Images de page
PDF
ePub

us and listen to our difficulties; come to us with any rational answer to the scepticism which is dinned into our ears on every side; come to us without requesting us to believe that the Eternal Father will spend eternity in inflicting suffering on Chinese and Hindoos and Mexican savages, who never knew the way of truth; come to us, like men to men, and not with the tone of old women trying to frighten or soothe babies into silence, and we will welcome you to our homes. We shall not come to your churches first, for we don't quite understand or relish your sermons, prayers, or hymns. Nevertheless, if you come to us, we shall neither stone you to death, nor beat you with rods, nor chastise you with scorpions; but you shall find that we are not enemies of Christianity, since we send our children to your Sundayschools,-you shall also find that we ourselves have not quite lost the recollection of that fold whence have strayed so many of us since our early days of youth; and that we are not wholly insensible to the influence of that Saviour who “did nothing amiss," and was everywhere the friend of the "weary and heavy laden.”

brothonot breakin derstand that the superhat good

If the conference at the London Coffee House should result in imparting a fresh vigour to the “pastoral invitation” of the people in the best sense of these words, it will have achieved a result for which its promoters may well be thankful. Many a supercilious church-goer has asked, “What good can come of it?” It will be something if the supercilious church-goer can be made to understand that he and his congeners, men who will not break their caste, or stretch forth a finger to touch a brother's burden, or go forth to visit the scattered sheep, are the very men whom it is most desirable to convert through this new agency; and who must be converted into the active agents of Invisible Mercies ere we can hope for the conversion of the millions. Until that time comes we shall hear from the artificers that the professed “conversion” of the church-goers is no conversion worthy of the name, and that the working people themselves do not wish to be mistaken for hypocrites and impostors.

Much remains to be said on the details of amendment in the arrangements of our religious organizations. Towards this amendment few things would conduce more than a vigorous reform in the spirit of church door-keeping and pew-opening. The recent conference brought out clearly the importance of the whole system of welcoming and placing in the churches those of the working classes who can be persuaded to attend them. It is of the last importance that correct ideas on these matters should prevail and that none should imagine there is a neces

sity for an immediate destruction of the prevailing customs. What is needed is rather the infusion of a new and more genial spirit into existing forms. But since in this matter we are unable to improve upon a recent deliverance in the English Independent, we shall here repeat its words, and so bring these observations to an end. In an article on the Art of Pewopening this Journal thus discourses, aud we commend its advice to all who seek to derive practical results from the recent investigations.

“The recent attempt to mediate between the church-going and nonchurch-going communities naturally directs attention not only to the qualification of the minister, but to the function of the pew opener. Those who, leaving the tents of wickedness,' begin to go up into the temple to pray, are altogether dependent for their first reception there on the conduct of the doorkeepers in the house of our God.' And this conduct, though generally good, is not always such as to recommend religion or churchworship to the outlying multitudes. We lately heard of a thoroughly wellauthenticated case, in which an artizan went to a Nonconformist church as a stranger, and, being dressed in humble apparel, he was left by the ecclesiastical flunkey who kept the doors standing in the aisle. Being of an inquiring mind, and accustomed to reflect on events, he dressed himself the next Sunday in his most reserved black coat and vest, in front of which he hung the semblance of a gold chain. Thus attired, he attended the same church, and was immediately received with distinction and handed into a seat. Having as he thought, proved his case, and caused to be re-enacted the scene portrayed in the Epistle of James, he resolved henceforth to go no more to churches of that description. His judgment was hasty and illogical. But the case is suggestive of some practical reflections on the mode of welcoming the sons of toil who approach the sanctuary of rest. In the present state of English society, the work of keeping the doors of the churches of God in great cities is one which might well occupy the mind and hand of their very foremost and most judicious members, and which should seldom be remitted to the exclusive care of paid functionaries. It is nearly always the class of poorer employes who treat the working people with contumely. Gentlemen are nearly certain to behave in a satisfactory manner to their inferiors. Persons who manage the admission and seating of casual churchgoers ought to understand many things besides the number of vacant seats They ought to comprehend something of the irritable state of feeling out of doors, and the extreme difficulty of subduing it; they ought to understand the necessity of balancing the claims of those within against the demands of those without; and, above all, the best practical methods of conciliating the requirements of both ; and this is work which, while it calls for some delicate qualifications of judgment and manner, is perhaps one of the most useful to which persons of good education and position could addict themselves by turns on the Sunday.

“If we were about to deliver an ordination charge to such a gentleman pew opener, we should address him in some such manner as this: "You have to deal, sir, not with an imaginary best-of-all-possible churches and worlds, but with things as they are. You may think that it would be better if these pews were all swept away, and the floor of the church and its galleries covered with moveable chairs, which were equally available for all comers; you may think that it would be better if the support of all the ministries of the church were dependent on voluntary offerings at the doors. But the best is often the enemy of the good. You have to do with pewed churches with people who love their private pews, and with a state of society in wbich the class feeling between high, middle, and low, between employers and labourers, is so strong that nothing short of a social revolution can abolish or abate it. You have seen in the recent working men's conference many proofs of the exeeding strength of this class feeling in the non-churchgoing multitudes, who for the most part regard the churches as the property of the middle ranks, with which they have no wish to intermeddle. You know from your own experience on the other hand how strong is the dislike felt by ladies and gentlemen to the close neighbourhood, whether at church or elsewhere, of a person neglectful of the sanitary laws. It will be your business, by a hearty and friendly manner, to diminish the rigour of this class feeling on both sides, while rendering due homage to the facts which cannot be gainsaid. In a state of society so artificial as ours, and especially in a state of society where the working classes wash so little, and smoke and drink so much, it will be at least as lawful to pay attention to the peculiar tastes of the middle ranks as to those of the operative orders. It is a violence to instinctive tastes, which cannot work well in the long run, to attempt to place persons of extremely different ranks or habits in the same pews. No law of Christianity compels a lady to be sickened and nearly killed by the close contiguity during prayers and sermon of an expectorating individual, who also spreads around him a deadly nicotian fume. Neither is it true that generally the working people desire this absolute equalization of places in the church. They are themselves conscious in some degree of their own peculiarities, and seldom feel comfortable when differences in attire are brought too nearly into contrast. Of all the excuses for not going to church, that which some have alleged, drawn from the denial of the best seats' to working folk, is the least founded on fact. They easily reconcile themselves to a certain degree of classification, both in churches, music-halls, and theatres, provided the line be not drawn too sharply, or in a manner to lower the selfrespect of the less fortunate orders. It is the cold, unfeeling manner of the middle class, which so often refuses to recognize with a friendly salute or countenance the presence of the working man or woman as they walk into or out of the church, which offends them far more than the distribution of seats. They have a right to look for kind and brotherly treatment under the roof-tree of God the FATHER,—under the shadow of the ALMIGHTY.' It is the so frequent absence of this which first irritates and then repels them, until, at last, the house is left unto the richer classes desolate;' for when the 'poor' do not meet' with the rich,' the rich are desolate indeed, and the end draws nigh. It is not, then, all classification which the working people seek to disturb. It is not even payment for seats which they wish to abolish. The working men would prefer to pay one or two shillings a quarter (the existing rates are far too high for their class) rather than to sit in a 'free-seat for the poor.' But that which he looks for is a welcome a welcome so heartily given as that he shall feel at home. In placing the many grades of English society, there is need of infinite tact and discernment, but you will avoid serious mistakes if you separate the extremes, and show a gracious countenance to all. You will remember that there are many ranks in the middle classes; yet that a common cleanliness and decency of bebaviour unite them so much that you need not be too precise in mingling them together as casual worshippers. You will remember also that there is as wide a difference between the better sort of skilled artizans and common labourers, both in their education and their habits, as between any two ranks in the commonwealth; and, that the artizans once gained for the churches, the labourers would follow their example. Labour, therefore, to stir up the gilt which is in you. Incline to the side of promoting the lowly; but do not

imagine that in order to win the order of skilled artizans you must strike down with a blow the whole system which has grown up with the culture and refinement of the middle-class church-goers. Represent the spirit of Christianity at the gates of the Church, and you shall then dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.'

“Thus would we lay hands' on a modern doorkeeper. But, having said thus much, we will frankly confess that we have no hope of achieving, either by the best ministration of truth in the pulpits of our sanctuaries, or by the wisest and most gracious doorkeeping, whether on the floor or in the galleries, more than a partial and fragmentary victory over the indifference and distaste for worship of the working classes. In all their orders, from almost the highest to the lowest, they require, with few exceptions, a primary education to prepare them to join comfortably in Divine service with the middle ranks. So complete, so prolonged, and so disastrous has been their alienation that they are not in a mental condition generally to profit by our order of preaching, or by our singing and prayers. The theatre-services are far more nearly adapted to their present tastes. Musichalls, lecture-halls in every neighbourhood, where all the seats are free, and where the whole proceeding is adapted to their taste, must prepare the way for the churches. We object totally to the theory of class preaching and class worship, but there is no help for a large compliance with the practice of it at present. It is an inferior form of good, which must be tolerated and encouraged in every neighbourhood for the sake of a future improvement. And just in proportion as the churches of every locality set themselves vigorously to provide such interesting services, are they likely to reach and attract the working classes. On that stage all the lay talent of the educated Christian community should be summoned to aid. Christian statesmen, Christian merchants, Christian literary men, Christian musicians and singers, should all render help, and the people would listen to them."

THE “CHRISTIAN YEAR” AND MODERN

ANGLICANISM.

"I do not know," wrote Dr. Arnold to Sir J. T. Coleridge, March 3, 1823, “ whether you have ever seen John Keble's Hymns. He has written a great number, for most of the holidays and several of the Sundays in the year, and, I believe, intends to complete the series. I live in hopes that he will be induced to publish them; and it is my firm opinion that nothing equal to them exists in our language: the wonderful knowledge of Scripture, the purity of heart, and the richness of poetry

they existian’ Year," $27. It is not already bece of

The Christian He never saw paralleleghe richness of

“ The Christian Year,'” says Dr. Newman, in his “Apologia,” “made its appearance in 1827. It is not necessary, and scarcely becoming, to praise a book which has already become one of the classics of the language. When the general tone of religious literature was so nerveless and impotent, as it was at that time, Keble struck an original note and woke up in the hearts of thousands a new music, the music of a school long unknown in England.”+

“There was no book," writes the biographer of the Rev. F. W. Robertson, “which he studied more carefully or held in higher honour than the ‘Christian Year. It seemed to him that some of its poems were little short of inspiration.” To this feeling, it may be added, we owe some of the finest and most appreciative criticisms which Mr. Robertson's letters contain.

The Ninety-sixth Edition of Keble's work is now lying before us; a proof that the judgment of the few has been confirmed by the verdict of the many. The most evangelically devout are here at one with Newman and with Robertson; and Dr. Arnold's estimate is as heartily endorsed by many a sturdy Nonconformist as by the most strenuous and exclusive of Churchmen. Keble's strains reach deeper than the theology of either; and prove that beyond those realms of thought where ceaseless discords linger, there is a harmony of faith and love between all Christian hearts.

But with Keble, the devotional poet, we have not now to do. The theme is tempting, and, with all that has been written on it, is as yet unexhausted. There is, however, another aspect in which the “Christian Year” has exercised a wide-spread influence: and some recent discussions have made this especially prominent. Its publication, it is often said, was the herald of modern Anglicanism. The motto chosen for it, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength," was intended not to set forth the power of a meditative trustful Christian life, but the calm assurance with which a new school of theology might anticipate the acceptance of their clogmas. It is noteworthy that Dr. Newman himself, while declining to analyze the subtle charm of his friend's poetry, finds in it certain main lines of teaching which lead direct to " Catholic” theories of life and doctrine.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »