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A. These are certainly in a very different state from the Turks, Jews, and Heathens, provided they have true baptism among them ; for if they either have no baptism at all, or have altered the way of giving it from what Christ ordained, then they are in no better state as to their possibility of salvation, than the Turks, Jews, or Heathens themselves, however much they may boast of the name of Christians. But if they have true baptism among them, then they are, by baptism, made true members of the Church of Christ, and as many of them as die young, in their baptismal innocence, will undoubtedly be saved. But as for those among them who come to the years of discretion, and being educated in a false faith, live and die in a state of separation from the communion of the Church of Christ, to give a clear and distinct answer to the question, with regard to them, we also must distinguish two different cases; the first is of those who either live ainong Catholics, or have Catholics living in the same country among them, who know there are such people, and often hear about them; the second regards those who have no such acquaintance of Catholics, who have no opportunity of such acquaintance, and who seldom or ever hear about them, except in a false and odious light.
Q. 10. What is to be said of those who live among Catholics, if they be in invincible ignorance, and die in their state of separation, can they be saved ?
A. It is next to impossible for anyone in this class to be in invincible ignorance; for to be in invincible ignorance, three things are necessarily required: first, that “a person have a real and sincere desire of knowing the truth ;" for if he be cold and indifferent about an affair of so great concern as that of his eternal salvation; if he be careless whether he be in a right way or not.; if being enslaved to this
present life, be takes no concern about the next, it is manifest, that an ignorance arising from this disposition is a voluntary ignorance, and, therefore, highly culpable in the sight of God. It will be still worse, if a person be positively unwilling to seek after the truth, from the fear of worldly inconveniences, and, therefore, industriously avoid every opportunity he may have of knowing it; of such as these the Scripture says, “tbey spend their days in wealth, and in a moment they go down to hell ; who have said to God, depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways, Job, xxi. 13. Secondly, for one to be in invincible ignorance, it is required, that he be sincerely resolved to embrace the truth wherever he may find it, and whatever it may cost him. For if he be not fully resolved to follow the will of God, wherever it shall appear to him, in all things necessary to salvation ; if, on the contrary, he be so disposed, that he would rather neglect his duty, and hazard his soul, than correct an ill custom, or disoblige his friends, or expose himself to some temporal loss or disadvantage, such a disposition must be highly displeasing to God, and an ignorance aris ing from it can never excuse him before his Creater; of this our Saviour says, “ he that loveth father or mother, or son, or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me,” Matth. x, 37. The third thing necessary for a person to be in invincible ignorance, is, that he sincerely use his best endeavours to know his duty, and particularly, that he recommend the matter earnestly to Almighty God, and pray for light and direction from him. For, what. ever desire he may pretend to have of knowing the truth, if he do not use the proper means for finding it, it is manifest that his ignorance is not invincible, but voluntary ; for ignorance is only then invincible,
when a person has a sincere desire to know the truth, with a full resolution to embrace it, but either has no possible means for knowing it, or after using his best endeavours to know it, yet cannot find it. And, therefore, if a person is deficient in using his endeavours to know his duty, his ignorance is not invincible, it is by his own fault that he does not see it; and, if inattention, indifferency, unconcernedness, worldly motives, or unjust prejudices, influence his judgment, and suffer it to yield to the bias of a perverso education, he has neither invincible ignorance nor the fear of God. Now, it is inconsistent with the goodness and promises of God, that a person, brought up in a false religion, but who is disposed as these three conditions require, and uses his best endeavours to know the truth, shonld be left in an invincible ignorance of it; and if, from his attachment to the world, and to sensual or other selfish objects, he be not so disposed, and neglect to use the proper means for coming at the truth, then his ignorance is voluntary and culpable, and, therefore, not invincible.
Q. 11. But what, if the doubt never rises in his mind about the matter, and he goes on, bona fide, in the way he was brought up in ?
A. It is a great means to suppose that a formal doubt, concerning any branch of duty, is necessary to make one's ignorance of his duty voluntary and culpable; it is enough to make his ignorance blameable, that there be sufficient reasons for doubting, though from his unjust prejudices, from folly, precipitation, and rashness, from obstinacy and pride, or other such depravations of the heart, he hinders these reasons from exciting a formal doubt in the mind. Saul had no doubt, of his doing well when he offered sacrifice before the prophet Samuel came; on the contrary, he was persuaded he had VOL. II.
the strongest reasons for doing so, and yet he was condemned for that very action, and himself and family rejected by Almighty God. The Jews had no doubt but that they were acting well when they put our Saviour to death; nay, their high priest declared in full council, that it was expedient for the good and safety of the nation that they should do so. They were grossly mistaken, indeed, and sadly ignorant of their duty; but their ignorance was most blameable, and they were severely condemned for what they did, though they did it out of ignorance. And, indeed, all those who act out of a false and erroneous conscience, are highly blameable for having such a conscience, though they never had any formal doubt about it. Nay, their not baving such a doubt, when they have just and solid grounds for doubting, rather makes them, in some degree, the more guilty, because it shews the greater corruption of heart, and their depraved dispositions. Now, a person brought up in a false faith, which the. Scripture calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies and hypocrisy; and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemins all these sects, and sees the divisions and dissensions which they constantly bave among themselves, has always before his eyes the most cogent reasons to doubt of the way he is in ; and if any due attention and examination be made with sincere dispositions of his heart, it must convince him that he is in the wrong, and the more he examines, the more he will see it; for this plain reason, that it is simply impossible, that false doctrine, lies, and hypocrisy, should ever be supported by any solid arguments sufficient to satisfy any reasonable person, who sincerely seeks the truth, and begs light from God to direct him in the search of it. Hence, if such a person never doubts, but goes on, as is supposed, bona fide, in his own way,
notwithstanding the strong grounds of doubt which he has daily before his eyes; this evidently shews either a most supine negligence in the concerns of his soul, or that his heart is totally blinded by passion and prejudice. There were many such people among the Jews and Heathens in the time of the apostles, who, notwithstanding the splendid light of the truth which these holy preachers every where displayed, and which was the most powerful reason that can be conceived for making them doubt of their own superstitions, yet were so far from having such doubts, that they thought, by killing the apostles, they did God a service. Whence did this arise ? St. Paul himself shall inform us: “ We renounce,” says he, “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 concience in the sight of God.” Hence he describes the glaring light of the truth which he preached, yet this light was hid to great numbers, and he immediately gives the reason: “And if our gospel be also hid,” says he, “it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine upon them,” 2 Cor. iv. 2. Behold, the real cause of their incredulity; they are so much enslaved to the things of this world by the depravity of their own heart, that the devil, by this means, blinds them, that they should not see the light; but an ignorance which arises from such depraved dispositions is a guilty ignorance, a voluntary ignorance, and, therefore, can never excuse them..
Q: 12. Are not those, also, who are members of the Church of Christ, obliged, when they come to an age capable of it, to examine whether they