|Paraphrased Text (in 1st person of the author)
|At the time that I began to write this essay, my intention wasn't to prove that the Catholic Religion is divinely inspired. Yes, the argument contained in these pages does ultimately provide support for that conclusion, but my original intention was something different. Rather, I had intended to provide an explanation for certain difficulties found in the historical development of the Catholic Religion which I myself have found somewhat troublesome at times, difficulties which Protestants generally raise in controversy against the Catholic Church to cast doubt on the apparent goodness and truth of Her claims.
|THE following pages were not in the first instance written to prove the divinity of the Catholic Religion, though ultimately they furnish a positive argument in its behalf, but to explain certain difficulties in its history, felt before now by the author himself, and commonly insisted on by Protestants in controversy, as serving to blunt the force of its primâ facie and general claims on our recognition.
|'Yes,' some will admit, 'the Catholic Religion does appear somehow beautiful and promising in theory. However,' they will go on to say, 'the historical record shows such great inconsistencies in the Catholic Teaching down through the ages that any such claims in favor of it are thereby refuted.' These inconsistencies in the Catholic Teaching were deemed to be as sharp as the contradictions between the High, Low, and Broad branches of the Church of England in my day. [One might compare, in a 21st-century American political context, how often it seems impossible to reconcile the governing agendas of Republicans and Democrats.]
|However beautiful and promising that Religion is in theory, its history, we are told, is its best refutation; the inconsistencies, found age after age in its teaching, being as patent as the simultaneous contrarieties of religious opinion manifest in the High, Low, and Broad branches of the Church of England.
|While conceding the fact that there are large variations in the Catholic Church's teaching throughout its history, I have argued in this essay that these variations do not undermine the merit of the Catholic Doctrine as objectors contend. Rather, as you will see in greater detail further along, these variations have arisen naturally and properly as the Church comes to terms with reality through the lens of Her Doctrine. This process, here called development, takes place according to a law--that is, a governing logic--and produces results of deeper doctrinal understanding which fit together in a glorious, harmonious way. As succeeding developments lead on to further developments, a definite direction for this process comes into view, calling to mind the pattern of development illustrated by the succeeding revelations contained in Sacred Scripture. The harmony and clear direction of developments in Catholic doctrine, the fitness of the analogy of Biblical revelation, as well as the historical and philosophical circumstances in which such developments emerge, thus give evidence of Providence at work in the course of the Church's theological reflection, rather than sustaining the objection to the contrary.
|In reply to this specious objection, it is maintained in this Essay that, granting that some large variations of teaching in its long course of 1800 years exist, nevertheless, these, on examination, will be found to arise from the nature of the case, and to proceed on a law, and with a harmony and a definite drift, and with an analogy to Scripture revelations, which, instead of telling to their disadvantage, actually constitute an argument in their favour, as witnessing to a Superintending Providence and a great Design in the mode and in the circumstances of their occurrence.
|Perhaps his confidence in the truth and availableness of this view has sometimes led the author to be careless and over-liberal in his concessions to Protestants of historical fact.
|If this be so anywhere, he begs the reader in such cases to understand him as speaking hypothetically, and in the sense of an argumentum ad hominem and à fortiari. Nor is such hypothetical reasoning out of place in a publication which is addressed, not to theologians, but to those who as yet are not even Catholics, and who, as they read history, would scoff at any defence of Catholic doctrine which did not go the length of covering admissions in matters of fact as broad as those which are here ventured on.
|In this new Edition of the Essay various important alterations have been made in the arrangement of its separate parts, and some, not indeed in its matter, but in its text.