Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 3

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 3 March 12, 2023

. . . In Which Our Sophist-Critic Massively Misrepresents Cardinal Newman and Utterly Misunderstands the Distinction Between Implicit and Explicit Faith

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 this series:

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

Irish Ecclesiastical Record vs. Anti-Catholic George Salmon, Pt. 2 . . . 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 [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. X: July 1901
Dr. Salmon’s ‘Infallibility’ (Part 3)
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. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s words will be in green]
Dr. Salmon said in his Introductory Lecture, ‘I have an advantage in addressing an audience all of one way of thinking, that I am not bound to measure my words through fear of giving offence’ (page 15). This is really a very questionable advantage: and it is more than counter-balanced by the risk of its begetting a confidence which would make the lecturer as indifferent to the measure of his facts and doctrines as to that of his words. Unfortunately for Dr. Salmon, and for his students also, the ‘advantage’ has had precisely this effect upon him. He had no fear of hostile criticism — no fear that even one of his statements would be questioned by any one of his audience, and, he neither measured his words, nor felt his way, but went on headlong, caricaturing facts and doctrines and arguments in such a way as to suggest grave doubts as to his own sincerity. He informed his students that our great argument for Infallibility was its necessity, though he could have learned from any of our dogmatic theologians that this was not our great argument; and having made this statement, he proceeds to construct for us a profession of faith, sufficiently meagre to dispense with the necessity of an infallible guide; and the ‘audience all of one way of thinking’ was, of course, enlightened, delighted and convinced.

Dr. Salmon says: ‘For thus holding that the list of truths, necessary to be known in order to salvation, is short and simple, we have the authority of the Roman Church herself’ (page 91). And behold the proof: —

What is it [he asks], that for their souls’ health they are bound to know? A popular little manual circulated by thousands, and called, ‘What every Christian must know,’ enables us to answer this question. It tells us that every Christian must know the four great truths of faith, namely: — ‘1. There is one God. 2. In that God there are three Persons. 3. Jesus became Man and died for us. 4. God will reward the good in heaven, and punish the wicked in hell.’ This list of necessary truths is not long, but some Roman Catholics have contended that it might be shortened, pointing out that, since men were undoubtedly saved before Christ’s coming, without any explicit faith in the Incarnation or in the doctrine of the Trinity, an explicit faith in these doctrines cannot be held to be necessary to salvation (page 95).

In a note Dr. Salmon attributes this view to Gary, on the authority of Dr. Littledale, and he then proceeds as follows: ‘Nor does such faith seem to be demanded in a certain Papal attempt, to define the minimum of necessary knowledge. Pope Innocent IV., in his Commentary on the Decretals, lays down that it is enough for the laity to attend to good works; and for the rest to believe implicitly what the Church believes’ (pages 95, 96). Now, when young men, not overburthened with knowledge, are listening day after day to teaching of this sort, it is no wonder that it takes hold of their minds; they come to believe it; they rest satisfied with it; they rely on their teacher; and they go out into the world with the conviction that Catholics are very illogical and absurd, and very wicked also. They have been listening all along to a one-sided story, and they never realise that there is another side, which may be very different.

Dr. Salmon warned his students against identifying the statements of particular divines with ‘the authorised teaching of the Roman Catholic Church’ (page 13). And yet this is precisely what he has himself been doing, in the extracts just given. They are his proof that ‘we have the authority of the Roman Church herself for holding that the list of truths, necessary to be known in order to salvation, is short and simple’ (page 91). Now, Father Furniss is not ‘the Roman Church herself,’ neither is Father Gury, nor Innocent IV. in the work quoted, or rather misquoted. Catholic theologians would smile at finding the Regius Professor of Divinity quoting — (misquoting) — a penny book, written by a hard-worked missionary priest, and intended for children, as if it had been a standard Catholic theological work, and ‘the authority of the Roman Church herself.’ No wonder that the Doctor’s pupils become such profound theologians, such formidable controversialists, such a terror to the Church of Borne! The Doctor, then, is inconsistent. But he is much more than inconsistent; he is grossly unfair to the writers quoted, for neither of them held the doctrine attributed to them by Dr. Salmon.

When a passage is taken out of its context and used in a sense different from that of the writer, that writer is as much misrepresented as if words had been attributed to him which he did not use at all. To falsify a writer’s meaning is just as bad as to falsify his words. The view attributed to Gury is a good illustration of this. He is represented as teaching that our obligatory profession of faith ‘might be shortened’; limited to belief in God, and in future rewards and punishments; and Catholics are represented as holding the necessity of an infallible guide for so short a creed. Now, if Dr. Salmon believes in St. Paul’s teaching, he must be satisfied that belief in the two articles mentioned was absolutely necessary before the Church was founded at all. And does he fancy that an astute Jesuit theologian is so simple as to maintain that an infallible church is necessary for the teaching of truths, that had been believed for several centuries before the Church came into existence[?] Is he, in his anxiety to make out a case against the Catholic Church, abandoning the old Protestant theory about the Jesuits? He quotes Gury from Dr. Littledale. It would have been much better if he had quoted from Gury himself; for then, he would have seen that the passage referred to, had no more reference to the doctrine of Infallibility than the Aurora Borealis has. What sort of necessity does Gury contemplate in the passage referred to ?

It becomes necessary again to remind Dr. Salmon of the distinction made by theologians between the necessity of means (necessita medii), and the necessity of precept (necessitas praecepti). In strict theological language a thing is said to be a means (medium) of salvation, when it contributes something positive towards the securing of salvation; and, it is a necessary means, when this positive influence contributed by it, cannot be otherwise supplied. A thing, then, that is necessary as a means (necessitate medii) of salvation, is so necessary, that in no circumstances can it be dispensed with; it does for us something for the saving of our souls, which nothing else (in the present dispensation) can do. The necessity, therefore, is strict and absolute and indispensable. On the other hand, when a thing is said to be necessary, by necessity of precept (necessitate praecepti), the necessity arises solely out of the precept; the thing commanded or prohibited has, of itself, no positive influence on our salvation; it does nothing positive for us; but if we violate the precept we sin, and thus put a bar to our salvation.

It is clear, then, that the necessity of precept can affect only adults in the possession of their reason, for such only are capable of fulfilling a precept; and it is clear, also, that circumstances may exempt one wholly, or partly, from the obligation of a precept. And since we are bound to labour to save our souls, it follows that whatever is necessary as a means of salvation comes under that obligation, and is, therefore, necessary by necessity of precept also. Now, according to Catholic theology, faith is necessary as a means of salvation, absolutely and indispensably, for all without exception. Habitual faith infused in baptism suffices for infants who die before they come to the use of reason. But for all adults who have come to the use of reason, actual faith, supernatural in its principle and in its motive— that is, explicit belief in certain divinely revealed truths — is necessary as a means of salvation (necessitate medii), and from this stern necessity, no circumstances whatever, no ignorance how- ever invincible, can excuse them. How may truths of faith come under this stern necessity of means, is not determined; but all adults in the enjoyment of reason are bound by necessity of precept (necessitate praecepti) to believe all that God has revealed, and that His Church teaches.

As already stated, circumstances may, to a large extent, affect the obligation of a precept, or may, altogether, exempt one from its observance. One, for instance, to whom the precept was never made known, cannot be expected to observe it, and does not sin by not observing it. A street arab who has been neglected by his parents, who has been the sport of adverse fortune from his earliest days, cannot be expected to know his faith as well as a child, who has been trained carefully by religious parents. And a trained theologian — like Dr. Salmon — knows much more of revealed truth than an ordinary layman does, and is therefore bound to a greater measure of explicit faith in those truths that are necessary, by necessity of precept (necessitate praecepti). And the violation of the precept of faith, is a much greater sin, in the case of one who has a better knowledge of his obligation ; for such a person sins against greater light. Thus then, while the precept of faith is the same for all, its obligation, as regards explicit faith, does not affect individuals with equal stringency. All this, Dr. Salmon could have read in any of our dogmatic theologians; and he should have read it somewhere before he ventured to lecture on so important and difficult a subject.

But to misrepresent our theologians without reading them, appears to be Dr. Salmon’s forte. Instead of looking, himself, at the text of Gury, he takes it from the extra-fallible Littledale, and tells his students that we require an infallible guide to a profession of faith, that is limited by one of our own standard theologians to two articles: — the existence of God, and future rewards and punishments. Now again, what sort of necessity does Gury contemplate in the passage referred to? Nothing can be clearer than Gury’s own words. The passage occurs in his treatise, De Virtutibus , c. 1, art. 2, 8. 1, and the section is headed — ‘On the truths necessary to be known and believed by necessity of means’ (necessitate medii).

He is, therefore, discussing what truths of faith are absolutely and indispensably necessary (necessitate medii) to be explicitly believed by all, whether in the Church or outside of it, in order that they may be saved. He states as certain that the two articles of faith mentioned by Dr. Salmon are necessary as a means (necessitate medii) and he gives the proof; and having done so, he says: — ‘But it is disputed whether there are not many other articles also necessary to be explicitly believed by this same rigorous necessity of means (necessitate medii) for salvation.’ He states that some theologians hold that the Trinity and Incarnation come under the same rigorous necessity, but, he himself thinks the opposite opinion more probable; that is, that only faith in God, and in future rewards and punishments, is necessary by necessity of means (necessitate medii) for salvation.

This, then, according to Gury, is the minimum of explicit faith to qualify an adult for entering into Heaven; and no circumstances whatever — no amount of invincible ignorance — would excuse from the stern necessity of so much at least of explicit faith. It holds for all without exception, whether in the Church or out of it. It has been necessary since revelation began, and a majority of theologians regard it as more probable that the Christian revelation has not altered this minimum. Thus, then, the opinion of Gury contemplates a most exceptional case: — that of one who has explicit faith in God, and who believes that He will reward those who serve Him; but who, through no fault of his own, is ignorant of all other revealed truths. And all that the opinion concedes is, that the salvation of such a person is not impossible. According to Gury, therefore, the salvation of one who has explicit faith in God and in future rewards and punishments, is, in certain most exceptional circumstances, not impossible.

Therefore, says Dr. Salmon, Gury teaches that explicit faith in God and in future rewards and punishments is sufficient for all persons, at all times and in all circumstances. This is all ‘that for their souls’ health they are obliged to know’ (page 95); and in this teaching of Gury ‘we have the authority of the Roman Church herself’ (page 91). Dr. Salmon’s logic is worthy of his cause. In the chapter and article of Gury, already quoted, section 2 is headed: ‘On the truths necessary to be known and believed by necessity of precept ‘ (necessitate praecepti); and he gives in the list of such truths the Apostle’s Creed, the Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments, and he adds such an explanation of them as includes our full obligation, both as to faith and morals. All this we are bound by the Church to know and believe, and for the simple and sufficient reason that our Lord commissioned and commanded her to teach all this; and it is in teaching all this that the Church’s infallible authority comes to be exercised. This is a very different version of Gury’s teaching from that given to his students by Dr. Salmon; but it is Gury’s own.

And bad as Dr. Salmon’s treatment of Gury is, his treatment of Pope Innocent IV. is immeasurably worse; for he represents the Pope as teaching that ‘the laity’ require no explicit faith at all. After misquoting Gury the Doctor adds: —

Nor does such faith seem to be demanded in a certain Papal attempt to define the minimum of necessary knowledge. Pope Innocent IV., in his Commentary on the Decretals , lays down that it is enough for the laity to attend to good works, and for the rest to believe implicitly what the Church believes (pages 95, 96).

The quotation begins with one of those sinister insinuations with which Dr. Salmon’s book is literally teeming: ‘a certain Papal attempt to define.’ Now, when we speak of a Pope defining any doctrinal question, we understand that he is pronouncing a definite sentence, which Catholics are bound to accept as infallible; and the expression used by Dr. Salmon suggests to his students that ‘the minimum of necessary knowledge’ has been definitely fixed for us by an infallible decision, that minimum being no explicit faith at all, at least for lay Catholics. Now (1), no Catholic believes that a Pope, when he writes a book, is acting in his official capacity as Head of the Church and teaching infallibly. Benedict XIV. has written several very learned and valuable works, which are frequently quoted by Catholic theologians, but never as infallible utterances. It is so with the work of Innocent IV. He was a very learned man; but no one before Dr. Salmon represents him as defining, or attempting to define, the questions discussed in his book in the sense in which that word ‘define’ is used when there is question of the exercise of Infallibility.

When a Pope writes such a work Catholics regard him as a private theologian giving his opinion; and in such cases his opinion is weighed, like that of other theologians, on its merits. But (2) Innocent IV. did not give the opinion attributed to him by Dr. Salmon, but the exact contradictory of it; and Dr. Salmon’s manipulation of the text he professes to be quoting is one of the worst specimens of his controversial tactics. He suppresses what the Pope says, in order to represent him as saying what he did not say. ‘Pope Innocent IV. lays down that it is enough for the laity to attend to good works, and for the rest to believe implicitly what the Church believes.’ Now, if the Pope lays down that, this is enough ; therefore, he lays down that no explicit faith is necessary for the laity. This is Dr. Salmon’s version. But the opening words of the passage he professes to be quoting are as follows: —

There is a certain measure of faith to which everyone is bound, and which is sufficient for the simple, and, perhaps, even for all laics; that is, that each one coming to the faith must believe that there is a God, and that He rewards all the good. They must also believe other articles implicitly; that is, they must believe that whatever the Church teaches is true.

With his usual dexterity Dr. Salmon omits the passage in which the Pope insists on the necessity of explicit faith, and substitutes words which have no foundation in the text at all. The Pope says that explicit faith in God, and in future rewards, is necessary for all, even the most ignorant; but according to Dr. Salmon be lays down that the laity require no explicit faith at all. There is very little likelihood that Dr. Salmon’s students will take the trouble of consulting the very rare and obscure book which he professed to quote; and so, the false impression created by his teaching will remain; and if the students really believe their professor, they will go out into the world with the conviction, that their Catholic neighbours are not bound to have explicit faith even in the existence of God! What a liberal and enlightened generation of clerics that must be, which has had the advantage of Dr. Salmon’s special training.

The remainder of Dr. Salmon’s reference to Innocent IV. is quite irrelevant. It is clearly intended to fasten on Catholic priests in the past, the charge of ignorance. Well, it is much to be regretted that religious teachers in any Church should be wanting in knowledge; but the Catholic Church has not a monopoly of such teachers. A glance at the third chapter of Macaulay’s History of England, or at Dean Swift’s Directions to Servants, would show Dr. Salmon that he has some domestic difficulties to settle. And indeed, judging from his own lectures, those who have had the privilege of his own special training, are not likely to become prodigies of theological knowledge; — and certainly their time would have been better employed in learning to defend whatever revealed truths they still hold, than in learning to calumniate us. But even irrelevant as the quotation from Innocent IV. is, Dr. Salmon could not resist his habit of manipulating it.

The cleric described by Macaulay, after securing the cook or kitchen-maid as partner of his missionary toil, was allowed by his Church to propagate the Gospel after his own fashion. No inconvenient inquisition was set up as to his positive knowledge of the truths he was supposed to teach. But the ignorant cleric contemplated by Innocent IV. was not let off so easily, as Dr. Salmon could have seen from the text before him. By dispensation of the Pope, or of a religious superior, such a cleric may be allowed to retain his position, only in the extreme case when he had neither time for studying nor the means of acquiring knowledge; when he was so poor that he should support himself by the labour of his own hands. But if he had facilities for acquiring more explicit knowledge he was bound to acquire it.

And the religious superior, before imposing penance on such a cleric for culpable ignorance, was directed to ascertain whether the ignorance arose from weakness of intellect, or, as many of those alleged, from pressure of works of piety and charity. And in the case of one who had sufficient talent and the means of acquiring more explicit knowledge, Innocent IV. would not admit of such an excuse. No doubt the case contemplated by the Pope is an extreme one, and the standard is certainly low; but it is very far from being so low as Dr. Salmon represents it; and moreover, it was the result of the bad system of lay interference in ecclesiastical appointments — a system which the Popes always laboured to break down.

Amongst the myriad misquotations in Dr. Salmon’s book, perhaps the most extraordinary is his reference to Father Furniss. The little book quoted, What every Christian must know, is one of a series of ‘Books for Children.’ The Imprimatur of the present learned Archbishop of Dublin on its first page, is an absolutely certain warrant of its orthodoxy; but, being intended for children, and for very young children, too, its style is the plainest and simplest imaginable, and its teaching of the most elementary character. That this penny book should be looked up to as an authority by the theological faculty of Trinity College, is an indication of the profound knowledge of theology which the faculty imparts; but, that so plain and simple a little book should be misrepresented, must be the result of an invincible propensity. This little tract, he says,

Tells us that every Christian must know the four great truths of faith, namely: — 1. There is one God. 2. In that God there are three Persons. 3. Jesus became man and died for us. 4. God will reward the good in heaven and punish the wicked in hell (page 95).

And on the following page he adds that: —

Later editions add the doctrine of the Sacraments, namely: — Baptism takes away original sin; Confession takes away actual sin; and the Blessed Sacrament is the body and blood of Christ.

And he adds: —

But take this list of necessary truths at the longest, and it certainly has the merit of brevity But the main point is, that if the list of necessary truths is so short the necessity for an infallible guide disappears, the four great truths of faith named are held as strongly by Protestants who dispense with the guidance of the Church of Rome as by those who follow it (pages 96, 97).

All that we need believe then is the existence of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, future rewards and punishments, with Baptism, Confession, and the Blessed Sacrament, and for this concise creed we require an infallible guide. This is Dr. Salmon’s version of the teaching of Father Furniss. But when we consult Father Furniss himself, we find the Doctor playing his old game. The very first sentence in Father Furniss’ little book is a quotation from Benedict XIV. as follows: — ‘We affirm that the greatest part of the damned are in hell, because they were ignorant of those mysteries of faith which Christians must know and believe.’ This does not look like minimising in the matter of faith. And the very next sentence, which is the first of Father Furniss’ own text, is as follows: — ‘Every Christian, by the command of the Church, must know, at least: — 1. The four great truths of Faith. 2. The Sacraments; at least Baptism, Penance, and the Blessed Eucharist. 3. The Prayers, Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Creed, or, I believe. 4. The Commandments of God, and the Church.’

And then under the heading of Faith, Father Furniss says: — ‘Be very careful to learn these four great truths, because no one can go to heaven without knowing them,’ and he then gives the four great truths named by Dr. Salmon. It is clear, then, from Father Furniss himself, that the necessity for the four great truths is the necessity of means, whereas, in the previous sentence he contemplated the necessity of precept, and gave, under that heading, his substance of the Catholic profession of faith, which we are bound to take from the Church.

Father Furniss next gives the Sacraments: — Baptism, Penance, and the Blessed Eucharist, with a very short question and answer on each. And, strange to say, Dr. Salmon misrepresents only one of these answers; but what is lost in number is made up for by the character of the misrepresentation. ‘Confession takes away actual sin,’ he says, whilst professing to be quoting from Father Furniss. No, Confession does not take away actual sin, and Father Furniss does not say that it does. The Sacrament of Penance takes away actual sin, and Father Furniss says so; but of that Sacrament Confession is only one part, and that not the most essential or important. Such, then, are the authorities offered to his students by Dr. Salmon, to convince them, that we are required to believe very little, and, that for that little we require an infallible guide. For teaching of this sort it is no excuse that it is addressed to ‘an audience all of one way of thinking.’ This circumstance only renders such teaching more reprehensible, for it keeps young men from thinking aright on a question involving the salvation of their souls.

Now, when Dr. Salmon told his students that our obligatory profession of faith may, according to our own theologians, be cut down to two articles, and that we required an infallible guide even for these, did he make the slightest attempt to verify his statement ? Does he fancy that we are fools to risk our souls on such a creed  Does he fancy us ignorant of the fact that the articles named were just as necessary before the Church was founded as they are now? Did he really believe his own statement regarding us? Either he did not believe his own statement about us, or, if he did believe it, then his ignorance is not only culpable, but contemptible; for a moment’s glance at the authorities quoted by him would have convinced him of his error. There is no use in mincing matters with this Regius  Professor. His loud sounding titles give him no license to misrepresent. While teaching respectable young men he takes his authorities at second hand from tainted sources; and, from false premises thus acquired he draws false conclusions, and sets them before his students as truths admitted by Catholics themselves.

Instead of giving them reliable information, he crams them with error and with prejudices, and sends them on their mission, blind leaders of the blind, with, of course, the usual result. If our doctrines be false, surely they can be refuted without being misrepresented; and if they be true, Dr. Salmon and his young men have a very vital interest in knowing what they really are. ‘The main point is,’ he says, ‘that, if the list of necessary truths is so short, the necessity for an infallible guide disappears.’ The main point is just the reverse, for the list of necessary truths is not so short, and the necessity for an infallible guide does not, therefore, disappear. But Dr. Salmon must be again reminded that our argument for the infallible guide is grounded, not on its necessity at all, but on God’s express revelation of it.

It is our duty to take the truth from God, not to ask Him the reason why; though the conflicting opinions held by the leaders of Dr. Salmon’s Church on the most vital doctrines of Christianity afford a very strong presumptive proof of the necessity of an infallible guide for a much shorter creed than ours. A day will come for Dr. Salmon when he shall know a good deal more theology than he seems to know now; and as it is just possible that such knowledge may come too late, it may be more prudent for him to consider seriously in time whether in ‘dispensing with the guidance of the Church of Rome’ he may not be in reality casting in his lot with the heathen and the publican. He says his object is not victory but truth, and here is a matter in which truth and victory go hand in hand.

Not content with misrepresenting Father Furniss  as to the list of necessary truths, Dr. Salmon seeks to bring ridicule on him for attempting to determine such a list at all. He says: ‘And we may think it strange that a modem writer has succeeded in doing what the writers of the New Testament tried to do, and are said to have failed in’ (page 96). Here he tells his students that the writers of the New Testament tried to draw up a complete list of necessary truths, to be, of course, handed down in the New Testament; and he insinuates, that we hold they failed in the attempt. Now, we deny emphatically, that the writers of the New Testament had any such intention, and they could not be said to have failed in doing what they never attempted to do. The Doctor offers no proof of his statement, except his confident assertion.

It was certainly, [he says], the object of the New Testament writers to declare the truths necessary to salvation. St. John (xx. 31) tells us his object in writing: ‘These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name ’ (page 96).

Now this assertion, and the text offered to prove it, fall far short of the Doctor’s case. It is necessary for him to show that the object of the New Testament writers was to declare in their writings, all the truths necessary to salvation. The text of St. John refers to the Incarnation only, and it may be presumed that Dr. Salmon believes at least in the Trinity. As already stated, the New Testament writings were called forth by circumstances. In one place it was necessary to counteract the tendency to Judaising; in another place, the false principles of Pagan philosophy bad to be checked; in another piece professing Christians had to be censured for their wicked lives, or for the dissensions that were springing up amongst them. To meet such emergencies was the object of the writers of the New Testament, as Dr. Salmon is well aware. To this object their writings are mainly directed, and not in all these writings, taken together, have we stated the complete body of Christian faith. The Apostles, no doubt, declared to their followers all the truths necessary to salvation, but they did not insert all these truths in the inspired writings that have come down to us, and Dr. Salmon has not an atom of proof to the contrary.  And, though he has offered no proof whatever, he proceeds, as if his case had been indisputably established, to say: —

Yet we are required to believe that these Apostles and Evangelists, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, performed their task so badly, that one who should have recourse to their pages for guidance is more likely than not to go astray, and is likely to find nothing but perplexity and error. Strange indeed that inspired writers should fail in their task. Stranger still that writers who claim no miraculous assistance, should be able to accomplish it in a half-a-dozen lines (pages 96, 97).

No such extravagant demand is made on Dr. Salmon, at least by Catholics. We leave him in the full enjoyment of that liberty to believe, or not to believe, which his own Church gives. But if he make a ridiculous hypothesis, what follows from it must be his own affair. Catholics do not say that everything in Scripture is obscure and difficult; that no revealed truths are stated plainly in it; but they do say that the whole of God’s revelation is not contained in it; whilst the conflicting Creeds professedly deduced from it, by men as earnest and ‘prayerful’ as Dr. Salmon, afford conclusive proof, that there is a great deal in Scripture that is obscure, and that a great many have gone astray, and have found little but ‘perplexity and error ’ for making to find their faith from it alone. The following extract is recommended to Dr. Salmon’s consideration: —

Whence come the separation of antagonistic Churches and the multiplicity of dissentient sects? The Romanist reads the Bible, and he finds in it the primacy of Peter, the supremacy of the Church, and the direction to ‘do penance’ for the forgiveness of sins. The Protestant reads it, and he discovers that Rome is the ‘mystic Babylon,’ the ‘mother of harlots,’ the ‘abomination of desolation.’ The Sacerdotalist reads it, and he sees priestly supremacy, Eucharistic Sacrifice, and Sacramental Salvation. The Protestant cannot find in it the faintest trace of Sacerdotalism, nor any connexion whatever between offering an actual sacrifice and the holy memorial of the Supper of the Lord. The Congregationalist reads it, and regards Sacerdotalism as an enormous apostacy from the meaning and spirit of the Gospel, and comes away convinced that every believer is his own all-sufficient priest. The Baptist looks into it, and thinks that in Baptism true believers must go under the water as adults. Most other Christians think that infants should be baptised, and that sprinkling is sufficient. Cromwell and his Roundheads read it, and saw everywhere the Lord of Hosts leading on his followers to battle. The Quaker reads it, and finds only the Prince of Peace, and declares ‘He that takes the sword shall perish with the sword.’ The Anglican Churchman was long persuaded that it taught the doctrine of passive obedience— the right-divine of kings to govern wrong — the Puritan dwelt on ‘binding their kings in chains and their nobles with links of iron.’ The Calvinist sees the dreadful image of wrath flaming over all its pages, and says to his enemies, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ The Universalist sees only the loving Heavenly Father, and explains the most awful forebodings, as Oriental tropes and pictorial rhetoric. The Mormon picks out phrases  to bolster up his polygamy. The Monogamist cries out even  against divorce. The Shaker and his congeners in all ages forbid and disparage all wedded unions whatever. [Farrar, The Bible, its Meaning and Supremacy, 2nd ed. p. 113 (might be p. 143) ]

The writer of this extract is a Protestant quite as orthodox as Dr. Salmon, and like the Doctor an enthusiastic upholder of the all-sufficiency of Scripture. When Dr. Salmon and his ‘prayerful’ friends can find so many different religions in the same Bible, they are illustrating in the clearest possible way the result that comes of ‘dispensing with the guidance of the Church of Rome.’ While discussing the necessary articles of faith, Dr. Salmon introduces the distinction between explicit and implicit faith, and uses it, with his wonted cleverness, to blindfold his students while professing to enlighten them. ‘No one,’ he says truly, ‘is so unreasonable as to expect ordinary members of the Church to be acquainted with all the decisions of Popes and Councils’ (page 91); and he goes on to enumerate some decisions that are difficult and obscure; and he states that, though it would be unreasonable to expect Catholics to know them, ‘they are nevertheless obliged to believe them.’

And again he adds: ‘Of these and such like propositions which an unlearned Catholic is bound to believe he is not in the least expected to know even the meaning . . . He must believe that the Church teaches true doctrines but he need not know what these doctrines are’ (page 92). If Dr. Salmon, before making the above statements, had explained to his students, the distinction between explicit and implicit faith, and applied it, his remarks would have lost their sting; but he allowed his statement to produce a false impression on his students, and then, he introduced the distinction in order to produce another impression even more false and detrimental. He told them that ordinary Catholics were bound to believe what they could not be expected to know, and, without a word of explanation, he quotes Cardinal Newman as an authority for this statement.

Dr. Newman, [he says], has been so good as to furnish me with an example. ‘What sense,’ he asks, ‘can a child or a peasant, nay, or any ordinary Catholic, put upon the Tridentine Canons? . . . Yet the doctrinal enunciations,’ he adds, ‘are de fide. Peasants are bound to believe them as well as controversialists, and to believe them as truly as they believe our Lord to be God (page 91).

It must have been a source of great satisfaction to Dr. Salmon’s theologians, to find us convicted of such irreligious extravagance, and that too on the authority of Cardinal Newman. But their professor did not tell them that the quotation was taken from an objection which Newman proposed to himself; and still less did he think of telling them that Newman had answered the objection. It is difficult to suppress one’s feeling in dealing with such dishonest controversy as this. The Fifth chapter of the Grammar of Assent is the only one that is strictly speaking theological; and in its Third Section, Newman undertakes to deal with ‘a familiar charge against the Catholic Church in the mouths of her opponents, that she imposes on her children, as matters of faith, . . .   a great number of doctrines, which none but professed theologians can understand.’ [p. 138] The principle of the objection was urged long since by Jeremy Taylor, but Cardinal Newman expands it, and urges it with his wonted candour and ability.

That Dr. Salmon should have borrowed his objection from Newman, is quite intelligible; for Newman was sure to put it with more precision, and with greater force than the Doctor himself could command; but that he should have led his students to believe that he was quoting Newman’s teaching instead of Newman’s objection; that he should have altogether suppressed Newman’s answer; all this is, perhaps, one of the most glaring and discreditable specimens of even Dr. Salmon’s controversial tactics. The Doctor could not have acted in good faith in thus misrepresenting Newman, for Newman distinctly states that he is putting an objection, and he states with equal distinctness that he answers the objection. In the very first sentence of the paragraph from which Dr. Salmon quotes, Newman says: ‘I will suppose the objection urged thus.’ [p. 141] The last sentence but one of the same paragraph is the one quoted by Dr. Salmon, and to it Newman adds: ‘How then are the Catholic Credenda easy, and within reach of all?’ And in the opening sentence of the very next paragraph Newman says: ‘I begin my answer to this objection by recurring to what has been already said,’ etc. (page 142).

Dr. Salmon, therefore, could not have mistaken the matter. He must have seen that Newman was putting an objection, and had given an answer (for Newman says so clearly and unmistakably). And yet, he puts before his students the words of the objection as Newman’s teaching, which could only be got from the answer, to which he makes no reference whatever. Conduct of this sort needs no comment. No one has more reason to complain of the Doctor than his own students. He is indeed treating them badly. It is worth while to give Newman’s answer at some length, for besides vindicating the Cardinal, it completely disposes of Dr. Salmon’s second-hand sophistry. Dr. Newman makes some preliminary remarks on the relations between theological truths and the devotions that are grounded on them. Hi explain  how the intellect acts on the deposit of faith, examining it, and systematising it into the science of Theology. He shows how the condemnation of false doctrines, as well as the definitions of true doctrines, enter among the Catholic Credenda, and he says: —

But then the question recurs, why should the refutation of heresy be our objects of faith? if no mind, theological or not, can believe what it cannot understand, in what sense can the Canons of Councils and other ecclesiastical determinations, be included in those Credenda, which the Church presents to every Catholic, and to which every Catholic gives his firm interior assent?

This is a re-statement of the objection, and the answer is as follows: —

In solving this difficulty I wish it first observed, that if it is the duty of the Church to act as the pillar and ground of the truth, she is manifestly obliged from time to time and to the end of time, to denounce opinions incompatible with that truth, whenever able and subtle minds within her communion venture to publish such opinions. Suppose certain bishops and priests at this day began to teach that Islamism or Buddhism was a direct and immediate revelation from God, she would be bound to use the authority which God has given her to declare that such a proposition will not stand with Christianity, and that those who hold it are none of hers; and she would be bound to impose such a declaration on that very knot of persons, who had committed themselves to the novel proposition, in order that, if they would not recant, they might be separated from her communion as they were separate from her faith. In such a case, then, her masses of population would either not hear of the controversy, or they would at once take part  with her, and without effort take any test, which secured the exclusion of the innovators; and she, on the other hand, would feel that what is a rule for some Catholics must be a rule for all. Who is to draw the line, who is to acknowledge it, and who is not?

It is plain there cannot be two rules of faith in the same communion; or, rather, as the case really would be, an endless variety of rules coming into force according to the multiplication of heretical theories, and to the degrees of knowledge, and of sentiment in individual Catholics. There is but one rule of faith for all, and, it would be a greater difficulty, to allow of an uncertain  rule of faith than (if that was the alternative as it is not) to impose upon uneducated minds a profession which they cannot understand. But it is not the necessary result of unity of profession, nor is it the fact that, the Church imposes dogmatic statements on the interior assent of those who cannot apprehend them. The difficulty is removed by the dogma of the Church’s Infallibility, and of the consequent duty of implicit faith in her word. The ‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,’ is an article of the Creed, and an article which, inclusive of her Infallibility, all men, high and low, can easily master and accept with a real operative assent.

It stands in the place of all abstruse propositions in a Catholic mind; for to believe in her word is virtually  to believe m them all. Even what he cannot understand, at least, he can believe to be true; and he believes it to be true because he believes in the Church. The rationale for unlearned devotion is as follows: — It stands to reason that all of us, learned and unlearned, are bound to believe the whole revealed doctrine, in all its parts, and in all that it implies, according as portion after portion is brought home to our conscience as belonging to it; and it also stands to reason that a doctrine so deep and so various as the revealed depositum of faith, cannot be brought home to us and made our own all at once.

No mind, however large, however penetrating, can directly, and fully by one act, understand any one truth however simple. What can be more intelligible than that ‘Alexander conquered Asia,’ or that ‘Veracity is a duty,’ but what a multitude of propositions is included under either of these theses! Still if we profess either we profess all that it includes. Thus as regards the Catholic Creed, if we really believe that our Lord is God, we believe all that is meant by such a belief; or else we are not in earnest when we profess to believe the proposition. In the act of believing it at all, we forthwith commit ourselves by anticipation to believe truths which at present we do not believe, because they have never come before us. We limit, henceforth, the range of our private judgment in prospect by the conditions, whatever they are, of that dogma. Thus the Arians said that they believed in our Lord’s divinity, but when they were pressed to confess His eternity, they denied it; thereby showing, in fact, that they never bad believed in His divinity at all. In other words, a man who really believes in our Lord’s proper divinity, believes implicite in  His eternity.

And so in like manner of the whole depositum of faith or the revealed word; if we believe in the revelation we believe in what is revealed, in all that is revealed, however it may be brought home to us, by reasoning or in any other way. He who believes that Christ is the truth, and that the Evangelists are truthful, believes all that He has said through them, although he has only read St. Matthew and has not read St. John. He who believes in the depositum of revelation, believes in all the doctrines of the depositum; and since he cannot know them all at once, he knows some doctrines and does not know others; he may know only the Creed; nay, perhaps, only the chief portions of the Creed; but whether he knows little or much, he has the intention of believing all that there is to believe, whenever, and as soon as it is brought home to him, if he believes in revelation at all. All that he knows now as revealed, and all that he shall know, and all that there is to know, he embraces it all in his intention by one act of faith; otherwise, it is but an accident that he believes this or that, not because it is a revelation.

This virtual, interpretative, or prospective belief, is called to believe implicite, and it follows from this, that, granting that the canons of councils and other ecclesiastical documents and confessions, to which I have referred, are really involved in the depositum or revealed word, every Catholic in accepting the depositum, does implicite accept these dogmatic decisions. I say ‘granting these various propositions are virtually contained in the revealed word,’ for, this is the only question left, and that it is to be answered in the affirmative, is clear at once to the Catholic, from the fact that the Church declares them to belong to it. To her is committed the care and the interpretation of the revelation. The word of the Church is the word of revelation.

That the Church is the infallible oracle of truth is the fundamental dogma of the Catholic religion; and ‘I believe what the Church proposes to be believed’ is an act of real assent, including all particular assents, notional and real; and while it is possible for unlearned as well as learned, it is imperative on learned as well as unlearned. And thus it is that by believing the word of the Church implicite — that is, by believing all that that word does or shall declare itself to contain — every Catholic, according to his intellectual capacity, supplements the shortcomings of his knowledge, without blunting his real assent to what is elementary, and takes upon himself, from the first, the whole truth of revelation, progressing from one apprehension of it to another, according to his intellectual opportunities. [Grammar of Assent, pp. 144-149]

This is Newman’s answer to the ‘familiar charge against the Catholic Church,’ which Dr. Salmon told his students was Newman’s own teaching. If the Doctor had read this for his students, they would have seen at once that he was as unfair to Newman as he was to the Catholic Church. The Catholic, then, believes in truths which he does not know, but only with implicit faith, which is only another way of saying that he is really sincere and logical in his explicit faith. Explicit faith is the assent we give to truths that are actually present to our minds — known to us. These truths very often include, imply, much more than is actually before our minds; but if we be really sincere in our explicit belief of the main truth, we take in also all that logically follows from it. As Newman says: ‘We limit henceforth the range of our private judgment in reference to that truth, and are prepared to take in, by faith, the fuller meaning of it, when the knowledge of that fuller meaning is acquired.’

In that fuller meaning, not yet known to us, we are said to have implicit faith. It is, then, a virtual, interpretative assent, implied, contained, in our actual assent to the truth which we believe explicitly; and, if we were so disposed as to exclude this implicit belief, we should, by the very fact, be shown to be insincere in our profession of explicit faith, to have no real faith in the truth which we professed to hold explicitly. When, therefore, uneducated Catholics are said to believe the decrees of councils, obscure definitions of dogma, and condemnations of errors, the meaning is that Catholics, one and all, no matter how little educated, believe openly and explicitly in the authority and infallibility of the Church; and by this act of explicit faith they take in and believe implicitly all that the Church teaches, and they condemn and reject all that she rejects and condemns. All this Dr. Salmon could have seen — he must have seen it — in the section of the Grammar of Assent, from which he took his quotation. But be did not tell his students that he saw it — of course, in the interest of truth.

And in reality Dr. Salmon’s own students are doing daily, the very same thing which he taught them to consider so extravagant and so impious in us. They profess to believe in the Bible, and let us hope they are sincere; but it is surely not uncharitable to suppose that there are more truths in it than they are aware of. Are they prepared to believe these truths when they come to know them? If so, they are in a state of mind similar to that which their Regius  Professor condemns in us. If they are not prepared to believe  them, then they are in a much worse state of mind— prepared to reject God’s revelation, and, of course, to take the consequences.

Dr. Salmon proceeds to illustrate implicit faith by a ridiculous story of the Fides carbonarii, which his highly intelligent audience most have enjoyed very much, probably regarding it as a ‘new definition’ by ‘the Church of Rome. ‘Such faith as this,’ he adds, ‘is held to be sufficient for saltation’ (page 93). Such faith is not held to be sufficient by Catholics certainly, but probably even stranger things are held by those who are outside the Church, ‘carried away by every wind of doctrine.’ Again, according to Dr. Salmon, a Catholic ‘may hold two opposite doctrines, the one explicitly, the other implicitly. . . .  In this case it is held, his implicit true faith will save him, notwithstanding his explicit false faith’ (page 93). What does Dr. Salmon mean by ‘false faith’[?] Faith comes to us on the authority of God revealing, and surely He can reveal nothing false.

One of the ‘opposite doctrines,’ therefore, is only an opinion and the explicit rejection of a doctrine by anyone, brings into grave doubt the reality of his belief in the doctrine in which the rejected one is supposed to be implicitly contained Cardinal Newman has put it clearly in the extract already quoted. ‘It is in this way,’ Dr. Salmon says (that is by holding opposite doctrines), ‘that the early Fathers are defended when their language is directly opposed to decisions since made by Rome’ (page 93). The Fathers named would have spurned the Doctor’s defence of them. He has prudently abstained from giving any reference to their words, hut neither of them has used anywhere any words that would warrant Dr. Salmon’s silly charge of ‘material heresy,’ against them. But [we]  shall hear more of his reference to them later on.

The real aim of all this wretched, wearying, sophistry is to make a show of disproving the Infallibility of the Church, or at least of bringing that doctrine into doubt. Dr. Salmon understood his young theologians of Trinity very well. With them it was an easy matter to discredit Catholic doctrine. The more grotesque the caricature of Catholic doctrine, the more likely it was to take with this ‘audience all one way of thinking,’ and that the Doctor’s own way. There was no fear of contradiction, no risk of inconvenient cross-examination. All through his lectures he is impressing on the students, on the one hand, that our argument for the Infallibility of the Church is its necessity, and on the other hand, that our profession of faith is so meagre, that there can  be no need of an infallible guide to arrive at it, and to retain it. Now, it has been proved already that Dr. Salmon misrepresents both our argument and our doctrine. We believe in the Infallibility of the Church, because God has expressly revealed that doctrine; and we believe in all the Church teaches, because God has commanded us to believe it. And this divine command to hear the Church binds Dr. Salmon and his theologians quite as stringently as it binds us.

Bearing this in mind, we can appreciate the following pretty specimen of his logic. ‘If our readiness to believe all that God has revealed, without knowing it, is enough for our salvation, there is an end to the pretence that it was necessary for the salvation of the world that God should provide means to make men infallibly know the truth.’ But now, ‘if our readiness to believe . . . without knowing ’ is not enough for our salvation, what provision is Dr. Salmon prepared to make for us? We are bound to know as well as believe all that the Church proposes to us — the principal mysteries, the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments, etc., and if, through our own fault, we are ignorant of these, ‘our readiness to believe without knowing ‘ can avail us nothing. And Dr. Salmon was not ignorant of our obligation in this matter when he so misrepresented it — ‘There is an end,’ he says, ‘of the pretence that it was necessary . . . that God should provide means to make men infallibly know the truth.’ The pretence is all his own. No Catholic ever maintained that ‘God should provide means to make men infallibly know the truth.’ He has provided means to enable men, certainly, to know the truth, but He has not deprived them of their liberty; their wills are free, and therefore, though they can know the truth, they are at liberty to reject it. And Dr. Salmon, not content with exercising this liberty himself, is labouring to get others to follow his example, and while doing so his logic is as unsound as his theology.

Here, [he says], is a specimen of what Roman Catholics call an act of faith: ‘O my God, because Thou art true, and hast revealed it, I believe that Thou art One God; I believe that in Thy Godhead there are three Persons; I believe that Thy Son Jesus, became man and died for us; I believe that Thou wilt reward the good in heaven and punish the wicked in hell; I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches; and in this belief I will live and die.’ In other words, this act of faith, is a profession of explicit belief in the four great truths of faith, ‘and of implicit belief in all the teaching of the Church’ (page 97).

Now, Dr. Salmon by extending his search somewhat could have found in Catholic prayer-books acts of faith much shorter than the one quoted. He could have found the following: — ‘O my God, I believe in Thee; I adore Thee; I hope in Thee; I love Thee; I am sorry for all my sins; I will never offend Thee any more.’ Now here is an act of faith, hope, and charity, with an act of adoration, an act of contrition, and a purpose of amendment; and all taken together are much shorter than the act of faith submitted to his theologians by Dr. Salmon. But Catholics in making such acts, have explicitly before their minds a great deal more than these words express. No Catholic regards such acts as a full and adequate profession of faith. Of this no one can be ignorant who has read even the most elementary Catholic catechism. Dr. Salmon must have known it, even from Father Furniss. His object in attributing to us so short a creed is, to show that there can be no need of an infallible teacher. But he has another object also here. ‘Now’ he says, ‘substitute the word “Bible” for the word “Church,” and a Protestant is ready to make the same profession. He will declare his belief in the four truths already enumerated, and in all that the Bible teaches’ (pages 97, 98).

This special pleading of Dr. Salmon breaks down at every point. The profession of faith given does not satisfy the obligation of either Catholic or Protestant. Each is bound to a great deal more of explicit faith. The Catholic is bound to know more, and he can learn it with the required certainty from the Church. The Protestant is bound to know more, and he cannot learn it with the required certainty from the Bible. There can be no faith explicit or implicit without a sufficient motive, — that is the authority of God brought home to the believer by a competent witness. The authority of God is brought home to the Catholic by the Church — the infallible interpreter of God’s revelation. Her teaching has never varied, she has never contradicted herself; she teaches all her children the same truths. The Catholic’s faith, both explicit and implicit, is fixed and definite, and for both he has the same adequate motive. But when Dr. Salmon’s substitution of ‘Bible’ for ‘Church’ is made, what does the altered profession mean in the mouth of a Protestant? It means that he professes to believe all that he thinks the Bible teaches.

Now, unless the real meaning of the Bible be, what the Protestant thinks it is, he does not really believe in God’s revelation at all. If you put on the words of anyone a sense different from that person’s own, they are no longer the person’s words but your own. And this is true of God’s word, as well as of man’s word. Unless, then, you put on God’s word, the true sense — His own sense — you are not really believing in God at all. You are believing yourself instead. God is not your authority; you are your own authority. Now how can a Protestant be certain that the real meaning of the Bible is what he thinks it is, when he finds ninety-nine per cent of his neighbours contradicting him, and contradicting one another, as to its meaning on the most vital and important truths supposed to be contained in it? In England alone there are nearly three hundred contradictory creeds, all supposed to be taken from the same Bible, by ‘prayerful men.’ They all profess to ‘believe all that the Bible teaches,’ but they do not ‘make the same profession of faith.’ This is the result of the substitution of ‘Bible’ for ‘Church,’ and it is a most instructive illustration of the wisdom of that substitution. Another important result of the substitution of ‘Bible’ for ‘Church’ is the following: —

In fact if it were even true that a belief in Roman Infallibility is necessary to salvation a Protestant would be safe. For, since he believes implicitly everything God has revealed, if God has revealed Roman Infallibility, he believe[s]  that too (page 98).

Dr. Salmon’s young men must have been startled by the announcement that they were in proximate danger of believing ‘Roman Infallibility’; but since in believing the Bible they really believe only in themselves, and as they are not individually infallible, nor prejudiced in favour of Roman doctrines, there are no good grounds for apprehending that awkward result of their professor’s wonder- working theory of implicit faith. The Doctor asks,

If a Roman Catholic may be saved who actually contradicts the teaching of his Church because he did not in intention oppose himself to her, why may not a Protestant be saved in like manner who is sincerely and earnestly desirous to believe all that God has revealed in the Scripture, and who has learned from the Scripture those four great truths of faith and many others which make wise unto salvation, even if there be some points on which he has wrongly interpreted the teaching of Scripture? (page 98).

The Doctor gives his Protestant friend credit for most acute spiritual intuition when he puts his shortcomings so lightly: — ‘Even if there be some points on which be has wrongly interpreted the teaching of Scripture.’ It would be much less difficult to count the ‘points,’ on which he would have rightly interpreted the teaching of Scripture. But the Doctor’s difficulty is a phantom. The Catholic may be saved if he believe with supernatural faith, in the truths named by Dr. Salmon, provided his ignorance of the other truths of faith be inculpable, and provided also that he he free from mortal sin. And a Protestant may be saved on exactly the same conditions. But then, the Doctor must see, that such a case is most exceptional, and that the doctrine of Infallibility is not affected by it [at] all.

The Protestant and the Catholic are bound to know and believe a great deal more than Dr. Salmon takes for gradated, and the real question, which he cleverly ignores, is whether the Catholic is not more likely to get the required knowledge from the Infallible Church, than the Protestant is to get it from the Bible, interpreted by his fallible self? The Catholic relies on God’s explicit repeated promise to guard His Church from error in her teaching. Dr. Salmon relies on the spiritual intuition of the ‘prayerful man,’ though Scripture, tradition, experience, and common sense, contradict him. Conflicting creeds, almost innumerable, are the direct result of the substitution of Bible for Church as recommended by Dr. Salmon, and his special pleading cannot obscure that notorious fact.

Dr. Salmon has a way of disposing of Church authority, which his students must have regarded as decisive. If the Catholic theory be correct, then Dr. Salmon maintains that the Church, so far from being a guide to salvation, is an obstruction, a source of ruin to souls. Every fresh definition narrows the way to heaven, and things would have been better ‘if the Church had but held her peace.’ ‘I cannot help remarking,’ he says, ‘in passing, how this theory represents the Church not as helping men on their heavenly way, but as making the way of salvation more difficult. Every fresh interposition of her authority closes up some way to heaven which had been open before’ (page 94).

And he illustrates this by the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility, which people were free to hold or reject before the definition, but which they are now bound to believe, ‘on peril of forfeiting their salvation.’ Now we shall invite the Doctor to go back some centuries in our history in order to test his argument. Let him test it at the time that our Blessed Lord Himself lived on earth. Dr. Salmon cannot deny that a greater measure of explicit faith has been necessary since our Lord’s coming than was required before. Therefore, according to the Doctor’s logic, the way of salvation has been only made more difficult. His coming ‘closed up’ a way to heaven which had been open before; and it would have been better that He had not come at all! The Regius Professor of Trinity is, no doubt, a great man, but he was not consulted as to the conditions on which souls are to be saved. He must take from God the terms of salvation, just as humbly as the college scavenger. The Church is just what her Divine Founder made her. She is executing the commission she received from Him. Her mission is to teach the truth, not to please Dr. Salmon; and the Doctor’s picture of her work and office is a caricature, a daub.



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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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