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established to natural reason by means of miracles. A miracle is a supernatural effect produced in or on natural objects, and therefore connects the natural and supernatural, so that natural reason can pass from the one to the other. Since the miracle is wrought on natural objects, it is cognizable by natural reason, and natural reason is able to determine whether a given fact be or be not a miracle. From the miracle the reason concludes legitimately to the supernatural cause, and to the Divine commission or authority of him by whom it is wrought. Having established the Divine comission or authority of the miracleworker, we have established his credibility, by having established the fact that God himself vouches for the truth of his testimony. The miracle, therefore, supersedes the necessity of the supposed infinite series of supernatural witnesses, by connecting the natural immediately with the supernatural. It is God's own assurance to natural reason, that he speaks in and by or through the person by whom it is performed. Then we have the veracity of God for the truth of what the miracle-worker declares, and therefore infallible certainty ; for God can neither deceive nor be deceived.
The supernatural, it follows from what we have said, is provable. Consequently the character of the Apostolic ministry, as the supernatural witness to the fact of revelation, is provable, that is, is not intrinsically unprovable. It becomes a simple question of fact, and is to be proved or disproved in like manner as any other question of fact falling under the cognizance of natural reason. The process of proof is simple and easy. The miracles of our blessed Saviour were all that was necessary to establish his Divine authority to those who saw them ; for it was evident, as Nicodemus said to him, “No man can do these miracles which thou doest, unless God be with him." St. John jii. 2. These accredited him as a teacher from God. Then he was necessarily what he professed to be, and what he declared to be God's word was God's word. This, the Examiner will admit, was sufficient for the eyewitness of the miracles.
But we are not eyewitnesses. True; but the fact, whether the miracles were performed or not, is a simple historical question, to which reason is as competent as to any other historical question. If it can be established infallibly to us that the miracles were actually performed, we are virtually and to all intents and purposes in the condition of the eyewitnesses themselves, and they are to us all they were to them. Then they accredit to us, as to them, the Divine commission of Jesus, and au
thorize the conclusion that whatever he said or promised was infallible truth ; for whether you say Jesus was himself truly God as well as truly man, or that he was only divinely commissioned, you have in either case the veracity of God as the ground of faith in what he said or promised.
Now, suppose it be a fact that Jesus appointed a body of teachers, and promised to be always with them, protecting them from error and teaching them all truth ; and suppose, farther, that the appointment and promise are ascertainable by natural reason, infallibly ascertainable. We should have infallible certainty that Jesus Christ does speak in and through this body, that it is infallible in what it teaches, and therefore that what it declares to be the word of God is the word of God; for it is infallibly certain that Jesus Christ will keep his promise, since the promise is made by God himself, either directly, as we hold, or through his accredited agent, as the Examiner holds, and it is impossible for God to lie, or to promise and not ful6l. In this case, calling this body of teachers the Catholic Church, we could make our act of faith without the least room for doubt or hesitation. “O my God! I firmly believe all the sacred truths the Catholic Church believes and teaches, because thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived."
Assuming the facts in the case to be as here supposed, the only points in this process to which exceptions can possibly be taken, or which can by any one be alleged to be not infallibly certain, are, 1. The competency of natural reason from historical testimony to establish the fact that the miracles were actually performed ; 2. Admitting the facts to be infallibly ascertainable, the competency of reason to determine infallibly whether they are miracles or not ; 3. The competency of reason from the miracle to conclude to the Divine authority of the miracle-worker ; 4. Its competency from historical documents to ascertain infallibly the fact of the appointment of the body of teachers, and the promise made them.
These four points, unquestionably essential to the validity of the argument, are to be taken, we admit, on the authority of reason.
Can reason determine these with infallible certainty? But, if you say it can,
, you affirm the infallibility of reason, and then it of itself suffices, without other infallible teacher ; if you say it cannot, you deny the possibility of establishing infallibly the infallibility of your body of teachers.
We reply by distinguishing. Reason is infallible within its
own province, we grant; but in regard to what transcends its reach we deny. To deny the infallibility of reason within its province would be to deny the possibility not only of faith, but of both science and knowledge, and to sink into absolute skepticism,- even to "doubt that doubt itself be doubting,”— which is impossible ; for no man doubts that he doubts. Revelation does not deny reason, but presupposes it, and supplies its defect by faith. The objection to reason is not that it cannot judge infallibly of some matters, but that it cannot judge infallibly of all matters. But, because it cannot judge infallibly of all matters, to say it can judge infallibly of none is not to reason justly. As well say, I am not infallibly certain that I see the tree before my window, because I cannot see all that may be going on in the moon. It is infallibly certain that the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time ; that two things respectively equal to a third are equal to one another ; that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles ; that what begins to exist must have a creator ; that every effect must have a cause, and that every supernatural effect must have a supernatural cause, and that the change of one natural substance into another natural substance is a supernatural effect; that every voluntary agent acts to some end, and every wise and good agent to a wise and good end. These and the like propositions are all infallibly certain. Reason, within its sphere, is therefore infallible; but out of its sphere it is null.
Human testimony, within its proper limits, backed by circumstances, monuments, institutions which presuppose its truth
, and are incompatible with its falsehood, is itself infallible. I have never seen London, but I have no occasion to see it in order to be as certain of its existence as I am of my own. History, too, is a science; and although every thing narrated in it may not be true or even probable, yet there are historical facts as certain as mathematical certainty itself. It is infallibly certain that there were in the ancient world the republics of Athens, Sparta, and Rome; that there was a peculiar people called the Jews, that this people dwelt in Palestine, that they had a chief city named Jerusalem, in this chief city a superb temple dedicated to the worship of the one God, and that this chief city was taken by the Romans, this temple burnt, and this people, after an immense slaughter, were subdued, and dispersed among the nations, where they remain to this day. Here are, historical facts, which can be infallibly proved to be facts. Now, the miracles, regarded as facts, are simple historical
VOL. II. NO. II.
facts, said to have occurred at a particular time and place, and are in their nature as susceptible of historical proof as any other facts whatever. Ordinary historical testimony is as valid in their case as in the case of Cæsar's or Napoleon's battles. Reason, observing the ordinary laws of historical criticism, is competent to decide infallibly on the fact whether they are proved to have actually occurred or not. Reason, then, is competent to the first point in the process of proof, namely, the fact of the miracles.
It is equally competent to the second point, namely, whether the fact alleged to be a miracle really be a miracle. A miracle is a supernatural effect produced in or on natural objects. The point for reason to make out, after the fact is proved, is whether the effect actually witnessed be a supernatural effect. That it can do this in every case, even when the effect is truly miraculous, we do not pretend ; but that it can do it in some cases, we affirm, and to be able to do it in one suffices. When I see one natural substance changed into another natural substance, as in the case of converting water into wine, I know the change is a miracle ; for nature can no more change herself than she could create herself. So, when I see a man who has been four days dead, and in whose body the process of decomposition has commenced and made considerable progress, restored to life and health, sitting with his friends at table and eating, I know it is a miracle ; for to restore life when extinct is no less an act of creative power than to give life. It is giving life to that which before had it not, and is therefore an act which can be performed by no being but God alone. Reason, then, is competent to determine the fact whether the alleged miracle really be a miracle. It is competent, then, to the second point in the process of proof.
No less competent is it to the third, namely, the Divine commission of the miracle-worker. In proving the event to be a miracle, I prove it to be wrought by the power of God. Now, I know enough of God, by the natural light of reason, to know that he cannot be the accomplice of an impostor, that he cannot work a miracle by one whose word may not be taken. The miracle, then, establishes the credibility of the miracleworker. Then the miracle-worker is what he says he is. If he says he is God, he is God; if he says he speaks by Divine authority, he speaks by Divine authority, and we have God's authority for what he says. The third point, then, comes within the province of natural reason, and may be infallibly settled.
The fourth point is a simple historical question ; for it con
; cerns what was done and said by our blessed Saviour in regard to the appointment of a body of teachers. It is to be settled historically, by consulting the proper documents and monuments in the case. It is not a question of speculation, of interpretation even, but simply a question of fact, to which reason is fully competent, and can, with proper prudence and documents, settle infallibly.
These remarks accepted, it follows that the infallible certainty we demand is possible, that is, is not a priori impossible. In passing from the possible to the actual, it is necessary to establish, by historical testimony, the miracles of our blessed Saviour, from which we conclude to his Divinity or Divine commission, and that he did appoint a body of teachers, commission the Ecclesia docens, with the promise of infallibility and indefectibility. The first the Examiner will concede us; we proceed, therefore, to the proof of the second.
The question before us, distinctly stated, is, Has Jesus Christ commissioned for his Church, that is, for the congregation of the faithful, a body of pastors and teachers, and given this body the promise of infallibility and indefectibility? If not, faith, as we have seen, is impossible, and no man can have a solid reason for the Christian hope he professes to entertain. It is, then, worth inquiring, whether we have not sufficient proof of the fact that he has commissioned such a body.
In settling this question, we shall use the New Testament, but simply as a historical document. We do this because it abridges our labor, and because the New Testament, so far as we shall have occasion to adduce it, is admitted as good authority by those against whom we are reasoning. It is their own witness, and its testimony must be conclusive against them. Moreover, its general authenticity, as a contemporary historical document, would warrant its use, even if not adduced by our adversaries.
It must not be objected to us, that, after what we have said of the necessity of an infallible authority to authenticate the canon, to quote the Bible to establish the commission in question will be to reason in a vicious circle. This is the standing Protestant objection. We do not admit it. For, 1. We do not depend on the Bible for the historical facts from which we conclude to the commission of the Ecclesia docens, or body of pastors and teachers ; for these facts we can collect from other