Essay in Refutation of Atheism, Pt. III (Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1874)


The great Gentile apostasy from the Patriarchal religion originated in the loss of the primitive tradition of the fact of creation: that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and all things visible and invisible.  No Gentile philosophy, known to us, recognizes the fact of creation; and the mother-error of all Gentilism is pantheism, and pantheism is no vulgar error, originating with the ignorant and unlettered many, but the error of the cultivated few, philosophers and scientists, who, by their refinements and subtle speculations on the relation of cause and effect, first obscure in their own minds and then wholly obliterate from them the fact of creation.

Dr. Dollinger, in his “Heathenism before Christianity,” assumes that heathenism originated with the ignorant and vulgar, not with the learned and scientific.  But this view cannot be accepted by anyone who has watched the course of philosophy and the sciences for the last three centuries.  Three centuries ago Christian theism was held universally by all ranks and conditions of civilized society, and atheism was regarded with horror, and hardly dared show its head; now, the most esteemed, the most distinguished philosophers and scientists, like Emerson, Herbert Spencer, Professor Huxley, Emile Littre, Claude Bernard, Voigt, Buchmann, Sir John Lubbock, and Professor Tyndall, to mention no others, are decided pantheists, and undisguised atheists.  They are not merely tolerated, but are held to be the great men and shining lights of the age.  Pantheism – atheism – in our times originates with philosophers and scientists and descends to the people, and, in the absence of all proof to the contrary, it is fair to presume that it was the same in ancient times.  The corruption, alike of language and of doctrine, is always the work of philosophers and of the learned or the half-learned, never of the people.

The various heathen mythologies never originated, and never could have originated, with the ignorant multitude, or with savage and barbarous tribes.  These mythologies are in great part taken up with the generation or genealogy of the gods, and bear internal evidence that they had for their starting point the ineffable mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and have grown out of efforts by philosophers and theologians to symbolize the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, which they obscured and lost by their inappropriate symbols, figures, and allegories.  They all treat the universe as generated by the gods, and for cosmogony give us theogony.

Generation is simply explication or development, and the generated is of the same nature with the generator, as the Church maintains in defining the Son to be consubstantial with the Father.  Hence the visible universe, as well as the invisible forces of nature, as generated by the gods, was held to be divine, both as a whole and in its parts.  Rivers and brooks, hills and valleys, groves and fountains, the ocean and the earth, mountains and plains, the winds and the waves, storms and tempests, thunder and lightning, the sun, moon, and stars; the elements, fire, air, water, and earth; the generative forces of nature, vegetable, animal, and human, were all counted divine, and held to be proper objects of worship.  Hence the fearful and abominable superstitions that oppressed and still oppress heathen nations and tribes, the horrid, cruel, filthy, and obscene rites which it were a shame even to name.  These rites and superstitions follow too logically from the assumed origin of all things visible and invisible in generation or emanation, to have originated with the unlearned and vulgar, or not to have been the work of philosophers and theologers.

Dr. Dollinger holds that polytheism in polytheistic nations and tribes precedes monotheism, or the worship of one God, and denies that pantheism is the primal error of Gentilism.  He appears to hold that the nations that apostatized, after the confusion of the tongues at Babel, fell at once into the lowest forms of fetishism, and from that worked their way up, step by step, to polished Greek and Roman polytheism, and thence to Jewish and Christian monotheism.  But this is contrary to the natural law of deterioration.  Men by supernatural grace may be elevated from the lowest grade to the highest at a single bound, but no man falls at once from the highest virtue to the lowest depth of vice or crime, or from the sublimest truth to the lowest and most degrading form of error.  African fetishism is the last stage, not the first, of polytheism.  The first error is always that which lies nearest to the truth, and that demands the least apparent departure from orthodoxy, or men’s previous beliefs.  We know historically, that the race began in the patriarchal religion, in what we call Christian theism, and pantheism is the error that lies nearest, and that which most easily seduces the mind trained in Christian theism.

What deceives Dr. Dollinger and others is that they attribute the manifest superiority of Greek and Roman polytheism over African fetishism to a gradual amelioration of the nations that embraced it; but history presents us no such amelioration.  The Homeric religion departs less from the patriarchal religion than the polytheism of any later period in the history of either pagan Greece or Rome.  The superiority of Greek and Roman polytheism is due primarily to the fact that it retained more of the primitive tradition, and the apparent amelioration was due to the more general initiation, as time went on, into the Eleusinian and other mysteries, in which the earlier traditions, and, after Alexander the Great, to more familiar acquaintance with the traditions of the East, especially of the Jews.  The mysteries were instituted after the great Gentile Apostasy, but from all that it is possible now to ascertain of them, they preserved, not indeed the primitive traditions of the race, but the earliest traditions of the nations that apostatized.  Certain it is, if the Unity of God was taught in them, as seems not improbable, we have no reason to suppose that they preserved the tradition of the one God the creator of the heavens and the earth.  Neither in the mysteries nor in the popular mythologies, neither with the Greeks nor the Romans, the Syrians nor Assyrians, neither with the Egyptians nor the Indians, neither with the Persians nor the Chinese, neither with the Kelts nor the Teutons do we find any reminiscences of the creative act, or fact of creation from nothing. 

The oldest of the Vedas speak of God as spirit, recognize most of his essential attributes, and ascribe to him apparently moral qualities, but we find no recognition of him as creator.  Socrates, as does Plato, dwells on the justice of the Divinity, but neither recognizes God the Creator.  Pere Gratry, of the Oratory of the Immaculate Conception, contends indeed, in his  “Connaissance de Dieu,” that Moses, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Malebranche, Leibnitz, Bossuet, Fenelon, in fact all philosophers of the first rank of all ages and nations, agree in asserting substantially one and the same theodicaea.  Yet Plato asserts no God the Creator, at best, only an intelligent artificer or architect, doing the best he can with preexisting materials.  His theology is well summed up by Virgil in his Aeneid:

Spiritus intus alit, totumque infusa partus

Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet.

Aristotle asserts God as the anima mundi, or soul of the world, followed by Spinoza in his “Natura Naturans,” and which Pope versifies in his shallow “Essay on Man.”

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body nature is, and God the soul;

That, changed through all, and yet in all the same,

Great in the earth as in the ethereal frame;

Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,

Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees;

Lives through all life, extends through all extent,

Spreads undivided, operates unspent, etc.

Here is no creative God; there is only the anima mundi of the Brahmins, and of the best of the pagan philosophers.

Even some Christian philosophers, while the hold the fact of creation certain from revelation, deny its provability by reason.  St. Paul says “by faith we understand the world was framed by word of God,” but St. Thomas, if I am not mistaken, teaches that the same truth may be at once a matter of revelation or faith and a truth cognizable by natural reason and matter of science, and certain it is that our greatest theologians undertake to prove the fact of creation from reason or reasoning, or from data supplied by the natural light of the soul, for they all attempt a rational refutation of pantheism.

The analysis of the ideal element of the object in thought, we have seen, shows that it is resolvable into being, existences, and their relation, and the analysis of the relation, real only in the related, brings us, so to speak, face to face with the Divine creative act.  Real and necessary being can exist without creating, for it is, as say the theologians, actus purissimus, therefore in itself ens perfectissimum, and is not obliged to go out of itself, in order either to be or to perfect or complete itself, in which respect it is the contrary of the reine Seyn of Hegel.  It is in itself infinite Fulness, Pleroma, Plenum, while the reine Seyn is the Byssos of the old Gnostics, or the Void of the Buddhists, and even Hegel makes it not being, but a Becoming – das Werden.  The being given in ideal intuition is real and necessary being, self-existent, self-sufficing, complete in itself, wanting nothing, and incapable of receiving anything in addition to what it is, and is eternally.

Hence the ontologist, starting with being as his principium, can never arrive at existences, for being can be under no extrinsic or intrinsic necessity of creating.  But, may not the psychologist conclude being from the intuition of existences?  Not at all, because existences, not existing in and of themselves, are neither cognizable nor conceivable without the intuition of being.  Yet, though being is sufficient in all respects for itself, it is cognizable by us only mediante its own act creating us and affirming itself as the first term or being in the ideal element of the object in thought, and therefore only in its relation to the second term, or existences.  This relation under which both being and existences, the necessary and the contingent, are given, is the creative act of being, as we have seen, and therefore, as that mediante which both being and existences are given, is necessarily itself given in ideal intuition.  It is as necessarily given in the object of every thought as either being or existences, the necessary or the contingent, and therefore is objectively as certain as either of the other two terms without which no thought is possible, and is in fact more immediately given, since it is only mediante the relation or creative act of being that either being or existences themselves are given, or are objectively intuitive.

But not therefore, because being is cognizable only in its relation to existences, does it follow that being itself is relation, or that all our cognitions are relative, or, as Gioberti maintains, that all truth is relative; nay, that the essence of God, as implied in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, is in relation, in the relation of the three Persons of the Godhead.  The relation is given in ideal intuition as the act of the real and necessary being.  The relation then is extrinsic, not intrinsic, and since being is real, necessary, independent, self-existing, and self-sufficing, the creative act must be not a necessary, but a free, voluntary act on the part of being. The relation, then, is not intrinsic, but freely and voluntarily assumed.

Being is given in ideal intuition mediante its creative act, then as creator or ens creans.  But as nothing extrinsic or intrinsic can oblige being, which is independent and self-sufficing, to create or to act ad extra, it must be a free creator, free to create or not create, as it chooses.  Then being must possess freewill and intelligence, for without intelligence there can be no will, and without will no choice, no free action.  Being then must be in its nature rational, and then it must be personal, for personality is the last complement of rational nature, that is, he must be a suppositum that possesses, by its nature, intelligence and freewill.  Then being, real and necessary, being in its plentitude, being in itself, is - God, and creator of the heavens and earth, and all things visible and invisible.

But, it is objected, this assumes that we have immediate intuition of being, and therefore of God, which is a proposition improbated by the Holy See.  Not to our knowledge.  The Holy See has improbated, if you will, the proposition that the intellect has immediate cognition, that is, perception or empirical intuition of God; but not, so far as we are informed, the proposition that we have, mediante its creative act, intuition of real and necessary being in the ideal element of the object in thought.  The Holy See has defined against the Traditionalists, that “the existence of God can be proved with certainty by reasoning.”  But will the objector tell us how we can prove the existence of God by any argument from premises that contain no intuition of the necessary, and therefore, since the necessary, save as concreted in being, is a nullity, of real and necessary being?  We may have been mistaught, but our logic-master taught us that nothing can be in the conclusion, not contained, in principle at least, in the premises.  If we had not ideal intuition of real and necessary being, there is no possible demonstration of the existence of God.  St. Thomas finds the principle of his demonstration of the existence of God, precisely as we have done, in the relation of cause and effect, or as we say, in the relation of being and existences; but whence does the mind come into possession of that relation, or of the ideas expressed by the terms cause and effect?  St. Thomas does not tell us; he simply takes it for granted that we have them.  What have we done but prove, which he does not do, by analyzing, first, thought, then the object, then the ideal, and finally the relation, that we have them, and at the same time prove that being is a free, not a necessary cause, and this escape pantheism, which we should not do, if we made cause as ultimate as being, Ens creans, not simply ens in se, that is: Ens acting is the cause, and existences or creatures are the effect.

The ideal, as we have found it, does not differ, we concede, from the ideal formula of Gioberti, Ens creat existentias, or Being creates existences.  This has been objected to as pantheistic.  Nay, an eminent Jesuit father charged me with atheism because I defended it and I answered him that to deny it would be atheism. Even distinguished professors of philosophy and learned and excellent men not unfrequently fall into a sort of routine, let their minds be cast in certain moulds, and fail to recognize their own thoughts when expressed in unfamiliar terms.  I have no call to defend Gioberti, who, for aught I know, may have understood the ideal formula in a pantheistic sense, but I do not believe he did, and I know that I do not.  Gioberti asserts the formula, but declares it incapable of demonstration; I think I have clearly shown, by the several analyses into which we have entered, that each term of the formula is given intuitively in the ideal element of the object, and is as certain and as undeniable as the fact of thought or our own existence, and no demonstration in any case whatever can go farther.  As I have found and presented the formula it is only the first verse of Genesis, or the first article of the Creed.  I see not, then, how it can be charged either with atheism or pantheism.

Perhaps the suspicion arises from the use of the present tense, “creat,” or “is creating,” as if it was intended to assert being as the immanent cause – the causa essentialis, not as the causa efficiens, of existences; but this is not the case with us, nor do we believe it was with Gioberti, for he seems to us to take unwearied pains to prove the contrary.  We use the present tense of the verb to indicate that the creative act that calls existences from nothing is a permanent or continuous act, that it is identically one and the same act that creates and that sustains existences, or that the act of creation and of conservation are identical, as we shall explain in the next section.

The formula is infinitely removed from pantheism, because, though given in intuition mediante the creative act of being, being itself is given as real and necessary, independent and self-sufficing, and therefore under no extrinsic or intrinsic necessity of creating.  The creative act is, as we have seen, a free act, and it is distinguished, on the one hand, from being as the act from the actor, and on the other, from existences as the effect from the cause.  There is here no place for pantheism, less indeed than in the principle of cause and effect which St. Thomas adopts as the principle of his demonstration of the existence of God.  The relation of cause and effect is necessary, and if cause is placed in the category of being, creation is necessary, which is pantheism.  Yet St. Thomas, the greatest of the schoolmen, was no pantheist.  We have avoided the possibility of mistake by placing the causative power in the category of being, but the exercise of the power in the category of relation, at once distinguishing and connecting being and existences.

The objector forgets, moreover, that while we have by our analysis of thought established the reality of the object, or its existence a parte rei, and asserted the objectivity and therefore the reality of the ideal, we have nowhere found or asserted the ideal alone as the object in thought.  We have found and asserted it only as the ideal element of the object, which must in principle precede the empirical element, but it is never given separately from it, and it takes both the ideal and the empirical in their relation to constitute the object in any actual thought.  The ideal and the empirical elements of the complex object are distinguished by the intellectus agens, or reflection, in which the soul acts, never by intuition, ideal, or empirical, in either of which the action originates with the object.  Most men never do distinguish them during their whole lives; even the mass of philosophers do not distinguish them, or distinguish between intuition and reflection.  The Peripatetics, in fact, begin with the reflective activity, and hardly touch upon the question of intuition, save in what they have to say of phantasms and species.  Their principles they take from reflection, not from the analysis of thought or its object.  We do not dissent from their principles or their method, but we do not regard their principles as ultimate, and we think the field of intuition, back of reflection, needs a culture which it does not receive from them, not even from St. Thomas, still less from those routinists who profess to follow him. We do not dissent from the Thomist philosophy; we accept it fully and frankly, but not as in all respects complete.  There are, in our judgment, questions that lie back of the starting-point of that philosophy,  which, in order to meet the subtilties and refinements of modern pantheists or atheists, the philosopher of today must raise and discuss.

These questions relate to what in principle precedes the reflective action of the soul, and are solved by the distinction between intuition and reflection, and between ideal intuition and empirical intuition or perception, that is, cognition.  What we explain by ideal intuition, the ancients called the dictates of reason, the dictates of nature, and assumed them to be principles inserted in the very constitution of the human mind; Descartes called them innate ideas; Reid regarded them as constituent principles of man’s intellectual and moral nature; Kant, as the laws or forms of the human understanding.  All these make them more or less subjective, and overlook their objectivity, and consequently, cast doubts on the reality of our knowledge.  “It may be real to us, but how prove that it is not very unreal to other minds constituted differently from ours?”  we have endeavored to show that these are the ideal elements of the fact of experience, and are given in objective or ideal intuition, which is the assertion to the mind by its own action of real and necessary being itself, and therefore our knowledge, as far as it goes, is universally true and apodictic, not true to our minds only.

The objection commonly raised to the ideal formula, Ens creat existentias, is, not that it is not true, but that it is not the principle from which philosophy starts, but the end at which philosophy arrives.  This, in one sense, if we speak of the reflective order, is true, and the philosophy most in vogue does not reach it even as its end at all. Yet by using reflection we shall find that it is given in the object of every thought, as we have shown, the first as well as the last.  Ideal intuition is a real affirmation to the mind by the act of the ideal itself, but it is not perception or distinct cognition, because, as we have said, it is not given separately, but only as the ideal or a priori element of the object, and is never intuitively distinguished or distinguishable from it.  This is, we think, a sufficient answer to the objection, which is founded on a misapprehension of what is really meant by the assertion that the ideal formula is the principle of science and intuitively given.  It is so given, but it is only by reflection that the mind distinguishes it, and is aware of possessing it.


Having found the first term of the ideal formula to be real and necessary being, and that real and necessary being is God the creator of all things distinguishable from himself, we may henceforth drop the term being or ENS and use that of Deus or God, and proceed to consider the second term, EXISTENCES or creatures.  God and creatures include all that is or exists. What is not creature and yet is, is God; what is not God and yet exists, is creature, the product of the act of God.  What is neither God nor creature is nothing.  There is nothing and can be nothing that is not either one or the other.  Abstractions, prescinded from their concretes, and possibilities prescinded from the power or ability of the real, we cannot too often repeat, are nullities, and no object of intuition, either ideal or empirical.  This excludes the ens in genere, or being in general, or Rosmini, and the reine Seyn of Hegel, which is also an abstraction, or merely possible being.  An abstract or possible being has no power or tendency, as Hegel pretends, to become by self-evolution either a concrete or actual being. Evolution of nothing gives nothing.  Hence whatever truth there may be in the details of the respective philosophers of Rosmini and Hegel, they are in their principles unreal and worthless, proceeding on the assumption that nothing can make itself something.  Existences are distinguishable from being and are nothing without the creative act of God.  Only that act stands between them and absolute nullity.  God then does not form them from a preexisting matter, but creates them from nothing. He does not evolve them from himself, for then they would be the Divine Being itself, and indistinguishable from it, contrary to what has already been established, namely, that they are distinguished from God as well as joined to him mediante his creative act.  God is not a necessary but a free creator; creatures are not then evolved from his own being, but himself, a free creator, is necessarily distinct from and independent of them; and as without creation there is nothing but himself, it follows necessarily that he must, if he creates existences at all, create them from nothing, by the word of his power, as Christian theology teaches.

But the fact that they are creatures and distinct from the Creator proves, also, that they are substances, or substantial existences, and therefore, as philosophers say, second causes.  If creatures had no substantial existence, they would be mere phenomena or appearances of the divine being or substance, and therefore could not be really distinguishable from God himself; which would be a virtual denial of the creative act and the reality of existences, and therefore of God himself; for it has been shown that there is no intuition of being save mediante the creative act of being, or without the intuition of existences, that is, of both terms of the relation.  It would deny, what has been amply proved, that the object of intuition, whether ideal or empirical, is and must be real, because it does and must present or affirm itself, which, if unreal or mere appearance, it cold not do, since the unreal has no activity and can be no object of thought, as the Cosmists themselves concede, for they hold the phenomena without the substance that appears in them are unthinkable.  Moreover, the object in intuition presents or affirms itself as it is, and existences all present or affirm themselves as real, as things, as substances, as second causes, and really distinguishable from Dr. Newman’s “Notional” propositions, which propose nothing, and in which nothing real is noted.

It is here where Cousin and the pantheists, who do not expressly deny creation, commit their fatal mistake.  Spinoza, Cousin, and others assert one only substance, which they call God, and which the Cosmists call Nature.  Hence the creative act, if recognized at all, produces only phenomena, not substantial existences, and what they call creation is only the manifestation or apparition of the one only substance.  It is possible that this error comes from the definition of substance adopted by Descartes, and by Spinoza after him, namely, that which exists or can be conceived in itself, without another.  This definition was intended by the Schoolmen, and possibly by Descartes also, as simply to mark the distinction between substance and mode, attribute, or accident; but, taken rigidly as it is by Spinoza, it warrants his doctrine, that God is the one only substance, as he is the one only being, for he alone exists in se.  The universe and all it contains are therefore only modes or attributes of God, the only substance.  The error, also, may have arisen in part from using being and substance as perfectly synonymous terms. Ens is substantia, but every substantia is not ens.  Substance is anything that can support accidents or produce effects; Ens is that which is, and in strictness is applicable to God alone, who gives his name to Moses as I AM; I AM THAT AM,- SUM QUI SUM.  There may be, mediante the creative act of God, many substances or existences, but there is and can be only one being, God.  All existences have their being, not in themselves, but in God mediante the creative act, according to what St. Paul says, “in him we live, and move, and are, in ipso vivimus, et movemur, et sumus.” Acts. XVII, 28.

Existences are substantial, that is, active or causative in their own sphere or degree.  The definition of substance by Leibnitz – though I think I have found it in some of the medieval Doctors – vis activa, corresponding to the German kraft and the English and French force, is a proper definition so far, whatever may be thought of what he adds, that it always involves effort or endeavor.  In this sense existences must be substances or else they could not be given intuitively, as in our analysis of the object we have seen they are, for in intuition the object is active and presents or affirms itself.  Strictly speaking, as we have seen in the analysis of relation, nothing that exists is or can be passive, for passivity is simply in potentia ad actum; whatever exists at all exists in actu and so far is necessarily vis activa. Existences in their principle are given intuitively, and their principle cannot be substantial and they unsubstantial.  But it is necessary here to distinguish between the substans and the substantia, between that which stands under and upholds or supports existences or created substances, and the existences themselves.  This enables us to correct the error of the deists, who regard the cosmos, though created in the first instance and set a-going, now that it is created and constituted with its laws and forces as able to go of itself without any supercosmic support, propulsion, or direction, as a clock or watch, when once wound up and set a-going, goes of itself – till it runs down.  It has now no need of God, it is sufficient for itself, and God has nothing to do with it, but, if he chooses, to contemplate its operation from his supramundane height. But this old deistical race, now nearly extinct, except with our scientists, forgot that the watch or clock does not run by its own inherent force, and that it is propelled by a force in accordance with which it is constructed indeed, but which is exterior to it and independent of it.  The cosmos, not having its being itself and existing only mediante the creative act of being can subsist and operate only by virtue of that act.  It is only that act that draws it from nothing and that stands between all existences or creatures and nothing.  Let that act cease and we should instantly sink into the nothingness we were before we were created.  This proves that the act of creation and that of conservation are one and the same act, and hence it is that intuition of existences is, ipso facto, intuition of the creative act, without which they are nothing, and of which they are only the external terminus or product.  This explains the distinction between substans and substantia, and shows why the substans is and must be the creative act of God.  Substances rest or depend on the creative act for their very existence; it is their foundation, and they must fall through without it, though they stand under and support their own effects or productions as second causes.

The creative act, it follows, is a permanent not a transient act, and God is, so to speak, a continuous creator, and creation is a fact not merely in the past but in the present, constantly going on before our eyes.  I would call God the immanent, not the transitory cause of creation, as the deist supposes, were it not that theologians have appropriated the term immanent cause in their explanation of the relation of the Father to the Son and of both Father and Son to the Holy Ghost in the ever-blessed Trinity, and if it had not been abused by Spinoza and others.  Spinoza says God is the immanent not the transitory cause of the universe; but he meant by this that God is immanent in the universe as the essence or substance is the cause of the mode or attribute, that is, the causa essentialis, not causa efficiens, which is really to deny that God creates substantial existences, and to imply that he is the subject acting or causing in phenomena.  God is immanent cause only in the sense that he is maintaining mediante his creative act in the effect or existences produced from nothing by the omnipotent energy of his word, creating and sustaining them as second causes or the subject of their own acts, not as the subjecting acting in them.  It is what theologians call the “efficacious presence” of God in all his works.  He is the eminent cause of the acts of all his creatures, inasmuch as he is the cause of their causality, causa causarum; as we explained in our analysis of Relation, but he is not the subject that acts in their acts.  This shows the nearness of God to all the works of his hands, and their absolute dependence on him for all they are, all they can be, all they can do, all they have or can have.  It shows simply that they are nothing, and therefore can know nothing, but by his creative act.  The grossest and most palpable of all sophisms is that which makes man and nature God, or God identically man and nature.  Either error originates in the failure to recognize the act of creation and the real relation of existences to being as given in the ideal intuition.

The cosmists make God the substance or reality of the Cosmos, and deny that he is supercosmic; but their error is manifest now that we have shown that God is the Creator of the cosmos, and all things visible and invisible.  The cosmic phenomena are not phenomena of the Divine Being, but are phenomena or manifestations of created nature, and of God only mediante his creative act.  The cosmos, with its constitution and laws or nature, is his creature; produced from nothing and sustained by his creative act, without which it is still nothing.  God then, as the creator of nature, is independent of nature, and necessarily supernatural, supercosmic, or supramundane, as the theologians teach, and as all the world, save a few philosophers, scientists and their dupes, believe and always have believed.

God being supernatural, and the creative act by which he creates and sustains nature being a free act on his part, the theory of the rationalists and naturalists that holds him bound, hedged in, by what they call the laws of nature, is manifestly false and absurd.  These laws to not bind the Creator, because he is their author.  The age talks much of freedom, and is universally agitating for liberty of all sorts, but there is one liberty, without which no liberty is possible, it forgets – the liberty of God.  To deny it, is to deny his existence.  God is not the Fate, or inexorable Destiny, of the pagan classics, especially of the Greek dramatists.  Above nature, independent of it, subject to no extrinsic or intrinsic necessity, except that of being, and of being what he is, God is free to do anything but contradict, that is, annihilate himself, which is the real significance of the Scholastic “principle of contradiction.”  He cannot be and not be; he cannot choose to be or not to be what he is, for he is real and necessary being, and being in its plentitude.  He can do nothing that contradicts his own being or attributes, for they are all necessary and eternal, and hence St. Paul says, “it is impossible for God to lie.”  That would be to act contrary to his nature, and the Divine nature and the Divine Being are identical, and indistinguishable in re.  it would be to contradict his very being, his own eternal, immutable, and indestructible essence, and what is called the nature of things.

Saving this, God is free to do whatever he will, for extrinsic to him and his act nothing is possible or impossible; since extrinsic to him there is simply nothing.  His liberty is as universal and as indestructible as his own necessary and eternal being.  He is free to create or not as he chooses, and as in his own wisdom he chooses.  The creative act is therefore a free act, and as nature itself, with all its laws, is only that act considered in its effects, it is absurd to suppose that nature or its laws, which it founds and upholds, can bind him, restrict him, or in any way interfere with his absolute freedom.  God cannot act contrary to his own most perfect nature or being, but nothing except his own perfection can determine his actions or his providence.  Following out the ideal judgment, or considering the principles intuitively given, they are alike the principles of the natural and the supernatural.  They assert the supernatural in asserting God as creator; they assert his providence by asserting that creation and conservation are only one and the same act, and the free act, or the act of the free, uncontrolled, and unnecessitated will of God.  Hence also it follows that God is free, if he chooses, to make us a supernatural revelation of his will, and to intervene supernaturally or by miracles in human or cosmic affairs.  Miracles are in the same order with the fact of creation itself, and if facts, are as provable as any other facts.  


We have in the foregoing sections proved with all the certainty we have that we think or exist, the existence of God as real and necessary being, and as the free, intelligent, voluntary, and therefore personal Creator and Upholder of the universe and all things therein visible and invisible, in accordance with the teachings of Christian theism, and the primitive and universal tradition of the race, especially of the more enlightened and progressive portion of the race.  This would seem to suffice to complete our task, and to redeem our promise to refute Atheism and to prove Theism. 

But we have only proved God the existence of God as First Cause, and that all existences proceed from him by way of creation, in opposition to generation, emanation, evolution, or formation.  We have established indeed, that the physical laws of the universe, the natural laws treated by our scientists, are from God, created by him, and subject to his will, or existing and operative only through his free creative act.  But this, if we go no farther, is only a speculative truth, and has no bearing on practical life.  Stopping there, we might well say, with Jefferson, “What does it matter to me, whether my neighbor believes in one God, or twenty?  It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.”  God as first cause is the physical Governor, not the moral Governor of the universe, a physical, not a moral Providence, and his laws execute themselves without the concurrence of the will of his creatures, as the lightning that rends the oak, the winds and waves that scatter and sink our richly freighted argosies, the fire that devastates our cities, respiration by the lungs, the circulation of the blood by the heart, the secretion of bile by the liver or of the gastric juice by the stomach, the growth of plants and animals, indeed all the facts or groups of facts called natural laws, studied, described, and classified by our scientists, and knowledge of which passes in our day for science, and even for philosophy.  The knowledge of these facts, or groups of facts, may throw light on the laws and conditions of physical life, but it introduces us to no moral order, and throws no light on the laws and conditions of spiritual life, or the end for which we are created and exist.

The man who believes only in God as first cause differs not, practically, from the man who believes in no God at all: and it is, no doubt, owing to the fact that the age stops with God as first cause, that it is so tolerant of atheism, and that we find people who profess to believe in Christianity who yet maintain that atheism is not at all incompatible with morality – people who hold in high moral esteem men who, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herbert Spencer, Professors Huxley and Tyndall, recognize no distinction between physical laws and the moral law, and assert the identity of the law of gravitation and of purity of heart.  Hence the Transcendentalist rule of life: “Obey thyself,” “Act out thyself,” “Follow thy instincts;” and hence also the confusion of physical or sentimental love with supernatural charity, the worship of the beautiful with the worship of God, and of art with religion, so characteristic of modern literature and speculative thought.  Indeed, the first step in the downward progress toward atheism, is the denial or non-recognition of the teleological order. 

We have proved that God is being, being in its plentitude, being itself; and being in itself, therefore that he necessarily includes in himself, in their unity and actuality, all perfection, truth, power, intelligence, wisdom, goodness, freedom, will, etc.  I do not hold, with Cousin and Plato, that the beautiful is a universal and absolute idea, since the beautiful exists only for creatures endowed with sensibility and imagination, and therefore is not and cannot be absolute being or a necessary perfection of being; yet I do hold, with the Schoolmen, that ens, verum, and bonum are absolute and identical.  Hence St. Augustine teaches that existence itself, since it participates of being, is a good, and consequently even the eternally lost are gainers by their existence, though by their own fault they have made it a source of everlasting pain.  To be is always better than not to be.

 That God is the final cause of creation follows necessarily from the fact that he is its free, voluntary first cause.  If God were, as Cousin maintains, a necessary creator, he could act only ad finem, not propter finem, and therefore could not be asserted as the final cause of creation; but being a free creator not compelled by any extrinsic or intrinsic necessity, as he cannot be, since he is being in its plentitude, ens perfectissimum, he can create only for some end, and consequently only for himself, for beside himself there is and can be no end for which he can create.  He is therefore the final cause of creation, as well as its first cause.  Hence St. Paul tells us that “for him, and in him, and to him are all things.”  The conclusion is strengthened by considering that God, being all-powerful and essentially wise and good, it would contradict his own being and attributes to create without any end, or for any but a good purpose or end, and eh alone is good, for the very reason that he alone is being, and his creatures are being and good only by participation.

No doubt it may be said that God creates for the good of creatures, but he is the good as he is the being of creatures, and he can give them good only by giving them himself, for beside himself there is no good for them, since beside him there is no good at all.  The end or final cause of a creature is its good, and when we say God is the final cause or end of a particular existence, we say he is that which it must seek and possess in order to attain to and possess its supreme good or beatitude.  When we say God creates all things for himself, we simply mean that he creates all things for the manifestation of his own glory in the life and beatitude of his creatures.  The end or final cause of an existence is in obtaining the complement or perfection of its being.  It is not simply beatitude, but beatitude in God that is the end.  Creation flows out from the infinite fulness of the Divine Love, which would diffuse itself in the creation and beatitude of existences, and God cannot beatify them otherwise than through their participation of his own beatitude.  God, then, is the ultimate and final cause of creation.

But why could nto God create existences for progress, or for progress through infinity?  That would be a contradiction in terms.  Progress is motion towards an end, and where there is no end there is and can be no progress.  Progress is advancing from the imperfect to the perfect, and if there is no perfect, there can be no advance towards it; if there is progress, it must finally come to an end.  The doctrine of infinite or indefinite progressiveness of man, so popular in this nineteenth century, is based on the denial alike of creation and the final cause of man and the cosmos.  It supposes development instead of creation, and admits only the physical laws of nature, which operate as blind and fatal forces, like what is called instinct in man and animals.  Hence we have a class of scientists who seek to elevate man by improving, through wise and skillful culture, the breed.  How do these men who deny God as final cause, and hold the theory of development or evolution, account for the existence of moral ideas or the universal belief in a moral law? This belief and these ideas cannot be obtained either by observation or by induction from the study of the physical laws of nature; and if we hold them to be given intuitively, we assert their reality, affirm that there is a moral order, and then, a final cause of creation.  

I maintain that the soul really has intuition of God as final cause in a sense analogous to that in which we have seen it has intuition of being as first cause.  St. Thomas, while he denies that God is notus per se, concedes that we have intuition of him, as I have explained intuition, or a confused cognition of him as the beatitude of man.  The soul, he says, naturally desires beatitude, and what it naturally desires, it naturally apprehends, though it be confusedly.  In our language, the soul desires beatitude; but it cannot desire what it has no intuition of, or which is in no sense presented or affirmed to it, since God is himself this beatitude, the soul must have some intuition of God as its good or final cause.  It is true, St. Thomas says, the soul does not know explicitly that it is God that presents or affirms himself as the beatitude it desires.  It does not know that it is God any more than it does when it sees a man coming without being able to distinguish whether it is Peter or some other man that is coming; yet it is as really intuition of God as final cause, as the intuition of the idea is intuition of God as real and necessary being, or as first cause.  In neither case is there a distinct or explicit cognition that what is presented is God, and it comes to know that it is so only by reflection.

Certainly every soul desires happiness, supreme beatitude; and desire is more than a simple want.  Desire is an affection of the will, a reaching forth of the soul toward the object desired.  What a man desires he, in some degree at least, wills; but will is not a faculty that can in any degree act without light or intelligence.  The soul can will only what is presented to it as good; it cannot will evil for the reason that it is evil, though it may will the lesser good instead of the greater, and a present good instead of a distant or future good; for it has the freedom of choice.  Yet it is certain that the soul finds its complete satisfaction in no natural or created good.  It craves an unbounded good, and will be satisfied with nothing finite.  Why, but because it has an ever-present intuition that it was made for an infinite good?  Why, but because God the infinite everywhere and at every instant presents or affirms himself to the soul as that alone which can fill it, or constitute its beatitude?  The fact that every limited or created good is insufficient to satisfy the soul has been noted and dwelt on by philosophers, sages, prophets, and preachers in all ages of the world, and it is the theme of the poet’s wail, and the source of nearly all life’s tragedies.  Yet it is inexplicable on any possible hypothesis except that of supposing the soul was made for God, and has an intuitive intimation of the secret of its destiny.

Assuming, then, the intuition of God as final cause in the desire of beatitude, the assertion of it rests on the same authority that does the assertion of the ideal as being, or being as God, and therefore, as our several analyses have proved, it is as certain as either the subject or object in the fact of thought, or as the fact that we think or exist.  In fact, as we have already seen, it is included in the creative act of being as a free, voluntary act.  Being cannot act freely without will, and no one can will without willing an end.  No really good end is possible but God himself; we may, therefore, safely and certainly conclude God is our last cause as well as our first cause, at once the beginning and end, the Alpha and the Omega of all existences, the original and end of all things. 

We are now able to assert for man a moral law and to give its reason in distinction from the natural or physical laws of the scientists.  The physical laws are established by God as first cause, and are the laws or created forces operative in existences in their procession, by way of creation, from God, as first cause; the moral law is established by God as final cause, and prescribes the conditions on which rational existences can return to God, without being absorbed in him, and fulfil their destiny, or attain to perfect beatitude.  This completes the demonstration of Christian Theism.

If God be the first and last cause of existences, they must have, so to speak, two movements, the one by way of creation from God as their first cause, the other under the moral law, of return to him as their end, beatitude, or the perfection of their nature, and the perfect satisfaction of its wants.  These two movements found two orders, which we may designate the initial and the teleological.  The error of the rationalists, whether in morals or religion, is not wholly in the denial of supernatural revelation and grace, but in denying or disregarding the teleological order, and in endeavoring to find a basis for religion and morality in the initial or physical order, or, as Gioberti calls it, the order of genesis.  Thus Dr. Potter, Anglican bishop of Pennsylvania lately deceased, in his work on the philosophy of religion, asserts that religion is a law of human nature, that is, if it means anything, the law of his physical nature and secreted as the liver secretes bile.  In like manner the ancient and modern Transcendentalists, Gnostics, or Pneumatici, who make religion and morality consist in acting out oneself, or one’s instincts, place religion and morality in the initial order, and in the same category with any of the physical laws or forces of the cosmos.  The modern doctrine of the correlation of forces, which denies all distinction of physical force and moral power- a fatal error- originated in the assumption of the initial order as the only real order.  The creative act is not completed in the initial order, or order of natural generation, and does not end with it.  Man is not completed by being born, and existences, to be fulfilled or perfected, must return to God as their final cause, in whom alone they can find their perfection as they find their origin in him as their first cause.  The irrational existences, since they exist for the rational, and are not subject to a moral law, can return only in the rational.  As the teleological order, as well as the initial, is founded by the creative act of God, it is equally real, and the science that denies or overlooks it, is only inchoate or initial, as in fact is all that passes under the name of science in this age of boasted scientific light and progress.  

I may remark here that though we can prove by reason that God is our final cause, our beatitude, because the Supreme Beatitude, it by no means follows that the soul can attain to him and accomplish its destiny by its natural powers, without being born again, or without the assistance of supernatural revelation and grace.  Our reason, properly exercised, suffices, as we have just seen, to prove the reality of the two orders, the initial and the teleological, but as God, either as First cause or as Final cause, is supercosmic or supernatural, it would seem that nature must be as unable to attain of itself to God as its end, or to perfect itself, as it is to originate or sustain itself, without the creative act.  They who, while professing to believe in God as creator, yet deny the supernatural order, forget the God is supernatural, and that the creative act that founds nature with all its laws and forces, is purely supernatural.  The supernatural then exists, founds nature herself, sustains it, and is absolutely independent of it, is at once its origin and end.

The supernatural is God and what he does directly and immediately by himself; the natural is what he does mediately through created agencies, or the operation of natural laws or second causes created by him.  The creation of man and the universe is supernatural, and so, as we have seen, is their conservation, which is their continuous creation; the growth of plants and animals, all that facts in the order of genesis, are natural, for though the order itself originates in the supernatural, the facts of the order itself are effected by virtue of natural laws, or as is said, by natural causes.  Yet as God is not bound or hedged in by his laws, and as he is absolutely free and independent, there is no reason a priori, why he may not, if he chooses, intervene supernaturally as well as naturally in the affairs of his creatures, and if necessary to their perfection there is even a strong presumption that he will so intervene.  If revelation and supernatural grace are necessary to enable us to enter the teleological order, to persevere in it, and attain to the full complement or perfection of our existence, we may reasonably conclude that the infinite love or unbounded and overflowing goodness which prompted him, so to speak, to create us, will provide them.  Hence revelation, miracles, grace, the whole order of grace, are as provable, if facts, as any other class of facts, and are in their principle, included in the ideal judgment.


How or in what manner God is to be worshipped, whether we are able by the light of nature to say what is the worship he demands of us, and by our natural strength to render it, or whether we need supernatural revelation and supernatural grace to enable us to worship him acceptably, are questions foreign from the purpose of the present inquiry.  All that is designed here is to show that to worship God is a moral duty, enjoined by the natural law, or that the moral law obliges us to worship God in the way and manner he prescribes, whether the prescribed worship be made known to us by natural reason or only by supernatural revelation.  In other words, our design is to show that morals are not separable from religion, nor religion from morals.

The question is not an idle one, and has a practical bearing, especially in our age and country, in which the tendency is to a total separation of church and state, religion and morals.  The state disclaims with us all right to establish a state religion, and all obligation to recognize and support religion, or to punish offences against it, at least for the reason that they are offences against religion; and yet it claims the right to establish a state morality, to enforce it by its legislation, and to punish through its court all offences against it.  Thus the government seeks to suppress Mormonism, not as a religion indeed, but as a morality.  As a religion, Mormonism is free, and in no respect repugnant to the constitution and laws of the country; but as a morality it is contrary to the state morality and is forbidden: and consequently, under the guise of suppressing it as morality, the law suppresses it, in fact, as religion.  Is this distinction between religion and morality real, and does not the establishment of a state morality necessarily imply the establishment of a state religion?  Are religion and morals separable, and independent of each other?  A question of great moment in its bearing on political rights.

Among the Gentiles, religion and morality had no necessary connection with each other.  Ethics were not religious, nor religion ethical.  The Gentiles sought a basis for morality independent of the gods.  Some placed its principle in pleasure.  Others, and these the better sort, in justice or right, anterior and superior to the gods, and binding both gods and men.  This was necessary with the Gentiles, who had forgotten the creative act, and held to a plurality of gods and goddesses whose conduct was far from being uniformly edifying, nay, was sometimes, and not unfrequently, scandalous, as we see from Plato’s “Euthyphro” and the “Meditations of the Emperor.”  But it does not seem to have occurred to these Gentiles that abstractions are nothing, and that justice or right, unless integrated in a real and concrete power, is a mere abstraction, and can bind neither gods nor men; and if so integrated, it is God, and is really the assertion of one God above their gods, the “God of gods,” as he was called by the Hebrews.

The tendency in our age is to seek a basis outside of God for an independent morality, and I was not permitted by its editors to assert, in the “New American Cyclopedia,” that “Atheism is incompatible with morality,” and was obliged to insert “as theists say.”  But not only do men seek to construct a morality without God, but even a religion and a worship based on atheism, as we see in the so-called Free Religionists, and the Positivists, which goes farther than the request for “the play of Hamlet with the part of the Prince of Denmark left out.”

Even among Christian writers  on ethics we find some who, in a more or less modified form, continue the Gentile tradition, and would have us regard the moral law as independent of the will of God, and hold that things are right and obligatory not because God commands them, but that he commands them because they are right and obligatory.  They distinguish between the Divine Will and the Divine Essence, and make the moral law emanate from the essence, not from the will of God.  If we make the law the expression of the will of God, we deny that the distinctions of right and wrong are eternal, make them dependent on mere will and arbitrariness, and assume that God might, if he had willed, have made what is now right wrong, and what is now wrong right, which is impossible; for he can by his will no more found or alter the relations between moral good and moral evil than he can make or unmake the mathematical truths and axioms.  Very true; but solely because he cannot make, unmake, or alter his own eternal and necessary being.

The moral law is the application of the eternal law in the moral government of rational existences, and the eternal law, according to St. Augustine, is the eternal will or reason of God.  The moral law necessarily expresses both the reason and the will of God.  There are here two questions which must not be confounded, namely, 1, What is the reason of the law? 2, Wherefore is the law obligatory on us as rational existences?  The first question asks what is the reason or motive on the part of God in enacting the law, and, though that concerns him and not us, we may answer: Doubtless, it is the same reason he had for creating us, and is to be found in his infinite love and goodness.  The second question asks, why does the law oblige us?  That is, why is it law for us; since a law that does not oblige is no law at all.

This last is the real ethical question.  The answer is not, It is obligatory because what it enjoins is good, holy, and necessary to our perfection and beatitude.  That would be a most excellent reason why we should do the things enjoined, but is no answer to the question, why am I bound to do them, and am guilty if I do not?  Why is obedience to the law a duty, and disobedience a sin?  It is necessary to distinguish with the theologians between the finis operantis and the finis operis, between the work one does, and the motive for which one does it.  Every work that tends to realize the teleological order is good, but if I do it not from the proper motive, I am not moral or virtuous in doing it.  I must have the intention of doing it in obedience to the law or will of my sovereign, who has the right to command me.

What, then, is the ground of the right of God to command me, and of my duty to obey him?  The ground of both is in the creative act.  God has a complete and absolute right to us, because, having made us from nothing, we are his, wholly his, and not our own.  He created us from nothing, and only his creative act stands between us and nothing; he therefore owns us, and therefore we are his, body and soul, and all that we have, can do, or acquire.  He is therefore our Sovereign Lord and Proprietor, with supreme and absolute dominion over us, and the absolute right, as absolute owner, to do what he will with us.  His right to command is founded on his dominion, and his dominion is founded on his creative act, and I am bound to obey him, whatever he commands, because I am his creature, absolutely his, and in no sense my own.

Dr. Ward of the Dublin Review, in his very able work on “Nature and Grace,”  objects to this doctrine, which I published in the Review some years ago, that it makes the obligation depend on the demand, not on the intrinsic excellence, goodness, or sanctity of the thing commanded, and consequently if, per impossibile, we could suppose the Devil created us, we might be under two contradictory obligations, one to obey the devil our creator, commanding us to do evil, and our own reason which commands us to do that which is intrinsically good.  What I answered Dr. Ward at the time I have forgotten, and I am in some doubt if I seized the point of the objection.  The objection, however, is not valid, for it assumes that if the devil were our creator, God would still exist as the intrinsically good, and as our final cause.  On the absurd hypothesis that the devil creates us, this would not follow; for then the devil would be God, real and necessary being, and therefore good, consequently, there could not be the contradictory obligations supposed.  The hypothesis was introduced by one of the interlocutors in the discussion, as a strong way of asserting that obedience is due to the command of our Creator because he is our creator, without reference to the intrinsic character of the command.  The intrinsic nature of the command approves or commends it to our reason and judgment, but does not formally oblige.  This is the doctrine we maintained then, and which we maintain now, while Dr. Ward maintained that the command binds only be reason of its intrinsic excellence or sanctity.

I asserted that there is no distinction between the idea of God and the idea of Good.  Dr. Ward justly objects to this, and I was wrong in my expression, though not in my thought.  What I meant to say, and should have said to be consistent with my own doctrine is, that there is no distinction in re between Good and God, and therefore to ask is God good is absurd?  Dr. Ward, we find in this work, “Nature and Grace,” asserts very properly the identity of necessary truths with being; in his recent criticism of J. Stuart Mill he denies it, and says he agrees with Fr. Kleutgen, that they are founded on being, or God, but as we have remarked in a foregoing section, what is founded on God must be God or his creature, and if his creatures, how can these truths be eternal?

Dr. Ward’s objection has led me to reexamine the doctrine that moral obligation is founded on the creative act of God, but I have seen no reason for not continuing to hold it, though I might modify some of the expressions I formerly used; and though I differ with Dr. Ward on a very essential point, I have a far greater respect for his learning and ability, as a moral philosopher, than I had before re-reading his work.  He seeks to found an independent morality, not independent of the Divine Being indeed, but independent of the Divine will.  In this I do not wholly differ from him, and I willingly admit that the Divine will, distinctively taken, does not make or found the right.  The law expresses, as he contends, the reason of God, his intrinsic love and goodness, as is asserted in the fact that he is the final cause of creation, the supreme good, the beatitude of all rational or moral existences, and the law is imposed by him as final cause, not as first cause.  But this is not the question now under discussion.  Judgments of moral good may be formed, as Dr. Ward maintains, by intuition of necessary truths founded on God, or identical with his necessary and eternal being; but I am not asking how moral judgments are formed, nor what in point of fact our moral judgments are;  I am simply discussing the question why the commands of God are obligatory, and I maintain that they oblige us, because they are his commands, and he is our absolute sovereign Lord and Proprietor, for he has made us from nothing, and we are his and not our own.  Hence it follows that we have duties but no rights before God, as asserted by that noble Christian orator and philosopher, the lamented Donoso Cortes, and that what are called the rights of man are the rights of God, and therefore sacred and inviolable, which all men, kings and Kaisers, peoples and states, aristocracies and democracies, are bound to respect, protect, and defend, against whoever would invade them.  

The objection to the doctrine of Dr. Ward’s independent morality is that it is not true, and exacts no surrender of our wills to the Divine will.  It is not true, for Dr. Ward himself cannot say that the invasion of the land of Canaan, the extermination of the people, and taking possession of it as their own by the children of Israel, can be defended on any ground except that of the express command of God, who had the sovereign right to dispose of them as he saw proper.  Abraham offering or his readiness to offer up his son Isaac was justified because he trusted God, and acted at least as he supposed in obedience to the Divine command.  Yet to offer a human sacrifice without such a command, or for any other reason, would contradict all our moral judgments.  If one seeks to do what the law enjoins, not because God commands it, but for the sake of popularity, success in the world, or simply to benefit himself, here or hereafter, he yields no obedience to God.  He acknowledges not the divine sovereignty.  He does not say to his Maker, “Thy will, not mine be done;”  he does not pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;” and, what is more to the purpose, he recognizes no personal God, follows God only as impersonal or abstract being, and fails to own or confess the truth or fact that he is God’s creature, belongs to God as his Lord and Master, who has the absolute right to command him, as I have shown in showing that God is man’s sole creator.

The essential principle of religion is perfect trust in God, and obedience to his sovereign will, the unconditional surrender of our wills to the will of our Creator.  This is only what the moral law enjoins, for the first law of justice is to give to every one his due or his own, and we owe to God, as has been seen, all that we are, have, or can do.  This shows that religion and morality in their principle are one and the same, and therefore inseparable.  There is then no morality without religion, and no religion without morality.  He who refuses to keep the commandments of God and to render him his due, violates the moral law no less than he does the religious law.  Let us hear no more then of independent morality, which is only an invention to save the absolute surrender of our wills to the will of God, and is inspired by a reluctance to acknowledge a master.    

But this is not all.  If the moral law requires our unreserved obedience to the commands of God, it requires us to honor, love, trust, and obey him in all things, and therefore to worship him in the way and manner he prescribes.  If then he is pleased to make us a supernatural revelation of his will and to promulgate supernaturally a supernatural law, we are bound by the moral or natural law to obey it, when promulgated and brought to our knowledge, as unreservedly as we are to obey the natural law itself.  If Christianity be, as it professes to be, the revelation of the supernatural order, a supernatural law, no man who knowingly and voluntarily rejects or refuses to accept it, fulfils the natural law, or can be accounted a moral man.

I have now, I think, completed my task, and redeemed my promise to refute atheism and to demonstrate theism by reason.  I have proved that being affirms itself to the soul in ideal intuition, and that being is God, free to act from intelligence and will, and therefore not an impersonal, but a personal God, Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible – the free upholder of all existences, and therefore Providence, the final cause of creation, therefore the perfection, the good, the beatitude of all rational existences.  I have proved his divine sovereignty as resting on his creative act, and the obligation of all moral existences to obey his law, and to honor and worship his Divine Majesty as he himself prescribes.  I can go no farther, by the light of reason, but this is far enough for my argument.


I have now proved, or at least indicated the process of proving, with all the certainty we have that we think or exist, the existence of God, that he is real and necessary being, being in its plentitude, or as say the theologians, ens perfectissimum, self-existent and self-sufficing, independent, universal, immutable, eternal, without beginning or end, supercosmic, supernatural, free, voluntary creator of heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible: creating them from nothing, without any extrinsic or intrinsic necessity, by the free act of his will and the sole word of his power; the principle, medium, and end of all existences,- the absolute Sovereign, Proprietor, and Lord of creatures, the Upholder and moral Governor of the universe, in whom and for whom are all things, and whom all rational existences are bound to worship as their sovereign Lord, and in returning to whom by the teleological law, they attain to their perfection, fulfil the purpose for which they exist, enter into  possession of their supreme good, their supreme beatitude in God, who is the good, or beatitude itself.  We have in this ascertained the ground of moral obligation, and the principle of all religion, morality, and politics.  We have then proved our thesis, refuted atheism under all its forms and disguises, and positively demonstrated Christian theism.

But, though I hold that the existence of God may be proved with certainty by the process I have followed or indicated, I am far from pretending or believing that it is by that process that mankind, as a matter of fact, have attained to their belief in God or knowledge of the Divine Being.  I do not say that man could not, but I hold that he did not, attain to this science and belief without the direct and immediate supernatural instructions of his Maker. 

The race in all ages has held the belief from tradition, and philosophy has been called in only to verify or prove the traditionary teaching.  Men believe before they doubt or think of proving.  I doubt if, as a fact, any one was ever led to the truth by reasoning.  The truth is grasped intuitively or immediately by the mind, and the reasoning comes afterwards to verify it, or to prove that it is truth.  The reasoning does not originate the belief, but comes to defend or to justify it.  Hence it is that no man is ever converted to a doctrine he absolutely rejects, by simple logic, however unanswerable and conclusive it may be. 

 Supposing the process I have indicated is a complete demonstration of the existence of God as creator and moral Governor of the universe, few men are capable of following and understanding it, even among those who have made the study of philosophy and theology the business of their lives.  The greatest philosophers among the Gentiles missed it, and the scientists of our own day also miss it, and fail to recognize the fact of creation and admit no supramundane God.  Even eminent theologians, as we have seen, who no more doubt the existence of God than they do their own, proves themselves utterly unable to demonstrate or prove that God is.  Dr. Newman, for instance, whose Christian faith is not to be doubted, confesses his inability to prove the existence of God from reason, and in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, if he does not sap the foundation of belief in revelation, he destroys its value, by subjecting it to the variations and imperfections of the human understanding.  His Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent is an attempt to prove the relativity of all science or knowledge, that in practice we assent to the probable without ever demanding or attaining to the certain, the apodictic, and is hardly less incompatible with the existence of God than the cosmic philosophy of the school of Herbert Spencer, from which it in principle does not, as far as we can see, essentially differ.

If such men as Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Proclus, Herbert Spencer, August Comte, Emil Littre, and John Henry Newman are unequal to the process, how can we suppose that the doctrine that God is, originated in that or any process of reasoning?  Reason in the elite of the race may prove that God is, but how can reason, wanting the word, originate and establish it in the minds of the ignorant, uncultivated, rude, and rustic multitude?  And yet it is precisely this multitude, ignorant and incapable of philosophy, who hold it with the greatest firmness and tenacity, and only philosophers, and such as are formed by them, ever doubt it.  There is, no doubt, a true and useful philosophy, if one could only find it, but philosophers in all ages have been more successful in obscuring the truth and causing doubt, than in enlightening the mind and correcting errors.  Plato was little else than a sophist ridiculing and refuting sophists; and in all ages we find so-called philosophers originating and defending the grossest and absurdest errors that have ever obtained, and we find them true and just only when they accord with tradition.   

Intuition, as I have shown, furnishes the principle of the demonstration or proof of the existence of God, with absolute certainty; but ideal intuition, which gives the principle of cognition, is not itself cognition, and though implicitly contained in every thought as its condition, it becomes explicit or express only as sensibly re-presented in language, and the long and tedious analytical process performed by the reflective reason.  To get at the ideal formula, which expresses the matter of intuition, I have had to use reflection, and both analytical and synthetic reasoning.  The formula is obtained explicitly only by analyzing thought, the object in thought, and the ideal element of the object, and synthetizing the results of the several analyses.  It is only by this long and difficult process that one is able to assert as the intuitive synthesis, Ens creat existentias, or the essential principles of theistic philosophy.  It is so because ideal intuition, is not open vision of the object presented, is not the soul’s cognition or judgment, but the objective or divine judgment affirmed to the soul implicitly, that is, indistinctly in every thought or empirical judgment, and must be distinguished from the empirical by the reflective or analytical activity of the soul, or, in the language of St. Thomas, abstracted or disengaged by the active intellect, intellectus agens, from the phantasmata and intelligible species in which it is given, before it can be explicitly apprehended by the soul, and be distinct cognition, or a human judgment, the complete verbum mentis

When a false philosophy has led to the doubt or denial of God, this recurrence to ideal intuition is necessary to remove the doubt, and to make our philosophical doctrines accord with the principles of the real and the knowable; but it is evident to the veriest tyro that not even the philosopher, however he may affirm his judgment by the intuition, takes his idea that God is, immediately and directly from it; for this would imply that we have direct and immediate empirical intuition of God, which not even Plato pretended, for he held the Divine Idea is cognizable only by the mimesis, the image, or copy of itself, impresses on the matter, as the seal on wax, whence his doctrine and that of the Scholastics, of knowledge per ideam, per similitudinem, per formam, or per speciem. 

We cannot take the ideal directly from the intuition, because we are not pure spirit, but in this life spirit united to body; yet we have the idea in our minds before we can deny it, or think of seeking to demonstrate it.  Hence it must be acknowledged, that though reason is competent to prove the existence of God with certainty when denied or doubted, as I think I have shown, it did not, and perhaps could not, have originated the Idea, but has taken it from tradition, and it must have been actually taught the first man by his Maker himself.

The historical fact is that man has never been abandoned by his Maker to the light and force of nature alone, or left without any supernatural instruction, or assistance, any more than he has been left without language.  The doctrine of St. Thomas is historically true, that there never has been but one revelation from God to man, and that one revelation was made in substance to our first parents, before their expulsion from the garden of Eden.  This revelation is what I call tradition, and has been handed down from father to son to us.  It has come down to us in two lines: in its purity and integrity from Adam through the patriarchs to the synagogue, and through the synagogue to the Christian Church whence we hold it; in a corrupt, broken, and often a travestied form through Gentilism, or heathenism.  The great mistake of our times is in neglecting to study it in the orthodox line, and in studying it only in the heterodox or Gentile line of transmission, all of which I hope to prove in a succeeding work, if my life and health are spared to complete it, on revelation in opposition to prevailing rationalism. 

The reader will bear in mind that I have not appealed to tradition as authority or to supply the defect of demonstration; but only to explain the origin and universality of theism, especially with the great bulk of mankind, who could never prove it by a logical process for themselves, nor understand such process when made by others.  Hence I escape the error of the Traditionalists censured by the Holy See.

The error of the Traditionalists is not in asserting that men learn the existence of God from tradition or from the teaching of others, which is a fact verifiable from what we see taking place every day before our eyes; but in denying that the existence of God and the first principles of morals or necessary truth, what I call the ideal judgment, is cognizable or provable by natural reason, and in making them matters of faith, not of science, as do Dr. Thomas Reid, Sir William Hamilton, Dean Mansell, Viscount de Bonald, Bonnetty, Immanuel Kant, and others. This is inadmissible, because it builds science on faith, deprives us of all rational motives for faith, and leaves faith itself nothing to stand on.  Faith, in the last analysis, rests on the veracity of God, and its formula is, Deus est Verax, but if we know not, as the preamble to faith, that God is, and that it is impossible for him to deceive or to be deceived, how can we assert his veracity or confide in his word?  Knowing already that God is and is infinitely true, we cannot doubt his word, when we are certain that we have it.  This connects faith with reason, and makes faith, objectively at least, as certain as science, as St. Thomas asserts.

God must have infused the knowledge of himself into the soul of the first man, when he made him; for all the knowledge or science of the first man must have been infused knowledge or science, since the fact of creation upsets the Darwinian theory of development, as well as the Spencerian theory of evolution, and Adam must have been created a man in the prime of his manhood, and not, as it were, a newborn infant.  What was infused science in him, becomes tradition in his posterity, but a tradition of science, not of faith or belief only.  The tradition, it preserved in its purity and integrity, embodies the ideal intuition, or ideal judgment common to all men, and implicit in every thought, in language, the sensible sign of the ideal or intelligible, and which represents it to the active intellect that expresses it, renders it explicit, and therefore actual cognition.

It follows from this that the ideal judgment re-presented by tradition through the medium of language, its sensible representative, is even in the simple, the rustic, the untutored in logic and philosophy, who are incapable of proving it by a logical process or even of understanding such a process, really matter of science, not of simple belief or confidence in tradition.  The tradition enables them to convert, so to speak, the intuition into cognition, so that they know as really and truly that God is, and is the creator, upholder, and moral Governor of man and the universe, as does the profoundest theologian or philosopher.  Hence wherever the primitive tradition is preserved in any degree, there is, if not complete knowledge of God, at least an imperfect knowledge that God is, and this knowledge, however feeble and indistinct, faint or evanescent, serves as the point d’appui or basis of the operations of the Christian missionary among the savage and barbarous tribes for their conversion.   

The tradition is not the basis of science, but is in the supersensible a necessary condition of science, and hence the value and necessity of instruction or education.  The ideal judgment is, as ideal, not our judgment, but objective, Divine, intuitively presented to the soul as the condition and model of our own.  We can form no judgment without it, and every judgment formed must copy or be modelled after it.  But, as I have shown, we cannot take the ideal directly from the intuition, but must take it primarily from tradition or as re-presented through the senses in language, which is really what is meant by education, or instruction.  But all instruction, all education, reproduces, as far as it goes, tradition, or depends on it.

As language is the sensible representation of the idea, and the medium of tradition, the importance of St. Paul’s injunction to St. Timothy, to “hold fast the form of sound words,” and of maintaining tradition in its purity and integrity is apparent to the dullest mind.  The corruption of either involves the corruption, mutilation, or travesty of the idea, and leads to heathenism, false theism, pantheism, atheism, demonism, as the history of the great Gentile apostasy from the patriarchal or primitive religion of mankind amply proves.  As tradition of the truths or first principles of science, which are ideal not empirical, had its origin in revelation or the immediate instruction of Adam by his Maker, we cannot fail to perceive the fatal error of those who seek to divorce philosophy from revelation, and, like Descartes, to erect it into an independent science. Revelation is not the basis of philosophy, but no philosophy of any value can be constructed without it.