« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ity are all addressed to reason, and reason judges supremely whether the witness for God be worthy of credit or not. .
All we ask is, that reason be confined to its legitimate province, and that men do not attempt to do by reason what they cannot do
The error of philosophers is not in their using reason, but in using it unreasonably, — in fancying that by its aid alone they can discover the true end of man, and determine the rules according to which he should conduct his life ; or, in other words, in imagining that philosophy may supersede revelation by taking cognizance of the same matters. Our modern philosophers, on the one hand, magnify beyond all reason the power of reason, and imagine they obtain results from it which they obtain only, directly or indirectly, from supernatural revelation; or, on the other hand, professing to accept supernatural revelation, unduly depress, under pretence of explaining it, and reduce the mysteries of faith to mere propositions of philosophy. This last is the error of the Eclectic school. It professes to accept all the mysteries of faith, but that, in accepting, it explains them; and at first sight it seems to do what it professes. It is this which deceives us.
We read its productions. We find all the consecrated terms of faith, in name at least, all the dogmas the most rigid orthodoxy can insist upon our believing, and we do not readily see what is wanting. All is explained ; all seems perfectly clear and easy ; we are enraptured, and exclaim, All hail, glorious and triumphant philosophy! But as soon as we begin to look a little deeper, to penetrate a little below the surface, we discover, that, if we have the orthodox terms, we have by no means the orthodox
The proposition, we took to be the dogma of faith, turns out to be merely a proposition of philosophy, and the explanation of the mystery to be simply its rejection. The Christianity we seemed to have grasped with a firm hold, and which we felt so able to demonstrate, proves to be merely a cold speculation and a chilling infidelity. The Eclectic school falls into a fatal error, - that of assuming
, that religion and philosophy do not differ as to their matter, but only as to their form. Faith is the truth, but the truth enveloped ; philosophy is the same truth, but developed. This is M. Cousin's doctrine ; it was also M. Jouffroy's. But as the truth developed and possessed in the clear light of philosophy is much superior to truth enveloped in the mystic folds of faith, so philosophy is superior to religion. Yet, as all cannot rise to this clear vision, or obtain the transcendent lucidity of the
Eclectic philosophy, so philosophy, with a generous condescension, a noble pity for human weakness, deigns to take religion under its protection, and to extend the hand to the ignorant masses who are still enveloped in its folds ! Thus, M. Jouffroy contends that Christianity must needs recoil before the advance of philosophy, and finally disappear, when all the world become philosophers. No doubt, faith loses itself where vision begins, but the error is in assuming that faith embraces no matters which transcend the reach of philosophy. The matter of faith and philosophy is not one and the same. The matter of philosophy, is what is intrinsically evident to natural reason; the matter of faith is that portion of universal truth which God has been pleased to reveal, which is intrinsically inevident to reason. Fides est credere quod non vides, says St. Augustine : Faith is, to believe that which you see not ;
or, as says the blessed Apostle Paul, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things which appear not, - Argumentum non apparentium.” (Heb. xi. 1.) The matter of faith, then, is not the matter of philosophy, but transcends it, and is that before which philosophy must bow down and worship.
M. Cousin is right in representing faith as obscure, but wrong in predicating this obscurity of the form under which its matter is apprehended. He is wholly mistaken, when he makes faith the enthusiastic perception of truth, clothing itself in the picturesque forms of poetry, and expressing itself only in the hymn and the chant. It is not faith, but devotion consequent upon faith, that demands sacred hymns and chants. The dogmas of faith, as laid down in the Credo, are expressed in forms as clear, as precise, as exact, as sober, as philosophy herself can aspire to. The dogmas of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, of Transubstantiation, as formal propositions to be believed, are as simple and as intelligible as the proposition, two and two make four. They are, no doubt, great and impenetrable mysteries ; but the mystery is not in the form, but in the matter, - not in the expression, but in the thought. This single fact overthrows the whole Eclectic theory concerning divine revelation and the difference between religion and philosophy.
The Eclectic school, the modern German schools, and even our liberal Christians, as they call themselves, really reject all supernatural revelation, in believing themselves able to explain its mysteries. To explain, in the sense these understand it, is to make intrinsically evident to natural reason. They wish to explain the mysteries, that is, to find in them some intrinsic evidence of their truth, so that they may believe them VOL. II. NO. I.
without being obliged to take them on the authority of Him who reveals them. But nothing can be made intrinsically evident to reason, whose intrinsic truth transcends reason, or, what is the same thing, is not naturally knowable by reason. The contents of supernatural revelation are matters whose intrinsic truth transcends natural reason. For if not, they would not need to be supernaturally revealed, and we should have with supernatural revelation no more than we might have without it. Consequently, the contents of supernatural revelation, or the matter revealed, are necessarily inexplicable to natural reason, and therefore the attempt to explain its mysteries is only to attempt to prove that they are not matters supernaturally revealed.
A supernatural revelation must necessarily contain mysteries. A mystery is something whose intrinsic truth is inevident to natural reason, and therefore inexplicable to natural reason. A pretended revelation, containing no mysteries, would be proved at once not to be supernatural, because it would be all explicable to natural reason. It might be true, we grant; but its truth would be truth pertaining to the natural order, not to the super- . natural order. The simple question is, Has God made us a revelation of truths of the supernatural order? If not, we are left to the light of nature, and it is idle to talk of divine revelation. If he has, then these truths must needs be mysteries, intrinsically inevident, though extrinsically evident ; 'that is, evident, not because we apprehend their internal reasonableness and truth, but because the authority of God revealing them is ample warrant of their truth. We do not, in saying that they are intrinsically inevident, say that it is unreasonable to believe them. Far from it. Nothing is more reasonable than to believe on the veracity of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived; nothing, in fact, would be more unreasonable than not to believe God on his word. Our philosophers and liberal Christians, then, instead of seeking to explain the mysteries, should ask rather if God has revealed them, or if we have sufficient grounds for believing that he has revealed them. We cannot conclude from the internal reasonableness of the doctrine to the fact of revelation, but we must conclude from the fact of revelation to the internal reasonableness.
The pretended explanation of a real mystery is never its explanation, but always its rejection. This is evident from the language of our liberal Christians themselves. They are great in explaining the mysteries. After philosophizing awhile on a mystery, they seize, as they imagine, its real significance,
and exclaim, “See, all the world has been wondering away about this for eighteen centuries. And yet it means only this.” But what have they in reality done? Why, they have merely pared the mystery down, fitted it to the narrow apertures of their own minds, and called this explaining it, comprehending it! It becomes under their process a mighty little affair, and they have reason to wonder that the world should have made so much ado about it. So they go through with all the mysteries of faith, one after another, and having eliminated all that is mysterious in them, that is, all that rises above the natural order, they call what remains liberal Christianity, rational religion, adapted to the wants of this enlightened age, — just what it demands to recall it to faith, and to save it from the terrible scourge of infidelity!
All this comes from assuming that the matter of faith and philosophy is one and the same, and that faith and philosophy differ only as to their form. The matter of both is assumed to belong to the natural order, and hence philosophy is able to strip from faith its mysterious robes, and present its naked truth to the natural understanding. Delusion all! Philosophy concerns solely truths naturally cognoscible, and faith, truths only supernaturally cognoscible, and of course, till we are supernaturally elevated to see them in themselves, intrinsically inevident. There is no use in quarrelling with this fact. We either believe such truths on the authority of God's word duly accredited, or we do not believe them at all. It is idle, then, to think of bringing men to faith in Christianity by attempting to divest Christianity of its mysteries. We do not, by such a process, convert the unbeliever to the gospel, but the gospel to the unbeliever, as we ourselves did in our Charles Elwood, or the Infidel Converted. Our liberal Christians make a sad mistake. They find men, perverted by a false philosophy, rejecting the gospel because they will not believe what is not intrinsically evident to their natural reason; and instead of undertaking to prove to them that God has really revealed these mysteries which they refuse to believe, and that nothing is more reasonable than to believe God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, they foolishly, not to say impiously, set to work to prove that these mysteries are at bottom no mysteries, and that the gospel contains nothing which transcends reason, or whose internal reasonableness and truth are not obvious even to an ordinary understanding. They may, indeed, in this way, adapt Christianity to the age, but not to the wants of the age.
They conform to the infidelity and corruptions of the age,
instead of resisting them. They deceive themselves, if they think they are promoting faith in our holy religion by laboring to bring its teachings within the scope of human philosophy. They but lessen the matter to be believed, without augmenting faith. He who rejects a single dogma, because it appears to him unreasonable, has no true faith in a single article of revelation. The whole of revelation is unreasonable and incredible, if you consult only its intrinsic evidence; but in the last degree reasonable and credible, if you look only to the veracity of God who makes the revelation, and to the evidence of the fact that he has made it. He who will not take God's word for much cannot consistently take it for little. He who will reject the doctrine of the Trinity, because it is incomprehensible, is a miserable logician, if he can believe any doctrine whatever, because God has revealed it. This process of rationalizing Christianity, so much in vogue among liberal Christians, does no good, gains no one to the faith, but keeps men from it, and renders conversions more difficult and hopeless.
What we have said of the Eclectic school in general, we may say of M. Jouffroy in particular. Yet, personally, we would treat M. Jouffroy with great tenderness. He was a believer before he became acquainted with M. Cousin ; and we hope he recovered his faith before he died, although we have no evidence of the fact. M. Cousin's philosophy perverted his understanding, destroyed his faith, and plunged him into infidelity. Our indignation is not so much against him who was the unhappy victim, as against the master who misled him. His ethical system we reject, because it is constructed upon principles derivable solely from natural reason, and natural reason cannot furnish adequate and safe rules for the conduct of life. We do not dispute the reality of the law of nature (droit naturel); we admit that ethics is a science, but a science whose chief fundamental principles must be borrowed from faith, the supernatural revelation which God has made us. We believe God has made us a revelation of truths pertaining to the supernatural order, and because it was necessary for the conduct of life that we should know them. Believing this, we cannot believe in the sufficiency or safety of rules which are deduced from natural reason alone. If natural reason could have sufficed for our guidance, no supernatural revelation would have been needed or made. From the fact, that such revelation has been made, we may infer its necessity; and from its necessity, that it is perilous to disregard it. We think, also, that we are