תמונות בעמוד

let them try system. They little know how much they will do under it; and what an expanded degree of knowledge of men's souls, and intercourse with them, the working of the Church's plans will give them, as contrasted with the most indefinite and seemingly infinite exertions of their own. It is strange how easily men shut their eyes to the failure of unsystematic work. They think these very failures are the result of an unbounded energy; that they are matters of praise rather than blame, whereas they never see that the man who is working on system is doing the very same things they are doing, and much more besides.

But again. Most men set over a parish must feel the difficulties thrown in their way by the utter ignorance of the adults of a certain age among their people. The fact which Lord Ashley brought forward lately, as existing in many of the manufacturing districts, is but too true of many of our own people in the most secluded agricultural parishes, where every attention is paid to the people, and every facility given to the exertions of the Priest. Many of our older people could scarce tell the name of the Saviour Who has redeemed them. It is a startling, but true case. The knowledge of the great principles of our faith-the Articles of the Creed—the rules of Christian practice, are truths of which a large proportion of our adult population are in utter ignorance. Very few could bear the slightest questioning on the points of the Christian faith; and this is the case in parishes where the most devoted men not only are, but have been at work for years. The existence of the Catholic Church - the meaning of Communion of Saints—the mode of the Forgiveness of Sins—the need of the life-giving Spirit-are points on which they are in as utter ignorance as the heathen themselves. The reason of this dearth of deep knowledge in holy things, is not the want of zeal and devotion in the Clergy-not the want of earnest-minded men in the coldest day. There were many such when the aged adults, to whom we refer, were themselves the children of their time. The fault lay in the system ; the uncatholic custom, and inefficacious system which the religious men of the day used, and which has more or less been in use since the Reformation; viz. the system of teaching by exhortation-the merely telling and reminding men of truths—the giving up and disuse of the catechetical mode of instruction. The catechetical method is the method of the Church ; it is the only method which is philosophically sound for instructing men. It draws out a man's own powers, and teaches him to rely on them and exert them. Other systems save him trouble, and every one will be saved trouble if he can. We are so made, that our powers are strengthened and forced into play when we are compelled to exert them.

The Church of Rome, with her usual wisdom, has learnt this lesson, and works on it. She adopts the catechetical system; and the very poorest, most ignorant, unlettered peasant among her children, could give a better account of the faith that is in him, than many of the so-called enlightened men of our own middling classes. It is matter of fact and experience. .

The poorest peasant in Ireland, under the teaching of the Church of Rome, will tell you what he believes as a Christian—will have a definite idea of his duties-and of the Christian life, as far as he has been taught it; and will give decided proof that he is not a heathen. There is something real in his profession. Amongst us, we may say it safely, there would be many, between whom and the heathen it would be hard to distinguish ; nay more, who scarcely distinguish it themselves. There is a want of reality about our system—a want of character and depth. We do not lay hold of our people: they are not ours ; all we can say is, they belong to no one else. Our system is unreal. We have no system. Of course, we have not spoken of anything beyond the system adopted by Rome. We say nothing of the truths which members of that communion hold, considered in themselves; as far as they know, they have a clear, definite idea of what they hold, and what they are; our people generally have not. Their system is one which shows their people not only as not heathen and not Mahomedans, but as Catholics; ours may suffice to show they are not the former, but would leave men in considerable doubt about the latter. It is a negative method only. More than half the points which Anglicans are conversant with are held controversially, and relate to other Christians whom they are not to agree with.

How is a Priest to prevent this difficulty? He naturally longs to do so; it stares him in the face. He goes to a man of fifty, who is sick, and finds him unable to give a clear answer to one question as to the faith that is in him. What is to be done? He feels that if this is the case in a small agricultural population where he may be, what is the fearful responsibility which the ministry are incurring! Of course, the first thing to do, is to work on the children and the young; instruct them catechetically, and thoroughly bring them up as Catholics and as Christians. This is clear. But what shall be done with the adults?

And this reminds us of another point which bears strongly on what we have said. We have found fault with the teaching of the last few years; but we find occasionally some among our own flocks who are relics of a long past day of education

men who benefited by the instruction of schools anterior to the low tone which sprung up sixty years since; and who still had a tinge, or rather had not lost a tone, however faint, of Catholicity. We find such persons among many of our aged people, still loving the Church's lessons, and minding her holy days; this shows us how much more the system they were brought up under laid hold of them, than the superficial instruction of later days has of the generation which has come under its influence.

The best course to adopt with adults, surely, in this state of things, is to bring religious truths as much as possible before their minds. Actual instruction seems, at their age, nearly hopeless. But, surely, Daily-service will for such persons do the work of the Church. It will bring constantly before them great truths, the expression of which will be put into their own lips. It will place before them daily the Articles of the Christian faith ; and there is a tendency in deep religious truths to sink into the mind- to lay hold of the understanding and affections by their repetition. Perhaps this would be the most effectual means we could suggest for remedying the almost heathen darkness in which many Englishmen are living, while brought up in the midst of unnumbered blessings and privileges. _Mere exhortation and announcement of truth will not do. The remedy just suggested, to a certain degree, compels a man to act for himself, and draws out his own powers and energies. He himself confesses and enunciates truth.

Of course, to lead men to Holy Communion still more effects this purpose. But while we find it difficult to remedy so deeprooted an evil in the minds of adults who have suffered from a lax and superficial method of teaching, our great care should be over cbildren, that their instruction may be real and catechetical, founded on the basis of Catholic and dogmatic truth with which that mode of teaching is peculiarly bound up. It is not our work now to discuss the question of methods of teaching, and their minute details. Much, indeed, might be said, but it is a matter of its own.

Another sadly-neglected line of parish work, already alluded to, is the preparation of sponsors, and the manner in which holy Baptism is administered. So lax have been the customs in many parishes with respect to these points, that the poor constantly consider it a hardship if they may not stand as sponsors to their own children; or, if they do not, they will bring persons of really infamous character to answer for them. We shall often find that a child will be brought to church, with its two parents offering themselves for sureties, and some one for the third whom they have met in the road as they came along, and whom they have persuaded to do a neighbourly act by standing for the child, or perhaps for no higher motive than that he will have something to drink after service. What a fearful contrast this shows with the intention and order of the Church, that only communicants shall stand in the place of sponsors; and yet it is to be feared that the practice we have referred to is very common, tending, as it must, to bring the holy Sacrament itself into disrepute, and destroy the respect for it which the tendency of schools in the last century has been considerably to lessen. How much this actual evil would be remedied if attention to sponsors, and preparation of them for their office, were made a regular part of parochial work ! Besides the good done in the case itself, it would, as we have said, afford opportunity for a closer intercourse with a large number of our people on matters of high and holy moment, carried on under the rule of system, and in a truly Catholic manner. The mere fact of erroneous conception, as to the office itself, makes this important. Many wholly mistake the work to which they are called. It is a very common thing to find that the surety thinks himself responsible for the sins of the child; or views the whole as a formal arrangement, without meaning or intention at all. These and many kindred errors would be cleared away by making the preparation of sponsors a part of parochial work.

But another important benefit arising from all these modes of carrying into effect parochial training, is the line which they tend to draw between the good and bad in a parish :-- the line is marked distinctly and decidedly, and yet indirectly. Men are left to draw their own conclusions, and discover themselves to be what they are, from their own conviction, rather than from direct announcement of the fact. As we have said before, the more men are left to themselves the better: and, perhaps, one great benefit of a Priest's residence among his people is the fact that his life and example lead them to form certain conclusions with regard to themselves, although he may be doing nothing else towards personal intercourse with them.

By carrying out plans such as we have referred to, the distinction of character must become more and more definite. Thus, the Priest, in his frequent intercourse with the communicants of his flock, and not with others, makes a separation. Again, he repels certain men when they offer themselves for the office of sponsors, while he always accepts others—this tends still more to make the division wide; and men by degrees feel themselves cut off from all such offices, which, even the worst, have sufficient moral sense left to know and feel are the signs of goodness, and sufficient conscience, perhaps, left to approve and desire to fill. Daily service has the same effect. It tends to stir men up. When they see others going on quietly and regularly attending to a religious duty of this kind, to which the world is compelled to give way; when employments which they have looked

upon as of paramount importance, are made to yield to an arrangement which they affect to despise, then the very regularity and independence of Daily service must, against their will, compel them to feel their own neglect. Its mere repetition forms a constant witness against them in the parish where they reside. By close attention to systems of this kind a strength of indirect reproof is brought to act upon the careless and lax living, which no direct reproof can equal in the effect produced.

And this reminds us of another point in the parochial life : that amount of visiting the poor at their own homes, which is plainly a duty, but which is very difficult to arrange well, so as to avoid abuse. Indiscriminate visiting, and the use of indiscriminate instruction in such visits, has been already condemned, and the remedy suggested. But there is still a high duty connected with it. The Clergyman should, without doubt, be well known in the houses of his people; the sick and bedridden are, manifestly, the cases which most require this attention, and with these it should be in a more systematic way of duty than we generally find in use. If the Visitation Service were regularly used, it would tend to give great point and system to this branch of parochial visiting: another assistance towards regularity in this duty would be the stated administration of the Lord's Supper to those communicants who are necessarily confined to their homes. The use of the Visitation Service, the practice of administering the Holy Communion regularly to the old and infirm, the due preparation of such for it, and reading to them at other times-all these things would very much define and extend the rounds of parochial teaching, and bring it under strict system. But still, after this, a large number of persons will be left, who will not fall under these heads; for instance, those in health, whose characters are good, and of whose daily lives we are unwilling to be ignorant; of course anything like a system of instruction in the main points of religion, carried on at their houses, will involve all the harm of which we have been speaking; it will, to their eyes, become a substitute for attendance at church and other ordinances of paramount importance. This is the result, and always has been found to be so, of this mode of instruction. We need not stop to blame it. Perhaps, if any advice could be given on this point, it would be, that such visiting should be more for the purpose of seeing after their temporal estate, or giving them an opportunity of gaining advice on any point which they may need, and from which they may be cut off through any other channel. But no doubt this branch of visiting must be left, in a great degree, to the discretion of the individual minister; and must, to a certain point, be determined by circumstances, for

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