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Article VI.—HOW THE REV. DR. STONE BETTERED HIS SITUATION.
The Invitation Heeded: Reasons for a Return to Catholic Unity. By James Kent Stone, late President of Kenyon College, Gambier; and of Hobart College, Geneva, New York; and S. T. D. Catholic Publication Society. 1870. 12mo. pp. 341.
We remit to a future opportunity the exposure of the latest statistical vagaries of the Catholic World, beguiled from that duty by the attractions of the latest issue of the Catholic Publication Society. This is one of the most interesting specimens of a very interesting class of books—those written by converts to or from Romanism in vindication of their change of views; and when that good day comes when we all have time for every thing, we shall count it well worth while to criticize it in detail. At present, we undertake no more than rapidly to state the upshot of the Rev. Dr. Stone's religious change, as it appears to us, and to foot up the balance of spiritual advantage which he seems to have gained by it.
A year ago last October, the Rev. James Kent Stone, D. D., a minister of excellent standing in the Protestant Episcopal Church, received, in common with the rest of us, a copy of a letter from the pope of Rome, in which he was affectionately invited to "rescue himself from a state in which he could not be assured of his own salvation," by becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church,—which teaches, by the way, that as soon as a man becomes "assured of his own salvation" it is a dead certainty that he will be damned.*
Accordingly, the Rev. Dr. Stone, deeply conscious how uncertain and perilous is the position of those who merely commit themselves in well doing, with simplicity and sincerity, to the keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to his promises, "hastens to rescue himself from that state, in which he
• Act. Cone Trid., Sew. VI., Capp. IX., XII., XIII.
cannot be assured of his own salvation," and betters himself wonderfully, as follows:
I. His first step is to make sure of his regeneration and entrance into the true church by the door of the church, which is, according to his new teachers, not Christ, but baptism.* To be sure he has once been baptized, and the Council of Trent warns him not to dare affirm that baptism administered by a heretic (like his good old father) is not true baptism.f But as all his everlasting interests are now pending on a question which no mortal can answer, to wit, whether at the time of the baptism of little James, being then of tender age, the interior intention of old Doctor Stone corresponded with a certain doubtful and variously interpreted requirement of the Council of Trent—that he should "intend to do what the church does "J—it is well to make his " assurance of salvation" doubly sure, by a " hypothetical baptism " from the hands of a Roman Catholic priest, with some accompaniments which although "not of absolute necessity to his salvation, are of great importance "—such as a little salt in his mouth to excite "a relish for good works," a little of the priest's spittle smeared upon his ears and nostrils to " open him into an odor of sweetness," a little of the essential "oil of catechumens" on his breast and between his shoulders, and of the "oil of chrism" on the crown of his head, with a "white garment" on, oatside of his coat and pantaloons, and a lighted candle in his hand in the daytime.§ If there is a way of meriting heaven by a process of mortification, we have little doubt that it must be for a respectable middle-aged gentleman who has learned, by being president of two colleges, the importance of preserving his personal dignity, to be operated upon in just this way. Nothing, we should imagine, could add to the poignancy of his distress, and consequent merit, unless it should be to have the members of the Sophomore class present while he was having his nose "opened into the odor of sweetness."
• Concil. Florant., "vitae tpirittuUii janua."
Doubtless the object to be gained is amply worth the sacrifice, since it is to "rescue oneself from the state in which he cannot be assured of his own salvation," and avoid that " eternal misery and everlasting destruction," which, according to the authoritative catechism of the Roman Catholic church is the alternative of valid baptism. This second ceremony, be it remembered, is only a hypothetical one, calculated to hit him if he is unbaptized, but, in case it should appear in the judgment of the last day that old Dr. Stone had intended to "do what the church does (it being, at present, not infallibly settled what such an intention is) then this latter and merely hypothetical ceremonial to be held to have been no baptism at all, but null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever. But considering that the issues of eternity are pending on the insoluble question as to the validity of the first baptism, considering that a defect here can never be supplied to all eternity, whether by years of fidelity in other sacraments, or by aeons of torture in purgatorial fire, since it is only by baptism that "the right of partaking of the other sacraments is acquired,"* it is nothing more than common prudence to adopt a course that diminishes by at least one-half the chances of a fatal defect. It must be admitted that there still remains a possibility of the defect of intention in the second act as well as in the first; such things having been known in ecclesiastical history as the purposed "withholding of the intention" in multitudes of sacramental acts on the part of an unfaithful priest. Still, it may be held, perhaps, by the Rev. Dr. Stone, that the hypothetical transaction makes the matter nearly enough certain for all his practical purposes (as the old arithmetics used to say) although it falls a good deal short of that "assurance of his own salvation" to which he waB invited in the pope's letter, f
* Dens, De Bapt . Tractat.
t It is very pleasant, from time to time, as one traverses the dreary waste of "commandments contained in ordinances" which make up the Romish system, to come upon some admission or proviso which fairly interpreted nullifies all the rest. The Council of Trent, for instance, declares that "without the washing of regeneration (meaning baptism) or the detin of it, there can be no justification." and teaches that an unbeliever brought to embrace Christianity, not having ihe opportunity of baptism but yet desiring to receive it, is "baptized in desire,"—the desire supplying the place of the actual sacrament. [See Condi. Tri. dent. Sess. VI., Can. 4; Sess. VII., Can. 4. Also Bishop's Hay's "Sincere Christian," Vol. I., Chap. XX]. It is obvious enough that the just interpretation nnd application of these very Christian teachings would blow the "doctrine of intention" and of the "opue operatum" to pieces. But the thorough-going Romanizers scorn to take advantage of such weak concessions. Cardinal Pallavi" cini says decidedly, "there is nothing repugnant in the idea that no person in particular, after all possible researches, can come to be perfectly sure of his bap" tism. Nobody can complain that be suffers this evil without having deserved it. God, by a goodness purely arbitrary, delivers the one without delivering the other." [Quoted in Bungener's History of the Council of Trent, p. 159]. This line of argument will be of no small comfort to Dr. Stone in his disappointment about the "assurance of his own salvation." * Catech. Roman., 152-169. f Condi. Trident., Sees. vL, Can. ti
But presuming that between his two baptisms Dr. Stone is validly entered into the Roman Catholic Church, may we not now congratulate him on the (hypothetical) assurance of his own salvation i Not quite yet. To be sure, he has received the remission of all his sins, up to that time, both original and actual, and the remission of the punishment of them, both temporal and eternal, and has been (as the Holy Father promised in his letter of a year ago last September) "enriched with unexhausted treasures" of divine grace.* But it is damnable heresy not to acknowledge that "he may lose the grace," or to hold "that it is possible for him to avoid all sins —unless by special privilege from God, such as the church holds to have been granted to the blessed Virgin."f Grace may come and go, but orthodoxy agrees with experience in teaching that '' concupiscence which is the fuel of sin remains.":): It is damnable, therefore, to affirm that the rest of the seven sacraments are not necessary to Dr. Stone's salvation ;§ and especially to affirm that " it is possible for him if he shall fall" [as he inevitably will] "after baptism, to recover his lost righteousness without the sacrament of penance,"! which is "rightly called a second plank after shipwreck;"^, and equally damnable to "deny that sacramental confession is necessary to salvation ;"** or to "affirm that in order to remission of sins in the sacrament of penance it is not necessary, jure divino, for him to confess all and every mortal sin which occurs to his memory after due and diligent premeditation— even his secret sins."*
\ Catech Roman., ubi tupra. § Condi. Trident. Sess. vii., Can. 4.
| Ibid., Sess. vi., Can. 29, De Justif. If n»d~ 8oas- xiv-, Cm. *• ** Ibid., Sess. xiv., Can. 6.
We find, therefore, that our estimable friend is very, very far indeed, up to this point, from having got what he went for. He thought he was stepping upon something solid, but finds himself all at once in great waters, and making a clutch at the "second plank after shipwreck."
A certain embarrassment attends him at his first approach to the sacrament of penance. He has a distinct understanding with the church that all sins incurred before baptism, both original sin and actual sins, and all the punishment of them, both eternal punishment in hell, and temporal punishments in this world or in purgatory, are absolutely and entirely remitted in that sacrament, and that no confession or penance is due on their account.f But now the painful question arises, when was he baptized? He may well hope that the transaction of his good old heretic of a father and of his sponsors in baptism, when they called him M. or N., was only an idle ceremony; for in that case the long score of his acts and deeds of heresy and schism all his life through is wiped out by the hypothetical baptism, and he may begin his confessions from a very recent date. But if his father had the right sort of intention, then this hypothetical baptism is no baptism at all, and he is to begin at the beginning with his penances. Inasmuch as neither man nor angel can settle the question, he will act wisely to follow the safe example of St. Augustine, and begin his confessions with owning up frankly to the indiscretions (to use the mildest term) with which, in early infancy, he aggravated the temper of his nurse, and peradventure disturbed the serenity of his reverend parent. Doubtless it will make a long story, but what is that, when one is seeking for the "assurance of his own salvation ?"—and O the joy—the calm, serene peace when he shall hear at last from the lips of the duly accredited representative of the chnrch the operative sacramental words, Ego dbsolvo te, and know, at last,
* Ibid., Ses». xiv., Can. 7. \ Catech. Roman , ubi supra.