« PrécédentContinuer »
The Churchmanship, therefore, as distinguished from the Christianity of these poems, becomes an interesting topic of study. In considering it, we must above all remember that long discussions and important “developments” have taken place since 1827. An Anglican of 1867 is under strong, perhaps unconscious temptation to read the book according to his present views, and so to put an interpretation on many passages which its author never intended. Nay, Mr. Keble himself may have erred in the same way. It will appear a bold thing to say, that a reader may more accurately comprehend a book than its own author : and yet, in one instance, we shall be able to show to a moral demonstration that the author of the Christian Year” has misconceived his own meaning. Why not then in others ? We appeal from the full-blown ecclesiasticism of Keble, the Oxford Tractarian, to the calm utterances of Keble, the saintly youth, and plead that the former may not be fully allowed his own way in commenting upon the latter. Littera scripta manet.
Nothing perhaps more significantly betokens the difference between the spirit of the “ Christian Year” and that of modern ultra-Churchmen than the intense Anglicanism of the former. Since the days of the Oxford Tracts, we have heard much in high ecclesiastical quarters of “the Church Catholic,” little comparatively of “the Church of England.” The latter has been regarded with a secondary and wavering loyalty : its only true claim has been made to consist in its being a faithful member of the sisterhood in which the elders are the Patriarchal and the Roman Churches. Very patiently too does this youngest sister, through her representatives, submit to be snubbed ! In the "Association for promoting the Unity of Christendom," she appears a suppliant for recognition from those who, in their infallibility, must scorn her claims. Dr. Pusey's “ Eirenicon” is a Cinderella's petition ; as humble, and as unavailing.
How different from this is the spirit of the “Christian Year!” To be an English Churchman is Keble’s glory.
Stately thy walls, and holy are the prayers
Which day and night before thine altars rise ;
Flashed Sion's gilded dome to summer skies :
In the poem on King Charles the Martyr, the same veneration is oddly expressed. We allow for the ecstasy of a poet or a devotee: the old Cavalier spirit is not extinct--but what rational being could comfort himself now in solitary walks by meditating on Charles the First; and where is the stretch of loyal imagination which could bring him near in solemn hours of worship? For Keble sings
“ There are aching solitary breasts
Whose widowed walk with thought of thee is cheered,
On many a prayer, the more for thee endeared.
With her to worship and for her to die,
Oft in her solenın hours we dream thee nigh!”
We have often marvelled, too, at the fervour with which the Restoration is celebrated :
“When proudly streamed o'er ocean plains
Our own returning Cross !” But, no doubt, the reign that brought the Act of Uniformity was to be hailed with all pious rapture, though a Charles the Second was the King !
The “ Hymn for Evening ” again, speaks of the government in a way which the strongest Erastian might approve :
“The Rulers of this Christian land,
'Twixt Thee and us ordained to stand Guide Thou their course, O Lord, aright,
Let all do all as in Thy sight."
It is evident that secular rulers are here meant, as the next stanza refers to the spiritual authorities.
With this frank recognition of the truth and divinity of the Church of England there are interspersed ardent, passionate prayers for a revival. But these are prayers in which every devout spirit might unite. “Let your loins be girt and your lamps burning" is the constant burden of the strain, as in the Hymns for Advent Sunday, that for the Second Sunday in Advent, and in that, from which we have already quoted the first stanza, for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. The complaint is of selfishness and worldliness; never of the undue depreciation of the Sacraments, or of disloyalty to the Priesthood : the aspiration is, to be brought nearer, not to the rest of Christendom, but to Christ Himself. It is a spiritual, not a Catholic revival, for which Keble prays; and his anticipations are rather of the speedy coming of the Son of Man, than of the approaching development of an ecclesiastical system. be that, in his later days, he would say his prayers were answered in ways that he did not foresee; but we claim the liberty of believing that they are to have a higher, better fulfilment. Nay,
we rejoice to think that this has now dawned in its full glory upon the poet. Beautiful was the coincidence that, for the very day on which he died, the Thursday before Easter, he had given utterance to thoughts like these-choosing his motto from Daniel, ix. 23., xii. 13.
“ Dark frowned the future e'en on him,
The loving and beloved Seer ;
The boundary of the eternal year;
Thy course in Earth's bewildering ways,
Of what shall be in those dread days :
In consistency with the Anglicanism of which we have spoken, Mr. Keble gives decided prominence to the doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration, and the sanctity of Orders. These are believed by most intelligent Englishmen to be the unquestionable teachings of the Prayer-book; and to bring the thoughts and feelings of his readers “into more entire unison with those recommended and exemplified in the Prayer-book was the author's avowed design. Hence, with the Ordination Service in his mind, he writes very naturally, “St. Matthias' Day.”
“Who then, uncalled by Thee,
Except Thine hand and seal he show ?
“Where can Thy seal be found, But on the chosen seed, from age to age By Thine anointed heralds duly crowned,
As kings and priests Thy war to wage ?”
“Why should we crave the worldling's wreath,
To whom His keys were given ;
And pour the drink of heaven?'
With equal decision he adopts the obvious meaning of the Baptismal Service
“What sparkles in that lucid flood
Is water, by gross mortals eyed;
Out of a dear Friend's side.
A few bright drops of holy dew,
Earth's charmers never knew.'. The doctrine carries him farther in his estimate of the comparative worth of souls ; "Second Sunday after Trinity."
“E'en so, who loves the Lord aright,
No soul of man can worthless find;
Since Christ on all hath shined ;
In lines like these Mr. Keble gives distinct and emphatic expression to the accepted doctrines of the Prayer-book: and so, for better for worse, the “Christian Year" has always been understood.
It was startling, however, to many to find, after the death of the author, that many regarded the teaching of the book as much further advanced in Sacramentarianism. We all know how, by a significant alteration, the doctrine of the Real Presence has been introduced: and the attempt has been made to prove, not only that Mr. Keble himself in his later days concurred with Dr. Pusey and his followers in this dogma, but that he had always done so, the celebrated stanza in the “ Christian Year," never having borne an opposite meaning. This latter allegation we propose to examine; but first we may refer to other expressions which have been supposed to set forth a modified transubstantiation. Thus in the poem on "Holy Communion”
“O God of Mercy, God of Might,
How should pale sinners bear the sight,
To scale the mount and pierce the cloud,
"Fresh from the atoning sacrifice
The world's Creator bleeding lies,
May take Him for his daily bread." Now with reference to these verses, it is obvious to remark that the appropriation of Christ is represented as made by Faith. Hence instead of teaching “ the Real Presence,” the language distinctly implies the opposite. It would be more reasonable to accuse Charles Wesley of holding the Roman Catholic doctrine on the ground of the hymn (551) beginning
“ Victim Divine, thy grace we claim." than to press Keble's poem into the service of modern Ritualism. In fact, so free from any taint of the sacramental heresy has it been thought, that we find the above quoted verses both in the "New Congregational Hymn Book," and in the Leeds " Psalms and Hymns for Christian Worship." Keble's hymn on Baptism, already quoted, plainly shews, if further proof be needed, how his language is to be taken. By faith, he says, "the water” appears “ blood out of a dear friend's side.”
Does this teach, then, a baptismal transubstantiation ? His view of a sacrament is indeed decisively intimated by himself in the preface to his version of the Psalms. He says, in allusion to Psalm iv. 8, “ Each Christian's daily lying down and rising up is a token, or, as the ancient Church would denominate it, a sacrament,' of our Saviour's death and resurrection, and also of our own.” That is, again to quote the Prayer-book, a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual” reality. Not the bread and wine of the Eucharist only, but all nature is sacramental, i.e. symbolical. Undoubtedly, Keble held by this belief as one who not only believed but discerned its truth; and such, we are assured by Dr. Newman, was the first great lesson taught by the “Christian Year."
if, then, the doctrine of the Real Presence is not in the stanza of the “Gunpowder Treason” poem, there is no other part of the book in which to look for it. Now, that the case of the Ritualists may be put before our readers in perfect fairness, we venture to trouble them with two extracts. First, we cite in extenso, from the ninety-sixth edition of the “ Christian Year,” the note justifying the alteration :“The thirteenth stanza on ‘Gunpowder Treason,' formerly ran thus:
O come to our Communion Feast:
There, present in the heart,
Will His true self impart.' See “The Church and the World,” where this bymn is actually cited to sustain an argument for the Real Presence !