Orestes Brownson,
CHURCH OF THE FUTURE
January 1842
(Review of New Views of Christianity, Society and the Church. By 0. A. Brownson. Boston: 1836.)

1
IT is not very customary for an author to be his own reviewer; and yet there is no good reason why it should not be. The reviewer might then always have the advantage, not slight, of reviewing a work which he has at least read, and a subject in which he most likely takes a warm personal interest. Our purpose, however, is not so much to review this little book which we published a few years since, as to bring its subject, with some additional developments, more distinctly before the public.
2
This little book, one of the earliest of our publications that we would not forget, is not without its faults, and some of them very grave; but we value it more than any thing else that we have published. It is, upon the whole, the most genuine statement of our whole thought, of the principles which we believe must form the basis of the future church, that we have made. It has been now some five or six years before the public, without having attracted much attention, although it has not failed to secure some warm friends. And yet its success has been all that could have been reasonably anticipated. It is hardly fitted to be a popular work; not indeed because its style and language want clearness and precision, nor because its subject-matter is beyond the reach of ordinary comprehension; but because it is altogether too brief in its developments, and too abstract and general in its statements; and also because it is written from a point of view foreign to the great majority of our countrymen.
3
The general scope and design of the work have in most cases been misapprehended; not altogether through the fault of the author, but through the want of familiarity on the part of its readers with the order of thought which it seeks on the one hand to develop, and on the other to combat. The design of the work was to state simply, briefly, but distinctly, the general principles which must govern the [58] religious and social future of the race; but so to state them as to refute the errors of a school becoming somewhat powerful in the old world, and which might possibly ere long find its way to our own country. In a word, the work presupposes in almost every page the writings of the Saint-Simonians, and especially Henry Heine's De l'Allemagne. The author writes with these works constantly before his eyes, and labors, on the one hand, to show the church that it may accept the truths they contain, without involving itself in their errors; and, on the other hand, to show their authors that they can accept Christianity without becoming responsible for the unquestionable errors of the church. But this, as it was done without any formal statement, could be apparent only to such as had read the writings in question; and as these were but few, comparatively speaking, the real purport of the book could not be generally conceived.
4
The Saint-Simonians as a religious body have been dissolved; but their doctrines in a modified form, are perhaps the only doctrines that are at the present moment really making any progress in either France or Germany. They are no ordinary doctrines, and their influence on the future of mankind cannot be easily calculated. They contain truths of the highest order, of the most comprehensive reach, and truths, too, which must and will rise to dominion. But these truths, perfectly harmonious with the principles of the Gospel, nay, which are but the growth of the fundamental principles of the Gospel, are brought out in opposition to Christianity, and supposed by their authors to involve necessarily its destruction. With them Christianity was a very good thing in its day; and in the development of the race, in the institution and growth of a higher order of civilization, it has served a very useful purpose; but the race has now outgrown it, and demands not merely a new church, but a new religion. Against this view of Christianity this book of ours was written. We saw that the ground of attack upon religion was shifted, and that therefore it had become necessary to shift the ground of defence. The old sneers and cavils, the old attempts to impeach the purity of its morals, or the completeness of its chain of historical evidence, was to be abandoned; and Christianity was to be accepted, not as a living religion, having the right and the power to command men's obedience; but as a religion of the past, divine and authoritative for yesterday, and [59] therefore to be held in grateful recollection; but worthless for today. We wished to prepare for this new species of warfare, indeed to prevent it, by separating the truths of the church from its errors, and the truths of this new school from its errors, and showing that the truths of both were coincident with the teachings of Jesus. This was our aim in the book, and time is fast showing that our precautionary movement was not uncalled for.
5
For the book itself we have the greater affection from the fact that it did not turn out to be precisely such a book as we contemplated when we sat down to write. We had contemplated accomplishing our purpose, by attempting little more than to establish the general fact, that all religions are progressive, and that the elements of Christianity are comprehensive enough for a religion adequate to any conceivable stage of human advancement. We had written some eight or nine chapters with this view, when one day, as we were writing, a sentence passed from the pen to the paper, which, as soon as it was written down and contemplated, seemed to be a key that unlocked the whole mystery of the historical development of the church. Suddenly, man's whole history, from the indefinite past to the illimitable future, seemed to lie open in the broad sunlight to the intense gaze of the writer. The whole book was given him in a glance, and in writing it, henceforth, he did little else than transfer to his pages what that glance revealed to him. The original plan was abandoned, and the chapters already written, condensed into the first four pages which serve as an introduction, and the book sent out as it is. This fact may be worth nothing to the public, but it is worth something to the author; and although he asks no respect to be paid to the book on account of it, yet this fact gives it additional authority in his own mind,--the authority due to veritable inspiration.
6
The book was published, the vision which remained till it was written vanished, and man and his history became as dark an enigma to the writer as ever. He lost sight of the great leading principle of the book, and continued his philosophical and historical investigations as before, and as if nothing had occurred. The result has been, that after five years of intense application, he has come to the same conclusions by a different process. He, therefore, finds the book once again in his experience, and reaffirms it.
7
The views here given, perhaps, should not be called new, [60] for taken separately, many of them may be found elsewhere; but the book, taken as a whole, in its leading principle, in its spirit and design, is truly original. It was at least original with the writer, and if others have taken similar views, we have not seen their statement of them. But the question of its newness, or of its originality, is of very little consequence. The only important questions concerning it are, what are these views? Are they true? Are they comprehensive, and likely to be fruitful in important results? For an answer to these questions we refer to the book itself. In what follows we shall endeavor to set forth some of them again, and in a form less abstract and general. The book in fact is faulty in respect to the form in which it states the views of the writer. His desire to say all, and his unwillingness to make a large book, induced him to adopt a form of expression which is altogether too abstract. More is meant than appears, and more than most readers can find, till they have learned in part the author's views from some other source.
8
Man lives only by virtue of some theory of the universe, which solves for him the problem of his existence and destiny, and prescribes a life-plan which he must endeavor to realize. This theory, whatever it be, or however obtained, is what man names Religion. It is always his highest conception of God and of the law of his own being. Religion is then the ideal and man's effort to realize it. To be religious man must act with his whole nature, and strive with all his strength, intelligence, and love, to realize the ideal in every department of life, in the individual, in the family, in the state, in the world, in industry, science, and art.
9
The church is the organization of mankind for the peaceable, orderly, and successful realization of the Christian ideal, or the ideal as beheld by the early followers of Jesus. The ideal as thus beheld was below the infinite, below that of Jesus even, and therefore could be only for a time. It could not be the ideal for the race through all the stages of its progress. The church, in its origin, though never embracing the true Christian ideal in its fulness, was nevertheless a genuine church of the ideal. It was far in advance of all preceding organizations of mankind, and must be redeeming and ameliorating in its influence, till it had brought the Christian nations up even with itself.
10
Up even with itself the church has now brought the [61] Christian world. The civilization it has created is in some respects even in advance of it. For a thousand years and more, it was the church of the ideal. It was the depositary [sic.] of the intelligence, the wisdom, the virtue, the aspirations of the race. It proposed a work for humanity, and directed individual and social activities in the path of progress. But it now looks no more to the future. It has realized its ideal. It proposes no new labors for civilization, makes no new demands on the race in behalf of progress. It therefore loses sight of the end for which it was instituted, and must now turn its face once more to the future, embrace the ideal, or give way for a new church, which shall be an organization of mankind, not to retain the past, but to conquer the future. Humanity eternally aspires. It sees ever before it new heights to be scaled, new victories to be won, and is always eager to march. It cannot be stayed. Ever does the ideal hover before its actual position, commanding it to advance, and forbidding it to halt, much less encamp. If the church will not lead, humanity will displace it, choose a new leader, and go on without it in its career of battle and conquest.
11
The church was originally based on the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word, or the divine ideal, in the man Christ Jesus, and on that of the distinction of the two principles, spirit and matter, making spirit the principle of good, and matter the principle of evil.
12
The ancient philosophers, especially Pythagoras and Plato, conceived of the Logos or Word of God. But with them this Word was a pure idea. It existed, but merely in the abstract. It might be an object of contemplation, and of a sort of metaphysical admiration, to the few choice spirits able to rise to its conception; but it was hidden from the mass, without life, and without power to mould the character of the individual, or to direct the action of society to the common advancement of the race. Few only can rise to the abstract, and those few derive no life from it. The Word of God, however prominent a place it may hold in systems of metaphysics, cannot be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation, until incarnated, clothed with flesh, and seen living and breathing, acting and loving, toiling and suffering, and dying and rising from the dead, for the redemption of man. God is for us only in his Word, and his Word is regenerating only as made flesh, and seen to "dwell among us full of grace and truth." [62]
13
Men strive in their minds to form a conception of an infinite, all-perfect, abstract being, which they may call God; and in their hearts they strive to love and reverence him. Vain effort. There are no abstractions in absolute life. God is no abstraction, but an infinite concrete. He may be perceived, but only relatively, and the view which is taken of him must be always finite and inadequate. The finite, relative, inadequate conception we form of God is the ideal, the only God there is for us, and to this ideal we never attain by abstraction; to it we attain only so far as it is concreted, or revealed by the finite and relative beings falling under our observation.
14
The doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word, teaches us that for us there is no God, but God "manifest in the flesh." There is no God to love and reverence, but the God that lives and moves in, creates and sustains, what we actually see and know of the universe. God is to us distinguishable, but not separable from man and nature; as time is distinguishable from succession, but absolutely inconceivable without it; or space from extension, while without extension it were to us as if it were not. God, if we may so speak, is concreted in his works, a living God, instead of that cold, naked abstraction, which metaphysicians call God, satisfying the demands of a frigid logic it may be, but dead to the heart. Nevertheless, this living God, which we finite beings may know, love, and reverence, is not God in the infinite fulness of his being, but the Word of God, God uttered, and uttered merely to our finite capacities. The absolute God is too vast for our feeble intellects, too luminous for our obscure vision. No man hath seen his face at any time. Yet the living God, uttered in the living realities, we see and know, is in fact one with the Father. In knowing, loving, and reverencing the God thus made visible to us, we are in fact knowing, loving, and reverencing the absolute God, so far as our feeble faculties do or can attain to him.
15
The doctrine of the Incarnation also proclaims the dignity and worth of human nature, not of the human soul merely, but of man himself. The Word is made flesh in a genuine Son of Man. Jesus is born of woman. Marriage and maternity are thus declared to be holy, and human nature itself to be kindred with the divine. For what means this mystery of the "Word become flesh," if not that the highest and fullest manifestation of God, the most brilliant and [63] adequate representation of God, of the absolute God, is a genuine Son of Man, a true human being? Man was made after the image of God, is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. He is the finite representative of the infinite God. He is then redeemed from the alleged degradation of his being, and declared to be worthy of love and reverence. The incarnation, since it was in a man, a real man, a man born of woman, proclaims the dignity of man, and the divinity of his nature.
16
God is known, loved, reverenced, only in his visible manifestation. Man is this visible manifestation. To know, love, reverence man, then, is to know, love, and reverence God, under the only possible form, and in the only acceptable manner. The love of God has no expression but in the love of man. Here is a basis, and a firm basis too, of a broad and genuine philanthropy, in view of which the angels, all pure and loving spirits, hovering over the cradle of the infant Redeemer, might well shout. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men."
17
The effects of this doctrine of the Incarnation, are visible everywhere in modern civilization, in great part are it, and are seen in its more generous and humane character over all the civilizations which preceded it; in its tenderness of human life; in the high rank it assigns to the virtues of meekness, gentleness, mercy, charity, modesty, chastity, and love; in the high value it places on man as an individual; in its emancipation of the slave, and general labors to promote liberty and social well-being.
18
The church, however, has but imperfectly comprehended this doctrine. She misapprehended it from the beginning; but her misconceptions of it were of a nature to do no harm in the actual state of things for a long series of years; but they now become mischievous and are to be corrected. The church was right in what she asserted, wrong in what she denied. When she asserted the incarnation of the ideal in Jesus, she asserted the truth; when she asserted that it was and could be incarnated in him only, she erred; and this latter error is the source of no small part of the hostility she encounters.
19
The church, by asserting the incarnation of the ideal in the Son of Mary, has declared him to be a true man, a genuine Son of God, and secured to him the love and reverence man owes to his God; but in restricting it to him, she [64] has disinherited in some sort all the rest of the sons of men. She has secured to him no more love and reverence than was his due; but had she properly interpreted the mystery of God made flesh, she would have commanded that the same love and reverence be paid to every man, for every man is, in proportion to the quantity of his being, an incarnation, a visible manifestation of the Divinity. This truth the church has overlooked in her intense admiration of Jesus; and of all the sons of men she has found but one she could dignify with the name of the Son of God.
20
Jesus was all that the church has alleged. He was verily the Son of God. He lived, toiled, suffered, and died, and rose again for the redemption of man. Of all the sons of men, in his epoch, he was eminently God's dear and well-beloved Son. He has been the father of a new age, the institutor of a new order of civilization, the giver of a new life to the world, the real Mediator between God and men, and the literal Saviour of our souls. But viewed as the Son of Mary, the sympathizing brother of the poor and afflicted, he is not separated nor separable from the rest of the sons of men. He was a true brother man. He was the Son of God. But we may say to-day, for to-day the truth can be apprehended, we are all sons of God, and therefore heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. Not in Jesus alone does the divine ideal incarnate itself, but in every man, in all men, and therefore all men are brethren, and possessors of a divine nature.
21
This is the great truth which the church must now accept and bring out, a truth which is nothing but the generalization of the particular truth she has always contended for. The new church, the church of the ideal, will be based on this generalization, and will therefore prescribe to her members the duty of loving and reverencing all men, as we have heretofore loved and reverenced Jesus. We love and reverence God, when we love and reverence man. Religious duty will be made henceforth to consist, not in abortive to love and reverence a metaphysical abstraction, a mere logical entity, nor yet in loving and reverencing one only of the sons of men, but humanity; nor yet humanity in the abstract, man in general and nobody in particular; but all the individual men and women who compose the race.  This will not require us to love and reverence Jesus less, but his brethren more. All men will by this become sacred; [65] each man will be a living shrine of the Godhead, a visible, speaking, loving image of the Father.
22
The actual church is an organization for the worship of God as revealed in one individual; the church of the future will be an organization for the worship of God as revealed in all men. The ideal of the new church will be the redemption and sanctification of the race, as the ideal of the old church was the redemption and sanctification of the individual; or the new will add to the old the redemption and sanctification of the race. The new never lets go the old; but retains it, and enlarges it, by making that general which was before particular. "Think not I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." The effect of the new church, or the new organization of mankind, for the express purpose of directing all activities, all intelligences, all sympathies, all industry, science, and art, to the realization of genuine love and reverence for all men, must baffle the most sanguine hope to calculate. The new church will realize the vision of the angels, and enable all men from all the earth, with sweet and harmonious voices, to echo their glad chorus. She will usher in the age of universal peace; and all man's energies, which have so often been turned against his brother, and into instruments for making the earth a vast field of blood will be employed in the useful or ornamental arts, and in promoting universal well-being. The groans of this nether world will cease. Man will stand erect, the image of his Maker, and look forth in joy upon a world made beautiful by his love. This shall be. The old church will become the church of the ideal, or a new church will be organized for its realization. The heart of universal humanity cries out for it. Let him who hath ears hear.
23
The oriental religions, which preceded the church, all recognized the doctrine of two coeternal, coexisting, and mutually hostile principles, one the principle of good, the other the principle of evil. The church has never formally embraced this doctrine; she has condemned it even, in the Gnostic, and especially the Manichean heresies, and sought to reconcile the existence of evil with the origin of all things in the principle of good, by means of the dogmas of the revolt of angels and the fall of man. Nevertheless she has not wholly escaped it, but has reproduced it under the modified form of the original and inherent antagonism of spirit and matter, generating two classes of interests, [66] mutually destructive one of the other, termed the one class celestial, or spiritual interests, and the other class terrestrial, material, carnal, or temporal interests. The first class are regarded by the church as supreme, permanent, eternal, holy; the second class as low, variable, transitory and essentially unholy. Hence, her constant effort has been to withdraw attention from the latter, and to fix it on the former; to rescue men from the slavery of the flesh, and to make them free in the spirit.
24
This distinction of interests, and this labor of the church, have not been without their good results. They have tended, in no slight degree, to purify the affections, to exalt the sentiments, and to promote the virtues of tenderness, meekness, gentleness, humility, chastity, and love. Men have been led to raise moral courage over physical, to prefer truth to riches, and poverty and obscurity to the pomp and majesty of the world. An army of true soldiers of the Cross has been reared and disciplined, eager to brave toil, suffering, danger, and death for the glory of God and the salvation of the soul. The history of missions and missionaries, from Paul to the Moravians, is a brilliant chapter in the history of humanity. The voluntary poverty of the mendicant orders and of the great body of the Catholic clergy, reveals a faith that overcomes the world.
25
This separation of spiritual interests from material interests involved necessarily a separation of church and state. When Jesus came, the state was in the hands of the military society, and was organized for no higher ideal than war and conquest; or at best, the maintenance of civil order by military force, against foreign and domestic enemies. He said, therefore, "my kingdom is not of this age." I must wait till a more auspicious period before mankind can be definitively organized for the peaceable and orderly pursuit of the ideal. Therefore "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Civil society could not then be brought into accordance with Christian principles. In order to effect that, a higher order of civilization was needed. The church therefore abandoned civil society to Caesar, to rapine and violence, to ignorance and brutal passion; while she labored exclusively in the spiritual sphere for the creation of a new order of civilization, which should ultimately redress the state and bring it up to her own ideal. In this sphere she labored with untiring zeal and perseverance from the first century [67] to the fifteenth, and successfully laid the foundations of all that society now is. During the greater part of that period, by means of her superior intelligence and virtue, she ruled the state, modified its actions, and compelled its administrators to consult the rights of man, by protecting the poor, the feeble, and the defenceless. It is not easy to estimate the astonishing progress she effected for civilization, during that long period called by narrow-minded and bigoted Protestant historians the dark ages. Never before had such labors been performed for humanity. Never before had there been such an immense body as the Christian clergy, animated by a common spirit and directed by a common will and intelligence to the cultivation and growth of the moral virtues and the arts of peace. Then was tamed the wild barbarian and the savage heart made to yield to the humanizing influences of tenderness, gentleness, meekness, humility, and love; then imperial crown and royal sceptre paled before the crosier, and the representative of him who had lived, and toiled, and preached, and suffered, and died in obscurity, in poverty and disgrace, was exalted and made himself felt in the palace and in the cottage, in the court and in the camp, striking terror into the rich and noble, and pouring the oil and wine of consolation into the bruised heart of the poor and the friendless. Wrong, wrong have they been who have complained that kings and emperors were subjected to the spiritual head of Christendom. It was well for man that there was a power above the brutal tyrants called emperors, kings, and barons, who rode rough-shod over the humble peasant and artisan,--well that there was a power even on earth that could touch their cold and atheistical hearts and make them tremble as the veriest slave. The heart of humanity leaps with joy when a murderous Henry is scourged at the tomb of Thomas á Becket, or when another Henry waits barefoot, shivering with cold and hunger for days at the door of the Vatican, or when a pope grinds his foot into the neck of a Frederick Barbarossa. Aristocratic Protestantism, which has never dared enforce its discipline on royalty or nobility, may weep over the exercise of such power, but it is to the existence and exercise of that power, that the People owe their existence, and the doctrine of man's equality to man its progress.
26
All that the church has really done for humanity was done during what are termed the dark ages. She then laid the foundation of modern civilization, breathed into it her [68] humane and gentle spirit, and animated it for an uninterrupted career of peaceful conquest. It was then she established schools and universities, founded scholarships, and prepared for a system of universal education. She emancipated the slave, declared all men equal before God, raised the bare-footed friar to the throne of Christendom, and made the rich sinner disgorge his misgotten wealth to feed the poor he had robbed and to serve the interests of humanity. Children, as we are, of what is called the reformation, and which was nothing but a rebellion against the church and the establishment of an insurrectionary government, we are too prone to forget the benefits of the church; and casting a veil over her struggles and her labors of love, we would fain make it appear that there was no light in the world till Protestantism was born, and nothing done for humanity till a German monk dared burn the papal bull. But all that has been done since is but the necessary development of what was done before. He is an undutiful son who curses his own mother, and no good can come of him.
27
Down to the fifteenth century the church was the true church, as true to the ideal as was possible in the circumstances in which she was placed. Down to that period she was the church of progress, and continued herself to advance. But in consequence of the broad line she had drawn between spiritual interests and material interests, she placed necessarily a term to her own progress. She could advance, or aid the advancement of the race, only till she had brought the civil organization in a spiritual point of view up even with herself. As soon as the state embodied as much wisdom, intelligence, justice, and humanity as she herself embodied in her own organization and canons, her mission in regard to civilization was ended. She could work on the state only through the individual conscience, and she could not, without abandoning her ground, make it a matter of conscience with individuals to organize the state for the indefinite progress of the race in relation to material interests. She became, then, a mere parallel organization with the state, having no longer in relation to society an ideal to realize. She had nothing to propose. She could no longer take the lead in civilization. From being the suzerain of the state, she was forced to become, as she has been for three hundred years, its vassal.
28
In point of fact, for three hundred years the state has been superior to the church and it, instead of the church, [69] has proposed and effected whatever social ameliorations have been proposed and effected. But so long as the old theory of a separation of interests remains, the supremacy of the state over the church is a monstrous anomaly. It is in theory nothing less than making the low, the transitory, the unholy superior to the high, the holy, and the eternal. It is making matter, declared to be the principle of evil, superior to the spirit, declared to be the principle of good; the body triumphant over the soul; and time over eternity. This is intolerable. It creates a disgust with some for the church, which makes pretensions she does not justify, and with others it prompts efforts to restore the church to her former position. But the restoration of the church to power would relieve no embarrassment. The church has realized her ideal. To give her supremacy would not be to make her again a church of the ideal, and therefore favorable to progress; but to arrest the progress of the race, and to place us back where we were in the fifteenth century. There is but one method by which churchmen can recover the dominion of the church, and that is the reverse of the method they pursue. The church was supreme, because she had a right to be. She had a loftier ideal than had the state. Now it is not so. The state, the creature of Christian civilization, is more Christian, in fact, than the church; and whoso would labor for the progress of humanity through any existing organism, must take the state instead of the church, and be a politician instead of a clergyman. In order that it should be otherwise, the church must show that she has an ideal, some work for civilization to propose, big enough for men's hearts, equal to their aspirations. Men are now uneasy and confined within her enclosures. They see immense evils obtain in the world, which they would gladly redress. Rich feelings kindle up within them; great thoughts swell in their hearts; a mighty energy is working in their souls; and they would go forth and act, lay hold of the ages, and shape them to the glory of God and the redemption of man. But they are bound, confined in a narrow dungeon. They rave, they foam, they pull at their chains, beat their heads against the dungeon walls, fall back wearied, exhausted, and die. There is a universal restlessness; men's great souls are seeking some mode of utterance, but find none. They burn to act, but yet are held back. Nothing is proposed equal to what they feel moving and working in themselves. There is no vent for the activity [70] which has long been accumulating in the soul. It but preys upon its possessor. Hence the deep pathos of our times, the wail of sorrow heard on either hand, the melancholy, the morbid sentiment, the suicides. In this state of things it is madness to attempt to revive the church on her old platform, and to convey us back three hundred years to do over again what has already been done.
29
The remedy will not be found in going back, but in going forward. The church can rise to power only by accepting the ideal. She must abandon the distinction she has made between spiritual interests and material interests, a distinction which has no existence in the nature of things, and recognize the fact that in actual life spirit and matter are one. The flesh is no more sin than is the spirit, and the soul is no more holy than is the body. Man is not tempted and drawn away into sin by his body, for without the soul the body were dead, and incapable of performing a single function. The soul acts never without the body, nor the body without the soul. One is not the other, but one is never without the other. The action of the one is, so long as there is life, absolutely indistinguishable from that of the other. The action and reaction of each are so harmonious, and one becomes so blended with the other, that in real life, there is for the two but one agent. Man should never, then, be treated as a twofold being, made up of soul and body, but as one simple being, made to live in a body, and through that in intimate relation with nature. He should then be taken as a whole, as one and identical in all his phenomena, however multiform, various, or variable they may be.
30
Man and nature are made of the same stuff. Spirit and matter are the same at bottom. The basis of the composite existence, termed matter, is not dead atoms, but living substance, endowed with force and perception. This living substance, or these living substances, into which all material bodies may be resolved, are kindred with that substance termed in man soul or spirit. Body is nothing but a continuity of points, each point of which is a living being, acting from its own centre, from its own inherent force, and representing the entire universe from its point of view, and is in itself as immaterial and as indestructible as the human soul itself.* No reason, then, can be assigned why matter [71] should be more sinful than spirit, or more the cause of sin. One God has created both, and both out of his own infinite fulness of being, and both for the communication of his own unbounded goodness.
31
Spirit and matter reconciled, declared to be one in the unity of actual life, all interests will become alike sacred and proper to be consulted. There will be no more lusting of the spirit against the flesh, nor of the flesh against the spirit. Spiritual interests and material interests will be held to be not only, inseparable but indistinguishable. There is no act that really promotes the welfare of the soul that is not also for the welfare of the body; there is no act demanded by the well-being of the body not also demanded by the well-being of the soul. What is for man's good in time is for his good in eternity; and the only sure way of gaining a heaven hereafter is to create a heaven on earth. What is for the good of man is for the glory of God. All interests are the same, then, in their character, and all acts which are proper to be done at all are religious acts.
32
The church of the future will be based on two great principles; the first, the generalization of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and the other, the unity in actual life of spirit and matter. This makes the service of God and man one and the same service, and the service of man under the spiritual relation identical with the service of man under the material relation. God must be served by our labors for the good of all men; and the good of all men does not consist in a spiritual culture to the neglect of physical well-being, but in their redemption and sanctification under all the possible aspects of their being. The church of the future will, then, propose the amelioration of man under his material relations no less than under his spiritual relations. Material sufferings will touch her not less than moral sufferings, and oppressions in the state will be as much offences against her laws as the misdeeds of individuals. Her mission will not be merely that of fitting men to die and to gain a happier world, but fitting them to live and to make the earth itself an abode of plenty, peace, and love. She will not enjoin poverty, but justice, and so direct the industrial activity of the race, and establish such laws for the distribution of the fruits of industry, that all will have a competence, and none any temptation to abuse his possessions or to rob another.
33
By uniting all the interests of man and subjecting them [72] all to the same law, church and state will ultimately become one, and a new classification of the race obtain. There will not then be a spiritual society and a civil society, a religious society and an irreligious society. All society, all association will be holy, for all association will be for the worship of God. The state will become a church, and legislators and civil rulers ministers at the altar. For then God will not be worshipped by idle hymns and idler ceremonies; but by those substantial acts of piety and love which do really tend to the melioration of the condition of all men, especially of the poorest and most numerous class. Men will then be religious by visiting the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions, and by keeping themselves pure and blameless.
34
Man is a being who acts, knows, and feels. He is a simple being, but with a threefold power of manifestation. He manifests himself as activity, intelligence, sensibility. Hence there are three ways in which he can serve and be served. Every man has these three faculties; but in some men one of them predominates; in others another. Those, in whom activity predominates, are what are termed men of action, practical men; those, in whom intelligence predominates, are men of science, whose tendency is to know, to investigate, to be acquainted with the universe, its principles and phenomena; in fine, those, in whom sensibility predominates, are artists, men who are attached to the beautiful, who delight in the fine arts, and aspire to ornament and embellish life. Ultimately men will fall into the three classes according to this three-fold division.
35
The men of action have heretofore been too often engaged in war and conquest, or in taking advantage of their more simple brethren. They will hereafter turn, as they are now turning, their activity into an industrial and peaceful direction. These will be the industrial portion of mankind, cultivators of the earth, artisans, manufacturers, mechanics, traders, active business men. The second will be engaged in scientific investigations, all of which will be turned to the advantage of industry and art. The third will be devoted to the cultivation of the fine arts, to adorning our habitations, purifying our affections, and exalting our sentiments.
36
In these three ways man may serve man, and thereby worship God. They, whose taste and capacity lead them to industrial pursuits, will worship God by tilling the earth, [73] by manufacturing the raw materials, or distributing or exchanging the fruits of labor. They, whose tastes and capacities lead them in a scientific direction, will worship God by penetrating the secrets of the universe, upturning the several strata of the earth and learning how nature improves upon her own types, or as they track the divine wisdom through forests, see it unfolding in the violet under the hedge, living in the animal frame, soaring with the eagle, and blazing forth in glory in the sun and stars. All nature will be seen to be full of God, and at each step the man of true science will pause in transcendent admiration. The artist will worship him by communing with the visions of beauty that come to his soul, attempting to seize and transfer them to his marble or canvas, to embody them in column or dome, or give them voice in song or story.
37
Forms of worship there will be, and forms that have meaning, that speak to the heart, and waken great thoughts and generous and holy feeling, forms that inspire men's, souls, and make them aspire with ever increasing energy to worship God in humanity. All that industry can do, science can teach, or art inspire, will be done to bring man into harmony with the will of his Maker, and to redeem and sanctify all men. In this work art will take the lead. Man, by the fact that he is endowed with a sensible nature, can be inspired, and it is by inspiration that his progress is mainly effected. God by his providence raises up, at distant intervals, providential men, a Moses, a David, an Isaiah, a Jesus, a Paul, who, admitted by their love into a closer communion with himself, speak to men in those living tones which make their hearts beat, and would make them beat under the very "ribs of death," and waken them to a higher life, inspire them to new and better sustained efforts to realize the ideal and make earth reflect the beauty of heaven. Every genuine artist is a being in whom love predominates; love carries him up to the very principle of things, and makes all things beautiful and lovely to his rapt soul; and speaking from the deep love up-welling from the bottom of his own heart, he can quicken love in the race and inspire humanity to a more zealous and acceptable worship.
38
The church of the future will place the worship of God solely in the redemption and sanctification of the race, especially the poorest and most numerous class, in loving all men as we now love Jesus, and doing all that is possible to [74] do to raise up every man to his proper estate; in a word, to realize that equality between man and man in his material relations that we now recognize in his spiritual relations. But she will not be merely utilitarian. She will not be cold and naked and barren. In accepting material interests she will not become less, but even more spiritual. In making the worship of God consist in the service of man she will recognize both the necessity and the utility of whatever tends to develop the soul, to awaken generous sentiment, to increase the love of man for man. She will still have her temple-service, which will be solemn, imposing, and inspiring; her instructors, who will disclose the laws of industry science and art, instruct men in the proper direction of their activities, intelligences, and sympathies; her preachers, who will make the heart thrill, and kindle a deep and burning enthusiasm in the soul to labor for the amelioration of the race. All the fine arts will be laid under contribution. Poetry, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, whatever speaks to sentiment, will be pressed into the temple-service, and made to minister to the worship of God and the amelioration of man.
39
Protestantism, in its excessive rationalism, in its rejection of sentiment, of inspiration, has deprived the temple-service of nearly all its power. In its churches there are a few dry forms and much barren logic; very little that speaks to the soul and kindles love. Puritanism knows nothing of the power of love. It has not learned that the road to men's convictions lies through their hearts, and that we are raised to God effectually only by the purification and exaltation of our sentiments. It places the affections under ban, and regards all emotion as the fruit of the flesh, and is even enthusiastic against enthusiasm, inspired against inspiration. The church of the future will follow the example of the church of the past, and adopt a form of service that shall speak to the sensibility, to man as a being capable of inspiration, of love. But she will purify the form heretofore adopted, and the better adapt it to the awakening of a genuine love for universal man.
40
The priests of the new church will be those who approach the nearest to God, those who best understand the works of the Creator, are best qualified to direct the activities of the race, and who have the most enthusiastic love for their brethren. They will be directors of the people, of all consciences because they will prove themselves the most able and [75] the most worthy; because they will be those in whom the power to act, to know, or to love, manifests itself in the most striking degree. They will be listened to and obeyed, because their words will carry conviction and create love. This is the true conception of a Christian priesthood. Men will not enter the priesthood to gain a livlihood [sic.], but because they are burning to do a work for humanity which they cannot do without entering it. They will be more powerful than ever were the priests of the old church; but their power will be in their inherent superiority, not in the artificial sanctity ascribed to their persons; not in the laying on of the hands of the presbytery; nor in any formal consecration. They will be God-ordained, God-commissioned, and they will speak as God gives them utterance; and their words will be with power, because they will be words of truth and love.
41
Such will be the church of the future. She will not be a destruction of the old church, but her fulfilment. She will be the church of the past, enlarged, modified, converted into the church of the future. She will be an organization for the more full and perfect realization of the Christian ideal. Christ is to her all that he has ever been. Jesus is her founder, and her aim is still the realization in actual life of the principles of the Christian revelation; but these principles more generously interpreted and seen in a broader generality. The ideal will still be the Christian ideal, and she will be a true Christian church, as true for the future as the old church was for the past.
42
This church, recognizing the unity of all interests, of spirit and matter, will place no term to her progress. Covering man's whole activity, her ideal will ever hover before her. She will gradually absorb the state and abolish the double organization of mankind; she will supersede the necessity of a religious organization and a civil organization; and as the service of God and the service of man become identical, church and state will become one. There will then be no clashing of rival claims, no war of hostile powers. The government of God and the government of man will be identical.
43
By spreading over all interests, extending to all activities, the church will command the direction of them all; and as her ideal is the redemption and sanctification of the race, she will impose upon the consciences of individuals and of legislators and rulers the religious duty of directing them [76] all to the production of that love and reverence for all men which have heretofore been paid to one man. Always then will she have a work for civilization to propose, and therefore always a work which will enlist the sympathies of the human heart. Therefore she will always be the church of the ideal. She will always aspire and kindle the aspirations of the race. She will then be forever a kingdom which the saints shall possess, and of which there shall be no end. She shall become a really catholic church, a church truly universal, and finally gather the vast family of man into one universal association; when wars will cease; all tears be wiped away; hatred be no more; and man labor side by side with his brother, in peace and love, for the glory of God and the progress of humanity.
44
The time has come for the new church to be formed. The old church has done her work. She has no work for us; nothing to propose but a certain routine which has no power to excite our sympathies, or to command our respect. She has ceased to aspire. She has no words of authority. Men laugh at her puerile duties and her idle threats. She does not direct the action of society, nor does she presume to make it a religious duty for legislators and rulers to shape the laws and the administration of the government so as to effect, in the most rapid manner possible, the moral, physical, and intellectual amelioration of the race, especially the poorest and most numerous class. She declares all men equal before God, and yet tolerates, nay, upholds the grossest inequality before society; she declares poverty a virtue, and riches a sin, and yet gives the chief seats to the rich and baptizes their means of gain. She declares that the poor are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and frowns upon all measures likely to be effectual in securing them the possession of that kingdom on earth. She has no ideal. She looks back and sighs merely for her lost  dominion. She has no blessing to pronounce on the young prophets of God who start up to gain a more glorious future for the race. They are, in her estimation, seditious fellows, disturbers of the peace, profane revellers, disorganizers, abhorred of God, and rejected of man. For them no word, no look of encouragement. She excommunicates progress, and pronounces a curse on whatever is advanced, whatever belongs to the ideal. Humanity will not, cannot tolerate this, but will return neglect for cursing, and pass on, leaving the dead to bury the dead. [77]
45
For three hundred years the church has been on the side of the past, and the future has been with statesmen and philosophers. During these three hundred years of insurrection, revolution, experiment, and philosophizing, philosophers and statesmen have brought forth two grand conceptions which are to serve as the basis of the whole future. These two conceptions are Equality and Progress, or the incarnation of the Word in all men, making all thereby the sons of God, and therefore equal to one another; and the indefinite perfectibility of the race; giving therefore an ideal to the church, and making it her duty to labor for the realization of this perfectibility for all men, and in all the aspects of their being. These two conceptions were already in the mind of Jesus, but were only partially embraced by the church. She admitted the divinity of human nature only in the case of one man, and progress, perfectibility, only in the spiritual order. Now all men are divine, and progress must be sought in the material order no less than in the spiritual. This progress is indefinite; no term can be placed to it. These are the grand conceptions which have come forth from past labors and past struggles. They have cost much, but they are worth all that they have cost. These are the foundations of future society, Equality and Progress, Love to all men, as heretofore there has been Love to Jesus, efforts to set the race forward to more and more advanced stages of civilization. Here is the ideal. Morality, piety, all that is praiseworthy and noble will consist in efforts to realize this ideal. This ideal is now affirmed, and not by one man only, but by millions of warm hearts that thrill at the very words Equality and Progress. They are affirmed in the very soul of the age in which we live, and the church must accept them and become an organism for their realization,--direct all activities, intelligences, and sympathies to their realization. The existing church may accept this ideal. She is already an organism for that purpose, did she but know it. Her clergymen may become prophets, and from the heights of every pulpit in Christendom proclaim that all men are sons of God and indefinitely progressive, and that the love and worship of God consist in the love of all men and in efforts to advance the race in civilization. But if she will not thus proclaim, if she will not make it matter of discipline, and regard the neglect to labor in the cause of equality and progress an offence deserving the censure of the church, then a new church will organize [78] herself, a new temple will arise at the magic words, as did the walls of Thebes as the prophet touched his lyre.
46
The time of denial has gone by. Protestantism is obsolete. The time has come to affirm, and to affirm with emphasis. The race is tired of mere analysis, criticism, dissecting, which gives not life, but takes it away. It demands a broad and generous synthesis, positive convictions, positive institutions, and a positive mission. It would act. Infidelity there may yet be; men no doubt are still disputing whether there be or be not a God, whether the scriptures were or were not given by divine inspiration, whether there be or be not a life beyond this life. Vain disputings all. He who would have faith must go forth and act. He who will do the will of God shall know there is a God. He who will cultivate a love to all men, by seeking to do good to all men, shall never doubt that there is a common Father of all; and he in whose heart eternally wells up a living love for all that live, who perpetually aspires, shall want no arguments to convince him that he cannot die. He lives immortality. Let the church once more aspire, let her face be turned to the future, and let her command the moral, physical, and intellectual advancement of the race, command it in the name of God, and bless him who is able and willing to live or die for it, and faith will be restored and men will live again. Christ will then reappear, and the kingdom shall in very deed be given to the saints who will possess it forever and ever. Even now they who have eyes may see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, in all the glory of his Father, surrounded by all pure and loving spirits, to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth, into a holy association, animated by a single spirit, and directed by a single will, for the brilliant conquest of the future. He comes. Lift up your heads, ye who have sighed under bondage; open your eyes, ye who have sat long, in the region and shadow of death; exult, ye who have waited to see the salvation of God; for he cometh, and the day of redemption is at hand, and all the ends of the earth shall see the glory of God, and rejoice together.

{Footnote from paragraph 30: The author here intended to follow the doctrine of Leibnitz. That every substance is a vis activa be continued always to hold; but not that the body is a mere continuity of points, each of which is an active force, for that would make the body a mere aggregation of substances, not a substance.--ED.}

Source: The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, vol. IV, edited by Henry F. Brownson (Detroit, 1901), 57-78. Originally published in the Boston Quarterly Review (Jan. 1842). Paragraph numbers have been added, and the original pagination appears in brackets.

History Tools Home Historical Sources Handout Library About Search