Church Work in Mexico
AN INDEPENDENT WITNESS
The League in Aid of the Mexican Branch
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2015
IT is with much pleasure that the "Mexican League" calls the attention of the Church and public to this paper, written by a member of Trinity Church, Newark, N. J., who is cordially introduced by his Rector, the Rev. J. H. Eccleston, D.D., in the following words:
"The writer is an earnest churchman, and finding himself in the City of Mexico on a trip in search of health, devoted his leisure to examining the work under Bishop Riley. He simply tells what he saw and heard, and leaves others to draw their own inference. It will, I think, be interesting to the Church, as the work of a gentleman who was for several years in the service of our Government among Spanish-speaking people, familiar with their customs and language, and I believe an interested and fair observer and safe reporter of what he has seen."
THE following paper written, currente calamo, but not without deep concern in the issue, was prepared in the hope that it might, by publication in a Church paper, arouse an intelligent and active interest in a work so full of appeal to the warmest sympathies of our Church. In point of fact it was accepted for that purpose, but the writer, having learned that the Secretary of the Mexican League had prepared a series of letters upon the same subject for the same paper, narrating his own recent observations in Mexico, withdrew his manuscript as being in his opinion less likely to effect the object in view.
The Mexican League having, however, requested permission to publish the paper in pamphlet form, the writer, sensible of the risk incurred of broader criticism in allowing it to assume so formal a shape, has given his assent, in the humble hope that, although hastily expressed, his careful observations and deep impressions may carry conviction to generous hearts, and substantial aid to the great work of "pure religion and undefiled" now progressing in the Republic of Mexico.
CHURCH WORK IN MEXICO.
GULF OF MEXICO, Easter Sunday, 1881.
A few months ago an esteemed friend and fellow-parishioner said to me one morning, in crossing the Hudson: "I saw yesterday Mr. Blank, who has just returned from the City of Mexico. I asked him about Bishop Riley's work there, and he spoke very disparagingly about it. He says that it is making no substantial progress; that the Bishop's small following consists mainly of those who pretend to be converted for the sake of the support derived from him, and that the whole movement has been much overstated."
Now, Mr. Blank is a gentleman of prominence and much respected in a sister communion. More than that, he holds an important executive office in its affairs, demanding the constant exercise of the faculties of discernment, investigation, and judicial impartiality; therefore I replied, "I am very sorry to hear this, for I have a high respect for Mr. Blank's opinion, but I cannot allow his hasty judgment on this subject to invalidate the endorsement of the Lambeth Conference, the report of Bishop Lee, of Delaware, and Dr. Dyer, of New York, made after a personal investigation, the sponsorship which our own Church assumed in its consecration of Bishop Riley for that special work, nor the assurances of personal friends, entirely disinterested, who have been on the spot and given me the most touching proofs of the success of the Bishop's work, which outweigh an hundred times any such impressions as Mr. Blank has received."
Returning now from Mexico, whither I went via Havana in the hope of recruiting my health by sea voyages and mountain air, having remained in the City of Mexico nearly [5/6] a fortnight, with neither social nor business occupations to interfere with my absolute command of time and opportunity, I venture to note the results of my own observations of Bishop Riley's work. I shall call it so, but trust that at the close it will appear to the reader to be notably GOD'S work prospering in his hands and through his instrumentality.
Should one ask, "Why are your impressions and opinions of any more value than those of Mr. Blank?" the reply in all modesty is this: For twelve years I was in an official position which placed me in close relations with the Spanish-American Governments and peoples, and it was my business to study their current history and policy. Later, having been twice sent on special missions to most of them, learning their language and coming in daily contact with all classes, and their varied shades of thought, it would have been impossible that any intelligent person should fail in some degree to get at those methods of mental operation and expression that are peculiar to the Spanish-Americans; and finally, I felt what Mr. Blank could not feel, viz: that the honor of our Church was, in a way, involved, and if we in our credulity were staggering along under an Old Man of the Mountain whom Bishop Riley had cleverly saddled upon us (though with what motive it would be difficult to penetrate), the sooner the Church dropped the load and devoted the wasted portion of its strength to some more practical and promising effort, the better for the Church and the world.
Perhaps, for the more comprehensive and intelligent view of the subject, it may be not uninteresting, before describing the present condition and needs of the "NATIONAL MEXICAN CHURCH OF JESUS," to give a brief resume, of its origin.
Many well-Informed churchmen are under the impression that this Church had its origin in an outside assault by Protestantism upon one of the oldest and best fortified strongholds of Romanism. So far from this having been the case, this reformation, like all others which have from [6/7] age to age changed the condition of the world, began within the body that needed reform. It was in 1861 that certain priests--educated men--in the City of Mexico were awakened by the study of Holy Scripture and a comparison of its teachings with their own "vain superstitions" and empty ceremonies, to the conviction that the Church, as they knew it, had no warrant of authority from the Word of God. The time was opportune. In 1857, under the broad and liberal Government of the Indian President, Benito Juarez, a man of tremendous energy and fearlessness, a new Constitution had been adopted, which established the equality of all religions before the law. Not very long afterwards, the Government sequestered for the benefit of the State some three hundred of the vast ecclesiastical establishments which filled the country and expelled from them the blood-sucking and vicious confraternities which occupied, and in many instances used them, as the Government proved, as nuclei of sedition and storehouses for arms from which to supply rebels and reactionists. Thus there was open hostility between the Romish Church and the Mexican State.
To resume: A leading spirit and a dominating intellect in this movement within the Church was the Presbyter, Francisco Aguilar, who, in due time, boldly came out and initiated the movement, which resulted in the organization of a Reformed Church, intended to be national, liturgic, and having its foundations laid in the Word of God and the primitive faith--in other words, for the worship of God and the practices of religion as taught in the Gospel. This was the first Protestant Church in Mexico; and it was not long before its teachings were broadly accepted with joy, "and there were added to it daily of such as should be saved."
Two years of incessant toil, enduring the bitterest persecution and malignity which assailed him from his former ecclesiastical associates, exhausted this brave man's strength, and he laid off his armor to take up his crown. By a happy providence the bereaved flock appealed to our Church, and the Rev. Henry Chauncey Riley, one of our clergy, responded, and went to their aid in 1869.
Among his earliest converts, and afterwards his most earnest coadjutor, [7/8] was a Dominican friar, Manuel Aguas, a man of pre-eminent intellectual power, and of high ecclesiastical rank, who attended Mr. Riley's services, and at last sought him by night, opened up his soul to him, and, as he himself described the interview, exclaimed: "We are brothers. Our cause is the same. Let us unite our efforts, and, strengthened by our adorable Saviour, let us contend for the faith of Jesus, even though we perish in the contest."
Manuel Aguas was excommunicated, and encountered the same persecutions as had been inflicted on Aguilar; but he persisted in his course, and was challenged by a prominent ecclesiastic to a public discussion of the question--"Is the Roman Church idolatrous?" The challenge was accepted, but at the appointed time and place, though thousands thronged the church and streets to hear the debate, the challenger did not appear. Aguas continued his labors, and was elected Bishop of the National Mexican Church; but before his consecration, he too succumbed under his heavy burdens, and in 1872 he followed his noble predecessor, Francisco Aguilar.
From his first connection with this movement in 1869, the Rev. Mr. Riley has continued his pastoral labors with untiring zeal, and having been elected Bishop in place of the lamented Aguas, he was consecrated to that office by our House of Bishops in 1879.
But it will be a great mistake to suppose that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship sufficed for the protection of less notable persons from the terrors of persecution. On the contrary, the power of the Roman Church was ubiquitous, and it effected, by its insidious influence, what the Government could not counteract by open protection. Persecution assumed every shape. Forty of the reformers have perished as martyrs for their faith. Twenty were murdered at one time. The Church has forbidden the "faithful" to employ them; the avenues of trade have been closed against them; they have been cast off by old neighbors and friends, and yet they manfully fight on. To show that this spirit of persecution is, as the Church of Rome herself claims to be, "Semper ubique eadem," I shall quote from the "Greater Excommunication," issued [8/9] by the Bishop of Queretaro, under date of 24th March last, and published in El Monitor Republicano, of the City of Mexico, on the 6th of this current month [April], whilst I was there.
The Bishop says that there had been placed in his hands a copy of The Illustrated Christian Advocate, a Protestant publication of the capital, "in which it is announced that a place of worship, after Protestant forms, had already been established [in Queretaro], and that as ministers or directors of this heretical worship are three gentlemen"- whose names are given.
He states that five years previously the same thing had been attempted, and that then he had warned the faithful that it was unlawful, severely prohibited by the Holy Church, under penalty of the gravest censure, and that no one could attend these heretical meetings without incurring the greater excommunication. He proceeds:
"We earnestly exhorted you at that time to flee from similar reunions as from a pestilence [his italics]; and we reminded you finally in the same appeal that you could not read nor possess, without the most grievous sin, Bibles, New Testaments, Gospels, and other books and pamphlets, large or small, which the Protestants distribute to those whom they would seduce."
"You cannot, dearly beloved, attend, even through simple curiosity, these heretical assemblies, nor can you have or read the books and tracts of Protestant origin, which with such profusion they distribute, even by throwing them into your houses through open windows and cracks in the doors, etc., etc.; and for your better understanding of your duty under present circumstances," he quotes fully the declarations of "the venerable Metropolitan the Most Illustrious Archbishop, Doctor Don Ignacio Ariega," just received, although published under date 6th January, of the following tenor:
[I condense it, but with perfect fairness].
1. It is manifest apostasy against our Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church, in which only exists, and through which can be found true salvation, to affiliate in any way whatever with the Protestant sects. Those who do so are [9/10] separated by that act from the communion, incur heresy and are anathematized with the greater excommunication.
2. The same penalties are denounced upon all who willingly or knowingly favor the propagation of these sects.
3. It is unlawful for the faithful to furnish house, furniture, utensils, or other objects for the use of these sects.
4. Also unlawful for any Catholic to give advice or assistance at the meetings.
5. It is forbidden to receive gifts or compensation from the heretics for services rendered to them.
6. It is forbidden to read or possess their books.
7. Catholics must maintain the most absolute isolation from these sects, and abstain from all co-operation or aid.
8. Finally, it is unworthy any Catholic, and to be severely reprehended, to employ injurious measures against the Protestants, or anything which bears the character of violence. [* Since this paragraph was written, the newspapers have reported the murder of a Protestant missionary in Apizaco, notwithstanding the Bishop's caution against violence.]
So much for the Metropolitan's pastoral, quoted by the Bishop of Queretaro, who proceeds with his own "fulmination":
"Such, dearly beloved, are the prescriptions imposed by the Catholic Church upon her faithful children, with the view to the separation (al apartimiento), in which they ought to live, as respects heretical sects, etc. This has been the practice of the same Church from the beginning, founded, besides other motives, upon the inspired words of the disciple loved by our Lord, the Apostle of Love, who in his second canonical epistle, speaking of the doctrines of the Catholic faith, thus expresses himself:
"'If any come among you and does not profess this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, neither salute him, because he who salutes him, favoring in any manner his heretical purposes, shares in his wicked works.'" [The italics are in the original. I have not a Douay Bible at hand, but it is worth while to compare the above quotation with the 2d Epis. St. John, vs. 10, 11, and the context.]
 The Bishop goes on to implore parents to duplicate, triplicate, yea, even to increase a hundred-fold their vigilance against the seductions of Protestantism.
If they fail in this after having sold their consciences for a few three-cent pieces (unos cuantos cuarlos), the Faith will disappear from their hearths, to shine upon others more worthy.
Parents are enjoined not to permit their children to associate with other children, who, perverse and lost, may induce them to sell their souls to Protestants for money.
"If the blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance upon his murderer, the souls of your children tormented throughout eternity for their apostasy, will cry out against you for having occasioned by your indifference and criminal indulgence their eternal perdition."
"May the immaculate Mother of God, whom with so great faith you invoke in her sacred image of Pueblito, avert from our heads and from those of our children such fatal, immeasurable, and supreme unhappiness--the due reward of the iniquitous and dark intrigues of heresy!"
Thus much for the ecclesiastical spirit.
The quotations from the "fulmination" are not all strictly pertinent, but they seem to be too interesting to have been omitted. Fresh from the pen of a bishop in this year of grace, 1881, it shows that the same spirit of persecution which assailed Aguilar and Aguas, as it did Huss and Savonarola, is always and everywhere a vital force in the Romish Church, where no higher power intervenes.
Not only from the persecution of a cruel hierarchy, but from the representatives of other Protestant communions naturally seeking the extension of their principles, has this reformed movement met with hindrance and opposition. In so vast a field where there is room enough and to spare for the best directed and successful efforts of all Christian people to introduce the teachings of a pure Gospel, it is to be regretted that small jealousies and ungenerous rivalries have been permitted to take the place of broad and hearty Christian sympathy and co-operation. Harder to endure as well as to comprehend, than these outside antagonisms of professed Christians, have been the misstatements which [11/12] have been made respecting the work by some at home, who are reckoned as representing in part the principles of our own Church, and who have not scrupled to publish slanders written from Mexico about the condition of affairs there, by persons who are known to be unworthy of confidence or social recognition.
Twenty years of fiery trial, of trustful faith, and of patient labor have not failed to bring forth fruit. From the two or three who, in 1861, began to compare the practices of their Church with the teachings of Scripture, there have grown up in different parts of the Republic, between sixty and seventy well-defined congregations or bands of praying and Bible-reading people, eagerly awaiting their turn (where services are not regularly held) for visitation and instruction by the small force of ministers and lay readers at the Bishop's command. Radiating from the capital these congregations are found in the Valley of Mexico (which forms a Federal District like our District of Columbia), and the States of Mexico, Puebla, Hidalgo, and Morelos. All these congregations are ministered to by Bishop Riley, Bishop-elect Hernandez, and twelve ordained clergy, besides such lay readers as the Bishop selects. The constant clamor, and with pathetic iteration, is for teachers and preachers, but unhappily it has to be too often answered by the sad confession of inability to supply the demand.
Naturally the question suggests itself to one's mind, What are the real motives of these people in their professed adherence to the new Gospel as proclaimed to them, and, their anxiety for its extension? Is it for their food and clothing, the loaves and fishes, as Mr. Blank supposed?
It may be remarked as a preliminary that tortillas or baked corn-cakes are the principal food of the Indian population who are among the most earnest adherents of the reform movement outside of the large cities. Eight tortillas can be bought for one cent, and four or five cents' worth daily will feed a man in that climate. It would seem to be a hard bargain to put on the strait-jacket of a religious and [12/13] moral life for five cents a day! Lodging, in that region, need cost these hardy people nothing, and their simple clothing very little more. It is said that there are 20,000 to 30,000 people living in the City of Mexico, who do not know where they will find food for the day. All these people can get work at 50 cents to one dollar a day on the maguey plantations and railroads, and fare as sumptuously, for them, as Dives did. A planter told me that they could support a family comfortably on one real (ten cents) a day, and when they had that they had refused a dollar a day offered them to save his crop. Can such people be bought to put on the harness of Christianity for all that the Reformed Church could afford to give them? Let common sense answer.
I put this question of motives to Bishop-elect Hernandez, and to his son, the Rev. Jacinto V. Hernandez, (both of whom have made repeated visitations to most, if not all, the different stations where the reformers have gathered themselves), in different conversations with them separately, taking down at the time full notes of these interviews. The substance of their replies was the same, and without appropriating to either, the special illustrations or facts communicated to me by both, their language was as follows:
"These people, we believe, have been converted by Divine grace touching hearts that were not insensible to the call, but with joy received the Word of God and for the love of the truth. They have had a full knowledge of their shortcomings and sins, and have been fully convinced that they were in error under the Papal Church. For proof of their sincerity one has only to observe their public and private life, which truly is as satisfactory as could be desired. The study of the Gospel has so influenced their hearts that from being as before, many of them drunkards, idlers, etc., today they are wholly changed to such a degree that they have abandoned their noxious vices, and when through them they have reached the brink of the grave, they have exclaimed joyously, 'Though I die infirm in body, my soul has been made whole through Jesus.' Those who have lived together unmarried, have gone immediately and fulfilled the civil and religious duty of marriage, of their own free [13/14] and spontaneous will. Those who are artisans are noted for punctuality in their duties and a thoroughness in their work before unknown. Day laborers on farms or plantations, who were formerly discharged when it was known that they were evangelicals, having been noticed for the change in their lives, and their earnest industry and fidelity in fulfilling every obligation, are now sought for, and are put to work without any overseer to watch them as before.
"After finishing the day's work they return home and wash themselves before eating--a thing they never did before,--then they take their Bibles instead of cards and gambling as formerly, and read to their families while they eat. After meals they who cannot read join those who can, for the study of the Sacred Scriptures.
"Their faith is of such a nature that nothing intimidates them, notwithstanding they are calumniated or appear to be submerged under the most hopeless miseries. In a word, poverty has established its camp in the midst of this Church."
These notes might be largely extended, but the foregoing are a sufficient key to the rest.
The Bishop-elect informed me that in his visitations to the rural congregations or bands, he was often kept up all night by the numbers of the people who visited him, eagerly seeking instruction and guidance.
Now, what is the value of this testimony? It may be said by the captious, that it comes from an interested party and is colored to suit a purpose. Let us see.
A few years ago the Bishop-elect was a prosperous merchant, having two considerable commercial establishments from which he was rapidly accumulating wealth. He heard of the new Gospel, studied, and received it, afterwards making himself prominent and active in its dissemination. From that time he was hounded, and every influence was exerted by the Roman Church to crush him, and in a sense successfully. His trade began to decline, and at last ceased. He sold his stock of goods, paid all his debts, and had left only a little chacra, or farm, to which he retired, devoting himself to study and the instruction of the people in Scripture truth. At the same time [14/15] he was educating his two sons and a daughter to assist in the work. In furthering this purpose and in promoting its extension and support, he gradually sold his remaining property. After due preparation he entered the ministry and was afterwards chosen Bishop for the rural parishes, and though not yet consecrated, he and his two sons, ordained clergymen, and his daughter are all devoting their whole time and energy to the development of the work of their Church.
This gentleman is about fifty years of age, and seems to be a pure Indian, as does also the son, whom I saw. His face is strongly marked with intelligence, firmness, and honesty. The elder son, mentioned above, also of pure blood, is about thirty, married, and has two children. He is a man with a singularly gentle face, and subdued, appealing manner. Devoting himself body and soul to the furtherance of the Church's interests--preaching, teaching, and editing a newspaper, which is the Church's organ--he receives a stipend of $20 a month for his support; while, such are his character and attainments, that he could command in commercial circles or other pursuits an income six or eight times as large. The Bishop-elect, his father, is a man so well recognized for his power and influence, that he has been offered what even in the United States would be considered a very large salary, if he would transfer his allegiance to another Christian enterprise; but he remains unshaken in his faith. Is the testimony of such men worthy of confidence; and can such devotion be accounted for on the "loaves and fishes" theory of Mr. Blank?
Besides these clergymen, I met three others of Bishop Riley's assistants--the Rev. Messrs. Canal and Maruri, and Señor Gonzalez, who would make a favorable impression anywhere as sincere, devoted, and eloquent men. Of these, two had been Roman Catholic priests before their conversion; the other, the Rev. Mr. Maruri, had been an officer in the army. I heard the first two preach and the last make an address; and for earnestness and eloquence in instruction, admonition, and argument, it would not be easy to find their superiors.
It may not be amiss to say here that I heard several sermons from Roman Catholic priests in the great cathedral [15/16] in the City of Mexico, and was quite surprised and as much pleased with their rhetorical and oratorical finish and force. Addressing, as they were, vast multitudes, embracing "the lofty and the lowly," it was interesting to note how enchained they held the attention of their audiences, and deservedly too. This illustration may serve to demonstrate the fact that Bishop Riley's converted priests have been trained in a good school for pulpit effect.
To resume: There are now two students under Bishop Riley's instructions, who furnish another illustration of the deep hold this movement has taken upon the hearts of the people. These young men (whom I met in Mexico) wrote from Puebla to the Bishop, saying they had been studying the Bible, having read and heard of his work, and they desired to be instructed by him to prepare them for the ministry. He was constrained to reply that it was not in his power to aid them. A second, a third, and other appeals came from them, to which, with increasing regret, the same reply was made. One morning these two young men appeared at the Bishop's door with their shoes worn out and themselves begrimed and travel-stained, having spent three days and nights in walking from Puebla to Mexico, so determined were they to take part in the regeneration of their people. Is a cause sustained by such a spirit likely to fail?
III.--THE CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS IN THE CITY OF MEXICO.
Bishop Riley has under his care three churches and three secular schools in the City. These are:
1. The Cathedral Church of San Francisco, and
2. The Church of San José de Gracia (in these the services are all in the Spanish language).
3. The English Church, where the services and Liturgy correspond with our own.
Of the schools in the City there are an orphanage and school for boys; the same for girls; a separate day-school for boys, and the Sunday-school at the church of San Francisco.
Of these it may be interesting to give some details.
 The Cathedral Church of San Francisco is on the most popular street in the City, called after its own name, and including the most fashionable shops and hotels, with many elegant residences. It lies midway between the square of the Grand Cathedral and the beautiful pleasure park of the Alameda. Formerly, this now solitary church was part of a grand ecclesiastical establishment, which, with its separate chapels, monasteries, and gardens, covered thirty acres. The domes of thirteen different ecclesiastical buildings rose within its walls. When the sale of church property was decreed by the Government, Bishop Riley secured this grand old church, and at an almost nominal price, through the favor with which President Benito Juarez regarded the movement. At the time of his taking possession, the chapel was occupied as a stable, and the choir, at the opposite end, as the training-school of a circus.
Passing through the street of San Francisco, one's attention is arrested by a beautiful garden, seen through open iron gates. It is only about 50 feet wide, between high houses, and one hundred feet long, with a broad path leading to the door of the chapel. Roses and a great variety of flowering shrubs and ornamental trees fill the place with fragrance and beauty. Let us suppose it is Sunday morning, and seeing the sign at the iron gate setting forth the services of the "Church of Jesus," we are tempted to enter. What we shall see there on a Sunday, shall be faithfully photographed from one day's close observation.
First, traversing the garden, we enter a handsome chapel attached to the cathedral, originally containing a separate shrine and altar. It is a handsome, lofty apartment, about 80 feet by 40. As we enter at 10 1/2 o'clock, we find a Sunday-school in full operation. Seats are placed for us by a teacher and we look around. We count ten classes seated in circles around their respective teachers, seven of whom are ladies, the rest gentlemen. The classes vary from 10 to 15 members each, and are composed of all ages, from 8 to 70. Well-dressed and poorly-dressed--from "store clothes" to the cotton shirt and drawers of the poor laborer; pure Mexicans, pure Indians, and Mesclavos, or mixed bloods, all eagerly attentive to catch every word that falls from the [17/18] teachers' lips. The intense interest cannot be mistaken for any other feeling. We are sitting by the class of Mr. Medina, a young gentleman said by Bishop Riley to be a man of unusual scholarship and ability. His class is composed of adult men, among whom are a huge Indian in his clean cotton costume, one old man, a citizen well-dressed, the others more or less so. Mr. Medina has his Spanish Bible on his knees and the notes of his lesson before him. What is the lesson? Here are his notes: 1. The nature of God, with five references to Scripture proofs; 2. His Call to Repentance, with seven references to Scripture; 3. How to Live the Life of Repentance, with six proofs. Reading and expounding these with singular fluency, simplicity, and wealth of illustration, when he has concluded, he examines his class upon what has been taught them; and their intelligent and interested replies show that they have not been heedless listeners. Then the bell taps--a prayer is said, and the orphanage children of both sexes lead off into the cathedral, all uniting in singing a hymn. The adults remain to exchange salutations with their teachers, almost universally embracing them with the affectionate patting between the shoulders, which takes the place of hand-shaking with us, and with eyes glistening with happiness and gratitude.
We follow into the church. What a magnificent temple it must have been when all the glory of the Romish adornment was displayed in its altars, and shrines, and pictures! How grand and beautiful it is even now in its barren nakedness, with nothing to beautify it but its exquisite architecture and the sense that a "pure religion and undefiled" has there taken the place of a superstitious idolatry. The nave is about 270 feet by 50. The transept about 75 by 30. At the intersection is a dome nearly 100 feet from the floor; four smaller domes adorn the ceiling of the nave; the walls are unbroken by windows, all the light coming from the principal dome and the clerestory. The apse or chancel is the width of the nave, and is elevated four or five steps above the floor. Its furniture is of the simplest: a plain carpet; a communion-table covered with crimson cloth; a dozen bent-wood chairs standing around the semicircle of the wall. No rail, cross, or ornament of any description is [18/19] visible anywhere. A Methodist country meeting-house could not be more barren of ornament. [* When asked if there were any principle or sentiment involved in this plainness, the Bishop replied: "Yes, the principle of necessity. We can't afford to do any better without using money that is imperatively demanded for practical work. I wish it were otherwise, but I can't see how to make it so."]
On one side of the transept is a parlor organ, on the opposite side a bench of stalls for the clergy; the boys of the school sitting in front of the organ, the girls in front of the clergy.
A pulpit and a lectern occupy the two corners of the transept nearer the congregation, who seat themselves in chairs arranged in rows on either side of the central aisle. The lower half of the church is wholly unfurnished.
It is the hour for service. There are perhaps 300 persons present, of all classes and conditions of men. Some handsomely-dressed ladies enter and make no scruple of sitting down alongside some Indians in their simple costume. Many well-dressed gentlemen are seen in the audience, and looking over it we cannot but think of that touching verse of Scripture, so rarely illustrated in our city churches, "The rich and the poor meet together, the LORD is the Maker of them all."
A book containing the liturgy is handed to everyone who enters the church. It is not a copy of ours. Bishop Lee, in the report of his observations in Mexico, says: "We have no right to exact precise and rigid conformity to our own model. The present liturgy is scriptural and responsive. The doctrine of the Trinity is made very prominent, distinct petitions being offered to each person of the Godhead, and the sole intercession of the Lord Jesus as the one Mediator is everywhere recognized. Lessons from both the Old and New Testaments are read. The doctrines of the 'Church of Jesus' are in accord with the creeds and articles of the Protestant Episcopal Church."
It is joined in with great heartiness. In prayer, every person reverently kneels. ALMIGHTY GOD is approached, outwardly at least, in the attitude of devotion, and when at the end of every petition offered by the minister comes the [19/20] response, "We ask it in the name of Jesus our Saviour," there is heart and soul in the expression if not in the thought, and we cannot but believe that these people are in earnest. So with the singing in which the beautiful voices of the children lead, but in which the whole congregation heartily join. The praise of God is not committed to hired proxies and the difference is felt.
The sermon preached by one of the clergy--the Bishop officiating at the English Church--is upon the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. The old dispensation is sketched, the substitution of the new dispensation proven, and the fulness of the atonement, once for all, and the continual intercession of the One only Mediator fully set forth. The people are told in burning words that such an Intercessor is theirs and that there is no need of priestly intercession, nor of Ave Marias, nor candles, nor penances, nor saints to enable-one to reach this true Intercessor, but only the longing of the soul for the purer and better life and the direct cry to that One who alone can bestow it.
The sermon evidently has direct reference to the communion, which is to be administered in the afternoon.
At the close of the sermon the offertory is taken, prayers are read, and the congregation disperses after the children have led the way, all singing a closing hymn.
We find at the afternoon service a smaller congregation; not materially so, however. The administration of the sacrament is of the same character as in our own churches, the Bishop participating in it, and wearing the simple surplice and stole, without any distinction from his assistants. In this service again are seen the straitened circumstances of the church in the glass flagon from which the wine was poured into glass goblets. The communion was reverently received by some sixty or seventy persons of all classes. One incident attracts our attention. Parents going up to the chancel are in many instances followed by their little children, one, two, or more, who kneel behind their parents, fold their hands, watch earnestly the administration of the elements, and at the conclusion quietly follow back to their seats.
After the communion service we stay to witness [20/21] the marriage of a young Indian and his bride, both evidently from the country. The service is much like our own, only--and this perhaps because it is Sunday--the clergyman's fee is a loving embrace from the bridegroom, with the usual pat; the bride, however, withholding similar compensation.
No need to repeat the story of the evening service, which is shorter than that of the morning. The congregation is a good one, and the Bishop preached. He is so well known in our Eastern churches at home that his eloquence needs no praise from us.
So, as we have gone together to attend the services today, we will now part, and I resume my personal narrative.
As this was the only Sunday I spent in the City, 1 confined myself wholly to the Cathedral Church, and did not attend at San José de Gracia, which I visited the next day, and found another large edifice, which is attended by a larger number in proportion of the working classes.
The Schools.--Twice I visited the boys' school, once the girls'. In the former, there are about fifty boys, some thirty-five of them being inmates of the orphanages, the rest being outsiders. There are two most excellent male teachers, and though none of the boys are over fourteen, their cleverness and attainments are remarkable. I examined them in several studies, and while apt and accurate in all, their proficiency in arithmetic and writing is far above the average of boys of their age in our best schools. The boys attend morning service in the church before going into school, and evening service after school. At the close of the school on one of my visits, before going into church, the boys all stood up, the teacher named a scholar, and asked him to pray, which, after a moment's hesitation, with closed eves, he did, offering thanksgiving for God's mercies, confessing and asking forgiveness of sin, and praying for the Holy Spirit's aid and help in all things. He was a very handsome Indian, and I hope he may become a useful man in his generation. Many of these boys speak of the ministry as their future goal.
Besides seeing these boys twice in their school, I saw them five times at church services, and once at a social meeting. At all the same public services the girls were present, and [21/22] I say, emphatically, that at no time could the slightest infraction of good behavior be discovered. Neither rudeness, whispering, pushing, or trickery of any kind; neither inattention nor irreverence. This was not the result of slavish fear nor stolidity. No one could see the bright interest when questioned by a teacher and suspect the latter, nor observe their happy looks when the Bishop went among them, and how they all tried to sidle up to his notice, and suppose the former. I ascribe it rather to the constitutional amiability of the race, of whom I will say, that during nearly four weeks spent among the Mexican people, I heard but one angry word spoken by one person to another, although daily interesting myself among the lower classes in their places of trade and resort.
The girls' orphanage, under the immediate charge of Mrs. Hooker, a lady of eminent qualifications, assisted by competent assistants, is in a beautiful situation in a quiet part of the City, having ample room, and pleasant gardens. Here girls from seven to seventeen are carefully instructed in the duties of religion, and also in the branches of what we would call a good common school education, and in womanly accomplishments, as well as in domestic affairs and the English language. These children are generally selected for their brightness from the destitute orphans who are daily thrown upon the charity of the world. They all seemed devotedly fond of their teachers, and a chance exhibition, which I witnessed of their proficiency, did the teachers great credit. The number is larger than at the boys' school, and here also outside pupils are admitted for instruction only.
There is ample room for the enlargement of both these schools, and still more ample demand made every day upon the sensibilities of the Bishop for extending protection to some case of special interest. He was very unhappy at the time about a couple of young, destitute girls, whom he was deeply interested in saving from the exposure of destitution, but he had not the means to add them to his flock. Happily, one generous American family, who were my companons du voyage, adopted two of the bright boys, and made themselves responsible for their education up to their entrance into the ministry, [22/23] should they be so inclined, and another kindhearted American lady who accompanied me to a meeting, of which I shall presently speak, adopted another, so it is to be hoped that the vacancies made room for the fulfilment of the good Bishop's wishes.
Sixty dollars a year will support and educate a pupil in either of these orphanages.
On Monday evening, weekly, there is a public meeting for social intercourse, held in the place of worship belonging to Bishop Riley's church, and occupied for the English services, of which mention has been made as the third church in the City under his care. It is an offshoot from his work, and is in perfect harmony and co-operation with him. On this occasion the hall was filled with some three hundred or more people, besides the children who swarmed around the chancel and steps. The whole management of the affair was in the hands of the natives themselves, Bishop-elect Hernandez presiding and directing. The programme was national and original.
There was prayer, then singing of hymns, then speeches by little boys and larger ones, full of feeling and fire, and by girls too; there was fine vocal and instrumental music at the piano; an excellent address by Mr. Gonzales, formerly a Roman priest, now an earnest reformer; there was a fine essay read by Mr. Medina, the Sunday-school teacher before mentioned, on the influence of mothers. Every one seemed very happy. The late president, Gen. Diaz, now a cabinet minister, was there; he has been a steadfast friend: and the whole thing was such a great success that the lady whom I accompanied said at the close, "I didn't understand a word of it, but I never was more interested in my life, and I am going to adopt one of these children."
Other schools numbering between 200 and 300 children are sustained in the rural parishes.
Besides the agencies of which I have spoken there is a printing office belonging to the Church, from which is issued a handsome illustrated bi-weekly paper, La Verdad, of four pages, price two cents, bearing the motto, "Jesus said: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father except through Me." [23/24] The Rev. Jacinto V. Hernandez is the editor. At the same office are printed the service and hymn books of the Church, and translations of sermons or essays by Church writers, as well as original tracts and pamphlets which are distributed among the people. Among those before me is a reproduction of an editorial published in the leading liberal newspaper in the City of Mexico, El Monitor Republicano, on 17th Feb. last commenting in terms of warm admiration upon the work which the "Society for the Protection of Childhood" is doing in the care and education of destitute children under Bishop Riley's direction. Is it probable that the Bishop has bought or beguiled this prominent newspaper to support his failing cause?
Tediously perhaps, through the vague hope that detailed description might communicate some of the rays of light which illuminated my own judgment in the conclusions at which I have arrived in my estimate of the magnitude and importance of this work, I have endeavored to show, that:
1. The origin of this reform movement, (emphasizing the fact that it had its origin with priests in the communion of the Romish Church, groping after the Truth, if haply they might find it), was not the result of exterior assault. And I should have mentioned in its proper place that in 1863, only two years after the first spark of Divine Light reached the hearts of these truth-seekers, a book was published in Mexico by a Senor Lozano, maintaining that the Church is Holy, One, and Apostolic, and that for the Church the Scripture alone was the true rule and standard of faith and practice. I have stated that the work was carried on without outside interference or aid until 1869, when aid was sought in the United States, and that through opposition and persecution of every kind, the movement has thus far prevailed.
2. That the present condition is hopeful and encouraging, bravely maintained by self-denied, earnest, and competent men, who need only sympathy and help to enable them to multiply many times the number of souls who are coming out of darkness into the light.
3. Statistics and the result of personal observation, the latter in the City of Mexico, to show that the work is a vital one and neither dead nor sleeping.
 That the work is not confined to, and claims only the sympathy of, the lower and more ignorant classes, let the following facts testify:
The great liberal leader and first President under the free Constitution of 1857, Benito Juarez, a man who was proud of his unblemished Indian blood, and whose soul was absorbed in the welfare of his race, who compose eight-tenths of the population of Mexico, was, until his death, the firm friend of the movement, and secured for it the Churches in the City of Mexico at nominal prices.
Gen. Porfirio Diaz, mentioned above as a warm friend, donated during his presidency a monthly contribution for the benefit of the Church of Jesus.
The present distinguished Minister for Foreign Affairs, Señor Ignacio Mariscal, is in warm sympathy with it, members of his immediate family being its warm supporters.
Señor Matias Rômero, former Minister Plenipotentiary to this country and widely known among us, is also in hearty sympathy with the movement.
The favorable regard of such men shows that the "National Mexican Church of Jesus" is believed by wise, far-sighted, and patriotic Mexicans to be a great instrumentality for the future civil and religious regeneration of their country. Bishop Lee says, in loc. cit: (and we must not be misled by a different view) "It must be borne in mind that this is a Mexican Church, not a branch of the Protestant Episcopal Church transplanted to Mexico." It is the same in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, wherever reform has commenced; it is a natural and national pride that declines to copy the Anglican Liturgy, but in all cases they go back to the fountain-head--the ancient liturgies--and adapt to their own methods of thought and feeling that which they find most congenial to their needs.
I have said that the Mexican Government is hostile to the Roman Catholic Church. The confiscation of ecclesiastical property demonstrates this. That the sentiment is [25/26] as strong as ever is proved by conversations I had with two senators, one an intense liberal, the other as strong a conservative. Both declared to me that the Government was absolutely opposed to the Church, and the latter put his illustration in an ad hominem shape. "Why, sir, if you were dying, and should leave a thousand or an hundred thousand dollars to the Church to get your soul out of purgatory [he used a shorter word], this wicked Government would not scruple to rob the Church of the money, and then where would your soul be? How would you like it, to wake up some morning and learn that the Government had robbed all the money, and left your soul forever in purgatory?" I confessed I shouldn't like it, but suggested that the Church having taken the money as trustees for my benefit, were bound to fulfil their part of the bargain. This view he denounced as heretical!
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Peru once said to me: "Why do you not send your missionaries down to us instead of to the heathen? We have the same creed. We believe in the Trinity and in the atonement of Jesus Christ; but there is no sign of our belief in our religion of drunkenness and fireworks. Yet you would start with us on a common ground of fundamental principles, while, with the heathen, you have no one thing in common to begin on." There is philosophy in that. Far be it from me to interpose objection to any missionary work; but my humble desire and effort is to awaken a hearty and substantial interest in this harvest-field, lying just on the other side of our dividing fence, having a good and prolific soil, ready to bring forth an hundred-fold, but now overgrown with the weeds of ignorance and superstition, needing only many laborers, plenty of good seed, faithful labor, and God's blessing to make it so fruitful, that they who have sown in tears "shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them."
May a layman, without officiousness or impertinence, lovingly appeal to Churchmen to ask themselves, one by one, "Have I any duty or privilege in this work?"
 Before answering, bear with me a little longer. From 1869 until now, Bishop Riley, either as Presbyter or in his Episcopal character, has labored in this field without any remuneration for himself. More than that, it is known among his friends (and I knew it before I left the United States) that he has spent a large portion of his own patrimony in sustaining himself and in promoting the development of this great work. That shows where his heart and convictions of duty are. Is it fair that such a man, with such a tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, should be left to carry on so mighty a work alone, and without substantial, hearty, and generous aid? Is it fair to him? Is it just to our Church? Is it dutiful to God?
Here is the testimony of chance observers, fellow-travelers, who saw different phases of the work in Mexico with me, and thus expressed themselves:
Mr. --, a retired merchant of New York, who visited the church, the schools, and the weekly meeting: "I have been rather opposed to the Foreign Missions business, but after what I have seen here, I mean to do all in my power to promote the Bishop's work and procure aid for it. There is no humbug about what I have seen. Any one who looks into it can see what a grand work it is."
Captain --, an old steamship master, a man of the world and of great penetration, who was present at a long conversation between Bishop Riley, Bishop-elect Hernandez, young Mr. Hernandez, the two Puebla students, and myself. (The captain understands Spanish): "What do I think of it all? Well, I was brought up in Methodist ways myself; but that Bishop Riley is the right man in the right place. He has all the enthusiasm of an Irishman, and all the steadiness of a steam-engine. He can't fail; he don't know how. About the Indian Bishop? He is going to be very careful where he grips; but when he makes up his mind, and he does take hold, he'll hang on until you cut his head off. He has made up his mind, and he is going to stay. You might as well try to move old Popocatapetl over yonder. The son is more gentle and persuasive. Not so good for fighting, perhaps, but great in moral suasion. Together they will make a great team!"
 Mr. --, a German engineer, and a Lutheran, who attended the Church services and the Monday evening meeting with me, said: "It is a wonderful, a glorious thing. I am more anxious than ever to learn Spanish speedily, so that if I remain in the City, I can take some part in the work."
Mr. --, a Harvard University Senior, a Unitarian, who visited the schools and attended service at San Francisco with me: "What are my impressions? I think the Bishop's success is marvelous--simply marvellous. See what he has overcome! There is only one trouble about it. No one will know it. No one will believe or can appreciate it without coming here, and the Bishop will never get any credit in this world for what he has accomplished."
On the night of the social meeting, my party stumbled by mistake upon a Union Prayer and Bible-reading meeting. We were cordially welcomed, but explained our mistake, and said we were looking for the English Church, where Bishop Riley was holding a meeting. A young gentleman insisted on accompanying us, and on the walk he spoke in warm terms of the Bishop and of the good work he was doing.
Here is the concurrent testimony, not of interested, but of disinterested people, formed not upon hearsay, but upon personal observation.
I met many other persons indifferent to religion, but concerned in the moral condition of the country, who all recognized the value of the impression making by the National Mexican Church.
There is a material element introduced into this subject which should not be overlooked. There are now about three thousand miles of railway projected or in actual construction by American capitalists in Mexico. These lines are swarming with engineers from the United States. Under the development of these systems, Mexico will rapidly absorb American ideas of enterprise and progress. With the material development so inaugurated what a vast impetus would be given to the moral and religious interest of the people if pari passu the National Church, so closely assimilated in doctrine and order to our own, should extend its influence and impress its likeness upon the national mind.
 At the base of Chapultepec is a monument of marble to the memory of seven young officers who lost their lives there in the defence of their country "in the North American Invasion of 1847." A new invasion is now inviting us--that of our Church with its open Bible, its ancient order, and its imperishable doctrines of truth. Shall we or others occupy the field?
There are many practical ways in which the assistance that Bishop Riley needs can be rendered, and there are thousands of churchmen and churchwomen in our land who, blessed with abundance, have it in their power, without withdrawing anything from their present contributions in other quarters, to impart an impetus to this struggling enterprise, which will exalt and extend its influence and power in every direction.
The Cathedral of San Francisco ought to be fitted up somewhat in harmony with its prominent character as the representative of the "Church of Jesus" in the capital. There is no money available there to do this, and it might be done by groups of friends in the United States. Some, offering to the Bishop to fit up the chancel; others to furnish a communion service; others again to pew the church. Wood, labor, and silver-work are so cheap in Mexico as compared with this country, that all these things could be done with money sent out for the purpose at less cost than one would suppose from their knowledge of similar work at home; and if done by American churchmen, there would be a monument more enduring than that of Chapultepec, of the "North American Invasion of Love in the year of grace, 1881."
When one thinks that $6o a year will support and educate a bright boy or girl; and that every $1, $2, $5,or $10 greenback will materially assist in the promotion of so great and good a work, it is hardly possible to imagine that funds will not be forthcoming to support the enterprise under the Bishop's control.
No one need be afraid that their contributions will be wasted in useless show or personal gratification. Work, work, work, is the privilege of the Mexican clergy. [29/30] And if our home friends could see the primitive simplicity of the Bishop's residence there would be no need of this assurance even to those who do not know him.
Many will say with regret, "Silver and gold have I none"; let those who feel so finish the quotation, "but such as I have give I," and let that be sympathy--not shut up in your hearts, but outspoken in a few cordial words of encouragement. Bethink you of a man like Bishop Riley, of education and culture, of genial disposition and loving sensibilities, living for years apart from the companionship of his kind, and measure if you can the value of a cheery "God bless you and your work! You don't know me, but you have my sympathy and prayers." J. S. M.
NOTE.--There are many churchmen who would be glad to take a month's rest from business. No more interesting trip--nothing that will compare with it--can be made than that to Mexico. A month will take one by Alexandre's steamers on a round trip ticket, via Havana and Yucatan, to Vera Cruz, thence over one of the most magnificent routes of railway and natural scenery in the world, to the Capital, with seven days there, and the necessary expenses need not exceed $250, including everything, until one lands again in New York. These steamers are unsurpassed in their stateroom accommodations, cuisine, etc., and the railway from Vera Cruz to the Capital is exceptionally comfortable, with its smooth track and its noiseless and easy English carriages.
CONTRIBUTIONS in behalf of the work of the church in Mexico are earnestly solicited, and may be forwarded to the Treasurer of the League aiding that work, Miss M. A. STEWART BROWN, care of Messrs. BROWN BROS. & Co., 59 Wall Street, New York.