« AnkstesnisTęsti »
that to which we were created; otherwise it would be a likeness possessed, not to be possessed. How by the light of nature learn this fact, that we are to become like God, partakers of the Divine nature, in a supernatural sense ? Again, the blessed Apostle in the same passage says, “ We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” So St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiii. 12 : “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face ; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I am known.” Now the fact here asserted, to wit, that our future destiny is the beatific vision, that is, to see God as he is, and to know him even as we ourselves are known, is not naturally cognoscible, nor demonstrable by natural reason. Moreover, to see God as he is exceeds our nature ; for naturally we cannot see God as he is, that is, in himself ; we can see him only indirectly, obscurely, in part, in his works, as we see the cause in the effect. The destiny, then, which the Gospel reveals for them that love the Lord is supernatural. For “ It is written, The eye hath not seen, ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 Cor. ii. 9. Therefore, to believe the Gospel, or the truth which Jesus Christ taught, it is necessary to believe not only truth supernaturally communicated, but truth pertaining to the supernatural order. But we have already proved that it is necessary to salvation to believe the truth and all the truth which Jesus taught. Therefore it is necessary to believe truth which pertains to the supernatural order.
The result thus far is, that, in order to be Christians, to be saved, to enter into life, to secure the rewards of heaven, it is necessary to believe the truth which Jesus Christ taught, and that we cannot believe this without believing in that which is supernatural, and supernatural both as to the mode of communication and as to the matter communicated. The truth which Jesus Christ taught is, in general terms, the Gospel, or Christian revelation ; and the Christian revelation is a supernatural revelation, and, in part at least, a revelation of the supernatural. This revelation and its contents we must believe, or resign our pretensions to the Christian name. To believe this revelation and its contents is not, we admit, all that is requisite to the Christian character; for there remain, beside faith, hope and charity, and the greatest is charity. Moreover, faith alone is insufficient to justify us in the sight of God; for faith without works is dead, and therefore inoperative. Nevertheless, faith is indispensable. “ For without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “ He that believeth not shall be condemned.” This much we conceive we have established; and this much, we presume, the Christian Examiner will concede.
II. 1. Faith or belief, as distinguished from knowledge and science, rests on authority extrinsic both to the believer and the matter believed. In it there is always assent to something propounded. If the motives of the assent are in the subject, it is called knowledge ; if in the object, the assent is termed science ; when in neither, it is termed belief, or faith. That the sun is now shining I know by my own senses; it is therefore a fact of knowledge ; that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, which I know not intuitively, but discursively, is a fact of science. Knowledge, in the sense we here use the term, is intuitive, and science discursive. In the first, I have no occasion to go out of myself to find my motives of assent; in the second, none to go out of the object. The first I know intuitively ; the second I can demonstrate from what it contains in itself. But in belief I must go out of myself, and also out of the object, for my motives of assent. The matter assented to is neither intuitively certain, nor intrinsically evident. I am told there is such a city as Rome, which I have never seen. Having myself never seen Rome, I have no intuitive evidence that there is such a city. The proposition that there is such a city is not intrinsically evident, contains nothing in itself from which I can demonstrate its truth. Its truth, then, can be established to me only by evidence extrinsic both to myself and the proposition, that is, by TESTIMONY.
That there is a God is not a fact of knowledge, strictly speaking ; for we do not know that there is a God, intuitively ; but it is a fact of science, because we know it discursively, from the creation of the world, from the effect, or things that are made, as says St. Paul, Rom. i. 20. But that God has destined them that love him to the beatific vision is a fact neither of knowledge nor of science ; for it is neither intuitively certain, nor internally demonstrable. It may be true ; but whether so or not can be determined only by testimony, that is, evidence extrinsic both to the proposition and to myself. Hence St. Paul says, Heb. xi. 1, Fides est sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium ; and St. Augustine, Fides est credere quod non vides. — Tract. 40 in Joan.
2. There may be matters contained in the Christian revelation which are matters of knowledge or of science, but we are
concerned with it now only so far as it is a matter of faith. As a matter of faith, its truth rests solely on extrinsic evidence, or testimony. We cannot, then, as reasonable beings, believe it, unless we have some extrinsic authority competent to vouch for its truth, or some witness whose testimony is credible. But as an object of faith, the Christian revelation, in part at least, is a revelation of the supernatural. Now, this which is supernatural cannot be adequately witnessed to or vouched for by any natural witness or authority. No witness is competent to testify to that which he does not or cannot himself know, either intuitively or discursively. But no natural being, how high so ever in the scale of being he may be exalted, can know either intuitively or discursively the truth of that which, as to its matter, is supernatural. The only adequate authority for the supernatural is the supernatural itself, that is, God. For though angels or divinely inspired men may declare the supernatural to us, yet they themselves are not witnesses to its intrinsic truth, and have no ground for believing its truth but the veracity of God revealing it to them. They may be competent witnesses to the fact of the revelation, but not to the truth of the matter revealed. The authority or ground for believing the supernatural matter revealed is, then, the veracity of God, and we cannot reasonably or prudently believe any proposition involving the supernatural on other authority. We have no sufficient ground for faith in such matters, unless we have the clear, express testimony of God himself. But the testimony of God is sufficient for any proposition, in case we have it; because enough is clearly seen of God from the creation of the world, and understood by the things that are made, to establish on a scientific basis the fact that he can neither deceive nor be deceived ; for we can demonstrate scientifically, from principles furnished by the light of natural reason, that God is infinitely wise and good, and no being infinitely wise and good can deceive or be deceived. God is the first truth — prima veritas — in being, in knowing, and speaking,— in essendo, in cognoscendo, et in dicendo,- and therefore whatever he declares to be true must necessarily and infallibly be true. Nothing, then, is more reasonable than to believe God on his word or simple veracity; for it is no more than to believe that infinite and perfect truth, truth itself, cannot lie. Whatever God has revealed must be true. Even the Examiner would admit the doctrine of the Trinity, if it were proved to be a doctrine of Divine revelation. The witness, ground, or authority for believing the supernatural is the veracity of God, and this all will admit to be sufficient, if we have it; and none will admit, if they understand themselves, that a lower authority is sufficient.
3. But, although the veracity of God is the ground or authority on which we assent to the matter revealed, yet we cannot believe without sufficient evidence of the fact of revelation, or, in other words, without a witness competent to testify to the fact that God has actually revealed the matter in question, made the particular revelation to which assent is demanded. The Examiner is Unitarian, but it will tell us that it ought to believe the doctrine of the Trinity, if God has revealed it. Yet it demands, very properly, evidence of the fact that God has revealed it or declared its truth. Reasonable or a well grounded belief in the supernatural, then, requires two witnesses, two vouchers; one to the truth of the matter revealed, which is the veracity of God revealing it ; the other to the fact of the revelation, or that the matter in question has actually been revealed.
4. The revelation is made to intelligent beings, and must therefore consist in intelligible, enunciable propositions. We do not mean that the truths revealed should be comprehensible ; for every supernatural truth, as to its matter, must be wholly incomprehensible to natural reason; but that the formal proposition of the truths to be believed must be intelligible. What is present to the mind, in believing the revelation, are these formal propositions, which convey the truth, but in an obscure manner, to the understanding. If we should mistake the
propositions actually contained in God's revelation, or substitute others therefor, since it is only through the formal proposition we arrive at the matter revealed, we should not believe the revelation which God has actually made, but something else, and something else for which we cannot plead the veracity of God, and therefore something for which we have no solid ground of faith. Suppose you adduce a book which you say contains the revelation God has made, and suppose you bring ample vouchers for the fact that it really does contain such revelation. In this case I should have sufficient ground for believing the book to contain the word of God; but before I should believe the word of God, that is the revelation itself, I must believe the contents of the book in their genuine sense. I must have, then, some authority, extrinsic or intrinsic, competent to declare what is the genuine sense of the book. What I believe is what is in mente when I believe. What is in mente is the interpretaVOL. II. NO. II.
tion or meaning I give to God's word. If this interpretation or meaning be not the genuine sense, I do not, as we have said, believe God's word, but something else. Faith in the supernatural requires, then, in addition to the witness that vouches for the fact that God has made the revelation, an interpreter competent to declare the true meaning of the revelation.
5. The faith we are required to have is equally required in all times and places. It is said, qui non crediderit, - that is, any one, without any limitation of time or space, who believeth not, shall be condemned. Then there must be no limitation of the conditions sine qua non of faith, in time or space. Then the witness for the faith, and the interpreter of God's word, must be present in all nations, and subsist through all ages. We who live in this country at the present day need them just as much and in the same sense as the Jews needed them in the age of the Apostles.
6. The witness to the fact of the revelation, and the interpreter of the word, must not only subsist through all ages and nations, but must be unmistakable; and unmistakable not only by a few philosophers, scholars, and men of parts and leisure, but by the great mass of the poor, the busy, the weak, the ignorant, the illiterate ; for all these are equally commanded to believe, and have a right to have a solid ground of belief, which they cannot have, if they may mistake, with ordinary prudence, the true witness and interpreter, and call in a false witness and a misinterpreter. 7. The witness and interpreter must be infallible ; for, if falli
: ble, it may call that God's word which is not his word, and assign a meaning to God's word itself which is not the genuine meaning. We may, then, be deceived, and think we are believing God's word when we are not. But where there is a possibility of deception, there is room for doubt, and where there is room for doubt, there is no faith ; for the property of faith is to exclude doubt. The Apostle says, “I know in whom I be
. lieve, and am certain,” and whoever cannot say as much has not yet elicited an act of faith. Faith is a theological virtue, as we have proved in proving its necessity as one of the conditions of salvation ; and it consists in believing, without doubting, explicitly or implicitly, all the truths God has revealed, on the veracity of God alone. It requires absolute certainty, both objective and subjective. Where there is belief without sufficient objective grounds of belief, the belief is not faith, but a mere opinion or persuasion. Mere subjective cer