Admonitions to Protestants No. 2
Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1848
Art. I. Admonitions to Protestants. No. II. Obligation to worship God. Insufficiency of Reason.
I. You know, my brethren, that God is ; for the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and divinity, are clearly seen from creation, being understood by the things that are made. You cannot, then, doubt that you are under an obligation to worship him, and an obligation from which neither you can withdraw yourselves, nor even he himself dispense you.
Is not this the common sense of mankind ? In every age and nation, savage, barbarous, or civilized, do you not find the fact of our obligation to worship God acknowledged and asserted ? Have not even those of your philosophers/ who maintain that religion is a law or principle of human nature, universal, permanent, and indestructible, triumphantly proved, that religious worship, of some sort, is coeval and coextensive with the race ? Assuredly, what is approved by all men, in all ages of the world, is a dictate of reason, and we cannot deny it without divesting ourselves of that which constitutes the peculiar dignity and glory of our nature, and, as far as in our power, placing ourselves out of the category of men, and in that of irrational beings.
Moreover, the obligation of all men to worship God is not only certain from the common sense of mankind, from what Immanuel Kant calls the practical reason, but it is a truth of the pure reason itself, and as demonstrably certain as any truth of philosophy or mathematics. Certainly, the creator has the sovereign right of property to the creature,the maker, to the thing made. Is not this what you assert, when you say, a man has a right to the produce of his own hands, or the laborer is worthy of his hire ? Is not God our creator ? Has he not made us and bestowed upon us all our original endowments ? You cannot deny it; for we could not act before we were, or bestow what we had not. Then he has the sovereign right of property to us ; then we are his, not our own ; and then we are bound to render ourselves, with all our original endowments, unto him, for justice requires us, as is undeniable, to render unto every one his own.
To render ourselves, that is, the tribute of our whole being, unto God as his due is, in general terms, what is to be understood by worshipping him. If, ihen, justice, as it undeniably does, requires us to render unto every one his. due, and if we are due to God, are his and not our own, assuredly we are bound to worship him. This you cannot deny.
Can we ever withdraw ourselves from this obligation, or can it, by any act of ours, ever become true that we are not bound to worship God ? Certainly not, unless we are able to destroy the relation which we hold to God as his creatures. We are bound to worship him because we are his ; and we are his because he has made us. We are bound to render unto him the tribute of our being because he is its author, and of our whole being because he is the author of the whole. So long, then, as it remains true that he is the author of the whole, we must be bound to worship him. Can we ever make it true that he is not the author of our whole being, that he has not made us and bestowed upon us all our faculties ? If not, and we cannot, for it is metaphysically impossible, we can never withdraw ourselves from the obligation to worship God, or be released from it by any act of ours.
But cannot God, if he chooses, dispense us from this obligation ? The obligation to render unto every one his due, and therefore ourselves unto God, is an obligation of eternal justice. To deny it would be to deny justice itself, that which is essential to the very conception of justice. To dispense from it would, then, be to dispense from the obligations of eternal justice, and to authorize injustice. God cannot do this, or choose to do it; for he is essentially just, and it would be to contradict his own essential, eternal, and immutable nature. Then it must follow, that, as long as we exist, we are bound to render unto him, and he must exact, the tribute of our whole being. Then are we under obligation to worship God, and an obligation from which neither we can withdraw ourselves nor he himself dispense us.
You must concede this, my brethren, or deny all morals. A moral action is not merely one which it is agreeable, convenient, or useful to perform, but a debt which we owe and are obliged in justice to pay. All morality rests on the idea of duty, and all duty on the principle, that we are bound in justice to give unto every one his own. If, then, you assert moral obligation at all, you must concede that we are bound to worship God ; for, evidently, we cannot be less bound to render unto God what is his than unto others what is theirs. Then, if you deny the obligation to worship God, you must deny that we are bound to render unto every one his own, anu then moral obligation itself, and with it all morals.
But the obligation to worship God, if conceded, includes all our obligations, and is the only obligation which can be asserted. It is obvious to every one, that we can owe only on condition, that, to the extent of our indebtedness, we are not our own ; and equally obvious, that we can owe only him whose we are. We owe God, because we are his, our whole being, because our whole being is his. If we owe our whole being to him, we can owe only him ; for we evidently cannot be indebted beyond our whole being. Owing our whole being to God, we are incompetent to contract debts to or from another. The earnings of property are the proprietor's. If God owns our whole being, as he must if the author of the whole, he owns our faculties, and then all that we can do or acquire by their exercise. We are, then, in the condition of the son under age, who is incompetent to acquire property or to contract debts. What is due to the services of the son is due to the father ; what is due to services rendered by others to the son is due from him only in and through the father. So with us, we can bind or be bound only in and through God, whose we are. If we can bind only in and through him, others can be bound to us or owe us any thing only as they owe, and for the reason that they owe, it to him ; and if we can be bound only in and through him, we can owe others but as we owe, and for the reason that we owe, him. Is it not undeniable, then, that our duty to God is our only duty, and that our obligation to worship him includes all our obligations ?
Unquestionably, we are bound to take proper care of ourselves, and to do ourselves no harm. But to whom are we bound ? To ourselves ? That is absurd, for it implies that the binder and the bound are identical, and also that we are our own ; but so far as our own, it is evident that we are not and cannot be bound at all. If our own, we are free to dispose of ourselves as we please. May I not do as I will with mine own ? If our own, whose business is it, if we waste our strength and activity, destroy our health of mind or body, and kill ourselves, body and soul ? But we are not our own ; we belong, in our whole being, to God, who has the sovereign right to all that we are and have ; therefore we are bound, not to ourselves, but to him ; and bound to him to take proper care of ourselves and to do ourselves no harm, because justice requires us to take proper care of what is intrusted to us, and to refrain from all injury to the property of another.
Unquestionably, again, we are bound to do as much for our neighbour, to love him as we love ourselves. But to whom are we bound ? Not to him ; for he is no more his own than we are our own. Not being his own, he cannot bind us ; having nothing of his own, he cannot bring us in debt to him. The obligation, therefore, is not to him, but to God, whose he is, and whose is all that he has, or that we receive from him. lie being the property of God, who is our owner, our master, as well as his, and being also our equal, we are bound to treat him as ourselves ; for we must needs be as much bound to protect and not to injure the property of our master in another as in ourselves.
If this be so, it is evident that we cannot worship God, if we refuse to love and serve our neighbour. The claim of God extends to our whole being, and covers every sphere of our activity. God is the author of our whole being, and of all our relations, whether relations of family, of neighbourhood, of country, or of humanity ; and therefore whatever is due to these is due to him, and must be paid, or we fail to discharge the debt we owe him. The duties growing out of these several relations are as integral in the worship of God as any other duties we do or can owe. He who would love God must love his brother also ; and he who would worship God must serve his neighbour. There is no such thing as being faithful Godward, and faithless manward.
But because the worship of God includes integrally all our duties, you must not suppose that this worship is resolvable into the love and service of humanity, as do your Socialists and Humanityists. The debt is due to God, and to him alone. As sovereign proprietor of it, he may transfer it, and make it payable to whom he pleases ; but it must be paid to him, or his order, or it is not paid at all. It may be payable to our neighbour, but only because God appoints him his agent to receive it. The error of your Socialists and Hurnaiiityists is not in asserting our duly to love and serve our neighbour, nor in identifying this love and service with the worship of God ; but in asserting that they are due to our neighbour in his own right, and that we pay it to God because we pay it to man. We are assuredly to love and serve humanity, but not for humanity's sake. We love and serve our neighbour for God, and when we do so we worship God. But we cannot reverse it, and love and serve God for our neighbour ; for our neighbour, not being the owner of God, cannot be the owner of the debt. The debt is not due to our neighbour, and to make it due to him is to deny it to be due to God, is to put man in the place of God,the very essence of idolatry, forbidden alike by reason and revelation, and which threatens, unless checked, to assume ere long an avowed and public form, as is not obscurely indicated in the "soul-worship " and " Hero-worship " of your Transcendentalism.
Nevertheless, my brethren, do not start at the assertion of your obligation to render unto God the tribute of your whole being. Undoubtedly, it implies your absolute subjection, soul and body, to God, but this is not, as some of you have alleged, slavery ; for slavery is not in subjection, but in unjust subjection. The slave is not more subjected to his master than the wife to her husband, or the son, while he serves, to his father, and if equally due, his subjection would be no more a grievance, or slavery, than theirs. Absolute subjection to God, if just, and it is just, if his due, is, then, no slavery, no grievance, no infringement of man's natural right or freedom.
All men do and must concede their absolute subjection to God, for they all do and must concede their absolute subjection to justice. No man can pretend that lie has the right to be unjust, the right to do wrong ; for it is a contradiction in terms. Rights are founded in justice, or they are wrongs, not rights. The denial of justice is the denial of right, and the denial of right is the denial of rights ; for rights are only by participation of right. The ground of all complaints is the real or supposed injustice of the matter complained of; and whatever men demand they demand it on the ground of its real or pretended justice. The highest conception of freedom is in absolute subjection to justice, and to justice alone ; and authority, civil or ecclesiastical, is held to be tyrannical or oppressive only because it is held to be unjust in its origin or exactions. What is just all men feel they may exact, and are bound to give. It is clear, then, that they acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of justice. But justice is God, who in himself is eternally and essentially just. Absolute subjection to God is, then, simply absolute subjection to justice. All men, therefore, in admitting their absolute subjection to justice, admit their absolute subjection to God ; and since no one ever regards it as a hardship to be subjected to justice, no one can feel it a hardship to be subjected to God.
The repugnance manifested by your Liberals to the doctrine which requires every man to render unto God the tribute of his whole being results either from their hatred of justice, or their supposition that justice and God are separable. If the former, they are clearly condemned ; for no man hates justice, unless conscious that his deeds are unjust. The latter cannot be entertained. We are not permitted to suppose that justice may stand on one side, and God on the other ; for that would be to suppose God without and opposed to justice. Reason is declarative, not legislative. In teaching that justice requires us to render unto every one his due, it declares the precept of justice, but does not create it. Justice itself must, then, be prior to and independent of reason. Prior to and independent of reason, it must be something or nothing. It cannot be nothing ; for that would deny both reason and justice. Then it must be something ; and if something, since reason declares it to be universal, eternal, and supreme, it must be God. Then God is essentially just, and we cannot suppose him distinguished from justice without supposing his non-existence. But his non-existence is not supposable ; for he is a necessary existence, ens necessarium. His existence, then, must be supposed always and everywhere ; and then, always and everywhere, must he be supposed as essentially, infinitely, immutably, and eternally just,justice itself. It is, then, absurd, as well as impious and atheistical, to suppose him ever otherwise than just, or that we, in surrendering ourselves unreservedly to him, can possibly run any risk of losing our rights, or of being oppressed. Our rights have thus the guaranty of infinite justice.
Moreover, my brethren, you must not fall into the error common to many of your number, that, though we are bound to worship God, we are nevertheless not bound to render him any outward or external service. The worship of God, exacted by eternal justice, is the tribute of our whole being. Our being consists of body and soul, and is at once external and internal. Consequently, we must be bound to render unto God both soul and body, and therefore both internal and external worship.
This much you must concede, or deny human reason itself. But human reason itself you cannot deny ; for you have nothing but it on which to deny it, and to deny it on its own authority is to affirm it. That you are bound to worship God is as certain as any moral or even mathematical truth is or can be ; for it combines in its favor both the practical reason, or common sense of mankind, as is historically provable, and the speculative or demonstrative reason, as you have just seen, the only two kinds of certainty which natural reason ever furnishes or demands. Let it be assumed, then, that we are under an obligation to worship God, from which neither we can withdraw ourselves, nor even he himself dispense us. This is, and must let the consequences be what they may be conceded to be, certain and undeniable.
II. But, my brethren, though natural reason suffices to teach us that we are bound to worship God, to render unto him the tribute of our whole being, is it certain that she also suffices to prescribe, practically, the worship we are to render ? It is not enough to know what is the worship of God in the abstract, if we know not also what it is in the concrete, what it is in general, if we are ignorant of what it is in particular ; because the abstract has no actual existence, and because all actual knowledge is restricted to the knowledge of actual existences. There is no knowledge of things in general, if none of things in particular ; for we know the general only in the particular. We know man only as we know men, in which man in general is rendered special and individual. This principle holds universally true with regard to human life. Every act of life is individual, particular. We may know in general that we are bound to render our whole being unto God as his due ; but we know nol what it is to worship him, unless we also know our being, what is rendering it to God, and what is the way or manner in which he requires it to be rendered.
To render ourselves to God implies on our part an act; to worship God is to do something, and is in all cases, in thought, word, and deed, to do that which God commands. But this act, this doing, must be our act, and therefore a voluntary act; for an act done from necessity is not our act, but the act of that which necessitates. No act is properly a voluntary act, if not done from intellectual apprehension of the end for which it is done. No act, then, is an act of worship, unless we know that God commands it, and do it because lie commands it. The obligation to worship God is, indeed, our only obligation, but it extends, as has been said, to our whole being, and covers every sphere of our activity, and therefore requires every act we perform to be an act of worship. Evidently, we cannot fulfil this obligation, unless in every sphere of life, in every department of human activity, we know the particular acts God commands. Now is natural reason able to give this extensive and minute knowledge, and not only to the highly gifted few, but to every individual of our race who is bound by the obligation to worship God ? Or, in other words, is natural reason sufficient to prescribe, practically, the worship of God ?
Do not conclude, in your haste, that this question impeaches or is intended to cast suspicion on the veracity of reason. The veracity, the infallibility, of reason is conceded, and must be held, or nothing can be concluded or affirmed on any subject whatever. This is settled, for the obligation to worship God is itself asserted on her authority, and we cannot without inconsistency recognize it in one case and deny it in another. But may not reason be infallible, and yet not be sufficient ? May there not be things necessary for us to know, to which her light does not extend ? Is it not possible for her to be able to declare that we are in all things subject to law, and yet not be able to declare in all cases what is the law, that we are, always and everywhere, bound to do right, and yet not able, always and everywhere, to declare what is right ? However infallible reason may be where her light shines, she is undeniably limited. All men find themselves confronted with the unknown, and, by natural means, the unknowable. Who knows not that reason asks more questions than she answers ? Who pretends that human beings have the attribute of omniscience, as they would have if reason were unlimited ? To assert that reason is limited is no impeachment of her veracity ; for this she herself asserts, and never does she assert the contrary. She declares her own limitations, and they are asserted on her own authority. She must be as competent to declare that she does not know, where she does not, as that she does know, where she does ; and to confide in her in the former case is to affirm her veracity as much as it is to confide in her in the latter.
Do not, again, conclude that the question must needs relate to the sufficiency of reason to prescribe a worship of God satisfactory to the Christian believer. The Christian professes to have a supernatural revelation. To require reason, on pain of being condemned as insufficient, to prescribe a worship satisfactory to him, would be to begin with the assumption of what is in question, to assume the truth of Christianity, and erect it into a standard for reason ; which were not to reason, but to dogmatize. No standard outside of reason can he set up, till it is authorized by grounds of credibility satisfactory to reason herself. Till then, reason is her own standard. All that can be asked of her is that she prescribe a worship with which she herself is satisfied. If she can prescribe such a worship in the concrete as well as the abstract, she must be pronounced sufficient, unless Almighty God in a supernatural manner informs us of her insufficiency. But if she be unable to do it, then, on her own authority, we must pronounce her insufficient. The question, therefore, simply asks, Is reason able to prescribe a worship which meets the demands of reason ? or, Does reason suffice for reason ?
This question is evidently a question of fact, not of speculation, and is to be answered by an appeal to experience, not to reasoning. Our powers of knowing are innate, but our knowledge itself is by experience, whether of ourselves or of any thing else. We know ourselves only as we see ourselves manifested in our acts, in like manner as we see our faces only as they are reflected in a mirror. We ascertain what faculties we possess, and what is their reach, only in their operations. We know sight by seeing, taste by tasting, touch by touching, love by loving, fear by fearing, joy by joying, reason by reasoning, or by detecting it in its operations in ourselves and in others. All men know and concede this ; for no man pretends that he can stand face to face with himself, and look into his own eyes. The measure of our experience using this term in its proper sense, not in the narrow sense of some modern philosophers must be the measure of our knowledge ; and, consequently, we can claim for ourselves no power which transcends the limits of experience, or which goes beyond what we have actually manifested in our operations.
The question, then, becomes simply this, Has reason ever proved herself able to prescribe a worship satisfactory to herself? It is well known that she has not. Aside from the Christian religion, which must for the present be placed out of the account, the history of the race for six thousand years presents no instance of a worship or religion acceptable to reason. The religions of ancient heathendom stand, every one of them, convicted at the bar of reason herself of gross error, immorality, and absurdity. Nations the most renowned, enlightened, and civilized, practised religions from which reason and humanity recoil with horror. One hardly dares relate the ceremonies of the "immortal gods " and their impure mysteries. " The amours of these gods," as remarks the illustrious Bossuet, " their cruelties, jealousies, and other excesses, were the subjects of their festivals, of the hymns which were chanted to them, and of the pictures consecrated in their temples. Crime was adored, and recognized as necessary to their worship. Plato, the gravest of philosophers, justifies drinking to excess, if at the feasts of Bacchus and in honor of that god. Aristotle, after blaming severely indecent images, excepts those of the gods, who, he says, will to be honored by such infamies. We cannot read without astonishment the honors which it was necessary to pay to Venus, and the prostitutions consecrated to her worship. Greece, all polished and wise as she was, received these abominable mysteries. Individuals and cities, in the pressure of affairs, vowed harlots to Venus, and Greece herself did not blush to ascribe her salvation to their prayers to their goddess. After the defeat of Xerxes and of his formidable hosts, a tablet was placed in the temple, on which were represented their vows and processions, with this inscription from a famous poet, Simonides :''These prayed to their goddess Venus, who for love of them saved Greece.' " *(footnote: * Biscours sur VHistoire Univcrsclk.)
Nor to Greece alone were these abominations confined. " Roman gravity treated religion with no greater seriousness. It consecrated to the honor of the gods the impurities of the theatre and the bloody spectacles of the gladiators ; that is to say, all that can be imagined of the most corrupt and the most barbarous."(footnote: Ibid.) At Babylon every woman was required to prostitute herself to the first comer on the festival of Venus ; marriageable virgins, at Byblus and other places, were sent forth on one of the festivals of Astaroth to collect from prostitution their marriage dower. It needs not to speak of the impurities of the worship of Venus in the island of Cyprus and at Corinth, or of the worship of the Phallus the Lingam of modern India in Egypt, Greece, or Rome, the orgies of Bacchus, or the abominations of Isis. In all pagan nations the gods were worshipped by the sacrifice of reason, chastity, and humanity ; and among them all there was not one that did not seek to appease the anger or to propitiate the favor of the gods by offering human victims upon their altars.
These vices, crimes, and abominations were not exceptional, were not excesses forbidden, and breaking out in spite of the public religion. They were warranted by the examples of the gods adored, were integral portions of their worship, erected into sacred rites, and prescribed by the recognized religious authorities. It would be an insult to your understandings, my brethren, to suppose, for a moment, that reason ever was or ever could be satisfied with any one of the ancient mythologies ov abominable idolatries. She finds in them, undoubtedly, the recognition of the fact of man's obligation to worship God ; but that is all that she finds, from which she does not turn away with horror and disgust. She sees clearly enough that God was not worshipped in them, and that the worship offered, if it had been offered to him, was not such as he would or could accept. She knows that God is the only true object of worship, and that the elements, sun and moon and stars, wood and stone, silver and gold, lizards and crocodiles, leeks and onions, fishes of the sea and fowls of the air, four-footed beasts and creeping things, men and women living or dead, works of men's hands and creatures of the imagination, are not God, the Supreme Being who made heaven and earth and all things therein, and whose existence and attributes are manifest from the works of creation. She knows that all these religions were idolatries ; and idolatry, in any and every form or degree, she does and must utterly condemn ; for, as you have seen, she demonstrates with ease that we are bound to worship God, and him alone,to render unto him the tribute of our whole being. When we give ourselves up to idols, or to any thing, real or imaginary, other than God himself, we do not render to him the tribute of our whole being, nor indeed any tribute at all. We do not render to him his own, and justice does and must condemn us. Yet, excepting, perhaps, Mahometanism, the religion, in ancient or modern times, of every nation confessedly abandoned to natural reason, has been and is nothing but an abominable idolatry. How, then, say that reason is sufficient to prescribe a worship satisfactory to herself?
So evident is it that these ancient religions do not satisfy reason, that she cannot hold these indecencies, these licentious and filthy rites, these horrid cruelties, these human victims smoking upon the altars, to be the worship acceptable to God, that many heathen philosophers and poets themselves inveighed against them, and in Greece and Rome, perhaps in other nations, the more enlightened classes, as in China and most Protestant countries now, inwardly contemned them, and lapsed into the opposite and no less deplorable error of complete irreligion, and contented themselves with occasional outward conformity, from social or political reasons.
Indeed, the insufficiency of reason to prescribe the worship of God is clearly evinced by the conduct of those enlightened gentlemen and ladies who in modern times reject the Christian revelation, and profess to take the simple light of nature for their guide. They are far from being agreed as to what is the religion nature teaches, and their sects and varieties are almost innumerable. They find, avowedly, nowhere in history a religion ready made to their hands. They are unable to satisfy themselves with Greek and Roman polytheism, or even with African fetichism. The religions of ancient Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, Chaldea, Persia, Greece, Rome, Gaul and Britain, modern India, China, Africa, America, alike fail to meet their wants ; and whatever secret affection they may have for the Cyprian'goddess and the orgies of Bacchus, they are far from being prepared to reconstruct the altar of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Baal, Dagon, Astaroth, Apis, Kneph, Vichnou, Schiven, Buddha, Fo, Woden, Thor, Freya, Manitou, Viztli-Puztli, or even Mumbo-Jum-bo. The deism of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, like the Theo-philanthropy of Revelliere-Lepaux, has no prototype among the various religions of mankind, and is utterly unable to command the suffrages of those who, leaving the Church, profess to follow reason.
Your modern Eclectics, indeed, assert the sufficiency of reason and the infallibility of the human race. They patronize, to a certain extent, all ancient and all modern religions, and hold that each symbolizes a great trull) ; but they confess that the religion satisfactory to reason has never yet had a concrete existence. Such a religion remains to be instituted. It may, they allege, be attained by resolving all past and present religions into their original elements, and selecting from each the portion of truth it now conceals, and moulding the separate truths, thus collected, into a new, complete, and harmonious whole. But this avails them nothing ; for this new religion, in its satisfactory form, has had no historical existence, and the task of forming it from the old religions is hardly, if at all, less difficult than that of original invention. Moreover, the Eclectics are far from being agreed a"s to what elements to take and what to leave. They tell you also, that however successfully they may accomplish their task, it will be only for a brief moment. The new religion ¦will no sooner be organized than it will be found too small for humanity, become a galling chain to the free soul, and a barrier to progress. They confess that reason will disown their work as soon as they have done it, and begin forthwith to undo it. Alas ! what satisfied reason yesterday will not satisfy it to-day, far less to-morrow. The truest and holiest forms of faith and worship are as short-lived as the summer flower, as transient as the morning dew. All things change their forms, and nothing remains but the abstract obligation to be good and do good ; while the answer to the question, What is it to be good and do good? varies ever from one age of the world to another, from nation to nation, and even from individual to individual. What is all this, granting all that is claimed, but an unequivocal confession of reason's inability to suffice for reason ?
Indeed, the more prudent and philosophical of the recent rejecters of supernatural revelation seek to make out their case by claiming Christianity herself as a product of natural reason. They even censure those who openly array themselves against her, call themselves her especial friends, and profess to be more Christian than Christians themselves ; they patronize our Blessed Lord, lavish on him their caresses, and enroll him as one of their company. All this has a fair seeming, but it avails them nothing ; since, unhappily for them, Christianity has always professed, and has always been held, to be a supernatural religion. If they embrace her as such, they condemn themselves ; if they deny her to be such, they condemn her, for she has then made a false profession, and reason can tolerate no false profession, approve no religion which is not what it professes to be. Christianity, if conceded to be sufficient to satisfy the demands of reason, can be an argument for the sufficiency of reason only when taken in her historical character, as she has been hitherto received, and in the sense in which she claims to be accepted ; but, if so taken, she is a plain, unequivocal denial, on Divine authority, of the sufficiency of reason. This the gentlemen referred to appear to understand, and hence you find them modifying Christianity in all directions, and seeking to give her a sense essentially different from that in which she has hitherto been received by both friends and enemies, a sense which they, indeed, say is the one in which she ought to have been taken, but in which they must confess she has not. been. But so taken, she ceases to be the Christianity of history, and becomes, as some of them expressly call her, a new Christianity, and therefore unable to afford any argument from experience in favor of the sufficiency of reason to prescribe the worship of God ; for experience has not yet demonstrated that in this new sense Christianity is able to meet all the demands of reason.
If a man, my brethren, were to start in pursuit of a religion outside of the Church, satisfactory to reason, where can you imagine him to find it ? Not with any of the ancient or modern pagan mythologies, it is certain. Not with any of the forms of dogmatic Protestantism, it is equally certain ; for they all arraign one another, and there is not one of them that is not either too much or too little for reason, that reason does not convict of inconsistency in being so much and no more, or so little and no less. Not with Mahometanisrn assuredly, for reason is offended with its heaven and its sensual paradise, and above all with its absolute fatalism, which denies free will, and with it all moral obligation, and therefore the very obligation itself to worship God. Will he find it with the ancient philosophers ? Which of them ? With Socrates, reputed the wisest of them all ? Can reason approve the Socratic love, that sin against nature, which brought down destruction upon " the cities of the plain," and which Socrates in Plato not obscurely avows, and apparently defends ? Can it approve the order to sacrifice a cock to iEsculapius, which Socrates gave just before his death to his disciple Crito ? Did he hold iEsculapius to be a god, and the cock to be his due ? Then he was a gross idolater. Did he not so hold ? Then he was a base hypocrite, or a miserable conformist to popular superstition. Will he find it with the " divine Plato" ? What ! and hold it a dictate of reason to deny marriage, to assert the lawfulness of universal fornication, and maintain that it is every one's duty to conform to the religion of the state under which he is born, however gross, filthy, or abominable ? Will he find it with Cicero ? that is, hold it right to be one of the ministers of a pagan idolatry, to conform outwardly to a popular superstition which he inwardly despises, to profess a philosophy of Doubt, and to live for Fame or Glory, not for God ?
Or suppose he comes down to modern times, with which of your modern philosophers will he find it ? With Locke ? He is obsolete. With Reid and Stewart ? They are forgotten. With Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Cousin ? They were great names yesterday, but they have already dwindled into insignificance, and their systems, if pushed to their last consequences, leave no God to adore. Will he find it with the Scandinavian prophet, the founder of the New Church, the famous Swedenborg ? What ! with one who makes God essential man, and whose system finds its strongest evidence in Mesmerism, and paves the way for the Demonism of Davis's Wonderful Revelations, just published, a system which confounds God and man, the natural and supernatural, making man a mere receptacle, and therefore denying him all real substantive existence ? Will he find it with Saint-Simon, the Parisian count, debauchee, beggar, would-be self-murderer, and inventor of Nouvmu Christianisme 9 Alas ! his disciples were never able to agree as to what he taught ; and they have separated and disappeared. Will he find it with Fourier ? What ! with one whose god is Mammon, whose rule of life is inclination, not duty, passion, not reason, and who places worship in selfish indulgence ?
Alas ! my brethren, the poor man would be like Noah's dove let loose from the ark, before the waters were dried up ; he would find no resting-place for the sole of his foot. He would be obliged either to reject all religion, or to attempt, with Chevalier Bunsen, to construct " the Church of the Future," to have no religion, or to fabricate one for himself. To this conclusion come all your philosophers, and hence you everywhere see them either plunging into absolute irreligion, or heaving at the bellows and hammering at the anvil, in the endeavour to forge out a religion for themselves, and throwing away their work in disgust, as soon as completed.
Certain it is, my brethren, that reason has never yet succeeded in prescribing a worship which meets her own demands. Equally certain is it, if she has not done it, that she never will and never can do it. It is idle to expect her to do what she has never been able to do. She is no new power, no recent gift or acquisition. She is a natural endowment, and as old as mankind. Men possessed her in the beginning, and have had from the first all the reason that belongs to human nature. The heathen nations fell not into their gross superstitions prior to receiving the gift of reason, but afterwards ; and they practised those abominations, which it is a shame even to name, with all the light of reason, and all the protection to truth, justice, and purity which she affords. If she is sufficient, whence those foul and abominable superstitions ? If, notwithstanding all she does or gives, men, whenever abandoned to her alone, invariably fall into them, how can you say that she suflices to prescribe the worship of God ?
It will not do to say that reason has not had fair play ; that she has been impeded in her operations, and has never been able to put forth her whole strength. She has had six thousand years for her experiment ; and she has found no impediments but such as grow out of human nature, and therefore such as she must always and everywhere find. No doubt, appetite and passion, the workings of concupiscence, have prevented her from doing as well as otherwise she might ; but this is a proof of her insufficiency, not her apology. No doubt, these have often drowned her voice and rendered her instructions unavailing ; but this was one of the contingencies to be provided for, one of the practical obstacles to be surmounted. No doubt, she saw clearly enough that the superstitions and abominations into which these dragged individuals and nations were not the worship of God ; no doubt, she protested against them ; but what availed it, as long as she had no executive force either to prevent or to arrest them ? What availed it, that she knew what was not the worship of God, if she knew not what was his worship ; or if in some degree knowing it, she could not assert it with sufficient distinctness, energy, and authority, to make herself heard and obeyed ? ]f she had sufficiently known and asserted it, the nations could not have fallen into their abominable superstitions ; and the fact that they have so fallen is a proof that she did not and could not sufficiently know and assert it. If she could not in the past, she cannot now or ever hereafter ; for her natural strength is always the same, and so are the obstacles presented by human nature for her to overcome ; since human nature does not change, and could not change and remain human nature.
Nor is this conclusion to be set aside by any of your modern theories of progress. No progress of nature can be asserted, and progress by natural causes in relation to reason and concupiscence is contradicted by all experience. In Christian nations, where the influence of Christianity has been felt, there has been progress ; but these nations, in a question as to the sufficiency of reason, are not to be taken into the account ; for it remains to be proved that their progress has been the result of natural causes. Our observations must be restricted to nations confessedly abandoned to the light of nature, and from them alone we must collect the facts which are to warrant the induction of natural progress ; otherwise we shall fall into the sophism of assuming what is in question. The conclusion obtained can be set aside only by establishing in the history of these nations the fact of progress, and of progress in the knowledge and worship of God. Simple material progress effected by industry or force of arms, or scientific and artistic progress effected by reason serving appetite or passion, is nothing to the purpose ; for such progress does not necessarily imply any progress in the knowledge and discharge of our duty. If in these nations we find a gradual moral improvement, if we find them, as time flows on, ameliorating their manners, attaining to less and less unworthy conceptions of God, abandoning their idols, and purifying their worship of its abominations, we may regard it as a presumptive proof of progress by natural causes ; but if we find nothing of all this, if we find the nations sinking deeper and deeper in moral corruption, and adopting grosser and grosser superstitions, we must conclude, with all the certainty of experience and of fact, against natural progress.
It is historically certain that no progress of the kind needed by the argument can be traced in the history of a single nation, ancient or modern, confessedly abandoned to the simple light of nature. Under the moral and religious point of view, the progress of all haothen nations is a progress in corruption. The period of their history least offensive to reason is invariably the earliest. There may have been degrees of error and abomination in the heathen superstitions, and the less degraded and debased may have done something, for a time, to elevate relatively the more degraded and debased ; but taking each nation by itself, its abominations invariably grew with its growth and strengthened with its strength, and were the greatest when the nation was at (he acme of its civilization and in the zenith of its glory. Never is reason, in a single heaihen nation, seen gradually recovering its empire, but always losing it more arid more, and becoming less and less able to withstand the tide of corruption, which sets in, and continues to rise higher and higher till it deluges the land and extinguishes the national life. The renowned nations of antiquity have passed away. Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia, Carthage, pagan Greece and Rome, are extant only in their mouldering ruins. Thebes with her hundred gates lies entombed in her own catacombs. Tyre sits desolate on her island, and the poor fisherman dries his nets where her " merchant princes " did congregate. The owl calls to his fellow in the solitude of Babylon ; the rank grass grows in the once thronged mart, and silence succeeds to the hum of industry. All these nations have expired in their own corruption, of their own rottenness ; and in their fate the philosopher reads the impotence of reason, and the falsity of your modern theories of progress.
Nowhere, except in countries under Christian influences, do you ever see any signs of real progress. History records no instance of spontaneous civilization. Ages on ages roll over the savages of Asia, Africa, and America, and bring no change for the better. The tribes east from the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, are to-day precisely what they were found by the companions of the Macedonian conqueror. The glory of Persia and Arabia is in their dim and fading recollections, of India, in a remote and unchronicled past, in which, all her monuments attest, she possessed a worship far less degrading than her present abominable superstitions. The vast populations of China and Japan sink, each generation, into a lower deep of ignorance and infamy. The Turkish hordes have shown no sign of improvement during the five hundred years they have been encamped in Europe, and Moslem life, universally, appears to be burning out, and ready to flicker and expire in its socket. The nations of the New World, when discovered*by the Europeans, which approached nearest to civilized life, as Mexico and Peru, were the most corrupt, and precisely those whose religious practices were the most revolting to reason and humanity.
Indeed, the philosophers of the Progressist school are themselves so well satisfied that heathen nations afford no example of the progress they contend for, that they appeal exclusively to Christian nations for the facts on which they attempt to build their theory. They assume, without proof and against evidence, that the Christian religion is the result of the natural growth and expansion of intellect, and has been attained to by mankind in the order of their natural progress through the ages. So assuming, and finding it superior to the religion of the Gentiles, and that there has been a marked progress in the nations subjected to its influence, they gravely take it and the progress effected under it as conclusive evidence of their theory of progress by natural causes. It is bad logic ; for before they have or can have a right to appeal to Christianity in support of their theory, they must prove that Christianity is a natural development. But, unhappily for them, this they cannot prove. The facts are against them. They cannot, as they should, trace a continuous progress of mankind from heathenism to Christianity. The worship of heathen nations least remote from the Christian is their earliest, not their latest. The question is evidently an historical question ; but history, as is well known, presents us the worship of God before it introduces us to fetichism and polytheism. At the very dawn of history, you find the worship of one God known and practised. If we are to rely on history, as the advocates of natural progress must, the worship of God, as held by Christians, has not been a development of heathen superstitions, but preceded them, and they are corruptions of it. Truth is older than falsehood, and history proves it, by proving that religion was anterior to superstition. The heathen philosophers themselves, who, from time to time, inveighed against popular superstitions, and whose doctrines are sometimes appealed to in proof of the progressiveness of heathenism, profess always to speak according to the wisdom of the ancients, and propose simply to recall their contemporaries to the worship observed by a remote antiquity. So far as they recognized the unity of God at all, they recognized it as an ancient doctrine, long since lost sight of and forgotten in consequence of the corruptions of later ages.
These philosophers themselves, undoubtedly, had some just conceptions of the Supreme Being ; but they cannot be appealed to in favor of progress ; because they professed to derive these from the ancients ; because they had, most of them at least, travelled in Egypt, Syria, or Phoenicia, and might have learned, and not improbably did learn, much from the people who, during all the darkness of heathendom, had preserved the worship of the true God ; and because they changed nothing in the manners or morals of their countrymen. With scarcely an exception, they, while despising, conformed, and recommended their disciples to conform, to the superstitions of the vulgar. Never did Greece and Rome decline more rapidly in virtue than under and after the teaching of their renowned philosophers ; never was the heathen world generally, so far as it had not fallen into absolute irreligion, sunk in grosser immoralities, or in more abominable superstitions, than at the advent of our Blessed Lord ; and never, to human judgment, was it less prepared for the Gospel, than when the Fisherman of Galilee transferred the seat of Christian empire from Antioch to Rome. Preparation there certainly was, but not from the Gentiles themselves. It was in the providential settlement and influence of the Jews in the chief places of the Roman Empire, who, when the heralds of the cross went forth from Jerusalem, formed in each the nucleus of a Christian congregation, as do the Irish now in every part of the Protestant world in which the English is the mother tongue of its rulers.
All this belies the hypothesis that Christianity is a natural development. If it had been, you would see in the heathen nations themselves a gradual approximation to its faith and worship. Some might have reached it sooner than others, but all would have been looking and advancing towards it. But you see nothing of all this, and you know from history the violent opposition Christianity encountered on its first promulgation, and that it did not fully extirpate paganism from the Roman Empire till after an obstinate struggle of nearly six hundred years. Your philosophers, then, cannot appeal to the phenomena of Christian nations to sustain their theory. Those phenomena are peculiar, singular, exceptional to the general rule, and authorize no conclusions beyond the nations in which they are exhibited.
Nor is this all. If Christianity were a natural development, the nation once professing it, on ceasing to do so, would necessarily appear in advance'ofthe nations adhering to it, and in advance also of what it was itself before ; for it could reject Christianity only by outgrowing it and attaining to something superior to it. How happens it, then, that this is not the fact ? How happens it, that the reverse is what you always see, and that the nation which throws off Christianity invariably falls below the nations which remain faithful, and below what it was itself when Christian ? The fact is undeniable. A great part of Asia was once Christian ; but what is that part of Asia now in comparison with what it was then ? Compare the Alexandria of Clemens, Origen, St. Athanasius, and St. Cyril with the Alexandria of to-day ; or the Northern Africa of the present with the Northern Africa of Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine! The Kastern or Creek Empire, long after the introduction of Christianity, surpassed the Western in wealth, refinement, learning, talent, and genius. What is it now ? Do you say that barbarians overran and conquered it ? So did barbarians overrun and conquer the Western ; but the Church was there ; it arrested them, converted them, and has made them ihe leading nations of the globe. The Eastern broke the unity of faith, separated itself from the centre of Christian life, fell beneath the power of the barbarians, was unable to civilize them, and has ceased to exist. It has passed away, and its conquerors, unconverted, remain barbarians, as they were at the epoch of conquest. The Protestant nations have visibly declined since Luther and Calvin, in all save mere material greatness, and even that has evidently culminated. England, in moral, social, and political well-being, is far below what she was at the accession of the first of the Tudors. Even Catholic nations themselves, when for a moment they seek to subject the spiritual to the temporal, or lose sight of their faith, decline with fearful rapidity, as Austria, France, Spain, Portugal, and Spanish America conclusively prove. Paris, under the reign of the Terrorists, the pupils of your philosophers, recalled all too vividly the abominations of pagan Athens and Rome. In every country, as the Church retires, you may behold the seeds of the old national superstitions sprouting anew. Germany tends undeniably to revive her old Nature-worship; and Scandinavia threatens to rehabilitate Woden and Thor, and to rejoice again in the prospect of quaffing nectar from the skulls of her enemies in the halls of Valhalla.(footnote: * This is not a mere rhetorical flourish, as any one deeply read in modern Teutonic and Scandinavian literature must acknowledge, Let any one read, understanding^, the Lectures on " Heroes and Hero-worship," by Thomas Carlylc, especially the Lecture on " The Hero as Divinity," and he can hardly fail to perceive that the assertion in the text is far from being gratuitous. The undeniable tendency of all modern thought and philosophy is pantheistic, and lie has studied the various heathen mythologies to little purpose who has yet to learn that they all originate in pantheism. The human race lias a method in its madness, and never loses all trace of its rational nature. It lias always a reason, of some sort, for its wildest errors, and connects them by some logical tie to a great fundamental principle, in itself, and in its place, not unsound. It evidently began with the worship of one God, and all the superstitions it has adopted are only corruptions of that worship. Its first downward step was in confounding the Creator with creation, and its second, in identifying the two. They are identical; then God is the universe, and the universe is God,- pure pantheism. Hut God is one, absolute unity. Then each element, each part, each object, of the universe, whatever the appearance to the senses, is identically God, and may rightfully receive divine honors. Then individuals and nations may select any portion or object of the universo they please, as the peculiar object of tlieir worship. Hence fetichism, polytheism, and the foundation of all the mythologies which have been or are. Analyze them, and pantheism - the corruption of the doctrine of the unity of God - will be found at the bottom. Like causes produce like effects. Revive pantheism, as you are reviving it, and you reproduce all the abominations of heathenism. The human race repeats its old errors ; it has long since been unable to invent a new one. Christianity restored the worship of one God, which was in the beginning, and which the Gentiles, through their corruptions, had lost. They who break away from it take the very starting-point of these Gentile corruptions, and in process of time must, if not recalled to the Church, run through the whole cycle of Gentile error and superstition. These defences of the heathen mythologies, these efforts to place them and Christianity in the same category, so common in our day, - linked as they invariably are to pantheistic speculations, - are profoundly significant, and deserve a more serious consideration than they appear to have received from the friends of Christian truth; for when we have once revived pantheism, we shall not be able to stop there. We shall be obliged, in view of the mixture of good and evil in the world, to go further, and reassert the old Oriental Dualism, and thus pave the way for the revival of Denionism and Demon-worship. Be assured, that it was not from a narrow-minded bigotry, not from a persecuting spirit, not from ;i vain and shallow thought, or without solid reasons in human nature itself, as well as in revelation, that the Church so energetically opposed the Gnostic, Ariau, and Munichscan heresies, so dear to modern sectarians, and which contain in germ the whole of heathenism.--end of footnote)
Moreover, my brethren, you must not forget that the nations which adopted and practised all the abominations of heathenism were the mightiest and most renowned nations of the earth, nations which astonish us even in their ruins. In general science, arts, literature, and refined civilization, they remain even to this day unapproached. No poet rivals .Homer ; and Plato and Aristotle continue to teach us philosophy. We still study the classics as our models. In purely intellectual and artistic culture, not even Italy comes up to what Athens was ; and in statesmanship and the conduct of armies, the ancients have never been surpassed. In vigor of intellect, in depth and acuteness of thought, in logical force and subtilty, the old heathen philosophers far transcend their modern successors. Reason was more assiduously cultivated, and received, as natural reason, a fuller development, a greater expansion, with them than with us. We can raise no question in intellectual or moral philosophy which they did not raise, and we can wring out from reason, unenlightened by the Gospel, no answer they did not obtain. In whatever point of view we choose to contemplate them, these ancient heathen nations had every advantage that nature and natural cultivation can give. No nations can be conceived more richly endowed or more kindly favored by nature than they were. We can conceive no natural advantage which they had not. They were in the condition to give, and they did give, to natural reason a fair trial, and have shown us its limits. We surpass them in nothing, except in what we owe to Christianity ; nay, except in that, we evidently fall far below them. Yet with all their advantages, with all their intellectual and artistic culture and greatness, which continue to excite the wonder of the world, they were sunk in the grossest superstitions and the most abominable idolatries, made no advance towards the Christian religion, and continued ever to recede farther and farther from it. How idle, then, to pretend that Christianity has been attained to by the natural development and growth of human reason ! Be Christianity true, or be it false, you can never regard it as following in the order of natural development, and simply marking, as your philosophers would persuade you, a stage in the continuous progress of humanity.
That man himself is progressive in. the sense of your philosophers, or that the race goes on through the ages, in obedience to a natural law of progress, towards a more and more perfect state, is contradicted by all the monuments of the past. Nations, outside of Christendom, may modify their institutions, and advance by industry, arts, and arms, as did Rome, as did Carthage, from the petty burgh, or the feeble colony, to mighty and renowned empires ; but progress of this sort is not to be counted ; for it may be, and usually is, effected by reason as the) minister of appetite, passion, or lawless will, by national and individual unscrupulousness, or forgetfulness of duty. The history of the renowned states and empires of antiquity is the history of an almost unbroken series of wrongs and outrages, of violence and rapine, of tyranny and oppression. Athens in her best days contained in her bosom four hundred thousand slaves to twenty thousand freemen. These states arid empires were founded in injustice and cemented by crime, and hence their fall; for infquity never prospers, except for a lime. The same may be said of Russia, of Great Britain, and, perhaps, hereafter, of the Republic of North America. Who knows not that our national sense of justice is far from keeping pace with our industrial and commercial prosperity, and that we grow corrupt and rotten within, in proportion as the world is attracted by our phosphorescent splendor without ? Progress of ibis sort is not denied ; but it is not to be counted, for it is not progress in the knowledge and worship of God.
Nevertheless, your more recent philosophers, those to whom you listen with the most reverence and enthusiasm, tell you that the doctrine, that man, even human nature itself, is progressive, is the L'Lvangile of the nineteenth century. Whoever denies or doubts it they brand as a social delinquent, as a traitor to humanity, and hold up to derision and scorn as one " whose face is on the back side of his head," dwelling, like the possessed Gadarene, only among tombs. Some of them go even so far as to assert the progressiveness of all natures, of the entire universe, nay, of God himself! But to assert that God is progressive is to deny his perfection, for progress is not predicable of that which is already perfect, and to deny his perfection is to deny his existence ; and therefore to assert his progressiveness is nothing less than a plain contradiction in terms. The progress of the universe must be the progress of the natures of which it is composed ; but a progress of these natures is metaphysically impossible, and it is no mean refutation of the doctrine itself, that there are men in the nineteenth century who assert it, and are looked up to as the lights of the age because they assert it. What is not cannot act; what is cannot make itself more than it is ; for no one can transcend as cause what he is as being, and for a being to make itself more than it is differs in no sense from nothing making something out of nothing.
It is absurd to assert the progressiveness of human nature. Man has received from his Creator a determinate nature, by virtue of which he is man. His nature is that with which he is born, and with which be must be born, or he ceases to be man. Change it, make it more or make it less, and he passes to another order in the universe, and is no longer a human being. If he is to remain man, his nature must remain ever the same. Every one to be born a man must he born with the same nature. This is true of every individual of every generation, from the first to the last. Then all must be born with the same essential faculties, and these faculties must be essentially the same in all. Then no progress of nature ; then none of reason. Then, if reason has uniformly proved herself, by her own light, insufficient to prescribe the worship of God satisfactory to herself, she must always prove insufficient. But even allowing your philosophers to appeal to the history of Christian nations since they became Christian, they can obtain no argument in favor of their doctrine of progress. The progress observed in these nations is extrinsic, not intrinsic. The Christian worship was as perfect in the first moment of its institution as it is now. Indeed, your ministers tell you it was much more so; for they contend that the Church has corrupted it. Even those among you, who are the most extravagant in their views of progress, pretend that hardly had Christianity gained a footing in the world, when men despoiled it of its truth and beauty, and perverted it into a degrading superstition. Your early Reformers professed to proceed on the hypothesis, that in their day the Christian religion was buried beneath a mass of rubbish, and was to be disinterred, and restored to its former simple and majestic proportions. But be all this as it may, it is evident that there has been no progress of Christianity, save in its diffusion, in the more extended belief and practice of what it taught and commanded from the first, and in the more perfect realization of its doctrines and precepts in the life and institutions of the nations professing it. The saint of the nineteenth century does not surpass the saint of the first ; and the Christians of the martyr age, in faith, charity, piety, fervor, did not fall below the Christians of our own times. The early Doctors and Fathers are still studied and revered, and the Justins, the Ori-gens, the Gregories, the Leos, the Hilaries, the Basils, the Chrysostoms, the Ambroses, the Jeromes, the Augustines, remain without rivals. Study St. Thomas, and you will find that he only clothes in a scholastic dress the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great. The ablest scholars and divines of our clay only adapt to modern tastes and controversies the doctrines learned from the early Fathers. In Christianity itself, regarded as a religion, as an answer to the question, What is the worship due to God ? or as affording the necessary assistance in rendering to God what is his due, there evidently lias been no progress, and, what is more to the purpose, none is allowed.
The progress in other respects observable in Christendom has been a progress in obedience to Christianity, in removing impediments to its operation, or in matters not necessarily involving any moral or religious amelioration. The moderns may have extended the field of observation ; they may have pushed farther than the ancients their investigations into matter ; surpassed them in chemical analysis, and in numbering and measuring the stars. The boasted superiority of the moderns over the ancients in the purely physical sciences may be conceded ; but progress in these throws no light on the great questions of duty, and has in our times been usually accompanied by a progress in irreligion. It is evident to reason, that a man does not extend even his knowledge of what he owes to God, far less does he strengthen himself to render unto him an acceptable worship, by becoming acquainted with the number, names, and magnitudes of the stars, with oxygen, hydrogen, and chlorine, electricity and magnetism, the powers of the screw and lever, with rnica, quartz, and grauwacke, or even the modern systems of stocks and banks ; and it is hard to believe that one cannot perform his whole duty as well without as with spinning-jennies, power-looms, steam-engines, railroads, balloons, and lightning-telegraphs. These things may or may not be useful to us as a superior sort of animals, but they evidently, in themselves considered, lie outside of our moral relations, and knowledge of them throws no light on our obligations as human beings. What reason can say of these relations and obligations she had said before the dawn of authentic history ; for we find, at the dawn of authentic history, the human race already in possession of all that reason has since said, and all that she now says ; and if we possess any thing more, it is historically traceable to a Christian source, and was as fully possessed by the earliest Christians as it is by us.
Here, then, you are, my brethren. You are forced to admit of reason what universal experience proves to be true of nature, namely, that it never suffices for itself; and this you might have known from the first ; for reason is included in nature, and if nature cannot suffice for nature, it is evident that reason cannot suffice for reason. Doubtless, Almighty God could, if he had chosen, have made reason sufficient for herself; but the fact that she has universally and invariably, when left to her own resources, proved insufficient, is ample evidence that he has not. Nor would it be of any avail, if you should succeed in showing, that, taken abstractly, reason can suffice for herself; because the question relates not to her power in the abstract, but in the concrete. Man does not live in the abstract, and the abstract, as abstract, has no actual existence. Reason must be able to prescribe, under all the various actual circumstances of our concrete life, the worship which satisfies her demands, or she is undeniably insufficient. This it is clear from experience she is not able to do.
Nor, finally, will it answer any purpose to show that the insufficiency of reason is extrinsic, rather than intrinsic. Man is to be taken as he actually exists in space and time. No doubt, the chief obstacles to reason are created by our inferior nature, by concupiscence, appetite, and passion ; but these obstacles are thrown in its way by a cause as permanent and universal in us as itself, a cause which is more or less active in all men ; often the most active, and the most powerful too, in men of the most striking genius and enlarged and cultivated reason. Hence the proverbial infirmities of genius, and the fact that intellectual greatness is rarely accompanied by a corresponding moral greatness. Nothing is sufficient for us that is not able to overcome concupiscence, that does not rule it, instead of being ruled by it. As reason is evidently not able to overcome it, it is as much insufficient as it would be in case its insufficiency were wholly intrinsic.
But, my brethren, if reason is insufficient, as it undeniably is, either you must be unable to render to God a worship satisfactory to reason, or there must be provided something above reason, prescribing a worship which will satisfy her. One or the other must be true ; which is it ? "Do not slight the question.