A MERE BIT OF GOSSIP
The Ministers’ Meeting of the
following Tuesday was pleasantly enlivened with gossip retained,
of course, within seemly bounds. There was absent
the Reverend Dr. Linford, sometime rector of St. Antipas,
said lately to have emerged from a state of spiritual
chrysalis into a world made new with truths that were
yet old. It was concerning this circumstance that
discreet expressions were oftenest heard during the
One brother declared that the Linfords
were both extremists: one with his absurdly radical
disbelief in revealed religion; the other flying at
last to the Mother Church for that authority which
he professed not to find in his own.
Another asserted that in talking with
Dr. Linford now, one brought away the notion that
in renouncing his allegiance to the Episcopal faith
he had gone to the extreme of renouncing marriage,
in order that the Mother Church might become his only
bride. True, Linford said nothing at all like
this; the idea was fleeting, filmy, traceable
to no specific words of his. Yet it left a track
across the mind. It seemed to be the very spirit
of his speech upon the subject. Certainly no other
reason had been suggested for the regrettable, severance
of this domestic tie. Conjecture was futile and
Mrs. Linford, secluded in her country home at Edom,
had steadfastly refused, so said the public prints,
to give any reason whatsoever.
His soup finished, the Reverend Mr.
Whittaker unfolded the early edition of an evening
paper to a page which bore an excellent likeness of
“I’ll read you some things
from his letter,” he said, “though I’ll
confess I don’t wholly approve his taste in giving
it to the press. However here’s
“’When I was ordained
a priest in the Episcopal Church I dreamed of wielding
an influence that would tend to harmonise the conflicting
schools of churchmanship. It seemed to me that
my little life might be of value, as I comprehended
the essentials of church citizenship. I will
not dwell upon my difficulties. The present is
no time to murmur. Suffice it to say, I have
long held, I have taught, nearly every Catholic doctrine
not actually denied by the Anglican formularies; and
I have accepted and revived in St. Antipas every Catholic
practice not positively forbidden.
“But I have lately become convinced
that the Anglican orders of the ministry are invalid.
I am persuaded that a priest ordained into the Episcopal
Church cannot consecrate the elements of the Eucharist
in a sacrificial sense. Could I be less than
true to my inner faith in a matter touching the sacred
verity of the Real Presence the actual body
and blood of our Saviour?
“After conflict and prayer I
have gone trustingly whither God has been pleased
to lead me. In my humble sight the only spiritual
body that actually claims to teach truth upon authority,
the only body divinely protected from teaching error,
is the Holy, Catholic and Roman Church.
“For the last time I have exercised
my private judgment, as every man must exercise it
once, at least, and I now seek communion with this
largest and oldest body of Christians in the world.
I have faced an emergency fraught with vital interest
to every thinking man. I have met it; the rest
is with my God. Praying that I might be adorned
with the splendours of holiness, and knowing that
the prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce
the clouds, I took for my motto this sentence from
Huxley: ’Sit down before fact as a little
child; be prepared to give up every preconceived notion;
follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature
leads.’ Presently, God willing, I shall
be in communion with the See of Rome, where I feel
that there is a future for me!”
The reader had been absently stabbing
at his fish with an aimless fork. He now laid
down his paper to give the food his entire attention.
“You see,” began Floud,
“I say one brother is quite as extreme as the
Father Riley smiled affably, and begged
Whittaker to finish the letter.
“Your fish is fresh, dear man,
but your news may be stale before we reach it so
hasten now I’ve a presentiment that
our friend goes still farther afield.”
Whittaker abandoned his fish with
a last thoughtful look, and resumed the reading.
“May I conclude by reminding
you that the issue between Christianity and science
falsely so called has never been enough simplified?
Christianity rests squarely on the Fall of man.
Deny the truth of Genesis and the whole edifice of
our faith crumbles. If we be not under the curse
of God for Adam’s sin, there was never a need
for a Saviour, the Incarnation and the Atonement become
meaningless, and our Lord is reduced to the status
of a human teacher of a disputable philosophy a
peasant moralist with certain delusions of grandeur an
agitator and heretic whom the authorities of his time
executed for stirring up the people. In short,
the divinity of Jesus must stand or fall with the divinity
of the God of Moses, and this in turn rests upon the
historical truth of Genesis. If the Fall of man
be successfully disputed, the God of Moses becomes
a figment of the Jewish imagination Jesus
becomes man. And this is what Science asserts,
while we of the outer churches, through cowardice or
indolence too often, alas! through our own
skepticism have allowed Science thus to
obscure the issue. We have fatuously thought to
surrender the sin of Adam, and still to keep a Saviour not
perceiving that we must keep both or neither.
“There is the issue. The
Church says that man is born under the curse of God
and so remains until redeemed, through the sacraments
of the Church, by the blood of God’s only begotten
“Science says man is not fallen,
but has risen steadily from remote brute ancestors.
If science be right and by mere evidence
its contention is plausible then original
sin is a figment and natural man is a glorious triumph
over brutehood, not only requiring no saviour since
he is under no curse of God but having every
reason to believe that the divine favour has ever
attended him in his upward trend.
“But if one finds mere evidence
insufficient to outweigh that most glorious death
on Calvary, if one regards that crucifixion as a tear
of faith on the world’s cold cheek of doubt
to make it burn forever, then one must turn to the
only church that safeguards this rock of Original
Sin upon which the Christ is builded. For the
ramparts of Protestantism are honeycombed with infidelity and
what is most saddening, they are giving way to blows
from within. Protestantism need no longer fear
the onslaughts of atheistic outlaws: what concerns
it is the fact that the stronghold of destructive
criticism is now within its own ranks a
stronghold manned by teachers professedly orthodox.
“It need cause little wonder,
then, that I have found safety in the Mother Church.
Only there is one compelled by adequate authority to
believe. There alone does it seem to be divined
that Christianity cannot relinquish the first of its
dogmas without invalidating those that rest upon it.
“For another vital matter, only
in the Catholic Church do I find combated with uncompromising
boldness that peculiarly modern and vicious sentimentality
which is preached as ‘universal brotherhood.’
It is a doctrine spreading insidiously among the godless
masses outside the true Church, a chimera of visionaries
who must be admitted to be dishonest, since again
and again has it been pointed out to them that their
doctrine is unchristian impiously and preposterously
unchristian. Witness the very late utterance
of His Holiness, Pope Pius X, as to God’s divine
ordinance of prince and subject, noble and plebeian,
master and proletariat, learned and ignorant, all
united, indeed, but not in material equality only
in the bonds of love to help one another attain their
moral welfare on earth and their last end in
heaven. Most pointedly does his Holiness further
rebuke this effeminacy of universal brotherhood by
stating that equality exists among the social members
only in this: that all men have their origin in
God the Creator, have sinned in Adam, and have been
equally redeemed into eternal life by the sacrifice
of our Lord.
“Upon these two rocks of
original sin and of prince and subject, riches and
poverty by divine right, the Catholic Church
has taken its stand; and within this church will the
final battle be fought on these issues. Thank
God He has found my humble self worthy to fight upon
His side against the hordes of infidelity and the
preachers of an unchristian social equality!”
There were little exclamations about
the table as Whittaker finished and returned at last
to his fish. To Father Riley it occurred that
these would have been more communicative, more sentient,
but for his presence. In fact, there presently
ensued an eloquent silence in lieu of remarks that
might too easily have been indiscreet.
“Pray, never mind me at all,
gentlemen I’ll listen blandly whilst
I disarticulate this beautiful bird.”
“I say one is quite as extreme
as the other,” again declared the discoverer
of this fact, feeling that his perspicacity had not
been sufficiently remarked.
“I dare say Whittaker is meditating
a bitter cynicism,” suggested Father Riley.
“Concerning that incandescent
but unfortunate young man,” remarked the amiable
Presbyterian “I trust God’s
Providence to care for children and fools ”
“And yet I found his remarks
suggestive,” said the twinkling-eyed Methodist.
“That is, we asked for the belief of the average
non-church-goer and I dare say he gave it
to us. It occurs to me further that he has merely
had the wit to put in blunt, brutal words what so
many of us declare with academic flourishes. We
can all name a dozen treatises written by theologians
ostensibly orthodox which actually justify his utterances.
It seems to me, then, that we may profit by his blasphemies.”
“How?” demanded Whittaker, with some bluntness.
“Ah that is what
the Church must determine. We already know how
to reach the heathen, the unbookish, the unthinking but
how reach the educated the science-bitten?
It is useless to deny that the brightest, biggest
minds are outside the Church indifferentists
or downright opponents of it. I am not willing
to believe that God meant men like these to perish I
don’t like to think of Emerson being lost, or
Huxley, or Spencer, or even Darwin Question:
has the Church power to save the educated?”
“Sure, I know one that has never
lacked it,” purled Father Riley.
“There’s an answer to
you in Linford’s letter,” added Whittaker.
“Gentlemen, you jest with me but
I shall continue to feel grateful to our slightly
dogmatic young friend for his artless brutalities.
Now I know what the business man keeps to himself
when I ask him why he has lost interest in the church.”
“There’s a large class
we can’t take from you,” said Father Riley “that
class with whom religion is a mode of respectability.”
“And you can’t take our
higher critics, either more’s the
“On my word, now, gentlemen,”
returned the Catholic, again, “that was a dear,
blasphemous young whelp! You know, I rather liked
him. Bless the soul of you, I could as little
have rebuked the lad as I could punish the guiltless
indécence of a babe he was that shockingly
“He is undoubtedly the just
fruit of our own toleration,” repeated the high-church
“And he stands for our knottiest
problem,” said the Presbyterian.
“A problem all the knottier, I suspect,”
“Didn’t I tell
you?” interrupted Father Riley. “Oh,
the outrageous cynic! Be braced for him, now!”
“I was only going to suggest,”
resumed the wicked Unitarian, calmly, “that
those people, Linford and his brother and
even that singularly effective Mrs. Linford, with
her inferable views about divorce you know
I dare say that they really you know that
they possess the courage of ”
concluded little Floud, impatient alike of the speaker’s
hesitation and the expected platitude.
“No I was about to say the
courage of ours.”
A few looked politely blank at this
unseasonable flippancy. Father Riley smiled with
rare sweetness and murmured, “So cynical, even
for a Unitarian!” as if to himself in playful
But the amiable Presbyterian, of the
cheerful auburn beard and the salient nose, hereupon
led them tactfully to safe ground in a discussion
of the ethnic Trinities.