Before sending off this letter I think it necessary to add a few lines, in order to explain the words which your minister quotes from page 143 of my "Defence," and which he calls a strong imprecation. The words which I there made use of, and which I shall be willing to repeat in my dying hour, if, by the mercy of God, I die in my senses and in the state of God's grace, are as follow:
"May the day of judgment be for me the day of God's eternal vengeance, if the holy Roman Catholic church is not the only one true, and immaculate spouse of Christ. May my soul be doomed to suffer for you eternally all those torments which you would deserve, by following all the pretended superstitions of the Church of Rome!"
"I have never met with a stronger imprecation," says the Protestant minister, "one excepted, which was, when the Jews crucified the Saviour of the world, &c. they cried out, His blood be on us, and on our children, &c." (Vindication, page 126.)
My dear friend, you may tell your minister that all the Catholic clergy, together with all the well informed lay members of our church, will, with the greatest pleasure, join with me in this pretended imprecation.
Words to the same amount, in the mouth of a Protestant, would be extremely rash and presumptuous, because, the Protestant having no guide but his blind reason in the interpretation of the divine word, can never acquire a certainty sufficient to justify the above expressions. The utmost influence that any Protestant creed can possibly have over a Protestant mind is, a mere hope or presumption, that it may be true; which from the acknowledged fallibility of that guide, (blind, puny reason,) must leave a fear on the Protestant mind, that he is perhaps mistaken, nay a certainty that thousands are actually mistaken, as the different Protestant creeds do contradict one another in most essential points, even in the very fundamentals of Christianity.
The case of a Roman Catholic, is far different. He believes that Jesus Christ is God, and as a necessary consequence, that every word spoken by Jesus Christ is a divine truth.
He therefore believes that the church of Christ stands on a rock ever since the time it was by the Divine Architect raised on that rock. (Mat. xvi. 18.) He also believes that on the same rock it will stand until the end of time, and that the gates of hell (the powers of darkness) will never prevail over it.
He believes that the spirit of truth has never departed from the ministers of that church, of which Christ is the founder; and that the same Spirit of Truth will continue to teach them all truth, for ever. (John, xiv. 16, 17 and 26, also xvi. 13.)
He believes that Christ himself has been, ever since the foundation of the church, and will be to the consummation of the world, the guide of his ministers, when they teach all nations and administer to them baptism and the other sacraments. (Mat. xxviii.) These truths, my friend, cannot be disbelieved, only by those that impiously deny the divinity of Jesus Christ; they cannot be misunderstood, as they are expressed in as plain words as, ever proceeded from the mouth of Eternal Truth.
Founded on these divine truths, which may be called the axioms of religion, and which are much more certain than the axioms of Euclid, the Catholic can say without any rashness or presumption.
As sure as God is God, the Catholic church of Christ, founded by Christ on a rock, has these 1800 years been, and will be to the end of time, a teacher of the truth, without the least mixture of error.
As sure as God is in heaven, the Catholic church never stood in need of being reformed, being always holy, without spot or wrinkle. (Eph. v. 27.)
As sure as Jesus Christ is God, the protesting against that church, and much more so, the attempt made by sinful man, made by a miserable worm of the earth, to reform the church the most noble of all the works of God, is a most horrible, most detestable act of impiety.
As sure as Jesus Christ is truth itself, the churches raised in opposition to the Catholic church, called Protestant churches, are no parts of the church of Christ, are churches of Satan, ways to perdition.
As sure as Jesus Christ is not an impostor, every point of doctrine taught by the Catholic church is divine, and as true as if taught by the mouth of Jesus Christ himself, although the puny reason of a Protestant minister cannot comprehend, nor the pride of the philosopher submit to its doctrine."
Without any rashness, then, without any presumption, the Catholic can offer you his soul and salvation in security for the truth and divinity of his holy religion.
The Protestant minister is not able to offer you the same security, because he has no certainty. All he can venture to say, when he preaches or expounds the scripture, is, "IT IS MY OPINION," or, "IF I AM NOT MISTAKEN." This, my dear friend, proves to you at once, that he is not a minister of Christ, for a minister of Christ is appointed to teach you in the place of Christ, and under the authority of Christ; he that hears him hears Christ himself. (Luke, x. 16.) He does not hesitate; he does not waver; he has no opinions of his own to deliver unto you; but under the guidance of the church, which has the Spirit of Truth for ever, he (without any hesitation, without any doubt or uncertainty on his mind) tells you in the name of Christ, plainly and distinctly, what you must believe, and what you must do in order to obtain salvation; and he runs no risk in pledging his salvation for the truth of his doctrine,---why so? Because he has the veracity of Jesus Christ pledged for the continuance of the Spirit of Truth in the church FOR EVER, for the continual guidance of the church by Jesus Christ, until the consummation of the world.
(Mat. xxviii.) In short, for the perpetual infallibility, indefectibility, and holiness of the church.
Observe, my friend! no Catholic priest will pledge his salvation that every Catholic will be saved, or that every thing done or said by Catholics, or even by their clergymen, is correct;---far from it. We very willingly acknowledge that (whilst our doctrine, as ministers of Christ, dictated by the church, is divine) our own example and our words as men are often, too often, scandalous.
We do not say that the sun of divine truth shall never be obscured by clouds, or by fogs raised by the corruption and wickedness of men, even of clergymen, but we pledge our salvation that the sun itself behind these clouds, shall always be bright, and shall never cease emitting the purest rays of light, which shall, even through those clouds, penetrate unto the earth.
We do not say, that the vessel shall never be beaten by tempests, by howling winds and raging waves, so as to appear to the eyes of man to be in danger of sinking, but we pledge our salvation that Jesus Christ will be and remain at the helm, consequently, that the vessel will ride out the storm, and in safety reach the harbour.
We do not say, that the house which Christ raised on the rock will never have its floors or walls overspread with cobwebs, or sullied with the dirt flung against it by its enemies, but we pledge our salvation that the house itself will stand firm and unshaken until the consummation of time.
One more passage of the minister's "Vindication" Ishall notice, and then I mean to dismiss the subject for this time.
(Page 135.) The Protestant minister affects to express the greatest astonishment that I should really believe the tenets of the Catholic faith, which he calls absurd and contradictory, and that I should even pledge my salvation for the truth of them. "This," says he, "we could not have believed unless we had seen it from under his hand."
How much more astonished will he be to hear that the late archbishop Carroll, one of the most learned men, one of the most amiable characters, one of the most accomplished gentlemen, in the United States, lived and died in the firm belief of all those several tenets, of which he made an open profession on his deathbed, and that in the presence of a numerous circle of both Catholic and Protestant friends that surrounded his bed on that mournful occasion.
How much more astonished will he be to hear that numbers of well informed gentlemen, even clergymen, both in Europe and in America are continually leaving the reformation and crowding the ranks of Catholicity. Although my information on that subject is very limited, yet I know of eight Protestant and Methodist preachers in this country, that have became Roman Catholics, and some of them Roman Catholic priests.
His astonishment must be inexpressible, if he is in the least acquainted with history, and especially with the history of late times.
So firm was the belief of thousands of the clergy and millions of the lay people in France in those very tenets, which the puny reason of your minister very rashly decides to be absurd and contradictory, that they cheerfully submitted, in defence of these tenets, to the loss of all their property, of all that was dear to them on this side of the grave, and even to the loss of their lives; and met death, inflicted in the most cruel manner which the infuriated Jacobins could devise, with the most courage. Of one hundred and thirty odd archbishops and bishops (and those were generally men of the most profound learning) only four or five renounced their belief in order to save their lives and property. The number of priests that renounced their religion was also comparatively small. When one word would have saved the whole of them, must it not appear astonishing beyond conception to your minister, that so many thousands of learned men could persevere to their last breath in the belief of those ABSURD and CONTRADICTORY tenets, which their temporal interests certainly required them not to believe.
Whilst those pastors renowned for their learning and piety, and millions of their flocks, were laying down their lives for their faith, and whilst the streams of Catholic blood that fattened the soil of France and redened its rivers, was a more than convincing testimony that those men really and sincerely believed, in these tenets called absurd and contradictory, many of your Protestant ministers (behold here a proof of their great charity) were exulting at the downfall of Popery, and prophesying its utter destruction.
Your minister, whose ingenuity is never at a loss for evasive answers, will probably attribute the sufferings of the French clergy, &c. in the cause of religion to the enthusiasm of the moment. Let him turn his eyes to Great Britain, and especially to Ireland; there he will see what, will raise his astonishment to the highest pitch---the sword of persecution hanging, during two hundred years, over four or five millions of Catholics, for believing the very tenets which he calls ABSURD and CONTRADICTORY.
Transportation to Botany Bay, hanging, whipping, tortures, &c. &c. inflicted for saying mass, for hearing mass, for teaching the Catholic catechism; nearly the whole population of Ireland deprived of every foot of their real property, ground down by enormous taxes, treated like aliens, nay like slaves, in their own country; compelled to pay the tenth of all their produce to the Protestant ministers, every moment at the mercy of vile informers and Protestant spies who are encouraged, by the greatest rewards, to accuse them of complying with the duties of Catholics. See the very laws of nature overturned by a Protestant government, and the son, (by the laws of that country,) authorised to turn his Catholic father into the street, and himself (by becorning a Protestant, and informing against the father) stepping into the whole of his father's property. In short, my friend, behold a system of the most cruel persecution, written in letters of blood, dictated by a Protestant government, (out of pure charity, I suppose, see "Vindication," page 126, lines 5--10; and again, page 115, lines 18-24.)and persevering in its cruel operations, during two hundred years, against four or five millions of Catholics, on account of remaining faithful to those tenents which they had received from their apostle St. Patrick, such as, transubstantiation, confession of sins, purgatory, &c. &c.
To secure themselves from the sword of persecution, and from the bloody statutes enacted against them, they had nothing to do, but go to the next meeting house and renounce the absurd and contradictory tenents of the Catholic faith; this they would not do, but preferred all the punishments the law could inflict, and even death, to renouncing any one of these tenents. Your minister will not deny, but among those several generations of Catholics, and in so extensive a population, there must have been (and especially among their prelates and other clergymen) many thousands endowed with at least as great a share of learning and talents as himself possesses, and yet it is proved by the above facts, that they sincerely believed in the divinity of the very tenents which your minister, relying on the dictates of his fallible reason, decrees to be absurd and contradictory. If your minister would seriously meditate on the above matters of fact, his astonishment at my stupidity for believing the tenents of the Catholic creed, would cease, or would be turned against himself. He would be, or ought to be, surprised to find himself astonished at the belief of tenets adopted by the sages and the most brilliant geniuses of all ages, such as the Alfreds, the Bedes, the Fenelons, the Bossuets, the Popes, the Drydens, the Stolbergs, &c. &c. who have astonished the world by their profound erudition and the brilliancy of their genius, and some of whom, (being born Protestants,) after the most mature deliberation and many years close study, did embrace the Roman Catholic faith.
In truth, my friend, that a Christian believing Christ Jesus to be God, to be omnipotent, should be willing to believe the most incomprehensible mysteries plainly revealed by Christ, is by no means astonishing.
It is not astonishing, that a Christian, really believing Christ to be the increated wisdom, the fountain of all knowledge, and himself blind and corrupted, should read the sacred book of Revelation with fear and trembling, should acknowledge that he is not able to understand its contents.
It is not astonishing that he should, in that state of perplexity, apply to that very authority (the authority of the church) which Christ himself points out; nor is it astonishing that he should listen to that authority as to the voice of God, when he hears Christ God declare, "he that hears you hears me," and when he hears the positive promise from the mouth of Christ, that the Spirit of Truth shall be with his ministers for ever, and that he himself will be their guide, their pilot, their teacher, until the consummation of the world.
It is not astonishing that a believer in the divinity of Christ should expect to find the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of forgiving sins, in that place, and with those persons, where Christ declares he left those keys and that power.
It is not astonishing that a believer in the divinity of Christ, should also believe that Christ, who commands us repeatedly to eat and drink his flesh and blood, must have left that flesh and blood, in order to enable us to fulfil his commandment.
It is not astonishing that Catholics, who believe God to be incomprehensible, should believe the incomprehensible mysteries by him revealed.
On the other hand, it is truly astonishing, that a believer in the bible should disbelieve many parts of its contents.
It is truly astonishing that a believer in the divinity of Christ should be a disbeliever in all the different and most essential powers granted by Christ to his church.
It is exceedingly astonishing that a learned man, and a man calling himself a minister of Christ, should read in his testament, "receive ye the Holy Ghost , whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven," &c. and after reading these words of his divine Master, should ask the question, "where is that power given to a sinful creature, and one who has to answer for his own sins?" ("Vindication," page 19.)
It is, beyond expression astonishing, that a believer in the sacred records, who tells us repeatedly that he will believe nothing but what is contained in the old and new testaments, at the same time proclaims to the world that he, even in most essential matters, believes the very reverse.
Whereas the sacred record, dictated by the Holy Ghost, tells him that the church is the spouse of Christ, holy, glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish; (Eph. v. 25-27) "No, no," says the minister, "it is not so; for the church proved an adultress, a wh--e, a sink of corruption, idolatry., and superstition."
Whereas the sacred record plainly exhibits Christ as promising to his ministers the Spirit of Truth, not for three or four hundred years only, but for ever; (John. xiv. 16, 17.)"No, no," says the minister, "not for ever; for after a few hundred years the church became the teacher of errors and not of truth.
In short, whereas every word in the sacred record proceeds from the infinite abyss of Eternal Wisdom, and cannot be fully understood and explained, except by the Holy Spirit of Truth. "no, no," says the minister, (substituting his own puny reason to that guide which Christ left his church for ever) "no, no; Ican explain all myself." And then assuming an authority which I never knew an earthly judge to assume in explaining the laws of man, he goes on to decree what Jesus Christ evidently MEANT; he goes on to discard the most essential powers that Christ left his church; he goes on to level down all the difficulties and mysteries of revelation to the level of his contracted understanding. This is truly astonishing, and more astonishing than transubstantiation and all the other mysteries of the Catholic church; for it certainly is not surprising that out of the abyss of Infinite Power and Infinite Wisdom, incomprehensible mysteries should proceed.
It is not surprising that the very authority should be found in the church which Jesus Christ left with the church, when he declares, "As the father has sent me, I also send you.--- * * * "' * * Receive ye the Holy Ghost," &c. (John, xx. 21, 22, 23.)
With power and authority the Father sent Jesus Christ; with power and authority then Jesus Christ sent his ministers.
According to your Protestant minister, there is not an atom of power left in the church, and the ministers themselves are the most useless beings on earth.
They have not the power of forgiving your sins.
They have not the power, by consecration, to procure for you the flesh and blood of Christ, which Christ declares (John, vi.) to be the spiritual food of your souls.
They have not the power to bless water, salt, or any of God's creatures. Your minister laughs at the very idea. ("Vindication," page 125.)
They have not the power of banishing evil spirits.
They have not the power of explaining to you the true sense of scripture. By the minister's acknowledgment, their church or churches are fallible, subject to errors and mistakes.
You know then, my friend, from your minister's "Vindication," what powers he has not . It would be worth your while to go to him and to ask him what power he has ? I cannot imagine what his answer would be; for after having discarded all the different powers essentially necessary to enable the ministry of Christ to be of service to their flock, I do not see any power left for him to claim, but a power that any lay person may claim as well, viz. the power of saying some prayers, and the power of reading a text of scripture, and putting on it some sort of construction, either true or false, which even Satan is able to do. (Mat. iv. 6.)
I am acquainted with a very respectable man, formerly a Protestant, whom this acknowledged want of power in his minister, caused to forsake the pretended reformation, and with his whole family, to embrace the Catholic faith. For a considerable length of time he was persecuted, and his property destroyed by the agency of evil spirits; the clothes belonging to him and his family were seen (by invisible hands) a cutting to pieces, stones were seen moving across the room held by invisible hands, fire bursted repeatedly from out of their beds at broad day light, strange and frightful apparitions and strange noises terrified them very often at night.
The good old man reading in his bible that Christ had given to his ministers power over evil spirits, started from home to Winchester in Virginia, and having, with tears in his eyes, related to his minister (parson S----t) the history of his distress, losses, and sufferings, begged of him to come to his house, and to exercise in his favor the power which he had received from Jesus Christ. The parson candidly confessed that he had no such power. The good old man insisted that he must have that power, for he had found it in his bible. The parson replied, that that power only existed in old times, but was done away now. (See "Vindication," page 125, lines 1-15.) The old man, although living in this "ENLIGHTENED AGE,'' had not sagacity enough to understand the distinction between old times and new times, but according to your minister's rule, believed nothing but what he found contained in his bible. He therefore rationally concluded that parson S----t could not be a minister of Christ; and having left him, he applied to other persons calling themselves ministers of Christ, some of whom promised relief. They came, prayed, and read; but they prayed and read in vain. Finally, the old man having (through the means of a respectable Catholic neighbour) obtained the assistance of a real minister of Christ, found the relief for which he had prayed so fervently; and soon afterwards became a most edifying member of the Catholic church.
Your minister would laugh very heartily if you should relate to him the above facts; for, with the wise men of our enlightened age, he has peremptorily decided that miracles, &c. are no longer necessary, and of course they have ceased. Since when I did not learn; nor did I ever find any passage in scripture which authorises the belief that miracles should ever cease altogether, or that evil spirits should never have it any more in their power to molest the bodies and property of men, as they used to do during the lifetime of our Saviour, and even after his resurrection. (Acts, v. 16 )
Thousands of the most respectable, the most learned, the most holy of our missionaries, in all the different parts of the globe, met with numberless instances of the kind, especially among the infidels, and had as many opportunities of exercising in their favour the power which Jesus Christ granted his apostles over evil spirits, (Mat. x. i.) which power has descended to their successors.
The same missionaries acknowledge that with
many of those poor infidels all their arguments would
have been lost, had not an eager desire
to free from the molestations of
the infernal enemy, almost forced them to fly for
help to the cross of Jesus Christ, and to apply to
those means (so very despicable and ridiculolus in the
eyes of your minister, yet) so powerful and efficacious in the hands of the
ministry of Jesus Christ, who, in order to confound human pride, human wisdom,
makes use of the most weak things of this world that he may confound the strong;
(1 Cor. i. 23.) who in order to baffle all the calculations of the wise men of our enlightened age, makes use of poor weak sinful men, with no other help but that of weak elements, of the sign of the cross, and of a few words, to break down the stratagems of the infernal spirit.
Facts, my dear friend, even the best authenticated facts, are no proofs, for those who are determined to disbelieve them; and the Protestant minister is determined not to believe any facts that would tend, ever so remotely, to establish the authority of the Catholic church.
General principles in order to be correct, ought to be the result of logical reasoning, the first link in the chain of which ought to be a factor an axiom, a self-evident truth that needs no proof. To our enlightened age it was reserved to frame general principles, not the result of reasoning, not deduced from any facts or from any axiom, and to establish them by the boldness of the assertion and by the ridicule thrown on those that would undertake to dispute those principles; in short, by making them fashionable. Thus it is that the general principle has obtained among Protestants "that miracles have ceased, that nothing miraculous or supernatural ought to be believed, &c. and that any one asserting as fact any thing of the kind, is a fool or an impostor."
A fox having lost his tail in a trap, gathered all the foxes in the neighbourhood, and having placed himself against a tree, so as to hide his defect, he railed out against their long tails, as a worse than useless incumbrance, and tried to convince them of the advantage they would reap by parting with them. &c.
The above fable accounts for the clamours generally raised by Protestant ministers not only against miracles, but against all the powers which the ministry of Christ very justly claim, in consequence of the grant of their Divine Master, and which the first reformers lost in the trap of Satan, by leaving the only church which Jesus Christ had invested with all spiritual power and authority.
Judge then, my dear friend, from the acknowledgments made by your Protestant minister, whether you can consider him to be a minister of Jesus Christ, who declares that he sends his ministers as his heavenly father sent him; who plainly specifies the several powers which he grants to his ministers, viz.
The power over evil spirits. (Mat. x. 8.)
The power of reconciliation, or of forgiving sins in baptism and penance. (Mat. xxviii, 18, 19. John, xx. 22, 23.)
The power of consecration to procure the spiritual food of our souls, the flesh and blood of Christ. (Luke, xxii. 19, 20. and 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25.)
The power of preaching the true genuine doctrine, without any mixture of error. (Mat. xxviii. 19, 20. John, xiv. 16, 17. and xvi. 13. Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13, 14, &c. &c.)
My dear friend, meditate seriously on the above subjects, and let me know the result.
You shall probably hear more on the subject from
your humble servant,
DEMETRIUS A. GALLITZIN.