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In the presence of authority there is no liberty ; where, theu, is liberty? It is not before God, but it is between man and man, between man and society, and between society and society. The absolute and plenary sovereignty of God excludes all other sovereignty, and our absolute and unconditional subjection to him
excludes all other subjection. Hence no liberty before God, and no subjection before man; and therefore liberty is rightly defined, full and entire freedom from all authority but the authority of God. Here is liberty, liberty in the human sphere, and liberty full and entire, without restraint or limit in the sphere to which it pertains. Man is subjected to God, but to God only. No man, in his own right, has any, the least, anthority over man; no body or community of men, as such, has any rightful authority either in spirituals or temporals. All merely human authorities are usurpations, and their acts are without obligation, null and void from the beginning. If the parent, the pastor, the prince has any right to command, it is as the vicar of God, and in that character alone; if I am bound to obey my parents, my pastor, or my prince, it is because my God commands me to obey them, and because in obeying them I am obeying him. Here is the law of liberty, and here, too, is the law of authority. Understand now why religion must found the state, why it is nonsense or blasphemy to talk of an alliance between religion and liberty, a reconciliation between authority and freedom. Both proceed from the same fountain, the absolute, underived, unlimited sovereignty of God, and can be no more opposed one to the other than God can be opposed to himself. Hence, absolute and unconditional subjection to God is absolute and unlimited freedom. Therefore says our Lord, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
The sovereignty of God does not oppose liberty ; it founds and guarantees it. Authority is not the antagonist of freedom; it is its support, its vindicator. It is not religion, it is not Christianity, but infidelity, that places authority and liberty one over against the other, in battle array. It is not God who crushes our liberty, robs us of our rights, and binds heavy burdens upon our shoulders, too grievous to be borne ; it is man, who at the same time that he robs us of our rights robs God of his. He who attacks our freedom attacks his sovereignty; he who vindicates his sovereignty, the rights of God, vindicates the rights of
man; for all human rights are summed up in the one right to be governed by God and by him alone, in the duty of absolute subjection to him, and absolute freedom from all subjection to any other. Maintain, therefore, the rights of God, the supremacy in all departments of the divine law, and you need not trouble your heads about the rights of man, freedom of thought, or civil liberty; for they are secured with all the guaranty of the divine sovereignty. The divine sovereignty is, therefore, as indispensable to liberty as to authority.
We need not stop to show that the divine sovereignty is not itself a despotism. The essence of despotism, as we have said, is not that it is authority, but that it is authority without right, will without reason, power without justice, which can never be said of God; for his right to universal dominion is unquestionable, and in him will and reason, power and justice, are never disjoined, are identical, are one and the same, and are indistinguishable save in our manner of conceiving them. His sovereignty is rightful, his will is intrinsically, eternally, and immutably just will
, his power just power. Absolute subjection to him is absolute subjection to eternal, immutable, and absolute justice. Hence, subjection to him alone is, on the one hand, subjection to absolute justice, and, on the other, freedom to be and to do all that absolute justice permits. Here is just authority as great as can be conceived, and true liberty as large as is possible this side of license; and between the two there is and can be in the nature of things no clashing, no conflict, no antagonism. How mean and shallow is infidel philosophy!
Taking this view along with us, a view which is alike that of Christianity and of sound philosophy, we cannot fail to perceive that the objection urged against the church is exceedingly ill-chosen. The church, if what she professes
. to be, and we have the right here to reason on the supposition that she is,-represents the divine sovereignty, and is commissioned by God to teach and to govern in his
Her authority, then, is his authority, and it is he that teaches and governs in her and through her; so far, then, from being hostile to liberty in one department or another, she must be its support and safeguard in every department. The ground and condition of liberty is the presence of the divine sovereignty, for in its presence there is no other sovereignty, no other authority, consequently no
slavery. The objection, that the church is a spiritnal despotism, is grounded on the supposition that all authority is despotism and all liberty license,—that is, that liberty and authority are antagonist forces,—which would require us to deny both, for neither despotism nor license is defensible. Authority and liberty are only the two phases of one and the same principle; suppose the absence of authority, you suppose the presence of license or despotism, which, again, are only the two phases of one and the same thing. To remove license or despotisın, you must suppose
presence of legitimate authority. The church being the representative of the divine sovereignty on the earth, introduces legitimate authority, and by her presence necessarily displaces both despotism and license, that is, establishes both order and liberty.
The difficulty which Protestants and unbelievers suppose must exist in conforming reason, which is not always obedient to will, to the commands of authority, arises from their overlooking the nature of authority. The authority is not only an order to believe, but it is authority for believing. The authority of reason in the natural order is derived from God, not from man; and the obligation to believe the axioms of mathematics or the definitions of geometry arises solely from the fact, that reason, which declares them, does, thus far, speak by divine authority. If it did not, reason would be no reason for believing or asserting them. The same divine authority in a higher order, speaking through the church, cannot be less authoritative, or a less authority for believing what the church teaches. Hence the command of the church is at once authority for the will and for the reason, an injunction to believe and a reason for believing. The absolute submission of reason to her commands is not, as some fancy, the abnegation of reason. Reason does not, in submitting, fold her hands, shut her eyes, and take a doze, like a fat alderman after dinner, but keeps wide awake, and exercises her highest powers, her most sacred rights, according to her own nature. What more reasonable reason for believing than the command of God?—since, in the order of truth, his sovereignty is identically his veracity. To suppose a Catholic mind can have any difficulty in bringing reason to assent to the teachings of the church, believed to be God's church, is as absurd as to suppose that an American who has never been abroad can have any difficulty in believing that there is such a city as Paris, or that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte has recently been elected president of the French Republic; or as to suppose that the logician finds a difficulty in bringing his reason to assent to the proposition that the same is the same, that the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time, or that two and two make four.
It is not the church that establishes spiritual despotism; it is she who saves us from it. Spiritual despotism is that which subjects us, in spiritual matters, to a human authority, whether our own or that of others,—for our own is as human as another's; and the only redemption from it is in having in them a divine authority. Protestants themselves acknowledge this, when they call out for the pure word of God. The church teaches by divine authority; in submitting to her, we submit to God, and are freed from all human authority. She teaches infallibly; therefore, in believing what she teaches, we believe the truth, which frees us from falsehood and error, to which all men withont an infallible guide are subject, and subjection to which is the elemental principle of all spiritual despotism. Her authority admitted excludes all other authority, and therefore frees us from heresiarchs and sects, the very embodiment of spiritual despotism in its most odious forms. Sectarianism is spiritual despotism itself; and to know how far spiritual despotism and spiritual slavery may go, you have only to study the history of the various sects and false religions which now exist, or have heretofore existed.
In the temporal order, again, the authority claimed and exercised by the church is nothing but the assertion over the state of the divine sovereignty, which she represents, or the subjection of the prince to the law of God, in his character of prince as well as in his character of man. That the prince or civil power is subject to the law of God, no man who admits Christianity at all dares question; and, if the church be the divinely commissioned teacher and guardian of that law, as she certainly is, the same subjection to her must be conceded. But this, instead of being opposed to civil liberty, is its only possible condition. Civil liberty, like all liberty, is in being held to no obedience but obedience to God; and obedience to the state can be compatible with liberty only on the condition that God commands it, or on the condition that he governs in the state, which he does not and cannot do, unless the state holds from his law and is subject to it. To deny, then, the supremacy of the church in temporals is only to release the temporal order from its subjection to the divine sovereignty, which, so far as regards the state, is to deny its authority, or its right to govern, and, so far as regards the subject, is to assert pure, unmitigated civil despotism. All authority divested of the divine sanction is despotic, because it is authority without right, will unregulated by reason, power disjoined from justice. Withdraw the supremacy of the church from the temporal order, and you deprive the state of that sanction, by asserting that it does not hold from God and is not amenable to his law; you give the state simply a human basis, and have in it only a human authority, which has no right to govern, which we are not bound to obey, and which it is intolerable tyranny to compel us to obey."Let every soul,” says the blessed apostle Paul, the doctor of the gentiles, “ be subject to the higher powers ; for there is no power but from God; and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth power resisteth the ordinance of God. .. Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake.” (Rom. xii. 1-5.) Here the obligation of obedience is grounded on the fact that the civil power is the ordinance of God, that is, as we say, holds from God. But, obviously, this, while it subjects the subject to the state, equally subjects the state to the divine sovereignty. Take away the subjection of the state to God, and you take away the reason of the subjection of the subject to the state ; and we need not tell you that to subject us to an authority which we are not bound to obey is tyranny. See, then, what you get by denying the supremacy of the church in temporals !
The church and the state, as administrations, are distinct bodies; but they are not, as some modern politicians would persuade us, two coördinate and mutually independent authorities. The state holds under the law of nature, and has authority only within the limits of that law. As long as it confines itself within that law, and faithfully executes its provisions, it acts freely, without ecclesiastical restraint or interference. But the church holds from God under the supernatural or revealed law, which includes, as integral in itself, the law of nature, and is therefore the teacher and guardian of the natural as well as of the revealed law. She is, under God, the supreme judge of both laws, which for her are but one law; and hence she takes cognizance, in her tribunals, of the breaches of the natural law as well as