William Cobbett on The Protestant View Of Salvation

“When the Protestant religion came, and along with it a married priesthood, the poorer classes were plundered of their birthright and thrown out to prowl about for what they could beg or steal. Luther and his followers wholly rejected the doctrine that good works were necessary to salvation. They held that faith, and faith alone was necessary. They expunged from their Bible the Epistle of St. James, because it recommends and insists on the doctrine of good works, which epistle Luther called “an Epistle of straw”. The “Reformers” differed from each other as widely as the colours of the rainbow in most other things, but they all agreed in this, that good works were unnecessary to salvation, and that the “saints”, as they had the modesty to call themselves, could not forfeit their right to heaven by any sins, however numerous or enormous. By those amongst whom plunder, sacrilege, adultery, polygamy, incest, perjury, and murder were almost as habitual as sleeping and waking. by those who taught the way to everlasting bliss could not be obstructed by any of these, nor by all of them put together; – by such persons charity, besides that it was a so well-known Catholic commodity, would be, as a matter of course, set wholly at nought.

Accordingly we see that it is neccesarily excluded by the very nature of all Protestant establishments; that is to say in reality; for the name of charity is retained by some of these establishments, but the substance nowhere exists. The Catholic establishment interweaves deeds of constant and substantial charity with the faith itself. It makes the two inseperable. The Douay Catechism, which the Protestant parsons so much abuse, says “the first fruit of the holy ghost is charity”. And then it tells us what charity is, namely, “to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to visit and ransom captives, to harbour the harbourless, to visit the sick, to bury the dead.” Can you guess, my friends, why fat Protestant parsons rail so loudly against this wicked Douay Catechism? It is in the nature of man to love all this. This is what “the gates of hell will never prevail against”. This is what our forefathers believed and what they acted upon, and this it was that produced in them that benevolent disposition, which, thank God, has not yet been fully extirpated from the breasts of their descendents.”
Ibid Pg.270-271

It may be perhaps of some interest to recommend here the letters sent from Ireland by the philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville at this point. Tocqueville toured Ireland at around this time and the letters he wrote about the experience indicates that the Catholic church over there were intimately involved with communities addled by poverty and starvation. He talks with many of the priests and they all lament the difficulties of trying to survive under a state run by a Protestant minority. My own copy is currently mothballed in the attic somewhere but, as I think Cobbett will eventually get on to discuss (he’s been hinting that it is coming up), the Catholic church in Irleand at this time was acting fully in accordance with what one might expect from such sources. Little wonder Cobbett has such a high opinion of it.


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