Friday, 30 August 2013


 Sermon preached by the Rev. Jas. JEFFERIS, LL.B. Sydney : Foster and Fairfax.
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Few phenomena of our age are more remarkable than the gourd-like growth of Socialism. Of course, we are far from saying that it is a purely modern doctrine. The condemnations of Clement XII., Benedict XIV., Pius VII., and the Bull quo graciora of Leo XII., are alone sufficient, to show that it has been long watched with anxiety by the Church. But in the early days of its history, Socialists were regarded as mere visionaries, who deserved an asylum rather than a place in the hearts of the masses. Even the French, when the great revolution had produced its natural reaction, laughed to scorn all idea of a community of goods. Germany regarded the doctrine as beneath notice. In North Italy alone could Socialism find a home, and it was probably to this circumstance that the attention of so many Popes was drawn to it. Despised by the world, and condemned by the Church, as it was there was a fascination about it, however, that captivated the poor and ignorant. There is nothing a man naturally dislikes more than hard work, the apostles of Socialism promised him ease and comfort. A poor man will naturally envy the riches of the master, and his new teachers promised him his share of them. He was to have the double satisfaction of rising above his poverty at the expense of those whom, after the Pope and the priests, he most hated. Given sufficient ignorance and cupidity, and nothing is more probable than that a wicked man should become a Socialist. Although traces of Socialism are to be found in the teaching of the Anabaptists and Socinians, although it is present in the writings of Voltaire, and was one of the first fruits of the French revolution, it was not until about fifteen years ago that Europe was thoroughly frightened. In the year 1864, the first convention of Socialist leaders was held at Brussels. They were now sufficiently backed up by numbers to come before the public and to make no secret of their principles and designs. The former may be said to be the negation, not only of all religion, but of every feeling that could elevate human nature. No God, no eternity — all they looked to was this life. The motto over their graves is — "There is no hereafter and no meeting again." The political aim of such men was as might have been expected. Individual rights of property were to be abolished, Christianity was to be proscribed, and to make sure of the permanent establishment of their principles, Secularism was to replace religious teaching in the schools of the young. The evil had now gone too far to be met with sneers. The symptoms appeared very mildly in England, but in France, Italy, and Germany, repressive measures had to be resorted to. Once again the Holy See spoke out. In September, 1865, Pius IX. published an allocution, in which the Socialists and Internationalists were condemned "together with all other societies of the same nature under the same pains and penalties as those specified in the constitutions of our predecessors, and this concerns all Christians of every condition, rank or dignity in the world." Would that such a formal condemnation had never been made necessary — that, the world had recognized in the vigilant pilot over the vessel of the Church the truest friend of our civilization ! But, the plague had seized the people. The last revolution in Paris tells us how deeply the French are infected. Yet the symptoms in France are mild compared with those shown by Germany. A Socialist dies and ten thousand followers see him into the earth with every mark of respect, to his memory, and with the most obtrusive tokens of a disbelief in his resurrection ! The only offence of the Emperor seems to be that he is rich and their ruler ; therefore two attempts have been lately made to murder him. Such is the last development of Socialism which has called forth Mr. Jefferis's sermon.
To a Catholic the most interesting portion of Mr. Jefferis's sermon is that in which he deals with the religious aspect of the movement. Nothing astonishes us more than the great candour with which he states the case, or disappoints us more then the way in which he leaves the cause of such a religious condition unaccounted for. If a few expressions in the following passage which betoken the Protestant mind had been left out, it would not have been altogether out of place in a bishop's pastoral.
"Socialism alone does not receive and express the thoughts which are so full of dark omens for the future. Protestant Christianity in Germany has become cankered to the very core of it by unbelief. A score of philosophers have attacked by turns the Gospel— the old Gospel (according to Paul and Luther). Honest endeavours to present views of God perfectly spiritual have ended in thinnest ether or blackest smoke. Strauss himself, the chief modern prophet of the nation, beginning with a sublime mythical theory about Christ, ends even on his dying bed with a denial of a personal God, with the declaration that there is no supreme intelligence in creation, or in history, or in society, and that the only God modern thought can recognize is the universe, the great whole, the sum total of all things, and so public opinion generally, beginning by impugning the truths of Biblical history, has come to deny the possibility of miracles, the efficacy of prayer, the interference of the Almighty. What room for the profession of faith? What, room for the worship of God? Go to the churches of Protestant Germany to-day and what will you see? Vast and gloomy edifices almost empty ; a few women, and yet fewer men. No fervour, no enthusiasm, no passion. An eminent German authority, speaking of the condition of Protestantism in the land of Luther, says, ' It is eaten to the core by unbelief, it is sapped to its very foundations by infidelity.' Government, strives to do what it, can to stem the advancing tide, with the success that usually attends Government effort in religious matters. The closest union exists there between the Church and the State, and the power of the State is employed in every department of life to uphold the authority of the Church but all in vain. The Evangelical Church, which is the Church of the Empire and the Prime Minister, has persecuted bitterly the other Protestant Churches."
But does Mr. Jefferis consider the Socialism in Germany as primarily due to such causes as these? He attributes the rise of Socialism to the utter want of religion : to what, does he attribute the utter want of religion? We are told that German philosophers have attacked the Gospel, that the Protestant churches are empty, that there is no fervour, and that German Protestantism "is eaten to the core by unbelief." We have not the slightest doubt that this was the immediate cause of German Socialism, but what caused this universal scepticism in Protestant Germany? Mr. Jefferis stands mute when brought face to face with that question.
A loyal Protestant, will probably give every answer to that question but the true one. The natural depravity of the human heart, says one — but is not the human heart naturally depraved in the Church, and yet scepticism and Socialism have never taken root in her ranks. Another says that the Germans are an intellectual and speculative people— we have yet to learn that they are more so than many other nations in which Socialism has never yet appeared. We know it is an unpalatable answer that Socialism is the logical result of Protestantism, but the answer is none the less true because it is unpalatable. Mr. Jefferis says that scepticism has caused socialism. What has caused scepticism ? We answer, the so-called right of private judgment. When a religious difficulty arises, the Protestant professes to go to the Bible, and by the interpretation which his private judgment places on the Bible he solves the difficulty for himself. The German is logical ; he goes a step further, and exercises his private judgment on the authority of the Bible itself. What answer can he give to this question?  To a person outside the Catholic Church there can be neither external nor internal evidence that the Bible is the Word of God, or possesses the slightest authority before which he is to submit his intellect. A Catholic knows the Bible to be inspired because the Church tells him so ; but the case of a Protestant is far different, because he denies that authority upon which a knowledge of the inspiration must rest. Humanly speaking, this is a necessary result of the Protestant principle. We may take years for the result to develop itself, but it is as certain as is the conclusion of a correct syllogism. No wonder Mr. Jefferis jibbed at tracing Socialism to its original cause!
As a sermon, it is a tolerable specimen, short, and, as far as it goes, to the point. The charm of it lies in the fact that the preacher, who if he adheres to the first principles and is logical ought to be a sceptic, and yet he has the courage to acknowledge half of the truth that tells against his religious position. Beyond this there is little to recommend it. It contains no evidence of real learning, and it evinces a poverty of thought which no affectation of fine writing can conceal.

 Freeman's Journal 20 July 1878,

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