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up the denominational system in this country, he should not be in the least frightened at the introduction of the secular system; he would be quite ready to depend on the Sunday-school and other agencies for the instruction of the children in religious truth. He does not see that any other system is possible in America than the one which actually exists, and most readily owns that it is in entire sympathy with all the institutions of the United States, and habits and thoughts of the people.
Sorry as I should be, with all its imperfections, to give up the denominational principle of education-because I believe it to be the best possible for us here-I should consider myself to be tendering a most fatal piece of advice, if, with all its advantages, I recommended its adoption there. The safer hope is that American Christians-less trammelled by articles, confessions, subscriptions, rubrics, formularies, than we Christians of the Old World—may be brought to take larger, broader views than they now do of their common faith; may dismiss from their minds that everlasting recurring and unworthy suspicion of sectarianism ; may believe that religion may be taught in schools without the aim of making proselytes; and that all®“ who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" may unite in one earnest endeavour to bestow upon their schools the one thing lacking, and permit the morality which they profess to teach, and desire to promote, to be built upon the one only sure foundation—the truths, the principles, the sanctions of the Gospel.
To which let all the people of England as well as of America say Amen!
A large party of speculative educationalists are desirous of introducing the Common School system of the United States into this country, and something of the kind is already aimed at in the Bill for establishing public schools to be supported by local taxation, which Mr. Austin Bruce, the late Vice-President of the Privy Council Committee, has laid on the table of the House of Commons this Session. It is impossible, at the fag end of a paper like this, to discuss the possibility of importing such a system from the New World, or to discuss its value if it were imported. We have merely endeavoured to give our readers an opportunity of coming to some conclusion on these important questions for themselves by trying to give them a clear idea of what the American system really is, and how it works.
RELIGIOUS LIFE IN ENGLAND.*
It is natural, and, to a certain extent, reasonable enough to attach some importance to the observations of the “intelligent foreigner” upon our national character and institutions. We have criticism free enough among ourselves upon everything and everybody, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the members of the St. Pancras Vestry; but it is the criticism of those who are themselves partisans, and unable to form that unbiassed and dispassionate judgment to which we attach weight. But the “ intelligent foreigner," of whom many are fond of talking, under the notion that being unprejudiced he will be sure to support their view, is supposed to bring all the force of a fresh mind free from all the disturbing influences of party attachments or personal associations. It seems indeed to be the nearest approach to the realization of the verse, —
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us ; and is valued accordingly. It is quite possible, however, to form a very unfair and exaggerated estimate of the worth of such a judgment. If the foreigner has less prejudice, even the most intelligent must also have less information, and must be more or less dependent upon others whose ideas he unconsciously adopts, and gives as his own to a greater extent than he himself suspects. We have often heard men professing to give the result of their own impartial observations in the Southern States, which we were asked to accept as the testimony of credible witnesses, who had themselves seen that of which they spoke. They forgot that they had been entertained at the boards of slaveholders who had shown them just what they thought right and no more, who were not at all likely to draw their attention to the more unpleasant features of their “ domestic institution," and would have resented any inquiry on such subjects as a piece of gross and unpardonable impertinence. No doubt they gave just the impression that had been made on them, but they were unconscious how far they had been seeing with the planter's eyes,
* "Religious Life in England.” By Alphonse Esquiros. Author of the “ English at Home,” &c. London: Chapman and Hall.
and hearing with the planter's ears. So everywhere a visitor must be affected, however fair and creditable may be his own intention, by the sympathies and views of those into whose hands he falls, and from whom he receives attention and kindness. Besides, though he may not have our prejudices, he has his own, which may be quite as strong, quite as unreasonable, and quite as likely to disqualify him for the formation of a perfectly impartial opinion. While therefore his notes may be full of interest, and may bring out some peculiarities which, from our familiarity with them, may have escaped us, we may well hesitate before we give his judgment any more weight than we should attach to that of a man of equal power of mind and extent of observation among ourselves.
Especially is this the case as to the subject which M. Esquiros has treated in his new and very interesting volume. It is written, indeed, not only with great kindliness of feeling, but with great intelligence, and an anxious regard to aecuracy in the statement of facts. It is evident that the writer has taken great pains to make himself acquainted with all sorts of particulars relative to the various churches and their work, and has sought, as far as was possible to one in his position, to understand the phenomena of a religious life which, to him as a Continental, was in many respects so strange and almost unaccountable. We must add, too, that he has been remarkably successful, and has given us what is, on the whole, a very fair picture of what would present itself to one who, from the very circumstances of the case, could not penetrate very far below the surface. The homeliness and simplicity of some of his sketches interest and amuse us; but when he comes to discuss the graver questions as between the Church and Dissenters, or between different parties in the Establishment itself, we feel how little he has appreciated the real difficulties of the subjects of which he treats. If we may judge of his own opinions from this book, we should say that his sympathies are in favour of thorough freedom of religious thought, and his leanings to the more " advanced” schools of theology, but we are bound to commend the impartiality which he displays throughout.
His experiences of clerical life in the country appear to have been uncommonly pleasant. He was domiciled in a parsonage where the rector, in the enjoyment of moderate competence, was evidently a little lord of the district. We judge that he and the rest of M. Esquiros' friends must have had more or less sympathy with Low Church views, for he takes it for granted that the Anglican Church has no sacrifice, and therefore no altar. But whether High Church or Low, the worthy divine whom M. Esquiros visited gave him the idea of a very comfortable church, and showed him that the “ English clergy have not taken as literal the advice of the Evangelist as to the fowls of the air and lilies of the field.” (We might have expected, perhaps, that one writing on the religious life of a nation would have known that the advice was given by a higher than the Evangelist. His picture is a very true one of the life of the more favoured among the beneficed clergy; but, of course, he understands that it does not fall to the lot of the majority even of the Established clergy to live in the style of the country squire, stroll up and down the road with his gold-headed cane, receiving the humble obediences of the parishioners whom he may happen to meet, exercising a kind of semi-paternal authority, and dwelling in a mansion and amid surroundings as agreeable as those of which our author gives the following graphic
The vicarage, surrounded by walls and gardens, is naturally at a very short distance from the church; the entrance is through a gateway opening on to a lane, which, beginning among the dwellings, soon loses itself among the trees and fields. It is a building which certainly never proceeded, as a whole, from the brain of any one architect, but which has been formed by successive additions, just as the needs of domestic life became more extended and refined. An epitaph inscribed on one of the mossy gravestones in the churchyard tells us that a vicar of this parish, long since deceased, had added to his other merits that of building a kitchen to the parsonage at his own expense. The domestic offices, half hidden by a screen of foliage, the stables, and the coach-house, all seem to indicate a rather later origin than that of the main body of the house. Be that as it may, the whole of the dwelling seems to breathe a quiet air of comfort-nay, even of sober luxury-which presents a striking contrast to the humble and slovenly abodes of our curés de campagne. Clusters of climbing plants cover nearly half of the front of the house ; and in the course of time they have shot up so high, so thick, and so vigorously, that it takes all the exertions of an old gardener, perched up on a ladder, either to prune them, or to nail their luxuriant branches to the wall. The other side of the house is fitted up with a long greenhouse, full of beautiful flowers, under the transparent roof of which twine the festoons of the vine, supporting here and there bunches of Muscat grapes.
The centre door opens into the hall, a sort of square vestibule, communicating on one side with the drawing-room, and on the other with the diningroom. The vicar works during the day in his library, also on the groundfloor. Folding-doors hide the staircase, which, divided into two branches, leads up to the bed-chambers. The latter are all separate, although joined by a long corridor, and are quite sufficient in number to accommodate the family, and at the same time to enable all the duties of hospitality to be fully exercised. From the windows of the first floor we can see a green lawn by the side of the flower-garden, bordered by lofty trees, among the summit of which the gray church-tower stands out in bold relief; its summi was formerly topped by a weathercock, which has been destroyed by lightning. There is also belonging to the parsonage an excellent kitchengarden surrounded by walls, and a couple of large fields, the property of the church, where some sheep are peaceably feeding.
It need hardly surprise us that a gentleman accustomed to such excellent clerical society, should have failed to realize the exact position of Dissenters. He has shown commendable diligence in seeking to understand the distinctive characteristics of the different sects, but he has had to depend upon his friends for information as to the relations they at present sustain to the Establishment, and in this he has sometimes been misled. Still there is truth in the following account of the parochial struggles :
The rector or vicar is entirely the master of the church ; but it would be a mistake to look upon it as placed under his absolute authority. There is nothing of this kind in England. On the contrary, each parish is like a little commonwealth, governed by itself. The due division of power, duties, and work, is no less strictly desined there than it is in the national constitution itself. In the first place, at the very side of the church there is often a Methodist chapel. There are then here two centres at least to which may converge some of the nobler sentiments of social life. There may very often be in some obscure corner of the village a meeting-house for Quakers; a small antiquated cottage, cleanly whitewashed, and festooned with honeysuckle and vine; and looked after with sedulous care by some aged sister of the sect.
The divisions between the Established Church and the Dissenting congregation in the country do not so much rest on any very grave differences in point of faith ; not the less, however, do they all make a point of following out the usages of their worship with a fidelity which one might call the point of honour of conscience. Most of these sects have taken their rise in some old theological dispute, which would not perhaps have arisen in these times; but they now form the inheritance handed down from a past age, which the English will not easily get rid of. Some of them certainly supply a want; different minds, as St. Paul intimates, require different nutriment, and these chapels have been founded in order to satisfy this variety in spiritual tastes.* All Dissenters are, however, compelled to pay church-rates, and they murmur at it, for in this way they are condemned to pay twice, first to the church which they do not attend, and then to the particular chapel in which they worship. The abolition of church-rates has been several times proposed in the House of Commons, but hitherto without
As the law actually stands, this impost constitutes a charge on Dissenters which is very difficult to justify; but, at any rate, it gives them some privileges. One of these privileges consists in the right of attending at vestry meetings. In these meetings, which take place several times in the year, and are announced by notices on the church-doors, all the questions are discussed which relate to the necessary expense of public worship, and to the repairs of the church itself. The head of the local opposition is usually some wealthy farmer or shopkeeper, an obstinateminded man, bred up in all the principles of Dissent, and proud of pitting church against chapel.
The self-esteem of the clergyman may often be wounded by the freedom of speech which takes place ; yet who would wish to do away with it ? One good reason why the English manage their national affairs so well is that they have been wise enough to place the right of contradiction at the very base of their social edifice.