NOW let me attempt to apply the foregoing seven Notes of fidelity in intellectual developments to the instance of Christian Doctrine. And first as to the Note of identity of type.
I have said above, that, whereas all great ideas are found, as time goes on, to involve much which was not seen at first to belong to them, and have developments, that is enlargements, applications, uses and fortunes, very various, one security against error and perversion in the process is the maintenance of the original type, which the idea presented to the world at its origin, amid and through all its apparent changes and vicissitudes from first to last.
How does this apply to Christianity? What is its original type? and has that type been preserved in the developments commonly called Catholic, which have followed, and in the Church which embodies and teaches them? Let us take it as the world now views it in its age; and let us take it as the world once viewed it in its youth; and let us see whether there be any great difference between the early and the later description of it. The following statement will show my meaning:
There is a religious communion claiming a divine commission, and holding all other religious bodies around it heretical or infidel; it is a well-organized, well-disciplined body; it is a sort of secret society, binding together its members by influences and by engagements which it is difficult for strangers to ascertain. It is spread over the known world; it may be weak or insignificant locally, but it is strong on the whole from its continuity; it may be smaller than all other religious bodies together, but is larger than each separately. It is a natural enemy to governments external to itself; it is intolerant and engrossing, and tends to a new modelling of society; it breaks laws, it divides families. It is a gross superstition; it is charged with the foulest crimes; it is despised by the intellect of the day; it is frightful to the imagination of the many. And there is but one communion such.
Place this description before Pliny or Julian; place it before Frederick the Second or Guizot ... Each knows at once, without asking a question, who is meant by it. One object, and only one, absorbs each item of the detail of the delineation.