This principle which, as we have already seen, was so great a jest to Celsus and Julian, is of the following kind:— That belief in Christianity is in itself better than unbelief; that faith, though an intellectual action, is ethical in its origin; that it is safer to believe; that we must begin with believing; that as for the reasons of believing, they are for the most part implicit, and need be but slightly recognized by the mind that is under their influence; that they consist moreover rather of presumptions and ventures after the truth than of accurate and complete proofs; and that probable arguments, under the scrutiny and sanction of a prudent judgment, are sufficient for conclusions which we even embrace as most certain, and turn to the most important uses.
Antagonistic to this is the principle that doctrines are only so far to be considered true as they are logically demonstrated. This is the assertion of Locke, who says in defence of it,—"Whatever God hath revealed is certainly true; no doubt can be made of it. This is the proper object of Faith; but, whether it be a divine revelation or no, reason must judge." Now, if he merely means that proofs can be given for Revelation, and that Reason comes in logical order before Faith, such a doctrine is in no sense uncatholic; but he certainly holds that for an individual to act on Faith without proof, or to make Faith a personal principle of conduct for themselves, without waiting till they have got their reasons accurately drawn out and serviceable for controversy, is enthusiastic and absurd. "How a man may know whether he be [a lover of truth for truth's sake] is worth inquiry; and I think there is this one unerring mark of it, viz. the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon, will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not truth in the love of it; loves not truth for truth's sake, but for some other by-end."
It does not seem to have struck him that our "by-end" may be the desire to please our Maker, and that the defect of scientific proof may be made up to our reason by our love of Him. It does not seem to have struck him that such a philosophy as his cut off from the possibility and the privilege of faith all but the educated few, all but the learned, the clear-headed, the men of practised intellects and balanced minds, men who had leisure, who had opportunities of consulting others, and kind and wise friends to whom they deferred. How could a religion ever be Catholic, if it was to be called credulity or enthusiasm in the multitude to use those ready instruments of belief, which alone Providence had put into their power? On such philosophy as this, were it generally received, no great work ever would have been done for God's glory and the welfare of man. The "enthusiasm" against which Locke writes may do much harm, and act at times absurdly; but calculation never made a hero. However, it is not to our present purpose to examine this theory, and I have done so elsewhere. Here I have but to show the unanimity of Catholics, ancient as well as modern, in their absolute rejection of it.
For instance, it is the very objection urged by Celsus, that Christians were but parallel to the credulous victims of jugglers or of devotees, who itinerated through the pagan population. He says "that some do not even wish to give or to receive a reason for their faith, but say, 'Do not inquire but believe,' and 'Thy faith will save thee;' and 'A bad thing is the world's wisdom, and foolishness is a good.'" How does Origen answer the charge? by denying the fact, and speaking of the reason of each individual as demonstrating the divinity of the Scripture; and Faith as coming after that argumentative process, as it is now popular to maintain? Far from it; he grants the fact alleged against the Church and defends it. He observes that, considering the engagements and the necessary ignorance of the multitude of men, it is a very happy circumstance that a substitute is provided for those philosophical exercises, which Christianity allows and encourages, but does not impose on the individual. "Which," he asks, "is the better, for them to believe without reason, and thus to reform any how and gain a benefit, from their belief in the punishment of sinners and the reward of well-doers, or to refuse to be converted on mere belief, or except they devote themselves to an intellectual inquiry?"
Such a provision then is a mark of divine wisdom and mercy. In like manner, St. Irenæus, after observing that the Jews had the evidence of prophecy, which the Gentiles had not, and that to the latter it was a foreign teaching and a new doctrine to be told that the gods of the Gentiles were not only not gods, but were idols of devils, and that in consequence St. Paul laboured more upon them, as needing it more, adds, "On the other hand, the faith of the Gentiles is thereby shown to be more generous, who followed the word of God without the assistance of Scriptures." To believe on less evidence was generous faith, not enthusiasm. And so again, Eusebius, while he contends of course that Christians are influenced by "no irrational faith," that is, by a faith which is capable of a logical basis, fully allows that in the individual believing, it is not necessarily or ordinarily based upon argument, and maintains that it is connected with that very "hope," and inclusively with that desire of the things beloved, which Locke in the above extract considers incompatible with the love of truth. "What do we find," he says, "but that the whole life of man is suspended on these two, hope and faith?"
I do not mean of course that the Fathers were opposed to inquiries into the intellectual basis of Christianity, but that they held that men were not obliged to wait for logical proof before believing; on the contrary, that the majority were to believe first on presumptions and let the intellectual proof come as their reward