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The Banquet of Theodulus

4.--The Banquet of Theodulus, or Reunion of the Different Christian Communions.  By the late Baron De Starck, Protestant Minister, and First Preacher to the Court of Hesse-Darmstadt.  Baltimore: Murphy & Co. 1850.  18mo.  pp. 204.

As we do not happen to know any thing of "the late Baron de Starck," we wish the American editor of this volume had condescended to give us some information concerning him, and not have taken it for granted that every body knew all about him.  We are told in the title-page that he was a "Protestant minister," but we should like to be informed whether he was a Protestant minister when he wrote this book, and whether he died in or out of the communion of the Church.  This, we presume, the editor could have told us, but this we have no means of knowing.  Editors of Catholic works, in this country, are a little too apt to forget that we young Catholics are not masters of universal literary history.

The book as a literary production possesses great merits, and contains a great amount of useful information compressed within a small compass.  The author shows the decadence of Protestantism, and urges the reunion of all Protestant communions with the Catholic Church, on the only practicable condition, that is, of their going to her, and not requiring her to come to them.  In general the Catholic interlocutor, Odilon, formerly Abbot of St. Apollinaris, is made to talk like a good Catholic, with a very competent knowledge of his religion, and of the history and tendencies of Protestantism; but we are sorry to see that sometimes his mildness gets the better of his orthodoxy, logic, and straightforwardness.  His Lutheran and Calvinistic friends are greatly scandalized at the doctrine of exclusive salvation, at the dogma, "No salvation out of the Church," and he, poor man, tries to maintain that it is not a dogma of the Church, while he concedes that it is.  No Protestant ever labored harder, or with greater sophistry, to prove that of contraries both are true, and he finds himself finally forced to give up his Church as the only religion by which a man can be saved, and to content himself with maintaining that it is in various respects the best religion.  If the author was at the time of writing a Protestant minister, all this might pass; but if he was a Catholic, he deserves no slight censure either for his ignorance or his heterodoxy.  If there is any thing we detest, it is the attempt on the part of Catholics to modify Catholic dogmas to suit the prejudices of their hearers or readers.  Catholicity can bear being stated truly; if not, let us away with it at once, and have nothing more to say about it.

We know that the dogma, No salvation out of the Church, is offensive to all who refuse submission to the Church, but then we know, and so does every Catholic, that it is a Catholic dogma, and to deny it or attempt to explain it away is neither just to them, nor allowable in us.  The Church does not propose herself as the best religion among a number of good religions, but as the only true religion, as the only religion whereby men can be saved.  It is for this reason we urge upon all to become Catholics; it is this which fires our zeal for conversion, and makes us willing to suffer any torture, if we can but win one soul to Christ.  If there is harshness or severity in the doctrine, it is not our fault, for we do not make the doctrine; but we confess we canot understand by what right any man can call the doctrine of God harsh or severe.

One thing we know; God is just, and will condemn no one unjustly, or punish any one beyong his deserts.  We therefore know that, if he saves none out of his Church, none out of his Church do or can merit salvation.  But nobody need be so silly as to supose that, in declaring with the Church the doctrine of exclusive salvation, we judge individuals.  We judge nobody.  it is you that object to us who judge, not we.  You say, you will not embrace a religion which teaches that your ancestors are damned.  Well, who asks you so to believe?  Who says your ancestors died out of the Church?  It is you, not we.  We only say, if they died out of the Church they are damned, and we know not what mighty merit you have that God should not damn your ancestors as well as others, if they died his mortal enemies.  But whether they did or did not so die, we pretend not to decide; we leave that to Him to whom all judgment belongs.  We do not know what passed between them and God at the last moment before the soul left the body.  We do not say that all who are heretics, schismatics, and infidels will be damned; we only say, if they live and die such they will go to hell, and therefore we entreat you to return or be converted to the Church, that you may be saved.  The chiefest of sinners may be saved, not as a sinner, not out of the Church, but by entering her communion, and doing what she commands.  You who hear us say this have no excuse.  You at least cannot plead invincilbe ignorance, for you at least have the opportunity of knowing the truth.  No man, of course, will be damned for not knowing that of which he is invincibly ignorant, which he has never had it in his power to know.  But how do you now that ny one lives and dies invincibly ignorant of the Holy Catholic Church?  You know you are not invincibly ignorant, and by what right do you say others are?  Remember Pelagianism is a heresy, and that God gives sufficient grace unto every man to know and do his will, and that if any do not know and do it, it is their own fault.  When he commands all to enter the communion of his Church, he makes it pssible for all to enter, if they choose.  Bring the question home, then, to yourselves, and do not attempt to be wiser than what is revealed, or presume to sit in judgment on Almighty God.  His Church is near you, and, though no one will be condemned who has the Christian life, remeber that out of her commuion you cannot have that life.