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THE PILLAR AND FOUNDATION
PROTESTANT.— Into what an abyss of darkness are men plunged in these days, trampling under foot the Gospel, and contemptuously rejecting the word of truth, under the specious pretext of following philosophy and adhering to the light of reason! They boast of worshipping God in spirit and truth, while they offer him in reality the greatest of all injuries, by despising his word and throwing off the yoke of his religion. What think you of such people? Whence trace you the origin of their infidelity ?
CATHOLIC.--The characters of whom you speak are, I fear, unhappy victims of luxury and pride. Their infidelity is generally regarded as the offspring of passion, not of reason-of vanity, not of reflection. They boast strength of mind only to disguise the weakness of their hearts, and reject the belief of the gospel merely because they have not generosity to follow its maxims. The characters of Divinity which distinguish the Christian Religion, particularly on account of her wonderful propagation through all the world, notwithstanding the great difficulties arising from her mysteries, far above the reach of human reason, and her precepts directly opposed to human passions, are so conspicuous and penetrating, that it is necessary
to close our eyes against the light, not to be attracted by them.
PROTESTANT.--I am decidedly of your opinion. Alas ! what a misfortune for such people to walk in darkness and in the shadow of death, deprived of that exceedingly great consolation which is experienced in the Redeemer: and, on the contrary, what felicity for us who believe in Christ, and thus share in all the manifold blessings flowing from thence !
CATHOLIC.-There is nothing, most assuredly, so excellent and sublime, or so connected with man's essential interests, as to believe truly in Christ, and follow his doctrine; because “ there is no other name given to men whereby we must be saved but that of Jesus. We are not redeemed with corruptible things as gold and silver from the slavery of the princes of darkness, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled. He gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. He blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, and has taken the same out of the
way, fastening it to the cross. By him and through him we have been called from darkness to a wonderful light; from the state of children of wrath to that of children of love. He is the beloved Son of God, in whom our heavenly Father is well pleased : the Head of all principalities and powers, the King of Glory, the image of God, the figure of His substance. In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead, and are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: to him all power has been given in heaven and on earth. He is the expected of all nations, the teacher and legislator of all people, the model of all the elect, the way, the
truth and the life. He is our mediator and our advocate before the throne of God, whence he pours down upon us the most pure and saving streams of his graces. He is our greatest benefactor, our most amiable parent, our most affectionate Saviour. He is the source, in a word, of all our good, for he that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all-how has he not also with him given us all things ?”
PROTESTANT.-Truly excellent ! No one, I am persuaded, can entertain more beautiful or correct sentiments and feelings towards the Redeemer! That you are a most worthy Protestant is indisputable.
CATHOLIC.-Why style me Protestant, may I ask ?
PROTESTANT.–For the best possible reasonthe very fact of your thinking and speaking so well of the Redeemer.
CATHOLIC.-However you may deem the thinking and speaking well of our Redeemer essential to Protestantism, rest assured, my good friend, I am not a Protestant. I am a Catholic, thank God; and it is the Catholic Church which inspires me with the highest respect and love for our Redeemer. She teaches her children to acknowledge in Christ the eternal Word of God, who clothed himself with our mortality, and came into this world to promote the glory of his Father by the salvation of the souls of men : to cause the name of the true and living God to be praised, adored and sanctified by all the nations of the earth: to teach men to worship God in spirit and in truth: to destroy every greatness which should erect itself against the Lord : to break in pieces every profane idol : to enchain every inordinate and rebellious passion: to exterminate sin, and to make righteousness take root, spring up, and flourish in the heart. It is she who teaches them that “the Lamb, that was slain, is worthy to receive power, and divinity and wisdom, and strength and honour, and glory and benediction" (Apoc. x. 12), and that, consequently, the highest possible tribute of love, and praise and adoration is due to him.
Protestant.—Is it possible that you can be a Catholic? Are you taught by the Catholic Church to cherish so profound respect and deep' veneration for our Redeemer? Flow you astonish me! But whatever be the case, I am particularly anxious to confer with you on the subject of religion, provided you feel no reluctance.
Catholic.-Far from having any disinclination, I am, on the contrary, delighted with the proposal. The result of our conference will be, I trust, the glory of God and our real spiritual advantage. To facilitate the attainment of this end, we must understand the subject to be vitally interesting and of paramount importance, which, therefore, should be treated, not through curiosity, as not unfrequently occurs, nor with the spirit of contradiction to detect faults for the purpose of causing contention without any justifiable reason-but sincerely, and conscientiously making God himself the judge, and hence proposing for our sole undivided object the knowledge and discovery of his truth for our sanctification, his service and glory. By proceeding thus we shall induce God, as it were, to give us light, and guide him who strays into the path of truth.
PROTESTANT.-In all this I fully and unequivo
cally concur ;—and, I assure you, nothing but the love of truth should ever induce me to propose any question, or to offer a single remark on this subject. With your permission, then, allow me the liberty of opening the conference, by asking you what is the principal feature or leading characteristic of the Catholic Church which distinguishes her, and wherein she differs from every other christian society? So numerous have been the marks of distinction applied to the Catholic Church, that I am absolutely perplexed to discover her principal characteristic.
CATHOLIC.-The peculiar characteristic of the Catholic Church, whence spring, as from their source, the various shining marks that distinguish her from other religious societies, is her adherence to that visible-teaching authority which Christ appointed in his Church to teach his heavenly doctrine to the faithful, and to guide them to eternal life. This is the grand characteristic, the bright luminous landmark of the Catholic Church, by which she is to be distinguished from every sect, and to be acknowledged as the immaculate spouse of the spotless Lamb.
PROTESTANT.--After calm, dispassionate and deliberate investigation, you will discover, if I mistake not, this character of your church to be grounded on a false supposition. Pray, point out the necessity of admitting a visible-teaching authority in the Church of Christ, since we possess that all-sacred deposit of faith, the holy scripture. not the holy scripture the inspired word of God ? Does not God enlighten the minds of all who apply to him humbly and prayerfully, teaching and developing, by the divine spirit, the meaning of holy writ? Why, then, admit your visibleteaching authority in the Church of Christ ?