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the decree of foreign teachers, to determine matters which are in our hands and under our eyes.
But it is otherwise with history, the facts of which are not present; it is otherwise with ethics, in which phenomena are more subtle, closer, and more personal to individuals than other facts, and not referrible to any common standard by which all men can decide upon them. In such sciences, we cannot rest upon mere facts, if we would, because we have not got them. We must do our best with what is given us, and look about for aid from any quarter; and in such circumstances the opinions of others, the traditions of ages, the prescriptions of authority, antecedent auguries, analogies, parallel cases, these and the like, not indeed taken at random, but, like the evidence from the senses, sifted and scrutinized, obviously become of great importance.
And, further, if we proceed on the hypothesis that a merciful Providence has supplied us with means of gaining such truth as concerns us, in different subject-matters, though with different instruments, then the simple question is, what those instruments are which are proper to a particular case. If they are of the appointment of a Divine Protector, we may be sure that they will lead to the truth, whatever they are. The less exact methods of reasoning may do His work as well as the more perfect, if He blesses them. He may bless antecedent probabilities in ethical inquiries, who blesses experiment and induction in the art of medicine.
And if it is reasonable to consider medicine, or architecture, or engineering, in a certain sense, divine arts, as being divinely ordained means of our receiving divine benefits, much more may ethics be called divine; while as to religion, it directly professes to be the method of recommending ourselves to Him and learning His will. If then it be His gracious purpose that we should learn it, the means He gives for learning it, be they promising or not to human eyes, are sufficient because they are His. And what they are at this particular time, or to this person, depends on His disposition. He may have imposed simple prayer and obedience on some men as the instrument of their attaining to the mysteries and precepts of Christianity. He may lead others through the written word, at least for some stages of their course; and if the formal basis on which He has rested His revelations be, as it is, of an historical and philosophical character, then antecedent probabilities, subsequently corroborated by facts, will be sufficient, as in the parallel case of other history, to bring us safely to the matter, or at least to the organ, of those revelations.
Moreover, in subjects which belong to moral proof, such, I mean, as history, antiquities, political science, ethics, metaphysics, and theology, which are preeminently such, and especially in theology and ethics, antecedent probability may have a real weight and cogency which it cannot have in experimental science; and a mature politician or divine may have a power of reaching matters of fact in consequence of his peculiar habits of mind, which is never given in the same degree to physical inquirers, who, for the purposes of this particular pursuit, are very much on a level. And this last remark at least is
confirmed by Lord Bacon, who confesses “ Our method of discovering the sciences does not much depend upon subtlety and strength of genius, but lies level to almost every capacity and understanding;"1 though surely sciences there are, in which genius is everything, and rules all but nothing.
It will be a great mistake then to suppose that, because this eminent philosopher condemned presumption and prescription in inquiries into facts which are external to us, present with us, and common to us all, therefore authority, tradition, verisimilitude, analogy, and the like, are mere “idols of
Nov. Org. i. 2, § 26, vol. iv. p. 29.
the den” or “of the theatre” in history or ethics. Here we may oppose to him an author in his own line as great as he is: “Experience,” says Bacon, “is by far the best demonstration, provided it dwell in the experiment; for the transferring of it to other things judged alike is very fallacious, unless done with great exactness and regularity."1 But Niebuhr takes the contrary side: “Instances are not arguments,” he grants, when investigating an obscure question of Roman history,“ instances are not arguments, but in history are scarcely of less force; above all, where the parallel they exhibit is in the progressive development of institutions." 2 Here this sagacious writer recognises the true principle of historical logic, while he exemplifies it.
1. Nor is this all; it is remarkable that not even in physics can real genius submit to the trammels of that Novum Organum of investigation, which, as Bacon truly says, is so important, so necessary, in the case of the many. “Sir Isaac Newton,” says Bacon's editor, “appears to have had a very extraordinary method of making discoveries; but as that great philosopher did not think proper to reveal it, philosophers of an inferior rank can only guess at . it, and admire what they do not fully understand. Where the business of investigation depended upon experiments, as particularly in his excellent inquiries about light, he seems first to have imagined in his mind how things were, and afterwards contrived his experiments on purpose to show whether those things were as he had preconceived them or not; and accord. ing to the information thus obtained, whether from his own experiments and observations, or those of others, he altered and improved his notions. ... At other times this great philosopher observed the stricter laws of induction. ... So that he seems to have used all sorts of methods by turns.” 3 Nov. Org. $ 70, p. 44. 2 Hist. of Rome, vol. i. p. 345, cd. 1828.
3 Vol. v. p. 219.
election which indy," and "his of Judge he
2. Nay, it is remarkable too that the very professors of profane learning, who often show so great a contempt for the use of antecedent processes of reasoning in religious inquiries, do not scruple to apply their own conclusions in science or history as a presumptive interpretation of the matter of revelation. The inspired histories, and the doctrines of the Church, are often analyzed on principles, and subjected to systems, totally alien from Scripture and theology. Some theory of politics, antiquities, language, or geology is forcibly imposed upon the facts of religion, whether those facts are disposed to admit it or not. Thus M. Dupuis turned Christianity into a form of Mithraism. Thus Heeren speaks of Samuel's "scheme of making the office of Judge hereditary in his own family," and "his crafty policy in the election which he could not impede," and describes Solomon's reign as “the brilliant government of a despot from the interior of his seraglio;" by a process similar to that by which men of narrow minds impute their own motives to another, to account for his actions.
This, however, is but the abuse of a legitimate method, which must not be condemned merely because, like other instruments, its success or failure depends upon the hand which applies it. It is of universal use in scientific and literary research, and, whether it ends in a true or false conclusion, the process is ever the same. And this is the point on which I am here insisting, that it is no peculiarity of Catholic and orthodox reasoning, but is equally found in infidel and heretical, and in history or ethics as well as in theology.
3. For instance: if it be an assumption to interpret every passage of a primitive author which bears upon doctrine or ritual by the theology of a later age, it surely is an assumption also to argue, if his statement is incomplete, that he held no more than he happened to say, or if it is the most ancient
age, it "octrine sage of an
testimony now extant, that no one held the same before him. The former is the assumption of those who hold that the developments of Christian doctrine are faithful; the latter of those who consider that the existing creed is the accidental result of various natural causes and human elements. Such is the assumption which runs through Gieseler's most able and useful Text-book of Ecclesiastical History, and which gives to his analysis a reckless and arbitrary tone such as cannot be surpassed by the most dogmatical Schoolman.
To take the first specimen which occurs :-hementions the author of the Pastor as an Apostolical Father, 1 adding in the note that the work itself claims to be written by Hermas, the disciple of St. Paul, that it is quoted by St. Irenæus as “Scripture," and that it is often cited by St. Clement and others; moreover, that, though others have given it to Hermas, brother of Pope Pius, “this is only conjecture.” Thus he begins: however, some pages later it is assumed to be a “spurious writing” of the second century;2 one of those which taught Chiliasm, as did all the other spurious writings of the period. Next, on these spurious writings he grounds the assertion " that no one can hesitate to consider Chiliasm universal” in that age; and he corroborates this conclusion by the hypothesis that “such notions as it offered were not unnecessary to animate men to suffer for Christianity.” He then traces the doctrine to the Apocalypse, and alludes to several Greek Fathers, St. Justin, and St. Irenæus, who held it. Then, with this doctrine, which he represents as universal, he connects the belief that till the millennium " the souls of the dead were to be kept in the world below," referring in the note (that is, in proof of what he considers a Catholic doctrine of the second century) to passages written by Tertullian when a Montanist in the beginning of the third. Lastly, he observes that "the fancied enjoyments of” this Ca
1 Engl. tr. vol. 1, pp. 67, 68. ? pp. 99, 100.