Our Roman Catholic Brethren: Second Paper
ARE we all going to be Roman Catholics, then, about the year 1945 ?
So we are assured by some of our more sanguine Roman Catholic brethren. And, really, the ancient church, not in this young country only, but in Europe too, and especially in France, Germany, and England, appears to be renewing its youth, and pressing forward most vigorously to occupy and reoccupy. It is regaining its audacity. It is beginning again to take the initiative. It hits back once more. It even succeeds in turning the laugh against us sometimes, which is a great point gained. It has taken the church eighty years to recover from the mockery of one man, and it is now using his terrible weapon against its own enemies. Few better burlesques have ever been written than the one recently published in England, and republished in New York, entitled “ The Comedy of Convocation in the English Church,”in which the one great excellence of that church is ridiculed in the most delicious manner. The point of superiority of the Church of England over some others is, or was, that it allowed a wide latitude of opinion, and did not set up to be an infallible teacher. This is the point ridiculed ; but the novelty of the burlesque is, that it is so exquisitely and good-naturedly done. The new blood is beginning to tell. There is one extractible passage of this masterpiece of fun, which may serve to illustrate the new spirit of which I speak. “Archdeacon Jolly,” one of the speakers at the imaginary convocation, explains the operation of a new society, which, he said, was called “ The Society for considering the best Means of keeping alive the Corruptions of Popery in the interests of Gospel Truth.”
“ It was, of course,” the jolly Archdeacon continued, “a strictly secret organization ; but he had been favored, he knew not why, with a copy of the prospectus, and as he had no intention of becoming a member, he would communicate it to the house. It appeared from this document, and could be confirmed from other sources, that a deputation was sent last year to Rome to obtain a private interview with the Pope, in order to entreat his Holiness not to reform a single Popish corruption. A handsome present was intrusted to the deputation, and a liberal contribution to the Peter’s Pence Fund. The motives set forth in the preamble of the address presented to his Holiness were, in substance, of the following nature : They urged that a very large body of most respectable clergymen, who had no personal ill-will toward the present occupant of the Holy See, had maintained themselves and their families in comfort for many years exclusively by the abuse of popery ; and, if popery were taken away, they could not but contemplate the probable results with uneasiness and alarm. Moreover, many eminent members of the profession had gained a reputation for evangelical wit, learning, and piety, as well as high dignities in the Church of England, by setting forth in their sermons, and at public meetings, with all their harrowing details, the astounding abominations of the Church of Rome. The petitioners implored his Holiness not to be indifferent to the position of these gentlemen. Many of their number had privately requested the deputation to plead their cause with the amiable and benevolent Pius IX. Thus the great and good Dr. M’Nickel represented respectfully that he had filled his church, and let all his pews, during three-and-twenty years, by elegantly slandering priests and nuns, and powerfully illustrating Romish superstitions. A clergyman of noble birth had attained to the honors of the episcopate by handling alternately the same subjects, and a particularly pleasing doctrine of the Millennium, and had thus been enabled to confer a valuable living on his daughter’s husband, who otherwise could not have hoped to obtain one. An eminent canon of an old Roman Catholic abbey owed his distinguished position, which he hoped to be allowed to retain, to the fact of his having proved so clearly that the Pope was Antichrist; and earnestly entreated his Holiness to do nothing to forfeit that character. A wellknown doctor of Anglican divinity was on the point of quitting the country in despair of gaining a livelihood, when the idea of preaching against popery was suggested to him, and he had now reason to rejoice that he had abandoned the foolish scheme of emigration. . . . . Finally, a young clergyman, who had not hitherto much distinguished himself, having often but vainly solicited a member of his congregation to favor his evangelical attachment, at length hit upon a new expedient, and preached so ravishing a discourse on the matrimonial prohibitions of the Romish Church, and drew so appalling a picture of the domestic infelicities of the Romish priesthood, that on the following Monday morning the young lady made him an offer of her hand and fortune.”
Nothing could be better for its purpose than this, and the whole pamphlet of one hundred and thirty-eight pages is executed quite as well. The surprising feature of the performance is, that the author never lapses for a single instant into ill-temper, — such is the strength of his talent, and the entireness of his faith. In conversing with Catholic priests, I have been repeatedly struck with the same imperturbable good-humor, the same absolute confidence in the impregnability of their position.
Another fruit of the church’s recovered audacity lies before me, in the Abbé Maynard’s new “ Life of Voltaire,” called forth, apparently, by the great stir in France resulting from the proposal to erect a national monument to Voltaire in Paris. “ You are a humbug,” said Voltaire to the Church, in ninety-seven volumes duodecimo. "You ’re another,” replies Abbé Maynard, in two volumes octavo. This indefatigable Abbé has gone over the thousand volumes or so which contain the yet unwritten story of Voltaire’s life, and has gathered from them every incident and every sentence the cold relation or quotation of which would make against his subject. The result is, that his work is, at once, the truest and the falsest upon Voltaire ever written; most of the facts which he chooses to give are stated with a certain exactness, but most of that in Voltaire’s career which made it worth while to relate those facts at all, is not mentioned. It is evident, nevertheless, that the Abbé is as honest as he is patient; he merely cannot see anything in Voltaire except his poor, human foibles. His work is chiefly interesting as another evidence that our Roman Catholic brethren are becoming militant again, and do not mean to be hit without striking out from the shoulder at their assailant.
By a curious chance, it happened that the same steamer which brought these two thick volumes from France brought also Le Vrai Voltaire, of M. Pompery, also published in 1867, in which two things are asserted of the great master of mockery : 1. That he was the most extraordinary of men ; and, 2. That he was the consummate Christian of all times ! Both of these works came to me in the same brown-paper parcel. Both were published in the same Paris, in the same year; both were written by Frenchmen for Frenchmen. Such a creature is man when he shuts up in party that mind of his which was meant to range free over the whole ! Of these two works, that of the Abbé is by far the most able and thorough ; and he does not fail to urge home to the Paris of this moment that the virtuous people of France are still those who go to mass and confess their sins. Ah ! that is the difficult argument to answer ! As the authoritative expounder of the universe, the mission of the Church may, indeed, be nearly accomplished ; but as an organization for the inculcation of virtue, the best part of its career is only just now beginning.
Persons who are so unfortunate as to be obliged to travel much in the public vehicles and vessels of the city of New York frequently have religious tracts offered them by a fellow-sufferer, who draws a bundle of them from his pocket, and hands them around. It has, perhaps, occurred to others besides myself, what a powerful means of doing good this might be if the tracts were written in just the right way, on just the right subjects, by truly enlightened and sympathetic men ; and perhaps others have wondered, besides myself, that such an obvious and easy way of spreading abroad good knowledge, good principles, and good feeling should be so long neglected by persons capable of using it with effect. I hope yet to see our omnibuses littered with tracts written by such persons as Mr. Emerson, Dr. Holmes, Mr. Lowell, Mr. Norton, Mr. Curtis, Dr. Bellows, Horace Greeley, Dr. Chapin, Mr. Mayo, Mr. Higginson, Mrs. Stowe, Gail Hamilton, Mr. Beecher, Goldwin Smith, Charles Dickens, and all the other good fellows of either sex who love their species, and have a wise or friendly word to say to them. It will only be necessary for them to write a great deal better than they ever did before.
Our Roman Catholic brethren have at length awoke to the power of the four-paged tract, and they are using it with increasing frequency and skill. This movement mitigates the horrors of city travel ; for the Catholic tracts, besides containing much information little known to us Protestants, are written in a lively strain, often in the form of dialogue. It is not a bad thing, about half-way down town, to have politely put into your hands a sprightly little piece, upon “ What my Uncle said about the Pope.”
“ One day, in the Central Park, we sat down on a nice shady seat, and Uncle George took out a newspaper to read. As his eye glanced down the columns he suddenly gave a grunt, and hit the ground very sharply with his cane.
“ ‘ Got the gout, Uncle ? ’ said I.
“ ' No, my dear, it’s nothing but the old Pope again.’
“ ‘ Who is he, Uncle ? ’ I inquired.
“ ‘ I am sorry to say he’s a bad man, my dear,’ replied Uncle George, looking at me over his spectacles, ‘ and always was.’
“ ' Why don’t the police take him up, then, and try him ?’ I asked.
Because there are so many people who believe him to be a good man,’ answered my uncle ; ‘ and as for trying him, Fred, there ’s been plenty of that, if only understood it; but the oftener he is brought into court, the fewer witnesses you can get to appear against him, and he always manages to come off “ not guilty.” ’
“ ' How many people believe he is a good man, Uncle?’ I inquired. ‘A dozen now, I should n’t wonder ? ’
“'A dozen ! ’ exclaimed the old gentleman ; ‘ see here ’; and he commenced drawing figures on the gravelled walk with his cane. ' There,’ said he, pointing to the sum he had marked on the ground, ‘ what do you make of that ? ’
“'There’s a 2,’ said I, ‘and a naught, and an 8, and six more naughts. Why, Uncle, that ’s two hundred and eight millions ! ’
“ ‘ That’s about it, my dear.’ ”
It is much more amusing to read such a sprightly performance as this than to sit opposite six pairs of eyes, occupied only in the embarrassing task of not “catching” any of them. Useful knowledge, too, is acquired. It is agreeable to know the exact figures about anything. There is a tract upon “Article II. of the Popular Creed,” which is, “ All men cannot believe alike.” There is also one upon Article I. of the same creed : “ It is a matter of no importance what a man believes, if he be only sincere.” There is another entitled “What shall I do to be saved ? ” This is a dialogue, and the main question is thus answered : —
“ Earnest Inquirer. Will you be kind enough to tell me what practical answer is given in the Catholic Church to Catholics themselves who ask the question, ‘ What shall I do to be saved ? ’
“ Catholic. A Catholic is usually baptized in infancy, and is thereby invested with all the privileges of a Christian. As he grows older, he is taught the principles of his religion. If he lives up to them, and obeys God’s commandments, he is always the friend of God, and does not need to ask the question at all, just as a native-born citizen who has never forfeited his citizenship needs not to inquire how he shall become a citizen. But if he turns away from God by sin, then . . . . the short practical answer to his question is, Prepare yourself, and come and make an humble and contrite confession of your sins.”
Most of the thirty tracts already issued are evidently designed to be read by Protestants, and aim to give correct statements of certain Catholic doctrines which Catholics claim are habitually misstated by Protestants. In the publication of these and other cheap works a Catholic Publication Society has been formed, precisely similar in design to the “ Methodist Book Concern.” In short, our Roman Catholic brethren are adopting, one after another, all our Protestant plans and expedients ; they are turning our own artillery against us. As usual with them, it is one man who is working this new and most effective idea ; but, as usual with them also, this one man is working by, with, and through an organization which multiplies his force one hundred times, and constitutes him a person of national importance. Readers who take note of the really important things transpiring around them will know at once that the individual referred to is Father Hecker, Superior of the Community of the Paulists, in New York, editor of the “ Catholic World,” and director of the Catholic Publication Society. It is he who is putting American machinery into the ancient ark, and getting ready to run her by steam. Here, for once, is a happy man, — happy in his faith and in his work, —sure that in spreading abroad a knowledge of the true Catholic doctrine he is doing the best thing possible for his native land. A tall, healthy-looking, robust, handsome, cheerful gentleman of forty-five, endowed with a particular talent for winning confidence and regard, which talent has been improved by many years of active exercise. It is a particular pleasure to meet with any one, at such a time as this, whose work perfectly satisfies his conscience, his benevolence, and his pride, and who is doing that work in the most favorable circumstances, and with the best co-operation. Imagine a benevolent physician in a populous hospital, who has in his office the medicine which he is perfectly certain will cure or mitigate every case, provided only he can get it taken, and who is surrounded with a corps of able and zealous assistants to aid him in persuading the patients to take it!
This excellent and gifted man is a native of the city of New York, where his two brothers are well known as controlling the business of supplying the city with every description of flour and meal; their establishment being among the most extensive of the kind in the world. The father of these three boys was a Presbyterian, the mother a Methodist; but neither of them was a severe or exacting sectarian, and the boys were allowed the usual free range among all the churches of the town. It was an affectionate, entirely virtuous, and estimable family, of German origin, with a decided bias among the younger members toward spiritual inquiries and subjects. The three boys, in particular, had the true German fondness for one another, and, in due time, went into business together,— that very business which has since grown to such wonderful proportions. They began, however, as bakers and dealers in flour in a small way; all three, I believe, working at the kneading-rough and at the oven’s fiery mouth. Their business prospered; it soon became evident that a great success was within their reach, to attain which they had nothing to do but go on in the way they were going. But this assurance of success having been reached, one of the brothers ceased to find the business interesting. He was young, vigorous, athletic, full of life and cheerfulness, and he said to himself: “A man requires but a few cents a day (this was nearly thirty years ago) for his sustenance ; why take all this trouble to get those few cents ? Is there nothing better or other for a man to do in his short life than earn his living ? Must I expend my whole revenue of strength in merely getting the very trifling supplies needed to keep the bodily machine going ? — must I really ? ” Revolving such thoughts in his anxious mind, he continued faithfully to knead the dough and draw the loaves. Always an eager reader, he now became a student. He used to be up at four in the morning studying Kant and the other metaphysicians; and, as kneading does not engross the mind, he nailed his algebra to the wall before his trough, that he might use the unemployed portion of his intellect while at his work. But, whatever he studied, the questions ever present with him were, What is man ? whence came he ? why is he here ? whither is he going ? what does it become him to do?—questions which no creature worthy of the name of man ever escaped, or ceased to ask, until he had either found answers, or ascertained them to be unanswerable.
In quest of light upon these problems, he went the round of the sects, attending the services, reading the books, and conversing with the leaders of each. What he longed for was a life of self-renunciation, — a life wholly devoted to worthy objects external to himself. He used to ask Protestants, how he, I. T. Hecker, baker, of the city of New York, could fulfil such injunctions as, “ Sell all and follow me,” and, “ Forsake father and mother for my sake.” They answered that these were figurative expressions, or, if not figurative, yet not applicable to the case of a young gentleman of good business prospects, residing on the populous island of Manhattan in the nineteenth century. “It was going too far ; it was mere youthful enthusiasm ; it was not suited to the nineteenth century ; there was no occasion for anything of that kind in modern times.” These remarks silenced him for a while, but did not satisfy him ; he was still seeking his religion, and with a deeper longing than before. He resolved to make it the business of his whole existence, if necessary, to find the solution of his difficulty. “ It is a necessity,” he said to himself, “ to find a religion coinciding with the dictates of reason, and commensurate with the wants of our whole nature, or else to wait for its revelation. If I find no such religion, and God deigns not to reveal it, then on my tomb shall be written : ‘ Here lies one who asked with sincerity for truth, and it was not given. He knocked earnestly at the door of truth, and it was not opened. He sought faithfully after truth, and he found nothing.’” He now avoided female society, because he was determined, until the great question was settled, to keep his destiny in his own hands, and not complicate the difficulty by blending with his own the fate of another. He withdrew from business also ; gave up those brilliant prospects opening before the house of Hecker Brothers, and set out on a journey in search of wisdom. The world has but one way of judging a case of this nature : “ Poor Hecker is crazy” ; and perhaps the world is not wholly in the wrong.
Every reader of the Atlantic Monthly has heard of Brook Farm in Massachusetts, where Hawthorne, Ripley, C. A. Dana, G. W. Curtis, and many other young philosophers, took up their abode twenty-five or thirty years ago, and sought to realize in their daily life all that this young New-Yorker was meditating. They, too, had indulged the fond delusion of increasing the happiness by lessening the difficulties of life, and of arranging their lives upon a better system than the natural order. To Brook Farm the youthful seeker after wisdom directed his steps, and cast in his lot with the noble band. It naturally fell to his share to make the bread for the household, which he did on the true Hecker principle. No one found at Brook Farm what he sought there. After nine months’ residence Mr. Hecker left that unpeaceful abode no wiser than he came, and went off with Thoreau to one of that philosopher’s extremely inexpensive places of residence. They experimented together upon the necessary cost of maintaining human life, and upon this point they actually arrived at a result. They discovered that they could live well enough upon nine cents a day each,— an island of certainty in a sea of doubt, but not large enough for a dwellingplace for two souls. Thoreau found it sufficient for himself for a while, and wrote a highly entertaining book relating his residence thereon.
Meanwhile, the brothers and friends of Mr. Hecker were pressing him to return and resume his place in the ever-expanding business. After much reflection, it occurred to him that a man having many other men in his employment might perhaps find a sphere for all his nobler aims in promoting their welfare. He may have been reading Carlyle’s fantastical Toryism in Past and Present, where this particular kind of impertinence is highly extolled. However that may be, he consented, about the time of his coming of age, to return to the ordinary life of men, and to take his proper place in the business, on two conditions : 1. That the three brothers should possess all things in common, have no separate purse ; and, 2. That he should have control of all the men employed. His brothers gladly consenting, he returned. He now tried in all ways known to him to benefit the workmen. He fitted up a nice room, and stored it well with books, periodicals, and games, in which he invited them to pass their leisure hours. He endeavored to give them good advice, as well as to comfort and encourage them. But it would not do. The attempt to teach others only brought home the more painfully to his mind how sorely he needed instruction himself. He was trying to feed other men, while himself was starving. Groping in the dark, blind, blind, blind, he was presuming to guide the steps of his fellows. If he asserted something respecting their duty, and they questioned it, he knew of no infallible standard to which he could appeal. He could not tell them what man’s duty really was, for he knew not why man was placed here, nor what placed him, nor whither he was bound, nor whether he was bound anywhither. He did not quite like to confess this to the men he was trying to help ; but if they pressed him close, he stammered and hesitated, and, if they pressed him closer, he was dumb. He persevered, however, for a year. Then he gave it up, and resumed his studies and wanderings. He was fully determined not to expend the whole of his energies, and most of his time, in earning that ridiculous sum of nine cents a day needed for keeping the bodily apparatus going. And as for guiding the men engaged in helping him get those nine cents, it would be time for him to teach them when he himself had found out something.
Fourierism came up about this time. Mr. Brisbane, a young man of fortune, returned from Europe full of the dreams and theories of Fourier ; which he proceeded to expound to the public in the young Tribune; and highly creditable it was, both to the man and to the newspaper, to do and risk so much in the discussion of such a subject. To err in the service of man is nobler than to be wise for one’s self. Mr. Hecker became acquainted with Mr. Brisbane, discussed Fourierism with him, and, without being able yet to point out the fatal defect in the system, felt that it would not work.
Up to this period — about the twenty-second year of his age —he had never so much as thought of looking into the Roman Catholic doctrine or practice. It had not crossed his mind that there could be anything worth considering in a creed only known to him as the one held by Irish laborers and servants, whom he had seen kneeling before the church doors on Sunday mornings. He was led to think of the Catholic Church through one of its fiercest enemies. About twenty-five years ago there was a preacher in New York named Brownlow or Brownlee, who conceived the brilliant and original scheme of gaining distinction in his profession by calling his Roman Catholic brethren hard names, and holding them up to the execration of mankind. New York was a very provincial place then, and there were still a considerable number of persons living there who could be taken in by charlatanry of that nature. So Brownlow, D. D., flourished for a while. He denounced the Catholic Church most fluently in the old Chatham Street chapel, and by and by set up a weekly paper called “The Downfall .of Babylon,” in which he continued the work. In this amusing periodical he inserted a good many extracts from Catholic works, from the decisions of councils held in the Middle Ages,and, especially, from those of the more recent Council of Trent. I can myself remember an interesting list of “anathemas ” in “The Downfall of Babylon,” which led me to expend a small sum at a book-stall, in the days of my youth, in the purchase of the volume containing the complete catalogue of the same, as pronounced by the council just named. It is really remarkable how uniformly denunciation and persecution help their objects. Almost any Catholic priest you meet can name “converts” who were made such by people of the Brownlow species, and by such events as the Philadelphia riots of 1844, in which one or two Catholic churches were burned. Such things excite inquiry, and when once a person has reached the point of suspecting that Catholic priests are not the designing and insidious monsters which the Brownlows say they are, a reaction is apt to set in, which is often strong enough to carry him into the ancient fold.
No one will be made a Catholic by reading such discourses as that which now has the honor to engage the reader’s attention, although it is written in a spirit of sincere respect for the most venerable arid the most indispensable of existing institutions. If you wish to make converts, you must adopt the Scarlet Woman style, and set on a mob to burn churches.
Mr. Hecker was an occasional hearer of the infuriate Brownlow, and an occasional reader of his “Downfall.” He read with particular interest, and with nascent approval, some of the decisions of the Council of Trent, especially the one that repudiates Luther’s doctrine called “justification by faith alone,” which had long appeared to him questionable, if not absurd and injurious. It seemed to him, or began to do so, that it was more congenial to human nature, and more reasonable, for man to work out his salvation, and to be able to merit something of his Creator. Even so recently as twenty-five years ago, many people still attached importance to these theological niceties, which now few unprofessional persons regard or know anything about. So long as all are agreed that good works are to be done, — as many of them as possible,— and bad works are to be left undone,— the modernized mind cares little for the precise theological process by which these duties are established. It was also pleasing to this young Protestant to know, that the Catholic Church, as a church, had uniformly opposed the doctrines named after Calvin, who burned his brother at the stake because that brother indulged in some vagaries of opinion upon subjects about which no man’s opinion has any value, since it cannot be founded upon knowledge.
But it was not these things that made this young inquirer after truth a Roman Catholic. The great conversions are not effected through the understanding. What he wanted was, to devote himself to something high and good; and he soon discovered that the strength of the Catholic Church lies in the very fact that it furnishes opportunities for every kind and every degree of self-sacrifice. Those dreams of “selling all that he had,” of “forsaking father and mother, brother and sister.” of dedicating his entire existence to noble labors, which his Protestant friends had pitied, derided, and disapproved, he found that the Catholic Church recognized, understood, welcomed, blessed, and employed. If a compassionate girl had a genius for nursing the sick ; if a gifted woman felt herself impelled to instruct the ignorant; if a man had within him an undeveloped power to rouse the torpid consciences of vicious men; if another thought he could serve his fellows best by a life of contemplation ; if another would go to the ends of the earth to civilize the savage ; if an heiress aspired to a nobler fate than such a marriage as an heiress usually incurs ; if a man of fortune desired to employ himself and his wealth in noble uses ; yes, and if a poor, deceived woman, placed in relations to the world inextricably false, longed to atone for the error of an hour by a lifetime of devotion, and to consecrate her very contrition to the service of her kind,—this ancient Church, he was assured, opened her bosom to all and each of these, and gave them the opportunity they craved. It was this that won the heart of the anxious wanderer, tired by his six years of perplexity and unrest. He was living with Thoreau in Massachusetts, in their usual abstemious manner, when the grand decision was made, and to Thoreau it was first communicated. The convert was then twenty-three years of age ; and, now that he is forty-seven, he still looks back to that moment as the most fortunate of his life ; for he has found in the service of the Church the complete realization of his early dreams.
He soon felt what our Roman Catholic brethren call a “ vocation ” to the priesthood, which was recognized as genuine, and he went to a convent in Germany to complete his preparation for the office. After his ordination he returned to his native land, and joined one of the numerous orders which play into and co-operate with the general work of the Church.
I have alluded to the fact that last November the largest Catholic church in New York was filled to repletion every morning at five o’clock. There was a “ mission” then going on in that church. We Protestants should call it a “revival,” or a “protracted meeting.” Whatever our Roman Catholic brethren do, as I have before observed, they do by means of an organization ; and that organization is made, by discipline and subordination, to work with the singleness of aim and the efficient force of one man. These Catholic revivals, or “ missions,” are conducted by orders of priests, specially endowed, trained, and organized for the purpose. Men gifted with a particular talent for holding attentive large congregations, and for recalling attention to neglected obligations, find their place and work in such orders as these. At the appointed time, the priests of the church in which a mission is to be held are reinforced by a delegation from one of these orders, and the great work of reviving religious feeling begins. The first mass is celebrated at five in the morning, for the convenience of the mighty host of laboring men and women ; and a moving sermon is preached to them before the kitchen fires are lighted, before the hodman’s breakfast is ready. This first vast audience is dismissed about a quarter past six, and at seven another assembles ; at nine, another ; and, in some cases, yet another at half past ten. In the afternoon confessions are heard, and every confessional is occupied ; for there are relays of priests for every part of the work. In the afternoon, too, classes of Protestants sometimes meet for the purpose of receiving special instruction in the faith and practice of the Church from one of the priests who, being himself a convert, is better able than his brethren to anticipate and answer their inquiries. In the evening, still the work goes on until ten; vespers, confessions, exhortations, fill up the evening hours, and fan the rising flame. The conscience-stricken Catholic is not tortured with doubts either as to what he ought to do or as to whether he has done it. The injunction of the Church is perfectly simple : If you are truly sorry for your sins, and mean to forsake them, confess to a priest, comply with his direction, joyfully accept absolution, and keep your resolve to lead a new life. As the “ mission ” continues, the feeling spreads and deepens, the confessionals are more and more beset, until all but the hopeless reprobates of the parish arc partakers of the influence. The mission may last ten days, two weeks, or a month, according to the size and circumstances of the parish; and when it is over the mission priests retire to their own abode, to refresh themselves by rest, study, and contemplation for another mission in a remote part of the diocese. Thus no one is fatigued, no one need lapse into formality and coldness.
It was in one of these orders that Father Hecker first exercised his vocation in his native land, and he labored in it in various parts of the country. But this mission work brought him into contact chiefly with Catholics, and he felt a particular yearning to bring into the fold of the Ancient Church such persons as he had known at Brook Farm, and in the intellectual circles of Massachusetts and New York, who, he felt, could alone attain peace in the Catholic Church, and only there find a way of bringing their high moral feeling to bear upon masses of their countrymen. He remembered, also, how completely and how long he had misunderstood the Church, and that, but for the accident of his falling in with the absurd “ Downfall of Babylon,” he might have lived and died in ignorance of its true character. He felt that there was need of a special organization for spreading abroad in the United States correct information respecting Catholic doctrine and practice. Convinced, too, that the day was near at hand when his Church was to be dominant in the United States, he desired to do something toward aiding Catholics themselves to rise to the height of their “vocation.” so that they might use in the noblest way the power which was about to fall into their hands. He had a conviction, and still has it, that there is something peculiarly congenial to Republican America in the stately decorums of his Church, — its gentle doctrine, its severe exactions, its brotherly equalities, and in the grand assemblage of all the fine arts in the Supreme Act, in which man pays homage to the divinity by exhibiting his own. In church, he remembered, Protestants say, “ Man is totally depraved.”At the political meeting the same Protestants assert, “ Man is capable of self-government.” There is no such contradiction, he maintains, in the Catholic mind. What the Catholic believes as a Catholic he can also believe as a citizen. “It is only since I have been a Catholic,” says Father Hecker, “that I have been a consistent and intelligent citizen of a republic.”
A new order then, he believed, was called for in the New World, and the scheme was approved by his ecclesiastical superiors. When our Roman Catholic brethren have resolved upon a project of this nature, they proceed to execute it in the most sensible and business-like manner. If the world is to be moved, the first requisite is to get a fulcrum for the lever ; for there is no use in having a lever unless there is a fulcrum on which to rest it. When a new order is to be founded, the first thing is to secure a small piece of the earth’s surface, which it can possess in fee simple, upon which its home and working-place can be permanently built. Now, observe how all the parts of this astonishing organization work together ! Father Hecker, provided with the due authorization, goes forth to raise the money needed to make the first payment upon a piece of ground. His previous missionary labors had brought him into favorable relations with a great number of parishes, and those labors he continued while begging the money for the new enterprise. From Quebec to New Orleans he went, rousing Catholics to confess and forsake their sins, and asking contributions to his scheme.
It is surprising what a talent our Roman Catholic brethren have for raising money. The Superior of the Dominican Community, which is now building a convent in New York, raised in the city alone, in two weeks, forty thousand dollars toward paying for the edifice. “ One man’s money is as good as another’s,” appears to be a familiar principle with our Roman Catholic brethren ; and, accordingly, some of our New York city officeholders are frequently called upon to disgorge a trifling portion of their booty,—a check for five hundred dollars, or some small matter of that kind. It has been discovered, also, that candidates for city offices have a tenderness for the orphan, a pride in the new cathedral, an interest in the publication of Catholic works, and a desire for the conversion of heretics, which causes them to adorn many subscription papers with their signatures. What an advantage over us our Roman Catholic brethren have in being able to tax sinners for the suppression of sin, and to use stolen money in inculcating honesty ! We poor Protestants never think of asking a gambler, a city politician, or a thief to subscribe money for the promulgation of principles which, if universally accepted, would ruin his trade. We place nearly the whole burden of sustaining virtue upon the virtuous !
Father Hecker raised the requisite sum, and reported himself and it to the Archbishop of New York. Immediately his special enterprise was made to co-operate with the general work of the diocese in such a way that each should aid the other directly, powerfully, constantly, and forever. On the outskirts of the city, between the ground now occupied by the Central Park and the Hudson River, a region then dotted with shanties and enlivened by goats, the Archbishop laid out a new parish, and appointed Father Hecker pastor of it ; who forthwith bought the best block of ground in the neighborhood for the site of the church and for the home of the new community. All gathers round a church — parochial school, parsonage, convent, college, seminary-— in the Catholic world ; this alliance, therefore, was nothing new, but in strict accordance with the system. Thus, a movement designed to convert Mr. Emerson and his friends, and the educated people of America, was made, first of all, to minister to the spiritual wants of the poorest and most ignorant people living in the Northern States !
It is this exquisite feature of the system,—this care for the very poorest and forlornest of human kind, — this caring for them first, just as we help children first at the table because they are the hungriest and least patient, — this sweet blending of the two extremes of human nature in the same project, — it is this that melts the heart and gives pause to the mind. If it were possible for me to be a Catholic,— which I think it is not,— it is this that would bring me to it If, in this city of New York, there is any such thing as realized, working Christianity, it may be seen in one of its poor, densely peopled Catholic parishes, where all is dreary, dismal desolation, excepting alone in the sacred enclosure around the church, where a bright interior cheers the leisure hours ; where pictures, music, and stately ceremonial exalt the poor above their lot; and where a friend and father can ever be found. And observe: these blessings are not doled out to them as charity ; these poor people have the privilege of paying for them and sustaining them. The church is their own ; the spacious and elegant school-house is their own ; the priest is supported and the whole expense of every part of the parish system is borne by them. And nothing else in the parish works well or economically but the church. The landlord gives them bad lodgings for high rents ; the city officials leave mountains of filth before their doors ; the water will not flow in the upper stories ; the grocery store is on so small a scale that its profits must be exorbitant. All in their lot, all in their surroundings, is mean, nasty, inefficient, forbidding, — except their church.
Ten years have passed. Upon the ground bought by Father Hecker we now see a large and handsome church, adorned with pictures much superior to those usually found in Catholic churches here. The fashionable quarter of the city has been drawing nearer to it, so that now the congregation is composed of those who live in brown-stone houses, as well as of those who assist in building them ; and the service is performed with an elegance and finish seldom seen in the United States. Adjoining the church is a spacious and commodious house for the Fathers and students belonging to the new community, who are called Paulists. The community now consists of six priests, twelve students, and four servants, — all but one or two Of whom are “ converts,i. e. Catholics who were once Protestants. The special work of this community is, to bring the steam printing-press to bear upon the spread of the Catholic religion in the United States. The matter published by the Catholic Publication Society, the new tracts, the articles of the monthly magazine called “ The Catholic World,”and the smaller volumes designed for Sunday-school libraries, are chiefly written or edited by the Paulist Fathers. Every Catholic church has connected with it several voluntary societies ; such as the Altar Society, of ladies, who take care of the decoration and purification of the altar ; the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, for the relief of the poor; the Society of the Holy Rosary, for simultaneous devotion; the Society of the Holy Infancy, for the promotion of missions in heathen lands ; the Father Mathew Society, for mutual protection against the poor man’s worst enemy ; the Sundayschool Society, of teachers, — all these Societies are so many organizations, ready-made, for the distribution of the tracts and volumes prepared by the Paulist Fathers in their pleasant retreat near the Hudson River.
This community, in one important particular, differs from other Catholic orders, — it exacts no special vows of its members. Father Hecker is an American, a patriotic American, an American who believes in American principles, — in short, he is what we used to call a good Jeffersonian Democrat. Being that in politics, he desires to be it also in religion ; for he is of opinion that a proposition which is true at the polls cannot be false before the altar. Jefferson says, All men are equals. True, says this American priest, because they are all brothers. Jefferson says, Man is capable of selfgovernment. True, adds Father Hecker, for man is made in the image of his Creator. This Paulist Community, therefore, is conducted on American principles : “ the door opens both ways" ; no man remains a moment longer than he chooses ; and every inmate is as free in all his works and ways as a son is in the well-ordered house of a wise father.
What a powerful engine is this ! Suppose the six ablest and highest Americans were living thus, freed from all worldly cares, in an agreeable, secluded abode, yet near the centre of things, with twelve zealous, gifted young men to help and cheer them, a thousand organizations in the country to aid in distributing their writings, and in every town a spacious edifice and an eager audience to hang upon their lips. What could they not effect in a lifetime of well-directed work ? Father Hecker lives so remote from the worldly anxieties, that he did not know the amount of his own salary until I told him. That is not in his department. He has nothing to think of but his work.
Father Hecker and his colleagues propose to convert us by convincing our reason. There is nothing which they deny with so much emphasis and vehemence as the common assertion, that the Roman Catholic Church demands of man the submission or abdication of his reason. Father Hecker, in his spirited and eloquent little book entitled “ The Aspirations of Nature,” is particularly strong upon this point. “Man has no right to surrender his judgment,” he tells us, “Endowed with free-will, man has no right to yield up his liberty. Reason and free-will constitute man a responsible being, and he has no right to abdicate his independence. Judgment, Liberty, Independence, these are divine and inalienable gifts ; and man cannot renounce them it he would.” Again he says : “ Religion is a question between God and the soul. No human authority, therefore, has any right to enter its sacred sphere. Every man was made by his Creator to do his own thinking.” And again: “ There is no degradation so abject as the submission of the eternal interests of the soul to the private authority or dictation of any man, or body of men, whatever may be their titles.” And again : “ Reasonable religious belief does not supplant Reason, nor diminish its exercise, but presupposes its activity, extends its boundaries, elevates and ennobles it by applying its powers to the highest order of truth.” And once more : “ There are several primary, independent, and authoritative sources of truth. Among others, and the first, is Reason.” These passages are in curious contrast to the wild denunciations of human Reason in which Luther indulges, and which Father Hecker quotes only to condemn : “ Reason, you are a silly blind fool ” ; “ Reason is the Devil’s bride, a pretty strumpet,” etc.
Our Paulist friends, too, are the furthest possible from being alarmed at the discoveries of science ; for they do not insist on the literal infallibility of the books composing the Bible. They would not feel that either the Church or the public morals were in danger if a bishop on the other side of the globe should catch Moses tripping in his arithmetic. With them, it is the CHURCH that is infallible, i. e. the collected, deliberately uttered moral sense of mankind, enlightened by the Author of it, and which is therefore for individuals the supreme, unerring conscience. Galileo would be in no danger now-a-days if his discoveries should appear to cast a reflection upon the statement that Joshua commanded the sun and moon, to stand still, and they obeyed him. “ The geologist,” observes Father Hecker in one of his most eloquent passages, “may dig deep down into the bowels of the earth till he reaches the intensest heats ; the naturalist may decompose matter, examine with the microscope what escapes our unaided observation, and unveil to our astonished gaze the secrets of nature ; the astronomer may multiply his lenses till his ken reaches the empyrean heights of heaven ; the historian may consult the annals of nations, and unriddle the hieroglyphics of the monuments of bygone ages; the moralist may expose the most delicate folds ot the human heart, and probe it to its very core ; the philosopher may, with his critical faculty, observe and define the laws which govern man’s sovereign reason,—and Catholicity is not alarmed ! Catholicity invokes, encourages, solicits your boldest efforts ; for at the end of all your earnest researches you will find that the fruit of your labors confirm her teachings, and that your genuine discoveries add new gems to the crown of truth which encircles her heaven-inspired brow.”
How interesting to observe the noble heart endowing with its own nobleness whatever it loves ! Kow resistless the influence of this large and free America, which transfigures all things and persons into a likeness to itself!
The question now recurs : Will the Paulist Fathers succeed in their darling object of bringing over a majority of the people of the United States to the ancient faith ? I can state some of the grounds of their own unbounded confidence in the coming supremacy of their church. First, its past progress has been startlingly rapid. In the year 1800 there were in the United States one Roman Catholic bishop, fifty-three priests, and about 90,000 members. There are now seven archbishops, forty bishops, three mitred abbots, about 3,100 priests, sixty-five Catholic colleges, fifty-six convents of men, one hundred and eighty-nine convents of women, and (according to Catholic calculation) 4,800,000 Catholic population. In other words, in 1800 the Catholics were something like one seventieth of the whole population of the United States ; they are now about one sixth ! They have also increased faster than the general population of the country. Thus, between 1840 and 1850 the general increase was thirty-six per cent ; the Catholic increase, one hundred and twenty-five per cent. Judging from the past, our Roman Catholic brethren conclude that in the year 1900 they will form one third of the population of the country, and perhaps a majority in the controlling cities and States of it. The property of the Church increases at a rate still more rapid ; since, in addition to the new purchases, the Church shares largely in the constant increase in the value of real estate. The only class of laborers in the country who always earn much more money than they need are domestic female servants ; and they spend most of their surplus either in direct contributions to the Church, or in bringing across the ocean new members. As a rule, a female servant can appropriate one half her wages to these objects if she chooses. How many of them choose to do so is known to housekeepers, and, still better, to bankers who sell small drafts on Ireland and Germany.
Then, again (as Father Hecker fails not to notice in his recent contribution to the Revue Générale, of Brussels, upon La Situation Religieiuse des États Unis), our Roman Catholic brethren claim to be better propagators than we can boast of being. It is obvious, they say, that Catholic families are more numerous than Protestant. This august and holy mystery of generation the ancient Church invests with sacramental dignity, and makes the marriage tie indissoluble. Father Hecker is wrong in attaching importance to the hateful thing called free-love, and to the kindred abomination that took to itself the name of Bohetnianism. Nothing ever excited a deeper or a more general loathing among Protestants than these things did. They had but few adherents, and were of no account. Mormonism, also, which he mentions in this connection, is an exceptional and transient triumph of one vigorous Saxon who was resolved to have a harem without taking the trouble of turning Turk. But the great number of divorces, the very frequent revolt of parents against the sublime duties of their lot, the murder of unborn offspring, the dying out of the old New England families, their ancient farms occupied by healthier Europeans, mostly Catholics, — these things, Father Hecker thinks, prove “ the complete impotence of Protestantism to impose and make respected the rein which public morality demands,” and announce the coming supremacy of a Church powerful enough to guard the issues of life. Now, the best mail is he who can rear the best child ; the best woman is she who can rear the best child. The whole virtue of the race — physical, moral, mental — comes into play in this most sweet, most arduous, most pleasing, most difficult of all the work done by mortals in this world. If, therefore, it is true that Catholics do this work so much better than Protestants, the case is closed ; we must all turn Catholics, or make up our minds to see the race continue to dwindle. This is, of course, too vast and awful a subject to be treated here. I will venture merely to express the conviction, that the first people to discover and successfully practise the art of rearing children in the new conditions of modern life will be persons who will seek for the requisite knowledge where alone it is to be found, — in science. These will communicate it to others, and then, perhaps, the various churches will adopt, hallow, and impart it.
Our Roman Catholic brethren dwell much upon the enormous expense of the Protestant system, as well as upon its signal inefficiency. Upon this point we may profitably consider what they say. Take the case of any of our vigorous country towns in the Northern States, and what do we find there ? Generally, six churches struggling to maintain themselves; six clergymen, all in the false position of having to instruct people upon whom their children’s bread depends ; six clergymen’s families, in the equally false position of being nominally at the head of society upon a thousand dollars a year and a donation-party ; six organizations attempting, with anxious feebleness, to do the work of one. And no Catholic can discern any great difference between them. He cannot see, for example, why the Methodists and the Episcopalians would not both gain enormously by re-uniting. One would gain the power and vitality of numbers, the other would gain in decorum and dignity. The Episcopal Church would no longer rest under the blighting stigma of being the rich people’s church, and the Methodists would be restrained from the spiritual riot of the camp-meeting. Then there are the Unitarians and the Jews, why should not they come together with the same mutual advantage ? The Jews would only have to give up one or two usages, the relics of a barbarous age ; the Unitarians would merely be required to make their sermons shorter and simpler, and adopt part of an ancient ritual. The Calvinistic sects, too. why should they keep apart? It looks to a reflective Catholic priest as though one grain of common sense would suffice to reduce the churches in all our villages one half in the next six months.
Our Roman Catholic brethren count upon important accessions through their convent schools, conducted by Sisters of Charity and by other orders, male and female. These schools are numerous, important, and increasing; and I think that one fourth, perhaps one third, of all the pupils in them are children of Protestant parents. Few persons are competent to judge of an institution who have never been inmates of it, because nothing is easier than to deceive completely all but the acutest visitors. Still, these Catholic schools have some advantages over most of ours, which catch the eye and captivate the imagination. We are apt to undervalue decorum, etiquette, manner, demeanor, and all the minor details of discipline and subordination. We are apt to forget that children were not included in the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. We trust them too much in some particulars, and too little in others. The teachers of Protestant private schools have seldom any vantage-ground of rank of a nature to aid them in securing respect and obedience. The principal is often an anxious and dependent man ; often he is grossly ignorant and vulgar ; while the subordinate teachers are poor and overworked, and without the means of gaining a proper ascendency over their pupils. Many of them, in these commercial cities, where nothing is sincerely honored except the bank account, come out of garrets every morning, to teach boys and girls who live in mock-palaces, and who have no conception of anything higher or more desirable than to live in a mock-palace. Have not I myself seen the insolent unlicked cubs of the Fifth Avenue and streets adjacent making the lives of gentlemen of learning and eminent worth bitter to them by their riotous contempt of authority and decency, and no teacher connected with the school in a position which justified his felling the young savages to the floor ? Have I not seen the principal of a boarding-school running an annual “ revival ” as a good business operation, and forbidding the poor dyspeptics under his charge to receive the visits of their parents on Sunday afternoons ?
Certainly, these convent schools, which are now so popular, are free from some of the objections and difficulties that lessen the usefulness of many of our fashionable private academies. Among the “ traditions ” of the Catholic Church, there is one to the effect that children are children, and have a right to be kept from doing themselves irreparable harm, — peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must. The teachers of the convent schools — all the resident teachers—are sufficiently independent of the good-will of the pupils, without being too much so for their own good. The convent possesses property, guards and maintains its inmates in their own home, and yet in a great degree it depends upon the income derived from the school. The garb of the nun, of the Christian Brother, of the Sister of Charity, as well as the serenity and dignity of their demeanor, hold impudence in check, and teach the young victims of successful speculation that there are distinctions other than those indicated by marble fronts and rosewood stairs. There is a certain civilizing influence, too, which comes of compelling the minute observance of the etiquette of each apartment and each situation.
I was present once when the young ladies attending the principal convent school upon the island of Manhattan entered their chapel, on Sunday afternoon, to see four or five of their number, who had become “converts " at the convent, baptized. It was a truly exquisite scene. No manager of a theatre ever arranged anything more effective for the stage ; and yet it was well adapted at once to impress the minds and tame the bodies of the three hundred romping girls who took part in it. Perhaps in no other way can I better show the reader what our Roman Catholic brethren and sisters are doing to attract the children of wealthy Protestants into their schools, than by briefly describing what I saw on that pleasant Sunday afternoon in May.
On the summit of a gentle slope, surrounded by trees and shrubbery, in a part of the island where the ancient, renowned loveliness of Manhattan has not been obliterated, and commanding a view of the Hudson, the Harlem, and the Sound, — the Palisades bounding the view on the west, the arches of the High Bridge visible in the north, the Sound stretching away to the northeast, and the city of New York spreading over all the southern half of the island, — stands the group of solid, but not uninviting, structures which form the establishment, chief among them the chapel. On this warm spring day all the doors stood open ; and it was evident, as soon as we alighted under the covered entrance, that something joyful was going forward. The parlors were full of happy parents, conversing with happy daughters, and a joyous hum pervaded all the rooms. The chapel is spacious, elegant, and very lofty ; and it is adorned with the usual large altar-piece, as well as with many smaller pictures. Nearly the whole space upon the floor is covered with plain black-walnut pews, without doors or cushions. These are for the young ladies ; visitors sit near the entrance, in pews raised a little from the floor ; the nuns have raised seats along the sides of the chapel,—each sister having a little pew to herself, and sitting with her face to the altar. At the appointed moment the pupils began to enter in procession, by the middle aisle, two by two, walking almost as slowly as it is possible to walk,—just moving, no more, and doing so in absolute stillness. Not an audible tread ; not a whisper ; not an eye upraised. All were dressed alike in pink summer dresses, with a white veil over their heads. They seemed to be softly floating in, and winding round into the black-walnut seats, like the tinted clouds of sunset. First came the little girls, who, upon reaching the middle aisle, bent one knee to the ground, and then glided slowly to the slow, soft music of the organ all down the aisle to the altar, where they divided, — one line moving to the right, the other to the left, and so curled round into the first pews, which they entered at the end nearest the wall. Thus the pleasing pageant was prolonged. As the procession continued, its interest both changed and increased, because the little girls were followed by larger, until we had the pleasure of looking upon young ladies in the bright lustre of their maturing charms. In every particular, this procession was arranged just as a Kemble or a Wallack would have arranged it. The same devices were employed, both to prolong and increase the pleasure of the spectator, which are employed upon a wellconducted stage. Especially were the most impressive objects of all reserved for the last. Finally came the young ladies who were about to be baptized, all clad in white dresses, and covered with a long white veil, each of them resting an arm upon the shoulder of a sister attired in black, — the venerable Superior of the Convent being one. Nothing was ever seen more picturesque or more affecting, nor anything more legitimate and proper. When all the pupils were standing in their pews, and the candidates for baptism had placed themselves before the altar, a sister who was in one of the side niches made a slight, scarcely audible click with a small instrument concealed in her hand. Instantly the whole pink cloud of girls softly knelt, and remained kneeling till another click was heard, when they nestled back to their seats. The black line of kneeling nuns along the sides of the chapel, the parterre of young loveliness on the floor, the altar blazing with lighted candles, made up a spectacle as pleasing as it was impressive. At the conclusion of the service the girls glided out in the same silence and slowness; and the newly baptized closed the train, leaning, as before, upon the shoulders of the sisters.
Ten minutes after, the whole three hundred pupils, except those who rejoined their parents in the parlors, were on the full romp in their large sittingroom, running, shouting, in unrestrained hilarity ! No Sunday gloom ! No goody, nauseous books ! No forced seriousness of demeanor!
The arrangements of the school seemed excellent. The best school-room I ever saw in a private school, the loftiest, airiest, most spacious and elegant, is the one belonging to this establishment. In one wing of the building are thirty music-rooms, so constructed that a girl may be practising in every one of them without disturbing or being disturbed. The sleeping-rooms are a happy compromise between the injurious privacy of a separate apartment and the injurious publicity of a common room ; and the means of ventilation appeared to be sufficient. Despite these excellent features and arrangements, the school may be a very bad one ; the minds of the pupils may neither be profitably exercised nor suitably fed ; yet every reader can see how such schools as this are calculated to captivate parents and allure children, Probably seven of their Protestant pupils out of ten become Catholics sooner or later.
Conversions to the Catholic faith, it seems, have been more numerous since the war than before. During the “mission ” recently held at St. Stephen’s, in New York, the number of converts was eighty. This is nothing to boast of, considering the extent of the parish and the duration of the “mission” ; nor, indeed, have converts ever yet come in with any great rapidity. It is the quality of the converts, not their numbers, of which we hear so much ; the expected rush has not yet begun. I am informed that a few educated persons in most city parishes are inquiring, with more or less earnestness, into the Catholic faith, and I am further assured that these inquiries generally end in conversion. Among the most frequent causes assigned by inquirers for dissatisfaction with their hereditary belief are the following : The difficulty of believing in the literal infallibility of the whole Bible ; the gloom of the Sabbatarian Sunday; the ban placed by many sectarians upon innocent pleasures, such as dancing and the drama, which tends to drive young people into guilty pleasures; the frenzies of the camp-meeting, more revolting, in some parts of the country, than the bowlings and whirlings of the Dervishes of Turkey ; the painful uncertainty which many persons feel, all their lives, whether their souls are “ saved ” or not; the dulness and barrenness of the public service, in which a duty is assigned to every clergyman which only one in a thousand can discharge, namely, the production of two powerful and entertaining sermons every seven days. The effect of the war in multiplying conversions is explained thus : The Catholic Church alone escaped division ; since the Catholic Church alone kept itself always and entirely aloof from the political questions involved. The spectacle of this unity in the midst of such contention and severance has proved captivating, I am told, to several educated minds. I have been assured by a distinguished Protestant general, who served in important commands during the whole war, that the only chaplains who, as a class, were of much utility in the field were Roman Catholic chaplains ; which he attributes to the fact, that they alone were accountable to ecclesiastical superiors. It may be that the exploits of some of our Protestant chaplains in the way of “ living on the country ” contrasted with the strict observance, by Catholic chaplains, both of military and ecclesiastical rule, had some effect upon observant Protestant minds.
Such are some of the reasons assigned for the unbounded confidence with which our Roman Catholic brethren count upon being the final and eternal Church of the United States. These reasons the reader is competent to estimate.
For fifteen centuries the Christian Church has undertaken to perform for all the inhabitants of Christendom two offices having no necessary connection, and therefore capable of being separated. One of these offices I have styled in a previous page, expounding the universe ; or, in other words, assuming to declare with authority what people must think concerning the origin of things, the destiny of man, the nature of the Supreme Being, and the general government of the world. During the past three centuries or more a conviction has been gaining ground, that no man or body of men is competent to do this. On such subjects it is now agreed among the intelligent part of mankind, that one man’s theory or conjecture, however interesting or consolatory it may be, cannot be binding on any other man. It is now agreed, among those whose thoughts finallybecome the thoughts of mankind, that on such subjects as these there can be no such thing as a guilty opinion. This part, therefore, of the Church’s service to Christendom is now nearly accomplished. It will be quite accomplished when the greater part of the inhabitants of Christian countries are made partakers of modern knowledge. During former ages, the Church did a kind and needed service, perhaps, in concealing from man his own ignorance. He now knows his ignorance ; he also knows the only method which can ever exist of lessening it ; and he knows, consequently, that in this matter priests cannot aid him.
But the other duty of the Church remains, — that of inculcating virtue, assisting regeneration, guiding, cheering, ennobling human life. This remains. This will never be needless as long as man is weak, virtue difficult, and vice alluring. Human reason is not equal to the task of forming an adequate theory of the universe ; but it is equal to the task of discovering how men ought to feel, and how men ought to act. No body of men can ever have the right to say what we ought to think concerning the “ Unknowable ” ; but any man, by a life of fidelity and charity, can acquire absolute certainty respecting the duties we owe to ourselves and one another.
The churches will be slow to assent to these truths, — familiar as they are to men of the world ; but the indifference of the public to everything “ doctrinal,” and its eager interest in everything “practical,” will continue to have its effect. Do we not see the Pope, who began his reign by establishing a new doctrine, end it by regulating the dress of women ? Do we not see a grand council of bishops rising superior to theological subleties, to consider the pernicious consequences of keeping up balls after midnight ? Have we not seen the leading Calvinistic clergyman of New York soaring above all Calvin’s gloomy crudities, and addressing himself to the nobler, higher, and more difficult work of throwing light upon the duties of employers to employed ? Poor work he made of it ; but everything must be pardoned in a beginner. It is easy to make a passable sermon upon points of “ doctrine ” ; but the moment you tackle such subjects as that, you have arrived at the hill Difficulty, and must prepare for a tough climb. All history, all political economy, all morals, are involved in that servant-girl question.
In every community are produced a few persons who are endowed with a special aptitude for discerning what is right and becoming. The problem is, By what means shall these be discovered, trained, and afforded an opportunity to act upon the general conscience ? For many centuries this was done by the Roman Catholic Church, and done, too, with a considerable degree of efficiency. It employed women in this vocation as well as men, children as well as the mature. It was, so to speak, a complete moral and religious apparatus. If the same office is still to be performed for mankind, I think the organization that performs it will have to study deeply and long the Roman Catholic Church, and borrow from it nearly every leading device of its system, especially these three,— celibacy, consecration for life, and special orders for special work.
Celibacy was a most masterly device; its inventor should be trebly canonized; it is the great secret of the efficiency of the Roman Catholic Church. An idea of such power and value will never be lost. I do not doubt that, in the future as in the past, men and women who fall in love with their species will often find it best to remain unmarried, since the proper rearing of a family is itself a career, and demands most of a life. Political economy has taken up this subject. The remarks upon it of Mr. John Stuart Mill1 should be attentively considered by humane persons. “ Little improvement,”he says, “can be expected in morality until the producing large families ” (in densely peopled countries) “ is regarded with the same feelings as drunkenness or any other physical excess. But while the aristocracy and clergy are foremost to set the example of this kind of incontinence, what can be expected from the poor ?" In Mr. Mill’s system, celibacy and married continence play a part of the first importance.
Destruction has gone far enough. The time is at hand when we can begin to think of reconstruction.
“Faith,” says Sainte - Beuve, “has disappeared. Science, let people say what they please, has destroyed it. It is absolutely impossible for vigorous, sensible minds, conversant with history, armed with criticism, studious of the natural sciences, any longer to believe in old stories and old Bibles. In this crisis there is only one thing to do in order to avoid languishing and stagnating in a decline, namely, to move rapidly and to march firmly on toward an order of reasonable, probable, corrected ideas, which beget conviction instead of belief, and which, while leaving to the vestiges of neighboring creeds all liberty and security, prepares in all new and robust minds a support for the future.”
This may apply to a few individuals in a few countries. If it were true ot all men of all countries, not the less would it be difficult to live purely, honorably, and wisely; not the less would it be necessary for each child to begin at the rudiments and acquire the art of living, almost as though it were the first creature whom temptation ever allured; not the less would selfcontrol be painful and long to learn. Who does not need help in this great matter of proper and happy living ?
Suppose, then, that all the churches are about silently and insensibly to abandon the attempt to regulate opinion. Suppose the word “orthodoxy” abolished. Instantly the long quarrel between the Heart and the Head of Christendom ceases ; Sainte-Beuve takes a Sunday-school class ; Mr. Emerson writes tracts. All that is efficient in the Catholic system will be preserved, and all that is good in the Protestant will be joined to it ; and no one will care to inquire in 1945, whether it is this all-conquering America which has become Catholicized, or the ancient Church which has become Americanized. Whatever there is of good and suitable in this Church, whatever there is of good and suitable in the universe, America will assuredly appropriate.
- Principles of Political Economy, Vol. I. p, 458, American edition.↩