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form it has ever assumed. In doing this, great attention should be paid to chronology; for the gentilism with which it is the fashion among Protestants and unbelievers to compare Christianity, and from which it is pretended the church has largely borrowed, will be found to have been formed two centuries and a half after the birth of our Lord. The stupendous fabric, that systematic organization of gentilism, which we find in the time of Julian the Apostate, and which fell with him, was not the model copied by the church, but was itself modelled after the Christian hierarchy, and it is heathenism that has Christianized, not the church that has heathenized. The Platonism of modern times, whether on the Continent or in England, is not the Platonism of Plato, but of the Alexandrians, as every one knows who has studied Plato himself in his own inimitable Dialogues, not merely in the speculations of Plotinus, or the commentaries of Proclus.
That our author, born and brought up in the Protestant world, and formed by its gentile spirit and tendencies, should even unconsciously fall into the Alexandrian order of thought, and labor to reconstruct a system intended to rival the Christian, is nothing strange. In doing so, he only yields to the spirit of the age, and follows the lead of those whom the age owns and reverences as its chiefs. That his system is not Christian, although he would have us receive it as Christian, is evident enough from his dictum with regard to miracles. "The miracles ascribed to Christ and his Apostles,” he says (p. 61,)“ however conclusive to those who witnessed them, are no evidence to us, until by other means we have established the truth of the writings which record them,—that is to say, until we have proved all that we wish to prove." There is a sophism in this, which, probably, the author does not perceive. If the writings are the only authority for the miracles as historical facts, that we must establish their historical authenticity before the miracles can be evidence to us, we concede; but not their truth, that is, the truth of the mysteries they teach, the material object of faith,—therefore the matter we want proved. The miracles are not proofs of the mysteries, but simply motives of credibility. “Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man could do these miracles which thou doest, unless God were with him." Ordinary historical testimony, though wholly inadequate to prove the mysteries, is sufficient to prove the miracles as facts, and, when so proved, they are evidence to us in the same manner and in the same degree that they were to those who witnessed them. It does not, therefore, follow that we must prove, without them, all we want proved, before they can be evidence to us.
But this by the way. The author in his dictum asserts either that Christianity is not provable at all, or that it is provable without miracles; but no Christian can assert either the one or the other. The former is absurd, if Christianity came from God and is intended for reasonable beings. God, as the author of reason, cannot require us to believe, and we as reasonable beings cannot believe, without reason, or authority sufficient to satisfy reason. The latter cannot be said without reducing Christianity to the mere order of nature; for a supernatural religion is, in the nature of things, provable only by supernaturally accredited witnesses, and witnesses cannot be supernaturally accredited without miracles of some sort. To deny the necessity of miracles as motives of credibility, or to assert the provability of Christianity without them, is to deny the supernatural character of Christianity, and therefore to deny Christianity itself; for Christianity is essentially and distinctively supernatural. Without the miracles, Christianity is provable only as a philosophy, and as a philosophy it must lie wholly within the order of nature; since philosophy, by its very definition, is the science of principles cognizable by the light of natural reason. Rationalism turns for ever within the limits of nature, and, do its best, it can never overleap them. It can never rise to Cliristianity; all it can do is, by rejecting or explaining away the mysteries, discarding all that transcends reason, to bring Christianity down to itself,-a fact we commend to the serious consideration of all who pretend that our religion, even to its loftiest mysteries, is rationally or philosophically demonstrable. The Christianity they can prove as a philosophy is no more the Christianity of the Gospel than the Neoplatonism of Proclus and Plotinus was the Christianity of the Gregories, the Basils, and the Augustines.
The author also betrays the unchristian character of his order of thought in his third discourse, entitled Spiritual Despotism and the Reformation. He says, indeed, in this part of his work, some very handsome things—in his own estimation of the church; but, as he says them from the humanitarian point of view, on the hypothesis that she is a purely human institution, and therefore a gigantic imposition upon mankind, we cannot take them as evidences of his Christian mode of thinking. If the church is what we hold her to be, these humanitarian compliments and apologies are impertinent; and if what he holds her to be, they betray on his part a very unchristian laxity of moral principle. An infallible church, the church of God, needs no apologies ; man's church, or the synagogue of Satan, deserves none. But, although the author maintains that the church was very necessary from the fifth to the fifteenth century, that she preserved our holy religion, and without her Christian faith and piety would have been lost, Christianity would have been unable to fulfil her mission, and the European nations would have remained uncivilized, ignorant, illiterate, ruthless barbarians,—he yet holds that she was a spiritual despotism, and the Protestant reformation was inevitable and necessary to emancipate the human mind from her thraldom, and to prepare the way for mental and civil freedom.
According to the author, the spiritual despotism of the church consisted in her claiming and exercising authority over faith and morals,-over the minds, the hearts, and the consciences of the faithful. If we catch his meaning, which does not appear to lie very clear or distinct even in his own mind, the despotism is in the authority itself, not simply in the fact that the church claims and exercises it. It would be equally despotism, if claimed and exercised by any one else, because it is intrinsically hostile to the rights of the mind and to the principles of civil liberty. Consequently, he objects not merely to the claimant, but to the thing claimed, and rejects the authority, let who will claim it, or let it be vested where or in whom it may.
But this is obviously unchristian. If we suppose Christianity at all, we must suppose it as an external revelation from God, á definite and authoritative religion, given by the supreme Lawgiver to all men as the supreme law, binding upon the whole man, against which no one has the right to think, speak, or act, and to which every one is bound to conform in thought, word, and deed. All this is implied in the very conception of Christianity, and must be admitted, if we admit the Christian religion at all. The authority objected to is therefore included in the fundamental conception of the Christian revelation, and consequently we cannot denominate it a spiritual despotism without denominating Christianity itself a spiritual despotism, which, we need not say, would be any thing but Christian.
“The author's order of thought would carry him even further. If the authority of the church is a spiritual despotism for the reason he assigns, the authority of God is also a spiritual despotism. The principle on which he objects to the church is, that the mind and the state are free, and that any authority over either is unjust. The essence of despotism is not that it is authority, but that it is authority without right, will without reason, power without justice. We cannot suppose the existence of God without supposing the precise authority over the mind and the state objected to. If this authority, claimed and exercised in his name by the church, is despotism, it must be, then, because he has no right to it; if no right to it, he is not sovereign; if not sovereign, he does not exist. If God does not exist, there
, is no conscience, no law, no accountability, moral or civil. To this conclusion the author's notions of mental freedom and civil liberty, pushed to their logical consequences, necessarily lead.
Every Christian is obliged to recognize, in the abstract, to say the least, the precise authority claimed and exercised by the church over faith and morals, over the intellect and the conscience, in spirituals and in temporals; and it is a well-known fact, that all Christian sects, as long as they retain any thing distinctively Christian, do claim, and, as far as able, exercise it, and never practically abandon it, till they lapse into pure rationalism, from which all that is distinctively Christian disappears. It cannot be otherwise ; because Christianity is essentially law, and the supreme law, for the reason, the will, and the conscience, for individuals and nations, for the subject and for the prince. If our author's order of thought were Christian, he could not object to authority in itself; he would feel himself obliged to assert and vindicate it somewhere for some one; and if he objected to the church at all, he would do so, not because of the authority, but because it is not rightfully hers, but another's, —which would be a legitimate objection, and conclusive, if sustained, as of course it cannot be, by the facts in the case. His failure to object on this ground is a proof that his thought is not Christian.
The anthor's notions of authority and liberty are not only unchristian, but exceedingly unphilosophical and confused. He has no just conception of either, and is evidently unable to draw any intelligible distinction between authority and despotism on the one hand, or between liberty and license on the other. He can conceive of authority and liberty only as each is the antagonist or the limitation of the other; he ingenuously confesses that he is unable to reconcile them, and presents their reconciliation as a problem that Protestantism has yet to solve. “To adjust the respective limits of these antagonists,-liberty of thought and ecclesiastical authority,—and bring about a lasting treaty of peace between them, is the yet unsolved problem of the reformation. The reformers attempted to solve it, and strove in vain to confine the torrent they had set in motion, within certain dikes of their own construction. The spring-tide of free inquiry, not yet perhaps at its flood, is sweeping away their barriers, and ages may elapse before it subsides into its proper channel, after cleansing the earth of a thousand follies and abuses." (p. 160.) All this proves that his order of thought is unchristian, and that his conceptions of authority and of liberty are not taken from the Gospel. No intelligent Christian, no sound philosopher even, ever conceives of authority and liberty as antagonists, as limiting one the other, or admits that their conciliation is an unsolved problem, or even a problem at all.
The Christian, even the philosopher, derives all from God, and nothing from man, and therefore escapes the difficulty felt by our author and the reformers. He knows that authority is not authority, if limited, and liberty is not liberty, if bounded. Consequently, he never conceives of the two in the same sphere, but distributes them in separate spheres, where each may be supreme. God is the absolute, underived, and unlimited sovereign and proprietor of the universe. Here is the foundation of all authority, and also of all liberty. Before God we have no liberty. We are his, and not our own. We are what he creates us, have only what he gives us, and lie completely at his mercy. We hold all from him, even to the breath in our nostrils, and he has the sovereign right to dispose of us according to his own will and pleasure. In his presence, and in presence
, of his law, we have duties, but no rights, and our duty and his right is the full, entire, and unconditional submission of ourselves, soul and body, to his will. Here is authority, absolute, full, entire, and unbounded, -as must be all authority, in order to be authority.