The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 3a
I. Church Lotteries — Reply to the Wellington 'Council of the Churches'
I. Church Lotteries
Reply to the Wellington 'Council of the Churches'
We Catholics are a highly favored generation. We have our own pastors to guide us in the, way that leads to Life. And we have, besides, a variegated multitude of leisured clergy of some hundreds of other Christian creeds who weep over us, and beat us to the best of their ability with their shepherds' crooks, and go into hysterics over us whenever we are—or seem to them to be—obstreperous and chuckleheaded. Their zeal for our souls manifests itself on all sorts of occasions. But it usually achieves its highest glow when substantial sums of money have been raised by us, at bazaars, to further some new branch of Catholic devotion, or education, or charity. A foremost place among our self-constituted Mentors is taken by a mainly or exclusively Nonconformist body that, for some recondite reason, calls itself The Council of 'The' Churches. Last week the organisation of that name in Wellington discussed the following resolution (or, rather, indictment)—
'That the Council of Churches deeply deplores the fact that the Roman Catholic Church should continue to identify itself with the gambling habits of the community, and in view of the unanimity of moralists and the attitude of other sections of the Christian church, the council urges on the responsible authorities of the Roman Catholic Church the need, in the interests of the public, of a renunciation of gambling for religions ends.'page 4
Some of the saner and more moderate speakers succeeded, in the face of much opposition, in carrying an amendment substituting the words 'certain Churches' for 'the Roman Catholic Church.' But on what we may call the side for the prosecution, controversial temperatures rose high. And the lava-flow of oratory (to use the words of 'Junius') consisted of 'assertion without proof, declamation without argument, and violent censure without dignity or moderation.'
Ballast and Sail
'Men of solid and sober nature,' says Bacon, 'have more of the ballast than of the sail.' In the discussion of moral subjects, principles are of more value than wind-power; and an ounce of exposition is worth more than a ton of declamation. The Wahhabee Arabs (according to Lane) regard smoking as the next worst crime to wilful murder. Some of the Councils of the Churches seem to put art-unions in the same place in the moral order as the puritannical Moslems place the witching weed. That is their own affair. But it becomes our affair when they begin to set up a barrier to our liberty in regard to this or any such point of human conduct. We are then entitled to demand by what authority they paint up 'No Thoroughfare' upon a road which the vast majority of Christians regard as free and open. We could respect the Council of the Churches—even though we might not agree with them—if they showed their parchments; if they quoted chapter and verse of the divine law which (they say) bars our way; if they set forth in plain terms, and defended by fact and argument, the moral principles which (they contend) damn the church lottery as a 'vicious practice' and a deadly sin. Such a course would be a fair appeal to intellect and conscience. But it is precisely the course which has not commended itself to the Wellington Council of Churches—nor, so far as we are aware, to any cognate body of 'reformers' in New Zealand. We could even understand and appreciate their position if they recommended or exhorted us, in a Christian and fraternal way, to refrain from lotteries as a counsel of perfection—just as they might urge their congregations to refrain from flesh-meat or barley-bree. page 5 Even to delinquents—and much more to accused who are not conscious of any delinquency—kind words are as 'apples of gold on beds of silver,' or as 'a concert of music in a banquet of wine.' But the Wellington 'councillors' made it deplorably clear that their object was not to conciliate or convince, but to exasperate; not to appeal to reason and conscience, but to religious passion. Hence their ready resort to hard names, and question-begging epithets, and unproved assumptions—crowned by a preposterous falsehood as to the 'unanimity of moralists' of other sections of the Christian Church 'in their favor. Why, they were not even able to secure 'unanimity' at their own little meeting! By necessary inference, too, they claim acquaintance with the works of all those 'moralists'—a feat which alone would merit them a monument lofty enough to rake the stars out of the sky. The methods of our Wellington critics are those of the brawler, not of the reformer.
'So Enchantingly Shy'
There are some men so constituted mentally that they seem incapable of seeing that circumstances alter cases. But they are not the men that sensible people choose for spiritual 'guides. Is the Wellington Council of the Churches unaware that the term 'gambling' is one 'of protean meanings? Know they not that 'gamming' 'may be looked upon both as a sport, a pastime, a recreation, and as a serious business, a passion' ('Baldwin, 'Diet, of Philosophy and Psychology,' vol. I., p. 403)? Are they not aware that it covers actions as widely divergent in their moral nature and in their effects as (on the one hand) playing for pins or wax vestas, and (on the other hand) welshing, the gambling orgies of Jubilee Juggins or Hogarth's rake, and the staking of fortunes on the Derby or on the trembling chances of rouge-et-noir at Monte Carlo? Can any good cause be served by those vague and confused denunciations of 'gambling' sans phrase—by indiscriminately damning all its possible phases to the same deep pit of Tophet?
And why, oh, why
So enchantingly shy
about stating and establishing the reflex principles (if any) on which these denunciations are based? Are page 6 church lotteries, in their minds, sinful and 'vicious' in themselves, or because of some circumstance or circumstances that are not inherent to them? (1) Do our Wellington 'moralists,' for instance, maintain that the casting of lots—whether by straws, bones,' numbered cubes, colored stones, or otherwise—is in itself sinful? Or (2) does the alleged violation of divine law consist essentially in risking a coin (say a threepenny piece) for a prize, such as a painted plaque or picture? Or (3) do they hold that the asserted deordination consists in the profit or the hope of gain? Or (4) do they demand the total abolition of church and charitable lotteries, as '.vicious practices,' because, like all things human, they are liable to abuse? Heaven only knows! The Council of the Churches finds oratory cheaper than exposition. It has left us to inference and random guesses. But so far as one may gather up ideas amidst the din of clamorous declamation, it would seem as if some of its members hold, with Dr. Horton, that lotteries and wagers of every kind are always and in all circumstances sinful.
Is This their Theory?
(1) Do they maintain that the casting of lots is in itself sinful? If so, let them (a) point out wherein the sin or 'vice' or deordination consists, (b) In the second place, Let them establish their contention by a resort to the only moral authority to which they can ultimately appeal. That authority (according to their theology) is the Sacred Scripture, which—interpreted by their own individual private judgment—they claim to be the all-sufficient and 'only rule of faith and practice.' Now, in the last resort, this private judgment or .personal opinion is all they have to offer us. But what is the admittedly fallible individual opinion of the Rev. Dr. Gibb or the Rev. J. J. North to us? It has no more weight with us than the tiniest speck of fluff from a hawk-moth's wing. The whole burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the Council of the Churches. Let them take it up—if they can. We, for our part, hereby notify them that we shall pin them fast to the strict logic of their position. They cannot find in alt the Bible either 'text or margent' that would give so much as a moment's countenance to the theory which we are considering here. But if on this or on any other point they appeal to the Inspired Record, we take the page 7 liberty of reminding; them that they must first catch their hare—they must first get hold of their Inspired Scriptures. And they must, moreover, get hold of them by their unaided individual judgment, and not by any resort to authority, whether of the Jewish or the Christian Church. They must either stick consistently to their principle, or squarely abandon it as erroneous.
(c) Having secured their Scriptures—if they can—it will then become their duty to reconcile their theory (if this) is their theory) with the fact that the Almighty Gad commanded and sanctioned and permitted the use of the lot ('goral'). The Jewish people, as everybody is 'aware, decided numerous questions by lottery—criminal cases; appointments to office; the order of the attendance of the priests in the Temple; and sundry other things. And in most cases the lotteries were under the direct sanction of the Jewish Church. (See, for instance, Schaff's 'Religious Encyclopaedia,' vol. ii, p. 1353; Hastings' 'Dictionary of the Bible,'. vol. iii, pp. 152-3; Chene and Sutherland's 'Encyclopaedia Biblica,' vol. i, col. 1118; vol. iv, cols. 5236-7). And was not the Land of Promise parcelled out among the various tribes, at God's express command, by the greatest land-lottery ever witnessed upon this grey old earth? Moreover, the lottery was a religious service, for the ceremony was performed by Josue 'before the Lord in Shiloh' (Jos., xviii, 10). Now, if our Wellington 'moralists' look upon a resort to lottery as in itself sinful, how in it that they have not placed the Almighty in the pillory? And why have they not clapped the gyves upon the Apostles of the New Dispensation for having selected by lot the one that was to fill the place of Judas (Acts, i, 26)? And will they 'urge' the adherents of their various faiths throughout New Zealand to abandon the farms and runs and mining leases acquired by lottery under our legalised ballot-systems? And if not, why not? And will they scornfully reject, as contaminated money, the Sunday threepenny pieces that are raised on property so obtained? And if not, why not? And where among 'all the moralists' will they find any that hold so bizarre a theory as that with which we have dealt in these two paragraphs?
(2) But perhaps our very dogmatic Northern 'moralists' maintain that the sin and 'vice' of church lotteries consists essentially in risking a valuable consideration of one kind (to wit, a coin) for the marketable chance of winning a valuable consideration of another kind (to wit, a painted plaque or picture)? But wherein precisely do the sin and deordination lie? And by all means let us have—for we are entitled to it—chapter and verse of the divine law which sends us to the Bottomless Pit for indulging in a threepenny raffle at a charity bazaar. (We are, of course, entitled to assume that the lottery is fairly conducted; that the coin which purchases the chance is absolutely ours, to dispose of as we please; and that we can well afford to spend it). We are free to make an uncondiditional gift of our coin is the art union, or to spend it upon our amusement is any other way. On what principle may we not also give it with a condition attached, which at the same time affords us recreation, the hope of winning what the others interested are willing we should win, and the chance of losing what we are, in every, event, ready to lose with a happy heart? Or, in these dollar-worshipping days, have silver coins become so sacrosanct that they must not be risked? Soldiers, footballers, explorers, and pioneers expose something vastly more precious—life and health and strength—for love of country or for amusement, or for profit, or for mere adventure. Shall they, merely because of the risks they run, be ranked with scallywags and suicides? And do the Wellington 'moralists' desire the end of all speculative trade?
The Profit Question
Our oratorical Wellington friends are eager in denunciation, coy in enunciation of principles. Hence, like Little Bo-Peep, we don't know where to find them—on this question of church lotteries—and have to search for them all over the controversial landscape. (3) Perhaps they maintain that the 'viciousness' and the deordination consist in purchase or sale of lottery tickets with a view to profit? (a) In this case we have once more to urge them to point out precisely wherein the sin consists, and—having found the Scriptures—to give chapter and verse therefrom in support of their theory. (b) Do they, page 9 perchance, maintain that the pursuit of gain has now become in itself unlawful? If so, 'carte in tavola' ! down with their proofs. Or (c) shall we be treated to the fine old wheeze that holders of church lottery tickets outrage the divine law by 'coveting their neighbors' goods'—to wit, the painted poppies and lilies and daffydowndillies on the stalls? Well, in that case, too, it becomes the duty of the apostles of the New Morality to prove—again 'from the Scriptures—that the 'rosies red and posies fair' are desired by the ticket-holders in a way that is forbidden by the law of God. For the rest, it is well to remember that the lottery which we are here—and for some time further—contemplating presents all the conditions of a free contract between absolute owners. And 'scienti et volenti non fit injuria.' So runs the old legal maxim: No injury is done to him who knowingly embarks in, and freely assents to, a measure, (c) For the rest, it is our experience—an experience extending over eighteen years—that the vast bulk of those who attend our bazaars and art unions do so principally for the purpose of aiding a cause that appeals to their hearts. Others have had a similar experience. About the middle of 1896, for instance, the noted Protestant writer and divine, Dr. Blair (reported in the 4 Scotsman '), said in the course of a sermon:—
'One could hardly imagine anyone speculating in raffle tickets at a bazaar with the mercenary spirit of making gain. It was generally done because the purchaser desired to help the object in view, or to oblige a friend, and he seldom cared whether the article subscribed for came to him or not.'
The late Dr. Grace, of Wellington, summed up the Catholic feeling on this subject in the following felicitous way:—
'As to raffles, let us try and be reasonable with each other. Who 'goes to a bazaar with the expectation of making a profit? . . . Why do we go to bazaars? Just out of sympathy and good nature. We are living together in a small town, and we help each other in a kindly spirit. For my own part, I never once saw anything in a bazaar I would like to take home with me except a lot of pretty girls. As no single one of them would pick an old fellow like me, even if I were unattached, I just take a ticket in a raffle from every girl page 10 who asks me, till my pocket is empty. And I purpose to continue to do so, not caring a brass farthing for the Anti-Gambling League or Mrs. Grundy.'
And such, in effect, was likewise the manly and defiant utterance of the Rev. Mr. Thompson at the meeting of the Wellington Council of the Churches.
How Anti-Gamblers 'Gamble'
|Year.||Total.||Church of England.||Presbyterian.||Roman Catholic.|
'The Presbyterians used to sin in this matter,' said the Rev. Mr. North. 'Oh, no!' exclaimed Dr. Gibb. 'But not more than once or twice,' explained the Rev. Mr. North. Yet here we have a record of sixteen Presbyterian church lotteries in four years ! But this is not all. You can fairly credit men who bear witness against themselves. One straightforward speaker at the Council's meeting testified that, 'not more than two years ago' he 'was asked to take a ticket' in an illegal lottery—one for which no permit had been obtained—at 'a Wesleyan bazaar.' Is this an isolated 'instance, or the outcropping of a practice? 'I am a Wesleyan myself,' the speaker added, 'and we are not too clean, and we ought to shun the appearance of evil in ourselves before we begin to pick holes in other people's coats' ('Evening Post,' May 1, 1906). And then there is the great Nonconformist bran-tub lottery, in which you buy a chance for sixpence, dip, and perhaps draw out of a tangle of mummy-wrappings—a ha'porth of pins ! 'The element of chance,' said another fair-minded speaker, 'was as wrong in the case of the bran-tub as in an art union conducted by the Roman Catholic Church' ('Post' report). But' (said the Rev. J. J. North) the Presbyterians 'had since repented in sackcloth and ashes.' Not a bit, Brother North ! Bran-tub, 'dredge,' and 'fishpond' lotteries are carried on under the eyes of reverend Nonconformist moralists of every hue. And to this day numbers of our Nonconformist friends, instead of wearing sackcloth and ashes, kneel en benches, and teach in Sunday-schools, and worship in churches, and live in manses that were in part paid for by what (according to the Wellington rigorists) are the proceeds of sin and; 'vice.' This is emphatically a case in which (on their theory) the receivers, users, and beneficiaries are as bad as the original thieves. Let the Council of the Churches insist that (bonfires or smithereens be made of those parts of church and school and manse for which (according to their notion) the contractors were the devil and his angels. When they have done this with sufficient frequency and fervor, we shall believe in the sincerity of their convictions. But not before. In the meantime, their indecent public exhibitions of Pharisaical cant only move us to scorn and ridicule. One of the precious privileges left to us Catholics is a cap- page 12 acity for diaphragm-shaking laughter at the smug inconsistency that puts on airs—whether they be the airs of a Pecksniff, or of a Stiggins, or of a Chadband, or of a Bumble in gown and bands.
Our Northern censors strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Why have they no word of censure for the colossal volume of operations that tire designated 'gambling' by 'all the moralists'—and they are many and mostly non-Catholic—that we have been able to consult? We refer to Stock Exchange gambling—time—bargains, deals in options and futures, 'cover' speculations, and the rest of the myriad ways that brokers and their clients know. Do no members of the Council dabble on the Stock Exchange? And are not portions of the incomes or stipends of some among them derived directly or indirectly from the profits of this form of gambling? And what about the Star-Bowkett Society's lotteries? And insurance? If we were a-wagering bent, we would lay Lombard Street to a China orange that every man among our Wellington censors has a 'gamble' in life and fire insurance . A few years ago the Rev. Dr. Gibb sounded the praises of Provost Salmon (of Trinity College, Dublin) in the course of a fog-horn letter to the Dunedin secular press. Well, here is an extract in point from a letter of that witty Protestant Provost in MacDonnell's 'Life of Archbishop McGee':—
'One form of betting is recognised as a prudential duty. I mean life assurance. You bet with an assurance company that you will die; they bet that you will live—and you are well] leased to lose your bet. Betting is, you say, buying a chance; but suppose that each would rather have the chance than the price to be paid for it, why not? Two boys want to see a show. Each has only 'half the price of admission. If they toss up, one of them has his wish; if they don't, neither. If people take tickets at a bazaar, no one feels the loss of a shilling for a ticket, but if the object to be rattled for is pretty, the winner may feel the gain as much. A clergyman once at a bazaar, when I professed to be shocked at his having a raffle, declared that he did it on the highest moral grounds'. Without a raffle, none but rich people had the chance of obtaining; the really valuable articles. By a raffle he accomplished the Christian duty of putting rich and poor on terms of perfect equality.'page 13
'Good, and very Salmonian !' was the comment of the Protestant Archbishop McGee. Men taken in the mass offer a sound actuarial basis for life insurance. But for the individual it is always a sheer lottery.
Use and Abuse
But (4) perhaps the Wellington Council of the Churches contends that church lotteries should be abolished because they are liable to abuse, or have been abused? In their condemnation of the abuses of church lotteries we are with them with all our hearts. And our principles in regard to the subject are, unlike theirs, well known and clearly expounded (see pp. 3-4). Stated in the most summary terms: (1) Church lotteries are in themselves harmless; (2) they are perfectly permissible provided certain conditions are fulfilled: (a) the object must be good, or at least (as our theologians say) indifferent; (b) the money risked must belong to him who risks it, he must have the free disposal of it, and the amount staked must not exceed what he may in justice to himself or others spend; (c) the lottery must be free, from fraud and deceit; and (d) there must be a fair equality of chance for all. The moment any one of these guiding principles is violated, the lottery—in so far as the violation extends—becomes at once immoral. 'And we abhor it to the full extent of the abuse. If our Wellington accusers assert any abuse, it becomes their duty to prove and not assume it. Even the civil courts decline to condemn the forger or the footpad unheard, or on hearsay report, or on ex-parte evidence. So do we. And least of all shall we condemn any individual, or any body of people on such evidence when tendered by men so abounding in theological bitterness and so rec' 1 ss in assertion as are some of the members of the Wellington Council of the Churches. The Rev. Dr. Blair (already quoted) said:
'He should be heartily sorry to countenance anything that would tend to lead anyone astray; but he could hardly conceive of such a trifling matter as a bazaar raffle doing so. Excess in everything led to disaster, and the most legitimate pursuit might be abused by excess. But to reason against the legitimate use because of the excess of some, would lead in many things to extraordinary consequences.'
Does the Council of the Churches stand for the principle of the abolition, as a 'vicious practice,' of every- page 14 thing that has been, or is liable to be, abused? Well, what gift of God has been more grossly abused by many ill-conditioned persons (the Disciples of Free Love, for instance) than the Bible? Is the Bible, then, to be abolished? And what about the bran-tub—and the Stock Exchange? All manner of sport has been abused. Does the the Council propose to abolish football and golf and cycling; and the rest? And look at the senseless extravagance of many in the matter of dress. Do the 'councillors' therefore propose to march habitually about—as the Canadian Dukhoubors sometimes do—'mit nodings on'? Or do they propose to eat no more because so many 'dig their graves with their teeth'? It is a bad principle that will not bear being pushed to its logical conclusion.
Rabelais' witches hid their eyes in their slippers when at home, and clapped them in their sockets when they went among their neighbors. A happy figure of the busybody and the meddler ! We recommend our Wellington critics to take their eyes out of their slippers and cast a glance around their own spiritual households!. They may possibly find things there that matter a good deal. What, for instance, about the spreading indifferentism and infidelity and divorce and race-suicide that are eating like rodent ulcers into faith and family life? And what about that shocking Parliamentary return of November 2, 1903, which exhibits so relatively overwhelming numbers, of the clergy of the Council-of-the-Churches creeds as too indolent to break the bread of life to Christ's little ones in the schools? If the Wellington Council of the Churches attends to its own business, it will be too tired when night comes to dance any more unseemly theological can-cans on the violated hearthstones of its neighbors.
* Reprinted, with some slight verbal alterations, from the 'New Zealand Tablet,' May 10, 1906.