After Holiness the People Yearn

The religious tendencies of the American people are manifest. They cling to Protestantism in spite of its shifting doctrines and shambling organizations because it offers them the sovereignty of Jesus Christ for their soul’s salvation. According to the last census there are about thirteen millions of Protestant church members, and a moderate estimate of “adherents” would not fall short of a number three times as large.
Nothing can account for this condition but the prevalence of a powerful religious sentiment, dominant, almost universal, among our non-Catholic countrymen — a determination to secure eternal happiness by obedience to the Gospel of Christ. The entire nation is eager for religion. Earnest and virtuous men and women can win adherence everywhere to any form of Christian belief.

It is not mainly by family traditions, nor by social influences that the Protestant churches are kept up. It is by downright appeals to the religious sense of the people and by honest personal choice. The more worldly attractions are but adjuncts to the deep stirrings of religious aspirations.

It is pitiful to see how this fertile soil is wasted. Apart from the errors of the common run of sects, the most grotesque delusions gather followers if advocated by earnest men.

[…]

Having repudiated polygamy the Mormons enter the field with no small chance of success. If this preposterous and till recently unclean sect, can win converts in a typical American community, what cannot the Church of the living God do? And why do the Mormons succeed? Not because of their errors, but because of their earnestness, and because of the fragments of religious truth they have. “Holiness to the Lord!” is their motto, and after holiness the people yearn. Only brigands or monsters are drawn together by untruth or vice. Our fellow-countrymen are allured to the various sects by promise of union with God, made to them by deeply earnest missionaries — union with God by pardon of sin and the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many of them, indeed, if not most of them, change from one erroneous view of the great problems of life to another, and keep onchanging. But there is every reason to believe that the Catholic Church with its unity of truth, its perfect rest of soul in the pardon of sin, its twofold union with God in the outer gift of the Holy Eucharist and inner touch of the Spirit, would win and hold them all. But this fulness of truth must be made known to them as their own sects have been — urged, pressed, thrust upon them by every missionary medium, and chiefly by that most resistless of all influences, earnest and devout men and women.

Everywhere in the rural districts (and this article does not refer to the larger cities) one hears of the missionaries of the various Protestant denominations. They hold meetings in the school-houses, they invite all to attend, and they plead for the love of Christ like men on fire. Nothing draws like Christ preached by a zealous man or woman. Then these rural “evangelists” go to the houses of the people, crave leave to pray with them and to read the Bible to them. The result is an increase of membership in the nearest church and often the formation of a new congregation. They organize the society, a minister is engaged, the country church is built, and so they continue for some years. But after a time, their children, if not themselves, are captured in the same way by a rival denomination, a Baptist missionary, a Methodist, a Campbellite, a Seventh-day Adventist, a Mormon, while you and I, brethren of the Apostolic Clergy, stand by and are content to laugh at the grotesque antics of our deluded brethren, as they leap up for the fruit of the tree of life and grasp only the leaves. Would that all of us loved the fruit as earnestly as many of them love the leaves.

— Walter Elliott, American Ecclesiastical Review,
Vol. I (XI.), September 1894, no. 3.

From the Sky

And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the sky, and they believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear.

— Christopher Columbus in his Letter to the Sovereigns (1493),
Letter of Columbus, on the islands of India beyond the Ganges recently discovered,”
First Voyage (15 February – 4 March 1493).

A Big Electric Blanket?

Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.

— The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, ed. Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1979), p. 229.

Where All the Women are Strong, All the Men are Good Looking…

The inhabitants of this Island are for the most part of a good stature, strong and nimble, of a good complexion, live verie long, much addicted to hunting, arching, shooting, swimming, wherein they are expert. Their language for the most part is Irish, which is very empathetick, and for its antiquity Scaliger reckons it one of the material languages of Europe. They are good lovers of all sorts of mussick — have a good ear.

As to their women they are very modest, temperet in ther dyet and apparell, excessively grieved at the death of any near relation.

All the inhabitants here have a great veneration for their superiour, whom with the King they make particular mention of in ther privat devotion. Besides ther land rents, they ordinarilie send gratis to their superiours of the product of ther lands of all sorts. They honour ther ministers in a high degree, to whose care, under God, they owe ther freedom from idolatrie and many superstitious customes. Their traditions, wherein they are verie faithful, gives account that this Isle has been in time of the Danes and since, the scene of many warlik exploits. Some of ther genealogers can neither read nor writt, and yett will give an account of some passages in Buchanan his Chronicles, Plutarches Lives; yea, they will not onlie talk of what has passed in former ages, but in ther pedigree will almost ascend near Adam, as ifthey had an Ephemerides of all ther ancestors’ lives. They treat strangers with great civility, and give them such as the place does afford without ever demanding any payment. There are among them who excell in poetrie, and can give a satyre or panegyrick ex tempore on sight upon anie subject whatsomever.

Description of Sky from The Spottiswoode Miscellany: A Collection of Original Papers and Tracts, Illustrative Chiefly of the Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, Spottiswoode Society, 1845.

Cæsar on the Druids

Druid’s Oak at Burnham Beeches.

Chapter XIII

Throughout all Gaul there are two orders of those men who are of any rank and dignity: for the commonality is held almost in the condition of slaves, and dares to undertake nothing of itself, and is admitted to no deliberation. The greater part, when they are pressed either by debt, or the large amount of their tributes, or the oppression of the more powerful, give themselves up in vassalage to the nobles, who possess over them the same rights without exception as masters over their slaves. But of these two orders, one is that of the Druids, the other that of the knights. The former are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion. To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction, and they [the Druids] are in great honor among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments; if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. Those who have been thus interdicted are esteemed in the number of the impious and the criminal: all shun them, and avoid their society and conversation, lest they receive some evil from their contact; nor is justice administered to them when seeking it, nor is any dignity bestowed on them. Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is pre-eminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms. These assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul. Hither all, who have disputes, assemble from every part, and submit to their decrees and determinations. This institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying it.

Chapter XIV

The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and [many] are sent to it by their parents and relations. They are said there to learn by heart a great number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to writing, though in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they use Greek characters. That practice they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons; because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn, to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that, in their dependence on writing, they relax their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory. They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another, and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valor, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.

– Gaius Julius Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, Book 6, Chapters 13 & 14.

* * *

13. In omni Gallia eorum hominum, qui aliquo sunt numero atque honore, genera sunt duo. Nam plebes paene servorum habetur loco, quae nihil audet per se, nullo adhibetur consilio. Plerique, cum aut aere alieno aut magnitudine tributorum aut iniuria potentiorum premuntur, sese in servitutem dicant nobilibus: in hos eadem omnia sunt iura, quae dominis in servos. Sed de his duobus generibus alterum est druidum, alterum equitum. Illi rebus divinis intersunt, sacrificia publica ac privata procurant, religiones interpretantur: ad hos magnus adulescentium numerus disciplinae causa concurrit, magnoque hi sunt apud eos honore. Nam fere de omnibus controversiis publicis privatisque constituunt, et, si quod est admissum facinus, si caedes facta, si de hereditate, de finibus controversia est, idem decernunt, praemia poenasque constituunt; si qui aut privatus aut populus eorum decreto non stetit, sacrificiis interdicunt. Haec poena apud eos est gravissima. Quibus ita est interdictum, hi numero impiorum ac sceleratorum habentur, his omnes decedunt, aditum sermonemque defugiunt, ne quid ex contagione incommodi accipiant, neque his petentibus ius redditur neque honos ullus communicatur. His autem omnibus druidibus praeest unus, qui summam inter eos habet auctoritatem. Hoc mortuo aut si qui ex reliquis excellit dignitate succedit, aut, si sunt plures pares, suffragio druidum, nonnumquam etiam armis de principatu contendunt. Hi certo anni tempore in finibus Carnutum, quae regio totius Galliae media habetur, considunt in loco consecrato. Huc omnes undique, qui controversias habent, conveniunt eorumque decretis iudiciisque parent. Disciplina in Britannia reperta atque inde in Galliam translata esse existimatur, et nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa proficiscuntur.

14. Druides a bello abesse consuerunt neque tributa una cum reliquis pendunt; militiae vacationem omniumque rerum habent immunitatem. Tantis excitati praemiis et sua sponte multi in disciplinam conveniunt et a parentibus propinquisque mittuntur. Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur. Itaque annos nonnulli vicenos in disciplina permanent. Neque fas esse existimant ea litteris mandare, cum in reliquis fere rebus, publicis privatisque rationibus Graecis litteris utantur. Id mihi duabus de causis instituisse videntur, quod neque in vulgum disciplinam efferri velint neque eos, qui discunt, litteris confisos minus memoriae studere: quod fere plerisque accidit, ut praesidio litterarum diligentiam in perdiscendo ac memoriam remittant. In primis hoc volunt persuadere, non interire animas, sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios, atque hoc maxime ad virtutem excitari putant metu mortis neglecto. Multa praeterea de sideribus atque eorum motu, de mundi ac terrarum magnitudine, de rerum natura, de deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant et iuventuti tradunt.

— C. Iuli Cæsaris, Commentariorum de Bello Gallico, Liber Sextus, xiii & xiv.

Reason and Truth Will Prevail

Samuel Johnson LLD MA.

The religion of the Islands is that of the Kirk of Scotland. The gentlemen with whom I conversed are all inclined to the English liturgy; but they are obliged to maintain the established Minister, and the country is too poor to afford payment to another, who must live wholly on the contribution of his audience.

They therefore all attend the worship of the Kirk, as often as a visit from their Minister, or the practicability of travelling gives them opportunity; nor have they any reason to complain of insufficient pastors; for I saw not one in the Islands, whom I had reason to think either deficient in learning, or irregular in life: but found several with whom I could not converse without wishing, as my respect increased, that they had not been Presbyterians.

The ancient rigour of puritanism is now very much relaxed, though all are not yet equally enlightened. I sometimes met with prejudices sufficiently malignant, but they were prejudices of ignorance. The Ministers in the Islands had attained such knowledge as may justly be admired in men, who have no motive to study, but generous curiosity, or, what is still better, desire of usefulness; with such politeness as so narrow a circle of converse could not have supplied, but to minds naturally disposed to elegance.

Reason and truth will prevail at last. The most learned of the Scottish Doctors would now gladly admit a form of prayer, if the people would endure it. The zeal or rage of congregations has its different degrees. In some parishes the Lord’s Prayer is suffered: in others it is still rejected as a form; and he that should make it part of his supplication would be suspected of heretical pravity.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

Multiplyed, Corrupted and Debaucht

And now to gather up all, Religion being thus multiplyed, corrupted and debaucht, being made the Game of the Tongue, and the Frolick of Imagination; phantastick in its principles, sordid in its practices, separated from the foundation of a vertuous life, and made to serve the ends of Pride and Avarice; what was like to follow, according to the nature and order of things, but Atheism and contempt of all Religion? And when one sayes, here’s Religion, and another sayes, there’s Religion; a third will contemningly ask, where’s Religion, and what’s Religion? When the Heathen Deities were so multiplied, that every thing was made a God; Protagoras, Diagoras, and others, first began to question, and next to affirm that there was NONE. Religions have been multiplied in our dayes, as much as Gods in theirs; and we have seen much of the same fatal event and issue. They made their Gods contemptible and vile, by deifying things that were so, and we had no less detracted from the credit of Religion, by bringing it down to things of the lowest and vilest rank and nature. Our Idolized Opinions were no better than their Garlick and Onyons. The diseases of the Mind, Phrensie and Enthusiasm, which our dayes have worshipped, were no better than those of the Body which they adored. And they never raised Altars to worse Vices than REBELLION, FRAUD, and VIOLENCE, which our Age hath hallowed and made sacred. So that notwithstanding all the glorious pretensions of those Times, Religion was, among many, taken off all its Foundations, and the World prepared for Atheism. The Follies and Divisions of one Age, make way for Atheism in the next.

— A Loyal Tear Dropt on the Vault of our Late Martyred Sovereign in an Anniversary Sermon on the Day of His Murther. By Joseph Glanvill. London: Printed for James Collins, 1667.