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introduction into certain countries.
For the office of
preaching, accordingly, the Catholic pastor, with the exception of some very rare and peculiar cases, can make no immediate use of his knowledge of other creeds. On the other hand, we may hope that his discourses on the doctrines of the Catholic faith, will be rendered more solid, more comprehensive, more animated, and more impressive, when those doctrines have been studied by him, in their opposition to the antagonist confessions in the strict sense of that word. That the highest class of catechumens should receive solid instruction, nay, a far more solid one than has hitherto been given, on the dogmas controverted between Christians; nay, that in this instruction, the doctrinal differences should be explicitly, and as fully as possible attended to, is a matter on which I entertain not the slightest doubt. Whence proceeds the deplorable helplessness of many Catholics, when, in their intercourse with Protestants, the concerns of religious faith come under discussion? Whence the indifference of so many among them towards their own religion? From what other cause, but from their almost total ignorance of the doctrinal peculiarities of their Church, in respect to other religious communities? Whence comes it, that whole Catholic parishes are so easily seduced by the false mysticism of their curates, when these happen to be secretly averse to the doctrines of the Church? Whence even the fact, that many curates are so open to the pietistic errors, but because both, priest and congregation, have never received the adequate, nay, any instruction at all, respecting the doctrinal differences between the Churches? How much are Catholics put to shame by the very great activity which Protestants display in this matter! It is of course to
be understood, that instruction on these points of controversy must be imparted with the utmost charity, conciliation, and mildness, with a sincere love of truth, and without any exaggeration, and with constantly impressing on the minds of men, that however we be bound to reject errors (for the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel truth, is the most sacred property of man), yet are we required by our Church to embrace all men with love, for Christ's sake, and to evince in their regard all the abundance of Christian virtues. Lastly, it is clear, that opportune and inopportune questions, consultations, and conferences, on the doctrines controverted between the Churches, will never fail to occur; but, most assuredly, the appropriate reply, the wished-for counsel, and the instructive refutation, will be wanting, in case the pastor be not solidly grounded in a knowledge of the respective formularies of the Christian communities.
But if what I have said justifies the delivery of academic courses, on the doctrinal peculiarities of the different communions, yet it proves not the necessity of their publication, at least as regards their essential substance. On this subject I will take the liberty of making the following remarks. In the Protestant Church, for many years, a series of manuals, on Symbolism, have been published. The elder Plank, Marheineke (in two works, a larger and a smaller), Winer, Clausen, and others, have tried their efforts in this department. The Catholics, indeed, on their part, have put forth a great multitude of apologetic and such like works, having for their object to correct the misrepresentation of our doctrines as set forth by non-Catholics. But any book containing a scientific discussion of all the doctrinal peculiarities of the Protestant Churches, has
not fallen within my knowledge. Accordingly, in communicating to the public the substance of my lectures, I conceived I should fill up a very perceptible void in Catholic literature.
During my researches into the authorities required by the subject of my lectures, I thought I had further occasion to observe, that the territory I had begun to explore, had not by any means received a sufficiently careful cultivation, and that it was yet capable of offering much useful and desirable produce. This holds good even when we regard the matter from the mere historical point of view. But it cannot fail to occur, that by bringing to light data not sufficiently used, because they were not thoroughly understood, or had been consigned again to oblivion; the higher scientific judgment, on the mutual relations of the Christian communities, will be rendered more mature and circumspect. Whether my enquiries, in either respect, have been attended with any success, it is for competent judges to decide. Thus much, at least, I believe I may assert, that my labours will offer to Catholic theologians especially, many a hint, that their industry would not be unrepaid, if in this department they were to devote themselves to solid researches. For several decades, the most splendid talents spend their leisure, nay, give up their lives, to inquiries into the primitive religions and mythologies, so remote from us both as to space and time; but the efforts to make us better acquainted with ourselves, have evidently been more rare and less perseverant, in proportion as this problem is a matter of nearer concern than the former. There are not, indeed, wanting a countless multitude of writings, that dilate in prolix dissertations on the relations between the different Churches. But alas! their authors
too often possess scarcely the most superficial knowledge of the real state of facts; and hereby it not unfrequently comes to pass, that treatises, which would even perhaps merit the epithet of ingenious, tend only to render the age more superficial, and to cause the most important questions that can engage the human mind and heart, to be most frivolously overlooked. Such sort of writings are entitled "Considerations;" while, in truth, nothing (objective) was at all considered; but mere phantoms of the brain that passed before the writer.
Pacific objects, also, induced me to commit this work to the press; and these objects I conceived I should be able to attain, by giving the most precise and the most unreserved description of the doctrinal differences. I did not, indeed, dream of any peace between the Churches, deserving the name of a true reunion, as being about to be established in the present time. For such a peace cannot be looked for in an age, which is so deeply degraded, that even the guides of the people have oftentimes so utterly lost sight of the very essence of faith, that they define it as the adoption of what appears to them probable, or most probable; whereas its nature consists in embracing, with undoubting certainty, the revealed truth, which can be only one. As many men now believe, the heathens also believed; for they were by no means devoid of opinions respecting divine things. When in so many quarters there is no faith, a reunion of faith is inconceivable. Hence, only an union in unbelief could be attained; that is to say, such a one wherein the right is mutually conceded to think what one will, and wherein there is therefore a mutual tacit understanding, that the question regards mere human opinions, and that it is a matter left undecided, whether in Christianity God have really re
vealed Himself or not. For with the belief in Christ, as a true envoy of the Father of light, it is by no means consistent, that those who have been taught by him, should be unable to define in what his revelations on divine things consist, and what, on the other hand, is in contradiction to his word and his ordinances. All things, not this or that in particular, appear, accordingly, opposed to a religious union. A real removal, therefore, of the differences existing between the Christian communities, appears to me to be still remote. But in the age in which we live, I flattered myself that I might do something towards bringing about a religious peace, by revealing a true knowledge of the great dispute; in so far as by this knowledge, men must come to perceive, that that contest sprang out of the most earnest endeavours of both parties to uphold the truth, the pure and genuine Christianity in all its integrity. I have made it therefore my duty, to define, with the utmost possible precision, the points of religious difference; and nowhere, and at no time, to cloak and disguise them. The opinion sometimes entertained, that the differences are not of importance, and affect not the vitals of Christianity, can conduce only to mutual contempt; for opponents, who are conscious of not having adequate grounds for opposing each other, and yet do so, must despise one another. And, certainly, it is this vague feeling, of being an adversary of this stamp, that has in modern times given rise to violent sallies on the part of many Protestants against Catholics, and vice versá; for many, by a sort of self-deception, think by these sallies to stifle the inward reproaches of their conscience, and mistake the forced irritation against an opposite communion, for a true pain on account of the rejection of truth on the