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CHAPTER IVThat it is an advantage for the Truths of God, known by Natural Reason, to be proposed to men to be believed on faith

IF a truth of this nature were left to the sole enquiry of reason, three disadvantages would follow. One is that the knowledge of God would be confined to few. The discovery of truth is the fruit of studious enquiry. From this very many are hindered. Some are hindered by a constitutional unfitness, their natures being ill-disposed to the acquisition of knowledge. They could never arrive by study to the highest grade of human knowledge, which consists in the knowledge of God. Others are hindered by the needs of business and the ties of the management of property. There must be in human society some men devoted to temporal affairs. These could not possibly spend time enough in the learned lessons of speculative enquiry to arrive at the highest point of human enquiry, the knowledge of God. Some again are hindered by sloth. The knowledge of the truths that reason can investigate concerning God presupposes much previous knowledge. Indeed almost the entire study of philosophy is directed to the knowledge of God. Hence, of all parts of philosophy, that part stands over to be learnt last, which consists of metaphysics dealing with points of Divinity.88Metaphysica, quae circa divina versatur, answers pretty well to what is now called natural theology. In the order of sciences, then, natural theology comes last in philosophy, and presupposes a knowledge of all the rest. Ethics therefore do not presuppose natural theology, but are presupposed by it. It follows that ethical conclusions should be first reached by ethical reasonings, not by theological. This point is further explained in my Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 123-125. Thus, only with great labour of study is it possible to arrive at the searching out of the aforesaid truth; and this labour few are willing to undergo for sheer love of knowledge.

Another disadvantage is that such as did arrive at the knowledge or discovery of the aforesaid truth would take a long time over it, on account of the profundity of such truth, and the many prerequisites to the study, and also because in youth and early manhood, the soul, tossed to and fro on the waves of passion, is not fit for the study of such high truth: only in settled age does the soul become prudent and scientific, as the Philosopher says. Thus, if the only way open to the knowledge of God were the way of reason, the human race would dwell long in thick darkness of ignorance: as the knowledge of God, the best instrument for making men perfect and good, would accrue only to a few, and to those few after a considerable lapse of time.

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A third disadvantage is that, owing to the infirmity of our judgement and the perturbing force of imagination, there is some admixture of error in most of the investigations of human reason. This would be a reason to many for continuing to doubt even of the most accurate demonstrations, not perceiving the force of the demonstration, and seeing the divers judgements of divers persons who have the name of being wise men. Besides, in the midst of much demonstrated truth there is sometimes an element of error, not demonstrated but asserted on the strength of some plausible and sophistic reasoning that is taken for a demonstration. And therefore it was necessary for the real truth concerning divine things to be presented to men with fixed certainty by way of faith. Wholesome therefore is the arrangement of divine clemency, whereby things even that reason can investigate are commanded to be held on faith, so that all might easily be partakers of the knowledge of God, and that without doubt and error.99It is true, absolutely speaking, that, without revelation, mankind might take their theology on trust from philosophers, relying for their spirituality upon philosophic experts, as upon legal experts for the maintenance of their proprietary rights. But then we should expect of the Providence of God a greater concord of religious views among philosophers than at present obtains. Philosophy, were she our sole guide, should not be permitted to say and unsay.

Hence it is said: Now ye walk not as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their own notions, having the understanding darkened (Eph. iv, 17, 18); and, I will make all thy sons taught of the Lord (Isa. liv, 1, 5).


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