IN the columns of the daily press of this city recently space was given to a description of “the impressive ceremony of the taking of the black veil” by sixteen young women, in the chapel of the convent of the “Sisters of St. Dominie,” Archbishop Corrigan officiating. By undergoing this “impressive ceremony” these young women are understood to have formally “renounced the world” and taken upon themselves the vows of a life of “charity.” This is but one of many similar occasions which are reported from time to time in all parts of the land.
Let us look a moment at this idea of consecration and the religious life.
These young women have withdrawn themselves from all social intercourse with their fellow-beings in the world. They have really renounced their fellow-mortals. Is this renouncing the world?
Certainly not. The world cannot be renounced in that way. Worldliness is in the heart—in the principles of the life. The principles of the world, not the people, are to be renounced.
A person may separate himself from all his sinful fellow-mortals, as did the old hermits, and yet carry with him into his seclusion, as they did, the very worldliness which they think thus to escape. For worldliness, full and complete, is in every heart that is carnal, unrenewed by the power of divine grace.
To “renounce the world” by going off into the seclusion of the convent or monastery, is like a person trying to escape from his own shadow. The one is exactly as wise a proceeding as the other.
And this separation from human society is not only powerless to promote consecration; it is altogether contrary to the will and purpose of the Creator.
God put people in this world to be together. He knew the nature of the beings whom he created, and knew that society was necessary to their welfare. He brings people into this world for their happiness, to enjoy themselves together, not to be miserable somewhere in seclusion. But aside from the enjoyment to be derived from human companionship, he puts people together for their spiritual good. His own work in the earth, the proclamation of the gospel truth, so far from demanding the exclusion of its adherents, demands the exact opposite. God’s servants are the “salt of the earth:” and to be this they must be in the world, mingling freely with all classes of society, and with world-loving people especially. God sends his servants to sinners, not away from them.
A ship is built to go in the water. There is danger that the water may get into the ship, and if it does, in sufficient quantities, the ship sinks and is lost. The ship at sea is in the very element, all surrounded by it, which under certain circumstances will prove its sure destruction. There may be a collision, or the ship may run on a reef, or be shattered by a storm, and in any of these ways become filled with water and sent to the bottom of the sea. Ships are being lost by such casualties all the time. The sea is the one great agent of their destruction.
What then shall be done to preserve the ship? Oh, we will pull it up out of the sea upon the dry land; we will put it where the water cannot get to it! Or, we will seclude it in some quiet undisturbed creek or inlet along the shore, where the perils of the sea can never reach it! That would save the ship from the sea, and also render it useless; but even the seclusion of the convent cannot save a soul from the world.
The idea that consecration, that holiness of life, requires the renunciation of society, a life of celibacy, and the somber garb of the convent, is as contrary to the truth as anything could possibly be. It is a travesty upon divine truth, and designed as such by the opponent of truth who invented it. Robert Ingersoll has uttered many falsehoods concerning religion; but he spoke the truth, the gospel truth, in saying that the mother with her babe presented a far nobler and holier picture than the nun with her cross and beads.
Jesus said, in his prayer for his disciples, “I pray not that Thou wouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou wouldest keep them from the evil.” The  grace of God keeps his children from evil in the midst of the world. As the channels of divine light and truth to the world, the world is their proper place. When God wants them removed from the society of sinners he is coming himself to take them away. But now, while probation for the world continues, he wants them in the world and amongst world lovers as his witnesses, witnessing by their words and lives to his power to save people from sin, simply by a change of heart—by a new birth, a new creation in Christ.
The “sisterhoods” and “brotherhoods” which are gotten up in this world in the name of religion, with their vows and regulations which set at defiance the laws of nature in order to save the soul, are a sham and a delusion. They represent the worldly and heathen idea of consecration. They are contrary to God and to nature, to revelation and to reason. They lead only to wretchedness and ruin. True happiness, true religion, true charity and holiness, and true success in life, can be found only in the order of life which God has established.