Orestes A. Brownson,
Addressed especially to the Fourierists

BELIEVING in and desiring the return of the Christian world to the unity and catholicity of the church, I propose now to offer some reasons which, in my judgment, go to prove that the question of this return is the first and paramount question of our age and country; because, till this question is settled, and the church rehabilitated in its authority and glory, no scheme of practical reform, individual or social, political or industrial, can be successfully attempted. In the present article I attempt to establish only the proposition, No Church, no Reform; in another article, I shall continue the discussion, and, endeavour to demonstrate the impossibility of succeeding without the unity and catholicity of the church as an outward visible body or institution, through which will be given us one Lord, one faith, one baptism, or, in other words, unity of faith and discipline.
I do not know that I can take any better method of explaining or of establishing my first proposition, than to state the problems of social reform as they have come up in my own mind, and the difficulties in the way of their practical solution, which I have encountered in my own experience.
It is now over twenty years since my attention was first called to questions of social reform, and I was led to reflect on the discrepancies which everywhere exist between society as it is, and society as all, in their serious moments, feel that it should be. I was struck, as have been so many others, with the wide disparity of social conditions, the general degradation of the operative classes, and the immense advantages which capital, in our industrial systems, holds over labor. I soon discovered, that the whole tendency of modern industry is to separate capital and labor, and to create a numerous proletarian class, whom the representatives of capital may coerce into laboring for the mere minimum of human subsistence, and whose labor must depreciate in value to themselves nearly in the ratio of its productiveness. From that moment I was seized with a passion for social reform, and solemnly consecrated myself to the work [497] of discovering and applying a remedy to the evils I saw and deplored.
My first solution of the problem was sought in the principle of selfishness. The causes of existing evils, I assumed to be in the vicious organization of society. Society, as at present organized, creates everywhere an antagonism of interests. Rewards are not proportional to works. We pay a premium for iniquity. The priest lives by our sins; the lawyer by our quarrels; the doctor by our diseases. So is it everywhere. It is for the interest of the trader to cheat--to buy under value, to sell over value; it is for the interest of the master to oppress the workman, by paying the least possible wages for the greatest possible amount of work; of the workman to oppress the master, by getting the greatest possible amount of wages for the least possible amount of labor. Thus is the interest of one everywhere opposed to the interest of another; and every man, in pursuing his own interest, must needs, as far as possible, overreach and supplant every other man.
If the causes of social evils are in the universal antagonism of interests, the remedy must be sought in so remodelling society as to harmonize the interest of each with the interests of all. How shall society be remodelled so as to effect this result? This was the problem, and, no doubt, a problem not easily solved. But, at the time it first came up, I regarded the difficulty as extrinsic, rather than intrinsic. The difficulty lies, I said, in the fact, that attention is turned elsewhere. Instead of turning their attention to the solution of this problem, men are wasting their time, their thoughts, and their energies, in seeking to escape imaginary tortures in an imaginary hell. And why is it so? It is all the work of the priests, who have an interest in our sins, and, therefore, an interest in preventing us from ameliorating our condition. They must keep us poor and miserable, in order to maintain their influence over us. Men take refuge in heaven, only when they despair of the earth. Then, Down with the priests! and, as the church creates the demand for priests, then, Down with the church! and, as the church rests on faith in, and worship of, unseen powers, then, Down with all religious faith and worship! We must drop from the airy heavens to the solid earth, dismiss the fables of the priests, and betake ourselves to the acquisition of genuine science. As soon as we do this, we shall be able [498] to solve the problem, and convert the earth into the abode of science, peace, and plenty.
All this was plausible, and in harmony with the general tendency of thought and speculation, for the last hundred and fifty years, throughout what are regarded as the more advanced nations of Christendom. What wonder, then, that it captivated, for a time, a young socialist, feeling, in his own heart every wound inflicted upon the heart of his brethren? I found, as I supposed, the priests, the church, religious faith and worship in my way, and I merely sought to clear the path for my onward progress. Well, these all cleared away, so far as I myself was concerned, I proceeded to solve the problem, and solved it, not by Communism, as did Robert Owen, but by Association and Attractive Industry, as did Charles Fourier. I do not claim to have drawn out, in my own mind, a complete system of association, nor to have established all the laws of attractive labor; I had not arranged all the details; but I do claim to have seized all the great principles of the practical part of Fourierism, long before Fourier's name was heard of in this country, and even before it had attracted much, if any, notice in his own. My plan was, to organize men and women into corporations, in which the capital should be held by the corporators as joint-tenants, and the profits be shared by each, according to his or her works. The corporation or community was also to be a school of science, literature, and art, in which science and art should combine to render both labor and study pleasant and attractive.
But the solution obtained, the remedy found, there remained the serious difficulty of reducing it to practice. How to get the remedy applied? The machine is cunningly devised, beautifully constructed, and will work admirably, if it be only once set a-going. But it will not set itself a-going. I must then have some power, by which to put it in operation. Whence this power? Selfishness, or each man's sense of his own interest, will keep it in motion, after it is once fairly in operation; but will it suffice to set it a-going? In my simplicity and inexperience I thought it would. Was it not for every man's interest to adopt the plan? What, then, had I to do, but to show men that it was for their interest to adopt it? Alas! a short experiment satisfied me that I had reckoned without my host. It required, for its introduction, that very union of interests, which I proposed its introduction to effect. Then, how, [499] without its aid, get men, now separated, and mutually repellant, through prevailing antagonism of interests, to unite, and to cooperate for its introduction? I need, then, the effect of the successful operation of my plan, as the condition of putting it into operation! This will not do. Selfishness, then, will hardly suffice as the motive power.
Is it not so? Here am I, sacrificing my time, my substance, my reputation, my health, for the purpose of remedying social evils. Am I selfish? Am I governed solely by a sense of my own interest? Not at all. Can the reform be effected without similar sacrifices? No. There must be some individuals, at least, who are governed by disinterested motives, and who are capable of making great sacrifices. Then, no reform without the presence and activity of a non-selfish element, that is to say, without benevolence, disinterestedness, sacrifice.
But, after all, is it so certain that selfishness will suffice for the successful operation of the machine, even when once put into operation? Of what is society, as it now is, the result? Of absolute selfishness, and nothing else? No; selfish as men have been, and are, there has been more or less of disinterestedness at work from the first. Abstract what is due to this, and leave only what is due to selfishness alone, and shall we have any thing better? Then, how maintain, after all, this exquisite harmony in the community, where each individual member regards himself as the centre of the world, and labors continually to make all gravitate towards himself? Can there possibly be a common centre of gravity, where there are, say, fifteen hundred separate centres, all equally attractive? Or can equilibrium be maintained, if the centres be unequal? The community, organized on selfish principles, can be nothing but a community of inherently repellant and antagonist forces, and its only bond of union must needs be the principle of absolute and universal disunion. Then I shall need love, disinterestedness, sacrifice, not only to introduce my plan, but also to secure its successful operation.
Here, then, in [sic.] a new difficulty. Men now are selfish, and the love, disinterestedness, and power of sacrifice, needed to effect the reform, they do not possess. We have them not; how shall we get them? The discovery of the necessity of a non-selfish order of sentiments brought me out of the cold and heartless philosophy of the eighteenth century, and introduced [500] me into a new moral region. I now found myself alongside of the gifted and philanthropic Channing, with whom, in my humble way, I became a fellow-laborer. But my difficulties were not removed. The problem, how to get the love, the disinterested affections, the power of self-sacrifice, continued to torment me.
Meditation on this problem brought me back, in some degree, to the Gospel, which placed the excellence of character in love, charity, fraternity. Its first and great commandment was, that we love one another as Jesus hath loved us; that is, well enough, if need be, to die on the cross for our fellow-men. Well, here in Christianity, said I, for which, in name, at least, men still have some respect, I shall find the motive power I need. Cheered and animated, I went forth and preached the Gospel of love, charity, brotherhood, and many were the burning words I let fall, and not altogether in vain. But, alas! I was not yet through with my difficulties. I could stand up and say to men, "Love one another; be ready to die for one another;" but this would not make them love. It was merely saying, "Be ye warmed, be ye filled, be ye clothed," while I imparted not the things whereof they had need. What the corrupt and selfish, who were oppressing their brethren, and through whose want of love the world was made a vale of tears and a field of blood, most needed, was, not to be told their duty, but to be made to do it; not to know that they ought to love, but to be actually induced to love. They would assent to my preaching, they would applaud my zeal, tell me I was preaching the true Gospel, and then go and sin as before. I might preach, till doomsday, the Gospel of love; but, unless I had some power to infuse the power of love, "the power to become the sons of God," into their hearts, man would continue, as of old, to be the plague and tormentor of his kind. No. I have not got hold of the lever yet. It is in vain that men are told what the Gospel demands, if there be not the authority to discipline them into obedience; in vain that I demand the disinterested affections, unless I can impart the power that calls them forth. Men are not redeemed by the teachings of Christ, but by Christ himself, by his being formed in them, the wisdom of God and the power of God, and through his indwelling Spirit constituting them sons of God, and heirs of the heavenly inheritance.
We have erred, and been carried away into vague speculations, windy declamations, and idle sermonizings. Modern [501] sects seem to take it for granted, that all Jesus was needed for was, to remove, in a forensic sense, certain obstacles in the way of our salvation on the side of God, and simply to teach us what we ought to be and to do, in order to be saved. I came, with Dr. Channing, to the conclusion, that the Christian life is the life of disinterestedness, charity, brotherhood, that whoever has the spirit of Christ is a true Christian; and I then assumed the Christian life as the means of effecting the social reforms I contemplated. Wherein was I wrong? Is not the Christian life the life of pure, disinterested love? And will not this life, if lived, effect all needed reforms? Unquestionably. But Christian life is the end, reforms are only the means of attaining to it. When we live that life, we have already all good, and no evil can befall us. Nor is this all. How shall we get men to live the life of Christ? If men only lived the life of Christ, we should have no difficulty; but the evil is, they do not live this life, and the very question is, How to induce them to live it?
Here is a difficulty out of which Dr. Channing and my Unitarian friends did not help me. They said, and said truly, that we are Christians only by living the life of Christ; they said, and said truly, that the fruits of this life are love, charity, brotherhood; but the means of inducing men to live this life they did not tell. This is the great and troublesome question. How shall we answer it? Shall we say, Come to Christ, and all needed wisdom and power to live the life shall be imparted? Doubtless the wisdom and power we need are Christ himself, and all who come to him will receive them. But what means this coming to Christ? To come to Christ is, to come into moral harmony with him, to obey the divine law, and to be one with God. He who has come to Christ, in this sense, already lives the Christian life. To propose coming to Christ, as the means of obtaining the power to live the Christian life, is to tell a man to live that life as the condition of obtaining the ability to live it!
No, this will not do. Here is the man morally dead, and nothing will answer that does not reach him where he is, and raise him to life. What is not able to raise the dead, to say to those dead in trespasses and sins, and who, therefore, are without power in and of themselves to move, "Come forth," as said the Voice to Lazarus in his grave, will be inadequate to the demand. You tell me, and you tell me [502] truly, that Christ is this power, that it is he who can, and who does, raise the dead; but death and life do not stand in immediate relation, Christ and the sinner stand at the opposite poles. Some medium, then, is needed, to connect the two extremes, to bring the unholy within the sphere of the influence of the holy. It is Christ, indeed, that comes, but only through his prepared body, his ministry, that reaches the sinner where he is, and begets him to moral life and soundness.
The sinner, we are told, comes to Christ by faith; but, prior to his coming, he can exercise only the sinner's faith, which, from the nature of the case, cannot be a faith that unites him to Christ; but, at best only a faith that brings him to the baptismal font. The faith that makes him one with Christ, which is "the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for,"--a faith which overcomes the world, and enables him to hold communion with the Father,--the blessed privilege of the true disciple,--is not possible to the sinner before he has been raised from the dead, and made alive in Christ. It cannot be proposed, then, as the means of obtaining the wisdom and the power which we need, in order to live the true life of Christ; for it is itself the fruit of that wisdom and power. It is a product, not of the moral state in which the sinner is before regeneration, but of that moral state into which regeneration introduces him. So faith cannot serve as the medium of bringing us into moral harmony with Christ, because it is itself a result of that harmony, and presupposes it.
There can be no doubt, that, to a certain extent, the preacher is the medium through which Christ and the sinner are brought into relation, but he is not, and cannot be, a sufficient medium. Here is the rock on which all modern reformers split. They proceed on the hypothesis, that, if men do but come to a knowledge of what the truth demands, there is no difficulty as to the practical realization. They begin by calling a true doctrine of truth, the truth itself, and then, because the truth has always the inherent power to sanctify, conclude the doctrine will realize itself. Proclaim the truth, say they, and it will make to itself hands, erect the temple, and institute the practical worship of God. So I for a long time believed, preached, and wrote. But such is not the fact. The fallacy is not, that truth is not vital, puissant, and able to do to the uttermost all we ask of it, but in the fact that what we proclaim as the truth is not [503] the truth, but the philosophy of truth. Truth is the living power, the ontological principle; not, as we too often, in our shallow philosophy, define it, the agreement of our ideas with their objects. The doctrines we preach may be true, and are true, so far as they give a correct view of the truth, but they are not truth itself. They may be important, indispensable, in bringing us to the truth, within the sphere of the influence of the living ontological Principle; but it is not our belief in them that gives us the power to will and to do, but truth itself, that of which they are true doctrines. Our theory of truth, that is, our philosophy, may be adequate and sound, yet it by no means suffices for our redemption and sanctification. Here is the profound realism of the Gospel, and here we see how opposed to it are our modern conceptualisms and nominalisms. The church condemned as heretics both Rosceline and Abelard.
Nor are we obliged to rest here. All history comes in confirmation of this conclusion as to the inefficacy of theory, of doctrine, or philosophy, however true or sound it may be. We may regard Christianity under two points of view. Under one point of view, it is the eternal Word; not the word which God spoke, but which God speaks. In this sense, it is the Word incarnated, "God manifest in the flesh," for the salvation of men. We may also regard it, under another point of view, as the philosophy of this eternal, and living, and therefore creative Word. In this last sense, it is philosophy, or theology; that is, a doctrine, or rather the doctrine of life; not doctrine of life because it gives life, for the Word gives life only as being life itself, but because it explains the origin, principle, and genesis of life. Now, in this sense, as a philosophy, Christianity is older than the Advent of our Saviour. Plato had many very just views of Christian truth; Cicero, Apollonius of Tyana, Seneca, and others, taught morals not at all inferior to those we find in the gospel. The best instructed Christian may study, even to-day, many of the productions of gentile philosophers and moralists with advantage, and find much to illustrate and confirm his faith in the doctrines of the New Testament. Yet what have these philosophers and moralists done for the world? They wrought no moral or social revolution, changed no old customs, abolished no superstitious practices. They in no sense purified the national religion, or the national manners. Rome, after her own great moralists and her acquaintance with Grecian philosophy, became [504] more corrupt than ever, and her religion degenerated from its ancient grandeur and severity into Bacchic orgies and Isiac obscenities and prostitutions. Why was this? and why, the moment the same doctrines are taken up and preached by a few humble fishermen and tent-makers, do they found an institution which changes the whole face of the moral world, just in proportion as it extends, and which subsists, even to this day, in all the freshness and vigor of an immortal life? Because the philosophers had only doctrines, and because the fishermen and tent-makers had, besides the doctrines, that of which the doctrine treated,--Truth itself; for they communicated not merely the words of Christ, but Christ crucified, the wisdom of God, and the power of God,--him who declares himself to be the way, the truth, and the life.
Our blessed Saviour did not come merely to teach the truth, for he was it; he did not come to establish a true philosophy, for he was that of which all sound philosophy is the doctrine. The purpose of his mission into this world was to found the kingdom of God on earth, which should be the Kingdom of kingdoms, and in which he should live and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. His apostles were able to build up this Kingdom, because he was with them, and they had him by whom all things are created, and were, therefore, able, through him, to do all things. There was with them, living in them, and acting through them, the very creative Word which had framed the worlds, and by whose energy all creation is sustained, and by whose life all creatures live. Thus were they powerful; thus were they able to overcome the world, and to establish the kingdom of God. But if they had had only the doctrine, they could have founded no kingdom. What could they have done, as simple teachers, beyond what had been already done by the great philosophers and moralists of the gentile world? Philosophy has never founded any thing, has never been an institutor. All its creations are confined to a narrow space, and limited to a brief period of time. Where are the institutions of the early sects, which undertook to build on doctrines? Where is a single institution that was founded on a doctrine? No greater constructive genius ever appeared than John Calvin. He undertook to organize the reformation, and to found the reformed church. Where are his institutions now? Are they living realities? No; they are merely a heavy volume [505] called Christian Institutes, lying on the shelves of a few theologians, rarely read, still more rarely studied. All Protestant sects undertake to build on doctrine, and they all fail, and universal Protestantdom complains of disorganization, of anarchy, chaos, and cries out, from the depths of its misery, for reform, for reorganization, for a living institution. We are authorized by all experience to say, that the power men need to work out their salvation, social or individual, must come through the communion of truth, of God, not merely through the communication of a just view of God, or of God's Word. "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you."
Assuming, now, that the speculative knowledge of truth, or a just view of truth, will not suffice, then we can receive the power we need only by some ministry which can communicate truth itself, the Real Presence. No scheme of reform, then, is, or can be, practicable, that does not bring along with it the "wisdom of God, and the power of God," for its own realization. It must be an institution embodying the Holy Ghost, and able to communicate the Holy Ghost. We say an institution. If it be a doctrine, it will be inadequate; if it is the truth uninstituted, it is beyond our reach. Truth, as pure spirit, is for us as if it were not. We ourselves, not being pure spirit, but the union of spirit and body, can come into immediate relation with spirit, and commune immediately with it, only as it is, like ourselves, the union of spirit and body; consequently, we can stand in immediate relation with the truth only as it is embodied. Here is the profound significance of the Incarnation, and wherefore it is always Immanuel, or God with us, "God manifest in the flesh," that redeems and sanctifies.
Let us try our reformers by this test. We will take up, for instance, Fourierism. This proposes to reform the world by means of Association and Attractive Industry. Well, is Fourierism truth, or is it only a doctrine of truth? It is a doctrine. Is the truth, of which it is a doctrine, embodied, instituted, on the earth? No. Then Fourierism, granting it to be a just view of truth, a true account, as it professes to be, of the laws of the Creator, will amount to nothing. Go even further; assert and establish its identity with Christian philosophy, it amounts to just as little, for Christianity is not efficacious as the philosophy of truth, but as, the truth itself.
But assuming Fourierism to be truth, and not a mere [506] theory of truth, it could not answer your purpose; for it is, at best, merely truth in the abstract, truth unembodied. It was not born, as is the living child, the union of spirit and body; it was not born, as was the church, the Spirit of Truth that leadeth into all truth embodied, or instituted; therefore, was not born a living thing. It is not living truth--at least to us. How, then, can it give life? or accomplish a work of social renovation and growth?
But, waiving this, and taking Fourier to be merely a seer of truth, and recorder of what he saw, then, Fourierism is only a theory. Grant, if you will, that it is a true theory, though this is more than we believe, it is only a theory, and can change nothing in human affairs, save as it is reduced to practice. It is not yet the actual solution of the social problem, but merely its theoretical solution, and must be applied before it can be an actual solution. Where, then, is your power to apply it? This power is not in the theory itself; otherwise it would not remain a theory. Then it must be obtained, if obtained at all, from abroad. The life is not in your theory, and, therefore, you must obtain, from some other source, the power to give it life. Whence will you obtain this power? From the human heart? Not at all; for has not our falsely organized society perverted the human heart, and is it not expressly to rectify this perverted human heart, to bring it into harmony with what you call the laws of the Creator, that you propose the practical realization of Fourierism? If the human heart, all perverted as you allege, has the power to realize Fourierism, then Fourierism is not needed. If it is needed, then the human heart cannot give you the power you need to realize it. You must look, then, elsewhere, or abandon its realization.
Will you obtain the power from man, without stopping to specify whether from head or heart, or both combined?  You then assume that man, in case he has the true theory of life, has, in himself, the power to realize it. That is, teach a man what he ought to do, and he has the power, without further assistance, to do it. This, we suppose, is the doctrine of the Fourierists, as of all reformers; for they all tell us that ignorance is the cause of all vice and evil. Let us see if this be so. We have seen that the history of the race, thus far, gives no support to this hypothesis. But, Platonists as we are, we shall not question the fact, that all ideas, whether human or otherwise, have a certain potency, and can and do, produce certain [507] effects. Nor shall we deny that man has, within given limits, the power to realize his own ideas, or views of truth; for we hold, that man was created in the likeness of his Maker, and is, therefore, essentially creative. But all man's creations must be inferior to what he himself is, at the moment of creating. He can, then, realize no ideas, the realization of which transcends himself.
But Fourierism is proposed as a scheme of reform, and its realization is intended to be something superior to what man now is. To say, then, that he has power to reduce it to practice, must be either to deny that its realization would be a reform, or else to assert that man's creations may surpass himself, the stream rise higher than the fountain, the creature be greater than the creator. If, then, your Fourierism is to be the introduction of something superior to what is, you cannot obtain from man the power to introduce it. Whence, then, will you obtain the power?
Do you reply, that, to admit our objection, is to deny to man the inherent power of progress. Admitted. What then? This inherent power of progress is precisely what we have all along been denying, and that man does not possess it is the very thing we are endeavouring, to demonstrate. From man you can get only man, and from perverted man, only perverted man. In order to get a product surpassing society as it now is, one of your factors, at least, must be superior to what society, as it now is, can furnish. Granted, your Fourierism sees a truth superior to what now is, yet the seeing, the conception itself, does not transcend what is, and, therefore, brings into society no power which it has not already. You can have in your product only the sum of the powers of your factors; and, if the factors are both taken from existing society, how can the product transcend existing society? Add, subtract, multiply, and it is always existing society, and nothing else. Man, we say very positively, and on a higher than human authority, is never able, of himself alone, to work out his own redemption. Nor is he, in himself, inherently progressive. This innate capacity of improvement, about which we talk so much in modern times, is all moonshine. Man is progressive, indefinitely progressive, but only by virtue of a wisdom and a power not his own, and which are graciously communicated to him from him "who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
Suppose you undertake to realize Fourierism; either your [508] phalanx cannot get into operation at all, or it will only reproduce, under another form, all the evils of the existing social order. Aggregate your sixteen hundred and eighty persons in your phalanx, arrange them in your groups and series, and what have you got? Simply, the sum of moral life they brought with them. You have obtained no accession of life, no increase; and how, without an increase of moral life, are you to obtain a result superior to what you had to begin with? Will you say, "In union there is strength?" So there is, but only the sum of the strength of the parts. In the union of aggregation there is nothing more.
Here is the fundamental vice of all modern schemes of reform. All our reformers proceed on the false assumption that man is sufficient for his own redemption, and, therefore are trying always with man alone to recover the long lost Eden, or to carry us forward to a better Eden. Here is the terrible sin of modern times. We vote God out of the state; we vote him out of our communities; and we concede him only a figurative, a symbolical relation with our churches, denying almost universally the Real Presence, and sneering at it, as a popish error; we plant ourselves on the all-sufficiency of man, and then wonder that we fail, and that, after three hundred years of efforts at reform, nothing is gained, and a true state of society seems to be as far off as ever. Three hundred years of experiments and failures ought to suffice, one would think, to teach us, that no reforms, if at all worthy of the name, are ever possible, save by means of a more than human power. Men may cavil at this statement as they will, call us all the hard names for making it they please; but all experience asserts it, all sound philosophy demonstrates it, and all history confirms it.
But we shall be told, that this more than human power is granted us; and so it is, in God's own way, by the ministries he has appointed, and we have no right to expect it in any other way, or through any other medium. "But it is granted us in our higher nature, purer instincts, nobler aspirations, sublimer ideals." Nonsense! Go prattle this to beardless boys, and pretty misses in their teens, but talk it not to men with beards on their faces. Man is man, neither more nor less; with one simple nature, which is human nature. His instincts, aspirations, ideals, are himself, and, however lofty they may be, do not carry him [509] above himself. All the power that he has in this way is human power, and gives him no superhuman aid. Either he is sufficient for himself, or he is not. If he is not, you bring him not the power he needs, when you only bring him what he already has.
"But these are the divine in man." When is this Babel speech to end? When you call the tendencies, instincts, aspirations, of man divine, save so far as quickened by divine influences, that is, by the inflowings of divine efficacy ab extra, what do you but identify the human and divine natures, and either declare God to be man, or man to be God? If you identify man with God, what do you, when you demand reform, but blasphemously assert that it is God himself that needs reforming? Do you not also see, that all the divinity you get, by speaking of man's nature as divine, avails you nothing? What in this way do you get that transcends human nature? What do you get that man has not had from the beginning? These instincts, these nobler faculties of which you speak, are man himself, and, therefore, must needs be with him wherever he is, and as active as he himself. If, with all this divinity in his nature, and as active as he himself, man has been able to run into all the errors, vices, and crimes, and to undergo all the perversions, of which this very society you are seeking to reform is the exponent, what, we would ask in all soberness, is its value? If it has been insufficient to prevent, can it be all-sufficient to cure? Is it easier to cure than to prevent? How much more philosophic is the declaration, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help!"
Man is, in no sense, sufficient for himself. Strictly speaking, he is not even self-moving, for he moves in God. He is, indeed, essentially active, and active from within; but only in conjunction with another activity, not himself, but meeting him ab extra. This applies equally to the most interior emotions of his soul, and to what are more vulgarly called his actions. And, not being himself pure spirit, but spirit in union with body, he can never come into relation, or hold communion, with spirit, save as that spirit, like his own, is embodied. The truth, the power that is to save him, and to be adequate to his wants, must, then, be not truth as pure spirit, God in the unapproachable and ineffable spirituality of his own essence, but truth embodied, instituted,--"God manifest in the flesh." This is the result to which we are driven. [510]
Taking it for granted, now, that reforms are possible only by means of superhuman aid, and that this aid comes to us through some institution, that is, some divinely instituted medium, we may ask, What is this institution? Is it the state? Formerly, not comprehending that it is the truth itself, and not the true doctrine of truth, that saves, and, therefore, holding the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, instead of justification by the communication of Christ himself, I contended, that the state was the only institution needed. I looked upon Christianity--not always, and, in fact, rarely when it was the precise question before me, but, for the most part, in my theorizing--as the philosophy of life, rather than the life itself, life in its very principle. I sought to make it the basis of the state, and contended that the state would be the only organic body needed for its practical realization. I wished to get rid of the church as a separate organization, not in order to doom men to live without a church, but in order to transfer its chief functions to the state. According to my own thought, the state would have embodied the great principles of the Gospel, and reproduced them in its enactments and administration; while the outward service, the cultus exterior, would have been left unorganized, to individual taste, reason, and conscience. This view I advocated when I first came into this community, under the name of the unity--not union--of church and state, and it is but at a comparatively recent day, that I have been forced, very reluctantly, to abandon it. But it is unsound, because the state does not embody Christ, and the same fact that makes it necessary to embody the principles of the Gospel to render them efficacious on the individual, makes it necessary to embody them to render them efficacious on the state. If, unembodied, if as an invisible kingdom of truth and righteousness, they were too remote from humanity to control the life of the individual, how should they be sufficient to control the state, and compel it to embody them in its laws and administration? I must make them predominate in individuals, before I can make them the basis of the moral action of the government; and yet, to make them predominate in the individual citizen is the great question, and the only reason for seeking to make them predominate in the government.
Appreciating this difficulty, but still groping in the dark, struck with the great power and utility of the church in the middle ages, I said, "We must have a church, a new church, [511] which shall influence legislators, and the administrators of government." Hence the demand I made for a new church, and my efforts to establish what I called the "Church of the Future." But the Essay was hardly sent forth before my old difficulty returned,--Where is my power to form the new church? Can man constitute a church which shall embody Christ? Is Christ unembodied? If so, is there any human power that can give him a body? No. Then, either Christ is embodied, and there is already existing a true church, through which he carries on his work of redemption, individual or social, or there is no redeemer, and no redemption for us. Man cannot raise himself, or construct, without going out of himself, a machine by which he can raise himself. Archimedes said, he would lift the world, but only on condition of having a stand-point outside of it. The fulcrum of your lever must rest on another body than the one you propose to raise. This is as true in morals as in mechanics, for one and the same dynamic law runs through the universe. If we have no stand-point out of man, no point of support in God himself, then have we no means of elevating man or society. Then either there is already existing the divine institution, the church of God, or there are no means of reform.
In coming to this conclusion, what have we done, but to apply to social reform the very principle of individual reform, which all Christians admit and contend for? Do we not preach from all our pulpits, that the sinner is not adequate to the work of his own moral redemption; that he can rise from his state of moral death, only through the new life given him by the Son of God? Is man, confessedly inadequate, through the waste of his moral powers by sin and transgression, to the work of his own individual redemption, yet adequate to the still greater work of social regeneration? Of what are social evils the result? You answer, of our viciously organized society, which perverts the minds, corrupts the hearts, and debilitates the bodies of its members. But whence comes your viciously organized society? What is the cause of that? Does society make man, or man society? Grant, what is undoubtedly true, that one acts and reacts on the other, yet, with holy men, could you have ever had a viciously organized society? With ignorant, depraved men, can you have a rightly organized society? How, then, except on the same principle, and by the same power, that you expect individual reformation, [512] can you look for social reform? Are not both to be obtained by virtue of one and the same law? Then, if the church be essential to individual salvation, so is it essential to social salvation. But does the church of God still exist? Doubt it not. Is it still living, and in a condition to do its work. Yes, if you will return to it, and submit to it. You may have abandoned the church, but it still exists, and is competent to its work, and all that reformers have to do is, to cease to be "Come-outers," and to return to its bosom, and receive its orders.

Source: Works of Orestes A. Brownson, vol. 4, edited by Henry Brownson (New York, 1902). Originally published in Brownson's Quarterly Review (April 1844). Paragraph numbers have been added, and the original pagination appears in brackets.

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