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him; for he is not and never has been in possession. He must show a reason for his claim, before it can be admitted.”
“At least, the principle applies to Protestants as well as to pagans and Mahometans, and you can no more plead prescription against us than against them.”
"I have admitted the plea of prescription, in the case of paganism and Mahometanism, on the supposition that they are really in possession,-a fact, however, which I let pass, but do not concede. But Protestants cannot plead prescription, because they are not and never have been in possession, and because they do not even claim to be, since you, in their name, deny that the commission in question has ever issued."
“But conceding that there was a presumption in favor of the church at the epoch of the reformation, and that the reformers were not at liberty to separate from her without cause, this cannot be said now. The church is not now in possession. The reformers gave good and valid reasons for separating from her communion, and she has been condemned as a usurper by the judgment of mankind. The question is not now on ousting her from a possession which she has held from time immemorial, but on reversing the judgment rendered against her, and readmitting her to a possession from which she has been ejected by due process of law."
When was the judgment you speak of rendered ? and where is the record of the court?”
“ The fact is one of public notoriety, and all the world now laughs at the ridiculous pretensions of Rome.”
“Do you include in all the world the pagan and Mahometan worlds ?”
“Why should I not?”
“It may be doubted whether the question has really ever come before them in such a shape that they can be said to have pronounced judgment upon it; and as they reject Protestantism, whenever it pretends to be Christian, no less than Catholicity, they might possibly be as unsafe witnesses for a Presbyterian as for a Catholic -perhaps even more
“Let them go. I mean by all the world all the Christian world, Christendom so called.”
“You mean to assert, then, that Christendom has pronounced judgment against the Catholic Church?”
“Yes, against the Romish Church."
“You distinguish without a difference. The church in communion with the church of Rome, acknowledging its pontiff for its supreme head on earth, is the only church which, by the consent of mankind, is or ever has been denominated the Catholic Church."
“She should be denominated the mother of harlots."
“So that Protestant communions might claim to be her daughters. But no more of this. Have Catholics, who remain in her communion, pronounced judgment against the church?”
“ And they are as two, if not three, to one of all who bear the Christian name.”
“I am sorry to say they are."
“ And I am not sorry, and would to God there were none but Catholics on the earth !”
“ That is, you would, if you could, exterminate all Protestants.”
“Yes, if making them sincere and humble Catholics were exterminating them. But if Catholics are the great majority of Christendom, how can you tell me that Christendom has pronounced judgment against the church?”
“I do not reckon Papists among Christians." “ And I regard what you call Papists as the only true Christians; and I have, to say the least, as much right to my reckoning as you have to yours. You mean, then, by Christendom those who protest against the church?”
have it so.” “Then your position is, the church is condemned by all by whom she is condemned! This may be granted. But these are a small minority, a mere handful, of those who bear the Christian name. By what right do you pronounce their judgment the judgment of mankind?”
“ Protestant nations are the more enlightened and advanced portion of mankind.”
“ Is that a conceded fact?”
"They are the great majority, and, as they deny it, how can you put it forth as generally conceded?"
“ The denial of Catholics amounts to nothing,--the fact is as I allege."
“ In whose judgment ?”
“In the judgment of all who are competent to judge in the premises.
“ Who says so ?”
I say so.”
“On what authority ?”
“But it is questioned and denied by Catholics, who are as five to one to your Protestants."
“They will swear to any thing their priests tell them. Their denial is not to be counted. They are not to be permitted to testify in their own cause.”
“ As much as you in yours. Their denial is as good as your assertion, till you show some reason why your assertion is to be preferred.”
"I tell you Protestant nations are the most enlightened and advanced portion of mankind, as is well known.”
“Well known to whom? To themselves ?” “ Yes, if you will."
“By what right are they both witnesses and judges in their own cause ?"
“By the right of being the most enlightened and advanced portion of mankind.”
“What is it to be truly enlightened and advanced ?"
“Those nations are the most enlightened and advanced that are the most enlightened and advanced in what is of the greatest importance and utility to man.” “ And what is that?”
Religion, the one thing needful.” “True religion, or false" “True religion, of course.”
“ The most enlightened and advanced nations are, then, those who are the most enlightened and advanced in the requirements of true religion?"
“ They are; and therefore I claim Protestant nations as the most enlightened and advanced.”
“ And therefore beg the question. If Protestantism be the true religion, you are right; if Catholicity be the true religion, you are wrong. Consequently, you must determine which is the true religion, before you can determine which are the more enlightened and advanced nations."
“But it cannot be denied that Protestant nations are more intelligent, more industrious, and better instructed in the science and art of government."
“What you say may be questioned ; but even conceding
it, it amounts to nothing. Because a man is a good cobbler it does not follow that he is a good sculptor. Because a nation is enlightened in mere earthly matters, it does not follow that it is in religious matters. It would be a solecism to say the Athenians were a more enlightened and advanced nation than the Jews, or that a Socrates is better authority on religion than David, Solomon, or Isaias."
“But I have always considered it undeniable that Protestant nations are in advance of all the others."
“ If to advance consists in shaking off Christian civilization and in returning to that which is superseded, you may have been right; otherwise, the probability is, that you have been altogether wrong. You must prove Protestantism to be true religion, before you can claim Protestant nations as the more enlightened and advanced nations; and till you can so claim them, you cannot claim their judgment as the judgment of mankind, even if you could then; and till you can claim their judgment as the judgment of mankind, you cannot say the judgment of mankind has condemned the church. This you have not yet done. Consequently, you cannot say the church has been ejected from her possession by the judgment of mankind. She is, as it appears, from the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who bear the Christian name continue, as they have always continued, to adhere to her, still in possession. She has lost nothing, and you have gained nothing, by the lapse of three hundred years. The question stands today as it did in 1517, and she may plead the olim possideo, as she could then, and with even additional force ; and you must set forth in your declaration good and valid reasons for ejecting her, before you can compel her to plead any other title than that of prescription.'
“But you forget that the reformers did set forth such reasons.”
“I cannot have forgotten what I never knew. But whatever reasons they set forth, the presumption is that they were insufficient; for they have been so regarded by Christendom generally, since the church continues in possession, and the great majority of all who are called Christians still adhere to her communion."
“But they were in reality sufficient, and ought to have been so regarded.”
“That is a point to be proved. What were those rea
“The first in order, if not in time, was, that our Lord founded no authoritative church such as the Romish claims to be."
“ We have seen she was in possession, and the presumption was in her favor. What you state was an allegation which needed to be proved."
“ The reformers proved it.”
“ They had the IIoly Scriptures, and she admitted that they were the word of God."
• That the mere letter was the word of God, or the sense in which the Holy Ghost dictated them?
“The sense, of course; for words are nothing without their sense."
“ Did she admit that the reformers, in having the letter of Scripture, had its sense, which is the word of God ?”
“ She did not.”
“Was, according to her, the Holy Scripture the word of God, if understood in any sense different from hers ?”
No; she claimed the right to declare its sense." “Did the reformers adduce the words of Scripture, in support of their allegation that our Lord had founded no such church as she pretended to be, in the sense she gave them?"
“ They did not ; for she explained them in her own favor."
“ Then she did not admit that what they adduced in support of their allegation was the word of God. Then, as the burden of proof was on them, they were bound to prove that it was his word.”
“They quoted the Scriptures, and they were the word of God.”
“In the sense of the church, not otherwise. The reformers pleaded the word of God in support of their allegation. The church replied by denying that what they set forth as the word of God was his word. Her reply was sufficient, unless they proved that it was his word.”
“ But their plea was evident on its face, for they alleged the very words of Scripture.”
“That they alleged the very words of Scripture may be