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the doctrines of demons (1 Tim. iv.1); from Satan, who has no other intent thereby but to involve multitudes in eternal perdition. This, I hope, may be sufficient for the present to convince Protestants, that they cannot be saved alike in all religions ; and, it being self-evident, that there is but one true one from God, they ought to give themselves no rest till they have sought it out, and settled themselves in the firm belief and profession of it.
Now there is one method to know this, as easy as it is certain and infallible, which is, to believe and obey the true Church, as Christ commanded (Matt. xviii. 17). For if the true Church be the congregation of all the faithful or true believers, and nothing can make true believers but the profession of the true faith and law of Christ, it follows, That where the true Church is, there is also the true faith, the true Scriptures, the true sense of Scripture, and the whole tradition of the true religion. If it be asked by Protestants, How they may with certainty know which is this true Church, among so many which at present pretend to honour themselves with that name? We answer, That God has made it as visible and conspicuous to their eyes, as a mountain upon the top of a mountain (Isaiah ii. 2). For though all sects call themselves the true Church, yet it is a thing very well known, even to the most ignorant, that there is still one Church which is more ancient than all others, which never departed from any more ancient than itself, and out of which all other sects have departed, which was called Catholic, even by the apostles, as appears in their creed, and is known throughout the world by the same honourable title at this day. This was the first Apostolical Church to which all agree the true faith was at first taught by Christ and his apostles. If Protestants ask again, How they may with certainty know that this most ancient Apostolical Catholic Church, to which the true faith was at first taught, has never since that time corrupted the doctrine of the apostles, but has brought it down, in all its purity, to our times ? I answer, That they may know from Truth Himself, who has fully assured us, in words as plain as ever were spoken from his mouth, That the Spirit of Truth has ever been in it (John xiv. 16.) That himself has always been with it (Matt. Ixviii
. 20). That the gates of hell have never prevailed against it (Matt. xvi. 18). Thus, might Protestants know, with absolute certainty, where the true Church is, and consequently where the true faith and religion is, by a method as easy as it is infallible.
But since their guides have persuaded them to appeal from the Church to the written word, we will for the present put their religion to the trial of the written word to which they have appealed;
and in this we follow the example of the Doctors of the Church, who never failed to cite Scripture against those who denied the authority of the Church and tradition; well knowing that the Seriptures, rightly understood, lead to the belief of the true Church, and the true Church to the belief of all other points of faith. Besides, although all particular controversies cannot be ended by the written word, because the written word itself proves, That the whole truth which Christ and the apostles taught is not written ; certain it is that nothing is therein written but truth; and, therefore, if we can prove to Protestants that their religion is con
trary to the written word, which they themselves have appealed to from all other men and writings, we hope this will be sufficient for their conviction. With this view this small treatise was penned ; and I hope they will not reject that with scorn which was intended with pure good will to serve them. I shall condescend even so far to them as to cite the Scriptures word for word, according to their own translation, that they may read the condemnation of their errors in their own Bible.
But what good, you will say, can be expected from a Scripture dispute against those who profess to follow their own private judgment in the interpretation of every text that can be cited against their sentiments- “ Who will assume a right of denying what you allirm, and of affirming what you deny”? Tertul. 1. de Prescrip. c. 17.
This maxim of Tertullian is indeed very true in regard to the obstinate part of our adversaries ; but not in regard to such as are engaged in error through mere mistake, and are already so far friends to truth as to inquire after it with a sincere intention to submit to it, as soon as it shall appear to them in a clear light; from the good dispositions of these, better success may be expected. As to the obstinate and perverse part, who seem to have taken their final resolution, like the fallen angels, to adhere for ever to the party they have once chosen, for such no kind of evidence that we know of is sufficient, and therefore we conclude it will be but time lost to dispute with them.
To conclude: If we admit the worst, that our Scripture arguments will be lost upon many Protestants, they will be at least an apology for Roman Catholics; and such a kind of apology as no Pro
testant can, in justice to his own principles, refuse to admit. For should their guides pretend, as doubtless they will, that they can find another interpretation for all the texts we cite against them, and will strongly assure their people that their interpretation is right and ours wrong, this is no just exception against the religion of Roman Catholics ; for so long as we in our hearts believe our interpretation of Scripture right, we are licensed by their own principles to follow it; because the Reformation allows all people an equal right, which no authority on earth can deprive them of, to interpret Scripture for themselves. And whether their interpretation, which is only the result of private judgment, or ours, which is the public interpretation of the whole Church, be the truest and the best, that we are content for the present to refer to unbiassed persons. In the meantime let Protestants consider an answer to this question: Whether, according to their principles, that a right to follow Scripture, as understood by every person of sound judgment, is the very essence of liberty of conscience; whether, I say, it is not tyranny in them to persecute Roman Catholics merely for following a religion which they, in the uprightness of their hearts and conscience, believe to be clearly taught in the written word of God, as understood by persons of the soundest judgment—the Pastors and Doctors of the Church in all ages.
THE WRITTEN WORD.
POINT I. PROTESTANTS hold, That the Holy Scriptures are clear and easy to be understood in all things necessary to salvation.
Contrary to the express words of Scripture: “ Even, as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you. As also, in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.
That some things, especially in St. Paul's Epistles, are hard to be understood, cannot be denied by Protestants without formally giving the lie to this text. It is positively affirmed, in the same text, that the unlearned and unstable (who are the bulk of the people) are apt to mistake the sense as well as of St. Paul's Epistles as other parts of Scripture, and that, too, in things necessary to salvation; otherwise it were not truly said, that they wrest the Scriptures unto their own destruction. Here, then, the written word plainly contradicts the first principles of the Protestant religion, viz. That the Scriptures are easy to be understood in all points necessary to salvation, and that all, whether learned or unlearned, of the laity may safely read and boldly expound them.