No Salvation Outside of the Catholic Church


by Bishop George Hay of Scotland [1729-1811],

An Inquiry, Whether Salvation Can Be Had Without True Faith,
and out of the Communion of the Church of Christ


Introduction and State of the Question

   There is nothing in which the great Apostle of the Gentiles seems more to glory than in his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, and in
the sincerity of his heart in delivering to the world the sacred truths of eternity pure and uncorrupted. He was not ashamed of these Divine truths; he rejoiced when he was called to suffer for them; he had no worldly interest in view in preaching them; he sought not the esteem and favor of men in delivering them; his only view was to promote the honor of his blessed Master, and to gain souls to Him, and therefore he had no idea of using flattering words, or of accommodating the doctrine of the Gospel to the humors of men.

    He knew that the truths revealed by Jesus Christ are unalterable; that "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words shall never pass away;" and that, therefore, to corrupt these sacred words, though but in one single article, would be ". . . perverting the Gospel of Christ," [Gal. 1: 7], -----a sin so grievous that the Holy Ghost, by His mouth, pronounces a curse upon anyone, though an angel from Heaven who shall dare to be guilty of it.

   Hence he describes his own conduct in preaching the Gospel as follows: ". . . You know from the first day that I came into Asia, in what manner I have been with you for all the time. . . . How I have kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have preached it to you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house," [Acts 20: 18-20]" . . . we had confidence in our God, to speak unto you the Gospel of God in much carefulness. . . . not as pleasing men, but God, Who proveth our hearts. For neither have we used at any time the speech of flattery, as you know, nor taken occasion of covetousness; [God is witness]. Nor sought we glory of men, neither of you, nor of others." [1 Thess. 2: 2,4-6] "For we are not as many, adulterating the Word of God; but with sincerity, but as from God, before God, in Christ we speak," [2 Cor. 2: 17]. "But we renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the Word of God, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience, in the sight of God. . . . For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord . . ." [2 Cor. 4: 2,5]. ". . . so I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ." [Gal. 1: 10] Now, ". . . Christ sent me to preach the Gospel, not in wisdom of speech lest the Cross of Christ should be made void; for the word of the Cross to them indeed that perish is foolishness; but to
     them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God. . . . it pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save  them that believe.  . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men . . . the foolish things of the world God hath chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong, . . . That no flesh should glory in His sight." [1 Cor. 1: 17-18, 21, 25, 27, 29] "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth . . ." [Rom. 1: 16]. And therefore, " . . . I brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of Christ.  . . . and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in showing of the Spirit and power. That your Faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." [1 Cor. 2: 1, 4, 5]

   The Church of Christ, animated by the same Divine Spirit of truth which inspired this holy Apostle, has at all times regulated her conduct according to the model set before her in his words and example,". . . contend earnestly for the Faith once delivered to the Saints." [Jude, 1: 3]; her continual care is ". . . to keep that which is committed to thy trust" pure and undefiled, "avoiding all profane novelties of words . . ." [1 Tim. 6: 20]; that the sacred words of God, "
. . . I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth . . . from henceforth and for ever." [Isa. 59: 21] She therefore knows not what it is to temporize in religion, in order to please men, not to adulterate the Gospel of Christ to humor them; she declares the sacred truths revealed by Jesus Christ in their original simplicity, without seeking to adorn them with the persuasive words of human wisdom, much less to disguise them in a garb not their own.

   Truth, plain and unadorned, is the only weapon she employs against her adversaries, regardless of their censure or their approbation. "This is the truth," she says, "revealed by God; this ye must embrace, or ye can have no part with Him." If the world look upon what she says as foolishness, she is not surprised, for she knows that ". . . the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God. For it is foolishness to him, and He cannot understand . . ." [1 Cor. 2: 14]; but that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men;" and pitying this blindness, she earnestly prays God to enlighten them, "With modesty admonishing them, . . .if, peradventure, God may give them repentance to know the truth." [2 Tim. 2: 25].

    If ever there was a time when this conduct of the Church was necessary, the present age seems particularly to demand it. At present the gates of Hell seem opened, and infidelity of every kind stalks lawless on the earth; the sacred truths of religion are reviled and denied, the Gospel adulterated by countless contradictory interpretations; its original simplicity disfigured by loftiness of speech and the persuasive words of human wisdom. A thousand condescensions and compliances are permitted in the unchangeable doctrines of Faith and the pure maxims of morality and "the narrow way that leads to life" converted into "the broad road that leads to destruction."

This observation applies particularly to that latitudinarian opinion so common nowadays, that a man may be saved in any religion, provided he lives a good moral life according to the light he has; for by this the Faith of Christ is made void, and the Gospel rendered of no avail. A Jew, a Mahometan, a heathen, a deist, an atheist, are
all comprehended in this scheme, and if they live a good moral life, have an equal right to salvation with a Christian! To be a member of the Church of Christ is no longer necessary; for whether we belong to her or not, if we live a good moral life, we are in the way of salvation!

   What a wide field does this open to human passions! What license does it give to the caprice of the human mind! It is therefore of the utmost consequence to examine the ground of this opinion, to see if we can safely trust our salvation to it. It is doubtless the interest of atheists and deists to adopt this opinion, to extol it with the highest praises for liberality of sentiment and charity; but a Christian who believes the Gospel will not receive it so readily: he knows that the Scriptures contain the truth of God, and; that it is unsafe to trust our soul to any maxim, however specious, which is not, grounded on their sacred oracles; and therefore, before he adopts it, he will rigorously scrutinize it by comparing it with what they teach.

   To do this is the design of the following inquiry, or rather to show, from the precise declaration of the Word of God, that the above free-thinking maxim is diametrically opposed to the light of revelation; for there we learn that the Son of God became man and appeared among men, in order to instruct them in the knowledge of those Divine truths on which their salvation depends; and therefore that He absolutely requires true Faith in Him, and, in the sacred truths which He revealed, as a necessary condition of salvation. There also we learn that He instituted a holy Church on earth, to be
the depository of these truths, and that He absolutely requires all to be united with that Church in order to be saved. 

   In the belief of these two truths "Christian" Churches in general agree. The Churches of England and Scotland, no less than the, Catholic Church, solemnly acknowledge them, and hold that, without the true Faith of Jesus Christ, and without being a member of His true Church, there is no salvation. They all agree in the belief of these truths, however much they differ in their application. In this inquiry, then, it is the common cause of Christianity which is defended. To which Church the author belongs will easily appear; and if he applies these general truths to his own Church, it is because he believes it to be the true Church. A member of any other must do the same if he reason consequentially; wherefore, without any further preamble, we shall proceed to the point, and show, in the words of the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland, that out of the Church of Christ there is no ordinary possibility of salvation [Confession of Faith, chap. xxv] 

[As this inquiry proceeds, Bishop Hay demonstrates that the Roman Catholic Church is the one True Church of Christ, outside of which there is no salvation. In mentioning the Churches of England and Scotland Bishop Hay is merely demonstrating that the belief founded on Sacred Scripture, that there is only one true Church, is common among the Churches of England, Scotland and Rome.]

 Q. 1. How does this appear from the Holy Scriptures?

  A. The Holy Scriptures are very plain on this head; but as the various texts propose it under different points of view, we shall, for
  greater clearness, consider them separately.

 Direct Proofs from Scripture

    1. The prophet Isaiah, foretelling the glory of the Church of Christ, says, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that resisteth thee in judgment thou shalt condemn," [Isa. 54: 17]. "For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish," [Isa. 60: 12]. Here we see declared in express terms that all those who oppose the Church of Christ, and refuse to submit to her authority, shall be condemned by her, and shall perish. Our Savior declares the same in still stronger terms, when He says to the pastors of His Church, in the persons of His Apostles, when He sent them to preach the Gospel, "And whosoever shall not receive you, NOR HEAR YOUR WORDS, going forth out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city," [Matt. 10: 14, 15].

   2. Our Savior, after instructing us to admonish our offending brother in private, or before a few witnesses, concludes thus: "And if he will not hear them, tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican." [Matt. 18: 17]. The heathens are those who know not the true God, and who worship idols, and the very devils themselves, instead of God. The publicans were a class of people among the Jews odious for their crimes, and looked upon by all as abandoned by God, and given over to a reprobate sense. With these, then, all who obstinately resist the
 voice of the Church are classed and condemned by the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.

    3. Our Savior, speaking of His Church under the figure of a flock, of which He Himself is the good shepherd, says: "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring. And they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." [John 10: 16]. He is here speaking of those who were not then joined in communion with His Apostles and other disciples, and He calls them at that time "His sheep;" but to show there was no salvation for them in the state in which they then were, and unless they were united to the fold, He says, "them also I must bring, which shows that, according to the disposition of the Divine decrees, it was absolutely necessary that all who belong to Jesus Christ, all whom He acknowledges for His sheep, should be brought to, and united in communion with, that one fold, which is His Church.

   4. In consequence of this, we are assured that, when the Apostles began to publish the Gospel, "The Lord increased daily together such as should be saved." Or, as the Protestant translation has it, "The Lord daily added to the Church such as should be saved," [Acts 2: 47]; which points out in the strongest manner, by what God actually did, that the being added to the Church is a condition absolutely required by Him in order to be saved; and if that were so then, it must be so now, and to the end of the world; for the conditions of salvation, ordained at the beginning and revealed by Jesus Christ, cannot be altered by any other; and He has never made any new revelation to alter them Himself.

   5. The Church is the Body of Christ, and all who belong to the Church are members of His body, and united with Jesus Christ the head; but those who are out of the Church are not members of
His body, nor are they united with Christ the head. Now, speaking of His Church and her members under the figure of a vine, with its branches, He says, "I am the vine, you the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me, ye can do nothing. If anyone abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth." [John 15: 5, 6]. What Christ here says under the figure of a vine is equally true as to the members and the body; for no member separated from the body can do anything; it has neither life nor feeling, but falls into corruption: which expressly shows that if we be not united to the Church of Christ, whether we consider this Church as a body consisting of the head and members, or as a vine with its branches, we are not united with Christ, but on the way to perdition.

Proofs from the Necessity of True Faith

   1. Jesus Christ, addressing Himself to His eternal Father, says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." [John 17: 3] Hence it necessarily follows that all those who do not know Jesus Christ cannot have eternal life. Now, this knowledge of Jesus Christ is not the mere knowledge that such a person existed, but believing Him to be what He is, the eternal Son of God, made man for the salvation of mankind; and therefore He says again, "For God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting." [John 3: 16]

   Hence the believing in Jesus Christ is one condition positively required by God in order for salvation; so that without this belief there can be no salvation; for, as He Himself again declares, ". . . he that doth not believe is already judged; because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God." [John 3: 18] and ". . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." [John 3: 36]. And the beloved disciple adds, "For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; this is a seducer and an anti-Christ." [2 John 1: 7] By which it is manifest that those who do not know Jesus Christ, and consequently do not believe in Him, and also those who do know that there was such a Person, but refuse to believe, and confess that He is the Son of God come in the flesh, cannot be saved; and therefore, that the knowing and believing in Jesus Christ is appointed by Almighty God, as an absolute condition of salvation.

  2. But it is not enough to believe in the Person of Jesus Christ; it is also required to believe His doctrine, His words, those Divine truths which He has revealed; and, indeed, how can we believe Him to be God if we refuse to believe what He says? Hence, when He gave the pastors of His Church, in the persons of His Apostles, their commission to preach the Gospel, He ordered them to teach the world "to observe all those things whatsoever I have commanded you," [Matt. 28: 20]. And He immediately adds, "He that believeth and is Baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned." [Mark 16: 16]-----where it is manifest that the belief of His doctrine, the observance, and consequently the belief, of all those things which He commanded His Apostles to teach, is a necessary condition of salvation. Nay, He adds in another part, "For he that, shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when He shall come in the glory of His Father, with His holy Angels." [Mark 8: 38] Now, if being ashamed of His words brings such a condemnation, what will the denying of them do? It is evident, therefore, that the true Faith of Jesus Christ comprehends the belief both of His Person and His words-----that is, of His doctrine; and that this Faith is laid down by Almighty God as a necessary condition of salvation.

   3. As it is impossible that Jesus Christ could reveal contradictions, or say to one that anything is true, and to another that it is false, the true Faith of Jesus Christ cannot contain contradictions; it must be the same everywhere, and in no point contrary to itself. This the Scripture expressly affirms, "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." [Eph. 4: 5] Now, St. Paul positively declares that ". . . without Faith it is impossible to please God. . . ." [Heb. 11: 6]; consequently this one true Faith of Jesus Christ is so absolutely required as a condition of salvation, that without it, let a man do what he will, it is impossible to please God, or be saved.

   4. The Scripture declares that, when the Apostles published the truths of the Gospel, ". . . as many as were ordained to everlasting life believed." [Acts 13: 48]; consequently, those who did not believe were not ordained to eternal life; whence it evidently follows that Faith is a condition absolutely required by God for obtaining  eternal life. For St. Paul affirms, "But the sure foundation of God standeth firm, having this seal: The Lord knoweth who are His; . . ." [2 Tim. 2: 19]; that is to say, God, from all eternity, most certainly knows who are His-----who those are, who, by obeying His holy grace, will continue Faithful to the end, and be happy with Him forever; and all such He ordains to eternal life. When, therefore, the Scripture affirms that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," it evidently shows that the belief of the truths of the Gospel, or true Faith, is appointed by God as a necessary condition of salvation, as none are so ordained but those who believe.

  5. Our Blessed Savior, speaking of those who belong to Him, says, 
". . . I know mine, and mine know Me. . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall not perish for ever. " [John 10: 14, 27, 28] Can any words express more clearly that to know Jesus Christ, and to hear His voice, and follow Him-----that is, to believe and obey Him-----are the distinguishing marks of His sheep, to whom He gives eternal life? Consequently, those who do not believe Him are none of His, and therefore will not be saved; as He expressly says to the Jews, "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep." [John 10: 26]; ". . . For if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sin." [John 8: 24]; which shows too, a demonstration that Faith in Jesus Christ is expressly appointed by Almighty God as a condition of salvation; "Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." [Acts 4: 12]

   6. St. Paul, expressing that of the Psalmist, "Today if ye shall hear His voice," etc., says, "And to whom did He swear that they should not enter into His rest: but to them that were incredulous? And we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." [Heb. 3: 18, 19] On this account he exhorts thus "Take heed, brethren, lest perhaps there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, to depart from the living God." [Heb. 3: 12]; and again, "There remaineth a day of rest for the people of God. . . . Let us hasten, therefore, to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief." [Heb. 4: 9, 11]. In all this passage, the main scope of the Apostle is to show that unbelievers cannot go to Heaven; and this truth is confirmed by Almighty God even with a solemn oath.

7. The Holy Scriptures declare that unbelievers, instead of going to Heaven, shall be condemned to Hell-fire; and class all such with the worst of criminals. Thus the Almighty Himself declares to St. John the Apostle, "but the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." [Apoc. 21: 8]. If, therefore, Almighty God has sworn that unbelievers shall not enter into His rest, and if He declares that their portion shall be in Hell, one must shut his eyes not to see that true belief, true Faith in Jesus Christ and His words-----namely, that Faith, without which it is impossible to please God-----is absolutely required by Almighty God as a condition of salvation.

  8. The Word of God assures us that, antecedently to Faith in Christ, all mankind are under sin, and that it is impossible to be justified from sin but by Faith in Jesus Christ, which is set forth by God as the means of obtaining justification. Thus, ". . . we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is not any man just." [Rom. 3: 9,10] "Even the justice of God, by Faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe in Him: for there is no distinction. For all have sinned and do need the glory of God. Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption, that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation through Faith in His Blood, . . ." [Rom. 3: 22-25]. Also, ". . . the scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise, by the Faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." [Gal. 3: 22]

   9. These sacred testimonies of the Word of God are so clear and convincing, that the Church of England admits and embraces the Athanasian Creed as containing nothing but Divine truths, and what may be proved by the most evident tests of Scripture, as is declared in the eighth of the thirty-nine Articles. Now, the Athanasian Creed begins thus "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, which Faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlasting." Then, after explaining the great mysteries of the Catholic Faith concerning the unity and trinity of God, and the Incarnation and death of Jesus Christ, it concludes in these words: "This is the Catholic Faith, which, except a man believe Faithfully, he cannot be saved." This speaks plainly indeed, and needs no application.

   Now, seeing that the true Faith, or the firm belief of those truths which Jesus Christ revealed, is thus absolutely required as a condition of salvation, it follows as a natural consequence that out of the true Church of Christ there is no salvation, because this true Faith can be found only in the true Church of Christ; to her the sacred charge of the truths of eternity was committed; the words of Jesus Christ were first put into her mouth, and an express covenant made by God, That they should never depart from her mouth. It is therefore from the pastors of the Church alone we can learn the true Faith, since they alone are authorized to preach it, and in hearing them we hear Christ Himself. Hence St. Paul says, "How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? . . . And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent, . . ." [Rom. 10: 14, 15]. Now, the pastors of the Church were ordained and sent by Jesus Christ to "teach all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature," consequently it is only from them that the truths of the Gospel can be learned.

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