« Prev Fourth Speech. Association in Religion, or Church… Next »



Those of you who are accustomed to regard religion simply as a malady of the soul, usually cherish the idea that if the evil is not to be quite subdued, it is at least more endurable, so long as it only infects individuals here and there. On the other hand, the common danger is increased and everything put in jeopardy by too close association among the patients. So long as they are isolated, judicious treatment, due precautions against infection and a healthy spiritual atmosphere may allay the paroxysms and weaken, if they do not destroy, the virus, but in the other case the only remedy to be relied on is the curative influence of nature. The evil would be accompanied by the most dangerous symptoms and be far more deadly being nursed and heightened by the proximity of the infected. Even a few would then poison the whole atmosphere; the soundest bodies would be infected; all the canals in which the processes of life are carried on would be destroyed; all juices would be decomposed; and, after undergoing such a feverish delirium, the healthy spiritual life and working of whole generations and peoples would be irrecoverably ruined. Hence your opposition to the church, to every institution meant for the communication of religion is always more violent than your opposition to religion itself, and priests, as the supports and specialty active members of such institutions are for you the most hated among men.


But those of you who have a somewhat milder view of religion, regarding it rather as an absurdity than as an absolute distraction, have an equally unfavourable idea of all organizations for fellowship. Slavish surrender of everything characteristic and free, spiritless mechanism and vain usages are, you consider, the inseparable consequences of every such institution. It is the skilful work of persons who with incredible success make great gain from things that are nothing, or which at least every other person could have done equally well.

Were it not that I strive to bring you in this matter to the right standpoint, I would very unwillingly expose my heart to you on such a weighty matter. How many of the perverse efforts and the sad destinies of mankind you ascribe to religion, I do not need to recount. In a thousand utterances of the most esteemed among you it is clear as day. And I will not pause to refute those charges in detail and derive them from other causes. Rather let us subject the whole idea of the church to a new consideration, reconstructing it from the centre outwards, unconcerned about how much is fact and experience.

If there is religion at all, it must be social, for that is the nature of man, and it is quite peculiarly the nature of religion. You must confess that when an individual has produced and wrought out something in his own mind, it is morbid and in the highest degree unnatural to wish to reserve it to himself. He should express it in the indispensable fellowship and mutual dependence of action. And there is also a spiritual nature which he has in common with the rest of his species which demands that he express and communicate all that is in him. The more violently he is moved and the more deeply he is impressed, the stronger that social impulse works. And this is true even if we regard it only as the endeavour to find the feeling in others, and so to be sure that nothing has been encountered that is not human.


You see that this is not a case of endeavouring to make others like ourselves, nor of believing that what is in one man is indispensable for all. It is only the endeavour to become conscious of and to exhibit the true relation of our own life to the common nature of man.

But indisputably the proper subjects for this impulse to communicate are the conscious states and feelings in which originally man feels himself passive. He is urged on to learn whether it may not be an alien and unworthy power that has produced them. Those are the things which mankind from childhood are chiefly engaged in communicating. His ideas, about the origin of which he can have no doubts, he would rather leave in quiet. Still more easily he resolves to reserve his judgments. But of all that enters by the senses and stirs the feelings he will have witnesses and participators. How could he keep to himself the most comprehensive and general influences of the world when they appear to him the greatest and most irresistible? How should he wish to reserve what most strongly drives him out of himself and makes him conscious that he cannot know himself from himself alone? If a religious view become clear to him, or a pious feeling stir his soul, it is rather his first endeavour to direct others to the same subject and if possible transmit the impulse.

The same nature that makes it necessary for the pious person to speak, provides him also with an audience. No element of life, so much as religion, has implanted along with it so vivid a feeling of man’s utter incapacity ever to exhaust it for himself alone. No sooner has he any sense for it than he feels its infinity and his own limits. He is conscious that he grasps but a small part of it, and what he cannot himself reach he will, at least, so far as he is able, know and enjoy from the representations of those who have obtained it. This urges him to give his religion full expression, and, seeking his own perfection, to listen to every note that he can recognize as religious.


Thus mutual communication organizes itself, and speech and hearing are to all alike indispensable.

But the communication of religion is not like the communication of ideas and perceptions to be sought in books.3535   The assertion that scripture alone is sufficient to awake piety, seems to have experience against it, from the sacred writings of all religions down to our books for edification so widely distributed among a certain class, and the small religious pamphlets which are the means chiefly used at present for reaching the people. First in respect of the sacred writings, only those of monotheistic religions need detain us. The Koran alone has arisen purely as a writing, and it is indisputably to be looked upon mostly as a manual and repertorium of themes for religious compositions, a fact quite in accordance with the unoriginal character of this religion. And the direct, strictly religious influence of the Koran is not to be esteemed very highly. In the very various Jewish codex, the gnomic books especially have something of this purely literary character. The historical section, strictly speaking, has none. The poetical section again in part, as for example a large number of the Psalms, deals immediately with definite occasions and was not produced simply for indefinite use, and is, therefore, not scripture in the strict sense. And who will deny that they produced the effect in this connection of which their present influence as mere scripture is but a shadow? The prophetic poetry of the earlier period, was for the most part actually spoken, and a not insignificant part has been handed down imbedded in history. As this living traditional power was lost, and the Scriptures became to the Jewish people a learned study, its direct influence was lost, and it became simply the bearer of the living utterances linked to it. The New Testament Scriptures also are, as little as possible, writing in the strict sense of the word. In the historical books the speeches are the most essential, the history being chiefly to give them the movement of life. Even in the history of the Passion the words of Christ are the most sublime and deeply moving parts, and the narrative of pains and agonies might easily produce only a wrong effect. The Acts of the Apostles alone seems to be an exception, and to have its place in the canon chiefly because it is the root of all church history. But just because it would quite limit the book to this subordinate use, it is repugnant to our feeling when the speeches are regarded as subsequently concocted, as is the fashion of other historical books. Our didactic books, being letters, are as little as possible mere literature, and no one can deny that the influence on the immediate recipients to whom the whole movement of the time was present, must have been much greater. We can only dimly, and then only by learned help, transport ourselves back to those times. Even then, the most vital influence of those writings for our time is that which was borrowed from the synagogue that all living religious utterance is linked to them.
   For that reason only, the reading of the Scriptures by the laity continues; otherwise, its influence would not entirely vanish, but it would degenerate into utter vagueness, So vast was the original power of these productions that even now, after they have become entirely literature, a fulness of quickening spirit dwells in them, which is the highest testimony to their divine power; yet the objective side of this influence, the clear understanding, would soon be null for the private use of the laity, but for that connection with the learned exposition. It is, therefore, natural that the Catholic Church, setting little store on preaching, should limit the use of Scripture by the laity. On the other hand, we, believing we dare not so limit it, must make the public exposition of Scripture much more prominent in preaching, and it must always be hurtful to the whole religious life when Scripture is generally made use of for preaching simply as a motto. The reality of the endeavour to rescue the contents of the sacred books from the state of being mere literature, appears from the ready adoption by the most pious Christians of a method that would be in the highest degree unnatural in a work made throughout purely as a book. Single detached passages of Scripture, neither chosen by selection nor by memory, but simply by chance, are used on every occasion, when religious enlightenment or stimulus is needed. This cannot be defended, as it too easily degenerates into magical frivolity, yet it is an endeavour to restore to the religious utterances of holy men a living influence which shall be direct and independent of their effects as a book.

   As regards our literature for edification again, which arises for the most part expressly as books, its great influence is not to be denied. The countless editions and the continuance of many of them through a long series of generations speak too clearly. And who does not feel respect for works that, in addition to their vitality, help to guard a great mass of men from the dangerous whirlwind of changing doctrine? Yet it will not be denied that the living word and the religious emotion in a community, have a far higher power than the written letter. On closer consideration also it will be found that the chief influence of practical writings rests less in their completeness than in the multitude of forceful, noble formulas contained, which may embrace many religious moments, and therefore refresh the memory of many things. They also offer a certain assurance that one’s own religious emotions are not at variance with the common religious life. Hence the individual, clever work of this kind seldom rejoices in much success. This good witness is only given to able and comprehensive practical works. But the present endeavour of so many well-meaning societies to scatter a multitude of small religious leaflets among the people, that have no right objective character, but utter the most subjective inner experiences in the dead letter of a terminology that neither accords with literary nor religious usage, rests on a deep misunderstanding, and can scarcely have any other result than to bring church matters, the evil of which it presupposes, into still deeper degradation. A multitude of men will be reared who will have manifold hypocrisies, without any actual experience, or who will fall into sad perplexity because their own religious experiences do not accord with the pattern set before them. Is the public church life sick or weak, let each man do his utmost to heal it, but let no man believe it is to be replaced by a dead letter. That the religious life should issue from the circulating library seems to me like handing over the great acts of legislation and executive to irresponsible journals, of which the more numbers and improved editions the better.
In this medium, too much of the pure impression of the original production is lost. Like dark stuffs that absorb the greater part of the rays of light, so everything of the pious emotion that the inadequate signs do not embrace and give out again, is swallowed up. In the written communication of piety, everything needs to be twice or thrice repeated, the original medium requiring to be again exhibited, and still its effect on men in general in their great unity can only be badly copied by multiplied reflection. Only when it is chased from the society of the living, religion must hide its varied life in the dead letter.

Nor can this intercourse with the heart of man be carried on in common conversation. Many who have a regard for religion have upbraided our times, because our manners are such that in conversation in society and in friendly intercourse, we talk of all weighty subjects except of God and divine things. In our defence I would say, this is neither contempt nor indifference, but a very correct instinct. Where mirth and laughing dwell, and even earnestness must pliantly associate with joke and witticism, there can be no room for what must ever be attended by holy reserve and awe. Religious views, pious feelings, and earnest reflections, are not to be tossed from one to another in such small morsels as the materials of a light conversation. On sacred subjects it would be rather sacrilegious than fitting to be ready with an answer to every question and a response to every address.3636Many perhaps, who formerly cherished the well-meant wish that the sociality which had become vain and frivolous should have new life put into it by an admixture of the religious element, have already applied the proverb to themselves that with time we may easily have too much of what earlier we zealously desired. Confusion and trouble enough have arisen from treating religious subjects in brilliant circles in the form of conversation, in which the personal element too easily preponderates. I wrote then from my youthful experiences among the Moravians. They had special meetings for the distinct object of religious conversation. An absent person of a different mind could not there readily be discussed, yet I have never heard anything of real life and worth, and I believe I have here quite rightly grasped the general principle. Our wish should, therefore, be not so much that in our free sociality religious subjects should be treated, as that a religious spirit should rule. And this wish will certainly not fail as soon as a considerable part of society consists of religious men. Religion, therefore, withdraws itself from too wide circles to the more familiar conversation of friendship or the dialogue of love, where glance and action are clearer than words, and where a solemn silence also is understood.

By way of the light and rapid exchange of retorts 151common in society divine things cannot be treated, but there must be a higher style and another kind of society entirely consecrated to religion. On the highest subject with which language has to deal, it is fitting that the fulness and splendour of human speech be expended. It is not as if there were any ornament that religion could not do without, but it would be impious and frivolous of its heralds, if they would not consecrate everything to it, if they would not collect all they possess that is glorious, that religion may, if possible, be presented in all power and dignity. Without poetic skill, therefore, religion can only be expressed and communicated rhetorically, in all power and skill of speech,3737Since this was written I have had almost thirty years’ conduct of office, a period within which every man must come as near his ideal as he can. A greater contrast between that description, and what I myself have accomplished in that time in the domain of religious speech would be hard to imagine. Were there really such a difference of theory and practice, my only apology would be that, as it was given to Socrates, other wisdom being denied, to know that he knew nothing, the higher not being granted me, I was content with plain speech rather than strive for false ornamentation. Yet it is not quite so. My practice has been based on the distinction that is drawn later in this Speech between the existing church and the true church. In the former all discourse, whatever be its subject-matter, must have a didactic character. The speaker would bring something to consciousness in his hearers, which indeed he assumes to exist in them, but does not suppose would develop of itself in this exact way. Now the more the didactic character appears, the less room there is for ornament, and for this purpose a blessing undoubtedly rests on unadorned speech. In another religious art, the same thing appears. Who would think of taking the pious poetry, in all its power and magnificence, that is suited for glorifying God in a circle of thoroughly cultured religious men, of which we have many splendid examples in our Klopstock and our Hardenberg, and making it the standard in collecting a church hymn-book? and in its swiftness and inconstancy the service of every art that could aid, is willingly accepted. Hence a person whose heart is full of religion, only opens his mouth before an assembly where speech so richly equipped might have manifold working.

Would that I could depict to you the rich, the superabundant life in this city of God, when the citizens assemble, each full of native force seeking liberty of utterance and full at the same time of holy desire to apprehend and appropriate what others offer. When one stands out before the others he is neither justified by office nor by compact; nor is it pride or ignorance that inspires him with assurance. It is the free impulse of his spirit, the feeling of heart-felt unanimity and completest equality, the common abolition of all first and last, of all earthly order.3838It can hardly be necessary for me here to guard myself against being misinterpreted, as wishing to banish all order from the assembly of the truly pious, and make them like many fanatical sects that arrange nothing beforehand for their meetings, but leave everything to the moment. On the contrary, the higher the style of religious utterance, the more it exhibits an artistically organized unity, the more it requires a rigid order. This only is meant that everything belonging to civil order must be left outside, and all things must be fashioned on the foundation of an original, universal equality. I hold this the essential condition of all prosperity in such a fellowship, not less in the actually existing church than in the ideal. Every fellowship is destroyed by disorder, and an order that is made for another society is disorder. If the distinction between priest and laity is not to be sharply drawn, how much less is a difference to apply among the laity themselves that belongs to a quite different sphere. If a member of the congregation, even though outwardly he may stand in some relation of guardian to it, assumes the right, because he is distinguished in the civil society, to interfere and have priestly functions in directing the body and arranging the meetings, any other member, however low his station in the civil society, would have the same right, and true and fitting order would be at an end. He comes forward to present to the sympathetic contemplation of others his own heart as stirred by God, and, by leading them into the region of religion where he is at home, he would infect them with his own feeling. He utters divine things and in solemn silence the congregation follow his inspired speech. If he unveils a hidden wonder, or links with prophetic assurance the future to the present, or by new examples confirms old truths, or if his fiery imagination enchants him in visions into another part of the world 152and into another order of things, the trained sense of the congregation accompanies him throughout. On returning from his wanderings through the Kingdom of God into himself, his heart and the hearts of all are but the common seat of the same feeling. Let this harmony of view announce itself, however softly, then there are sacred mysteries discovered and solemnized that are not mere insignificant emblems, but, rightly considered, are natural indications of a certain kind of consciousness and certain feelings. It is like a loftier choir that in its own noble tone answers the voice that calls.

And this is not a mere simile, but, as such a speech is music without song or melody, there may be a music among the saints that is speech without words, giving most definite and comprehensible expression to the heart.

The muse of harmony, the intimate relation of which to religion has been long known, though acknowledged by few, has from of old laid on the altars of religion the most gorgeous and perfect works of her most devoted scholars. In sacred hymns and choruses to which the words of the poet are but loosely and airily appended, there are breathed out things that definite speech cannot grasp. The melodies of thought and feeling interchange and give mutual support, till all is satiated and full of the sacred and the infinite.

Of such a nature is the influence of religious men upon each other. Thus their natural and eternal union is produced. It is a heavenly bond, the most perfect production of the spiritual nature of man, not to be attained till man, in the highest sense, knows himself. Do not blame them if they value it more highly than the civil union which you place so far above all else, but which nevertheless will not ripen to manly beauty. Compared with that other union, it appears far more forced than free, far more transient than eternal.

But where, in all that I have said of the congregation of 153the pious, is that distinction between priests and laity to which you are accustomed to point as the source of so many evils? You have been deluded; this is no distinction of persons, but only of office and function. Every man is a priest, in so far as he draws others to himself in the field he has made his own and can show himself master in; every man is a layman, in so far as he follows the skill and direction of another in the religious matters with which he is less familiar. That tyrannical aristocracy which you describe as so hateful does not exist, but this society is a priestly nation,3939Every reader familiar with Scripture, will here think of the Apostle Peter, who exhorts all Christians to train themselves into a holy priesthood, and assures them all that they are a royal priesthood. This is, therefore, a truly Christian expression. The view here set forth of the equality of all true members of the religious community, so that none are to be made merely recipient and the exclusive right of utterance given to one, is also a truly Christian view. Christianity has recognized its true goal in that prophetic saying that all should be taught of God. Suppose this goal attained by the whole community, so that there was no more need to awake religion in others, then, leaving out of sight the education of the young, there could be no distinction among members, save such as the passing occasion required. If then we find in all religious forms, from the earliest antiquity, the distinction between priest and laity in force, we are driven to assume, either that there was an original difference, a religiously developed stock that had joined a rude race and had never succeeded in raising it to its own fulness of religious life, or that the religious life had developed so unequally in a people that it had become necessary, if it were not again to be scattered, to organize the more advanced for more effective operation on the rest. In this latter case the more it succeeds the more superfluous this organization will become. The Christian priesthood is manifestly of this kind. This narrower use of the word I never quite justify to myself, for we in the Protestant community are quite agreed how far the expression generally can have no validity in Christianity. The need for this narrower priesthood only gradually made itself felt. This is the more apparent that, at the beginning, the apostolic character itself involved no special pre-eminence in the community. But this smaller body, chosen from the community, came to acquire a position apart from the religious enthusiasm of the others, because the history of Christianity and in particular the intimate knowledge of original Christianity necessarily became an object of science. In this scientific information all had to have some share, if their communications were to be in conscious agreement with history. This distinction could never disappear till all Christians were familiar with this science. Even though this is not to be looked for, the validity of this distinction must ever more and more be limited to the sphere in which finally alone it can have a reason. a complete republic, where each in turn is leader and people, following in others the same power that he feels in himself and uses for governing others.

How then can this be the home of the envy and strife that you consider the natural consequences of all religious associations? I see nothing but unity and, just by means of the social union of the pious, the gentle mingling of all the differences found in religion. I have called your attention to two different types of mind and two different directions in which specially the soul seeks its highest object. Do you mean that from them sects must of necessity arise, and unconstrained fellowship in religion be hindered? In contemplation, where there is severance because we comprehend only in sections, there must be opposition and contradiction, but reflect that life is quite different. In it opposites seek each other and all that is separated in contemplation is mingled. Doubtless persons who most resemble will most strongly attract each other, but they cannot on that account make up a whole by themselves, for there are all degrees of affinity, and with so many transitions there can be no absolute repulsion, no entire separation, even between the remotest elements.

Take any body that by characteristic power has its own organic structure. Unless you forcibly isolate it by some mechanical means, it will not be homogeneous and distinct,4040This assertion, from which I afterwards draw the conclusion that the external religious society should be as mobile a body as possible, seems to contradict what I have exhaustively developed in the Introduction to the “Glaubenslehre,” §§ 7-10. Here I say that in religious communication there are no entire separations and definite boundaries except by a mechanical procedure, that is a procedure which is in a certain sense arbitrary and not founded in the nature of the matter. There I say that the different pious communions that appear in history stand to one another, partly, as stages of development, the monotheistic being the highest, and, partly, as different in kind, according as the natural or the ethical in human life predominated. Further, I distinguish the individual type of common piety, partly externally, by its historical origin, and partly internally, as characteristic variation of any faith of one stage and one kind. It will not suffice to say that in the “Glaubenslehre” communion is secondary, and that the primary aim was to discover from their contents the characteristic features of the different types of faith, particularly of Christianity, for this involves dealing with the Christian church as a definitely bounded society. The two passages are rather to be harmonized as follows: On the one side, I grant here that certain bodies of communion are formed organically, which agrees with the assertion in the “Glaubenslehre” that every distinct communion has a historical point of departure which dominates the organic development. Did this point of departure not also presuppose an inner difference, these bodies would only be distinguished by number or by size, and the superiority given by favouring circumstances, like the fruits of one stem. Were their boundaries to touch they would naturally grow together, and could only be again mechanically divided. On the other side, in the “Glaubenslehre,” an inner difference in the types of faith, whereby the communions are divided, is maintained. But it is only difference in the subordination and mutual relations of the separate parts, which does not involve any greater degree of communion than is here represented. The whole attempt there made would be in vain, if from one type of faith it were not possible to understand another. But if it is understood in its inner nature, its modes of externalizing itself, its services must be capable not only of being understood by a spectator, but in some degree of being appropriated. Persons to whom this is impossible, can in any communion be only the uncultured. Now that is simply what is here maintained, that the separating impulse, when it makes a hard and fast cleavage, is a proof of imperfection. Again, as the uncultured do not alone, but only along with the cultured, form the communion, the assertions there made also agree with this that the religious communion, though divided and organized, would yet in another respect be only one but for mechanical interference either of sword or letter. Does it not appear to us violent and irreligious, when the members of one communion are forbidden to frequent, with a view to edification, the services of another? Yet only by such an utterly mechanical procedure could the communions be quite separated. but it will show at the extremities transition to the qualities 154of another body. Pious persons at the lower stage have a closer union, yet there are always some among them who have a guess of something higher, who, even better than they understand themselves, will be understood by a person belonging to a more advanced society. There is thus a point of union, though it may yet be hidden from them. Again, if persons in whom the one type of mind is dominant, draw together, there will be some among them who at least understand the two types and, belonging in a certain sense to both, are connecting links between two otherwise divided spheres. Thus a person better fitted to put himself in religious communion with nature is not, in the essentials of religion, opposed to a person who rather finds the traces of the Deity in history, and there will never be a dearth of those who walk with equal ease on both ways. And if you divide the great domain of religion otherwise, you will still return to the same point. If unconstrained universality of the sense is the first and original condition of religion, and also, as is natural, its ripest fruit, you can surely see that, as religion advances and piety is purified, the whole religious world must appear as an indivisible whole.

The impulse to abstract, in so far as it proceeds to rigid separation, is a proof of imperfection. The highest and most cultured always see a universal union, and, in seeing it, establish it. Every man is only in contact with his neighbour; but on every side and in every direction he has neighbours and is thus inseparably bound up with the whole. Mystics and physicists in religion; those to whom the Deity is personal and those to whom He is not; those who have risen to a systematic view of the Universe, or those who only see it in its elements or as dim chaos should all be united. A hand encloses them all and they cannot be quite separated, except forcibly and arbitrarily. Each separate association is a mobile, integrate part of the whole, losing itself in vague outlines in the whole, and it must ever be 155the better class of members who feel this truth. Whence then, if not from pure misunderstanding, is the wild mania for converting to single definite forms of religion that you denounce, and the awful watchword, “No salvation save with us”?7

The society of the pious, as I have exhibited it and as from its nature it must be, is occupied purely with mutual communication, and subsists only among persons already having religion of some kind. How can it be their business to change the minds of those who already profess to have a definite religion, or to introduce and initiate persons who have none at all? The religion of this society as such is simply the collective religion of all the pious. As each one sees it in others it is infinite, and no single person can fully grasp it, for it is in no one instance a unity, not even when highest and most cultivated. If a man, therefore, has any share in religion, it matters not what, would it not be a mad proceeding for the society to rend from him that which suits his nature, for this element also it should embrace and therefore someone must possess it? And how would they cultivate persons to whom religion generally is still strange? Their heritage, the infinite Whole they cannot communicate to them, and any particular communication must proceed from an individual and not the society. Is there something general, indefinite, something common to all the members that a non-religious person might receive? But you know that nothing in a general and indefinite form can actually be communicated. It must be individual and thoroughly definite, or it is nothing. This undertaking would have no measure and no rule. Besides, how would the society ever think of going beyond itself, seeing the need which gave it birth, the principle of religious association, has no such bearing? Individuals join and become a whole; the whole being satisfied with itself, abides in itself, and has no further endeavour.

Religious effort of this kind, therefore, is never more 156than a private business of individuals, and is, if I might so say, rather in so far as a man is outside the church than as he is within. When, impelled by sacred feelings, he must withdraw from the circle of religious association where the common existence and life in God affords the noblest enjoyment, into the lower regions of life, he can still bring all that there occupies him into relation with what to his spirit must ever remain the highest.4141   It was doubtless serviceable to establish that the wild mania for proselytizing is nowhere founded in religion itself. But there seems to be too much here, for mild proselytizing also, every endeavour to draw from another form to one’s own, every endeavour to implant religion in souls still without piety, seems to be rejected. Against the witness of all history, against the clear words of the Founder Himself, no less than against my own statements in the “Glaubeuslehre,” about the relation of Christianity to other forms of religion, it appears to be maintained that the spread of Christianity in the world did not proceed from the pious Christian sense. But this good endeavour is always in some way connected with the notion, here uniformly rejected, that salvation, either altogether or in a much higher degree, is not to be found outside a definite religious communion as it is found inside. True and false do not seem to be here sufficiently distinguished. If the assertion that proselytizing work is entirely inadmissible, is a just consequence of the previously accepted theory of the religious communion, the error must be sought in the theory. On going back upon it we find what solves the difficulties, that the spread of our own form of religion is a natural and permissible private business of the individual. Though there is in the strict sense only one universal religious communion, in which all the different forms of religion mutually recognize each other, in which transference of a follower of one form to another seems to be a wish to impair the whole by destroying its manifoldness, it is manifest that here also much is naturally destroyed, which can only happen in an inferior stage of development. Hence it is regarded by the experienced as simply a point of transition, and it cannot be wrong to accelerate and guide the progress. Wherefore, the more the adherents of one form of religion are compelled to regard many other forms simply as such transitions, the more powerfully will the work of proselytizing organize itself among them.
   This should most apply to the monotheistic religions in general, and in the broadest sense to Christianity. And this holds from the present standpoint, as it is more fully dealt with in the “Glaubenslehre,” as the issue of a more scientific course of thought. The work of proselytizing presupposes the one graduated communion. As Paul did in Athens, regarding the Hellenic idolatry, to assign it a value and obtain a link of connection for the communication of his own piety, it must always be done. This community of two forms of religion shows itself at all points wheresoever a like effort at assimilation is developed. We can therefore say that this is the true distinction between praiseworthy zeal for conversion that would recognize the faintest traces of religion and purify and build up a piety already begun, and that wild irreligious mania for conversion which easily degenerates into persecution. The former begins with unprejudiced and loving comprehension even of the most imperfect kind of faith, the latter believes it is exalted above any such endeavour. Further, it is not to be understood with too painful accuracy that proselytizing can only be the private business of the individual. The individual stands here opposed to the all-embracing communion. Hence associations of individuals, nay, a whole mode of faith can be regarded as individuals. The maxim “nulla salus,” again has for the great communion of the pious an absolute verity, for without any piety it can acknowledge no salvation. Only in so far as one religious party utters it against another, does it work destructively, which is to say, in so far as a universal communion is denied. Hence it clearly goes along with the wild mania for conversion. The special truth of this in Christianity is dealt with in the “Glaubenslehre,” in full agreement with these views.
On descending among persons limited to one earthly aim and effort, he is apt to believe—and let it be forgiven him—that, from intercourse with gods and muses, he has been transported among a race of rude barbarians. He feels himself a steward of religion among unbelievers, a missionary among savages. As an Orpheus or Amphion he hopes to win many, by heavenly melody. He presents himself among them as a priestly figure, expressing clearly and vividly his higher sense in all his doings and in his whole nature. And if there be any response, how willingly he nurses those first presentiments of religion in a new soul believing it to be a beautiful pledge of its growth, even under an alien and inclement sky, and how triumphantly he conducts the novice to the exalted assembly! This activity for the extension of religion is only the pious longing of the stranger for his home, the endeavour to carry his Fatherland with him, and find again everywhere its laws and customs which are his higher, more beauteous life. The Fatherland itself, blessed and complete in itself, knows no such endeavour.

After all this, you will possibly say that I seem to be quite at one with you. I have shown what the church ought to be. Now, by not ascribing to the ideal church any of the qualities which distinguish the real, I have, almost as strongly as you, condemned its present form. I assure you, however, I have not spoken of what should be, but of what is,4242   It was doubtless serviceable to establish that the wild mania for proselytizing is nowhere founded in religion itself. But there seems to be too much here, for mild proselytizing also, every endeavour to draw from another form to one’s own, every endeavour to implant religion in souls still without piety, seems to be rejected. Against the witness of all history, against the clear words of the Founder Himself, no less than against my own statements in the “Glaubeuslehre,” about the relation of Christianity to other forms of religion, it appears to be maintained that the spread of Christianity in the world did not proceed from the pious Christian sense. But this good endeavour is always in some way connected with the notion, here uniformly rejected, that salvation, either altogether or in a much higher degree, is not to be found outside a definite religious communion as it is found inside. True and false do not seem to be here sufficiently distinguished. If the assertion that proselytizing work is entirely inadmissible, is a just consequence of the previously accepted theory of the religious communion, the error must be sought in the theory. On going back upon it we find what solves the difficulties, that the spread of our own form of religion is a natural and permissible private business of the individual. Though there is in the strict sense only one universal religious communion, in which all the different forms of religion mutually recognize each other, in which transference of a follower of one form to another seems to be a wish to impair the whole by destroying its manifoldness, it is manifest that here also much is naturally destroyed, which can only happen in an inferior stage of development. Hence it is regarded by the experienced as simply a point of transition, and it cannot be wrong to accelerate and guide the progress. Wherefore, the more the adherents of one form of religion are compelled to regard many other forms simply as such transitions, the more powerfully will the work of proselytizing organize itself among them.
   This should most apply to the monotheistic religions in general, and in the broadest sense to Christianity. And this holds from the present standpoint, as it is more fully dealt with in the “Glaubenslehre,” as the issue of a more scientific course of thought. The work of proselytizing presupposes the one graduated communion. As Paul did in Athens, regarding the Hellenic idolatry, to assign it a value and obtain a link of connection for the communication of his own piety, it must always be done. This community of two forms of religion shows itself at all points wheresoever a like effort at assimilation is developed. We can therefore say that this is the true distinction between praiseworthy zeal for conversion that would recognize the faintest traces of religion and purify and build up a piety already begun, and that wild irreligious mania for conversion which easily degenerates into persecution. The former begins with unprejudiced and loving comprehension even of the most imperfect kind of faith, the latter believes it is exalted above any such endeavour. Further, it is not to be understood with too painful accuracy that proselytizing can only be the private business of the individual. The individual stands here opposed to the all-embracing communion. Hence associations of individuals, nay, a whole mode of faith can be regarded as individuals. The maxim “nulla salus,” again has for the great communion of the pious an absolute verity, for without any piety it can acknowledge no salvation. Only in so far as one religious party utters it against another, does it work destructively, which is to say, in so far as a universal communion is denied. Hence it clearly goes along with the wild mania for conversion. The special truth of this in Christianity is dealt with in the “Glaubenslehre,” in full agreement with these views.
unless, indeed, you deny the existence of what is only hindered by the limits of space from appearing to the 157coarser vision. The true church has, in fact, always been thus, and still is, and if you cannot see it, the blame is your own, and lies in a tolerably palpable misunderstanding. Remember only—to use an old but weighty expression—that I have not spoken of the church militant, but of the church triumphant, not of the church that fights against what the age and the state of man place in its way, but of the church that has vanquished all opposition, whose training is complete. I have exhibited a society of men who have reached consciousness with their piety, and in whom the religious view of life is dominant. As I trust I have convinced you that they must be men of some culture and much power, and that there can never be but very few of them, you need not seek their union where many hundreds, whose song strikes the ear from afar, are assembled in great temples. So close together, you well know, men of this kind do not stand. Possibly anything of the sort collected in one place is only to be found in single, separate communities, excluded from the great church. This at least is certain, that all truly religious men, as many as there have ever been, have not only had a belief, or rather a living feeling of such a union, but have actually lived in it, and, at the same time, they have all known how to estimate the church, commonly so-called, at about its true value, which is to say, not particularly high.

The great association to which your strictures properly apply, is very far from being a society of religious men. It is only an association of persons who are but seeking religion, and it seems to me natural that, in almost every respect, it should be the counterpart of the true church.4343The propensity, found in all great forms of religion, at all times, in varying degree and under the most different shapes, to form smaller and warmer societies within the great one, rests undeniably on the presumption that the great society has fallen into deep corruption. This expresses itself in separatism which accepts generally the type of doctrine, but will have nothing to do with the regulations of the religious society. Manifestly therefore, it must maintain, that the regulations of the society are independent of its doctrine, and determined by something alien, and that in consequence the members of the religious society are in a state of sickness. After what is said above about the social nature of piety, no one will believe that I am here speaking of separatist piety. On the contrary, it is rather of the endeavour to found closer associations more accordant with the idea of the true church. But this praise associations only deserve when they unfold a rich productiveness in religious communication, not when they are founded on a narrow and exclusive letter, and reject the idea of one all-embracing communion. Is this the case and productiveness is weak or quite fails, the state of sickness is not to be denied. Hence among all similar societies the Moravian Brethren, who have at least produced a characteristic type of poetry, are always pre-eminent. Religious speech also among them has more scope and variety, for, besides the general assembly, the community is divided up in various ways. A very beautiful scheme at least is not to be denied, and if the result is less rich, a deficiency in the cultivation of talent may be to blame. In other directions also this society has taken a good and praiseworthy course. It has rejected that exclusiveness of the letter which keeps the two chief branches of the Protestant Church apart, and stands in manifold relations to the whole of this church according as occasion offers. In its missionary efforts, moreover, in which it must be acknowledged to excel, it has displayed a pure and right tact and a happy readiness in reaching the most imperfect states of religion and awaking receptiveness for the high spirit of Christianity. Where the sense for such closer union is awakened, the contempt of the recognized church, in its existing state, is natural. But this contempt is here ascribed to all who, in a higher sense, are religious and the next step is, that from this state the endeavour must go forth to improve the great outward society itself and bring it nearer its natural union with the true church. To make this as clear to you as it is to myself, I must, alas! condescend upon a mass of earthly and worldly things, and wind my way through a labyrinth of marvellous confusions. It is not done without repugnance, but it is necessary, if you are to agree with me. Perhaps if I draw your attention to the different forms of religious association 158in the visible and in the true church, you will be convinced of my opinion in essentials. After what has been said, you will, I hope, agree that in the true religious society all communication is mutual. The principle that urges us to give utterance to our own experience, is closely connected with what draws us to that which is strange, and thus action and reaction are indivisibly united. Here, on the contrary, it is quite different. All wish to receive, and there is only one who ought to give. In entire passivity, they simply suffer the impressions on their organs. So far as they have power over themselves, they may aid in receiving, but of reaction on others they do not so much as think.4444This description may very well be quite in accordance with the form which our assemblies for divine service, broadly considered, showed at that time. In any case it was the result of an immediate impression. Yet the consequence that the principle of communion in these assemblies is entirely different from what has actually been developed, is not to be drawn straightway, but only under the following limitations. Further on, page 178, family worship is assigned to members of the true church, who do not have the requisite endowments for coming forward in personal activity and priestly function in the outward religious society, that they may there satisfy their impulse to communicate. Now persons who are in this position cannot, despite outward appearance, be merely passive and receptive in the assemblies of the church. They carry the work of the church further, and their activity is actually in the assembly. Thus when public and family worship are regarded as one, the whole of the larger assembly appears as an active organism. This activity would also have its influence in the assembly if several families were to join for a pious purpose, if the leader of the assembly had this inner productiveness of its members before his mind. Wherefore, the consequence would only be rightly drawn where no religious communication had developed itself in domestic life and family intercourse, a thing seldom found at that time in our country. Further, religious communication is also an art, not determined by piety only, but by training also. Hence entire equality and reciprocity are not possible. Compare great representations in any art. In music, for example, the composer is not the only person, but the performers also, from the leading instrument to the most subordinate accompanyist. Then there must be the maker of the musical instruments, and the audience too, if they are connoisseurs, do not merely receive, but each one in his own way also has his work. Similarly we must acknowledge that in the assemblies of the church the greatest number can only contribute to the representation of the whole as accompanying artists. Thus one-sidedness only fully appears when such co-operation entirely fails, either the piety doing nothing but absorb, or the speaking and working being offered simply from a profane artistic sense without religious spirit. Does that not show clearly enough the difference in the principles of association? They cannot be spoken of as wishing to complete their religion through others, for if they had any religion of their own, it would, from the necessity of its nature, show itself in some way operative on others. They exercise no reaction because they are capable of none; and they can only be incapable because they have no religion. Were I to use a figure from science—from which, in matters of religion, I most willingly borrow expressions—I would say that they are negatively religious, and press in great crowds to the few points where they suspect the positive principle of religion. Having been charged, however, they again fail in capacity to retain. The emotion which could but play around the surface very soon disappears. Then they go about in a certain feeling of emptiness, till longing awakes once more, and they gradually become again negatively electrified.

In few words, this is the history of their religious life and the character of the social inclination that runs through it. Not religion, but a little sense for it, and a painful, lamentably fruitless endeavour to reach it, are all that can be ascribed even to the best of them, even to those who show both spirit and zeal. In the course of their domestic and civil life, and on the larger scene of which 159they are spectators, there is much to stir persons with even a small share of religious sense. But those emotions remain only a dim presentiment, a weak impression on a soft mass, the outlines of which at once become vague. Soon everything is swept away by the waves of the active life, and is left stranded in the most unfrequented region of the memory, where it will soon be entirely overlaid by worldly things.

From frequent repetition, however, of this little shock, a necessity at length arises. The dim something in the mind, always recurring, must finally be made clear. The best means, one would think, would be to take time to observe leisurely and attentively the cause. But it is not a single thing which they might abstract from all else, that works on them. It is all human things, and among them the different relations of their life in other departments. Then, from old habit, their sense will spontaneously turn to those relations and once more the sublime and infinite will, in their eyes, be broken up into single, miserable details. Feeling this, they do not trust themselves, but seek outside help. They would behold in the mirror of another person’s representation that which in direct perception would soon dissolve.

In this way they seek to reach some higher, more defined consciousness, yet at the end they misunderstand this whole endeavour. If the utterances of a truly religious man awake all those memories, if they have received the combined impression of them, and go away deeply moved, they believe that their need is stilled, that the leading of their nature has been satisfied, and that they have in them the power and essence of all those feelings. Yet they have now as formerly, though it may be in a higher degree, but a fleeting, extraneous manifestation. Being without knowledge or guess of true religion, they remain subject to this delusion, and in the vain hope of at length attaining, they repeat a thousand times the same endeavour, and yet remain where and what they were.4545If this were taken quite exactly, the result would certainly be that the visible church would exist only through its own nullity, through its incapacity to bring the religious feeling to any high degree of keenness. But that it is not to be taken exactly is manifest, because otherwise this cold and proud withdrawal from the visible church would be praised, in direct contradiction to the previous contention that this great religious society is by no means to be dissolved. Yet here, as in all similar human things, there are gradations, founded in the original constitution of the individual. Persons of different grades are directed by nature to one another, but it is only a shallow view that one simply affects the other, as if one could simply by working on another implant religion in him. Religion is original in every man, and stirs in every man. In some, however, it keeps pace with the whole individuality of the person, so that, in every manifestation of the pious consciousness, this individuality appears; in others, again, religion only appears under the form of the common feeling. And this may be so even in persons otherwise of marked individuality. The religious emotions are linked to the common states of things, and find in the common presentation their satisfaction. Were persons of more individual emotion now to withdraw from those common forms of presentation, both parties would suffer loss. What would become of the common presentations unfertilized by individual emotions we can see in the ecclesiastical societies in which individuality generally is in the background, and all rests on steadfast formulas. The Armenian and Greek churches, unless, indeed, the latter be now receiving a new impulse, appear to be quite dead, and only to be moved mechanically. The individual again, however strong and characteristic his life may be, who leaves the common ground, gives over the largest range of his consciousness, and, if the true church nowhere shows itself in actuality, nothing remains for him but an isolated, separatist existence, always decaying from want of a larger circulation.


If they advanced, and a spontaneous and living religion were implanted in them, they would soon not wish any more to be among those whose one-sidedness and passivity would no longer accord with their own state. They would at least seek beside them another sphere, where piety could show itself to others both living and life-giving, and soon they would wish to live altogether in it and devote to it their exclusive love. Thus in point of fact the church, as it exists among us, becomes of less consequence to men the more they increase in religion, and the most pious sever themselves coldly and proudly. Hardly anything could be clearer than that man is in this association merely because he is but seeking to be religious, and continues in it only so long as he has not yet attained.4646   Seeing that in this passage the view that dominates this whole Speech is here presented most decisively and compactly, it may be best to say what remains to be said in explanation and justification of it. The whole matter resolves itself into the right representation of the relation between the perfectly mutual communication, here regarded as the true church, and the actually existing religious communion. The state of this communion is acknowledged to be capable of such an improvement as is described further on p. 166. This being assumed, the question stands thus: Should there be in this educational society, besides the priestly work which only those fully cultured religiously should exercise, a special communion of such persons corresponding to the idea of the church to which the members of the visible religious society might, in the measure of their progress, go over? Now the greatest masters are required for the greatest representations. We have seen every master, who would have his full effect, requires subordinate artists and a worthy, an informed, a responsive audience. Further, great masters are too rare, and too much dispersed to fashion alone this twofold sphere. What remains for us then but to say that, in corporeal and visible form, such a society is nowhere to be found on earth. The best of this kind to be actually discovered, is that improved type of the existing church, those societies in which a skilful master gathers around him a number of kindred souls whom he fires and fashions. The more the members of this circle advance and fashion that twofold sphere, the more such a company is a great presentation of religion. For those who are the soul of such a presentation, there is the higher fellowship which consists in mutual intercourse and insight. The other members share in so far as they succeed in raising themselves to the possibility of such enjoyment of forms strange to them. The idea of the true church here given is not realized therefore in one single instance, but, as has been indicated on p. 154, by the peaceful cosmopolitan union of all existing communions, each being as perfect as possible after its own manner.
   This idea, belonging as it does to the completion of human nature, must be developed more fully in the science of ethics. Two objections to it, however, may be easily set aside. First, how does this agree with the call attributed to Christianity in the “Glaubenslehre” to absorb all other kinds of faith, for were all one, that cosmopolitan union for communicating and for understanding different faiths would not exist. But this has already been answered. All naturally existing different characteristics in Christianity would not disappear, but would always develope itself in a subordinate way, without injury to its higher unity. At present Christianity exhibits no outward unity, and the highest we can wish to see is just such a peaceful union of its various types. We have no reason to believe that it will ever exhibit an outward unity, but, even if it did, it would still be such a cosmopolitan union. But, secondly, can it be said that what is here called the true church has ever actually existed in any one instance? When the Apostles of Christ scattered to preach the Gospel and break bread in the houses and the schools, they exercised the priestly office among the laity in the visible church, and when they were by themselves in the upper-room to praise God and the Lord, what were they but that true church? In this Speech also it is pointed out not indistinctly (p. 165), that this kind of existence has been always renewed and has never quite vanished from the true church. And, certainly, if there has ever been any one instance of the true church it was then. But something was wanting, something held in this Speech to be essential to the true church, greatness and majesty of presentation. This consciousness of inadequacy was, humanly speaking, among the motives for the wider expansion of Christianity. Yet this instance, despite its short continuance, showed that the imperfect church only springs from the perfect. But having once disappeared, the enormous expansive power of Christianity made its reappearance impossible, and the true church can never again be found except in that cosmopolitan union.

   The highest spiritual communion of the most perfect saints is thus conditioned by the communion of the more perfect with the less perfect. But if this latter communion is of a better type, and can be the only foundation for the former, does it deserve the reproach that only inquirers enter it, and only those who are not yet pious stay in it? This may still be said, only not as a reproach. All who enter, and not only the more receptive and imperfect, seek some one to inspire and encourage them, but the more advanced also seek helpers for such a presentation as can be recognized as proceeding from the spirit of the true church. Through this common work they seek advancement in outward mastery as well as inward power and truth. Hence none of the members of the church have attained, they are only attaining. But if to this combination in its best form, a combination of the perfect be opposed who seek nothing beyond the joy of contemplation, because everyone is already what he can be, this can be nothing but just that cosmopolitan union. In it everyone is valued simply according to his present state and attainments, and cannot expect to be immediately forwarded in his own peculiar sphere by contemplating extraneous things. But if the description of the true church were the immediate association of the more perfect, it would need to be understood literally of the church triumphant, for only in it can an absolutely mutual communion that is without inequality and without progress, be thought of. There, on the contrary, there is only so much of the true church as there is true life and reproductive development in the existing religious communions.

But this proceeds from the way in which the members of the church deal with religion, for suppose it were possible to think of a one-sided communication and a state of willing passivity and abnegation in truly religious men, there could not possibly be in their combined action the utter perversity and ignorance you find in the visible church. If the members of the church had any understanding of religion, the chief matter for them would be that the person whom they have made the organ of religion communicate his clearest, most characteristic views and feelings. But that is what they would not have, and they rather set limits on all sides to the utterances of individuality. They desire that he expound to them chiefly ideas, opinions, dogmas, in short, not the characteristic elements of religion, but the current reflections about them. Had they any understanding of religion, they would know from their own feeling that those matters of creeds, though, as I said, essential to true religious union, can by their nature be nothing but signs that the previously attained results agree, signs of the return from the most personal impressiveness to the common centre, the full-voiced refrain after everything has been uttered with purely individual skill. But of this they 161know nothing. Those matters for them exist for themselves and dominate special times.4747   Two reproaches are made here against the present regulation of the church. The former evil has doubtless caused far more confusion at various times, but the latter has always given me a painful feeling of the undeveloped state of the society. I mean the regulation, that for our holiest symbol, the Lord’s supper, though it is, in most larger communions at least, in the most natural way, the crown of each service, previous meditation and preparation are required on each occasion from the participants. Clearly no one will deny that it would be the finest effect of the whole service, if very many present were attuned for celebrating this sacred meal. But this fairest blossom of devoutness is lost. How often, on the other hand, with all previous meditation and preparation, inward and outward disturbance may enter, and diminish the full blessing. Now just because of the previous preparation it may not be easy to put off the participation. Is not this way of doing a speaking proof of how little influence upon the heart we believe the matter itself to be capable, and how we treat all Christians, without exception, as unreliable novices? It will be a happy time when we dare to cast aside this caution and welcome to the table of the Lord everyone whom a momentary impulse conducts thither. . . . Still more confusion, however, arises from the other misunderstanding here mentioned, which is that not only do the clergy among themselves estimate themselves by the standard of a creed, but the laity also presume to deliver judgment on the clergy by the same standard. Nay, a right is acknowledged in the congregation to require that their clergy shall teach them according to the letter of the creed.
   In other matters, if anything is prepared for my use I must be allowed, if I will, to determine myself how it shall be prepared, seeing I alone can rightly judge of my necessity. It is, however, quite otherwise with doctrine, for, if I am in a position to judge how a doctrine on any subject is to be set forth if it is to be useful to me, I do not require teaching, but can myself give it, or at most I require to be reminded. This claim, therefore, is the more preposterous the sharper the line is drawn between clergy and laity. Were all on the same level, indeed, it might be easier to suppose an agreement to abide by a common type. It is also the more absurd the more the teaching of the clergy is, as, God be thanked, it still is everywhere in the Evangelical Church a free outpouring of the heart, and the chief worth is not set on the repetition of fixed formularies as in the Romish or Greek Churches. If the laity, whether singly as patrons of a church or congregation, or combined as state officials, or as a congregation, decide what accords with the letter of the creed, and how far its authority is to apply to the teaching, it is peculiarly preposterous. The letter of the creed has had its sole origin with the clergy, who certainly did not wish to be themselves limited by it in their dealings with the laity. The laity are only through the instruction of the clergy even in a position to understand the letter of the creed. This preposterousness appears at its height when the head of a state personally believes he has by his position justification and qualification for deciding on the creed of another communion, when he believes he can judge of the relation of the clergy to it and what religious communications, the religiousness of which is quite strange to him, may tend to forward its interests. The Chinese Emperor, for example, tolerates Christianity, but provides through his mandarins that no party swerve from its own creed. There is, however, one consolation, that on this point there can be nothing but improvement.

The conclusion is, that their united action has nothing of the character of the higher and freer inspiration that is proper to religion, but has a school-mastering, mechanical nature, which indicates that they merely seek to import religion from without. This they attempt by every means. To that end they are so attached to dead notions, to the results of reflection about religion, and drink them in greedily, that the process that gave them birth may be reversed, and that the ideas may change again to the living emotions and feelings from which they were originally deduced. Thus they employ creeds which are naturally last in religious communication, to stimulate what should properly precede them.

In comparison with the more glorious association which, in my view, is the only true church, I have spoken of this larger and widely extended association very disparagingly, as of something common and mean. This follows from the nature of the case, and I could not conceal my mind on the subject. I guard myself, however, most solemnly against any assumption you may cherish, that I agree with the growing wish that this institution should be utterly destroyed. Though the true church is always to stand open only to those who already have ripened to a piety of their own, there must be some bond of union with those who are still seeking. As that is what this institution should be, it ought, from the nature of the case, to take its leaders and priests always from the true church.4848This state of things is, in many respects, most prominent in the Romish and Greek Churches. Nor is it merely because the distinction between priest and laity is there most pronounced. The clergy are not limited to the duty in the congregations; only for the secular clergy is this the chief concern. For the others it is only secondary. First of all they are to live in high religious contemplation. The clergy thus in their inward association form the true church. The laity are simply those who by them have been formed to piety, and who therefore stand under continual spiritual guidance, while the highest triumph is for some to become capable of reception into that closer sphere of the religious life. That the principle of this theory exists in the Catholic Church we should have to acknowledge, even though, in other respects, the most glaring opposition between the two classes had not again appeared. And I do not rest on the imperfect result, on the bad state of the clergy, on the irreligious vacuity of the cloister life. In that case we could only say at most that the attempt to present the true church, separate from those who are only being taught in religion, has not succeeded. The chief point is that the failure is based in the principle. In practice the clergy and monastics are often deeply involved in all worldly matters, but, according to the idea, the contemplative life is quite separated from the active, the latter being declared quite incompatible with the higher religious stage. Judging the consequences from all that has hitherto taken place, it is not to be doubted that Protestantism is, in this regard, a return to the right way of presenting the true church, and that it bears more also of its image. Or is religion to be the single human concern in which there are to be no institutions for scholars and beginners?

But indeed the whole pattern of this institution must be different, and its relation to the true church must take an entirely different aspect. On this matter I may not be silent. Those wishes and views of mine are too closely connected with the nature of religious association, and the 162better state of things that I imagine, conduces too much to its glorification for me to reserve my notions. By the clear-cut distinction we have established, this at least has been gained, that we can reflect very calmly on all the abuses that prevail in the ecclesiastical society. You must admit that religion, not having produced such a church and not exhibiting itself in such a church, must be acquitted of every ill it may have wrought and of all participation in its evil state. So entirely should it be acquitted that the reproach that it might degenerate into it, should not once be made, seeing it cannot possibly degenerate where it has never been.

I grant that in this society a disastrous sectarian spirit exists and must exist. Where religious opinions are used as methods for attaining religion, they must, seeing a method requires to be thoroughly definite and finished, be formed into a definite whole.4949A misunderstanding is here easily possible, as if systematic theology had its only source in the corruption of religion. Elsewhere I have plainly enough declared that, so soon as any religion attains any greatness, it must construct for itself a theology, of which system—an exhibition of the closest connection of the religious principles and dogmas—has been and must remain a natural and essential part. But here I speak only of the false interest taken often by the whole church in the connection of doctrine. Clearly this is based only on that corruption. The system as a whole and in its sections, which can only be fully understood in connection with the whole, should remain the exclusive possession of those who in this particular respect have had a scientific training. It is their concern, because on the one side it enables them to scan the whole circumference of possible subjects of religious communication and presentation, and to assign each its place, and on the other it serves as a critical norm for testing all religious utterances by the precise expression, whereby it is easier to discover whether anything that cannot be reduced to this expression is mere confusion or conceals something contrary to the spirit of the whole. As both interests lie quite outside the horizon of all the other members of the church, they should not be affected by anything exclusively bearing on them. If there is anything in the public or social utterance that immediately injures their pious consciousness, they have no need of further witness from any system. But if they can be injured by what is contained only in scientific terminology, then this is just that corruption here shown, whether they have lost themselves in unseemly conceit of wisdom, or are called in blind zeal by theological disputants to help in crushing some dangerous man. How beautiful would it be if theologians would begin the change and warn the laity of all kinds against all participation in dogmatic strifes, and point them to the good belief that there are pious theologians enough to arrange the matter. And where they are something that can only be given from without, being accepted on the authority of the giver, everyone whose religious speech is of a different cast, must be regarded as a disturber of quiet and sure progress, for by his very existence and the claims involved, he weakens this authority. Nay, I even grant that in the old Polytheism, where naturally religion could not be summed up as one, but willingly submitted to all division and severance, this sectarian spirit was much milder and more peaceable, and that in the otherwise better times of systematic religion it first organized itself and displayed its full power. Where all believe they have a complete system with a centre, the value of details must be vastly greater.

I grant both; but you will admit that there is no reproach to religion in general, and there is no proof that the view of the Universe as system is not the highest stage of religion. I grant that in this society there is more regard to understanding and believing, to acting and to perfecting customs than is favourable to a free development of 163religious perceptions and feelings, and that in consequence, however enlightened its teaching be, it borders on some superstition and depends on some mythology; but you will admit, that, in that degree, its whole nature is distant from true religion. I grant that this association can hardly exist without a standing distinction between priests and laity as two different religious orders. Whosoever has cultivated in himself his feeling to dexterity in some kind of presentation, characteristically and completely, cannot possibly continue a layman, or conduct himself as if all this were wanting. He would be free, nay, bound, either to forsake this society and seek the true church, or to allow himself to be sent back by the true church to lead as a priest. This, however, remains certain, that this spirit of division with all that is unworthy in it and all its evil consequences, is not brought about by religion but by the want of religiousness in the multitude.

But here you raise a new objection, which seems once more to roll back those reproaches upon religion. You would remind me that I myself have said that the great ecclesiastical society, I mean this institution for pupils in religion, must take its priests only from the members of the true church, because in itself the true principle of religiousness is wanting. How then can those who are perfect in religion, endure so much that is utterly contrary to the spirit of religion where the have to rule, where all things obey their voice, and they obey only the voice of religion! Nay, how do they produce so much that is evil, for to whom does the church owe its regulations, if not to the priests? Or if things are not as they should be, and the government of the dependent society has been rent from the members of the true church, where then is the high spirit that is justly to be expected in them? Why have they administered so badly their most important province? Why have they allowed base passions to make that a scourge of humanity, which in the hands of religion would 164have remained a blessing? And yet they are the persons whose most joyful and sacred duty, as you confess, is to guide those who need their help!

Truly, alas! things are not as I maintained they should be. Who would venture to say that all, that even the majority, that even the foremost and notablest of those who for many a day have ruled the great ecclesiastical assembly, have been accomplished in religion or even members of the true church?

Yet do not take what I say in excuse as mere subterfuge. When you attack religion, it is usually in the name of philosophy, and when you upbraid the church, it is usually in the name of the state. You would defend the politicians of every age on the ground that the interference of the church has made so much of their handiwork imperfect and ill-advised. If now, speaking in the name of the religious, I attribute their failure to conduct their business with better success, to the state and to statesmen, will you suspect me of artifice? Yet if you will but hear what I have to say of the true source of this evil, you will not, I hope, be able to deny that I am right.

Every fresh doctrine and revelation, every fresh view of the Universe that awakes the sense for it on some new side, may win some minds for religion who by no other way could be introduced into a higher world. To most of them naturally this particular aspect then remains for them the centre of religion. They form around their master a school of their own, a self-existent, distinct part of the true and universal church which yet only ripens slowly and quietly towards union in spirit with the great whole. But before this is accomplished, as soon as the new feelings have permeated and satisfied all their soul, they are usually violently urged by the need to utter what is in them that they be not consumed of the fire within. Thus everyone proclaims the new salvation that has arisen for him. Every object suggests the newly discovered Infinite; every speech turns 165into a sketch of their peculiar religious views; every counsel, every wish, every friendly word is an inspired commendation of the sole way they know to salvation. Whosoever knows how religion operates, finds it natural that they all speak, for otherwise they would fear that the stones should surpass them. And whosoever knows how a new enthusiasm works, finds it natural that this living fire should kindle violently around, consume some and warm many, and give to thousands the surface imitation merely of a heart-felt glow.

And it is those thousands that work the mischief. The youthful zeal of the new saints accepts them as true brethren. What hinders, they say all too rashly, that these also should receive the Holy Ghost? Nay, they themselves believe that they have received, and, in joyous triumph, allow themselves to be conducted into the bosom of the pious society. But the intoxication of the first enthusiasm past, the glowing surface burnt out, they show themselves incapable of enduring and sharing the state allotted to the true believers. Compassionately the saints condescend to them, and, to go to their help, relinquish their own higher and deeper enjoyment. Thus everything takes that imperfect form. This comes to pass without outward causes through the corruption common to all human things. In accordance with that eternal order, the corruption most quickly seizes upon the most fiery and active life, that any section of the true church which might arise in isolation anywhere in the world, might not remain apart from all corruption, but be compelled to participate in it and form a false and degenerate church. In all times, among all peoples, in every religion this has happened.

Yet if things were only left quietly to themselves, this state could not anywhere long endure. Pour liquids of various gravities and densities, having small power of mutual attraction, into a vessel; shake them violently together till they seem to form one liquid, and you will see, if only you leave it quietly standing, how they will divide 166and only like associate itself to like. So would it have happened here, for it is the natural course of things. The true church would quietly have separated itself again to enjoy the higher, more intimate fellowship of which the rest are not capable. The bond among those that remained would then have been as good as loosed, and their natural dulness would then have had to look for something from without to determine what should become of them. And they would not have been forsaken by the members of the true church. Besides them, who would have had the smallest call to care for their state? What attraction would be offered to the regard of other men? What were to be won or what fame to be obtained from them?

The members of the true church could, therefore, have remained in undisturbed possession and might have entered upon their priestly office among them in a new and better appointed form. Every man would then have gathered around him those who best understood him, who by his method could be most strongly stirred. Instead of the vast association, the existence of which you now bewail, a great crowd of smaller, less definite societies would have arisen. In them men would in all kinds of ways, now here, now there, have tested religion. They would have been only states to be passed, preparatory for the time when the sense for religion should awake, and decisive for those who should be found incapable of being taken hold of in any way.5050This is easy to correct from the preceding explanations. If what is here called the true church has no separate manifestation, neither is there, in a literal sense, a passing sojourn in the actually existing communion. Exclusiveness alone is passing, so that outside of his own communion everyone advanced in piety may be also capable in a certain sense of sharing in the cosmopolitan union of all. Similarly the word decisive is not to be taken literally as if the incapable should be quite outside of all religious fellowship, either being put out or keeping out. This the pious neither could nor should do, nor even suffer to be done. Since they seek to give their presentations of religion the widest and deepest influence, they can let no one depart. Still less can they exclude, for an absolute incapacity can never be acknowledged. They must always look for a time when an element common to all men shall be developed, and for some yet untried art that may favour its development. Yet it remains true that the person in whom religiousness, in the form nearest and most congenial to him, is awakened only after such long and painful effort can hardly attain that higher development and free enjoyment.

Hail to those who shall first be called when, the simple way of nature having failed, the revolutions of human affairs shall, by a longer, more artificial way, lead in the golden age of religion! May the gods be propitious to them, and may a rich blessing follow their labours in their mission to help beginners, and to smooth the way for the babes to the temple of the Eternal—labours that in our present unfavourable circumstances yield us such scanty fruit.5151A great preference is here exhibited for the smaller communions as against the great ecclesiastical institutions. One side only doubtless is brought into prominence. This is difficult to avoid, at least in an oratorical connection, when attention has to be drawn to an utterly neglected or greatly depreciated subject. The preference, however, rests on the following reasons. First, on the greater variety that can be manifested in the same time and space. In the great bodies either no variety is allowed to grow, or it is hidden, or discoverable only by close observers. In the religious sphere, moreover, more than anywhere else, points of union arise which cannot long continue, but which, though fleeting, may produce something strong and characteristic. If now only great church institutions exist, these germs are all lost, or at least reach no clear and complete organization. The other leading reason is, that the smaller ecclesiastical societies, because they awake less apprehension, are freer, and are less seldom put in wardship by the civil authority. When I first wrote this, America seemed to me a marvellously active theatre, where everything took this shape, and where, in consequence, I thought that, more than anywhere else, our own beloved Fatherland not excepted, the freedom of the religious life and of the religious society was assured. Since then the development has confirmed the anticipation. Unions are freely made and dissolved. They divide themselves. Smaller parts separate from a greater whole, and smaller wholes draw together. Thus they seek a centre around which to form a greater unity. The freedom of Christian development is so great that many communions, as the Unitarian, would appear to us, I believe wrongly, outside of Christianity. In such a breaking up of Christianity there might be a fear that it would gradually lose its great historical form, and its scientific stability come to be quite forgotten. But the prospect is better since science has advanced and institutions have been founded for the propagation of Christian learning. Only one thing is to be lamented—at least so it appears to us from the distance—the British spirit has so much taken the upper hand and the German keeps on receding. For those free states, therefore, such a German immigration as would establish an abiding influence, were to be wished. . . . Now, however, that I have been more weaned from the smaller society and have grown more into the larger institution I would not speak so decisively. In England, for example, it is most evident that it would stand ill with Christianity, either if the Episcopal Church were quite dissolved and scattered among the smaller societies, or if it absorbed them all and existed alone. Similarly we must conclude that if the religious life in its whole variety and fulness would develope in the broad compass of Christianity, both great institutions and small societies must exist together as they have almost always done, so that the institution must be resolved into small societies and from them be again produced. Disorganizing elements it must surrender to them, and from them again it must be enriched and strengthened. After this exposition of the matter, no one will ask how this preference for smaller religious societies is consistent with a lively participation in the union of the two Protestant ecclesiastical societies, that would not only make one greater out of two smaller, but manifestly cause the smaller at least to disappear. The following alone I would add. The difference of doctrine has always appeared to me insignificant, but there has manifestly been a difference of spirit between the two communions. Without that, such a division could not have arisen from motives otherwise so insignificant. This difference has not yet by any means quite disappeared. Now this involves one-sidedness on the part of both, and the time now appears to be come for a more vigorous effort to diminish these limitations by complete combination of differences and by friendly proximity. This could better be accomplished by union, by a life in freedom more bound and in the bonds more free. Besides, it seemed high time to provide that a recurrence of envy between the two might not render impossible the strong resistance which is becoming necessary against the manifold suspicious endeavours of the Romish Church.

Listen to what may possibly seem an unholy wish that I can hardly suppress. Would that the most distant 167presentiment of religion had forever remained unknown to all heads of states, to all successful and skilful politicians! Would that not one of them had ever been seized by the power of that infectious enthusiasm! The source of all corruption has been, that they did not know how to separate their deepest, most personal life from their office and public character. Why must they bring their petty vanity and marvellous presumption into the assembly of the saints, as if the advantages they have to give were valid everywhere without exception? Why must they take back with them into their palaces and judgment-halls the reverence due to the servants of the sanctuary? Probably you are right in wishing that the hem of a priestly garment had never touched the floor of a royal chamber: but let us wish that the purple had never kissed the dust on the altar, for had this not happened the other would not have followed. Had but no prince ever been allowed to enter the temple, till he had put off at the gate the most beautiful of his royal ornaments, the rich cornucopia of all his favours and tokens of honour! But they have employed it here as elsewhere. They have presumed to decorate the simple grandeur of the heavenly structure with rags from their earthly splendour, and instead of fulfilling holy vows, they have left worldly gifts as offerings to the Highest.

As soon as a prince declared a church to be a community with special privileges, a distinguished member of the civil world, the corruption of that church was begun and almost irrevocably decided. And if the society of believing persons, and of persons desiring belief, had not been mixed after a wrong manner, that is always to the detriment of the former, this could not have happened, for otherwise no religious society could ever be large enough to draw the attention of the governor.

Such a constitutional act of political preponderance works on the religious society like the terrible head of Medusa. As soon as it appears everything turns to stone.


Though without connection, everything that is for a moment combined, is now inseparably welded together; accidental elements that might easily have been ejected are now established for ever; drapery and body are made from one block and every unseemly fold is eternal. The greater and spurious society can no more be separated from the higher and smaller. It can neither be divided nor dissolved. It can neither alter its form nor its articles of faith. Its views and usages are all condemned to abide in their existing state.

But that is not all. The members of the true church the visible church may contain, are forcibly excluded from all share in its government, and are not in a position to do for it even the little that might still be done. There is more to govern than they either could or would do. There are worldly things now to order and manage, and privileges to maintain and make good. And even though in their domestic and civil affairs, they did know how to deal with such things, yet cannot they treat matters of this sort as a concern of’ their priestly office. That is an incongruity that their sense will not see into and to which they cannot reconcile themselves. It does not accord with their high and pure idea of religion and religious fellowship. They cannot understand what they are to make out of houses and lands and riches, either for the true church to which they belong, or for the larger society which they should conduct.5252A person who has spoken as urgently as I have done in the fourth collection of my sermons for once more making the whole care of the poor a business of the ecclesiastical association, appears to know quite well to what all property and money endowments might be devoted. But even the most extensive care of the poor requires only a secure yearly income. Wherefore, if the congregational tie is secure, and the spirit that rules in it embraces an active goodwill for this subject, this business also can be carried on satisfactorily without any such possession. Other things being equal, it will, indeed, be carried on better. On the one side all capital can be better used by private people, and on the other this possession adds a foreign element to the pure character of a congregation and introduces an estimate of its members other than the purely religious. By this unnatural state of affairs the members of the true church are distracted and perplexed.

But besides all this, persons are attracted who otherwise would forever have remained without. If it is the interest of the proud, the ambitious, the covetous, the intriguing to press into the church, where otherwise they would have felt only the bitterest ennui, and if they begin to pretend interest and intelligence in holy things to gain the earthly reward, how can the truly religious escape subjection? And who bears the blame if unworthy men replace ripe 169saints, and if, under their supervision, everything creeps in and establishes itself that is most contrary to the spirit of religion? Who but the state with its ill-considered magnanimity?

But in a still more direct way, the state is the cause why the bond between the true church and the visible religious society has been loosened. After showing to the church this fatal kindness, it believed it had a right to its active gratitude, and transferred to it three of its weightiest commissions.5353   By this complaint I in nowise meant that the state should not in many and in most important things rely chiefly on the power of the religious sentiments and on the agreement of its own interests with their natural working. But I meant that in so far as it believes it must so rely, it is to be desired that the state do not interfere in a manner hurtful to the pure effect of these sentiments. Now this happens without fail, when there is any positive intermeddling. The state may on the one side assume the religious sentiment of its members and rejoice confidingly in its working. It then reserves the right to withdraw this assumption in respect of an individual who does not manifest this working, or when this deficiency shows itself in a decisive majority of a religious society, it inquires how far the defect has its root in the principles of the society and modifies its assumption accordingly. But so long as it has no ground for withdrawing its trust, it must know that the organization of the society proceeds from the very sentiment, from which it expects good result, and that in the nature of the case only those in whom this sentiment is strongest will have most influence in forming and guiding the society. It must, therefore, leave the sentiment free to operate, allowing the organization of the society to take its own course without its guidance. This must continue till the result gives ground for lessening the state’s confidence
   If a state has this confidence only in one particular form of religiousness, it follows this course with the society in which it exists, and regulates its conduct towards the others by the greatness of its distrust, varying up to complete intolerance. A state relies on one religious society and accords it a high degree of independence; another it watches more closely, and itself decides on its organization. Now in reason this can have no other ground than that the state gives the latter society less confidence. A marvellous phenomenon cannot be thought of, as if a state would watch more closely the religious society to which the sovereign himself belonged and limit it in its free activity more than any other. This case of confidence in the religious sentiment is, for our present inquiry, the first point. The second is the opposite case, when the state looks for no good effect in respect of anything falling within its own sphere from the religious sentiment of its members. Even then there seems to be no consistent course, except to allow religion to manifest itself as an amusement to which the state is indifferent, taking care, as with other private associations, that no harm arises to the civil community. Applying this now to education, the matter here in discussion and the matter to which everything comes back, there seem to be the following consequences. The religious education of man will never, as such, be the whole education of man. All training in which the religious society does not, as such, interest itself, as for example the academic and higher scientific, lies outside of its domain. Perhaps the church has earlier thought of education than the state. The state will then say, “I see that you have the institutions for educating the youth, but they do not suffice me. I will add what fails but will then take them under my guidance.” If the church dares to speak and understands its own good, it will reply, “Not so, but for all deficiency make your own institutions and we, as citizens, will honourably contribute our utmost to their success. Within our special limits, however, leave us our own to care for ourselves, and only omit from yours that for which you think ours will suffice.” Does the state, nevertheless, do by force the contrary, there will be an element in the highest degree undesirable to the church, and it will feel it an injury even when this gives the doubtful privilege of a certain influence on many things whereon, by the natural course of things, it would have none. . . With the teaching of human duties in civil life, which is nothing but a continuous education of grown-up people, it is the same. That this is needed by the state admits of no doubt, all the more if it does not proceed naturally from the public life. The state finds now that there is teaching of this kind in the exercises and utterances of the religious society existing in its midst. It willingly resolves to spare an institution of its own for this object. The religious society is pleased to render this service to the common good. But the state says, “I will make use of your teaching, but to make sure that it completely reaches my purpose, I must prescribe to you what you are not to forget to speak of, and what you shall recall from history at fixed times, and I must make arrangements to know that this is actually done.” The church will then, if it dare, certainly say, “By no means, for there would then be much teaching not belonging to our department, and in respect of history it is repugnant to us, for example, to recall joyfully certain days when you were victorious over another state, while our society in that state must observe a discreet silence, and should rejoice on other days when you were defeated, and which we again must pass over. Both days are alike to us, and we must, in our own way, make the same use both of what is to your honour and to your shame. With this use you may well be content, but for that special purpose make another arrangement, for we cannot assist.” And if the state gives no heed to these representations, it injures the personal freedom of its members where it is holiest and most inviolable. . . . The third matter here mentioned, the taking of oaths, properly belongs to the second, but is specially mentioned because of the special manner in which the state brings the church to its aid. An injury has here also been inflicted. The different small societies of non-swearers are allowed a simple affirmation instead of an oath, but the great church, specially favoured by the state, is exhorted to preach on the sacredness of oaths, and its members must take them in the prescribed manner or lose all the privileges involved. There may, however, be many among them who, fearing the plain prohibition of Christ, are troubled in conscience about swearing, and among the teachers there may also be many who cannot get over the literal interpretation of those words, and who think it irreligious to come to the help of the state in such a manner. How can it be that such an injury to religious freedom should not be felt very painfully? These fuller explanations, it is to be hoped, will justify the wish expressed in the text, that the state should employ what is useful to it in the arrangements of the church only in so far as consists with uninjured freedom.
More or less it has committed to the church the care and oversight of education. Under the auspices of religion and in the form of a congregation, it demands that the people be instructed in those duties that cannot be set forth in the form of law, that they be stirred up to a truly citizenlike way of thinking, and that, by the power of religion, they be made truthful in their utterances. As a recompense for those services, it robs it of its freedom, as is now to be seen in all parts of the civilized world where there is a state and a church. It treats the church as an institution of its own appointment and invention—and indeed its faults and abuses are almost all its own inventing; and it alone presumes to decide who is fit to come forward in this society as exemplar and as priest. And do you still charge it to religion that the visible church does not consist entirely of pious souls?

But I am not yet done with my indictment. The state pollutes religious fellowship by introducing into its deepest mysteries its own interests. When the church, in prophetic devoutness, consecrates the new-born babe to the Deity and to the struggle for the highest, the state will take the occasion to receive it from the hands of the church into the list of its protégés. When it gives the stripling its first kiss of brotherhood, as one who has taken his first glance into the sacred things of religion, this must also be for the state the evidence of the first stage of civil independence;5454Of the three points here lamented, two are only burdensome because they witness to the dependence of the church or the state. The sacred acts of baptism and solemnization of marriage are made to appear as done by the clergy, first of all, as servants of the state, in the name of the state. Without question this is one reason why the way they are carried out betrays so little of a Christian or indeed of a religious character. If inscription in the civil register were a purely civil act, no one could regard baptism as merely a legal formality, accompanied occasionally by a stately speech. And if the marriage contract were first concluded purely civilly, and the blessing of the church were purely an act of the members of a congregation, it would soon appear that marriages are best where a special value is set on this additional outward consecration. But the worst is, the point between. An Evangelical Christian state unites many civil qualifications with admission to the sacrament. In many instances it demands attestations of this act. It acts with the best intention towards the youth, seeking to guard them against the religious negligence of their parents or guardians. But how much are the consciences of pious clergymen burdened; how often must they, quite against their conviction, declare religious instruction and closer supervision at an end. Even were a great number of baptized Christians to remain all their lives without participation in the other sacrament, as is the case in North America, it does not appear that this would be a misfortune. Rather it would have the advantage that the Christian church would not appear responsible for the lives of the grossest men, while the strife about the right of exclusion from the congregation would be spared. In Protestant Europe only the grossest would be outside, for the continued participation in divine service would sooner or later supply what they had lost at that time when confirmation usually takes place. As in the American free states it might furthermore happen with us that the children of Christian parents, who set no great store on the fellowship of the church, would remain unbaptized. They would then have no link with the church. This might well happen, though with us such an anti-Christian zealotism would be very rare. But to hinder the real loss that would hence arise, the state should not be required to impose baptism by force, but it should begin early to protect the freedom of conscience of the children even against the parents. These complaints appear plainly capable of remedy, but only by a great difference of form in all those concerns that relate to the connection of church and state. If the example of the free states in the other hemisphere alone were considered, and everything in the condition of the church charged as consequences of what is here postulated, it would unquestionably be unfair. There are these imperfections inseparable from a young and very dissimilar population that have been gathered from all quarters, which will be thrown off without the necessity of essential change in these matters. if with pious wishes, it consecrates the union of 170two persons who, as emblems and instruments of creative nature, would at the same time consecrate themselves as bearers of the higher life, it must also be the state’s sanction for the civil bond. The state will not even believe that a man has vanished from this earthly scene, till the church assures it that it has restored his soul to the Infinite and enclosed his dust in the sacred bosom of the earth. It shows reverence for religion and an endeavour to keep itself perpetually conscious of its own limits, that the state bows before religion and before its worshippers when it receives anything from the hands of the Infinite, or returns it again, but how all this works for the corruption of the religious society is clear enough. In all its regulations there is nothing directed to religion alone, nothing even in which religion is the chief matter. In the sacred speeches and instructions, as well as in the most mysterious and symbolical doings, everything has a legal and civil reference,5555That in all religious doings the predominance of legal or civil relations is a departure from the original nature of the matter, especially if it occasions pecuniary transactions between the clergy and the members of the congregation, requires no further discussion. Yet it appears as if this complaint would never be removed so long as a state, as such, confesses its adherence to any one religious society, or even if it believes it can require all its members to belong to some society. In the former case, if a law declares that only in one church is there the greatest fulness of that sentiment which can maintain this state and be the fullest security against all its possible foes, it would follow that the whole maintenance of the state would be entrusted only to the members of this society. In the present state of social relations this can only continue as a law where the great body of the people belong to that society, the rest being only clients and strangers. But even in Catholic countries such a state of matters no longer exists, and it does not seem as if, in the present position of affairs, a state would easily be able to confess absolute and undivided adherence to one religious society. The south European states, which have anew proclaimed the Catholic religion to be the religion of the state, will not, even though their position is favourable and Protestants are only found scattered as clients, be able for many generations of tranquillity to adhere without harshness and injustice to this system. It is quite different when, without law and in consequence of the natural effect of public opinion, all that is essential in the government of the state falls to the adherents of one society. Such a transaction is not a state’s confession, and we must wish that it may long continue. But if adherence to one society is now a passing state of things, is it a right maxim for the state, without deciding which, to require that its citizens belong to some one? Let it be granted that irreligious men are neither profitable for the civil union, nor to be relied upon. But would they be made religious by being compelled to confess adherence to any one religious society? Manifestly the only way to make irreligious men really religious is to strengthen the influence of religious men upon them as much as possible. For this end the state cannot work more effectively than by allowing all the religious societies within its domain to operate with the fullest freedom. This freedom they will never feel till those intermeddlings cease. everything is perverted from its original form and nature. Hence there are many among the leaders of the church who understand nothing of religion, but who yet, as servants of the state, are in a position to earn great official merit, and there are many among its members who do not even wish to seek religion, and who yet have interest enough to remain in the church and bear a part in it.

It is very apparent that a society to which such a thing can happen, which with false humility accepts favours that can profit it nothing and with cringing readiness takes on burdens that send it headlong to destruction; which allows itself to be abused by an alien power, and parts with the liberty and independence which are its birthright, for a delusion; which abandons its own high and noble aim to follow things that lie quite outside of its path, cannot be a society of men who have a definite aim and know exactly what they wish. This glance at the history of the ecclesiastical society is, I think, the best proof that it is not strictly a society of religious men. At most it appears that some 171particles of such a society are mixed in it and are overlaid with foreign ingredients. Before the first matter of this boundless corruption could have been admitted, the whole must have been in a state of morbid fermentation in which the few sound portions soon utterly disappeared.

Full of sacred pride, the true church would have refused gifts it could not use, well knowing that those who have found the Deity and have a common joy in knowing Him, have in the pure fellowship in which alone they would exhibit and communicate their inmost nature, really nothing in common the possession of which could be protected by worldly power. On earth they require nothing but a speech by which to make themselves understood and a space in which to be together, things requiring no prince’s favour.

But if the true church have nothing to do directly with the profane world, and if there must be a mediating institution whereby to come into a certain contact with it, as it were an atmosphere, both as a medium for purification and for attracting new material, what form must this institution take and how is it to be freed from the corruption it has imbibed? This last question time must answer. Sometime it will certainly be done, but it may be done in a thousand different ways, for, of all sicknesses of man there are various ways of cure. Everything in its place will be tried and have its effect. The goal only I can indicate in order to show you more clearly that here also it has not been religion and its endeavour to which you should have manifested your repugnance.

The fundamental idea of such an auxiliary institution is to exhibit to persons who in any degree have a sense for religion, though because it is not yet apparent and conscious, they are not fit for incorporation into the true church, so much religion as such that their capacity must necessarily be developed. Let us now see what there is in the present state of things that hinders this from taking 172place. I will not repeat that the state chooses according to its own wishes which are more directed to the extraneous matters in the institution, persons to be leaders and teachers, and that in the view of the state a man can be a highly intelligent educator and a single-minded effective teacher of duties to the people without, in the strict sense of the word, being religiously affected at all, and that therefore persons whom it reckons among its worthiest servants, may easily fail utterly. I will grant that everyone it appoints is truly influenced and inspired by piety, if you will grant that no artist can communicate his art to a school with any success, if there is not among his pupils some equality of preliminary knowledge. This is more necessary in respect of our subject where the master can do nothing but point out and exhibit, than in art where the scholar progresses by exercise and the teacher is chiefly useful by criticisms. All his work will be in vain if the same thing is not only intelligible to all, but suitable and wholesome. The sacred orator must obtain his hearers by a certain similarity of talents and cast of mind, and not by rank and file, not as they are counted out to him by some ancient distribution, not as their houses adjoin, or as they are set down in the police list.5656With this exposition, which rests on a very meagre experience, I can no longer agree. And first, in respect of capabilities, it appears as if the people and the cultured would have a very unequal enjoyment of a religious utterance on which, according to the demands made above, all the flowers of speech are to be expended. But all true eloquence must be popular throughout. It is affectation that chooses either expressions or combinations of thought unsuited to the majority, and the cultured also must be capable of guidance by a thoroughly popular diction. A division of hearers in respect of capacity is not required by the nature of the subject, but by the consciousness of imperfection in the artists. It is only a different kind of imperfection when one man speaks better for the people and another for the higher ranks. But in the second place, in respect of mental type, it is indeed not to be denied that the differences of the audience must be contained in very narrow limits, if a religious utterance is to have a large and happy result. But it must be a wrong assumption, that in a multitude united in other matters and woven together in a common life, we must have very different religious peculiarities, and indeed so marvellously different that on the one side they are not strong enough to form a religious society of their own, and on the other they are so markedly singular that they cannot appropriate a religious utterance of another type. Only in great cities could elements so different be brought into a small compass, and here every one has an easy choice, selecting the presentations of religion that can strengthen and quicken him. But suppose the people are considered in relation to the different forms of religion afterwards mentioned. It will always be found that in whole districts, through many generations, the religious life has been prevailingly mystic, or more linked to history, or influenced by understanding and reflection. Exceptions are rare, and those who are not religious according to the dominant type are less religious altogether. If, therefore, the easy selection of the gay world in great cities were not troubled by narrow partiality for the ministrants, and on the other hand all religious orators strove only after true popularity, on this point, at least, our present state would be tolerable enough.

And assuming that only persons equally near religion assemble round one master, they may not all be near in the same way. It is, therefore, most preposterous to wish to limit any pupil to a single master. There is no one so universally cultured in religion, nor anyone who can exercise all kinds of influence. No man is in a position to draw by his representation and speech from all who come before him the hidden gems of religion to light, for the sphere of religion is far too comprehensive. Remember the different ways by which men pass from consciousness of the individual and particular to the Whole and the Infinite: remember that, by this very mode of transition, a man’s religion assumes its own distinct character. Think 173of the various influences whereby the Universe affects man, of the thousand single perceptions and of the thousand ways of combining them and showing one in the light of the other. Reflect, that if religion is actually to stir a man’s own feeling, he must meet it in the definite form that suits his capacity and his point of view. It is, therefore, impossible for any master to be all things to all, and to become to every man what he needs. No one can be a mystic and a scientist at the same time. He cannot be a master in every sacred art whereby religion is expressed, initiated at once into prophecies, visions and prayers, into presentations from history and from experience and into many other things too numerous to mention, all the glorious branches into which the crown of the heavenly tree of priestly art is divided. Master and disciples, therefore, must, in perfect freedom, be allowed to seek and choose what profits them, and no one must in any way be obliged to give except that which he possesses and understands.

But it is not possible for a man to limit his teaching to what he understands as soon as, in the very same transaction, he must have something else in view. Without question, a priestly man can present his religion with zeal and skill as is fitting, and at the same time remain faithful to some civil business and accomplish it effectively. Why then, if it suits, should not a person, having a call to the priesthood, be at the same time a moral teacher in the service of the state? There is nothing against it. He may do both, only not the one in and through the other; he must not wear both natures at the same time, not accomplish the two concerns by the one action. The state may be satisfied, if it so pleases, with a religious morality, but religion rejects consciously and individually every prophet and priest that moralizes from this point of view. Whosoever would proclaim religion must do it unadulterated.

It is opposed to every sentiment of honour of a master in 174his business, and more particularly of a master in religious purity, if a true priest has to do with the state on such unworthy and impossible conditions. When the state takes other workmen into its pay, whether for the better cultivation of their own talents or to attract pupils, it removes from them all extraneous business, nay, it makes it incumbent upon them to refrain. It recommends them to give themselves chiefly to the special section of their art, in which they believe they can accomplish most, and then it allows their nature full scope. With the artists of religion alone, it does exactly the contrary. They must embrace the whole compass of their subject, and it prescribes to them what school they shall be of and lays upon them unseemly burdens. It will not even, along with attention to its business, grant them leisure for special cultivation of some kind of religious presentation which yet is for them the chief matter, nor free them from burdensome constraints. Even after it has, as in every case it must, set up for itself a school of civil duties,5757   That the state, besides what it confides to the church, must provide an educational institution of its own, be it for the younger generation or for the less educated portion of the people, is here regarded as absolutely necessary. This contention shows the speaker’s decision on the much discussed question of the relation of state and church to what in the widest sense of the word is called school. In part the state may continue to rely on the religious associations.
   Yet it must be content to exercise only a negative supervision over their institutions. For the rest it is the duty of the state to arrange and care. Where there is any kind of religious association, that the awaking of the higher spiritual be not hindered, there is also in the homes a uniform discipline for taming sensuality, which is in every way useful for the civil life. But if the state requires a special discipline to produce certain habits in its citizens suited to the time, it must not come from the church. The proper feeling of its necessity being universally diffused, the state may rely on the work of the families, not as elements of the religious but of the civil society. If this feeling is not sufficiently diffused, the state must make public provision. All that is academic in education is of this kind, for it cannot and, being quite foreign to it, should not even appear to proceed from the church. Further, wherever a system of religious communication exists, there must be common instruction of the youth in all that bears upon understanding the religious speech and the creed. This is properly the church parish school. In Christendom it is for transmitting religious ideas, and among Protestants for some small understanding at least of the Scriptures. Has the state confidence that an effective communication of moral ideas and the germs of mental development will be given at the same time, it may rely on the church school for those objects. But everything statistical, mathematical, technical and such like is foreign to the church school. If the ecclesiastical and the civil community are identical, the ecclesiastical and the civil school may for some good reason be united in one institution. But the state no more acquires the right thereby to conduct the ecclesiastical school, than the church to conduct the civil. Finally, every religious fellowship that has a history requiring, for comprehending its development, attainments that belong to the sphere of science and learning, needs an institution to maintain and encourage such attainments. This is the church academy. All other sciences are foreign to the church. Suppose there exist in the state, either being maintained by the state or being independent bodies, academies for general science, and suppose the church has confidence that their methods are suited to its requirements, it may find it expedient to unite with them its own special academy. But the expediency must be determined by the church, and neither by the state nor by the scientific bodies. The church may neither found a claim on this union to general superintendence of scientific institutions, nor give up its right to manage its own academy. These are the principles then on which church and state are to act together or act apart. But to acknowledge these principles towards one church and not towards another is the worst possible inconsistency. It must necessarily pain the slighted church that incurable disagreement should arise between their religious and their political feeling.
it still will not allow them to follow their own ways. And yet, though it cannot be unconcerned about the priestly works, it employs them neither for use nor for show like other arts and sciences! Away then with every such union between church and state!5858Well said of every such relation! and in this view I still stand firm. Nay, I stand firmer, the more lamentable complications I see arising from this dependence of the church on the state. These complications were less thought of then, for the only thing of the kind so rapidly came to grief on the dominant tendency of the time. Yet it is impossible that the church should be without any union with the state. That appears even where the church is freest. The least is that the state treat the religious societies like any other private society. As a general principle of association it takes knowledge of them and puts itself in a position to interfere in case they should cherish anything prejudicial to the common freedom and safety. With this least, however, it is seldom possible to escape, as appears even in North America where the church is freest. The freer the churches are the easier it happens that some dissolve and some combine. Now even though they may have no possessions except the most absolutely necessary means for meeting together, there are difficulties of settlement in which the state is the natural arranger and umpire. Had this and no other relation existed between church and state at the time of the Reformation, the present curious position of affairs would not have come to pass, that in lands almost entirely Protestant the Catholic Church is well endowed and secured, while the Evangelical Church is referred to a changeable and often doubtful good will. Every further union of church and state should be regarded as a private agreement for the time being. The more of these transactions there are the more it will seem that a church-communion in one state becomes the church of the land, and becomes more divided from its brethren in the faith in other states. The less there are, the more a communion, though spread over many states, may appear an undivided whole, and the more marked is the independence of the church from the state. Within these limits, all existing relations are permissible, and it belongs to completeness that at some time and place they have all had historical existence. On the contrary, what transcends these limits is of evil. That remains my Cato’s utterance to the end, or till I see the union actually destroyed.

Away too with all that has even a semblance to rigid union of priest and laity, whether among themselves or with each other!5959This rejection of all closer connection among the congregations of the same faith and of all religious associations, rests solely on the presupposition that every existing church is only a visible appendage of the true church. It is, therefore, right, only in so far as the presupposition is right. Since I wrote this I have shown myself a zealous defender of synodal government which is manifestly included in this rejection. In part I have abandoned the presupposition. By observation and joyful experience I have reached the conviction that truly believing and pious persons exist in adequate number in our congregations, and that it is good to strengthen as much as possible their influence on the rest. This result naturally flows from well-ordered combinations. In part also, life in our time soon conducts to the view that every improvement that is to succeed must be ushered in from all sides at once. This involves that men should in many respects be treated as if they already were what they ought to be. Otherwise it would be necessary to wait on and on and no beginning would be possible. But according to my view the sole warrant for such closer combinations is that the participators are members of the true church, in which the distinction between priests and laity is only to serve the occasion and cannot be permanent. Wherefore, I could only defend a constitution that rested on this equality and any other in the Evangelical Church there could never be. Where synodal unions consist purely of the clergy, they seem either by the state commission and purely consultative, or literary and friendly, rather than ecclesiastical, and constitutional. A constitutional priestly government becomes only the Catholic Church. The foundation stone of that church is the higher personal religious worth of the priests, and its first principle that the laity, only by their mediation, enjoy their share in the blessings of the church. The last assertion ventured in this passage, that there should be no outward bond between teachers and congregation, depends still more on the presupposition that the congregation still require to be led to religion. This could only be done on condition of the most complete spontaneousness. Who is then to impose this outward bond? Neither the state nor a corporation of the clergy, if this spontaneousness is to exist. The congregations cannot, for they cannot judge of those who must first communicate to them the ability to judge the worth in question. Hence this bond can only be entered on and upheld where the spirit of piety in the congregations can be assumed, and where those who can guide and limit this judgment are regarded as having come forth from the congregation. Herein are contained the principles for determining in different circumstances the firmness or the freedom of the bond. Learners shall not form bodies, for, even in mechanical trades, it can be seen how little that profits. And the priests, I mean as such, shall form no brotherhood among themselves. They shall neither divide their work nor their knowledge according to corporations, but let each man do his own duty without concerning himself about others, or having in this matter closer connection with one than with another. Between teacher and congregation also, there shall be no firm outward band. According 175to the principles of the true church, the mission of a priest in the world is a private business, and the temple should also be a private chamber where he lifts up his voice to give utterance to religion. Let there be an assembly before him and not a congregation. Let him be a speaker for all who will hear, but not a shepherd for a definite flock.

Only under such conditions, can truly priestly souls take charge of seekers for religion. Thus only can this preparatory association actually lead to religion and make itself worthy to be regarded as an adjunct and vestibule of the true church, for thus only it can lose all that in its present state is unholy and irreligious. By universal freedom of choice, recognition and criticism, the hard and pronounced distinction between priest and laity will be softened, till the best of the laity come to stand where the priests are. All that is now held together by the unholy bond of creeds will be severed.6060On the limits of the binding power exercised by creeds, I have lately declared myself more fully, though with special reference to the Evangelical Church. I here call this bond unholy when it is regarded in the ordinary way, and I am still of this opinion. Than unbelief nothing is more unholy to the pious. Of unbelief an abundance underlies the maxim that teachers of religion, and even teachers of theology, should be bound by the letter of a written confession. It is unbelief in the power of the common spirit in the church, when men are not convinced that alien elements in individuals will not, by the living power of the whole, be either assimilated or enveloped and made harmless, but believe external force is required to cast it out. It is unbelief in the power of the word of Christ and of the Spirit that declares Him, when men do not believe that every time has naturally its own fitting interpretation and application of it, when they believe we must adhere to the production of another age. It can never again befall us that the spirit of prophesy should become dumb. The Sacred Scripture itself has obtained its position, and will retain it only by the power of free belief and not by outward sanction. Let there be no point of union of this kind, and let none offer the seekers a system making exclusive claim to truth, but let each man offer his characteristic, individual presentation. This appears the sole means for putting an end to the mischief. It is a poor, if old device, capable only of alleviating the evil for a moment, when ancient formulas were too oppressive or were too varied to consort in the same bonds, to cut up the church by partition of the creed. Like a polypus, each piece grows again into a whole, and if the character is contrary to the spirit of religion, it is no improvement that several societies should bear it. The visible religious society can only be brought nearer the universal freedom and majestic unity of the true church by becoming a mobile mass, having no distinct outlines, but each part being now here, now there, and all peacefully mingling together. The hateful sectarian and proselytizing spirit which leads ever farther astray from the essentials of religion, can only be extinguished when no one, any more, is informed that he 176belongs to a distinct circle, and is for other circles of a different faith.

In regard to this society, you see, our wishes are identical. What is obnoxious to you opposes us also. Permit me, however, always to add that this would not have been as it is, if we had only been left alone to occupy ourselves in our own proper work. Our common interest is to have the evil removed, but there is little we can do except to wish and hope. How such a change will take place among us Germans I do not know. Will it be, as in neighbouring countries, only after a great commotion and then everywhere at once? Will the state, by an amicable arrangement and without the death and resurrection of both church and state, break off its unhappy marriage with the church? Or will it endure that another, more virginal institution arise alongside of the one that is for ever sold to it?6161The feeling that ecclesiastical matters as they then existed in the greater part of Germany, and still exist, little altered, could not continue as they were, has since become much more general and definite. Yet how the matter will turn is still not much clearer. This alone can be foreseen, that if an Evangelical Church is not soon put in a position in which a fresher public spirit can be developed in it, and if the restrictive treatment of our universities and our open spiritual intercourse is longer continued, the hopes we cherished will be fruitless blossom, and the fair dawn of the recent time has only betokened storm. Living piety and liberal courage will ever more and more disappear from the clerical order. Dominion of the dead letter from above and uneasy spiritless sectarianism from below will approach. From their collision a whirlwind will arise that will drive many helpless souls into the outstretched net of Jesuitism, and deaden and weary the great masses to utter indifference. The signs that proclaim this are clear enough; but everyone should on every occasion declare that he sees them as a testimony against those who heed them not. I do not know.

But till something of this kind do happen, a heavy fate must lie upon all holy souls, who, glowing with religion, would seek to exhibit their most holy things even in the profane world, that something might thereby be accomplished. I will not delude the members of the state privileged order into making much account of what in these circumstances they can accomplish by speech for the dearest wish of their heart. And if many of them believe themselves bound not to be always speaking only of piety, nay, not even frequently to speak chiefly of it and to speak of it alone only on solemn occasions, if they are not to be untrue to their political calling, I know little to say against it.

But this cannot be taken from them, that they can proclaim by a priestlike life the spirit of religion, and this may be their consolation and their best reward. In a holy person everything is significant; in an acknowledged priest of religion everything has a canonical meaning. They may, therefore, in all their movements exhibit the nature of religion. Even in the common relations of life nothing 177may be lost of the expression of a pious mind. The holy ardour with which they treat everything shows that even in trifles that a profane spirit skims over thoughtlessly, the music of noble feelings resounds in them. The majestic calm with which they equalize small and great, shows that they refer everything to the Unchangeable and in all things alike perceive the Deity. The bright serenity with which they pass every trace of decay, reveals to all how they live above time and above the world. The utmost ease of self-denial indicates how much of the limits of personality they have already abolished. The constantly open and active sense that neither the rarest nor the commonest escapes, shows how unweariedly they seek the Deity and listen for His voice. If in this way the whole life and every movement of soul and body is a priestlike work of art, the sense for what dwells in them may by this dumb speech be awakened in many.

And not content to express the nature of religion, they must also in a similar way destroy the false appearance of it. With childlike ingenuousness, and in the high simplicity of utter unconsciousness, seeing no danger, and feeling no need of courage, they disregard what base prejudices and subtle superstition have surrounded with a spurious glory of sanctity. Unconcerned as the infant Hercules, they let themselves be hissed at from all quarters by the snakes of solemn calumny, being able to crush them quietly in a moment. To this holy service they may devote themselves till better times, and I think that you also will have reverence for this unassuming worth, and will augur well for its influence on men.

But what am I to say to those to whom you refuse the priestly robe because they have not gone through a definite course of science in a definite way? Whither shall I direct them with the social bent of their religion not directed alone to the true church, but also outward to the world? Having no greater scene in which, in any striking way, 178they might appear, they may rest satisfied with the priestly service of their household gods.6262This limitations will seem to many too narrow. A profound and extensive cultivation of the mind, and a rich inward experience may very well exist where the theological erudition, that is the essential condition of the office of church teacher, is wanting. Should such gifts be limited in their religious working to the narrow circle of the domestic life? Could not and should not such men, even when they cannot lead in public religious assemblies, yet work by the living word in freer, wider circles? Should not the enormous influence which they can obtain through the written word be pointed out to them? To this I have a twofold answer. First, all that, as free sociableness, most resembles the family connection, links itself naturally to the domestic life. The work of exhibiting there the character of a liberal-minded religious life is not insignificant. It is a duty hitherto neither sufficiently understood nor sufficiently exercised. If it were, there could not possibly be such a marked contrast in a great part of Germany, particularly among the higher and more refined circles, between the interest taken in religious formulas and theological disputes, and the domestic and social life in which no trace of a decisive religious character appears. Here, then, is a great sphere for the pious sense. But larger assemblies, exceeding the limits and the nature of the social life, yet not aiming at forming a congregation, in short conventicles, are always miserable half and between affairs, that have never contributed much to the advancement of religion, but have rather produced and cherished what is morbid. Secondly, in respect of religious influence by the written word, it would certainly be a great evil if the clerical order were to possess a monopoly. Nay, it does not seem to me consistent with the spirit of the Evangelical Church, that they should exercise a general censorship. But while there should be the greatest freedom, it is an entirely different question whether everyone should venture to communicate his religious views and sentiments in this way; and whether it would be expedient that it should happen often is very much to be doubted. The harm from the flood of mediocre romances and children’s books may very well be compared with the harm from the mass of mediocre religious writings. Nay, they are manifestly a desecration, which the former are not. Even superior talent falls more easily into mediocrity, for what is to have attraction and effect is the subjective apprehension of universally known objects and relations. Only a high degree of unaffected originality, or a true inspiration, coming from the inmost depths of a reflective mind, or from the stimulating power of a life, nobly active, can succeed. Otherwise there can be nothing but mediocrity. With religious songs, indeed, it is different. Among us a large proportion of them has been composed by laymen of all classes. Many that a severe judge would call only mediocre, have passed into church use, and have attained thereby a kind of immortality. Two circumstances assist. First, every hymn book has only a very limited sphere, and here much may be good that has not all the qualities demanded by absolute publicity. Many of those productions would doubtless have long perished, and been forgotten, had they required to maintain themselves as pure literary works. Secondly, in the public use of hymns so many other things assist. The author does not produce the effect alone. He is supported by the composer by whom, more or less, everything that has the same metre and is known to all has harmony and effect; he is supported by the congregation who put their piety into the execution, and by the liturgies that assign the work of the poet its right place in a larger connection. One family can be the most cultured element and the truest picture of the Universe. When quietly and securely all things work together, all the powers that animate the Infinite are thus operative; when all advances in quiet joyousness, the high World-Spirit rules in it; when the music of love accompanies all movements, the harmony of the spheres resounds, resounds in the smallest space. They may construct this sanctuary, order it and cherish it. In pious might they may set it up clearly and evidently; with love and spirit they may dispose it. By this means many will learn to contemplate the Universe in the small, obscure dwelling. It will be a Holy of Holies in which many will receive the consecration of religion. This priesthood was the first in the holy and infant world, and it will be the last when no other is any longer necessary.

Nay, at the end of our future culture we expect a time when no other society preparatory for religion except the pious family life will be required. At present, millions of men and women of all ranks sigh under a load of mechanical and unworthy labours. The older generation succumbs discouraged, and, with pardonable inertness, abandons the younger generation to accident in almost everything, except the necessity straightway to imitate and learn the same degradation. That is the cause why the youth of the people do not acquire the free and open glance whereby alone the object of piety is found. There is no greater hindrance to religion than that we must be our own slaves, and everyone is a slave who must execute something it ought to be possible to do by dead force. We hope that by the perfecting of sciences and arts, those dead forces will be made serviceable to us, and the corporeal world, and everything of the spiritual that can be regulated, be turned into an enchanted castle where the god of the earth only needs to utter a magic word or press a spring, and what he requires 179will be done. Then for the first time, every man will be free-born; then every life will be at once practical and contemplative; the lash of the task-master will be lifted over no man; and everyone will have peace and leisure for contemplating the world in himself. It is only the unfortunate to whom this is wanting, from whose spiritual organs all nourishing forces are withdrawn, because their whole being must be spent untiringly in mechanical service that need individual, fortunate souls to come forward and assemble them about them, to be their eye for them, and in a few swift minutes communicate to them the highest content of a life. But when the happy time comes and everyone can freely exercise and use his sense, at the very first awaking, of the higher powers, in sacred youth, under the care of paternal wisdom, all who are capable will participate in religion. All communication that is not mutual will then cease, and the father, well repaid, will lead the stout son, not only into a more joyful world and a lighter life, but straightway into the sacred assembly also of the worshippers of the Eternal, now increased in number and activity.

In the grateful feeling that, when this better time has come, however far off it may still be, the efforts to which you have devoted your days, shall have contributed somewhat to its coming, permit me once more to direct your attention to the fair fruit of your labour. Allow yourselves to be led once more to the exalted fellowship of truly religious souls. It is dispersed and almost invisible, but its spirit rules everywhere, even where but few are gathered in the name of the Deity. What is there in it that should not fill you with admiration and esteem, ye friends and admirers of the good and beautiful? They are among themselves an academy of priests. The exhibition of the holy life, which for them is the highest, is treated by everyone as his art and study, and the Deity out of His endless riches apportions to each one his own lot. To a universal 180sense for everything belonging to the sacred sphere of religion, every man joins as artists should, the endeavour to perfect himself in some one department. A noble rivalry prevails, and a longing to produce something worthy of such an assembly makes everyone with faithfulness and diligence master all that belongs to his special section. In a pure heart it is preserved, with concentrated mind it is arranged, by heavenly art it is moulded and perfected. Thus in every way and from every source, acknowledgment and praise of the Infinite resound, everyone bringing, with joyous heart, the ripest fruit of his thinking and examining, of his comprehending and feeling. They are also among themselves a choir of friends. Everyone knows that he is both a part and a work of the Universe, in him also its divine life and working being revealed. He, therefore, regards himself as an object worthy of the attention of others. With sacred reserve, yet with a ready openness that all may enter and behold, he lays bare everything of the relations of the Universe of which he is conscious and what of the elements of humanity takes individual shape in him. Why should they hide anything from one another? All that is human is holy, for all is divine. Again, they are among themselves a band of brothers—or have you perhaps an intenser expression for the entire blending of their natures, not in respect of existence and working, but in respect of sense and understanding? The more everyone approaches the Universe and the more they communicate to one another, the more perfectly they all become one. No one has a consciousness for himself, each has also that of his neighbour. They are no longer men, but mankind also. Going out of themselves and triumphing over themselves, they are on the way to true immortality and eternity.

If in any other department of life, or in any other school of wisdom, you have found anything nobler than this, impart it to me; mine I have given you.

« Prev Fourth Speech. Association in Religion, or Church… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection