempt to call their own conventicles houses of the Lord, nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic {343} Church." St. Cyril wrote in Palestine; but St. Austin, in Africa, and St. Pacian in Spain say the same thing. The present Greek Church is at best but a local form of religion, and does not pretend to occupy the earth; whereas some of the early heretical bodies might almost have disputed with the See of St. Peter the prerogative of Catholicity. The stern discipline of the Novatians extended from Rome to Scythia, to Asia Minor, to Alexandria, to Africa, and to Spain; while, at an earlier date, the families of Gnosticism had gone forth over the face of the world from Italy to Persia and Egypt on the east, to Africa on the south, to Spain on the west, and to Gaul on the north.


But you will say, there were, in those times, no national heresies or schism, and these alone can be considered parallel to the case of the Greek Church, supposing it schismatical;—turn then to the history of the Gothic race. This great people, in all its separate tribes, received Christianity from Arian preachers; and, before it took possession of the Empire, Męsogoths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Alani, Suevi, Vandals, and Burgundians, had all learned to deny the divinity of Christ. Suddenly France, Spain, Portugal, Africa, and Italy, found themselves buried under the weight of heretical establishments and populations. This state of things lasted for eighty years in France, {344} for a hundred in Italy and Africa, and for a hundred and eighty in Spain, extending through a space of two centuries. It should be added that these Gothic hordes, which took possession of the Empire, had little of the character of barbarism, except that they were cruel; they were chaste, temperate, just, and devout, and some of their princes were men of ability and patrons of learning. Did you live in that day, my brethren, you would, perhaps, be looking with admiration at these Arians, as now you look at the Greeks;—not from love of their heresy, but, your imagination being affected by their number, power, and nobleness, you would try to make out that they really did hold the orthodox faith, or at least that it was not at all certain that they did not, though they did deny, to be sure, the Nicene Creed, against which they had been unhappily prejudiced, and anathematized Athanasius from defective knowledge of history. You would have used the words of Bramhall, quoted above, when speaking of later families of heretics:—"How are they heretical Churches? some of them are called Arians; but most injuriously, who have nothing of Arius, but the name; others have been suspected of Macedonianism, and yet in truth orthodox enough. It is no new thing for great quarrels to arise from mere mistakes." Bulk, not symmetry; vastness, not order; show, not principle—I fear I must say it, my dear brethren—these are your tests of truth. A century earlier than the Goths, {345} you would have been enlarging on the importance of the Donatists. "Four hundred sees!" you would have said; "a whole four hundred! why, it is a fifth of the Episcopate of Christendom. Unchurch them! impossible; we shall excommunicate ourselves in the attempt."


Still, it may be said, I have produced nothing yet to match the venerable antiquity and the authoritative traditions of the Greek Church, which is coeval with the Apostles, and for near a thousand years has been in its present theological position, and which, since its separation from the Holy See, has been able, as is alleged, to expand itself in a vast heathen country, which it has converted to the faith. Such is the objection; and, as to the facts on which it is built, I will take them for granted, as before, for argument's sake, for anyhow they are not sufficient to make the objection sound. For in truth, whether the facts be as represented or not, you will find them all, and more than them all, in the remarkable history of the Nestorians. The tenet on which these religionists separated from the See of Rome is traceable to Antioch, the very birthplace of the Christian name; and it was taken up and maintained by Churches which were among the oldest in Christendom. Driven by the Roman power over the boundaries of the Empire, it placed itself, as early as the fifth century, under the {346} protection of Persia, and laid the foundations of a schismatical communion, the most wonderful that the world has seen. It propagated itself, both among Christians and pagans, from Cyprus to China; it was the Christianity of Bactrians, Huns, Medes, and Indians, of the coast of Malabar and Ceylon on the south, and of Tartary on the north. This ecclesiastical dominion lasted for eight centuries and more, into the depth of the middle ages—beyond the Pontificate of Innocent III. It was administered by as many as twenty-five archbishoprics; and, though there is perhaps no record of the number of its people, yet it is said, that they and the opposite sect of the Monophysites, in Syria and Egypt, taken together, at one time surpassed in populousness the whole Catholic Church, in its Greek and Latin divisions. And it is to be observed, which is much to the purpose, that it occupied a portion of the world, with which, as far as I am aware, the Catholic Church, during those many centuries, interfered very little. It had the further Asia all to itself, from Mesopotamia to China; far more so than the Greek Church has at this time possession of Russia and Greece.

With this prominent example before our eyes, during so large a portion of the history of Christianity, I do not see how the present existence of the Greek Church can form any valid objection to the Catholicity which we claim for the Communion of Rome. Nestorianism came from Antioch, the original {347} Apostolic see; Photianism, as it has been called, from Constantinople, a younger metropolis. Nestorianism had its Apostolical Succession, as Photianism has, and a formed hierarchy. If its principal seat was new and foreign, in Chaldęa, not at Antioch, so the principal seat of Photianism is foreign too, being Russia; if from Russia it has sent out missions and made conversions, so, and much more so, did Nestorianism from Chaldęa. You will, perhaps, object that Nestorianism was a heresy;—therein lies the force of my argument, viz., that large, organized, flourishing, imposing communions, which strike the imagination as necessary portions of the heritage of Christ, may, nevertheless, in fact be implicated in some heresy, which, in the judgment of reason, invalidates their claim. If the Nestorian communion, enormous as it was, was yet external to the Church, why must the Greek communion be within it, merely because, supposing the fact to be so, it has some portion of the activity and success which were so conspicuous in the Nestorian missioners? Do not, then, think to overcome us with descriptions of the multitude, antiquity, and continuance of the Greek Churches; dismiss the vision of their rites, their processions, or their vestments; spare yourselves the recital of the splendour of their churches, or the venerable aspect of their bishops; Nestorianism had then all:—the question lies deeper. {348}


It lies, for what we know, and to all appearance, in the very constitution of the human mind; corruptions of the Gospel being as necessary and ordinary a phenomenon, taking men as they are, as its rejection. Why do you not bring against us the vast unreclaimed populations of paganism, or the political power of the British Colonial Empire, in proof that we are not the Catholic Church? Is misbelief a greater marvel than unbelief? or do not the same intellectual and moral principles, which lead men to accept nothing, lead them also to accept half of revealed truth? Both effects are simple manifestations of private judgment in the bad sense of the phrase, that is, of the use of one's own reason against the authority of God. If He has made it a duty to submit to the supreme authority of the Holy See (and of this I am all along assuming there is fair proof), and if there is a constant rising of the human mind against authority, as such, however legitimate, the necessary consequence will be the very state of things we see before our eyes,—not merely individuals casting off the Roman Supremacy (for individuals, as being of less account, have less temptation, or even opportunity, to rebel, than collections of men), but, much more, the powerful and the great, the wealthy and the flourishing, kings and states, cities and races, falling back upon their own resources and their own {349} connections, making their home their castle, and refusing any longer to be dependent on a distant centre, or to regulate their internal affairs by a foreign tribunal. Assuming then that there is a supreme See, divinely appointed, in the midst of Christendom, to which all ought to submit and be united, such phenomena, as the Greek Church presents at this day, and the Nestorian in the middle ages, are its infallible correlatives, as human nature is constituted; it would require a miracle to make it otherwise. It is but an exemplification of the words of the Apostle, "The law entered in, that sin might abound;" and again, "There must be heresies, that they also who are proved may be made manifest among you." A command is both the occasion of transgression, and the test of obedience. All depends on the fact of the Supremacy of Rome; I assume this fact; I admit the contrary fact of the Arian, Nestorian, and the Greek Communions; and strong in the one, I feel no difficulty in the other. Neither Arian, nor Nestorian, nor Greek insubordination is any true objection to the fact of such supremacy, unless the divine foresight of such a necessary result can be supposed to have dissuaded the Divine Wisdom from giving occasion to it.


But another remark is in place here. Nothing is more likely to characterize large populations of Christians, if left to themselves, than a material instead of {350} a formal faith. By a material faith, I mean that sort of habitual belief which persons possess in consequence of having heard things said in this or that way from their childhood, being thoroughly familiar with them, and never having had difficulty suggested to them from without or within. Such is the sort of belief which many Protestants have in the Bible; which they accept without a doubt, till objections occur to them. Such as this becomes the faith of nations in process of time, where a clergy is negligent; it becomes simply national and hereditary, the truth being received, but not on the authority of God. That is, their faith is but material not formal, and really has neither the character nor the reward of that grace-implanted, grace-sustained principle, which believes, not merely because it was so taught in the nursery, but because God has spoken; not because there is no temptation to doubt, but because there is a duty to believe. And thus it may easily happen, in the case of individuals, that even the restless mind of a Protestant, who sets the Divine Will before him in his thoughts and actions, and wishes to be taught and wishes to believe, may have more of grace in it, and be more acceptable in the divine sight, than his, who only believes passively, and not as assenting to a divine oracle; just as one who is ever fighting successfully with temptations against purity has, so far, claim of merit, which they do not share, who from natural temperament have not the trial. Now, the {351} faultiness of this passive state of mind is detected, whenever a new definition of doctrine is promulgated by the competent authority. Its immediate tendency, as exhibited in a population, will be to resist it, simply because it is new, while they on the other hand are disposed to recognise nothing but what is familiar to them; whereas a ready and easy acceptance of the apparent novelty, and a cordial acquiescence in its promulgation, may be the very evidence of a mind, which has lived, not merely in certain doctrines, but in those doctrines as revealed,—not simply in a Creed, but in its Giver,—or, in other words, which has lived by real faith.

As, then, heathens are tried by the original preaching of the Word, so are Christians tested by recurring declarations of it; and the same habit of mind, which makes one man an infidel, when he was before merely a pagan, makes another a heretic, who before was but an hereditary or national Christian. And surely we can fancy without difficulty the circumstances, in which a people, and their priesthood, who ought to hinder it, may gradually fall into those heavy and sluggish habits of mind, in which faith is but material and obedience mechanical, and religion has become a superstition instead of a reasonable service; and then it is as certain that they will become schismatics or heretics, should trial come, as that heathen cities, which have no heart for the truth, when it is for the first time preached to them, will harden into direct infidelity. It is much to {352} be feared, from what travellers tell us of the Greek priesthood and their flocks, that both in Russia and in Greece Proper, they are more or less in this state,—which may be called the proper disposition towards heresy and schism; I mean, that they rely on things more than on persons, and go through a round of duties in one and the same way, because they are used to them, and because in consequence they are attached to them, not as having any intelligent faith in a divine oracle which has ordered them; and that in consequence they would start in irritation, as they have started, from such indications of that Oracle's existence as is necessarily implied in the promulgation of a new definition of faith.


I am speaking of the mass of the population; and, at first sight, it is a very serious question, whether the population can be said to be simply gifted with divine faith, any more than our own Protestant people; yet I would as little dare to deny or to limit exceptions to this remark, as I would deny them or limit them among ourselves. Let there be as many exceptions, as there can be found tokens of their being; and the more they are, to God the greater praise! In this point of view it is, that we are able to take comfort even from the contemplation of a country which is given up whether to heresy or schism. Such a country is far from being in the miserable state of a heathen population: it has {353} portions of the truth remaining in it, it has some supernatural channels of grace; and the results are such as can never be known till we have all passed out of this visible scene of things, and the accounts of the world are finally made up for the last tremendous day. While, then, I think it plain that the existence of large Anti-Catholic bodies professing Christianity are as inevitable, from the nature of the case, as infidel races or states, except under some extraordinary dispensation of divine grace, while there must ever be in the world false prophets and Antichrists, standing over against the Catholic Church, yet it is consolatory to reflect how the schism or heresy, which the self-will of a monarch or of a generation has caused, does not suffice altogether to destroy the work for which in some distant age Evangelists have left their homes, and Martyrs have shed their blood. Thus, the blessing is inestimable to England, so far as among us the Sacrament of Baptism is validly administered to any portion of the population. In Greece, where a far greater attention is paid to ritual exactness, the whole population may be considered regenerate; half the children born into the world pass through baptism from a schismatical Church to heaven, and in many of the rest the same Sacrament may be the foundation of a supernatural life, which is gifted with perseverance in the hour of death. There may be many too, who, being in invincible ignorance on those particular points of religion on which their {354} Communion is wrong, may still have the divine and unclouded illumination of faith on those numerous points on which it is right. And further, if we consider that there is a true priesthood in certain countries, and a true sacrifice, the benefits of Mass to those who never had the means of knowing better, may be almost the same as they are in the Catholic Church. Humble souls who come in faith and love to the heavenly rite, under whatever disadvantages they lie, from the faulty discipline of their Communion, may obtain, as well as we, remission of such sins as the Sacrifice directly effects, and that supernatural charity which wipes out greater ones. Moreover, when the Blessed Sacrament is lifted up, they adore, as well as we, the true Immaculate Lamb of God; and when they communicate, it is the True Bread of Life, and nothing short of it, which they receive for the eternal health of their souls.

And in like manner, I suppose, as regards this country, as well as Greece and Russia, we may entertain most reasonable hopes, that vast multitudes are in a state of invincible ignorance; so that those among them who are living a life really religious and conscientious, may be looked upon with interest and even pleasure, though a mournful pleasure, in the midst of the pain which a Catholic feels at their ignorant prejudices against what he knows to be true. Amongst the most bitter railers against the Church in this country, may be found those who are influenced by divine grace, and {355} are at present travelling towards heaven, whatever be their ultimate destiny. Among the most irritable disputants against the Sacrifice of the Mass or Transubstantiation, or the most impatient listeners to the glories of Mary, there may be those for whom she is saying to her Son, what He said on the cross to His Father, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." Nay, while such persons think as at present, they are bound to act accordingly, and only so far to connect themselves with us as their conscience allows. "When persons who have been brought up in heresy," says a Catholic theologian, "are persuaded from their childhood that we are the enemies of God's word, are idolaters, pestilent deceivers, and therefore, as pests, to be avoided, they cannot, while this persuasion lasts, hear us with a safe conscience, and they labour under invincible ignorance, inasmuch as they doubt not that they are in a good way." [Note 12]

Nor does it suffice, in order to throw them out of this irresponsible state, and to make them guilty of their ignorance, that there are means actually in their power of getting rid of it. For instance, say they have no conscientious feeling against frequenting Catholic chapels, conversing with Catholics, or reading their books; and say they are thrown into the neighbourhood of the one or the company of the other, and do not avail themselves of their opportunities; still these {356} persons do not become responsible for their present ignorance till such time as they actually feel it, till a doubt crosses them upon the subject, and the thought comes upon them, that inquiry is a duty. And thus Protestants may be living in the midst of Catholic light, and labouring under the densest and most stupid prejudices; and yet we may be able to view them with hope, though with anxiety—with the hope that the question has never occurred to them, strange as it may seem, whether we are not right and they wrong. Nay, I will say something further still; they may be so circumstanced that it is quite certain that, in course of time, this ignorance will be removed, and doubt will be suggested to them, and the necessity of inquiry consequently imposed; and according to our best judgment, fallible of course as it is, we may be quite certain too, that, when that time comes, they will refuse to inquire, and will quench the doubt; yet should it so happen that they are cut off by death before that time has arrived (I am putting an hypothetical case), we may have as much hope of their salvation as if we had had no such foreboding about them on our mind; for there is nothing to show that they were not taken away on purpose, in order that their ignorance might be their excuse.

As to the prospect of those countless multitudes of a country like this, who apparently have no supernatural vision of the next world at all, and die without fear {357} because they die without thought, with these, alas! I am not here concerned. But the remarks I have been making suggest much of comfort, when we look out into what is called the religious world in all its varieties, whether it be the High Church section, or the Evangelical, whether it be in the Establishment, or in Methodism, or in Dissent, so far as there seems to be real earnestness and invincible prejudice. One cannot but hope that that written Word of God, for which they desire to be jealous, though exhibited to them in a mutilated form and in a translation unsanctioned by Holy Church, is of incalculable blessing to their souls, and may be, through God's grace, the divine instrument of bringing many to contrition and to a happy death who have received no sacrament since they were baptized in their infancy. One cannot hope but that the Anglican Prayer Book, with its Psalter and Catholic prayers, even though these, in the translation, have passed through heretical intellects, may retain so much of its old virtue as to cooperate with divine grace in the instruction and salvation of a large remnant. In these and many other ways, even in England, and much more in Greece, the difficulty is softened which is presented to the imagination by the view of such large populations, who, though called Christian, are not Catholic or orthodox in creed. {358}


There is but one set of persons, indeed, who inspire the Catholic with special anxiety, as much so as the open sinner, who is not peculiar to any Communion, Catholic or schismatic, and who does not come into the present question. There is one set of persons in whom every Catholic must feel intense interest, about whom he must feel the gravest apprehensions; viz., those who have some rays of light vouchsafed to them as to their heresy or as to their schism, and who seem to be closing their eyes upon it; or those who have actually gained a clear view of the nothingness of their own Communion, and the reality and divinity of the Catholic Church, yet delay to act upon their knowledge. You, my dear brethren, if such are here present, are in a very different state from those around you. You are called by the inscrutable grace of God to the possession of a great benefit, and to refuse the benefit is to lose the grace. You cannot be as others: they pursue their own way, they walk over this wide earth, and see nothing wonderful or glorious in the sun, moon, and stars of the spiritual heavens; or they have an intellectual sense of their beauty, but no feeling of duty or of love towards them; or they wish to love them, but think they ought not, lest they should get a distaste for that mire and foulness which is their present portion. They have not yet had the call to inquire, and to seek, and to pray for further guidance, infused into their hearts {359} by the gracious Spirit of God; and they will be judged according to what is given them, not by what is not. But on you the thought has dawned, that possibly Catholicism may be true; you have doubted the safety of your present position, and the present pardon of your sins, and the completeness of your present faith. You, by means of that very system in which you find yourselves, have been led to doubt that system. If the Mosaic law, given from above, was a schoolmaster to lead souls to Christ, much more is it true that an heretical creed, when properly understood, warns us against itself, and frightens us from it, and is forced against its will to open for us with its own hands its prison gates, and to show us the way to a better country. So has it been with you. You set out in simplicity and earnestness intending to serve it, and your very serving taught you to serve another. You began to use its prayers and act upon its rules, and they did but witness against it, and made you love it, not more but less, and carried off your affections to one whom you had not loved. The more you gazed upon your own communion the more unlike it you grew; the more you tried to be good Anglicans, the more you found yourselves drawn in heart and spirit to the Catholic Church. It was the destiny of the false prophetess that she could not keep the little ones who devoted themselves to her; and the more simply they gave up their private judgment to her, the more sure they were of being thrown off by her, against their will, into the current {360} of attraction which led straight to the true Mother of their souls. So month has gone on after month, and year after year; and you have again and again vowed obedience to your own Church, and you have protested against those who left her, and you have thought you found in them what you liked not, and you have prophesied evil about them and good about yourselves; and your plans seemed prospering and your influence extending, and great things were to be; and yet, strange to say, at the end of the time you have found yourselves steadily advanced in the direction which you feared, and never were nearer to the promised land than you are now.

Oh, look well to your footing that you slip not; be very much afraid lest the world should detain you; dare not in anything to fall short of God's grace, or to lag behind when that grace goes forward. Walk with it, cooperate with it, and I know how it will end. You are not the first persons who have trodden that path; yet a little time, and, please God, the bitter shall be sweet, and the sweet bitter, and you will have undergone the agony, and will be lodged safely in the true home of your souls and the valley of peace. Yet but a little while, and you will look out from your resting-place upon the wanderers outside; and will wonder why they do not see that way which is now so plain to you, and will be impatient with them that they do not come on faster. And, whereas you now are so perplexed in mind that you seem to yourselves to believe {361} nothing, then you will be so full of faith, that you will almost see invisible mysteries, and will touch the threshold of eternity. And you will be so full of joy that you will wish all around you to be partakers of it, as if for your own relief; and you will suddenly be filled with yearnings deep and passionate, for the salvation of those dear friends whom you have out-stripped; and you will not mind their coolness, or stiffness, or distance, or constrained gravity, for the love you bear to their souls. And, though they will not hear you, you will address yourselves to those who will; I mean, you will weary heaven with your novenas for them, and you will be ever getting Masses for their conversion, and you will go to communion for them, and you will not rest till the bright morning comes, and they are yours once again. Oh, is it possible that there is a resurrection even upon earth! O wonderful grace, that there should be a joyful meeting, after parting, before we get to heaven! It was a weary time, that long suspense, when with aching hearts we stood on the brink of a change, and it was like death both to witness and to undergo, when first one and then another disappeared from the eyes of their fellows. And then friends stood on different sides of a gulf, and for years knew nothing of each other or of their welfare. And then they fancied of each other what was not, and there were misunderstandings and jealousies; and each saw the other, as if his ghost, only in imagination and {362} in memory; and all was sickness and anxiety, and hope delayed, and ill-requited care. But now it is all over; the morning is come; the severed shall unite. I see them as if in sight of me. Look at us, my brethren, from our glorious land; look on us radiant with the light cast upon us by the Saints and Angels who stand over us; gaze on us as you approach, and kindle as you gaze. We died, you thought us dead: we live; we cannot return to you, you must come to us,—and you are coming. Do not your hearts beat as you approach us? Do you not long for the hour which makes us one? Do not tears come into your eyes at the thought of the superabundant mercy of your God?

"Sion is the city of our strength, a saviour; a wall, and a bulwark shall be set therein. Open ye the gates, and let the just Nation that keepeth the truth enter in. The old error is passed away; Thou wilt keep peace, peace because we have hoped in Thee. In the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee; Thy Name and Thy remembrance are the desire of our soul. O Lord, our God, other lords beside Thee have had possession of us; but in Thee only may we have remembrance of Thy Name. The dying, let them not live; the giants let them not rise again; therefore Thou hast visited and crushed them, and hast destroyed all their memory."

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1. Vol. i. p. 628. Ed. 1842.
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2. Ibid. p. 258.
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3. Ibid. p. 106.
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4. Ibid. p. 260.
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5. Ibid. p. 328.
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6. Ibid. p. 70.
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7. He adds: "And all those who do profess the Apostolical Creed, as is expounded in the first four general councils under the primitive discipline." These words are not quoted above, because they are certainly ambiguous. Bramhall does not say, "All those who do profess the decrees of the first four general councils."
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8. Ibid. p. 564.
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9. Theiner, L'Eglise Russe, 1846.
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10. Conder, View of Religions.
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11. In controversial writings, the numbers of the Greek orthodox communion are put at seventy or even ninety millions; it does not appear on what data. Conder puts them at fifty millions.
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12. Busembaum, vol. i. p. 54.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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