decorated initial 'C'hurch-Clothes, are, in our vocabulary, the Forms, the Vestures, under which men have at various periods embodied and represented for themselves the Religious Principle; that is to say, invested the Divine Idea of the World with a sensible and active body, so that it might dwell among them as a living and life-giving Word.

These are unspeakably the most important of all the vestures and garnitures of Human Existence. They are first spun and woven, I may say, by that wonder of wonders, Society; for it is still only when "two or three are gathered together" [Matthew 18:20], that religion, spiritually existent, and indeed indestructible, however latent, in each, first outwardly manifests itself (as "with cloven tongues of fire" [Acts 2:3]), and seeks to be embodied in a visible Communion and a Church Militant. Mystical, more than Magical, is that communing of Soul with Soul, both looking heavenward: here properly Soul first speaks with Soul; for only in looking heavenward, take it in what sense you may, not on looking earthward, does what we can call Union, mutual Love, Society, begin to be possible. . . . [214]

Every conceivable Society, past and present, may well be figured as properly and wholly a Church, which is the best; second, a Church that struggles to preach and prophesy, but cannot as yet, till its Pentecost come; and third and worst, a Church gone dumb with old age, or which only mumbles delirium prior to dissolution. . . . [215]

In our era of the World, those same Church-Clothes have gone sorrowfully out at elbows: nay, far worse, many have become mere hollow Shapes, or Masks, under which no living Figure or Spirit dwells; but only spiders and unclean beetles, in horrid accumulation, drive their trade. . . and in unnoticed nooks is weaving for herself new Vestures, wherewith to reappear, and bless us, or our sons and grandsons.[216]


Carlyle, Thomas. Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh [1831-32]. Ed. Charles Frederick Harrold. New York: Odyssey Press, 1937.

Last modified 12 March 2005