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THE article which Sir James Stephen has done me the honour to write in the October number of this Review, brings vividly before my mind many a pleasant reminiscence of evenings passed at the Metaphysical Club a dozen years ago. There it was my fate now and again to encounter vigorous and unsparing, yet withal kindly, criticism from the same acute and powerful mind which now compels me somewhat reluctantly to write upon a question which cannot but be largely a personal one. Yet I do not on the whole regret this compulsion, on account of the importance of the questions raised and the opportunity it affords of removing difficulties and misunderstandings. It shall be my endeavour to reply to my critic with entire candour and as fully as the space at my disposal will permit. Before addressing myself, however, to this not altogether unwelcome task, I desire to express my grateful sense of the kindness and courtesy shown to me by my opponent, as well as the gratification I feel at finding in how many important matters we agree, wide as may be our divergence in others certainly of not less moment. There is one sentence of Sir James Stephen which, in my opinion, deserves to be written up in every school, reading-room, and library in England: I refer to that in which he tells us that 'the whole question of the present and future state of religion' is one of 'awful importance.' As to our points of agreement, I, in the first place, most cordially agree with my critic in reprobating the use of a double standard of truth '-a practice I, with him, consider absolutely fatal to common sense, to common honesty, and to all simplicity and directness of mind.' I repudiate with all my heart the affirmation that anything can be at the same time false scientifically and true theologically. As a Catholic I am emphatically authorised to repudiate it, since it has been expressly condemned by the definition made, against Pomponatius, in the Eighth Session of the Fifth Council of Lateran (A.D. 1513), by an Encyclical of Gregory the Sixteenth against Hermes, and by the late Pope. I also agree in deprecating an ambiguous use of the term 'belief,' and to avoid misunderstandings shall be careful not myself to use the word save when I

1 P. 594.

2 In his Encyclical 'cum pluribus' (1846) condemning the followers of Hermes in the very words before used by Leo the Tenth against Pomponatius.



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mean to exclude doubt. It is manifest, however, that we may adhere ' without doubt' to different propositions with very different degrees of energy. Thus, if I have sufficient evidence to exclude doubt that some stranger, accused of a theft, did not commit it, I believe in his innocence. If, instead of a stranger, the man accused is my intimate friend of whose high character I have had many years' experience, I also believe in his innocence, but far more energetically. I agree again with my opponent as to his assertion 3 that the truth of doctrines constitutes the only reasonable ground for wishing to propagate them.' The fact that some belief seems beautiful, or that we deem it likely to promote practices we approve of, does not, to my mind, justify anyone who has no belief in its truth in seeking to diffuse it. I also further cordially concur in saying that, with respect to matters of religion, every sort of conscious and voluntary romance is out of place. 6 romance or poetry, understood to be such, ought to be a servant and not a master;' as also that 'doctrines ought to stand or fall according to their own intrinsic' [or extrinsic] 'powers of persuasion and command.' No real beauty, no lasting goodness can, in my belief, result from anything which is not true. Religion is worth nothing in my eyes as a mere sentiment or taste, unsupported by calm and solid reason. I have, and have always had, a profound contempt for a ' religion of emotion,' and Sir James Stephen may possibly recollect one of my papers for the Metaphysical Club, written expressly to ridicule that most inane religion. But while I thus deprecate mere sentiment and feeling, I would by no means be understood as denying the influence of the will on religious belief. I do not mean that the will either has or ought to have any direct control over our intellectual perceptions; I mean only that experience has intimately convinced me that the attitude of the will towards ethical precepts has a great, though indirect and unconscious, effect upon a man's convictions. But when I say this I am anxious not to be misunderstood. In these days religious belief is far from being the simple easy matter which once it was. Our intellectual conditions are very different from those which existed in the days of the Apostles, when non-theists were without excuse,' and from those of the eleventh century, when disbelief meant extreme rashness and presumption. I cannot doubt but that many a man who now feels himself unable to affirm his belief in a personal God, yet worships with an unconscious but acceptable homage through his devotion to what he deems to be good and trueespecially if, as is often the case, he abounds in charity to his


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Ten years ago I published in a Catholic periodical the following words: 'No one has a stronger sense than I have of the estimable qualities of many of our English "advanced" thinkers, both in their civil and their domestic relations. I have had personal experience of and bear most willing testimony to the self-denying philanthropy and purity of life of men whom I cannot claim as brother Theists, but to whom for these reasons I cannot but look up with sincere admiration.' (Dublin Review for October 1876.

fellows. I cannot doubt but that such an unconscious worship will bring with it its own exceeding great reward.

After noticing these points of agreement with my critic I must, before commencing my reply, call attention to certain other statements of his with which I am so far from agreeing that they almost take my breath away with amazement. Sir James Stephen avows with so much modesty his inability to judge concerning Catholic doctrine, that it is with great unwillingness I proceed to accentuate that avowal. But he has fallen into a mistake so profound and so fundamental, that I am constrained to declare it shows him hardly qualified to express a judgment about it. He says:

Endless argument on the existence and attributes of God has taken place, and at this moment the results arrived at operate powerfully on innumerable minds. How are these speculations to be dealt with? If their weight is to be determined by reason, then the existence of God is a question on which reason is competent to decide, and to overrule authority. . . . Without a previous belief in God on independent grounds, the Church is inconceivable . . . the Church, therefore, rests ultimately upon a conclusion of reason.

But of course the existence of God is a question to be determined by reason. Of course, without a previous belief in God on independent grounds, no man can be expected to bow to the authority of the Church. Of course the Church rests ultimately and must rest for every inquirer upon a conclusion of reason. My critic seems to consider that these truths cannot be held consistently with Catholic orthodoxy, yet they are truths universally and constantly taught, not by this or that school of theology, but by all Catholic theologians without exception.

If Sir James Stephen had only consulted the first priest he happened to meet in the street, he would certainly have been told that the prolegomena of faith do not repose upon authority, but upon reason only. In this sense, then, it is most true, as my critic says, that ordinary human reason in the last resort is the supreme judge of all controversies whatever.' It is, according to Catholic teaching, the legitimate and unquestionable province of ordinary human reason to judge, not only as to the existence of God, but also as to whether God has or has not granted us a revelation. Reason judges legitimately both as to the evidence of a revelation and as to its credibility. It has the right to judge of its credibility by seeing whether it is or is not self-contradictory, and whether it does or does not contradict any self-evident truth. Such contradictions, did they exist, would, of course, prove the asserted revelation to be a mere absurdity, and no revelation at all. But, though reason can decide. whether it does or does not violate the law of contradiction," it by no

• P. 589.

'The law that nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same


means follows that reason can decide as to the truth of propositions which contain no apparent contradiction, but which it has no positive means of forming any opinion about. It is plain that a Divine revelation, if granted, may, and probably will, contain truths beyond the reach of unaided reason, though not contrary to it. Such truths, for example, would be revelations concerning the nature of God Himself. It is most true, as my opponent says, that no one but a madman can reject the use of reason;' but it is also true that no one but a madman would declare God's nature to be incomprehensible and at the same time affirm the validity of his reason for judging as to the truth of doctrines concerning it which contain no contradiction. Such doctrines he should admit to be possibly true or false, and their value to depend on that of the authority from whence they emanate. Thus, then, when Sir James Stephen says, 'No one who admits the authority of reason in any department of affairs can deny its absolute supremacy in all, as the one guide of truth,' he probably means no more than that, according to our nature, all beliefs rest ultimately on a conclusion of reason. He can hardly mean more, since it is evident that, if a witness makes statements which are incapable of verificationsuch as statements about his own feelings-reason may decide as to his probable trustworthiness, but cannot otherwise judge as to the truth or falsehood of statements which by their nature are necessarily beyond its reach. There is then no inconsistency in accepting propositions both on reason and on faith, and such propositions need not be held, as my critic represents them to be held, 'upon two conflicting principles,' but upon two concordant principles. Thus, for example, if we need to understand some difficult point of Indian law, which we have no means ourselves of forming a trustworthy judgment about, and if the best use we can make of our reason in the matter shows us that Sir James Stephen is the highest authority within our reach, then surely we may most reasonably hold to a judgment about it, both on reason and on faith-on reason in so far as our intellect guides us to our authority, on faith in so far as we believe that authority's (Sir James Stephen's) decision on the point in question. Similarly, it is surely conceivable, reason may show us that a Divine revelation has been vouchsafed, and that thereupon we may accept non-contradictory doctrines on its authority. Such doctrines will then be most reasonably held on two most distinct and unequal grounds-namely, on the ground that they have been promulgated by authority and on the ground that reason, on independent evidence, declares such authority to be Divine.

These introductory matters being disposed of, and it being agreed that we shall be led to religion (if it is to be worth anything) through a rational assent, and that our act of acceptance of it must repose ultimately on ordinary human reason, I will proceed without further

8 P. 591.

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preface to answer my opponent's questions. Sir James Stephen asks how the position I have taken up can possibly be reconcilable with Catholic faith, and how anyone holding such opinions as I hold can be otherwise than in a 'most false' position in the Roman Church? My critic evidently thinks I must, no doubt unconsciously, be9 'playing fast and loose with reason.' He especially desires to know how such a free handling of the Old Testament as I have ventured to bring forward for consideration, and such an uncompromising assertion of the claims and rights of science and scientific men as I have made, can accord with an honest acceptance of the creeds by a Catholic? I flatter myself I shall have little difficulty in showing that an honest Catholic can make such assertions, and can take up such a position; but before attempting to do so I must remind my critic what my exact position is. The first of the two papers criticised was called forth by the attack of an Irish priest upon me and upon the arguments I had ventured, not without approval,10 to bring forward in support of the harmony I believed to exist between science and revealed religion. Having,' I said,11ventured to assume the responsible position of peacemaker upon certain very definite grounds, I should feel bound in honour and honesty to withdraw my apology and confess myself to have been mistaken, if, through new scientific discoveries or fresh dogmatic decisions, those grounds ceased in my opinion to be capable of sustaining my argument.' There has existed of late years amongst Catholics, we have the authority of Cardinal Newman for saying, 'an insolent and aggressive faction,' and, as my Very Reverend correspondent declared,12 there are men in it whose 'shallowness, inconsistency, aggressiveness, and haughtiness are simply appalling.' Attempts have now and again been made to compel individual Catholics to accept the decisions of various divines, synods, and congregations, almost as if they were infallible decrees, and to exaggerate their importance in a very oppressive manner. was for this reason I so insisted that it was not to such authorities, but to the patient labours of men of science, that God had revealed the truths of natural and historical knowledge. Greatly discouraged and subdued as those men have been since the accession of Leo the Thirteenth, we have from time to time evidence that the faction has been only scotched and not killed, and one evidence of the kind was the appearance of the obscurantist essay which called forth my first article. I was, as I said, moved to write it by my knowledge that many most estimable persons were in a state of great mental anxiety and distress on the subject to which I felt bound to address myself. The advice of theologians I consulted showed me that the liberty I

9 P. 591.


10 It was after I had published those arguments, and had laid them at the feet of the Supreme Pontiff, that Pius the Ninth sent me the Roman Doctorate.

11 Nineteenth Century, July 1885, p. 32.

12 Ibid. 1887, p. 32.

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