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


Q. 21. How is it shown that if a man resist or neglect the graces of God, they shall be taken from him? And that if he be lost the fault is his own?

   A. This also is manifest throughout the whole Scripture; but that this point may be fully understood, we must consider the different fatal consequences that flow from an obstinate abuse of these graces.
(1.) These graces are withdrawn from them; not, indeed, at once, for God, of His infinite mercy, waits patiently for sinners, and repeats His endeavors for their conversion; but if they still resist or abuse his graces, they are diminished, and given seldomer. Thus our Savior says of the unprofitable servant, "Take the talent away from him; . . . for from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken from him." [Luke 19: 24, 26] How so? If he hath not, how can anything at all be taken from him?  The sense is, he that hath not improved what he hath, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him. The same is repeated on several other occasions.

   (2.) The more the graces of God are weakened or withdrawn from sinners by their repeated abuse of them, the more their passions are strengthened in their hearts, acquiring the greater mastery over them, till at last they become their miserable slaves; "My people heard not my voice," says Almighty God; "Israel hearkened, not to Me: so I let them go according to the desires of their heart; they shall walk in their own inventions." [Ps. 80: 12] And St. Paul assures us that whereas the wise men among the heathen nations, by the light of reason itself, came to a clear knowledge of the existence of God, and of His power and Divinity, but, "because when they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God," by a correspondence with the light He gave them, but continued in their idolatry, therefore "God gave them up to the desires of their hearts. . . . God delivered them up to shameful affections, . . . and delivered them up to a reprobate sense." [Rom. 1: 21]

   (3.) If their obstinacy still increase, and they go on shutting their eyes against the light of truth which God offers them, He then permits them to be seduced by falsehood, to "give heed to spirits of error and doctrines of devils." [1 Tim. 4: 1] Thus, "because they received not the love of truth that they might be saved, therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying, that all may be judged." [or, as the Protestant translation has it, that all may be damned] "who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity." [2 Thess. 2: 10] This strong text clearly shows two great truths; first, That God offers the truth to all; and, secondly, That the source of their damnation is entirely from themselves, in refusing to receive it.

    (4.) If, therefore, they still continue, in their perversity, and die in their sins, a dreadful condemnation shall be their portion forever; to them "God swears in His wrath that they shall not enter into His rest." [Ps. 94: 2] On them He pronounces that dreadful sentence, "Because I called and ye refused, I stretched out My hand and there was none that regarded; ye have despised all My counsel, and have neglected My reprehensions; I also will laugh at your destruction, and will mock when that which ye feared shall fall upon you. When sudden calamity shall fall upon you, and destruction, like a tempest, shall be at hand; when tribulation and distress shall come upon you; then shall they, call upon Me, and I will not hear, they shall rise in the morning, and they shall not find Me: because they have hated instruction, and received not the fear of the Lord, nor consented to My counsel, but despised all My reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and shall be filled with their own devices." [Prov. 1: 24] Their condemnation is prefigured in that of Jerusalem, which had been rebellious to all the calls of God, and over the fate of which our Savior laments in these affecting words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered together thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not! Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate." [Matt. 23: 37] "I would, and thou wouldst not!" This is their great crime. I sent you My prophets and servants, My graces, and lights, and holy motions, but these ye killed and destroyed, and gave no ear to them! The miserable fate of all such unhappy sinners, prefigured in Jerusalem, drew tears from the eyes of Jesus, when He wept over that city, and said, "If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are for thy peace; but now they are hidden from thy eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thy enemies . . . shall beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone." [Luke 19: 42] These are they who, having been invited to the marriage-supper of the great King, rejected his invitation, and killed his servants; for which reason "he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city," [Matt. 22: 7], declaring that "not one of them should taste of his supper".

   Q. 22. What is the result of all these truths?

   A. The result is very plain-----namely, Though God Almighty has been pleased to ordain that none shall be saved who have not the True Faith of Jesus Christ, and are not in communion with His Holy Church, yet this is no way inconsistent with the infinite goodness of God, because He gives to all sufficient graces, by which they may, if they correspond with them, be brought to the True faith and Church of Christ; and that, if any are lost, it is not owing to any want of goodness in God, but to their own abuse of the graces bestowed upon them. On some, indeed, He bestows these graces more abundantly, giving them five talents-----to others He gave more sparingly, to some two, and to some only one; but He gives to all sufficient for their present wants, and will give more if those be improved, till at last He brings them to the knowledge of His truth and to salvation.

   Q. 23. But suppose a person in the wilds of Tartary or America, where the name of Christ has never been heard: suppose also, that this person should attend to the dictates of conscience, enlightened by such graces as God is pleased to give him, and constantly comply with them;-----yet, how is it possible that he could be brought to the knowledge and Faith of Jesus Christ?

   A. This case is certainly possible; and if it should happen it is not to be doubted but God Almighty would, from the treasures of His infinite wisdom, provide some means to bring such a person to the knowledge of the truth, even though he should send an Angel from Heaven to instruct him. "The hand of the Lord is not shortened, that He cannot save," in whatever difficulties a poor soul may be; He has, in former times, done wonderful things in cases of this kind, and He is no less able to do the same again: and since He has so clearly ordained, that out of the True Church, and without True Faith in Christ, there is no salvation, there can be no doubt but that, in the case proposed, He would take care effectually to bring such a person to that happiness.
Q. 24. Is there any authority from Scripture to prove this?

  A. There can be no stronger proof from Scripture than some facts there related. We have in Scripture two beautiful examples of God's acting in this manner in similar cases, which shows that He would do the same again, if any case should require it. The one is that of the eunuch of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia: he, following the lights that God gave him, though living at a great distance from Jerusalem became acquainted with the worship of the true God, and was accustomed to go from time to time to Jerusalem to adore Him. When, however, the gospel began to be published, the Jewish religion could no longer save him; but being well disposed, by fidelity to the graces he had hitherto received, he was not forsaken by Almighty God; for when he was returning to his own country from Jerusalem, the Lord sent a message by an Angel to St. Philip to meet and instruct him in the Faith of Christ, and Baptize him. [Acts 8: 26]

   The other example is that of Cornelius, who was an officer of the Roman army of the Italic band, and brought up in idolatry. In the course of events, his regiment coming to Judea, he saw there a religion different from his own,-----the worship of one only God. Grace moving his heart, he believed in this God, and following the further motions of Divine grace, he gave much alms to the poor, and prayed earnestly to this God to direct him what to do. Did God abandon him? By no means; He sent an Angel from Heaven to tell him to whom to apply in order to be fully instructed in the knowledge and Faith of Jesus Christ, and to be received into His Church by Baptism. Now, what God did in these two cases He is no less able to do in all others, and has a thousand ways in His wisdom to conduct souls who are truly in earnest to the knowledge of the truth, and to salvation. And though such a soul were, in the remotest wilds of the world, God could send a Philip, or an Angel from Heaven, to instruct him, or by the superabundance of his internal grace, or by numberless other ways unknown to us, could infuse into his soul the knowledge of the truth. The great affair is, that we carefully do our part in complying with what He gives us; for of this we are certain, that if we be not wanting to him, he will never be wanting to us, but as he begins the good work in us, will also perfect it, if we be careful to correspond and to put not hindrance to His designs.

   Q. 25. Are none brought to the Faith and Church of Christ but those who correspond as they ought with the graces received before?

   A. God forbid; for, though it be certain that God will never fail to bring all those to the Faith and Church of Christ who faithfully correspond with the graces He bestows upon them, yet He has nowhere bound Himself to bestow that singular mercy on no other. Were this the case, how few indeed would receive it! But God, to show the infinite riches of His goodness and mercy, bestows it on many of the most undeserving; he bestowed it even upon many of the hardened Jews who crucified Jesus Christ, and of the priests who persecuted Him to death, even though they had obstinately opposed all the means He had previously used by His doctrine and miracles to convert them. In this He acts as Lord and Master, and as a free disposer of His own gifts; He gives to all the helps necessary and sufficient for their present state; to those who cooperate with these helps He never fails to give more abundantly; and in order to show the riches of His mercy, on numbers of the most undeserving He bestows His most singular favors for their conversion. Hence none have cause to complain; all ought to be solicitous to cooperate with what they have; none ought to despair on account of their past ingratitude, but be assured that God, Who is rich in mercy, will yet have mercy on them, if they return to Him. Those only ought to fear and tremble who remain obstinate in their evil ways, who continue to resist the calls of His mercy, and put off their conversion from day to day. For, though His infinite mercy knows no bounds in pardoning sins, however numerous and grievous, if we repent, yet the offers of His mercy are limited, and if we exceed these limits by our obstinacy, there will be no more mercy for us. The time of mercy is fixed for every one, and if we fail to embrace its offers within that time the gates of mercy will be closed against us. When the bridegroom has once entered into the marriage-chamber the doors are shut, and the foolish virgins who were unprepared are for ever excluded, with this dreadful reproach from Jesus Christ,-----I know ye not; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity. Seeing, therefore, that no man knows how long the time of mercy will last for him, he ought not to delay a moment; if he neglect the present offer, it may be the last. That hour will come like a thief in the night, when we least expect it, as Christ Himself assures us, and therefore He commands us to be always ready.

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