123. Our duties to God take precedence of all other duties: (a) Logically, because God is the First Cause, upon whom we, as contingent beings and effects of His creative power, depend for the beginning and continuance of our existence. Upon this dependence are founded all our rights and duties. (b) Morally, because God is our last end; and all morality consists in directing our acts to our last end.
124. Religion, objectively considered, is the sum total of all our duties to God. It is not a thing of human invention, but, as Cicero observes: "It is to be found in every land; for nature knows how to worship God, and no man is ignorant of the law by which it is enjoined."
Considered subjectively, religion is the moral virtue by which man renders due homage to God as the first beginning and last end of all things. Hence, to acknowledge our entire dependence on Him is the primary act of this virtue. We acknowledge the dependence of our entire existence by adoration, of our intellect by faith, of our will by love. These, accordingly, are the three fundamental duties of religion. Though God has no need of these acts for Himself, still He is the author of the moral order by which these acts are enjoined, and He owes it to His own sanctity to exact the observance of the moral order. ARTICLE I. ADORATION.
125. Thesis I. All men are bound to render to God the worship of interior and exterior adoration.
Proof. Reason dictates that a subject or dependent show honor to his ruler, and that such honor be proportioned to the ruler's dignity and the subject's dependence. But all men depend in every respect upon God, their Creator and Sovereign Lord, the Ruler of the Universe, the Master of life and death. Moreover, God is worthy of infinite honor. Therefore man owes God the greatest possible honor, such honor as is incommunicable to any created being.
The honor rendered in acknowledgement of God's sovereign dominion is called adoration. This, we maintain, ought to be both interior and exterior.
1. Interior adoration. We owe God the reverence and honor of our highest faculties, i. e., of our intellect and will. But operations of these faculties are interior; they are not, in themselves, perceptible by the senses. Therefore, we owe God the worship of interior adoration.
2. Exterior adoration. Man owes God the homage not of a part of his being, but of his whole being. His body, as well as his soul, is entirely dependent upon God, and should, therefore, contribute by outward or bodily action to the extrinsic glory of God. (No. 22.) Besides, on account of the close union between soul and body, interior reverence naturally finds expression in external action; and outward acts, in their turn, promote interior reverence. As outward action falls under the senses, our external reverence helps our fellow-men to elicit and express the reverence and honor which they, too, owe to God.
126. Men are not isolated individuals, but they are, as we shall prove later on, naturally social beings. Hence, in this connection, we may insert a thesis on the worship which men in their social capacity owe to God.
Thesis II. Men are obliged to render public worship to God.
Proof 1. Society is natural to mankind; hence it comes from the Author of nature. Society, therefore, no less than private individuals, is dependent upon God, and owes Him the worship due to His infinite Majesty. Consequently, men are obliged, as members of society, to render to God the homage proper to society, which is the worship of public adoration.
Proof 2. The public acknowledgment of God's supreme dominion over all created things is necessary for the welfare of civil society; so much so, that a notorious infidel has said: "If a God did not exist, we should have to invent one for the public good." On this public acknowledgment are based, in great measure, the sanctity of oaths, the binding power of contracts, the strength of the marriage bond, the fidelity of subjects as well as the integrity of rulers, and consequently the stability of governments and civil constitutions. Hence, those who attack the worship of God are dangerous enemies of mankind, for they are endeavoring to sap the foundations of society.
127. The vices directly opposed to religion are impiety, idolatry, and superstition. Impiety is the refusal to give supreme honor to God. If it takes the positive form of direct dishonor to God, it is called blasphemy. Idolatry consists in worshiping a creature with an adoration due to God alone. By superstition we mean certain practices, with a religious intent, that are irrational or unworthy of their purpose.
128. The principal acts of adoration are prayer and sacrifice, which have been practised by all nations from their beginning. The special forms that both should assume have not been determined by nature. Of course, God had the right to determine such forms by a supernatural Revelation and to make them obligatory upon all His subjects. No act of ours is sufficient by itself to regain the favor of our Creator if we have once lost it by sin; we could never know, except from a supernatural source, how to obtain the Divine pardon.
ARTICLE II. FAITH IN GOD'S WORD.
129. Thesis III. All men are obliged to accept Divine Revelation, when it has been made known to them, and to believe the mysteries which it may contain.
Explanation. We know indeed that a supernatural Revelation has been given to mankind. This, however, it is the province, not of Philosophy, but of Theology and kindred sciences to prove and discuss. Prescinding, therefore, from the actual state of things, we examine, from the standpoint of natural reason, what man's duties are in regard to Revelation if the latter should be made.
Part 1. Man is obliged to accept Divine Revelation. Proof. God is the Supreme Lord and Master of all His creatures. He has the right, therefore, to enjoin upon us the acceptance of certain truths which natural reason by itself is incapable of discovering, and to command the performance of certain acts of worship. This right connotes, on our part, the duty of accepting such truths and of performing such acts, when God's will in these matters shall have been made known to us. Now this is to accept Divine Revelation. Consequently, we are obliged to accept Divine Revelation when it has been made known to us.
Part 2. Man is obliged to believe in revealed mysteries. Proof. A mystery is a truth which human reason cannot comprehend. We may understand the meaning of the subject and the predicate of the proposition in which the incomprehensible truth is enunciated; we may know that such a predicate belongs to such a subject, but we cannot perceive how or why they are thus connected. Even in the natural order, many of the physical phenomena are incomprehensible truths, and may, therefore, be called, in a certain sense, natural mysteries. Revealed or supernatural mysteries are those truths which can be learned only by Divine Revelation; for example, that the three Divine Persons are one God. Now, God's infinite knowledge necessarily includes truths which surpass our finite understanding; such truths He is surely able to make known to us, and He has the right to demand our belief in the same as an homage of our understanding. Therefore, we are under obligation to believe the mysteries which God may be pleased to reveal.
1. It is unworthy of a man to believe what he does not understand. Answer. If such belief were without a sufficient reason, yes; but if it is supported by the best of reasons, namely, the infallible authority of God, belief is truly worthy of man, and the contrary course would be most unreasonable.
2. Dogmatic teaching enslaves the intellect. Answer. An entire reliance upon authority in every science would be detrimental to intellectual development. But to reject the momentous truths of Revelation, because they come from authority, would be more unreasonable than to refuse belief in the existence of the Roman Empire, because we must depend ultimately for our knowledge of this historic fact upon human testimony.
3. The knowledge of mysteries is useless. Answer. On the contrary, it is most useful; besides giving us an occasion to honor God by the homage of our intellect, it wonderfully and consolingly expands our knowledge of God and of our own destinies.
4. Dogmatic teaching begets intolerance. Answer. Truth begets a theoretic intolerance, or a firmness of conviction which is intolerant of error. But we deny that such a state of mind, whether it rests upon authoritative teaching, or upon demonstration, causes practical intolerance, or an unjust interference with civil and religious liberty. The persecution of the Church in recent times, carried on in many lands by the opponents of Revelation, shows what begets intolerance.
131. If God deigns to bestow a Revelation upon us, He must necessarily give us the means of recognizing it as such. Chief among these means are miracles and prophecies. Miracles are effects perceptible by the senses, which transcend the powers and the order of all nature. We have demonstrated (Ment. Phil., Cosmol., Chap. III.) that miracles are possible, and can be known as such with certainty. Prophecies are accurate predictions of such future events as depend upon free causes, and cannot be known in advance with certainty, except by the omniscient God.
132. Thesis IV. Miracles and prophecies are infallible proofs of a Divine Revelation.
Explanation. In this thesis we maintain that if, unmistakably, miracles have been worked or prophecies been made in confirmation of a doctrine, that doctrine is thereby known to be approved by the Creator as His own Divine Revelation. The immediate inference from the thesis would be that such a doctrine must be accepted by all men.
Proof. A true miracle can be wrought by God alone. Hence, it is a Divine seal, stamped as it were upon the doctrine, in express confirmation of which the miracle is worked. The Divine origin of such a doctrine, therefore, is infallibly true, because it is impossible for God to affix His seal to a falsehood.
A prophecy is an accurate prediction of a future event that is not dependent upon necessary causes. But God alone is the author of such a prediction, for He alone can possess such knowledge. Therefore, prophecies made in confirmation of a doctrine which is published as coming from God, are infallible proofs that such a doctrine is a Divine Revelation.
133. God is at perfect liberty to choose the manner of His Revelation. As a matter of fact, however, He has chosen to manifest it to the vast majority of men, not immediately, i. e., by directly acting upon the intellect with an overpowering illumination, but mediately, i. e., through the medium of other men whom He has commissioned to publish His revealed truths. Thus, the evidence of Revelation does not overmaster the rational faculties, but leaves a man free to accept it, and, in this manner, to increase his merit. This acceptance is an act of the highest prudence, while the rejection of Divine Revelation would be unreasonable and a grievous wrong. Indeed, from man's complete dependence upon God, and his consequent duty to reverence the Divine teachings and to accept them with loving promptness, it follows, logically, that every one who conceives a well-grounded suspicion that a Divine Revelation has been made, is obliged in conscience to inquire into the matter with more than ordinary diligence.
134. Thesis V. Indifference in the matter of religion is a grievous wrong.
Proof. This indifference may be theoretical or practical Theoretical indifference is an opinion that all systems or forms of religion, though contradictory to one another, are equally pleasing to God and useful to man. This doctrine is false, and an insult to God. It is false, because all truth, and, a fortiori, revealed truth, is one and not self-contradictory. It is an insult to God, because it represents Infinite Truth as pleased with error. Practical indifference is a refusal to give God the homage which man owes Him essentially (Thesis I.). As both kinds of indifference imply a great moral disorder, they are both grievously wrong.
135. It is evident:
1. That God cannot make contradictory revelations. Therefore, there can be only one true religion in the world; for all systems of religion contradict one another on some points of doctrine.
2. That God cannot be glorified or pleased by falsehood. In this, as in other matters, He overlooks mistakes that are caused by invincible ignorance. Nevertheless, once a reasonable suspicion concerning this matter exists in the mind, a man is obliged to do his utmost in order to discover the truth about supernatural Revelation, namely, whether a Revelation has been made and where it may be found.
3. That, if God has made a Revelation to direct men to their last end, He must, in His infinite wisdom, have provided reliable means to distinguish it from all false systems usurping its place.
1. One does enough, if he is an honest man. Answer. A man who does not practise religion is not an honest man, for he defrauds God of the worship which is justly His due.
2. Among so many jarring creeds, it is impossible to discover the true religion. Answer. Still, one form of religion is divinely true, which alone can be pleasing to God. Now, God's providence and goodness are doubted by thinking that the true form of religion is beyond the reach of an earnest mind seeking the truth and at the same time humbly asking God's aid to find it.
3. No one should change his religion. Answer. Certainly not, unless his religion is false.
4. Then every man on earth ought to set about inquiring into the truth of his religion. Answer. Only those need inquire who have good reason for doubting the truth of their religion.
137. History attests and Theology confirms the facts, that a Revelation was made to mankind in the very beginning; that this was subsequently amplified and developed by further revelations; that it was finally perfected by the teachings of the Son of God Himself, and that this Christian Revelation has been entrusted, in its completeness, to an infallible Church, to be preserved and expounded until the end of time. These are truths beyond the reach of Philosophy. Nevertheless, Reason leads us by the radiance of her own natural light to the portal of supernatural religion, and is there met by a Heavenly guide, with a brightness of illumination so dazzling that all natural lights in its presence must pale to dimness. In that sacred temple, across whose threshold she may pass with man, Reason finds many truths above her grasp, which she calls mysteries, yet none are opposed to her own inherent principles. There she may abide in peace under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, who rules there.
138. Was a Divine Revelation necessary for mankind? That form of Revelation which declares the Beatific Vision to be man's supernatural destiny and teaches him the supernatural means to secure it was not necessary for the attainment of a merely natural end. Absolutely or intrinsically considered, the latter could be attained by reason unassisted supernaturally: it would be physically possible; but, for the overwhelming majority, such an event would be morally impossible. This, too, is the lesson taught by History on its every page. The nations of the earth, even the most highly civilized, had fallen, despite the teachings of primeval Revelation, into the grossest idolatry. Besides, how strangely and wildly some of the most rarely gifted minds have erred in matters of the greatest importance! In our own times also we are made painfully aware of the deplorable tendency of self-sufficient souls to mistake the truth respecting man's duties to God. False philosophies, -- Pantheism, Positivism, Agnosticism, Materialism, -- are, alas! too widespread and too notoriously prominent in the world of thought to leave us ground for thinking that mankind could have reached even a natural end without the assistance of a supernatural Revelation.
139. Although there should exist many philosophical teachers holding perfectly correct doctrines on the duties of man, still, countless multitudes could not, by this natural means alone, become truly enlightened. Such enlightenment can be accomplished in only two ways, by reasoning and by proclaiming truths with infallible authority. In neither way, however, could the desired effect be brought about for the masses. It could not be done by reasoning, since few, comparatively, would be able to follow the required processes of thought. Nor could authority be of avail, in the hypothesis of a purely natural order. Other men, holding false doctrines, might claim equal authority, and then how could the dispute be settled by natural means to the satisfaction of the people? What natural sign would mark the authoritative teachers of mankind and distinguish them from the propagators of error?
ARTICLE III. THE LOVE OF GOD.
140. Love is an act of the will by which we tend to good. We render to God the due homage of our will by loving Him above all things, just as by valuing His word above all other testimony we offer Him the homage of our understanding. Our love is well ordered when it tends towards an object according to the measure of true good which the intellect perceives in that object. Now, God is the highest good, not merely relatively, but absolutely the highest good, for He is the Infinite Good. Therefore, if we love God according to the measure of His goodness, we must love Him as the Supreme Good, and for His own sake, because He deserves infinite love. This perfect love for God is the love of benevolence or friendship; a friend being one to whom we wish well, not for our own satisfaction only, but for his sake.
141. Yet we also understand that God is the source of immeasurable good for us. This happens in many ways, but chiefly because our ultimate happiness consists in possessing Him for eternity. To love God for our own sakes is a love of desire or hope. It is well ordered, however, since it fulfills the requirements stated above. Our intellect, indeed, perceives that God is not only the highest good in Himself, but also the good most conducive to our own happiness. Still, this love is imperfect; for, in tending towards God, it does not regard the highest good, namely, God's supreme excellence. Moreover, to be acceptable to God, our love for Him, whether perfect or imperfect, must always be a love of preference, that is, a love which prefers God to all things else. We need not, however, constantly perform acts of love for God, this duty being founded upon the positive precepts, which oblige us to act only at certain times.
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