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A few days before the arrival of
Bishop de Forbin Janson, I was alone in my study, considering my false position
towards my ecclesiastical superiors, on account of my establishing the temperance
society against their formal protest. My heart was sad. My partial success had
not blinded me to the reality of my deplorable isolation from the great mass
of the clergy. With a very few exceptions, they were speaking of me as a dangerous
man. They had even given me the nick-name of "Le reformateur au petit pied"
(small-sized reformer) and were losing no opportunity of showing me their supreme
contempt and indignation, for what they called my obstinacy.
In that sad hour, there were many clouds around my horizon, and my mind was filled with anxiety; when, suddenly, a stranger knocked at my door. He was a good-sized man; his smiling lips and honest face were beaming with the utmost kindness. His large and noble forehead told me, at once, that my visitor was a man of superior intellect. His whole mien was that of a true gentleman.
He pressed my hand with the cordiality of an old friend and, giving me his name, he told me at once the object of his visit, in these words:
"I do not come here only in my name: but it is in the name of many, if not of all, the English-speaking people of Quebec and Canada; I want to tell you our admiration for the great reform you have accomplished in Beauport. We know the stern opposition of your superiors and fellowpriests to your efforts, and we admire you more for that.
"Go on, sir, you have on your side the great God of heaven, who has said to us all: 'Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.'" (Prov. xxiii. 31, 32). "Take courage, sir," he added; "you have, on your side, the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ Himself. Fear not man, sir, when God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are on your side. If you find any opposition from some quarter; and if deluded men turn you into ridicule when you are doing such a Christian work, bless the Lord. For Jesus Christ has said: 'Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for My sake.' (Matt. v. 6, 11.) I come also to tell you sir, that if there are men to oppose you, there are many more who are praying for you day and night, asking our heavenly Father to pour upon you His most abundant blessings. Intoxicating drinks are the curse of this young country. It is the most deadly foe of every father and mother, the most implacable enemy of every child in Canada. It is the ruin of our rich families, as well as the destruction of the poor. The use of intoxicating drinks, under any form, or pretext, is an act of supreme folly; for alcohol kills the body and damns the soul of its blind victims. You have, for the first time, raised the glorious banners of temperance among the French Canadian people; though you are alone, today, to lift it up, be not discouraged. For, before long, you will see your intelligent countrymen rallying around it, to help you to fight and to conquer. No doubt, the seed you sow today is often watered with your tears. But, before long, you will reap the richest crop; and your heart will be filled with joy, when your grateful country will bless your name."
After a few other sentences of the same elevated sentiments, he hardly gave me time enough to express my feelings of gratitude, and said: "I know you are very busy, I do not want to trespass upon your time. Goodbye, sir. May the Lord bless you, and be your keeper in all your ways."
He pressed my hand, and soon disappeared. I would try, in vain, to express what I felt when alone with my God, after that strange and providential visit. My first thought was to fall on my knees and thank that merciful God for having sent such a messenger to cheer me in one of the darkest hours of my life; for every word from his lips had fallen on my wounded soul as the oil of the Good Samaritan on the bleeding wounds of the traveler to Jericho. There had been such an elevation of thought, such a ring of true, simple, but sublime faith and piety; such love of man and fear of God in all that he had said. It was the first time that I had heard words so conformable to my personal views and profound convictions on that subject. That stranger, whose visit had passed as quickly as the visit of an angel from God, had filled my heart with such joy and surprise at the unexpected news that all the Englishspeaking people of Canada were praying for me!
However, I did not fall on my knees to thank God; for my sentiments of gratitude to God were suddenly chilled by the unspeakable humiliation I felt when I considered that that stranger was a Protestant! The comparison I was forced to make between the noble sentiments, the high philosophy, the Christian principles of that Protestant layman, with the low expressions of contempt, the absolute want of generous and Christian thoughts of my bishop and my fellow-priests when they were turning into ridicule that temperance society which God was so visibly presenting to us the best, if not the only way, to save the thousands of drunkards who were perishing around us, paralyzed my lips, bewildered my mind, and made it impossible for me to utter a word of prayer. My first sentiments of joy and of gratitude to God soon gave way to sentiments of unspeakable shame and distress.
I was forced to acknowledge that these Protestants, whom my Church had taught me, through all her councils, to anathematize and curse as the slaves and followers of Satan, were, in their principles of morality, higher above us than the heavens are above the earth! I had to confess to myself that those heretics, whom my church had taught me to consider as rebels against Christ and His Church, knew the laws of God and followed them much more closely than ourselves. They had raised themselves to the highest degree of Christian temperance, when my bishops, with their priests, were swimming in the deadly waters of drunkenness!
A voice seemed crying to me, "Where is the superiority of holiness of your proud Church of Rome over those so called heretics, who follow more closely the counsels and precepts of the gospel of Christ?" I tried to stifle that voice, but I could not. Louder and Louder it was heard asking me, "Who is nearer God? The bishop who so obstinately opposes a reform which is so evidently according to the Divine Word, or those earnest followers of the gospel who make the sacrifice of their old and most cherished usages with such pleasure, when they see it is for the good of their fellow-men and the glory of God?" I wished them to be a hundred feet below the ground, in order not to hear those questions answered within my soul. But there was no help; I had to hear them, and to blush at the reality before my eyes. Pride! yes, diabolical pride! is the vice, par excellence, of every priest of Rome. Just as he is taught to believe and say that his church is far above every other church, so he is taught to believe and say that, as a priest, he is above all the kings, emperors, governors, and presidents of this world. That pride is the daily bread of the Pope, the bishop, the priests, and even the lowest layman in the Church of Rome. It is also the great secret of their power and strength. It is this diabolical pride which nerves them with an iron will, to bring down everything to their feet, subject every human being to their will, and tie every neck to the wheels of their chariot. It is this fearful pride which so often gives them that stoical patience and indomitable courage in the midst of the most cruel pain, of in the face of the most appalling death, which so many deluded Protestants take for Christian courage and heroism. The priest of Rome believes that he is called by God Almighty to rule, subdue, and govern the world; with all those prerogatives that he fancies granted him by heaven he builds up a high pyramid, on the top of which he sets himself, and from that elevation looks down with the utmost contempt on the rest of the world.
If anyone suspects that I exaggerate in thus speaking of the pride of the priests, let him read the following haughty words which Cardinal Manning puts in the lips of the Pope in one of his lectures:
"I acknowledge no civil power; I am the subject of no prince. I am more than this. I claim to be the supreme judge and director of the conscience of men: of the peasant who tills his field, and of the prince who sits upon the throne; of the household that lives in he shade of privacy, and the legislator that makes laws for the kingdom. I am the sole, last, supreme judge of what is right or wrong."
Is it not evident that the Holy Ghost speaks of this pride of the priests and of the Pope, the high priest of Rome, when He says: "That man of sin," that "son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or what is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. ii. 3, 4).
That caste pride which was in me, though I did not see it then, as it is in every priest of Rome, though he does not suspect it, had received a rude check, indeed, from that Protestant visitor. Yes, I must confess it, he had inflicted a deadly wound on my priestly pride; he had thrown a barbed arrow into my priestly soul which I tried many times, but always in vain, to take away. The more I attempted to get rid of this arrow, the deeper it went through my very bones and marrow. That strange visitor, who caused me to pass so many hours and days of humiliation, when forcing me to blush at the inferiority of the Christian principles of my church compared with those of the Protestants, is well known in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain as the founder and first editor of two of the best religious papers of America, the Montreal Witness and the New York Witness. His name is John Dougall. As he is still living, I am happy to have this opportunity of thanking and blessing him again for the visit he paid to the young curate of Beauport forty-five years ago. I was not aware then that the wounds inflicted by that unknown but friendly hand was one of the great favours bestowed upon me by my merciful God; but I understand it now. Many rays of light have since come from the wounds which my priestly pride received that day. Those rays of light helped much to expel the darkness which surrounded me by leading me to see, in spite of myself, that the vaunted holiness of the Church of Rome is a fraud.