Moses — Salvation is administered on the same terms and conditions in all ages. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that Jesus, as our Redeemer, has the authority to set the conditions for salvation and there are no exceptions to His conditions:. Haight — of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the consistency of the plan of salvation and listed some of the conditions on which it is administered:. Men must have faith in him, repent of their sins, be baptized in his name, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and remain steadfast to gain life eternal.
The requirements for salvation include receiving the necessary ordinances. Do I have all of the ordinances of the gospel that I should possess by this time in my life? Are they valid? In that case your life, to this point, is in proper order. Death is an important part of the plan of salvation, a necessary step in returning home to our Heavenly Father.
President Ezra Taft Benson — used the words of Brigham Young to help teach regarding the relationship between the spirit world and this world:.
Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. This I know! Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us. No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. He said to the brother of Jared at that time:. Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. The spirit is the real person. Men have the same talents and intelligence there which they had in this life.
They possess the same attitudes, inclinations, and feelings there which they had in this life. One purpose of our mortal existence is that we might progress to become like our Father in Heaven. Though we enter the spirit world with the same tendencies we exhibited in mortality, opportunities for growth and progress are available in the spirit world. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. Maxwell — of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our time of probation and testing continues after death:.
We tend to overlook the reality that the spirit world and paradise are part, really, of the second estate. The work of the Lord, so far as the second estate is concerned, is completed before the Judgment and the Resurrection. Smith — President Smith became very acquainted with death during his lifetime. And 10 of his children died in infancy. At the beginning of a worldwide influenza epidemic was well underway, which would result in the deaths of many millions of people.
He spent much of his time confined to his room. While the body of Jesus Christ lay in the tomb, His spirit entered the spirit world. President Joseph Fielding Smith — explained that until the Savior initiated the preaching of the gospel to those in bondage in the postmortal spirit world, there was no redemptive work for the dead:.
Before that time the unworthy dead were shut up in prison and were not visited. Moses —39 ; Isaiah We have good reason to believe that the righteous spirits in paradise did not mingle with the unrighteous spirits before the visit of our Lord to the spirit world. He declared that there was a gulf fixed that could not be crossed which separated the righteous from the unrighteous [see Luke ], therefore there was no sound of the voice of prophets and the Gospel was not declared among the wicked until Christ went into that world before his resurrection.
It would further follow that God could not act by Himself; since, as form has no being without matter, it cannot operate without Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] matter. It is, likewise, evident that God is not a complex Being, but Pure Act and Simple Substance; for every complex being depends on others, and composite bodies depend on those that are simple. Since, therefore, God is the First Cause, independent of all others, and the one on whom all things depend, He cannot be a complex Being, but must be Simple Act.
Again, were He a complex Substance, He could not be the First Supreme Being in the universe; for complex bodies do not precede their parts, but result from them; and the union of these parts could not take place, had not some first cause preceded them. The greater the simplicity of an immaterial thing, the greater, likewise, will be its perfection. God being absolutely devoid of complexity, Pure Act, and Simplicity Itself, we must also conclude that in Him is supreme Goodness and Perfection.
Again, as everything possesses greater power and virtue, in proportion as it is raised above matter, and becomes more formal; God, as Pure Act, being supremely elevated above all imperfection, and in the highest degree Formal, must be infinite, and infinitely Powerful. And, just as particular effects are reduced to particular causes, universal effects must be reduced to universal causes. Now, being is the most universal of all effects, because it is common to all things; it must therefore proceed from an Universal Cause, which is God, who is the Cause of being, not only by giving it, but also by preserving it.
And, since it is necessary that when the cause operates, it must join its power to its effect, God, being His own Power, must be united to the being of all things. Therefore He must be intimately in all things, because being is more closely allied to nature than any other thing. God, being indivisible, must be in the whole universe, and wholly in each of its parts. He is likewise immutable; because everything that changes must needs be composite, and God, being Pure Act, can know no change.
He must necessarily also be eternal; because, were He not eternal, He would be mutable, having beginning and end; and thus He would not be God, but a being dependent on other things, and consequently not the First Cause. It is clear that there can be only one God, not many gods; for the Divine Nature being Simplicity cannot communicate Itself outside Itself. Every nature which is communicated to others, suffers composition, because it must suffer diversity of being.
It is impossible therefore, that the Divine Nature should be shared by other beings. If there were more gods than one, they would differ from one another; and the cause of their difference would be, either some imperfection, or some perfection. Were the cause an imperfection, the god that had it would not be God, because God is wholly perfect. Were the cause a perfection, the God that had it not, would, for the same reason, not be God.
Thus there cannot be more gods than one. A third proof of the unity of God lies in the fact, that all things in the universe are most excellently ordered. This perfect order could not be the work of many; it Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] must proceed from one. Among animals, such as bees and cranes, we see one ruler directing a multitude of subjects. And since art imitates nature, in the best human governments we, likewise, see power vested in one head, otherwise the government could not stand.
In like manner, since the government of the Universe is of all forms of government the most perfect, we see that in it there is but one Supreme Lord and Ruler, who is God. It is clear, from what has been said, that God knows all things. We see in the natural order, that those beings that are capable of knowing have a larger and more capacious nature than those that have no cognitive faculty.
For, not only do they know their own form, but, being of a nature superior to matter, their cognitive power is able to receive the forms of other things. Hence the cognition of every cognitive form is ample and perfect, in proportion as that form is superior to matter. God, then, being Pure Act, i. God does not understand as men understand, i. And, since the power of God is nought but God Himself, and He is likewise wisdom itself, His wisdom must comprehend His power; and as His power is infinite, His wisdom must alike be infinite.
Some men entertain the foolish opinion that God knows superterrestrial things determinately, but that His knowledge of earthly things is confused and general; in other words, that man knows more things, or has a more perfect knowledge of them, than has God.
Yet, even in merely natural things, the greater and more perfect the power, the more things it embraces and penetrates; and the more elevated a human intellect, the greater is its range of understanding, and the more exquisite its subtlety. Since, then, the Divine understanding is supereminent, and infinitely perfect, it must necessarily penetrate all things to their innermost being.
And, since it is Immutable and Eternal, it is necessary that it should have perfect knowledge, not only of all things past, present and future, but also of all those which might ever be called into being. Moreover, this knowledge has not only existed from all eternity, but continues in the present, and will endure for ever. We must, further, affirm that God acts, not from necessity, but by His Understanding and Will. Nature acts in a certain order without understanding it; and, as there cannot be order without intelligence, the operations of nature must be governed by some superior intellect.
Now, as the intellect which governs is higher than the nature which is governed, and as God is the First Principle of all things, it is evident that He must act, not by natural necessity, but by Understanding and Will. That which acts by natural necessity is drawn by its Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] nature to produce an effect as far as possible similar to itself. Now, as God is Infinite Power, He would, therefore, were He constrained by natural necessity to act, produce infinite things—which would be an impossibility.
God produces things according as they exist in Himself as in their Cause. Even as a house exists in the mind of an architect who builds it by means of his intelligence and will, so God also creates all things by means of His Intelligence and Will. If our foregoing statements be true, there is no room for doubt that the Providence of God extends over all things; not merely over natural things, but over even the smallest human action. The word Providence signifies a knowledge of the order of things, with an intention of reducing them, by fitting means, to their end.
Therefore, as God is Supreme Wisdom, to Him it belongs to order and dispose of all things, as the First Cause, who acts on all things by His understanding, determined by His free will. And, as He is Supreme Wisdom, whose attribute it is to order all things aright, we must acknowledge that in Him is perfect Providence over all things. Philosophers have never hesitated to recognise Divine Providence in the marvellous operations of Nature. The disordered and confused state of human affairs has, however, presented a difficulty to them, and has led some Edition: current; Page: [ 26 ] among them to deny the Providence of God over human things.
But, if we reflect, we shall see that it is foolish to deny the Providence of God in the conduct of human affairs, as well as in the order of nature. For the more noble things are, the more perfectly are they ordered; therefore, as man is the noblest of all beings, his operations must be ordered.
Again, as the wisest men take more thought and care for the things which are nearer to their end, than for those which are more remote from it, so, as man is nearer to God the end of all things than are natural things, it would be impossible to believe that, while Providence governs nature, it does not extend to human affairs. Further, Divine Providence proceeds from the love of God; and the more God loves a creature, the greater is His Providence over it.
Since, then, by giving to man a more perfect nature and a higher order of operation than He has given to natural things, God has shown that His love for man is greater than His love for natural things, we cannot doubt that His Providence, likewise, is exercised in human affairs. Another proof of what we say lies in the fact that it is natural as we see in the case of animals with their young for all causes to exercise a certain providence over their effects. But as all secondary causes act only in imitation of God, the First Cause, it is evident that He must exercise Providence over all things, and especially over man, who is His noblest effect, and whom He loves more than other natural things.
We must further remember that, if God does not extend His Providence to man, it must be, either because He cannot do so, or knows not how to do so, or else Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] will not do so. Since He is Infinite Power and Infinite Wisdom, it is vain to say that He cannot care for man, or knows not how to do so. To say that He will not do so, is to derogate from His Infinite Goodness; for none that is good spurns his own work, and no cause despises its own effect. Neither would it be a righteous work to care for imperfect things, and not for perfect ones.
When even every good and wise man cares diligently for human affairs, how shall we say that the God of Infinite Goodness takes no heed of them? Since it is the work of Divine Providence to move all things to their end, and, since all things have their different proximate ends, they must be moved by different means.
Irrational things are led by natural instinct, and are rather ruled by others than self-governing. Man, however, having free will, can take thought for himself, and is moved towards his end by God, in such a way that he governs himself, by working together with God.
It is, therefore, essential that he should diligently strive to discover what is the last end to which he is destined by Divine Providence; and what the means are whereby he must attain to it; that so he may be enabled to order his life conformably to the designs of God. Philosophers have studiously endeavoured to search out the End of Man. In course of time, as their reasoning Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] became more profound, and their investigation approached nearer to the truth, they concluded that the end of human life is the contemplation of Divine things.
For this alone is the proper operation of the human soul, and it is not directed to any other thing as to its end, but is desired for itself, and unites man to God. Again, man so far suffices in himself to this operation, that for it he needs but few external aids. This, in fact, is the end of all things that pertain to man. For all natural things are ordered for the body of man; his body is ordered for his soul; and all the powers of his soul serve to this contemplation, which requires that calm and freedom from passion which art and civil government are intended to procure for us.
It is thus evident that all things, both natural and artificial, are ordered to this contemplation, as to the last end to which Providence moves all men by means of moral virtues. It influences them, however, in such a way, as to leave them the freedom of their will. It is, likewise, clear, that if they will co-operate with the impulse of Providence, they will, by using the fitting means, attain to their desired end.
If we give serious consideration to what has been said, we shall see how difficult, nay impossible, it would be for man to attain to his last end during the course of the present life. For, although it be true that beatitude Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] is the last perfection of man, it is not every degree of contemplation of Divine things which can render a man happy. Although the contemplation of God forms the happiness of man, this contemplation must be perfect, with the fullest perfection of which human nature is capable.
Whereas, during this mortal life, very few, scarce any one indeed, can attain to this perfection. Perfect contemplation demands a fulness of knowledge to which the greater part of mankind can never arrive. Some men are hindered therefrom by physical ineptitude, or by some imperfection in those interior senses which are the instruments used by the soul in the pursuit of knowledge.
Others again, are so obtuse, that they can scarcely understand the clearest matters; whilst others are unable to devote themselves to contemplation, by reason of the duties imposed on them, through family cares, and the necessities of social life.
And even those who are able to free themselves from these trammels, must serve a long apprenticeship before they can attain to the perfection of knowledge and contemplation. This for two reasons. Firstly, remembering that we attain to knowledge of immaterial things by means of sensible things, it is only reasonable to expect that an extensive knowledge of material things should be required before we can hope to attain to a perfect knowledge of such as are in the highest degree spiritual.
Secondly, in order to attain to perfect contemplation, purity of heart, quiescence of the passions, and the possession of moral virtues, are essential; and these things are rarely met with except among the aged, and even among them are not possessed save by such as have laboured diligently for their acquisition. The greater number of those living in the world, being still young, and, but few of them Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] having opportunity to devote themselves to the contemplation of the Truth, it follows that but a small number will be able to attain to perfect happiness in this life.
Neither need we be astonished at the fact, that it is exceptional to find souls capable of contemplation, when daily experience convinces us of the limitations of human understanding, and of the ease with which men are deceived in purely natural matters. How much more easily may we be deceived in things which are Divine? All our knowledge of natural things springs from the senses, and what more fallible than the eye, which tells us that the sun is a tiny sphere, whereas it is much larger than our entire earth?
Again, the imagination can so obscure the intellect, as to render it difficult for us to believe that any beings exist, save such as are corporeal. Our understanding, again, often deceives us, persuading us to give credence to false and sophistical reasoning, as is proved by the many varying opinions even amongst clever men. The divers passions and affections of our soul, and our evil habits, are a further obstacle to our apprehension of the truth.
If, then, our intellect be so shackled in its investigation of purely natural things, how much greater difficulty shall we not have in learning such as are Divine? The more we consider the hindrances which beset us in the acquisition of knowledge, the more clear it becomes that, if true happiness is only to be found in this life, very few amongst us can attain to it. Children, youths, women, and all such as are not capable of learning, and are occupied in human affairs, must be excluded from the chance of acquiring knowledge, and of attaining, through knowledge, to beatitude.
Such an idea as this is, of course, absurd, since beatitude is the end of human life, and that for which all mankind is created. But there is another reason which makes it impossible for man to be wholly happy in this life. This reason is, that happiness being the ultimate good of man, cannot be marred by any admixture of evil, and, being an all-sufficing good, it brings with it all other good; so that when perfect happiness is attained, nothing further remains for man to desire. But where shall we find, in this life, a man who wishes for nothing, and who, having a nature subject, as is our nature, to so many infirmities, enjoys, nevertheless, perfect immunity from every evil?
Daily experience shows us, that even those who, like Priam, have been reputed happy, were beset by many misfortunes. But let us assume that some one has, so far as it be possible in this mortal life, attained to the perfect contemplation of Divine things, and enjoys every other good, still even he cannot be called truly happy. For, since happiness means perfect tranquillity of the human heart, and since all men have a natural, an unceasing desire to know, this desire must be an obstacle to perfect repose, as long as knowledge be not complete.
The number of things in the world which men do not know, and yet desire to know, is almost infinite. Philosophers, after lifelong study, and much learning, have died leaving much unknown. For the things of which we have knowledge form but a small portion of that which there is to know, and our actual knowledge is most imperfect. If, then, our intellect be so limited regarding natural things, how can we expect to understand such as are supernatural and Divine? The human heart cannot be satisfied with slight knowledge, but always desires more perfect knowledge.
Thus it is, that the more it knows God, the more perfectly it desires to know Him; for Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] natural impetus is swifter, as it nears the end, than at the beginning. Hence, it follows that, as we cannot, in the present life, attain to any perfect knowledge of God, neither can we enjoy perfect happiness. Even if this knowledge could be gained in youth, it would still be no safeguard against death. The desire for immortality is innate in all men; hence, all men desire to continue their lives, either in their children, or by some excellent work; for a wise man who loves a perfect life cannot fail to hate what destroys it.
Therefore, were there no other life than this, the wisest man, yea, he whom we assume to be truly happy, could not fail to be saddened at the thought of death. A philosopher would not indeed banish the thought of death, for that would be the act of an unreasonable man; but neither can he be called happy, who has laboured all his life to acquire some good which he is unable to retain, and who knows not whether his end is to be in bliss, or in misery.
We see then, by the foregoing arguments, that, if there be no life beyond the grave, the lot of man is beyond measure wretched. For all other things are led by nature, and easily attain their end; but man is surrounded by difficulties, and either fails to find his end, or, if after much toil, he succeeds in finding it, he will be unable to retain it.
The arguments set forth in the last chapter leave no room to doubt that there is another life; and that the human soul is immortal. For, as the Providence of God conducts everything to its own end, man, if his end be not attainable in this life, must be rendered capable of securing it in a life to come. Were it otherwise, the Providence of God would not extend to human affairs. There is every proof of the existence of a germ of immortality in the human soul.
The operations of the intellect cannot proceed from a physical force; because they extend beyond corporeal things, and are occupied with God. This argument has compelled philosophers to acknowledge the immortality and immateriality of the soul. It is, nevertheless, so difficult to understand how an immaterial substance can be the form of the body, that many different opinions have been held about the mode of this immortality in man, which is called intellect. It cannot, however, reasonably be denied, that the intellectual soul is the form of the human body, since all men acknowledge that it is the rationality of man which distinguishes him from other animals.
This distinction could not exist were not a rational soul the form of man; for all specific differences arise from form. Again, it is universally allowed, that the peculiar and pre-eminent activity of man is understanding and reasoning; and man is the principle of this activity. Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] Man is composed of matter and form. We cannot say that he is the principle of this activity by virtue of the matter of which he is composed, but solely by virtue of the form.
Consequently, as this form is nothing but the intelligent soul, it is the intelligent soul which is the form of man. Another argument for the immortality of the soul lies in the fact that man, like other animals, has the power of self-motion. Now, as the other animals move by means of their form, which is their soul, it follows that it must also be his soul which enables man to move.
We know that man is governed by will and understanding. The form of man, therefore, must be an intelligent soul, capable of volition. If a rational soul were not the form of man, the fact that a child, unable to use his understanding, is man would be inexplicable; neither could we see how intelligence could be attributed to a man who does not use his reason. If rational substance be not the form of man, but be self-subsisting, it will not be man, but that rational substance, which works with the intellect.
We may, of course, maintain, with Plato, that man is not composed of soul and body; but that he is merely soul, which is united to the body as a motor is joined to that which is movable. But this opinion, if we adopt it, will lead us into many inconsistencies. For, firstly, if the soul be the whole of man, to the exclusion of the body, man will not be sensitive; and when the soul leaves the body, corruption will not ensue; for the substance of a movable being does not change when the motor leaves it.
It follows, likewise, that the human body does not live by the intellectual soul, and is not generated by union with the soul; for Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] a movable thing is not generated by union with its motor. Human generation must, therefore, cease; for as, according to Plato, the soul is not generated, if the body be not man, one man will not be able to generate another. If neither the generated body, nor the soul and body together, but only the soul which is not generated , be man, there will no longer, in human generation, be either fathers or children.
These, and similar absurdities, beset those who will not acknowledge that the form of the body is an intelligent and immortal soul. As the soul is, by its perfection, supreme among all natural and material forms, it partakes of the nature of incorporeal and immaterial substances; and, inasmuch as it partakes of the nature of inferior forms, it is said to be the form of the human body. In the perfection wherein it pertains to immaterial forms, it is separated from the body, so that the intellectual faculty of the soul is not, like its sensitive faculties, joined to any corporeal organ.
Hence, the soul is sometimes called the nexus of the world, being the link between the highest and the lowest things. We cannot then escape the conclusion, that the form of the body is a rational soul, which, in spite of the corruptibility of the body, remains incorruptible. This attribute of incorruptibility is proper to all intellectual substances, and is so for divers reasons:—. First, because every perfection must be proportioned to the thing of which it is the perfection, and, as universal and incorruptible things, and principally God, are the perfection of the intellectual soul, whose beatitude consists in contemplating them, the soul must be incorruptible.
Secondly, as we know that the perfection of the soul Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] is proportionate to its abstraction from material, and its elevation to immaterial and Divine things, it is folly to say that the soul becomes corrupted by segregation from the body. Such an assertion is tantamount to saying, that separation from corporeal things is, at one and the same time, both the perfection, and the destruction of the soul.
And it is equally futile to argue, that the soul attains perfection, by abstraction from the body, by means of the understanding, but suffers corruption by separation from the body by means of its essence. For operation follows nature; and therefore it is impossible that when the operation becomes perfect, the nature should become imperfect.
Hence, it is quite unreasonable to say, that the intellectual soul suffers corruption when it is separated from the body. The natural bias of mankind is a further argument in favour of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. We see that all men are anxious about what takes place after death, and that none have been able to persuade themselves, that there is no future life.
Thus the desire to know something of the hereafter is apparent in the writings of philosophers, of poets, and of orators. The fact of such a desire is a proof of our immortality; for if there were no future life, not only would this yearning for knowledge about it be of no service to man, but it would be injurious to him, by raising desires doomed only to disappointment. But if we assume that the intellectual soul is immortal, this natural desire to understand something of its future life is, far from being useless, both wholesome and necessary; it enables man to direct his thoughts to another life, and to tend towards beatitude.
It is evident, then, that if we deny that the intellectual Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] soul is the form of the body, and is immortal, we shall be involved in many inconsistencies. We shall find it impossible to understand how man can be a rational animal endowed with free will, and justly liable to punishment for sin.
Neither shall we be able to comprehend what is the End of man, and what the Providence of God in his regard.
But, granted that an intellectual and immortal soul be the form of man, all these difficulties will disappear. Since the consideration of the other life, which awaits the soul after death, exceeds the limits of human reason, we will here conclude our First Book, in order to treat in the next of the supernatural truths of Faith. For where reason halts, Faith begins. When we shall have shown, as we hope to do in the following Book, the truth of our faith, the immortality of the soul will be beyond doubt.
In our last Book we treated of those things which human reason is capable of grasping. It is our intention to discuss, in this Book, those things which exceed reason, and to prove the truth of the Faith, both by natural means, and by the supernatural deeds of Christ. Since present occurrences carry more weight than past events, our first argument shall be founded on the deeds of Christians within the Church.
We speak not of bad Christians, who are cut off from the body of Christ, but of such as are Christians in deed, as well as in name. We will next examine the works which Christ wrought in times past, and which are known to all the world. John x. This chain of reasoning will embrace almost everything which is at present taking place within the Church militant.
In order to connect what has already been laid down with what still remains to be said, it is necessary to acknowledge the existence on earth of some true religion, or form of Divine worship. Religion, or worship, signifies the due honour paid to God, as to the universal Principle, Ruler, and End of all things. Every effect turns naturally to its cause; submits itself to its cause, in order to become like to it; and, in a certain sense, invokes the protection of its cause. By acting thus, the effect is paying honour and worship to its cause. Now, as man is the effect of God, there must be in his nature an instinct prompting him to turn to God, to become subject to Him, to resemble Him, and to invoke Him, in order from Him to obtain beatitude.
As no natural inclination is given us in vain, these promptings must spring from religion; and they are proofs that some true form of Divine worship exists in the world. This fact is, again, proved on another count. Man is possessed of reason and of free will. Now, as reason is fallible on many points, especially in Divine matters, it follows that, if God had not revealed some true form of worship, we should have gone astray, as did the heathen before the advent of Christ, and should never have attained beatitude.
Thus, our natural instinct would have Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] misled us, and the Providence of God would have failed us, in a matter most closely pertaining to our salvation. It is clear that a natural tendency to religion is innate in the heart of man, from the fact that some form, though frequently an erroneous form, of Divine worship has existed through all generations. If, then, there be no possibility of satisfying this natural inclination, God has provided better for the needs of irrational creatures than for those of man. It is the property of a cause to infuse its goodness and perfection into its effect, in order that this effect may, as far as is possible, resemble the cause.
God, who is the Supreme Good and the First Cause of all things, desires, more earnestly than does any other cause, to infuse His goodness into man in order to bring him to beatitude; and, as the perfection of man consists in that interior homage whereby he subjects himself to God, it is clear, that God cannot have made this interior homage impossible, and that, in other words, some true religion exists in the world.
God can be honoured by man, both in body and in spirit; and, therefore, religion must be both interior and exterior. Interior worship is paid to God by means of the understanding and the will; and exterior homage by means of ceremonies and sacrifices. Interior religion, then, strictly speaking, signifies uprightness of heart before God, and perfection of life. Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] For, as every effect honours its cause chiefly by its perfection, man cannot pay to God a greater homage than that of a perfect life. This, therefore, constitutes the truth and completeness of Divine worship, even as the perfection of a work gives glory to the worker.
And, as we pay homage to God, not only in order to honour Him, but also in order to receive beatitude from Him; and as a good life is a more sure way of attaining to beatitude than are sacrifices and ceremonies, it is evident that perfection of life is a more true religion than any exterior form of worship. John iv. As true religion consists in the perfection of human life; and as no better life than the Christian life can be conceived, it follows that there can be no better religion than the Christian religion.
This assertion is easily proved. Animal life is more perfect than vegetative life; and among the different degrees of animal life, that one is the highest which is the most largely endowed with sensible feeling. If, further, it be the case that intellectual cognition be superior to sensible feeling, it is certain that the life of man is more perfect than that of animals. Among men are likewise found degrees, not of life but Edition: current; Page: [ 44 ] of perfection; for, as man is rational, those men are the most perfect who live the most nearly according to reason; for he who lives not according to reason resembles a beast rather than a man.
Again, among those who live according to reason, there are divers degrees of perfection. For, as the end of the life of reason is the contemplation of Divine things, so the more perfectly a man abstracts himself from earthly things, and devotes himself to the contemplation of that which is Divine, the more perfect will be his life. Since the Christian life consists in separating ourselves, not only from temporal things, but also from self-love, and in drawing, by love and contemplation, near to God, so as to become like to Him, and, so far as possible, to be made one with Him, it is clear that nothing better than the Christian life can exist.
As we have already said, the more perfectly a man follows the dictates of reason, the more perfect will be his life. It is evident, therefore, that the Christian life does nothing and permits nothing, not even the least thing, which is contrary to reason; but that it submits in all things to the Divine Law. A virtuous life tends to the contemplation of heavenly things, and finds its end in this contemplation. Great purity of heart is requisite for the attainment of this end. Consequently, as no life so purifies us, and renders us so apt for contemplation, as does the Christian life, it follows, that nothing better can be found on earth than Christianity.
In order to show that there can be no life better than the Christian life, we shall first prove that the end set in view by the Christian religion is the best possible end, and the one most in accordance with reason, and that the means furnished by Christianity for the attainment of that end are those best adapted to that purpose.
Many reasons can be adduced to prove that this clear vision of God is the end of our human life. But if, in the next life, his happiness were to consist in knowing and contemplating God by means of creatures, it would not be complete happiness, for his heart would not be at rest; and happiness consists in the quiescence or satisfaction of all desires.
This tranquillity would be incomplete, whether his knowledge of creatures were perfect or imperfect. If he knew creatures imperfectly, his heart would not be at rest, because he would desire that this knowledge should be perfect. For we know, by daily Edition: current; Page: [ 46 ] experience, that we desire distinct and particular cognition of the things which we know only in a general and confused manner.
Were his knowledge of creatures perfect, he would still desire to know that on which they depend. For it is natural to us when we see an effect to wish to know its cause; and the more perfectly we know the effect the more intensely do we wish to know its cause, just as the heavier an object is, with the greater energy does it gravitate to its centre. Hence, as man becomes happier and more perfect in proportion to his knowledge of Divine things; and, as his desire of this knowledge increases proportionately to his progress therein, it is certain that his wish for this knowledge will never cease until he attains his Last End.
This End can be nought but God. For, as we know by experience, our hearts can never be satisfied by any finite thing. Our intellect is superior to everything finite, because there is nothing superior to its capacity; and our ability to understand increases in proportion to our knowledge. Hence, as everything which is inferior to God is finite; and, as our intellect is capable of knowing infinite things, it is true to say that no creature can fill even one-tenth part of our heart.
It becomes, therefore, not merely reasonable, but even necessary, to acknowledge that the happiness of man consists in the vision of God, who alone is greater than the human heart.
Every natural movement, as all philosophers will admit, tends to some end, in which, when it is attained, the thing which is moved finds rest. Now God, who is the term of human desire, is the satisfaction of the human heart, leaving nought else to be desired. And this because everything else, being finite, will bear no comparison to Him who is infinite; and, also, because Edition: current; Page: [ 47 ] all perfection of creatures is to be found in its fullest excellence in Him who is their Cause.
Thus, when the soul of man possesses God it possesses all things; for the intellect which knows Him, will know creatures far more perfectly; and, although the excessive intensity of things sensible weakens the sense perceiving them, the excess of that which is intelligible, far from injuring the understanding, perfects it.
But we must remember that, as God is infinite, and is outside the realm of creation, our intellect cannot, by virtue of its natural light, attain to the vision of Him; because nothing can act beyond the limits of its nature. Nevertheless, our understanding, which is capable of rising to infinite things, may, by the Divine Power, be enabled to behold that which is naturally invisible to it. It is plain then, that no more reasonable or better end could be devised, as the term of human life, than the end set before us by the Christian religion.
If the vision of God be the end of human life, God, who has made nothing in vain, must have given us some means of attaining to it. For, just as it would be useless for us to possess the power of motion, had we not limbs wherewith to move, so would it be futile to be created for an end, if we have no means of reaching it. The Christian Edition: current; Page: [ 48 ] religion teaches, that the means whereby we are to attain to the vision of God are, purity of heart, and grace, together with all the virtues supernaturally infused into the soul. We shall see how true and how reasonable this doctrine is, if we remember that a means must be proportioned to its end.
Now, as the end of man is the supernatural vision of God, the Supreme Object of intelligence, there is needed, in order to attain to it, perfect purity of heart, consisting in a complete aversion of the mind and heart from the love of corporeal things, together with a conversion to things incorporeal and Divine. This purity of heart is far more explicitly enjoined by the Christian religion than by any philosopher. Christianity has included all that philosophy has taught on the subject; at the same time defining more clearly what is meant by this purity of heart, and showing that mere natural virtue, such as is inculcated by philosophers, is not sufficient for the attainment of an end infinitely superior to nature.
Christianity teaches that the purity of heart which springs from temperament, imagination, natural religion, from the influence of the heavenly bodies, or from any other created thing, will not suffice to bring us to the vision of God. Our purity must be the fruit of Divine grace. A fuller explanation of the subject may be found in the treatise on The Simplicity of Christian Life, 1 in which it Edition: current; Page: [ 49 ] is shown that purity of heart, and the perfect Christian life, is not the result of natural love, nor is it the creation of the imagination nor even of reason; that it is not influenced by the heavenly bodies nor by any spiritual creatures; but that it comes from the grace of God, supernaturally infused into the soul.
We need not repeat all that is written in that book, about the most perfect means for attaining the perfection of the Christian life. Suffice it to say, that the life of a true Christian, which embraces the highest form of a holy life, both natural and supernatural, is most conducive to perfect happiness. If, as has been proved, there be in the world some true religion, consisting mainly in uprightness of life; and if the Christian religion surpasses every other; we must acknowledge Christianity to be true, not only in its interior spirit, but also in its exterior forms.
For there must be some true external worship which corresponds, in all things, with interior religion. Therefore, if Christians live according to the teaching of their Faith, paying due homage to God, both in order to honour Him and to attain to beatitude, we cannot doubt that they will thus arrive at their Last End. If, again, it pertains to Divine Providence to bring things to their End by fitting means, and if there are no better means than the Christian religion whereby man Edition: current; Page: [ 50 ] may attain to beatitude, who can doubt that the Christian religion conducts man to the eternal enjoyment of the beatific vision?
Further, if God be just—and we must confess that He is; and if He exercise Providence over human things, He will not suffer those who have obeyed His commandments and professed the Christian religion to fail in the attainment of their end. He must bring either some men to beatitude, or none. If none are to attain to beatitude, creation is in vain.
Some men, therefore, must be saved, and among them God will not pass over true Christians, who are of all men the best fitted and prepared for beatitude. If Christians do not attain to the fruition of their End, we must needs confess that none others can hope to do so; that all we have hitherto taught and proved is false; and that all men are living in disorder and confusion.
For where there is no last end there can be no order in life. It would follow likewise, that man lives by chance, more miserably than the animals. This would only be one of many similar absurdities which would inevitably follow, were we to deny the value of Christianity. It must be acknowledged, then, that the teaching of the Christian religion about the end of man, and the means necessary for its attainment, is most reasonable; and we must confess this religion to be true.
In proving Christianity to be true, we have hitherto made use of arguments founded on the good life of true Christians. We will now proceed to examine the causes of this virtuous life. By faith informed by charity, we mean that, loving Christ crucified above all things, we believe Him to be truly God and truly Man, One with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and distinct from them only in Person.
Universal experience demonstrates the truth of what we say. For in the present day it is evident to all, and still more was it so in days gone by, that, as soon as a man grasps the Faith of Christ and becomes inflamed with His love, he begins to lead a Christian life, and makes progress in perfection, in proportion to his increase of faith and charity; and at the same time he is confirmed in those virtues, in proportion to his advance in perfection.
On the other hand, they who lead bad lives are deficient in faith; and they that lack faith lead bad lives. As this is a truth admitting no denial, we will investigate it, and, by inquiring into the causes of such wonderful effects, will deduce proofs of the truth of the Christian religion. Since all perfection depends upon its cause, no effect can be more perfect than its cause.
Therefore, if all the truth and uprightness of the Christian life depends upon the Faith of Christ, as upon its cause, it is impossible that the Faith of Christ should not be true.
And if this faith be true, we must, with Christians, confess that Christ is God, and that His religion is the true religion revealed by God. It is impossible that falsehood and evil should be the cause of truth and goodness; for evil, in so far as it is evil, and falsehood, in so far as it is falsehood, are nothingness.
If, then, the Faith of Christ were false, His love would be vain and evil. Now, a life so perfect as is the Christian life could not spring from falsehood and iniquity. Therefore, the Christian religion must be true. If this religion be untrue it is the most stupid falsehood that can possibly be conceived; for to say were it not true that a crucified man is God would be the extreme of folly.
Now, as the Christian life is a perfect life, it cannot spring from untruth; for all rightly ordered life proceeds from correctness of understanding, and all error in human conduct springs from some mistake on the part of the intellect. It must also be remembered that capacity for improvement in any nature is proportioned to the good disposition already existing therein.
Now, as the perfection of our intellect is truth, and as purity of heart is the disposition which enables him to become steadfast in truth, the more a man is purged from earthly affections the better he will know the truth, the more closely he will embrace it, and the further he will banish falsehood from his soul. If this be true, surely Christians, since their lives are purer than those of other men, would be Edition: current; Page: [ 53 ] the first to know if their religion were false.
We see, however, that far from rejecting their faith, Christians cling more closely to it in proportion as they increase in perfection, and that their increase in perfection is proportioned to their steadfastness in their faith. Therefore, their faith cannot be false. Again, as God is the First Cause moving all things, both spiritual and corporal, it is certain that it is He who must move the human understanding, and that, apart from Him, no truth can be known. But who can doubt that God will inspire to know the truth those who are prepared for its reception, rather than those who are not thus disposed, and especially when the truth concerns eternal salvation?
Since then true Christians are better prepared than are any other men to embrace the truth, we cannot doubt that, if the Faith of Christ were false, they would be enlightened by God to reject it. To think otherwise, would be to doubt the providence and goodness of God. The end regulates the means used to attain it, and he that errs as to his end, will err also as to the means which he uses. Christians do not err as to the means which they adopt for attaining to beatitude, and therefore they do not err as to their end. Now, as all Christians profess that Christ is their End, and that they strive to be made like to Him in this life in order to enjoy Him in the next, it cannot be erroneous to teach that Christ is God, and is the End of human life.
Again, God proceeds in all things in a certain order, and in His wisdom governs inferior things by those that are superior to them. And since the cause is always more perfect than the effect, He has ordained noblest causes for the noblest effects. As there is not in the Edition: current; Page: [ 54 ] world a more noble effect than the Christian life, it follows that the cause from which it springs must be the noblest possible.
Since the Christian life is an effect of the Faith of Christ, we must acknowledge that that Faith, far from being a fable, is the noble cause of a noble effect. All secondary causes are instruments of a primary cause. Therefore Christ, the Man who was crucified, is the instrument whereby God chooses to produce that wonderful effect—the Christian life. Had Christ, in spite of His assertions, not been God, His pride and mendacity would have been unparalleled; and God would have used a bad instrument to produce a most perfect effect—a course quite out of keeping with His wisdom.
The more closely an effect resembles its cause, the more perfect does it become. We become more holy and more Divine in proportion as we walk in the footsteps of Christ and become like to Him. This is a clear proof that Christ is true God, and the Cause of man. Causes are known by their effects, and one of the best arguments in favour of the Christian religion is the reflection that, whereas heathen philosophers have laboured for years to establish rules of conduct, they have gained but few disciples, of whom even the most virtuous have never attained to that standard of living which has been so quickly reached by innumerable Christians of both sexes and of every race and condition.
No one who reflects on this fact can fail to see that there is no comparison between the efficacy of the heathen philosophy and of the Christian Faith, which is able to render the proud, avaricious, and luxurious, humble, benevolent and chaste. Every one, consequently, must acknowledge that Christ, as God, is the Principal Cause of human perfection, and, as Man, is its Means and Instrumental Cause.
The reading, hearing, and study of Holy Scripture is both a cause of our Christian life, and the substance and foundation of our religion, of which the object is the truth of the Faith. Having examined the arguments founded on the Faith of Christ, we now proceed to investigate those drawn from Holy Writ. We know that there can be no certain truth or knowledge about future things which may or may not happen.
Even philosophers, who were truly wise, admitted this. These can be known to God alone, and to man only when God reveals them to him. Man could not know them, unless it pleased God to make them known. These prophecies concern not only general, but also particular things; and they relate to events which were to occur, not only in one year or in ten, but in a hundred or a thousand, or three or four thousand years; they were to happen not only to the Jews and to Christ and His Church, but were to concern also the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Medes, the Greeks, the Romans, and other lesser kingdoms.
God alone has prescience of the future. Therefore, no man, be he ever so diligent or wise, can order the wars and doings of kings and princes, and the names and places, and divers actions and circumstances of men in such a way that they shall foreshadow things to come. The reason is simple. God has the ordering of things which are to come; they are subject to Him. They are beyond the power and knowledge of man.
Therefore, we have good reason to believe that both the Old Testament and the New are the Word of God. It is not reasonable to say that Christians have interpreted the prophecies of Scripture according to their desires. For, taking into account the differences of times and circumstances, of language and of authors, the extraordinary uniformity which exists between the Old and the New Testaments would not be possible, were they not the work of one Mind, which knows all that has taken place at all times.
Neither can this uniformity be ascribed to chance, since there is no discord or want of harmony between the two Testaments, but perfect agreement between them, even in the smallest particulars; so that what is obscure in one passage is explained in another; and the Scripture interprets itself. Although those who have not studied the Bible may be ignorant of this fact, the truth of what I say will be acknowledged Edition: current; Page: [ 57 ] by all who examine Holy Scripture with faith, humility and purity of heart.
It is on account of this harmony between the Old and New Testaments, that the Bible possesses the dignity of an allegorical meaning. But, observe, that by an allegorical, we do not mean a fabulous, interpretation—such as we find in the poets—for we interpret parables also, and their interpretation is not called an allegorical, but literal and parabolic meaning. We do not intend by the words of the fable or parable to express what is signified by the words themselves, but rather what we understand by the meaning underlying those words.
An allegory requires, first, that the words should narrate, not a fiction, but some fact that has really occurred; secondly, that this fact should prefigure some future event; thirdly, that the fact narrated should have taken place not only on account of its intrinsic importance, but also as a forecast of some future occurrence.
As no one but God can compose such allegories, and as the Holy Scriptures are full of them, it is clear that only God can be their Author. The language and style of the Bible are so peculiar, that none of our most learned and eloquent Doctors have ever been able to imitate it; nor has it been copied by any other writer. The Prophets, although they lived at different times and wrote with varying degrees of elegance, have all retained the same mode of expression, which has not been imitated by any other author, and is, in fact, inimitable. This is a clear proof that the Holy Scriptures are a Divine and not a human work.
A further confirmation of what we say may be perceived, if we observe the effects which proceed from the Scriptures; for the virtue of a cause is known by its Edition: current; Page: [ 58 ] effect. Now, as upon earth there is no more sublime effect than the Christian life, and as the Bible is a most powerful instrumental cause and foundation of this life, it is manifest that it can only proceed from the First Cause of the Christian life, viz. Long experience teaches us that human science avails but little in the formation of virtuous habits; for, before Christianity was preached, the whole world was wrapped in the darkness of ignorance and sin; but from the time the Apostles taught the truth, mankind has been enlightened and initiated into many heavenly secrets.
And even in our own days, we see how the teaching of the Holy Scripture has more efficacy than has any other doctrine, in enlightening and consoling men, and in inclining them to live virtuously. For the preachers who discourse only on philosophical subjects, and pay great attention to oratorical effect, produce scarcely any fruit among their Christian hearers. Whereas our forefathers, who in past times confined themselves to the simple preaching of the Holy Scriptures, were able to fill their hearers with Divine love, enabling them to rejoice in affliction and even in martyrdom.
I speak also from personal experience. For, when at one time in order to demonstrate the profundity of Holy Scripture to sciolists, proud of their intelligence I was wont to discourse on subtle points of philosophy, I found that the people who heard me were inattentive. But as soon as I devoted myself to the exposition of the Bible, I beheld all eyes riveted upon me, and my audience so intent upon my words, that they might have been carved out of stone. I found, likewise, that when I set aside theological questions, and confined myself to explaining Holy Scripture, my hearers received much more light, Edition: current; Page: [ 59 ] and my preaching bore more fruit, in the conversion of men to Christ and to a perfect life.
This proves that it can proceed from none but God.