"Evangelical Alliance"; January, 1864 (A look at Protestantism in America and its antichristian Makeup)

Evangelical Alliance

            We have been requested from various quarters to devote an article to the late conference, in this city, of delegates, American and foreign, of the so-called Evangelical Alliance, but we do not regard its proceedings as important enough to be worth any special notice.  We have before us very full reports of the sayings and doings of the delegates, all very distinguished men in the Protestant world: but, though we have looked into them here and there, we have had neither the curiosity nor the patience to read them.  They can tell us nothing that we were ignorant of, or that is of the slightest importance in the real and living controversy of the age.  The Protestantism represented by these delegates is, as a power in society, a thing of the past, and has no significance for the present.  When the Council of the Vatican was convoked and assembled at Rome, all the world was moved; it was looked upon as a world-wide event, and its doings were watched with the most jealous eyes, by states and empires, kings and kaisers, princes and nobles, statesmen and politicians, heretics and schismatics: proving thereby that the church is not only living in the present, but living as the mightiest power on earth.  The meeeting of the Protestant conference, which some had the hardihood to call an ecumenical council, did not cause so much as a ripple, outside of the journals, on the surface even of the Protestant world.  What better proof that the Protestantism of the conference has ceased to be a power, can be asked or given?  It is dead.  Why, then, trouble ourselves about it?  “Let the dead bury their dead.”

            The conference was composed of delegates from various sects.  The Evangelical Alliance is only an alliance, not an organic unity.  Unity is not made up of parts, each with its own autonomy, and were all existing sects to unite their forces and act in concert, they would come no nearer being the one Catholic Church than if they remained as separate in their action as they are in their organizations.  Nay, were they by mutual concession and arrangement to become united in one organic body, that one organic body would be only a humanly constituted body, with only a human origin and authority, and in no sense the body of Christ, or the one holy Catholic Church of the creed.  It could not teach or govern in the name of God, or bind the conscience, and therefore would be either a powerless body and soon dissolved into its organic elements, or be a spiritual despotism as intolerable as the Calvinism established in Geneva, or in the Puritan colonies of New England.  Such a body might be the body of Antichrist, but in no sense the body of Christ the Lord, as St. Paul calls the church.

            The unity of the church, as well as the church herself, grows out of the Incarnation, and the church is one, because Christ, whose body she is, is one and indivisible.  Unity begins in him, the one Mediator of God and men; he is the source in which the church originates, he is essential to her very existence, and she can never be made up by an aggregation of parts.  Hence the terrible nature of schism, which is severance from the body of Christ, and therefore from Christ himself, and the setting up of the authority of man, or of human pride, against the authority of God.  The mother error of the reformation was in assuming that the church has no organic connection with the Incarnation, and that it is a body organized by men according to the views or principles which they obtain from the Holy Scriptures interpreted by private judgment, or, as the reformers said, by private illumination.  The reformers did not understand that the church, as Moehler maintains and Father Perrone concedes, is in some sense the visible continuation of the Incarnation; they supposed they could lop off what appeared to them excrescences on her body, or abnormal accretions, and still retain her in greater purity, beauty, strength, and efficiency; but in cutting away what seemed to them abnormal accretions, they cut to the quick, and severed the church herself from her source of life, and made her for themselves a dead body, or a body living only the life derived from her members, or the associated individuals calling themselves the church, and which is no true life, nay, no life at all.  In no Protestant sect at all is it held that individuals derive their life from Christ through the church as its medium, but in all it is held that the church derives whatever life she has from her members united to Christ outside of her, and without her agency.  All Protestants then, in principle, reject the church as the medium by which the soul comes to Christ.  Those free religionists who reject all ecclesiasticism, as they call it, and all sacerdotalism, are the only legitimate descendants of the reformers, and their attacks on the Alliance the Alliance is impotent to parry.

            The Protestantism represented by the Alliance is “neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, nor yet good red herring.”  It is a miserable hodgepodge, and can only disgust a man of a logical stomach, and we own we have no respect for it.  It is neither frankly infidel nor frankly Christian, but strives to be a little of both.  It has no principle of its own, but borrows infidel principles when it would fight against the church, and church principles when it would fight against infidelity.  Against the one it asserts principles it denies when opposing the other.  How can we respect or fear it?  It is useless to talk.  The Protestantism of the Alliance has no bottom, stands on nothing, and we think it time wasted to attempt to refute it.  It only shows the power of Satan to blind the intellect, to pervert the reasoning powers, and to corrupt the heart.

            The Alliance claims to be Christian, and its aim seems to be to wage a relentless war against Catholicity on the right and rationalism on the left: but unhappily for it, it has no base for its operations against either, and is unable to conduct its war on any scientific principles, taken either from reason or revelation.  When it attracts rationalism it exposes itself to the merciless attacks of Catholics in flank; and when it turns against Catholics it exposes itself to the equally merciless attacks of the rationalists in the rear.  The meeting of the rationalists which followed, in the Cooper Institute, the week after the conference, thoroughly routed its forces on that side, and avenged their would-be murderous onslaught on Catholics.  But to drop all metaphor, the Alliance can oppose only Catholic principles to rationalists, and rationalistic principles to Catholics, and neither set of principles is its own, or such as it has any right, with its profession, to urge, or is able to urge with any effect.

            The only real controversy of this age is between Christianity and infidelity, as it was in the apostolic age, when the Jews had apostatized, or rejected the Gospel; and all attempts to maintain Christianity, except as a private opinion outside of the Catholic Church, have proved, as they ever must prove, total and even disgraceful failures.  Christianity as a private opinion or even as a public opinion is no religion, and falls into the category of speculative opinions which even infidels may hold without giving up their infidelity.  Obviously, then, the issue is between the church and infidelity.  They who oppose the church favor infidelity, and only they who defend the church do or can consistently oppose the infidel or rationalist.  They who attempt to oppose both forget that there is no middle term between them. 

            We have no doubt that among the Protestants represented by the Alliance there are many very respectable individuals, who really imagine that they are Christians, united to Christ by faith, and if faith were simply an opinion, or merely a subjective belief, we should recognize them as Christians, as holding the faith indeed, but as holding it, through ignorance of the truth or false education, in error.  We recognize the Nestorians, the monophysites, monothelites, and even the old Arians and Pelagians, as heterodox indeed, but do not deny them the Christian name.  They are heretics, not infidels.  They held certain specific heresies, dangerous, fatal even, to the whole Christian faith, if logically carried out; but none of them erected heresy into a principle, and made it, as does Protestantism, the basis of their entire system of Christian doctrine.  Protestantism is not so much a heresy, as the principle of all heresy; not so much a schism as the principle of all schism.  Even when it asserts Catholic or Christian dogmas, it asseerts them neither on Catholic principles nor in a Catholic sense; and yet it is only on Catholic principles, and in a Catholic sense and in their Catholic relations and interdependence, that they stand opposed to rationalism, or downright infidelity.  This is wherefore we refuse to recognize Protestantism as even so much as a form of heterodoxy, to concede it any distinctively Christian character, or to treat even Protestants, as such, as possessing ant Christian worth, however successfully they may in practice and intention imitate the Christian virtues.  They have not charity, for as St. Augustine says, charity cannot be kept out of unity.  They have at best only philanthropy. 

            Disguise the matter as we will, Protestantism adopts private judgment as its principle, and private judgment is the principle of all heresy.  It can give only opinion, neither faith nor certainty.  It is no use to bring in here the authority of the Holy Scriptures, for the authority of the Holy Scriptures, vouched for and interpreted by private judgment, since, as the logicians say, the conclusion follows the weaker premise.  The conclusion drawn from premises one of which is divine and the other human, is only human, as all theologians teach, not de fide.  It is of just as little use to allege the private illumination, or the operations of the Holy Spirit, for the Protestant has only his private persuasion that they are the operations or the illumination of the Holy Spirit; he has no catholic standard by which to try the spirits or to determine whether he follows the spirit of truth or the spirit of error.  St. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, bids us not to believe every spirit, but to try the spirits, whether they be of God or not, for any false prophets have gone out into the world.  But Protestants have nothing by which to try them.  Not the Scriptures, for it is precisely the sense of Scripture that is in question; not the apostolic communion, for Protestantism, in rejecting the apostolic see, rejects that communion, and thereby proves, if the blessed apostle is to be believed, that its spirit is the spirit of error, and not from God. (John IV. 1-6)

            This brings us back to the assertion that Protestantism assumes private judgment as its principle, and therefore that Protestants have, by virtue of their Protestantism, no faith, but human opinions only, which is not faith in any sense of the word.  Understand now why we have said Protestantism, or the Protestantism of the Evangelical Alliance, has no base for its operations against either the church or rationalism.  Not against rationalism, which denies the supernatural and admits no authority above man and his faculties; for, when stripped of its verbage and false pretensions, Protestantism is based on the same principle, that of private judgment or private reason, and neither has any thing but opinion.  The Pretensions these Alliance Protestants make to belief in the supernatural as opposed to rationalism are unfounded, for the principle of private judgment excludes the supernatural and whatever transcends the individual reason.  The Evangelical Alliance says, “two and two,” and there stops; the rationalist simply adds, “make four.”  The Alliance lays down the principles or premises, the rationalists simply draw the logical conclusion.  Hence, so far as logic is concerned, the rationalists have decidedly the best of the argument.  The supernatural of the Alliance Protestants is abnormal in Protestantism; it has no root in it, and depends on authority which Protestantism rejects.  Hence there is a constant tendency in the Protestant world to eliminate it.  This tendency increases as time goes on, and will hardly be checked for a moment by the prescriptions of the learned doctors of the Alliance.

            Still less is Protestantism able to maintain a successful struggle with Catholicity, or “Romanism,” as it politiely designates the church of Christ.  To the church they can oppose only their opinions, and opinion is no sufficient base for operations against Catholic faith.  Opinion is never science, nor certainty.  You say, Mr. Protestant, that in your opinion or private judgment the Catholic Church is the church of Antichrist.  Well, that is your opinion, but our opinion is that she is the church of God, and why is not our opinion worth as much as yours?  So far we are equal, and you have no advantage over us.  You say the church is contrary to the Holy Scriptures; but that is only your private judgment: our opinion is the reverse, and the church asserts that the Scriptures sustains her claim to be the one holy Catholic Church.  She appeals to them as well as to other historical documents, and has done so for eighteen hundred years, as witnesses for her, and her interpretation at the very lowest is as good as yours.  Evidently then, no argument based on opinion or private judgment can conclude any thing against the church.  To convict the church of making false claims you must oppose to her a certain truth that invalidates them, not an uncertain opinion.  The Protestant, in order to conclude anything against her, must base his argument on a certain, indubitable, and catholic principle which involves her condemnation: but he has no such principle, and can oppose to her only his pretended right of private judgment, to which no civil court on earth would listen for a moment or attach the least possible weight.  No man is permitted to interpret the law for himself.

            The church claims to teach and govern all men and nations by divine commission, did so claim for fifteen centuries before the so-called reformation was born, and had her claim admitted by all civilized nations and the greatest, wisest, purest, and holiest men, that ever lived.  Simply to deny that she so teaches and governs, may be your condemnation as a rebel against God, but is and can be no invalidation of her claim, for you even disavow infallibility, are therefore fallible and may err.  To invalidate that claim, your private opinion or inward persuasion does not suffice: you must do more; you must prove with absolute certainty, either that no commission of the sort was ever issued, or if it was, that it was issued to another, not to her.  You can prove neither.  That it was issued you have the express words of our Lord, after his resurrection; and that it was given to her and not to another is sufficiently proved by the fact that no other has ever even claimed it.  Indeed, all the sects concede that the church of Rome, or the church in communion with the see of Rome, was once the true apostolic church and held the true faith; but they pretend that she, at some period – they cannot agree among themselves within a thousand years or more at what period – became corrupt, apostatized, and forfeited her commission.  Well, what proof of all this have they?  Why, they think so, and can find no justification of themselves, if it be not so.  It is the Protestant tradition, resting never on any better authority than private judgment, false theology, and historical ignorance, misrepresentation, false statements, and calumny.  As the church interprets Scripture and history, she has never apostatized or become corrupt, and her interpretation, on the Protestant ground of private judgment, is at least as authoritative as yours, and is conclusive against it until you disprove by a catholic reason, which you have not, her claim to be the divine commission to teach and govern.

            Indeed, Protestants have never been able to make any headway against the church by arguments drawn either from Scripture or reason, or from both combined; and in fact they have never relied on them.  Protestantism owes whatever success it has to its appeals to the enmity of the world to the Gospel of Christ; to the pride of the human heart, which revolts at subjection to a master; to the secular powers, nearly always hostile to the spiritual supremacy of the Roman pontiffs; and to physical force employed to enforce the most iniquitous and infamous penal laws against Catholics who refused to turn against and curse their spiritual mother, ever devised by man or Satan.  It never could have gained a foothold in any country had it not been able first to win over the civil magistrate by fostering his unchristian tendencies and pandering to his unchristian appetites and passions.  What it is able to do by Scripture and reason we can see in the utter barrenness of Protestant missions among the heathen, to which the pretended success in the Sandwich Islands forms no real exception.

            Here, in our country, the people are held to be the state, and the Protestant majority control the government; yet the consciousness of their inability to maintain themselves against Catholics, were they once to lose that control, is seen in the frantic efforts of the Protestant leaders to keep Catholics from obtaining the share of political power to which they are intitled by their equal rights as citizens.  They feel, instinctively, that they were once deprived of their political ascendency, though allowed ample freedom to profess and practice their Protestant religion, if religion it may be called, they would have no power to sustain themselves and would soon sink into insignificance.  It is not denied that Protestants have succeeded in detaching many Catholics in old Catholic nations from the church, but it has been only because the governments of those nations were virtually Protestant, refused the church her rights, and restricted her freedom, as the state does even here in the matter of education.  It taxes Catholics to support schools which the church condemns, and bribes Catholic parents to send their children to anti-Catholic schools, with the money it unjustly takes from Catholics themselves.  Yet Catholicity, without any external aid, most bitterly opposed by the secular authority and the passions of the people, in spite of Jew and gentile, converted the Roman empire and established itself as the religion of the whole world.  It is today steadily advancing, in spite of the most severe and relentless persecution by acute but barbarous secular chiefs, in converting contemporary heathen nations to the one hold Catholic Church, and what is more to our purpose, is steadily and even rapidly advancing here and proving its immense superiority to Protestantism. 

            There are, as St. Augustine says, two cities, the city of God and the city of the world, that stand one over against the other.  These two cities are organized on different principles and for different ends.  Between them there is an irrepressible antagonism, as there is between the spirit and the flesh.  Peace between them is impossible except by the submission and subordination of the city of the world to the city of God.  We doubt not that the reformers in the outset sought, consciously or unconsciously, to effect a sort of compromise between them.  Protestantism, no doubt, originated in an effort to combine the service of the one with the service of the other, or in plain words, to reconcile the service of God with the service of Satan.  The so-called orthodox Protestants sought to become citizens of the city of the world without ceasing to be citizens of the city of God.  They thus became too much for the one, and too little for the other.  It is impossible, said our Lord, to serve two masters, “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”  The reformers did not believe it, and attempted to prove the contrary by experiment, with the result to be expected.  Protestants profess to belong to the city of God, but in reality they belong only to the city of the world, and practically serve only Mammon, not God.  We need only to study the developments of Protestantism to be assured that such is the fact.

            We need not tell our readers that we are discussing Protestantism, not passing judgment on individual Protestants.  We have no doubt that among Protestants there are some, even many individuals who are not intentionally Mammon-worshippers, but who mean to be and really believe they are worshippers in spirit and truth of God alone.  Such individuals there were among the gentiles before the coming of our Lord, and such it need not be doubted there are even now among the Turks and other Mahometans.  Indeed, to our mind Mahometanism is hardly further removed from Christianity than is Protestantism.  Of the final destiny of these honest and well-intentioned individuals, whether Protestants or Mahometans, and whose lives might shame many a Catholic, we say nothing, for we know nothing, and are not their judge.  We speak of Protestantism, and the predominant spirit of the Protestant world, and that spirit is of the city of the world, not of the city of God.

            Protestants generally regard with horror or pity those heroic Christians who give up all, houses and lands, father and mother, the sweet domestic affections, even their own wills, and retire from the world and live a life of painful penance and mortification, of perpetual sacrifice for Christ’s sake.  They look upon monasticism, or the complete renunciation of the world and all its pleasures, for a life of prayer, holy contemplation, and deeds of charity, as at best an insane folly, and denounce the church for permitting it.  Their first and most furious attacks are upon the religious consecrated to the service of God in the monastic life, and their houses and establishments.  Then follows their persecution of the clergy, and chiefly because bound to celibacy.  They see in these a contempt of the world and its proferred pleasures.  They are mad against them because they despise the world and the things after which they and the heathen seek.  What, again, is their appeal to private judgment but an attempt to set up a rival authority to that of the city of God?  They oppose the church because she, as they say, denies by her principle of authority the rights of the mind, free thought, and makes man spiritually a slave: that is, denies the principle on which is founded the city of the world, and they assert private judgment because it supports the world in its enmity against Christ the  Lord.  Yet the mind has no rights against God, it has only the right from him to be governed by his law.  The emancipation of the mind Protestantism boasts of having effected, means only the emancipation of the intellect from the divine sovereignty, which is only denying that God creates the intellect, for the Creator has necessarily the sovereign dominion of whatever he creates.  The state, as separated from the church, represents the world, and the standing charge of Protestants against the church is that she denies civil and political liberty by asserting the supremacy of the city of God over the world, or the supremacy of the divine law over all human enactments.  This is the pretence of the German Kaiser, and therefore he seeks to bind the church hand and foot, to compel her to obey the city of the world which he represents, or to drive her from his new-fangled empire; it is also the pretence of the European republicans, socialists, revolutionists, and communists, and therefore they make war to the knife against her.  Now what in all these respects does Protestantism do but appeal to the principles, passions, or prejudices of the world, which is at enmity with Christ, and seek to enlist them against the church, the city of God?  Who then can say Protestantism is not of the world, and simply opposes the world to the church?

            We have studied with no ordinary care and with what poor ability we possess, the various reasons alleged by Protestants for rejecting the Catholic Church, and we have found none that, when analyzed, do not prove to be drawn exclusively from the city of the world, that are not based on pride or the assumed independence of the human intellect, or that do not assume the supremacy or independence of the secular order, and the paramount value of the goods of time and sense.  Indeed, analyze all that Protestantism has of its own, and you will find that it is really nothing but the world, and the flesh, and the devil, which every Christian renounces in baptism.  It has nothing else to oppose to the church.  In so far as it opposes the church it is the city of the world, of which Satan is prince.  It can have nothing else, for the church is Catholic, and holds, teaches, and insists on every principle of the city of God, or the kingdom of Christ, even Protestants themselves being judges.  There is no positive doctrine of revelation that Protestants even pretend to hold that the church does not believe and teach, and did not believe and teach fifteen centuries before the reformation.  Do the Protestants represented by the Alliance assert the divine inspiration of the books of the Old and New Testaments?  The church asserts and always has asserted the same, and that of several books in the Old Testament, in addition.  Moreover, it is owing to her reverence for the written word of God, her care and diligence in guarding the sacred text, and placing it within the reach of the faithful, that it has been preserved and come down to us in its integrity.  Protestants themselves are indebted to the church for the Bible and for whatever real knowledge they have of it.  They have only mutilated it, suppressed several of its books, and cast doubts on the genuineness and authenticity of others which they retain in their canon.  Do they assert the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures as the rule of faith?  Here they depart from the church, but they do so on the authority of the city of the world, on the authority of their private judgment; for the Holy Scriptures nowhere declare their own sufficiency.  Besides, the Protestant assertion is a mere negation, and intended to be the mere negation of the Catholic doctrine of divine and apostolic tradition preserved and handed down to us by the church.

            Do these Protestants assert the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and through his merits alone?  So far they oppose nothing to the church, for that is and always has been her doctrine.  Do they assert, what is distinctively Protestant, justification by faith alone, without works?  This opposes, indeed, the teachings of the church, but it rests on human authority alone, therefore is drawn from the city of the world, and is designed to persuade men that they may do the works of the flesh, the world, and the devil without endangering their salvation; for if they have faith, they believe God will not impute their evil deeds to them, but forgive them for Christ’s sake, and impute his righteousness to them, and account them just, though actually sinning every breath they draw.  They are logically free to live as they list.  There is no warrant for this in the city of God.  The allegation so frequently made that Catholic nations are inferior to Protestant nations, in thrift, worldly prosperity, and power, if intended as an argument against the church, is an assumption of the supremacy of the city of the world, and supposes that Christ, the Messiah, came as a temporal, not as a spiritual prince, and identifies Protestantism with carnal Judaism, and gentilism.

            But we need not pursue the analysis any further.  Nothing is more evident than that Protestantism has nothing to oppose to the church but the world, the flesh, and the devil, and hence we say that the Protestantism of the Alliance has no base for its operations against either rationalism or the church: If it opposes rationalism, it condemns its own separation from the church: if it opposes the church, it condemns its opposition to rationalism.  The via media which so-called Protestantism seeks to find is illusory. There are and can be but two parties, properly designated the church and the world, or the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, whose prince is Satan.  Protestantism, seek to disguise it as you will, is of the world, worldly, and opposed to the kingdom of God.  It is of the earth, earthly, low, mean, and grovelling.  Its wisdom is not from above, but from below – sensual, devilish.  We care not how many temples it erects, how lavish it may be of its substance to support a false and idolatrous worship; under its influence the nations lapsing into all the vices and abominations of heathenism.  We care not that it appears unto men a whited sepulchre, beautiful on the outside, for within it is full of dead men’s bones, rottenness, and filth.

            They who are not on the side of the church, the immaculate spouse of Christ, are on the side of Satan, and fighting under the banner of the enemy of God, of Christ, and of immortal souls.  Such is the fact, however we may seek to disguise it, or shut our eyes to it.  Some indeed pretend that men may be natural men, standing on the plane of pure nature, but it is a delusion.  Man is under a supernatural Providence, with a supernatural destiny, and when his nature is not elevated by grace above itself to the plane of his supernatural destiny, it is dragged by Satan below the level of his nature.  Whoso is not Christ’s is Satan’s.  We, if not by regeneration children of God, are by nature children of wrath, in captivity to the devil, as the Holy Council of Trent, as we understand it, defines.  Hence those who fight not under the banner of Christ, and we may add, of his vicar on earth, are fighting against him.  Such, we have shown, are all real Protestants.

            We know that there are not a few Catholics, that have Protestant relatives and dear friends, who will accuse this conclusion of severity, and regard it as repugnant to the sublime charity of the Gospel.  We cannot help it.  It is true, and that is enough for us.  The charity that is not based on truth is not charity, but simply a false liberality, which grows out of forgetfulness of the heinousness of heresy and schism, and the destructiveness of infidelity.  Be as tender and affectionate to the persons of Protestants as you please, but do not forget that Protestantism, in any or all of its manifold forms, is a revolt against God, is of the world, gives the lie to God, and seeks to substitute the synagogue of Satan for the kingdom of Christ.  If Catholics had been true to their church, there would have been no Protestantism, and if they were now impressed with the sinfulness of error, and not enervated by the false liberality and mawkish sentimentalism of the age, the dead body of Protestantism, now poisoning the atmosphere and breeding a moral pestilence, would be instantly buried from sight.  All heresies have originated with men bred in the church, and Catholics are responsible, in no small degree, for the heresy and infidelity which are destroying so many precious souls purchased by the life-blood of our God, and making the earth the image of hell.  Let liberal Catholics look to it, endeavor by their repentance in sackcloth and ashes to repair the scandals they have given.  If the Evangelical Alliance has still any influence, let these wishy-washy Catholics, who have only Catholicity enough to be damned as Catholics, and not as infidels, know that they themselves are in fault.  It is time that Catholics should look Protestantism in the face, and comprehend its real nature and character, and studiously avoid all sympathy with it.  The whole strength of Protestantism lies in the weakness of Catholics and their want of unwavering fidelity to their own religion.  Indeed, Catholics have yielded too much to the world, are yielding too much to it now, and, without suspecting it, suffer themselves to be half seduced by Protestant influences from their Catholic allegiance; and God is severely chastising them – in mercy, we hope, not in wrath, or that in wrath he will remember mercy, and spare the remnant of his people.