« PrécédentContinuer »
ting act of Christian worship, whilst, with our fathers, we protest in no faltering tones against her corruptions of the great primitive doctrine of the Eucharist, and refuse to receive the ungrounded fiction of a carnal, for the blessed certainty of a Real Presence in it of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” This is the very language which the Ritualists are always employing; and if this be conceded, it matters little about the colour of a vestment, the decoration of an altar, or the introduction of incense. We cannot spend more time upon Dr. Wilberforce, and we leave his last charge with the melancholy conviction that there is one prelate in the Church, and one possessed, too, of remarkable subtlety, of singular power in adapting / himself to the views of different classes of religionists, and of wide-spread influence, whose great desire is to introduce amongst us a system of Romanized Anglicanism. Our great danger, at this hour, is rather from the prelate of Oxford than from the priests of St. Albans.
The Bishop of St. David's and the Bishop of London take a very different course, though all alike agree in deprecating severe measures. The latter, in enforcing the necessity of Christian charity, speaks of the Act of Uniformity in language which would be very admirable if coming from a Nonconformist, but which sounds strange and inconsistent when uttered by the prelate of a Church, constituted and established on the basis of that Act. It is all well enough to entertain very broad and comprehensive views, and to apply them in the judgment of each new development of opinion and practice in the Church; but it must be remembered that this diversity is contrary to the very theory of the Anglican Church, which two hundred years ago expelled two thousand ministers for the sole purpose of securing uniformity.
The spirit of the Bishop of London's charge is, on the whole, admirable. His protests against Ritualism are at once earnest and judicious, and his repudiation of the Eucharistic doctrines of the sect especially entitled to our commendation. His references to Nonconformists, and the necessity of closer union with them, are wise and manly in themselves, and especially striking from their contrast with the tone of the Bishop of Oxford's references; and he has the merit of throwing out some practical suggestions as to the removal of the evil now within the Church. We could wish that he had sometimes been more decided in his own views. We should be better pleased if his charge had not had the very questionable merit of securing a measure of praise from certain sections of the High Church party. We do not share in his anticipations as to the probability of any legislative changes ; but still his utterance is that evidently of a thoughtful man
burdened with the serious responsibilities of his position, and desirous to supply such service as he can at this critical juncture. Nothing could more thoroughly convince us of the thorough helplessness of the Bishops than the character of the charge given by such a man, who evidently desires to do something, and yet has the painful consciousness how little is in his power.
FROM LOMBARD STREET TO DOVER; OR,
THE MORALS OF FINANCE.
BEYOND all question the former times were in some respects " better than these.” The statement in Ecclesiastes, vii. 10, that a man does not inquire wisely into the cause that former times were superior to the present, is not to be taken as an affirmation that all things are perpetually improving. Hengstenberg explains these words to signify that a pious Jew, living in the later ages of the Hebrew monarchy, should not have found any difficulty in understanding why so much national trouble then existed in comparison with the times of David and Solomon. It was because of the wickedness of the people. There was no intention of delivering a broad affirmation that the present is uniformly superior to the past. The contrary is assumed. The “betterness” of the past times too relates to outward prosperity, and rebuke is administered to those whose spiritual blindness hinders them from perceiving the reasons of the chastisements of heaven. Here is one example, among many, of the mischief often wrought by a hasty quotation of the Bible. A text is taken out of its connection, an interpretation is imposed upon it, sometimes the reverse of its real meaning, and a general principle of judgment or conduct is deduced from a passage thus carelessly considered. Certainly, whenever we are about to deduce from the Bible, or from any part of it, a principle which is to affect the whole breadth of human thought, we ought at least to take pains to secure a correct preliminary interpretation of its words.
Of every nation, it may be said that, in some respects, the past has excelled the present. It was so in the history of the Jews, which gave rise to the reproof in Ecclesiastes. The times of David and Solomon were “better”—more prosperous than those of the later monarchy, and the material advantages were the direct result of a moral superiority. In vain then will the uniform corruption of human nature be pleaded as an argument in support of the notion that former generations were just as corrupt as ourselves. This is at least an inconsistent mode of reasoning in the mouths of those who, in the same breath, plead for the doctrine of a perpetual improvement. But the truth is, that there is no uniform law of development discoverable in the moral character of nations. Some rapidly degenerate, some make steady advances. The question for us is, Is the England of to-day better or worse than than the England of the last century ? And passing by other departments of national life we ask, Is there an improvement or deterioration, on the whole, in the morality of finance ? He must be blind, indeed, who refuses to allow that, during the last twenty years, there has been a great and rapid depravation of this morality, and the marvellous material improvements of the period have been, to a large extent, purchased at the cost of the sacrifice of old English truth, old English justice, old English honour. No one, therefore, could " inquire more wisely” than by endeavouring to investigate the causes and the consequences of a moral change fraught with disaster to the future prospects of the country.
The events of the past year have offered a striking illustration of the alleged decline. Never was a general panic more completely and directly the result of immoral dealings in finance than the panic of last May. Confidence collapsed through the universal sense of inability to trust the veracity or the honesty of the leaders of the London money market. A vast abyss of delusion and untruth opened in the middle of the very forum—and men shrank away affrighted at the terrible vision. If “ So-andso” proved faithless, who could be trusted ? Such was the argument that carried a death-chill to the heart of English commerce, from which it has not yet recovered, nor is likely to recover very speedily. This widespread ruin is traceable to no derangement of the currency, such as occasioned some previous panics. It was the necessary and natural result of the universal passion for riches, for rapid communication, for outward show, for indulgences which few can really afford, of untruthfulness and injustice discovered in quarters where it had been unsuspected before; and of the conviction that what was known was only a fragmentary revelation of more and worse unknown. The denouement of the affairs of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company proved a fitting sequel to such a commencement of the summer season. The “not strictly speaking statutory documents," and the “irregularities in the raising of capital” which have been so remarkably exemplified in the history of this concern, are, we are assured, only types of a large portion of the system of railway business
credit employ this ght to be incanent ruin by the
But who can adequately describe, or even imagine, the private sufferings of which these public wrongs have been the immediate cause. You carry your “not statutory documents," sworn to before a magistrate, to a “Financial Company,” and obtain the accommodation you require for carrying out your enterprize But who are the persons for whose security you provide the "documents," not worth the paper on which they are printed ? They are widows, orphans, clergymen, and minors, and an illadvised crowd of investors, tempted to their ruin by the names of some men who are thought to be incapable of wrong, but who nevertheless employ this good name as an instrument of fallacious credit. These are the materials of which a “financial company” is largely composed, and it as easy as it is melancholy to consider the impending shipwreck of their fortunes—a shipwreck rendered little less probable by the promised security of estates not certain to pay twenty shillings in the pound.
We do not purpose in this article to enter upon a discussion in detail of the pros and cons of any particular instance of recent defalcation or misdoing. It may be taken for granted that society at length admits the fact that the commercial system is infected with a gangrene which will destroy it, unless, by a surgery at once severe and wholesome, it is cut away. The tone adopted by the Bristol meeting of “gentlemen, professional men, merchants, and respectable tradesmen," who assembled at St. James's Hall for the purpose of hearing from the leading contractor for the Dover Railway an explanation of his affairs in connection with it, is not that which can save England from her downfall, and this we say in full recollection of the names of some who were present. These contractors had just been denounced, in the most solemn manner, by a Committee of Investigation appointed by the shareholders, for certain proceedings held to be inconsistent even with the loose morality of modern commerce, and to this indictment were attached names of great weight and worth in the London markets. Considering the high repute previously borne by the representative of the contractors' firm, there was every reason why his friends and political supporters should be exceedingly slow to believe evil of his character; every reason why they should generously and hopefully consider all that could be alleged in his defence. But what shall we think of the moral sentiment of the Bristol meeting, of their impartiality, of their justice, of their consideration for the higher interests of the country, when we read, in the authoritative report of the proceedings, that this meeting, called by circular, and thronging the spacious hall in which it was assembled, received the representative of the inculpated firm“ with a burst of applause of the most enthusiastic character," that “the company rose en masse, and gave vent to their feelings by waving their hats, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas, and vociferously cheering for a considerable time,” even although the contractor himself said that “ he did not come there to ask for a vote of confidence or anything of the kind.” If this meeting signified anything at all, it was of a moral and judicial quality; and what should we think of a judge upon the bench who welcomed the defendant in a civil court, to say nothing of a criminal trial, by throwing up his wig into the air with loud outcries of admiration and delight, “Here comes my honourable friend ; three cheers for him from the whole bar and from the spectators, for I know him too well to believe that there is a word of truth in the presentment of the grand jury, or in the charges of the plaintiff !” Much value would attach thereafter to the ruling of such an ornament of the Bench! Yet this is precisely the course taken by the Bristol meeting. By that one “burst of applause” before they heard a single word, they did their utterinost to prejudice the cause of their friend and representative, and to damage the interests of justice over the whole empire. A kindly and a silent attitude, at once impartial and watchful, might have given a timely assurance to the country that moral considerations outweighed the passions of party or personal preoccupation, whereas this premature waving of hats and opening of umbrellas has only confirmed the persuasion that any large assembly of moneyed people, when their personal interests are not concerned, will now look more than indulgently on the misdeeds of railway financiers, and modern engineers. Of Sir Morton Peto we shall only add that we account the present condition of his affairs, and the actual injury to his immense and well-deserved reputation-however much that ill-repute is caused by misunderstanding of the facts, or the meanness of coadjutors, an evil only second to a deserved downfall. With a renown so nobly won, with such principles, and such a preceding history, he never ought to have been brought into the position of a man “explaining” his conduct before a crowd of partisan-critics, who shout a worthless acquittal before even they have heard the defence ;-and to a man of his sterling sense and general chivalrousness of mind, no chastisement for misconduct could have been more humiliating than such a purgatory. We shall digest that which we have to say on the general question of the morality of finance, into these propositions: