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Jesus was simply the model of what we should be and may be. “ The goodness actual in me is possible for all.” — Relation, p. 18. “Can Mr. Parker exert a bad moral influence,” ask his friends, “ since he holds up Jesus as the ideal of true moral worth, and preaches that all may be, and should be, what he was, - equally great, equally good, equally perfect ? ” Yes, if he interpret the moral worth of Jesus to be only that of a Voltaire or a Tom Paine. But admitting he does not so interpret it, admitting that he allows Jesus the moral worth ascribed to him by the Evangelists, how can he prove his doctrine ? If Jesus was what the Evangelists and the Church say he was, we cannot be what he was ; for he was God, as well as man. If we reject the testimony of the Evangelists and the Church, both of which Mr. Parker does reject, we know and can affirm nothing of Jesus at all, one way or the other. Waive this, however ; assume that Jesus was, as Unitarians say, a man ; how does it follow from the fact that one of our race has been what he was, that all can become the same, any more than, from the fact that there has been one Homer, it follows that every man may be a Homer? It would be gratifying to some of us, if Mr. Parker would undertake to prove some of his
Mr. Parker is not only a great scholar, a great theologian, a great moralist, but he is also a great metaphysician. Natural things, he says, reveal the Infinite. " But they are to us only a revelation of something kindred to qualities that are awakened in ourselves." - Excellence of Goodness, p. 4. His doctrine is, that the type of all we know is a priori in ourselves ; and knowing is nothing but a perception of the harmony between the object and this type, of, according to Plato, idea, in ourselves. Hence, to know an object to be a jackass is to perceive its harmony with something kindred to a jackass in ourselves. Proceeding from this profound axiom, Mr. Parker obtains a sublime theory of human progress. First, in the order of our ideas, is PoweR; second, Wis. DOM, or intellectual capacity; and, last of all, GOODNESS. In the first epoch, men deify physical force, and worship a strong God; in the second, they deify wisdom, or intellectual capacity, and worship a wise God; in the third, goodness, and worship a good God. All this is admirable ; but where is the proof?' It has not one particle of historical evidence, and is nothing but mere theory. Men have always held to the
supremacy of goodness, and have merely erred as to what constitutes goodness. But what assurance has Mr. Parker, or what assurance can he give us, that he does not also err? Is he infallible? What is remarkable is, that the present age, more than any preceding one of which we have any record, falls into what Mr. Parker regards as the error of unduly exalting intellectual power ; whereas, on Mr. Parker's theory, we should be remarkable for assigning to goodness its rightful supremacy. The great objection brought against what we call the Dark Ages is, that they made more account of piety and good morals than of mere intellectual greatness. But, in point of fact, men's notions of what is good do not determine ihe character they ascribe to God; but their notions of God determine their notions of good. Thus, in our own language, we call both God and Good by the same name, -- not because we first conceive of God as good, but because we first conceive good to be that which conforms to God, participates of the Divine nature, - is Godlike. The nouns of a language must be logically older than its adjectives.
Mr. Parker denounces the religious world, in his usual flippant manner, for having contended for belief and outward worship. Yet he himself says, “ No doubt, there are two parts to the service of God, — Faith and Love within the man, Works and Goodness without the man. Excellence of Goodness, p. 13. 1. Here note, goodness, of which he so extols the excellence, is confessed to be outward, merely the outward expression of faith and love within the man. The chief concern, one would suppose, then, should be with the faith and love within. Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good; and what else has been and is the strenuous endeavour of the Church in all her teachings, exhortations, sacraments, and discipline? We should like to be told when or where the Church, or any minister of the Church, high or low, has ever taught that any outward service, whether directed towards God or towards man, was worth any thing, if faith and love were wanting within ; nay, even if faith and love were within, if not also the divine principle of charity. Si linguis hominum loquar, et angelorum, charitatem autem non habeam, factus sum velut æs sonans, aut cymbalum tinniens. Et si habuero prophetiam, et noverim mysteria omnia, et omnem scientiam : et si habuero omnem fidem ita ut montes transferam, charitatem autem non, nihil sum. Et si distribuero in cibos pauperum omnes facultates meas, et si tradidero corpus meum ita ut ardeam, charitatem autem non habuero, nihil mihi prodest. — 1 Cor. xiii. 1 – 3. This has always and universally been the language of the Church from the days of St. Paul down to the latest Catholic priest who has received Holy Orders, and is what every one of the faithful is taught and believes throughout the whole world. If Mr. Parker doubts it, let him read our ascetic books, and the most popular of them all with the great body of Catholics, the De Imitatione Christi. A few hours' study of the ascetic works of the Church will teach this man, who accuses the Church of being outward and formal, that he has not as yet taken his first lesson in spiritual religion, - that he has never yet penetrated beyond sentiment and imagination. A more unspiritual writer it would be difficult to find. As a proof of his ignorance of the spiritual life, take the following from a chapter on Solid Piety.
“The passage from sin to salvation, this second birth of the soul, as both Christians and heathens call it, is one of the many mysteries of man. Two elements meet in the soul. There is a negation of the past, an affirmation of the future. Terror and hope, penitence and faith, rush together in that moment, and a new life begins. The character gradually grows over the wounds of sin. With bleeding feet the man retreads his way, but gains at last the mountain-top of life, and wonders at the tortuous track he left behind." - Discourse, p. 151. .
This is excellent ! What denies? What affirms? What excites terror and hope, produces penitence and faith? And faith, penitence, and hope are in the soul prior to the generation of the new life ! O, go and study at the foot of the cross, and you will soon be sick of venting these pretty sentimentalisms and rhetorical inanities !
2. But, note again, - to the production of goodness, which is out of the man, Mr. Parker makes faith in the man to be necessary. Here is a precious confession. This man, who has been berating the Christian world for insisting on faith, now himself is forced to own that it is necessary to the production of goodness, which he has been contending is alone the excellent thing! And faith is to believe what we see not, and, as we have in a preceding article proved, to believe truth, and not falsehood. So Mr. Parker would do well to eat his own words. “ If they (the Christian world] laid the main stress on real piety in the heart, that were well; for it would be making the tree good, when of course its fruit would also be good.” - Excellence of Goodness, p. 13. Real piety, according to Mr. Parker, is faith and love within the man. The main stress should, then, be laid on these, because that is making the tree good ; and if the tree be good, there is no danger but the fruit will be good also. Out of Mr. Parker's own mouth, then, we condemn him. He lays the main stress on goodness, and the design of his sermon is to prove its excellence. But goodness he says is out of the man. It is not real piety, but a fruit of real piety. Can he get the fruit without the real piety? Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit ? Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Why, then, does he lay the main stress on goodness, and not on the faith and love without which the goodness cannot be produced ? And why has he the impudence to misrepresent the Church, and to denounce her, for doing the very thing, which, according to his own confession, she ought to have done ?
But enough. We have no patience to proceed farther. What we have said will show clearly enough where Mr. Parker's true place is. That he may believe he is laboring in a good cause, for a good end, though hard to conceive, is possible ; for there is no end to the delusions to which one is exposed the moment he plants himself on his own assumed divinity, and starts from the principle of his own sufficiency for himself
. The principle of self-reliance, as they call it, but of self-sufficiency, as they should call it, so loudly boasted by our Transcendentalists, and which is nothing but Pelagianism pushed to its last consequences, can be adopted only with extreme peril. It is the principle which occasioned the fall of the angels, its proper name is Pride, the primal sin, and mother of all sin. A man blown up by pride, full of the persuasion that he has all in his own nature that he needs, is an easy prey to the devil; and there is no error so extravagant, or so absurd, or so pernicious, that he may not be led to embrace it as God's truth. Mr. Parker, therefore, , may possibly believe that he is engaged in a glorious work ; he may look upon himself as a confessor, and almost as a martyr, to the truth; but he stands in the ranks of the rebellious and the disobedient, among proud, conceited, and superficial infidels. He is doing battle for the enemies of God and his Christ. It is useless, by fine words and vague and circumlocutory phrases, to seek to disguise this fact. He is, to all intents and purposes, a rejecter of the Gospel, and he accepts no part of
Christianity, save what Christianity herself takes from the law of nature. This he may, indeed, accept ; for this is common to all religions and all moralities. But the law of nature, though presupposed and accepted by the Gospel, is not the Gospel. The Gospel, properly so called, belongs wholly to the supernatural order, that is to say, all that is peculiar to the Gospel, or distinctive in the Christian dispensation, the belief and observance of which constitutes one a Christian. All this Mr. Parker undeniably rejects. He is, for this reason, what all the world mean by an unbeliever,
an infidel. Let him, then, be so marked and received. If he chooses to be an infidel, he can be ; so if a man chooses to be a thief or a murderer, he can be ; but at his own peril. As those who value their property or their lives give no countenance to thieves and murderers ; so let those who value faith and salvation give no countenance to the infidel. You cannot touch pitch and not be defiled.
Mr. Parker is dangerous, because the tendencies of a large portion of the Protestant world are in the direction he takes, and he seems to be but giving voice to what already lies struggling for utterance in the minds and hearts of thousands. In this fact is the secret of his popularity, and the pledge of his temporary success. And yet, in the good providence of God, this may be well. It is perhaps well that error should develope itself, and the inevitable result of false principles be fully exemplified. Men will see thus whither they are tending, and, recoiling with horror from the precipice, return to the Fountain of Life, submit themselves to God, and find peace and rest for their souls.
Art. IV.-Woman in the Nineteenth Century. By S. Mar
GARET Fuller. New York: Greeley & McElrath. 1845. 12mo. pp. 201.
Miss Fuller belongs to the class described in the preceding article under the name of Transcendentalists, of which sect she is the chieftainess. She has a broader and richer nature than Mr. Parker, greater logical ability, and deeper poetic feeling ; more boldness, sincerity, and frankness, and perhaps VOL. II. NO. II.