Gerald Massey in Chicago

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Editorial Article from the Chicago Daily Times, Tuesday Feb. 17, 1874.

IN his discourse of Sabbath evening at Grow's Opera Hall, Mr. Gerald Massey repeated his discourse which drew down on him the hot indignation of the trustees of the congregation in Methodist Church Block, and which resulted in the exclusion or withdrawl from the edifice of the society before which the lecture was delivered.  The very worst that the discourse of Massey did was to submit the evidence that Satan is a myth.    One would suppose that the proper way to meet this position would be by bringing up the evidence to the contrary effect.   Nothing of the sort has been done.  The only answer that orthodoxy has thus far given, has been the single phrase thundered at the society to which the lecture was given: "Get out!"  Whether or not this kind of an answer betrays a scarcity of weapons in the orthodox armories, is something whose answer requires no argument.

    A point of value to be considered in this connection, is, that Massey's effort fairly represents one class of religious discussion, and which is antipodean to that of the regular pulpit.  His is a most scholarly effort.  There is not one single passage in it that appeals to faith.  It is thoroughly alive and practical, from exordium to peroration.  It is sufficiently explicit to say of his pulpit antagnoists that, in every one of these particulars they are the exact opposite.  Except Swing, on last Sunday the clergy of the city served up only doctrinal husks.  Dr. Cheney (Baptist) was abstruse, sonorous, somnolent, in a dissertation as to how the leaven of grace leavens the moral nature.  Dr. Thomas speculated on an intermediate state between death and the resurrection, which was just exactly as demonstrable, curious and instructive as would be a speculation as to whether the inhabitants of Neptune break their boiled eggs at the small or the big end.  Dr. Goodwin gave an elaborate discourse on the glory and righteousness of the Lord's house.  Dr. Gibson was ably unpractical and profoundly eloquent over an unknowable abstraction which he refers to some incomprehensible future existence, and which he designates as life in the Lord.  Professor Mitchell had something to offer about the joys of some other life than this, and how the whole necessity of existence is to serve the Lord.

    This is a summary of the topics treated on Sunday from the orthodox pulpits.  Cui bono?  Who was reached by any of these discourses?  What gambler was touched; what roue pricked in his conscience; what fallen woman induced to wish for a better life?  What avaricious man was induced by any of these subjects to abate his exactions?  Who was thrilled, or disturbed, or awakened, by the presentation of these desiccated abstractions?  What single heart in all this city was warned by any one of these discourses; and what one person left the house with an enlarged view of his duty to self and humanity, and strengthened in a determination to live a higher, a more active life?

    On the other hand, Massey's discourse was crammed with vital, practical teachings.  He demonstrated the unity of the human family, and the hereditary, or direct, responsibility of every man for the sins, the poverty, the crimes in existence.    Instead of recommending the poor to fix their hopes upon some impalpable and unknowable beatitude in the future, he urged such efforts as will ameliorate their condition here.  He asserted that man earns his status in the next life not from the merits of the blood of an innocent man, but through his efforts to elevate the condition of human kind.  Which of these two classes of preaching will be likely to win?  Will it be the former, whose themes are unknowable abstractions, and whose listeners are in the nature of corporations,--that is, who are professedly pious men and women, and who do not. therefore particularly need this class of instruction?  Or will it be the latter, which penetrates the highways of life, which reaches suffering and sinful men and women, and constantly instructs them upon the matters that lie nearest their hearts? 

    There can be no question as to the success of these respective styles of preaching.  Chicago has thousands of people who never enter a church, because they find nothing in it that responds to the cravings of their nature.  They wish for food, and are given a doctrinal stone.  They wish to know how to live, and they are told only how to die.  They ask for guidance in this life, and are given disquisitions upon the life to come.

    All these things will have their effect; in fact, they are having an effect.  There is a revolution pending that will affect orthodoxy as much as the hide-bound religious corporations were affected by Luther and the reformation.  Free religion, philosophical societies, spiritualism, and a dozen other organisations of independent thinkers are being formed to war against the foolishness of preaching.  It is a rebellion against antiquarianism in its to modern life.  It is a protest against a social condition in which oppression, poverty, misrule, suffering, are rampant everywhere, and the only remedy offered is such a misty one as is promised in some future state of everlasting psalm singing and praise.  It is an assertion that people have a right to religious teachings and consolations, who are debarred from attending the gilded tabernacles in which the "word of life" is spoken.  These diverse elements, whatever may be their name or their apparent purpose, are actuated by the single conviction that religion has become a monopoly, and that its benefits, in an amended and practical form, must become the property of the masses.  In time, these elements will coalesce into a mighty opposition, in which biology will take the place of theology; in which sanitary science will displace doctrines; in which the personal devil will disappear before the devil of disease and pain; in which there will be no negation of a Divine Father and a future life; and in which the myths, inventions, fables, brought down from the childhood of the human race, will be supplanted by a vital religion, which, confined to no corporations, will be free as air, and will reach and elevate every member of the human family.


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