IX. The Atonement.

From: New Views . . . (1836)
Author: O. A. Brownson
Published: James Munroe and Company 1836 Boston


  THE great doctrine, which is to realize the Atonement and which the Symbol of the God-Man now teaches us, is that all things are essentially holy, that every thing is cleansed, and that we must call nothing common or unclean.

  “And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good.” And what else could it have been? God is wise, powerful and good; and how can a wise, powerful and good being create evil? God is the great Fountain from which flows every thing that is; how then can there be any thing but good in existence?

  Neither Spiritualism nor Materialism was aware of this truth. Spiritualism saw good only in pure Spirit. God was pure Spirit and therefore good; but all which could be distinguished from him was evil, and only evil and that continually. Our good consisted in resemblance to God, that is, in being as like pure Spirit as possible. Our duty was to get rid of Matter. All the interests of the material order were sinful. St. Augustine declared the flesh, that is the body, to be sin; perfection then could be obtained only by neglecting, and as far as possible, annihilating it. Materialism, on the other hand, had no recognition of Spirit. It considered all time and thought and labor bestowed on that which transcends this world as worse than thrown away. It had no conception of inward communion with God. It counted fears of punishment or hopes of reward in a world to come mere idle fancies, fit only to amuse or control the vulgar. It laughed at spiritual joys and griefs, and treated as serious affairs only the pleasures and pains of sense.

  But the new doctrine of the Atonement reconciles these two warring systems. This doctrine teaches us that spirit is real and holy, that matter is real and holy, that God is holy and that man is holy, that spiritual joys and griefs, and the pleasures and pains of sense, are alike real joys and griefs, real pleasures and pains, and in their places are alike sacred. Spirit and Matter, then, are saved. One is not required to be sacrificed to the other; both may and should coexist as separate elements of the same grand and harmonious whole.

  The influence of this doctrine cannot fail to be very great. It will correct our estimate of man, of the world, of religion and of God, and remodel all our institutions. It must in fact create a new civilisation as much in advance of ours, as ours is in advance of that which obtained in the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus.

  Hitherto we have considered man as the antithesis of all good. We have loaded him with reproachful epithets and made it a sin in him even to be born. We have uniformly deemed it necessary to degrade him in order to exalt his Creator. But this will end. The slave will become a son. Man is hereafter to stand erect before God as a child before its father. Human nature, at which we have pointed our wit and vented our spleen, will be clothed with a high and commanding worth. It will be seen to be a lofty and deathless nature. It will be fell to be Divine, and Infinite will be found traced in living characters on all its faculties.

  We shall not treat one another then as we do now. Man will be sacred in the eyes of man. To wrong him will be more than crime, it will be sin. To labor to degrade him will seem like laboring to degrade the Divinity. Man will reverence man.

  Slavery will cease. Man will shudder at the bare idea of enslaving so noble a being as man. It will seem to him hardly less daring than to presume to task the motions of the Deity and to compel him to come and go at our bidding. When man learns the true value of man, the chains of the captive must be unloosed and the fetters of the slave fall off.

  Wars will fail. The sword will be beaten into the ploughshare and the spear into the pruning hook. Man will not dare to mar and mangle the shrine of the Divinity. The God looking out from human eyes will disarm the soldier and make him kneel to him he had risen up to slay. The war­ horse will cease to bathe his fetlocks in human gore. He will snuff the breeze in the wild freedom of his native plains, or quietly submit to be harnessed to the plough. The hero’s occupation will be gone, and heroism will be found only in saving and blessing human life.

  Education will destroy the empire of ignorance. The human mind, allied as it is to the Divine, is too valuable to lie waste or to be left to breed only briars and thorns. Those children, ragged and incrusted with filth, which throng our streets, and for whom we must one day build prisons, forge bolts and bars, or erect gibbets, are not only our children, our brother’s children, but they are children of God, they have in themselves the elements of the Divinity and powers which when put forth will raise them above what the tallest archangel now is. And when this is seen and felt, will those children be left to fester in ignorance or to grow up in vice and crime? The whole energy of man’s being cries out against such folly, such gross injustice.

  Civil freedom will become universal. It will be every where felt that one man has no right over another which that other has not over him. All will be seen to be brothers and equals in the sight of their common Father. All will love one another too much to desire, to play the tyrant. Human nature will be reverenced too much not to be allowed to have free scope for the full and harmonious development of all its faculties. Governments will become sacred; and while on the one hand they are respected and obeyed, on the other it will be felt to be a religious right and a religious duty, to labor to make them as perfect as they can be.

  Religion will not stop with the command to obey the laws, but it will bid us make just laws, such laws as befit a being divinely endowed like man. The Church will be on the side of progress, and Spiritualism and Materialism will combine to make man’s earthly condition as near like the lost Eden of the Eastern poets, as is compatible with the growth and perfection of his nature.

  Industry will be holy. The cultivation of the earth will be the worship of God. Workingmen will be priests, and as priests they will be reverenced, and as priests they will reverence themselves and feel that they must maintain themselves undefiled. He that ministers at the altar must be pure, will be said of the mechanic, the agriculturist, the common laborer, as well as of him who is technically called a priest.

  The earth itself and the animals which inhabit it will be counted sacred. We shall study in them the manifestation of God’s goodness, wisdom, and power, and be careful that we make of them none but a holy use.

  Man’s body will be deemed holy. It will be called the temple of the Living God. As a temple it must not be desecrated. Men will beware of defiling it by sin, by any excessive or improper indulgence, as they would of defiling the temple or the altar consecrated to the service of God. Man will reverence himself too much, he will see too much of the Holy in his nature ever to pervert it from the right line of Truth and Duty.

  “In that day shall there be on the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be as the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be Holiness unto the Lord of hosts.” The words of the prophet will be fulfilled. All things proceed from God and are therefore holy. Every duty, every act necessary to be done, every implement of industry, or thing contributing to human use or convenience, will be treated as holy. We shall recall even the reverence of the Indian for his bow and arrow, and by enlightening it with a Divine philosophy preserve it.

  “Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Religious worship will not be the mere service of the sanctuary. The universe will be God’s temple, and its service will be the doing of good to mankind, relieving suffering and promoting joy, virtue and well-being. By this, religion and morality will be united, and the Service of God and the service of man become the same. Our faith in God will show itself by our good works to man. Our love to the Father, whom we have not seen, will be evinced by our love for our brother whom we have seen.

  Church and State will become one. The State will be holy, and the Church will be holy. Both will aim at the same thing, and the existence of one as separate from the other will not be needed. The Church will not be then an outward visible power, coexisting with the State, sometimes controlling it and at other times controlled by it; but it will be within, a true spiritual—not spiritualistic—Church, regulating the heart, the con­ science and the life.

  And when this all takes place the glory of the Lord will be manifested unto the ends of the earth, and all flesh will see it and rejoice together. The time is yet distant before this will be fully realized. We are now realizing it in our theory. We assert the holiness of all things. This assertion becomes an idea, and ideas, if they are true, are omnipotent. As soon as Humanity fully possesses this idea, it will lose no time in reducing it to practice. Men will conform their practice to it. They will become personally holy. Holiness will be written on all their thoughts, emotions and actions, on their whole lives. And then will Christ really be formed within, the hope of glory. He will be truly incarnated in universal Humanity, and God and man will be one.

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