Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Theodore Parker, The Excellence of Goodness]

This discourse derives interest, not so much from intrinsic claims, as from the circumstances under which it was delivered, and the position occupied by the preacher in New England.

We cannot wonder at the hopes entertained by the ancient Catholic church, of seeing its dominion renewed and strengthened on earth, when we see the almost universal dereliction among Protestants from the great principle of Protestantism;—respect for the right of private judgment and the decision of conscience in the individual. From Luther downward, each sect claiming to be Protestant, has claimed no less to utter its anathema against those who differed from it, with the authority of a Golden Bull, nor were Lutherans distinguished for tolerating any new evidences of the spirit of Luther. In our own country this has been manifested in the most marked manner. The Puritans came hither to vindicate for themselves the rights of conscience, but learnt from their experience of suffering no lesson that enabled them to respect those rights in others,n and, as yet, in this country, after so many years of political tolerance, there exists very little notion, far less practice, of spiritual tolerance. Men cannot be content, even in cases where they see the practice bear excellent fruit, to leave the doctrine between the man and his God. Each little coterie has its private pope, distinguished, indeed, from the old by the impossibility of obtaining from him indulgences (at least for heresy;) and an infidelity in the power of Truth, and the wisdom of the Ruler of the Universe is betrayed, which darkens the intellect and checks the good impulses of natural sympathy.

The Unitarians of New-England saw these errors, in looking over the history of opinion, and promised themselves and others that they would refrain from such. They arrogated to themselves the title of Liberal Christians, and

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others. [others,

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