Overland Monthly / OV132 - Cardinal Gibbons and Pastor Russell
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OV132 CARDINAL GIBBONS AND PASTOR RUSSELL
(The wide interest that has been aroused throughout the country by the series of admirable articles by the Reverend C. T. Russell, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, published in the Overland Monthly, has been heightened by that distinguished clergyman’s reply in the February Overland to Cardinal Gibbons’ notable sermon, "A Plea for United Christendom." Pastor Russell’s reply has evoked much comment and many letters, among which the following, from Mr. Frank Schilling, a prominent attorney of San Francisco, is printed with the writer’s consent. —EDITOR.
Reverend C. T. Russell, Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York, N.Y.
Reverend and Dear Sir: Your reply to Cardinal Gibbons’ sermon about the much desired Unity of the Christian Church, in the February number of the Overland Monthly impressed me by the scholarly manner in which you treat the subject and the gentlemanly criticism of the Cardinal’s sermon as to matters which, from your point of view, undoubtedly, appear errors of the head rather than of the heart, for of the latter, you and the Cardinal seem to be animated by the same spirit which made Christ fix as the supreme law of Christianity the sentence "Love God above all, and thy neighbor as thyself." Indeed, unprejudiced minds, such as yours and the Cardinal’s, should find a true road to the much-desired union of all the Christian churches. As a layman and lawyer I am, perhaps, not the most competent to suggest to ecclesiastics of high standing the solution of a vexed religious problem.
But as truth may sometimes be discovered by a child even, and Divine Truth must ultimately furnish the key to the situation, it may well be that a common sense observation, on my part, may point out Divine Truth and furnish the key to a seemingly hopeless situation. Indeed, Divine Truth is, in my opinion, the fundamental law of Christianity, and must be the guide of the Christian, who is to follow into the footsteps of the Savior. If it has been one of the principal purposes of Christ’s mission on earth to reveal that truth, no one should believe that the Omnipotent and Eternal Guide, the Father of all, should have intended that truth to be solely known to the comparatively few followers and immediate acquaintances of Christ, and only during the brief period of less than thirty-three years; that after the demise of Christ, error should have tainted the treasure of wisdom left by Him, and that succeeding generations should have been forever excluded from the heritage of Divine Truth taught by the Redeemer. Do not all Christian denominations believe in the divinity of Christ, and designate Jesus, the son of God, as being one with the Father and the Holy Ghost? Is it incumbent upon God to err as mere mortals always will? Can Divine Providence not preserve unadulterated that which it held necessary for the human race to possess, and for the dissemination of which God, Himself, assumed human form? Did God not send the Holy Ghost to remain with us to the end of the days, and did not Christ, Himself, affirm that He would be with us? If it is conceded that it was the intention of the true and living God that His truth be known to all men of succeeding ages to the end of the world, it must have been but ordinary precaution on behalf of the Ruler of the Universe to preserve the truth that He had come in person to reveal to the human race through the words and examples of Jesus Christ.
OV133 Some depository of this Divine Truth necessarily must have been established by the God of ages to guide the elect by offering sufficient guarantee for the fact that such depository preserved the Divine Truth pure and unadulterated. Some authority must have stood out to all succeeding ages as the fortified depository of the revealed Divine Truth, for, otherwise, how could pure Christian souls have lived in strict accordance with the precepts and examples of the Redeemer? Truly, if any man could imagine a self-satisfactory version of Christ’s truth, would it have been necessary at all for Christ to have come in person to teach us how to live?
Would such self-suitable imaginary belief in the alleged doctrines taught by Christ be sufficient to elevate our standard of morals to that which we see manifested by the true Christian believer, by "the First Born of the Fold?" If we should be inclined to affirm that any doctrine of Christian belief not absolutely contrary to our own would bring about some results of good morals, would we not perform meritorious acts if we, in a measure, should live according to our own sweet pleasure, and if we were to guess at what we might believe, and to live in accordance with that belief in practice? Why, in that event, should we not live, taking, in the first place, nothing else more seriously into consideration than our own inclinations, greed and fondness for earthly enjoyment? It follows from the foregoing that the Church of Christ must contain the depository of His Truth whatever else it may contain. The dissemination of the Divine Truth reposed in that depository having been made by a direct agency of the living God, Jesus Christ, must remain infinitely necessary, salutary and perfect. In fact, no other measure is known to the Christian world by which the true and faithful believer may gauge and regulate his actions and curb his purely human inclinations and passions, but that law laid down by Jesus Christ, Himself, nearly 1900 years ago.
History will teach its students that the Truth revealed by Jesus Christ has never been deviated from in only one Church at present existing. It is equally certain that none of the other existing Christian Churches, or any other of the various Christian denominations, antedates the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of this Church alone history does certify directly to the person of Jesus Christ, between the years of 30 and 33 of our era. If it be, therefore, conceded that Jesus Christ taught only one system of Harmonious Truth and designated only one of his apostles as the Rock upon which He would build His Church, the depository of truth; if Christ did not say that he would build two churches or more, then there is only one Church of Christ, and all others are human imitations. Human reformations, certainly, could not improve upon the God-founded and God-preserved Institution. Human agencies, with different doctrines from those taught by Christ are likely to have fallen in error. At all events, the human soul must look for guidance to its Maker.
It has no right to assume that the Infinite and Eternal does err. Christian Truth, such as dispensed from the depository of Christ, put into practice will have but one result, the happiness of mankind. It is therefore unbecoming to the great minds to attribute the misery brought about by non-performance of Christian duty, or the abuse of the ways and means of salvation, as the practical result of applied Christianity. It is equally fatal to be blinded by prejudice, and it is unwise and unjust to condemn from the mere hearsay of a partisan, past centuries and their civilization. No one should sit in judgment about matters of which he has not the most intimate knowledge of facts and circumstances. In this respect, much is sinned against that period of our civilization known as the "Middle Ages." The most casual observer will concede that in those times the strong arm wielding the sword was often more respected than the cross and the Bible. The princes and nobles of the Middle Ages managed under all kinds of pretexts to oppress the poor and to levy tributes. Little they considered the Cross and the Divine Truth for which it stood. Frequently, the people of a whole nation were drawn away by force and violence from
OV134 the Church of Christ, which they heretofore had revered. Potentates, such as King Henry VIII of England, did not permit themselves to be trifled with when the vicar of Christ, speaking ex cathedra, refused to change the law of Christ deposited with the Church. It is, finally, human nature to take things for granted from a mere rumor or hearsay, and to condemn the Middle Ages because we know little about the general happiness of the people then living. Often we are misled and err in our opinions by mere thoughtlessness. I notice from your reply to the Cardinal that you are mistaken, dear and Reverend Sir, when you state that the Roman Catholics are taught to see Christ’s Church represented in the ecclesiastics merely. A Catholic child, who has received the most primitive Christian instructions, can inform you that the Church of Christ, as the Roman Catholic is taught it, consists of the blessed in heaven, the suffering souls in purgatory, and all men on earth who honestly seek to believe in Christ. In the Roman Catholic definition, good and faithful Protestants are members of that Church of Christ as well as Catholics, as long as they have not learned to know that the Catholic Church is the only church that Christ has founded and that no other church claims to have been founded by Christ directly. As long as they believe to have the true religion of Christ and to live up to Christ’s doctrines and examples, Catholics are taught to regard such Protestants as their brothers and sisters in Christ. They are further taught that God is the Father of all men and the Creator of all things, and that when Christ declared the supreme law to be "Love thy God with thy whole heart and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself," He included not merely Christians, but Pagans and Gentiles as well. Let there be no confusion, therefore, as to which Church is Christ’s. Let us not be confused by the organizations established for the alleged purpose of diffusing the unadulterated doctrines of Christ. All of them, but one, intermingle truth with error, and do not constitute a safe and reliable guide for the Christian soul.
The Catholic Church, lastly, besides the mere aim of leading its followers to happy eternity, holds out ways and means which, if employed, must bring about inevitably the greatest virtues and the finest morals. May we, therefore, lay aside ancient prejudices; may we approach to the study of Christ’s Church with a fair, impartial and judicial mind, and the Millennium amongst Christian Churches is surely to dawn upon the present generation with religious leaders, such as yourself, the Pope and Cardinal Gibbons.
Yours very respectfully, FRANK SHILLING.
Attorney and Counselor-at-Law.
THE MASTER’S TOUCH
IN the still lute the music lies unheard; In the rough marble beauty hides unseen: To make the music and the beauty, needs The Master’s touch, the Sculptor’s chisel keen.
Great Master, touch us with Thy skillful hand; Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let, Hidden and lost, Thy form within us lie!
Spare not the stroke! do with us as Thou wilt!
Let there be naught unfinished, broken, marred; Complete Thy purpose, that we may become Thy perfect image, Thou our God and Lord!