No Salvation Outside of the Catholic Church
of Scotland [1729-1811],
Whether Salvation Can Be Had Without True Faith,
In this section we are to consider what judgment the Scriptures pronounce on all who are separated from the Church of Christ by teaching and believing doctrines contrary to hers; and, for the greater clearness, we shall consider first those who begin such separation, and teach false doctrine, and then those who follow such leaders. With regard to the former:
1. Our blessed Savior, foretelling the coming of false teachers, says, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves, by their fruits ye shall know them;" and then He tells us, going on with the similitude of a tree, what shall be the portion of such false prophets. "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire," [Mat. 7: 15,19]. Such is the fate of false teachers, according to Jesus Christ. St. Paul describes them in the same light, and exhorts the pastors of the Church to watch against them, that they may prevent the seduction of the flock. "I know that after my departure ravenous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock: and of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them; therefore watch," [Acts 20: 29]. Such is the idea the Word of God gives of all who depart from the doctrine of the Church of Christ, and teach falsehood; they are ravenous wolves, seducers of the people, who speak perverse things, and whose end is Hell-fire.
2. St. Paul, concluding his Epistle to the Romans, warns them against such teachers in these words: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who cause dissensions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and to avoid them: for they that are such serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly, and by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent," [Rom. 16: 17]. Can such as these, who cause dissensions contrary to the ancient doctrine, and seduce the souls redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, who are not servants of Christ, but His enemies, and are slaves to their own belly-----can these, I say, be in the way of salvation? Alas! the same holy Apostle describes their fate in another text, saying, "That they are enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame," [Philip. 3: 18].
3. In St. Paul's absence some false teachers had come in among the Galatians, and persuaded them that it was necessary for salvation to join circumcision with the Gospel; on this account the Apostle writes his epistle to correct this error; and though it was but an error on one point, and apparently, not of great importance, yet, because it was false doctrine, the holy Apostle condemns it: "I wonder how you are so soon removed from him that called you to the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel: which is not another; only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an Angel from Heaven, preach a Gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we, I said before, I say now again, if anyone preach to you a Gospel besides that which ye have received, let him be accursed," [Gal. 1: 6]. This shows, indeed, the crime and fate of false teachers, though their doctrine was false only on a single point.
4. St. Peter describes these unhappy men in the most dreadful colors. "There shall be among you lying teachers, who shall bring sects of perdition" [or, as the Protestant translation has it, damnable heresies], "and deny the Lord who bought them, bringing on them their destruction slumbereth not," [ver. 3]. "The Lord knoweth how . . . to reserve the unjust unto the day of Judgment to be tormented; and especially them who . . . despise governments, audacious, pleasing themselves, they fear not to bring in sects blaspheming," [ver. 9] leaving the right way, they have gone astray, [ver. 15]. "These are wells without water, and clouds tossed with whirlwinds to whom the mist of darkness is reserved," [ver. 17]. Good God! what a dreadful state to be in!
5. St. Paul, speaking of such as are led away by what St. Peter calls damnable heresies, says, "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he that is such and one is subverted and sinneth being condemned by his own judgment," [Tit. 3: 10]. Other offenders are judged and cast out of the Church by the sentence of the pastors; but heretics, more unhappy, leave the Church of their own accord, and by so doing give judgment and sentence against their own souls.
6. St. John brands all such false teachers who go out from the true Church of Christ with the name of Anti-Christs. "Even now," says he, "there are become many Anti-Christs. . . . They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us; but that they may be manifest that they are not all of us," [1 John 2: 18]. And again he says, "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 antichrist," [2 John, ver. 7].
And to show that not only, those who deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ, but also those who do not embrace His doctrine, fall under the same condemnation, he immediately adds, "Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son," [ver. 9]. What stronger terms could be used to show that all who are separated from the Church of Christ, and receive not His sacred doctrine, are out of the way of salvation?
Now, if all who break off from the Church of Christ, and teach false doctrine, contrary to the faith once revealed to her, and which shall never depart out of her mouth, are condemned in such strong and severe terms by the Holy Ghost in His Holy Scriptures, in what condition must those be who follow these false teachers, and hold such pernicious doctrine? Is there the smallest reason to suppose that salvation can possibly be found among "ravenous wolves, seducers of the flock, speakers of perverse things?" Is it possible to be saved in "pernicious sects, damnable heresies, false doctrines, dissensions, and offenses contrary to the doctrine received from the Apostles"? Can those be safe guides to Heaven whom the Word of God declares to be "enemies of the Cross of Christ," and "antichrists, whose end is destruction," who fall under the curse of the Apostle, "to whom the mist of darkness is reserved?" But let us hear the Scripture itself for the answer to these questions.
(1) St. Paul, in the black catalog he gives of the works of the flesh, reckons sects, or, as the Protestant translation has it, heresies, as one of them; and, classing this with idolatry, witchcraft, and dissensions, he concludes, in these words,-----"Of which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God." [Gal. 5: 20]
(2) Our Savior, foretelling the evils of the latter times, says, "And many false prophets shall arise, and shall seduce many . . . but he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved," [Mat. 24: 11, 13]. Is it not evident from this that those who are seduced by these false prophets shall not be saved? And that salvation will be the happy lot only of those who persevere in the faith, and love of Christ to the end?
(3) St. Peter, foretelling that "there shall be lying teachers, who shall bring in damnable heresies, and bring upon themselves swift destruction," immediately adds, "and many shall follow their riotousness" [or, as the Protestant translation has it, their pernicious ways], "through whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of," [2 Pet. 2: 2]. Now, to whom are these ways pernicious but to those who follow them?
(4) The whole Epistle of St. Jude contains a description of all those who follow these pernicious ways, and of their miserable fate, and says, "That they are raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever," [ver. 13].
(5) St. Paul declares, "That in the last times some shall depart from the Faith, giving heed to spirits of error and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their consciences seared," [1 Tim. 4: 1]. Can any one imagine salvation possible to those who follow the spirit of error as their guide, and embrace the doctrine of devils?
(6) The same holy Apostle, giving an ample description of heretics, says, among other things, that they have an appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof; ever learning, and never attaining the knowledge of the truth: . . . that they are men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith: . . . and that being evil men and seducers, they grow worse and worse; erring, and driving into error," [2 Tim. 3: 5]. What grounds can such as these have to expect salvation?
(7) But our blessed Savior in one short sentence clearly shows the miserable fate of all those who follow these teachers when He says, "They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit," [Mat. 15: 14]; which evidently shows that the lot of both shall be the same, and that all the above condemnations of false teachers equally apply to such as follow them.
(8) These testimonies of Scripture are so strong and convincing that the Church of England fairly acknowledges the truth of what they contain, and in the eighteenth of her Thirty-nine Articles declares, "That those ARE TO BE HAD ACCURSED that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature; for the Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby man must be saved." And we have evidently seen above that salvation can never be had in Him without believing, the sacred doctrine which He revealed to the world.
(9) We shall add one more proof with regard to Jews, Muhammadans, heathens, and idolaters, and all who know not the true God, nor Jesus Christ His Son, and who do not obey His Gospel. Of these the Scripture says: "The Gentiles have stuck fast in the destruction which they prepared . . . The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and the nations that forget God," [Ps. 9: 16,18]. "The Lord shall reign to eternity; yea, forever and ever. Ye Gentiles [the heathens] shall perish from His land," [Ps. 10: 16]. But particularly what follows:-----"Jesus Christ shall be revealed from Heaven with the Angels of His power in a flame of fire, yielding vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction from the face of Our Lord, and from the glory of His power," [2 Thess. 1: 7]. This is no less clear and precise than it is dreadful and terrible, and cuts off all ground of evasion, as it declares in express terms that all who know not God, and who obey not the Gospel of Christ, shall be lost forever; which evidently shows that the knowledge and belief of God, and of Jesus Christ, and obedience to His Gospel, are absolutely required by Him as essential conditions of salvation.
Q. 2. These proofs are all very strong indeed, but what is the result of all these reasonings and Scripture testimonies?
A. The consequence is self-evident that, since salvation cannot be had in any sect separated in faith from the Church of Christ, and teaching false doctrine, therefore the Church of Christ is the only way appointed by Almighty God in which we can be saved, and that out of her communion there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
Q. 3. Why do you say ordinary possibility of salvation? Is there any reason to suppose that God has reserved any extraordinary means of salvation for some who are not joined in communion with the Church of Christ by the true Faith?
No doubt it is [absolutely speaking] possible for God to save
by any means He pleases; and He could have saved all mankind through
merits of anyone thing that Jesus Christ did or suffered, without
such a severe sacrifice from Him as His death upon the Cross. But what
God can do in this respect is nothing to our purpose: the great
is what He has done. Now, we see from the whole tenor of revelation
God has appointed true Faith in Jesus Christ, and the being a member of
His Church, as conditions of salvation; that He has appointed them as
conditions, so that none will or can be saved without
that the Word of God points out no other possible means; that whatever extraordinary
means He may sometimes use to bring people to His Church, yet,
to what He has said in the above texts, it is impossible He can have
any extraordinary means of salvation for those who live and die not
in communion with the Church of Christ by true Faith, otherwise He
contradict Himself, which is impossible.
For instance, these two express declarations of Scripture, "The Lord daily added to the Church such as should be saved," and "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," would not be true if there was any possibility for those to be saved who were not added to the Church, or did not believe. The same is equally true of the other texts, as will appear on considering them.