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(7) To sum up briefly the remedy which I venture to suggest—I would gladly see first, a legal extension of some liberty of variation in our Service, within clear and intelligible limits, which can, I think, be given only through representative self-government of our Church. I cannot but wish, in the next place, for some recognised Court of Appeal, by which deliberate breaches of a law which we clergy have promised to obey might in the last resort be restrained. Thirdly, I would rely far more willingly and more confidently on the creation or the awakening of a strong public Church opinion to restrain individual and congregational vagary, and to assert the principles on which our Prayer Book is based. And lastly, I heartily wish that there were a greater disposition to recognise in our bishops the dispensing and interpreting authority which is their right, and on their part a greater readiness to assert it, even when they cannot, or will not, enforce it by law. But, while I have felt bound to make these suggestions, lest I should seem merely to complain of evil, without indicating remedy, my main purpose is to urge my fellow Churchmen—whether they agree with me or not—to give some thoughtful attention to our present anomalous condition, and to consider in what way the evils which attach to it are to be removed. For these certainly are not times in which our Church, if it is to meet its dangers or rise to its opportunities, can afford to be confused and disorganised. We must somehow 'close our ranks.' Perhaps, as in the armies of the world, we may well take an open order, in place of the close order of days gone by. But an order surely there ought to be; and, under such order loyally recognised, there will always be ample scope for variety and freedom, provided we remember that, underlying variety, there should be a fundamental unity, and that freedom, as distinguished from license, is the liberty to do what we ought and not merely what we like.
THE CATHOLICISM OF THE
"What's yer religious persuasion ?' said the sergeant to the recruit.
My what ?' Yer what? Why what I said. What's yer after o' Sundays ?' * Rabbits mostly.'
* 'Ere, stow that lip. Come, now, Chu’ch, Chapel, or ’oly Roman ?' And after explanation from his questioner the recruit replied:
'I ain't nowise pertickler. Put me down Chu'ch of England, sergeant. I'll go with the band.'
Whatever enormities the British army may be guilty of in the future, it will never be a party to relighting the fires of Smithfield.
There is no community in the world in which the spirit of religious toleration is so marked as in an ordinary English regiment. Nor is this state of affairs as much the result of indifference or laxity as the sectarian enthusiast is apt to imagine. Training (with the consequent practice of self-control) is in this, as in other matters, a more potent factor than regulation. A certain section of the civil community, who are deeply interested in the consideration of things spiritual, are in the habit of pitying the lot of the minister of religion doing military duty.
The padre—a term applied in the Service to the pastor regardless of his denomination is supposed to be under the thumb of the general or other officer in command, and it is even sometimes gravely stated that his duties as a commissioned officer are in direct opposition to his duties to a higher authority.
That the padre when he holds the Queen's commission is like all other officers subject to discipline is a fact, and it is a fact for which he himself has reason to be devoutly thankful.
It is the Church of England chaplain who is chiefly responsible for the state of religion in the army, for, excepting Scotch and Irish regiments, nearly ninety per cent. of the rank and file 'go with the band.' In many cases, having qualified for a pension, the chaplain accepts a country living, and the experiences of those who have done 80 are instructive. He rapidly makes the acquaintance of a being who is entirely a civil product, and who is known to fame as the aggrieved parishioner. There is no fathoming the depth of this individual's possibilities. The new vicar places a cross in some conspicuous place in the church and learns that an A. P. ‘has thereby been driven from the House of God in which he has worshipped for many years, and is forced to pray on foreign soil’ (which is his geographical definition of the church next door). He removes it, and is informed that another A. P. is scandalised at his wanton disregard of the emblem of our faith.' This bull-baiting is unknown to the army chaplain, whose surroundings never permit him to underestimate the value of the adage which adjures us to live and let live. Daily he meets in barrack-room, hospital, school, or mess the ministers of other denominations, and, both by those in and under authority, equal justice is measured out to each.
From one great disadvantage is the soldier parson free to which his civil brother is exposed. He does not suffer from the injudicious idolatry of a parishioners' admiration society formed on his account. In the Service the padre is regarded as the holder of an honourable and important office, and there is no tendency to prop him up on precarious pinnacle as a little saint. There are two extremes which the successful chaplain is careful to avoid, for the adoption of either is fatal to his influence. There are a few—fortunately a very fewpreachers who are wont to harp on the string, “There is a greater authority than your colonel, my men.' It is a subject which obviously requires very delicate handling even when discussed in the presence of an audience trained to think. Most of us have heard this sermon a few times, and if the remarks of Thomas Atkins as he files out of church may be taken as a guide, the result is not what the preacher intended. The disputants immediately take sides.
* There yer are,' says one, ‘I told yer the colonel didn't know nuthin'
Know nuthin',' replies his companion indignantly. "Struth, what does the bloke know 'isself.'
At the other end of the ladder is the have-a-drink-in-the-mess chaplain.
Both err by reason of zeal and conviction. The former has no desire to weaken the colonel's influence, and the latter is not anxious for alcohol. But the one thinks that he must point out the way
of truth to the men regardless of their officers; and the other holds that it is only by conciliating constituted authority that he can hope to reach them. The wise chaplain knows when and how to time his visits to the officers' mess. One of the most successful parsons doing military duty was once asked if he did not find officers as a rule irreligious. But he reproved his interviewer, and when pressed on the subject said with a smile: 'Sometimes you meet one who is too religious. He had reason. It was in Mandalay, Upper Burma, that
he had encountered this phenomenon. It was the chaplain's first
station and he had made his mark in a month; so that the voluntary Dan Sunday evening service which he instituted was as well attended as
the morning's church parade. Duty at out-stations in the district took him away from headquarters two Sundays in every month. In
his absence the parade service was read by one of the general's staff He officers, the evening service being discontinued on these occasions. só About three months after the chaplain's arrival this particular staff
officer was sent to the Chin frontier on special duty, and his place
was taken by a very earnest Christian who, in the intervals of his z military labours, did evangelical work amongst the men. The new mesta major offered to carry on the evening as well as the morning service
on out Sundays,' and the chaplain gladly consented. The memory of the major's first address to the congregation is still green with those who heard it. The chaplain returned and found the simpler members of his faithful flock much perplexed. From a doctrinal point of view this dissertation was possibly excellent; but all that the chaplain could gather from the men's account was that the major had said, 'That there oughtn't to be no chaplains and there oughtn't to be no nuthin'. It was rather negative information to work
on ; but the chaplain spoke to the major and begged him in view of possible misconstruction to discontinue the addresses. But the major replied uncompromisingly that “That which God put into his heart the same would he speak.' Then the chaplain consulted a military friend and went to see the general. His request was very simple. He desired that, in his absence, the officer deputed to perform his duties should read from the book of Common Prayer such selections as he would mark, and that the prescribed form of service should be adhered to without addition or subtraction. The general concurred without demur. Then, as the chaplain was about to retire, he said: 'I hope, sir, you do not regard my request as immoderate.' Suavity was the general's peculiar characteristic. •Immoderate,' he replied, deprecatingly. What those few prayers.' With an air of charming authority he took the Prayer Book out of the chaplain's hands and picked up a pencil. On the contrary, my dear fellow, most moderate ; do let me mark some more.'
Only lay reading now remained to the major, and even in this pursuit he received a check. Like all other callings, that of the lay reader is overstocked, and the chaplain had no little difficulty in satisfying the various candidates. On the Sunday following the interview with the general he had promised the handling of the Scriptures to a colonel. Now the major entertained the idea that he had an ex officio right to the tenancy of the lectern. Accordingly, on the conclusion of the Psalms both men left their seats. They started up the aisle and met behind the great brass eagle, which, with outstretched wings and with a knowledge of the fitness of things which
its betters did not appear to possess, looked to be trying to screen from our view the unseemly pantomime in dumb show which was being enacted.
• Who are you, sir ?'
I fear it was thus that we interpreted, for we had just been playing 'Box and Cox' in the station, and surely the blame did not rest with us if the occurrence was prone to provoke in the sinful a smile. The colonel won, and the major was reduced to taking a front pew and rather ostentatiously straining his ears to catch what was being read. He was apparently unsuccessful, yet it was not without a certain elaboration that he opened a large Bible and followed.' I think, perhaps, that he was too close to the lectern, because at the bottom of the church we could hear well enough.
The lay evangelist is not a success in the Service, nor is he likely ever to be so. And this is not the case so much because Thomas Atkins objects to the spiritual ministrations of the man who the day before has cast him into prison as to his inherent abhorrence of an amateur. Logic may not be Tommy's strong point, but willingly he would no sooner discuss the question of his future state with an imitation padre (as he ungratefully calls the man who tries to help him) than he would take a lesson in fixing bayonets from a militia
or a volunteer. But it is not only the officer who assists the chaplain. A new parson who joined at a large home station was most anxious to improve the general conduct of the parade service. Amongst other things he decided to adopt the eastward position during the recitation of the Creed. Only the choir, who in a garrison church are those members of the band whose instruments are unsuitable for church music, would be affected, as they alone occupied side pews. There was no aggrieved parishioner to consult, and the matter could be easily arranged at the weekly practice. But the chaplain was disappointed. The effect, however much it might have satisfied him as an ecclesiastic, displeased him as a soldier. His idea was to repeat the first two words himself and make a pause; then, as he spoke again, the choir were to turn as one man and proceed with the declaration of their convictions simultaneously. But from the chaplain's point of view the rehearsal was most slovenly, and he confided the fact to the sergeant-major, on whom he was paying a call next day. Then the sergeant-major advised. “If I might suggest, sir, I'd just let things be" as you were" this Sunday, and I'll step up next practice.” The chaplain gratefully acquiesced, and at the next practice the sergeant-major accordingly stepped. No possible circumstances or set of conditions can eradicate or even dull the military instincts of a sergeant-major. He had a short conver