Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 2

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 2 March 12, 2023

. . . In Which Dr. Salmon Accuses Cardinal Newman of Lying Through His Teeth in His Essay on Development, & Dr. Murphy Magnificently Defends Infallibility and Doctrinal Development Against Gross Caricature

The book, The Infallibility of the Church (1888) by Anglican anti-Catholic polemicist George Salmon (1819-1904), may be one of the most extensive and detailed — as well as influential — critiques of the Catholic Church ever written. But, as usual with these sorts of works, it’s abominably argued and relentlessly ignorant and/or dishonest, as the critique below will amply demonstrate and document.

The most influential and effective anti-Catholic Protestant polemicist today, “Dr” [???] James White, cites Salmon several times in his written materials, and regards his magnum opus as an “excellent” work. In a letter dated 2 November 1959, C. S. Lewis recommended the book to an inquirer who was “vexed” about papal infallibility. Russell P. Spittler, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote that “From an evangelical standpoint,” the book “has been standard since first published in 1888” (Cults and Isms, Baker Book House, 1973, 117). Well-known Baptist apologist Edward James Carnell called it the “best answer to Roman Catholicism” in a 1959 book. I think we can safely say that it is widely admired among theological (as well as “emotional”) opponents of the Catholic Church.

Prominent Protestant apologist Norman Geisler and his co-author Ralph MacKenzie triumphantly but falsely claim, in a major critique of Catholicism, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1995, 206-207, 459), that Salmon’s book has “never really been answered by the Catholic Church,” and call it the “classic refutation of papal infallibility,” which also offers “a penetrating critique of Newman’s theory.”
Salmon’s tome, however, has been roundly refuted at least twice: first, by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Murphy in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record (March / May / July / September / November 1901 and January / March 1902): a response (see the original sources) — which I’ve now transcribed almost in its totality — which was more than 73,000 words, or approximately 257 pages; secondly, by Bishop Basil Christopher Butler (1902-1986) in his book, The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to the Abridged ‘Salmon’ (1954, 230 pages). See all of these replies — and further ones that I make — listed under “George Salmon” on my Anti-Catholicism web page. But no Protestant can say that no Catholic has adequately addressed (and refuted) the egregious and ubiquitous errors in this pathetic book. And we’ll once again see how few (if any) Protestants dare to counter-reply to all these critiques.
See other installments of the series:

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 1 [3-10-23]

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 3 . . . In Which Our Sophist-Critic Massively Misrepresents Cardinal Newman and Utterly Misunderstands the Distinction Between Implicit and Explicit Faith [3-12-23]

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 4 . . . In Which Dr. Salmon Sadly Reveals Himself to be a Hyper-Rationalistic Pelagian Heretic, and Engages in Yet More Misrepresentation of Development of Doctrine and Cardinal Newman’s Statements and Positions [3-15-23]

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 5: Private Judgment, the Rule of Faith, and Dr. Salmon’s Weak Fallible Protestant “Church”: Subject to the Whims of Individuals; Church Fathers Misquoted [3-15-23]

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 6: The Innumerable Perils of Perspicuity of Scripture and Private Judgment [3-16-23]

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 7 [3-16-23]

Vol. IX: May 1901
Dr. Salmon’s ‘Infallibility’ (Part 2)
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Murphy, D.D.
[I have made a few paragraph breaks not found in the original. Citations in smaller font are instead indented, and all of Dr. Salmon’s words will be in blue. Words of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman will be in green]

Dr. Salmon’s second lecture is on ‘The Cardinal Importance of the Question of Infallibility.’ ‘The truth is,’ he says, ‘that the issues of the controversy mainly turn on one great question, which is the only one that I expect to be able to discuss with you: I mean the question of the Infallibility of the Church. If that be decided against us, our whole case is gone’ (page 17). And the book itself is named The Infallibility of the Church: and yet, in the opening sentence of the twenty-second lecture (page 424) he says, ‘the question of the Infallibility of the Pope is that with which I am directly concerned in this course of lectures.’ This is an ordinary instance of the confusion that is manifested, all through Dr. Salmon’s book; and, even without studying the volume, one may safely infer, that the Infallibility of either Church or Pope, is not likely to suffer much from the attack of one, who really does not know which of the two he is assailing.

Random shooting of this sort is not likely to be effective. Perhaps, however, it was his keen attention to our movements that made him so oblivious of his own; and notwithstanding the indefiniteness of his aim, he is sanguine of success. We are, according to him, impervious to argument; continually changing our ground; retreating from one post to another; and our present condition, he says, is this: ‘The Romish champions, beaten out of the open field, have shut themselves up in this fortress of Infallibility, where, as long as their citadel remains untaken, they can defy all assaults’ (page 46). Our fate is, however, sealed; for he says: —

But, though it is on the first view, disappointing, that our adversaries should withdraw themselves into a position, seemingly inaccessible to argument, it is really, as I shall presently show, a mark of our success, that they have been driven from the open field and forced to betake themselves into this fortress. And we have every encouragement to follow them and assault their citadel, which is now their last refuge (page 24).

And the Doctor contemplates with delight, the prospect of our immediate annihilation, saying: — ‘This simplification then of the controversy realises for us the wish of the Roman tyrant, that all his enemies had but one neck. If we can but strike one blow the whole battle is won’ (page 18). Dr. Salmon is in a very heroic state of mind; and, as he is a veteran in the service, his students must have expected wonderful results, when he is let loose on the Catholic Church. Well, the siege has gone on for a long time, and the fortress bolds out defiantly still. No flag of truce has been raised, no signal of distress has been seen. And Dr. Salmon may rest assured, that when he shall have been gathered to his fathers, and his book quite forgotten, that fortress will still stand secure. She has a higher warrant than Dr. Salmon’s to ensure her triumph over the gates of hell.

Dr. Salmon has a theory of the Church, which, if he could only establish it on a solid basis, would save him a great deal of labour, and would completely remove the necessity of disproving Infallibility. He sees no reason why the Church should not be a plastic institution which would change with the times, and adapt itself to the habits of good society. He says: —

May it not be supposed for example that He (God) wisely ordained that the constitution of His Church should receive modifications, to adapt it to the changing exigencies of society; that in times when no form of government but monarchy was to he seen anywhere, it was necessary, if His Church was to make head successfully against the prevalent reign of brute force, that all its powers should he concentrated in a single hand: but that when, with the general spread of knowledge, men refused to give unreasoning submission to authority, and claimed the right to exercise some judgment of their own, in the conduct of their affairs, the constitution of the Church needed to be altered in order to bring it into harmony with the political structure of modern society (pages 40, 41).

Again: —

Let us liberally grant, that an ecclesiastical monarchy was the form of government best adapted to the needs of the Church at the time, when, in temporal matters, the whole civilized world was governed by a single ruler; and yet it might be utterly unfit for her requirements, in subsequent times, when Europe had been broken up into independent kingdoms; and we might be as right now, in disowning Papal authority as our ancestors wore in submitting to it (page 369).

This is none of your cast-iron Romanism, but an up-to-date progressive Church, marching hand in hand with civilization, and never offending against good manners by insisting on any definite articles of faith as necessary conditions of membership. Such a weather-cock Church would be sufficiently fallible to satisfy even Dr. Salmon and his pupils, and would have the unique advantage of showing that they are as right in rejecting Catholic doctrines as their ancestors were in professing them. On reading such passages one is forcibly reminded of St. Hilary’s indignant exclamation (Ad Const) — 0, tu sceleste quod ludibrium de Ecclesia fads? [“0, you are a criminal who makes fun of the Church?”]

Dr. Salmon is quite right in insisting on the ‘cardinal importance of the question of Infallibility.’ If the Church be infallible, that doctrine is a sufficient warrant for the truth of every other doctrine she teaches; and discussion on details becomes needless, and Catholics, who believe that doctrine, accept the Church’s teaching without the slightest difficulty or hesitation. But Dr. Salmon is not content with a priori considerations of the importance of the doctrine. He says: —

I should have been convinced of it from the history of the Roman Catholic controversy, as it has been conducted in my own lifetime. When I first came to an age to take a lively interest in the subject, Dr. Newman and his coadjutors, were publishing, in the Tracts for the Times [link], excellent refutations of the Roman doctrine on Purgatory, and on some other important points. A very few years afterwards without making the slightest attempt to answer their own arguments, these men went over to Rome, and bound them selves to believe, and teach as true, things which they had them selves proved to be false. . . . While the writers of the Tracts were assailing with success different points of Roman teaching, they allowed themselves to be persuaded, that Christ must have provided His people with some infallible guide to truth; and they accepted the Church of Rome as that guide, with scarcely an attempt to make a careful scrutiny of the grounds of her pretensions (pages 18, 19).

This unconditional surrender, Dr. Salmon attributes to the craving for an infallible guide, and ‘the craving for an infallible guide arises from men’s consciousness of the weakness of their understanding’ (page 47). It would be amusing if the matter had not been so serious to find Dr. Salmon charging Newman, Ward, Oakley, and Dalgairns, with ‘weakness of understanding,’ with going over to Rome ‘without making the smallest attempt to answer their own arguments’ against her, and with ‘scarcely an attempt to make a careful scrutiny of the grounds of her pretensions.’ Dr. Salmon frequently refers to Newman’s Essay on Development, and he may, therefore, be presumed to have read it; and on the very first page of it he could have seen a statement of the writer’s objections to Rome, and immediately following it are these words: —  ‘He little thought, when he so wrote, that the time would ever come, when he should feel the obstacle, which he spoke of as lying in the way of communion with the Church of Rome, to be destitute of solid foundation.’

Therefore, before Dr. Newman joined the Catholic Church he satisfied himself that his arguments against her were ‘destitute of solid foundation,’ though according to Dr. Salmon he did not make ‘the smallest attempt to answer’ them. Again, on the last page of the Essay, after his magnificent analysis of Patristic teaching, Newman says: ‘Such were the thoughts concerning the “Blessed Vision of Peace,” of one whose long-continued petition had been, that the Most Merciful would not despise the work of His own hands, nor leave him to himself: — while yet his eyes were dim, and his breast laden, and he could but employ reason in the things of Faith.’ And after a like analysis, in the twelfth of his Lectures on Anglican Difficulties, Newman says: —

What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was but forging arguments for Arius and Eutyches, and turning devil’s advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius, and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God: — perish sooner a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels — perish the names of Bramhall, Usher, Taylor, Stillingfleet and Barrow, from the face of the earth — ere I should do aught but fall at their feet, in love, and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears, and on my tongue (page 306).

To charge the writer of these magnificent passages — the writer of the Apologia — who had for years devoted all the energy of a giant mind to the earnest pursuit of truth — to charge such a man with going over blindly to Rome without an attempt to answer his own arguments against her, or to examine her claims — is a specimen of recklessness, all the more extraordinary in such a theologian as the writer of these lectures. But he has a much graver charge against Dr. Newman. In a note at page 22, he says: —

I never meant to impute to Newman insincerity in his profession of belief.

But how are we to understand the following?

When Dr. Newman became a Roman Catholic it was necessary for him, in some way, to reconcile this step with the proofs that he had previously given that certain distinctive Romish doctrines were unknown to the early Church. This is the object of the celebrated Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which he published simultaneously with his submission to the Roman Church (page 31). . . . The book having been written before he had yet joined them (page 33).

Now, whatever Dr. Salmon meant by the words quoted, any ordinary reader will take them to mean, that, Dr. Newman had accepted all the teaching of the Catholic Church — had become a convinced Catholic — but that he felt that some justification of his conduct was rendered necessary, by his previous career, and that in order to provide this justification he wrote the Essay on Development,  and published it simultaneously with his public reception into the Church, though he had been during the time of its composition a Catholic on conviction — not publicly, for he had not yet made his public submission, but secretly. This is the meaning of Dr. Salmon’s words. ‘When Dr. Newman became a Roman Catholic it was necessary,’ etc., therefore he was a ‘Roman Catholic,’ at least secretly, before the necessity arose for justifying his action. ‘This is the object of the essay’ etc., therefore while he was engaged in providing this justification he was a Catholic, at least secretly; and when he had his justification ready, he published it, and made his public submission to the Roman Church simultaneously.

This is the ordinary logical meaning of Dr. Salmon’s words, and if there be not a charge of ‘insincerity in the profession of belief’ conveyed by them, words have no meaning. But the charge was answered, once for all, and it is amazing that the spectre of Kingsley, on the pillory, should not have made Dr. Salmon more cautious. Dr. Newman, then, did not leave his own arguments against the Church unanswered — he pronounced them to be ‘destitute of solid foundation,’ like those of the ‘devil’s advocate’; he did not go over to Rome without inquiry; he devoted to the inquiry many years of hard study, and of constant prayer. One would expect that, as Dr. Salmon undertook to convince his students of the cardinal importance of the doctrine of Infallibility, he would have explained the doctrine to them. They could not know its importance unless they knew what it really was.

And, moreover, as he professed to be training them to refute the doctrine, he should have told them what it was. But, instead of doing so, he devotes a very long lecture to a series of mis-statements, well calculated to intensify their ignorance of Catholic teaching, and to strengthen their prejudices against the Catholic Church. Had he put the doctrine clearly and correctly before them, any student of average ability could have seen for himself that the professor’s declamation left it untouched. He said to them: ‘An infallible Church does not mean a Church which makes no mistakes, but only one which will neither acknowledge its mistakes nor correct them’ (page 111). There was no necessity for devoting twenty-three lectures to proving the fallibility of such a Church. It is openly proclaimed. But the teaching of the Catholic Church is not so easily disposed of; and in order to put that teaching clearly before him, it is necessary to call Dr. Salmon’s attention to a few facts that ought to be regarded as first principles by anyone who accepts the New Testament as a truthful record.

When our Blessed Redeemer came amongst us, He proved His divinity, the reality of His divine mission, and the consequent truth of His doctrines, by a series of extraordinary miracles, and by prophecies fulfilled in Him, and spoken by Him, and subsequently verified. For those who witnessed His miracles, and yet rejected His doctrines, there was no reasonable excuse; and He Himself frequently said so. He gathered
to Himself a number of disciples, — the nucleus of His Church — and out of the number, He selected some whom He trained specially to be the future teachers of that Church. He did not write a book which they were to study in order to learn His doctrines. He Himself, in person, taught them orally. In proof of the truth of His teaching, He frequently appealed to the works which He had done; and He exacted from His followers, full unconditional faith in His doctrine, and obedience to His moral precepts; and this faith and obedience, He exacted as a necessary condition of salvation.

This system of oral, personal teaching, our Lord continued during His earthly career; and when that career was about to close He commissioned His Apostles to continue His work and His method as well. He gave them His own authority, and sent them forth to teach as His ambassadors. They were to continue His mission, — that which He had got from His Eternal Father, — and the Holy Ghost was to be with them to ensure their success; and He promised that signs and wonders, even greater than His own, would confirm their mission. And after our Lord’s ascension, we find the Apostles carrying out their commission, both in its matter and in its manner, exactly as they were commanded. They went forth teaching the truths that bad been revealed to them; they represented themselves as His legates, teaching His doctrine, manifesting His power. The miracles they performed were, they said openly, not performed by any power of their own, but by His power and in His name.

They did not write books and hand them to their disciples to be studied by them in order to learn the truths of faith. Few of them wrote anything, and the Church was well established, and widely diffused, before any of them wrote a line at all. Like their Divine Master they taught orally, personally, the truths of faith; and like Him, too, and in His name, they exacted from their followers faith in their teaching and obedience to their moral precepts. And this obedience of faith, too, they exacted as an absolutely necessary condition of salvation. Not for any words of their own, but for God’s Word revealed to them, did the Apostles demand acceptance and faith; and they gave abundant proof of their divine commission to teach in His name; nor did they tolerate amongst their followers a rejection of any portion of their teaching, or any divergence from it. Thus, then, the first Christians believed the Word of God on the authority of God Himself; and that authority was brought home to them by ambassadors divinely commissioned to do so, and divinely assisted in doing so.

The teaching authority of the Apostles imposed on their followers the obligation of believing; the obedience of faith. There was thus an authoritative teaching body established, and the members of the Church accepted, and were bound to accept, from that teaching body the truths of faith, and moral principles, and the explanations of both. Thus was God’s Kingdom on earth established; supernatural in its origin, for it is founded by God Himself; supernatural in its life, the Spirit of God working in it through faith and grace; and supernatural in its end, which is God’s glory and man’s salvation. The kingdoms of this world change with time and die away; the kingdom of today may become the republic of tomorrow, and the pandemonium of some day in the near future. Not so the Kingdom of God. Like the mustard-seed in the Gospel, it becomes the widespreading tree, giving shelter to all that seek it; but its identity remains. It is ever the same — a living, active teaching body, and such it shall continue till its mission shall have been accomplished. When the Christian faith was for some time established, and already widely spread, the Gospels were written, giving our Lord’s personal history and some of His teachings.

The Epistles, too, were written, called forth by special circumstances, and fragmentary in doctrine. They were so far instruments of Revelation in the custody of the Church, which lived and taught as before. This was the system, the method of teaching and propagating the faith, adopted by our Lord, and continued by His Apostles. It is, therefore, the Christian method and system, and there is not in Christian antiquity the slightest grounds for any departure from that system. Such as it was, it was our Lord’s institution, and men could not change it; and such a departure from it as would strip the teaching Church of her authority, and condemn her to silence, and would substitute, as sole source and sole teacher of faith, a written book that is dumb and speaks not — such a change would be a subversion of our Lord’s institution, would be anti-Christian, a triumph for the ‘gates of hell.’

We, therefore, believe that the entire body of Revelation, the entire, complete deposit of faith, was entrusted by our Lord to His Church; that he made her its guardian, interpreter, and teacher; and that, in her office as such, He promised efficaciously to protect her against error or failure till the end of time. In virtue of this promise the Church is infallible; that is, she is exempt not merely from actual error, but from the possibility of error, in believing and in teaching the divine deposit of faith. The Christian Revelation terminated with the Apostles, and the deposit of faith comprises all that was revealed to them, and nothing that was not revealed to them. It can receive no addition; it can suffer no diminution; it is in the Church’s keeping; and she is its infallible custodian’ and teacher. The Church may be considered as a body of believers, embracing both the teachers and the taught, but regarding them as believers; and, so regarded, the Church is infallible in believing the whole deposit of faith. Whatever it believes to be of faith is so certainly, and whatever it rejects as opposed to faith is so with equal certainty.

It is thus a witness to the fact of Revelation in this sense, that the universal belief of any doctrine by the Church, as revealed, is a proof that the doctrine was revealed. This is called passive infallibility, because the Church, so regarded, does not raise its voice in controversy; its teaching must be gathered from it by the teaching body — the Ecclesia Docens. The Infallibility of the Church, in this sense, Dr. Salmon does not discuss, and it shall be alluded to only briefly here. The doctrine is clearly contained in the celebrated text of St. Matthew xvi. 18: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ This text, and many others bearing on the subject, have been beautifully developed by Dr. Murray in his admirable work De Ecclesia. In that work Dr. Salmon will find the arguments for our doctrine fully and ably stated, and had he read it, before delivering his lectures, he would have been able, if willing, to give his students a more accurate conception of the work before them in ‘the controversy with Rome.’

Nothing can be more certain than that our Lord wished that His doctrines should be preserved pure, and perpetuated in their purity. Often did He warn his disciples against false teachers — the leaven of the Pharisees, the Father of Lies, and his agents; and He promised them the Spirit of Truth to preserve them from error. The spirit of their Divine Master animated the Apostles also; and we find them always jealously guarding against any deflection from revealed truth. Even St. John, the Apostle of Charity, forbade his followers to speak to a believer in false doctrine. Therefore, belief in true doctrine, in its integrity and purity, must have been a vital principle of the Church; and any betrayal of truth, rejecting a true doctrine as false or accepting a false doctrine as true, would have made the Church the prey of her great enemy. But, according to St. Matthew the prey of her enemy the Church shall never be. The text speaks of the Church which our Lord was to establish, and contemplates it as a spiritual edifice of the highest degree of stability.

Its foundation is the immovable rock. Its Architect is infinite in wisdom and in power; and the purpose of its construction, one dearest to Him — to serve as a home for His chosen followers, and as a treasury for the blessings He was to leave them. Therefore must it be permanently secured against sudden destruction or gradual decay. Enemies of the most formidable kind were to assail it— in vain. Amongst the worst, the most deadly of these enemies is heresy, that would poison the source of the Church’s life. Were heresy to prevail against the Church, were she to disbelieve a true doctrine, or profess a false one, her Founder’s solemn promise would have been falsified, and Satan would have gained the victory which, according to the promise, never can be won.

This passive infallibility of the body of believers presupposes the active infallibility of the teaching body — the Ecclesia Docens. The Ecclesia Audiens is bound to accept the doctrine of the teaching body; and in its divinely guaranteed fidelity in doing so, its own infallibility consists. This active infallibility — infallibility in teaching — has a twofold seat in the Church. It exists in the body of bishops united with their head — the Pope — whether assembled in a general council or dispersed throughout the world’s wide extent; and it exists also in the Pope himself, when teaching officially, ex cathedra. Each is an article of faith, and if Dr. Salmon could disprove either, or disprove any article of faith so held, he would have simplified the controversy for his students very considerably. But he has not done so, nor even made a clever attempt to do so. He has but reproduced the old stock-in-trade of Protestant controversialists; and that, too, without rising above the usual level of such disputants. And, as already stated, he has so confused the Infallibility of Church and Pope that he does not seem to know which he is assailing. For clearness’ sake the doctrine shall then be kept distinct; thus the interests of truth will be better served, though more labour will be incurred in making order out of Dr. Salmon’s chaotic book.

The bishops of the Catholic Church, in union with the Pope, their head, whether assembled in a collected body or dispersed throughout the world, constitute the teaching body — the Ecclesia Docens — and that teaching body is infallible. This body is the infallible guardian, interpreter, and teacher of the entire deposit of faith, and of all that appertains to faith and morals; and the infallible judge of every controversy in which faith or morals are involved. Whatever it declares to be revealed, and of faith, is so certainly; and whatever it declares to be opposed to faith, or inconsistent with it, is so, with equal certainty; and in virtue of its Founder’s promise it shall continue to fulfil its divine mission as guardian, judge, and teacher of revelation till the end of time. And though the teaching Church is concerned directly with the deposit of faith, its authority extends indirectly to many things not contained in that deposit. As custodian of the faith the Church preserves her precious charge from all admixture of error, and so she detects and condemns those systems and doctrines that aim at impairing the purity of the deposit of faith. It is the shepherd’s duty not merely to feed his flock, but also to ward off the wolf from the fold.

This gift of Infallibility differs very much from Inspiration; though Dr. Salmon either intentionally or inadvertently confounds them, and, as a consequence, makes some very silly charges against us. Inspiration is the direct action of the Holy Spirit on the mind of the writer or speaker, moving him to write or speak; suggesting to him what to write or speak, and often even how to do so. The inspired teacher then is under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost moving him to write or teach what God wills him to write or teach. Infallibility is a much lower gift. The infallible teacher as such receives no interior revelation or suggestion from God. He is under no direct divine influence to teach. The Holy Ghost does not dictate to him what to say or how to say it. It is only his external utterances that are controlled, so that when he does teach officially, he can teach nothing that is not true. He is preserved from error in his teaching by a supernatural providence, an exterior over-ruling guidance of the Holy Ghost. What the inspired teacher says is the Word of God Himself, and is either a new revelation or a divine statement of a truth already known. What the infallible teacher says is a true declaration or explanation of a revelation already made. This is what we mean by the Infallibility of the Church. But Dr. Salmon of course knows our doctrine much better than we ourselves do, and in a note at page 43, he says: —

A Roman Catholic critic accuses me of forgetting that the Catholic claim is not inspiration, but only inerrancy. I consider the latter far the stronger word. In popular language the word ‘inspired,’ is sometimes used in speaking of the works of a great genius, who is not supposed to be exempt from error, but no one can imagine the utterances of a naturally fallible man to be guaranteed against possibility of error, unless he believes that man to be speaking not of his own mind, but as the inspired organ of the Holy Spirit.

This is very clever. Now Dr. Salmon in his Introduction to the New Testament, speaks of its inspiration. Does he use the word there as it is used in ‘popular language’? Ah, no. If he had so used it, there would be an end of the inspiration of the New Testament Scripture. He uses it then as a technical theological term, in its proper sense, to enable him to defend the truth of Scripture (though he does not, and on his principles cannot prove the inspiration), but he uses it here in its ‘popular’ sense — a false sense — to enable him to attribute false doctrines to us. ‘I consider it,’ he says, ‘the stronger word’ — yes; if it be taken in a false sense. And in any case, that he should ‘consider it the stronger word,’ is not a conclusive proof that it is so.

The Infallibility of the teaching Church in the sense here explained Catholics believe as an article of faith. According to Dr. Salmon our great argument for this doctrine is its necessity. ‘The great argument by which men are persuaded to believe, that there is at least somewhere or another an infallible guide, is that it is incredible that God should leave us without sure guidance when our eternal salvation is at stake’ (page 97). Now, so far from this being our ‘great argument’ it is not, in the sense indicated by Dr. Salmon, an argument at all. God could have remedied our shortcomings in many ways besides by the appointment of an infallible guide — even supposing He was bound to remedy them at all. And, again, the creed for which Dr. Salmon says we profess to require an infallible guide, is only a very small fraction of our creed, and for arriving at sufficient knowledge of the few articles contained in it, God might have provided in various ways.

But on the supposition that Christ established a Church, to which he entrusted a Revelation; that this Church was to spread all the world over, and to last till the end of time; that the Revelation was to be preserved pure and unchanged, and preached to all mankind; that it contained many doctrines opposed to human prejudices, and many mysteries impervious to human reason; that faith in this Revelation is necessary for men in order to please God and save their souls; that men are very prone to error, and especially so in matters of faith; taking all this into account the argument for the necessity of an infallible guide becomes too strong for Dr. Salmon’s carping criticism.

But our argument for the Infallibility of the Church is the express and unmistakable Revelation of that doctrine by God Himself, both in His written and unwritten Word. It is clearly contained in St. Matthew xxviii. 18, 19, 20, and in many other Scripture texts besides. And as the argument for this doctrine is given, and fully developed by most of our dogmatic theologians, and developed at great length and with special force by Dr. Murray, it will be sufficient to refer to the matter briefly here.

On the eve of our Lord’s ascension He appeared to His Apostles, and delivered to them His final charge saying: — ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth: going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.’ [Mt 28:18-20] The object of the Apostles’ mission was to bring men to a knowledge of revealed truth and to teach them the observance of moral laws. To do this at any time, was a tremendous task for a few poor illiterate men, or for any men to undertake. And hence our Lord began His commission to them, by setting forth His own power, as the principle on which they were to rely — the source of their strength, the warrant of their success. It is as if He had said to them: — Fear not the magnitude of the task I impose upon you; but armed with My own power go out into the world; make disciples of the nations; teach them to know and require of them to believe My doctrines, and teach them to observe all My commands, and in the execution of this commission — a difficult one — I shall be with you, aiding you, directing you, protecting you, and ensuring your success for all time.

Now, whatever be the extent of this commission, it was given to the teachers of the Church, it was a teaching commission. ‘Make them disciples,’ and do so by ‘teaching them to observe,’ or rather to ‘guard with care’ (as the Greek text has it) ‘all that I have entrusted to you.’ Now, this commission and the accompanying promise were not limited to the Apostles, but were intended for their successors for all time, because (1) they were to teach all nations which the Apostles could not, or at least did not do, and (2) the work of teaching was to continue till the end of time, which necessarily supposes that others were to continue what the Apostles had begun. And the teaching commission embraced all the truths revealed to the Apostles, and extended to all men without exception: — ‘Teach all nations . . .  to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.’ And for the successful discharge of this commission, our Lord promised His own special efficacious aid to His Apostles and their successors to ensure this success. ‘I am with you all days.’

Now, according to Scriptural usage, conclusively established by Dr. Murray, this expression, ‘I am with you,’ means a special divine efficacious aid and protection to the Apostles, ensuring the faithful discharge of their mission. And this divine assurance and pledge of success is not limited to the Apostles themselves; it is equally promised to those who are to continue the Apostles’ work till the end of time. Now, were it possible for the Church to teach false doctrines, how could the God of Truth be said to be with her, aiding her in doing so? How could He lend His efficacious positive assistance to the propagation of falsehood? Since, therefore, He has pledged Himself to be with His Church in her work of teaching, the Church’s teaching must be always true.

This is our doctrine. It is intelligible; it is consistent; it ensures to as the possession of that true faith without which salvation is impossible; it secures us against those wretched systems that make shipwreck of the faith. Isaias saw in the distant future the beauty of the Bride of the Lamb, and St. Paul described her admirable symmetry, when the reality was before him; but instead of the beauty foretold by Isaias; instead of the order and symmetry insisted on by St. Paul, heresy shows us a deformed thing, corrupt and corrupting, and asks us to recognise it as the spotless Spouse of Christ. Instead of the harmony which Scripture everywhere attributes to the Kingdom of God on earth heresy presents to us a picture of that other kingdom in which no order but everlasting horror dwells; and we are told that our Lord preached up and propped up this other Babel, and called it the Ark of His Covenant with men; that He left His Church a mistress of manifold error, and called her, at the same time, ‘the pillar, and the ground of truth.’ Surely it can be no difficult task to vindicate the God of Truth against such an imputation as this — and this imputation is the sum and substance of Dr. Salmon’s lectures.

Our dogmatic theologians give several arguments, from the written and unwritten Word of God, to prove the Infallibility of the Church; they develop those arguments at considerable length, and answer the objections both to the doctrine and to the proofs; but Dr. Salmon conveniently ignores the arguments, and repeats the objections, with as much apparent confidence as if they had never been answered. When the powers of his young controversialists come to be tested they will discover that the Doctor’s training of them was not the best. And not only does Dr. Salmon not consider our argument for Infallibility, but he actually maintains that we can have no argument at all; and that he has ‘a perfect right to put out of court all Roman Catholic attempts to prove the Infallibility of their Church, as being attempts to build a fabric without a foundation’ (page 79).

This may be a very convenient, but certainly not a very effectual way of disposing of us. But he goes further, and informs his students, that we ourselves must admit the hopelessness of our case, for ‘there is one piece of vitally important knowledge,’ he says, ‘which Roman Catholics must own, God has not given men never-failing means of attaining; I mean the knowledge [of] what is the true Church’ (page 99). Now Dr. Salmon has given in his book, as an appendix, the ‘Decrees of the Vatican Council,’ and it may therefore be presumed that he has read them. And if he has read them how could he make the extraordinary statement given above that we ourselves must admit that we have no ‘never-failing means’ of finding out what the true Church is? In the chapter on Faith he could have read — he must have read — the following: —

But in order that we may be able to satisfy our obligation of embracing the true faith, and of persevering constantly in it, God, by His only begotten Son, instituted His Church, and gave to it marks of its divine origin so manifest that it can be recognized by all as the Guardian and Teacher of His revealed Word. For to the Catholic Church alone belongs all those things, so many and so wonderful, which are divinely arranged to show the evident credibility of the Christian faith. Nay more, even the Church, considered in herself, because of her wonderful propagation, her extraordinary sanctity, and her inexhaustible richness, in all good things; because of her Catholic unity, her unconquerable stability; she is herself a great and never-failing motive of credibility, and an indisputable proof of her own divine mission.

With this text before him (page 480), which he must have read, it is amazing that Dr. Salmon should have made the extraordinary statement given above, and at the same time have supplied so readily the means of refuting his calumny. But the proof of the statement is more extraordinary still. He says: — ‘They must own that the institution of an infallible Church has not prevented the world from being overrun with heresy’ (page 100). And he develops this argument (?) at great length. Of course we own it; but what follows? Does the admission disprove Infallibility? The vast majority of those who heard our Divine Lord teaching, and who witnessed His miracles, rejected Him, called Him a demon, and cried out, ‘Crucify Him. Does this prove that He was not the Son of God?

If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. . . . If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father. [Jn 15:22-24]

They disbelieved Him, therefore, in the face of most conclusive proof of His Divinity. ‘And shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect.’ [Rom 3:3] As well might Dr. Salmon have quoted the pagan millions of China, India, Africa, and Japan, against Christianity, as quote the prevalence of heresy against the teaching of the true Church. As the Vatican Council well and truly says the Catholic Church bears on her brow the mark of her divine institution. She is her own argument by reason of her extraordinary history. Pagan persecutors, heretics in each succeeding age, the jealous enmity of worldly powers, enemies from without and from within, she has confronted with a wisdom, a fortitude, a success that must have been divinely given. Each age has had its Dr. Salmon to asperse her, and its Dr. Cumming to predict her fall; but she, calm in the consciousness of divine protection, has gone on discharging her heavenly mission, whilst they have been wafted on the stream of time to oblivion. Such has her history been in the past, and such too shall it be in the future — always a fulfilment of her Founder’s promise to be with her ‘all days even to the end of the world.’

As already stated, Dr. Salmon does not meet the arguments of Catholic theologians in favour of the doctrine of Infallibility. He aims rather at bringing the doctrine into doubt by a series of assertions and charges, none of which really touches the doctrine at all, and most of which are false. The readers of Oliver Twist will recollect the cleverness, and the tone of lofty indignation, with which the Artful Dodger always managed to charge some one else with the crimes of which he was himself guilty. Dr. Salmon must have taken lessons from this able tactician. He says the Church of Rome is perpetually changing her doctrines, and that which changes is not true; she has been always boasting that she never changes, and she has before our eyes quite recently promulgated doctrines never heard of before. This, Dr. Salmon told his students, was a conclusive proof of her fallibility. He says: —

The idea that the doctrine of the Church of Rome is always the same is one which no one of the present day can hold without putting an enormous strain on his understanding. It used to be the boast of Romish advocates that the teaching of their Church was unchangeable. Heretics, they used to say, show by their perpetual alterations that they never have had hold of the truth. . . . Our Church, on the contrary, they said, ever teaches the same doctrine which has been handed down from the Apostles, and has since been taught ‘everywhere, always, and by all.’ Divines of our Church used to expose the falsity of this boast by comparing the doctrine now taught in the Church of Rome with that taught in the Church of early time; and thus established by historical proof that a change had occurred. But now the matter has been much simplified, for no laborious proof is necessary to show that that is not unchangeable which changes under our very eyes. This rate of change is not like that of the hour hand of a watch, which you must note at some considerable intervals of time in order to see that there has been a movement, but, rather, like that of the second hand, which you can actually see moving (pages 19, 20).

Again : —

The old theory was that the teaching of the Church had never varied. . . . No phrase had been more often on the lips of Roman controversialists than that which described the faith of the Church as what was held always, everywhere, and by all (page 33).

This was always our boast; but now the logic of facts, brought borne to us by theologians like Dr. Salmon, has compelled us to abandon this boast, and to admit that we, too, are changing with time. He says: —

You will find them now making shameless confession of the novelty of articles of their creed, and even taunting us Anglicans with the unprogressive character of our faith, because we are content to believe as the early Church believed, and as our fathers believed before us (pages 31, 32).

It is to be regretted that Dr. Salmon did not give the names of the ‘Romish advocates’ who charge Protestants with ‘the unprogressive character’ of their various creeds. The charge could certainly not be sustained, for the authors of the ‘Higher Criticism’ are all Protestants; and they have so far progressed as to have left the Bible far behind them. And it would be equally unfair to charge the Protestant Church with ‘the unprogressive character’ of her teaching, for she teaches nothing. Individual Protestants may take their creed from the Bible, or from any other source they please; but their Church cannot tell them whether they are right or wrong. She has received ‘the divine commission not to teach,’ and she is discharging it with admirable fidelity.

But now as to the Catholic Church. Dr. Salmon’s great charge is that she is boasting to be always the same, and yet is perpetually changing. If he bad given the language in which the boast is conveyed by the ‘Romish advocates,’ we should be able to judge of its meaning; but be has not done so. He has given a paraphrase of the teaching of Dr. Milner and of Bossuet, perverted in both cases; and he has given an extract from a popular lecture of Cardinal Wiseman which proves nothing for him. If he were anxious, as he should have been, to give his students a correct version of our doctrine, he should have consulted our standard theologians, such as St. Thomas, Suarez, De Lugo, Dr. Murray, Franzelin, or Mazzella; and if he had consulted them, he would find them all flatly contradicting him as to the sense of the ‘boast’ which he attributes to us.

He would find them, and every dogmatic theologian who has written on faith, asking the question whether there is any growth or increase in faith with lapse of time — utrum fides decursu temporis augeatur? Now, the very fact of our theologians putting this question shows that the sense put upon our boast by Dr. Salmon is a false sense, and their answer makes this more clear, and gives the true sense. The invariable answer is that since the Apostolic age there has been no growth, no increase in faith, considered in itself (simpliciter); that the divine deposit of faith remains unchanged and unchangeable; but that there has been a growth, an increase in a qualified sense (secundum quid), limited to the interpretation — the explanation of the divine, unchangeable deposit by the infallible authority of the Church.

St. Thomas says: Articles of faith grew with the lapse of time, not, indeed, as to their substance, but as to their explanation and explicit profession; for what has been explicitly and more fully believed in later times was implicitly and in fewer articles believed by the early fathers [Summa Theologica, 2, 2ae, q. 1, a. vii]. Suarez has this same doctrine stated more at length in his Disp. 2°, s. vi., on Faith, and De Lugo has it in his Disp. 3, s. v. ; Dr. Murray has it Disp. 1, s. iv., n. 55. It is, and always has been, the universal teaching of our theologians. And Dr. Salmon could have read this same doctrine in his own book, for it is distinctly stated in the fourth chapter of the Constitution De Ecclesia of the Vatican Council, which he gives in his Appendix (page 482). The Council says: —

Neither is the doctrine of faith, which God has revealed, put forward like a philosophical system to be improved by human ingenuity; but as a divine deposit given to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly declared . . . therefore, let the understanding, the knowledge, the wisdom of each and all, of every age and time, of each individual, as well as of the entire Church, increase and progress very much; but let the progress be within its own kind only; that is, in the same truth, the same sense, and the same sentiment.

He must have known, therefore, from his own book, what our teaching was when he misrepresented it. The body of doctrines which constitute the divine deposit of faith comprises the revelation made by our Lord to His Apostles during His life on earth, supplemented by the revelation made to them by the Holy Ghost after our Lord’s ascension. With the death of the last of the Apostles, the deposit of faith was completed. Into that deposit, henceforward, no fresh revelation could enter. New revelations may, perhaps, have been made subsequently to individuals; but they form no part of the deposit of faith, and no article of Catholic faith can be grounded on them. The deposit of faith can receive no increase; it can admit of no diminution.

It remains in the custody of the teaching Church, as its infallible guardian, interpreter, and teacher. As its infallible guardian the Church maintains that deposit in all its purity and integrity. She will permit no new doctrine, however true, to enter into it; she will not permit even the smallest portion of it to be lost. Her commission is to guard it faithfully, and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost to interpret it and teach it to us, as times and circumstances demand. From this one source of divine truth all the Church’s teaching comes; and the Holy Ghost is with her assisting her in drawing her teaching from this one source of truth. It is to this complete body of doctrines that our Lord referred when He commissioned His Apostles to teach all that He had commanded them; to it also He referred when He promised to send the Holy Ghost to teach them all things, and to bring to their minds all that He had told them. The Apostles themselves were the first promulgators and teachers of this body of truth. Their commission of teaching passed on to their successors, and shall continue with them till the end of time.

Now, from the very nature of the case, it is clear that the Apostles did not, and could not, put forth all revealed truths, to all men at the same time; there must be some order, some succession in their teaching. And we find quite abundant evidence in the New Testament to convince us that all the truths contained in the deposit of faith were not put forward at first with equal prominence. St. Paul told the Corinthians: — ‘I judged myself not to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’ And he added: ‘Howbeit we speak wisdom amongst the perfect.’ [1 Cor 2:2, 6] Again: ‘And I, brethren, could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little ones in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not meat; for you were not able as yet.’ [1 Cor 3:1-2] And again: ‘For everyone, that is a partaker of milk, is unskilful in the word of justice: for he is a little child. But strong meat is for the perfect; for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil’ [Heb 5:13-14].

It is then clear that in communicating religious knowledge the Apostles took into account the circumstances of their hearers, and their capacity for receiving instruction. And the above texts are understood in this sense by the best Protestant commentators— by Dr. Lightfoot, Dr. Ellicott, Dr. Westcott, Dr. Evans, in the Speaker’s Commentary; Alford, Bloomfield, and MacKnight. It must be, then, that the deposit of faith contained doctrines of so sublime a character, that neophytes could not readily take them in; and, at the same time, it is clear that it also contained doctrines so absolutely necessary to know and to believe, that without knowledge and belief of them, no adult could be saved. ‘For he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him’ [Heb 11:6]. Such truths are said to be necessary as means of salvation (necessitate medii).

Then there are other truths, the knowledge and belief of which are so necessary for our spiritual well-being that it is our duty to know and to believe them. The necessity of faith in such truths is called the necessity of precept. Now, it is clear that truths of this sort by reason of this necessity should occupy, and did occupy, a more prominent place in Apostolic teaching than the more recondite and speculative truths of faith. Such truths should enter into the public, obligatory profession of faith of the Church ; they were explicitly proposed to the faithful, and explicitly believed by them; while other truths, equally contained in the deposit of faith, were not thus explicitly put forward, and were believed only implicitly. But the Church was to teach all that her Lord commanded her, and this implied the obligation of believing all on the part of the faithful; and they fulfil the obligation by believing explicitly all that is proposed to them by the Church, and in accepting her as a divinely authorized teacher they have implicit belief in all else that is contained in the divine deposit of faith.

Now, in this deposit there are doctrines that are either obscure in themselves, or that have not been prominently set forth, for a time, in the Church’s teaching; and there are doctrines also, apparently clear, and explicitly proposed which, in time, are found to require further explanation. Regarding such doctrines controversies necessarily arise, and the Church, assisted by the Holy Ghost, decides the controversy, and by a new definition, or rather by a new and more explicit statement of an old truth, makes known to her children the divinely revealed truth on the disputed question. Then again, we know how busy Satan is in this world, and how often he succeeds in bringing the vagaries of men’s minds, in various departments of knowledge so called, into conflict with God’s revelation. And when such conflicts arise it is the duty of the Church to ward off error from the faith of which she is the custodian. Thus more explicit statements of revealed, truths become necessary, in order, more clearly, to point out to the faithful where the error lies.

And as difficulties of such kinds are arising in every age of the Church they are to be met in every age by like action on her part. And by such definitions no new truth is announced; a truth, always contained in the deposit of faith, and thus hitherto an object of implicit faith, is by the definition authoritatively proposed to the faithful, and thus enters into their explicit faith — a divinely revealed truth passes from the category of implicit into that of explicit faith. This is the meaning of each new definition of faith by the Church, and the decrees of Councils, and of Popes as well, prove this most conclusively. And the moment the definition is announced the faithful accept it unhesitatingly, and it passes into the public obligatory profession of their faith; controversy ceases, and doubts disappear. And hence it is, that all over the Church there is always one profession of faith, and in that profession all Catholics of every tongue, and tribe, and nation agree with the most absolute unanimity. Just as there is no fear that any doctrine shall be defined that is not already contained in the deposit of faith, so there is no fear that a doctrine once defined shall ever be withdrawn or contradicted — all is harmonious and consistent because infallibly true.

And, were any professing Catholic to refuse to accept a doctrine defined by the Church, he is by the very fact cut off from his communion, and left to herd with the heathen and the publican abroad. We have a divinely appointed teacher, securing to us absolute unity of faith, and we follow her guidance. This is our proud ‘boast,’ or rather our grateful acknowledgment of God’s mercy towards us. But this is not the sense of our ‘boast’ according to Dr. Salmon. According to him our boast ‘was that the teaching of the Church had never varied’; that is, that our explicit faith, the articles of faith defined and obligatory, were always the same, and that no addition could be made to their number, and consequently that no definition of faith could be admitted — a ‘boast’ which no Catholic ever made or could make, for it would be a denial of the mission of the Church. Now, when Dr. Salmon undertook to lecture on ‘Infallibility,’ as held by us, he owed it to his students, at least, to learn himself the doctrine he was training them to refute. If he did so, why has he so greatly misrepresented us? If he did not learn our teaching (and it is charity to him to suppose that he did not), then he was lecturing his students on a subject of which he was himself ignorant, an insult to any self-respecting body of young men.

By all means, let him refute our doctrines, if he can, and let him teach others to do so; but to represent our doctrines as a series of childish absurdities is to act as if he had been lecturing in a lunatic asylum. He fancies that he has an explicit and final condemnation of all new definitions of faith in the celebrated saying of St. Vincent of Lerins — Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus [“That which is believed everywhere, always, and by all”]. We have been in the past always quoting this, saying, that our teaching has never varied (pages 20, 33, 183). New definitions have, however, completely falsified our boast, and we quote St. Vincent no longer. Now, though Dr. Salmon thinks St. Vincent’s rule a serious difficulty for us he does not appear to expect much advantage from its use himself. He says, ‘it is obvious that this rule can give us no help in a controversy’ (page 270); and in a note he modifies ‘no help’ into ‘little help.’ But whether it ‘gives no help,’ or ‘little help,’ he thinks it useful against us. St. Vincent says that our faith must be what was held ‘everywhere, always, and by all,’ and as this must refer to explicit faith, it excludes all new definitions. This is Dr. Salmon’s case against us, from St. Vincent of Lerins, and it is one of the commonest Protestant objections.

Again Dr. Salmon is misleading his students, and if they had read for themselves the chapter of St. Vincent from which the words are taken, they would have seen that their professor’s inference was groundless. In the second chapter of the Commonitorium St. Vincent says that he had frequently inquired from holy and learned men how he could find some safe general rule to enable him to distinguish Catholic faith from heresy, and the rule he gives is this: In the Catholic Church itself, then, we must take special care to hold what was believed everywhere always, and by all; for this is truly and rightly Catholic.’ The Protestant inference from this is that nothing cam be believed except what was held everywhere, always, and by all, and therefore that there can be no new definition.

But St. Vincent did not say this nor did he mean it. He said that what was held everywhere, always, and by all, was Catholic faith; but he did not say that nothing else was. The fact that a doctrine was thus always universally held showed that it was of Apostolic origin, and therefore of faith, but St. Vincent did not say that a doctrine could not be of Apostolic origin unless it was thus universally held. Had this been his meaning, several truths controverted, and decided before his time, could not have been defined at all. He did not intend by his maxim, therefore, to exclude future definitions of faith, and he has himself taken care to make this clear and indisputable. In forcible and eloquent language he has himself anticipated, and answered, the Protestant objection. In chapter xxxiii. he says : —

But, perhaps some one shall say, shall there then be no progress of religion in the Church of Christ? By all means, let there be, and very much progress. For who is he, so envious to men, so hateful to God, that would try to prohibit this? But let it be a real progress of faith, not a change. It is the character of progress that each thing should grow in itself; but it is the character of change that a thing should pass from one thing into another. It is right, therefore, that the understanding, the knowledge, the wisdom of each and all, of every age and time, of each individual as well as of the entire Church should increase, and progress very much, but each in its own kind only, that is in the same truth, in the same sense and sentiment.

He then goes on to compare the growth of faith in the Church with the growth of the human body, and he shows that just as the grown man is the same as the child, though his limbs have grown and progressed, so, too, is the defined article of faith the same as the truth out of which it has
grown. And he says: —

It is lawful that the original truths of the heavenly philosophy should in the course of time be systematized, explained, illustrated; but it is not lawful that they should be changed, robbed of their meaning, or mutilated. Let them receive evidence, new light, classification; but let them retain their fulness, their integrity, their distinctive character.

And after saying that if one doctrine could be corrupted, all would soon be corrupt, and a shipwreck of faith would follow, he says: —

But the Church of Christ, the careful, watchful guardian of truths entrusted to her, never changes anything in them; never takes anything from them, never adds to them; she cuts away nothing necessary, she adds nothing superfluous; she loses nothing of her own, she takes nothing that is not her own, but with all zeal and care she aims at this one thing, that by faithfully and wisely handling her ancient dogmas she might explain and illustrate whatever was originally obscure and vague, that she might strengthen and confirm what was express and clear, and that she might guard what was already confirmed and defined. Finally, what else has she ever aimed at by the decisions of her Councils, except that what was hitherto simply believed, may henceforth be believed more diligently; that what was hitherto rarely preached may henceforth be preached with greater emphasis; that what was hitherto remissly cultivated may henceforth be cultivated with greater solicitude. This, I say, and nothing else, has the Catholic Church, when assailed by heretical novelties, done by the decrees of her Councils. What she received at first by tradition alone, from those who went before, this she has handed down, even in written documents, giving a great deal of truth in a few words, and very often for clearness’ sake giving a new name to an old truth of faith.

This is Catholic doctrine and practice to the letter, taken literally from a saint who is called up as a witness against both. And St. Vincent gives an instance of a definition which fully and forcibly illustrates the transition of a revealed truth from implicit to explicit faith. In chapter vi. he speaks of the controversy between Pope Stephen and St. Cyprian on the validity of Baptism given by heretics, and alter referring to the writings and disputations on the question he says: —

What then was the result of it all? What surely but the usual, the customary result, the ancient doctrine was retained, the novelty was rejected. And o, wonderful change! the authors of the opinion are accounted Catholics, its followers are heretics; the teachers are acquitted, the disciples are condemned, the writers of the books shall be the children of the kingdom, but hell shall receive the upholders of them.

Thus, then, we have a controversy in which up to the time of its definition Catholics were free to hold either side, but the moment the question was authoritatively settled by the Church, the adherents of the condemned doctrines were heretics. The authors of the writings, such as St. Cyprian and Firmilian, are accounted Catholics because they submitted to the voice of authority; but those who persisted in their opposition to that voice are declared heretics. One would imagine that St. Vincent is writing the history of the Vatican Council, that he has before him the history of the Catholic Church for all the centuries of her life — so accurately, so vividly, does he describe her working in the discharge of her divine commission as guardian and teacher of all revealed truth.

And if Dr. Salmon had read St. Vincent’s Commonitorium, he could not have indulged in his silly charges against the Catholic Church. With a confidence not begotten of knowledge, he quotes glibly four words from the entire book, as if they were to be the epitaph of the Catholic Church; and he poses before his students as a fountain of Patristic lore, though his book is a monument to his ignorance of the fathers, and nowhere is the ignorance less excusable than in his reference to St. Vincent of Lerins. What, then, becomes of his charges against us of ‘new doctrines,’ of changing faith? The charges are groundless: the whole life and action of the Church brands them as false, the Church is only doing now what she was doing in the days of St. Vincent of Lerins, what she shall continue to do till the end of time; fulfilling her office as guardian of revelation by condemning errors, and faithfully discharging her teaching office by the promulgation and explanation of all revealed truth.

And the ‘proud boast,’ attributed to us by Dr. Salmon, we have never made at all, and therefore have never retracted. The ‘boast’ we did make, and do make, has been traced down from St. Vincent to the Vatican Council, and it is the same all along the line; and there is nothing in Dr. Salmon’s lectures by which it can be in the slightest degree imperiled. His arguments against us are in reality arguments against his own reputation for learning and prudence. He should have taken the advice of the ‘judicious Hooker’[:]

Being persuaded of nothing more than this, that whether it be in matters of speculation or of practising, no untruth can possibly avail the patron, and defender long, and that things most truly are likewise most behovefully said.


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Photo credit: George Salmon, from Cassell’s universal portrait gallery: no later than 1895 [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
Summary: Jeremiah Murphy, D.D. made a devastating reply to anti-Catholic George Salmon’s rantings in a multi-part review in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1901-1902.
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