“You may find, madam,” said Moodie, “a great many genteel people going some where else. Gentry is no election to grace.”
Mrs. Shortridge resented the insinuation by indignant silence; but Lady Mabel, who had her own object in exasperating Moodie’s sectarian zeal, now asked him: “What is the last symptom of backsliding you have seen in me?”
“It seems to me, my lady, that you are getting strangely intimate with the Romish faith and rites, for one who does not believe and practice them. It is a sinful curiosity, like that of the children of Israel, which first made them familiar with the abominations among their neighbors, then led them to practice the idolatries they had witnessed.”
“But may there not be something sinful, Moodie, in denouncing the errors and corruptions of the Romanists, without having thoroughly searched them out?”
“We know the great heads of their offense—their perversion of gospel truth—their teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. There is no need to trace every error through all its dark and crooked windings. Truth is one: that God has allotted to his elect. Errors are manifold, and sown broadcast among the reprobate.”
“Still it must matter much what degree and kind of error falls to our lot,” Lady Mabel suggested.
“Perhaps so,” Moodie answered, with doubting assent. “Yet if we are not in the one true path, it may matter little which wrong road we travel.”
“Well, Moodie,” said she, “however much you may narrow down your Christian faith, you shall not hedge in my Christian charity, and deprive me of all sympathy for the Pope in this his day of persecution.”
“Whatever the holy father’s errors may have been,” said L’Isle, “we may now say of him, a prisoner in France, what was said of Clement the Seventh, when shut up in the Castle of St. Angelo, ’Papa non potest errare.’”
“That is Latin, Moodie,” said Lady Mabel, “and to enlighten your ignorance it may be rendered, ‘The Pope cannot err.’”
“Why that is nothing but the doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility,” exclaimed Moodie, indignantly; “and saying it in Latin cannot make it true.” And he dropped behind the party.
Gazing on the number of religious houses and habits around them, Lady Mabel said: “Monastic life must hold forth strong allurements. The monks seem to find it easy to recruit their ranks.”
“Many motives combine to draw men into the church,” L’Isle answered. “Devotion may be the chief; but, in this climate and country, the love of ease, and the want of hopeful prospects in secular life, exercise great influence. Moreover, one monk, like one soldier, serves as a decoy to another. Did you ever see a recruiting sergeant, in all his glory, among a party of rustics at a village alehouse? How skillfully he displays the bright side of a soldier’s life, while hiding every dark spot. The church has many a recruiting sergeant, who can put the best of ours to shame. Many a recruit, too, like our young friar, is caught very young.”