Were there not circumstances in which the Bible itself commanded a man to leave father and mother? Had not Jesus Christ made the surrender of every old relation and the following after him the duty of those who were to become his disciples? What was the meaning of the words the Saviour had uttered to his august mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” except it was commanded to turn even from the mother when religion was at stake?
Many another passage of Scripture had strengthened the courage of the young Bible student when at last, with a look of intelligence, he pledged Wolf, and remarking, “How could I venture the attempt to lead you to break so sacred an oath?” instantly brought forward every plea that a son who, in religious matters, followed a different path from his mother could allege in his justification.
A short time before, in Brussels, Wolf had seen a superior of the new Society of Jesus, whose members were now appearing everywhere as defenders of the violently assailed papacy, seek to win back to Catholicism the son of evangelical parents with the very same arguments. He told his friend this, and also expressed the belief that the Jesuit, too, had spoken in good faith.
Erasmus shrugged his shoulders, saying “Doubtless there are many mansions in our Father’s house, but who will blame us if we left the dilapidated old one, where our liberty was restricted and our consciences were burdened, and preferred the new one, in which man is subject to no other mortal, but only to the plain words of the Bible and to the judge in his own breast? If we prefer this mansion, which stands open to every one whose heart the old one oppresses, to the ruinous one of former days——”
“Yet,” interrupted Wolf, “you must say to yourselves that you leave behind in the old one much which the new one lacks, no matter with how many good things you may equip it. The history of our religion and its development does not belong to your new home—only to the old one.”
“We stand upon it as every newer thing rests on the older,” replied Erasmus eagerly. “What we cast aside and refuse to take into the new home with us is not the holy faith, but merely its deformity, abasement, and falsification.”
“Call it so,” replied Wolf calmly. “I have heard others name and interpret differently what you probably have in mind while using these harsh epithets. But is it not the old house, and that alone, in which the martyrs shed their blood for Christianity? Where did it fulfil its lofty task of saturating the heart of mankind with love, softening the customs of rude pagans, clearing away forests, transforming barren wastes into cultivated fields, planting the cross on chapels and churches, summoning men with the consecrated voice of the bell to the sermon which proclaims love and peace? Where did it open the doors of the school which prepares the intellect to satisfy its true destiny, and first qualifies man to become the image of God? By the old mansion this country, covered with marshes, moors; and impenetrable forests, was rendered what it now is; from it proceeded that fostering of science and the arts of which as yet I have seen little in your circles.”