Bishop George Hay, Bishop of Edinburgh, Scotland (d. 1811), in his excellent Catechism, The Sincere Christian, devotes a good portion of Volume II of the work to the question of Salvation out of the Church. He says that it is impossible to be saved outside the Church, because the Church is the rule or measure of faith, without which faith it is impossible to attain heaven. Natural good will is not enough to be saved.
Anyone who dies with natural good will alone cannot be saved. However, if God gives the grace to embrace the true faith, and one accepts —that is baptism of desire —he is truly a member of the Church, and can therefore be saved inside the Church. In Volume I he explicitly affirms that baptism of desire saves souls who cannot receive baptism of water. Let us conclude this article with the teaching of this great Bishop:
"In like manner, suppose a person living in a false religion dies without giving any sign of embracing the true faith, or without being reconciled to the Church of Christ, we can never say of such an one with certainty that he is lost; all that we can say must be under the same condition as in the other case: if he has actually died as he lived, separated from the true Church of Christ and without the true faith of Christ, he cannot be saved. But if God, of His great mercy, has given him in his last moments light and grace to see and embrace the true faith, and he has corresponded with so great a favor as God requires, he will be saved...."
"Q. 28. But, in the case proposed, if a person in his last moments shall receive the light of faith from God, and embrace it with all his heart, would this suffice to make him a member of the true Church in the sight of God?
"A. Most undoubtedly; the case is the same in this as in that of baptism. Though Jesus Christ expressly says, ‘Except a man be born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (Jn. 3:5), which establishes the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation; yet, suppose a heathen should be instructed in the faith of Christ, and embrace it with all his heart, but die suddenly without baptism ... in the above dispositions with sincere repentance and a desire for baptism, this person will undoubtedly receive all the fruits of baptism from God, and therefore is said to be baptized in desire. In like manner, suppose a person brought up in a false religion embraces the true faith, which God gives him in his last moments —as it is absolutely impossible for him in that state to join the external communion of the Church in the eyes of men, yet he certainly will be considered united to her in the sight of God, by means of the true faith which he embraces, and his desire of being united to the Church, were it in his power." (Sincere Christian, Vol. 2, pp.322-323.).
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One religious opined to me that this is "theological speculation, neither heretical nor dogmatic." It's just funny that I've never heard anyone in the BOD camp make this distinction.
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