Imágenes de páginas


northern barbarians, and the world was deluged with barbarism, but the church remained standing, and did not become barbarian; the feudalism of the middle ages, a system, as somebody has said, too perfect for its time, fell beneath the combined attacks of kings and people, but the church survived, and beheld undismayed its funeral pile; modern monarchy may follow, and all the world become democratic, still the church will survive, and remain in all her integrity, shorn of none of her glory, and deprived of none of her re

Over no changes of this sort do we weep. We have no fears for the church ; we fear only for men. If we saw the people making war on the old political system in consequence of its wars on religion, and struggling for popular institutions in order to rescue the church from her bondage, and to secure her an open field and fair play for the future, we should hear the volleys of musketry and the roar of cannon, and witness the charge, the siege and sack of cities, with tolerable composure ; for then the war would be one of vengeance on the old governments for the insults they have offered to the immaculate spouse of God, and for the freedom of worship, the only war in which real glory ever is or can be acquired. But, alas ! we see nothing of all this. These enraged populations are moved by no regard for religion, they are to a fearful extent the bitter enemies of religious freedom, and governed by a malignant hatred of the church. They are seeking only an earthly

. end, and they loathe the Christian order. Here is the source of our anxiety, the ground of our fears,—not for the church, not for ourselves, but for them. They threaten to be more violent enemies to religion than any kings have been since the persecuting emperors of pagan Rome; and the conduct of the Swiss radicals, the imprisonment of the noble bishop of Lausanne and Geneva in the Castle of Chillon, and the persecution of the children of St. Alphonsus by the people of Vienna, reveal but too plainly the spirit which animates them, and tell us but too distinctly what, at least for a time, we are to expect from the triumph of the popular party. Nevertheless, a wise and just Providence rules, and these things are permitted only as mercies or judgments upon the nations. It is ours to humble ourselves and adore; and always have we this consolation, that no evil can befall us against our will, and that always and everywhere may we secure every good by unreserved submission to God in his church.


(From Brownson's Quarterly Review for April, 1849.] A CRITIC in this city expresses surprise that this book could have been written by a young man born and brought up in Kentucky; but we see no reason why it could not have been written by a young man as well as by an old man, and in Kentucky as well as in any other part of the Union. We suppose they read and think in Kentucky as well as in Massachusetts; and it is not more strange that a young Kentuckian than that a Bostonian should expend a good deal of thought in elaborating a system compounded of truth and falsehood, common-place and crude speculation. The book certainly indicates some natural and acquired ability, but no ability peculiar to either side of the Alleghanies. The substance of it may be read any day in Schlegel, Carlyle, Macanlay, Guizot, Bancroft, and The Boston Quarterly Review. We have discovered nothing new or striking in the views it sets forth, or if now and then something we never met with before, it is usually something we have no desire to meet with again.

The author tells us, in his brief advertisement, “that it may seem presumptuous for a young backwoodsman to enter the lists with Schlegel, Guizot, and Macaulay.” We think it not only may seem so, but that it actually is so; for Schlegel and Guizot-to say nothing of Macaulay—are at least men of varied and profound erudition. They are scholars, and have not derived their learning at second or third band. Mr. Nourse may rival, nay, surpass them, in his ambition and self-confidence; but he must live long, and enjoy advantages of study which neither Kentucky nor Massachusetts affords, before he rivals them in any thing else, or can do much else than travesty them. Not that we regard either of them as a safe guide. Guizot is eclectic and humanitarian ; and Schlegel is too mystical, and too ambitious to reduce within a theory matters which by their very nature transcend any theory the human mind can form or comprehend. Mr. Nourse has, if you will, extraordinary natural

* Remarks on the Past, and its Legacies to American Society. By J. D. NOURSE, Louisville (Ky.): 1847.


abilities, an honest and ingenuous disposition; but he has not yet begun to master the present, far less the whole past. He has a vague recognition of religion, concedes some influence to Christianity in civilizing the world; but he is without faith, and has yet to learn the very rudiments of the Christian creed. We doubt, also, whether he is able to give even the outlines of a single historical period, or of a single people or institution, with sufficient accuracy to enable them to serve as the basis of a single sound induction. One should know the facts of history before proceeding to construct its philosophy. He will forgive us, therefore, if we tell him that we do regard him as not a little presumptuous in attempting a work for which he has in reality not a single qualification. He writes, indeed, with earnestness ; his style, though somewhat cramped, and deficient in freedom and ease, is dignified, simple, clear, and terse, occasionally rich and beautiful; but this cannot atone for the general incorrectness of his statements, or the crudeness and unsoundness of his speculations.

With sound premises and freed from the prejudices of his education, we doubt not, Mr. Nourse might arrive at passable conclusions ; but he is ruined by his love of theorizing, his false philosophy, and his unsound theology. He may have philanthropic impulses and generous sentiments; he may mean to be a Christian, and actually believe that he is a Christian believer; but, whether he knows it or not, the order of thought which he seeks to develop and propagate is neither more nor less than the old Alexandrian syncretism, as obtained through German mysticism, French eclecticism, and Boston transcendentalism. Radically considered, his system, if system it can be called, is the old Alexandrian system, which sprang up in the third century of our era, as the rival of the Christian Church, ascended the throne of the Cæsars with Julian the Apostate, and fled to Persia in the sixth century, when Justinian closed the last schools of philosophy at Athens. This system was an attempted fusion of all the particular forms of gentilism, moulded into a shape as nearly like Christianity as it might be, and intended to dispute with it the empire of the world. It borrowed largely from Christianity,—copied the forms of its hierarchy, and many of its dogmas; which has led some in more recent times, who never consult chronology, to charge the church with having herself copied her hierarchy, her ritual, and her principal doctrines from it. It made no direct war on the Christian symbol ; it simply denied or derided the source whence it was obtained, and the anthority which Christian faith always presupposes. It called itself Philosophy, and its pretension was to raise philosophy to the dignity of religion, and to do by it what Christianity professes to do by faith and an external and supernaturally accredited revelation. It was, therefore, gentile rationalism, and, in fact, gentile rationalism carried to its last degree of perfection. It is this rationalism, met and refuted by the great fathers of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, that lies at the bottom of our author's thought, and which he labors to reproduce with a zeal-we cannot say ability-not unworthy of a disciple of Plotinus, Proclus, and Porphyrius.

This should not surprise us. There is nothing new under the sun. The old gentile world exhausted human reason ; and it is not possible, even with a full knowledge of all the church teaches, taking human reason alone as the basis of our system, to surpass the old Alexandrian syncretisin, or Neoplatonism, as it is sometimes called. In constructing it, the human mind had present to it, as materials, all the labors and traditions of gentilism in all ages and nations, and also all the teachings and traditions of Jews and Christians, as well as of the Jewish and early Christian sects; and it was, from the point of view of rationalism, the résumé of the whole. It was the last word of heathendom. In it gentilism, collecting and combining all that was not the Christian Church, exerted all her forces and all her energies for a last desperate battle against the Nazarene, against the triumph of the cross. Catholicity or rationalism is, as every one knows or may know, the only alternative that remains to us since the preaching of the Gospel. Impossible, then, is it to depart from Catholicity without falling back on rationalism, and, if a little profound and consistent, upon Neoplatonism, as rationalism in its fulness and integrity. All heresies are simply attempts to return to this rationalism, and in it they find their complement, as may be historically as well as logically established. All your modern philosophies are regarded as profound and complete only as they approach it. Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Cousin, Leroux, De La Mennais

, Hermes, Schleiermacher, Carlyle, Emerson, Parker, all belong to the Alexandrian school, and only reproduce, more or less successfully, its teachings, and to the best of their ability renew the war it waged against the Christian Church.

VOL. X-8

It is no objection to what we assert, that the sects and many of the modern philosophies retain some or even the greater part of the Christian dogmas. Neoplatonism did as much. We must not forget that Neoplatonism is subsequent to the Christian Church; that it took its rise in the school of Ammonius Saccas, in the beginning of the third century of our era; that it received its form and development from Plotinus, who flourished about the year of our Lord 260; and that it proposed itself as the rival rather than the antagonist of Christianity. Its aim was to satisfy the ever-recurring and indestructible religious wants of the human soul, without recognizing the Christian Church, or bowing to the authority of the Nazarene. It was not the Christian doctrines, abstracted from the Christian Church, and received as philosophy on the authority of reason or even private inspirations, instead of the authority of our Lord and his supernaturally commissioned teachers, that it opposed. It was willing to accept Christianity as a philosophy, or a part of philosophy; but not as a religion, far less as a religion complete in itself and excluding all others. Hence, it, as well as the church, taught one supreme God existing as a trinity in unity, the immortality of the soul, the fall of man and the corruption of human nature, the necessity of redemption, self-denial and the practice of austere virtue; that we are bound to worship God, must live for him, and can attain to supreme felicity only in attaining to ineffable union with him. In the simple province of philosophy it was often profound and just. In many things it and Christianity ran parallel one with the other. Not unfrequently do the Alexandrian philosophers talk like Christian fathers, and Christian fathers talk like Alexandrian philosophers. There is Neoplatonism in St. Gregory Nazianzen, in St. Basil, and St. Augustine. The most renowned of the fathers studied in its schools, as distinguished doctors now study in the schools of the philosophers of France and Germany. But Neoplatonism was at bottom a philosophy, and whatever it held from Christianity, it held as philosophy, as resting on a human, not a divine basis. The philosophers transformed Christianity, so far as they accepted it, into a philosophy; while the fathers made Neoplatonism, so far as they did not reject it, subservient to Christianity, to the statement and explication of Christian theology to the human understanding, keeping it always within the province of reason, and never allowing it to be

« AnteriorContinuar »