Imágenes de páginas

And just as the growth of animal and vegetable life germinates and radiates from a multitude of centres, each centre being itself not an atom, but a nucleus of atoms, so the healthy expansion and growth of our political society develops itself from a multitude of points, which serve as centres to the activity of individuals, and organises them into masses.

The liberty, which it is the pride and perfection of the English constitution to ensure for its subjects, is not a licence without law, but a freedom from external restrictions still controlled by an internal morality. If you would dispense with Acts of Parliament and a Police, you must substitute for them the restrictions of conscience. All human activity to be good must be subject to law, but internal and not external.

This, then, is the special function of the English clergy: first, to supply a multitude of centres, dispersed and planted throughout the kingdom, round which, in every parish, the voluntary energies of the citizens may be gathered and organised for purposes of good ; and secondly, to infuse into all the operations of the Empire, from the lowest to the highest, that principle of elevated conscientiousness which may render external restriction wholly unnecessary. This is the abstract theory to be kept in view both by the Statesman and the Churchman. The English clergy are essential instruments for the development and moral guidance of the Liberty of Englishmen. They occupy the very opposite position to that which is generally assigned to them by superficial assailants, who represent them to the populace as the enemies of freedom and the allies of despotism. Rather, in their natural and true functions, they are the enemies of despotism, and the necessary allies of liberty. And in this light, while they are to be strictly confined to their true duties, they are also to be earnestly supported and encouraged in them by every philosophical Statesman.

Before we illustrate this general statement by a more detailed outline of the work of the parochial clergy, and gather from this a view of the qualities required in them, the education which they need, and the sources from which they are to be supplied, let us meet at once the suspicions and jealousies with which the State is tempted to regard the power and influence of the Clergy.

No doubt it is a formidable thing to see garrisoned and established throughout the country a vast body of men (the English clergy at present number between 17,000 and 18,000, and that number is sadly inadequate to the work which is before them), claiming, and possessing authority, and power, which is not


derived from the State, and therefore may be turned against it. But the English Church is pledged beyond any other to loyalty and obedience, and to abstinence from wrong interference with the secular action of the State. If it abandons these principles, it abandons itself. Its authority must perish.

No doubt it is a formidable thing to contemplate the possibility of foreign leagues, and co-operation between the Clergy of England and the Clergy of other countries, especially when the federal character of the Christian Church authorises and enforces their attraction and cohesion. But the singularly insulated position of the English Church, its Protestant doctrines, its stronglydeveloped nationality, and the fundamental charter of its own liberties, which rests upon the asserted independence of national churches, remove this alarm.

Once more, it is a formidable thing for the State to contemplate, on many occasions, if not a formal antagonism, at least à vast amount of moral resistance to its schemes from the influence of the clergy. But the absence of any strong hand to concentrate and wield their opposition, the separation and independence of the several Bishoprics, the great variety of character and principle maintained in the Episcopate itself by the nature of their appointment, the loose ties by which the whole organization of the clergy is held together, their domestic relations, which keep them citizens and Englishmen as well as clergy, and the variety of classes, and types of education, from which the clergy are supplied—all these conditions, which exist nowhere so fully developed as in the English Church, are an adequate security against any continued, permanent, irrational antagonism of the clergy against the State. Temporary estrangement there may be; occasional remonstrances, even wide-spread agitation at times; but these are the necessary contingencies of a Constitutional System. They can never amount to rebellion, until the English Church abdicates the charter of its power.

Two other perils, less immediately affecting the autocracy of the State, but very seriously imperilling the happiness and freedom of the citizen, may still be imagined; but each of these is adequately 'guarded against by the constitution of the English Church,

First, it is essential to the peace and unity of the empire that the spiritual teaching, and moral influence, thus permitted to act throughout the whole frame of society should be regular, uniform, and consistent. Let the Clergy planted in our Parishes break up into schools and factions, distract the public by controversies and novelties, set Parish against Parish, and Diocese against Dio


cese, daily unsettling belief and disturbing usages; and even a foreign invasion would be scarcely more destructive to the peace and happiness of the people than this intestine conflagration.

On the other hand, let the Clergy be banded together in one vast conspiracy to force upon the country one rigid form of dogmatism, to drive and ram down all the natural expansions of human opinion into one shape, and that a shape of their own creation; and whether the result would be the enslavement of the national intellect, or, what is far more probable, a rebellion of unbelief, in either case a terrible blow must be inflicted on the empire.

And, we ask, in the whole range of religious denominations, where is there such security to be found against both these perils as in the principles of the English Church? It does enforce upon all its members, as the condition of admission and adhesion to its body, One Definite Faith—its Creeds; but it does this with an express and most solemn prohibition against any alteration in that Faith, any addition, or any subtraction : a prohibition founded not on human opinion, but on positive divine command. And it does also impose upon its Clergy certain other limitations on their teaching—its Articles limitations not arbitrarily or gratuitously invented, but rendered necessary in this particular country by errors of the day. But against any capricious alteration or enlargement of these limits upon the free thought of the clergy there stands, first the paralyzation of the only legislative organs, through which such a change could be effected ; and secondly, the strong and deep conviction, which has so recently pronounced against the alteration of the PrayerBook. No other religious community in the world presents itself to the Statesman with such securities at once for uniform and definite doctrines, and against arbitrary and tyrannical dogmatism.

Let us now examine the working of the parochial clergy more in detail, and ask if its functions be not properly described as the development and safeguard of the liberties of Englishmen. Imagine a district such as popular novelists like to describe as a fit scene for some tragedy of crime; an outskirt, if you will, of some vast manufacturing town, peopled with neglected and abandoned pauperism, alternating between the riot of high wages and the destitution of a famine; no voice to warn, no hand to guide, no eye to bless them. The Sundays profaned, the homes squalid, the children in rags, the streets echoing to blasphemy, all the odiousness of vice flaunting in filth, and every face stamped with the seal of misery and sin. How many such wildernesses are there in our populous districts, calling with a voice of agony


for some friend to come and help them, and that friend the parochial clergy man! He comes, and what is his first work? It is to obtain a place for public worship; to call together, if only two or three, for prayer and listening to God's word-only two or three. But here in this voluntary act, in this first effort of reviving freedom of a soul struggling to shake off the fetters and slavery of sin, is to be found the germ and spring of all the true liberty that follows. This nucleus of an emancipated humanity once formed, his next step is to open a school. He can but open his doors, can but offer instruction; he has no power to compel-all must be free, all voluntary. And what is the object of the school but to develop the free agency of man, to give liberty to intellect and thought, to create power in the individual mind, to raise up barriers against all oppression either of mind or body? There have indeed been systems of education, verỳ specious and very ingenious, which outwardly professed this cultivation of free intelligence, but really were contrived so to entangle the taste and mind in questions and fields of thought remote from practical life, as practically to enslave, to emasculate, and to paralyse them. But whatever are the shortcomings and failures of the education provided by the English Church, no one can lay this hypocrisy to its charge. The school rising by the side of every church is an honest, faithful endeavour to enlarge, to strengthen, to liberate, and extend the powers of the human mind, the freedom of Englishmen, the freedom especially of the poor and the depressed. But the school - Professor Blunt, in his admirable work, has traced minutely all the process* _brings the clergyman at once into contact with the home; the home, that real elemental compound atom-to use the language of science-out of which all political society, but especially the social system of England, is developed. You say that in the creation of this element the clergyman has no hand, that he finds it already existing, that he is not the central influence round which it crystallises. Is this the case? Is not the sanctity of marriage, its indissoluble tie, its divine blessing, and its divine obligation, the one grand talisman of domestic happiness and domestic virtue ? Strip it of this as the State is now stripping it-cast away the blessing at God's altar, and the sanction of God's word, break through the restrictions imposed by the Creator of man upon man's passions and temptations, couple the miserable outcasts of the people by a civil registrar, and ensure to them the unlimited privilege of divorce upon con, dition of adultery or cruelty, and what becomes of the family? If no moral power can be brought to bear upon the passions which

* Blunt's Duties of the Parish Priest,' Lect. VI., p. 177.


originate the family, what must be its end? And what moral power can be found, except the influence of religion in the hands of a Christian Clergy? Even the creation then of the family depends mainly upon the clergyman ; and how much also of its purification and its direction! There is the drunken husband, the slattern wife, the neglected children, the wastefulness of want, the unloving, uncheering, unblest, despairing aspect of a home of poverty and sin. Whose hand is to unlatch the door, and enter with a right to speak words of comfort, and calls to exertion? Whose eye is to throw light upon that darkness? Whose voice is to rouse shame, and encourage hope, and promise aid, and reinforce self-respect, but that of the parochial clergyman, who comes not as an unauthorised intruder, but because he is sent ? Few of us realize the potency of that one condition of the Christian ministry-preaching because they are sent, because it is their duty, their business, their commission ; and not that officiousness, against which the English mind rebels with singular repugnance, a self-pretentious interference with the private concerns of others.* But from the family thus purified and elevated by the moral influence of the clergyman, proceed the various other voluntary organisations, by which prudence, and temperance, and selfrespect, and knowledge, and self-control-all of them dependent on religion) and therefore true liberty, and real power--are developed among the poor. The weekly pence saved from the alehouse for the school, the clothing fund, the coal fund, the benefit society, the infirmary, the burial club, the library, the savings-bank, the mechanics' institute, the lecture-room; even the mite, by which the missionary labours of the Church are assisted, becomes the germ of comfort and independence in our manufacturing districts, sometimes even of wealth. And of all these the clergyman is the natural centre, the mainspring, and the guiding head. And to

* It is often supposed that the self-instituted and self-authorized exertions of other religious bodies are more acceptable to the poor than the regular mission of the Church of England. We took pains some years since to substantiate and verify the following anecdote :-A Clergy man, from whom we received the statement, was appointed by his Bishop to act as a sort of Missionary to the labourers employed in forming a railway. He interposed one day to remonstrate against some profane and blasphemous language, and was received with abuse and violence, till he told them that he was not interfering of himself, but was sent by the Bishop. * 0, Sir, if you are sent by the Bishop, that is another question. We are much obliged for his thinking about us. We took you for a Methodist parson.' Another time he went on a Sunday into one of the huts, in which a group were gathered together, and offered to read prayers to them. All assented and knelt down but one, who rudely refused to kneel, and refused to remove his bat. As soon as the clergyman began the Confession from the Prayer-Book, he too knelt down, behaved with decency and attention, and, as he rose up from his knees, repeated the same observation,–0, Sir, if you are a real clergyman, that is another thing; we took you for a Methodist parson.'

« AnteriorContinuar »