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The Observer asks, p. 327, “How can it be known whether this or that individual will finally be saved ?” Whether this or that individual will finally be saved is not necessary to be known ; because the fact whether he will or not is not a fact all men are required to believe, as an article of faith. The sneer, that “the Romish Church may devise arbitrary rules by which it may pretend to know who are sound in the faith and who are not, who are going to heaven and who to hell” (p. 328), may do for a writer who feels himself as little bound, in an argument, to tell the truth as to observe the rules of logic; but its force is all in its malice. The Catholic Church claims to be able to say what is sound faith, but not who actually is sound in the faith, any farther than the internal faith is manisested by the external profession and conduct. She claims to be able to say what
one must do in order to be saved ; but not whether this or that individual will or will not be saved. The doctrine the editor would charge upon the Church belongs to his own Evangelical school. We do not, as Catholics, know whether we deserve love or hatred. We know if we keep the commandments we shall enter into life, and that we can keep them if we will ; but whether we do keep them in the sense demanded, or whether we shall persevere unto the end in keeping them, we know not, and cannot know unless by a special revelation. We hope, but take heed lest we fall.
But, if we object to the Observer's doctrine of private illumination, we by no means pretend that divine grace even to enlighten the understanding is not essential to the elicitation of faith. Faith is a theological virtue, and no theological virtue is possible by mere natural force. Faith demands the supernatural elevation of the subject as well as the supernatural revelation of the object. It would demand this, even if we were in the integrity of nature, and had suffered no damage from sin. It demands it, then, a fortiori, in our actual state ; for, in consequence of sin, our will is turned away from God, and our understanding is darkened. We do not love the truth ; we are not able to perceive and appreciate the motives of credibility. We have ears, but we hear not; hearts, but we understand not. Let no man dream that by mere natural force, by mere intellectual acuteness, strength, or effort, he can elicit an act of faith. Faith is the gift of God. But what is termed the grace of faith is not an inward revelation of the word, is not needed to propound the word, to supply the defect of evidence, or to
VOL. III. NO. I.
strengthen, in themselves considered, the motives of credibility ; but to incline the will to the truth, and to strengthen the intellect, to remove the scales which blind the eyes of the mind, so as to enable it to see and appreciate the motives of credibility which are already furnished, and which are amply sufficient to warrant the most undoubting belief. These motives are in themselves sufficient to meet the demands of reason, and ought to command our assent, and we have no excuse for not yielding it. When we do not yield it, the fault is ours ; not in the defect of evidence, but in the perversity of our will, which hinders the grace of God from flowing into the understanding, and producing that state of mind in which to believe is easy, and without which to believe is morally impossible. But this gracious assistance, which inclines the will and elevates the understanding, is something very different from the private inspiration or illumination against which we have reasoned. The one merely puts us in the condition to believe a revelation already made and sufficiently accredited; the other is a new revelation, superseding the external revelation, the external evidence which accredits it, and becoming itself both the word to be believed and the authority on which it is to be believed: The grace we allege to be necessary is everywhere promised us in the Holy Scriptures ; the private illumination we reject is nowhere promised us, and we have no reason to expect it.
We have now replied to all that the editor of the Observer has suggested, or that is implied in his suggestions, which has or can have any bearing on the question at issue. We have replied fairly and fully, because we have wished not merely to refute him, but to discuss the general subject, and place it in its true light before our readers. We shall expect a fair and logical reply to what we have said ; and if the editor of the Observer do not give a fair and logical reply, we shall not hold ourselves bound to take any notice of what he may allege. It becomes neither him nor us to discuss any subject unfairly, for neither of us can, we should hope, feel any complacency in a victory won at the expense of candor or of truth.
As to the portion of the Observer's article which attacks the Catholic Church, since it has no bearing on the real question at issue, we do not hold ourselves bound by the rules of logic to reply to it. The question at issue, we have shown, is not what is possible with the Roman Catholic Church, but what is possible without it. Should the editor of the Observer prove
that faith is not elicitable by means of the Roman Catholic Church, he would not advance a single step in his argument ; he would be no nearer proving that faith can be elicited without it, than when he commenced. To follow him in his attacks on the Church would only be giving him a chance to change the issue, and make the question turn on the merits of Catholicity, and not on the merits of Protestantism, to which we will neither contribute nor consent. He promised to refute our argument, and we hold him to his promise. If he succeeds in proving that he can have the faith required without the Catholic Church, he proves all that it is necessary to prove in order to refute us. If he does not prove this, no matter what else he proves, he does not refute us. When he shall admit that he cannot prove this, and frankly abandon his Protestantism, we will meet all the difficulties he can allege in the way of eliciting faith by means of the Roman Catholic Church. But till then, he has no right to call upon us, nor are we bound by the nature of the question at issue to meet them.
Were it not that we will not consent to divert the discussion from the point we have made, we could easily remove all the difficulties the editor of the Observer has suggested; for they are all founded in mistake as to the actual facts of ecclesiastical history, or misapprehension of Catholic faith and theology. When he speaks of the number of books which a Catholic must read in order to ascertain what he is to believe, he denies the distinction between faith and theology to which we called his attention, and overlooks the distinction between explicit faith and implicit faith, which was recognized in our definition of faith, and which he will find explained in the early part of our present article. The whole Catholic faith may be found in the catechism, and may be learned without any book at all ; for the Catholic Church does not, like Protestantism, make tho knowledge of letters the condition sine qua non of salvation. Our friend forgot himself, and took up against his own side. It is not necessary to salvation that we believe explicitly all the truths Almighty God has revealed, but that we believe them explicitly or implicitly. He who believes the Church is from God and infallible, and who is in the disposition of mind and heart to believe whatever she proposes, believes, implicitly at least, the whole revelation of God, and in its “exact sense”; for, if infallible, the Church can propose it in no other than its exact sense, as it lies in the mind of the Spirit.” *
* To believe something explicitly is to believe it under the proper and particular terms under which it is proposed to us. Thus, he, who believes the Son of God assumed human nature and is God and man, believes explicitly the mystery of the Incarnation ; he who believes the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God and three persons, believes explicitly the mystery of the Trinity. But to believe something implicitly is to believe it in another; either as in a more general principle in which it is contained, or as in the doctrine of the teacher to which it pertains, or as in a shadow or figure, which is known to have significance, although the thing signified is not clearly apprehended. But it must not be inferred from any thing in the text, that belief in this last sense is the only faith that is of necessity as the medium of salvation. It is necessary to believe explicitly God as the author of the order of grace, that he will reward the just with beatitude and will punish the wicked, according to the words of the blessed apostle, Heb. xi. 6. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him." Also, as Catholic doctors in general teach, it is necessary to believe explicitly the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Trinity, for, according to the words of our Blessed Saviour in St. Mark, xvi. 16,“ He that believeth not (that is, believeth not the Gospel) shall be condemned”; and in St. John, xiv. 1, " Ye believe in God; believe also in me"; iii. 36, “ He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him "; and, according to the words of St. Peter, Acts iv. 12, “Nor is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” From these and many other texts which might be adduced, it is evident that explicit faith in the principal or primary doctrine is necessary as the medium of salvation. All we would say is, that the number of articles necessary to be believed with explicit faith is very few, and therefore the necessity, save when it concerns establishing truth or overthrowing error, of the long study the Observer alleges, does not exist.
The Observer asserted that the articles of faith were expressed in the Holy Scriptures in propositions “ as clear and as intelligible as language can make them.” We denied this, and alleged in support of our denial that the articles of faith are more clearly and definitely expressed in the creed and decisions of the Church, which is evident from the fact that men perpetually dispute as to their meaning as expressed in the Holy Scriptures, while they do not dispute as to their meaning as expressed in the creeds and decisions of the Church. The editor of the Observer meets the argument by alleging that there are disputes among Catholics as well as among Protestants. But even if this were true, our argument might still be sound ; for it was urged only to prove that the faith as expressed in the Holy Scriptures is not expressed in propositions as clear and as intelligible as language can make them, — which is not disproved by proving that there are disputes among Catholics, but only by proving that these disputes are equal to the disputes among Protestants, and extend to as many points of faith ; - a fact the Observer has not proved, and cannot prove.
But there are
no disputes among Catholics that turn on the meaning of an article of faith. There are disputes among Catholics, we admit, but they are disputes concerning matters which are not of faith, which the Church has not decided. Not one of the instances the Observer cites is a dispute concerning an article of faith, but all are disputes on questions on which there is no decision of the Church, or which are not covered by her decisions. The dispute between the Gallicans and Ultramontanes is not, as it supposes, a dispute as to the meaning of a canon. Both parties admit the canon of the Council of Florence, which the editor quotes ; both parties agree as to its meaning ; and dispute only as to questions it does not cover. The question as to the temporal authority or supremacy of the Holy Father is a dispute among doctors, and has nothing to do with faith at all; for no article of faith, no decision of the Church, claims temporal supremacy or authority for the successor of St. Peter. The temporal authority which was possessed by the popes was not possessed by virtue of their office as visible head of the Church, but, if one may so speak, by virtue of what was the common law of Europe ; — because that authority was an integral part of the political order which then obtained. That order has now passed away, and the office which for many ages was filled by the ecclesiastical power is now filled by the money power ; and the part of mediators between the temporal princes, which was played by the Gregories, the Innocents, the Bonifaces, is now played by the Barings, Rothschilds, and Biddles ; whether for the better or for the worse it is not for us to say.
The Observer is quite mistaken in saying, that in reference to these disputes we cannot avail ourselves of the distinction between faith and opinion. “This," it says, “ is a valid plea for Protestants, but not for Romanists. We say that agreement in great fundamental truths is necessary ; and we say, further, that in these vital truths there is between all orthodox Protestants a substantial agreement, while they disagree only on those minor topics which are matters of opinion only. But this distinction between faith and opinion, whoever else it may serve, can avail Mr. Brownson nothing ; for he avers that it is necessary to believe the whole revelation as the condition sine qua non of salvation, that faith consists in believing all the truths God has revealed.” pp. 332, 333. The distinction between faith and opinion we can avail ourselves of, but not of