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. 26. What opinion, then, may be formed of the salvation of anyone, in particular, who is out of the True Church of Christ, and lives in a false religion?

   A.  In answer to this, I may ask another question: What opinion would you form of the salvation of one who is living in the open state of mortal sin, such as adultery, robbery, impurity, or the like? No one could presume to say that that man will certainly be lost; but every one may say that, if he die in that state, without repentance, he cannot be saved. If it be the will of God positively to save him, He will, before he die, give him the grace of sincere repentance; because God Almighty expressly requires from sinners a sincere repentance as a condition without which they cannot be saved: "Except ye repent," says He, "ye shall all likewise perish." [Luke 13: 3] The same is to be said of a person who is out of the True Church, and lives in a false religion. If he die in that state he cannot be saved; and if it be the will of God actually to save him, he will undoubtedly bring him to the True Faith, and make him a member of the Church of Christ before he leaves this world; and the reason is the same as in the other case. God, as we have seen above, requires all men to be united to the Church by True Faith as a condition of salvation, and therefore daily "adds to the Church such as shall be saved". [Acts 2: 47] Now, though a man be ever so great an adversary to the Church of Christ at present, or ever so great a sinner though a member of the Church, yet, as no man can know what God may be pleased to do for either before he die, so no man can pronounce and say that either the one, or the other will be lost; for, if God pleases, He may give the light of True Faith to the one, and the grace of true repentance to the other, even at their last moments, and save them.

   Q. 27. But suppose a person live in a false religion, and die without being reunited to the Communion of the Church of Christ, can it be said of such a one that he is certainly lost?

   A. I must here put another question. Suppose a great sinner continues to live in his sins, and dies without any appearance of repentance, could you say of such a one that he is certainly lost? Certainly not; because no man knows, or can know, what may have passed between God and his soul in his last moments; all that can be said is, that if he has actually died without repentance, he certainly is lost; but if God, of His infinite goodness, has given him the grace of a perfect repentance, and he has corresponded on his part with so great a favor, he will be saved. In like manner, suppose a person living in false religion dies without giving any sign of embracing the True Faith, or without being reconciled to the Church of Christ, we can never say of such a one with certainty that he is lost; all that we can say must be under the same condition as in the other case: if he has actually died as he lived, separated from the True Church of Christ, and without the True Faith of Christ, he cannot be saved. But if God, of His great mercy, has given him in his last moments light and grace to see and embrace the True Faith, and he has corresponded with so great a favor as God requires, he will be saved. Now, as no man knows, or can know, what may have passed in the soul of either the one or the other at their last moments, so no man can pronounce of either that he is lost with certainty.

   Q. 28. But, in the case proposed, if a person, in his last moments shall receive the light of Faith from God, and embrace it with all his heart, would this suffice to make him a member of the True Church in the sight of God?

   A. Most and undoubtedly; the case is the same in this as in that of Baptism. Though Jesus Christ expressly says, "Except a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," [John 3: 5] which establishes the absolute necessity of Baptism for salvation, yet, suppose a heathen should be instructed in the Faith of Christ, and embrace it with all his heart, but die suddenly without Baptism, or be taken away by infidel friends, or put in absolute impossibility of receiving Baptism, and die in the above dispositions with sincere repentance and a desire of Baptism, this person will undoubtedly receive all the fruits of Baptism from God, and therefore is said to be Baptized in desire. In like manner, suppose a person brought up in a false religion embraces with all his heart the light of True Faith, which God gives him in his last moments-----as it is absolutely impossible for him in that state "to join the external Communion of the Church in the eyes of men, "yet he certainly will be considered united to her in the sight of God, by means of the True Faith which he embraces, and his desire of being united to the Church, were it in his power.

   Q. 29. Is there any reason to believe that God Almighty often bestows the light of Faith, or the grace of repentance, at the hour of death, upon those who have lived all their lives in heresy, or in sin?
      A. That God can in an instant convert the most obdurate heart, either to the True Faith, or to repentance, is manifest from the examples of St. Paul, Zacheus the publican, St. Matthew the Apostle, and many others; and, in particular of St. Peter, to whom in an instant He revealed the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Who said to Him on that account, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven." [Matt. 16: 17] That He can do this at the hour of death, as easily as at any time in life, cannot be doubted, as we see in the good thief upon the Cross: He is the same all-powerful God at all times. But it must be owned that there is very little reason to think that this is frequently the case. There certainly are not the smallest grounds from revelation to think so. Nay, the Scripture, as we have seen above, threatens the contrary. All that can be said is, that as God is able, He can do it; and as He is merciful, He may, do it; and the possibility of this is sufficient to hinder us from passing judgment upon the state of any soul who has left this world: but it would certainly be the height of madness, and a manifest tempting of God, for a person to go on in an evil way in hopes of finding such mercy at the last.

   Q. 30. Do we not see, even among false religions, many serious, well-disposed people, who live good lives, and are even devout and pious in their own way; is it not hard to think that such persons will not be saved?

   A. But is it not much more reasonable in itself, as well as more conformable to the whole tenor of what God has revealed, to say, that if they be truly such before God as they appear in the eyes of men, and such as He knows will continue to correspond with the graces He gives them, He will not allow them to die in their false religion, but will undoubtedly bring them to the True Faith before they die? The door of salvation is by no means closed against such people by anything here advanced; the only difficulty is, about the way they can arrive at it. By supposing they can reach it, though they die in their false religion, is supposing God to act contrary to Himself and in opposition to everything He has revealed to men upon this matter; but by adhering to His Holy Word, and firmly believing that God "adds daily to the Church such as shall be saved," and will most undoubtedly add those here spoken of to her, if they be of that happy number, we do not make their salvation more difficult either to themselves or to God; and we avoid the dreadful consequence of supposing God to act contrary to Himself and to His own revealed will. If these people be really such in the eyes of God as they appear to men; and if Jesus Christ, foreseeing their perseverance in improving the graces He bestows upon them, acknowledges them among the number of His sheep, "to whom He gives eternal life,"-----then it is evident they are in the state of those of whom He says in the gospel, "Other sheep I have who are not of this fold," [John 10: 16] both the one and the other are considered as belonging to Him, according to His foreknow ledge of their salvation; but neither of them are joined in the visible Communion of His Church. Now of these last He immediately adds, "Them also must I bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." It was not enough for their salvation to be acknowledged to be His sheep; but because they were so, it was necessary that they should be united to the fold to which they did not then belong. The same then must be the case of those we here speak of: they are sheep of Jesus Christ, because He foresees they will at last be saved; but as they are not at present within the fold of His Church, in order to secure their salvation, "them also He must bring," before they die, that there may be "one fold and one shepherd."
     Q. 31. This is very strong indeed. But as this is a case on which many pretend to lay a great stress, whence arises the weight it seems to have with them in favor of those who even die in a false religion?

   A. Their mistake arises from the idea which they form to themselves of good works, and from their not observing the vast difference there is between natural good moral actions, and supernatural Christian good works, which alone will bring a man to Heaven. However corrupted our nature is by sin, yet there are few or none of the seed of Adam who have not certain good natural dispositions, some being more inclined to one virtue, some to another. Thus some are of a humane, benevolent disposition; some tenderhearted and compassionate towards others in distress; some just and upright in their dealings; some temperate and sober; some mild and patient; some also have natural feelings of devotion, and of reverence for the Supreme Being.

   Now, all such good natural dispositions of themselves are far from being Christian virtues, and are altogether incapable of bringing a man to Heaven. They indeed make him who has them agreeable to men, and procure him esteem and regard from those with whom he lives; but they are of no avail before God with regard to eternity. To be convinced of this we need only observe, that good natural dispositions of this kind are found in Mahometans, Jews, and heathens, as well as among Christians; yet no Christian can suppose that a Mahometan, Jew, or heathen, who dies in that state, will obtain the kingdom of Heaven by means of these virtues.

    The Pharisees, among the people of God, were remarkable for many such virtues; they had a great veneration for the law of God; they made open profession of piety and devotion; gave large alms to the poor; fasted and prayed much; were assiduous in all the public observances of religion; were remarkable for their strict observance of the Sabbath, and had an abhorrence of all profanation of the holy name of God; yet Jesus Christ Himself expressly declares, "Except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven." [Mat. 5: 20] We are told that one of their number went up to the temple to pray, who was in the eyes of the world a very good man, led an innocent life, free from those grosser crimes which are so common among men, fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all he possessed; yet Christ Himself assures us that he was condemned in the sight of God.

    All this proves that none of the above good dispositions of nature are capable in themselves of bringing any man to Heaven. And the reason is, because "there is no other name given to men under Heaven by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus only," [Acts 4: 12]; therefore no good works whatsoever, performed through good dispositions of nature only, can ever be crowned by God with eternal happiness. To obtain this glorious reward our good works must be sanctified by the blood of Jesus, and become Christian virtues. Now, if we search the Holy Scriptures, we find two conditions absolutely required to make our good works agreeable to God, and conducive to our salvation.

    First, that we be united to Jesus Christ by True Faith, which is the root and foundation of all Christian virtues; for St. Paul expressly says, "Without Faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb.11: 6) Observe the word impossible; He does not say it is difficult, but that it is impossible. Let, therefore, a man have ever so many good natural dispositions, and be as charitable, devout, and mortified as the Pharisees were, yet if he have not True Faith in Jesus Christ, he cannot, enter into the kingdom of Heaven. They refused to believe in Him, and therefore all their works were good for nothing as to their salvation; and unless our righteousness exceed theirs in this point, as Christ Himself assures us, we shall never enter into His heavenly kingdom. But even True Faith itself, however necessary, is not sufficient alone to make our good works available to salvation; for it is necessary.

     Second, we must be in charity with God, in His friendship and grace, without which even True Faith itself will never save us. To be convinced of this, let us only give ear to St. Paul, who says, "Though I should have all Faith, so as to remove mountains, though I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, though I should give my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." 
[1 Cor. 13: 2]

   So that let a man be ever so peaceable, regular, inoffensive and religious in his way, charitable to the poor, and what else you please, yet if he have not the True Faith of Jesus Christ, and be not in charity with God, all his apparent virtues go for nothing; it is impossible for him to please God by them; and if he live and die in that state they will profit him nothing. Hence it is manifest that those who die in a false religion, however unexceptionable may be their moral conduct in the eyes of men, yet, as they have not the True Faith of Christ, and are not in charity with Him, they are not in the way of salvation; for nothing can avail us in Christ but "Faith that works by charity." [Gal. 5: 6]

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