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serted and each was wrong in what he denied; and the bystander was most wrong in rejecting the positive statements and drawing his conclusions from the negations.
Now, if I assume my own view to be alone infallible, I make my own private judgment the measure of truth to all men. I only admit in their views as much as agrees with my own, and I stigmatize all that is beyond my range as erroneous. By so doing I make my breast the centre of truth, and I deny absolute truth, the all-conciliating. My private judgment is the sole authority and criterium of justice, goodness, and beauty. I am thrown into antagonism, more or less, with every one else.
Two courses are open to me, I must choose one or the other at the peril of being untrue to myself. I must become an anthropophagist or a sceptic.
If I hold my own opinion to be absolute truth, my own judgment to be the only measure of truth, I constitute myself God; I impose my will on all whom I can constrain; or else, seeing contradictions everywhere, between men, and between the elements of my own nature, I deny the existence of truth, goodness, and beauty: I am like the bystander who disbelieved in the rose.
There is no middle term rationally possible. I must doubt everything, or realize my faith by exterminating every obstacle. Such, if the Ideal be denied, is the only alternative for men who are logical and strong. If the vulgar adopt a stupid medium course, that is only a proof of their want of intelligence and of their weakness. Personal autocracy is not, and never can be, institution, it is a perpetual dissolution of morals, law and religion.
For, if my own opinion be the criterium of right, exclusive of other opinions, I am above all law; that only is
wrong which I deem wrong, and my own self-interest will make me
“ Condone for sins I am inclined to
The private judgment of Muncer found in the Scriptures that titles of nobility and great estates are impious usurpations, contrary to the natural equality of the faithful, and be invited his followers to examine if this were not the case. They examined into the matter, praised God, and then proceeded by fire and sword to extirpate the impious and possess themselves of their properties. Private judgment made the discovery in the Bible that established laws were a permanent restriction on Christian liberty; and John of Leyden, throwing away his tools, put himself at the head of a mob of fanatics, surprised the town of Münster, proclaimed himself king of Sion, and took fourteen wives at a time, asserting that polygamy was Bible liberty, and the privilege of the saints.
That personal autocracy is the destruction of religion is evident from the nature of the case; it is the negation of absolute law, and may be called personal theocracy or autotheism, for the individual thereby assumes a right and supremacy which is not the subordination of God to man, but the annihilation of God before the individual man.
If the upholders of private judgment as a law of universal application be not invariably atheists, the reason is that they are illogical, and stop short of the inevitable result to which their premisses must conduct them. The doctrine of personal infallibility is a reaction against theocratic or governmental autocracy. It does not establish a false relation between God and man, but it does away with the relation, because it deifies the man. Man, master of the absolute, is himself absolute; master of the law, he is
himself the law. There can be no priesthood, because each man becomes priest to himself. Religiously, socially, civilly, politically, every one has right over the law, and he only wants the power to trample on it. This right of each over the law would seem at first sight to give a general equality, but an equality without a recognition of the Absolute is an impossibility, for there is no possibility of harmony when every man is absolute, when each has unlimited rights, and none have duties. That equality which has not the Absolute as its principle and end, but only personal caprice, is borne down instantly before force. Each man having an equal right over the law, becomes the law destroying opposing laws. Consequently every personal interest, caprice, or passion becomes a law; personalities being abso-lute, personalities club together as their interests and passions urge them, and all little associations of interests are at blows, and the strongest gains the day. Thus the equality of an hour is destroyed; it is without duration, because without solid base.
Personal autocracy has made many wars, religious, social, and political. By the religious and philosophic struggle, it has striven to affirm and prove itself to be absolute. By the social war it has endeavoured to unite in one the powers temporal and spiritual. By the political war it has erected the will of one man into the Law.
Personal autocracy being the confusion of relative with absolute truth, conciliation of truths becomes an impossibility, and antagonism of ideas is proclaimed as the law of the universe, an antagonism which ends in internecine
I have pointed out the dangers of exclusive personal judgment. I have now to show what is the proper function of private judgment.
As I have said in the first chapter of this volume, in every man is the criterium of truth. He can only know the just, the good and the beautiful by the faculties of his own soul. One man cannot know or believe for another; knowledge and belief are individual acts. What is true, just, beautiful, good for each man, is what he feels, conceives and judges to be such in his own mind. It cannot be otherwise. What he feels is part of himself, what he knows is his own; his ideas are determined by his thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, every man's own judgment is the criterium, and the only criterium of what is good, beautiful and true to himself, and this is acknowledged by every one who argues with another. I may change my opinions, pass from one creed to another, my
may undergo reversal, but the principle of private judgment by virtue of which the good and the true consist to me, will not be disturbed, but remains invariable. To every objection and criticism, I reply, How otherwise can I judge except according to my conscience, my feelings and my knowledge ? And this reply is unanswerable.
But if it be urged that I ought not to believe in my private judgment, I ask, by virtue of what do you forbid me its use? Is it not precisely because you judge its inadvisability. Therefore you repose on your own judgment when you deny the right to do so.
In vain is it argued that we are to give up our private judgment to a revelation; we can only admit the authority of the revelation by an act of our individual judgment. Consequently, in every one the base of all thoughts, beliefs and acts, is personal judgment.
Referring to an inspired medium of revelation, S. Augustine says :-"If he were to speak in the Hebrew tongue, it would strike my senses in vain, nor would any of his discourse reach my understanding ; but if he spoke in Latin, I should know what he said. But how should I know whether he spoke the truth? And even if I knew this, should I know it from him ? Surely within, inwardly in the home of my thoughts, truth (which is neither Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor barbarian) without the organs of mouth or tongue, without the sound of syllables, would say, He speaks the truth; and I, rendered certain immediately, should say confidently to that man, Thou speakest truth.”
But a principle is only true if it be universal. If I believe in my own judgment, I am bound to believe in the judgments of every one else. If I hold my own spirit to have in it the criteria of truth, I must allow that the same criteria exist in every other spirit of the present times, of the past and of the future. Either conscience is the expression of truth or it is not. If not, we can no more trust to reason or primary beliefs, we cannot affirm anything or know anything. But if it is, then it is so for every one, and I have no more right to contradict its expression in other men than I have to contradict it in myself.
Consequently, private judgment being true for all, we arrive at the necessity of admitting at once and everywhere, as equally legitimate, all the decisions of every man's sense, of admitting them simultaneously, with the Ideal as their conciliation.
But if every positive sentiment is good and true, by the sole fact of its existence, it follows that a sentiment which contradicts another may be a good and a relative truth, inasmuch as it is the veritable expression of an individual conscience, but that it is also an evil and an error, inasmuch as it contradicts another sentiment, thought or will, which
1 August. Confess. xi.