moral and intellectual virtues both as a habit [of the mind] and in practice, can be saved without faith, it being granted that he shall never have heard anything concerning Christ
; for the unaided reason of man cannot look upon this as just; nevertheless, with the help of faith, it can.’1
But faith, it should seem, was long in lifting Dante
to this height; for in the nineteenth canto of the Paradiso
, which must have been written many years after the passage just cited, the doubt recurs again, and we are told that it was ‘a cavern,’ concerning which he had ‘made frequent questioning.’
The answer is given here:—
Truly to him who with me subtilizes,
If so the Scripture were not over you,
For doubting there were marvellous occasion.
But what Scripture?
seems cautious, tells us that the eternal judgments are above our comprehension, postpones the answer, and when it comes, puts an orthodox prophylactic before it:—
Unto this kingdom never
Ascended one who had not faith in Christ
Before or since he to the tree was nailed.
But look thou, many crying are, “Christ, Christ!”
Who at the judgment shall be far less near
To him than some shall be who knew not Christ.
There is, then, some hope for the man born on the bank of Indus
who has never heard of Christ
is still cautious, but answers the question indirectly in the next canto by putting the Trojan Ripheus
among the blessed:—
Who would believe, down in the errant world,
That e'er the Trojan Ripheus in this round
Could be the fifth one of these holy lights?
Now knoweth he enough of what the world
Has not the power to see of grace divine,
Although his sight may not discern the bottom.