JANUARY 20 and 21, there was a National Reform convention held in Cincinnati. Rev. J. M. Foster, district secretary of the National Reform Association, had the principal part in getting up the convention. While they were working up the matter, Mr. Foster and Mr. Francis Ferry, “an esteemed elder of the Presbyterian Church,” visited Archbishop Elder for the purpose of having him unite with them in the convention. Mr. Foster says, “The Archbishop received us very cordially, and was the soul of courtesy.” After the Archbishop had received them so very cordially and so courteously, the following interesting dialogue occurred:—
Mr. Foster—“We have called to ask you if you would be willing to participate in the coming Christian convention.”
The Archbishop—“You know we Catholics are very exclusive.”
Mr. Foster—“The Baltimore Council advised co-operation in Sabbath Reform movements with Prottestants. This led us to hope that you would stand with us in the effort to maintain the Sabbath.”
The Archbishop—“It is true the Baltimore Council recommended co-operation, but that is to be done as citizens. We do not recognize Protestant churches or Protestant ministers. There is only one true Catholic Church. These other denominations may teach the truth in a measure, but they are not the Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is the spouse of Christ, and to her has been committed the oracles of God. She has received authority to teach the truth. We will work with Protestants as citizens, but not as churches. During the war Horace Greeley and some others attempted to establish peace between the Northern and Southern States, Mr. Lincoln said: ‘You are good men and have good intentions. But you have no authority to act. I cannot recognize your work.’ So we say to Protestants, ‘You are good people. Your motives are good. But you have no authority. We cannot recognize you.’ I would be compromising go myself to go into a Protestant church and unite with Protestant ministers in such a convention.”
Mr. Foster—“This convention is not to be held under the auspices of any church. It is called by the National Reform Association—a society made up of representative citizens in all parts of the country. It is a citizens’ movement. You observe the conference is called a ‘Christian convention.’”
The Archbishop—“At the same time almost all the aligners to the call are ministers, and all but one of the speakers are clergymen. My going there would be construed as a concession to Protestantism. If this were a general convention of citizens, originating with the people and carried on by them, I could act as one of them. But a Christian convention carries with it the idea of the Church, and I could not be identified with that.”
Mr. Foster—“The preservation of the Christian Sabbath is a matter in which all who love our Lord are interested.”
The Archbishop—“That is true. I preach the truth to my people about the Sabbath, temperance, divorce, and all those questions. We have authority from our Lord to do this. You will pardon me for saying that no Protestant church has this authority. And hence I could not act with you even in so good a cause, for, in doing so, I would not be true to the Church.”
This is a sample of the rebuffs that the National Reformers have been willing to receive from the Catholics for the last nine years. They have received several before, and undoubtedly they will receive others yet to come. The rebuffs are richly deserved, and these were certainly well applied.
Who can say but that the Archbishop appears to the better advantage in this matter? The Archbishop and the Catholic Church with him have this at least to their credit that what they do believe is held by them to be of sufficient importance to stand up for it without compromise; while this so-called Protestantism, that so anxiously seeks the alliance of the Catholic Church, is willing to make any compromise, and go almost any length to secure that alliance. In short, as they said nine years ago, “We may be subjected to some rebuffs in our first proffers, and the time has not yet come when the Roman Church will consent to strike hands with other churches as such; but the time has come to make repeated advances, and gladly to accept co-operation in any form in which they may be willing to exhibit it. It is one of the necessities of the situation.”
And yet, these are the men who require a constitutional amendment under which they may be empowered to teach religion in the public schools! Why, they do not believe the religion which they profess with sufficient confidence to make it of any effect. Religious teaching, to be of any force, must be thoroughly and confidently believed by the one who teaches it. Otherwise the best and the purest religion that ever was, or that could be, would be of no benefit whatever. And when these men hold their religious principles and doctrines at so little value that they are willing to compromise it at all, and fairly to abandon their position in order to secure the co-operation of those who flatly refuse to recognize them, then the religion which they represent is not worthy of recognition by individuals, much less by the Nation. To force the teaching of such religion as that into the public schools would be to do an irreparable injury to the youth of the United Stated, to say nothing of all the train of other evils that would be inflicted upon the Nation. If they believed their own profession of religion with sufficient confidence to impress it upon the people, they would not need any other power to cause it to be received; but as they do not they demand control of the national power to compel the people to receive it.
A. T. J.