Protestantism ends in Transcendentalism
Brownson's Quarterly Review, July, 1846
Art. IV. Margaret, a Tale of the Real and Ideal, Blight and Bloom, including Sketches of a Place not before described, called Mons Christi. Boston: Jordan & Wiley. 1845. 12mo. pp. 460.
We have no intention of reviewing at length the book the title of which we have just quoted. Indeed, we have read it only by proxy. We have heard it spoken of in certain literary circles as a remarkable production, almost as one of the wonders of the age. The Protestant lady who read it for us tells us that it is a weak and silly book, unnatural in its scenes and characters, coarse and vulgar in its language and details, wild and visionary in its speculations ; and, judging from the portions here and there which we actually have read, and from the source whence it emanates, we can hardly run any risk in indorsing our Protestant friend's criticism. The author is a man not deficient in natural gifts ; he has respectable attainments ; and makes, we believe, a tolerably successful minister of the latest form of Protestantism with which we chance to be acquainted; though, since we have not been introduced to any new form for several months, it must not be inferred from the fact that we are acquainted with no later form, that none later exists.
So far as we have ascertained the character of this book, it is intended to be the vehicle of certain crude speculations on religion, theology, philosophy, morals, society, education, and matters and things in general. The Mons Christi stands for the human heart, and Christ himself is our higher or instinctive nature, and if we but listen to our own natures, we shall at once learn, love, and obey all that our Blessed Redeemer teaches. Hence, Margaret, a poor, neglected child, who has received no instruction, who knows not even the name of her Maker, nor that of her Saviour, who, in fact, has grown up in the most brutish ignorance, is represented as possessing in herself all the elements of the most perfect Christian character, and as knowing by heart all the essential principles of Christian faith and morals. The author seems also to have written his work, in part at least, for the purpose of instructing our instructers as to the true method of education. He appears to adopt a very simple and a very pleasant theory on the subject, one which cannot fail to commend itself to our young folks. Love is the great teacher ; and the true method of education is for the pupil to fall in love with the tutor, or the tutor with the pupil, and it is perfected when the falling in love is mutual. Whence it follows, that it is a great mistake to suppose it desirable or even proper that tutor and pupil should both be of the same sex. This would be to reverse the natural order, since the sexes were evidently intended for each other. This method, we suppose, should be called " Learning made easy, or Nature displayed," since it would enable us to dispense with school-rooms, prefects, text-books, study, and the birch, and to fall back on our natural instincts. These two points of doctrine indicate the genus, if not the species, of the book, and show that it must be classed under the general head of Transcendentalism. If we could allow ourselves to go deeper into the work and to dwell longer on its licentiousness and blasphemy, we probably might determine its species as well as its genus. But this must suffice; and when we add that the author seems to comprise in himself several species at once, besides the whole genus humbuggery, we may dismiss the book, with sincere pity for him who wrote it, and a real prayer for his speedy restoration to the simple genus humanity, and for his conversion, through grace, to that Christianity which was given to man from above, and not, spider-like, spun out of his own bowels.
Yet, bad and disgusting, false and blasphemous, as this book really is, bating a few of its details, it is a book which no Protestant, as a Protestant, has a right to censure. Many Protestants affect great contempt of Transcendentalism, and horror at its extravagance and blasphemy; but they have no right to do so. Transcendentalism is a much more serious affair than they would have us believe. It is not a simple " Yankee notion," confined to a few isolated individuals in a little corner of New England, as some of our Southern friends imagine, but is in fact the dominant error of our times, is as rife in one section of our common country as in another; and, in principle, at least, is to be met with in every popular Anti-Catholic writer of the day, whether Cerman, French, English, or American. It is, and has been from the first, the fundamental heresy of the whole Protestant world ; for, at bottom, it is nothing but the fundamental principle of the Protestant Reformation itself, and without assuming it, there is no conceivable principle on which it is possible to justify the Reformers in their separation from the Catholic Church. The Protestant who refuses to accept it, with all its legitimate consequences, however frightful or absurd they may be, condemns himself and his whole party.
We are far from denying that many Protestants, and, indeed, the larger part of them, as a matter of fact, profess to hold many doctrines which are incompatible with Transcendentalism ; but this avails them nothing, for they hold them, not as Protestants, but in despite of their Protestantism, and therefore have no right to hold them at all. In taking an account of Protestantism, we have the right, and, indeed, are bound, to exclude them from its definition. Every man is bound, as the condition of being ranked among rational beings, to be logically consistent with himself,; and no one can claim as his own any doctrine which does not flow from, or which is not logically consistent with, his own first principles. This follows necessarily from the principle, that of contraries one must be false, since one necessarily excludes, the other. If, then, the doctrines incompatible with Transcendentalism, which Protestants profess to hold, do not flow from their own first principles, or if they are not logically compatible with them, they cannot claim them as Protestants, and we have the right, and are bound, to exclude them from the definition of Protestantism. The man cannot be scientifically included in the definition of the horse, because both chance to be lodged in the same stable, or to be otherwise found in juxtaposition.
The essential mark or characteristic of Protestantism is. unquestionably, dissent from the authority of the Catholic Church, in subjection to which the first Protestants were spiritually born and reared. This is evident from the whole history of its origin, and from the well known fact, that opposition to Catholicity is the only point on which all who are called Protestants can agree among themselves. On every other question which comes up, they differ widely one from another, and not unfrequently some take views directly opposed to those taken by others ; but when it concerns opposing the Church, however dissimilar their doctrines and tempers, they all unite, and are ready to march as one man to the attack. As dissent, Protestantism is negative, denies the authority of the Catholic Church, and can include within its definition nothing which, even in the remotest sense, concedes or implies that authority. But no man, sect, or party can rest on a mere negation, for no mere negation is or can be an ultimate principle. Every negation implies an affirmation, and therefore an affirmative principle which authorizes it. He who dissents does so in obedience to some authority or principle which commands or requires him to dissent, and this principle, not the negation, is his fundamental principle. The essential or fundamental principle of Protestantism is, then, not dissent from the authority of the Catholic Church, but the affirmative principle on which it relies for the justification of its dissent.
What, then, is this affirmative principle ? Whatever it be, it must be either out of the individual dissenting, or in him; that is, some external authority, or some internal authority. The first supposition is not admissible; for Protestants really allege no authority for dissent, external to the individual dissenting* have never defined any such authority, never hinted that such authority exists or is needed; and there obviously is no such authority which can be adduced. In point of fact, so far from dissenting from the Church on the ground that they are commanded to do so by an external authority paramount to the Church, they deny the existence of all external authority in matters of faith, and defend their dissent on the ground that there is no such authority, never was, and never can be.
But some may contend, judging from the practice of Protestants, and what we know of the actual facts of the original establishment of Protestantism in all those countries in which it has become predominant, that it does recognize an external authority, which it holds paramount to the Church, and on which it relies for its justification. Protestantism, as a matter of fact, owes its establishment to the authority of the lay lords and temporal princes, or, in a general sense, to the civil authority. It was, originally, much more of a political revolt than of a strictly religious dissent, and its causes must be sought in the ambition of princes, dating back from Louis of Bavaria, and including Louis the Twelfth of France, rather than in any real change of faith operated in the masses; and its way was prepared by the temper of mind which the temporal princes created in their subjects by the wars they undertook and carried on ostensibly against the popes as political sovereigns, but really for the purpose of possessing the patrimony of the Church, and of subjecting the Church, in their respective dominions, to the control of the secular power. The Reformers would have accomplished little or nothing, if politics had not come to their aid. Luther would have bellowed in vain, had he not been backed by the powerful Elector of Saxony, and immediately aided by the Landgrave Philip; Zwingle, and CEcolampadius, and Calvin would have accomplished nothing in Switzerland, if they had not secured the aid of the secular arm, and followed its wishes; the powerful Huguenot party in France was more of a political than of a religious party, and it dwindled into insignificance as soon as it lost the support of the great lords, distinguished statesmen and lawyers, and the provincial parliaments. In Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, the Reform was purely the act of the civil power; in the United Provinces, it was embraced as the principle of revolt, or of national independence ; in England, it was the work, confessedly, of the secular government, and was carried by court and parliament against the wishes of the immense majority of the nation ; in Scotland, it was effected by the great lords, who wished to usurp to themselves the authority of the crown ; in this country, it came with the civil government, and was maintained by civil enactments, pains, and penalties. We might, therefore, be led, at first sight, to assert the fundamental principle of Protestantism to be the supremacy in spirituals of the civil power. But this would be a mistake, because it did not recognize this supremacy unless the civil power was Anti-Catholic, and because the assertion of this supremacy of the civil power in spirituals was itself a denial of the authority of the Church, and therefore could not be made without making the act of dissent. There is no question but the Protestants did, whenever it suited their purpose, assert the supremacy of the state in spiritual matters; and it must be conceded that it is very agreeable to its nature to do so, as is evident from the fact, that even now, and in this country, it opposes the Catholic Church chiefly, and with the most success, on the ground that Catholicity asserts the freedom of religion, or, what is the sarhe thing, the independence of the spiritual authority. Still this cannot be its ultimate principle. The Church taught and teaches, that, though the independence of the civil power in matters purely temporal is asserted, its authority in spirituals is null. To deny this is to deny the Church, and as much to dissent from her authority as to deny her infallibility, her divine origin, or any article of the creed she teaches; and this must be denied before the supremacy of the civil power in spirituals can be asserted. Therefore, if Protestantism did openly, avowedly, assert the Erastian heresy of the supremacy of the civil power in spirituals, it would not justify her dissent by an external authority, unless she could make this assertion itself on some external authority acknowledged to be paramount to the Church. But for this she has no external authority, since the Church denies it, and the authority of the state is the matter in question. She can, then, assert the supremacy of the state only on the authority of some principle in the individual dissenting, and therefore only on some internal authority. Whatever authority, then, Protestantism may ascribe to the civil power, it is not an external authority, because the authority asserted is, as we have seen in a previous article, always of the same order as that on which it is asserted, and can never transcend it.
Others, again, may think, since Protestants, and especially those among them denominated Anglicans and Episcopalians, occasionally appeal to Christian antiquity, and talk of the Fathers, and sometimes even profess to quote them, that they have, or think they have, in Christian antiquity an authority for dissent, virtually, at least, external to the individual dissenting. But Christian antiquity, unless read with a presumption in favor of the Church, save on a few general and public facts manifestly against Protestants, decides nothing. Understood as the Church understands it, and it evidently may, without violence to its letter or spirit, be so understood, it condemns Protestantism without mercy. To make it favor Protestantism even negatively, it is necessary to resort to a principle of interpretation which the Church does not concede, and the adoption of which would, therefore, involve the dissent in question. If we take with us the canon, that all in the Christian Fathers is to be understood in accordance with the Church when not manifestly against her, Christian antiquity will be all on the side of the Roman Catholic Church ; if we take the canon, that all in the Christian Fathers is to be understood in a sense against the Church, when not manifestly in her favor, Christian"antiquity may, on many important dogmas, leave the question doubtful; though even then it would, in fact, be decisive for the authority of the Church, and therefore implicitly for all special dogmas. But, be this as it may, it is undeniable that it is only by adopting this latter canon that Protestantism can derive any countenance from Christian antiquity. But on what authority do they, or can they, adopt such a canon ? Protestants call themselves reformers ; they are accusers, dissenters, and therefore all the presumptions in the case are manifestly against them, as they are -against all who accuse, bring an action or a charge against others ; and they must make out a strong prima facie case, before they can turn the presumptions in their favor. This is law, and it is justice. Till they do this, the presumption is in favor of the Church ; and then it is enough for her to show that the testimony of antiquity may, without violence, be so understood as not to impeach her
claims. Till then, nothing will make for Protestants which is not manifestly against her, so clear and express as by no allowable latitude of interpretation to be reconcilable with her pretensions. That is to say, the Protestant must impeach the Church on prima facie evidence, before he can have the right to adopt that canon of interpretation without which it is manifestly suicidal for him to appeal to Christian antiquity. Take, as an illustration of what we mean, the testimony of St. Justin Martyr to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence. It is clear to any one who reads the passage, that the words in a plain and easy sense confirm the Catholic doctrine ; and yet, if there were an urgent necessity for interpreting them otherwise, we are not certain but, without greater deviation from the literal sense than is sometimes allowed, they might be so understood as not to be inconsistent with the views of the Blessed Eucharist which some Protestant sects profess to entertain. But by what authority, because they may be so interpreted, are we to say they must be ? In truth, it is nothing to the Protestant's purpose to say they may be, till he establishes by positive authority they must be, for it is obvious they also may not be. Now, what and where is this positive authority ? Manifestly not in Christian antiquity itself; and yet it must be had, before Christian antiquity can be adduced as authorizing dissent from the Catholic Church. This authority, as we said before, must be either external to the dissenter or internal in the dissenter himself. It cannot be external; for, after the Church, there is no conceivable external authority applicable in the case. It must, then, be internal. Then the authority of Christian antiquity, as alleged against the Church, is only the authority there is in the dissenter himself, according to the principle already established, that the authority asserted is necessarily of the same order as that on which it is asserted.
Finally, it will, perhaps, be alleged, inasmuch as all Protestants did at first, and some of them do now, appeal to the written word, or the Holy Scriptures, in justification of their dissent, that they have in these a real or a pretended authority, external to and independent of the dissenter, distinct from and paramount to that of the Church. But a moment's reflection will show, even if the Scriptures were not in favor of the Church, that this is a mistake. The Holy Scriptures proposed, and their sense declared, by the Church, we hold with a firm faith to be the word of God, and therefore of the highest authority ; but, if not so proposed and interpreted, though in many respects important and authentic historical documents, and valuable for their excellent didactic teachings, they would not and could not be for us the inspired, and, in a supernatural sense, the authoritative, word of God. To the Protestant they are not and cannot be an authority external to the dissenter ; because, denying the unwritten word, the Church, and all authoritative tradition, he has no external authority to vouch for the fact that they are the inspired word of God, or to declare their genuine sense. If there be no external authority to decide that the Bible is the word of God, and to declare its true sense, the authority ascribed to it in the last analysis, according to the principle we have established, is only the authority of some internal principle in the individual dissenting ; for, in that case, the individual, by virtue of this internal principle, decides, with the Bible as without it, what is and what is not God's word, what God has and has not revealed ; and therefore what he is and what he is not bound to believe, what he is and what he is not bound to do. It is, moreover, notorious that Protestants do really deny all external authority in matters of faith, and hold that any external authority to determine for the individual what he must believe would be manifest usurpation, intolerable tyranny, to be resisted by every one who has any sense of Christian freedom, or of his rights and dignity as a man. Even the Anglican Church, which claims to herself authority in controversies of faith, acknowledges that she has no right to ordain any thing as of necessity to salvation, which may not be proved from God's word written ; and by implication at least, if she means any thing, leaves it to the individual to determine for himself whether what she ordains is provable from the written word or not ; and, therefore, abandons her own authority, by making the individual the judge of its legality. No one will, furthermore, pretend that Protestants even affect to have dissented from the Catholic Church, in which they were spiritually born and reared, in obedience to an external authority ; that is to say, another Church, which they held to be paramount to the Roman Catholic Church. If they had admitted that there was anywhere an authoritative Church, they would have agreed that it was this Church, and could have been no other. In denying the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, they denied, and intended to deny, in principle, all external authority in matters of faith ; and the chief count in the indictment of the Church, which they have drawn up, and on which they have been for these three hundred years demanding conviction, is, that she claims to be such authority, when no such authority was instituted, or intended to be instituted. We may, then, saiely conclude that the affirmative principle on which Protestantism relies for the justification of its denial of Catholic authority is not some authority external to the individual dissenting, and held to be paramount to that from which he dissents.
Then the principle must be internal in the individual himself, and this is precisely what Protestantism teaches ; for by her own confession, nay, by her own boast, her fundamental principle is private judgment. This was the only principle which, in the nature of the case, she could set up as the antagonist of Catholic authority ; and it is notorious the world over, that it is in the name of this principle that she arraigns the Church, and commands her to give an account of herself. We see, even to-day, emblazoned on the banners borne by the motley hosts of the so-called " Christian Alliance," this glorious device, The Right of Private Judgment. This is their battle-cry, as Deus Vult was that of the Crusaders. It is their In hoc signo vince. " We want no infallible pope, bishops, or church, to propound and explain to us God's word, to lord it over God's heritage, and make slaves of our very consciences. No ! we are freemen, and we strike for freedom, the glorious birthright of every Christian to judge for himself what is or what is not the word of God ; that is, what he is or is not to believe." There is no mistake in this. If there is any thing essential, any thing fundamental, in Protestantism, any thing which makes it the subject of a predicate at all, it is this far-famed and loud-boasted principle of private judgment.
In saying this, we of course are not to be understood as asserting that Protestants always, or even commonly, respect, in their practice, this right of private judgment. Practically, every Protestant says, " /have the right to think as I please, and you have the right to think as I do ; and if you do not, I will, if I have the power, compel you to do so, or confiscate your goods, deprive you of citizenship, outlaw you, behead, hang, or burn you ; at least, imprison you, flog you, or bore your ears and tongue." In point of fact, Protestants, we grant, have very generally violated the principle of private judgment, and have practised, in the name of religious liberty, the most unjust, tyranny over conscience, unjust, because, on their own principles, they have received from Almighty God no authority to dictate to conscience, and because they also concede, what is unquestionably true, that conscience is accountable to God alone Every attempt of any man, set, or class of men no expressly commissioned by Almighty God,-so expressly that 'he authority exercised shall be really and truly his,-to exert the least control over conscience is a manifest usurpation, an outrageous tyranny, which every man, having a just^eyerence for his Maker, will resist even unto death. The Catholic Church, indeed, claims plenary authority over conscience ; but only on the ground, that she is divinely commissioned, and that Ae authority which speaks in her is literally and as truly die authority of God, as that of the representative is that ol his sovereign. If, per impossibili, she could suppose herselt not to be so commissioned, and therefore not having the pledge of the divine supervision, protection, and aid which such commission necessarily implies, she would concede that she has no authority, and should attempt to exercise none. We cheerfully obey her, because in obeying her we are obeying not a human authority, but God himself. In submitting to her we are free, because we are submitting to God, who is our rightful sovereign, to whom we belong, all that we have, and all that we are. Freedom is not in being held to no obedience, but in being held to obey only the legal sovereign ; and the more unqualified this obedience, the freer we are. Perfect freedom is in having no will of our own, in willing only what our sovereign wills, and because he wills it. If the Church, as we cannot doubt, be really commissioned by God, the more absolute her authority, the more unqualified our submission, the more perfect is our liberty, as every man knows, who knows any thing at all ol that freedom wherewith the Son makes us free. But in yielding obedience to a Protestant sect, it is not the same. When any one of our sects undertakes to dictate to conscience, it is tyranny; because, by its own confession, it has received.no authority from God. It is tyranny, even though what it attempts to enforce be really God's word ; for it attempts to enforce it by a human, and not by a divine authority. It would still tyrannize, because it has no right to enforce any thing at all. It may say, as our sects do say, it has the Bible, that the Bible is God's word, and that it only exacts the obedience to God s commands which no man has the right to withhold. Be it so. But who has made it the keeper and executor ol God s laws t Where is its commission under the hand and seal of the Almighty ? It is, doubtless, right that the civil laws should be
executed, that the murderer, for instance, should be punished ; but it does not therefore follow that I, as a simple citizen, have the right to execute them, and to inflict the punishment. That may be done only by the constituted authorities, and is not my business ; and it is a sound as well as a homely adage, Let every one mind his own business. Protestants, on this point, fall into grievous errors. The simple possession of the Holy Scriptures does not constitute them keepers of the word, even supposing the Scriptures to contain the ivhole word, and give them the right to dictate to conscience, as they imagine, any more than the fact of my having in my possession the statute-book constitutes me the guardian and administrator of the laws of the commonwealth. Protestants, whenever they interfere with the right of private judgment, convict themselves, on.their own principles, of practising on what, in these days, is called " Lynch law " ; and Lynch law is to the state precisely what Protestantism, in practice, is to the Church. This is a fact which deserves the grave consideration of those sects which contend for creeds and confessions, and claim the right to try and punish as heretics such as in their judgment do not conform to them. Even Dr. Beecher himself came very near, a few years since, being lynched by his Presbyterian associates ; and if it had not been for an extraordinary suppleness and marvellous skill in parrying blows, hardly to have been expected in one of his age, it might have been all up with him. Our Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Puritan, and Anglican friends should lay this to heart, and never suffer themselves to complain of the practice of u Lynch-law," or to find the least fault with the commission of Judge Lynch himself, for it emanates from the same authority as their own, and is as regularly made out and authenticated. But this is foreign from our present purpose. It is enough for our present purpose, that Protestants assert, in theory, as they unquestionably do, the right of private judgment, and make it the principle of their dissent from the authority of the Catholic Church.
But all men, at least as to their inherent rights, are equal. The right of private judgment, then, cannot be asserted for one man, without being at the same time, and by the same authority, asserted for all men. Then Protestants cannot assert private judgment as their authority for dissenting from the Catholic Church, without erecting it into a universal principle. We may assume, then, that Protestantism begins by laying down as its principle the right of all men to private judgment.
But the right of all men to private judgment is in effect the unrestricted or universal right to private judgment. This may not have been clearly seen in the beginning, and there is no question but Protestants intended in the commencement to restrict the right of private judgment to the simple interpretation of the written word. But every one, whatever may be his intentions, must be held answerable for the strict logical consequences of the principles he deliberately adopts ; for if he does not foresee these consequences, he ought not to take upon himself the responsibility of adopting the principles. The right of private judgment, once admitted, can no longer be restricted. If restricted at all, it must be by some authority, and this authority must be either external or internal. If internal, it is private judgment itself, and then it cannot restrict, for it would be absurd to say that private judgment can restrict private judgment. But there can be no external authority, because Protestants admit no external authority, and because we cannot assert an external authority to restrict private judgment, without denying private judgment itself. Either the authority must prescribe the limits of private judgment, or private judgment must prescribe the limits of the restriction ; if the first, it is tantamount to the denial of private judgment itself, for private judgment would then subsist only at the mercy of authority, by sufferance, and not by right; if the latter, the authority is null; for private judgment may enlarge or contract the restriction as it pleases, and that is evidently no restriction which is only what that which is restricted chooses to make it. It is impossible, then, to erect private judgment into a principle for all men, and afterwards to restrict it to the simple interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.
If we assert the right of private judgment to interpret the Holy Scriptures, we must assert its right in all cases whatsoever ; for the principle on which private judgment can be defended in one case is equally applicable in every case. Will it be said that private judgment must yield to God's word ? Granted. But what is God's word ? The Bible. How know you that ? Do you determine that the Bible is the word of God by some external authority, or by private judgment ? Not by some external authority, because you have none, and admit none. By private judgment ? Then the authority of the Bible is for you only private judgment. The Bible does not propose itself, and therefore can have no authority higher than the authority which proposes it. Here is a serious difficulty for those Protestants who set up such a clamor about the Bible, and which shows them, or ought to show them, that, whatever the Bible may be for a Catholic, for them it can, in no conceivable contingency, be any thing but a human authority. The authority of that which is proposed is of the same order as that which proposes, and cannot transcend it. This is a Protestant argument, and is substantially the great argument of Chillingworth against Catholicity, and the one under a slightly different form which we have answered in a preceding article. Nothing proposes the Bible to Protestants but private judgment, as is evident from their denial of all other authority ; and therefore in the Bible they not we, thank God ! have only the authority of private judgment, and therefore only the word of man, and not the word of God. If the authority on which Protestants receive the word of God is only that of private judgment, then there is for them in the Bible only private judgment; and then nothing to restrict private judgment, for private judgment can itself be no restriction on private judgment.
Moreover, if we take the Bible to be the word of God on the authority of private judgment, and its sense on the same authority, as Protestants do and must, then we assume private judgment to be competent to decide of itself what is and what is not the word of God, what God has revealed and what he has not revealed, has commanded and has not commanded, and therefore competent to decide what we are to believe and what we are not to believe, and what we are to do and what we are not to do. But this is to assume the whole for private judgment, and therefore to assume its unrestricted right. We may, then, assume, in the second place, that Protestantism not only lays down the principle of the right of all men to private judgment, but the right of all men to the universal or unrestricted right of private judgment.
But private judgment itself is not, strictly speaking, ultimate, and therefore, though it be the principle of Protestantism, is not its ultimate principle. The ultimate principle of Protestantism lies a little farther back. Rights are never in themselves ultimate, but must always, to be rights, rest on some foundation or authority. The right of private judgment necessarily implies some principle on which it is founded. Every judgment is by some standard or measure ; for when we judge it is always by something, and this, whatever it is, is the principle, law, rule, criterion, standard, or measure of the judgment.
In every act of private judgment this standard or measure is the individual judging. The individual judges by himself, and to judge by one's self is precisely what is meant by private judgment. In it the individual is both measurer and measure, in a word, his own yard-stick of truth and goodness. But rights, to be rights, must not only be founded on some principle, but on a true principle ; for to say they are founded on a false principle is only saying, in other words, that they have no foundation at all. The right of all men to unrestricted private judgment, then, necessarily implies that each and every man is in himself the exact measure of truth and goodness. In laying clown the principle of private judgment as the principle of its dissent from the Catholic Church, Protestantism, then, necessarily lays down the principle, that each and every man is in himself the exact measure of truth and goodness, the very fundamental proposition of Transcendentalism, as we established in our Review, one year ago, and from which the other two propositions to which, in our analysis, we reduced its teachings are easily obtained. The identity in principle is, then, perfect; and no Protestant, as we began by saying, can refuse to accept Transcendentalism, with all its legitimate consequences, without condemning himself and his whole party.
This conclusion is undeniable, for the acutest dialectician will find no break or flaw in the chain of reasoning by which it is obtained. We, then, may assume this very important position, that Transcendentalism is the strict logical termination of Protestantism ; and if some Protestants, as is the case, refuse to admit it, it is at the expense of their dialectics ; because they cannot, or dare not, say, Two and two make four, but judge it more prudent to say, Two and two make five, or to compromise the matter and say, Two and two make three. There are few things which are more disgusting than the cow-. ardice which shrinks from avowing the legitimate consequences of one's own principles. The sin of inconsequence is, as the celebrated Dr. Evariste de Gypendole justly remarks, a mortal sin, at least, in the eyes of humanity ; for it is high treason against the rational nature itself; and he who deliberately commits jt voluntarily abdicates reason, and takes his place among inferior and irrational natures. If your principles are sound, you cannot push ^ them to a dangerous extreme; and if they will not bear pushing to their extreme consequences, you should know that they are unsound, and not fit to be entertained ; for it is always lawful to conclude the unsoundness of the principle from the unsoundness of the consequences.
Taking this view of the case, we confess the Transcenden-talists appear to us the more respectable, and indeed the only-respectable, because the only consistent, class of Protestants. Consistent as Protestants, we mean, not as men ; for Transcendentalism is the ne plus ultra of inconsistency and absurdity ; but as Protestants they are consistent in so far as they carry out with an iron logic the Protestant principle to its legitimate results ; and in doing this, in the providence of God, they are rendering no mean service' to the cause of truth. They are a living and practical reductio ad absurdum of Protestantism. They strip it of its disguises, expose it in its nakedness, and subserve the cause of truth as the drunken Helotse subserved the cause of temperance in the Spartan youth by exposing to them the disgusting effects of drunkenness.
It is of great practical importance that Protestantism should be exhibited by its followers in its true light, as it really is in itself. Thus far Protestants have owed their success and influence, in the main, to the fact that the mass of them have never seen and comprehended Protestantism in its simple, unadulterated elements. It has always been presented to them in a livery stolen from Catholicity. The great mass of the Protestant people, seeing it only in this livery, have supposed that it appertained to the household of faith, and that they had in it all that is essential to the Christian religion. Unable to penetrate its disguises, unable to distinguish between what was genuinely Protestant and what was surreptitiously taken from the Church, they could not understand the force or truth of the Catholic accusations against them. It seemed to them utterly false to say that they had no faith, no church, no religion, and that their Protestantism necessarily involved the denial of the whole scheme of revealed religion, and left them in reality nothing but mere Naturalism. Had they not something they called a church ? Had they not places of worship modelled after Christian temples ? Had they not the Holy Scriptures, pastors and teachers, hymns, prayers, all the exterior forms of worship ? Did they not profess to believe in God, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the necessity of Grace, the endless punishment of the wicked, and the eternal beatitude of the just, all that even Catholic doctors have ever taught that it is necessary as ex necessitate medii ad salutem to be explicitly believed ? Did they not try to lead holy and devout lives. spend much time in prayer and praise, seek earnestly to know and do the will of God, and actually, in many instances, attain to a moral elevation which would more than compare favorably with that of many Catholics ? How say, then, that we have no religion, that our principles are at war with Christianity, and lead necessarily to the destruction of all faith, of all Christian morality ? Have we not in our Protestantism, as we hold it, a living he to your unjust charge, your foul aspersion ? It must be confessed, that appearances, to the Protestant, were much against the Catholic, and it required considerable insight and firmness of logic to establish the charges which the Catholic, from the principles of an infallible faith, was fully warranted in preferring. But time and events have now made clear and certain to all who can see and reason, what then seemed so doubtful, not to say, so unfounded. In Transcendentalism, which is both the logical and historical development of Protestantism, it may now be seen that the Protestant, not the Catholic, was deceived ; that not the Catholic was unjust in his charges, but the Protestant was carried away by his delusions. This is an immense gain, and by showing this, by stripping Protestantism of its disguises, by compelling it to abandon what it had attempted to retain of Catholicity, and to restrict it to its own principles, Transcendentalism is subserving in no ordinary degree the cause of religion and morality. Three hundred years of controversy have resulted in simplfying the question, and in making up the true and proper issue. If the true and proper issue could have been made in the beginning, Protestantism would have died in its birth. The mass of "those who have lollowed the Protestant standard have done so because they supposed they had in the Holy Scriptures a divine authority for their belief. Here was their mother delusion. Catholics have really in the Holy Scriptures a divine authority, because they receive them on the proposition of the Church expressly commissioned by Almighty God to propose the truth revealed; but Protestants, as we have seen, since they take the Holy Scriptures only on the authority of private reason, have in them only the authority of private reason, a merely human authority. It is now seen and understood that the Scriptures, if taken on human authority, have only a human authority; and therefore, as Catholics always alleged, Protestants, with all their pretensions, have only a human authority for the dogmas they profess to derive from them, and therefore are not, and never have been, able
to make that act of divine faith without which, if they have come to years of discretion, they possess no Christian virtue, and do nothing meritorious for eternal life. If Christianity be a supernatural life, the life which begins in supernatural faith and contemplates a supernatural destiny, it is now clear that Protestants cannot and never could claim to be truly within the pale of the Christian family, but do reject and always have virtually rejected the Christian religion itself.
This being so, it becomes necessary now either to deny the supernatural character of the Christian life, and therefore the necessity of divine or supernatural faith, or to give up Protestantism as having no claim to be called Christian. This is becoming a general conviction among Protestants themselves, and therefore the tendency to reject Christianity, as a supernatural religion, is manifesting itself all over the Protestant world. Even Bishop Butler, the great Anglican light of the last century, declares the Gospel to be only "a republication of the law of nature " ; and we have rarely met with a Protestant, whatever might be his unintelligible jargon about the New Birth, that did not hold, substantially, that the Christian life is merely the continuation and development of our natural life. The old modes of speech, adopted when Christianity was held to be a supernatural religion, are, we admit, in some instances, retained and insisted upon; but they have lost their former significance. Supernatural is defined to be super-sensuous, as if spiritual existences could not be natural as well as material existences. It is thus Coleridge defines supernatural ; it is thus, also, the Super naturalists of Germany, of the school of Schleiermacher and De Wette, understand it, while the Rationalists deny it in name as well as in reality. In no higher sense do we find the word recognized by the mass of Swiss and French Protestants. " What did Almighty God make us for ?" said we, the other day, to a worthy Protestant preacher, not without note in this community and the councils of his country. " To develope and perfect our spiritual natures,'* was the ready reply ; that is, to finish the work which Almighty God began, but left incomplete ; and this is the reply which, in substance, is almost universally given by those Protestants who plume themselves on having pure and ennobling spiritual views of religion. Thus it is, men everywhere lose sight of their supernatural destiny, and then deny the necessity of a supernatural life, and then the necessity of grace. Thus, in substance, if not in name, they reject the doctrines of the Trinity,
the Incarnation, the Miraculous Conception and Birth of our Saviour, Original Sin, the Atonement, Remission of Sins, the Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, and, finally, all that is incompatible with the principle of man's sufficiency for himself, as so many reminiscences of Popery, or traditions of the Dark Ages, and as interposing between the human soul and its Creator, and hindering its freedom and growth. It is idle to deny, that, all over the Protestant world, the tendency to this result is strong and irresistible, and that it is already, as we have said on a former occasion, reached by the more thinking and enlightened portion of Protestants. The true and proper issue, then, cannot be really any longer evaded. Protestants must meet the simple questions of Naturalism or Supernaturalism, of Transcendentalism or Catholicity, of man or God.
No doubt, a certain class of Protestant doctors do, and will, for some little time to come, struggle to stave off this issue, but in vain. Matters have proceeded too far. It is too late. The internal developments of Protestantism are too far completed, the spirit at work in the Protestant ranks is too powerful, to prevent the direct issue from being made. Transcendentalism, under one form or another, has struck its roots so deep, has spread out its branches so far, and finds so rich a soil, that it must ere long cause all the other forms of Protestantism, as the underbrush in a thick forest, to die out and disappear. The spirit of inquiry which Protestantism boasts of having quickened, the disposition to bring every question, the most intricate and the most sacred, to the test of private judgment, which she fosters, and which it would be suicidal in her to discountenance, will compel these doctors themselves either to give up their vocations, or to fall into the current and suffer themselves to be borne on to its termination. Resistance is madness. The movement party advances with a steady step, and will drive all before it. Whatever Evangelical doctor throws himself in its path to stay its onward march is a dead man and ground to powder. There is no alternative ; you must follow Schlegel, Hurter, Newman, back into the bosom of Catholic unity, or go on with Emerson, Parker, and Carlyle. Not to-day only have we seen this. Think you that we, who, according to your own story, have tried every form of Protestantism, and disputed every inch of Protestant ground, would ever have left the ranks of Protestantism in which we were born, and under whose banner we had fought so long and suffered so much, if there had been any other alternative for us?
The " No Popery " cry which our Evangelicals are raising, and which rings in our ears from every quarter, does not in the least discompose us. In this very cry we hear an additional proof of what we are maintaining. We understand the full significance of this cry. The Protestant masses are escaping from their leaders. The sectarian ministers, especially of the species Evangelical, are losing their hold on their flocks, and finding that their old, petrified forms, retained from Luther, or Calvin, or Knox, will no longer satisfy them, have no longer vitality for them. Their craft is in danger ; their power and influence are departing, and Ichabod is beginning to be written on their foreheads. They see the handwriting on the wall, and feel that something must be done to avert the terrible doom that awaits them. Fearfulness and trembling seize them, and, like the drowning man, they catch at the first straw, and hope, and yet with the mere hope of despair, that it will prove a plank of safety. They have no resource in their old, dried-up, dead forms. They must look abroad, call in some extrinsic aid, and, by means of some foreign power, delay the execution of the judgment they feel in their hearts has already been pronounced against them. They must get up some excitement which will captivate the people and blind their reason. No excitement seems to them more likely to answer their purpose than a " No Popery " excitement, which they fancy will find a firm support in the hereditary passions and prejudices of their flocks. Here is the significance of this " No Popery " excitement.
But this excitement will prove suicidal. Times have changed, and matters do not stand as they did in the days of Luther, and Zwingle, and Henry, and Calvin, and Knox. The temper of men's minds is different, and there is a new order of questions up for solution. The old watchwords no longer answer the purpose. What avails it to prove the Pope to be Antichrist, to populations that do not even believe in Christ ? What avails it to thunder at Catholicity with texts which are no longer believed to have a divine authority ? Protestantism must now fall back on her own principles, and fight her battles with her own weapons. She must throw out her own banner to the breeze, and call upon men to gather and arm and fight for progress, for liberty, for the unrestricted right of private judgment, or she will not rally a corporal's guard against Catholicity. But the moment she does this, she is, as the French say, en-foncde ; for she has subsisted and can subsist only by professing one thing and doing another. Let our Evangelical doctors, in their madness, rally, in the name of progress, of liberty, of private judgment, an army to put down the Pope, and the matter will not end there. Their forces, furnished with arms against Catholicity, will turn upon themselves, and in a hoarse voice, and, if need be, from brazen throats and tongues of flame, exclaim, " No more sham, gentlemen. We go for principle. We do not unpope the Pope to find a new pope in each petty presbyter, and a spy and informer in each brother or sister communicant. You are nothing to us. Freedom, gentlemen ; doff your gowns, abrogate all your creeds and confessions, break up all your religious organizations, abolish all forms of worship except such as each individual may choose and exercise for himself, and acknowledge in fact, as well as in name, that every man is free to worship one God or twenty Gods, or no God at all, as seems to him good, unlicensed, unquestioned, or take the consequences. We will no more submit to your authority than you will to that of the Pope."
This is the tone and these the terms in which these " No Popery " doctors will find, one of these days, their flocks addressing them ; for we have only given words to what they know as well as we is the predominant feeling of the great majority of the Protestant people. The very means, in the present temper of the Protestant public, they must use to insure their success, cannot fail to prove their ruin. They will only hasten the issue they would evade. Deprived, as they now are, for the most part, of all direct aid from the civil power, the force of things is against them, and it matters little whether they attempt to move or sit still. They were mad enough in the beginning to take their stand on a movable foundation, and they must move on with it, or be left to balance themselves in vacuity ; and if they do move on with it, they will simply arrive nowhither. They are doomed, and they cannot escape. Hence it is all their motions affect us only as the writhings and death-throes of the serpent whose head is crushed.
Regarding it of the greatest importance that the whole matter should be brought to Us true and proper issue, and believing firmly, that, when the real alternatives are distinctly apprehended and admitted, the majority of Protestants will choose " the better part," we are not displeased to witness the very decided tendency to Transcendentalism now manifesting itself throughout the Protestant world. It is a proof to us that the internal developments of Protestantism are not only bringing it to its strictly logical termination, but, what is more important still, to the term of its existence. The nations which became Protestant rebelled against the God of their fathers, the God who had brought them up out of the bondage of ignorance, barbarism, idolatry, and superstition, and said they would not have him to reign over them, but they would henceforth be their own masters, and rule themselves. He, for wise and merciful, but inscrutable, purposes, gave them up to their reprobate sense, left them to themselves, to follow their own wills, till bitter experience should teach them their wickedness, their impiety, their folly and madness, and bring them in shame and confusion to pray, " O Lord, in thy wrath remember mercy ; save us from ourselves, or we perish ! " To this desirable result it was not to be expected they would come, till Protestantism had run its natural course, and reached its legitimate termination. They would not abandon it, till they had exhausted all its possibilities, and till it could no longer present a new face to charm or delude them. In this Transcendental tendency, we see the evidence that it has run or very nearly run its natural course, and in Transcendentalism reaches its termination, exhausts itself, and can go no farther ; for there is no farther. Beyond Transcendentalism, in the same direction, there is no place. Transcendentalism is the last stage this side of nowhere ; and when reached, we must hold up, or fly off into boundless vacuity. In its prevalence, then, we may trust we see the signs of a change near at hand ; and any change must certainly be in a better direction.
We think, also, that we may go farther, and assert that the change has already commenced, that the hosts pressing onward have already begun to recoil, and are making efforts to face about. This is evinced in the eminent and very numerous conversions to Catholicity which are daily taking place in Germany, England, and this country. It is also indicated in the new tendencies we discover in old sects, and in the character of the new sects which spring up. The Free Kirk of Scotland, rabid as it is, is a sign, inasmuch as it seeks to free religion from the control of the civil power ; Puseyism, as it is called, is also a sign, though in itself considered a very ridiculous affair, and as far removed from Catholicity as Par-kerism itself,but a sign, inasmuch as the temper from which it springs indicates a Catholic tendency, and a longing which will find no satisfaction out of the Catholic Church. There are also truth and sagacity in the remark, made to us the other day by a Protestant minister of our acquaintance, that all the new movements in old sects, and all the new sects which arise, indicate a growing conviction of the insufficiency of the Bible when taken on the authority of private judgment, and the need of some divine authority back of it to vouch for it. Thus, the present rapid growth of Swedenborgianism is owing to the fact, that it pretends, in the Memorabilia of Swedenborg, to a divine authority logically antecedent to the Scriptures, from which their inspiration and sense may be concluded. So, also, we may add, Mormonism gains adherents by its departure from the Protestant rule of faith, and its pretension to a revelation more immediate, and therefore more ultimate, than the Scriptures. Everywhere there seems to be a growing distrust of the Protestant rule of faith, a growing conviction that it is idle to pretend to have divine authority in a book which is itself received as authoritative at all only on private reason.
We think, moreover, that in Transcendentalism itself, or rather in the Transcendental movement, we discover not only the logical and historical termination of the Protestant movement, but an incipient reaction against it. People who know Transcendentalism only from a distance are very likely to mistake the motives in which the more recent Transcendental movement originated, and the end it contemplated. The fathers of the movement had nothing less at heart than to favor incredulity or impiety. The movement, as they would themselves interpret it, originated in a reaction of the religious mind of the community against the open incredulity and impiety so prevalent during the latter half of the last century. Rationalism, which is not generically distinguishable from Transcendentalism, sprang up in Germany from the effort to refute, on Protestant principles, the writings of the English Deists, as Tindall, To-land, Chubbs, Woolston, Collins, Morgan, &c. ; and the Tranr scendental philosophy itself was the result of Immanuel Kant's attempt to give a scientific reply to David Hume's skepticism. In France, the movement which was commenced by Bernardin St. Pierre, Madame de Stael, Benjamin Constant, and carried on by M. Royer Collard, M. Victor Cousin, Jouffroy, Saint Simon, Leroux, was decidedly a reaction against the Encyclopedists, the incredulity, materialism, and impiety of Voltaire, Diderot, Helvetius, D'Holbach, Volney, Destutt de Tracy, &c. In this country it was the same. The inspiration was partly indigenous, and partly caught from Germany and France ; and the motive was to overturn the infidel philosophy, to cut off doubt in its source, and to obtain a solid and imperishable foundation for faith. In a word, what is technically-called Transcendentalism may be said to have originated in the reaction against the incredulity and impiety which culminated in the French Revolution, and which caused such very general alarm for religious, social, and domestic order throughout the civilized world.
All sober and reflecting people felt the shock of the French Revolution. Some, believing the principles it developed, the incredulity and impiety which originated and marked it, to be the legitimate and inevitable consequences of the fundamental principle of the Protestant movement, abandoned the Protestant principle, and sought refuge in the Church. Others, among whom for a time were we ourselves, looked upon this as a weakness, as timidity, as despair, and held that the horrid infidelity which we in common with them deprecated had resulted, not from the Protestant principle itself, but from the fact, that Protestants had^ never fully accepted that principle, had never carried it out to its legitimate results, and presented the example of real freedom in religion. We, therefore, thought the remedy was to be found in protestantizing Protestantism, in pushing the principle of dissent to its farthest limit ; and we did not doubt, at the moment, that, if we plunged deeper into that principle, we should find an element of belief on which we could reconstruct the fabric of faith. This, in general, was the view taken by those who have latterly been distinguished as Transcenden-talists ; and in motives such as these Transcendentalism, technically so called, originated.
In regard to Transcendentalism, we may be allowed to speak with some authority ; for, though we were never properly a Transcendentalist, and though we never entertained a single principle involving Transcendental consequences for one moment after we saw clearly that it involved such consequences, yet we did entertain and defend most of the leading principles of the Transcendental school, and were among the more prominent actors in the Transcendental movement in this country. We know, personally, that those with whom we acted, or who acted with us, had no disposition to disseminate doubt. We were generically Protestants ; we accepted in good faith the Protestant movement, and we confided in the principle of private judgment; but we deplored the infidelity we everywhere encountered. It was our grief that the temple had been battered down, the altar overthrown, the Holy of Holies profaned, and the worship of the Most High suspended. How often have we and our more intimate friends, in those very days when our countrymen were everywhere denouncing us as disorganizers, infidels, seeking to destroy faith and abolish religious worship, mourned together over the desolations of Zion, and given vent to our earnest longings to see the waste places restored, the Church of God rise anew from its ruins, with more than its pristine beauty, symmetry, and glory, and the world once more able to say, " I believe" ! We felt deeply that doubt is the death of all real life, that there is no living without faith ; and our earnest desire, and our unremitted efforts, were to discover the means of its recovery. We owe this statement in justice to ourselves, and to those of our former friends who have not had the happiness of following us into the Church of God.
We all, in common, however we might divide on other questions, agreed that faith had died out, and religion exhausted itself. We knew this to be true of the Protestant world ; we knew for we had ample means of knowing that the religion of Protestants was little better than make-believe. It had no vitality ; it had no power over the life, no hold upon the conscience. And knowing this to be the case with the Protestant world, we concluded that it must be so, a fortiori, with the Catholic world. Of Catholicity we knew nothing. We did not believe all we heard said to its discredit; we did not entertain all the vulgar prejudices of Protestants against it; we held that it had been a great and noble institution in its day, which had rendered invaluable services to general civilization and humanity. But beholding it only through the uncertain light of Protestant travesty, misrepresentation, and denunciation, and the still more uncertain light of our own theorizing from data furnished by our Protestantism, we concluded that its time was past, that it had done its work, and could henceforth have no legitimate place among the institutions of mankind. It had, according to our theorizing, ceased to be in harmony with the general intelligence of the race, to respond to the wants of the soul, or to take the lead in any important measure for society. The race had found it no longer serviceable, no longer endurable, had broken away from it, and must now pursue its march through the ages without it. It was no longer to be made any account of, and the Catholic populations were to be considered as if they were not. By their adherence to Catholicity they had withdrawn themselves from the general law of development. The human race of to-day disowns them, leaves them behind, and recognizes herself only in the Protestant populations, in whom is all the real human life that is left in the world. The line beginning with Adam came down through the patriarchs, the Jewish people, and Jewish prophets, to Jesus Christ; and from him through the Apostles, Fathers, Popes, and doctors of the Church to the Reformers, and from them through the Protestant populations to us. We were the lineal descendants of the people of God, and had, therefore, no occasion to look from the Protestant world to the Gentiles beyond. Confining our views to the Protestant world, as in duty bound, since good Protestants we were, we assumed as our point of departure that there was really no vital religious faith to be found, and that the nations were living without faith, without hope, without charity, without God in the world. With this we were not and could not be satisfied. We felt something better was needed ; we believed something better was possible ; and we set ourselves to work, with what skill and strength we had, to realize something better. Here is how the writer of this expressed himself some twelve years ago :
" All the great institutions of former times have been good in their day and in their places, and have had missions essential to the progress of humanity to accomplish. The Catholic institution, Catholicism, which still excites the wrath and indignation of many a religionist, as well as of many an unbeliever, was a noble institution in its time. It was a mighty advance on the paganism which preceded it. It was suited to the wants of the times in which it flourished, and we are indebted to it for the very light which has enabled us to discover its defects. Its vices and they need not be disguised appertain to the fact, that it has lingered beyond its hour. It now has, and long has had, only a factitious existence. Its work was long since done, its purpose accomplished, and it now only occupies the space which should be filled with another institution, one which will combine all our discoveries and improvements, and be in harmony with the present state of mental and moral progress.
" Protestantism cannot be said to supply the place of Catholicism. Protestantism is not a religion, is not a religious institution, contains in itself no germ of organization. Its purpose was negative, one of destruction. «It was born in the conflict raised up by the progress of mind against Catholicism, which had become superan* nuated. Its mission was legitimate, was necessary, was inevitable ; but may we not ask if it be not accomplished ? Catholicism is destroyed, or at least ready to disappear entirely as soon as a new principle of social and religious organization, capable of engaging all minds and hearts, shall present itself. And this new principle will present itself. Men will not live always in a religious anarchy. The confusion of the transition-state, in which we now are, must end, and a new religious form be disclosed, which all will love and obey." *(footnote: * Christian Examiner, Boston, Sept. 1834, pp. 68, 69. This extract shows that the writer, though well acquainted with Protestantism, totally misapprehended Catholicity.)
The leading thought with the party with which we were ourselves associated was progress. We could, in the state to which Protestantism had reduced us, conceive no end for which man could exist but to perfect himself, or rather to be always perfecting himself (the Fourierists improve on this, and say his end is to perfect the globe and the universe), and we regarded every thing in its relation to this end. Adopting the doctrine of progress, we contended that all institutions should not only aid progress, but be themselves progressive ; that, so long as progressive, any institution is true and sacred ; and when fixed and stationary, the noblest institution becomes hurtful and wicked. Catholicity, we believed, had been, during its earlier period, progressive, and had marched with the race, gone on with the improvements of the age, and during that period it was truly and preeminently the Church of God ; but, in process of time, it contracted, through some original vice inherent in its constitution, a fixed and stationary character, refusing to move, or to suffer its children to move. The Reformers saw this, rebelled against it, and broke away from its thraldom ; but they established nothing in its place. The human race, however, advances only by means of institutions. A state of disorder, anarchy, dissolution, individualism, is a state, not of life, but of death. We cannot, then, accept the labors of the Reformers as final; as provisionary, as preliminary to something hereafter to be, we esteem them, and regard them as sacred ; but we must go beyond them, do what the Reformers did not, organize a religion, found a religious institution, or a new church, which, while it contains the elements of order and authority, shall yet have the capability of indefinite expansion, of uninterrupted progress, by assimilating to itself whatever new thought, idea, discovery, or improvement, the race, or any portion of it, should suggest or bring forward.
Now here, if we mistake not, was a thought which went beyond Protestantism, and, in relation to it, a thought with its face turned backward, not forward. The type was in what had been, and not, as we supposed, in the future; and so it proved in our individual case. We struggled individually for this new church, which, as it was to have the power of indefinite progress, of realizing constantly a higher and a higher ideal, we called " The Church of Union and Progress," « The Church of the Ideal," and u The Church of the Future " ; and perhaps should be struggling for it now, had we not, one day, through the grace of God, chanced to make two rather important discoveries in mechanics, namely, that there can be no motion where there is nothing at rest, and that a man cannot, as we have often repeated, lift himself up by his own waistbands. Strange as it may seem, these two notable discoveries wrought a complete revolution in our whole mode of theorizing, nay, put a stop to our theorizing, once for all, and made us look, in our own eyes, exceedingly foolish. If no motion without rest, then our new church can aid progress only in so far as itself shall be immovable. If it is movable, the race cannot be progressive by it, but it must be progressive by the race, and the progress of the race will still be to be provided for. Then either our church will be worthless under the relation of progress, or it must itself be immovable, founded upon a rock, able to defy all the wrath of man and all the rage of hell. Wonder we did not think of that before. If a man cannot lift himself up by his own waistbands, then the church, which, if he constructs it, can have no power but what he gives it, that is, no power but his own, will have no power to lift him from the condition he is in at the moment of constructing it. Then no progress by means of a man-made church. Unity multiplied by unity is unity. Man multiplied by himself is only man. From man you can get only man. The church, then, can, at best, be only man projected, or taking himself as his own multiple. Do our best, then, we can get in the church only what we are out of it, that is, only ourselves ; and as ourselves = ourselves, it is as plain as any thing in Daboll or Euclid, that we have with the church no power of progress which we have not without it. It is idle, then, to attempt to construct the new church. It must be constructed for us, and embody a power above ours, or it will avail nothing. Then the church, if it is to be at all, must be given us from above and be immovable; and if so given, all we have to do is to accept it and do what it bids us. Arrived here, what were we to do ? Simply to ask whether Almighty God has abandoned us to our ignorance and utter helplessness, or whether he has provided for our wants ? Has he given us such a church ? He has. Which is it ? The Roman Catholic. Then seek admission into its communion. We did, were admitted, and found what we wanted, ready made to our hands, considerably better, we are inclined to think, than we could have made it.
The great objection to the Transcendentalists is not in the motives by which they were governed, or the end they contemplated. They wished to get rid of infidelity, and to have a solid and imperishable basis for faith. But, born and bred in a Protestant community, they sought their end by means of the Protestant principle. Accepting the Protestant principle, they were obliged to accept the Protestant movement, and, accepting this, they were obliged to accept the infidel movement, which they all saw was part and parcel of the same. It is this fact that caused so much misapprehension in the public mind, and brought down upon them so much unmerited reproach. They believed infidelity, positively considered, the greatest of evils ; but, provisionally considered, it had been useful, inasmuch as it was not possible to attain to faith without passing through it. Voltaire and D'Holbach did but continue Luther and Calvin, and their incredulity was but an accident in their lives. The old Church was based on an external authority, which was wrong ; or, if it was not wrong, the Reformers were unjustifiable in their revolt, and the glorious Reformation should be condemned and wept over, and not boasted. If the old Church was wrong, the new order must be founded on an internal, not an external, authority. The Reformers, however, while asserting this internal principle against Catholicity, had attempted to reorganize themselves on the principle of external authority, which was a double wrong; for it was to deny their own principle, and to accept what they held to be a false one. The French infidels, like the Reformers, broke away from Catholicity, but were too keen-sighted not to see the absurdity of Protestant communions affecting to be organized on the same principle. Nothing, then, remained for them but to reject all religion ; for it was no gain to renounce the Pope, to come under the presbyter, or the Church, to come under a Presbyterian Assembly, a Genevan Consistory, or Dutch Classis, or even the civil tyrant.
This provisional justification of infidelity was forced upon us by our Protestant principles, and the necessity we were in of vindicating the Reformers. There was no possible ground on which we could justify Luther, and Melancthon^ and Calvin in leaving the Catholic Church, which would not be equally available for Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert, and their associates and followers; and we could discover no possible reason any of them had or could have for separating from the communion of the Catholic Church, which would not be an equally strong reason for separating from any actually existing Protestant communion. If, as Protestantism taught us, the revolt of the Reformers sprang from what was good in them, and from what was bad in the Church, so did infidelity spring from what was good in the unbelievers, and from what was bad in the Church and the sects. If we accepted Protestantism as we did, we were obliged to lay down the maxim, that infidelity is a mark of love of truth and virtue, not of vice and error. Protestantism, not we, was answerable for this abominable maxim.
But, if we accepted infidelity as a necessary phase in the development of modern society, it was only to make an end of it. The first effort was to vindicate the Reformation, and to place ourselves in harmony with its principles, and then to derive from it the advantages we supposed it must conceal. But in this second labor there was, on all hands, an unconscious reaction against the very principle of the Reformation. We were all after faith, in we knew not what, but still faith, the power to affirm something, and something which belongs to the unseen world of spirit. We wished to attain to an affirmation that should be valid not only for us as individuals, but for all men and for all times, something certain, absolute, which no one of a sane mind could question. This already concealed a revolt against the Protestant principle, for it was an aspiration to a catholic faith. But this affirmation could not be made on an individual authority. All felt and acknowledged it. A plain reaction this. But on what authority can it. be made ? Evidently only on a catholic or universal authority, an authority common to all individuals and independent of all. So all said. But what and where is this authority ? We had all renounced all external authority, and therefore were obliged to seek it in the individual; and in the individual we sought it, thinking to find in the individual what is not individual ; and we thought we did find it in the Impersonal Reason, as we and the Eclectics said after M. Cousin,in the Impersonal Nature, as said the Tran-scendentalists proper. All that we and our immediate friends said of the " Impersonal or Objective Reason," of u Spontaneity," and all that Mr. Emerson and his friends and disciples said of " Impersonal Nature," " Instinct," "Over-soul," the "One Man in all Men," was only so much theorizing in favor of an authority not individual, but catholic. It matters nothing to our present purpose that in this way we did not and could not get any thing but an individual authority, as is unquestionably true ; it is enough for argument that there was an effort to get something more ; for every such effort is manifestly an incipient reaction against the Protestant principle.
Transcendentalism has just now in this community changed its phase. It now assumes the form of Fourierism. In Fou-rierism this incipient reaction is still more manifest. Its publications boldly denounce the Protestant principle, and carry their hostility to individualism so far as to annihilate the individual altogether. They even talk of unity and catholicity, explaining the terms, however, in a very uncatholic sense. Yet all this is a sign. It shows a reaction is going on against Protestantism, where, at first thought, we should least expect it, and where, as a matter of fact, Protestantism appears in its most hideous forms. The whole body of your come-outers and socialists are, in their own way, protesters against Protestantism, and, at bottom, seekers after something which is catholic, which is one, and not individual and multiple. We say, then, again, there is in this Transcendental movement not only a tendency to carry out Protestantism to its legitimate consequences, but the commencement of a movement in an opposite direction; and therefore we look upon the movement as an indication, a sign, that Protestantism approaches the term of its existence.
We have no occasion, at present, to point out the mistakes the Transcendentalists, under one form or another, fall into. We have already pointed out their mother mistake, that of supposing the institutions which are requisite for our redemption are to be created or can be created by man himself. We showed this is out of the question, in our Essay, No Church, No Reform, in our Review for April, 1844. The Church was instituted by Almighty God, and has never ceased to be in the world one moment since jhe fall of man, and redemption, in every sense desirable, is certain by obedience to it. The other grand mistake is in supposing that any internal authority can be a catholic authority; since what is internal must be taken on the authority of the individual reason, and therefore is only the authority of the individual reason. It must, then, be external, or not at all. If external, it must have a divinely prepared embodiment or representation, or it will be tyranny. A catholic authority built up by man, as the Fourierists propose, even were it possible, would be the most oppressive tyranny imaginable. All who, outside of the Church, aspire to unity or catholicity doom themselves to endless contradictions and perpetual defeats. So far as they aspire to unity and catholicity we rejoice, because the aspiration may lead them one day to the Church ; so far as they so aspire out of the Church, and to a unity or catholicity which is to rival hers------we remember our own madness and folly a short time since, and check the utterance of the words which press upon our lips. Yet we must tell them, and we do it in no spirit of exultation, that they labor in vain. Nothing they can do will prosper. They will not believe us now. When we spoke to them from the weakness and ignorance of our own heart, they listened, they believed. Now, when we speak to them, not our own feeble words, not our own darkened wisdom, but the words which have come to us from above, words as true as that God exists, they will not believe us, and we speak but to the winds. O, would to God that they could but know the experience of a Catholic for one hour ! O, would they could but for one moment behold the immaculate Spouse of the Lamb, that dear Mother of the faithful, as she looks in her maternal affection on her children ! The hardest heart would melt, the most skeptical would believe. O God, must so many souls, for whom thou hast died, be lost ? Must that terrible agony thou didst suffer in the garden be constantly renewed each day to the end of the world? O, are we men with hearts, and yet indifferent? Hast thou done all, suffered all, given thyself, to win our love, and we will not give thee our hearts ? But let it be as thou wilt. We tell our Transcendental friends that what they crave and seek they may find in the Church, and can find nowhere else. May God give them grace to seek and find. They will do it, many of them, we hope, and the ravages of sin, of heresy, and schism finally be checked, and, in some degree, repaired. For such a result we can all pray, if we can do nothing else ; and the faithful need not to be informed that prayer does more for the conversion of the world than argument.