Dublin Review—ART. I.—Certitude in Religious Assent

An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D., of the Oratory. London; Burns, Oates, & Co.

{253} F. NEWMAN deserves the warm gratitude of his coreligionists, were it only as being the first to fix Catholic attention on what is certainly the one chief stronghold of philosophical objectors against the Church; and he deserves still more gratitude, for the singular power of argument and felicity of illustration which he has brought to his task. There are undoubtedly various incidental statements in his volume, with which we are far from agreeing; but it is not our intention to say much of them on the present occasion. The series of able articles from the pen of F. Harper, now appearing in the "Month," will doubtless in due course be collected into a separate publication; and their appearance in that state will give us the opportunity of expressing our own humble opinion on the points at issue. But we are at all events thoroughly in accordance with what we regard as F. Newman's central position; and to this part of his work we shall confine ourselves in what we are how going to say.

What then is that "chief stronghold of philosophical objectors against the Church," on which F. Newman has been the first to fix Catholic attention? This: that since the strength of assent, given to any proposition, should invariably be proportioned to the amount of evidence on which that proposition rests, no man loves truth for its own sake, who does not labour, in every single matter of thought, to effect this equation between his strength of proof and his firmness of conviction. See e.g. F. Newman, pp. 155-6; p. 167; p. 169, &c., &c. Let us begin then with pointing out the powerful argument which an anti-Catholic could at once build up, if this foundation were conceded him.

"Catholics are taught to regard it as a sacred duty that {254} they shall hold, most firmly and without a shadow of doubt, the truth of certain marvels, which are alleged to have taken place some nineteen centuries ago As to examining the evidence for those truths, the great mass of Catholics are of course philosophically uncultured and simply incompetent to such a task. But even were they competent thereto, they are prevented from attempting it. Except a select few of them, they are all forbidden to read or knowingly to hear one syllable of argument on the other side. Under such circumstances, proof for their creed they can have none; any more than a judge can have proof, who has only heard witnesses on one side, and them not cross-examined. So far from proportioning their assent to the evidence on which their doctrine rests, the assent claimed from them is the very highest, while the evidence afforded them is less than the least.

"But take even any one of the select few, who are permitted to study both sides of the question. He will tell you quite frankly, that his belief was as firm before his examination began, as it is now, nay, and that he regards it as a sin, which unrepented would involve him in eternal misery, if he allowed himself so much as one deliberate doubt on the truth of Catholicity. I place before him some serious difficulty, which tells against the most central facts of his religion: he had never heard of the difficulty before, and he is now not at all sure that he will be able to answer it. I should have expected (were it not for my knowledge of Catholics) that the confidence of his conviction would be diminished by this circumstance; for plainly an unanswered difficulty is no slight abatement from the body of proof on which his creed reposes. But he says unblushingly, that if he were to study ten years without seeing how to meet the point I have suggested, — his belief in his Church, whose claim of authority he recognizes as divinely authorized, would be in no respect or degree affected by the circumstance.

"Nor is it for themselves alone, but for all mankind, that Catholics prescribe this rebellion against reason. They maintain that every human being, to whom their Gospel is preached, is under an obligation of accepting with firmest faith the whole mass of Catholic facts; the miraculous Conception, Resurrection, Ascension, &c., &C: while it is simply undeniable, that 999 out of every 1,000 are absolutely incapable of appreciating ever so distantly the evidence on which these facts are alleged to repose.

"Nor, to do them justice, do they show the slightest disposition {255} to conceal or veil their maxims. The Vatican Council itself has openly anathematized all those who shall allege, that Catholics may lawfully suspend their judgment on the truth of Catholicity, until they have obtained for themselves scientific proof of its truth [Note 1].

"I have no general prejudice against Catholics; on the contrary, I think many of them possess some first-rate qualities. But while their avowed intellectual maxims are those above recited, I must regard them as external to the pale of intellectual civilization. I have no more ground on which I can argue with a Catholic, than I have ground on which I can argue with a savage."

We shall have repeatedly, in our present article, to comment on the principle, set forth and applied in this objection; and it will be much more convenient therefore at once to give it a name. Perhaps we may be permitted to call it the principle of "equationism"; the principle which alleges, that there is an obligation on every one who loves truth, of setting himself expressly to the task of effecting an "equation" between the strength of his convictions and the amount of proof on which they respectively rest. And as to those Catholics who regard with suspicion the general tendency of F. Newman's volume, we would entreat them to consider how the objection of equationists, as above stated, can be otherwise met, than by the substantial adoption of his doctrine. However we have no kind of right to constitute ourselves his interpreters. Our purpose in the present article is only to solve the above objection in our own way, making abundant use for that purpose of the invaluable materials which he has supplied. And we shall understand the doctrine of these equationists, not as one of their number might explain it when cross-questioned, but in the sense it must bear if it is to warrant the anti-Catholic objections just now recited.

We cannot proceed however one step in our task, till we have made some explanation of our terminology. F. Newman uses the word "certitude" in a sense different from that usually given by Catholic philosophers. They divide certitude into two elements: as signifying, firstly, the reasonable absence of all doubt; and, secondly, a certain degree of positive adhesion to the truth embraced. {256} F. Newman includes in the term only the former of the two elements; and in saying therefore that certitude has no degree as regards the absence of doubt, he entirely concurs in their doctrine [Note 2]. We shall ourselves, so far, word "certitude" in F. Newman's sense. In p. 204 however he draws a distinction between what he calls "material" and "formal" certitude; which we do not find useful for our own purpose, and which we shall therefore not adopt [Note 3]. We shall speak of "certitude" existing in my mind as to any truth, whenever I undoubtingly assent to that truth on grounds which legitimately generate such undoubtingness;—on grounds, we mean, which conclusively establish the truth in question. Undoubting assent itself we shall call "absolute assent"; whether it do or do not rest on fully adequate grounds. By "absolute assent" (in other words) we understand an assent, which is not only unaccompanied by doubt, but which is so firm as to expel doubt; to be incompatible with the presence of doubt. And we shall say that an absolute assent, resting on inadequate grounds, possesses "putative certitude" only.

Here however, before going further, we must interpose an explanation; which has no bearing indeed on our argument, but which is necessary for the prevention of possible misunderstanding. No "certitude," in the sense we have given the word, can be greater than another; but it may be very much more irresistible than another. Wherever grounds for certitude exist, doubt is unreasonable; but in one case, very far more than in another, it is possible. Suppose I have gone through Euclid I., prop. 47, and satisfied myself that the whole argument is cogent. I am as certain of that proposition, as I am of the axiom that things equal to the same are equal to each other; but plainly it is far more possible, though not more reasonable, to doubt the former than the latter verity.

This then being laid down, we give two answers to the equationist doctrine: our answers, we believe, being substantially {257} the same with F. Newman's. Firstly, there are no degrees of certitude; and consequently, when complete certitude is once obtained, additional proofs can add nothing to the certitude itself as regards all absence of doubt. For instance. To speak quite within bounds, by the time I was twenty-five years old, I possessed abundantly sufficient ground for complete certitude that there are such cities in the world as Paris and Vienna. Since that date, my proofs for this conclusion have much more than doubled; but it is simply ludicrous to say, that I should now be more than twice as certain of the fact as I was then. I was completely certain of it then; and I cannot be more than completely certain of it now.

Take another case. My father is a man of singularly spotless integrity; and I have lived continually with him, from my infancy down to the prime of life in which I now am. It is very long since I acquired a complete certitude of such being his character. Five years ago, a heavy charge was brought against his morals; and he frankly told me that he was wholly unable for the moment to explain those suspicions which pressed against him so heavily. Indubitably there was at that time one argument of weight on the adverse side; and equationists must in consistency maintain, that my only reasonable course was to diminish pro tanto my confidence in his character. But though they are bound in consistency to maintain it, we do not dream that they will maintain it. On the contrary, the common voice of mankind declares that, had I so acted, I should have done what is no less intellectually unreasonable than morally detestable. It is intellectually unreasonable; because if I possess certitude of any truth, I thereby also possess certitude that apparent objections against it are worthless.

This latter illustration leads us to a second remark, which is of vital moment in the present discussion. It is in the highest degree noteworthy, how many of men's strongest, most important, and most reasonable convictions rest on implicit premisses. Nay, many truly momentous conclusions depend on premisses, which are not only implicit, but in their present shape are no more than confused memories of the past. My conviction that Paris and Vienna exist—my conviction that my father is a man of spotless integrity—are both cases in point. To insist that in either of these cases I shall expressly labour to equate the strength of my conviction with the degree of its evidence, would be to take the surest means of rendering it utterly disproportioned thereto. In either case premiss has for years succeeded premiss, each {258} leaving its intimate impression on my mind and then forgotten. How is it possible that I can labour to equate my conviction with its evidence, when that evidence, in its original and adequate shape, is wholly inaccessible, having left behind it but a vague record on my memory? In like manner every acute and intelligent person, who has lived an active life among men, possesses, stored within him, all sorts of miscellaneous convictions on the fit way of dealing with mankind, the result of his past experience. These are indeed among his most valuable possessions, so far as this world is concerned; and yet it would be the merest child's play if he professed to remember the individual experiences which have gradually built them up. It is rather a hopeless task certainly for the thinker to aim at proportioning his conviction to its premisses; when these premisses, in their original and adequate shape, are no longer present to his mind [Note 4].

Equationists however may hope to meet the first of our two objections, by asking leave to amend their plea. They will no longer perhaps speak of proportioning the degree of conviction to the degree of evidence; but will urge that every one should sedulously take heed that he hold no proposition with absolute assent, for which he does not possess evidence abundantly sufficient. And their doctrine certainly deserves much more respectful consideration in its new shape, than it deserved in its old.

We concede then that (putting aside one or two exceptional instances on which there is no need to insist) it would cæteris paribus be a great advantage, if no one yielded more unreserved assent to any proposition, than is warranted by the evidence he possesses [Note 5]. But this is a most different proposition from saying, that all men should expressly aim at obtaining for themselves this advantage. Take an obvious illustration. It would be a great advantage cæteris paribus (putting aside one or two exceptional instances) if all men enjoy excellent bodily health; but it does not at all follow from this, that men would act wisely in pursuing this object through every detail of their life. Such a course would lead {259} to two evils: for, firstly, this minute care would so occupy their attention, as indefinitely to weaken their energy in more important directions; and, secondly, the constant endeavour for bodily health would be injurious to bodily health. Now let us apply this illustration: and we will begin with far the less important reason of the two.

Firstly then, we say, if all men were thus to busy themselves with pruning down their putative certitudes, they would disastrously diminish their energy in other more important directions. Let us take one case out of a thousand. No one will deny that philanthropists have done great service to mankind: yet how far stronger are their beliefs than their premisses warrant! Each one holds implicitly an undoubting conviction, that his own particular hobby is the one most important element of human happiness. Now we ask which of the two following alternatives is more for the welfare of mankind? On the one hand, that he should proceed steadily in his admirable and disinterested efforts for benefiting his fellow man? Or on the other hand, that he should largely divert his energy from this noble course, to the far less congenial employment, of lowering down his view on the importance of what he is about to the exact level warranted by evidence? Again, take a much graver case. I am fifteen years old; and I have a father—not of comparatively spotless excellence as in a former illustration—but of mixed character; by no means predominantly wicked, yet with serious faults. And for one reason or another it is very important for me to have a true implicit impression of that character. Would it on that account be desirable, that I should apply myself directly to the study? labour to obtain all requisite candour? contend laboriously against my tendency, prompted by affection, to undervalue his defects?

But now, secondly and much more importantly, however desirable it may be that putative certitudes should be pruned down, it continually happens that the worst possible means of effecting this object will be for the thinker himself to aim directly at its accomplishment. In the immense majority of cases men are absolutely incapable of any such effort. Take the whole class of labourers, farmers, tradesmen; or take a large number of hunting country gentlemen. They hold with absolute assent a large number of convictions; many resting on fully sufficient grounds, many on grounds more or less inadequate, many on no grounds at all. Various influences may be brought to bear on these men by a more cultured mind, with the result of considerably diminishing this intellectual evil; but it is more like a bad joke than a grave suggestion, {260} to advise that they shall be summoned to pass under review their various beliefs, and reject those which are insufficiently supported. The grave philosopher, who should urge this, could not get them to understand so much as what he means. And even if he could, they would be no more competent to the task, than the said philosopher would himself be competent to the task of riding across country after the hounds. Each man has his speciality.

Then even as regards one of the most cultivated mind. Is it true that he has always the power of confronting his conclusion with the grounds on which it rests, in order to estimate its reasonableness? Why in many cases, as we have already pointed out, those grounds are no longer accessible in their original shape; having left behind them but a vague record on the memory. But further, even when his premisses are actually before him, they very often defy his power of analysis. F. Newman has illustrated this with exquisite felicity.

As by the use of our eyesight we recognize two brothers, yet without being able to express what it is by which we distinguish them; as at first sight we perhaps confuse them together, but on better knowledge, we see no likeness between them at all; as it requires an artist's eye to determine what lines and shades make a countenance look young or old, amiable, thoughtful, angry or conceited, the principle of discrimination being in each case real, but implicit;—so is the mind unequal to a complete analysis of the motives it on to a particular conclusion, and is swayed and determined by a body of  proof, which it recognises only as a body, and not in its constituent parts (p. 285).

Take as one instance the case of medicine, to which F. Newman refers at p. 325. A third-rate practitioner is one, who forms his conclusions theoretically: who derives universal propositions from his acquaintance with treatises; and deals no otherwise with each particular case, than by classing it under one or other of these universal propositions. The physician of genius, while availing himself to the utmost of past experience as recorded in treatises, at the same time studies each several case on its own merits; and forms a conclusion based on the whole phenomena before him. Is that conclusion to be accounted unreasonable, until he is able to produce those phenomena one by one before his conscious observation? Then all the most important cures have been wrought by unreasonable men; and the patient, if a "lover of truth," would rather have been left to die "secundùm artem." Turn indeed where you will externally to the region of pure mathematics, the same fact will meet your observation. The careful student {261} of history e.g. will pronounce with absolute confidence, that such or such a nation would be so or so affected by such or such a circumstance; that such or such a change has been wrought in that nation's character since such or such a period. Is he able to exhibit in detail, for his own satisfaction, the precise premisses which have led him to these conclusions? No one will think so. F. Newman again points to a different field of illustration. He gives extracts (p. 321) from a work, with which we are not otherwise acquainted, on "the authorship of a certain anonymous publication as suggested mainly by internal evidence." We preserve F. Newman's italics. "Rumour," says this author,—

Speaks uniformly and clearly enough in attributing it to the pen of a particular individual. Nor, although a cursory reader might well skim the book without finding in it any thing to suggest, &c., ... will it appear improbable to the more attentive student of its internal evidence; and the improbability will decrease more and more, in proportion as the reader is capable of judging and appreciating the delicate, and at first invisible touches, which limit, to those who understand them, the individuals who can have written it to a very entail number indeed. The utmost scepticism as to its authorship (which we do not feel ourselves) cannot remove it farther from him than to that of some one among his most intimate friends; so that, leaving others to discuss antecedent probabilities, &c. (p. 321)

On this passage F. Newman thus comments:—

Here is a writer who professes to have no doubt at all about the authorship of a book,—which at the same time he cannot prove by mere argumentation set down in words. The reasons of his conviction are too delicate, too intricate; nay, they are in part invisible, except to those who from circumstances have an intellectual perception of what does not appear to the many. They are personal to the individual. This again is an instance, distinctly set before us, of the particular mode in which the mind progresses in concrete matter, viz. from merely probable antecedents to the sufficient proof of a fact or a truth, and, after the proof, to an act of certitude about it. (Ib.)

Criticism of this kind affords a large field for illustrating the proposition with which we are engaged. There are many passages e.g. of which a good scholar would pronounce with most absolute certitude, that they were not written by Cicero or by Tacitus as the case may be. Yet how hopeless his attempt of exhibiting, for his own inspection, the various premisses which make this conclusion legitimate! [Note 6]

Now we do not for a moment deny, that even the most philosophically cultured men often enough yield absolute {262} assent to some propositions on insufficient evidence; nor again do we deny, that they may with great advantage put themselves through some course of intellectual discipline, with the view of diminishing this evil. Some of their conclusions doubtless—though we believe that these are with most men comparatively few—have been entirely arrived at by explicit reasoning; i.e. by argument: and, it will certainly be very useful to confront these from time to time with the arguments on which they rest. Then as to those far more numerous assents which rest mainly or partly on implicit premisses,—it is often very important that a philosophically cultured lover of truth shall impartially examine every argument, whether favourable or adverse to them, with which he can become acquainted. And there is another remedy against prejudice which is also available to such minds: viz., that they labour to analyse their various opinions; compare them with each other; and compare them also with all cognizable phenomena. But after allowing all this, it still remains true, with the highly-educated man no less than with the most uncultured, that the number of convictions is very considerable, for which he has no evidence capable of being placed distinctly before his mind. And it is also true, that there are not a few among the number which he intimately feels to rest on evidence super-superabundantly sufficient, nay in some cases simply irresistible; and which he could not eradicate, without rending his whole moral and intellectual nature.

Let so much have been said on the philosophical principle of equationism, whether in its original or its amended shape. We will now proceed to consider those two fundamental theses, on which the devout Catholic rests his whole hope for this life and the next: the truth of Theism, and the truth of Catholicity. We affirm that any ordinary Catholic, however uneducated, has access to superabundantly conclusive evidence for these truths. As regard Theism, we placed before our readers in Oct. 1869 a long and most striking passage to this effect from F. Kleutgen (pp. 422-425), which we hope they will read again in the present context. Nor can we do better here than supplement it with another, from a later portion of his great work, in which (as will be seen) he incidentally applies the same principle to the evidence of Catholicity. As in the former case, we italicise a few sentences to which we invite special attention; and we  here and there add a word or two within brackets, to make clear what we conceive to be the author's meaning.

Our reasonable nature is so constituted that, with but little reflection, we {263} are excited and constrained, not only by a spontaneous inclination of heart but by a necessitated power of mind (esprit), to acknowledge the Existence of a Supreme and Absolute Being, Cause and Sovereign Master of all things. And this necessity especially makes itself felt, when we vividly represent to ourselves our imperfection and dependence. Why? Partly no doubt because God at the same time makes Himself felt within us by His moral law as an August Power to which we are subject; but partly also because it is conformable to the laws of our intelligence, thus to conclude from things relative and dependent to the Absolute and Sovereign Being Who is their Cause. This is the explanation given long ago by the Fathers of the Church, as to the origin of that knowledge of God which is natural to us. Nevertheless it may easily happen that the human understanding, in virtue of a law inherent in its nature, is led on from one truth to the knowledge of another, without [explicitly] going through those reasonings which (according to that very law) are the steps from premiss to conclusion; nay, even without reflecting on the fact that it has passed from premises to conclusion at all [Note 7].

Now to require that in the scientific examination of those convictions which rise up within us (it may be said) without our own agency [qui naissent en nous, on dirait, sans nous] no mention should be made of those intermediate considerations [which are the implicit stepping-stones from the first premiss to the last conclusion], and that attention should only be given to what is found in the spontaneous and (as it were) instinctive deductions of reason, this would be entirely to misunderstand the office of science. How many truths are there, concerning moral duty, concerning nature and art, which a man of good judgment [bon sens] knows with perfect accuracy, without being distinctly cognisant how he passes in his successive judgments from one truth to another. Now this distinct knowledge, which he doss not possess and often cannot obtain, is precisely what we expect to derive from science; which, exhibiting the connection between divers cognitions, strengthens those spontaneous convictions; and not only defines their object more distinctly, but makes the knowledge of them clearer. Why then should not science take as the object of its researches that knowledge of God which we instinctively possess, in order to make clear on what principle we can legitimately reason, from the dependence of our own being, to the Existence—not of some generally conceived first cause—but of the Absolute and Independent Being [whom we call God]: in order thus to strengthen our convictions on His Existence and to arrive at a more intimate knowledge of His Nature? Do we not proceed in the same way when we desire to satisfy ourselves on the foundations of the Christian Faith? All that we have heard from infancy on the foundation and stability of our holy religion, suffices abundantly to convince us without much reasoning that God only can be its author. It is true that in order to form this judgment we are assisted by the light of grace; but neither is that [instinctive] knowledge of {264} God on which we have spoken obtained without Divine aids of the natural order. Now theology develops those reasons which we have for believing in the divinity of the Christian religion ... In the same way philosophy is able and is bound to show that that method of reasoning from the world's existence to God's, to which our intellect is spontaneously impelled, is conformable to the clearly known laws of our thought" (Phil. Scol, n. 929).

If our readers will peruse, in connection with this striking passage, the extracts which we gave in October 1869, they will find that F. Klentgen's doctrine is such as the following; and it is the doctrine which we ourselves cordially embrace. All men have access to super-superabundant evidence for the truth of Theism; and all Catholics have access to super-superabundant evidence for the truth of Catholicity. Moreover God in His tender love deals with men one by one; presses such premisses efficaciously on their attention; and strengthens their mind that they may draw the legitimate conclusion. Such assistance, in bringing home to men's mind the truth of Catholicity, in the work of supernatural grace; while such assistance in bringing home to men's mind the truth of Theism, appertains (says F. Kleutgen) not to supernatural grace, but to divine aid of the natural order. We need not ourselves here consider in any way this distinction between natural and supernatural auxilia; which would lead us entirely beyond the bounds of philosophical disquisition: otherwise (as we have said) we are prepared heartily to defend F. Kleutgen's doctrine. 

The criticism of this doctrine, put forth by anti-Catholic philosophers on first hearing it, will probably be, not merely that it is untrue, but that it is manifestly and on the surface untrue; that it is obviously and undeniably inconsistent with phenomena. Our first task must be to meet this allegation; and to argue that the theory before us may be firmly held, without in any way contradicting obvious and ascertainable facts. For this purpose we would submit to our opponents the following considerations:—

(1.) We have already pointed out that certitude. (in the sense we give that term) admits of no degrees; and consequently, that when premisses sufficient for certitude have once been accumulated, additional premisses cannot increase the undoubtingness of one who acts faultlessly on the principles of sound reason. We would now add however, what must not be forgotten, that such additional premisses are often of invaluable service. A has a mind indefinitely more acute and profound than B; and may draw the legitimate conclusion at the first moment (so to speak) when it becomes legitimate. But B with the best intentions remains {265} unconvinced; and it is only through the multitude of reasons which keep thronging in, that the fort of his reason (made as it is of somewhat impenetrable material) can at length be stormed. The super-superabundance therefore of evidence, on which (as we consider) Theism and Catholicity respectively rest, is a circumstance of great force towards the conviction of ordinary minds.

(2.) There is no more remarkable fact in psychology, than the extraordinary number of operations which may be elicited by the human mind without its own consciousness. As regards the case of cultured persons, one illustration will suffice. We suppose such an experience as the following will be common to many of our readers. I am intensely interested in some author—say Gerdil—some of whose treatises are in Latin and some in French; two languages which I can read with about equal facility. Immediately on finishing one of these treatises, I ask myself whether it was in Latin or in French; and I find myself entirely unable to answer. Now how many operations have thus unconsciously passed through my mind! Firstly the letters have been read, each one separately, and all together; (2) the letters formed into words; (3) the words translated from a foreign language into English; (4) the construction of the sentences mastered so that the words shall group themselves in proper order; (5) the ideas expressed by the sentences conveyed to my understanding. Every single part of this long and complicated chain must by necessity have traversed my thoughts; for there is literally no connection between the letters which I read and the ideas which I receive, except by means of it: and yet it has left absolutely no trace on the memory.

But now this phenomenon is by no means confined to philosophically cultured intellects. Consider the extraordinary quickness with which some uneducated mariner will prognosticate, on some fine evening, that there will be a storm before next morn. He fixes his attention on a certain assemblage of phenomena; accurately distinguishes them from others with which they have a greater or less resemblance; brings to bear on them the confused memory of innumerable former occasions, on which he has observed appearances precisely similar; and draws the one conclusion legitimately resulting from his premisses. In fact he has gone correctly through the various processes described in Mill's Logic, with no more suspicion of the fact than if he had been all along fast asleep. Or take the rustic's firm conviction that such or such of his companions is honest and trustworthy and friendly to himself. How large a number of premisses must be intimately known, {266} and how lengthy a chain of reasoning gone through, to warrant the conclusion! Yet again and again the rustic will arrive at such a conclusion with faultless certitude, and without the faintest suspicion that his mind has been engaged in any special exercise. To the same effect is an illustration which we gave in October 1869 (pp. 427-8), and which is fully within the most uneducated man's compass. "I am intimately acquainted with a certain relative: and some fine morning I have not been with him more than five minutes, before I am perfectly convinced, and on most conclusive grounds, that (for whatever reason) he is out of sorts with me. It is little to say that I could not so analyze my grounds of conviction as to make another see the force of my reasoning; I could not so analyze them, as that their exhibition shall be in the slightest degree satisfactory to myself. Especially in proportion as I am less philosophical and less clever in psychological analysis, all attempts at exhibiting my premisses in due form hopelessly break down. Yet none the less it remains true, both that my premisses are known to me with certainty, and that my conclusion follows from them irresistibly. There is an enormous number of past instances, in which these symptoms have co-existed with ill-humour; there is no single known case in which they have existed without it; they all admit of being referred to ill-humour as effects to their cause; they are so heterogeneous, that any other cause except ill-humour which shall account for them all is quite incredible, while it is no less incredible that they co-exist fortuitously; &c. &c. &c. Why, in all probability the very Newtonian theory of gravitation does not rest on firmer and more irrefragable grounds." Yet it is not only true that I cannot analyze my process of conviction; I should naturally never dream of thinking that I have gone through any such process. The whole has as simply escaped my notice, as though it had never been.

(3.) Nothing is more easily imaginable, than that the illative faculty (if we may borrow F. Newman's adjective) should be indefinitely strengthened by God for a special purpose. Another faculty, that of memory, will supply a ready illustration. Of course it would be simply unmeaning to say that God so strengthens my memory, as to give me knowledge of things which I never experienced; but it would be most intelligible that He should so stimulate it, as to give me certain knowledge of every past thought, word, and act of mine, however transitory. In like manner it would be simply unmeaning to say that God so assists my illative faculty, as to enable me to draw confident conclusions from premisses which {267} do not warrant certitude; and such a notion we entirely put aside. But it is most intelligible that He so elevates it in some particular process, as to enable me to discern the legitimacy of certain inferences, which are legitimate, but which I should never by my natural strength of mind have discerned so to be. Or putting the thing more generally. It is a most intelligible statement that God, for the sake of obtaining my assent to some momentous verity, (1) specially presses on my attention this that and the other premiss; and (2) so strengthens my illative faculty, as to make me see (what otherwise I should not have seen) the full sufficiency of those premisses as establishing the verity in question.

We will next then apply what has been said to those cardinal doctrines, the truth of Theism and the truth of Catholicity. We begin with the former.

All mankind have access to premisses, the cumulative force of which is super-superabundantly sufficient for the proof of God's Existence. We reserve to a future article a consideration of what those premisses precisely are, and what their ratiocinative force. We will here but briefly enumerate one or two of their number. First and foremost we must mention those deducible from the testimony of the Moral Faculty [Note 8]. So importunate and at the same time so authoritative are the utterances of man's moral voice, that no adult, except for his own grave fault, can be ignorant of their essential teaching. No one, we say, except for his own grave fault, can be ignorant of the truth that, as F. Kleutgen expresses it, there exists "an absolute good and a sovereign rule over our wills and actions"; "an august and sacred power which is [in authority] over us." But this truth is only part of what may be called man's natural stock of Theistic premisses [Note 9]; of those premisses with which every one is familiar, as he advances towards maturity. Thus the manifold and most unmistakable marks of order and design, visible in creation, sink deeply into his {268} mind and make their due impression. Other premisses again are supplied by the great principle of causation [Note 10]; which is as inevitably and as constantly (however unconsciously) recognized by the most uncultured rustic, as by the profoundest philosopher. And these at last are but specimens and samples, though principal ones, of a class.

Such are the premisses which, as we maintain after F. Kleutgen, are pressed by God on the implicit attention of all adults; and which legitimately issue in a most firm and most reasonable conviction of His Existence. F. Kleutgen further points out (see our number for Oct. 1869, p. 422) a very significant fact. "When the Fathers of the Church," he says, "declare unanimously that knowledge of God is really found and established among all men, the importance of their testimony is better understood by remembering that they lived in the midst of heathen populations." This theme,—the prevalence of implicit Theism among the most inveterate polytheists,—is worthy of far more attention than we can here give it.

But it must never be forgotten how indefinitely higher and happier is the state of those, who have been educated in explicit Theism, and who have practised the lessons of their education. Reverting to a former distinction—if in all men doubt of God's Existence is unreasonable, to these men it is (in some sense) impossible. Take that premiss on which F. Kleutgen lays by far his most prominent stress; the truth that there exists "an absolute good and a sovereign rule over our actions," "an august power which is over us." It is only in proportion as men act consistently and energetically on the dictates of their moral faculty, that this truth impresses itself on their minds with an evidence, which is not luminous only but simply irresistible; and none but Theists can act thus consistently and energetically [Note 11]. And this leads us to another most cogent and persuasive proof, which is the special property of what we may call practising Theists; for they have {269} experience of the singular assistance derived from prayer towards fulfilment of the moral law. Such evidences as we have just now recounted, we say, are accessible to every man,—not in proportion as he is philosophically cultured,—but in proportion as he has been zealous in obeying and serving that God, Whom from the first dawn of reason he has instinctively known.

So much on the truth of Theism. We now proceed to similar considerations on the truth of Catholicity. In doing so however, we will invert our previous course; and begin with considering what evidences are available to those—however destitute they may be of mental culture—who have been trained from childhood in the Catholic religion. We must content ourselves, in this as in other parts of our article, with the merest skeleton outline of what we would say.

(1.) Firstly, there is no fact more profoundly impressed on the Catholic at every turn, than that the Church claims emphatically to be God's one accredited messenger; infallible in teaching and intolerant of rivals. All her allegations are in harmony with this claim. She professes that Apostles established their divine commission by miracles and by the fulfilment of prophecy; that they regarded one of their number as placed by God over the rest; that that one has had a successor unintermittently through intervening centuries; that the society which he governs is one in faith and communion, holy, Catholic, and (of course) Apostolic [Note 12]. The humblest Catholic knows, that all his educated coreligionists are firmly convinced of these facts, as of undoubted historical truths.

(2.) On the other hand there is no writing, nor any other society whatever, which makes a parallel claim; which alleges itself to be God's one accredited messenger to mankind. Most certainly Scripture does not put forth any such claim in its own behalf.

(3.) Moreover to put forth such a claim without foundation, is nothing less than insolent blasphemy. The Catholic Church {270} is necessarily either Vice-God or Anti-God [Note 13]; and this fact wonderfully simplifies the issue.

(4.) There is a certain type of morality, impressed on all Catholics in their various devotional books, their hagiologies, their Catechisms, their religious practices; a type, which those who disapprove it commonly call the "ascetical." Reason rightly directed, we affirm, peremptorily declares, that this is the one type conformable with eternal truth; and the most uneducated Catholic, in proportion as he is devout, has had his reason thus rightly directed.

(5.) The various revealed dogmata, which in themselves are wholly inaccessible to reason, are nevertheless found by a believer to be in deep and mysterious harmony on many points with this true type of morality. To meditate on them and bring them in every possible way to bear on practical action, has a singular effect in elevating his mind towards the true moral standard. "The Catholic religion is true," says F. Newman (p. 205), among other reasons, "because it has about it an odour of truth and sanctity sui generis, as perceptible to my moral nature as flowers to my sense, such as can only come from heaven."

(6.) Then all who really hold the Catholic Faith, are more or less keenly impressed with a sense of sin. If they labour to serve God, in proportion as they do so they feel profoundly their numberless faults; because clearness of moral perception grows far more quickly than consistency of moral action. On the other hand, if they retain the Faith without labouring to serve God, they see by the light of reason (no less than by the light of faith) that such omission is most sinful. All Catholics then, really such, are impressed with a reasonable conviction, that there can be no surer note of a divinely-sent religion, than its prominent recognition of human sinfulness. To our mind there is no greater excellence in F. Newman's volume, than his repeated inculcation of this truth. But this note is a special characteristic of Catholicity in many different respects. Consider e.g. the dogma of the Atonement: how marvellously it appeals to man's sense of sin!

(7.) Emphatically also to be considered is the experienced effect of Catholicity, as assisting a believer in all increase of virtue and piety. As one instance out of many, consider that power of resisting the foulest and most importunate temptations, which is obtained by Catholic prayer, by frequentation of the Sacraments, by the constant and tender worship of Mary Most Holy. {271}

Now all the reasons which we have mentioned are accessible to the most unintellectual Catholics; and they are reasons moreover, which admit of being pressed home to the mind with special impressiveness by divine agency. In their legitimate effect, they are super-superabundantly sufficient to produce certitude; and our affirmation is, that the holy Ghost uses these and similar reasons for that very purpose in the soul of Catholics. From first to last undoubtedly the Catholic is perfectly free to reject that which he has such abundant reason for accepting; but in proportion as he surrenders the whole current of his life to the influences of his Faith, in that proportion the divine origin of that Faith is more vividly and efficaciously evidenced to his mind.

As to the reasons available for the conversion of uncultured non-Catholics, we cannot even enter into that amount of detail which we gave to the last case; but we heartily concur with the whole of F. Newman's magnificent sermon—"Dispositions for Faith"—which stands fifth in the "Occasional" volume. For ourselves we can only make two, and those most general, observations. Firstly, in proportion as externs are brought more closely into contact with the Church, they are enabled more clearly to discern such notes of the Church as we have already mentioned. Secondly we are most strongly disposed to concur with what F. Newman has consistently advocated (we may say) through his whole theological life; viz. that by far the most hopeful course for an extern (speaking generally and allowing for exceptions) is to act energetically, under the guidance of his moral faculty, on what is placed before him as moral truth by his parents and teachers [Note 14]. These are his words in the volume before us:—

Of the two, I would rather have to maintain that we ought to begin with believing everything that is offered to our acceptance, than that it is our duty to doubt of everything. This, indeed, seems the true way of learning. In that case, we soon discover and discard what is contradictory; and error having always some portion of truth in it, and the truth having a reality which error has not, we may expect, that when there is an honest purpose and fair talents, we shall somehow make our way forward, the error falling off from the mind, and the truth developing and occupying it. Thus it is that the Catholic religion is reached, as we see, by inquirers from all points of the compass; as if it mattered not where a man began, so that he had an eye and a heart for the truth (pp. 371, 372).

Now the purpose of our article is, as our readers will {272} remember, to consider a certain "chief stronghold of philosophical objections against the Church," which we set forth at starting. And we suppose we may assume without express argument that, if Catholics have really such super-superabundant ground for their belief as we have affirmed, a thoroughly satisfactory answer is furnished by such a fact to the philosophical objection. The whole question therefore turns on the issue, whether the account we have given of Catholic evidence is substantially true.

Hitherto we have been merely arguing, that at all events it cannot be disproved; that it contains nothing inconsistent with phenomena. No such inconsistency, so far as we see, can be even alleged, except by assuming that such processes as we suppose to have traversed a Catholic's mind, must (if they really did so) have left behind them some record on the memory. But the illustrations we have given amply refute any such attempted argument. Indeed there is perhaps no one point in which psychologians of the present day have so outstripped their predecessors, as in their very strong doctrine on the multitude and importance of implicit mental processes [Note 15].

We have proved then, we trust, to philosophical non-Catholics, that our theory is not inconsistent with phenomena; but can we further prove to them that it is true? Even if we could not prove this to them, this theory might nevertheless be cognisable by Catholics as true, and might therefore be obligatory on their action. Let us revert to our familiar illustration. I have the firmest conviction of my father's integrity. I may be utterly unable to make my friends sharers in this conviction: but I am none the less bound to act on it myself, and should be greatly culpable if I did otherwise. The application is obvious. Catholics are responsible for their conduct to their Creator, and not to their non-Catholic fellow-creatures.

But we say much more than this. We say that the only question really at issue is, whether the historical and philosophical arguments, adduced by educated Catholics for the truth of their religion, be really conclusive. This of course is a question entirely external to the present article, and we are obliged to assume the affirmative answer [Note 16]. But what we wish {273} here to say is this. Whatever arguments suffice to convince an educated man that the Catholic religion is true, should suffice also to convince him that uneducated Catholics have full evidence of its truth. There are two reasons for this, either sufficient.

(1.) Suppose an educated man to become convinced that Catholicity is true. He thereby becomes convinced that, wherever the Gospel is duly preached, all men are under an obligation of accepting what the Church teaches; and that her Gospel is more especially directed to the uneducated and poor. If then it is their duty to accept what the Church teaches, they must have sufficient evidence to make such acceptance reasonable.

(2.) Then again. Suppose an educated man becomes convinced that Catholicity is true, he thereby becomes convinced that the Church is infallible in faith and morals. But no one ever questioned, that she prescribes to her children that very course of conduct, set forth in the philosophical objection against which our whole argument has been directed. If an educated man then becomes convinced that Catholicity is true, he thereby becomes convinced that this very course of conduct is conformable to right reason. But it is not conformable to right reason, unless an uneducated Catholic has access to such implicit evidence as we have alleged. The inference is obvious.

In saying however what we have said, we have had no thought of doubting, that an educated Catholic will often find it of great importance to enter on an explicit investigation [Note 17] of Catholic evidences in this or that direction. Here again we are brought to a very important theme, which it is impossible to handle in our brief remaining space; and we can but state most briefly the opinions which we should humbly advocate. On the one hand we cannot but think, that the implicit grounds of belief, possessed by educated and uneducated alike and pressed on the attention of all by divine grace, will ever remain the strongest and most satisfying basis of conviction [Note 18]. On the other hand an educated {274} Catholic will often be tempted to doubt, however unreasonably, the conclusiveness of these grounds, unless he has learned to see how strongly reinforced they are by explicit reasoning, derived from every branch of human thought and study. Moreover, as we need hardly add, it is of vital moment, that a sufficient number of able Catholic thinkers shall be, for controversial purposes, thoroughly acquainted with the vast variety of arguments adducible for the truth of Catholicity.

In the article which we here conclude, we have not unfrequently verged on the confines of various delicate philosophical questions, which we have thought it better to avoid. It seems to us abundantly plain, that the view we have put forth is substantially true, so far as it goes; while it is nevertheless constantly ignored by anti-Catholic disputants. If we can obtain the concurrence of such persons to the truth of what has here been said, we shall be in a far more favourable position for treating the more anxious and difficult questions which remain behind.

As to F. Newman's volume, which has been the occasion of our remarks though hardly their principal theme, it is so conspicuous for genius and power, and treats so many questions which are of extreme moment in the present crisis of European thought, that we shall be brought across it again and again in the articles we hope to publish from time to time on the relations between religion and philosophy.

[Dublin Review, vol. xvi., April, 1871.]

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1. Si quis dixerit parem esse conditionem fidelium, &c., &c., ita ut Catholici justam causam habere possint fidem, quam sub Ecclesiæ magisterio jam susceperunt, assensu suspenso in dublium vocandi donec demonstrationem scientificam credibilitatis et veritatis fidei suæ absolverint, anathema sit." "Dei Filius," c. 3, canon 6.
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2. Take Liberatore for instance. "Quòd una [certitudo] alteri pæstet, facile suadetur: si non attendas ad partem negativam, nimirum exclusionem dubii,    quæ indivisibilis omnino est et gradus non habet; sed attendas ad partem positivam, nimirum intensitatem adhæsionis, &c."—Logica, n. 11. Dmowski, again. "Omnia naturalis certitudo formaliter spectata est æqualis." Vol. i. p. 32.
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3. There is one part of F. Newman's view, on which he himself lays very great stress, but which we have not yet been able to apprehend. It is his speaking of "assent" as in its nature "unconditional," and independent of the inferential act which may have led to it.
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4. We cannot however concur with F. Newman, if we rightly understand him (p. 160), that such a conviction is now "self-sustained in our minds." On the contrary we would submit, that those confused memories of the past, which now exist, are its reasonable and amply sufficient basis.
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5. If our readers are surprised that we should admit any "exceptional instances", we will mention (as one of their number) the assent given by a child of ten years old to his parent's trustworthiness. Would it really be universally an advantage, that this assent should not be more unreserved than his premisses warrant?
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6. On this part of our theme, see an article on "Explicit and Implicit Thought," in our number for October, 1869.
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7. As we have translated this last clause rather freely, we subjoin the words of the authorized French translation "Sans qu'elle fasse les raisonnements qui, d'après cette loi même, nous font passer de l'une a l'autre, et même sans que nous ayons conscience de cette transition."
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8. Pius IX. speaks of "præcepta [legis naturalis] in omnium cordibus à Deo insculpta" (Encycl. "Quanto conficiamur.")
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9. F. Newman seems to speak here and there (see e.g. p. 101) as though men had no conclusive proof of God's Existence, except that derived from the moral voice within them. If he intends this, we much regret the statement; but if he intends no more than to give this particular argument the chief and most prominent place, he entirely agrees with F. Kleutgen. According to that great champion of scholasticism, as we have seen, all men are so created as to receive spontaneously, from the first dawn of reason, a certitude of God's Existence; and the very principal means by which He produces this result, is the "making Himself felt within us by His moral law as an August Power to which we are subject."
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10. We deeply deplore F. Newman's language in pp. 63-4, concerning the axiom of causation. It would appear indeed that he has here expressed himself somewhat hastily; for within six lines he represents the doctrine that "everything must have a cause," as identical with the doctrine that "nothing happens without a cause." But the first-named expression, as he himself points out, would include God as caused; whereas the other expression excludes Him. As F. Harper explains ("Month," December, 1870, p. 682), the axiom of causation which "grave authors seem to enunciate as an intuitive truth," is that every new existence or changed existence has a cause.
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11. This is one of the several momentous propositions, which we are obliged in our present article to assume, for want of space to argue them.
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12. "Till these last centuries," says F. Newman (p. 372), "the Visible Church was, at least to her children, the light of the world, as conspicuous as the sun in the heavens; and the Creed was written on her forehead, and proclaimed through her voice, by a teaching as precise as it was emphatical; in accordance with the text, 'Who is she that looketh forth at the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?' It was not, strictly speaking, a miracle, doubtless; but in its effect, nay, in its circumstances, it was little less. Of course I would not allow that the Church fails in this manifestation of the truth now, any more than in former times, though the clouds have come over the sun; for what she has lost in her appeal to the imagination, she has gained in philosophical cogency, by the evidence of her persistent vitality."
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13. This is taken from a phrase of F. Newman's; who says that the Church, from her claims, must be either Vice-Christ or Anti-Christ.
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14. If this be admitted, here will be a second exception to the general truth, that it is in itself a great advantage for men to hold no conclusion more strongly than is warranted by its evidence.
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15. We should add however, that the doctrine itself cannot possibly be stated with greater clearness, than it was by Lugo two centuries back. "Hæc est virtus intellectûs et voluntatis, ut uno actu brevissimo et subtilissimo attingant compendiosè totam illam seriem motivorum," &c. de Fide, d. i, n. 98. See also n. 87 and n. 91.
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16. F. Newman does not hesitate to say ("Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England," Preface, p. viii.) that the "proof" of Catholicity "is irresistible, so as even to master and carry away the intellect directly it is stated." We rather fancy him however here to assume as granted, that Christianity in one shape or another is of divine origin, and that the facts narrated in the New Testament are substantially true. So understood, we thoroughly concur with his statement.
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17. F. Newman (p. 184) draws a very important distinction between "investigation" and "inquiry."
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18. So F. Newman. "The grounds, on which we hold the divine origin of the Church, and the previous truths which are taught us by nature—the being of a God, and the immortality of the soul—are felt by most men to be recondite and impalpable, in proportion to their depth and reality. As we cannot see ourselves, so we cannot well see intellectual motives which are so intimately ours, and which spring up from the very constitution of our minds" (pp. 328, 329). And he thus concludes the fifth of his "Occasional Sermons," to which we have already referred. "This is a day in which much stress is laid upon the arguments producible for believing Religion, Natural and Revealed; and books are written to prove that we ought to believe, and why. These books are called Natural Theology and Evidences of Christianity; and it is often said by our enemies, that Catholics do not know why they believe. Now I have no intention whatever of denying the beauty and the cogency of the arguments which these books contain; but I question much, whether in matter of fact they make or keep men Christians. I have no such doubt about the argument which I have been here recommending to you. Be sure, my Brethren, that the best argument, better than all the books in the world, better than all that astronomy, and geology, and physiology, and all other sciences, can supply,—an argument intelligible to those who cannot read as well as to those who can,—an argument which is 'within us,'—an argument intellectually conclusive, and practically persuasive, whether for proving the Being of a God, or for laying the ground for Christianity,—is that which arises out of a careful attention to the teachings of our heart, and a comparison between the claims of conscience and the announcements of the Gospel" (pp. 98, 99).
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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