Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Home - Articles - Church History - Catholic Morals - Prayers - Prayers Answered - Saints Children's Bible - History

After The War

When the five years of rending and tearing had passed, in which slavery
was dispossessed of its hold upon the nation, there was much to be done
in reconstructing and readjusting the religious institutions of the

Throughout the seceding States buildings and endowments for religious
uses had suffered in the general waste and destruction of property.
Colleges and seminaries, in many instances, had seen their entire
resources swept away through investment in the hopeless promises of the
defeated government. Churches, boards, and like associations were widely
disorganized through the vicissitudes of military occupation and the
protracted absence or the death of men of experience and capacity.

The effect of the war upon denominational organizations had been
various. There was no sect of all the church the members and ministers
of which had not felt the sweep of the currents of popular opinion all
about them. But the course of events in each denomination was in some
measure illustrative of the character of its polity.

In the Roman Catholic Church the antagonisms of the conflict were as
keenly felt as anywhere. Archbishop Hughes of New York, who, with Henry
Ward Beecher and Bishop McIlvaine of Ohio, accepted a political mission
from President Lincoln, was not more distinctly a Union man than Bishop
Lynch of Charleston was a secessionist. But the firm texture of the
hierarchical organization, held steadily in place by a central authority
outside of the national boundaries, prevented any organic rupture. The
Catholic Church in America was eminently fortunate at one point: the
famous bull Quanta Cura, with its appended Syllabus of damnable
errors, in which almost all the essential characteristics of the
institutions of the American Republic are anathematized, was fulminated
in 1864, when people in the United States had little time to think of
ecclesiastical events taking place at such a distance. If this
extraordinary document had been first published in a time of peace, and
freely discussed in the newspapers of the time, it could hardly have
failed to inflict the most serious embarrassment on the interests of
Catholicism in America. Even now it keeps the Catholic clergy in a
constantly explanatory attitude to show that the Syllabus does not
really mean what to the ordinary reader it unmistakably seems to mean;
and the work of explanation is made the more necessary and the more
difficult by the decree of papal infallibility, which followed the
Syllabus after a few years.

Simply on the ground of a de facto political independence, the
southern dioceses of the Protestant Episcopal Church, following the
principles and precedents of 1789, organized themselves into a Church
in the Confederate States. One of the southern bishops, Polk, of
Louisiana, accepted a commission of major-general in the Confederate
army, and relieved his brethren of any disciplinary questions that might
have arisen in consequence by dying on the field from a cannon-shot.
With admirable tact and good temper, the Church in the United States
managed to ignore the existence of any secession; and when the alleged
de facto independence ceased, the seceding bishops and their dioceses
dropped quietly back into place without leaving a trace of the secession
upon the record.

The southern organizations of the Methodists and Baptists were of twenty
years' standing at the close of the war in 1865. The war had abolished
the original cause of these divisions, but it had substituted others
quite as serious. The exasperations of the war, and the still more
acrimonious exasperations of the period of the political reconstruction
and of the organization of northern missions at the South, gendered
strifes that still delay the reintegration which is so visibly future of
both of these divided denominations.

At the beginning of the war one of the most important of the
denominations that still retained large northern and southern
memberships in the same fellowship was the Old-School Presbyterian
Church; and no national sect had made larger concessions to avert a
breach of unity. When the General Assembly met at Philadelphia in May,
1861, amid the intense excitements of the opening war, it was still the
hope of the habitual leaders and managers of the Assembly to avert a
division by holding back that body from any expression of sentiment on
the question on which the minds of Christians were stirred at that time
with a profound and most religious fervor. But the Assembly took the
matter out of the hands of its leaders, and by a great majority, in the
words of a solemn and temperate resolution drawn by the venerable and
conservative Dr. Gardiner Spring, declared its loyalty to the government
and constitution of the country. With expressions of horror at the
sacrilege of taking the church into the domain of politics, southern
presbyteries one after another renounced the jurisdiction of the General
Assembly that could be guilty of so shocking a profanation, and, uniting
in a General Assembly of their own, proceeded with great promptitude to
make equally emphatic deliverances on the opposite side of the same
political question.[354:1] But nice logical consistency and accurate
working within the lines of a church theory were more than could
reasonably be expected of a people in so pitiable a plight. The
difference on the subject of the right function of the church continued
to be held as the ground for continuing the separation from the General
Assembly after the alleged ground in political geography had ceased to
be valid; the working motive for it was more obvious in the unfraternal
and almost wantonly exasperating course of the national General Assembly
during the war; but the best justification for it is to be found in the
effective and useful working of the Southern Presbyterian Church.
Considering the impoverishment and desolation of the southern country,
the record of useful and self-denying work accomplished by this body,
not only at home, but in foreign fields, is, from its beginning, an
immensely honorable one.

Another occasion of reconstruction was the strong disposition of the
liberated negroes to withdraw themselves from the tutelage of the
churches in which they had been held, in the days of slavery, in a
lower-caste relation. The eager entrance of the northern churches upon
mission work among the blacks, to which access had long been barred by
atrocious laws and by the savage fury of mobs, tended to promote this
change. The multiplication and growth of organized negro denominations
is a characteristic of the period after the war. There is reason to hope
that the change may by and by, with the advance of education and moral
training among this people, inure to their spiritual advantage. There is
equal reason to fear that at present, in many cases, it works to their
serious detriment.

The effect of the war was not exclusively divisive. In two instances,
at least, it had the effect of healing old schisms. The southern
secession from the New-School Presbyterian Church, which had come away
in 1858 on the slavery issue, found itself in 1861 side by side with the
southern secession from the Old School, and in full agreement with it in
morals and politics. The two bodies were not long in finding that the
doctrinal differences which a quarter-century before had seemed so
insuperable were, after all, no serious hindrance to their coming

Even after the war was over, its healing power was felt, this time at
the North. There was a honeycomb for Samson in the carcass of the
monster. The two great Presbyterian sects at the North had found a
common comfort in their relief from the perpetual festering irritation
of the slavery question; they had softened toward each other in the glow
of a religious patriotism; they had forgotten old antagonisms in common
labors; and new issues had obscured the tenuous doctrinal disputes that
had agitated the continent in 1837. Both parties grew tired and ashamed
of the long and sometimes ill-natured quarrel. With such a disposition
on both sides, terms of agreement could not fail in time to be found.
For substance, the basis of reunion was this: that the New-School church
should yield the point of organization, and the Old-School church should
yield the point of doctrine; the New-School men should sustain the
Old-School boards, and the Old-School men should tolerate the New-School
heresies. The consolidation of the two sects into one powerful
organization was consummated at Pittsburg, November 12, 1869, with every
demonstration of joy and devout thanksgiving.

One important denomination, the Congregationalists, had had the
distinguished advantage, through all these turbulent years, of having no
southern membership. Out of all proportion to its numerical strength was
the part which it took in those missions to the neglected populations
of the southern country into which the various denominations, both of
the South and of the North, entered with generous emulation while yet
the war was still waging. Always leaders in advanced education, they not
only, acting through the American Missionary Association, provided for
primary and secondary schools for the negroes, but promoted the
foundation of institutions of higher, and even of the highest, grade at
Hampton, at Atlanta, at Tuskegee, at New Orleans, at Nashville, and at
Washington. Many noble lives have been consecrated to this most
Christlike work of lifting up the depressed. None will grudge a word of
exceptional eulogy to the memory of that splendid character, General
Samuel C. Armstrong, son of one of the early missionaries to the
Sandwich Islands, who poured his inspiring soul into the building up of
the Normal Institute at Hampton, Va., thus not only rearing a visible
monument of his labor in the enduring buildings of that great and useful
institution, but also establishing his memory, for as long as human
gratitude can endure, in the hearts of hundreds of young men and young
women, negro and Indian, whose lives are the better and nobler for their
having known him as their teacher.

It cannot be justly claimed for the Congregationalists of the present
day that they have lost nothing of that corporate unselfishness, seeking
no sectarian aggrandizement, but only God's reign and righteousness,
which had been the glory of their fathers. The studious efforts that
have been made to cultivate among them a sectarian spirit, as if this
were one of the Christian virtues, have not been fruitless. Nevertheless
it may be seen that their work of education at the South has been
conducted in no narrow spirit. The extending of their sect over new
territory has been a most trivial and unimportant result of their
widespread and efficient work. A far greater result has been the
promotion among the colored people of a better education, a higher
standard of morality, and an enlightened piety, through the influence of
the graduates of these institutions, not only as pastors and as
teachers, but in all sorts of trades and professions and as mothers of

This work of the Congregationalists is entitled to mention, not as
exceptional, but only as eminent among like enterprises, in which few of
the leading sects have failed to be represented. Extravagant
expectations were at first entertained of immediate results in bringing
the long-depressed race up to the common plane of civilization. But it
cannot be said that reasonable and intelligent expectations have been
disappointed. Experience has taught much as to the best conduct of such
missions. The gift of a fund of a million dollars by the late John F.
Slater, of Norwich, has through wise management conduced to this end. It
has encouraged in the foremost institutions the combination of training
to skilled productive labor with education in literature and science.

The inauguration of these systems of religious education at the South
was the most conspicuously important of the immediate sequels of the
Civil War. But this time was a time of great expansion of the activities
of the church in all directions. The influx of immigration, temporarily
checked by the hard times of 1857 and by the five years of war, came in
again in such floods as never before.[357:1] The foreign immigration is
always attended by a westward movement of the already settled
population. The field of home missions became greater and more exacting
than ever. The zeal of the church, educated during the war to higher
ideas of self-sacrifice, rose to the occasion. The average yearly
receipts of the various Protestant home missionary societies, which in
the decade 1850-59 had been $808,000, rose in the next decade to more
than $2,000,000, in the next to nearly $3,000,000, and for the seven
years 1881-87 to $4,000,000.[358:1]

In the perils of abounding wealth by which the church after the war was
beset, it was divine fatherly kindness that opened before it new and
enlarged facilities of service to the kingdom of heaven among foreign
nations. From the first feeble beginnings of foreign missions from
America in India and in the Sandwich Islands, they had been attended by
the manifest favor of God. When the convulsion of the Civil War came on,
with prostrations of business houses, and enormous burdens of public
obligation, and private beneficence drawn down, as it seemed, to its
bottom dollar for new calls of patriotism and charity, and especially
when the dollar in a man's pocket shrank to a half or a third of its
value in the world's currency, it seemed as if the work of foreign
missions would have to be turned over to Christians in lands less
burdened with accumulated disadvantages. But here again the grandeur of
the burden gave an inspiration of strength to the burden-bearer. From
1840 to 1849 the average yearly receipts of the various foreign
missionary societies of the Protestant churches of the country had been
a little more than a half-million. In the decade 1850-59 they had risen
to $850,000; for the years of distress, 1860-69, they exceeded
$1,300,000; for the eleven years 1870-80 the annual receipts in this
behalf were $2,200,000; and in the seven years 1881-87 they were

We have seen how, only forty years before the return of peace, in the
days of a humble equality in moderate estates, ardent souls exulted
together in the inauguration of the era of democracy in beneficence,
when every humblest giver might, through association and organization,
have part in magnificent enterprises of Christian charity such as had
theretofore been possible only to princes or to men of princely
possessions.[359:2] But with the return of civil peace we began to
recognize that among ourselves was growing up a class of men of
princely possessions--a class such as the American Republic never
before had known.[359:3] Among those whose fortunes were reckoned by
many millions or many tens of millions were men of sordid nature, whose
wealth, ignobly won, was selfishly hoarded, and to whose names, as to
that of the late Jay Gould, there is attached in the mind of the people
a distinct note of infamy. But this was not in general the character of
the American millionaire. There were those of nobler strain who felt a
responsibility commensurate with the great power conferred by great
riches, and held their wealth as in trust for mankind. Through the
fidelity of men of this sort it has come to pass that the era of great
fortunes in America has become conspicuous in the history of the whole
world as the era of magnificent donations to benevolent ends. Within a
few months of each other, from the little State of Connecticut, came the
fund of a million given by John F. Slater in his lifetime for the
benefit of the freedmen, the gift of a like sum for the like purpose
from Daniel Hand, and the legacy of a million and a half for foreign
missions from Deacon Otis of New London. Great gifts like these were
frequently directed to objects which could not easily have been attained
by the painful process of accumulating small donations. It was a period
not only of splendid gifts to existing institutions, but of foundations
for new universities, libraries, hospitals, and other institutions of
the highest public service, foundations without parallel in human
history for large munificence. To this period belong the beginnings of
the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital at Baltimore, the University
of Chicago, the Clarke University at Worcester, the Vanderbilt
University at Nashville, the Leland Stanford, Jr., University of
California, the Peabody and Enoch Pratt Libraries at Baltimore, the
Lenox Library at New York, the great endowed libraries of Chicago, the
Drexel Institute at Philadelphia, and the Armour Institute at Chicago.
These are some of the names that most readily occur of foundations due
mainly to individual liberality, set down at the risk of omitting others
with equal claim for mention. Not all of these are to be referred to a
religious spirit in the founders, but none of them can fail of a
Christian influence and result. They prepare a foothold for such a
forward stride of Christian civilization as our continent has never
before known.

The sum of these gifts of millions, added to the great aggregates of
contribution to the national missionary boards and societies, falls far
short of the total contributions expended in cities, towns, and villages
for the building of churches and the maintenance of the countless
charities that cluster around them. The era following the war was
preŰminently a building era. Every one knows that religious devotion
is only one of the mingled motives that work together in such an
enterprise as the building of a church; but, after all deductions, the
voluntary gifts of Christian people for Christ's sake in the promotion
of such works, when added to the grand totals already referred to, would
make an amount that would overtax the ordinary imagination to conceive.

And yet it is not certain that this period of immense gifts of money is
really a period of increased liberality in the church from the time,
thirty or forty years before, when a millionaire was a rarity to be
pointed out on the streets, and the possession of a hundred thousand
dollars gave one a place among The Rich Men of New York. In 1850 the
total wealth of the United States was reported in the census as seven
billions of dollars. In 1870, after twenty years, it had more than
fourfolded, rising to thirty billions. Ten years later, according to the
census, it had sixfolded, rising to forty-three billions.[361:1] From
the point of view of One sitting over against the treasury it is not
likely that any subsequent period has equaled in its gifts that early
day when in New England the people were wont to build a fine church as
soon as they had houses for themselves,[361:2] and when the messengers
went from cabin to cabin to gather the gifts of the college corn.

* * * * *

The greatest addition to the forces of the church in the period since
the war has come from deploying into the field hitherto unused
resources of personal service. The methods under which the personal
activity of private Christians has formerly been organized for service
have increased and multiplied, and old agencies have taken on new forms.

The earliest and to this day the most extensive of the organizations for
utilizing the non-professional ministry in systematic religious labors
is the Sunday-school. The considerable development of this
instrumentality begins to be recognized after the Second Awakening in
the early years of the present century. The prevailing characteristic of
the American Sunday-school as distinguished from its British congener is
that it is commonly a part of the equipment of the local church for the
instruction of its own children, and incidentally one of the most
important resources for its attractive work toward those that are
without. But it is also recognized as one of the most flexible and
adaptable arms of the service for aggressive work, whether in great
cities or on the frontier. It was about the year 1825 that this work
began to be organized on a national scale. But it is since the war that
it has sprung into vastly greater efficiency. The agreement upon uniform
courses of biblical study, to be followed simultaneously by many
millions of pupils over the entire continent, has given a unity and
coherence before unknown to the Sunday-school system; and it has
resulted in extraordinary enterprise and activity on the part of
competent editors and publishers to provide apparatus for the thorough
study of the text, which bids fair in time to take away the reproach of
the term Sunday-schoolish as applied to superficial, ignorant, or
merely sentimental expositions of the Scriptures. The work of the
Sunday-school Times, in bringing within the reach of teachers all over
the land the fruits of the world's best scholarship, is a signal fact
in history--the most conspicuous of a series of like facts. The
tendency, slow, of course, and partial, but powerful, is toward serious,
faithful study and teaching, in which the mind of the Spirit is sought
in the sacred text, with strenuous efforts of the teachable mind, with
all the aids that can be brought from whatever quarter. The
Sunday-school system, coextensive with Protestant Christianity in
America, and often the forerunner of church and ministry, and, to a less
extent and under more scrupulous control of clergy, adopted into the
Catholic Church, has become one of the distinctive features of American

An outgrowth of the Sunday-school system, which, under the conduct of a
man of genius for organization, Dr. John H. Vincent, now a bishop of the
Methodist Church, has expanded to magnificent dimensions, is that which
is suggested by the name Chautauqua. Beginning in the summer of 1874
with a fortnight's meeting in a grove beside Chautauqua Lake for the
study of the methods of Sunday-school teaching, it led to the questions,
how to connect the Sunday-school more intimately with other departments
of the church and with other agencies in society; how to control in the
interest of religious culture the forces, social, commercial,
industrial, and educational, which, for good or evil, are affecting the
Sunday-school pupils every day of the week. Striking root at other
centers of assembly, east, west, and south, and combining its summer
lectures with an organized system of home studies extending through the
year, subject to written examinations, Chautauqua, by the
comprehensive scope of its studies and by the great multitude of its
students, is entitled to be called, in no ignoble sense of the word, a
university.[363:1] A weighty and unimpeachable testimony to the power
and influence of the institution has been the recent organization of a
Catholic Chautauqua, under the conduct of leading scholars and
ecclesiastics of the Roman Church.

* * * * *

Another organization of the unpaid service of private Christians is the
Young Men's Christian Association. Beginning in London in 1844, it had
so far demonstrated its usefulness in 1851 as to attract favorable
attention from visitors to the first of the World's Fairs. In the end of
that year the Association in Boston was formed, and this was rapidly
followed by others in the principal cities. It met a growing exigency in
American society. In the organization of commerce and manufacture in
larger establishments than formerly, the apprenticeship system had
necessarily lapsed, and nothing had taken its place. Of old, young men
put to the learning of any business were articled or indentured as
apprentices to the head of the concern, who was placed in loco
parentis, being invested both with the authority and with the
responsibility of a father. Often the apprentices were received into the
house of the master as their home, and according to legend and romance
it was in order for the industrious and virtuous apprentice to marry the
old man's daughter and succeed to the business. After the employees of a
store came to be numbered by scores and the employees of a factory by
hundreds, the word apprentice became obsolete in the American
language. The employee was only a hand, and there was danger that
employers would forget that he was also a heart and a soul. This was the
exigency that the Young Men's Christian Association came to supply. Men
of conscience among employers and corporations recognized their
opportunity and their duty. The new societies did not lack encouragement
and financial aid from those to whom the character of the young men was
not only a matter of Christian concern, but also a matter of business
interest. In every considerable town the Association organized itself,
and the work of equipment, and soon of building, went on apace. In 1887
the Association buildings in the United States and Canada were valued at
three and a half millions. In 1896 there were in North America 1429
Associations, with about a quarter of a million of members, employing
1251 paid officers, and holding buildings and other real estate to the
amount of nearly $20,000,000.

The work has not been without its vicissitudes. The wonderful revival of
1857, preŰminently a laymen's movement, in many instances found its
nidus in the rooms of the Associations; and their work was expanded and
invigorated as a result of the revival. In 1861 came on the war. It
broke up for the time the continental confederacy of Associations. Many
of the local Associations were dissolved by the enlistment of their
members. But out of the inspiring exigencies of the time grew up in the
heart of the Associations the organization and work of the Christian
Commission, co÷perating with the Sanitary Commission for the bodily and
spiritual comfort of the armies in the field. The two organizations
expended upward of eleven millions of dollars, the free gift of the
people at home. After the war the survivors of those who had enlisted
from the Associations came back to their home duties, in most cases,
better men for all good service in consequence of their experience of
military discipline.

* * * * *

A natural sequel to the organization and success of the Young Men's
Christian Association is the institution of the Young Women's Christian
Association, having like objects and methods in its proper sphere. This
institution, too, owes the reason of its existence to changed social
conditions. The plausible arguments of some earnest reformers in favor
of opening careers of independent self-support to women, and the
unquestionable and pathetic instances by which these arguments are
enforced, are liable to some most serious and weighty offsets. Doubtless
many and many a case of hardship has been relieved by the general
introduction of this reform. But the result has been the gathering in
large towns of populations of unmarried, self-supporting young women,
severed from home duties and influences, and, out of business hours,
under no effective restraints of rule. There is a rush from the country
into the city of applicants for employment, and wages sink to less than
a living rate. We are confronted with an artificial and perilous
condition for the church to deal with, especially in the largest cities.
And of the various instrumentalities to this end, the Young Women's
Christian Association is one of the most effective.

* * * * *

The development of organized activity among women has been a conspicuous
characteristic of this period. From the beginning of our churches the
charitable sewing-circle or Dorcas Society has been known as a center
both of prayer and of labor. But in this period the organization of
women for charitable service has been on a continental scale.

In 1874, in an outburst of zeal, women's crusades were undertaken,
especially in some western towns, in which bands of singing and praying
women went in person to tippling-houses and even worse resorts, to
assail them, visibly and audibly, with these spiritual weapons. The
crusades, so long as they were a novelty, were not without result.
Spectacular prayers, offered with one eye on the heavens and the other
eye watching the impressions made on the human auditor, are not in vain;
they have their reward. But the really important result of the
crusades was the organization of the Women's Christian Temperance
Union, which has extended in all directions to the utmost bounds of the
country, and has accomplished work of undoubted value, while attempting
other work the value of which is open to debate.

The separate organization of women for the support and management of
missions began on an extensive scale, in 1868, with the Women's Board of
Missions, instituted in alliance with the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregationalist churches.
The example at once commended itself to the imitation of all, so that
all the principal mission boards of the Protestant churches are in
alliance with actively working women's boards.

The training acquired in these and other organizations by many women of
exceptional taste and talent for the conduct of large affairs has tended
still further to widen the field of their activity. The ends of the
earth, as well as the dark places nearer home, have felt the salutary
results of it.[367:1]

In this brief and most incomplete sketch of the origin of one of the
distinguishing features of contemporary Christianity--the application of
the systematized activity of private Christians--no mention has been
made of the corps of colporteurs, or book-peddlers, employed by
religious publication societies, nor of the vastly useful work of
laymen employed as city missionaries, nor of the houses and orders of
sisters wholly devoted to pious and charitable work. Such work, though
the ceremony of ordination may have been omitted, is rather clerical or
professional than laical. It is on this account the better suited to the
genius of the Catholic Church, whose ages of experience in the conduct
of such organizations, and whose fine examples of economy and efficiency
in the use of them, have put all American Christendom under obligation.
Among Protestant sects the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, and the
Methodists have (after the Moravians) shown themselves readiest to
profit by the example. But a far more widely beneficent service than
that of all the nursing orders together, both Catholic and Protestant,
and one not less Christian, while it is characteristically American in
its method, is that of the annually increasing army of faithful women
professionally educated to the work of nursing, at a hundred hospitals,
and fulfilling their vocation individually and on business principles.
The education of nurses is a sequel of the war and one of the beneficent
fruits of it.

* * * * *

Not the least important item in the organization of lay activity is the
marvelously rapid growth of the Young People's Society of Christian
Endeavor. In February, 1881, a pastor in Portland, Me., the Rev.
Francis E. Clark, organized into an association within his church a
number of young people pledged to certain rules of regular attendance
and participation in the association meetings and of co÷peration in
useful service. There seems to have been no particular originality in
the plan, but through some felicity in arrangement and opportuneness in
the time it caught like a forest fire, and in an amazingly short time
ran through the country and around the world. One wise precaution was
taken in the basis of the organization: it was provided that it should
not interfere with any member's fidelity to his church or his sect, but
rather promote it. Doubtless jealousy of its influence was thus in some
measure forestalled and averted. But in the rapid spread of the Society
those who were on guard for the interests of the several sects
recognized a danger in too free affiliations outside of sectarian lines,
and soon there were instituted, in like forms of rule, Epworth Leagues
for Methodists, Westminster Leagues for Presbyterians, Luther
Leagues for Lutherans, St. Andrew's Brotherhoods for Episcopalians,
The Baptist Young People's Union, and yet others for yet other sects.
According to the latest reports, the total pledged membership of this
order of associated young disciples, in these various ramifications, is
about 4,500,000[369:1]--this in the United States alone. Of the
Christian Endeavor Societies still adhering to the old name and
constitution, there are in all the world 47,009, of which 11,119 are
Junior Endeavor Societies. The total membership is 2,820,540.[369:2]

Contemporary currents of theological thought, setting away from the
excessive individualism which has characterized the churches of the
Great Awakening, confirm the tendency of the Christian life toward a
vigorous and even absorbing external activity. The duty of the church to
human society is made a part of the required curriculum of study in
preparation for the ministry, in fully equipped theological seminaries.
If ever it has been a just reproach of the church that its frequenters
were so absorbed in the saving of their own souls that they forgot the
multitude about them, that reproach is fast passing away. The
Institutional Church, as the clumsy phrase goes, cares for soul and
body, for family and municipal and national life. Its saving sacraments
are neither two nor seven, but seventy times seven. They include the
bath-tub as well as the font; the coffee-house and cook-shop as well as
the Holy Supper; the gymnasium as well as the prayer-meeting. The
college settlement plants colonies of the best life of the church in
regions which men of little faith are tempted to speak of as
God-forsaken. The Salvation Army, with its noisy and eccentric ways,
and its effective discipline, and its most Christian principle of
setting every rescued man at work to aid in the rescue of others, is
welcomed by all orders of the church, and honored according to the
measure of its usefulness, and even of its faithful effort to be useful.

* * * * *

It is not to be supposed that this immense, unprecedented growth of
outward activity can have been gained without some corresponding loss.
The time is not long gone by, when the sustained contemplation of the
deep things of the cross, and the lofty things in the divine nature, and
the subtile and elusive facts concerning the human constitution and
character and the working of the human will, were eminently
characteristic of the religious life of the American church. In the
times when that life was stirred to its most strenuous activity, it was
marked by the vicissitude of prolonged passions of painful sensibility
at the consciousness of sin, and ecstasies of delight in the
contemplation of the infinity of God and the glory of the Saviour and
his salvation. Every one who is conversant with the religious biography
of the generations before our own, knows of the still hours and days set
apart for the severe inward scrutiny of motives and frames and the
grounds of one's hope. However truly the church of to-day may judge
that the piety of their fathers was disproportioned and morbidly
introspective and unduly concerned about one's own salvation, it is none
the less true that the reaction from its excesses is violent, and is
providing for itself a new reaction. The contemplative orders, whether
among Catholics or Protestants, do not find the soil and climate of
America congenial. And yet there is a mission-field here for the mystic
and the quietist; and when the stir-about activity of our generation
suffers their calm voices to be heard, there are not a few to give ear.

* * * * *

An event of great historical importance, which cannot be determined to a
precise date, but which belongs more to this period than to any other,
is the loss of the Scotch and Puritan Sabbath, or, as many like to call
it, the American Sabbath. The law of the Westminster divines on this
subject, it may be affirmed without fear of contradiction from any
quarter, does not coincide in its language with the law of God as
expressed either in the Old Testament or in the New. The Westminster
rule requires, as if with a Thus saith the Lord, that on the first day
of the week, instead of the seventh, men shall desist not only from
labor but from recreation, and spend the whole time in the public and
private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up
in the works of necessity and mercy.[371:1] This interpretation and
expansion of the Fourth Commandment has never attained to more than a
sectarian and provincial authority; but the overmastering Puritan
influence, both of Virginia and of New England, combined with the
Scotch-Irish influence, made it for a long time dominant in America.
Even those who quite declined to admit the divine authority of the
glosses upon the commandment felt constrained to submit to the
ordinances of man for the Lord's sake. But it was inevitable that with
the vast increase of the travel and sojourn of American Christians in
other lands of Christendom, and the multitudinous immigration into
America from other lands than Great Britain, the tradition from the
Westminster elders should come to be openly disputed within the church,
and should be disregarded even when not denied. It was not only
inevitable; it was a Christian duty distinctly enjoined by apostolic
authority.[372:1] The five years of war, during which Christians of
various lands and creeds intermingled as never before, and the Sunday
laws were dumb inter arma not only in the field but among the home
churches, did perhaps even more to break the force of the tradition, and
to lead in a perilous and demoralizing reaction. Some reaction was
inevitable. The church must needs suffer the evil consequence of
overstraining the law of God. From the Sunday of ascetic self-denial--a
day for a man to afflict his soul--there was a ready rush into utter
recklessness of the law and privilege of rest. In the church there was
wrought sore damage to weak consciences; men acted, not from intelligent
conviction, but from lack of conviction, and allowing themselves in
self-indulgences of the rightfulness of which they were dubious, they
condemned themselves in that which they allowed. The consequence in
civil society was alike disastrous. Early legislation had not steered
clear of the error of attempting to enforce Sabbath-keeping as a
religious duty by civil penalties; and some relics of that mistake
remained, and still remain, on some of the statute-books. The just
protest against this wrong was, of course, undiscriminating, tending to
defeat the righteous and most salutary laws that aimed simply to secure
for the citizen the privilege of a weekly day of rest and to secure the
holiday thus ordained by law from being perverted into a nuisance. The
social change which is still in progress along these lines no wise
Christian patriot can contemplate with complacency. It threatens, when
complete, to deprive us of that universal quiet Sabbath rest which has
been one of the glories of American social life, and an important
element in its economic prosperity, and to give in place of it, to some,
no assurance of a Sabbath rest at all, to others, a Sabbath of revelry
and debauch.

Next: The Church In Theology And Liter

Previous: The Civil War--antecedents And C

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network