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Before parting with you, let me add a word about the conclusion of my Speech. Perhaps you think that it had been better suppressed, because now, after several years, it is apparent that I was wrong in adducing as a proof of the power of the religious sentiment that it was in the act of producing new forms. As nothing of the sort has anywhere come to pass, did I not wrongly presume to guess what they would be? If you think so, you have forgotten that prophecy only deserves its name, in so far, as it is the first fore-runner of the future. It is an indication of what is to be, and in it, to the eyes of the prophet’s kindred, the future is already contained. But the more the thing prophesied is great and comprehensive, and the more the prophesying itself is in the genuine lofty style, the less can the fulfilment be near. As in the far distance the setting sun makes, from the shadows of great objects, vast magic shapes on the grey east, prophecy sets up only in the far distance the shapes of the future which it has fashioned from the past and the present. Wherefore, what I said was in no sense to be to you a sign to prove the truth of my Speech, which should rather be clear to you by itself. I had no wish to prophesy, even if the gift had not been wanting, for it would have availed me nothing to point you to a distant future.

All I wished was partly to demand, not of you, but of some others, half in irony, whether they could perhaps produce that of which they appear to boast, and partly I hoped to 267lead you to trace for yourselves the course of the fulfilment. I was sure you would there find, what I would willingly show you, that, in the very type of religion, which in Christianity you so often despise, you are rooted with your whole knowing, doing and being. You would see that you cannot get away from it, and that you seek in vain to imagine its destruction without the annihilation of all that you hold dearest and holiest in the world—your whole culture and mode of life, your art and science.

From this it follows that, as long as our age endures, nothing disadvantageous to Christianity can come forth, either from the age or from Christianity itself, and from all strife and battle it must issue renewed and glorified. This was my chief purpose, and you can see that I could not have meant to attach myself to some expressions of able and superior men, from which you understand that they wish to re-introduce the Heathenism of Antiquity, or even to create a new mythology, and by it to manufacture a new religion. In my opinion, rather, you can recognize, in the way that everything connected with such an endeavour is void and without result, the power of Christianity.

Above all, it is necessary that you understand what I have said of the fortunes of Christianity. This is not the place to expound and defend or even largely indicate my views, but I shall make a simple explanation that may prevent me from being classed, in the usual way of referring everything to schools and parties, with persons with whom, in this respect at least, I have nothing in common.

From the first there has almost always been some pronounced antithesis in Christianity. As is natural, it always has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The hostile elements gradually separate, the division reaches a climax, and then gradually subsides until it fully disappears in another antithesis that has meantime been developing. This has marked the whole history of Christianity, and at present Protestant and Catholic are the dominant antithesis in 268Western Christendom. In each the idea of Christianity has characteristic expression, so that, only by conjoining both, can the historical phenomenon of Christianity correspond to the idea of Christianity. This antithesis, I say, is still in operation and persists. Were I to interpret for you the signs of the time, I would say it has reached the turn of the tide, but has not appreciably diminished or disappeared.8181This deliverance will now appear less strange than it did at first. At that time, looking from one side, it was easy to believe that both churches would unite in unbelief, in indifferentism; from the other, that they would soon be two forms of superstition, only outwardly and accidentally different. Lately, however, many events have not only quickened the consciousness that the opposition still actually exists, but have made it very clear what holds the two sections apart. We cannot deny that the chief seat of the opposition is in Germany. In England, indeed, it is strong enough, but it is more political, in France again it plays a very subordinate part. It becomes us Germans above all to comprehend it both historically and speculatively. This happens, alas! too seldom. We have fallen sadly into impassioned ways. If anyone among us would speak of the matter impartially, he will certainly be suspected by his brethren as a crypto-catholic, and he would be exposed to many importunate and flattering advances from the Romanists. Praiseworthy exceptions, when truly thorough-going moderation is acknowledged, are very rare. Leaving quite aside, therefore, the present state of things, I will indicate, in few words, wherein this opposition, regarded from the point of view of its historical development, seems to me still to exist. There is in both churches an evident disposition to be exclusive, and as far as possible to ignore each other. Of this the almost inconceivable ignorance of one another’s doctrine and usages gives sufficient proof. This disposition is natural enough in the mass of men, for each section finds religious stimulus and nourishment enough in its own narrow circle, and the other section, though but little may be wanting to it, appears, if not as impure as members of alien religious to the Jews, at least utterly strange. This tendency rules in quiet times. It is only interrupted in the mass of men by outbreaks of passion, when one section gains some decisive advantage in political matters or, in a large number of single cases in private life. As the educated, however, in whom a historical consciousness should dwell, ought not to share this lazy exclusiveness, neither should they share this hurtful passionateness. Between both churches there should be a living influence, even though it should not be direct. Quiet contemplation should stir up a keen rivalry in whatever in the other section is acknowledged to be good. The contrast in the character of both churches involves at least that one is receptive of the imperfections that the other more suppresses. May the Catholics be edified by seeing that the more prominently the religious tendency appears among us, the more any return to any kind of barbarity is hindered. And if they would not deceive themselves as though there were no difference in this respect between us, let them see how far they can advance in the demand for individual freedom. And we should, as passionlessly as possible, observe the secure position which in all outward matters the Catholic Church knows how to secure by strong organization. Let us then try how far we can attain to unity and coherence, yet it must be done in our own spirit and not by setting the spiritual order over against the laity in a way quite opposed to this spirit. Such healthy influences appear, and the results are seen from time to time. But the lazy exclusiveness of the mass checks them and all passionate moments interrupt them. It may therefore be long before the purpose of the disagreement is attained. Till then, we cannot say that the variance has reached its climax and has begun to diminish. When that comes to pass, there will be a common duty to exercise a vitalizing influence on the Greek Church. As it is almost quite defunct, both churches will need for along time to employ all their powers and all their remedies. But, until they have succeeded in waking the dead, they cannot have fulfilled the destiny of their division. Let no one, therefore, be indifferent, but let every man consider to what side he and his Christianity belong, and in which church he can lead a religious and edifying life. And none who are happy in having a healthy, strong nature, and who follow it, can go astray.8282How seldom anyone in lands belonging entirely to one church, without interested views or artful suasion, but by a true inward impulse, is driven to the other church is apparent. In regions where the two sects commingle, how calmly we educate the children of parents of one faith in the paternal religion, and it does not in the least occur to us that they may have an inward destination for the other. As the different national character of Christian peoples was not without influence on the course the Reformation took, should it not be thought that this spiritual attitude is a matter of inheritance or birth? And is not this confirmed by the fact that when the adherents of another faith come over to Christianity, we do not consider the Christian sense pure and steadfast till after two generations. For children of mixed marriages, therefore, the natural rule would not be for the sons to follow the father and the daughter the mother, but for each to follow the parent with whom there is more inherited resemblance. On the other side, however, it is not to be denied that the original relation of the two churches is not favourable to the hypothesis of a strictly innate inclination. It would rather lead us to expect a self-determination for one or other form, according to personal character. From this view the natural principle for mixed marriages and the principle that without extraneous interference would have effect, would be for the children to follow the more strongly religious parent. Under the special influence of this parent, the religious element would be most strongly developed, and then the child’s own choice could be calmly and hopefully waited for. Were there no foreign motives, no influences that are almost violence, and were this natural course generally followed, change in the prime of life would be rarer. After a faith has been apprehended with love, and has for a long time guided the life, this step is always the result and the cause of confusion. It would be only taken by individuals who are in other respects exceptions, as it were capricious sallies of nature, or by persons who, from perverse guidance, have been made to see very clearly the imperfection and narrowness of the accepted faith, and are thereby driven to the opposite faith—a thing not rare at present in both churches.

At present there are some who appear to rescue themselves from the Protestant into the Catholic Church. I am not speaking of those who in themselves are nothing and are dazzled like children by glitter and show, or are talked over by monks. But there are some to whom I myself have formerly drawn your attention who are somewhat-able poets and artists who are worthy of honour; and a host of followers, as is the fashion nowadays, has followed them. The reason given is that in Catholicism alone there is religion, and in Protestantism only irreligiousness, a godlessness growing out of Christianity itself. Let that man be honoured by me who ventures on such a step solely on the conviction that he is following his nature. But if his nature is only at home in that form of Christianity, surely traces of this natural constitution will appear in his whole life. It must be capable of proof that his act has only completed outwardly what inwardly and spontaneously was strictly contemporaneous and anterior.

There is another class also which I would pity and excuse if I cannot honour. With the instinct of the sick, which at times indeed is marvellously successful but may also be dangerous, they take this step. Manifestly they are in a state of dismay and weakness. Avowedly they require external support for a bewildered feeling or some 269incantations to allay anxious dread and bad headache, or they seek an atmosphere in which weak organs, being less stimulated, would feel better, as many sick people must not seek the free mountain air but the exhalations of animals.

But the persons to whom I now refer, are neither one nor other, but, appear to me simply despicable, for they know not what they wish nor what they do. Is there any sense in what they say? Do the heroes of the Reformation impress any uncorrupted mind with godlessness and not with a truly Christian piety? Is Leo X. actually more pious than Lather, and Loyola’s enthusiasm holier than Zinzendorf’s? And where are we to assign the greatest productions of modern times in every department of science, if Protestantism is godlessness and hell? And in the same way that Protestantism is for them only irreligion, they love in the Roman church not what is in any way characteristic and essential, but only its corruption—a clear proof that they know not what they wish. Consider this purely historically, that the papacy is in no way the essence of the Catholic Church, but its corruption.8383Only a few will require a defence of this position, that the Catholic Church, not merely in the old sense, but in the sense we understand when we contrast it with the Evangelical Church, might shake off the papal authority and return from the monarchical to the aristocratic form of the episcopal system, without removing the difference between the churches, or, in any marked degree, facilitating their union. Nor does it need much proof that the papal authority, whether considered in its rise or in its prevailing tendency, has striven for aims almost always false and beyond the church’s sphere. It is noteworthy, however, that almost all who fall away from our church become strong papists. It is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that they have not apprehended the true character of the Catholic Church, and an only destined to display their religious incapacity in two different forms.

What they are really in search of is idolatry. The Protestant Church, alas! has also to contend with idolatry, but in a less gorgeous, and therefore less seductive form. And because it is not pronounced and colossal enough here, they seek it beyond the Alps. For what is an idol, if not what can be made, touched, and broken with hands, and which yet, in its perishableness and fragility, is foolishly and perversely set up to represent the Eternal, not merely in its own place, and according to its indwelling power and beauty, but as if a temporal thing could be the Eternal, as if the Eternal could be handled and magically weighed and measured at pleasure. The highest they seek is this superstition in church and priesthood, sacrament, absolution, and salvation. But they will accomplish nothing thereby, for it is a perverse state of things and will show itself in them through increased perversity. Leaving the 270common sphere of culture, they will rush into a vain and fruitless activity, and the portion of art that God has lent them will turn to foolishness. This, if you will, is a prophecy, the fulfilment of which lies near enough to be expected.

And now one more prophecy of a different sort, and may you, as I hope, also see its fulfilment. It refers to the second point I have just touched upon, the persistence of the opposition of the two parties. Unquestionably many in the Romish Church have rid themselves of her corruptions. Now it might happen that outwardly also this should take place, if not everywhere, and in all things, yet in a large measure. Seducers might then come, threatening the strong, and flattering the weak, persuading the Protestants that, as this corruption is held by many to be the sole ground of separation, they should return to the one, indivisible, original church. Even that is a foolish and perverse project. It may attract and terrify many, but it will not succeed, for the abolition of this opposition at present would be the destruction of Christianity. I might challenge the mightiest of the earth to attempt it. For him everything is a game, and I would allow all power and guile. Yet I prophesy he would fail and be put to shame, for Germany still exists, and its invisible power is not weakened. Once more it would take up its calling with unsuspected power and would be worthy of its ancient heroes and its renowned descent. It was chiefly appointed to develope this phenomenon, and, to maintain it, it would rise again with giant force.8484It would be bad if the very conclusion of a work could cause a smile that might efface any earlier good impressions. Yet this may do it in two respects. First, there is the dread that Bonaparte could have some design against Protestantism, for did he not afterwards threaten to go over with a large part of France to Protestantism, and, quite recently, were not the Protestants in the south of France persecuted as his most attached followers? Then, again, I almost always speak as if all Germany were Protestant, and now many are hoping that sooner or later it will be once more altogether or almost Catholic. In respect of the former possibility, what I said expressed too accurately our feelings in the years of ignominy that I should not let it stand as I then wrote it. So much had been taken from us that we might well fear that all was threatened. Undeniably Napoleon acted in a quite different way in Protestant and in Catholic Germany, and it could not remain hidden from him that our religious sentiment and our political were intimately connected. On the other point let everyone take heed not to laugh too soon. However firmly he holds his hope, I hold mine as firmly. Further progress of a Papistical Catholicism in Germany on many grounds necessarily involves a return to every kind of barbarity. As the freedom of the Evangelical Church will remain the surest support of every noble endeavour, it cannot lie in the ways of Providence to weaken it and, at its expense, to allow Catholicism to prevail.

Here you have a sign if you require it, and when this miracle comes to pass you will perhaps believe in the living power of religion and of Christianity. But blessed are they by whom it comes to pass, who do not see and yet believe.

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