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Art. II. – 1. Ensayo sobre el Catholicismo, el Liberalismo,
y el Socialismo, considerados en sus Principios Fundamentales. Por Don JUAN Donoso Cortés, Marqués de Valdegamas. Madrid. 1851. Svo. pp. 414. 2. De l'Humanité, de son Principe, et de son Avenir, où se trouve exposée la Vraie Définition de la Religion, et où l'on explique le Sens, la Suite, et l'Enchainement du Mosaïsme et du Christianisme. Par PIERRE LEROUX. Paris. 1840. 2 tomes. 8vo.
We have brought these two works together because, though published at distant intervals, and differing almost as widely as it is possible to conceive, they are on the subject treated the two profoundest works to be found in the whole range of modern literature. Both treat the same subject, Donoso Cortés from the point of view of Catholicity, Pierre Leroux from the pantheistic or humanitarian point of view, and each needs to be read and studied by whoever would understand, either in their truth or their falsity, the Liberalism and Socialism which have made so much noise and stirred up so many commotions throughout the civilized world during the last fifteen or twenty years.
Pierre Leroux has hardly been heard of since 1850. Whether he is still living or not is more than we know; but we remember the time when he was one of the great men of France, and the representative of an important school in philosophy and politics. He belonged originally, we believe, to the Saint-Simonian school or sect, and distinguished himself at a later day as a most bitter enemy of the French eclecticism founded by the eloquent and erudite Cousin. He is decidedly the great man of the modern socialistic school, and the only one with whom we are acquainted who has succeeded in giving it anything like a philosophical basis. He possesses rare philosophical genius, and, though not the soundest, he is the greatest metaphysician that France has produced in modern times, and may as to his genius and erudition take rank with the late Vincenzo Gioberti, who has had no equal since Leibnitz, for we cannot rank very high such men as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Immanuel Kant is the only distinguished German metaphysician in recent times that we should be willing to name, unless one or two Catholics of Germany are to be excepted.
It may be that we attach an undue importance to the writings of Pierre Leroux, because our acquaintance with them marks an epoch in our mental development, and we owe to them more than to those of any other modern writer. They revolutionized our own mind both in regard to philosophy and religion, and by the grace of God became the occasion of our conversion to Catholicity. But we must be permitted to say, that, though his system as a system does not and never did satisfy us, it contains certain great cosmic and metaphysical truths, more distinctly recognized and more clearly and energetically stated than we find even in the ordinary works on theology, and almost wholly wanting in our ordinary systems of philosophy. His grand error is in his having misinterpreted and misapplied the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, in confounding the two natures in the one person of our Lord, and in failing to distinguish properly between the natural and the supernatural orders. He starts with the Eutychian heresy, or the confusion of the human and the Di. vine, and really, though perhaps unconsciously, explains the Divine by the human, and thus reduces Christianity to pure Humanism or Naturalism. The Catholic theologian understands at once the reach of this fundamental error, which vitiates and must vitiate the author's whole system. But, after all, there is a human side of truth, for man is made in the image and after the similitude of God. God is, in the language of St. Thomas, similitudo rerum omnium, and hence in all nature there is and must be a certain reflection, so to speak, of the Divinity. God is in some sense mirrored by his works. In man and nature we must find, not the elements of Christianity indeed, for they are superhuman and supernatural, but certain analogies or correspondences, which in human language are expressed by the same terms, and through which the Christian mysteries are rendered in a measure intelligible to us. Leroux certainly confounds these analogies or correspondences in the natural and human order with the superhuman and supernatural dogmas of Christianity; but he certainly has studied them profoundly, and tells us, not unmixed with error, some great and important natural truths, — truths recognized and accepted, indeed, by all
the great scholastic divines, but which these divines do not set forth in that distinct and prominent light in which we find them in the earlier Fathers, or in which it is necessary, perhaps, to set them forth in order to meet the characteristic errors of our age.
The Marquis of Valdegamas has studied the same subject with equal industry, with equal mental strength and acuteness, and with a higher order of genius. He understands it far better, and treats it far more profoundly; for he knows and accepts Catholic theology, which places him in the position to comprehend the natural truth in its true relations with the supernatural, and prevents him from giving a mutilated or distorted view of either. But he writes mainly for the Catholic mind, and is more intent on showing the errors, absurdities, and fatal tendencies of humanitarian or pantheistic socialism to the understanding of the faithful, than he is on distinguishing for the benefit of its adherents the grain of truth in their system, and using it to lead them up to the Catholic doctrine which accepts and completes it. Nothing in the world can be better than his book to guard the faithful against the errors of pantheistic or humanitarian Socialism,
or to inspire them with a hearty love of Catholic doctrine and morals; but it is not precisely adapted to the wants of the Socialists themselves. Ignorant of Catholic faith and theology, they will not always be able to find in his Catholicity the truth they are groping after, and which gives to their speculations a value in their own eyes. We, who happen to know both sides by our own experience, can see that he accepts and vindicates in its true light and place what they really value, and which they erroneously conclude cannot be held in the Church, and persuade themselves can be realized without her, and must be, if realized at all.
The noble Marquis also takes M. Proudhon as the best representative of Socialism, and confines himself mainly to the resutation of the Proudhonian theory. Here we must be permitted to differ from him. If we would study the Socialistic contradictions and negations, Proudhon is our man; but if we would study Socialism in its affirmations, in what it has that is positive, in its truths, or half-truths, we must, we think, take Leroux. Proudhon is by turns a deist and an atheist, a pantheist and a Manichæan, but generally a denier, whose business it is to break
VOL. III. NO. II.
with the whole past, to reject all that has hitherto been regarded as sacred, in a word, to destroy all that has been or is. Would we know whither all false theories, religious, political, and social, lead, we must study Proudhon, who under this point of view is the great man of the Socialistic and revolutionary world. But Leroux has some religious instincts, is not the veritable Apollyon, and attempts to give the positive or affirmative side of Socialism. 'If we would know the truth which misleads the Socialists, which they misapprehend and misapply, but which nevertheless is the element which commends to their own judgments and hearts their Socialism, Leroux, not Proudhon, in our judgment, is the great, “the representative man.”
We say not this to depreciate the work of the lamented Spanish nobleman. We have heretofore expressed our opinion of his remarkable essay, than which, we are assured by those who are more competent than we are to judge, there is nothing more eloquent in the noble Castilian tongue. We are not, we confess, of his political school. We have more confidence in constitutionalism or parliamentary government than he appears to have had. We hold that parliamentary or constitutional government, though by no means perfect, though not all we could wish, and far enough from being all that its partisans pretend, affords the only political guaranty of liberty, civil or religious, which, after so many social changes and revolutions, is now practicable. Certainly it is to it, not to absolute monarchy, that Catholicity owes the immense progress it has made in Europe during the last fifty years. We have seen nothing in the revolutionary developments during late years to shake our early faith in representative and parliamentary government, and we are satisfied that the Spanish statesman rendered no service to his country by his war against constitutionalism and parliamentary discussion. "The great error of the European liberalists is not, in our judgment, so much political as religious. We find no fault with them for seeking what are called checks and balances, or attempting to found government on compromises; for government is a practical affair, and cannot be carried on without an adjustment of opposing interests, which inore or less offend theoretic unity. We censure them not for this, but for supposing that these compromises, these balancings of principles and interests, and playing off of one against another, can alone suffice for the maintenance of authority on the one hand and individual freedom on the other. We accept them as far as they go, but we expect no valuable results from them when substituted for religion, or even when intended to operate without it. We do not, therefore, agree with the illustrious author, whose loss the Catholic world justly deplores, in his anti-parliamentary politics and monarchical theory.
But aside from his politics, in which he was more Spanish than American, we have had in modern times no Catholic writer more free and bold in his speculations, more original and brilliant in his genius, more comprehensive in his thought or spirit-stirring in his eloquence, or in general more remarkable for his depth and soundness. He formed himself by the study of the Holy Scriptures and the great Fathers, rather than the modern theological compendiums, or the great scholastic doctors; and while for that reason he speculates more freely, and writes with more freshness and vigor, he is less exact in his doctrine and less accurate in his language. There are expressions in his Essay, which, if detached from their connection and understood without reference to the obvious intention of the author, are certainly inexact, and perhaps even heretical, as has been shown by the Abbé Gaduel; but if fairly and honestly interpreted by their context and the general scope of the argument, by a liberalhearted criticism which seeks to unfold the large and comprehensive thoughts of a writer rather than to display its own microscopic accuracy, no very grave objections under the point of view of Catholic doctrine can be sustained against the book. In this Essay the author has attempted and executed a work that was much needed in the present time, that of carrying back the faithful to the deepest and most living mysteries of the Catholic faith, and showing the origin and support of human society in God. Starting with the principle already asserted, that God is similitudo rerum omnium, or the likeness which all created things copy, and therefore that all things have their ideas or archetypes in his Divine essence, he shows that true human society has its origin in the Divine society of the Everadorable Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three persons in one nature or essence. In this Divine society, whose characteristic, as he not very accurately expresses