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. 32. But as all this is so evident (regarding the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation), how comes it that some nowadays, who profess themselves members of the Church of Christ, seem to call this truth in question by continually pleading in favor of those who are not of their Communion, proposing excuses for them, and using all their endeavors to prove a possibility of salvation for those who live and die in a false religion?

   A. This is one of those devices which the enemy of souls makes use of in these unhappy times to promote his own cause, and which there are grounds to fear has, from various reasons, found its way even among those who belong to the fold of Christ; for,

   (1.) As they live among those who are of false religions, and often have the most intimate connections with them, they naturally and most laudably contract a love and affection for them. This makes them at first unwilling to think their friends should be out of the way of salvation. Then they proceed to wish and hope they may not be so. Hence they come to call in question their being so; and from this the step is easy to grasp at every pretext to persuade themselves they are not so.

   (2.) Latitudinarian principles are to be found everywhere in these our days; an uncovenanted mercy, forsooth, is found to be in God for Mahometans, Jews, and infidels, which had never been heard of among Christians. This is gilded over with the specious character of a liberal way of thinking and generous sentiments; and it is become the fashion to think and speak in this manner. Now fashion is a most powerful persuasive, against which even good people are not always proof (immune); and when one hears those sentiments every day resounding in his ears, and anything that seems contrary to them ridiculed and condemned, he naturally yields to the delusion, and turns away his mind from so much as wishing to examine the strength of these sentiments from fear of finding out their falsehood. When, from fear of being despised, we wish anything to be true, the translation is very easy to believe it to be true, and without further examination every sophistical show of reason in its favor is adopted as conclusive.

   (3.) Worldly interest also very often concurs with its overbearing influence to produce the same end. A member of the Church of Christ sees his separated friend in power and credit in the world, and capable of being of great service to him, and knows, should he embrace the True Faith, he would lose all his influence, and become unable to serve him. This makes him cool in wishing his conversion; but the thought that his friend is not in the way of salvation pains him; he therefore begins to wish he could be saved as he is in his own religion. Hence he comes to hope but that he may, and gladly adopts any show of proof to make him think that he will. It is true, indeed, all these reasons would have little influence with a sincere member of the Church of Christ, who understands, his religion, and has a just sense of what it teaches him on this head. But the great misfortune of many who adopt these loose ways of thinking and speaking is,

   (4.) That they are ignorant of the grounds of their religion; they do not examine the matter thoroughly, and if once they be infected by the spirit of the day, they are unwilling to examine; they even take it amiss if any zealous friend should attempt to undeceive them, and grasping at those miserable sophisms which are alleged in favor of their loose way of thinking, refuse to open their eyes to the truth, or even to look at the reasons which support it.

   Q. 33. What are those sophistical arguments by which they are so much deceived?

  A. We have seen them above, and fully confuted them one by one. But their great mistake arises from their erroneous ideas of invincible ignorance and the conditions required to be a member of the Church of Christ. For as they must either deny their own Faith, or allow this general proposition, that "without Faith it is impossible to please God," whilst they admit the truth of this, they pretend that, as invincible ignorance will excuse a man before God in all other cases; so it must excuse him in this also and therefore, that though a man have not the True Faith, "invincible ignorance will save him"-----not adverting to the two senses which these words contain, one of which is certainly true, and the other no less certainly false. Invincible ignorance will indeed save him from the guilt of having a false faith, and of not having the True Faith: this is certainly true. But to say that invincible ignorance will save him-----that is, will bring him to salvation-----is certainly false, as all we have seen above fully proves.

   Again, whilst they admit this other general proposition, that "out of the True Church of Christ there is no salvation," which they must acknowledge, or give up their own religion, they suppose that a man may be a member of the True Church in the sight of God though not joined with her in Communion, as all Baptized children are, though born in heresy, at least till they come to the age of judging for themselves. Their mistake lies in not reflecting that all adults in a false religion can be members of the Church in the sight of God in no other sense than those were of whom our Savior says, "Other sheep I have who are not of this fold." But as He expressly declared that it was necessary to bring even those to the Communion of His Church, this evidently shows that they and all such are not members of the Church in such a way that they can be saved in their present state without being joined in her Communion.

  Q. 34. But is it not laudable and praiseworthy to show all indulgence and condescension to those who are without and to behave towards them with all lenity and mildness?

   A. Most undoubtedly: it is not only laudable, but a strict duty, as far as truth can go. But to betray the truth with any such view must be grievous crime, and highly prejudicial to both parties. Experience, in fact, shows that the loose way of thinking and speaking, which some members of the True Church have of late adopted, is productive of the worst consequences, both to themselves and to those whom they desire to favor.

   (1.) Those who are separated from the Church of Christ well know that she constantly professes, as an article of her Creed, that without the True Faith, and out of her Communion, there is no salvation. When, therefore, they see the members of that Church talking doubtfully on this point, seeming to question the truth of the doctrine, and even alleging pretexts and excuses to explain it away, what can they think? What effect must this have upon their minds? Must it not tend to extinguish any desire of inquiring after the truth which God may have given them, and to shut their hearts against any such good thought? Self-love never fails eagerly to lay hold of everything that favors its wishes; and if once they find this truth called in question, even by those who profess to believe it, they will consider it as a mere school dispute, and think no more about the matter.

   (2.) This way of thinking and speaking naturally tends to extinguish all zeal for the salvation of souls in the hearts of those who adopt it; for whilst they persuade themselves that there is a possibility of salvation for those who die in a false faith and out of the Church of Christ, self-love will easily incline them not to give themselves any trouble about their conversion; nay, it has sometimes even gone so far as to make some think it more advisable not to endeavor to undeceive them, lest it should change their present excusable ignorance, as they call it, into a culpable obstinacy, not reflecting that, by their pious and zealous endeavors, they may be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and save their souls, whereas, through their uncharitable neglect, they may be deprived of so great a happiness. Woe to the world, indeed, if the first preachers of Christianity had been of such unchristian sentiments!

   (3.) It is no less prejudicial to the members of the Church themselves to embrace such ways of thinking; for it cannot fail to cool their zeal and esteem for religion, to make them, more careless of preserving their Faith, ready for worldly motives to expose it to danger, and in time of temptation to forsake it entirely. In fact, if a man be thoroughly persuaded of the truth of his holy religion, and of the necessity of being a member of the Church of Christ, how is it possible he should ever expose himself to any occasion of losing so great a treasure, or for any worldly fear or favor to abandon it? Since experience shows then that many, for some trifling worldly advantage, do expose themselves to such danger, by going to places where they cannot practice their religion, but find every  inducement to leave it, or, by engaging in employments inconsistent with their duty, expose their children to the same dangerous occasions, this can arise only from want of a just idea of the importance of their religion; and, upon a strict examination, it is always found that some degree or other of the above latitudinarian sentiments is the radical cause.

   (4.) Besides, if a person once begin to hesitate about the importance of his religion, what esteem or regard can he have for the laws, rules, or practices of it? Self-love, always attentive to its own satisfaction will soon tell him that, if it be not absolutely necessary to be of that religion, much less necessary must it be to submit to all its regulations; hence liberties are taken in practice, the commands of the Church are despised, the exercises of devotion neglected, and a shadow of religion introduced under the show of liberal sentiments, to the destruction of all solid virtue and piety.

   Q. 35. What shall we say of those members of the Church of Christ who actually abandon their religion, and renounce their Faith?

   A. As God Himself has given a full and distinct answer to this question in three different places of His Holy Scriptures, it would be presumption to answer it in any other words than His Own.

   First, He says, by the mouth of His holy Apostle St. Paul, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, have, moreover, tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and are fallen away, to be renewed again into penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making a mockery of Him. For the earth that drinketh in the rain that cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God: but that which bringeth forth thorns and briers is rejected, and very near to a curse, whose end is to be burnt." [Heb. 6: 4] On which passage the late learned and pious publisher of the Rheims New Testament says, in the note, "that it is impossible for such as have fallen after Baptism to be again Baptized; and very hard for such as have apostatized from the Faith, after having received many graces, to return again to the happy state from which they fell."

   Again, "If we sin willfully," says the same holy Apostle, "after having received the knowledge of the truth, there is left no sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries," [Heb. 10: 26]: on which the same learned author says,-----"He speaks of the sin of willful apostasy from the known truth; after which, as we cannot be Baptized again, we cannot expect to have that abundant remission of sins, which Christ purchased by His death, applied to our souls in that ample manner as it is in Baptism; but we have rather all manner of reason to look for a dreadful judgment; the more because apostates from the known truth seldom or never have the grace to return to it."

   Lastly, By the mouth of the holy Apostle St. Peter, God thus declares the state of such people: "For, if fleeing from the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they be again entangled in them, and overcome, their latter state is become to them worse than the former. For it had been better for them never to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back from that Holy Commandment which was delivered to them. For that of the true proverb hath happened to them. The dog is returned to his own vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire." [2 Pet. 2: 20]

    Q. 36. You said above that it is only of late that this loose way of thinking necessity of true faith, and of being in Communion which the Church of Christ, which we have been examining, has appeared among the members of the Church: was not the same language held by Christians in all former ages?

   A. Far from it; and this is one of the greatest grounds of its condemnation. It is a novelty, it is a new doctrine; it was unheard of from the beginning; nay, it is directly opposite to the uniform doctrine of all the great lights of the Church in all former ages. These great and holy men, the most unexceptionable witnesses of the Christian Faith in their days, knew no other language on this subject but what they saw spoken before them by Christ and His Apostles; they knew their Divine Master had declared, "He that believeth not shall be condemned;" they heard His Apostle proclaiming a dreadful anathema against any one, though an Angel from Heaven, who should dare to alter the gospel he had preached, [Gal. 1: 8]; they heard him affirming in express terms, that "without Faith it is impossible to please God"; and they constantly held the same language. And as they saw not the smallest ground in Scripture for thinking that those who were out of the Church could be saved by invincible ignorance, that deceptive evasion is not so much as once to be met with in all their writings.

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