into the medium of proof; inasmuch as inceptions confirms the rule, provided it may such cases there is a power to assume be maintained that the exceptions are of a false appearances which complicates the certain kind. For instance, if there be a case: and inasmuch as the process must practice invariably followed by those who be double, first to establish the general are known to be wise in kindred subjectcredibility of the person, then to receive matter, it is very doubtful whether this his particular testimony. This seems, can be said to derive any positive confirhowever, more properly to bear the name mation from the concurrent course of of faith, with which belief is indeed identi- those who are known to be of an opposite cal in the science of theology, but not in character. Again, if there be an universal common speech. For faith involves the agreement concerning any proposition element of trust, which essentially requires among those who have no sinister bias, the a moral agent for its object. Apart from fact that others who are known to have any technical sense which the word may such a bias differ from them does not impair have acquired in theology, and more at their authority, but even appears rather to large, human language warrants and re- constitute an additional evidence of its bequires our applying the name of belief to ing in the right. Now this is exactly the all assent which is given to propositions kind of consent, which may justly be said founded upon probable evidence.

to obtain among men with regard to the folIf, then, it be allowable, and it is not lowing of probable truth. For every one only allowable but inevitable, to collect the acts upon affirmative evidence, however laws of the human intelligence by the ob- inferior to certainty, unless he be either servation of its processes, which in fact extremely deficient in common undergrows to be an induction from universal standing, or so biassed the other way by practice, it is manifest that we are so con- bis desires as to be incapable of an upstituted as to yield assent to propositions right view of the case before him. Even having various kinds and degrees of evi. the last-named class of excepted instances dence. We agree to some as immediate would generally take the form rather of an and (to our apprehensions) necessary: to inability under the circumstances to per. some as necessary but not immediate: to ceive the evidence, than of a denial of its some as originally neither necessary nor authority. immediate, but as presenting subsequently But the doctrine itself appears to be as a certainty and solidity not distinguishable irrefragably established in theoretic rea. from that which appertains to the former soning, as it is in the practice of mankind. classes. Again, we yield our assent to We may, however, distinguish those prop others of a different class, which falls into ositions which are abstract, from such as sub-classes. These have various degrees entail any direct consequences in our conof likelihood in subject-matter infinitely duct. With regard to the former, suspendiversified ; some of them so high as to sion of judgment is allowable in all cases exclude doubt, some admitting yet greatly where serious doubt appears before examioutweighing it by positive evidence, some nation, or remains after it. Whether nearly balanced between the affirmative Rome was built seven hundred and fiftyand the negative : but in all cases with a three years before our Lord, whether preponderance on the former side. All King Charles the First wrote the “ Eikon these are formed to attract legitimate as- Basilike,” whether Caligula made his sent, according to the laws of our intel- horse a consul, whether St. Paul visited lectual constitution; which has universal Britain, — these are questions which pretruth for its object, and affirmation and sent no such evidence as to bind our rejection for its office. With other proc- judgment either way, and any decision we esses, such as assent given under blind may form about them has no bearing on prejudice against probability, or purely our conduct. But to doubt whether the arbitrary conjecture, or the quasi truths of empire of the Cæsars existed, or whether the imagination, we have in this place King Charles was beheaded, or perhaps nothing to do.

whether he said “remember” to Bishop The doctrine, that we are bound by the Juxon on the scaffold, or whether Michael laws of our nature to follow probable Angelo painted the “ Last Judgment” in truth, rests upon the most secure of all the Sistine Chapel, — this, after the quesgrounds for practical purposes, if indeed tion bad once been presented fairly to our the consent which accepts it is in truth so miods, would be a violation of the laws of widely spread in the usual doings of man- our intellectual pature. It would be in kind, that it may well be termed universal. any case a folly, and it would even be a sin The very circumstance that there are ex- | if moral elements were involved in the



judgment, for instance if the disbelief arose ional assent, consciously subject to future from a spirit of opposition and self-reli- correction upon enlarged experience, are ance, predisposing us unfavorably to con- the remedies offered to our need, and very clusions that others have established, and extended indeed is their scope and use that have obtained general acceptance. with prudent minds. Of course it remains

At the least, I say, it would be a viola: true that the understanding, when it has to tion of the law of our intellectual nature, if choose the objects of its own activity, may the one obligation of that nature is to rec-justly select those on which a competent ognize truth wheresoever it is fallen in certainty is attainable, instead of stimulatwith, and to assent to it. The effect of ing a frivolous and barren curiosity by the obligation cannot be confined to cases employing itself on matters incapable of of immediate or intuitive knowledge. For satisfactory determination by such means in the first place this would be to cast off as are ordinarily at our command. the chief subject-matter of our understand. Whether, then, we look to the constituing or discursive faculty. If we admit the tion of our nature, and the üan provided current definition of the term, it would for it to work upon, together with the even be to leave all that organ, in which inference arising from the combined view the mind chiefly energizes, without an of the two; or whether we regard the office, and therefore without a lawful place actual results as realized in the possession in our

ature. But, in the second place, of truth; we find it to be a maxim sustained let us observe how the denial of all assent by theory, as well as by the general conto probable conclusions will comport with sent and practice of men, that the mind is our general obligations. A great mass of not to be debarred from assent to a propfacts from some history are before us. osition with which it may have cause to There may be error here and there in deal, on account of the circumstance that particulars, but their general truth is un. the evidence for it is short of that which is questioned; and upon a given point, taken commonly called certain; and that to act at random, the chances are probably a upon an opposite principle would be to hurdred to one or more that it is true. Of contravene the law of our intellectual two persons with a hundred such facts, nature. independent of one another, before him, But now let us deal, so far as justly ope, acting upon the ordinary rule, receives belongs to the purpose of this paper, with them; and he has the truth'in ninety-nine that part of the subject-matter of human cases conjoined with error in one : the inquiry where moral ingredients are es. other has neither the one error, nor the sentially involved. For hitherto we have ninety-nine truths; his understanding has spoken only of such kind of obligation as refused its work, and lost its reward in the may attach to geometrical investigations, ninety-nine cases, for fear of the failure in in which usually the will has no concern the one. And further we are to remember either one way or the other. that the error in the one is material only, With regard to moral science properly not formal. It has pot of necessity any so styled, whether it be conversant with poisonous quality. It is more like a small principles, when it is called ethical, or portion of simply innutritious food received whether it be concerned with their applialong with the mass of what is wholesome. cation to particulars, when it becomes The case has indeed here been put upon casuistry, although the whole of it is practhe hypothesis of very high probability: tical, as it aims to fix the practical judgWhat shall we say to propositions, of ments and the conduct of all men, yet which the evidence is less certain ? The obviously the whole cannot be said to be answer is, that no line can be drawn in practical in regard to each individual. For abstract argument between them: that the the experience of one person will only obligation which attaches to the former raise a part, perhaps a very small part, of attaches to the latter: that it must subsist, the questions which it involves. So far, so long as there remains any preponder- then, as moral inquiries properly belong to ance of affirmative evidence, which is real, science and not to life, they are pursued and of such a magnitude as to be appre in the abstract, and they are subject to the ciable by our faculties. But at the same general laws of intellectual inquiry which time, although this be true in the cases have already been considered ; only with where it is necessary for us to conclude this difference, that our judgments in them one way or the other, it is not applicable are much more likely to be influenced by to the multitude of cases where no such the state of our affections and the tenor of necessity exists. Sometimes a total sus- our lives, by our conformity to, or alienapension of judgment, sometimes a provis- tion from, the will of God, ihan where the



matter of the propositions themselves had every act is, ceteris paribus, determined, no relation to human conduct.

and is at the very least in all cases qualiBut, for the government of life, all men, fied, by its motive, this proposition conthough in various degrees, require to be cerning an universal obedience as the supplied with certain practical judgments. ground and rule of conduct, is of all propFor there is no breathing man, to whom ositions the one most practical, the one the alternatives of right and wrong are not most urgently requiring affirmation or decontinually present. To one they are less, nial according as the evidence may be in perhaps infinitely less, complicated than to favor of or against its truth. another ; but they pervade the whole tissue We seem, then, to have arrived at this of every human life. In order to meet point: the evidences of religion relate to these, we must be supplied with certain a matter not speculative, not in abstract practical judgments. It matters not that matter, which we may examine or pass by there may have existed particular persons, according to our leisure. It is either true as children, for instance, who have never or false: this on all hands will be admitted. entertained these judgments in the abstract If it be false, we are justified in repudiat. at all; nor that many act blindly, and at ing it, so soon as we bave obtained proofs haphazard, which is simply a contempt of of its falsity, such as the constitution of duty; nor that there may be another class, our minds entitles us to admit in that be. into whose compositions by long use some half. But we are bound by the laws of of them are so ingrained that they operate our intellectual nature not to treat it as with the rapidity and certainty of instinct. false before examination.

In like manner, Setting these aside, it remains true of all by the laws of our moral nature, which persons of developed understanding that oblige us to adjust all our acts according there are many questions bearing on prac- to our sense of some standard of right and tice, with regard to which, in order to wrong, we are not less stringently bound discharge their duty rightly, they must to use every effort in coming to a concluhave conclusions, and these not necessarily sion one way or the other respecting it: numerous in every case, but in every case ipasmuch as it purports to supply us with of essential importance, so that they may the very and original standard to which be termed a savor of life unto life, or a that sense is to be referred, through a suf. savor of death unto death."

ficient revelation of the will of God, both Now it is in this department that the in its detail, and especially in that with argument for the obligation to follow prob- which we are now concerned, the fundaable evidence is of the greatest force and mental principle of a claim to unlimited moment. It has been seen, how that ob- obedience, admitting no exception and do ligation may be qualified or suspended in qualification. the pursuit of abstract truth ; so much so, The maxim that Christianity is a matter that even the contravention of it need not not abstract, but referable throughout to involve a breach of moral duty. But the human action, is not an important only, case is very different when we deal with but a vital part of the demonstration, that those portions of truth that supply the we are bound by the laws of our nature to conditions of conduct. To avoid all de give a hearing to its claims. We shall tail which may dissipate the force of the therefore do well to substantiate it to our main considerations is material. Let it consciousness by some further mention of therefore be observed that there is one its particulars. Let us then recollect that proposition in which the whole matter, as we have not merely the general principle it is relevant to human duty, may be of doing all to the glory of God, declared summed up: that all our works alike, in- by it in general terms: but this is illusward and outward, great and small, ought trated by reference to the common actions to be done in obedience to God. Now of eating and drinking. *

6. Whether we this is a proposition manifestly tendered to eat or drink, or whatsoever we do," thus us by that system of religion which is the passage runs,“ let us do all to the glory called Christianity, and which purports to of God.” Now surely, one should have be a revelation of the divine will. It is said, if any acts whatever could have been the first and great commandment of the exempt from the demands of this compregospel, that we shall love God with the hensive law, they should have been those whole heart, and mind, and soul, and functions of animal life, respecting which strength ; * and whatsoever we do, we are as to their substance we have no free to do all to the glory of God. And as choice, since they are among the absolute

* St. Mark xii. 30, St. Luke X. 27. St. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 31.

St. Paul, Cor. x. 31.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

conditions of our physical existence. And | tians, or by others; as for instance those by the unbeliever it might consistently be very acts of satisfying hunger and thirst, argued that, inasmuch as food and drink of which we have spoken. If these, then, are thus necessary, it is impossible to con- are capable, as has been shown, of being ceive that any question relating to the dif- brought under the law of duty, a different ferent kinds of them (unless connected character must attach to them in consewith their several aptitudes for maintaining quence; they must be influenced, if not life and health, which is not at all in the intrinsically, yet at least in their relation to apostle's view) can be of any moral moment. something else, by their being referred to But the allegation of Scripture is directly that standard. The form of the deed, the to a contrary effect: and apprises us that thing done, the apāyua, is perhaps, as we even such a matter as eating or refraining have seen, the same; but the action, the from meat, has a spiritual character.* exercise of the mind in ordering or doing “ He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he it, the mpūšis, is different. It differs, for giveth God thanks; and he that eateth example, in the motive of obedience; in not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth the end, which is the glory of God; in the God thanks. For none of us liveth to temper, which is that of trust, humility, himself, and no man dieth to himself.” and thankfulness. Accordingly, it appears Not only where a special scruple may be that Christianity aims not only at adjustraised by the facts of idol-worship; noting our acts, but als our way of acting, to only in the avoidance of pampered tastes a certain standard; that it reduces the and gross excesses; but in the simple act whole to a certain mental habit, and imof taking food, the religious sense has a bues and pervades the whole with a certain place. The maintenance of life, though it temper. is a necessity, is also a duty and a bless. Not therefore at a venture, but with ing.

strict reason, the assertion has been made, And to the same effect is the declaration that the question, whether Christianity be of our Lord: “ But I say unto you that true or false, is the most practical of all every idle word that men shall speak, they questions : because it is that question of shall give account thereof in the day of practice which encloses in itself, and imjudgment.” | The “idle word” is per- plicitly determines, every other: it supplies haps the very slightest and earliest form the fundamental rule or principle (Grundof voluntary action. Consider the fertility satz) of every decision in detail. And, of the mind, and the rapidity of its move consequently, it is of all other questions ments: how many thoughts pass over it the one upon which those, who have not without or against the will; how easily already a conclusion available for use, are they find their way into the idle, that is, most inexorably bound to seek for one. not the mischievous or ill-intended, but And, by further consequence, it is also the merely the unconsidered word. So lightly question to which the duty of following and easily is it born, that the very forms affirmative evidence, even although it of ancient speech seem to designate it as should present to the mind no more than a if it were self-created, and not the offspring probable character, and should not, ab iniof a mental act,

tio, or even thereafter, extinguish doubt,

has the closest and most stringent applica'Ατρείδη, ποιόν σε έπος φύγεν έρκος οδόντων;

tion. and as we say, “such and such an expres- Now the foregoing argument, it must be sion escaped him.” Thus then it appears observed, includes and decides the questhat, at the very first and lowest stage of tion for what is commonly called the docscarcely voluntary, action, the Almighty trinal part of the Christian religion ; for God puts in his claim. In this way be those objective facts, which it lays as the acquaints us that everything, in which our foundation of its system, and which are faculties can consciously be made ministers set forth in the historical creeds of the of good or evil, shall become a subject of Catholic Church. It is not necessary here reckoning, doubtless of just and fatherly to enter upon the inquiry how far the inreckoning, in the great account of the day ternal evidence about suitableness to our of judgment.

state, which the nature of those facts ofFurther, it appears that there are many fers to us, may constitute a part or a proof acts, of which the external form must be of, or an objection to, the truth of the the same, whether they are done by Chris Christian revelation. I have not in any

manner prejudged that question by the † Matt. xii. 36. .

foregoing observations; I have shown its | Iliad iv. 350.

claims to nothing (where there is no con

* Rom. xiv. 6.

viction already formed) but to a hearing | eternity, in which the union with him beand an adjudication. In those claims the comes consummate and imperishable. doctrinal part of the revelation, that which Christianity is the religion of the person is distinct from the law of duty, has a full of Christ; and the creeds only tell us from and co-equal share with the moral part. whom he came, and how he came and went, The Christian system neither enjoins nor by what agent we are to be incorporated owns any severance between the two. into him, and what is the manner of his Being inseparably associated, and resting appointed agency, and the seal of its acupon the testimony of precisely the same complishment. witnesses, they on that account stand in But there is a latent notion in the minds precisely the same authoritative relation to of some men, that a matter so important our practice. Accordingly, when we ac- as Christianity ought to be presented with cept or reject the Christian law of duty as the fullest evidence: that it would be unsuch, we accept or reject also the system worthy of it, and of its author, to suppose in which, and as a part of which, it is re- any revelation from him imperfectly atvealed. Whether we refer to the Scrip-tested. But, in the first place, such an tures, or to the collateral evidence of his objection is of no value whatever, unless tory and of the Church, we find it to be it will carry us so far as to warrant our undeniable as a fact that Christianity pur- holding such language as the following: ports to be not a system of moral teaching “Although there be, apart from this noonly, but, in vital union therewith, a system tion, a balance of evidence in favor of of revealed facts concerning the nature of Christianity over anything urged against it, God, and his dispensations towards man- yet I will reject it, upon the ground that I kind. Upon these facts moral teaching is consider it unworthy of the Almighty to to rest, and to these it is to be indissolubly propound anything for acceptance without attached. Thus the part of Christianity, demonstrative proofs of it made immedicalled doctrinal, has that claim to enter into ately accessible to us.” Now who, that our affirmative or negative decision which admits the general recognition of probable belongs to a question strictly practical; evidence in human practice, will think that and is one to wbich we inevitably must the particular subject of the evidence of daily and hourly say aye or no by our ac religion can be exempted from a law so tions, even if we have given no speculative comprehensive, on account of an assumpreply upon it.

tion formed in an individual mind, and by To point out more clearly this connec- no means having, or even pretending to tion of the Christian dogma with practice, have, anything like that general sanction I may remark that the principal part of the from mankind, which belongs to the law matter of the Christian creeds is a decla- that it proposes to supersede? We need ration of the nature of God, who is the ob- not inquire into the piety, or even the deject of our faith: along with the main facts cency, of setting up, under any circumof that incarnation of our Lord, which is stances, an opinion of our own upon the the appointed medium of our reunion with question what the Creator ought to have Deity. Subjoined hereto is simply a dec- done, against a communication of what he laration of belief in the Church, as the has done ; because such considerations society in which we claim membership with scarcely belong to the present stage of this Christ, and with one another; in the bap. inquiry. The case now before us is that tism, whereby we find entrance into that of setting up such an opinion, founded society; and in the resurrection, which upon a measurement which has been made, connects the present with the eternal king. by one or more individual minds, of the dom of our Lord. It is no paradox to universal nature of things, without any supsuggest that a religion, which purports to port from the general sense of mankind, open the means of reunion with God, and against what that general sense, and even to restore the eternal life which we have the objectors themselves in other subjectlost, by means of a spiritual process matter, usually accept as a valid law for the wrought upon us, should propound, as es. discovery of truth; namely the law of probsential constituents of that process, a faith able evidence. Such a proceeding is to be held concerning the nature and attri- plainly irrational. It offends against the butes of bim whose image we are to bear; laws of the general reason of our race. concerning the assumption of our nature But unless the objection can be carried by the Redeemer, which makes that image to that point, it is worthless for the quesapproachable and attainable; concerning tion at issue. For the matter to be examthe dispensation of time for forming our ined is not whether the revelation is in all union with him; and the dispensation of its accompaniments, or in all its particu

« VorigeDoorgaan »