Part VII of our serialization.
Why Protestantism Is Uniquely Dominated by Secular Influences
[In yesterday's installment Brownson explained in greater detail his argument that Protestantism cannot check the passions and ignorance of men, because it places religious truth under popular dominion. In this installment Brownson recapitulates and summarizes his conclusion.]Protestantism is insufficient to restrain [the popular passions for gain and material wealth], for it does not do it, and is itself carried away by them. The Protestant sect governs its religion, instead of being governed by it. If one sect pursues, by the influence of its chiefs, a policy in opposition to the passions and interests of its members, or any portion of them, the disaffected, if a majority, change its policy; if too few or too weak to do that, they leave it and join some other sect, or form a new set. If the minister attempts to do his duty, reproves a practice by which his parishioners "get gain," or insists on their practising some real self-denial not compensated by some self-indulgence, a few leading members will tell him very gravely, that they hired him to preach and pray for them, not to interfere with their business concerns and relations; and if he does not mind his own business, they will no longer need his services. The minister feels, perhaps, the insult' he would be faithful; but he looks at his lovely wife, at his little ones. These must be reduced to poverty, perhaps to beggary, -- no, it must not be; one struggle, one pang, and it is over. He will do the bidding of his masters. A zealous minister in Boston ventured, one Sunday, to denounce the modern spirit of trade. The next day, he was waited on by a committee of wealthy merchants belonging to his parish, who told him he was wrong. The Sunday following, the meek and humble minister publicly retracted, and made the amende honorable.
Here, then, is the reason why Protestantism, though it may institute, cannot sustain popular liberty. It is itself subject to popular control, and must follow in all things the popular will, passion, interest, ignorance, prejudice, or caprice. This, in reality, is its boasted virtue, and we find it commended because under it the people have a voice in its management. Nay, we ourselves shall be denounced, not for saying Protestantism subjects religion to popular control, but for intimating that religion ought not to be so subjected. A terrible cry will be raised against us. "See, here is Mr. Brownson," it will be said, "he would bring the people under the control of the Pope of Rome. Just as we told you. These Papists have no respect for the people. They sneer at the people, mock at their wisdom and virtue. Here is this unfledged Papistling, not yet a year old, boldly contending that the control of their religious faith and worship should be taken from the people, and that they must believe and do just what the emissaries of Rome are pleased to command; and all in the name of liberty, too." If we only had room, we would write out and publish what the anti-Catholic press will say against us, and save the candid, the learned, intellectual, and patriotic editors the trouble of doing it themselves; and we would do it with the proper quantity of italics, small capitals, capitals, and exclamation points. Verily, we think we could do the thing up nearly as well as the best of them. But we have no room. Yet it is easy to foresee what they will say. The burden of their accusation will be, that we labor to withdraw religion from the control of the people, and to free it from the necessity of following their will; that we seek to make it the master, and not the slave, of the people. And this is good proof of our position, that Protestantism cannot govern the people, -- for they govern it, -- and therefore that Protestantism is not the religion wanted; for it is precisely a religion that can and will govern the people, be their master, that we need.
Tomorrow, Part VIII: Why Only Roman Catholicism Can Protect Liberty