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world has entertained it, lived for it, suffered for it, died for it, is a triumphant proof that intuition cannot be successfully appealed to against it; for the millions who have believed it have had intuitions as well as Mr. Parker, and, according to his own doctrine, intuitions as authoritative as his own. Man, he says, is the measure of man. Then the intuitions of a Christian - for in becoming a Christian one does not cease to be a man -are as good as his, and are to weigh as much in the argument.
Does he appeal to discursive reason? From what premises will he demonstrate the falsity of the Christian's belief in accountability to a supernatural law? For he must do this, before he has demonstrated that fulfilling the law of nature is absolute religion. We should like to see him undertake to construct a syllogism which should demonstrate either the falsity of the Christian faith or the sufficiency of the law of nature. Does he appeal to Jesus Christ? But Jesus Christ does not sustain him; and, if he did, it would not avail him, for he says,-Ib. p. 280, - that Jesus is not the sanction and authority of Christianity, and elsewhere contends that the character of the teacher depends on the character of the doctrine, and not the truth of the doctrine on the character of the teacher. How, then, will he even prove that what he asserts to be absolute religion is absolute religion? Does he expect us to take it on his word ? Is he incapable of deceiving or of being deceived ? We assure him, high as is our respect for him, we are as loath to admit his infallibility as he is that of the Pope.
But this is not the only difficulty. He tells us, absolute religion is perfect obedience to the law of God. Granted ; but what is perfect obedience to the law of God? What does this law command me to do in each particular case in which I may be called to act ? Are there no cases in which it is difficult to decide what is the command of God, no cases of conscience, which every man, woman, or child cannot decide infallibly, and instanter Is Mr. Parker prepared to assert this ? If not, and we cannot believe he is, what does he tell us, when he tells us absolute religion is perfect obedience to the law of God, but a vague generality, from which we can gather as little practical instruction as warmth from the moonshine in a clear, cold, winter night? It is no great matter to tell people to keep the law of God. It is like the preacher we once listened to, who kept saying to his congregation, “ Come, now, be clever, be clever, be good folks. Men have always believed they
" ought to keep the law of God; but their difficulty under the in
tellectual aspect of the subject has been, to know what the law of God in all cases demands. Absolute religion is not absolute, unless it answers all questions in particular as well as in general.
But a more serious difficulty lies behind, - a difficulty which our “ greater Messiah,” who speaks in such patronizing tones of Jesus Christ, does not seem to have dreamed of, -namely, how are men to be induced to keep the law, even in case they know it ? The will is more at fault than the intellect, and is not always nor generally set right by enlightening the intellect. We know our duty, but do it not. Here is a formidable difficulty to be overcome. How do you propose to overcome it? Do you or do you not recognize the necessity of Divine
grace to incline the will and to impart strength to obey? If not, do tell us how the disobedient are to become obedient ; how the perversity of the will is to be overcome, and the man to be brought practically into harmony with the law of God. say yes, we demand of you where, in your absolute religion, which is only what man's natural moral and religious sentiments reveal, and which therefore is itself only natural, you find any intimation of grace, since grace is necessarily supernatural. Is there grace, or is there not? If not, your obedience is impossible ; if there is, your absolute religion is not absolute, is insufficient, for it does not reveal grace, nor furnish it.
Then, again, what shall be done with the disobedient? If a man fails in his perfect obedience, is he abandoned by his Maker to his disobedience? If he recover from his disobedience, is his former disobedience pardoned? You demand perfect obedience.
Be it so.
But a man who disobeyed yesterday has not perfect obedience, though he obey to-day. What is to be done with him? Is his past disobedience remitted on condition of his present obedience ? Do you say yes ? On what authority ? of the Christian revelation? You deny that authority, and therefore have no more right to plead it when it is in your favor, than you admit we have when it is against you. On the authority of your absolute religion ? But your absolute religion does not go out of nature, and nature is inexorable, knows no remission. Do you say there is no pardon? Then you leave the sinner without hope, to suffer eternally the agony of remorse ; and, moreover, declare it immoral for us to forgive our enemies, making revenge a virtue; VOL. II. NO. II.
for, if God does not forgive, we ought not to forgive. Are you prepared to admit these conclusions? If not, admit, as a man, that your absolute religion is a - humbug.
You tell us to be good and do good, and then we shall be good and do good. As if we were blockheads enough not to know this without being told it. But what is it to be good and do good ? Love God and man. Very good. But what is it to love God ? To have a mere natural sentiment or affection for him, like that which we have for those of our fellow-beings we love? Then we are incapable of loving him ; for in this sense we can love only a being individualized to our
Is it to keep his commandments, as says our blessed Saviour, “ If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments ” ? Then what are these commandments ? To love God and man. But this is no answer ; for the love to God is in keeping his commandments, in willing and doing what he wills us to do. There is no love to God, where there is utter ignorance of his commandments. Hence, faith before charity, as the indispensable condition of charity, till faith is lost in vision. What, again, is love to man? Simple philanthropy, the natural sentiment of kindness and good-will? Or is it our natural love elevated above nature by the charity of God shed abroad in our hearts? If the former, we can love only those who are agreeable to us ; for nature cannot love what is repugnant to nature. If the latter, what are the conditions on which this charity is infused ? What the conditions of recovering it, if lost ? What light does your absolute religion, which merely says, Be good and do good and you will be good and do good, throw on these questions ? To be of any practical value, it should tell us what is good, good in all things, all actions, at all times and under all circumstances, good now and good for ever ; and it is sheer nonsense to call it absolute religion, unless it do this. If it only answer in general, without answering any thing in particular, it answers to little purpose ; and if it do not answer all possible questions, both in general and in particular, it is an abuse of language to call it absolute.
You have here written, preached, printed, and published a whole sermon to prove what nobody was ever stupid enough to doubt, namely, that goodness is goodness, is good, nay, excellent. Most grave and reverend teacher, why do you not tell us what is goodness, and how it may be acquired, on what conditions, by what agencies, means, influences, helps, human or divine, natural or supernatural ? The world has always ad
mitted that we ought to be good, that goodness is good, nay, best ; but enslaved by the desh, the devil, and the goods of this present lise, we feel a repugnance to what is good, relish what is evil, and neglect eternal good for that which is slight and transient. Here is the evil to be cured ; and if you are so great an admirer of goodness, why not apply yourself to its cure ? And be assured, you will do little to cure it by screaming constantly in our ears, “ Fools, madmen, priests, and idiots,
, goodness is goodness, - I tell you. I, Theodore Parker, tell you, - I tell you, goodness is goodness, is good, — nay, excellent."
But under all this lies a covert design. Mr. Parker is not so stupid as to suppose that these stale commonplaces and vague generalities are of any practical importance. In his mouth the formula, Be good and do good and you will — be good and do good, has an important significance. So has the assertion, that goodness is excellent. What is the thought with which all this is said ? It is simply, that all that is called good, or regarded by the religious world as important or necessary to the spiritual life, not expressly required by the law of nature, or revealed by our moral and religious sentiments, is not good, and has no relation to goodness ; and that the goodness which is by nature is goodness, and all the goodness there is or should be aspired to. What he is striving to do is, to set up nature against grace, and natural religion against revealed religion. This is the whole sum and substance of his meaning. Hence, when he says we should approach God face to face, he does not intend to teach that man can really see God face to face, but that we should content ourselves with our natural knowledge of God; and when he discards the Mediator, it is not because he supposes we stand in immediate union with God, but because he would have man rely wholly on himself, on his own nature, and not trouble himself about any union with God, to which he is not naturally equal.
Mr. Parker expresses a warm admiration of the character of Jesus; but, if you analyze the matter, you will find that he admires him because he believes, or persuades himself that he believes, Jesus discarded all supernatural revelation, all historical religions of all kinds and sorts, and all authority in religious matters but the simple light of nature ; thus making the individual the sole judge for himself, by his own natural intuition, of all questions of truth and duty, in which he set an example
which every one of his professed followers ought to follow. In other words, Jesus was a bold, uncompromising infidel ; that is, in regard to all which, in his age and country, was called religion ; and therefore, in every age, the true follower of Jesus is an infidel, disbelieving what the age believes, and speaking out, from his own heart and soul, what he, by his own natural light, is led to embrace as truth. Here is the whole ground of Mr. Parker's admiration of our blessed Saviour, and this ground is altogether untenable. For the language of our Sa
“ Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” In no instance does he reject the authority of Moses and the prophets, or assume that the Synagogue was not established by God in the supernatural and miraculous sense the Jews themselves believed. It is true, he supersedes the Jewish dispensation, but by fulfilling it; because he was the reality, of which it was only the type.
So, again, Mr. Parker's moral judgments are all founded on the supposition that true morality requires one to be always in opposition to the established order, whatever it may be. His theory seems to be, that, as soon as a doctrine is once fairly embraced, it should be rejected, and a new doctrine invented and set forth. He always finds the enemies of God and man in the friends of reigning doctrines and fixed institutions. With him, the presumption is, that the man who is a rebel, disobedient to all authority, and indignant at all restraint, is a moral man, a noble soul, and a true child of God. He claims our reverence for himself, on the ground that he has the courage to stand up boldly and arraign the whole world, and denounce all that the world has hitherto venerated and obeyed. In a word, with him, the noblest minds and purest hearts are those who scorn to obey. Lucifer rebelling against God and challenging supremacy with the Almighty is his highest ideal of moral sublimity, and the worthiest model for all who would attain to saintly and heroic virtue. It is not the glorious sun, nor the fixed stars that stud the firmament as so many sapphire gems, that attract his admiration ; but the vapory comet, dashing along, and whisking his watery tail in every sober planet's face. His glory is to destroy ; and despairing of constructing the temple, he trusts to be renowned for burning it. With him bitter is sweet, and sweet is bitter.
A great, perhaps the great, moral doctrine Mr. Parker sets forth is, that we are Christians by being what Jesus was ; that