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A REJOINDER TO MR. MIVART.

I HAVE a very few words to say by way of rejoinder to the reply made by Mr. Mivart to some remarks of mine which appeared in the October number of this Review, upon an article of his published in July. I acknowledge with pleasure the kindly spirit in which he writes of me personally, and I am glad that I have succeeded in expressing my dissent from his views without giving him personal offence. I think, moreover, that he has shown both candour and courage in his articles, and the answers which he gives to the questions which I put to him fully explain his position to me, and leave me nothing more to ask, though they involve a state of mind which seems to me even stranger than the one which originally surprised me.

Omitting a variety of minor matters, on which I should have much to say if controversy were my object, I come at once to the main statements made by him. I will first, in a word, remind my readers of the question between us. In his article in July Mr. Mivart explained at length that in his opinion Biblical criticism had shown great part of the Old Testament to be unhistorical and untrustworthy,' and admitted that the ordinary methods of criticism were the proper methods for arriving at the truth in such matters, and were entitled to overrule all ecclesiastical authority and opinion about them.

The effect of my article was to discover whether he applied the same principle to the New Testament history, and, if so, what he thought of such criticisms as those of Renan and Strauss, of which I gave some illustrations? In other words, I wished to know whether he was content to hold or to give up the main articles of the Apostles' Creed relating to Jesus Christ, according to the result of ordinary historical investigations into their truth or falsehood ?

His answer I understand to consist of two parts. The New Testament history may be criticised by ordinary means like the Old Testament, and if tried by those tests alone it cannot, in his judgment, be supported; but the truth of the articles of faith which it contains cannot reasonably be disbelieved, because they are asserted to be true by an infallible Church, and are neither contradictory in themselves nor contradicted by evidence which demonstrates their

alsehood. In short, a Catholic who believes the dogmas enunciated in the Apostles' Creed is at liberty to disbelieve the narratives contained in the Gospels—just as a man might believe that Troy was besieged, and yet deny the truth of Homer's 'Iliad. Mr. Mivart himself, as I understand him, does occupy this position, which, at all events, has the merit of being perfectly clear.

These are the words on which I found this inference: The New Testament has, as a matter of course, to undergo the ordeal of the sharpest and most exhaustive criticism; I have, then, not the least objection to add the names of Strauss and Renan to those of the Old Testament critics,' who, according to his previous article, showed by arguments similar to those of Strauss and Renan large parts of the Old Testament to be entirely “unhistorical and untrustworthy,' though the narratives so characterised had God for their Author.' He also says:

The principle that not everything contained in them (the Gospels) is free from error and historically true is admitted without dispute, and it is a fact that in some respects certain dogmas of the Christian religion would be freer from difficulty had they never been written.1 What this means may be inferred from the following passage :

Let us for argument's sake make the very largest admissions as to New Testament criticism and investigations into the history of the Primitive Church ..

let us suppose it to have been unanswerably proved that St. John the Apostle and St. Luke had neither of them anything to do with the Gospels generally attributed to them; that the bistory of the birth, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord presents various legendary features, and that the later accounts are fuller and more circumstantial than the earlier ones, resembling in so far the more or less similar legends which have arisen in past ages about other persons whose lives have deeply stirred the sympathies of men,' and that the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ has the appearance of having grown in such a way that earlier statements are most difficult to reconcile into Nicene views. This language implies not, indeed, that all this is established, but that, as a lawyer would say, there is evidence of it, that it is the sort of thing which may be established by historical evidence, and on which such evidence is the proper test. Mr. Mivart, in a word, does admit that the New Testament must be criticised on the same principles as the Old. What, in his opinion, will be the result of such criticism? After many pages of argument upon other parts of the subject, he says ? :

I do not, however, wish it to be understood that I could accept these doctrines as true, except inasmuch as acquiescence in them is a necessary condition for the acceptance of a revelation, the truth of which is evident to me on other grounds. Were I asked to believe in a virgin birth, a real resurrection from the dead, or an ascension into heaven, on only such evidence as that afforded by the written Word, I should find it utterly impossible to do so, and I can quite understand and sympathise with the impatience which many a man of science feels when asked to listen

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to any argument in their favour. Nevertheless, there are some most estimable men of science, and also men as eminent in law and jurisprudence as my critic, who do not feel this, and who are satisfied with such evidence. I have nothing to say as to their view, except that is not and never (since I was seventeen years of age) was mine. I never did and never could so accept those doctrines, and it seems to me inevitable that they will sooner or later be rejected by the overwhelming majority of those who do receive them only on that evidence, and apart from any actual living authoritative and traditional revelation, the truth of which they have accepted on rational but independent grounds.

It is impossible to speak more plainly than this. The only remark upon it which appears to me to be necessary is that the phrase ' such evidence as is afforded by the written Word' obviously means critical and historical evidence, such arguments as those used hy a series of writers on evidence from Grotius' De Veritate to Paley. The only other possible meaning of the phrase would be that Mr. Mivart has never been able, since he was seventeen, to take for granted the truth of the 'written Word' without any evidence at all-to regard it as self-evident. He can hardly mean this. I do not suppose any one worth mentioning ever held such a view in modern times.

We have here, then, a plain statement that if the question whether the Gospel history of Jesus Christ is true or not is to be decided by the ordinary canons of history and evidence, it appears to Mr. Mivart incredible, in so far as it is miraculous, for no one will assert that the historical and critical evidence for the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, the raising of Lazarus, or the cure of the man born blind, is stronger than the evidence for the Resurrection. The necessary result is that Mr. Mivart thinks that the New Testament as it stands is unhistorical and untrustworthy, although the doctrines supposed to be recorded in it are shown to be true by other means.

This is emphasised and set in the clearest possible light by the care with which Mr. Mivart distinguishes between believing a dogma and believing in the facts stated about it in the New Testament. The following specimens of these statements are enough for my purpose:

The dogma of the resurrection must mean something very different from what is ordinarily imagined, for, according to Catholic doctrine, had the body of our Lord been reduced by fire to its ultimate chemical elements, and had these elements entered into the most diverse and complex combinations with other kinds of matter, such a circumstance would not in the least have impeded the resurrection on the third day. I do not appreciate this: a power able to restore life to a dead body might well be able to reconstitute a body burnt in the fire; but wbat follows is more important.

We must recollect it is the dogma of the resurrection, not the mental picture formed by our imagination from the Gospel narrative, that Catholics are bound to accept as expressing the truth. Similarly, the article of the Creed which declares

* He ascended into Heaven' does not require the acceptance of any mental picture of the imagination, but the affirmation of the truth of an intellectual conception. Any person who believes that Christ really rose, in whatever true sense, from the dead, and was for a time manifest on earth afterwards, must (since no one denies that manifestation to have now ceased, since 'heaven' is the expression denoting supernal bliss, and since upward' is a symbol adopted as less inapplicable than downward) admit His ascension into heaven.

This illustrates perfectly Mr. Mivart's position. The account given of the Ascension in Acts i. 9 is in these words :“While they'(the Apostles) beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.' A Catholic, it seems, may believe the doctrine of the Ascension, and yet disbelieve that the Apostles left Jerusalem with Jesus Christ, that he was taken up, and that a cloud received him out of their sight. All that he need hold is the truth of the intellectual conception. We need not accept any 'mental picture of the imagination.

In all common cases the question whether a statement is believed or not is tested by the question whether the hearer does or does not accept the 'mental picture of the imagination 'which the words raise. If a man should say, 'I saw A. B. walking at such a place and on such a day,' those who accepted the mental picture which those words raise would believe them, and those who did not would disbelieve them. Mr. Mivart's language, therefore, justifies the belief that in this sense he disbelieves all the words of the New Testament which relate to the doctrines referred to, though he believes the doctrines themselves on the authority of the Church. This naturally raises the question, Why, then, do you believe in the infallibility of the Church?

The precise meaning of the phrase ó infallibility of the Church' is not stated by Mr. Mivart; but no doubt he means that the Pope and the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, or some of them, when they act in some special character and some particular way, have such a power of enunciating religious dogmas that a dogma so enunciated by them can be refuted only upon proof of the contradictory of what is enunciated. Mere intrinsic improbability or, as Mr. Mivart calls it, the “hardness of a dogma is not enough to invalidate it, however great the hardness may be. The negative must be established by appropriate and conclusive evidence. It is nothing to show that the history of the birth, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord present various legendary features. Nothing can justify disbelief in the dogmas as distinguished from the history of the facts except an accumulation of evidence disproving specifically every sense in which any of these 'intellectual conceptions can be held. Considering Mr. Mivart's distinction between mental pictures of the imagination and the corresponding intellectual conceptions, it is obvious that this rule of evidence practically makes, and is intended to make, disproof of

the doctrines of the Church impossible. I cannot help saying that my legal experience has led me greatly to distrust any one who appeals to artificial rules of evidence. It is said, I know not how truly, that by the Canon Law certain acts of immorality could not be proved except by a number of eye-witnesses proportioned to the rank of the alleged offender-I think four in the case of a bishop and seven in the case of a cardinal; I forget how many if the offender was a pope. Such rules have rather safety than truth for their object, and the practically impossible conditions of disproof under which Mr. Mivart wishes to shelter Church dogmas from refutation is a proof of the degree of protection which he thinks they require. Nor is this at all wonderful, as he admits in terms that the oldest and most venerable of all ecclesiastical documents-namely, the parts of the New Testament which relate to the history of the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, and the Ascension as distinguished from the dogmas-appear to him impossible to be proved by historical or critical evidence; whence it follows, as I suggest, that he does not believe them—that is, the histories as distinct from the dogmas-to be true.

The particular grounds on which Mr. Mivart founds this opinion about his Church are to some extent illustrated in the article under notice; but, passing them over for the moment, I may remark that he does not realise the difficulty of proving the rule of evidence which he requires in order to reach his desired conclusion. I will try to explain the insuperable difficulties of the task itself, and the extreme insufficiency of the evidence, if it deserves the name, on which he relies. First, as to the difficulty of the task. It must necessarily require stronger evidence to prove that a given authority is competent to enunciate infallibly a 'hard' or improbable doctrine than to prove the improbable doctrine itself, for everything which shows any improbability in the doctrine is an objection to the authority of the person who asserts it to be true, and there are, besides, all the difficulties which are inherent in proving the means of knowledge and the trustworthiness of the particular person who asserts its truth. The weight attached to the evidence of experts may at first sight appear to contradict this principle, but it is in truth the strongest illustration of it. It may be said the most abstruse statements about chemistry, astronomy, and the like may be proved by a single man of science to persons wholly ignorant of that science; therefore it is not necessarily more difficult to prove the competency of the witness than to prove the fact asserted—it is even in some cases less difficult. On examination this will be found to be a fallacy. No doubt, if the principles of the science which the expert professes; the eminence in the science of the expert himself; and his good faith ; are admitted or proved, men unacquainted with the details of any science may accept with little doubt conclusions which they could

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