תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

nature, but as Christianity has endowed it, into his work. Christians have a way of separating themselves into two parts when they write; and they are Christians, and write from mere natural genius. Books come out into the world, and from noble minds too, and there is really nothing in them to make us say, A Christian must have written this. There may be very much splendid feeling in what they write, but there is nothing to show in them the distinct positive element which Christianity has brought out in our nature: there is nothing to show the Christian type underneath. The fundamental forms of feeling in them are not distinctively Christian; their beauty does not go through the particular mould which Christianity has made. It has been even doubted whether the spiritual is poetical, and whether, as soon as ever we get into the sphere of not thereby leave that of poetry. Manzoni has given a bold answer to such a theory, and has directly and distinctly adopted the moral type of the new law, the impress of grace. Love and penitence are absolutely impersonated in Borromeo and the Unnamed. He has made that particular mould and image of character, which is the last gift of revelation to us, and the true development of man, his pattern; and has taken the Church for his guide and inspirer, his genius, and muse.

grace, we do

453

paper.

[ocr errors]

ART. IV.-Parochialia ; or, Church, School, and Parish. The Church

System and Seroices practically considered. By JOHN SANDFORD,

M.A. Vicar of Dunchurch, &c. London: Longman & Co. 1845. If it be true that almost every part of man is the subject of some directly systematic and scientific treatment, the most important part of him, his soul, ought certainly not to be the only exception. The soul requires a systematic and scientific treatment, but does our present parochial system furnish such ? We shall attempt a few remarks on this subject in the present

If there is one thing more difficult than another, it is, perhaps, the knowledge of human character, the way to deal with it, the mode of drawing it out, and applying discipline to it; and yet this most important and difficult work is committed to men who, very often professedly, have less ability than other members of their own family; and who look on the care of souls as a kind of sinecure, because the necessary work which it involves in the eyes of the world is so small.

The Priestly office is the one which, of all others, has most connexion with the real things of man. All other intercourse which men have with each other is comparatively trifling ;-it concerns their estates or their bodily condition. The Priest's intercourse is with the deepest things of man--the state of his soul and the direction of his character. It is his work to draw out feelings which, placed in him by God for holy objects, often lie dormant and unused till death, unless exercised by God's Priest. It is his work to teach men to know themselves'—the hardest of all knowledge—to apply discipline, and to discriminate in the cases where encouragement should be given and where it should be withheld. The very mode of carrying on this intercourse is as difficult and exalted as the knowledge required for it—the highest consistency of life, the greatest retirement from the world, study, and self-denial. And, to fill a position like this, who do we find are the men sent forth ? Sometimes, as we have said, men of the least ability and the most undisciplined minds, selected to undertake a work for which they are in the lowest degree unqualified. The consequence is, that, finding the whole work infinitely beyond their reach, without an effort, they consider the matter hopeless, and settle themselves down under the comfortable conclusion, that their highest work is to make a dinner-party respectable, or to give a certain tone of gravity to scenes of unlicensed gaiety.

But there are men who go forth to this work infinitely higher in ability and holier in purpose than those we have described, willing to devote their lives to the task they have undertaken.

They feel the want which they are intended to supply, and they are willing to sacrifice life to supply it, but they are untrained and untaught. They have been bred in no school of human character, and they begin systems and leave them off; they work out schemes and plans which they find practically insufficient, and which leave those over whom they have been exercised worse than they were before the victims of ignorance and irregularity; while other men, seeing the abuse, attempt to avoid it by merely attending to the secular business of a parish, and leave the wants of men to find their supply from any accidental source within their reach.

The more energetic of those we have described have, in a now passing age, been in many cases the offspring of a school, which has done its own good; these, as a school, are now melting away, and having been, in their day, the witnesses of reality and devotion, call our attention to their mode of teaching. While, in many cases, nothing could be more devoted and persevering than their efforts in Parochial life, nothing, at the same time, can well have been more shallow than their mode of applying discipline and instruction, and few men more ignorant of the real nature of the work they were called to. Naturally enough —for they deny the Apostolic Succession, doubt as to the grace and authority of the Priesthood, hesitate about the power of the Sacraments, depreciate Baptism by denying Regeneration, and the Lord's Supper by repudiating the doctrine of the Real Presence. These facts are enough: of course, they fail in their system of operation. They have laid aside the nerves of their whole work, and attempt to grapple, unarmed, with difficulties which are insuperable, without the arms provided for them by God. The consequence is, they feel the want which they have themselves helped to perpetuate, and attempt substitutions : Preaching takes the rank of Sacraments, constant talking on most unfit

occasions displaces confession, and efforts at popularity are used to fill up the vacuum which the grace and authority of the Priesthood was intended to occupy. However energetic, of course they fail ; and the very contrary result is brought about to what was needed. Preaching, the substitute for Sacraments, produces excitement, which the Holy Sacraments were given to allay ; religious talking brings on boldness and shamelessness, while delicacy and humility were the objects of confession, and the solicited admiration of parishioners invests them with a power of • Veto' on all that advice and discipline, which the power of the Priest should have exercised without a dispute. We do not deny their zeal, Isut it is their very zeal which has tended to perpetuate the evils of their system. They are impelled by right desires, and seek

right objects, but they seek them by false means, and when they have missed their true object they are not prepared to see their error. They feel strongly that the salvation of souls is the work of God's Priest; that the constant wiles of Satan, and the deceitfulness of man's heart, make it needful for them to be continually and unceasingly working a counteracting influence. They feel that they are willing, and that it is their duty, to devote their whole soul and body to carry out this work; consequently they are never satisfied unless they are bringing themselves personally into contact with it. Their teaching becomes a continual thrusting forward directly of certain truths. They have not had the advantage of seeing the right system of the Church in operation, and they do not understand how it can achieve its work. Without using or understanding her system, they imagine that they, individually, and at their own discretion, are to achieve that which only the Church's machinery can perform. They have been taught to suspect all systems, and the Church system in particular. They have been led to view the work of the cure of souls as one very much of individual exertion. The whole tendency of low schools is to individualize, to put forward the individual, to produce individual consciousness. This is the view they take; and of course, the work being one which only the Church with all her machinery could perform, they fail.

They have attempted what is beyond their strength, and to aid them in which they cannot expect God's grace to act miraculously. They place themselves in the room of Sacraments, of the support of daily Prayer in public, and of formalized confession. They feel that when these are in use, the individual minister is nearly lost sight of. True, as a man he is; but that is exactly what the Church aims at; and surely, thank God, it is the most merciful protection which the Church can give against the pride and conceit of our hearts.

In attacking their system we shall be supposed, in the minds of many, the most candid and fair of their school, to be levelling a blow at all zeal in the spiritual part of a parochial life, and they will consider the attack one which is intended to be made against all devotion and earnestness. It is peculiarly their inclination to attach all reality in religion to certain ways of talking and modes of action, and they so bind them together that they make the line of their own peculiarity the barrier between truth and falsehood, religion and worldliness. There is some excuse for them. They were once attacked by schools which were hollow and unreal, and which offered nothing in the place of what they condemned, which could deserve the name of truth or zeal. Naturally enough, the attacked party looked on themselves as martyrs, and, with the modes proposed by their enemies, they mentally associated, as inseparable, the laxity of the actual working of the opposite system, and the looseness of the lives of those who in theory adopted it. But that state of things has passed away. We renounce as cordially as they can the cold," lax school of the · High-churchmen’ of fifty years ago. We speak of them as a school. There was a hidden stream of theology throughout those times, to which we owe much, and which we gladly recognize.

But while we disclaim sympathy with this class of Highchurchmen, we are boldly prepared to condemn the mode of carrying on the spiritual cure of their flocks, adopted by the Low-churchmen of this day; and though in doing so we seem to join in common cause with their and our enemies, we must run the risk, trusting to our own sincerity.

What is the history of parochial work?. God has given man a moral nature which requires guidance, discipline, and instruction. The world we are in is one suited to keep us in a state of probation, and certain broad rules of religion would be gathered from the general teaching of the state of things in which we are placed. But this is not enough; we want something more. God Ēas given us means of grace, and direct instruction and discipline, and He has given these to the keeping and dispensing of the Church. She, then, through her ministers, becomes the controller and guide of our moral nature. Of course, a work so vast soon began to need systematizing and defining, and this state of things brings before us the parochial and diocesan systems. But it is plain from this that whatever divisions of her labour she might make, the whole of her general system of discipline was to be brought to bear through each line she had struck out to reach the wants of man. Here was a perfect system, the system which alone could do the work, though broken up and divided in its operation. The first division was into dioceses. This was the most ancient and apostolic arrangement for bringing the system of the Church to bear on man. The diocese was arranged according to the civil division of the Roman Empire. For the first three centuries parishes and dioceses were of the same importance, denoting not what we now call a parish, but a city with its adjacent country region and towns. The decrees of the council of Arles, held in the beginning of the fourth century, writing to the Bishop of Rome, say, that he Majores Diæceses tenere,' which refers to the parishes in his diocese. In the fourth and fifth centuries we find both names promiscuously given as well to country parishes as episcopal or city churches.

The lesser divisions of dioceses began to be called 'paræciæ, distinctively at the time of the Council of Chalcedon, which decreed that in every church such country parishes, dypoikikai trapor

« הקודםהמשך »