It is admitted on all sides, by Protestants and Catholics alike acknowledged, that Christ has established a Church; and, strange to say, all our Protestant friends acknowledge, too, that he has established but one Church - but one Church - for, whenever Christ speaks of His Church, it is always in the singular. Bible readers, remember that; my Protestant friends, pay attention. He says: "Hear the Church," - not hear the churches - "I have built My Church upon a rock" - not My churches.
Whenever He speaks, whether in figures or parables of His Church, He always conveys to the mind a oneness, a union, a unity. He speaks of His Church as a sheepfold, in which there is but one shepherd - that is the head of all, and the sheep are made to follow his voice; "other sheep I have who are not of this fold." One fold, you see. He speaks of His church as of a kingdom, in which there is but one king to rule all; speaks of His Church as a family in which there is but one father at the head; speaks of His Church as a tree, and all the branches of that tree are connected with the trunk, and the trunk with the roots; and Christ is the root, and the trunk is Peter and the Popes, and the large branches are the bishops, and the smaller branches the priests, and the fruit upon that tree are the faithful throughout the world; and the branch, says He, that is cut off from that tree shall wither away, produce not fruit, and is only fit to be cast into the fire - that is, damnation.
This is plain speaking, my dear people; but there is no use in covering the truth. I want to speak the truth to you, as the Apostles preached it in their time - no salvation out of the Church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Now, which is that Church? There are now three hundred and fifty different Protestant churches in existence, and almost every year one or two more are added; and besides this number there is the Catholic Church. Now, which of all these varied churches is the one Church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? All claim to be the Church of Jesus.
But, my dear beloved people, it is evident no church can be the Church of Jesus except the one that was established by Jesus. And when did Jesus establish His Church? When? When He was here upon earth. And how long ago is it that Christ was upon earth? You know our Christian era dates from Him. He was born many centuries ago. That is an historical fact admitted by all. He lived on earth thirty-three years. That was about nineteen centuries before our time. That is the time Christ established His Church on earth. Any Church, then, that has not existed thus long, is not the Church of Jesus Christ, but is the institution or invention of some man or other; not of God, not of Christ, but of man.
Now, where is the Church, and which is the Church that has existed thus long? All history informs you that is the Catholic Church; she, and she only among all Christian denominations on the face of the earth, has existed so long. All history, I say, bears testimony to this; not only Catholic history, but Pagan history, Jewish history and Protestant history, indirectly. The history, then, of all nations, of all people, bears testimony that the Catholic Church is the oldest, the first; is the one established by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If there be any Protestant preacher who can prove that the Catholic Church has come into existence since that time, let him come to see me, and I will give him a thousand dollars. My dear preachers, here is a chance of making money - a thousand dollars for you.
Not only all history, but all the monuments of antiquity bear testimony to this, and all the nations of the earth proclaim it. Call on one of your preachers and ask him which was the first church - the first Christian Church. Was it the Presbyterian, the Episcopalian, the Church of England, the Methodist, the Universalist or the Unitarian? And they will answer you it was the Catholic Church.
But, my dear friend, if you admit that the Catholic Church is the first and oldest - the Church established by Christ - why are you not a Catholic? To this they answer that the Catholic Church has become corrupted; has fallen into error, and that, therefore, it was necessary to establish a new church. A new church, a new religion.
And to this we answer: that if the Catholic Church had been once the true church, then she is true yet, and shall be the true Church of God to the end of time, or Jesus Christ has deceived us.
Hear me, Jesus, hear what I say! I say that if the Catholic Church now, in the nineteenth century, is not the true Church of God as she was 1854 years ago, then I say, Jesus, Thou has deceived us, and Thou are an imposter! And if I do not speak the truth, Jesus, strike me dead in this pulpit - let me fall dead in this pulpit, for I do not want to be a preacher of a false religion!
I will prove what I have said.
If the Catholic Church has been once the true Church of God, as is admitted by all, then she is the true Church yet, and shall be the true Church of God until the end of time, for Christ has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. He says that He has built it upon a rock, and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. Now, my dear people, if the Catholic Church has fallen into error, then the gates of hell have prevailed against her; and if the gates of hell have prevailed against her, then Christ has not kept His promise, then He has deceived us, and if He has deceived us, then He is an imposter! If He be an imposter, then He is not God, and if He be not God, then all Christianity is a cheat and an imposition.
Again, in St. Matthew, 28th chapter and verses 19 and 20, our Divine Saviour says to His Apostles: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you." "Lo," says He, "I, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, I, the Infinite Wisdom, the Eternal Truth, am with you all days, even until the end of the world."
Christ, then, solemnly swears that He shall be with His Church all days to the end of time, to the consummation of the world. But Christ cannot remain with the Church that teaches error, or falsehood, or corruption. If, therefore, the Catholic Church has fallen into error and corruption, as our Protestant friends say she has, then Christ must have abandoned her; if so, He has broken His oath; if He has broken His oath He is a perjurer, and there is no Christianity at all. Again, our Divine Saviour (St. John, 14th chapter) has promised that He would send to His Church the Spirit of Truth, to abide with her forever. If, then, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, teaches the Church all truth, and teaches her all truth forever, then there never has been, and never can be, one single error in the Church of God, for where there is all truth there is no error whatsoever.
Christ has solemnly promised that He will send to the Church the Spirit of Truth, who shall teach all truth forever; therefore, there has never been a single error in the Church of God, or Christ has failed in His promises if there has. Again, Christ commands us to hear and believe the teachings of the Church in all things; at all times and in all places. He does not say hear the Church for a thousand years or for fifteen hundred years, but hear the Church, without any limitation, without any reservation, or any restriction of time whatever. That is, at all times; in all things until the end of time, and he that does not hear the Church let him be unto thee, says Christ, as a heathen and as a publican.
Therefore, Christ says that those who refuse to hear the Church must be looked upon as heathens; and what is a heathen? One that does not worship the true God; and a publican is a public sinner. This is strong language. Could Christ command me to believe the Church if the Church could have led me astray - could lead me into error? If the teaching of the Church be corrupt, could He, the God of truth, command me without any restriction or limitation to hear and believe the teachings of the Church which He has established?
Again: Our Divine Saviour commands me to hear and believe the teaching of the Church in the same manner as if He Himself were to speak to us. "He that heareth you," says He, in His charge to the Apostles, "heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me." So then, when I believe what the Church teaches, I believe what God teaches. If I refuse what the Church teaches, I refuse what God teaches.
So that Christ has made the Church the organ by which He speaks to man, and tells us positively that we must believe the teaching of the Church as if He Himself were to speak to us. Therefore, says St. Paul, in his Epistle to Timothy, "the Church is the ground" - that is, the strong foundation - "and the pillar of truth." Take the ground or foundation of this edifice away, and it crumbles down; so with regard to these pillars upon which the roof rests; take them away and the roof will fall in. So St. Paul says, "the Church is the ground and the pillar of truth," and the moment you take away the authority of the Church of God you induce all kinds of errors and blasphemous doctrines. Do we not see it?