P.-J. Proudhon, The Celebration of Sunday — II

[continued from Part I]
What I have said of the civil effects of the Sabbath sufficiently explains the importance that the legislator attached to it, when he made the stability of the State depend on it. But that institution itself had need of safeguards: it demanded to be defended against the negligence of some, against the ill will of others, and against the ignorance and barbarity of all. Now, it is from the guarantees with which Moses surrounded it that we have seen born the influence of the Sabbath on family relations. For such is the admirable economy of the Mosaic system, and the close connection of all its parts, that in studying it one seems to follow an exposition of physics rather than a combination of the human mind. It is of the legislation of Moses that we can truly say, that in it all converges, all conspires, all consents. Pull just one of its stitches, and the whole thing unravels.
Moses would not have believed in the solidity of his edifice, if it had not concerned all classes of people. Beyond the accomplishment of certain religious duties, such as attendance at the ceremonies, participation in the sacrifices, etc., he demanded that on the day of the Sabbath every sort of servile labor be suspended, and he accepted no pretext or excuse. You shall not, says Deuteronomy, do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the stranger within your gates. That means: You will not labor, either by yourself or through another. The law allows no exceptions; it is the prerogative of all. The father of the family, representing in his person all those subordinated to him by birth, by natural domain, or by a consensual dependency, alone enjoyed certain civil privileges, such as those of sitting in council, to render justice, carry arms, etc. But there are some basic necessities that he cannot claim for himself alone, and rest after labor is among that number. Also Deuteronomy, or the second exposition of the law, adds: So that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you have also been a slave.
The laws of Moses, if we pay attention to them, are all, with regard to form, expressed in personal style, by the second person singular of the future tense. Now, as the expression always remains the same, whether it is a question of duties common to all individuals, or whether the law refers only to the heads of families, who alone were counted for some things, and as we might be able to quibble about the generality of the text, Moses added to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, following the standard formula—Thou shalt not work—the commentary that we have just read, in order to remove all means of bickering from inhumanity and avarice.
Four-fifths of the population were thus interested in the rigorous observation of the Sabbath. The servants, recognizing for a day their dignity as men, put themselves back on the level of their masters; the women displayed the luxury of their households, the elderly the gravity of their lessons, their children, in their noisy joy, learned early some polite social habits. One saw the young girls sing and form dancing choruses, where they unfolded all the grace of their movements and the taste of their ensembles. Attractions formed and led to happy marriages. With such festivities once known, what father, what husband, what master would have thought to deprive their own of them? What domestic authority would have triumphed over an institution so sweet, transformed by the legislator into a religious precept? No, if paternal despotism had had the courage, it would not have succeeded.
What could I add to this quick description, that I have not already said? Sunday is the day of triumph for mothers and daughters. Bright with health and youth, beautiful from the expression of her conscience, accepted in the parish mass among all her companions, what village woman, once in her life, would not believe herself the kindest, most diligent or most wise? What wife, on a Sunday, does not give her household a certain air of celebration or even of luxury, and does not willingly receive, in a more affectionate mood, her husband’s friends?… The joy of Sunday spreads over all: sorrows, more solemn, are less poignant; regrets, less bitter. The sick heart finds an sweetness unknown to its stinging troubles. Sentiments are uplifted and purified: husbands find a lively and respectful tenderness, maternal love its enchantments; the piety of sons gives in more docilely under the tender care of the mothers. The domestic, that furniture in human form, born enemy of the one who pays him, feels himself more devoted and faithful; the master more benevolent and less hard. The farmer and the worker, stirred by a vague sense of equality, are more content with their condition. In all conditions man regains his dignity, and in the boundlessness of his affections, he recognizes that his nobility is too great for the distinction of ranks to be able to degrade and damage it. In all these regards the spirit of Christianity gets the upper hand over the Jewish spirit, always marked with a coarse sensualism. The religion of Moses is scarcely contemplative. Much given to demonstration, it speaks to the senses rather than the soul, as its law was addressed more to the mind than to the heart. Christianity is more unctuous, more penetrating, more expansive: incomparable especially when you want to astonish crime, terrify the conscience, break the heart, temper pride, and console the unfortunate. Why has the effective virtue of its dogmas not yet triumphed, in the political order, over human obstinacy?
The most dangerous adversary that Moses could meet, in instituting a weekly holiday, was greed. How was he to tear the rich farmers from multiple and pressing labors, manufacturers from the demands of the practices, traders from their indispensable operations? What could the Levite, charged with announcing with this horn that the rest of the Lord had begun, respond to these sophisms of interest: “Will you add a day to the week, or will you take responsibility for loading the harvest and working the fields?… What compensation do you offer us if we withdraw this order, if we miss this investment?… Make your sacrifices anyway, and pray for us in the synagogue: we do not have the leisure to go there, our occupations do not permit it.” What are we to say, once more, to people constantly alleging necessity, imminence, and unrecoverable occasions?
This is the stumbling block for all the adversaries of Sunday, ancient and modern. In order to give all possible strength to their reasons, I am going to quote the observations and calculations of a political man of the last century, of a man of the church, the abbot of Saint-Pierre, who, enjoying a fine abbey and having nothing to do, was perhaps not absolutely wrong to find the obligation to rest on Sunday unreasonable.
“It would be a great charity and a good work, more agreeable to God than a pure ceremony, to give to poor families the means to meet their needs and those of their children, by seven or eight hours of labor, and the means to instruct themselves and their children in the church, for three or four hours in the morning…
“To understand what a solace the continuation of their labor would be to the poor, we need only consider that of the five million families which are in France, there are at least a million who have almost no income except from their labor, who are poor; and I call poor those who do not have 30 Tours pounds of income, that is to say the value of 600 metric pounds of bread.
“These poor families could gain at least 5 sous each half-day of festival, one after another, during the 80 or so festivals and Sundays in the year. Each of these families would thus gain at least 20 francs per year more, which would make, for a million families, more than 20 millions of pounds. Now, wouldn’t an annual charity of 20 millions be quite a hand-out, spread proportionally among the poorest?
“If, when the first canons on the cessation of labor had been made, the bishops had seen some of the cabarets and games established, if they had foreseen all the disorders that idleness can cause, they would have limited themselves to the hearing of the mass and the instructions of the matins.” (Tome VII, page 73).
All these speculations are very nice, and the principle of this charity is very commendable; it only lacks a little good sense. For, as Bergier remarked, it is absurd to recognize, on one hand, that Sunday is instituted to give rest to the people, and to pretend on the other that this rest is itself harmful to them. In wanting to provide for the subsistence of the poor, we must have regard for the measure of their strength as well as their moral and intellectual needs. Our philanthropist is a cassock wanted to make the poor work seven to eight hours each Sunday, plus three a four hours of mass and sermon, which makes in all eleven to twelve hours of exercise on the day when others rest. And that five sous piece earned on Sunday, that fruit of an excessive labor, that wage of a people at bay, he charitably calls alms! Moses meant things in a rather different manner; his legislation had provided for all, and if the modern nations have not followed its windings, that was not the fault of the councils, which we would defend against the reproach of lack of foresight leveled against them by the abbot of Saint-Pierre.[1]
The Israelites, Fleury remarked, could not change place, nor enrich or ruin themselves excessively. The reason is easy to discover: among them the fortunes in real estate were equal, at least as much as the division flowing from successions and unforeseen accidents could allow. A law, called levirate, had even been made to prevent the goods of one family from passing to another; and it was subject to various applications, as we see from the example of Ruth and of the daughters of Salphaad. From the beginning, the lands had been subject to an equal partition: a sort of general cadastre had been executed by Joshua, in order that in certain cantons the natural sterility of the soil was compensated by a greater extent of territory or by other equivalents. According to the law, no immovable good could be alienated in perpetuity; the legislator exempted from that measure only houses in towns surround by walls. And the motive for that restriction is blindingly obvious; while promoting the growth of the people, he wanted them to spread uniformly over the territory, instead of crowding and corrupting themselves in large cities. He found there as well a guarantee of independence and security for the nation: we know that the lure of the wealth of Jerusalem was the perpetual cause of the invasions of the kings of Egypt and Babylon, and, in the end, of the ruin of the whole people.
Every child of Abraham was thus obliged to preserve his patrimony. Each should be able, in the general prosperity, to eat beneath his own vine and fig tree. There were no large farms, no great domains. The unfortunate or insolvent Israelite could stake his inheritance, the legacy of his father, as he could hire out his person and his strength, but in the year of the Jubilee all the properties were freed of debt and returned to their masters, all the servitors were freed. It followed from this that property sales, being subject to repurchase, were negotiated with an eye to the greater or lesser proximity of the year of Jubilee; that debts were difficult for the same reason, which made lenders cautious; that the passion to acquire was arrested at its source, and that labor, activity, diligence, were inevitably maintained among the citizens. It also resulted from it, relative to the Sabbath, that the exploitable materials, or the patrimonial soil, not being able to be extended, could not be increased for anyone; consequently, that no one could add a surcharge to his own fatigues, and hence, that it was easy to rule in advance the distribution of the labors of the week and even of the whole year, setting aside the Sabbaths and other feasts. And in cases of necessity, such as the approach of an enemy tribe, a fire or a storm, we must believe, in honor of the human spirit and of the Jewish nation, that the high priest who successor of Aaron was no more embarrassed to grant exemptions than the least curate in our villages.[2]
As for the merchants, artisans and foremen, the effect of the suspension was such for individuals of all conditions, that a delay caused by the Sabbath was not a delay, because that day no longer counted. No debt, no delivery of merchandise, no repayment of labor was due on that day. It is thus that, according to our laws and commercial practices, every commercial paper whose maturity took place on Saturday evening was only protestable on Monday.
Equality of conditions and fortunes was so much in the thought of Moses, that the majority of his civil laws and reforms were made with that aim. The right of the eldest had existed under the patriarchs: Moses abolished it, and only granted a bonus to the eldest. Among the Hebrews, it was the husband who made up the dowry, and not the parents of the wife, because the goods could never leave the family. Mr. Pastoret calls that buying a wife; today, it is the fathers who buy the husbands for their daughters. Which of the two is preferable? If a daughter found herself sole inheritor, without male children, she could only marry within her tribe, and, as much as possible, in her bloodline; and in that case, the goods that she brought were not dowry, but paraphernalia. The language itself enshrined that principle of all good society, the equality of fortunes: the words charity, humanity, and alms are unknown in Hebrew; all of that was designated by the name of justice.
But here an objection presents itself. Could Moses legitimately, and without injuring the right of free development of individual fortune, limit the right of property? In other words, is the equality conditions a natural institution? Is it equitable? Is it possible? On each of these points, I dare to answer in the affirmative.
Let me reassure you; I have no desire to warm over the theories from the famous discourse on the inequality of conditions; God forbid that I should here reclaim as an underpinning the ill-conceived thesis of the philosopher of Geneva! Rousseau has always appeared to me to have not understood the cause that he wanted to defend, and to have embarrassed himself in some of his baseless à priori arguments, when it was necessary to reason according to the relations of things. His principles of civil organization were like those of his politics, they were flawed at base: by founding right on human conventions, by making the law the expression of wills,—in short, by submitting justice and morals to the decision of the greatest number and the opinion of the majority,—he turned in a vicious circle: he sunk more and more into the abyss from which he thought to depart, and absolved the society that he accused. Not being able, at this moment, without leaving the scope of my discourse, to give myself to a deep discussion of this matter, I will content myself with submitting to the judgment of the reader the following propositions, urged solely by fraternity and solidarity, and whose necessary conclusion will be the same as Moses derived. Moreover, if I do not disavow the agrarian law, neither do I cast myself as its defender; I only want to prove to all the monopolizers of labor, exploiters of the proletariat, autocrats or feudal lords of industry, hoarders and triple-armored proprietors, that the right to work and live, given to a crowd of men who do not enjoy it, whatever one says, will be on the part of the beneficiaries not a bonus, but a restitution.
1. The man who comes into the world is not a usurper and intruder; a member of the great human family, he is seated at the common table: society is not a master to accept or reject him. If the fact of his birth does not give him any right over his fellows, neither does it make him their slave.
2. The right to live belongs to all: existence is the taking of possession of it; labor is its condition and means.
3. It is a crime to monopolize livelihoods; it is a crime to monopolize labor.
4. When a child is born, none of its brothers have a right to contest the newcomer’s equal participation in the father’s goods. Similarly, there are no junior members of a nation.
5. All the brothers have an equal duty to support the family: the same thing is true between the citizens.
6. After the death of the father, none can demand a share of the estate proportional to his age, to his strength, to the talent that he has been given, or to the services he says he has rendered: unequal division is essentially contrary to the spirit of the family. To accommodate one is to deny the other. — Just as the city recognizes neither preeminence, nor privileges of duties and employments: it accords to all the same favor and reward.
7. Man is a transient on the earth: the same soil which feeds him has fed his father and will feed his children. The domain of man, no matter is object, is not absolute: the enjoyment of goods must be ruled by the law.
8. We punish the man who burns down his house or puts fire to his crops; in this we do not have in view only the security of the neighbor and guest, but we also want to make it understood that, the man always receiving more from society than he could give back to it, what he produces no longer belongs to him. The artisan, the writer, and the artist, each in that which concerns his work, must be subject to that law.
A moment will suffice to appreciate what distance there is between such a doctrine and that of Jean-Jacques: the one established the respective rights of the citizens on the familial regime; the other on conventions and contracts, which always carry a germ of the arbitrary, and give rise to all sorts of despotism.
What pity they inspire in me, these makers of tear-stained homilies, these friends of the people, these friends of the working class, these friends of the human race, these philanthropists of every sort, meditating at their ease on the evils of their fellows, who suffer, in a feeble idleness, because the poor have only six days of toil, and never conclude anything from the insufficiency of their wages, except: “You must work! You must save!” Like that doctor who, treating a patient with scrofula, constantly applied a new patch to a new ulcer, and only neglected to try to purify the mass of the blood, these doctors always have on hand some topical of recent invention and rare effectiveness: nothing is forgotten by them, except one thing with which they hardly troubled themselves, which is to turn to the source of the evil. But let us not fear that they will engage in that search, which would infallibly lead them where they never want to look, at themselves. With their capital, their machines, their privileges, they invade all, and then they become indignant that one takes labor from the laborer. As much as they can, they leave nothing for anyone to do, and they cry that the people waste their time; all magnificent in their flourishing idleness, they say to the journeyman without work: “Work!” And then, when the canker of pauperism comes to trouble their sleep with its hideous visions, when the exhausted sufferer writhes on his pallet, when the starving proletarian howls in the street, then they propose some prize for the extinction of begging, they give dances for the poor, they got to the show, they throw parties, they hold lotteries for the indigent, they take pleasure in giving alms, and they applaud themselves! Ah! If the wisdom of modern times is exhausted for such lovely results, such was not the spirit of all of antiquity, nor the teaching of Jesus Christ.
We know the parable related in Matthew, Chapter 20, in which Jesus Christ proposes as a model the head of a family who had risen early in the morning to send out laborers to his vineyard. He paid one denier per day. As he had occasion to pass through the place several times during the day, each time that he saw some day-laborers without work, he brought them to his vineyard. When night came, he gave everyone one denier. There were murmurs and protestations: We have carried the burden of the day and heat, said some, while those have done almost nothing, and they are treated like us!—My friend, said the householder to one of the malcontents, I have done you no wrong: didn’t you agree with me on one denier? Take then what is due to you, and go your way: if it pleases me to give to one as to another; can’t I do what seems good to me, and must I cease to be human because you are envious? With me the last are like the first, and the first like the last.
This is the moral tale which has so revolted the equitable reason of the philosophers, and of which I have not always thought without outrage, though I ask pardon for it from the divine wisdom of the author of the Gospels. What truth is taught to us in that lesson of the householder? The very same truth of which I have just presented, in the form of a proposition, the principal corollaries: that every inequality of birth, of age, of strength or ability, vanishes before the right of the individual to produce their subsistence, which is expressed by the equality of conditions and goods; that the differences of aptitude or skill in the workers, and of quantity or quality in the execution of the work, disappear in the social labor, when all the members have done their best, because then they have done their duty; in short, that the disproportion of power in individuals is neutralized by the general effort. Here again is the condemnation of all those theories of division in proportion to merit or capacity, increasing or decreasing according to capital, labor or talent, theories whose immorality is flagrant, since they are diametrically opposed to the familial right, basis of the civil right, and since they violate the liberty of the laborer and ignore the fact of collective production, the unique safeguard against the exaggeration of every relative superiority; theories founded on the bases of sentiments and the vilest of the passions, since they only turn on selfishness; theories, finally, which, to the shame of their magnificent authors, contain, after all, only the rejuvenation and rehabilitation, under perhaps more regular forms, of the same civilization that they denigrate while imitating it, a civilization which is worth nothing, but which they resuscitate. Nature, said these sectarians, shows us inequality everywhere: let us follow its indications. — Yes, responds Jesus Christ, but inequality is the law of the beasts, not of men. — Harmony is the daughter of inequality. — Lying sophist, harmony is equilibrium in diversity. — Remove this balance, you will destroy the harmony.
I halt myself, for I would not dare pursue this sacrilegious colloquy further. When Jesus Christ, explaining to the people the different articles of the Decalogue, taught them that polygamy had been permitted to the ancients because of the rudeness of their intelligence, but that it had not been thus in the beginning; that a bad desire is equal to a fornication consummated; that insult and affront are as reprehensible as murder and blows; that he is a parricide who says to his poor father: “This morning I have prayed to God for you; that will benefit you.” He said nothing of the 8th commandment, which concerned theft, judging the hardness of heart of his audience still too great for the truth that he had to speak. After eighteen centuries, are we worthy to hear it?
Equality of conditions is in conformity with reason and it is an irrefutable right. It is in the spirit of Christianity, and it is the aim of society. The legislation of Moses demonstrates that it can be attained. That sublime dogma, so frightening in our time, has its roots in the most intimate depths of the conscience, where it is mixed up with the very notion of justice and right. Thou shalt not steal, says the Decalogue, which is to say, with the vigor of the original term, lo thignob, you will divert nothing, you will put nothing aside for yourself.[3] The expression is general, like the idea itself: it forbids not only theft committed with violence and by ruse, fraud and brigandage, but also every sort of gain acquired from others without their full agreement. It implies, in short, that every violation of equality of division, every premium arbitrarily demanded, and tyrannically collected, either in exchange, or from the labor of others, is a violation of communicative justice, it is a misappropriation. It is that depth of meaning that Jesus Christ had in mind in his parable of the workers in the vineyard, veiling by design some truths that it would have been dangerous to leave too uncovered, but that he did not want his disciples to be unaware of. Yes, he would have told them in his sublime language, if he had thought it useful to express himself without veils, he would have said to the ancients: “Thou shalt not steal. And I say unto you: Whoever imposes a tax on the field, the bullock, the ass or the coat of his brother, is a robber.” Did he foresee that, despite the feeble attempts that have been made after his death, his doctrine would be unable to find its application for so long, and did he only want to entrust to his church a seed of salvation, which would be discovered again under more opportune circumstances? This is a possibility to which we cannot refuse our support, when we relate his thought to the anxious times in which we live.
Indeed, what do we see all around us? Here are some men, bored and discontented in the midst of opulence, and poor despite their wealth; there are some maneuvers which destitution prevents their reason and their soul from even dreaming of,—so that they are happy even when they find themselves working on Sunday! The excess of selfishness provokes general horror, some sophists indoctrinate the multitude, but a providential instinct still preserves us from their unintelligible systems, and, in the midst of all that, Christianity, finger resting on the Decalogue, and without explaining more, upholds the celebration of the day which renders us all equals by making us all brothers. Does it not tell us clearly enough: there is a time to work and a time to rest.. If some among you have no rest, it is because others have too much leisure. Mortals, seek truth and justice; return to yourselves, repent, and reform…
Thanks should be given to the councils which, better advised than the abbots of the eighteenth century, have ruled inflexibly on the observation of Sunday: and may it please God that the respect for that day should still be as sacred for us as it has been for our fathers! The evil that gnaws at us would be more keenly felt, and the remedy perhaps more promptly perceived. It is up to the priests in particular to awaken spirits from their sleep: let them courageously grasp the noble mission which is offered to them, before others grasp it. Property has not yet made its martyrs: it is the last of the false gods. The question of the equality of conditions and fortunes has already been raised, but as a theory without principles: we must take it up again and go into it in all its truth. Preached in the name of God, and consecrated by the voice of the priest, it would spread like lightning: one would believe in the coming of the son of man. For it will be with that doctrine as with so many others: first it will be booed and loathed, then it will be taken into consideration, and discussion will be established; then it will be recognized as just at base, but ill-timed; then finally, despite all the oppositions, it will triumph. But straight away a problem will present itself: To find a state of social equality which would be neither community, nor despotism, nor allotment, nor anarchy, but liberty in order and independence in unity. And this first problem being resolved, there remains a second: to indicate the best method of transition. That is the whole problem of humanity.
The equality of goods is a condition of liberty. Like liberty, the right of association, and the republic, are conditions of every civil and religious celebration: I need, in order to treat my subject thoroughly, to dwell on all the considerations which came before.
The firmest rampart of the institution of the Sabbath, and its most vigilant guardian, was the priesthood. The Levites did not form a congregation placed apart from the republic and completely foreign to civil society. On the contrary, they were the grand spring, the king-pin of the State. Their Hebrew name, cohanim, means ministers or functionaries. Thus, besides the multiplying duties they fulfilled at the sacrifices, in the synagogues, the majority of the civil employments were entrusted to them. “Justice,” says Fleury, whom I always cite because I can think or speak no better, “was administered by two sorts of officers, sophetim (judges), soterim (bailiffs, sergeants, archers, executioners). These charges were given, there was no distinction between the tribunals; the same judges decided case of conscience and closed civil or criminal trials. Thus, only a few different offices were needed, and few officers, in comparison with what we see today. For it is shameful for us to be a simple individual… everyone wants to be a public figure.”
The Levites, like the fetials among the Romans,[4] made the declarations of war and called the people to arms. In the army, they marched in the first rank, sounded the trumpet, and led the combatants. It was good that the same men who in times of peace served as counsels and teachers, led the citizens into combat. Thus we have seen in the most heroic century of our history, when the armies of the kings invaded the homeland, more than one schoolmaster armed with a rifle, harangue his students, and, all together, singing the hymn of war, rush off to the field of batter, and conquer or die for liberty. Why shouldn’t our priests emulate them?
The Levites alone administered nearly all the medicine, which was nearly limited to dietetics and hygiene. They were charged with the policing of lepers and all the legal impurities, which necessitated on their part some rather extended theoretical studies, and a painstaking diagnose. We can see in Leviticus the details of the prohibited foods, and the precautions taken to recognize the appearance of that formidable malady, leprosy.
After all that, one could believe that the preponderance of Levites in the body of the State was immense, and that it would constantly threaten the independence of the tribes: this was not the case at all. Among the Hebrews, there were no castes; or if you prefer, each tribe was the caste within the range of its territory. The Levites were the only cosmopolitans in the country and spread all through the nation according to the needs of their service. Having had no share in the division of the lands, they possessed no land of their own; they were only allowed to raise some herds on the margins of the towns where they lived. Their whole subsistence came from the people, by way of sacrifices and offering; these were the salaries that Moses had assigned to his public servants in a time and place where money was little used. The accuracy of their payment was only guaranteed by the Sabbath. Such was also the origin of the casuel paid to our own village priests. “The legislator, by entrusting the Levite to the generosity of the other families, wanted to increase the union of all. On his part, the child of Levi naturally clung to the law by which he held his means of living, to the peace and public abundance which brought abundance and peace to him. Even from self-interest, he had to respect that law in order for others to respect it; from self-interest, he had to publish it, so that no one forgot the precepts which sanctioned his right; finally, from self-interest, he had to oversee its full execution.” (Salvador, Institutions de Moses.) But, since Moses did not permit castes or privileges, why assign one entire tribe to public functions, and exclude all the others? Why, introducing a necessary order into the State, did he not leave it to that order to recruit for itself from among all the people? First, it is not true that the priests were the only public functionaries: there existed in each town a communal council composed of all the heads of families, which chose from its own ranks a large number of public officers. There was besides a sort of senate or elected national representatives for each tribe. Finally, the nation had at its head a supreme assembly, called the Sanhedrin, formed of the deputies of all the people. But by giving guardianship of the laws and such a great part of the executive power to the priesthood, Moses acted in conformity with the usages and opinions of his times. Everywhere, the priesthood was the privilege of certain families: India and Egypt are famous examples of this. Another reason for this conduct is that Moses desired the preservation of his work. After dividing the land between the eleven tribes, he had ordained that the Levites, salaried by the State, would have no place in Israel, because the principle of equality which was the basis of the constitution was incompatible with the accumulation of properties and places. To admit into the priestly order an individual capable of inheriting, would be to introduce property into public service public and to destroy the national equilibrium.—But, it is said, could Moses ordain that anyone who becomes a priest loses the ability to be an heir? I do not believe that this objection would be made by a jurist. The forethought of a legislator aims to make absolute laws and to avoid all qualification.
I believe that these quick reflections will not be regarded as beyond the scope of the work, since, taken in the context of our Sunday celebration, they encourage reflection, much more than a special discourse would, on the close affinity which unites the occupation of the priest with the happiness of the families. I will dispense then with making any comparison between the ancient and modern priesthood, and emphasize the common links, which we all know. It is on Sunday that the character of the priest, in its conciliatory and apostolic aspects, shines in all its brightness. The visit of the parish priest is the joy of the rural family. Sickness relieved, the poor rescued, the unfortunate soothed, hatred quelled, enemies reconciled, spouses reunited, and all through the work of the parish priest!… Now the priest, especially in the country, does not have much time at his disposal. He must seize the moments as they pass, and it is on Sunday that his duties multiply, his works bear the most beautiful fruits; it is on Sunday that he discovers all the good that he can do.

[1] Here is the portrait that J.-J. Rousseau has drawn of the Abbot of Saint-Pierre: “A famous author of this century, whose books are full of grand projects and small views, had, like all the priests of his communion, desired to have no wife of his own; but, finding himself more scrupulous that the others with regard to adultery, it is said that he opted to have pretty servants, with which he repaired as best he could the affront to his species made by that bold commitment. He regard it as a duty of a citizen to give others to the homeland, and with the tribute he paid of this sort, he peopled the class of artisans…” If the Abbot of Saint-Pierre had the population so much at heart, why didn’t he go, like another Vincent de Paul, to the Hospital for Foundlings? For, according to the same Rousseau, in order to have men, it is less a question of procreating than of providing for those children who exist.
[2] During the war of the Maccabees, a troop of Jews having been attacked on the Sabbath day, they thought it better to let themselves be massacred than to defend themselves, for fear of breaking the law. Mathathias then made an ordinance that allowed the people to defend themselves on the Sabbath if they were attacked.
[3] The verb gandb means literally to put aside, to hide, to retain, to divert.
[4] Fetials, that is denuntiatores, heralds. This word comes from the verb facere, taken in the sense to speak, just as the Hebrew dabar means at once to do and to say, speech and action.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
[continued in Part III]
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.