lous masters? If he calls mere negligence, or mere forge tfulness,
in that which a master, as a Christian, owes his own family,
apostacy, how would he have called the man, who, far from
watching over, and being concerned for the salvation of those
for whom, as master, he is responsible to God, perverts them
himself, and is the immediate cause of their ruin and reprobation ?
This, nevertheless, we every day see, and see to our grief and
heart-felt anguish. For, that servant man, O man of the world,
(suffer me a moment to indulge the zeal with which God inspires
me, and which obliges me to be plain,) that servant man who hath
your interest at heart, and is no way apprehensive for the loss of
his soul, provided that by pleasing you he make a wretched for-
ON SCANDAL. 361
tunc ; that servant man must be the instrument and accomplice of
your iniquitous practices, when you employ him in offices, which
the respect I owe to the present audience, and the pulpit I speak
in, forbids me to represent in their native colours, and real defor-
mity. An abominable scandal, against which I might cry out a
thousand times, " Wo be to that man," that man of fashion, that
And you, Christian women, (if yet, considering the life you
lead, you pretend to that name,) to you it is owing, that the girl
so innocent, so far from reproach, when she entered your service,
is thoroughly conversant in the things of which she ought to have
been ignorant all the days of her life. She becomes your confidant,
and, against her inclination, is made privy to your intrigues, when
you require of her those vile services in which obedience is her
crime. God, by entrusting her to your care and inspection, made
you the guardian of her innocence, and it is lost by your means.
Your house should have been a school to her of virtue and
integrity, and it is there you teach her to lay aside all modesty.
She was of Christian morals, and a virtuous mind ; and by an
unfortunate engagement of her conscience with yours, her good
inclinations are all checked, and all her principles of virtue
destroyed. What answer will you make to an avenging God,
when he shall produce her, in his judgment, covered over with
your sins : and you shall see her in hell, the inseparable companion
of your endless torments ? Take not offence at the vehemence
with whieh you imagine I speak : perhaps on no occasion was it
ever more necessary.
But to pass over the scandals that go to such lengths as to
make those about you accomplices of your crimes, what dangerous
effects proceed oftentimes, when you think least of it, from your
bare example ? For, to believe that your conduct is to them
unknown, and remains always a secret, is a gross mistake. That
cannot be, beloved Christians ; that never was. As many domestics
as give you attendance, so many witnesses there are of your life ;
and not witnesses only, but censurers and spies, that have their
eyes upon you, and do justice to your merit.
3rdly. How great is the crime of those ministers of the Lord,
who, honoured with the most sacred character of the priesthood,
and employed in the most holy functions of the altar, profane
them by a secular and worldly demeanour, not to say an impure
352 ON SCANDAL.
and licentious life, and reflect disgrace and scandal on their
ministry ? They ought (according to the words of Christ Jesus)
to be the salt of the earth, and it is by their means (says St.
Gregory, pope,) that the earth is corrupted. They ought to be the
light of the whole earth, and they shine forth only to expose to
the world, with greater evidence, those stains and blemishes which
are observed in them, and make the observer blush. They ought
to be, and they are in fact, the town situated on a high mountain,
and they seem raised only to make their vices the more conspi-
cuous ; vices that give the people surprise and uneasiness, and lay
the priesthood open to reproach and ignomy. It was this that
brought upon them the indignation of God, and obliged him to
tell them by one of his prophets, what I should not dare apply to
them, if I copied not from God, and spoke on his behalf, who alone
hath the power to upbraid them in terms so pressing and so strong.
But as I am, myself, of the priestly order, and bear an equal part
and concern with others in the words of the Lord ; as I take them
for a lesson that suits my character, and which I repeat to myself,
I shall not fear to make them hear the voice of the Lord, by
addressing them in the words of the prophet Malachi : " And now,
O ye priests,this commandment is to you." Mai. ii. I placed you in
my church to edify and sanctify her ; to your pastoral care I com-
mitted my flock ; as your lips were the depositories of sacred
knowledge, your works should have been the rule of soimd morals
and true piety. Yet, unfaithful to the strictest and most indis-
pensable obligations, you deviated from the way which I pointed
out to you, and which it was your duty to point out to others.
By straying away voluntarily, you drew many others after you :
" You have departed out of the way, and have caused many to
stumble at the law." Mai. ii. And what is the consequence ?
Ah ! Christians, what I should not dare to think, much less to
declare, if God added not : " Therefore have I made you con-
temptible and base before all the people." Mai. ii. Your scanda-
lous life, or, to speak more accurately, the scandals of your life,
have lessened you in their esteem, and you are become the object
of their reproaches and scoffs.
Is it not thus that so many ministers of the living God literally
undergo the unfortunate destiny of that salt of the earth, with
which Christ compared them ? For, to what use (says our blessed
Saviour) is salt applied, when once corrupted ? It is trodden under
ON SCANDAL. 353
foot : " If salt lose its savour, it is good for nought but to be
trodden on by men." Matt. v. And in truth, by a just punish-
ment of the heavenly Lord, who will not have this evangelical
metaphor to be a fruitless figure, and permits that the prediction
pronounced by Malachi be visibly accomplished, what is there
more contemptible in the whole universe than a scandalous priest ?
Heaven forbid, beloved hearers, that I should pretend, by this, to
justify the contempt with which the churchmen are treated, or
approve of the consequences you draw from their conduct. When
I speak to you of scandals caused by God's ministers, it is not
with a view to bring shame on them, but to give you instruction.
I speak of them with a view to invalidate and hinder the perni-
cious effects of their evil doings, which might prove dangerous
temptations, might disturb your minds, might shake your religion
to the very foundation, and might give to libertinism a handle to
exert his baneful influence. For I know full well what impression
the life of a scandalous ecclesiastic is wont to make on the minds
of men. I know how it helps to harden your hearts, and that
their bad example, or, to speak more properly, your manner of
reasoning on their morals and example, is one great obstacle you
have to surmount in the way of salvation.
And now I shall close this important article with a moral
inference : wo be to you, if you make Jesus Christ not indeed
absolutely in his own person, but in that of his ministers, how
unworthy soever they may be of their ministry, be the rueful
cause of your taking scandal, as even in this sense it is true, that
i < happy is the man who shall not be scandalized in him !" Wo be
to you, if you yield to this scandal, and if you suffer yourselves to
be carried away by it, not guarding against its malignity and
contagion ! The reason of it is evident ; for, the Saviour of the
world, who could foresee all things, and provided against all
things, hath furnished you with arms abundantly sufficient to
oppose and condemn it ; arms that wiU render you eternally
inexcusable, if you do not use them. For, first, he hath admonished
you, to the end you be prepared against all surprise, that scandals
would come. Secondly, he hath specified the conduct to be
observed, when those who are seated in the chair of Moses, are
wanting in their duty, and give not the edification that is expected
at their hands. He tells you that your duty, in such case, obliges
you to mind the purity of their doctrine, not the corruption of
354 ON SCANDAL.
their manners ; that you will be judged concerning the truths they
shall announce, not the life they shall lead ; that you should hear
their words, not imitate their deeds ; that you should obey their
orders, not follow their example ; that notwithstanding the irregu-
larities, whether true or false, which are laid to their charge, being
ministers of his word, and exercising, in his name, a power and
authority derived from him, you are not permitted to use them
contemptuously, as your contempt would refer to the master who
sent them : " He that despiseth you, despiseth me." Luke x.
4thly. What shall I say now of those whom I suppose to be
stedfast in the faith, having been nurtured in the bosom of the
Catholic Church ? Are they not inexcusable, since, instead of
seconding the zeal of so many holy labourers, and contributing to
reclaim from the paths of error, such of our bretlnen as have gone
astray, or of confirming those, whose faith still wavers, even after
their conversion, they help only, by their example, to alienate
them from us, or to plunge them again into their former blindness ?
For, beloved hearers, it is our bad example, let us own it to our
shame, that hinders such numbers, whom the circumstances of
their birth have unfortunately separated from the Catholic
communion, from sincerely returning within the pale of the church.
For the difficulty they find in coming over to us, no cause is
assignable with any propriety, but the immoral and disorderly life
we lead, and the impiety discoverable in the very exercise of the
worship we profess. If they saw us as sincere and fervent Catholics,
as our duty and that name oblige us to be, they would speedily
join with us in the unity of faith. What renders them more and
more tenacious of their principles is, the monstrous contrast we
give them room to observe between the faith we profess and our
conduct in life. What must they think, when they see the
manner in which we assist at the august sacrifice of the body of
the Lord ? Is not this alone sufficient to overturn the good dis-
position they have to believe in the reality of lus presence ? Doth
not this alone (for so they explain themselves) make it doubtful to
them, whether we believe it entirely ourselves, and whether it
were not more eligible entirely to disbelieve it, than to render
themselves culpable of such a profanation ? Whatever show of
zeal we may make for the extinction of schism, they will never
be persuaded that we are thoroughly convinced of the presence of
our God in his adorable sacrament, while they themselves see the
ON SCANDAL. 355
scandalous irreverences, which are committed in our churches, and
in the face of the altar. Hence they bring objections and argu-
ments against us, which affect them the more, as they are plain
It is our duty, therefore, to put a stop to this scandal, a scandal
with which heresy, maliciously, if you please, though perhaps not
without some cause, hath at all times upbraided us. These
are the means of bringing the work of God, with regard to our bre-
thren, to a happy period ; this is the violence, the amiable violence,
which by the gospel law we are allowed to make use of, in the
view of forcing them, if I may venture the expression, into
the house of God. Let us edify them by our exemple, and
without much reasoning we shall work their conversion. Let
us show them, by our conduct, that there is a thorough con-
formity, between what we believe and what we practise, and
they will not resist. Let our morals do honour to the faith we
profess, and a just comportment and true piety to the grand mys-
teries of our religion. We should be induced thereunto by the
motive alone which David proposes : "Lest the Gentiles should
say, where is their God?" Ps. cxiii. And if he be present, where
they openly profess a belief of his presence, why do not they pay
there homage and adoration ? Or, why do they daily assemble
together, and seemingly prize themselves for a disrespectful,
insolent, outrageous demeanour ?
5thly. In fine, what shall I say of those persons who encourage
godliness, and are faithful and assiduous in the practice of good
works, but subject to weaknesses, and betray failings, of which,
to the prejudice of good works and godliness, the libertine avails
himself? For, the world, though impious and licentious in itself,
expects that the servants of God be irreproachable ; that the irre-
gularity of their lives be proof against censure ; and that their
conduct be suitable to their profession. If in this they answer not
the expectations of the world ; if they discover frailties that are
incident to others ; if they be mere men, like others, and their
piety be blended with ordinary foibles ; if to pious practices they
join inordinate passions, refined vengeance, interested views,
ambitious schemes, a vivacity of temper, and hasty expressions :
if a person addicted to devotion be observed to be nice and punc-
tilious in a point of honour ; to be jealous, avaricious, unjust, a
slanderer, a double dealer : doth not this occasion a triumph for
356 ON SCANDAL.
the libertine, and, as it were, afford him a right of proscription ?
I know that the world, in decrying devotion, is frequently unjust.
But, for that very reason, (replies St. Chrysostom,) those who are
desirous of serving their God in spirit and in truth, should be
more exact and more regular ; should avoid with all diligence the
shadow of a fault ; and should, (according to the admonition of
St. Paul,) by these means, shut the mouths of the impious. Thus,
(says he,) addressing himself to the primitive Christians, shall our
enemies have nothing to reproach us withal ; thus shall not the
name of the Lord be blasphemed, nor his worship disparaged ;
thus shall our religion, and the God of our religion, be glorified
and magnified : " That the adversary may be afraid, having no
evil to speak of us." Tit. ii.
To conclude, Christians, and to collect together in one point of
view all the fruit to be drawn from these great truths. Let us be
constantly on our guard against the scandal that may be given us ;
and still more, that we ourselves never scandalize others. Let us
pray to God, daily, in the words of holy David : " Keep me from
the stumbling-block of them that work iniquity." Ps. cxl. If we
find that our neighbour be the occasion of our falling, let us adhere
to the rules which our Saviour prescribes, sparing neither eye nor
hand, if they give us scandal. Let us pull out the one, and cut
off the other. That is, however contrary it may be to nature, let
us part with what is nearest and dearest to us, rather than undergo
the irretrievable and eternal loss of our souls. But let us beware,
likewise, of leading our neighbour into the way of perdition ;
because by inducing him to associate in our ruin, we are doubly
children of wrath.
And you, above all, whom God hath distinguished, and raised
in the world, apply to yourselves this point of morality ; and
remember, that your great elevation and dignity make it your
particular duty, and lay you under a greater obligation than
common, of edifying the rest of mankind, as it is to be apprehended,
that your bad example may have an uncommon degree of influence
on the minds of the weak. For where is the man who hath
strength sufficient to stem so violent and headlong a torrent?
Call to mind these words of our blessed Saviour : " So let your
light shine before men, that they may see your good works ;"
(Matt. v. ;) that, edified at your conduct, and treading in your
footsteps, they may be happily guided to avoid eyil, and still more
ON SCANDAL. 357
happily to do good. Never forget that it is incumbent on you to
rid the world of the scandals that infest it, and that God, to that
end, hath chosen you, and placed you over the heads of others.
Ah ! rny Lord, that it is not in my power to do in this audience, and
in this court, what the angels will do at the last judgment ! One
of your most peremptory mandates to them will be, that "they
gather away all scandals out of your kingdom." Matt. xiii. That
I cannot prevent them ! That I cannot, by anticipation, prevent
the orders you will then give them ! That I cannot, to banish
henceforward all scandal, deliver your church from all the authors
of scandal ! not like the exterminating angel, by reprobating them
in your name, but as a minister of the gospel, by contributing to
their amendment and their sanctification ! It depends upon your-
selves, beloved hearers, that my wishes be fulfilled. Your chief
good is at stake, your most important concern, the salvation of
your souls, and your eternal happiness.
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