"Transcendental Road to Rome," Brownson's Quarterly Review for 1856

There are many painful things in this world, and some amusing things; and among amusing things, none would be more amusing, were it not for the gravity of the matter, than the attempt of an Evangelical to reason against Catholicity, and to refute serious works written in its favor.  If any one doubts it, let him read in the Christian Review, the Baptist Quarterly, for last October, the article devoted to the Questions of the Soul, by the Rev. Father Hecker.  Fr. Hecker’s book is a sore puzzle to the Evangelical Reviewer.  It squares neither with his notions of the Gospel, nor with his preconceived theory of Popery.  Of course, the book is bad, damnable; but on what side to attack it, where to find a breach practicable, that’s the difficulty.

The Reviewer begins by citing a well-known passage from Macaulay, in which the brilliant writer dilates on the wonderful sagacity of Rome, in making provision in her communion for all sorts of minds and all sorts of enthusiasms, and comes to the conclusion, that Rome is the masterpiece of human wisdom.  Fr. Hecker’s book has been inspired by Rome, and is a striking proof of this wisdom; and yet, if we may believe the Reviewer, it is a such a silly, bungling, and absurd performance, that it is a matter of astonishment how it could have been written “in the accumulated light of the nineteenth century.”  The logic is the Reviewer is not precisely that of  Aristotle,  or of the old schoolmen, but is, we suppose, that of the nineteenth century, and a proof of the modern “march of the mind,” especially among the Baptist brethren.

We cite in the Reviewer’s own words, his synopsis of Fr. Hecker’s work:

“The book before us is another instance of the policy of Rome, in making use of enthusiasts.  The writer is a convert, one who has made the happy discovery, that to become a Catholic he needed no change.  ‘We found ourselves prepared,’ he says, ‘to put into execution, what before was only upon our lips,’ for ‘all men, so far as their nature is not perverted, are Catholics; and if they but knew their real wants, they would have to do violence to themselves not to enter the Catholic Church.’   Of course, to such a mind, Protestantism is ‘a purely speculative religion;’ – ‘a religion without faith, without an altar, without a sacrifice, without a priesthood, without a sacrament, without authority, without any bond of union,- a religion utterly unpractical, and destitute even of material grandeur!’

“Such being the writer’s estimate of Protestantism, we become interested to know in what particular school of Protestantism he was brought up, from which he has formed his judgment.  Protestantism is a comprehensive thing, if it includes every doctrine, system, and sect protesting against the pretensions of Rome.  It may be spiritual, or philosophical; speculative or evangelical; infidel, or Christian.  In the present case, we are not left in doubt, to what particular department of the wide domain of protest, Rome is indebted for her neophyte.  The ‘ear marks’ are too prominent for mistake.  ‘Questions on the Soul,’ is his theme.  But, as we open the book and read on, we find that the questions are intended for a peculiar kind of souls, ‘a class of souls that cannot satisfy their natures with the common modes of life,’ those ‘who have a marked destiny,’ in whom ‘the longing after the infinite predominates,’ ‘privileged souls,’ like the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, and Therapeutae, the recent denizens of Brook Farm, of Fruitlands, and the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross. All these attempts to attain the true destiny of man, were, in the writer’s opinion, abortive, because ill-directed; but the efforts proved the natural superiority of these ‘noble souls.’

“Starting with the complacent assurance that he is one of ‘those priests of the race,- a golden soul compared to the silver and copper of mankind at large,- his first question is, ‘Has Man a Destiny?’ If his mother had taught him the old Protestant Catechism, he would have learned from the first answer, that ‘man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’ Had he been taught to read and reference the Bible as the word of God, his mind would not have been on a sea of doubt, without chart or compass, or pilot, to open his inquiry with the skeptical lines of Tennyson:

‘But what am I

An infant in the night,

An infant crying for the light,

And with no language but a cry.'”

“Alas! ‘no language but a cry!’  A sorry sample of a grown-up Protestant! A child of nature, who had never heard that ‘God, who at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath, in these last days, spoken to us by his Son.’  Never heard that ‘faithful saying,’ ‘that Jesus Christ came into he world to save sinners,’- never read those exalted words of prayer, put into the moths of Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Danial and Peter, by the Spirit of God, and revealed to be the guide of men to God in all ages!  ‘No language but a cry.’ Nor that cry, ‘open thou my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of they law.’  ‘An infant,’ truly, ‘crying for the light,’ with his eyes shut!  One of those ‘minds so gifted and divinely formed, as to be incapable of receiving instruction from God’s ‘word, which he hath magnified above all his name.’

“Rome has fixed her longing eyes on this class of minds in America, for she knows well that the extremes of skepticism and credulity meet.  She knows as well how to make use of transcendental worshippers of nature and despisers of revelation, as of enthusiasts nurtured in her own fold.  She covets the literary, the refined, to take the place of her foreign priests and bishops, and her low-lived rabble, so repulsive to Americans.  She sees that she must have pleaders,  who can enter the lists of learning, oratory, and polite literature, to plead her cause, or remain in a state of perpetual vassalage.  And who is likely to do her bidding, as those whose aversion to Evangelical Christianity founded on the testimony of God in his written word, has left them ‘crying for the light,’ while they reject ‘the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world?’ Rome, true to her ancient policy, is now tossing her most tastefully bated hooks to the Ralph Waldo Emersons, the O.A. Brownsons, the W.E. Channings, and the Margaret Fullers, of America.  They dislike the Bible; so does she.  They are ambitiously eccentric; she has room for them.  They are fond of antique paintings, and riddles; she furnishes them.  They reject the sun- ‘crying for the light;’ she lights them a wax candle.  They have pushed their skepticism to the verge of infidelity; she spreads her broad lap to break the severity of their fall.

“Man has a destiny, Mr. Hecker thinks; so thought Goethe, Emerson, and Sterling; and it is not merely to eat and drink, and lay up wealth, and fall in love, to win fame in war or in letters.  Yea, each man has a special destiny.  All this is duly amplified in scraps of poetry and prose.  But then, ‘among those who have a marked destiny, there is a class of souls that cannot satisfy their natures with the common modes of life.  A hidden principle leads them to seek a better and more spiritual life.  The longing after the infinite predominates in these souls, and all other ties must be loosed, and sacrificed, if need be, to its growth and full development.” (pp. 483-485)

“If his mother had taught him the old Protestant Catechism, he would have learned from the first answer that ‘man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’”  Very well; but suppose she had taught him the young Protestant Catechism?  It is very possible, and, in the present case, very certain, that Fr. Hecker had been taught both the old and the young Protestant Catechism, and had been brought up to reverence the Bible, as most Protestants reverence it; that is, as a proper dumb idol, a sort of charm or talisman, very proper to keep in one’s bedroom, or to carry in one’s trunk, when travelling.  But there came to him a day, as there does to most ingenious and thinking minds out of the Church, when idolatry, though of the Bible, seemed to be dishonor to God, and the wish arose to know and worship God himself.  The Bible, as to its contents, is the word of God, written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; but, as a mere book, it is the work of the printers, made with men’s hands; and to worship it as such, is sheer idolatry and gross superstition, as much so as it was to worship the great goddess Diana of the Ephesians.  To reverence the Bible as containing the word of God is our duty, but the reverence for it so much prated of by the Evangelicals, is, for the most part, either cant or superstition.  We never knew a Protestant who read the Bible,  to learn what he ought to believe or do; for his notions of faith and duty are formed before he reads it; and if he reads it at all, it is to find in it a support for a theory excogitated independently of it.  The few persons we have known in the Protestant ranks, who have read honestly and prayerfully the Bible, with an earnest desire to be led to a knowledge of the revealed will of God, have been led to renounce Protestantism, which, perhaps, they never thoroughly embraced in their hearts, and to seek admission into the communion of the Church.  Perhaps of all persons brought up Protestants, they who have most sincerely reverenced the Bible and studied it the most,  are precisely they who have become converts to Catholicity.  We were, for ourselves, taught the Westminster Catechism before we were able to read, and had read the whole Bible through before we were eight years old, and, at the age of fourteen, knew the greater part of it by heart.

It is not ignorance of the old Protestant Catechism, or even of the Bible as understood by Protestants, that leads honest and ingenious minds into infidelity.  We have ourselves wandered in the mazes of unbelief, and known its darkness and despair; but it was not ignorance of the Protestant Catechism, or of the Bible in the Protestant sense, that caused our fall.  Nor was it love of vice or pride of intellect.  We became an unbeliever precisely because we did know Protestantism, and had experienced all that it has to give,- because we found it alike unsatisfactory to the intellect and the heart, and because we could not believe it without doing violence to that reason which distinguishes us from the brute creation.  Men, by stifling their natural affections, and imposing silence on their reason, may remain Protestants; but if they venture t ogive free exercise to their rational faculties, they are sure to return in their convictions to the Church, or to rush onward and downward to infidelity.  No Protestant, determined to remain a Protestant, dares look  his Protestantism in the face, and the Protestant who remains a believer in Christ even in his own apprehension, does so only by shutting his eyes to the difficulties which every where beset him, and refusing to reason on the grounds of his belief.  He feels that between his natural reason and revelation there is an invincible antagonism, that he cannot embrace the one without sacrificing the other, and hence he gives up either revelation for reason, or reason for revelation.  Everybody knows that the great problem with the Protestant world is, how to reconcile faith and reason, just as if it were not the height of absurdity to suppose that without reason there is or can be faith,- faith, which is the highest and noblest exercise of reason.  It is the intrinsic unreasonableness and defectiveness of Protestantism that drives so many serious, ingenuous, and truth-loving Protestant youth into infidelity, and we know many an unbeliever whose chance we would rather take, than that of your proud, canting, conceited, bigoted, intolerant, hypocritical Evangelical,- a true Pharisee, who devours widows’ houses, and for a pretense makes long prayers,- who compasses sea and land to make one proselyte, and makes him twofold more the child of hell than himself.

Then talk of the Protestant Catechism!  A catechism is drawn up and taught by one who has authority to teach.  When did Protestants get authority to teach?  Who sent them?  “I have not sent these prophets, saith the Lord, yet they ran.”  They are every one of them prophets of their own hearts, each one saying to his neighbor, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed.”  Suppose the old Protestant catechism does say “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,” who is to assure the inquirer that it says what is true?  Who gave authority to the old Protestant Catechism?  And what right has the Reviewer to quote it as an authority that is to override private judgment?  It is not the essence of Protestantism to deny all teaching by authority?  Is it not the chief Protestant objection to the Catholic Church that she claims to teach by authority?  Do you suppose that we are such fools as not to perceive your inconsistency, if you deny all authoritative teaching, and then seek to overwhelm us with the authority of “the old Protestant Catechism?”  Do you suppose that we can allow you to blow hot and blow cold, to assume the affirmative and the negative of the same proposition, as may suit your convenience,- assert private judgment when we assert authority, and authority when we appeal to reason?   However Protestant, or in accordance with the enlightened nineteenth century it may be to do so, you cannot do so, and maintain your credit as fair reasoners, as honest and intellectual men.  If you do so, you deny reason, and must give up reasoning.   

Then, when you appeal to the Protestant Catechism.  Which one do you mean?  The old one, you say; but your oldest is only of yesterday, and is old only because you have got a younger one.  We learn from this very number of the Christian Review, which maintains that the Baptist, we suppose,- is the true Church, that a distinguished Baptist minister scouts the pretense that there has always been a Baptist Church from the time of the Apostles down to our  days.  The old Baptist Catechism must at best be quite a modern one, and can be really old only in comparison with a more recent one.  But why take one Protestant Catechism rather than another?  Are none Protestants, except those who receive the Longer and the Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Divines in the seventeenth century?  To maintain it would be to unprotestantize the Baptists themselves; for the Baptists accept neither as a whole.  What, again, will you do with the Protestant Episcopalians?  Are they not good Protestants?  Or with the Methodists, the Arminians, the Mennonites, the Tunkers, the Quakers,  the Unitarians, the Moravians,  the Muggletonians, the Shakers, the Schweckfeldians, the Universalists, the Mormons?  Are not these all good Protestants?  If you say yes; then why take the catechism of the one set of them rather than of another?  If you say no; then tell us what is the criterion by which you distinguish a genuine from a counterfeit Protestant?  These all claim to be Protestants, and by what authority do you pretend to decide in favor of the claim of some, and against the claim of others?  Who gave you authority in the great Protestant conglomerate?  This will not do, my dear Reviewer.  You can deny the claim of no one to be a Protestant who calls himself a Protestant; and the most genuine Protestants we know are the Free-Lovers; for they protest the most, carry their protest against Catholic faith and morality the farthest.  Nay, it would not be difficult to prove that they have only carried out to their legitimate logical conclusions the principles borrowed from the older heretics, especially the Paterini and the Family of Love, and assumed by the reformers as the justification of their separation from the Catholic Church.

The great objection of the Reviewer to Fr. Hecker is, that he draws his proofs from reason and not from revelation, and argues in favor of Catholicity from its power to meet the wants of the intellect and heart, the wants of the human soul, or, if you please, of human nature.  The objection is characteristic of Protestantism.  In April, 1845, we published an article, proving that if we concede such a thing as the Christian revelation at all, we must accept the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church.  The only point we took for granted was, the fact that God has made us a revelation, and that it is necessary to believe that revelation in order to be saved.  Protestant journals answered us, that our conclusion was inevitable granted our premises, but our argument was worthless, because we did not go farther back, and prove that a revelation had been made.  Now, Fr. Hecker goes farther back, assumes no revelation, but proves from reason alone, that the Catholic Church is what man’s nature needs, and hence concludes that it must be God’s Church.  The Protestant journals cry out against him, Rationalist!  And are terribly scandalized that a Papist should presume to appeal to reason.  Yet they need not be scandalized nor offended, for in appealing to reason, or the wants of the soul, we do not steal their “thunder,” or in the least encroach on their prerogatives. 

Now, whoever has read Fr. Hecker’s Questions of the Soul,  must be aware that it is a candid, honest, and affectionate appeal to a class of persons who do not believe in a supernatural objective revelation, who believe that the only divine revelation is subjective in the soul itself, and are fully satisfied that Protestantism is humbug, or, as Carlyle would say, a sham.  This class, we can assure the reader, is very numerous among our countrymen, and includes not a few of or most earnest-minded, purest, and most cultivated men and women.  They have outgrown and outlived all the popular forms of Protestantism, and ignorant of Catholicity, they have fallen back on the spiritual nature of man alone as their Teacher, Redeemer, and Savior.  It would be absurd to quote revelation against these persons; for, not accepting it, it can have no authority for them, no weight with them!  To cite them the answers of old or young Protestant Catechisms to the question, What is the destiny of man?  Would only induce them to smile at our simplicity.  They must be met where they are, and addressed on the ground on which they stand.  Arguments drawn from reason and from the human soul are the only arguments that can have weight with them.  The Reviewer, is, therefore, unfortunate in his objection; for, in urging it, he only excites an unpleasant suspicion of his sincerity or of his understanding of the first principles of reasoning.

To argue in favor of Catholicity, from its adaptation to human nature, and its power to meet and satisfy the wants of the soul, is only what every sensible Protestant himself does, in principle, when arguing for Christianity as a revealed religion against unbelievers.  We never read the work of a Protestant against Catholicity without feeling an unaffected pity for the writer.  He may be, and often is, richly endowed by nature, learned, cultivated, refined, and well-intentioned; but, alas! His Protestantism enslaves him, and renders fruitless all his nobler qualities and acquired riches.  Protestantism is the most cruel of tyrants, the most capricious of masters.  It compels its defenders to contradict themselves at every step, to practice what they condemn, and to condemn what they practice.  There is no help for them, for Protestantism is intrinsically inconsistent with itself, and is founded on the assumption of a fundamental contradiction between reason and faith, nature and grace.   Hence, it tends always to sacrifice one for the other.  It either asserts the sanctity and sufficiency of nature, and denies or explains away revelation and grace, or it asserts the total depravity and worthlessness of nature, and thus retains no subject for either grace or revelation.  But unable to recognize the Christian revelation at all, without recognizing reason, Protestantism, in so much as it pretends to be Christian, is compelled to maintain both the affirmative and the negative of two contradictory propositions.  It is a sad inconvenience, from which it has no escape but in resorting wither to Catholicity, which harmonizes reason and faith, or to absolute infidelity, which leaves man to simple nature alone.  Every thinking Protestant sees and feels this and is disposed to emancipate himself from his thralldom by flying to one or the other alternative.

Evangelical Protestantism starts from the assumption that man is totally depraved, that human nature is totally corrupt, that it lost by the Fall all its spiritual faculties, and is now incapable of thinking a good thought, or of performing a single act not evil.  Hence it maintains that all the works of infidels, or works done out of grace, are sin; and as it denies the infused habit of grace, and makes justification a forensic and not an intrinsic work, it declares also that all the works even of believers are sin, only that God does not impute them as sin, to the elect.  The source of this error lies in not rightly understanding the state of man prior to the prevarication of Adam.  Man, prior to the Fall, both Evangelicalism and Catholicity teach, was in a state of justice, and stood on the plane of his destiny; but though he is now naturally inadequate to it, Evangelicalism holds that this justice was natural, and therefore, in losing it by the Fall, man lost his natural spiritual faculties.  If man had not sinned, it maintains grace would not have been necessary to enable him to attain the beatitude of heaven, and it is necessary now only to repair what nature lost by original sin.  This loss, it assumes, is not actually repaired by a gracious restoration of the sinner to the state of intrinsic justice which he had before sinning, and thus enabling him to perform as before, acts meritorious in the sight of God; but by a sovereign act of God remitting to the elect their sins, and imputing to them the justice of Christ, without any regard to what they are intrinsically.  Nature, it is evident from this, has no share in the work of his salvation, and is to be regarded at best as totally null.  Grace does not beget in the sinner a new life, impart to him a new principle of activity, which elevates him into the supernatural order, and gives intrinsically, a supernatural value to his actions; it effects no real change in the sinner, and is only a sovereign act of God, forbearing to impute his sins to him, and giving him the comfortable assurance that he will not be punished for them, or receive according to his actual deserts.  True, he will sin, continue to sin at every breath he draws, but then God has covenanted, for Christ’s sake, not to account it sin.  Certainly, nothing would be more absurd than to seek in reason a motive for believing in such a system as this, or to find in nature wants which it is adapted to meet.  Reason and the natural heart assuredly revolt at it, and with all their energy cry out against it, as intrinsically unjust and absurd.

Catholicity, on the contrary, teaches that the justice in which man was constituted before his prevarication was supernatural, not natural, and that by the Fall nothing belonging to nature as pure nature was lost.   Original sin consist not in the loss of any natural faculty, but simply in the loss of the supernatural gifts and graces bestowed on man prior to transgression.  Nature, as simply nature, though despoiled of these gifts and graces, remained and remains as it was, neither less nor more.   Now as nature was originally created to respond to grace; grace to answer its purpose must respond to it, and meet all its wants.  The line of argument then pursued by Fr. Hecker is perfectly legitimate and just.  He is not attempting a complete argument for Catholicity, but endeavoring to convince the persons he addresses, that they can find the real wants of the soul satisfied in the Catholic Church, and nowhere else.

To be just we must keep in mind the class of persons to whom Fr. Hecker’s book is addressed.  These persons were all bred and born Protestants, and for the most part Evangelical Protestants.  They have all seen that Evangelical Protestantism is illogical, irrational, unnatural, inefficient for good, a delusion, a sham, and in their disgust at it, and, indeed, at all Protestantism that professes to believe in an external supernatural revelation, they have rejected all objective revelation, and fallen back on simple nature, or what some of them would call, the natural-supernatural, - understanding by supernatural the metaphysical, the supersensible, or whatever in man transcends matter and the senses.  Now the purpose is to recover these persons to Christianity, to being them into the Church of God.  But in the name of common sense how is this to be done, except by meeting them where they stand, recognizing whatever of natural truth and goodness they have and showing them that the truth and goodness they have morally and logically demand Christianity as their complement?  You never lead men to renounce their errors, unless you show them the truth which they mingle with their errors, and point out to them how they can hold the truth without the error.  Fr. Hecker meets these persons on their own ground, and shows them by citations from their own writings, by frequent reference to their own sayings and doings, that the ground on which they stand does not suffice for them, that they have, and are painfully conscious that they have, wants of the soul intellectual and moral, which their natural-supernatural does not meet, and cannot satisfy.  He shows from their own sayings and doings, from reference to man’s nature, and the testimony of history, what these wants are; that they are not mere caprices, adventitious or corrupt desires, but natural wants, inseparable from man’s nature, as it exists in the present providence of God; and then proceeds to show what will not, and what will satisfy these natural wants of all ages and nations, and of all individuals of the race.  He shows, in a conclusive manner, that philosophy cannot do it, that Protestantism cannot do it, that Catholicity can and does do it, whenever truly accepted, and that no other religion does or can.  He thence establishes that Catholicity responds to the wants of the soul, answers all its questions, meets all its demands, and therefore he concludes that it is from God, the true religion.

Such is Fr. Hecker's argument, and it certainly is neither rationalistic nor transcendental.  He does not commit the logical blunder of concluding the supernatural from the natural, nor that of concluding from the fact, that man has wants which the natural cannot satisfy, that a supernatural provision for their satisfaction has actually been made; for he knows perfectly well that Catholic theology teaches that God, if he had pleased, could have created man from the beginning, seclusa ratione culpae, as he is now born,- Deus ab initio et potuisset talem hominem creare, qualis nunc nascitur.  But he assumes, and justly, that grace supposes nature, and that therefore there must be some kind of correspondence between the natural and supernatural, since otherwise the supernatural and the natural could never come into mutual relation, and the supernatural would be to us as if it were not.  De non apparentibus et non existentibus, eadem est ratio.  The Reviewer does not see this, partly because it would not suit his purpose to see it, but more especially, because he is blinded by his profound ignorance of the Christian doctrine of grace, whence he is led to suppose that whoever allows anything to nature necessarily denies grace, and asserts the sufficiency of nature.  What Fr. Hecker does is to prove that the questions the soul asks in the persons he addresses, are legitimate questions, and that the Transcendentalists are not to be censured for asking them, or seeking an answer to them; that neither the questions nor the wants are to be regarded as the marks of a depraved nature, but are to be taken as signs and tokens of the soul’s nobility, of its lofty aspirations, of its sublime tendencies and destiny.  This wakes the wrath of the Evangelical Reviewer, because it denies his favorite doctrine of total depravity, and because he ignorantly supposes, that to recognize the legitimacy of these questions and wants it to recognize the sufficiency of nature itself.  As if a want experienced by nature implied in nature a power to satisfy it, or the ability of reason to ask a question were necessarily the ability to answer it.  That is, light and the want of light, or power and the want of power are one and the same!  As we must suppose in common courtesy that the Reviewer is up to the level of his age, this does not speak much for “the accumulated light of the nineteenth century,”

The inability of nature to do any thing alone in the work of salvation, Fr. Hecker clearly enough implies in his maintaining that neither philosophy nor Protestantism can answer the questions of the soul, or meet its wants; but this does not condemn nature in its own order.  It does not say that a religion designed for man should not accept nature and give it fair paly in that order, or that, if the true religion, it must not meet and satisfy all the wants of the soul.  Here is where the Reviewer is at fault.  He knows very well that Evangelicalism does not do this, that it leaves the questions of reason unanswered, and the wants of the soul unsatisfied.  He therefore wishes to persuade himself that these questions are asked by a depraved nature, and these wants are only the morbid cravings of a corrupt heart.  Not being able to satisfy reason he condemns reason; not being able to meet the wants of the soul, he condemns them as sinful.  It is a necessity of his condition.  He could not do otherwise without signing the death warrant of his Evangelicalism.  Hence he makes it a most grave objection to Catholicity, that it is reasonable and adapted to the wants of man’s nature.  Could he say any thing more to the credit of our religion, or to the discredit of his own?

We dwell on this point, for it involves the radical difference between Catholicity and Evangelicalism, and shows the utter unreasonableness and absurdity of the latter.  Catholicity teaches that there are two orders, one natural, the other supernatural; the persons to whom Fr. Hecker addresses his book recognize only one,- the natural order.  Evangelicals profess to recognize both, but only as standing one over against the other.  The Catholic regards the two orders as mutually corresponding, and adapted in advance one to the other.  The Evangelical regards them as having no relation to one another but that of mutual repugnance.  The Transcendentalist, ignorant of Catholicity, knowing the supernatural only as asserted by Evangelicalism, and feeling in his soul that a supernatural order asserting itself only by the destruction of the natural is absurd, rejects it with contempt, and falls back on the natural light and ability of the soul.  What he really rejects is not the supernatural adapted to the natural wants of the soul in its present state without faith, but a supernatural, which condemns whatever is of nature as depraved and sinful, and which leaves all the questions of the soul unanswered, all its inherent wants unsupplied.  As between the two, the Transcendentalist has the better reason, and is much the more respectable.  His error is that of privation; the error of the Evangelical is that of perversion.  Revelation can be made only to a rational subject, and if you condemn natural reason, you might as well talk of making a revelation of the Christian mysteries to an ox or a horse, to a stock or a stone, as to a man.  Grace is an aid, an assistance.  Whether you call it auxilium quod with the Thomists, or auxilium quo with the Molinists, you must still call it an auxilium, an aid, a help, an assistance.  But if you condemn nature as totally depraved, you leave grace nothing to aid, help, or assist.  Indeed, the Evangelical, did he but know it, virtually denies grace, and all works of grace in or by us.  He never brings grace and nature together, or permits man by the aid of grace to cooperate with grace.  Nature and grace stand always one over against the other, each crying out to the other, “Die thou, or I must.”  What grace does, on Evangelical principles, is all done outside of man, independent of him, and in opposition to him.  Hence it does not regenerate the soul, elevate it to the supernatural order, and enable it to act from a supernatural principle to a supernatural end.  Hence it is the Evangelical saint remains intrinsically a purely natural man, and as nature is totally depraved, all his acts are without merit, and sinful.  The difference, and all the difference between the saint and the sinner, intrinsically considered, is that the saint is one to whom God does not impute sin, and the sinner is one to whom he does impute it,- the saint, although in reality a sinner, one to whom God imputes without his possessing it, the righteousness of Christ; and the sinner one who, though no worse than the saint, perhaps not so bad, to whom God does not see fit to impute that righteousness.  The Transcendentalist deserves our respect for rejecting this absurd and blasphemous nonsense, and saying, in the free tones of an honest man, if that is your supernatural, I’ll none of it.

The persons whom Fr. Hecker addresses are perfectly right in rejecting the supernatural, or grace, in the Evangelical sense,  as opposed to reason and nature.  They are right, too, in their assertion of nature as good in its own order.  They err only when they assert that nature alone is sufficient.  But these persons do not in reality so assert.  They see and feel, as Fr. Hecker proves from their own writings, their own sayings and doings, that they are painfully conscious that she is not sufficient, that they have wants which transcend nature, and which, with all of nature they can command, they cannot satisfy.  No one among them realizes his ideal; no one among them reads the riddle of the Sphinx, or solves the problem of human life.  They all are ill at ease,- feel a want they cannot satisfy.  Their poetry is a low musical wail, or a mild lament over wants unsatisfied, and ideals unrealized, and bears witness to their conscious need of a supernatural light and strength.  Shall we tell these people, these sincere, candid, earnest souls, that these wants are all sinful, that these unsatisfied cravings of theirs are all from the devil; and drive them to despair, by telling them falsely that there is no remedy for them but in renouncing reason, stifling the purest and noblest affections of their hearts, turning their backs upon nature, and trying to disguise their misery by the Evangelical sham?

The Evangelical has nothing to meet the wants of these souls.  But Fr. Hecker undertakes to show that Rome has the very thing they need, and are blindly craving.  He shows them that, down to the minutest particular, Catholicity meets their wants.  He, as a Catholic, does not ask them as a preparation for grace, to abjure reason, stifle the affections, suppress nature; but recognizes in reason, love, nature, a preamble to Catholicity, and insists on Catholicity only as adapted to all the wants of nature, to heal its wounds, illumine its darkness, to solace its grief, to strengthen its weakness, to elevate it to its union with God the True, the Beautiful, the Good; the end, and the beatitude of the soul.  He does not in this fall into rationalism or naturalism; for he supposes that which he offers in the name of Rome to these persons is not nature, but the supernatural adapted to the wants of nature.  He offers the light of revelation to the intellect, and the infused habit of grace to the will, but he offers them as aids, not as enemies- as aids to nature to do what without them exceeds her ability.  What the Reviewer cannot understand  is the infusion of grace, or grace as an infused habit of the soul, elevating the soul itself, or supernaturalizing it; and therefore he concludes that when grace is assumed as accepting and assisting nature, it is denied.  He himself denies grace, and therefore believes that he asserts it.  We assert it, and make it enter as a supernatural principle of action into the soul, and therefore are charged with denying it.  This is Evangelical logic.  It was not the purpose of Fr. Hecker in his book to write a treatise on nature and grace.  His purpose was to show those of his former friends who had outgrown Evangelical Protestantism that he could offer them in Catholicity all they need, all they so ardently crave, and thus leave the heart to bear its testimony to the fitness and worth of our holy religion; and if, as must be the case, that heart is naturally Christian, naturally formed to receive the Christian religion, and through it rise to perfection, and to union with God, its supreme Good, that testimony is in itself sufficient for any fair and candid mind, although it may by no means be all the testimony we have.

We do not forget, nor does Fr. Hecker, that the will has been attenuated and the understanding obscured by sin.  The flesh escapes from its subjection to the spirit, and when followed leads us away from God; and there is in the bosom a struggle between the flesh and the spirit, in which the flesh too often comes off the victor.  But this is not a struggle between nature and grace, between the natural and the supernatural, for it is a struggle which takes place before as well as after grace.  It is a struggle, so to speak, between the rational nature and the sensitive; and it is rare that without grace, in our fallen state, the rational nature, as a fact, maintains its supremacy.  No Christian man pretends that we can walk after the flesh, and not sin.  The wants of the flesh cannot be met and satisfied.  They must be denied, mortified.  But the wants of which Fr. Hecker speaks are the wants of the soul, not those of the flesh,- of men who wish to follow the spirit, and live pure and holy lives.  No doubt, if left to nature alone, they are in danger of running into sentimentalism, and from sentimentalism into sensualism; but such is not their intention, or their desire.  They are, as to the natural order, spiritually-minded men and women, and have a natural love for virtue.  They naturally aspire to perfection, and are led by what is good  rather than by what is evil in their nature.  The good is not strong enough, but it predominates in their desires.  A religion which comes to their aid by strengthening their will for good, and enlightening their understandings to see truth, and meeting and satisfying all their spiritual wants, is not a sensual, but a spiritual religion, and is precisely a religion that does not satisfy the flesh, or the desires of the perverse heart.

The Reviewer, in consequence of never having understood properly that man’s destiny was always supernatural, and was not even prior to sin attainable by the simple exercise of his natural powers, is unable to conceive how nature can be regarded in any sense as good, and yet be declared impotent to work out salvation.  He cannot understand how nature can be thus impotent without sin.  He, therefore, cannot recognize what may be called natural good,- good in relation to natural life, but not in relation to the life to come; or how it can be not good in relation to eternal life, and be good in any sense at all.  He cannot believe that the Gentiles have any virtues, or that imperfection is ever distinguishable from sin.  Here his Evangelicalism misleads him.  Man by nature alone can perform no act meritorious in the supernatural order.  So much is certain.  But there are natural virtues, and these virtues are not sin.  They merit natural beatitude, and never fail of their reward in the natural order.  These virtues are always presupposed by the Christian virtues.  Hence natural culture, art, science, civilization, whatever elevates man above the savage, and promotes the natural virtues, is a sort of preamble to the Christian virtues.  Hence it is that the Church is always the patroness of art, of science, of intellectual and moral culture, and foster-mother of all the virtues of civilized life.  Evangelicalism, by anathematizing reason, cursing nature, and branding all the natural virtues as sin, tends necessarily to barbarism, to individual and social degradation.  Its tendency is always immoral, and when we find Evangelicals who are moral, abounding in social and domestic virtues, as we no doubt often do, we must say they are so not by, but in spite of, their Evangelicalism.  They are better than their religion, and follow in their practice their good feelings and the dictates of their natural reason and good sense, rather than the legitimate tendencies of their poorly disguised Antinomianism. 

We have dwelt longer on this point than perhaps was necessary, since we have often discussed it; but we have wished to throw back upon Evangelicalism its favorite charge against Rome, of administering to the corrupt desires of our fallen nature.  Evangelicals rarely stop to ask what may be legitimately objected to Catholicity, but are contented to ask what would be an objection if a legitimate objection, and then urge it with blessed assurance, without troubling themselves to determine whether it is legitimate or not.  If Catholicity administered to corrupt nature, it would be a false religion; therefore let us, say they, maintain boldly that she does so administer.  Our boldness and assurance will impose on some, and we shall put the Church on her defense, which will be itself a great gain; for there are always fools enough to conclude that a Church compelled to defend herself, cannot be innocent.  Fr. Hecker had maintained at great length, and in the most conclusive manner, that confession is a want of every soul conscious of having sinned.  In this respect he shows that Rome has an answer perfectly adapted to man’s heart.  “He might have said,” sneeringly replies the Reviewer, “perfectly adapted to the desires of man’s corrupt heart, since all sins may be cancelled at the confession box.”  This is simply false, but then it gives the Reviewer a chance to throw suspicion on the Church.  That it is false, is evident enough from the fact that Protestants have, for the most part, rejected confession, which we cannot suppose they would have done if they had found it pleasing to the corrupt heart.  We have some advantage of the Reviewer here, for we practice confession, though a want of the soul, is mortifying, not flattering to the flesh.  The allegation that all sins may be cancelled at the confession box, supposing it well-founded, does not of itself sustain the Reviewer.  Undoubtedly all sins are remissible in the Sacrament of Penance, but not without all that Protestants mean by repentance, and a good deal more.  A man, in order to obtain absolution, must from love of God, be sorry for his sins, make a firm resolution, God helping, to break off from them, and commit them no more, and must confess them to a priest, who by Divine authority sits as his judge, and perform faithfully the penances the confessor imposes,- all things very displeasing to the desires of the corrupt heart of man, that is, to the flesh.

But this charge is really well-founded against Evangelicalism, which teaches that we are justified by faith alone.  On the Evangelical doctrine, a man has only to believe on the Lord Jesus, that is, believe that God has for Christ’s sake forgiven his sins, and will not bring him into judgment for them, and all his sins, present, past, and to come, are instantaneously cancelled.  He has a carte blanche to sin as much as he pleases; for “once in grace always in grace.”  Is it possible to conceive any thing more satisfactory to the desires of the corrupt heart than this Evangelical doctrine?  These desires require liberty to sin without being punished for sinning; to follow their own bent without being called to account for it; and this is precisely what Evangelicalism promises.  What impudence, then, on the part of the Evangelical Reviewer, a Calvinistic Baptist, the descendant of the Old Anabaptists, to talk about Rome administering to the corrupt nature of man.  The conclusion of the Reviewer’s article is admirable for its coolness, and we may add, simplicity:

“Such is this book, the ‘life’s results’ of its author, a bait thrown to the ‘youth of America,’ who, like himself, are ‘alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart.’  He is, doubtless, in earnest in wishing to bring this unfortunate class of souls under the wing of Rome.  He assures them that they will find exactly what they desire.  They need no change in themselves; Rome has a place for every shade of character, every freak of eccentricity, from the pantheistic transcendentalist, to the rigid ascetic.  All, like the customers of Vanity Fair, will find what their fancies crave.  It will be strange, if some of these ‘earnest souls’ do not take the bait so nicely gilded to their taste.  True, it has neither learning, nor argument, nor piety, nor sense, but it is written in a sprightly, rather flippant style, is careful to assume what needs to be proved, and to prove what needs no proof,- is profusely sprinkled with snatches of poetry and marvelous tales, and promises to satisfy the cravings of man’s nature without subduing the pride of his heart, without repentance, without faith, and without the renewing power of the Spirit of God.  Such is Rome, changeful as the moon in her unchanging policy to make every thing subservient to her own aggrandizement.  In China and Siam she sends her nuns about to save souls of sick and dying children by clandestinely squirting a jet of water in their faces, and challenges the liberality of the faithful in Europe to sustain this economical mode of salvation; to the Sandwich Islands she sends French cannon, brandy, and priests, to convert the people from the errors of Bible reading; to the prurient imagination of transcendental young America, she presents literary speculation, perfection by human works, happiness without faith, righteousness without regeneration, heaven without holiness of heart.

“It is saddening to think, that such a book could be written by one who has lived in a land of Bibles, with all the accumulated light of the nineteenth century shining on its opened pages! We are reminded of Paul’s terrible description of the influence of ‘the mystery of iniquity,’ that wicked,’ whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they might all be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’  We do not fear that any enlightened Christian will be deceived by this specious, but shallow performance.  It is, intellectually, worthy of the cause it pleads.  If the book had been written with sufficient ability, the Apostle’s warning, ‘beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,’ might be in point; but as it is likely to affect that class only for whose benefit it was written, the warning will be useless.  We dismiss it, therefore, to its destiny.” Pp. 491, 492

The Reviewer is mistaken.  Fr. Hecker does not assure his readers that they will find in Rome exactly what they desire; he only assures them that they will find exactly what they want or need.  A Reviewer should understand his mother tongue.  That Rome supplies a remedy for all eccentricities of character and conduct, is no doubt true; but that she has a “place for every shade a character, every freak of eccentricity, from the pantheistic transcendentalist to the rigid ascetic,” is not true; for she has no place for the Reviewer and his brethren, who lie under her excommunication.  Yet, even for them, in case they repent, return to the unity of the faith, she will open her arms, and supply them what is lacking to make them true Christians.  The snatches of poetry in Fr. Hecker’s book, are cited as so many indications of the wants and of the mental and moral state of the persons addressed.  The French may have sent brandy to the Sandwich Islands, as well as priests; but our own countrymen, we apprehend, have sent more New England rum, which, though a New Englander ourselves, we dare maintain, is an inferior article to genuine French brandy.  Rome does not “to the prurient imagination of transcendental young America, present literary speculation, perfection by human works, happiness without faith, righteousness without regeneration, heaven without holiness of heart;” but this, with the exception of literary speculation and  perfection by human works, is precisely what Evangelicalism presents, and what it condemns us for not presenting.  Rome does not teach that human virtues are perfect, but she does teach that there can be no perfection without them, and common sense declares that in this she is right, and that they who teach the contrary are wrong.

In conclusion, we would tell the Reviewer, that he must study a long while, and make himself far better acquainted with Catholic theology than he now is, before he can be competent to criticize such a book as Fr. Hecker’s.  He says, “It is saddening to think that such a book could be written by one who has lived in a land of Bibles,  with all the accumulated light of the nineteenth century shining on its open pages.”  We can tell him of something still more saddening.  It is to know that such a review as his, so weak, so false, so unjust, so unscrupulous, so shallow, and so flippant, can be written in this nineteenth century by one who professes to have read the Bible and calls himself a Christian.  Poor man, little has he profited by living in a land of Bibles, and little light has the nineteenth century shed for him upon the sacred pages of Scripture.  He is proud, arrogant, supercilious; but far enough from having any tolerable understanding of either nature or grace.  Let him go learn.