Page images
PDF
EPUB

not meant too seriously. As Artemus Ward remarks, “ The foregoing is sarcasm.” He is a paid organizer of the higher life of a portion of the community. Together with the Y. W. C. A. Secretary, the Secretary of Associated Charities, and, perhaps certain other officials, some of whom may yet wait development, he represents the practical side of current Protestantism. This religion, to which our people have come without knowing it altogether, seems to be an unconfessional, demo cratic, anti-catholic humanitarianism. That is, it is a higher and clarified worldliness. As anti-catholic, which quality is the great legacy of Calvanism, it has no use for sacraments or pastoral ministrations. The Y. M. C. A. Secretary is really acceptable because he does not bother people in their homes nor go through the meaningless survivals of cast-off rites. Protestant ministers believe, in a sense, in their sacramental rites and try to shepherd their flocks. The Protestant laity find both these things irksome. The Y. M. C. A. Secretary, as Charles II said of Godolphin, is “ never in the way and never out of the way.” The Protestant minister is occasionally both.

Current Protestantism is unconfessional. One has often heard the laity say that they don't like doctrinal sermons. This is because they don't believe in the doctrines. People who believe in doctrines wish to understand them and like to have them explained. The laity do not believe in doctrines, which are, after all, only one survival of the Catholic tradition. Unitarians, whose theological ideas are not even remotely Catholic, but are drawn from current thought, are encouraged by their laity to preach doctrinal sermons. Most laymen do not wish even this kind of doctrine. It is too difficult. The Unitarians are an intellectual élite. The average layman wishes for something practical

If, however, doctrine is barred, what is the Protestant minister to preach about? In big cities, where large salaries attract as ministers gentlemen who are able and highly educated men of the world, it is possible to have sermons on current topics, social service, politics, literature, which shall be well thought out, ably presented, and carefully restrained for fear of offending vested interests. Such sermons are often worth

any man's attention. This is not possible in smaller towns and villages. What could the Vicar of Wakefield or Chaucer's parish priest have had to say about the great questions of their day! The country parson could explain the teachings and practice of the Catholic Church, but he cannot be expected to contribute much illumination to the subjects of the League of Nations, the threatened railway strike, or unemployment. Yet these and such things only are the interest of the laity. No wonder Protestants do not go to church. They do not wish sacraments, pastoral visits, or the kind of sermons the parson might give them. They cannot, except in large cities, pay for, and they never will be able to pay for, the music and the kind of sermons they wish for. The Y. M. C. A. Secretary does not preach and that is in his favor.

There is something undemocratic about the idea of a minister. His service is not an open platform. His relation to the church is superior. He tries to shake it off, but he cannot do so altogether.

“ The marks of the priest will

Inhere where they used to." The Y. M. C. A. Secretary is altogether democratic. He is not ordained in any sense. He is simply a highly paid employee.

So far as current Protestantism has anything like religious enthusiasm it is the enthusiasm for humanity. That is the Y. M. C. A. Secretary's job. Athletics, short talks on businessvirtues, brief Bible-classes suited to business problems, short democratic services of prayer and singing with a breezy undogmatic address, these things express well a higher and clarified worldliness. For let it be understood that worldliness is not necessarily viciousness. Temperance, purity, self-control, thrift, enable a man to rise in life. Prohibition makes for efficiency. Health is necessary to work, to success, to any enjoyment except a very temporary debauch. There is, of course, an ethic of worldliness. Some worldly persons neglect it. There is the lower worldliness. Unless they are very wealthy they will soon be miserable. Their rope will be short. The higher worldliness gives to success and pleasure a much longer rope. Of this higher worldliness, without doctrine, without supernatural vir

tues, the Y. M. C. A. Secretary is the representative, as the Protestant minister can be only in very exceptional circumstances.

There are other organized expressions of the higher wordliness than the Y. M. C. A. Without knowing much about them, we suppose that this is more or less the character of all the secret, fraternal orders. The Y. M. C. A., however, is open to all. The Associated Charities is supposed to care for the needy. The Y. M. C. A. is the great church of the new Protestantism. It must increase and the churches must decrease.

So, within the Protestant churches and beneath them, there is growing up a series of organizations of which the Y. M. C. A. is chief, which, for all practical purposes, are to take their place. Not that the Protestant churches will exactly cease to exist. They will probably go on, as they are doing now, growing less and less orthodox, dwindling more and more in numbers and influence, maintaining a front by federation and combination, led by certain brilliant men in the great cities, but replaced in the hearts of the great secularized laity by the practical, business organizing genius of the twentieth century.

Why should the Protestant minister care! If he has seriously studied theology and finds himself orthodox, let him cease to bewail his denomination, which, after all, is only an heirloom, and come into the Catholic communion,—the Anglican part of it, unless he has some special reason to be Roman,where orthodoxy has a fighting chance. If, on the other hand, he is heart and soul of the current, anti-catholic, democratic, unconfessional Protestantism, it would seem to be his duty to help on the twentieth century development, no matter what it costs him personally.

W

1

Spiritism and Anglican Teaching

on the Departed

Rev. HAMILTON SCHUYLER
E are observing in these remarkable post-bellum days a
re-awakening of popular interest in what used to be

called spiritualism and is now termed spiritism in enlightened circles. Men of standing in the scientific and literary world such as Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with a host of disciples and supporters claim to have discovered or perhaps rediscovered through a series of practical experiments and observations satisfactory to themselves that it is possible to establish communications with the dead. Table-rapping and the employment of spiritualistic mediums—methods which were formerly relegated to obscure and mostly disreputable individuals about whom clung the suspicion of deliberate fraud and imposture-have now it seems become entirely trustworthy, even proclaimed as scientific. Incredulity we are informed is an attitude no longer justifiable in the light of the body of evidence which is available. We are assured that the gulf which separates us from the abode of spirits has been bridged and given the proper conditions it is wholly possible for all of us to hold sensible converse with the souls behind the veil. The evidence which is submitted is definite and particularistic, if still somewhat inconclusive to doubting minds. Books are available, written by eminent persons, leaders and authorities in their several lines of effort, in which this evidence is set forth and which seems to satisfy and convince many who have hitherto been sceptical on the subject. Sludge, the medium, formerly despised as the vulgar manipulator of table-rappings and fradulent spook appearances is now hailed as the apostle of a true science and the humble forerunner of a group of intellectuals whose investigations have proved that he was working along sound lines. The declaration is made that the evidence is now complete and that all who are not hopelessly prejudiced will have to admit that communication with the dead is a fact established on a basis strictly scientific, no more to be questioned by the rational mind than any other fact which is provable to the intelligence through the senses.

The claim may conceivably have some elements of plausibility. I confess I have not personally investigated the phenomena very closely. I have read desultorily and with little interest articles which have appeared in the newspapers and magazines and I have remained unsympathetic and unconvinced.

That such men as Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others equally reputable suppose that they have discovered something of rare interest I am not prepared to deny. I do not doubt their sincerity nor question their general intelligence. Sir Oliver is an eminent scientist, the head of an English college, and Sir Arthur is I believe a physician by profession and is or was a writer of brilliant detective stories by choice and talent. Personally I regret that he has abandoned fiction in order to give himself to the investigation of what he regards as facts. I prefer him in his old form as a romancer, an unraveller of the mysteries of crime, rather than in his present role as an expert in the occult and the unearthly. I can accept with entire conviction what he writes about the doings of the fascinating Sherlock Holmes, but I remain coldly sceptical when he describes the conditions pertaining to the souls in the under world. According to Sir Arthur all of us or nearly all of us are going to be happy in the hereafter for the way thither is broad and easy. It seems he has surveyed the territory and knows all about its topography and the state and occupation of its inhabitants, which are it would appear strangely similar to those prevailing on earth except that in the other world the spirits are not subjected to association with those who are uncongenial to them. Thus husbands and wives who did not agree while here in the flesh are there it seems under no compulsion to remain in the matrimonial state, but are quite free to select their true soul affinities. If the divorce statistics are correct that is exactly what is happening on this unregenerate earth in numberless instances. Few apparently are willing to wait until they die before breaking the unhappy bonds which unite them, but seek a present and quick relief.

The heaven revealed to Sir Arthur is doubtless the sort of heaven which meets his own personal ideas of bliss, but it might not meet yours as it certainly does not mine. In the case of

« PreviousContinue »