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of this is, that man has not the source of knowledge and wisdom in himself, and is nothing save as he is taught and educated by his Maker. Pride may revolt at this, and men, puffed up by a vain philosophy which only darkens the understanding and perverts the heart, may revolt and blaspheme, but the experience of six thousand years proves that it is true.
Our Maker has never deserted us, and has always been near us to instruct us, if we would but sit down at his feet and listen. Some he has always instructed, and always have those who chose to learn been brought to the knowledge of his will, and informed with his truth. The great body of true doctrine, revealed and natural, has been from the beginning within the reach of all men, is incorporated into the speech of all nations, and preserved in its unity, purity, and integrity in the infallible speech of the Church. There we may learn it, and if we learn it not there, we shall learn it nowhere, and be as heterodox in philosophy as in theology. We have neither to create nor to invent truth; we have only to consent to be taught it. What fools we must be to refuse to learn! What greater fools we must be to suppose that all who have preceded us have been fools, that science and wisdom were born only with us, and that our minds are the first on which truth has ever dawned! There were brave men before Agamemnon, and wise men before Schleiermacher and Morell. The race has not lived six thousand years without a moral or religious code, or with one that now needs to be reversed. Let our philosophers reflect on this, and know that they can reverse the wisdom transmitted us only by putting evil for good, folly for wisdom, and darkness for light. It has been only to arrive at this moral, and to enforce it by a striking example, that we have introduced Mr. Morell's work, and called our readers to its false and immoral teachings and speculations. Such works are instructive, and teach us wisdom as the Spartans taught their sons temperance, by exhibiting the disgusting spectacle of the drunken Helots. From the folly and impiety of even the distinguished among Protestants, let us learn to love our Church still more, and still more humbly adore the grace that permits us to call ourselves her children.
ART. III. The Mercersburg Review: devoted to Theology, Literature, and Science. Mercersburg, Pa. January, 1849-1850. Bi-monthly. 8vo.
THIS is a periodical recently established by "the Alumni of Marshall College," Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, as the organ of what is called "the Mercersburg system" of theology, and is conducted with spirit, learning, and ability. Its writers are strong men, apparently in earnest, and they present Protestantism in as plausible a form as it admits, and give it the most respectable vindication that it receives in our language. Whoever would see Protestantism in its least irreligious form, and learn the best that can be said in its favor, will do well to study the pages of this new review. Its modes of thought and expression are, perhaps, a little German, but its pages are rarely dull or uninstructive.
We call the attention of our readers more especially to the number for January last, which contains a long and elaborate article on ourselves, designed to set aside our arguments for the Church, and to vindicate Protestantism, as the writer understands it, from our attacks.
The article is ably written, in a
tone and manner as acceptable as rare in those who write against us or our Church. The writer is a Protestant, but no vulgar Protestant; he is a gentleman and a scholar, and makes as near an approach to being a Christian as is to be expected from one who opposes the Christian Church. He aims to be fair and candid, and has evidently done his best to state our arguments correctly, and to urge only grave and solid matter against them. It is refreshing to meet such an opponent, and we are sorry to add, that he is almost the only direct opponent we have ever had that we did not feel it a sort of degradation to meet. He is one we can respect, and whom we should dread to encounter, if we had no advantage in our cause to make amends for our own personal inferiority.
The Reviewer very frankly concedes, in the outset, that, as against popular Protestantism, taking private judgment, with or without the Bible, for its rule of faith, our arguments for the Church are conclusive, and that there is no answer to be given to them. He concedes, moreover, that the Protestantism which we have attacked, whether under the special form of High Church or Low Church, Presbyterianism or Methodism, and which has nothing to reply to us but cant and sophistry, is
and long has been the dominant form of Protestantism, and the only form that has been set forth prominently as the rival or the antagonist of Rome. We have, then, he must farther concede, the right to regard this in the judgment of Protestants themselves, as genuine Protestantism, and therefore as its more solid and defensible form. If, as he concedes, we have refuted this, we may conclude a fortiori against those minor and less solid forms, that have never been able to make themselves generally acknowledged by Protestants themselves. As the Reviewer contends that the Church is true against no religion, and all religions but the Protestant, he must concede, then, that we have, by his own concessions, the right to conclude its absolute truth.
But, without insisting on this, we remark that the Reviewer contends that there is a higher doctrine than either prevailing Protestantism or Catholicity, and against which our reasoning is not, in his judgment, conclusive. If we had known this doctrine, or been in a condition to appreciate it, we should not, he thinks, in rejecting Unitarianism, have swung to the opposite extreme of Romanism. We were right, he says, in renouncing Rationalism, but we have gone to as great an extreme, though a less dangerous one, in going to Rome. Our fault lies in abandoning private judgment for authority, instead of seeking and finding a doctrine which reconciles them, and preserves them both. But with all respect to our learned and philosophical critic, we were not, if we understand his doctrine, ignorant of it, but were detained by it a considerable time outside of the Church. It is in substance, though not in all its details, the doctrine we sketched in the last number of the Boston Quarterly Review, in refuting Mr. Parker's notion of the Church; which we developed at some length in The Christian World, during the winter of 1842-43; and which we established our present journal expressly to explain, propagate, and defend.
The attempt to reconcile private liberty and public authority did not escape us. This reconciliation in a supposed higher doctrine than either Catholicity or Protestantism was the precise problem with which we were engaged for the ten or twelve years next preceding our conversion. The attempt to get a satisfactory solution of this problem is the key to all our writings and sermonizing during that long period, and no greater mistake can be committed than to suppose, that, even when we were a Unitarian, we accepted in theory, however closely we may have followed it in practice, the Protestant rule of private
judgment. We never, after 1832, and before that we were too young to be of any account, adopted individualism, but uniformly opposed it, and contended, as our published writings bear witness, for a catholic authority both in church and state, although we erred grievously as to its seat and constitution. Indeed, if there is a single problem that we have studied with any degree of thoroughness, it is this very problem which our Mercersburg friend accuses us of having neglected, namely, the reconciliation of the so-called rights of the individual mind with legitimate public authority. At no period after we began to be known as a Unitarian were we any more prepared to give up authority than we were to give up liberty; or when, if it should appear that we could not retain both, and that one or the other must be sacrificed, we would not have sacrificed liberty rather than authority. It shows no little want of acquaintance with our personal history, and a gross misapprehension of our published writings, to assert that we went in our conversion from extreme Rationalism to Catholicity, or from extreme individualism to authority. We went to the Church from a theory which was invented to retain them both, and to reconcile them systematically and really one with the other.
We may not have exhausted all possible theories for the reconciliation of liberty and authority, in the Reviewer's language, "the liberty of the individual subject with the binding force of the universal object," but we were not ignorant of "the new religious principle and theory" which he proposes, and which he says the case demanded for its solution." we understand him, he advances little that cannot be found, in substance, in our own publications prior to our conversion, and, if we did not know that the theory had been advocated by several eminent German authors, and that it was entertained by him, in part at least, at as early a day as by ourselves, we should be half tempted to suspect him of having plagiarized it from our own writings. Of course, we are far from pretending that we set it forth with the systematic fulness and consistency, or with the philosophic depth of thought, the various learning, and the clearness and vigor of expression, with which he does, for in these respects we readily confess our inferiority; but we did set it forth in its principles, and in what he has said we have found nothing that has taken us by surprise, or with which we do not seem to ourselves to have been tolerably familiar. Whether true or false, adequate or inadequate, we are greatly deceived if the theory has not once been ours, and
VOL. IV. NO. II.
if we have abandoned it, we must still be treated with some leniency, since the Reviewer winds up his article against us, by virtually conceding, with a candor that does him honor, that, after all, it is rather a statement than a solution of the difficulty.
As the Reviewer concedes that we are right against popular Protestantism, the question between him and us is not a question between us and Protestantism in general, but between us and his specific form of Protestantism, and if that specific form turns out to be untenable, he must accept our Church as the Church of God. The ground he takes is, either our Church or his form of Protestantism, and therefore, if his form be refuted, so far as he is concerned, we are free to conclude the truth of our Church against every form of Protestantism, nay, the absolute validity of her titles against every claimant. If he is wrong, we must be right. Whether we prove him wrong by direct evidence of the truth of our Church, or by direct evidence of the falsity of his own, can, therefore, make no difference, for in either case the truth of our Church is concluded. The latter is the more proper method of conducting the argument; for the Church is the prior occupant, and must be presumed true until the contrary is made to appear. If the Reviewer's doctrine is removed, ours remains, and he has, therefore, no possible means of disproving our doctrine but by proving his own; and, as the presumption is on our side, his failure to prove his own is, so far as we are concerned, its disproof. Moreover, he must prove his doctrine, not in what it has in common with ours, for, since we precede him, that is our own; but in that which is peculiar to it, which distinguishes it from Catholic doctrine, and makes it a doctrine opposed to it. Has he done this? If he has not, he has done nothing to his purpose, and we stand where we should have stood if he had not undertaken to allege any thing against us.
The Reviewer concedes authority and asserts private liberty in matters of religious faith; for his aim is to accept both, and to reconcile them one with the other. His theory, then, is eclectic, and intended to embrace and reconcile "the liberty of the individual subject with the binding force of the universal object," which, he says, are, on the Catholic system, antagonists, and mutually destructive one of the other. He proposes to do this, not by a shallow and absurd syncretism, which, after the manner of Anglicanism, accepts both in their mutual exclusiveness, and follows arbitrarily first one and then the