« Prev 4. Faith and Knowledge. Next »

§ 4. Faith and Knowledge.

The relation of faith to knowledge is a wide field. The discussions on the subject have been varied and endless. There is little probability that the points at issue will ever be settled to the satisfaction of all parties. The ground of faith is authority. The ground of knowledge is sense or reason. We are concerned here only with Christian faith, i.e., the faith which receives the Scriptures as the Word of God and all they teach as true on his authority.

Is a Supernatural Revelation needed?

The first question is, Whether there is any need of a supernatural revelation, whether human reason be not competent to discover and to authenticate all needful truth. This question has already been considered under the head of Rationalism, where it was shown, (1.) That every man’s consciousness tells him that there are questions concerning God and his own origin and destiny, which his reason cannot answer. (2.) That he knows à priori, that the reason of no other man can satisfactorily answer them. (3.) That he knows from experience that they never have been answered by the wisdom of men, and (4.) That the Scriptures declare that the world by wisdom knows not God, that the wisdom of the world is foolishness in his estimation, and that God has therefore himself made known truths undiscoverable by reason, for the salvation of man.

Must the Truths of Revelation be Demonstrable by Reason?

A second question is, Whether truths, supernaturally revealed, must be able to authenticate themselves at the bar of reason before they can be rationally received; so that they are received, not on the ground of authority, but of rational proof. This also has been previously discussed. It has been shown that the assumption that God can reveal nothing which human reason cannot, when known, demonstrate to be true, assumes that human reason is the measure of all truth; that there is no intelligence in the universe higher than that of man; and that God cannot have purposes and plans, the grounds or reasons of which we are competent to discover and appreciate. It emancipates the from the authority of God, refusing to believe anything except the authority of reason. Why may we not believe on the testimony of God that there is a spiritual world, as well as believe 76that there is such a nation as the Chinese on the testimony of men? No man acts on the principle of believing only what he can understand and prove, in any other department. There are multitudes of truths which every sane man receives on trust, without being able either to prove or comprehend them. If we can believe only what we can prove at the bar of reason to be true, then the kingdom of heaven would be shut against all but the wise. There could be no Christian who was not also a philosopher. In point of fact no man acts on this principle. It is assumed in the pride of reason, or as an apology for rejecting unpalatable truths, but men believe in God, in sin, in freedom of the will, in responsibility, without the ability of comprehending or reconciling these truths with each other or with other facts of consciousness or experience.

May not Revealed Truths be Philosophically vindicated?

A third question is, Whether, admitting a supernatural revelation, and moreover admitting the obligation to receive on the authority of God the doctrines which revelation makes known, the revealed doctrines may not be philosophically vindicated, so as to commend them to the acceptance of those who deny revelation. May not the Scriptural doctrines concerning God, creation, providence, the trinity, the incarnation, sin, redemption, and the future state, be so stated and sustained philosophically. as to constrain acquiescence in them as truths of the reason. This was the ground taken in the early Church by the theologians of the Alexandrian School, who undertook to elevate the πίστις of the people into a γνῶσις for the philosophers. Thus the sacred writers were made Platonists, and Christianity was transmuted into Platonism. A large part of the mental activity of the School-men, during the Middle Ages, was expended in the same way. They received the Bible as a supernatural revelation from God. They received the Church interpretation of its teachings. They admitted their obligation to believe its doctrines on the authority of God and of the Church. Nevertheless they held that all these doctrines could be philosophically proved. In later times Wolf undertook to demonstrate all the doctrines of Christianity on the principles of the Leibnitzian philosophy. In our own day this principle and these attempts have been carried further than ever. Systems of theology, constructed on the philosophy of Hegel, of Schelling, and of Schleiermacher, have almost superseded the old Biblical systems. If any man of ordinary 77culture and intelligence should take up a volume of what is called “Speculative Theology,” (that is, theology presented in the forms of the speculative philosophy,) he would not understand a page and would hardly understand a sentence. He could not tell whether the theology which it proposed to present was Christianity or Buddhism. Or, at best, he would find a few drops of Biblical truth so diluted by floods of human speculation that the most delicate of chemical tests would fail to detect the divine element.

Attempts to do this Futile.

All such attempts are futile. The empirical proof of this is, that no such attempt has ever succeeded. The experiment has been made hundreds of times, and always with the same result. Where are now the philosophical expositions and vindications of Scripture doctrines by the Platonizing fathers; by the Schoolmen; by the Cartesians; by the Leibnitzians? What power over the reason, the conscience, or the life, has any of the speculative systems of our day? Who, beyond the devotees of the systems which they represent, understand or adopt the theology of Daub, of Marheinecke, of Lange, and others? Strauss, therefore, is right when he repudiates all these vain attempts to reconcile Christianity with philosophy, or to give a form to Christian doctrine which satisfies the philosophical thinker.103103See above, p. 58.

But apart from this argument from experience, the assumption is preposterous that the feeble intellect of man can explain, and from its own resources, vindicate and prove the deep things of God. An infant might as well undertake to expound Newton’s “Principia.” If there are mysteries in nature, in every blade of grass, in the insect, in the body and in the soul of man, there must be mysteries in religion. The Bible and our consciousness teach us that God is incomprehensible, and his ways past finding out; that we cannot explain either his nature or his acts; we know not how he creates, upholds, and governs without interfering with the nature of his creatures; how there can be three persons in the Godhead; how in the one person of Christ there can be two intelligences and two wills; how the Spirit inspires, renews, sanctifies, or comforts. It belongs to the “self-deifying” class of philosophers to presume to know all that God knows, and to banish the incomprehensible from the religion which he has revealed. “To the school of Hegel,” says Bretschneider, 78“there are mysteries in religion only for those who have not raised themselves to the Hegelian grade of knowledge. For the latter all is clear; all is knowledge; and Christianity is the solution, and therefore the revelation of all mysteries.”104104Systematische Entwickelung, § 29, 4th edit. Leipzig, 1841, p. 163. This may be consistent in those who hold that man is God in the highest form of his existence, and the philosopher the highest style of man. Such an assertion, however, by whomsoever it may be made, is the insanity of presumption.

May what is True in Religion be False in Philosophy?

A fourth question included in this general subject is, Whether there is or may be a real conflict between the truths of reason and those of revelation? Whether that which is true in religion may be false in philosophy? To this question different answers have been given.

The Fathers on this Question.

First, while the Greek fathers were disposed to bring religion and philosophy into harmony, by giving a philosophical form to Christian doctrines, the Latins were inclined to represent the two as irreconcilable. “What,” asks Tertullian, “has Athens to do with Jerusalem? The academy with the Church? What have heretics to do with Christians? Our instruction is from the porch of Solomon, who himself taught that the Lord was to be sought in the simplicity of the heart. . . . . We need no seeking for truth after Christ; no research after the Gospel. When we believe, we desire nothing beyond faith, because we believe that there is nothing else we should do. . . . . To know nothing beyond is to know all things.”105105De Præscriptionibus adversus Hæreticos, cap. 7, 8, 14, Works, Paris, 1608, (t. iii.), p. 331: “Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? quid Academiæ et Ecelesiæ? quid hæreticis et Christianis? Nostra institutio de portica Solomonis est, qui et ipse tradiderat: Dominum in simplicitate cordis esse quærendum. Viderint qui Stoicum, et Platonicum, et Dialecticum, Christianissimum protulerunt. Nobis curiositate opus non est post Christum Jesum, nec inquisitione post Evangelium. Cum credimus, nihil desideramus ultra credere. Hoc enim prius credimus, non esse quod ultra credere debeamus. . . . . Cedat curiositas fidei, cedat gloria saluti. Certe aut non obstrepant, aut quiescant adversus regulam. Nihil ulta scire, omnia scire est.” He went so far as to say, “Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est; . . . . certum est, quia impossibile est.106106De Carne Christi, cap. 5, Works, (t. iii.), p. 555: “Natus est Dei filius: non pudet quia pudendum est. Et mortuus est Dei filius: prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est. Et sepultus, resurrexit: certum est, quia impossibile est.” Without going to this extreme, the theologians of the Latin Church, those of them at least most zealous 79for Church doctrines, were inclined to deny to reason even the prerogative of a judicium contradictionis. They were constrained to take this ground because they were called upon to defend doctrines whici contradicted not only reason but the senses. When it was objected to the doctrine that the consecrated wafer is the real body of Christ, that our senses pronounce it to be bread, and that it is impossible that a human body should be in heaven and in all parts of the earth at the same time, what could they say but that the senses and reason are not to be trusted in the sphere of faith? That what is false to the reason and the senses may be true in religion?

Lutheran Teaching on this Point.

The Lutherans were under the same necessity. Their doctrine of the person of Christ involves the denial of the primary truth, that attributes cannot be separated from the substance of which they are the manifestation. Their doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper involves the assumption of the ubiquity of Christ’s body, which seems to be a contradiction in terms.

Luther’s utterances on this subject are not very consistent. When arguing against the continued obligation of monastic vows, he did not hesitate to say that what was contrary to reason was contrary to God. “Was nun der Vernunft entgegen ist, ist gewiss dass es Gott viehmehr entgegen ist. Denn wie sollte es nicht wider die göttliche Wahrheit seyn, das wider Vernunft und menschliche Wahrheit ist.107107Works, edit. Walch, vol. xix. p. 1940. But in the sacramentarian controversy he will not allow reason to be heard. “In the things of God,” he says, reason or nature is stock-star-and-stone blind. “It is, indeed,” he adds, “audacious enough to plunge in and stumble as a blind horse; but all that it explains or concludes is as certainly false and wrong as that God lives.”108108Ibid. vol. xii. pp. 399, 400. In another place he says that reason, when she attempts to speculate about divine things, becomes a fool; which, indeed, is very much what Paul says. (Rom. i. 22, 1 Cor. i. 18-31.)

The Lutheran theologians made a distinction between reason in the abstract, or reason as it was in man before the fall, and reason as it now is. They admit that no truth of revelation can contradict reason as such; but it may contradict the reason of men all of whose faculties are clouded and deteriorated by sin. By this was not meant simply that the unrenewed man is opposed to the truth of God; that “the things of the Spirit” are foolishness 80to him, that it seems to him absurd that God should be found in fashion as a man; that He should demand a satisfaction for sin; or save one man and not another, according to his own good pleasure. This the Bible clearly teaches and all Christians believe. In all this there is no contradiction between reason and religion. The being of God is foolishness to the atheist; and personal immortality is foolishness to the pantheist. Yet who would admit that these doctrines are contrary to reason? The Lutheran theologians intended to teach, not only that the mysteries of the Bible are above reason, that they can neither be understood nor demonstrated; and not only that “the things of the Spirit” are foolishness to the natural man, but that they are really in conflict with the human understanding; that by a correct process of reasoning they can be demonstrated to be false; so that in the strict sense of the terms what is true in religion is false in philosophy. “The Sorbonne,” says Luther, “has pronounced a most abominable decision in saying that what is true in religion is also true in philosophy; and moreover condemning as heretics all who assert the contrary. By this horrible doctrine it has given it to be clearly understood that the doctrines of faith are to be subjected to the yoke of human reason.”109109Works, edit. Walch, vol. x. p. 1399.

Sir William Hamilton.

Secondly, the ground taken by Sir William Hamilton on this subject is not precisely the same with that taken by the Lutherans. They agree, indeed, in this, that we are bound to believe what (at the bar of reason) we can prove to be false, but they differ entirely as to the cause and nature of this conflict between reason and faith. According to the Lutherans, it arises from the corruption and deterioration of our nature by the fall. It is removed in part in this world by regeneration, and entirely hereafter by the perfection of our sanctification. According to Hamilton, this conflict arises from the necessary limitation of human thought. God has so made us that reason, acting according to its own laws, of necessity arrives at conclusions directly opposed to the doctrines of religion both natural and revealed. We can prove demonstrably that the Absolute being cannot know, cannot be a cause, cannot be conscious. It may be proved with equal clearness that the Infinite cannot be a person, or possess moral attributes. Here, then, what is true in religion, what we are bound to believe, and what in point of fact all men, in virtue of 81the constitution of their nature do believe, can be proved to be false. There is thus an irreconcilable conflict between our intellectual and moral nature. But as, according to the idealist, reason forces us to the conclusion that the external world does not exist, while, nevertheless, it is safe and proper to act on the assumption that it is, and is what it appears to be; so, according to Hamilton, it is not only safe, but obligatory on us to act on the assumption that God is a person, although infinite, while our reason demonstrates that an infinite person is a contradiction. The conflict between reason and faith is avowed, while the obligation of faith on the testimony of our moral and religious nature and of the Word of God is affirmed. This point has been already discussed.

The View of Speculative Philosophers.

Thirdly, we note the view taken by the speculative philosophers. They, too, maintain that reason demonstrates the doctrines of revelation and even of natural religion to be false. But they do not recognize their obligation to receive them as objects of faith. Being contrary to reason, those doctrines are false, and being false, they are, by enlightened men, to be rejected. If any cling to them as a matter of feeling, they are to be allowed to do so, but they must renounce all claim to philosophic insight.

May the Objects of Faith be above, and yet not against Reason?

A fifth question is, Whether the objects of faith may be above, and yet not contrary to reason? The answer to this question is to be in the affirmative, for the distinction implied is sound and almost universally admitted. What is above reason is simply incomprehensible. What is against reason is impossible. It is contrary to reason that contradictions should be true; that a part should be greater than the whole; that a thing should be and not be at the same time; that right should be wrong and wrong right. It is incomprehensible how matter attracts matter; how the mind acts on the body, and the body on the mind. The distinction between the incomprehensible and the impossible, is therefore plain and admitted. And the distinction between what is above reason, and what is against reason, is equally obvious and just. The great body of Christian theologians have ever taken the ground that the doctrines of the Bible are not contrary to reason, although above it. That is, they are matters of faith to be received on the authority of God, and not because they can be either understood or proved. As it is incomprehensible how a 82soul and body can be united in one conscious life; so it is incomprehensible how a divine and human nature can be united in one person m Christ. Neither is impossible, and therefore neither is contrary to reason. We know the one fact from consciousness; we believe the other on the testimony of God. It is impossible, and therefore contrary to reason, that three should be one. But it is not impossible that the same numerical essence should subsist in three distinct persons. Realists tell us that humanity, as one numerical essence, subsists in all the millions of human individuals. Thomas Aquinas takes the true ground when he says: “Ea quæ sunt supra naturam, sola fide tenemus. Quod autem credimus, auctoritati debemus. Unde in omnibus asserendis sequi debemus naturam rerum, præter ea, quæ auctoritate divina traduntur, quæ sunt supra naturam.110110Summa, I. quest. xcix. art 1, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 185, a. Quæ igitur fidei sunt, non sunt tentanda probare nisi per auctoritates his, qui auctoritates suscipiunt. Apud alios vero sufficit defendere non esse impossibile quod prædicat fides.”111111Ibid. quæst. xxxii. art. 1, p. 64, a. Quidquid in aliis scientiis invenitur veritati hujus scientiæ [sacræ doctrinæ] repugnans, totum condemnatur ut falsum.112112Ibid. quæst. i. art. 6, p. 2, b.

The Objects of Faith are consistent with Reason.

While, therefore, the objects of faith as revealed in the Bible, are not truths of the reason, i.e., which the human reason can discover, or comprehend, or demonstrate, they are, nevertheless, perfectly consistent with reason. They involve no contradictions or absurdities; nothing impossible, nothing inconsistent with the intuitions either of the intellect or of the conscience; nothing inconsistent with any well established truth, whether of the external world or of the world of mind. On the contrary, the contents of the Bible, so far as they relate to things within the legitimate domain of human knowledge, are found to be consistent, and must be consistent, with all we certainly know from other sources than a divine revelation. All that the Scriptures teach concerning the external world accords with the facts of experience. They do not teach that the earth is a plane; that it is stationary in space; that the sun revolves around it. On the other hand, they do teach that God made all plants and animals, each after its own kind; and, accordingly, all experience shows that species are immutable. All the anthropological doctrines of the Bible agree with what we know of man from consciousness and observation. The Bible teaches that God made of one blood all nations which dwell on the face of the earth. We accordingly find that all the 83varieties of our race have the same anatomical structure; the same physical nature; the same rational and moral faculties. The Bible teaches that man is a free, accountable agent; that all men are sinners; that all need redemption, and that no man can redeem himself or find a ransom for his brother. With these teachings the consciousness of all men agrees. All that the Scriptures reveal concerning the nature and attributes of Gods corresponds with our religious nature, satisfying, elevating, and sanctifying all our powers and meeting all our necessities. If the contents of the Bible did not correspond with the truths which God has revealed in his external works and the constitution of our nature, it could not be received as coming from Him, for God cannot contradict himself. Nothing, therefore, can be more derogatory to the Bible than the assertion that its doctrines are contrary to reason.

Faith in the Irrational impossible.

The assumption that reason and faith are incompatible; that we must become irrational in order to become believers is, however it may be intended, the language of infidelity; for faith in the irrational is of necessity itself irrational. It is impossible to believe that to be true which the mind sees to be false. This would be to believe and disbelieve the same thing at the same time. If, therefore, as modern philosophers assert, it is impossible that an infinite being can be a person, then faith in the personality of God is impossible. Then there can be no religion, no sin, no accountability, no immortality. Faith is not a blind, irrational conviction. In order to believe, we must know what we believe, and the grounds on which our faith rests. And, therefore, the refuge which some would take in faith, from the universal scepticism to which they say reason necessarily leads, is insecure and worthless.

While admitting that the truths of revelation are to be received upon the authority of God; that human reason can neither comprehend nor prove them; that a man must be converted and become as a little child before he can truly receive the doctrines of the Bible; and admitting, moreover, that these doctrines are irreconcilable with every system of philosophy, ever framed by those who refuse to be taught of God, or who were ignorant of his Word, yet it is ever to be maintained that those doctrines are unassailable; that no created intellect can prove them to be impossible or irrational. Paul, while spurning the wisdom of the 84world, still claimed that he taught the highest wisdom, even the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. ii. 6, 7.) And who will venture to say that the wisdom of God is irrational?

Knowledge essential to Faith.

A sixth question, included under the head of the relation of faith to knowledge is, Whether knowledge is essential to faith? That is, whether a truth must be known in order to be believed? This Protestants affirm and Romanists deny.

Protestants of course admit that mysteries, or truths which we are unable to comprehend, may be, and are, proper objects of faith. They repudiate the rationalistic doctrine that we can believe only what we understand and what we can prove, or, at least, elucidate so that it appears to be true in its own light. What Protestants maintain is that knowledge, i.e., the cognition of the import of the proposition to be believed, is essential to faith; and, consequently, that faith is limited by knowledge. We can believe only what we know, i.e., what we intelligently apprehend. If a proposition be announced to us in an unknown language, we can affirm nothing about it. We can neither believe nor disbelieve it. Should the man who makes the declaration, assert that it is true, if we have confidence in his competency and integrity, we may believe that he is right, but the proposition itself is no part of our faith. The Apostle recognizes this obvious truth when he says, “Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood (εὔσημον λόγον), how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. . . . . If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. . . . . When thou shalt bless with the Spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned, say Amen at thy giving of thanks? seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” (1 Cor. xiv. 9-16.) To say Amen, is to assent to, to make one’s own. According to the Apostle, therefore, knowledge, or the intelligent apprehension of the meaning of what is proposed, is essential to faith. If the proposition “God is a Spirit,” be announced to the unlearned in Hebrew or Greek, it is impossible that they should assent to its truth. If they understand the language, if they know what the word “God” means, and what the word “Spirit” means, then they may receive or reject the truth which that proposition affirms. The declaration “Jesus is the Son of God,” admits of different interpretations. 85Some say the term Son is an official title, and therefore the proposition “Jesus is the Son of God,” means that Jesus is a ruler. Others say it is a term of affection, then the proposition means that Jesus was the special object of the love of God. Others say that it means that Jesus is of the same nature with God; that He is a divine person. If this be the meaning of the Spirit in declaring Jesus to be the Son of God, then those who do not attach that sense to the words, do not believe the truth intended to be taught. When it is said God set forth Christ to be a propitiation for our sins, if we do not understand what the word propitiation means, the proposition to us means nothing, and nothing cannot be an object of faith.

Knowledge the Measure of Faith.

It follows from what has been said, or rather is included in it, that knowledge being essential to faith, it must be the measure of it. What lies beyond the sphere of knowledge, lies beyond the sphere of faith. Of the unseen and eternal we can believe only what God has revealed; and of what God has revealed, we can believe only what we know. It has been said that he who believes the Bible to be the Word of God, may properly be said to believe all it teaches, although much of its instructions may be to him unknown. But this is not a correct representation. The man who believes the Bible, is prepared to believe on its authority whatever it declares to be true. But he cannot properly be said to believe any more of its contents than he knows. If asked if he believed that men bitten by poisonous serpents were ever healed by merely looking at a brazen serpent, he might, if ignorant of the Pentateuch, honestly answer, No. But should he come to read and understand the record of the healing of the dying Israelites, as found in the Bible, he would rationally and sincerely, answer, Yes. This disposition to believe whatever the Bible teaches, as soon as we know what is taught, may be called an implicit faith, but it is no real faith. It has none of its characteristics and none of its power.

Proof that Knowledge is Essential to Faith.

That knowledge, in the sense above stated, is essential to faith is obvious, —

1. From the very nature of faith. It includes the conviction of the truth of its object. It is an affirmation of the mind that a thing is true or trustworthy, but the mind can affirm nothing of that of which it knows nothing.


2. The Bible everywhere teaches that without knowledge there can be no faith. This, as just stated, is the doctrine of the Apostle Paul. He condemned the speaking in an unknown tongue in a promiscuous assembly, because the hearers could not understand what was said; and if they did not know the meaning of the words uttered, they could neither assent to them, nor be profited by them. In another place (Rom. x. 14) he asks, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” “Faith,” he says, “cometh by hearing.” The command of Christ was to preach the Gospel to every creature; to teach all nations. Those who received the instructions thus given, should, He assured his disciples, be saved; those who rejected them, should be damned. This takes for granted that without the knowledge of the Gospel, there can be no faith. On this principle the Apostles acted everywhere. They went abroad preaching Christ, proving from the Scriptures that He was the Son of God and Saviour of the world. The communication of knowledge always preceded the demand for faith.

3. Such is the intimate connection between faith and knowledge, that in the Scriptures the one term is often used for the other. To know Christ, is to believe upon Him. To know the truth, is intelligently and believingly to apprehend and appropriate it. Conversion is effected by knowledge. Paul says he was made a believer by the revelation of Christ within him. The Spirit is said to open the eyes of the understanding. Men are said to be renewed so as to know. We are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Believers are children of the light. Men are said to perish for the lack of knowledge. Nothing is more characteristic of the Bible than the importance which it attaches to the knowledge of the truth. We are said to be begotten by the truth; to be sanctified by the truth; and the whole duty of ministers and teachers is said to be to hold forth the word of life. It is because Protestants believe that knowledge is essential to faith, that they insist so strenuously on the circulation of the Scriptures and the instruction of the people.

Romish Doctrine on this Subject.

Romanists make a distinction between explicit and implicit faith. By the former is meant, faith in a known truth; by the latter faith in truths not known. They teach that only a few primary truths of religion need be known, and that faith without knowledge, as to all other truths, is genuine and sufficient. On 87this subject Thomas Aquinas says, “Quantum ad prima credibilia, quæ sunt articuli fidei, tenetur homo explicite credere. Quantum autem ad alia credibilia non tenetur homo explicite credere, sed solum implicite, vel in præparatione animi, in quantum paratus est credere quidquid divina Scriptura continet.113113Summa, II. ii. quæst. ii. art. 5, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 7, a, of third set. Implicit faith is defined as, “Assensus, qui omnia, quamvis ignota, quæ ab ecclesia probantur, amplectitur.114114Hutterus Redivivius, § 108, 6th edit. Leipzig, 1845, p. 271. Bellarmin115115De Justificatione, lib. i. cap. 7, Disputationes, edit. Paris, 1608, vol. iv. 714, a, c. says, “In eo qui credit, duo sunt, apprehensio et judicium, sive assensus: sed apprehensio non est fides, sed aliud fidem præcedens. Possunt enim infideles apprehendere mysteria fidei. Præterea, apprehensio non dicitur proprie notitia. . . . . Mysteria fidei, quæ rationem superant, credimus, non intelligimus, ac per hoc fides distingintur contra scientiam, et melius per ignorantiam, quam per notitiam definitur.” The faith required of the people is simply, A general intention to believe whatever the Church believes.”116116Strauss, Dogmatik, Die Christliche Glaubenslehre. Tübingen and Stuttgart, 1840, vol. i. p. 284. The Church teaches that there are seven sacraments. A man who has no idea what the word sacrament means, or what rites are regarded by the Church as having a sacramental character, is held to believe that orders, penance, matrimony, and extreme unction, are sacraments. So, of all other doctrines of the Church. True faith is said to be consistent with absolute ignorance. According to this doctrine, a man may be a true Christian, if he submits to the Church, although in his internal convictions and modes of thought, he be a pantheist or pagan.

It is to this grave error as to the nature of faith, that much in the character and practice of the Romish Church is to be referred, —

1. This is the reason why the Scriptures are withheld from the people. If knowledge is not necessary to faith, there is no need that the people should know what the Bible teaches.

2. For the same reason the services of public worship are conducted in an unknown language.

3. Hence, too, the symbolism which characterizes their worship. The end to be accomplished is a blind reverence and awe. For this end there is no need that these symbols should be understood. It is enough that they affect the imagination.

4. To the same principle is to be referred the practice of reserve in preaching. The truth may be kept back or concealed. 88The cross is held up before the people, but it is not necessary that the doctrine of the sacrifice for sin made thereon should be taught. It is enough if the people are impressed; it matters not whether they believe that the sign, or the material, or the doctrine symbolized, secures salvation. Nay, the darker the mind, the more vague and mysterious the feeling excited, and the more blind the submission rendered, the more genuine is the exercise of faith. “Religious light,” says Mr. Newman, “is intellectual darkness.”117117Sermons, vol. i. p. 124.

5. It is on the same principle the Roman Catholic missions have always been conducted. The people are converted not by the truth, not by a course of instruction, but by baptism. They are made Christians by thousands, not by the intelligent adoption of Christianity as a system of doctrine, of that they may be profoundly ignorant, but by simple submission to the Church and its prescribed rites. The consequence has been that the Catholic missions, although continued in some instances for more than a hundred years, take no hold on the people, but almost uniformly die out, as soon as the supply of foreign ministers is cut off.

« Prev 4. Faith and Knowledge. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection