Project Canterbury



Preached at the Celebration of the Amalgamation of the
Church Association for the Advancement of the Interests of Labor
and the Christian Social Union,
in the Church of the Redeemer, New York City,
May 20, 1894.

Extracted from


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012

"For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments and His commandments are not grievous, for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our Faith." I. JOHN v. 3, 4.

Man springs from God. Human Society, fellowship in unity on earth, springs from Fellowship in Unity in Heaven, the Divine Society of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. This is the social teaching of Trinity Sunday, full of meaning, full of moment, full of practical instruction. How to preserve the individual and yet to develop the social unity,—such is the social problem of to-day, and Trinity Sunday gives the answer. The problem is, in its last analysis, the same question that rent the age of Arius, and of Athanasius,—how to worship the Trinity in Unity, "neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance." As Constantinople and Nicea and Alexandria and Rome were shaken by a discussion over a Greek iota, so may London and Berlin and Paris and New York be yet similarly shaken over the exact meaning of a modern ism.

It is true that we can never wholly comprehend the Trinity, and this, though "argument for faith and not for heretic declension" must give us pause. We may only venture upon the deep questions of social existence, because we do so, not from the uncertain standpoint of varying human opinion, but from a sure foundation in the verities of the Catholic Faith. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our Faith."

Humbly, reverently, therefore, and yet with a divine boldness and confidence, let us ask what Trinity Sunday has to teach concerning, not the relation of society to the individual, but the more immediate question of the relation of the Individual to the various Social Institutes of Society, our personal duty as recipients of the trinal life, to that organic Humanity of which God in Christ is the eternal Head. We shall consider the theme, first, in its abstract or ideological aspect, and, secondly, in its concrete or practical relations. First, what is the ideal of the relation of the Individual to Social Organization?

Three answers have, in the main, been given:—

1. The atomic, the individualistic, or Protestant theory, that the individual is superior to society, that, if you will, the individual makes society.

2. The converse of this, the patriarchal, the paternal, the imperial or Roman theory, that organized society is superior to the individual, that, if you will, society makes the individual.

3. The Catholic or truly social theory that neither does the individual make society, nor does society make the individual, but that God makes both the individual and society, the individual perfect only in a perfect society.

We shall consider these theories separately in their application to the social institutes of the State, the Family, and the Church, and then as bearing on the problem of modern Social Reform.

We commence with the atomic, the individualistic or Protestant theory, that the individual makes social organization; and first, in its relation to the State. "The State," said Rousseau, "is a social contract between individuals." The phrase is his, the thought belongs peculiarly to his age; yet the conception is as old as the Greek Sophists, nay, old as the tower of Babel. "Go to, let us build a city, and a tower whose top may reach to Heaven." That Babel tower, perhaps, also, the resulting confusion of tongues, is the fit symbol of all those who would build up a social structure out of human atoms. Its conception of unity is mechanical, a riveting together of separate and unwelded atoms.

Aristotle refers to the Sophist, Lycophron, as having held that law is merely a contract, a surety for the mutual respecting of rights. Even Socrates speaks of the implied contract of the citizens of Athens.

To Roman legalism, however, the conception was still more common, the doctrine of contract, or quasi contract, being one of the main characteristics of Roman jurisprudence.

We are not surprised, therefore, to find it reappearing in the Middle Ages, although the main mediaeval conception was different. Robertson tells us that the nobles of Aragon elected their kings, with the formula: "We, who are as good as you, choose you for our king and lord,—provided that you observe our laws and privileges; if not, not."

Among less Roman races, the same spirit in mediaeval times sought, in accordance with the custom of the age, for a Bible precedent in the covenant made in Hebron, between King David and the elders of Israel.

But the conception is, above all, characteristic of Protestant ages. Milton says: "Regal power was nothing but a mutual contract or stipulation between king and people." Locke speaks of the "paction" between people and king. Even Hobbes' "absolute sovereignty" is the creation of a compact of the people. Turning to more familiar examples, we have the Covenanters of Scotland, and to Americans the dearer example of the signing of the compact or covenant in the "Mayflower." We do not need, however, to go to the past. Our United States Federal Constitution, every State constitution, every charter granted to municipality or to corporation, is an example of the same. Congress, State, the city, the corporation, may do only that which the individual has agreed that it may do. All powers not enumerated in constitution or in charter are reserved to the people, that is, to individuals. In the Catholic Church, we may have learned that omission is not prohibition, but it is not so in constitutional interpretation. Democrat and Republican may contend for strict or for broader construction, but both agree that what is not or cannot be read into the Constitution is illegal and unconstitutional. Back of Congress and above Congress is the sovereign State; back of the State and above the State is the town meeting; back of the town meeting and above the town meeting are John Smith and Henry Jones, and Congress may do only what John Smith and Henry Jones have contracted to allow Congress to do. This theory of the social contract is wrought into the very warp and woof of our national life. It, more than aught else, makes America the least progressive of all civilized nations, the bete noire of all who would develop the social organism. Our government is not an organism, but a mechanism. We can do naught, because we have not the machinery, or rather because we have too much machinery. Is it proposed for the city to employ the unemployed, is Congress asked to attack the Sweating System, the ardent reformer is told, not that the proposed action is impractical, not that it is unjust, but that it is unconstitutional; it is "not so nominated in the bond." Over America today there hangs a dead hand, born of the atomic, individual, or Protestant theory, that the State can only do that which sovereign and separate individuals have contracted that it may do.

But the same theory is applied to marriage. Marriage is a social contract. It is, at least, a Roman coemptio, a quasi-contract. There is equality, but it is an atomic equality, "Ubi tu Caius, ego Caia." Husband and wife are not so much one, as two who agree together—too often two who together disagree. Our Puritan fathers denied the right of a priest to solemnize marriage. Marriage was only a civil affair. Even when, in 1692, it was voted in the colony of Massachusetts that the minister might perform the marriage rite, it was not as a clergyman, but as a civil officer that he performed it. Marriage was solely a contract between two individuals.

But that which can bind can loose. Two individuals who form a partnership can dissolve it. Is there no connection between this Puritan theory of marriage and that divorce problem which is pressing to-day in every New England State?

Once more the same theory is applied to the Church. Individuals come together and agree upon a statement of religious opinions. They found a "church." Their place of worship is a "Meeting House." They examine and admit into "the church" all whom they think worthy and who assent to their profession of opinion.

But, here again, those who agree can disagree. The day after they have agreed upon their profession of faith, their opinions begin to change. It is right that they should change. Growth implies change; but what is the result? The more progressive, the best; those who grow the fastest have to break away and formulate some new statement of opinion, which in its turn can only endure, until there be a new separation, a new meeting house, a new sect, a new division. The illustrations of this theory are found on every New England hillside and upon well nigh every Western prairie.

Once more the same theory is applied to social reform. The individual makes society, hence the only way to reform society, is to reform the individual. We must make men good, one by one; thus only can society be reached. Hence the one thing needful is to develop self reliance, self development, thrift, economy, push, individual responsibility, individual independence. Let every working man save, let his wife save; if they earn ten dollars, let them save one; if they earn one dollar let them put by ten cents. Let the man put this in a cooperative bank, which he with others has created. Let him save up to buy a house. To do this, the man must work, his wife must leave the baby and go out and work too; no matter about the baby; the baby must take care of itself. Babies should be independent too; the mother must earn to buy a house; Johnnie must leave school and sell papers on the streets; he must help buy the house. By and by, when the family life is all exhausted, when the baby has gone where babies left to themselves must go, when Johnnie has learned all the vice of the streets, when the mother has become a "scrub," and the father a "hand," when all joy of life is gone, then the family can buy a house, a square box, in a row of square boxes, each exactly like its neighbor,—such is American independence. Let the man never join a trade union, for that would be to sacrifice his American independence. If he is sick or unfortunate, or out of work, or in any way gets worsted in the battle of life, if the highly vitalized pushers in the market, or the descendants of the highly vitalized, threaten to swallow up or live upon the less vitalized, let the successful build model tenements or public libraries for the unsuccessful; but always let them charge enough rent to pay a fair interest, otherwise it is not business and you destroy that delicate sense of individual independence.

If the wives of the unsuccessful grow discouraged and become slack before the everlasting problem, how the family can live, cook, eat, sleep, marry, and take in boarders, all in two rooms, let the agents, or better still, the wives and aesthetic daughters of the successful pushers, go down and collect the rent. Let them always investigate and see if the family be worthy, and if they are worthy, let these aesthetic rent collectors pour out,—not money (let them never give money to the poor, only let them collect money from the poor), but let them pour forth good advice, how to scrimp, how to save, how to make bone soup, how to make something out of nothing, how to save, save, save, till at last worn out by saving, they can go to a better world in a pine coffin, decently and independently, beholden to nobody, for ever and ever to save their souls own in Heaven.

"Organized charity scrimped and iced,
In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ."

Such is the modern scientific effort to develop individuality among the poor.

We do not mean to speak slightingly or disrespectfully of this view. Deep in it lie all the sanctities of Protestant religion, and the sanctities of Protestantism are among the things of which this world is not worthy. It was necessary that the world pass through Protestantism. Deep in it, distorted, perhaps, and yet there, lies the infinite truth of the worth and of the responsibility of the individual will. Ill becomes it in many of us, children of Protestant forefathers, remembering our father's prayers, our mother's faith, to speak ill of their religion. It may be that we cannot ourselves walk in their steps; it may be that we cannot follow Luther, or Calvin, or Robinson, or Wesley, yet God grant that we may walk with the same God with whom they walked, and as we have today one Lord, one faith, one baptism, so at last we may all come home to the one Church, and have one Body as one Spirit, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all.

We pass to the second view,— the patriarchal, the paternal, the imperial, the Roman view. According to this, the individual does not make society, but society is responsible for the individual.

"I, Charles, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, defender of the Faith." "I, John Winthrop, by the grace of God and the favor of King Charles, Governor of the Province of Massachusetts, and defender of its liberties." "I, John Smith, by the grace of God, the favor of King Charles, and the appointment of the Governor, hangman of Massachusetts and upholder of the majesty of the law." All power runs from the king and he rules by a right divine.

The same principle works in other ways. The man is the head of the house, the main duty of the wife is to obey and to bring his slippers. Leo XIII, by the grace of God, successor of Peter, vice-regent of God upon earth, infallibly speaks, and all the faithful know hereafter what is of faith. William Third, Kaiser of Germany, grants to his dear children insurance against old age, sickness, or accident. Farmers from Ohio march to Washington, praying Congress to grant good roads and non-interest bearing bonds. Thoughtless workingmen cry, "All we need to do is to turn industry over to the State and have the State care for us, then Heaven shall be realized on earth." And from such a heaven may the dear Lord deliver us.

The principle is the same. Organization is responsible for the individual, and all that man has to do is to consent to be nursed, coddled, and caressed; to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of omnipotent organization.

It is scarcely necessary to dwell upon this view. Its shortcomings, we all see; it saps character, weakens the will, enervates manhood, insults womanhood. The State is a great secular Providence, absolving from every care. The church is a vast fold, where the sheep can enter and lie down. The home is either a galley for a slave or a doll's house for a toy. Man is but the product of environment; all he needs is favorable environment, to be provided by legislation, and the tramp shall become a hero, and the sot shall be transformed, without any effort of his own, into a gentleman and a saint. It is easy to see the folly, the absurdity, the iniquity of all this. It is not so easy to see the good; yet there is good. We, of to-day, condemn paternalism; we talk glibly of fraternity and of brotherhood, but was there ever a brotherhood, without first a fatherhood? Does not Brotherhood imply a Father? Has paternalism played no good part and needful part in the world's history? Over the deep must there not brood the creative Spirit? Over the child must there not bend the mother's face? Over the toiler must there not be, for a while, at least, the captain of industry? Over the Church must there not be the right reverend Father in God. Even, in our Republic, do we not revere him who was the Father of his Country? It is doubtless true that paternalism should take different and progressive forms. The kind and degree of paternalism must depend on the age of the child; but to rashly condemn all paternalism is at once unphilosophic, uncritical, and unjust. Surely if we turn to that one social institute, which all men agree to be the purest, the sweetest, the noblest, of all earth's organizations,—the true family, there surely we find a wise and honorable paternalism. Nations, too, have their childhood, and nations must learn to honor their parents in the Lord, if they would live long in the land which the Lord their God giveth them.

Nor is higher illustration wanting. Can the paternal principle be unwise, can it ever disappear from the world's constitution, when it exists eternally in the world's Cause, in Him who is always Father, as well as always Son? That Son, too, Who if any man, needed no guidance, the world's one Perfect Man,—that Son, when He had accomplished all things, when He had been faithful to the end, when He had learned the last supreme lesson of obedience, even in His last words on the cross, said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." No; the trouble with the paternal, the patriarchal, the Roman theory, is not that it is paternal, but that it is an unbalanced paternalism. Trinity Sunday tells us that with the Father there is also and always the co-equal Son.

But this brings us to the third view. This, as ever in the great trinal rythm of the world, at once, proceeds from, negates the limitations of, and realizes the truths in, the other views. According to this, neither does the individual make society, nor does organization make the individual, but God makes them both, both principles on earth, coequally and co-eternally present, even as in His own infinite and triune Godhead. Here is the supreme lesson for us of Trinity Sunday concerning social organization, the harmonizing of both principles of individuality and of social organization in a higher unity, proceeding from and dwelling in the Godhead, as the source, the reason, the inmost secret of this world's fashioning. This is the Catholic Faith that we worship, "the Trinity in Unity," "neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance." This is the deepest, the most important, the most practical, of those great truths, of which Dante sang, when in his mystic, unfathomable song, he tells us of those primal principles, those inmost forms, "which make the universe resemble God." Man does not make a nation, a family, a church, a social organization. Man is born into the Nation, into the Family, into the Church, into Society, and without these man is less than Man. Here is our key.

Politically we must conceive the individual neither as above nor below, but in the State. Government, therefore, must not be limited to constitutions handed down from dead John Smiths and Henry Jones. Government, like the earth, belongs in usufruct to the living. England has no written, unchangeable constitution, her government is the slow natural development of her people's unity.

Neither must the individual be allowed to become dependent on Government. He must be of the State. Government is but the expression of the unity of the people's will.

So with the family. Marriage is not a contract between individuals. Still less is it the suppression of the individuality of either member. Marriage is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual fact, the fact not that the two agree to live together, but the inward and spiritual fact that the two have become one. If that fact does not exist, there is no marriage, though the two have gone through an unmeaning ceremony, before a priest of the Church or a representative of the State. If that fact does exist, the two are no more twain; individuality is not lost but the two have become one. Every marriage should be in the Name, since every marriage is in the form, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. If we may not wholly comprehend this, neither can we comprehend the Trinity. Reason ends in mystery, but it is rational that there should be mystery.

"At morn I prayed, 'I fain would see,
How three are one and one is three.
Read the dark riddle unto me.'"

And Whittier finds the answer, not through reason only, but through life and love, with reason.

"And my heart answered, 'Lord, I see
How three are one and one is three.
Thy riddle hath been read to me.'"

Only the heart can understand marriage.

So, too, with the Church. The Church is not the creation of man. She is the creation of God: She is for all men, because she does not belong to any man, or party of men.

"I wear the name of Christ, my God,
Then name me not from man,
For my great country, Catholic,
Hath neither tribe nor clan."

You and I did not make the Church; hence you and I may not change her creed, her laws, her service, to meet our passing fancy. But the Church is not our Conqueror and we her victims whose only virtue is to obey. Convention, the unity of all Churchmen, may change her manifest life. Over the Church there is no dead hand. Rightly conceived, in the laying on of hands, is the witness to the descent from that divine creative Hand, who is God, the God not of the dead but of the living. Our life is in the Church, and of the Church, and by the Church. She is ours, not mine nor thine, but ours and we are hers. High Churchmen try to rule her, but they find that the Church is higher than they. Broad Churchmen try to loosen her borders, but they discover that the Catholic Faith is wider than their thinking. Low Churchmen would evangelize her services, but they are dumb before her infinite unfathomable Evangel for the Nations. She is high as God is high, wide as the world is wide, low enough to give welcome to the humblest sinner that repenteth.

"Our Mother, the Church, hath never a child
To honor above the rest;
She singeth the same for mighty kings
And the veriest babe on her breast.
The Bishop goes down to his humble bed,
As the ploughman's child is laid;
And alike she blesseth the dark—browed serf
And the chief in his robe arrayed."

So lastly with Social Reform. We are neither to ignore the individual, nor to limit reform to the individual. We must not depend on schemes. "Society shall never be made anew by arrangements"; it must find "the law and ground of its order and harmony, the only secret of its existence in God"; so spake Frederick Denison Maurice, the highest, broadest, profoundest Catholic of us all hence, for himself, he chose for social reform the name of Christian Socialism, that ism of the abolition of all isms, that expression of the social unity, which demands not the turning of industry over to the State, but commits us, as Maurice puts it, "to the conflict we must engage in sooner or later with unsocial Christians and unchristian Socialists."

Some do not like the name Socialism; some prefer other names. Some choose Nationalism, but this is too narrow. Ours is not the ism of the nation, but of all sacred social unities, the family, the church, coordinate with the nation. Our late great Bishop of Massachusetts preferred the name Mutualism, but Mutualism starts from duality; the deeper unity which we celebrate to-day involves but does not spring from a multiplicity of Persons. We might say Fraternalism, but fraternalism is not the whole. Perhaps the truest name would be Familism, which includes paternalism, fraternalism, individuality, the eternal principles of the Divine Society, "of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Such is Christian Socialism. It differs radically from Unchristian Socialism, that is, it differs at the root. Unchristian Socialism has no root. It springeth up for a while, but quickly passeth away, because it has no root. Christian Socialism has its root, deep in the eternal, in the eternal in humanity; it springs from the Incarnation, and hence reaches not the individual only, but the State, the nation, art, industry, the family, all that is summed up in the Incarnation of the Son of Man. Man in society is the witness to his creation in the image of the triune God.


I have stated the Catholic doctrine; I shall trouble you with but one argument. I shall take that argument from the final court of appeal for every churchman, the life and word and precept of our Blessed Lord.

Jesus Christ came, the Saviour, the Reformer of the world; did He appeal only to the individual, or mainly to organization, or did He appeal to the individual in social relations?

We consider the second view first, to get it out of our way. It is patent at once that Jesus Christ did not depend mainly on organization. The Jews expected a temporal Messiah, a literal successor to the throne of David, who should refound the Jewish state and make the Jews the possessors of the earth. Jesus Christ came clad in humility and throned only upon a cross. He established, it is true a Church, or rather quickened with His eternal Spirit the Jewish stock, till it flowered into the Christian Church. But Jesus Christ did not depend or teach his followers to depend upon the Church. They were to develop it, even as it was to develop them. Still less did Christ depend upon Caesar. He recognized Caesar, but He did not appeal to him. Jesus Christ was no paternal state socialist.

But was he then an individualist? We are often told so. We are told that He cared nothing for institutions, that He depended simply on the divine life implanted in individual hearts and trusted that alone to work out all necessary social reforms.

But is this the fact? Jesus Christ, the Universal Man, was, at the Feast of the Presentation, made a Jew, a citizen of one nation, that He might witness to the truth of all nations. He was "made under the law." Why? Why was Jesus Christ born to the Jews? "Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God." He came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets. He was ever quoting them and talking of them. He was the great Conformist, the Supreme Ritualist. He was Circumcized, Baptized, made a son of the Law. He kept feast and fast. He conformed to every legal requirement. He preached in synagogue and in temple. He bade the man cured of leprosy go and show himself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded. He denounced corrupt priest and lying Pharisee; yet ever in the bitterness of love and never once in the love of bitterness. He never spoke against the Law. He said of the Scribes "All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not." Christ condemned them, not for doing the works of the Law, but for not doing them.

Now, this whole relation of Jesus Christ to the Hebrew Law has been almost wholly ignored by Christian individualists. They have ignored the Old Testament.

And see where it has landed them. Christ said: "Take no thought for the morrow." The apostle says, "Lend hoping for nothing again." Now, the individualist either has to explain these away, or under individualism to teach impracticabilities and absurdities. Tolstoi and his friends choose the latter. With them to support government is sin; to marry is sin; the family must disappear; the state is the devil's; for the Church there is no use. Yet Tolstoi's individualism is at least consistent. Even he, however, in practice does not carry it out. He cannot. If the world tried to, it would end. On individualist lines, business cannot be conducted on the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. Almost every business man will tell you that. Consequently, most individualists, thinking it impossible to literally obey Christ's commands, seek to explain them away. They say that Christ preached a glorious ideal, but that it was never meant to live it out to-day. Ah, brethren, here is the beginning of sorrow. Forty thousand women are this night in this city outside of the pale of shame. Why? Because 160,000 men, led away by their passions, and sceptical of a Christian faith that its professors do not follow, have led these women there. Society is honey-combed with immorality, because society is honey-combed with unbelief. The unbelief springs, not from the head, not from the creed, but from the inconsistent lives of Christians. It is not Schopenhaur, but Mammon that is making our young men pagans. Preach a gospel that you do not live; raise an ideal and then explain it away, and you have done all that in you lies to proclaim this world to be the devils, and man's life the service of the Father of Lies. No; better than this, Tolstoi's noble attempt at least to take Christ's words literally.

But there is a better way, even the way of Christ. Christ came to fulfil the Old Testament Law. What was that Law? It was national, social, institutional. It proscribed the form of holding land and capital; all land was held as belonging to God alone, and to no individual in fee simple. Every one, however, who belonged to the theocracy—notice that he must belong to the organization to gain its advantages—was defended, not in the ownership, but in the inalienable use of land and capital. No Jew could be permanently alienated from the land. If he was poor, his property, his tools, his capital, could not be kept overnight. The Law by its institutes defended the fatherless, the widow, the hireling (that is the wage worker), the stranger, the poor, the oppressed. Now see the result. Under such a Law, it was perfectly possible and easy and natural to take no thought for the morrow, to lend hoping for nothing again. Jesus Christ spoke to a people knowing the Law. Christian individualists cut off Christ's social basis and leave His teachings floating in the air.

But you say, If the law makes it easy to be good, what need of the Christ? What need of conversion; what need of the sacramental life? Ah that is it. The Hebrew Law did not work; no law can work; it is not the function of law to work; man must work the Law; hence the Christ, hence conversion, hence the sacraments, hence the means of grace. Jesus Christ came to make us fulfil the Law. What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, that Jesus Christ came to fulfil; only conversion, the sacraments, the spiritual life, must not replace the Law, but fulfil it. This is the divine unity. Individualism forgets law; institutionalism forgets grace. A true Socialism fulfils the social law through grace. The Old Testament gives the world its social track; Jesus Christ gives the locomotive power. To preach as Tolstoi and most Protestants do, the latter without social organization, is to try and run a locomotive without a track. No wonder that it lands us in the ditch of impossibilities and absurdities. Protestantism has run the world into a quagmire. Jesus Christ is the locomotive Power drawing the world along the social track.

And notice that though the locomotive is above the track, the track must be laid down first and the locomotive stand upon it. Hence the Old Testament before the New, the majesty of Sinai before the Sermon on the Mount, the Law before the Gospel. In the Catholic Church, where Old Testament and New Testament each has its lesson, where we honor Law and Gospel, we have the true unity. But even here has a false Protestant individualism crept in. We need to revise the whole Protestant theory of salvation. Salvation is life; and life does not come from, but must be lived in harmony with, environment. We must be saved in society. We must honor social righteousness, if ever we are to sing the heavenly-song of Moses and the Lamb. Protestantism shall not win; Romanism shall not win. "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments. His commandments are not grievous, for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

Project Canterbury