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OUR first principle is, that man is not bound to believe any doctrine as of faith, unless that doctrine has been revealed by God. Thus, a Roman Catholic does not acknowledge any power or right in the Church, nor in any portion thereof, nor in any angel, nor in any being, except God Himself, to require his belief of a doctrine which is above his reason's discovery. When, then, he says that the Church is infallible in giving her doctrinal decisions, he does not mean to say that she can make that which God did not reveal become an article of faith. He does not mean that she can add to the revelations of God and will be infallibly correct in this addition.
But man is bound to believe what God teaches. Yet, as man is a reasonable being, and must have a sufficient motive for his assent or belief, he is not required to believe without evidence. Thus, for his faith, evidence is necessary, otherwise his belief would have no foundation upon which it could rest.
We next ask, what evidence is required? Certainly, if our reason could discover the truth of the doctrine submitted to our minds, it would be quite superfluous for God to teach what we could discover without His teaching. Did we discover the truth of this doctrine, without the teaching of God, and solely by the exertion of our own intellect, our belief would be founded upon the evidence of reason, and further evidence would be superfluous. But, if we did not make the discovery by our own exertion— if no exertion of our minds could reach so far—and we received sufficient testimony of the truth from some persons who had seen and known and testified; and, moreover, this witness was as incapable of deceit as he was beyond its influence; this testimony would be, to us, sufficient evidence of the truth of this doctrine. We would, then, require evidence that such a witness gave such testimony; and that evidence would be the sure foundation of our faith. Our belief would then be rational. It will not be questioned that God is such a witness. It will be admitted that His knowledge is more extensive than ours; that His knowledge is not merely rational conjecture or high probability, but is undoubted, certain assurance of fact; and that it is unalterable; so that what He once asserts as truth will be truth—forever. These principles are manifestly true. We come now to matter of fact and deduction. God did reveal His knowledge. They to whom He revealed it had evidence of the fact. They were bound. Why? Because they had an infallible certainty that the Lord spoke and an infallible certainty of what He said. Thus, the principle of obligation is founded in the infallible certainty of God's declaration. From this we perceive the indissoluble connection of faith with an infallible certainty of truth. Take away the certainty, upon what will faith rest? Give the infallibility, and we see the basis of faith. Conjecture is not faith; probability is not faith; faith is certain knowledge resting upon the testimony of God. It must be founded upon an infallible certainty that God made a revelation, and upon an infallible certainty of what that revelation was. Suppose we ascertain that He spoke; and, moreover, that He revealed the contents of a certain book: but great doubts arise as to the meaning of certain passages of that book, and learned men give to the same passage contradictory meanings; so that, of these words, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” one division asserts the meaning to be, that Christ would preserve the visible body of His Church, who were teachers of His doctrine, in His truth, all days, to the end of the world; and other divisions assert that such is not the meaning, but that, during ages in succession, long before the end of the world, this visible body would be false guides and teach the doctrines of Antichrist. Suppose an hundred such passages can be produced, upon which there are flat contradictions. Suppose the very copies were so called into question, that several passages of a most important nature are by learned men said to have been introduced in dark and superstitious times, by cunning priests, to impose upon the credulity of a besotted people, and to bring persons to believe that God had taught what He never had revealed. Suppose equally learned and equally numerous and zealous men assert these passages to be genuine. We are left without any infallible guide to give us certain evidence. Upon what will our faith rest? Thus I repeat there is an indissoluble connection between faith and infallibility. This leads us to a correct view of what we hold, in the Roman Catholic Church, viz., that when God required man to believe mysteries upon His testimony, He furnished him with an infallible mode of knowing exactly what He taught and what man was to believe; in other words, that God gave to man evidence, as the foundation upon which his faith should rest. And if God did not furnish man with an infallible guide, it would be unreasonable to to make faith necessary for salvation. It would be as if God should say to man: “You must believe firmly all that I teach; but, although I can establish several modes by which you can know My doctrine with infallible certainty, still, I will not furnish you with an infallible