« PreviousContinue »
grounds. The gardener and the grocer cannot understand much about theology. But it is just possible that, before it is too late, they may feel the need of an authoritative system of morals.
The essential principle of the Reformation was private judgment. The formal principle of the Reformation was the literal infallibility of Scripture. This formal principle for some ages preserved the theology and ethic of authority and held the essential impulse within narrow limits. The Protestant scholarship of the nineteenth century, being chiefly German, destroyed this formal principle of literal Scriptural infallibility with the fine edge of the Higher Criticism. Since that, there has been no external authority whatever. So, when the pastor was picking and choosing, the people picked and chose. Naturally the individual pastor could not impose himself as much of an authority. The people ran away with the church and the pastors followed them helter skelter.
The people, who were gardeners and grocers and iron-masters and bankers, could not be theologians. That is out of the question, particularly in this age, when they only read the newspapers, only talk business or politics or sport, and seek recreation only in frivolous amusements. So, when the people came to pick and choose, they chose what they liked, not what they reasoned out. Some chose Social Service or Prohibition, some chose good manners or divorce, many chose race-suicide because it left them more money for the pictures, and for automobiles and for immodest, but expensive clothing. The pastors cannot thunder against these things, because thunder comes from the clouds. The pastors have renounced the clouds of supernaturalism and mysticism. They have renounced authority. There is nothing left to do, but to follow and amuse the congregation with current thought. Meanwhile socialism ferments in the parish house, plutocracy controls in the vestry, worldliness balances at the altar, and every one realizes that there is no religion. Of course, every generation sees a new congregation, drawn in by the attractiveness of the social and aesthetic and popular sides of the institution. Race-suicide does for the old congregation.
What Protestant pastor preaches against the moving pictures, the immodest dress, the automobiles and other forms of extravagance of his congregation? These are the things by which the intelligent, high-spirited, handsome, efficient American Middle Class is ruining itself. Does no one love these people enough to save them? They are lovable and, unless they turn and are converted, they are doomed; doomed in this world whether they are in the next or not.
The Puritans would have seen to it. They would have put the immodestly dressed women in the stocks, shut up all the moving picture houses, restricted automobiles to men who had a large income, and threatened race-suicide with hell. Calvinism was, at least, a religion and hence a morality. The current Protestantism is no religion and hence no morality. We do not believe that Puritanism can be recalled from the dead past. So we see nothing for our people but the choice between some form of Catholicism and their extinction. Where are the doctrines of humility, lowliness, obedience, modesty, chastity, and apostolic poverty? The Sermon on the Mount is buried far deeper, denied far more stubbornly, than the Nicene Creed. Many who would admit that the Nicene Creed may stand for the truth—in some way they don't understand-would despise the idea of being poor in spirit; would refuse to mourn for anything unless they lost money; would consider meekness impractical; would hunger and thirst after nothing but amusement and luxury; and, as to the blessing on the pure in heart, they would recognize divorce and approve race-suicide. Of course, people who are, as the vulgar phrase is, "up to date” will never be persecuted. Let those who claim they have given up the dogmas of the Church for the ethics of Jesus just study the ethics of Jesus. The truth is, they have clung to a few of the dogmas of the Church, but the ethics of Jesus-they have even forgotten what that is.
Current Protestantism has lost all power to control morality just because it has abandoned authority. The authoritative dogma reflects itself in morality in every case. It does so in Catholicism. It did so in Puritanism. In current Protestantism we can have nothing but current thought reflecting itself in current conduct. It is the ecclesiastical shadow of the world. Any unusual vice or crime that the world does not popularize can, of course, be condemned from the pulpit, and is so condemned. Whatever, for the moment, is the great besetting sin of civilization cannot be attacked. Protestantism cannot actually condemn worldliness, for the shadow cannot condemn its substance.
Was this not always so? Was not the Church always a reflection of current ideas? Yes and no. In every age and country, worldliness will tend to penetrate and bend a great Church. But when the Church is founded on the rock of dogma, she possesses an inner strength that combats this penetration and returns to mould worldly society to her mind. This action and reaction is apparent in Catholicism and Puritanism, but there is very little reaction against the world in current Protestantism, which lacks any principle of authority.
If religion rejects the principle of religious authority, it is naturally difficult for her to support any other authority. The family authority weakens and so does the authority of the state. The position of woman in the family has become a menace. Catholicism gives woman a high place, but it is the Catholic type of woman. Current society gives the highest place to the woman as such, the natural woman; not the type of meekness, obedience, purity, holiness, but to Eva and her daughters as they are. No wonder society is menaced by divorce, by trial marriage, by racesuicide, by financial extravagance, and by disorder among the children and in the household.
The authority of the state is almost gone in Europe, Ferrero tells us.
This is partly the result of the war. Socialism, communism, revolution, however, were nourished long before the war. In America the authority of the law seems weaker. Socialism, before the war, was certainly growing.
Meanwhile, the people do not really care for this Protestantism which reflects their moods. No wonder they tell the parish visitor they can be just as good at home, since their church contains nothing but the ecclesiastical shadow of their homes. In all Protestant countries church-going had greatly decayed, even be fore the war. This was most noticeable in Germany, where Protestantism was most perfect. In no Protestant country has there been any noticeable revival of church-going since the war. When Protestantism relegated the great sacramental worship of the Gospel to the early service before breakfast or to rare intervals, at the end of a long, tiresome service, once a month, she re moved the chief religious reason for going to Church. One can read a better sermon at home than one is likely to hear in most churches.
Luther attacked indulgences because they interfered with his penitents. That is a strong argument against indulgences. Protestants, however, have gone further and abolished the Sacrament of Penance. The moral results have been fatal for Protestants have come to give up, not only the Sacrament of Penance, but the idea of repentance. Repentance, however, is fundamental to any Christian ethic. It is the preaching of St. John Baptist and of the first sermon of St. Peter.
We have just completed four hundred years of Protestantism. Yet the real old Protestantism died out about a century ago. The fruits of Protestantism are ripening today; a dying race, the exaltation of the natural woman; divorce and the breakdown of authority in the family and in the state; waste, luxury, greed, plutocracy and Socialism, secularism and the decay of religion. These seem to be the moral results of Protestantism. A tree is known by its fruits.
A Confirmation on the Mud
(From the Diocese of Nassau, Bahamas.)
CONFIRMATION on the mud! What will this convey to most of our readers? Those who have made any study of the
conditions of our various Missionary and Colonial dioceses will know that one of the chief industries of the Diocese of Nassau (Bahamas) is sponge-fishing. The principal sponging ground is the great shallow bank west of Andros, separated from the coast of Florida by the Gulf Stream, known as "The Mud."
From November till June the whole of this vast expanse is dotted with sails—30-ton schooners, sloops and sail-boats—when the great sponge fleet is at work. Every one of these vessels is crammed to far more than its utmost capacity with boats, stores, decaying sponges and lightly-clad spongers, not to mention the inevitable sponger's dog. The “Livonia," which is now the Bishop's yacht, has only recently been converted from a sponging schooner; she is registered as 36 tons; she is 58 feet over all, her beam is 19 feet, yet in her sponging days she carried 16 small boats on deck and two men to every boat, besides the cook-talk of the packing of sardines! While the vessels are anchored on the sponging ground the small boats are out from sunrise to sunset, one man sculling, the other crouching over his glass-bottomed bucket peering down onto the floor of the sea with a prong to hook up the sponges he sights.
Those who are familiar with the domestic article of the bathroom may not have realized that the sponge on the sea-floor is a living creature. It is a black and greasy object when it is hooked up and the processes of its death and decomposition are distinctly trying to any but well-trained nostrils. The Bishop's Captain, Napoleon Forbes, states tersely that if you can stand a cross between the smell of bad fish and that of corpses you can stand sponges. The Bishop and Canon Webb however found themselves able to endure it, the latter by recollections of a certain foreign cheese which he was obliged to keep hung outside the window at home; the former by a strong act of self-suggestion connected with the odor of shrimps multiplied to the nth degree.
Canon Webb is rector of the northern half of the great island of Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas group. Ordained as a deacon to that parish by Bishop Edward Churton in 1893, he is now just entering upon the 29th year of his service there. He is the ideal out-island priest; he knows the characters of his people through and through; while never relaxing the high standard of religion and morals which he sets before them, he is understanding and sympathetic with their weaknesses and failings and his keen sense of humor carries him through where many men would grow impatient and despondent. Perhaps his personality largely accounts for the remarkable fact that the communicants' roll of his parish has generally contained more men than women.
Yet like many other out-island priests he has constantly lamented the fact that his hopes are so continually disappointed through so many of his candidates for confirmation being away at sea just at the time when the Bishop has visited the parish for confirmation. So, perhaps year after year, candidates who have been quite ready for confirmation have missed their chance.
Former Bishops and Priests have made visits to the Mud from time to time to spend a Sunday with the sponge fleet, the Holy Eucharist has been celebrated on these occasions and sermons