« AnteriorContinuar »
ple effort of his will. Forms of government and forms of social organization, then, are at best indifferent; socialism a folly, and socialists fools. The Creator is good, and Prov
, idence is wise and just. All external events take place by the express appointment of God. If, then, a single event were evil or the occasion of evil to a single individual, save through that individual's own fault, the goodness of the Creator would be denied, and the wisdom and justice of Providence could not be asserted. No doubt, there is evil in the world, far more heart-rending, far more terrific, than socialists depict, or even conceive; but to no man is there or can there be evil, but his own sin, which is purely his own creation. Since no man is obliged or compelled to sin, since sufficient grace is given unto every man to enable him to break off from sin and to become just, every man can, as far as himself is concerned, put an end to all evil, aud secure all good, even the supreme good itself, at any moment he pleases. Nothing, then, is more idle than to pretend that political and social reforms,-touching the organization of the state or of society, we mean, not those which touch administration,—are or ever can be necessary as the condition of averting any evil or procuring any good.
We agree, as we have said, that our Lord came to found a new order of things,-new in relation to that which obtained among the heathen,—and that he contemplated the good of the millions here as well as hereafter; we agree, nay, we hold, that he did propose the amelioration of the lot of man even while in this world,—and not of one class only, but of all classes. But how? By his new order, or, irrespective of it, by merely calling upon the people themselves to do it through political and social organization. If you say the latter, you place him in the old order, and class him with the old heathen philosophers. If he asserts simply man's dependence on nature and social organization, he founds no new order, for this dependence was the precise basis of the old order. Mankind always had nature and social organiza
. tion, and to tell them to look to these for their good was to tell them nothing new; for this was precisely what they had done, and were doing. The evil which oppressed the millions was in this very dependence, and what was needed was deliverance from it, --some method, so to speak, of attaining to our true good in spite of nature and of social organization. If, then, he retains that dependence, and does not provide this method, what has he done, or what can be do, which a heathen philosopher might not have done and wherein is what you call the Christian order different from heathenisin ? You say, he came to found a new order for the amelioration of mankind; but how can you say this, if you are to look for the amelioration, which you say he authorizes you to seek, not from any new order, but from nature and social organization, which is precisely what the heathen themselves did ?
If you say, on the other hand, as you must, if you assert the new order at all, that our Lord ameliorates the lot of mankind by his new order, then you must concede that it is only in and through that order that the amelioration is to be effected. Then you are to look for it only as you come into and conform to that order. Now, according to that order, the millions are to be blessed, are to find their true happiness, not in following nature, but in resisting it,—not in possessing temporal goods, but in renouncing them, not in pride and luxury, but in humility, poverty, and mortification, not in being solicitous for what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or wherewith we shall be clothed, "for after all these things do the heathen seek” (St. Matt. vi. 31-34),-in a word, not in seeking any of these things, but in seeking first, that is, as the end of all seeking, the kingdom of God, and his justice, and then "all these things shall be added unto us. This is the order which our Lord has established. He gives us all needed grace to come into this order and to comply with all its demands, and, if we come in and so comply, he promises us all good, a hundred fold in this world, and everlasting life in the world to come.
Now, as you concede that our Lord came to establish a new order of things, and must concede, that if he blesses the millions at all, it must be in and by this new order, you are bound to admit that it is only by complying with its requisitions and placing ourselves under its influence, that our good in this world, as well as in the next, is attainable. Then all your efforts by political and social changes, which imply a recurrence to the old order, a reliance on the principles of the heathen world, can only remove you further and further from your true good. The only way to attain that good must be to begin by an act of renunciation, the renunciation of heathenism, of the world, of self, or, what is the same thing, an act of unconditional surrender of ourselves to God. This, if you admit Christianity at all, is the indispensable condition of all good. The heathen sought their good from nature and social organization, and found only evil. We are to seek
not even our own good, that is, for the simple reason that it is our good, but God himself, and God alone, and then we shall find our good in him who is the sovereign good itself. No doubt, this complete renunciation of self is any thing but pleasing to self; but we are never required to do it in our own strength. God always gives us grace to make it easy, if we will accept it. Moreover, we are required, in this, to do, at least, no more for God than he has done for us.
We are required to give up all for him. But he gave up all for us. He made himself man, took upon himself the form of a servant, became poor, and obedient unto death, even unto the death of the cross for us; and can we not, therefore, give up ourselves for him, especially when what we give up it were an injury to us to hold back! If we give ourselves to him, he gives himself to us. He can give no more than himself, and can we ask or expect more than an infinite God can give? Here is the condition, and it is only, under the order God has established, by complying with this condition that there is good for us here or hereafter; and we know, also, that, by complying, all evil is removed, and all conceivable and more than all conceivable good is obtained. The true course to be taken, then, is perfectly plain, and may be taken without hesitation; for he who has promised is able to fulfil, and will keep his word.
Of course we do not pretend, that, by conforming to the Christian order, the political and social equality contended for will be obtained ; we do not pretend that there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more poverty, no more hunger or thirst. These things will remain, no doubt, as facts; but we have shown that they are not necessarily evils, and that their removal is not necessarily a good. These things have their uses in this world, or they would not be suffered to exist. To the just they are mercies, salutary penance, or occasions of merit,-purging the soul from the stains of past transgressions, or giving it an occasion to rise to higher sanctity and a higher reward. To the sinner they may be the occasion of evil; but, if so, only because he does not receive them in a proper disposition, and because by his malice he refuses to profit by them. But even to him they are no more hurtful than their opposites,—often not so hurtful. By conforming to the Christian order, all so-called temporal evils, in so far as evil, are removed, and all socalled temporal goods, in so far as good, are secured; and this is all that can be asked.
But we are told, this is all, no doubt, very well, very true, very pions ; but the age does not believe it, the people will not receive it. The people demand political and social reforms; and we must conform ourselves to their state of mind, or we can have no influence with them. Let the church sanction them in their movements for liberty, equality, and brotherhood, and then they will listen to her teaching, and profit by it.
If there is any truth in this, it proves what we have all along been endeavoring to establish,—that the age is social. istic, and that socialism is unchristian, nay, antichristian. Those, then, who urge the church to make an alliance with the people in their movements, to baptize socialism, and even give it Holy Communion, or who suppose they can without detriment to religion sympathize with these movements, we leave to defend themselves, as best they may. We have no skill to frame an apology for them, unless it be that they cherish the spirit of the age instead of the spirit of the church, which is only a condemnation.
But suppose the sanction involved no violation of principle, and suppose the church should inake common cause with the so-called movement party, and enable it to effect the reforms it attempts,—what would be gained ? These reforms, if effected, would content nobody, and a new series of reforms would be attempted, in their turn to be found equally unsatisfactory, and thus on in infinitum,—reforms giving birth to new reforms, bringing no relief, producing and perpetuating endless confusion, to the contentment, the satisfaction of nobody, but the archenemy of mankind.
The church is not of this world, and her principles are not those which govern the princes or the people of this world. She is the spouse of God in this world, the mother of the faithful, the teacher of truth, and the dispenser of the Bread of Life to all who will receive it. They who are nursed with the milk from her bosom, who receive the Bread of Life from her hands and eat thereof, shall never hunger or thirst, shall never die, but shall live for ever. All she asks of governments and social institutions is that they leave her free, that is, violate in their administration no law of God. If the people grow discontented with the material order they find existing, she expounds to them the law; if in violation of the law, as she expounds it, they still persevere, and introduce a new order, be it what it may, she does not desert them; she continues to present herself in her divine character before them, and to discharge for them her sacred mission. She has truly a maternal heart, and seeks always and everywhere the true good of the people for time and for eternity ; but she knows that Almighty God has made their good possible only on one condition, and therefore on that one condition she must insist. She explains it to the people, she exhorts and entreats them with divine tenderness to comply with it; but if they regard themselves as wiser than she, refuse to comply with the indispensable condition proposed, and will return to the old heathen order and seek their good from nature and human society, instead of seeking it from God and his church, she grieves over them as our Lord grieved over Jerusalem devoted to destrnction, but she can do no more. Their sin is on their own head, and they must reap the fruit of their own sowing. Themselves they may destroy,—her they cannot harm.
Here the discussion of our subject properly closes ; but we fear that without additional remarks we may be misapprehended. These are times of jealousy, suspicion, and great uncharitableness, when men's passions are inflamed, and their heads more than ordinarily confused. What we say on one subject we are in danger of having understood of another; and because we oppose certain popular tendencies, they who cherish them will allege that we are the enemies of the people, opposed to political and social amelioration, and solicitous only to maintain the reign of injustice and brute force,—than which nothing is or can be further from the truth. Because we assert that our good lies solely in the Christian order and is always and everywhere attainable at will, and therefore deny the necessity or the utility of political and social changes as a means of bettering our condition, the same persons will endeavor to bring us into conflict with the Holy Father, who, according to them, is a liberal pontiff, a sort of socialistic pope, opposed to monarchy, in favor of popular institutions, taking the side of the people against their rulers, and sanctioning the principle of their movements, by granting a constitutional government to his immediate temporal subjects. A few words to clear up this matter will not be unnecessary.
We have no occasion to make a profession of our respect for the papal authority; for our doctrine on that subject is well known. If that authority is in any instance against us, it is sufficient to convince us that we are wrong, and it is