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Natural and Supernatural

Brownson's Quarterly Review, January, 1847

ART. IV. — Natural and Supernatural.    Remarks on a Letter from a Protestant Minister.

THE writer of the following Letter is a minister of the Christian denomination, — a Protestant sect which originated in this country between forty and fifty years ago, with Elias Smith and Abner Jones in New England, and two or three others at the West and South, whose names we forget. They deny the Most Holy Trinity and Incarnation, but seem inclined to admit the doctrine of Redemption, and in this last respect differ from the Unitarians, with whom, however, they maintain friendly relations. The Letter was not intended for publication, but, as we have no leisure to reply to it in a private communication, and as it opens a subject on which Unitarians and so-called Liberal Christians generally appear to want clear and distinct views, we trust the writer will pardon the liberty we take of inserting and replying to it in the pages of our Journal. With the writer himself we have but a slight acquaintance. He has called on us once or twice, and we have been led to think very favorably of his natural ability and disposition. He has evidently received only a limited education, and his mind appears to be undisciplined ; but he has great intellectual activity, and is candid and ingenuous. We believe him, when he says his aim is at truth, and we have no doubt but he is prepared to follow his convictions, whithersoever they may lead him. May Almighty God, through his great mercy, grant him the unspeakable happiness of finding the truth as it is in Jesus !

" MY DEAR SIR, — I have frequently thought of our conversation
at your house the other day, in which I was much pleased and interested. I have looked at the subject-matter of your propositions
more analytically than I then did.........
" I think that an important point was lost sight of, — that is, the point of contact between the natural and the supernatural, which must exist, let the mediums and teachers of the supernatural be what and as many or as few as they may. This is an important point; and the capacity of the natural to apprehend, to contain, and to realize the supernatural is another. On these all the difficulties turn.

" One of your propositions was, ' Salvation belongs to the supernatural.' It is beyond the range of nature. ' The knowledge and the power by which we understand and experience salvation are also supernatural.' This was substantially another. And without going over the whole ground of your other propositions, I understand the main thing at which all aimed was, that with our human powers we cannot get at the supernatural, we cannot know nor obey the supernatural. Now I bespeak your patience while I give some of my reflections.

" I take two things for granted. 1. Human beings have no other than human faculties. 2. Man cannot, under any circumstances, receive that for which he has not a receptive capacity. On these, men of reason will not quarrel.

" Well, in salvation there are at least three things, distinct: the subject, the object, and the instrumentality ; or, the Saviour, the saved, and the instrumental action by which the Saviour acts upon the saved. Now the Saviour is supernatural, the means by which he acts on the object are supernatural, but the saved is not supernatural ; and prior to salvation the Saviour and the saved are apart, at a distance from each other. Also, in salvation there must be a contact between the saving cause or causes and man, or, in other words, a contact between the natural and the supernatural, which you believe as well as I.

" Now if the saved is the natural, on what principle is salvation possible ? Only on the principle, that the natural may receive, may know, and do the supernatural. If the natural may not know the supernatural, then salvation is impossible. To say that the power to receive the supernatural must be given by the supernatural is only to repeat the same difficulty; for the supposed power to receive, if given, must be itself received, which, if supernatural, would be again impossible. The fact, that salvation has ever occurred in any one case, is infallible proof that in human nature are powers which can realize the supernntural.

" Now, I affirm, that, if the supernatural exists in human language, man by the use of his own powers can get at it. If it is accessible by any means, the individual man can get at it.

" In nature Ave see the supernatural flowing inlo the natural, into the ultimates and particles of all things. God is supernatural. He is not nature, and nature is not he ; yet he pervades all things ; he is omnipresent in nature. Here, then, is a living proof that the unthinking, unintelligent natural receives and contains its measure of the supernatural.    But this is not the fact I am upon.

" Now, man has what nature beneath him has not, — a soul; and I argue that it. has powers like the Eternal Mind, to the extent that the Eternal Mind may be understood. 1. From the fact, that the thought and love, by nature displayed, we unconsciously recognize as being like (in nature) our own. 2. From the fact, that man can know God only through kindred powers. Why could not Newton's dog know Newton ?    Because he had not the kindred powers, and without those powers could not know his master. Nor can we, any more than Newton's dog, know the God who made us, without natural and kindred powers. Did any man, in the Church or out, ever know God ? If so, this position is proven. Man may know the supernatural, if he has kindred powers.

" Now, if man by nature cannot know the supernatural when it lies before him, then he cannot know it at all. For he must either know the supernatural by natural means or by supernatural. If by natural, my view is sustained. If by supernatural, he must understand his means or he cannot use them. If he gets at salvation supernaturally, then he gets at the supernatural by his own powers, using them as a means. How may I understand Jesus and all inspired minds ? They, you say, utter the supernatural. I grant it. But how am I to get at it, if I cannot by my own powers understand the supernatural ? Can the Church remove the difficulty ? What she gives must also be either natural or supernatural, for these contain all true teachings in the universe. If she gives me the natural, it is what I had before. If she gives the supernatural, by which to aid me, I cannot understand her without giving demonstrative proof of my ability to know the supernatural. If the Church gets at the supernatural, she faces the same difficulties. If individual man has no powers by which to understand the supernatural, neither has man in the aggregate ; for in one man lie all the faculties found in all men. The more I think, the more I believe that any man may, with an honest heart, come to God and know his will. If man alone cannot, neither can a million. But I must close. I have given these remarks, that you may see the turn my thoughts have taken. I think the above is logical. But my mind is open to any argument you may think proper to give. Please show me any essential flaw in the reasoning I have adopted. I aim at truth, as I believe that you do. I may fail in seeing; but when I see, I will never dodge logical sequences, let them be what they may. I am, dear Sir, very truly yours."

The Letter gives but a confused statement of the ground we assumed in the conversation to which it refers. The minister undertook to demonstrate that the Church is unnecessary and useless. To this end he contended, 1. Natural reason is competent of itself to decide, from their intrinsic character, what are, and what are not, doctrines of revelation. 2. When once the means of salvation are ascertained, the Church cannot be needed ; and, 3. These means can be ascertained as well without the Church as with it ; because the Church is only an aggregate of individuals, and has no faculty for discovering and determining them not possessed by each individual himself.

We replied, 1. Whether the Church, as an aggregate of individuals, does or does not possess faculties for determining the means of salvation, not possessed by each individual himself, has nothing to do with the question. The faculty of the Church to teach does not depend on the fact that the whole is wiser than a part, or that men taken collectively are wiser than men taken individually ; but on the fact that she has the supernatural assistance of the Holy Ghost. This assistance we predicate of her as a whole, in her organic capacity, as a corporate individual, because it is only in that capacity our Lord has promised it to her. The ground of our belief of the Church is, not the numbers aggregated, — although that is much, when the question turns on the value of a purely human authority, — but the promise of our Lord to be always su-pernaturally present with the Church, leading her into all truth, and enabling her to teach infallibly whatsoever he has commanded her. The question is not, whether one man be or be not equal to many men or all men, as a teacher ; but simply, whether our Lord has commissioned the Church to teach, and promised her infallible assistance in teaching. If he has, she, as teacher, must of course be preferred to the individual, to whom no such assistance is promised.
2. The conclusion, that, after the means of salvation are
ascertained, the Church cannot be needed, is premature.    Sal
vation belongs to the supernatural order, and natural reason
cannot determine what are the necessary means of gaining it.
The means, as well as the end itself, can be known only by
supernatural revelation ; and till we are supernaturally informed
as to what they are, we cannot say whether, after ascertain
ing them, the Church will or will not be needed.    For aught
we can say beforehand, these means may be communion with
the Church and the graces received only by a faithful attend
ance on her ministries and the reception of her sacraments.
3. The assumption, that natural reason is competent to de
cide, from the intrinsic character of a doctrine, whether it be a
revealed doctrine or not, is unauthorized.   Revealed doctrines,
as to their intrinsic truth, pertain to the supernatural order,
and therefore lie out of the range of reason.    Natural reason
can judge only of matters which lie within the order of nature,
and therefore cannot judge of the intrinsic truth of what tran
scends that order.    The fact of revelation is also a supernatural fact, and requires a supernatural witness. Reason of itself cannot say what God will reveal, whether what is alleged to be revealed is revealed or not, or whether it is true or false. It can only determine whether an alleged revealed doctrine does or does not contradict a principle of reason. If it does, it may reject it as false ; if it does not, it by its own light can neither affirm nor deny it. To contend otherwise would be to contend that natural reason can exceed the ability of natural reason, which is a contradiction in terms.
The minister replied by denying, 1. That the truths revealed pertain to the supernatural order; and, 2. By contending that salvation lies within the order of nature. But he soon abandoned these positions, and agreed that both pertained to the supernatural order. The conversation then turned on the question of salvation. We contended, that, since salvation belongs to the supernatural order, it cannot be determined by reason alone whether there be such a thing as salvation ; if there be, what it is, or what are the means of attaining it ; and, therefore, that these three points, if known at all, must be known supernaturally, and all we can know of them is what, and only what, is supernaturally taught us. This, at first, he denied, but finally conceded, and it was agreed, that to salvation supernatural instruction or knowledge is necessary. But salvation, it was agreed, involves not only an end to be known, but an end to be gained, and therefore, if assumed at all, requires action as well as knowledge, —• something to be done as well as to be known. But salvation belongs, as an end, or object to be gained, wholly to the supernatural order. Then the action by which it is to be gained must be supernatural ; since no natural act can, in the nature of things, attain to a supernatural end. The act cannot go out of its own order. If it is purely natural, it is restricted to the order of nature. But the end to be reached by the act is in the supernatural order ; consequently the act, if it is to reach its end, must be supernatural. But a supernatural act requires a supernatural actor, or power to act. Consequently, to salvation it is necessary, as appears from reason itself, that we have, 1. supernatural knowledge to disclose the end and the means ; and, 2. supernatural power or ability to act in reference to that end.

The minister, without expressly denying the necessity of supernatural power, contended that knowledge of the end and means is itself the ability to gain the end ; that the knowledge is the supernatural revelation contained in the Scriptures, interpreted by each one for himself; and therefore whoever has the Scriptures, studies them diligently, and understands them according to the best of his ability, has all the knowledge and power necessary to his salvation.

To this we replied, 1. In the natural order, knowledge of the means and end is not necessarily the ability to gain the end, and that it is so in the supernatural order cannot be affirmed on the authority of reason, and can be affirmed on no authority but that of positive revelation ; 2. That the Scriptures contain a supernatural revelation, that they are to be interpreted by each one for himself, that whoever studies them diligently and understands them according to the best of his ability has all the knowledge and power requisite to salvation, are all matters which lie out of the province of reason, and can be affirmed or denied only on the authority of revelation itself. Till you have determined that you have a revelation, and have settled the question as to what it is and what it teaches, you are not at liberty to assume any one of these points.

The minister answered, that he was authorized to assume them by the authority of the Scriptures themselves.

We added, that this is begging the question ; and, moreover, 1. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures do not assert either that the knowledge is the power, or that they are to be privately interpreted ; 2. Private interpretation can be proved from them only by private interpretation ; which, as it is merely proving the same by the same, is very bad logic ; 3. The Scriptures, till proved to be the word of God by a supernatural authority, are themselves no supernatural authority for saying they contain a supernatural revelation. Without the Church, you are obliged to take them on, and interpret them by, a merely human authority; and when so taken and interpreted, they are only a human authority ; for their divine inspiration is a fact which lies out of the province of reason, and can be affirmed only by a supernatural authority.

On this last point our conversation was continued, but broke off before it was fully settled. The minister, however, after strenuous eflbrts to maintain the contrary, finally conceded that he had no authority but natural reason on which to assert the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that their inspiration was a supernatural fact, of which reason was not in itself a competent judge, — thus to our understanding, though it seems not to his, conceding the whole matter in dispute.

Such is the substance of the conversation to which the letter refers.   Salvation, it was mutually agreed, is eternal life, and belongs wholly to the supernatural order ; and our argument was, then it must be unattainable without a supernatural knowledge and a supernatural ability, because man naturally cannot know the supernatural, or perform a supernatural act.    The minister saw very clearly, that, if he conceded these points, we should by one or two moves more compel him either to give up salvation, or to admit the necessity of the Church as the supernatural teacher, and of the assistance of grace as the supernatural power ; and then, perhaps, of the  Sacraments, as the channels of grace.    In his letter he undertakes to escape the difficulty by proving that man  must have the natural ability to know and do the supernatural, or else not be receptive of supernatural assistance, either in  knowing or doing.      His argument rests on the assumption, that the capacity to receive is the   ability to   do.    Reduced to form, it is, — Whatever man   has   the  natural  capacity to  receive he must have   the natural ability to know and do.     But he has the natural  capacity to receive the supernatural, or else no supernatural assistance — without supposing an infinite series of supernatural assistances,  which   is   absurd — could ever be granted  him. Therefore, he must have the natural ability to know and do the supernatural.

" Human beings," he says, " have no other than human faculties, and man cannot, under any circumstances, receive that for which he has not a receptive capacity." But he must receive the supernatural or not be saved. " In salvation there are at least three things distinct, — the subject, the object, and the instrumentality ; or, the Saviour, the saved, and the instrumental action of the Saviour on the saved." This is not correctly expressed. The saved, or one to be saved, is the subject, the salvation is the object, and the instrumentality is the means the Saviour furnishes the subject for gaining the object, and is, properly speaking, himself, who is at once the salvation and its medium. Thus corrected, the minister's sense is, the salvation and the Saviour are both supernatural, but the subject is natural, and, prior to salvation, is at a distance from the Saviour. The two cannot be brought together, and the subject be saved, without the supernatural being brought into contact with the natural, and acting upon it. Therefore, — " Salvation is possible only on condition that the natural may receive, may know and do, the supernatural." It is clear from this that the minister assumes that the natural capacity to be assisted by the supernatural is the natural ability to know and do the supernatural, which implies that the capacity to receive is identically the ability to do.

But this is not sound philosophy. The simple receptive capacity is very distinguishable from the ability to know and do. A man may have the capacity to receive a thousand pounds with which to pay his honest debts, and yet, before receiving them, no ability to pay a single cent. A man undertakes to raise a weight which exceeds his ability, and asks you to help him. " No, my good man. You either have the capacity to receive assistance, or you have not. If you have not, I cannot assist you ; if you have, you have the ability to do, without my assistance, all you can do with it, and therefore do not need it." The poor man, we apprehend, would respect your philosophy as little as your neighbourly feeling.

The minister's argument sins, in the first, instance, by a bad major; in the second instance, by a conclusion too broad for the premises. All he establishes in his premises is, that the supernatural must come in contact with, and act upon, the natural; from which all he is entitled to conclude is simply the capacity of the natural to be affected or acted upon by the supernatural. The capacity to receive an action is not, as we have seen, precisely the ability to perform an action ; there is a difference between striking and being struck. Consequently, from the capacity of the natural to be affected or acted upon by the supernatural, it cannot be logically concluded that the natural has the ability, without the supernatural, to know and do the supernatural. That the natural has the capacity to receive the the action, or to be acted upon by the supernatural, we grant, if the reception be taken passively, not actively. The active reception of the supernatural is itself supernatural, and the ability to receive it actively is included in the donum or supernatural gift, — is part of the supernatural assistance itself. The minister must prove, in order to prove any thing to his purpose, that the supernatural cannot reach the natural, unless there be, on the part of the natural, prior to its reception, the ability to recognize it as supernatural, and to receive it by a supernatural act, which he cannot prove, and which the nature of the case does not necessitate ; since all that is requisite on the part of the natural, in order to render man capable of being supernaturally assisted, is the naked capacity to be acted on by grace. The moment the grace reaches him, it becomes itself immediately, by its own virtue, a supernatural assistance, and the first act of the subject under it may by its means be a supernatural act. The grace thus received, it' not resisted, not only becomes a supernatural assistance to the subject, but may enlarge his capacity to receive more and more grace.
If " salvation has ever occurred in any one case, it is infallible proof that in human nature are powers that can realize the supernatural." Not at all. It only proves that man has powers which may be supernaturally elevated to the plane of the supernatural. To be able to realize the supernatural, if the phrase has any meaning, is one thing ; to be capable of being supernaturalized, or of receiving supernatural assistance, is another thing. To be the subject of supernatural assistance requires, as we have seen, only the naked capacity in the natural to be affected by the supernatural ; to realize the supernatural requires the ability to perform a supernatural act. The reasoning of the minister proceeds on the supposition that Almighty God himself cannot elevate man above the natural order, and, indeed, can raise him to nothing to which he has not the natural ability to raise himself. Is it thus we are to set bounds to Omnipotence ?
" If the supernatural exists in human language, man can by the use of his own natural powers get at it." That is, if the supernatural exist in the natural, or, in other words, if the supernatural be natural, man, by the use of his own natural powers, can get at it. Possibly; and yet even of that we are not quite certain. The whole of nature has not yet been explored, and she contains secrets that man, by the use of his natural powers alone, to say the least, cannot easily " get at." But perhaps we mistake the thought of the minister. Perhaps he means, that, if the supernatural is expressed in human language, so far as it is so expressed, we by our natural powers can apprehend it ; if so, we have no objections to offer. All revealed propositions are, as propositions, or as proposed for our belief, apprehensible by our natural powers. But this is not the question. Are they in fact revealed propositions ? Are they true ? These are questions which we can answer only as supernaturally taught. Perhaps, again, the minister means to say, that the supernatural revelation, if made through the medium of the Holy Scriptures, or if recorded in them, can be ascertained by the simple exercise of our reason. This, if true, would by no means meet the whole difficulty ; for not the hearers, but the doers, of the word are blest, and by our own strength alone we cannot  do what the word requires, as is evident from the fact that the work to be done is supernatural. But it is not true, as is evinced by the doubts and perplexities of commentators, and the multiplicity of contradictory doctrines deduced from the Scriptures by those who take them as their sole rule of faith. Protestants have been at work for three hundred years to " get at " the sense of Scripture, and their disagreement among themselves proves that they have not as yet succeeded ; and there is no great rashness in asserting, that, if they have not been able in three hundred years to succeed, they never will. Three hundred years are long enough for an experiment, and any experiment that has been faithfully tried for that length of time, without success, may be set clown as a total failure. Moreover, even if one by his natural powers could ascertain all the doctrines contained in the Scriptures, it would not help him ; he would have nothing supernatural in them, unless he had a supernatural authority on which to assert their inspiration.

" If it is accessible by any means, the individual man can get at it."

The design of the minister in this is to say, that, if the Church can get at the supernatural, the individual may. He wishes to establish it as a fact, that the Church has no powers but those which she derives from her individual members.    His notion is, that the Church is a mere collection of individuals, and that the individuals are the same whether out of the Church or in it.   This is the notion of all Liberal Christians, so far as our knowledge extends, and proves them to be ignorant of the mere alphabet of our holy religion.     The Church   derives   nothing   from   individuals ;   but   they derive every thing from her.     Her powers are  from God, are supernatural, and it is only through union with her that individuals are supernnturally born ; for she is the Mother of all the faithful.    Because through her men may  get at  the  supernatural, it does not follow that they can without her.    " If the supernatural   is   accessible   by any means, the individual man may get at it."    Granted, if he adopt the proper means, — not if he neglect them, and take improper means.   The supernatural, through grace, is accessible to all men, but only in the way God has prepared.    If we scorn that way, and seek to get at it by a way of our own, we shall not find it accessible.

" In nature we see the supernatural flowing into the natural, into the ultimates and particles of all things. God is supernatural.    He is not nature, and nature is not he ; yet he pervades all things, — is omnipresent in nature." Our Protestant minister does not appear to understand what is meant by supernatural. His supernatural does not transcend the order of nature. God, as manifested in or by nature, though distinct from nature as the cause from the effect, is still in the order of nature ; for, thus manifested, he is simply the God of nature, or nature's God. Supernatural is that order which transcends the order of nature, and it is only as author of an order above the order of nature, that is, the order of grace, and as manifested in it, that God is supernatural in the theological sense of the term. This appears to be a fact which has escaped the minister's attention, and the singular confusion of his statements and reasonings results from his not having duly considered it. The simple truth is, he has no conception of the supernatural, or at best does not admit it at all in the sense we understand it, as it were easy to infer from his attempt to prove that it lies within the range of our natural faculties. We may dismiss, then, to his private meditations what he says about the capacity of unthinking and unintelligent nature to receive the supernatural.

" Man has powers like the Eternal Mind, to the extent to which the Eternal Mind may be known." Natural powers to the extent to which the Eternal Mind may be naturally known, we grant ; to the extent to which the Eternal Mind may be supernaturully known, we do not grant, for it is the point in dispute. "■ Man can know God only through kindred powers." Kindred powers are powers of the same order. The proposition of the minister, then, is, that the subject knowing and object known must be of the same order. This is precisely what we maintain, if restricted to the ascending scale. The higher order may know the lower, but the lower cannot know the higher. Then, since the natural and supernatural are different orders, the supernatural above the natural, it follows the natural cannot know the supernatural, which is what we allege. " Why could not Newton's dog know Newton ? Because he had not the kindred powers." Newton's dog very likely did know his master, and could know him, so far as Newton came within the order of the dog's nature. But he did not know Newton in the sense in which he transcended that order, and could not for the reason assigned, namely, — " he had not the kindred powers," was not himself of the same order as Newton. This is what we say. No one can know naturally above the order of his nature, and therefore no one can know naturally the supernatural. But will the minister deny that Almighty God, if he had chosen, could, by a special act of his power, have so elevated the dog's powers as to have enabled him to know his master in the full sense in which one man may know another ? To do so implies no contradiction. Then, God could have done it. Then, Newton's dog, according to the general argument of the minister, had the natural ability to know his master !

" Nor can we, any more than Newton's dog, know the God who made us, without natural and kindred powers." The conclusion contains more than is contained in the premises. The premises contain kindred powers only, not natural and kindred. We, no more than Newton's dog, can know the God who made us, without kindred powers, that is, powers of the same order, we grant ; without natural and kindred powers we cannot know him naturally, we also grant ; cannot know him super naturally, we deny ; for our natural powers may be made of the same order by being supernaturalized.

" Did any man in or out of the Church ever know God ? If so, this position is proven." What position ? If any man has ever known God, the position that God may be known is proven, but not that God as supernatural may be known by our natural powers, The reasoning of the minister himself proves the reverse. Man can know God only so far as he has kindred powers, or so far as he is like God. He can, then, know God, by virtue of his natural likeness to God, only to the extent of that natural likeness. That natural likeness is natural, therefore in the order of nature ; and therefore by it man can know God only in the order of nature. But man can know God only to the extent of his likeness to God. Then, to know God as supernatural, he must have a supernatural likeness to God. Then, either God as supernatural cannot be known, or man's natural likeness to God may be su-pernaturally elevated. The minister, then, must either admit the necessity of the supernatural elevation of our powers, or else deny the possibility of knowing the supernatural.

" Man may know the supernatural, if he have kindred powers." Unquestionably. But from the fact that man has a natural likeness to God, and may by his natural powers know God in the order of nature, we cannot conclude that he has a natural likeness to him as supernatural, and may know him in the supernatural order. We have, if you will, kindred powers in the natural order ; but natural powers can be kindred only to the natural. Since the minister says we can know only by virtue of kindred powers, it follows that we can know the supernatural only by supernatural powers ; for only the supernatural is kindred to the supernatural. The minister, therefore, refutes himself, and assigns an unanswerable reason against the natural ability of man either to know or to do the supernatural. His mistake, however, is not in his logic, but in his premises, in his notion of the supernatural. If he had understood what we mean by supernatural, he would either have admitted our positions at once, or denied the supernatural altogether.

" If man cannot by nature know the supernatural, when it lies before him, then he cannot know it at all." This conclusion follows only from the false assumption, that the capacity to be supernaturally assisted is the natural ability to know the supernatural. This assumption, after what we have said, cannot be insisted upon. Setting this aside, the true conclusion is, if man's nature cannot be supernaturally elevated to the level of the supernatural order, then he cannot know the supernatural, which we grant. That he can be so elevated implies no contradiction ; and we know God, who is omnipotent, can so elevate him, if he chooses. What is meant by the supernatural lying before us we do not know. The natural lies before us; but the supernatural, so long as we are in the natural order only, does not. If all that is intended be, that we, by our natural powers, can apprehend the propositions of the supernatural revelation, when placed before our minds, we do not object; but even if we could not so apprehend them, we should not concede that we could not apprehend them at all ; for nothing hinders God from elevating us supernaturally to their apprehension, if he pleases.

" For he must know the supernatural either by natural means or by supernatural. If by natural, my view is sustained. If by supernatural, he must understand his means, or he cannot use them." If by natural means, his view is sustained, we grant. But the supernatural cannot be known by natural means, as we have proved, even from his own principles. Therefore his view is not and cannot be sustained. If by supernatural means, he must understand his means, or he cannot use them. Conceded. Quid inde ? Then he must understand them by his natural powers ?' This does not appear. For aught that appears, the supernatural means may bring with them the supernatural ability to understand them.   The minister, had he succeeded in proving that to be receptive of supernatural assistance necessarily involves tho natural ability to know and do the supernatural, would have been entitled to this conclusion ; but this he did not succeed in proving, and cannot prove, as we have shown. Moreover, by the very supposition, the means are supernatural, and the minister makes understanding of the means a part of the means- Then the understanding itself must be supernatural. Implicat in terminis, to say the understanding as a means is natural, when the means are assumed to be supernatural.

" If man gets at salvation supernaturally, then he gets at it by his own powers, using the supernatural as a means."    By his own  powers supernaturalized, transeat, by his own powers unelevated   by the supernatural, we deny it, for reasons already assigned.    The minister forgets, that, in his analysis of salvation, commented  on some pages back, he has assumed that the supernatural acts on the natural.    In that analysis he undertakes to show that the supernatural must come in contact with and act upon the natural, as the necessary condition of salvation.   He now reasons on the supposition, that the natural must come in contact with and act upon the supernatural, that the supernatural is merely passive matter, on and with which the natural is to operate.     This is not what we have been taught.    Grace is not passive, but active, and acts on us before we act with it.    The first act towards  salvation  is  an act of grace.    It is not we who get at the supernatural, but it which gets at us.    The Saviour comes to seek and to save the sinner. Grace seeks us, finds us, reaches us where we are, and, the instant it reaches us, is the power of God within us to will and to  do whatever he requires of us.    It is the means of salvation, and of apprehending and using, as we are taught them, all the  means  requisite to salvation.    We are not helped to the means by what we do prior to grace, or without it ; for no works contribute to salvation but those which grace operates within   us, and   we   perform   through  grace.      The   minister would get rid of his difficulty, if he would bear in mind that the supernatural is given us, not obtained by us.

" How may I understand Jesus and all inspired minds ? They titter, you say, the supernatural ; I grant it. But how-am I to get at it, if I cannot by my own powers understand the supernatural ? " What our Lord says in person or by inspired organs is the Christian revelation. The minister's question is, how he is to get at this, if he cannot understand the supernatural by his own powers. If, by getting at this, he means apprehending it when properly proposed, he can get at it with his own powers ; but in so doing, he does not by his own powers understand the supernatural; for Christian doctrines, humanly apprehended, are, quoad nos, only human doctrines. To get at them, in the sense required for divine faith, requires the supernatural elevation of our faculties by the grace of faith. God can, if he chooses, so elevate them. Consequently, it is not impossible to get at the revelation without being able by our own powers to understand the supernatural.

" Can the Church remove the difficulty ? " The difficulty the minister imagines, we have shown, does not exist. That difficulty is, that the capacity to receive the supernatural implies the ability to know and do the supernatural. Therefore, if you deny the natural ability to know and do the supernatural, you deny the capacity to receive supernatural assistance. This must apply also to the Church. If, then, you deny to the individual the power to understand the supernatural, you deny the ability of the Church to help him. She. either gives me the natural or the supernatural. If the natural only, she gives me only what I already have. If the supernatural, she encounters the same difficulty, for she can give it only on condition that I am able to understand the supernatural; which you deny. But we have seen that it does not require the previous ability, without supernatural assistance, to understand the supernatural. Consequently this difficulty vanishes. It is idle to pretend that God cannot elevate us by grace above our natural capacity and ability. The minister professes to believe in supernatural inspiration. The inspired must have had the natural capacity to be inspired, or else they could not have been inspired ; but had they, therefore, the natural ability to know without the grace of inspiration all that God by inspiration revealed through them ? And could not God possibly inspire them to reveal truths which transcended the reach of their natural ability ? If he could not, will the minister tell us wherein the matter of revelation, or the mysteries of faith, difter from the matter of human philosophy ? If he admits that God ever inspired any man to reveal what could not have been reached by the human intellect' unassisted, he yields the whole question.
The only difficulty there is in the case the Church can remove, if she be what she professes to be.    If she has received the deposit of faith, if she is commissioned and supernaturallv assisted to keep and faithfully propose it, she can remove the only real difficulty there is to be removed ;  for we know then that what she proposes for the word of God is his word, and therefore infallibly true.     And here is the only open question, the only question proposed to our natural powers.    Has Almighty God instituted the Church, and authorized her to teach in his name ?    If you postpone the question as to what is taught, till you dispose of the question,  Who or what  is  the teacher ? your difficulties will soon vanish.    This, too, is the only reasonable course.    The Church comes to us as an ambassador from God, and  if she comes  from him, she comes with credentials, and we should examine her credentials before examining her message.    If her credentials are satisfactory, if they prove that God has sent her, then we know that her message is from God, and that we are bound to receive it, be it what it may.    If her credentials are such as to prove beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt that she is  from God, reason requires me to believe her message, however unpalatable I may find it, unintelligible, or apparently unreasonable ; for I can have no higher reason for declaring her message unreasonable than I have for believing her from God, and nothing is more reasonable than to  believe God.    If you seek, you will find her credentials all that your reason  can ask.    You will find them accrediting her beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt, as the ambassador of God, sent to treat with you in his name.    Then, whatever she proposes in his name is infallibly true.    Then, after this, you have only to listen, as a child to his mother, to her instructions, and she will tell you what else you want, and how you may get it, and render you all needed assistance.
We agree with the minister, that u any man with an honest heart may come to God," but only in God's way, and as God draws him. " No man can come unto me except the Father draw him." But if we refuse to come in God's way, if we will not suffer him to draw us, we shall not find him, though he is not far from every one of us. The minister greatly misconceives the Catholic doctrine, if he supposes it renders the approach to God more difficult. The contrary is the fact; and, according to it, it is every one's own fault if he remain at a distance from God. The Church is provided expressly to bring him to God, to afford him that precise help he needs to enable him to come to God. Hence her glory, and the tender love we have for her.

We have touched upon all the points in the letter which have struck us as important. The minister must be on his guard against impatience and hasty conclusions, rely on God rather than on himself, and be willing to pause and let God speak. We are all more ready to instruct the Almighty than we are to let him instruct us ; and no people in general use reason more unreasonably than they who declaim the most vehemently for the use of reason. Nothing is more reasonable than to believe God on his word, or unreasonable than to distrust the teaching of one he has commissioned to teach in his name. We should beg of God to give us true docility, a childlike willingness to follow him, to believe what he says, and then sit down calmly, patiently, and with all our powers to inquire if he has commissioned any one to speak to us in his name. He may have done so ; and if he has, that is the one to whom we must listen. And he has done so. The Blessed God has not left himself without a witness on the earth. We own that it seems almost too good to believe ; but nothing is too good for our God to do. Men disbelieve the Church, in reality, because they have but low notions of his goodness, because they do not believe him good enough to provide so liberally for our darkness and our weakness. How should they, when they have no conceptions of the kingdom of grace, none of the supernatural ? O, if they could once rise above nature, and catch but the feeblest glimpse of the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, they would never again distrust his goodness, or believe any thing too good for him to do ! He is better than we can think, has provided more liberally for us than we have ever dared wish, or been able to conceive. O God, who would not love thee, that but beheld thy love and mercy, of which the Church, after all, in this earthly state, is but a feeble manifestation ? Thy love is too great for us ; it overpowers here on the way ; what will it be when we get home, and behold thee face to face, as thou art in thyself ?