The True Religion
Jesus Teaches His Apostles
Notes of the True Church
"when." says St. Cyprian, "the devil saw that the worship of idols was abolished, and the heathen temples emptied, he be thought him of a new poison, and led men into error under the cover of the Christian religion, the poison of the false doctrine and pride, through which more than two hundred churches have started up in opposition to the True Church founded by Christ." Now God has ordained that men should come to knowledge of truth; i.e., of the True Church as distinguished from all others by certain marks.
I. The True Church is that one which is most persecuted by the world and which has received God's seal in the form of miracles.
II. The True Church is that one in which the successor of St Peter is to be found.
III. The True Church is known by the following four marks: she is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic.
THE TRUE RELIGION
Now we come to a delicate point, delicate because very many who have agreed with all we have hither to said will here begin to be sensitive and even suspicious. No one readily grants that he is not right. That is why the proud Scribes and Pharisees rejected Jesus. His teaching was not according to their notion. Instead of realizing and confessing that He was God, since He did the works of God, they explained away His deeds, distorted His words and rejected Him. They could not deny His miraculous deeds, but they attributed them to Satan; and when Christ refuted them, although silenced, they would not be convinced.
Evidence is not enough unless the mind that views it is candid. Every day we see people who, with the same facts before them, draw now to say, and to be guided by the light of truth, not by the darkness to me personally what effect my words may gave on you. All I seek is to do good, to please my Master, God, and to do you a service by making you dearer to God. If there is any personal elements in what I am doing, it is the joy which the follower of Christ has in bringing into a human soul the light and peace which He came to impart. As Christ gave His life for His religion, so His minister will give His life if necessary, to extend that religion, and this because he knows that what Christ says is so: "What does it profit a man he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" God and Myself.
Which is the best divine religion established by Jesus Christ? Is there one, or are there many such? Are there several religions which may equally be the Church of Christ. We have among us Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics. Are they right? Are they wrong?
I must confess that to me it is painful to see so many claimants. I know so many people of different denominations whom I esteem that I hate to believe that their belief is not right. Here let me say a very important thing considering this matter, we must distinguish between the man and his creed. A man may be personally sincere, yet his religion may be wrong; in condemning his religion, we do condemn him. On the other hand, his religion may be true, yet he may be personally bad man.
We see this in various matters. For instance, in politics, a Republican may denounce the Democratic party, yet esteem the individual Democrat. I know a Democrat who spent most of his energy denouncing Republicans, yet his own son and his best friends were Republicans. You may condemn suffragettism, yet admire and esteem the individual suffragette, and vice versa.
So in this vital matter of religion, we have the greatest consideration for the individual who may be in error, but for error itself we have no tolerance. Christ Himself sets us the example in this by His love for the sinner, although He hated and denounced sin. In con-sidering the various religions, we shall demonstrate that there is but one religion, the others being consequently not true. But individuals in those others may be sincere and if in sight of God they are doing all in their to live as God wants them to do, they are in certain sense in the True Church, though not specifically so
A man may be nominally a Socialist, yet his life and conduct might be altogether at variance with the logical platform of that party. So a person may be a religious denominations which is false, and yet live superior to it. Cardinal Newman who had the experience said a Protestant was, as rule, better than his religion. I myself have received many persons from various denominations into the Catholic faith, and I have often found that at heart they were Catholics all along. By this I mean that, although Protestants, they were knowing it. All the great saving truths of Protestants are what were carried into the Catholic faith. There is not a single truth in Protestantism that does not exist in Catholicism. I say not a single truth, for you will find that everything that is absolutely true in every religion of the world is the Catholic religion, only without any admixture of error. But I am anticipating.
We have got to the point where we are to consider which is the true religion. From what I have said you will understand that we are considering the creed itself, not its adherents. We judge no man: that, we leave to God; but we can judge a creed, which is something tangible and subject to analysis. Now I am going to strike at the very heart of thing at once, and show that there is but one religion in the world which is divine. In doing this, all the others necessarily must be rejected. You will understand that I am proceeding in all kindness and consideration. To begin, then I say that thee is but one Church in the world that goes back directly to Jesus Christ. In establishing His religion, Christ said to Peter: "Upon thee I will build my church." This was visible teaching church, with definite Doctrine and external ritual. "Go ye forth into the world, teaching all thing whatsoever I have commanded you, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
A teaching church is a visible church; a church which administers baptism is a church with an external ritual. Consequently we ask what church with a teaching ministry and external rites now exist in the world which goes back as a visible church to the very person of Peter and Jesus Christ. There is but one, the Catholic Church, whose head is the pope, the successor of Peter and the representative of Christ. No other church dates its origin from the Apostolic times. Calvinists began with John Calvin in the sixteenth century, Lutherans began with Martin Luther, Episcopalians with Henry VIII, and so on.
But, you may say, the Protestant Church is the Church of Christ, purified of error, and only this purified form dates from Luther. I answer that you must chose between Luther and Christ. Jesus said His Church would not teach error; If Luther is right, Christ is wrong; but if Christ is right, Luther and all his followers are wrong.
But, you may say, was not the Church in a deplorable condition in the sixteenth century, were not the lives of some of its high clergy scandalous? I reply: yes, it is only too true, but Christ did not guarantee His Church against scandal, but against error. There were scandals in the Church even while Jesus was with it. Judas was a thief and traitor and a suicide; Peter, the head, swore to a falsehood; James and John quarreled over supremacy; Peter and St. Paul at variance over circumcision; and Paul excommunicated one of the faithful for unspeakable lust
The Church is made up of men not angels. The triumph of the Church is not in being com-posed of sinless mortal, but in supplying sinful man with means to carry on the struggle against his vicious tendencies. For that reason the Catholic Church has always been the friend of sinners, although hating sin. But Jesus by His divine power guaranteed that His Church, even if composed of weak and sinful men, would never teach error.
The Church may have needed housecleaning in the sisteenth century, but the way to clean house is not by dynamite it. A child may have a very dirty face, and yet be absolutely pure and health of skin. A doctor may be a bad man but a very good doctor. And the Church may have been scandalous in the lives of some of its high dignitaries in the sixteenth cen-tury, but nevertheless it was absolutely free from error. A mother may be leading a very sinful life and yet guard her daughter from the same way of living and even teach her noble ideals.
I know personally of an unforunate woman who, though steeped in vice herself, taught her daughter the highest morality. Afterwards the daughter became a nun, and when her mother was dying,an outcast in a city hospital, it was her daughter who held her dying head and helped her to call God for the pardon He never refuses to the humble and contrite heart. Should a daughter reform her mother by taking her life?
If God in His Providence and in order to show the inherent vitality of His Church permitted it to lapse in conduct, He did not, allow it to err in doctrine. Indeed, He foresaw and foretold and foretold this very condition when He said: "The Scribes and Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses; do as they teach you but ye not as they do."
The divinity of the Catholic Church shines out by every fact that no matter what she may have been during the ages, her doctrine has always been true. Show me one false teaching Of the Church in faith moral during the past two thousnd years, and I will grant you that she is not the Church of Christ.
Hurter, a very learned Protesant divine, who eventually became a Catholic and a cham-ion of Catholicism, said that in dealing with Protesants and unbelievers it was a waste of time to go into historic details. History is often an uncertain witnell, as we know. The writer's views are colored by his own bias. Take the great world war that began in 1914. If you read one side, you will think the other absolutely culpable, and vice versa. A world war has been going on for centuries in the realm of religion. The Church of Christ and the world have been and always will be at variance. The world stands for time and material welfare, the Church stands for eternity and the welfare of the immortal soul. Hence the antagonism.
Consequently history reflects this antagonism. Facts in the life of the Catholic Church which constitute her greatest glory have been distorted into accusations against her. All down through the centuries she has stood for justice and has been the friend of the oppressed. No wonder if some of the mighty one of earth who wished to have a feee hand and who were restrained by her should calumniate her. And, as ther were I power, the had the means of spreading their calumnies.
The best way to proceed with a Prosestant inquirer is to get right down to in controvertible ground. Was Jesus Christ God? Yes, or no? there is no use proceeding, as the whole Christian platform falls and all Christianity is an imposition. If He was God, He is divine Truth, and all that He says and promises is true. Did He establish a visible church? Yes or no? If He did not. There is no use looking for it: if He did, then it is somewhere in the world to-day, for He declared it was to last until the end of the world.
Did He guarantee His Church against error? Yes or no? If not, we never know when it must be believed; it is not a true guide; it cannot represent Him. If He did guarantee it against error, then it never erred, for God's guarantee is indeed a guarantee. How, then, about the reformers? They were wrong, either they, or Christ. But what about the state of the Church at various periods? Shocking, absolutely shocking. No one observed it more or lamented it more than the children of the Church. They were at times ashamed almost of their Mother they labored and prayed for her betterment. Some of the greatest saints devoted their lives to remedying matters. But they never though of denying their Mother.
If God saw if fit to allow His Spouse to be at times weak and pitiable, it was to try the faith of His Children and to show the vitality of their Mother. If the Church always stood forth plainly divine, there would be no astonishment at our faith in her, but to see in her the Spouse of Christ at all times because He declared that she was, that indeed is faith.
And she has justified it. If she were not divine, she would have perished a hundred times. But look at her now, the admiration of the world for her lofty teaching, her marvelous organization, her power over various peoples, her austere, divine principals! She has indeed Seen fighting, she has been through many battles, at times she was hard fought, but has she not come through it all worthy of her Spouse, our divine Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ? Jesus is God, He established one true Church, that Church is the Catholic Church
GOD AND MYSELF:
Fr. Martin J. Scott. S.J.