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The Mercersburg Hypothesis

The Mercersburg Hypothesis.*

[From Brownson's Quarterly Review for April, 1854.]


            The revival of Catholicity in Germany and Great Britain, and its diffusion by means of immigration and conversion in this country, together with its partial emancipation from the state in France, Austria, and Spain, have produced no little effect on the Protestant mind, and no little commotion in the Protestant camp. It is evident that there has been, since the commencement of the present century, a decided reaction in favor of Catholicity, and large numbers in all countries have felt that the only refuge from infidelity, anarchy, and licentiousness is in a hearty and speedy return to the bosom of the Catholic Church. Intelligent and earnestminded Protestants have become convinced, that, unless they can find, outside of the present Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, some ground on which they can stand different from that of vulgar Protestantism, they have no alternative but either to become Catholics or to rush foward into absolute infidelity. Some have sought this ground in a further development and extension of the principle of private judgement; some have sought it in a further limitation of that principle, and in the assertion along with it of the authority of tradition; and others have sought it in the assertion of what may be called historical development. The first class are rationalists, and deny all religion as distinguished from simple human philosophy, such as Unitarians, German neologists, and the American transcendentalists. The second class follow what is called a "romanizing tendency," and are best known under the name of Puseyites. The last accept the Catholic Church down to the sixteenth century, and assert Protestantism as its legitimate historical development and continuation. With these are to be ranked the later German and our own Mercersburg Protestant theologians.

            The first and second classes have been sufficiently refuted in our own pages and elsewhere. The rationalists are really rejecters of Christianity, and cannot with any justice claim to be regarded as Christians. They have fallen below then ancient pagan philosophers. The Puseyites approach too near to the church to be good Protestants, and yet not near enough to be even so much as bad Catholics. They are inconsistent and double-tongued, theologically considered, and need not detain us a moment. But the third class have not yet, as least in this country, been formally met and refuted. A few remarks, therefore, on their distinctive principle will perhaps not be ill-timed, or unacceptable to our readers.

            The chiefs of this school in the United States are Dr. John W. Nevin and Dr. Philip Schaff, the former a native American, the latter a native of Germany. Both are members of the German Reformed Church, both are men of rare attainments, and Dr. Nevin, especially, is a man of great ability and earnestness, and as a scholar, as a logician, and as an original and vigorous writer, inferior to no Protestant divine in the country. His papers in the Mercersburg Review on Early Christianity and St. Cyprian are masterpieces of their kind, and indicate a mind of the first order. For both of these gentlemen we entertain a very high personal esteem, and shall very much regret if, in what we may say of their peculiar hypothesis, there should be any thing to wound their feelings, or to give them in any degree personal offence.

            The hypothesis they put forward as the only ground on which Protestantism can be defended as a religion is, that it is the historical development and vital continuation of the church of the ages preceding the so-called reformation. The following, from an article by Dr. Nevin in the last number of the Mercersburg Review, will place our readers in possession of the general position of the school.

            "The whole case is plain enough. The Christianity of the second, third, and fourth centuries, we say, was progressively of the same general order throughout the entire Christian world, and in this character it differed altogether from modern Protestantism, and led fairly and directly towards the Roman Catholic system of the middle ages. In proof of this simply historical assertion, we point to facts. It is purely a question of history in the first place, to be either granted or denied as the truth of facts may seem to require. Is the general proposition true as a historical fact, or is it not? If not, let this be shown by proper evidence. But if it be true, what then? Must it be ignored or overlooked? No honest Protestant certainly will say that. We are bound to look it firmly in the face; and when the question is then asked, How is this fact to be construed over against the claims of Protestantism? it should be felt to be one that is entitled to some open and manly answer. There are now but two general ways in which to dispose of the matter consistently with these claims. We may treat the church of the first ages after the time of the apostles as a wholesale falsification of Christianity in its proper apostolical form, and so make the truth of Protestantiam to consist in its being a new edition altogether of what was then so short-lived in the beginning; or we may allow a true continuation of the primitive life of Christianity in the early church, according to the article in the creed, and make Protestantism then to agree with it in some way of historical derivation, answerable to the law of growth in the natural world, by which all differences shall be resolved into outward accident and form merely, whilst the inward substance is taken to be always the same. One or the other of these methods we must adopt for the soultion of the question in hand, or else fall into downright obscurantism of the most pitiful sort. The first method, however, is only another name for infidelity, denying as it does partically the existence of the church and the authority of the creed. The case then shuts the cause of Protestantism up to the other view, as the only one by which its pretensions can be consistently maintained without treason to Christainity. This is the general conculsion of our argument in the articles of the 'Mercersburg review' on the Early Church. The argument itself purposes no particular theory or scheme for the construction of such a historical genesis as the case is shown to demand. It merely urges the necessity of some scheme of the sort, if Protestantism is to be upheld at all. That, however, is at once much. It implies, in the first place, a true succession of Christainity in the Catholic Church, in spite of all corruptions, not only from the first century to the sixth, but from the sixth century also to the sixteenth. This makes the church an object of respect through all ages. And in the second place, it requires that Protestantism shall not be taken to be such a rupture with the Catholic Church, as excludes the idea of a strictly historical continuity of being between what Christianity is now in the one form and what it was before in the other. When it comes to such wholesale negation and contradiction, the true idea of Protestantism is gone, and we have only unhistorical redicalism in its place. Protestantism must be historical, to be true. To say that it is not the continuation of the previous life of the church, of one substance though not of one form with what this was in all past ages, is at once to pronounce it anti-Christian and false."

            How Protestantism can be a true historical development and continuation of the Catholicity of the ages preceding that of the reformers, Dr. Nevin, unhappily, does not tell us. On this point no member of the school, whether in this country or in Germany, affords us any light. The school prove, and beyond the possibility of doubt or cavil, that Protestantism, if Christian, must be such development and continuation; but that it is or that it can be justly so regarded, they do not prove, or even attempt to prove. But if they mean to continue Protestants, or to maintain Protestantism in any respect as a form of Christianity, this is precisely the point they must prove; and unless they do prove it, they cannot safely remain in their present position. As they acknowledge thene  church in communion with the see of Rome was, prior to the reformation, the Christian church, in which circulated the true Christain life, and as they confess that Protestantism, as to its form at least, is something different from that church, it is incumbent on them to prove that it is identical in substance, in order to justify themselves in remaining outside of the present Catholic Church, which as to form, if in no other respect, is undeniably the continuation of the primitive and mediaeval church. The Catholic Church, or church in communion with the see of Rome, is presumptively, at least, the true continuation of the Christian church that preceded Luther. It is Identically that church in polity, in organization, in constitution, in name, in doctrine, in orders, and in general discipline. It has maintained the succession unbroken, and is now, as Dr. Nevin has unanswerably proved, what the Christian church was in the time of Cyprian, and in the apostolic age. The presumption, then, certainly is, that she is the true historical continustion of the Christian church, and that it is in her communion, not outside of it, that continues to circulate the true Christian life. The presumption, then, is against Protestantism, and before one can justify himself in remaining a Protestant, he must overcome that presumption by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the current of Christian life has ceased to circulate in that church, and now actually flows in Protestant channels. The question is momentous, and must press with terrible weight upon every serious-minded Protestant, who is really in earnest to be united by a living union to Christ as his living head.

            We suppose it will be conceded that the life of Christ is one and indivisible, and therefore unites all who live it in one living and compact body; and as men in this life are not disembodied spirits, but spirit united to body, it must unite all who live it in one external as well as internal communion. Undoubtedly, a man may be in the external communion of the curch without living the life of Christ, but all philosophy and theology impugn the notion that one can live his life out of the communion. To suppose it would lead us back to the heresy of the Docetae, or at least render the assumption of a real body by our Lord quite unnecessary and without motive. One of two things, then: either we must assume that Protestantism is the true continuation of the Christain life, and thus deny that life to the Catholic communion, or we must assert it for the Catholic Church and deny it to the Protestant sects. No doubt it seems a hard case to unchristianize all the Protestant sects, and to deny to Protestants all Christian life, or real union through that life with Christ, the only Redeemer and Saviour; but it is a still harder case to deny it to the Catholic communion, for the number of individuals to be declared out of the pale of the Christian church, or to be unchristianized in the latter case, is immensely greater than in the former. It will not do to divide Christ, or to pretend that his life flowsalike in the Catholic communion and in the Protestant. To pretend the latter would be fatal to the very hypothesis in question, for Protestantism would, in that case, be no more a development and continuation of it than Catholicity. The life would continue to flow on in the Catholic Church as before, and the most that could be said would be that Protestantism as well as Catholicity continues the Christian life, not that it is its true historical development and continuation, as the hypothesis asserts.

            Moreover, the general theory of development that underlies the hypothesis, stands greatly in need of being proved. It assumes that the human race is in a state of continuous development or progress; that human life is simply evolution; thus confounding first and final causes, or rather, losing sight of proper final causes altogether, which at bottom conceals a purely pantheistic thought. With this general theory of human progress or evolution the school connects that of a continuous development or evolution of Christianity. Always does it regard Christianity as something to be developed and perfected, never simply as a law to be accepted and obeyed. Through all Protestantism, as it is now developed, runs the conception, either that Christianity was imperfect as orginally given, and needs to be perfected, completed, by human thought and virtue, or else that it ought to vary and adapt itself to the variations and changes of time and place. In the latter case, Protestantism will not have Christianity introduce a fixed and permanent, therefore a divine, element into human affairs, but insists that the law shall be itself variable, and vary according to the ever-varying notions, passions, and caprices of those placed under it. In the former case, it confounds making and promulgating the law with knowledge of the law and obedience to it, or the perfection of the law with the perfection that results to individual life and character from knowing and obeying it. The fundamental error is in the assumption of legislative power by the creature, which involves the seminal principle of atheism, as we have so often labored to demonstrate. There may be development and progress in our individual knowledge of the Christian religion, and conformity to it; but there can be none, effected by second causes, in that religion itself, for it is wholly a divine creation, but wholly a divine law. It can be changed, modified, developed, only by God himself. We therefore cannot accept the Mercersburg theory of development. All historical development, be it more or less, is in relation to the final cause, not to the first cause, and is a progress in attaining to the end for which man has been created, not a progress in his own being or powers as a creature, as a second cause, or in the divinely instituted means of gaining that end.

            But waiving all this, we cannot concede that Protestantism is in any sense the historical development and coninuation of the Catholic Church which preceded it. Development must continue and unfold the subject developed. What is in the development must have been previously in the subject, as the blossom is in the bud, as the bud in the germ, or the germ in the seed, otherwise it is not, as Dr. Newman has well shown, a development, but a corruption. Now take the Catholic system as presented by the church in any age prior to the sixteenth century, and tell us of what in that system Protestantism is the development and continuation. Do you say it is the development and continuation of the hidden life of Christ? That is a simple assertion, which is neither proved nor susceptible of proof. But if there is any one thing that indicates the prsence of the life of Christ, it is unity. The natural and invariable tendency of that life is to unite all who live in it one body. It is undeniably charity, and charity is love and all love is unitive, and therefore whoever truly loves seeks by that fact to become one with the object of his love. Charity unites all who have it with Christ their head, and with one another as members of his body. If Protestantism were a development and continuation of the divine life of Christ, we should see it tending everywhere to unity, as governed by the unitive spirit of love or charity. But instead of this we see the very reverse. The whole history of Protestantism, from the first, proves that its innate tendency is to diversity, to disunion, to separation. Hence, hardly had it begun its career before it split into hostile sects, and the number of its sects has been constantly increasing through every period of its duration. Dr. Nevin has in the Mercersburg Review shown conclusively the incompatibility of the "sect system" with Christianity. But this system is clearly inseparable from Protestantism. How, then, pretend for a moment that Protestantism develops and continues the life of Christ?

            Protestantism does not, assuredly, develop and continue the Catholic Church of preceding ages as a polity, for it was avowedly in this respect a complete rupture with it, and that church as a polity is certainly continued by the present Catholic Church. Protestantism separated from the Catholic polity, denied and shook off its authority. It denounced the pope as Antichrist, the church as the whore of Babylon, and formed, or organized as it organized as it could, new ecclesiastical polities, after diverse and contradictory models, for itself. It certainly, then, was no development and continuation of the old Christian church as a polity, and is undeniably a multitude of separate and diverse external bodies. This, if the church of Christ be a polity at all, is fatal to the hypothesis under consideration.

            Will you tell us that it is a development and continuation of the church as doctrine? A denial is a rupture, not a development and continuation, and under the head of doctrine Protestantism simply denies doctrines previously held by the church. There is not a single doctrine or dogma of the old church that it has developed, or continued, in so far as it has any thing peculiar to itself. In so far as it differs from the primitive, the mediaeval, or the present church in doctrine, it differs solely by denial, that is, by an open rupture with the acknowledged Christian church. The Christian church taught and teaches that man is justified by faith, that is, faith perfected by charity, fides formata, and therefore by faith and works, not by faith alone, without works. Has Protestantism developed and continued this doctrine? Not at all. It has simply denied the necessity of good works, and asserted thst we are justified by faith alone-the fides informis of the schoolmen. Here is a rupture, not a development; for there is no doctrine or principle ever held by the church of which justification by faith alone, without charity or good works, is or can be an element or seminal principle, and a doctrine which had not its element or seminal principle in the preceding church can in no sense be called a development or continuation of it.

            Take the sacramental principle. Has Protestantism developed and continued that? Everybody knows that it began by denying five sacraments out of seven, multilated the two it professed to retain, and obscured, if it did not expressly deny, the sacraments principle itself. Here, if any thing, it was a rupture with the old church, not its development or continuance. So of pentitential works, indulgences, purgatory prayers for the dead, invocation of the saints, worship of Mary, &c. Protestantism simply broke with the past, and failed entirely to develop and continue it. So we might go on to the end of the chapter, but it is unnecessary. Some things held by the old church, Protesntism did not at first reject, but in no case has it developed and continued under a developed from any principle or tendency of the Christian church which preceded it. In point of fact, it never professed to do any thing of the sort. It did not profess to be a development and continuation of the church subsisting from the apostles down to the sixteenth century. It avowedly broke with that church, and assumed that it had apostatized, and for eight hundred years, some said a thousand, and others twelve hundred years, had been an adulterous church, the synagogue of Satan, and no true church of Christ at all. It professed to go back of that church, and to revive primitive Christianity free from what it called papal corruptions.

            Nothing is more certain, than that what Dr. Nevin stigmatizes and refutes as Puritanism is true and genuine Protestantism; and nothing is more evident to us, than that, if Protestantism can be sustained only on the Mercersburg hypothesis, it cannot be sustained at all. Protestants themselves see it, and hence the charge of romanizing which they bring against its advocates. If you concede that the true historical continuation of Christianity down to the sixteenth century was in the church in communion with the see of Rome, you must concede that it is so down to the present moment. Never after such a concession will you be able to oust the Catholic Church, or put your Protestantism in possession.

            We suspect this hypothesis is seized upon mainly as an expedient, and as the only conceivable one, to save the Christian character of Protestantism. Its authors or inventors think the reformers must have had some good reason for their rupture with Rome, and feel that they ought not to pronounce a sentence of condemnation on their fathers by deserting the reformation and returning to the church it sought to destroy. They therefore seek some expedient for justifying the Protestant movement in the sixteenth century. It is no easy matter for men who have been accustomed from their childhood to hear the reformation spoken of as the most glorious event in the annals of the human race, to make up their minds to pronounce it entirely wrong from thebeginning, without a single excuse or palliation. Then to look upon our own friends and relations, the many cminent men and amiable people who at least have displayed many noble qualities and lofty virtues in the natural order, whom we have associated with or from infancy been taught to love and revere, as strangers to the supernatural life of Christ, aliens from the Christians commonwealth, is painful and revolting to our natural sympathies and affections, and naturally leads us, though far enough from being satisfied with Protestantism as it is, to seek out some hypothesis which will save us from this painful necessity. Moreover, we have heard so much that is inexplicable in her history, and so much among her children that is scandalous, that we feel a strong aversion to recognizing her as the church of Christ, and are prepared to grasp eagerly at any plausible pretext for not accepting her. Most, if not all of us, who have come from Protestantism into the church have taken the step with reluctance, have delayed taking it as long as we could, and have wished that we could feel ourselves justified in not taking it at all. It is an unknown land to us, and we fear that we shall encounter terrible monsters there; and without the grace of God overcoming our prejudices, and giving us more than a natural courage, we never could take the resolution to sever ourselves from our whole past, and form new and untried relations. All these considerations no doubt weigh with the chiefs of the school, conceal from their eyes the unsoundness of their hypothesis, and lead them to attach a weight to it which it certainly does not possess, and which, if they were less anxious to find it true, they certainly could not attach to it.

            Our Mercersburg friends seem to us also to deceive themselves by taking certain principles and tendencies which they find among Catholics in the middle ages, for principles and tendencies if the Christian church herself, or, if they prefer, the Christian religion. There is no question that Protestantism is a development and continuation of principles and tendencies which may be detected in mediaeval history. The reformers invented nothing; they only developed and continued a movement which had commenced long before them. But the question to be settled is, Were these true Christian principles and tendencies? In reading Dr. Schaff's work on Protestant Principle, we find him assuming throughout that every principle and tendency subsequently accepted, developed, and continued by Protestantism was a sound Christian principle and a good tendency. But this begs the question. Nay, this is an inconsistency, for he concedes that the mediaeval church was the true Christian church, and these principles and tendencies were undeniably repudiated by her; and therefore to develop and continue them was any thing but to develop and continue the Catholic church or the Christian religion.

              Over against the city of God stands, and from the fall has stood, the city of the world, of which Satan is the prince. Between these two cities there is, has been, and to the end of time will be, unrelenting war. This war on the part ofSatan is not prosecuted on fair and honorable principles, but is carried on by stratagem, by cunning, and bt fraud. In open warfare he knows perfectly well that he can gain only a shameful defeat. He can hope for a temporary success only by gaining, through deception, partizans within the church herself. Hence, he has always labored to insinuate into the minds of Catholics the principles and maxmins of the city of the world; and hence, we find always among Catholics a larger or smaller number of individuals governed by uncatholic principles and tendencies. As time goes on, these principles and tendencies are developed and become heresies, which the church anathematizes, expelling at the same time from her communion those persons who are mad enough obstinately to adhere to them. Now it is certain, historically, that the principles and tendencies of which Protestanttism is the development and continuation of the principles and tendencies of the Christian religion, or of such as were approved by the Christian church, or pertain to the city of God. The church, which it is conceded represented Christianity, always opposed them, and they may all be proved to have their seat in the corrupt or fallen nature of man. If, then, we accept the Catholic Church down to the sixteenth century as the historical expression and continuation of Christianity, we are precluded from maintaining that Protestantism is the historical development and continuation of the Christian religion. It should be regarded rather as the development and realization of the corrupt nature of man, of the maxims, principles, and tendencies of the world, than of Christianity or the city of God.

            We insist on this point, because it is precisely in mistaking the developments of human nature, or the principles and tendencies of human nature, struggling against the principles and maxims of the city of God, that our Mercersburg friends seem to themselves to obtain some sort of support for their hypothesis. Regarding these developments as the natural and proper developmemts of Christianity, or as the developments effected in Christians by Christianity, they call them Christian, and pronounce whatever they find in the church at any time opposed to them, antichristian, or a corruption. Nothing can be more false or injurious to the Gospel. Yet they are led to it by their theory of development, which supposes that Christianity, though in some sense objectively given to man, was given only in germ, imperfect, incomplete, to be perfected, completed by a development, and not so much by a development of it as an objective system as a development of human nature, or rather of human life, effected by it. They are thus able to assert developments in a good sense, and are led, whenever they see dawning among Christians a principle or tendency not hitherto generally received and acted on as Christian, instead of suspecting or rejecting it as the principle of a new, or the revival of the principle of an old heresy, to hail it as the commencement of a new and important progress in Christian truth. But as this principle has not its root in the preexisting Christian system, it can be no development of Christian truth, nor of Christian life, and can, at best, be only a developmentof our natural life as withdrawn from the influence of the Christian religion, and therefore of human life as under the dominion of Satan. Men do not, in this world, live a purely natural life, or a life of pure and simple nature. We are under a supernatural providence, and either through grace rise to God by supernatural virtue, or through the malice of the devil sink to hell by a more than natural wickedness. In other words, man in this life is habitually under the dominion, either, through grace, of Christ, or, through fallen nature, of Satan. All those principles or tendencies followed by us, which are repugnant to Christianity as at any time recieved, are, properly speaking, satanic, and consequently  their development can in no sense be regarded either as a development of Christian doctrine or as a development effected by it.

            The great error of the German developmentists lies in their not drawing a clear and distinct line between the divine activity and the human, and in their blending the two activities in some degree into one. They do not properly distinguish between subjective and objective. Their aim is, no doubt to assert the supremacy of God and the autonomy of man, but they attempt to assert human autonomy and the divine supremacy in a sense in which one necessarily denies the other. The autonomy of man is in his free will, to which no violence is ever suffered to be done. but the divine Legislator imposes the law to which man is morally bound to conform, and in accordance with which man is morally obliged, not physicially forced, to exercise his own autonomy. Our friends overlook this fact, and while they do not deny the law imposed by Almighty God, they seek to find the reason of its obligation in human autonomy, and not in God himself, and thus confound acceptance of law and obedience to it by a free moral agent, with making and enjoining the law itself, claiming thus what is properly the office of God, the sovereign legislator, for man himself. They shrink from saying in just so many words, let God command and man obey, or, Thy will, O God, be done, not mine. Always, unconsciously to themselves, no doubt, are they more or less under the influence if the Satanic temptation, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," that is, ye shall be your own masters, and the law unto yourselves, and nit bound to receive it from a superior, or, at least, not till you have, proprio motu, assented to it, and enacted it for yourselves.

            Further back still lies in their minds an error with regard to creation. We do not accuse them of formally denying the creative act of God, but they regard it rather as the act of the divine intellect and essence than of the divine will. Creation is in their system rather the evolution of the eternal being according to the laws of his own infinite intelligence, than an act of the free will of God,-a clean production by his infinite liberty from nothing. In order to assert creation at all, in any proper sense of the term, it is necessary to assert it as the free act of God, and therefore as an act of will, free not only from coaction, but also from intrinsic necessity. But referring creation to God as will, or free activity, they naturally regard-nay, are compelled to regard-human life as an evolution of the human being and as a development of human intelligence. It is always a becoming, das Werden, and consequently ceases in so far as it ceases to be progressive. The end of human living is therefore progress, or the continuous development of intelligence and growth or evolution of being. The human being is like one of our American cities, never finished. Nature is not completed in the original act of creation, but tends always to complete itself. This is the grand error of nearly all the later German and French philosophy. It supposes that our legitimate activity consists in developing and augmenting and completing our nature or our being, or in growing into God, instead of making it consist in the exercise of our activity in fulfilment of a moral law. Man's work is to make man, to complete his own being and faculties, instead of using the being and faculties God has given him to fulfil the purpose for which he has been created. Thus the end of man is to carry on and complete his own creation, that is, carry on and completed the creative work of the Almighty.

            The same principle, or a parallel principle, is applied to Christianity. The work of man in regard to it is to develop and complete it, to finish the work commenced by the Almighty of making a religion, not the work of believing and obeying or practising the religion which God has given him. All Protestant thought, not devoted to the destructionof all religion, and so busy are Protestants in this work, that they have no leisure or heart to practise religion. The error lies in claiming for man a share in creation, or, as we have often said, placing the activity of God. Let our friends understand this; let them understand that in the first place nature is not a becoming, but is become, is completed, and that religion objectively considered is finished, and Christianity perfected, by the Author and Finisher of our faith, and they will at once see that their doctrine of development is no better than a blasphemous dream. They will then understand that the Christian religion is not a product of human life, but is the element of that life, and must be possessed in its perfection as the condition of living that life; for the Christian life is not a life developed in us or evolved from us, but a life generated or begotten in us by Christ our Redeemer.

            We would suggest also to our friends of the Mercersburg school to inquire into their present tendency. They see, admit, and prove the present unsatisfactory state of Protestantism. They believe or profess to believe that the Protestant reformation was necessary to carry on the legitimate development of the Christianity of the preceding ages; but they regard the present as a transitional state. They do not believe that Protestantism as a dogmatic religion was in its origin, or is now in any of its forms, an adequate statement of Christian faith and theology. They look upon themselves, not as having found, but as about to find, what they want. Now there are two things to which we would call attention. First, following the anti-Catholic impulse originally given to the reformation, Protestants have fallen into the sect system and vulgar Protestantism, which the Mercersburg school is resolute to condemn as unchristian; and, second, just in proportion as they follow the tendency they contend for, and recede from this Protestantism, do they approach, not a new form of Christianity, but that old Catholic form against which the reformers protested. These are two pregnant facts. They should, it seems to us, excite a doubt whether there is any middle ground, and create a suspicion that the form they are seeking, and the higher theology they are craving, are identically the Catholic religion, and not to be realized out of it. Dr. Nevin, in his war against what he calls Puritanism, has found himself, no doubt to his surprise and alarm, approaching what he still persists in calling Romanism. In a less degree, or at a greater distance, the same is true of Dr. Schaff. Both seem to have confidence in the Catholicizing school of Germany, but can either of them deny that all they call progress in this school consists precisely in its approach to Catholicity, to our own church? Is it not probable, then, that their progress, continued till it has attained the last results of the new movement, would carry them into the bosom of that church? They may, indeed, deny their own doctrine, and suddenly and violently interrupt their progress; but if they concede, as they do, that they have not arrived at the goal, and if they are going, as they contend, in the right direction, and if they continue on, we see not well how they can avoid entering the Catholic communion. They might, then, it sems to us, very reasonably conclude that their labor is unnecessary, that the higher and truer theology which they seek, and which they concede that they have not as yet found, is already constructed for them, and they have nothing to do but humbly sumbit to it.

            We beg the serious attention of our friends to these few considerations, which we have made in no captious or controversial spirit. We know how hard it is for a man who has been bred a Protestant, and has been accustomed to look for the truth in some development of Protestantism, to change, and bring himself to look for it in that church which he has hitherto despised or hated. But we hope they will continue on, and that our Catholic friends will not forget to besiege heaven with prayers for their conversion.