An Ambitious Man (Chapter 8, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 8

But each Sunday this successful robber occupied his high-priced
church pew, devoutly listening to the divine word.

He never failed to partake of the holy communion, nor was his right
to do so ever questioned.

The rector of the church knew his record perfectly; knew that his
gains were ill-gotten blood money, ground from the suffering poor by
the power of monopoly, and from confiding fools by smart lures and
scheming tricks. But this young clergyman, having recently been
called to preside over the fashionable church, had no idea of being
so impolite as to refuse to administer the bread and wine to one of
its most liberal supporters!

There were constant demands upon the treasury of the church; it
required a vast outlay of money to maintain the splendour and
elegance of the temple which held its head so high above many others;
and there were large charities to be sustained, not to mention its
rector's princely salary. The millionaire pewholder was a liberal
giver. It rarely occurs to the fashionable dispensers of spiritual
knowledge to ask whether the devil's money should be used to gild the
Lord's temple; nor to question if it be a wise religion which allows
a man to rob his neighbours on weekdays, to give to the cause of
charity on Sundays.

And yet if every clergyman and priest in the land were to make and
maintain these standards for their followers, there might be an
astonishing decrease in the needs of the poor and unfortunate.

Were every church member obliged to open his month's ledgers to a
competent jury of inspectors, before he was allowed to take the holy
sacrament and avow himself a humble follower of Christ, what a
revolution might ensue! How church spires would crumble for lack of
support, and poorhouses lessen in number for lack of inmates!

But the leniency of clergymen toward the shortcomings of their
wealthy parishioners is often a touching lesson in charity to the
thoughtful observer who stands outside the fold.

For how could they obtain money to convert the heathen, unless this
sweet cloak of charity were cast over the sins of the liberal rich?
Christ is crucified by the fashionable clergymen to-day more cruelly
than he was by the Jews of old.

Senator Cheney was not a church member, and he seldom attended
service. This was a matter of great solicitude to his wife and
daughter. The Baroness felt it to be a mistake on the part of
Senator Cheney, and even Judge Lawrence, who adored his son-in-law,
regretted the young man's indifference to things spiritual. But with
all Preston Cheney's worldly ambitions and weaknesses, there was a
vein of sincerity in his nature which forbade his feigning a faith he
did not feel; and the daily lives of the three feminine members of
his family were so in disaccord with his views of religion that he
felt no incentive to follow in their footsteps. Judge Lawrence he
knew to be an honest, loyal-hearted, God and humanity loving man. "A
true Christian by nature and education," he said of his father-in-
law, "but I am not born with his tendency to religious observance,
and I see less and less in the churches to lead me into the fold. It
seems to me that these religious institutions are getting to be vast
monopolistic corporations like the railroads and oil trusts, and the
like. I see very little of the spirit of Christ in orthodox people
to-day."

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