The Greatest Writer of the 19th Century » Brownson's Writings » Maret on the Necessity of Divine Revelation, Pt II

Maret on the Necessity of Divine Revelation, Pt II

When we discussed the first part of this work, that which treats of the “Dignity of Human Reason”, we promised to return to it and consider the views of the author in relation to the second part, which undertakes to prove the “Necessity of Divine Revelation.” We proceed now to redeem our promise.

            In many of the works which attempt to prove the necessity of Divine revelation, there is, at least, an apparent contradiction, which does much to lessen their value as works intended to convince unbelievers of the truth of the Christian religion. The authors usually begin by establishing refute skepticism, and to obtain a solid ground for science and natural faith; they then proceed to demonstrate from the insufficiency of reason, its utter inability to serve us as our sole guide even in the natural order; and they end by concluding from this insufficiency and this inability, the necessity of Divine revelation and supernatural guidance. Theologians in the tract de Vera Religione, usually undertake to prove first that a Divine revelation is possible ; second, that it is necessary ; and third, that is had been given. But all conclude its necessity from the insufficiency of reason, and insufficiency attempted to be probed by reason itself. They assume, then, as it would seem, the sufficiency of reason as the condition of proving the insufficiency of reason. Moreover, if supernatural revelation be necessary to nature, or as the complement of natural reason, it falls itself into the order of nature, and then is natural, and is not, properly speaking, supernatural. Indeed, every attempt to prove from natural reason the necessity of Divine or supernatural revelation seems to involve in some form this real or apparent contradiction. Pascal and Huet demolish reason to clear the site for faith; but it is with reason they demolish reason, and a faith that is built on the denial of reason not only has no solid foundation, but is, really, no faith at all, for faith always implies an act of reason. Only a rational subject can elicit an act of faith, or have infused the habit of faith. Hence the Jansenists and Traditionalists, who build science on supernatural revelation and make faith precede knowledge, only build castles in the air.

            Acute and logical unbelievers, seeing this apparent contradiction between the first part  and the last part of our argument, read our Evangelical Demonstration without being convinced, and remain, persuaded in their own minds that, whether a Divine revelation has been made or not, it can never be proved either from or by reason. Our treatises, while they confirm and satisfy those who already believe and have no doubts, leave unbelievers still, and, not seldom, tend only to render them more hardened in their unbelief.

            Whence comes this? Is the apparent contradiction real? Have all the able men who have used the ordinary method been deceived, or only barefaced sophists? We shall reply to that by and by; but we say now, that the argument as usually presented, is not in all respects logically or theologically valid. Natural season must suffice for natural reason, and sufficient in the natural order, if we suppose the natural order to remain in its normal state. Whatever is in the order of nature or due to it is natural. Reason is our natural light, the revelation of God to us in the natural order. It is the light which we receive from God, in and by the simple fact that he has created us rational and intelligent and to suppose it really insufficient for us in the order of natural existences, or deprived of its complement as reason, would be to deny that God had created us men, or that we are any thing more than inchoate existences. Assuming this, it is evident that the necessity of a Divine revelation in addition to our natural light cannot be concluded a priori by natural reason, nor even conceived of naturally, and that a supernatural revelation must be made as the condition of our being able, not only to prove, but even to conceive, its necessity.

            By Catholic faith we are taught that god could, if he has chosen, have created man in the beginning as he is now born, seclusa ratione culpa. Then we must suppose that man is now born with all that can be asserted as essential his existence in a state if pure nature. If so we cannot maintain, for it is not true, that divine or supernatural revelation is necessary to nature, or as the complement of our natural light. Nature, as pure nature, can have no have no wants, no aspirations, beyond nature, or which can be satisfied only in the supernatural. Pere Gratry, indeed, argues to the contrary, and contends that philosophy conducts to faith, and faith to the beatific vision, because man naturally desires to see God as he is in himself, which is not natural possible. Even St. Thomas and other eminent theologians seem to maintain that man has naturally wants and aspiration, which can be satisfied only in the beatific vision. That man has as a matter of fact, such wants and aspirations cannot be denied, but that they are purely natural, we are not prepared to concede. No nature can rise above itself, or have a prolepsis of a higher order than that which is present in its own reason. The unbeliever, who ascribes these wants and aspirations, of which he as well as others is conscious, to tradition or education is not wholly wrong. Though common to all men, they must be something super induced upon human nature, not something originating in it as pure nature. Natural reason being in itself alone to the perception or even the conception of the supernatural, nor or the necessity of a higher light than its own. Nothing can be more than itself. Reason cannot see beyond itself, what it has no power to see; and therefore by its own light alone it cannot perceive the unknown, or even be aware that there is an unknown. What is not intelligible to it, does not exist for it. It cannot, then, by its own light discover its own limitations, its own insufficiency, and therefore cannot conceive of the necessity of any higher or clearer light. All existence for it is limited to its light, and beyond what that light illuminates, it naturally and spontaneously conceives nothing, for Gioberti’s attempt to establish for man a natural faculty of superintelligence is not successful. We then are disposed to question the soundness of the argument that attempts from the insufficiency of natural reason to deduce the necessity of Divine or supernatural revelation, because that unsufficiency itself is not naturally evident to natural reason, and because, restricted to the ends of pure nature, reason is not and cannot be insufficient.

            God could have made man, if he had chosen, as he is now born, provided for him a natural beatitude, and left him to the simple light of reason. There is, then, in pure nature no innate necessity of supernatural revelation. The natural presence of God in reason would suffice; and reason would not, on such a supposition, be insufficient. Indeed absolutelutely considered, reason is insufficient only to on the supposition that man is designed for a supernatural order exists, and that man has his destiny in that order, the insufficiency of reason is evident of itself, and there is no necessity of attempting to prove it; and we apprehend that the usual arguments to prove the insufficiency of reason, and from that insuffieciency to conclude the necessity of Divine revelation, do in reality assume that there is a supernatural order, and that man has his destiny in that order. They therefore assume on the outset the precise things unbelievers in our day desire to have proved, namely, the fact of a supernatural providence.

            The Abbe Maret does not seem to us to perceive this defect in the form of the ordinary reasoning on this subject, or to escape entirely the contradiction we have pointed out, he begins by proving, or attempting to prove, that man by his natural light and forces Is not able to attain even to his natural ends. Man has intelligence and will. “the natural end of intelligence is truth, and all natural truth; that is to say, a clear, precise, exact, and certain knowledge of the principle, the law, and the end of man; a clear; precise, exact, and certain knowledge of God and his relations with man and the world; a clear, precise, exact, and certain knowledge of the law which God gives to his free and intelligent creatures to conduct them to the end appointed. The natural end of liberty and the human will, of free and voluntary activity, is found in the full and compere observance of the relations which flow from the nature of things, relations which constitute the eternal and necessary order, and which are manifested to us by the law of God.” But man, he argues, by his natural light and strength is not able to attain to those ends; therefore a Divine revelation is necessary. To this it may be replied: these ends are above and beyond our natural powers, or they are not. If they are, they are not natural, but supernatural. If they are not, no Divine revelation is necessary to enable man to attain to them. Nothing can be called the natural end of man, to which man’s nature is not, in its normal state, fully adequate. The natural end of any created being is the end to which it is fitted ad enabled by its nature to attain. An end that exceeds the natural powers of the creature to attain is not its natural end, and cannot be. It is supernatural, for the simple reason that it is not naturally attainable. The natural end of intellect is truth, but not necessarily all truth even in the natural order, but only so much of truth as it is naturally able to grasp. The natural end of the free voluntary activity of man is moral good, but not necessarily all moral good. Nature can bind no further than she gives the ability, and the man who attains to all the moral good within the reach of his natural ability, attains to his natural moral perfection.

            It seems to us that in the usual reasoning on this subject, authors are not careful to bear in mind that the natural order they speak of in their argument is the natural order as distinguished from that supernatural order in which we as Christians believe, not the natural order considered solely in relation of the natural powers of creatures in a state of pure nature. That man by his natural powers alone cannot attain to the moral or intellectual perfection conceivable in the natural order as distinguished from the supernatural order asserted by Christians, we readily concede, and therefore we ourselves assert the necessity in our actual state of Divine assistance, not given in nature, to enable us to attain to the perfect good, to which we conceive God might have destined us without creating for us the supernatural order. Still we are arguing as a Christian, as a believer, as one who has the supernatural revelation, and uses the revelation, not merely his natural light alone. But the argument to reach the pure rationalist is not simple and ultimate enough, because natural reason without revelation can show man no higher end as obligatory on him than is naturally attainable. Leave man to nature alone, and his natural ends are simply those to which his is naturally sufficient. The natural ends the learned and philosophic Abbe insists upon, are natural in the sense that they do not lie in the supernatural order, or are not the supernatural end of regenerated humanity, or the new creation, but, if unattainable by our natural powers, they are not natural in relation to the natural or unassisted man.

            We dare maintain that natural reason left to itself is not able to assert the necessity of a Divine revelation. It could do so only on condition that the necessity of such revelation is inherent in the nature of man, and that, as a Catholic, we are not permitted to assert; for that would imply that it is due to man, a debitum, which God contracts in the very act of creating man. But Divine Revelation pertains to the order of grace, not to the order of justice. God could, had he so chosen, have created man and left him to his simple natural light and forces, without doing him any injustice. Divine revelation is a free gift, not a debitum, or debt due to man as the complement of his nature. Yet unless it is a debt, unless it is something due to nature, you cannot from nature deduce its necessity.

            But if this be so, we ask again whence the popularity of this argument? How happens it that in some form nearly all the great defenders of the Christian Revelation, from St. Augustine down to the author of the Aspirations of Nature, adopt it, and attempt to prove by reason the insufficiency of reason, and then to conclude from the insufficiency the necessity of Divine and supernatural revelation? Is their reasoning absolutely and essentially vicious, mere sophistry? He certainly would be a rash man, if nothing worse, who should assert it, and in commenting on it as we have done, we have been very far from intending to impugn the substance of the argument. Our real purpose is to call attention to as fact that seems to use, if not generally overlooked, not to have been generally stated with proper distinctness and formality.

            If we take man as we now find him, he certainly is insufficient for the perfection we can suppose in the natural order. There are certainly ends supposable in that order, in case man were appointed to a natural beatitude, to which he is not adequate, and nothing is more certain than that is his actual condition, he is not able to fulfill the whole natural law without the gracious assistance of God. Form man’s actual and undeniable insuffiency to keep the whole law of nature, the necessity of Divine revelation and assistance may undoubtedly be concluded; but this is because man has lost the integrity of his nature, the indebita, as theologians say, and because he is not and never has been in a state of pure nature. He has never existed in a state of pure nature, or been abandoned to his simple, natural light and forces, but has been both before and since the fall placed under a supernatural providence. From the first God has dealt with him as a creature appointed to a supernatural end, and poured on him a flood of light above and beyond his simple natural light, whence he has wants and aspirations which he is not naturally able to gratify. As a matter of fact, there is that inadequacy of man’s powers to his wants and aspirations alleged; but it is due not to the insufficiency of pure nature for the end above human intellect and ever human heart.

            The natural ends of intellect and will, stated by the learned and philosophic Abbe, are not the ends of pure nature, but of integral nature, to which we know from our faith, man was equal before the prevarication of Adam; but man does not exist now in a state of integral nature, and it Is not and never was necessary that he should, for God as the church defined against Baius, might have created man in the beginning such as he is now born. Man not being now in a state of integral nature, whence does he know the fact of such a state would be his natural end, supposing him destined to a natural end? You place man in a state of pure nature, given as his natural end what is really the natural end only of integral nature, shoe that he is inadequate to that end, and thence conclude the necessity of Divine light and assistance beyond man’s natural light and forces. But your conclusion is not valid, first, because it cannot be necessary that pure nature should fulfill the ends of integral nature, and secondly, because integral nature and its ends are not discernible by pure reason, without the tradition of faith.

            Furthermore, the Divine revelation proved to be necessary from the insufficiency of man to fulfill the law of nature, would not necessarily be the revelation of a supernatural order of life, such as is brought to light through the Gospel. According to the Christian revelation the end of man is supernatural, not natural, an end which is not even approached by the perfect fulfillment of the whole natural law. Suppose man in the full integrity of his nature, knowing and obeying perfectly the whole natural law, he is still in the order of nature, and has not necessarily any knowledge or conception of any other than a natural end, than a natural beatitude. He does not even begin to live the supernatural life which is in Christ, the Incarnate God. The proof, then, of the necessity in our present state of Divine revelation to enable us to know and fulfill the whole law of nature, would not, per se, advance us a single step in the proof either of the fact or of the necessity of the Christian revelation. The Abbe Maret, then, even supposing him to have proved the necessity of Divine revelation and existence to enable us to attain the ends of intellect and will in the natural order, has done nothing towards proving the truth, reality, or necessity of that supernatural order which we Christians believe, simple because the end to be attained is not in the natural order, but in the supernatural.

            Natural reason, we maintain, in the state of integral nature is sufficient to the end of that nature; in a state of pure nature, it is sufficient to the end of pure nature. It can then be assumed or proved to be insufficient only in relation either to integral nature, in which man is not, or in relation to a supernatural end of which we can know nothing, without a supernatural revelation. Not being in the state of natura integra, we cannot by simple natural reason alone attain to the knowledge or conception of such a state, and therefore we cannot by our own natural light in the state of pure nature know the insufficiency of reason in relation to its ends; and not being able by natural reason in any state to conceive of a supernatural order and a supernatural end, we cannot by natural reason alone prove the insufficiency of reason in relation even to the supernatural. Therefore in no sense in which reason is assumed to be insufficient can its insufficiency be proved by our simple natural light. The insufficiency of reason can be known only be Divine revelation, and therefore cannot be established as one of the facts known independently of revelations, from which the necessity of revelation may be logically concluded.

            But this insufficiency is a fact of which all men are more or less conscious, and is proved by the whole voluminous history of human error and failure. The immense distance between our ideal and our power or realization, is borne witness to by men in all ages and nations, and constitutes the secret of light’s innumerable tragedies. Those wants and aspirations, which are insisted on by theologians, preachers, and apologists, which cannot find their satisfaction in the natural order, and which point to the possession and vision of God as he is in himself, are facts, facts to be found in some measure in the experience of every man, and which no one can seriously attempt for one moment to deny. What do they prove? They do not prove the insufficiency of reason or nature in relation to its own order, as is pretended; they do not prove the necessity of Divine revelation; but they are unimpeachable witnesses in human experience to the fact that a Divine revelation has been made, and that man is under a supernatural providence, destined not to a natural but to a supernatural beatitude. They prove, when rightly considered, more than the necessity, they prove the fact of Divine revelation, for if no such revelation had been made, they would not and could not have existed. They would have been no more possible in the case of man than in the case of animals.

            But those who deny revelation and the supernatural order, usually hold that these wants and aspirations which nothing earthly satisfies are natural, originate in nature alone. Against these the ordinary argument is good. Either these wants and aspirations proceed from reminiscences of a Divine revelation and the fact that the man is under a supernatural providence and destined to a supernatural beatitude, or they proceed from nature itself. If the former, the controversy is at an end, and you concede Divine revelation and the fact of the supernatural order; if the latter, you must concede the insufficiency of nature or reason for itself, and then the necessity of Divine revelation and supernatural assistance. The usual argument is valid as argumentum ad hominem, or when nature is taken not in the sensus divisus, but in the sensus compositus, as including all that we can affirm of an unsupernaturalized or unregenerated man,-in which sense we presume it is usually taken by those who use the argument. Nature means in their minds whatever is true of man considered prior to his regeneration or supernaturalization, without their distinguishing in him between what is purely natural in its origin, and what he owes to the tradition of his integral and supernatural state, a tradition which has never been wholly lost in any age or country, with any people, tribe, or individual. So taken we accept the argument, and have ourselves urged it more than once with all the force we have. But we may, we think, obtain a still stronger and more conclusive argument by taking nature in the sensus divisus, in which sense it has not and cannot have the conception of its own insufficiency; for in that sense it is not insufficient for itself, as we think we have already shown. It will then follow that the natural has, and can have no natural conception of the supernatural. The order of grace lies above the order of nature, and though grace supposes nature, nature does not suppose grace. Grace is neither included in nature, nor necessary to it as nature. Evidently, then, nature does not, and by itself alone cannot even conceive of the supernatural. The need of grace is not a natural need; for if it were, grace would not be grace, but debt, and God, having created nature, would have no right to withhold it. Grace in that case would not be, in relation to nature, free grace which God notwithstanding his decree to create man, is free to grant or withhold. By nature, or natural reason, we may and do know with certainty that God exists; but that he exist as the author of nature, not that he also exists as the author of grace, or as the author of the supernatural. Form the fact that God has created nature, we cannot conclude that he has created the order of grace, because his decree to create the order of nature. The supernatural, then, is neither revealed nor implied in the order of grace, because his decree to create the order of grace is not involved in his decree to create the order of nature. The supernatural, then, is neither revealed nor implied in the order of nature, and is for it, till otherwise revealed, as if it were not, it would destroy the very fundamental conception of grace to suppose the decree to create nature did not leave God free either to grant or withhold it. Now we say, that what rests, so to speak,  notwithstanding the creation of the order of nature. In the free will of God to give or withhold, cannot be asserted or indicated in any way whatever by the existence of the natural order or anything pertaining to it. Evidently then, man could not by nature or natural reason, know or conceive of the existence of God as an author of grace, or of a supernatural order, or infer from anything in or wanting to nature the existence of such order. Nothing could lead him to conceive of any order above or distinct from natural order. He could no more conceive of it than a man born blind could conceive of colors, or a man born deaf could conceive of sounds.

            Yet we find that all the natural world has in some form the conception of the supernatural, and is either asserting or denying it; all the world is conscious of wants and aspirations that nature cannot satisfy, and which can find their satisfaction only in the possession of God by the supernatural light of glory. All religions, the gross forms of fetichism, the poetic mythology and gorgeous ceremonial of polished gentile nations, and the sublime worship of the Jews and Christians, alike bear witness to the fact of these wants and aspirations, and to the fact that man does conceive of the supernatural, and the reality of a supernatural providence. Now whence these conceptions and these wants and aspirations, since they do not and cannot proceed from nature abandoned to itself? These wants and aspirations are inconceivable in pure nature, and could not be experienced, if it were not a fact that man is placed under a supernatural providence, and has not provided for him simply natural beatitude as his send. Their existence from the first with all men is, then, a proof, not of the necessity but of the fact of the supernatural, for unless God has in some way affirmed himself to man as the author of the supernatural, as he affirms himself to natural reason as the author of nature, they could not have existed.

            We beg our readers to recall here what he have so often asserted and demonstrated, namely that man knows that God is, only because he affirms himself in and to natural reason, as at once its creator, light and immediate object. Suppose, per impossible, that the human mind could not exist and operate without the intuition of God, it could never by its natural light and forces attain to the conception of his existence, because the assertion of his existence would not be necessary to the explication of the existence and operations of the human mind. So in the supernatural order, if you suppose the human mind without the affirmation by God himself to it of his existence as author of the supernatural, you cannot conceive of him as such, because it is not necessary to conceive of as author of the supernatural in order to conceive of him as author of the natural. The supernatural is not and cannot be necessary to the existence or explication of the natural. Suppose, then, the human mind without the conception only by the affirmation to it by some other than itself, of the supernatural. That is, the human mind must be taught, or have revealed to it, the supernatural, or it cannot conceive of the supernatural, cannot either affirm or deny, believe or disbelieve it

            Unbelievers all maintain that men believe in the supernatural only because they have been taught it, and they attribute these wants and aspiration which demand the supernatural o tradition or education. So fat we agree with them, we maintain the same. But who has been the teacher? “Priests, and crafty and ambitious statesmen,” says the sages of the Voltairian School. Craft and ambitious statesmen may use or abuse existing popular beliefs or prejudices, but they do not invent them for the sake of using them in the government of men. Priests, if wicked, may pervert the religious beliefs if mankind, as Protestant ministers pervert and abuse the reverence of the Christian heart for the Holy Scriptures; but they do not invent the belief in the supernatural, because their very existence as priests supposes it already entertained. The creature does not create its creator. They may perpetuate, but could not have originated it. “The passions,” say one class of unbelievers, “originated it.” Timor fecit deos, sang old Lucretius. Fear or the passions of their worshippers may have given to the gods believed in their special form or character, but could not have originated the primitive conception of the Divinity. Men may anthropomorphize their conceptions of God, but they cannot do so unless they already believe that god, or the divinity exists. “Imagination,” say still another class of unbelievers, “formed heaven and hell, the Elysian fields and the Tartarean Gulf.” Be it so. But imagination can only clothe with its own beautiful, fantastic, grotesque, or hideous forms of conceptions derived from intuition or revelation. Imagination can operate only on real data, and its wildest fancies are simply combinations in its own way of known realities.

            However we may attempt to explain the accidents, to speak scholastically, of the conception of the supernatural, we are obliged to admit at least that none of the explications we offer account for the origin of the idea itself, for they all presuppose it. Your father may have taught you, and his father may have taught him, and so on till you come to the first man. But who taught the first man? Who could, but God himself? The moment, then, that it is conceded or proved that the natural by itself alone does not and cannot ruse to the conceptions of the supernatural, the moment that it is conceded or proved that man can entertain the idea only as he is taught it,-that moment it must be conceded that the supernatural has been revealed by God himself, and therefore that the supernatural is true, is a real existing order, as truly so as the natural order; for God is no less true in revealing than in creating.

            We must remember that only truth is intelligible, and that the human mind can never embrace pure, unmixed falsehood. Pure, unmixed falsehood is absolutely nothing, is mere negation, and is and can be no object of the intellect. Errors is intelligible only by virtue of the truth it misapprehends, misrepresents, or misapplies. Men may err as to the supernatural, may have false notions of a future life , may people heaven with false gods, and establish and observe  false and mischievous forms of worship, but not without having a conception of a future life, of heaven, of the Divinity, of religious worship, which has a substratum of  truth, or reality. It is thus that all false religions are witnesses to the fact that there is a true religion. The human mind, whether considered under the point of view of intellect, imagination, or affection, can operate only in conjunction with its object, which it is not itself, and which it does not and cannot create, and which it does not and cannot seek and find for itself, but which presents itself, or is divinely presented, to it. The miserable psychologism, which sends the mind without its object forth into space to seek and find its object, which supposes the mind can operate without an object, le moi, without le non-moi, that it can create its object, or that it can take itself as his own object, that is, stand face to face with itself, and look into its own eyes, has been sufficiently refuted in these pages, and by the great contemporary masters of human thought, and no man pretending to the least philosophical science, can any longer insist on it. God is and can be hos own object, because he is intelligible in se, since he is pure, absolute, infinite being in se; but no creature can be its own object, because no creature is intelligible in se, since no creature is pure being in se, but lives, moves, and exists in another, to wit, the Creator. “In him we live, and move, and are.”

            Men cannot then attain to the conception of the supernatural unless the supernatural really exists, and is presented, immediately or mediately, to their mind as an intelligible or as a credible object. The notion that it is purely false, as unbelievers pretend, must be given up, because the human mind cannot conceive of pure falsehood, and the notion that is can be obtained by induction from natural phenomena is a sin against the fundamental principle of logic, that there can be no more in the conclusion than is obtained in the premises. Even in the natural order, we do not, notwithstanding all your physic-theological treaties, prove the existence of God even as author of nature, by induction from natural phenomena. If there were no intuition of that which is God, no induction from natural phenomena. If there were no intuition of that which is God, no induction could prove or demonstrate his existence. All we do by our induction is to prove not that God is, but that the being presented to us in intuition is God. So in the supernatural order, we cannot from our wants and aspirations, assumed to be simple wants and aspirations of nature, conclude the fact or the necessity of the supernatural. But from an analysis of these wants and aspirations we may prove that they are not purely natural in their origin, and therefore conclude that the supernatural has been in some form revealed to man, and that he has been placed under a supernatural providence and destined to a supernatural end. We do not conclude by induction that man needs a Divine revelation and a supernatural providence, but that what is affirmed in these very wants and aspirations is that man has received such a revelation and is under such providence.

            What we say here accepts what is true in the teachings of the so-called Traditionalists. They push their doctrines too far, and do not distinguish with sufficient care in the natural order between intuition and reflection, and in religion and morality between the natural and the supernatural. Their Grand principle is that man cannot invent, that is, find truth. Rightly explained, this principle is sound. If this means that the truth must present and affirm itself to the mind, and that the mind cannot operate without truth pertaining to that order, and the Traditionalists seem to hold, it is incorrect, unphilosophical and erroneous, denies all real science or knowledge, and therefore the possibility of faith, as may be concluded from the act of faith itself. If it means that man in the reflective order needs to have the truth not only presented intuitively, but re-presented through the medium of language or sensible signs, we accept it. Man taught through the medium of language that God exist, can, when the idea is re-presented to him, find or prove by reason, that God really is. But without being so taught or having the idea so re-presented, he would never have conceived of God even as author of nature. So of the immateriality and immortality of the soul, free will, and moral obligation, all the great truths of the natural order, or of what is sometimes called natural religion. All of these may, when taught through language, or represented by tradition, be demonstrated, proven, or known with certainty by natural reason; yet without the teaching or the tradition they would never have been known or conceived of in the reflective order, although all are intuitively presented.

            In raw supernatural order the principle is the same, only its truths are truths of faith, not of knowledge, although the effects they produce in the natural order may be known as well as believed. But their effects in the natural could not be produced, if they were not truths, and in relation with the natural. Man could not be intellectually or morally affected to them, if they were not in some manner revealed to him, and if he were not placed within the sphere of their influence. Man does not by his natural intellect find or invent them, and he can know or believe them only as they are presented to him immediately, or mediately through by God himself in his relation as author of the supernatural. In point of fact, they are presented to        us by tradition, and as that tradition must have its origin in Divine revelation, the very fact that they are presented to our minds, and we can think and speak of them or about them, is a proof that they are truths, and that in believed them we are believing God, who cannot deceive of be deceived. This far the Traditionalists are certainly right, for tradition in the natural order is the medium of re-presentation, and in the supernatural the medium, except in the case of the immediately inspired, of the presentation of truth to the human reason.

            The reasoning we adduce accords with the historical facts in the case. We know by faith that God, when he has created man, placed him under a supernatural providence, and appointed him to a supernatural end,-the enjoyment of God in the beatific vision. He might have provided, but he did not provide, for man a perfect natural beatitude, because it pleased him in his overflowing goodness to provide something infinitely higher and better for him than any natural beatitude could be. Having assigned him in his decree a supernatural end or beatitude, he clothed him with the full integrity of his nature, the indebita of the theologians, and infused into him a supernatural or elevating grace, which supernaturalized him and placed him on the plane of his supernatural destiny, and fitted him to merit a supernatural reward. He made him a revelation, not simple a revelation of the truths of the natural order, but truths also of the supernatural order in which his destiny was placed. Thus man started, not in the natural order along, not in a state of pure nature, but in integral nature, supernaturally elevated to the plane of a supernatural end, under a supernatural providence, and favored with supernatural instruction and assistance.

            Tempted by Satan, and preferring natural, or what he supposed to be natural, to supernatural beatitude, as the race to a fearful extent has been since done, man disobeyed the command of his Lord and God, and fell from his high estate, and in falling lose his original justice and sanctity which would have merited the supernatural reward;  and with the supernatural grace by which he was constituted in justice, he lost also the integrity of his nature, or the gifts superadded to its endowments as pure nature, he also fell under the power of Satan, lost the dominion over his lower nature, and became subject to pain and misery, to error and to death, temporal and eternal. But though man lost the integrity of his innocence, and though in consequence his understanding became darkened and his will attenuate, he did not lose all recollection of the revelation he has received, nor all reminiscences of his original endowments, and has, unless in here and there an individual case, never wholly lost them. His nature, though it has lost no faculty essential to it as pure nature, bears still traces of the shock it received when violently despoiled of its integrity and supernatural endowments. Man bears in his secret heart the memory of a great and terrible loss. His nature as it exists to-day is not simply natura privata, but natura spoliata. What it weeps and longs for is not a good that it has never had yet aspires to, but a good that it has had, and through prevarication has lost. It is not its inability to gain the Eden before it that causes its sadness, and produces the low, melodious wail of sorrow we meet in the poetry of all ages and nations, but the Eden behind it, from which it has been expelled, and whose gates are guarded by angels with flaming swords against all return. Examine all the religions of the Gentiles in ancient or modern times, and you will find them pervaded by a deep and unutterable regret. They recall at every turn the memory of a terrible catastrophe. Their gaiety is the gaiety of despair, not of hope. What are the wild and frantic dances of the Corybantes, the fearful orgies of Bacchis and Isis, but miserable attempts to drown memory, to obtain a momentary forgetfulness of an irreparable loss? All history, all gentile superstition, nay, human life itself bears unmistakable testimony to the loss of a good once possessed, and to the incessant efforts of man to forget it, to repair it, or to supply it by another.

            St. Thomas and all our Theologians teach that there never has been but one revelation, and that that was made, at least in substance, to our first parents, before their expulsion from the garden, and hence St. Augustine says, “Times change, but faith does not change; as believed the father, so believe we, only they believed in Christ who was to come, we in Christ who has come.” The tradition of this revelation, a revelation of the supernatural order, the supernatural life and destiny of man, has never been wholly effaced in any age, nor with any people or tribe. It is incorporated, with more or less purity and integrity, into every speech and language of men. It comes down to use in its purity and integrity through the Patriarchs, the Synagogue, and the church, in a corrupt, fragmentary, and sometimes in a travestied form through the Gentile nations and heretical sects. It is the one grand fountain from which all religions have drawn. The Patriarchal religion is the type of all the Gentile religions, the Catholic religion is the type of all heretical religions-the type from which they depart indeed, not the type they approach and tend to realize. The Gentile religions corrupted the Patriarchal, and tended from the supernatural to the natural, from God as the author of the supernatural, to God as the author of nature, to God in nature; from God in nature, to nature without God; and from nature without God, to demonism. “All the gods of the heathen are demons,” says the Holy Scripture. The same is true of heresy. Protestantism having broken from unity, has run, in its advanced hardily through deism, pantheism, nature or soul worship, and is now developing itself in spiritism or demonism, and nowhere more fearfully than in our country, so remarkable for its precocity. Still in all you find not anticipants, but reminiscences of the Divine revelation of the supernatural order, and none of them are explicable without the revelation held by the Patriarch, the Synagogue, and the Church, or could have existed if such a revelation had not been made, and been their point of departure, or if man had not been placed under the supernatural providence that revelation asserts.

            Here is the grand fact. The supernatural is not created by man, nor is it left to be discovered or demonstrated by philosophy. It is a fact in human history, and always has been and is as evidently and as indeniably there as the natural itself. Not a single fact in that history is really explicable without its assumption. The whole history of the race is an overwhelming proof of the fact that man is under a supernatural providence, and that God governs and always had governed hi in relation to a supernatural destiny. If a man is under a supernatural providence, certainly a supernatural revelation is necessary, but not otherwise. Philosophy, therefore, which is only natural reason, can prove neither the need nor the fact of such revelation. The very first step in the process of proof must be, then, the proof of the assumption that man is under a supernatural providence, a fact not provable from reason alone. Before we proceed to prove that man needs a Divine revelation, we must prove that man needs a Divine revelation, we must prove the fact to reason, that man is under a supernatural providence; and this can be done, because it is a fact provable, not from reason, by the undeniable fact that the supernatural is in human history, and presents itself in every page of that history; by the fact that the whole life of man is inexplicable, nay inconceivable, without its assumption; by the fact that it everywhere asserts and affirms itself to human reason. In theory, if man were under a natural providence, noting could hinder us from explaining human life and human history on natural principles. No a priori objection could be brought against doing it. The rationalist, following even a severe logic, affirms that it can be done, and makes the effort to do it, with what success it is needless to say. The factors in the case reject his theory. No man can explain human history on natural principles alone, without mutilating it, leaving out whole classes of well-attested facts, and they the most important and essential facts, which have had the most influence on its general and even particular currents. Explain the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to our Lord, a people whose whole political, civil, and religious existence and life was shaped and molded by the promise of  messias, and whose whole national history, as well as religious observances, was a continuous prophecy for two thousand years of his coming,-explain this miraculous history on natural principles. You know you cannot do it, except by cutting down arbitrarily, and shaping, without the slightest historical authority, the facts to suit your convenience. You can do it only by assuming in the outset that all history must be explicable on natural principles, and then denying, or passing over in silence, all the factors narrated that cannot be explained on those principles. This is not to explain, but to make history, and to make it to suit yourself,- to adapt it to the exigencies of your theory. Explain to us the history of the Church on natural principles, her origin in Judea, her growth under persecution, her persistence, in spite of every species of opposition, for two thousand years, as fresh as vigorous, and as able to make new conquests, as she was when she went forth from that “upper room” in Jerusalem, to conquer the kingdoms of this world, and to make them the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ. The thing is impossible. The rationalists have tried their hand at it, but have succeeded only in demonstrating their own impotence and absurd pretensions. Macaulay tried it, and pronounced the Church a masterpiece of human wisdom, but in defiance of the whole series of facts in her history, which prove that if she had rested in human wisdom, and sagacity, and had not been upheld supernaturally by the hand of Almighty God, she would ages since have ceased to exist. There is more good sense and sound reasoning in the old-fashioned Protestants, who denounce the Church as the masterpiece of Satan; for no man can explain the fact of her existence without recognizing in her history a superhuman agency. Gibbon in his famous chapters attempts to explain the rise, the progress, and the triumph of the Church in the Roman Empire, on human principles, without recognizing the supernatural, but succeeds, as all the world knows, only by suppressing facts, falsifying history, and rejecting even the principles of sound logic.

            We, therefore, cannot speak as highly of the second part of the Abbe Maret’s work, which attempts to prove the necessity of Divine revelation, as we did in the first part, which treats of the dignity of human reason. We do not think his method is in harmony with the philosophy he teaches, and it seems to us to harmonize rather with the conceptual or psychological systems he has so ably refuted. The method we have indicated makes the proofs of the supernatural, or the existence of God as author of the supernatural, parallel with the proofs of the existence of God as author of the supernatural, parelled with the proofs of the existence of God as author of nature. As reason cannot operate without principles, or furnish its own principles, god himself supplies them in the natural order by his immediate presence in reason as its creator, its light, and its object, and in the supernatural order by revelation, and by his immediate presence as author of the supernatural in faith, its creator, its light, and its immediate object. If God did not intervene supernaturally, and affirm himself in and to our credited faculty as author of the supernatural, we could have not only no belief in, but no notion or conception of the supernatural.

            We differ also from the learned and philosophic Abbe on his two main points; first, that the necessity of Divine revelation is or can be established by philosophy, and second that in proving the Christian religion, the first step is to prove the necessity. The first point to be proved, we think, is the simple fact that man is placed under a supernatural providence, and the proofs of this are to be sought in history, not in philosophy. Till we have proved that man is placed under a supernatural providence, and destined, not to a simply natural, but to a supernatural end, we cannot in reality assert the insufficiency of reason, or the necessity of Divine revelation. The unbeliever may argue,-and we have no logic that will refute him,-that natural reason being our natural light, and evidently given us to be our natural guide, must be sufficient if we are under a natural providence, and in our normal state. But the fact once established that man is under a supernatural providence, no one will pretend to assert the sufficiency of reason, or to deny the necessity of supernatural revelation and assistance. The only ground we have for asserting the necessity of such revelation and assistance is, the fact that we are not under a natural, but a supernatural providence. Till we have established this fact, our arguments, however learned or elaborate, or however true in point of act, will fail to convince even the honest and well-disposed unbeliever. He will regard them as irrelevant and inconclusive. We may and do speak here from our own painful experience, for it was not till he was detected the supernatural in history, and learned that man is under a supernatural providence, that we found ourselves in a condition to become a real Christian believer.

            The proofs of this supernatural providence, as we have all along been laboring to show, may be adduced to natural reason, but cannot be deduced from it. Suppose man to be just what we know him to be in hac providential; suppose also per impossibile, that he has as yet received no Divine revelation, and that no evidences that he is under a supernatural providence are supplied him in history of from abroad, he could never form the first faint notion of the necessity of Divine revelation to instruct him or of Divine grace to assist him. It is the face that creates the necessity and supplies the proof. Without the fact,-and if we do not in some form or degree know it, we are practically without it,-we should be in relation to the supernatural, as we should be relation to the normal if we were uncreated and had no natural existence. As we could not before creation have conceived of the natural, so before revelation we cannot conceive of the supernatural. The natural has and can have no anticipation or prolepsis of the supernatural, can discover no antecedent probability of its creation, and have no a priori arguments by which to establish it. We are not ignorant that Plato and the more eminent of the Gentile philosophers have asserted the necessity of supernatural instruction and assistance; but they have don’t so not by force of pure reason operating upon natural data along, but by reason operating on the supernatural data supplied by history and the experience of life. If they had found no such data, they never could from their own reason have made their assertion.

            We must take care how we assume that the Gentiles were in a state of pure nature, and abandoned to its light alone. The Gentiles were not assuredly supernaturalized, translated into the kingdom of Christ, regenerated in Christ, and untied to him, the head of regenerated or supernaturalized Humanity, as Adam was the head of natural Humanity; yet we must not suppose that they had nothing but the simple light of natural reason, or that they were precisely what men would have been, if they had been created in a state of pure nature and abandoned to it. They were indeed in a state of pure nature and abandoned to it. They were indeed in a state of fallen nature; but even in fallen nature they retained reminiscences of what they had and were before the fall. They had, too, some traces of the primitive revelation furrowed the darkness which enveloped them, and gave them momentary glimpses at least of an order not revealed to them natural reason. The Gentiles were the schismatics and heretics of the old world, as Arians, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and other sects are the schismatics and heretics of the modern world, and they no more than these lost all traces of the truth they ceased to hold in unity and in its purity and integrity. Under some points of view, the Gentiles held more elements of the primitive revelation than are held by the majority of our modern sects, and far more than are Christian countries. These lose what the Gentiles rarely lost, all belief in a supernatural providence. If we may believe Clemens Alexandrinus, and others of the early Christian writers, Christ to some extent enlightened even the great Gentile philosophers. He did it by the primitive revelation, which entered into the mind of the race, and the tradition of which is in some measure embodied and perpetuated in every human tongue.

            It strikes us as no less unreasonable to reject than it is to accept all the so-called Traditionalists teach. No doubt, as we have said, they push their doctrines too far, and in restricting too much the powers of natural reason lose what St. Thomas calls the preamble to faith, and consequently faith itself. No doubt they fail to draw the proper line of distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and run one into the other and involve themselves in inextricable confusion. But after all they assert a great truth which other schools too often either deny or overlook. We are by no means if M. Bonnetty’s school, indeed he does not seem to be always of his own school, or to hold his own opinions; but as between him and Pere Chastel, we hardly know which to choose. The latter goes, in our judgment, to an extreme in one direction hardly less dangerous than that to which M. Bonnetty is accused of running in another. The Abbe Maret certainly does not run into the extreme rationalism of the learned, but not very philosophic Jesuit Father; yet he seems too afraid to tradition, and hardly dares give it its proper place and office. Traditionalism is absurd, if you suppose man placed under a natural providence and destined to a natural beatitude, as pure philosophy does and must assume: but that, we think, is an error against fact, and against Catholic theology. The supernatural assumes the natural, and absorbs it, so to speak, in the supernatural, in some sense as in the Incantation the Divinity assumes humanity, and the Divine personality absorbs the human personality, or supplies its place by a higher personality. This whole supernatural order has its root in the Incarnation, grows out of it, and in all it parts and its appurtenances in some sense or measure repeats it. All human history is related to the incarnation, and finds in it and not elsewhere its reason and explication. The humanity of our Lord was true, proper, perfect humanity, and yet by the Hypostatic Union it is humanity finding its last complement in the Divine Person of the Word. In the supernatural order the Incarnate God, the Word made flesh, Verbum caro factum, is the first principle and the creator, and it copies or imitates him as nature copies or imitates God as its creator. As in the Incarnation the human and the Divine remain forever distinct, neither nature nor will being confused with the other, so in life the natural and supernatural remain distinct, and without any mixture or interconfusion; but as in the Incarnation, the human and Divine are no longer separable, and the human terminates, so to speak, in the Divine, and are one in the higher and Divine Personality of the Son, so the natural loses its own end in the higher end of the supernatural, and in that end both the natural and the supernatural become one. Whoso meditates on the incarnation, it seems to us, must see that man has not in fact any purely natural end of natural beatitude, to which he is appointed. The natural as to its end loses itself in the supernatural. As the Incarnation is from the beginning, since Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and God has governed the world solely in reference to the Incarnation of the Word and supernatural life in Christ, we must regard man always in relation to the Incarnation, and therefore always and everywhere under a supernatural providence, though not always and everywhere elevated to and placed in the supernatural order. Assuming this, the supernatural must have always and everywhere entered into human life, and therefore into human history. The proper medium for detecting and establishing the fact of the supernatural providence is history and tradition. Here is the proper place and office of tradition, and the attempt to make natural reason supply its place and perform its functions, will always fail, and end only in obscuring the supernatural, and finally in effacing it from the human belief. The supernatural is the tradition of the race, and as it could have originated only in the direct revelation of God, it is true, and reason commands us to believe it.