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each had their own distinct congregation, but what grieved him deeply was a fact of which he soon became aware, that his own people who attended Church in the morning were frequently to be found in the Dissenting Chapels in the evening; when remonstrated with they said that they did not see any harm in it-they liked to go to the old Church sometimes, but the preaching was so fine in the chapel, “it did her a sight of good," as one old woman said; so that on the whole a very small portion of the parishioners remained faithful to the Church.
After things had gone on in this way for some time, Mr. Lee determined to consult his Bishop upon the subject which weighed so heavily on his heart. The Bishop's advice was, that he should instruct his people as much as he could in the doctrines of the Church, explaining to them the differences of Dissenters. "I believe," wrote the Bishop, "that half the Dissenters in England are so through ignorance; a man is content to go to chapel because his father did so before him. Once show them plainly the sin of schism as a breaking of God's law, and by His blessing I trust you may win back many who really possess some love to GOD in their hearts, but have never looked on the Church as of Divine institution."
Mr. Lee pondered long over the subject, and at last determined to preach a course of simple sermons with special reference to this subject. The following Sunday was SS. Simon and Jude's Day, and he thought it a most appropriate time to speak to his people on "Unity." On Saturday evening, as the Vicar was passing through the village, a man touched his hat and stopped as if wishing to speak to him. It was Mr. Raikes, the minister of the Wesleyan chapel; he told the Vicar that they were in some trouble at home, his youngest child had died of measles the night before, and two more were ill, and he was then on his way to the churchyard to look out for a spot where his child might be buried.
The Vicar turned back with him, and they entered the churchyard together. It was a lovely spot, kept in most perfect order. The Vicarage garden was a small one, but Mr. Lee always kept a gardener at work, making the care of the churchyard his first object, and the garden quite a secondary one. Thus the people were encouraged to bring flowers to plant on the graves, and learnt soon to think that as a matter of course GOD's acre should be the best cultivated one in the parish, and S. Bartholomew's churchyard was famed for miles round,
and held up as an example to the neighbouring villages. A spot was soon chosen for the last resting-place of little Mary Raikes.
"I suppose you know I must read the Church Burial Service over your child," said the Vicar, "since she has been baptized."
"Yes, sir, of course, it is a beautiful Service-all our family have it read over them. Good evening, sir."
"Strange," thought the Vicar, "there is so much those people agree with us in, and yet they are so hard to win over; GOD grant I may be the means of bringing back some of these wandering sheep to the fold."
On Sunday evening the Vicar was glad to see the Church fairly full, and after the hymn, "The Church's one foundation," had been sung, he gave out as his text the words, "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
My brethren," said he, "you are all doubtless familiar with that last beautiful discourse of our Blessed LORD that we find in the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters of S. John's Gospel, and what is the thread of it all? Running through the heavenly teaching, one word will express it, and that one word is 'Unity.' Ever and again did our LORD repeat the prayer, 'that they all may be one;' and may not we think He saw, looking forward from the first dawn of His Church to the present time, how this grace of unity would be needed? S. Paul in our text repeats the injunction, for even then had arisen some who were causing divisions, and our Church exhorts us in the Collect for to-day to pray for unity. Ah, my friends, those who have separated themselves from among us are guilty of a great sin, even the rending of the Body of CHRIST; and wherefore have they separated themselves? Pride, my brethren, has been the beginning of all dissent; men have risen up who refuse to follow the teaching of the Apostles in Holy Scripture, and worse than that, in their presumption and ignorance set up their own opinion above the commands of our Blessed LORD. Take, for example, the way GOD has appointed His ministers to be chosen for the service of His Church. At first the Apostles only could select others to fill their place by the laying-on of hands, these in turn had the power given them to appoint others, and in this way chosen men have been provided by GOD from the earliest days of the Church down to the present time. But men have risen up without this power and authority, and set themselves up as teachers, even presuming to administer the Holy Sacraments. GOD has appointed only one way
for His Church to be served, namely, by Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, consecrated by the laying on of hands; therefore those who set up a way of their own are guilty of great sin. It was John Wesley himself who said, 'I fear when the Methodists leave the Church, GOD will leave them!' We are all so apt to fall into this sin that our Church has furnished us with a special prayer against it, 'From heresy and schism, good LORD, deliver us.' Oh, my brethren, who join us here in prayer, do not encourage by your presence the sin of schism; pray that you may be kept from the great guilt of rending asunder the Body of CHRIST, and try all in your power to win back in love those who are still wandering without."
Much more did the Vicar urge upon his hearers; then after singing that beautiful hymn, “What time the evening shadows fall," and receiving the blessing, they dispersed to their homes.
One woman among the congregation had been much interested in the sermon; she was sister to Raikes the Wesleyan minister, and though calling herself a Churchwoman, went about equally to Church and chapel; but the result of this sermon was that she came to Church the following Sunday, and continued doing so for some weeks, till at last she gave up chapel altogether, telling her brother that she was quite persuaded he was wrong, and Church people were right, so she meant to keep by them. Being fond of argument, she talked so much to her brother as to make him really anxious to learn more upon the subject, and one morning Mr. Lee, who had always been friendly with Raikes, was rather surprised at a request from the latter to lend him a book upon the differences between Dissenters and Churchmen. Mr. Lee lent him "The Church's Broken Unity," a most valuable work on the subject, and when Raikes had read it through he had many conversations with Mr. Lee upon the same subject.
Meanwhile the course of sermons commenced on SS. Simon and Jude's Day was continued, and the Vicar was encouraged by the more regular attendance at Church of two or three people who were formerly indifferent as to what place of worship they attended. But the way in which GOD crowned His faithful servant's labours in his Church with success was beyond what he had ever dared to hope.
After a long period of anxious study and some doubts, Mr. Raikes told Mr. Lee that he was determined to return to the Church of his fathers, and that what grieved him most now, and weighed more heavily than anything else on his conscience, was the thought of his having
When the dissenting
been the means of causing so many to err. minister told his congregation of his convictions, and of his intention to resign his charge, a few decided to join the Church because Raikes did; some others, with deeper feelings on the subject, were led to study the matter carefully, which in some instances resulted in their also returning to the Fold; but after a few weeks no one appeared to take Raikes' vacant place, and the congregation became scattered, the larger part going to the nearest town every Sunday, where there was a flourishing body of Wesleyans. Before the summer was over the chapel was to let, and then it was that Mr. Lee and his parishioners made a great effort and bought the building for an Infant School.
When SS. Simon and Jude's Day came round again, and the Vicar looked back in wonder and thankfulness to the change which had passed over his parish in one short year, he could not but attribute it as a special answer to this prayer, without which he had never performed a service in his Church: "O Almighty GoD, Who hast built Thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, JESUS CHRIST Himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto Thee; through JESUS CHRIST Our LORD. Amen."
HAVING lately witnessed the celebration of the "Fête Dieu" in this little town, perhaps some of your stay-at-home readers may be interested in hearing of the heartily religious spirit and manner in which this simple people observed it. We were informed that such is the present condition of France, that in no province but Brittany can religious festivals be observed with so much outward devotion. Here, the civic authorities thought it no scorn to assist at the ceremonies, and marched with a military escort to the Parish Church to take their places in the procession.
A year or two ago a pamphlet was circulated, (the name I withhold, lest it should lead to its dissemination, and I write from memory,) in which the supposition was made that if our Blessed LORD were to appear at the present time in the streets of London, as He did in those
of Jerusalem, and Nazareth, "preaching peace,"
"Thee, on Thy way to die, they crowned with praise,
Such was the spirit of the busy crowd. Every house was covered with "white linen" sufficiently high to prevent the shadow of the Blessed Sacrament coming in contact with the tokens of every-day life. As I saw the youths covering even the gutters with green boughs, I could not but think of the day when "others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way."
Six altars (reposoirs) were erected at various parts of the town, where the Blessed Sacrament rested whilst the Benediction was given. The surroundings of each of these reposoirs were marvels of floral decoration, the sides were concealed by rock-work, and shrubs in blossom, and the ground was marked out in patterns with green leaves, the spaces being filled in with petals of various colours carefully sorted, so that no spot of common earth was visible, and a literal carpet of flowers was seen. The approach to one reposoir was an improvised entire little garden.
On Saturday evening we visited a tiny chapel, built on the site of an old Roman temple, and claiming to be the oldest in France. A reposoir had been erected outside, and the chapel was completely filled with pots of flowers and shrubs, for its decoration on the following morning. The woman who received us, took us behind a curtain, and there we saw at least twenty piles of different coloured petals, with large baskets filled exclusively with rose leaves for laying down in the morning. She told us she had worked so hard that her arms ached, and that her house was quite "bouleversée" in consequence, and that she had ten children.