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thing which I cannot do without serious misgiving. No matter whence the misgiving arises—from tradition, or early teaching, or old habit—no matter that I feel my misgiving to be a weaknessI must not do what I cannot do in faith, in hearty confidence. I shall not judge my neighbour, but I must not do anything of doubt. I am condemned if I do.it: whatsoever is not of faith is
Conscience, too, will give the answer to such questions as these : Are social customs, are my personal habits, favourable or otherwise to the development of spiritual life in me? Are they consistent with devout feeling and prayerfulness and communion with God? Do they interfere with my Christian activities, unfit me for quiet home duties, render me unready for the service of Christ in His Church ? Christian prudence here becomes Christian fidelity. “ Forasmuch as we know that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, from our vain conversation,”—we, know also that it is claimed of us that we be wholly and always, in body, soul, and spirit, in every thought and feeling to the highest strain of every power, His and only His.
The old rule, often arrogantly enough applied, is after all, the only true one: “ Can I ask God's blessing on this ? Can I take Jesus with me into these scenes and engagements ?" Only we must try ourselves alone. We must not conclude that where we cannot ask God's blessing it is impossible, for our brethren to do so. We shall not judge a brother while we judge ourselves. My knowledge of myself prescribes the limit within which I shall exercise my Christian freedom. His knowledge of himself, and not my thoughts about him, prescribes to him how he shall exercise his.
Christian charity also sets bounds to our Christian liberty. In 1 Cor. viii. 9, Paul says : “ Take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak,” And then he puts the case to which I have already alluded a man straining his conscience, being emboldened to do what he is not easy in doing—a man through the influence of his stronger brother's example, eating with doubt, and so to condemnation. Paul censures the stronger brother for this in very emphatic terms, both here and Rom. xiv. 10-16. We are partly responsible for our brother's sin. He has sinned, and so have we. We are not responsible for his weakness-nor, indeed, is his weakness sin—but we are responsible for leading him into sin. We have not sinned in the deed itself; concerning that, our conscience may be spotless; but he has transgressed, he is condemned, self-condemned, condemned by Christ. And we caused him to transgress. Christ will hold us " verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, and we would not hear.”
Here, too, we see the truth of a common mode of speech :“ It is not wrong in itself to do this or that, but for example's sake, you must not do it. Under such circumstances;-in the society of such weak brethren, young converts, timid souls;-being what you are, a church officer, a Sunday-school teacher, a man of influence; you must be peculiarly watchful.” It is easy to call this an unintelligent way of speaking, easy to ask how the example of doing what is not wrong can be a bad example, to ask how what is right in itself can be wrong in such company, wrong in a man just as he is known to be good and holy. After all, the common speech, unintelligent as it is, is truer and wiser than the sharp-sighted criticism. To lead a brother into sin is always sinful, and our example may do this. A brother's soul, for whom Christ died, ought to be of more importance to us than the exercise of our freedom. “I will eat no meat so long as the world lasteth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
Another limit set by Christian charity is indicated in 1 Cor. X. 28, 29. A weak brother may be scandalized by my conduct, and may judge me for it, call me inconsistent, unfaithful. Now Paul, in Rom. xiv., condemns such judgment. Here he condemns the stronger brother who brings it upon himself. The question “why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience ?" is put to the stronger brother. My brother has sinned in condemning me. I have sinned in provoking his judgment. If seeing his weakness, hearing him say, "What are you about ? you are doing wrong," I persist; I make him speak evil of that for which I give thanks. I am not doing all to the glory of Christ. This thing, at least, is in contempt of the Saviour in the person of one of those little ones, whom whoso shall offend, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,"
I trust, my friend, I have not wearied you. The importance of my subject is my excuse for the length of my letter. Just at this time especially, when so much is being said in righteous condemnation of those who sophiscate conscience by drawing a distinction between legal and personal veracity, we ought to remember that there are other ways of sophiscating conscience, and one is, the uniting in a common act of condemnation things unlawful, and things at most but inexpedient. The same sin is denounced in those "who put bitter for sweet," and those "who put sweet for bitter.” If the Lord is angry with those "who cry Peace, peace, where there is no peace,” He is also angry with those who “make sad the heart of the righteous whom He hath not made sad." We can readily understand how it is that so
many children of godly parents should cast off the faith and piety of their fathers. A young man from one of the “straiter sects of our religion,” finding true Christian principle in many whose conduct he has been taught to regard as utterly worldly, comes to distrust altogether what has been taught him in his childhood; or, having been led inside the door of the theatre or ball-room, and regarding himself as now doomed and reprobate, he casts off all carefulness, and brings upon himself the woes he thinks he has incurred. For the sake of such, and that we may be able to preserve force in our denunciation of so much that is radically faulty in trade and social life, we must be careful not to confound in the same judgments with these things, amusements, and habits that are indulged in with clear conscience by many who prove, by sacrifices and devotedness, the reality of their Christian faith. And so, too, we may hope to restore and keep peace and good-will in our churches. It is true of social customs, as of creeds and forms of worship, that unity is not founded on uniformity, nor is uniformity even an essential “ note" of the one Church. “To love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourself,” is the one law of Christian life. Whatsoever is contrary to this is sin. "As many as walk by this rule,” weak and strong alike, "grace be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
be upon them ask, by this rule vever is contrary to sell is
EMBER WEEK, AND HIGH CHURCH PREACHING.
A LETTER TO A FRIEND. MY DEAR FRIEND,—During my residence in “the north,” you are quite aware that I have very seldom attended the services, at our parish church. I have thought there were reasons sufficient to justify my absence, and have had no particular uneasiness of conscience in staying away. Seeing, however, that during my stay in your town in “the south," "special services” were announced "at the beginning of this season, professedly intended for the benefit of souls; seeing that one morning I found on my table a circular written in a very Christian manner, signed by two of “the clergy," containing an earnest request “to attend these services;" seeing, moreover, that a second circular was afterwards handed to me including a letter to the inhabitants from the bishop of the diocese, in which he says, “As your bishop
I earnestly pray you to help these endeavours of ours, first, by coming yourselves to these services; secondly, by bringing to them all you can ; and thirdly, by praying earnestly to God for Christ's sake to give us at this time a large measure of His Holy Spirit:"_seeing these things were so, that a loyal son of the Church, in compliance with the bishop's secondly, had invited me, and that my stay in your parts would include the whole week to be so piously occupied, -I began, albeit no parishioner, to think about going at least to some such services as I could conveniently attend. Your kind note, with the information that Mr. and Mr.- , among the officiating ministers are “ the two first preachers in England,” clenching a report I had heard the day before, and warning me “that it would be a melancholy thing” that I “should lose so golden an opportunity, through want of information," settled the matter, and once again I resolved to listen for “the sound of the church-going bell," and to be an attendant,—as I hoped, a devout attendant and worshipper,-gaining profit to the soul, and giving glory to God.
So then, these things being thus ordered, I went with a friend to the church of St. - , on the evening of “St. Matthias' day, to join in the service and to hear one of “the two first preachers in England.” I am a little afraid that some curiosity about this latter business, and some anticipation of the treat of hearing so remarkable a man, had rather an undue influence. I could hardly help thinking, in the pause before the bell ceased, and at times during the earlier part of the service, of“ the golden opportunity” I might have lost; and on the entrance of the clerical train there was some natural speculation as to which of them was “the coming man.”
Exactly as the clock struck the half-hour, a procession of clergy, fourteen in all, arrayed in surplice and hood (two hoods being Cambridge and twelve Oxford), besides two bishops in lawn sleeves, came forth from the vestry.
The procession made something of a show, though it might have been more imposing if the men had better kept in line and step, both line and step being observably irregular for want of better drill or more frequent practice, or greater familiarity with the ground.
The chancel was duly prepared for their reception. The bishops occupied seats at the further end, one at each side of the altar table. They were both “ colonial," a class called “heathen bishops” by the Record, and of whom The Times has of late spoken so contemptuously; reporting, moreover, the light esteem in which they are held by certain of their own church. From the position in which I sat I could see only one of them. I thought if he were not a genuine bishop he was a very good imitation. The getting up was unexceptionable, save that there might be about the lawn a slight suspicion of dinginess, the effect of foreign travel. For the life of me I could see no difference between him and any other bishop I ever beheld. Some subtle and invisible essential must account for the difference in the treatment of the exported article and that provided for home service. Conjecture would be busy, bothering with questions whether the respective stipends could have anything to do with the matter, and whether there were not some danger lest the lesser respect paid to “colonials” should become the occasion of some discount on the reverence which is held to be due to diocesans at home.
The bishops and clergy all publicly kneeled a few seconds for private devotion. The bishops took their seats beside the table. One of the clergy entered the reading-desk. One, the preacher, was not in the range of my vision. Twelve took their places on seats arranged for them in the chancel, six on each side. Their arrangement reminded me of the twelve figures in one of Martin's pictures, “ The Judgment." Seen from the opposite end of the old building, with its perspective of clustered columns, heavy arches, and dark-timbered roof, the chancel had a look of the picturesque. Less lighted than the rest of the church, covered on the floor with crimson carpet, the flat surface of its walls broken by sundry marble tablets, the central space occupied by the two groups of officials in their white robes, the effect enlivened by the red covering of the desks at which they sat, and still more by the rich crimson of the Oxford hoods, contrasted with the deep colour of the embroidered altar cloth, backed up by a dark-oaken canopied screen, supporting panels gold-inscribed with the Decalogue, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, surmounted by the head of a window in Tudor-Gothic, which would have injured the effect by day, but with its piercings showing as deep shadows, its mullions and tracery standing out in half tint, rather helped than hindered the effect by night; the chancel, framed, as it were, by the flanking columns and the surmounting moulded arch at its entrance, naturally caught the attention of an artist having an eye accustomed to observe scenic effect.
Associations of thought connected with the past were rapidly recalled. Time was when these old walls and arches enclosed altars dedicated to four or five different saints, witnessed the dramatic ceremonial of Rome, and saw her priests amid wreaths of incense celebrating the service of the mass. Time was when these were displaced by law, and the observances ordained by Cranmer and his coadjutors took their place. Time was when, Owen being vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, soundest orthodoxy of the type of Owen's school was taught under this roof; the plain Presbyterian mode of worship legally supplant