VII. GOD NEVER PREDESTINED ANY ONE TO ETERNAL DAMNATION WITHOUT REGARD TO HIS SINS.
57. Calvin teaches that God has predestined many to eternal damnation, not because of their sins, but merely for his own pleasure. Here are his words (1) : ” Aliis vita æterna, aliis damnatio æterna praoordinatur; itaquc prout in alterutrum finem quisque conditus est, ita vel ad vitam, vel ad mortem prædestinatum dicimus,” and the only reason he assigns for this predestination is the will of God (2) : ” Nequc in aliis reprobandis aliud habebiinus, quam ejus voluntatem.” I can understand very well how the heretics embrace this doctrine, for they argue thus : I may commit whatever sins I please, with out fear or remorse; for, if I am predestined to heaven, I will, notwithstanding, be infallibly saved, no matter what wickedness I commit; if I am among the reprobate I will be damned, no matter how virtuously I live. Cesarius tells a story of a certain physician who gave a very good answer to this argument, if it can be called one. A man of the name of Louis Landgrave got a mortal fit of sickness, and sent for this physician, who called on him, and asked him what he wanted with him. ” I hope” said the sick man, ” you will be able to restore me to health.” “Oh,” said the physician, ” what can I do for you ? If your hour is come you will die, no matter what remedies I may give you, but if not, you will recover, without any assistance from me.” Remember this was the same answer the sick man had previously given to a person who reprimanded him in presence of the physician, for his wicked life. ” If I am to be saved,” said he, ” I will be so, no matter how wicked I may be; and if I am to be damned, it will happen, no matter how good I am.” “Oh,” said the sick man, ” do what you can for me, perhaps your skill will restore me, but if you do nothing for me I will surely die.” The physician, then, who was both a pious and prudent man, said to him : “If, then, you think that you can recover your bodily health with the assistance of medicine, why do not you try and restore your soul to health by a good confession ?” The argument hit hard, the man sent immediately for a Confessor, and became a true penitent.
(1) Calvin. Inst. l. 1, c. 21, sec. 5. (2) Calvin, Inst. l. 1, c. 21. s. 5.
58. We shall, however, give Calvin a direct answer. If you are predestined to eternal life, it is because you will be saved by the good works you perform, at least that your predestination may be carried out, but if you are destined to hell it is on account of your sins, and not through the mere will of God, as you blasphemously assert. Forsake, then, your evil ways; do what is just, and you will be saved. Nothing can be more false than the supposition of Calvin, that God created many men for hell alone. Numberless passages in the Scriptures prove most clearly that it is his will that all should be saved. St. Paul most ex pressly says (I. Tim. ii, 4), that he will “have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth;” and, as St. Prosper says, speaking of this passage, nothing can be clearer than that it is the will of God that all should be saved : ” Sacrificium credendum atque profitendum est Dominum velle omnes hominus salvos fieri, siquidem Apostolus (cujus hæc sententia est) sollicite præcipit ut Deo pro omnibus supplicetur” (3). This is clear from the context, for the Apostle says : ” I desire first of all that supplications be made for all men for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved,” &c. So we see the Apostle tells us to pray for all, since God wishes to save all. St. John Chrysostom argues in the same manner on the same text (4) : ” Si omnes Ille vult salvos fieri, merito pro omnibus oportet orare. Si omnes ipse salvos fieri cupit, Illius et tu concorda voluntate.” St. Paul, speaking of our Saviour, also says : ” Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all” (I. Tim. ii, 6). If, then, Jesus Christ wished to redeem all men, then he wills that all men should be saved.
59. But, says Calvin, God certainly foresees the good and bad actions of every man; he has, therefore, decreed to send some to hell on account of their sins, and how, then, can it be said that he wills that all should be saved ? We answer, with St. John of Damascus, St. Thomas of Aquin, and the great body of Catholic Doctors, that with regard to the reprobation of sinners, it is necessary to distinguish between the priority of time and the priority of order, or, if we may say, of reason. In priority of time, the Divine Decree is anterior to man’s sin; but in priority of order,sin is anterior to the Divine Decree; for God has decreed many sinners to hell, inasmuch as he has foreseen their sins. Hence we may see that God, with that antecedent will which regards his goodness, truly wills that all should be saved, but by that consequent will which regards the sins of the reprobate, he wishes their damnation.
(3) St. Prosper. Resp. ad 2. Object. Vin. (4) St.Chrysos. in 1, Tim. 2, Hom. 7.
Hear the words of St. John of Damascus on the subject (5) : ” Deus precedentur vult omnes salvari, ut efficiat nos bonitatis suæ particepes ut bonus; peccantes autem puniri vult ut Justus;” and St. Thomas says: “Voluntas antecedens est, qua (Deus) omnes homines salvos fieri vult Consideratis autem omnibus circumstantiis personæ, sic non invcnitur de omnibus bonum esse quod salventur; bonum enim est eum qui se præparat, et consentit, salvari; non vero nolentem, et resistentem Et hæc dicitur voluntas consequens, eo quod præsupponit præscientiam operum, non tanquam causam voluntatis, sed quasi rationem voliti” (6).
60. There are many other texts to prove that God wills the salvation of all. I will quote at least a few. Christ says : ” Come to me, all you that labour and are burthened, and I will refresh you” (Matt, xi, 28). Come, he says, all you burthened with your sins, and I will repair the ruin you yourselves have occasioned. When, therefore, he invites all to accept a remedy, he wishes that all should be saved. In another place St. Peter says, the Lord ” dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance” (II. Peter, iii, 9). Mark this, “that all should return to penance.” God does not wish that any one should be damned, even sinners, while in this life, but that all should repent of their sins, and be saved. Again, in another place, David says : “For wrath is in his indignation, and life in his good will” (Psalm xxix, 6). St. Basil, explaining this passage, says, that it proves that God wishes all men to be saved : ” Et vita in voluntate ejus, quid ergo dicit ? nimirum quod vult Deus omnes vitæ fieri participes.”Although we offend God by our sins, he does not wish our death, but that we should live. In the book of Wisdom (xi, 25), we read : ” Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things thou hast made thou sparest all, because they are thine, O Lord, who lovest souls.”
(5) St. Joan. Damas. l. 2, de Fide. Orthod. c. 2. (6) St, Thom, cap. 6, Joan. lee. 4.
If, therefore, God loves all his creatures, and especially the souls he created, and is always ready to pardon those who repent of their sins, how can we imagine, for a moment, that he creates souls solely for the purpose of tormenting them eternally in hell ? No; God does not wish to see them lost, but saved, and when he sees that we are hurrying to eternal torments, by our sins, he almost implores us to retrace our steps, and avoid destruction : ” Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, and why will you die, house of Israel” (Ezech. xxxiii, 11). Poor sinners, he says, why will you persevere in damning yourselves; return to me, and you will find again the life which you lost. Hence it was, that our Saviour, viewing Jerusalem, and considering the destruction the Jews were bringing on it, by the crime of putting him to death, ” wept over it” (Luke, xix, 41). In another place he declares that he does not wish the death of the sinner, and even swears so : ” As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his evil way, and live” (Ezech. xxxiii, 11).
61. Now, taking into account so many Scripture proofs, by which God tells us that he wishes to save all mankind, it is, as the learned Petavius says, an insult to the Divine Mercy, and a mockery of the Faith, to say that God does not wish that it should be so : ” Quod si ista Scripturæ loca, quibus hanc suam voluntatem tam illustribus, ac sæpe repetitis sententiis, imo lacrymis, ac jurejurando testatus est Deus, calumniari licet, et in contrarium detorquere sensum, ut prætor paucos Genus humanum omne perdere statuerit, nec eorum servandorum voluntatem habuerit, quid est adeo disertum in Fidei decretis, quod simili ab injuria, et cavillatione tutum esse possit” (7).
(7) Petav. Theol. t. 1, I. 10, c. 15, n. 5.
Cardinal Sfrondati adds, that to assert the contrary, that God wishes only some few to be saved, and has absolutely decreed that all the restshould be damned, when he has so often manifested that he wishes all to be saved, is only making him an actor, who says one thing, and wishes and performs another : ” Plane qui aliter sentiunt, nescio an ex Deo vero Deum scenicum faciant” (8). All the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, are agreed in this, that God sincerely wishes that all should be saved. Petavius cites St. Justin, St. Basil, St. Gregory, St. Cyril, St. Chrysostom, and St. Methodius, on the subject. Hear what the Latin Fathers say. St. Jerome : ” Vult (Deus) salvare omnes, sed quia nullus absque propria voluntate salvatur, vult nos bonum velle, ut cum voluerimus, velit in nobis et Ipse suum implere consilium” (9). St. Hilary says (10): “Omnes homines Deus salvos fierit vult, et non eos tantum qui ad Sanctorum numerum pertinebunt, sed omnes omnino, ut nullus habeat exceptionem.” St. Paulinus (11) thus writes: ” Omnibus dicit Christus, venite ad me & c., omnem enim quantum in Ipso est, hominem salvum fieri vult, qui fecit omnes.” St. Ambrose says (12) : ” Etiam circa impios suam ostendere debuit voluntatem, et ideo nec proditorem debuit præterire, ut adverterent omnes, quod in electione etiam proditoris sui salvandorum omnium prætendit et quod in Deo fuit, ……..ostendit omnibus, quod omnes voluit liberare.” I omit all other proofs from the Fathers, as they are too numerous, but as Petrocoresius well remarks, the Divine precept of hope assures us that God truly, on his part, wishes all to be saved; for if we were not certain that God wishes all to be saved, our hope would not be secure and firm, as St. Paul tells us, ” an anchor of the soul sure and firm” (Heb. vi, 18, 19), but weak and doubtful : “Qua fiducia,” he says, “Divinam misericordiam sperare poterunt homines, si certum non sit quod Deus salutem omnium eorum velit” (13) I have expounded this argument in my Work on Prayer (14).
62. Calvin, however, says that, by the sin of Adam, the whole human race became a ” condemned mass;” and hence God does no injury to mankind, if he only saves a few, and allows the rest to be damned, if not for their own sins, at all events, for the sin of Adam. But we answer, that it is this very “condemned mass” itself, that Jesus Christ came to save by his death : ” For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt, xviii, 11). He offered up his death, not alone for those who were to be saved, but for all, without exception : ” He gave himself a redemption for all” (I. Tim. ii, 6); ” Christ died for all” (I. Cor. v, 15); ” We hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful” (I. Tim. iv, 10). And even St. Paul, to show that we were all dead by sin, says that Christ died for all : ” The charity of Christ presseth us if one died for all, then all were dead” (II. Cor. v, 14).
(8) Nodus Præd. Par. 1. (9) St. Hier. Comment, in c. 1, ad Ephesios. (10) St. Hilar. Ep. ad Aug. (11) St. Paulin. Ep. 24, ad Sever.n.9. (12) St. Ambr. de Libro Parad, c. 8. (13) Petrocor. Theol. l. 1, c. 3, q. 4. (14) Mezzo della Preghiera Par. 2, c. 4.
Hence, St. Thomas says, Christ is the mediator, not of some, but of all : ” Christus Jesus est mediator Dei, et hominum, non quorundam, sed inter Deum et omnes homines; et hoc non esset, nisi vellet omnes salvare” (15).
63. If, God, however, wishes that all should be saved, and Christ died for all, how then is it, St. Chrysostom asks, that all are not saved ? He answers the question himself : Because all will not act in conformity with the will of God, who wishes that all should be saved, but, at the same time, will not force any one’s will : ” Cur igitur non omnes salvi fiunt, si vult (Deus) omnes salvos esse ? quoniam non omnium voluntas Illius voluntatem sequitur, porro Ipse neminem cogit (16). And St. Angustine (17) says: “Bonus est Deus, Justus est Deus; potest aliquos sine bonis meritis liberare, quia bonus est, non potest quenquam sine malis meritis damnare, quia Justus est.” Even the Lutheran Centuriators of Magdeburg, speaking of the reprobate, confess that the Holy Fathers have taught that God does not predestine sinners to hell, but condemns them, on account of the foreknowledge he has of their sins : “Patres nec prædestinationem in eo Dei, sed præscientiam soluin admiserunt”(18). But, says Calvin, God, although he predestines many to eternal death, still does not insist on the punishment until after they have sinned; and, therefore, he first predestines the reprobates to sin, that he may, in justice, condemn them afterwards. But if it would be an act of injustice to send the innocent to hell, would it not be much more so to predestine them first to sin, that they may be subsequently damned. ” Major vero injustitia,” says St. Fulgentius, ” si lapso Deus retribuit pœnam, quam stantem prædestinasse dicitur ad ruinam” (19).
(15) St. Thom, ad I. Tim, ii, lect. 1. (16) St. Chrysos. Horn. 43, de Longitud. prem. (17) St. Augus. I. 3, contra Julian, c. 18. (18) Centuriat. 102, c. 4. (19) St. Fulgent, l. 1, ad Monim. c. 24.
64. The truth is, that those who are lost are so through their own negligence, since, as St. Thomas writes, our Lord gives to all the necessary Grace for salvation : ” Hoc ad Divinam providentiam pertinet, ut cuilibet provideat de necessariis ad salutem” (20). And in another place, explaining the text of St. Paul, that God wishes all men to be saved, he says : ” Et ideo gratia nulli deest, sed omnibus (quantam in se est) se communicat”(21). God himself has said the self-same thing, by the mouth of the Prophet Osee, that, if we are lost, it is altogether through our own fault, for he gives us sufficient assistance to work out our salvation : ” Destruction is thine own, Israel; thy help is only in me” (Osee, xiii, 9); and, therefore, it is that the Apostle says, that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength : “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able” (I. Cor. x, 13). It would, indeed, be both wicked and cruel of God, as St. Thomas and St. Augustine say, if he, as Calvin teaches, obliged men to observe commandments which he knew they could not : ” Peccati reum,” says St. Augustine, ” tenere qucnquam, quia non fecit quod facere non potuit, summa iniquitas est” (22). And St. Thomas says : “Homini imputatur ad crudelitatem, si obliget aliquem per præceptum ad id quod implere non possit; ergo de Deo nullatenus est æstimandum” (23). It is quite otherwise, however, the Saint says, when the sinner, on account of his own negligence, has not Grace to observe the commandments (24). This negligence is carelessness in availing ourselves of, at least, the remote Grace of Prayer, by which we may obtain proximate Grace to observe the commandments, as the Council of Trent teaches: “Deus impossibilia non jubet, sed jubendo monet, et facere quod possis, et petere quod non possis et adjuvat ut possis” (Sess vi, c. 13).
(20) St. Thom, quæst. 14, de Verit. art. 11, ad 1. (21) Idem in Epist. ad Hebr. c. 12, lect. 3. (22) St. Aug. de Anima, l. 2, c. 12, n. 17. (23) St. Thom, in 2, Sent. Dist. 28, qu. 1, a. 3. (24) Idem, ques. 24, de Verit. a. 14, ad 2.
65. Hence, we conclude, with St. Ambrose, our Saviour has manifested to us most clearly that, although all men are infirm and guilty, still he has provided a sufficient remedy for their salvation: “Omnibus opem sanitatis detulit ut Christi manifesta in omnes prædicetur misericordia qui omnes homines vult salvos fieri” (25). What greater felicity can a sick man have, says St. Augustine, than to have his life in his own hands, having always a remedy to heal himself whenever he pleases ? ” Quid enim te beatius quam ut tanquam in manu tua vitam, sic in voluntate tua sanitatem habeas” (26) ? Hence, St. Ambrose again says, that he who is lost is guilty of his own death, since he will not make use of the remedy prepared for him : ” Quicumque perierit mortis suæ causam sibi adscribat qui curari noluit cum remedium haberet.” For, as St. Augustine says, our Lord heals all, and heals them perfectly, as far as he is concerned, but will not heal him who refuses to be healed : ” Quantum in medico est sanare venit ægrotum Sanat omnino, Ille sed non sanat invitum” (27). Finally, says St. Isidore of Pelusium, God wishes, by every means, to assist sinners to save themselves, and, therefore, in the day of judgment, they will find no excuse for their condemnation : ” Etenim serio et modis omnibus (Deus) vult eos adjuvare qui in vitio volutantur ut omnem eis excusationem eripiat” (28).
66. Calvin, however, objects to all this, first, several texts of Scripture, in which it is said that God himself hardens the hearts of sinners, and blinds them, so that they cannot see the way of salvation : ” I shall harden his heart” (Exod. iv, 21); ” Blind the heart of this people” (Isaias, vi, 10). But St. Augustine explains these and similar texts, by saying that God hardens the hearts of the obstinate, by not dispensing to them that Grace, of which they have rendered themselves unworthy, but not by infusing wickedness into them, as Calvin teaches : ” Indurat subtrahendo gratiam non impendendo malitiam” (29); and it is thus, also, he blinds them : ” Excecat Deus deserendo non adjuvando”(30). It is one thing to harden and blind men, but quite another thing to permit them, as God does, for just reasons, to become blind and obstinate. We give the same answer to that saying of St. Peter to the Jews, when he reproached them for putting Christ to death : ” This same being, delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, by the hands of wicked men, have crucified and slain” (Acts, ii, 23). When they say, therefore, that it was by the counsel of God that the Jews put our Saviour to death, we answer, that God, indeed, decreed the death of Christ, for the salvation of the world, but he merely permitted the sin of the Jews.
(25) Ambro. I. 2, de Abel. c. 3. (26) St. Augus. trac. 12, in Joan, cir. fin. (27) Idem. (28) St. Isid. Pelus. l. 2, Ep. 270. (29) St. Augus. Ep. 194, ad Sixtum
67. Calvin objects, in the second place, these expressions of the Apostle (Rom. ix, 11, &c.) : ” For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil (that the purpose of God according to election might stand), not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said to her : The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written : Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” And then he quotes, further on in the same chapter: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” And again: “Therefore, he hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will he hardeneth.” And, finally “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” I cannot, understand, however, how these passages favour Calvin’s doctrines. The text of St. Paul says, ” Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated,” after having first said that they had not yet done any good or evil. How, then, could God hate Esau before he had done anything wicked? St. Augustine (31) answers : ” God did not hate Esau as a man, but as a sinner. No one can deny that it does not depend on our will, but on the goodness of God, to obtain the Divine Mercy, and that God leaves some sinners hardened in their sins, and makes them vessels of dishonour, and uses mercy towards others, and makes them vessels of honour. No sinner can glorify himself, if God uses mercy towards him, nor complain of the Almighty, if he does not give him the same Grace as he gives to others.
(30) Idem, Tract, in Joan. (31) St. Angus. Ep. 194, ad Sixtum.
“Auxilium,” says St. Augustine, ” quibuscumque datur, misericordia datur; quibus autem non datur, ex justitia non datur” (32). In all that, we must only adore the Divine Judgments, and say, with the Apostle : “0, the depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God. How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways” (Rom. xi, 33). But all that does not, in the least, strengthen Calvin’s position, for he says that God predestines man to hell, and that he first predestines him to sin; but this is not the case, as St. Fulgentius (33) says : ” Potuit Deus prædestinare quosdam ad gloriam, quosdam ad pœnam, sed quos prædestinavit ad gloriam, prædestinavit ad justitiam; quos prædestinavit ad pœnum, non prædestinavit ad culpam.” Some charged St. Augustine with the same error, and, therefore, Calvin says : ” Non dubitabo cum Augustineo fateri, voluntatem Dei esse rerum necessitatem” that is, the necessity a man has to perform what is either good or bad (34). St. Prosper, however, clears his venerable master from this charge : ” Prædestinationem Dei sive ad bonum, sive ad malum in hormnibus operari, ineptissime dicitur” (35). The Fathers of the Council of Oranges also defended St. Augustine : “Aliquos ad malum Divina potestate prædestinatos esse, non solum non credimus, sed etiam si sint qui tantum malum credere velint, cum omni detestatione illis anathema dicimus.”
68. Calvin objects, in the third place Do not you Catholics teach that God, by the supreme dominion he has over all creatures, can exclude, by a positive act, some from eternal life : is not this the ” Negative Reprobation” defended by your theologians ? We answer, that it is quite one thing to exclude some from eternal life, and another to condemn them to everlasting death, as it is one thing for a Sovereign to exclude some of his subjects from his table, and another to condemn them to prison; and, besides all, our theologians do not teach this opinion the greater part reject it. Indeed, for my own part, I cannot understand how this positive exclusion from everlasting life can be in conformity with the Scripture, which says : ” Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made” (Wisdom, xi, 25); ” Destruction is thy own, Israel; thy help is only in me” (Osee, xiii, 9); ” Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live” (Ezcch. xviii, 23). And in another place our Lord even swears that he does not wish the death, but the life of the sinner : ” As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezech. xxxiii, 11); ” For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt, xviii, 11); ” Who wishes all men to be saved” (I. Tim. ii, 4); “Who gave himself a redemption for all” (ver. 6).
(32) St. Aug. I. de Corrept. et Grat. c. 5 &6, ad 1. (33) St. Fulgen. I. 1, ad Monim. c. 16. Gallor. c 6. (34) Calvin, l. 3, c. 21, sec. 7. (35) St. Prosp. in libell. ad Capit.
69. Now, when our Lord declares in so many places that he wishes the salvation of all, and even of the wicked, how can it be said, that by a positive decree he excludes many from glory, not because of their crimes, but merely for his own pleasure, when this positive exclusion necessarily involves, at least necessitate coJisequentice, positive damnation; for, according to the order established by God, there is no medium between exclusion from eternal life and condemnation to everlasting death. Neither will it serve to say, that all men, by original sin, have become a condemned mass; and God, therefore, determines that some should remain in their perdition, and others be saved; for although we know that all are born children of wrath, still we are also aware that God, by an antecedent will, really wishes that all should, through means of Jesus Christ, be saved. Those who are baptized, and in a state of grace, have even a greater claim, for in them, as St. Paul says, there is found nothing worthy of damnation : ” There is now, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. viii, 1). And the Council of Trent teaches, that in such God finds nothing to hate : ” In renatis enim nihil odit Deus” (Sess. V., Decret. de Pec. Orig. n. 5). Those who die, then, after Baptism, free from actual sin, go at once to the joys of heaven : “Nihil prorsus eos ab ingressu cœli removetur” (Ibid). Now, if God entirely remits original sin to those who are baptized, how can it be asserted, that on account of it he afterwards excludes some of them from eternal life ? That God, however, may wish to free from eternal and deserved damnation some of those who voluntarily have lost their baptismal Grace by mortal sin, and leave others to their fate, is a matter which entirely depends on his own will, and his just judgments. But even of these, St. Peter says God does not wish, as long as they are in this life, that one should perish, but should repent of his wickedness, and be saved : ” He dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance” (II. Peter, iii, 9). Finally, St. Prosper says, that those who die in sin are not necessarily lost, because they are not predestined; but they were not predestined, inasmuch as God foresaw that they wished to die obstinately in sin : ” Quod hujusmodi in hæc prolapsi mala, sine correctione pœnitentiaa defecerunt, non ex eo necessitatem habuerunt, quia prædestinati non sunt, sed ideo prædestinati non sunt; quia tales futuri ex voluntaria prævaricatione præsciti sunt” (36).
70. From all we have already written on this subject, we see how confused are all heretics, but especially the pretended Reformers, with the dogmas of Faith. They are all united in opposing the dogmas taught by the Catholic Church, but they afterwards contradict each other in a thousand points of belief among themselves, and it is difficult to find one who believes the same as another. They say that they are only seeking for and following the truth; but how can they find the truth, if they cast away the rule of truth ? The truths of the Faith were not manifested of themselves to all men, so that if every one was bound to believe that which pleased his own judgment best, there would be no end to disputes. Hence, our Lord, to remove all confusion regarding the dogmas of Faith, has given us an infallible judge to put an end to all disputes, and as there is but one God, so there is but one Faith : ” One faith, one baptism, one God” (Ephes. iv, 5).
71. Who, then, is this judge who puts an end to all controversies regarding Faith, and tells us what we are to believe? It is the Church established by God, as the pillar and the ground of truth : ” That thou mayest know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth.” The voice of the Church, then, it is which teaches the truth, and distinguishes the Catholic from the heretic, as our Lord says, speaking of him who contemns the correction of his pastor : ” If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican” (Matt, xviii, 17). Perhaps, however, some will say : Among the many Churches in the world, which is the true one which is it we are to believe ? I briefly answer having treated the subject at length in my Work on the Truth of the Faith, and also in the Dogmatic part of this Work that the only true Church is the Roman Catholic, for this is the first founded by Jesus Christ. It is certain that our Redeemer founded the Church in which the faithful may find salvation; he it was who taught us what we should believe and practise to obtain eternal life. After his death, he committed to the Apostles, and their successors, the government of his Church, promising to assist them, and to be with them all time, “even to the consummation of the world” (Matt, xxviii, 20). He also promised that the gates of hell should never prevail against it : ” Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt, xvi, 18). Now, every heresiarch, in founding his Church, separated himself from this first Church founded by Jesus Christ; and if this was the true Church of our Saviour, all the others are, necessarily, false and heretical.
(36) St. Prosper, Res. 3 ad Capit. Gallor.
72. It will not do to say, as the Donatists did of old, and the Protestants in later times, that they have separated themselves from the Church, because although in the beginning it was the true one, still, through the fault of those who governed it, the doctrine preached by Jesus Christ became corrupted, for he, as we have seen, has promised that the gates of hell should never prevail against the Church he founded. Neither will it avail them to say that it was only the visible, and not the invisible Church that failed, on account of the wickedness of the shepherds, for it is necessary that there should always be a visible and infallible judge in the Church, to decide all doubts, that disputes may be quashed, and the dogmas of Faith be secure and certain. I wish every Protestant would consider this, and see how he can be certain, then, of his salvation outside the Holy Catholic Church.