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Homeric Scenes: Hector's Fare-
well and The Wrath of Achilles.

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The Roman Church




Effect of Hebraic Thought on

Western Europe




Indestructibility of Religion



Memories and Half-Thoughts



Do Not Go in Search of Religion .



Teaching a Child . . . .






Many Mansions



The Words of Christ .



Modem Science and Christian Sci




The Message of Christianity .



The Mystical Body of Christ .



The Salvation. Tolstoi. Nietzsche






The Love of God






Horace.- - .• .», .• .>•, 4»»; •



Appajetrt HJat'is '.' I } 1 '» I .



East or West ... ,. ^. '. " .



The Porches to tt^c Teraple of Trutt

1 87


Sacrifice and Burnt Offerings .

. 89



I STOOD in a fertile mead full of flowers ; and
I looked across and saw an old city with its
walls and battlements, — what was left of
them, — an old mediaeval city. And the ram-
parts of the city were broken, and through
them I saw the gigantic wreck of a great
church. And the great central church was
surrounded by lesser domes and naves which
seemed its offshoots. There were many of
them, and the plan of the one warred with
the plan of the next ; and many were in ruins,
and the great church itself was damaged but
services were still going on in it and in them.
The great church was the Roman Catholic
Church and the lesser buildings were its off-
spring, the Protestant Churches of Europe.

And thus standing in the meadow and look-
ing across four centuries, I viewed the Roman
church and I knew that all those intermediate
walls and structures which had risen and been
demolished, risen again and again been de-


niolished during the four centuries that lay be-
tween my own time and the last fall of the
Roman Empire, had been necessary in order
to give foreground, necessary to make any sur-
vey possible of a thing so vast, so familiar, so
universal, so intimately a part of myself as the
Roman Catholic Church. We cannot see great
things while we stand near to them. Time
must broaden the moat according to the size
of the castle. And this cathedral which housed
western Europe for a thousand years must be
viewed from a distance; nay, it must be seen
in a perspective that shall take in a still re-
moter past. In order to make any guess at
the place which such an institution holds in
our own epoch, we must look backward, —
very far backward, — back to Christ, back to
Abraham and the Mosaic Dispensation.

In all this matter we are dealing with the
influence of Christ. His power shines not
only forward down through the centuries, ap-
pearing in history as Christianity, but it also
casts light backward upon that Jewish history
and religion out of which he stepped. Christ
himself is bigger than Christianity, and makes
us forget it, when we see him. He does the
same for Jewish History. He is the point at
which the two met. If occasionally I shall
speak of the Old and New Testaments as of



a single Dispensation, I do so for convenience,
and also to accentuate what they have in com-
mon. No doubt if Christ had never lived, the
Old Testament would never have been heard
of except by scholars. It might perhaps have
exercised a literary influence upon Europe;
but its deeper imports would not have been
discerned. Yet now that we have read all
those old sacred books as the background of
Christ, they are seen to be a part of him.
More than this, it was with this light upon
them that they reached Europe; so that we
may say that, so far as Europe is concerned,
his light has shined through them always. The
Old and New Testaments may then, for cer-
tain purposes, be viewed as a single influence.
The chief miracle with regard to the older
Hebrew literature is that the books should
have come down to us in such genuine condi-
tion. What a race of angels the old Jews
must have been, to preserve these volumes
in their purity, and to keep them open to the
public as they seem always to have done.
There in the temple lay the great writings
from generation to generation of Jewish His-
tory, and every scholar had access to them ;
and every man on the streets of Jerusalem
could discuss them. About them, to be sure,
grew up various schools of interpretation. But



iiu one endeavoured to make these sacred
books into instruments of political oppression.
Or if anyone did so the tremendous intellectual
power of the individual Hebrevv^ soon de-
feated the attempt. The Jews were a race of
mental athletes, as every page of the Old Tes-
tament proves. Had there been successful tyr-
anny, it would have come about through the
growing up of a secret priesthood and the
withholding of the Scriptures from the people.

It is a strange fact that as soon as these
Scriptures became known to western Europe,
as soon as the power of the Jewish Scriptures
became apparent, their serviceability as an in-
strument of government was seen. So terrible
was the power of Jewish thought over the un-
sophisticated western world, that rulers could
not resist the temptation to use this thought
for purposes of government. One might say
that no European has ever been quite able to
resist this temptation. You can to-day hardly
find a Sunday-school teacher who will trust
the Bible to do its own work: he must pre-
empt it. He builds his little fence about it,
and holds the gate himself.

The Bible contains a summary of man's

emotional nature, it gives a sort of cue to the

riddle of life. The ideas in it are few; but

they agree with each other and they are illus-



trated with so much variety, with such Hving
power and such miraculous depth of thought
that few minds can withstand its appeal. The
Hebraic point of view, the Hebraic concep-
tion of life, expressed the spiritual needs of
man, his sentiments, his aspirations, his rela-
tion to God so much more truly than any
other philosophies that the Jewish Scriptures
for a time superseded all other learning in
Europe. The mystical inner logic, and iden-
tity of feeling (which makes all this Hebraic
folk-lore operate as a solid unity of power),
as well as the extraordinary portability of
the Bible (which can be packed in a box),
laid western Europe at the mercy of Israel.
Nothing extant could resist it. Judaism was
destined to replace other religions much as
good astronomy replaces bad astronomy, or
good physics, bad physics. The popularity
of the Hebrew Scriptures made it necessary
that they should be adopted as the basis of
society. They were at once put into service
as an instrument of government, — the instru-
ment of government of the Roman Empire.

The abuses of the Roman church have al-
ways grown out of the necessities of govern-
ment; and they can invariably be detached
from the Scriptures upon which they are
founded and to which they cling like lichens.



I call them "abuses," — one might more prop-
erly call them "uses"; for they were simply
devices which were useful, indeed necessary
to the church's supremacy. The first of these
abuses was the incorporation into the Catholic
church of the old Roman religion, the accept-
ance by the church of the pomp and ritual
which formed an historic part of the Roman
imagination. This ecclesiastical pomp with its
elaborate ceremonies was modeled upon classic
tradition. From the point of view of historic
continuity the successorship of the Roman
Catholic Church to the Roman Empire is the
most interesting fact in history. The old Ro-
man ritual, the Roman spirit of obedience, th«
Roman worship of external display, and the
Roman passion for universal domination have
been delivered over to the modern world in
unbroken continuity. Yet, of course, all of
these things have come to occupy towards the
modern world a strange and incongruous rela-

From the point of view of Biblical history
the incorporation of the old Roman religion
into a theocracy based on Israel was a some-
what revolting piece of stage work, through
which the mysteries of the soul were trans-
formed into political agencies, and men were
brought into a superstitious obedience. When-


ever we feel impelled to condemn the Ro-
man church as the practicer of a degrading
form of tyranny, let us remember that she
is merely pursuing a course which she en-
tered on in the fourth century. Her officers
cannot understand what is wrong with the
practice. They know nothing else.

One cannot help wondering how the Hebrew
prophet would have viewed this outcome of
Israel's influence, how the intellectual per-
son, Isaiah, or John the Baptist, or St. Paul,
would have felt towards this outcome of his
labors. In spite of the extraordinary grasp of
human things which Christ everywhere shows,
I cannot find any intimation that he himself
foresaw such an outcome as, for instance,
the Society of Jesus. I cannot find in the
Gospels any fear of political tyranny or much
interest in the details of the way in which
spiritual laws work out. Christ seems to be
trying to get through the day each day, and
to deliver his message of the law, perhaps to
allow the law to speak for itself. But the fol-
lowers of Christ had to deal with the cyclones
which he had brought on. These forces which
Christ somehow released, or which were re-
leased through him and through the Jewish
Dispensation behind him, must, it was felt,
be explained a little, controlled a little, and


guided a little. St. Paul therefore inaugurates
a sort of metaphysic and a sort of parish
discipline, both of them very mild, and on a
small scale. The Roman church very soon
found that in order to secure obedience she
must interpose something between the Scrip-
tures and the believer. How else could she
control him? The exciting power of the
Scriptural ideas was obvious; but the direc-
tion which that excitement might take was
very uncertain. For instance, one common
result of Jewish influence has always been
to arouse contempt for civil authority. It
seemed like dealing out firearms to a mob to
give such teaching as this to the people at
large. The whole instruction must therefore
be manacled, the head of power in the stream
must be harnessed. Out of this discovery of
the need of harness there grew up every single
one of the thousandfold dogmas, customs, rit-
uals, exercises, theories of conduct, theories
of theology, exposition of texts, manuals of
devotion, organizations of the Hierarchy,
rules of precedence, spiritual claims, temporal
claims; — also all relaxations and indulgences,
all exceptions to rules, theories for avoiding
the application of rules, alternative practices
and inner doctrines; — the whole incredible
and complex metaphysic of government which


fifty generations of Roman rulers have
evolved out of the changing needs in the prac-
tical government of that great machine, the
Roman Catholic Church. One key unlocks
the rationale of every Roman doctrine and

All of these things are instruments of gov-
ernment and can only be intelligently con-
sidered if viewed in this light. These doc-
trines and practices, however, are not acci-
dental or arbitrary things; they have not
been made out of theory. They have each i
been developed out of a need, evolved from ^
conditions, distilled by the natural heat of hu- )
manity and crystallized in the natural pressure (
of events. Every one of them is an organic /
product, potent, wonderful, having something I
of magic in it, — the magic of experience. 1
These instruments of government have come
down to our times with the Roman church :
they are the Roman church.

Let us now consider what are the functions
of a government. Those functions are to tax,
to regulate justice, to control education, to set-
tle the status of citizens, etc., etc. The matter
of taxation is vital. How far any government
shall go in taxing or in controlling men is a
matter of circumstances. The Roman Curia,
through a policy, which as I shall show in a


moment was sound worldly policy, has always
claimed absolute and illimitable control. In
the gradual loss of the world, which the Curia
has been suffering since the thirteenth cen-
tury, her attitude of absolute claim has not
changed. This policy was fixed by her docu-
ments and by her practices; it could not be
changed. It has persisted from the era when
emperors knelt at her feet, down to this day.
The claim to govern is always the same. It
covers Life and Death. It covers every cir-
cumstance touching body or soul, whether in
this world or in the next. How far that claim
can be enforced at any period has always
been a matter of circumstance.

I would, however, point out to the Protes-
tant that the Roman church has never been
fond of tyranny, and has resorted to strong
measures only when compelled to do so by
worldly considerations. Heresy has been heav-
ily punished only when circumstances made
heresy treason. The Albigenses, for instance,
laughed at the Roman officials, and were es-
tablishing an independent civilization for
themselves. So, also, throughout Catholic
history individual persons have often been
allowed to hold doctrines which were funda-
mentally at war with Roman dogma, because
the circumstances of ^he age did not make



the matter into a political issue. For instance,
in the times before the Reformation, the
Catholic church was full of mystics who must
have been condemned if they had existed a
century or two later. These mystics were sub-
stantially Protestants ; they lived in a union '^^
with God which required no interposition of
the church. Their immunity need not sur-/^
prise us. We all know that in ordinary politi-
cal life, some event which excites no attention
in one year will raise a riot in the next. So
it is with the history of persecution. Perse-
cution is always controlled by the imaginative,
political fears of the persecutor. Severe per-
secutions always represent panic. After a
split has once occurred in an organization,
straws and feathers become symbols of the
controversy. Therefore in the era before tlie
Reformation, there was greater practical free-
dom, greater scope for personal feeling in
religion than has since been permissible in the
Roman Church; and anyone who wishes to
acquire a right feeling about the Roman re-
ligion ought to grow familiar with the Ca-
tholicism which prevailed when all the world
was Catholic. Here are the sources from
which many good Catholics draw their inspira-
tion, and their piety differs in little but name
from much of Protestant piety. So long as it


is satisfied with the practical loyalty of its
members that church does not tease them, and
has never teased them about doctrines. Doc-
trines and dogmas are put forth only as a
means of quelling insurgency. After the or-
ganization has experienced some unpleasant
internal dissension the philosophic result is
condensed into a dogma so as to padlock the
future. Thus the first creed was adopted by
the Apostles as a test of loyalty: they had
been through a dangerous disagreement or
they never would have started a creed. So,
also, the Nicene Creed was adopted in order
to control the organization. So in recent times
the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception
and of the Papal Infallibility were promul-
gated in order to stifle certain liberals who
had been giving trouble inside of the organi-
zation. A dogma always shows that there
has been a tempest.

Of course after there has been such an
unpleasantness, the embers which it leaves be-
hind it are hot and treacherous : certain words
and names have come to carry implications
of horror. So, for instance, the term quietism
to-day implies the most dreadful heresy in
Catholic circles because it very picturesquely
and briefly describes a kind of piety which was
practised with impunity in the fourteenth



century but which led in the seventeenth to
serious persecutions. In regard to Quietism,
a point of extraordinary interest was illus-
trated in the history of this heresy, — namely
the point that the church itself cannot tell
whether a doctrine is heretical or not, until
time proves whether or not the doctrine leads
to the weakening of the church's political

The Spiritual Guide of Molinos was pub-
lished in 1675. It contained two ideas, each
of which Molinos believed in with an absolute
faith, and which were nevertheless in the last
analysis destructive of one another. The first
idea was the idea of the direct union of the
soul with God, — a union so close as to make a
priesthood unnecessary, — the second was the
idea of the authority of the church. The
enormous popularity of the first idea, and the
spread of a sect founded upon it seemed to
threaten the power of the church. But the
Inquisition, which made a formal inquest upon
Molinos' teachings in 1682, found the second
idea (the supremacy of the church), so faith-
fully and sincerely upheld by Molinos that his
Spiritual Guide was approved. As time went
on, however, it was discovered that the practi-
cal effect of Molinos' influence was to weaken
the Papacy and to create a new quasi-Protes-



tant sect. Molinos was accordingly, in 1685,
imprisoned. His subsequent trial, persecution,
death, and defamation form one of the worst
pages in Church history.

It may be well to note here an idea which is
inconceivable to the Protestant imagination,
and obvious to the Catholic imagination and
which floats down the ages with the whole
Roman controversy. Its last appearance may
be noted in the pamphlets of the Modernists
who are continuing to illustrate it to Europe.
The idea is that a thing can both be and not
be. The good Catholic believes his soul to
be in direct union with God. And yet the
church is between them. The two ideas of
Molinos* contradict one another.

Molinos submitted: he was led into the
presence of the brilliant assembly which had
been convened to witness his humiliation, at-
tired in a penitential garb and holding a burn-
ing torch between his bound hands. Molinos
was thus true to his second idea, — the abso-
lute supremacy of the church. "Good-bye,
Father," he said to the Dominican who was
leading him off to imprisonment for life, "we
shall meet again on the Judgment Day, and
then it will be seen if the truth was on your
side or on mine." Let it be noted that the
ceremonial submission of Molinos was not


like the submission of Socrates, or the submis-
sion of Christ, or the submission of Galileo —
all of whom retained the right of private judg-
ment and submitted only to the punishment or
to the ceremony. Molinos submits to the rea-
son of the punishment: he recants. And yet
he appeals. The intellect which is able to re-
cant after this manner, — which is able to con-
ceive of a thing as being both true and not
true at the same time, has received an injury
in early life from which it has never recov-
ered. This is the injury which the Roman
church inflicts upon the brains of her adher-
ents. Unless this injury be inflicted, the man
is not a true Catholic; he is not sure to re-
main a Catholic. If it be cured, he cannot
remain a Catholic in the papal sense of the
word. So subtly do men vary in their re-
ligious experiences that some Catholics who
feel very clearly their personal union with
God, do upon excommunication, smile at the
church; others grieve, others go forward and
back, now proclaiming allegiance and again
becoming aware of their independence.

All of these individual spiritual experiences
are part of the history of Christianity. As
they become massed into political forces, or
become visible as popular movements, history
deals with them and history is obliged to use


every sliift and engine of philosophic thought
in order to deal with its cloudy material. Be-
hind the clouds, however, are the men and
women of the past. In considering the disrup-
tion of the old Roman hierarchy, we are
obliged at one moment to have in mind the
worldly frame of government, and at the
next, the spiritual conditions of men.

The new states and nations which were
growing up out of the Roman Empire found
that there was no room for national feeling
within the old Roman system. They had to
fight their way out of it. The new nationali-
ties became a species of competing religions,
intricately bound up with doctrinal questions
and with practical politics. If heresy was a
kind of treason to the church, — so also the
payment of Peter's pence to the church be-
came a kind of heresy to the new national
feeling. I confess that I have been follow-
ing the fashion of contemporary historians in
putting forward the secular aspect of the
matter. This aspect is always the most vis-
ible of the two; because patriotism and na-
tional politics are things which the modern
mind easily imagines ; whereas the attach-
ments of religious feeling are but faintly
understood by us to-day. The struggle, how-
ever, always bears two interpretations. It


can be thought of as a struggle for temporal
power going on among the rulers ; and again,
as an inward, religious, and ethical struggle
going on within the hearts of individuals.
One must be on one'^s guard against those
modern historians who write a history of re-
ligion and leave religion out.

The form in which religious disturbance
arose was somewhat as follows : — Certain
pious citizens were perhaps living in a Ger-
man, French, or English mediaeval city, pay-
ing their money regularly to Rome and obey-
ing her humbly. Among these men, however,
there arose new curiosities, new sciences, new
learning, new individual piety, and all of these
things weakened the allegiance of the citizens
to Rome, and played into the hands of the
new national governments which were just
arising based upon geography, law, and lan-

No doubt the beginnings of anti-Roman in-
fluence could be traced straight back to an-
tiquity. It was, however, not till the time
of the Reformation that the new forces pre-
vailed. The old Roman Empire fell and mod-
ern Europe was born. The great Cathedral of
Mediaeval Civilization could not be entirely
demolished all at once; but the outer walls
were taken and the first series of never end-


ing demolitions and reconstructions of the
ramparts was begun. Ever since that time
both sides have been working like ants over
the pile, — the demolishers striving to complete
their work of destruction, the defenders, to
save as much as possible of the sacred edi-

The important thing to understand is that
the whole controversy in all its forms, and
through all the ages, hinges upon the same
idea, the same conflict of claim in the breast
of the individual. For instance: — You have
a Roman Catholic friend. How far will he
obey the church? That depends. If he is a
converted pagan of the fourth century, he will
be almost sure to obey it; but not altogether
so. If too much be required of him, he will
resist. If your friend is a modern person,
a teacher, for example in the public school
of to-day and a good Catholic, he will tend
to obey his church ; but not altogether so. He
would not perhaps favor putting Roman Cath-
olic flags on an American town hall. He
would very likely not concede the extreme
claims of the church to control all the educa-
tion in the world. He will act according to
circumstances. If his private interests and
his personal feelings are greatly outraged by
some claims which the church makes upon


him, he will throw over the church altogether

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Online LibraryJohn Jay ChapmanNotes on religion → online text (page 1 of 5)