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Art. I. — Philosophie. De la Connaissance de Dieu. Par
A. GRATRY, Prêtre de l'Oratoire de l'Immaculée Conception. Paris : Charles Dunoiol; Lecoffre et Cie. 1853. 2 tomes. 8vo.
M. GRATRY has here attempted a work of the highest importance, and much needed to meet the moral and intellectual wants of our times. No higher subject than God can occupy our thoughts, and no knowledge can compare, in dignity, interest, and value, with the knowledge of God. Indeed, as without God there is nothing, for all things are by him, in him, and for him, so without knowledge of him there is no knowledge at all. He who knows not God knows nothing, and hence the deep significance of the Holy Scripture which calls him a fool who denies God, Dixit insipiens in corde suo, non est Deus. The highest wisdom is to know God, and the supreme good is to know and love him. The greatest service, therefore, which can be rendered to genuine science and to mankind, is to furnish solid instruction as to the means and conditions of the knowledge and love of God, and to stimulate men to seek him as the “first good and the first fair.”
A service of this sort is attempted by the learned, pious, and philosophical author in these profound and highly interesting volumes. Whether he has succeeded in all respects or not in accomplishing the end he proposed to himself, he has certainly made an attempt in the right direction, and the most considerable attempt that has been recently
VOL. III. NO. I.
made. His work may not be faultless, it may fail in some
The author enters his protest against the dead abstrac-
as what is supplied naturally, or by our natural reason and strength. He therefore labors to enrich philosophy by introducing the element of love, and to complete it by supernatural revelation. Certainly we are not the man to complain of this. We applaud the attempt with all our heart. It is a work of no slight importance in our day to restore reason to its rights, and to recall the age to its dictates. The author is perfectly right when he maintains that reason is at present more in danger than revelation. Men, we mean the men who represent the age, have lost their faith in reason, and will not use it reasonably. One class distrust it, and tend to universal scepticism. They do not believe that anything can be known; they despair of all certainty, fall into religious indifference, and live and die as the beasts that perish. Another class, and much more numerous than is commonly believed, decry reason in order to exalt sentiment. These are such as decry doctrine and praise feeling, and say, “ Away with your dogmatic theology, your philosophical abstractions, and your ethical rules, and give us the heart," — the modern cant of your Evangelicals, Methodists, and Transcendentalists. You cannot reason with these people. If you address their understanding, they fly to feeling; if you address their feelings, they fly to understanding. Sustain your positions by logic, and they tell you that the logic of the heart is far above the logic of the head; bring forward evidence that no reason can gainsay, and they remain unmoved, for they do not feel with you. Another class decry reason in order to exalt tradition, and, like Kant in his Kritik der reinen Vernunft, “ demolish science to make way for faith.” These have honest intentions, are moved by praiseworthy motives, but they damage the cause they have at heart; for never can we build faith on scepticism, or science on faith. Revelation presupposes reason, and in denying reason you deny equally revelation and the possibility of revelation; for revelation can be made only to a rational subject. It is well against these to assert reason, and to let all the world know that in asserting revelation we presuppose reason instead of denying it.
This point is capital. Man is a rational animal, and reason is his characteristic, as well as his noblest attribute. He cannot suppress his reason without suppressing his humanity, without foregoing his manhood and making himself practically a brute. We do not, by asserting that God has made a revelation to man, supersede reason, or forbid him to exercise it. The revelation assists reason, it does not annul it. It brings to reason a higher and purer light than its own, but removes none of its laws, abridges no sphere of its activity, and impedes in no respect its free and full exercise. It'elevates it, clarifies it, and extends its vision, but does not deny, enchain, or enslave it. The authority which the Catholic claims for revelation, or for the Church in teaching and defining it, does not enslave reason, or require it to surrender a single one of its original rights; it enables it to retain and exercise all its rights, and to attain lovingly to a truth higher and vaster than its own. Man is naturally bound to receive and conform to the truth, and is it to offer an indignity to his freedom to present him more truth than he is naturally able to apprehend? Does the astronomer complain of the telescope, because by it he explores vast fields of the heavens invisible to his naked eye? Is his natural eye superseded or closed, because, in order to see more than it can attain, a telescope must be used, or because he must govern himself by what he sees through his telescope as well as by what he sees without it? Why then complain of revelation, that it is derogatory to reason? or of the assertion of its authority? Is not truth always authoritative? Why should revealed truth be less so than natural truth? The astronomer would be as angry at us were we to deny the objects revealed by his telescope, as he would were we to deny the objects visible to his naked eye, and he would call us fools for disputing them, because visible only by means of the telescope.
The author has also done good service to the cause of truth by introducing the element of love into philosophy. It cannot be denied that the tendency of scholasticism, with its dry abstractions, its syllogisms, and subtile distinctions, is to lose sight of the true under its form of the good and the beautiful, as addressed to the heart and the affections. Man is not pure intellect, any more than he is pure sentiment.
He is body and soul, and his soul is endowed with the power to know, to love, and to will, and his need to love is greater than his need to know, and indeed he needs to know only in order to love and obey. Knowledge distinctively considered is never the end. It is