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ADDRESS these pages in general to those
who love the truth, and who wish to know it; more specially to those who believe, as common sense must require us to believe, that the most important part of all truth is that which relates to man's duty here, and his destiny hereafter; but particularly to those who are convinced that this last, religious truth, or the true religion, is to be found somewhere or other in what is known as Christianity; or in other words, that the religion founded by Christ contains all that man can know on these most important matters.
Some do not believe that anything can be known about these matters except what the light of nature shows us; with such, of course, discussion is quite possible, but I do not propose to enter on it. Many others believe that the true, or at any rate the truest religion is not that of Christ, but some other; but though there are plenty of this sort in the world, there are not so inany here ; few Americans are Mohammedans, or even Buddhists; so I pass them by, and turn
to the multitude, who still are, by inheritance and by profession, Christians.
And yet, after all, considerations presented on this basis may not be altogether beside the niark for those who do not stand on it. For the reason why they refuse to stand on it may well be that the Christian creed seems to them unreasonable and impossible ; but that may be simply because their knowledge of it is very incomplete; because they have known it as it has been handed down to them from their fathers, but not as it has been believed by the great majority of those who, from the time of Christ, have lived and died in it.
It may be well, then, even for those who have rejected Christianity, as they have understood it, to examine if they have been right or thoroughly reasonable in so doing.
Would it be reasonable or fair to reject the whole science of medicine because you have concluded that some form of it which you have studied is a mistake? Let us, then, not reject Christianity for good and all until we are sure we know all about it; and certainly not if we are quite ignorant or doubtful about what the great mass of Christians hold.
There are vast numbers—you are perhaps one yourself-who are in just this ignorance or doubt. It is simply astonishing that there should be two hundred millions of people hold
ing one faith, and spread through all parts of the world, and yet that their neighbors, friends, or even relatives, with whom so much of their life is spent, should be in such ignorance of what that faith is, or have such false ideas about it. Especially as these two hundred inillions do not form a secret society, with secret meetings, signs, and passwords; no, everything that they hold and teach is open and aboveboard; they are not Freemasons, they are simply Catholics.
It was so, however, from the beginning; we were accused of worshipping an ass's head, and of slaughtering infants; but then there was more excuse for such calumnies, for there was, there had to be, some secrecy in our meetings then; but now there is very little; every one is welcome to every religious meeting of Catholics, except to that between priest and penitent in the confessional; you yourself would not want strangers, or indeed any third party, at that.
But I do not wish to blame any one for being thus ignorant, if he will only admit that perhaps he is so ; for I should have to blame myself; having been once as ignorant myself, and yet fancying I knew it all. But that was some time ago.
Well now, we will come back to the line on
which we started. We will suppose that you are a Christian, or at least would like to be so if you could see your way to it without giving up your reason or your moral sense, or going through some great excitement, which you feel you cannot work yourself up to.
And here let me say a word to dispel a delusion which has become quite popular of late. It is that religion is a matter of emotion or excitement ; that there is some incompatibility between it and strict logic; that a religious man, and especially a clergyman, must be a man of feeling, rather than of solid hard-headed fact. That religion, in short, is a sentiment rather than a science; that it is fit for women and children, and does them a great deal of good ; and would no doubt do a man good too, if he could only bend his gigantic intellect to it.
Now, this idea would be simply amusing to any one who knows anything about the Catholic religion, if it were not a dangerous one, and therefore liable to make one sigh as well as smile. In the first place, the part of it relating to women is rather a bold assumption which perhaps we cannot hold to much longer; I have a suspicion that perhaps women have more sense than some men imagine, and that we had better not be too confident that we are so much more clever than they, even in an argument.
But let that go. The amusing part is the