SECTION II.—THE MEANS PROMISED BY CHRIST, TO RENDER HIS CHURCH INFALLIBLE.
SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
The means then, by which this great work was to be brought about, have no less their warrant and security from the word of God, and promises of Christ, than the thing itself. If this be clearly made out, the evidence will be so full, as to leave no room for any further dispute, unless it be for dispute's sake. We grant then, that no human industry, wit, or learning, are sufficient to secure the church from falling into error, and that nothing can render her Infallible, but the assistance and direction of an Infallible Guide. But Christ has taken care to provide such a guide for his church: a guide of infinite wisdom, and has promised, that this Guide shall "lead her into all truth," and remain with her " to the end of the world." All which stands recorded in 'the Gospels in such plain and express terms, that men must wilfully shut their eyes not to see it.
Our Saviour's words spoken to his Apostles, and recorded by St. John, in his 14th chapter, are these, " I will ask my Father, and he will send you another Comforter to abide with you for ever." John xiv. v. 16. And soon after, he informs them, who this Comforter is to be, and to what end his Father will send him. "The Comforter (says Christ) which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John xiv. v. 26. This promise is again repeated in the 16th chapter, which contains a continuation of the same discourse, "I have yet many things to say unto you. But you cannot bear them now. However, when the Spirit of Truth is come, he will lead you into all Truth." John xvi. v. 12.
Here we have the means, by which the Church of Christ is to be forever protected against the gates of Hell, clearly and distinctly set down, viz.: " The perpetual assistance of the Divine Spirit, teaching the Church, and leading her into all truth;" nay, and these means secured to her by him, " to whom all power is given in Heaven and Earth." And who can suspect, that Christ should even abandon his Church, and suffer her to become a prey to her enemies, after the sacred engagement of so many promises to the contrary ?
But, if it be objected, that all the aforementioned texts contain no more, than a promise of the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, which was accomplished ten days after Christ's ascension into Heaven: I answer, that this cannot be. For though that be a part of the promise, it is not the whole. And, therefore, as that part was fully performed, we cannot doubt, but the other part will be so too.
That it is not the whole promise, is manifest: because one part of it says expressly, that the Comforter, or Holy Ghost, shall abide with them " for ever; " which, though addressed to the Apostles, as the whole sermon at our
Saviour's last supper was, yet, like many other truths contained in it, could not regard their persons alone; for they were not to live "for ever;" but comprehended likewise all those, who were to succeed them in after ages. And that this was the intent of our Saviour's promise appears clearly from his last words before his ascension, recorded by St. Matthew: "All power (says Christ) is given unto me in Heaven and Earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all* nations, baptizing them, etc. And lo! I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." Matt, xxviii. v. 19, 20. For in what manner was Christ to be always with them, since he was then upon the point of withdrawing from them his visible presence ? It was, doubtless, by the invisible grace, assistance, and protection of the Divine Spirit. And since this is promised to continue "even to the consummation of the world," it explains the former words " for ever," and renders it manifest, that the aforementioned texts are not to be limited to the Apostles, but that the Church throughout all ages has a title to the promise which they contain.
Which truth is yet further confirmed from the end, or motive, for which the promise was made. Now this was no other, than that the Church should be guided into all truth. And has not the Church stood in need of being guided into all truth in every age, as much as in the time of the Apostles ? Surely rather more. Because, the further we are removed from the source of any truth, which depends upon authority more than natural reason, the harder it is to trace our way back to it. And, therefore, if the Divine Assistance was necessary to guide the Church into all truth, even in those happy times, when the Apostles themselves, who had been taught in the school of Christ, instructed her either by word of mouth, or by their writings, it cannot be denied, but this assistance has been at least fully as needful to her in after ages, when the words and writings of the Apostles by the distance of time could not avoid sharing the fate of other authors, of being liable to misinterpretations, false glosses, changes, and corruptions; unless the same infallible guide, which preserved the Church from error in her infancy, had continued ever since to conduct her in the paths of truth.