« EelmineJätka »
enough to tell me, what are people hindered from by the length of the Service? how comes it men's time is so much more precious now than it was formerly? and if the Service were made shorter how would they be better employed than in hearing God's holy word, and praying for His blessing on themselves and their friends?
"I say, Will, what do Farmer Yawn and Ned Gape, and the rest of you do, who walk always so late into Church; are you spending your time any better than if you came into God's house before the bell ceases ?"
"As to that," said he, laughing, "we generally sit on the wall, at least when the weather is dry, and look at Ned's pigs, or talk over the news, or anything, just to pass the time. But the farmer's rule is, to begin shaving just as the bells chime, and then he comes in at the first Lesson as exact as clock-work, and we after him."
"Then," said I, "why should you and he trouble about having the Service shortened, for I suppose, whatever were its length or shortness, you would always come in twenty minutes after it had begun ?"
"That would be as we should please," he said. "However, I see plainly I shall never be able to reason you out of your bigoted old-fashioned notions. I only wish I could bring you and Mr. Tiptop together. I think he would soon settle you and your arguments too; he would quickly turn the laugh against you, I can assure you, Master Nelson."
To this I answered, "that I had no reason to be afraid of Tiptop, his arguments, or his jests, but that I never would willingly go or stay in the company of persons who could make light of serious matters; and I told Burnet, that I was sure sooner or later, he would allow that I was right in this resolution."
"This, Sir, was the substance of my conversation with Will ; and if you should be disengaged next Sunday evening and disposed to see me, I should be glad to have a few more words with you on the same subject."
To this I readily agreed, so we parted at his garden-gate; and
as I heard his door shut, I could not but say to myself, if happiness is to be found on earth it is in that cottage, and what is the precious secret whereby it has been attained? No secret at all, (I answered myself) but simply the practice of " pure and undefiled religion," "patient continuance in well doing," with "glory, honour, and immortality" in view.
When he came to me in my study on the Sunday evening, according to appointment, he said that he really was anxious to know whether there was any truth in the report which Tiptop and others had so confidently spread about, that some alteration of the Prayer-book was intended, especially (as they said) for the purpose of making the Service more 'short and compact, and suitable to the taste of the times.'
I answered," that of course it was out of my power to say what our governors in Church or state might wish, but that I feared that in Religion, as in other matters, there was some reason to apprehend too great regard might be paid to popular fancies, even by those who are as far as possible from approving of them."
"Sir," he replied very earnestly, "I hope and trust the Church Services will never be shortened one sentence, line, or word. Grown people, Sir, are but children in Religion. If once you begin to yield to their indolence and dislike of trouble, you sanction the bad feeling, and it will go on increasing till it has eaten out the very heart of piety."
"Yes," I replied, "I fully agree with you. And to say the truth, it is my firm opinion that if any alteration is necessary, it is the other way, that the Service should be longer instead of shorter. I mean, for instance, that the Prayer for CHRIST's Church Militant' should be regularly used as appointed, after the morning sermon when there is no Communion; at least where it can be done without any great inconvenience, which possibly in some churches may not be the case. It is to my mind one of the most perfect of uninspired compositions, and it is greatly to be wished that it might be made familiar to every ear and every heart."
"Sir," said he, "I have often thought so. Still at the best
our weakness is great: the corruptible body,' as the wise man says, 'presses down the soul;' and I suppose it is the case with all of us occasionally, and even when we would most earnestly deplore and strive against it, that our thoughts are apt to wander and our devotions to be cold. Whenever, therefore, I have found myself disposed to be weary of God's house and service, or have heard others complaining of the tediousness of the Prayers and Lessons, I have said to myself,-if David, the Prince of Penitents, were here now, would he speak or think thus, he who desired to abide in God's tabernacle for ever-who envied (as it were) the sparrows and the swallows their continual abode under the sacred roof-who, when shut out, or far away, longed, yea, even fainted for the courts of the LORD, as a hart thirsting for the water brooks! If holy Daniel, that greatest of statesmen, that real " man of business;" if he were among us now-he who in a far distant land, and prime minister to the greatest of earthly kings, would yet let no day pass in which he would not thrice find or make leisure to offer solemn prayers to the God of his fathers, his windows being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, where lay the temple of his God in ruins; that as he could not be there in person, he would be so in heart and mind, would he say that our Church Service is too long? If St. Paul, that most heroic, and (if there were such a word,) that most unselfish of men,-if he were now among us, would he be weary of our Lessons, Prayers, and Creeds,-be whose conversation and home was in heaven-who desired to depart and to be with CHRIST, and who calls on all true Christians to "hold fast the form of sound words," in Christian faith and love! Or the beloved John, the last and greatest of prophets,-weary, not of his LORD's service, but of being kept so long from his presence-would he, and all the other holy men of every age, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and saints, whether of the Patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian Churches, would they complain of our Services being TOO LONG ?
"O no, Sir, that is not to be imagined. So neither ought we to complain, heirs with them of the same promises, and looking to meet them hereafter in our one great eternal Home."
"Richard," I replied, "you say true. As it is dangerous for an individual to take for his guidance any but a perfect pattern of Christian conduct, so is it dangerous for the Church to follow any but a perfect model of Christian worship, so far as perfection can be obtained. Her rules should be framed, not according to what people are, but what they ought to be: otherwise you must plainly see that a door will be at once opened for numberless errors as well in doctrine as in practice."
'Yes, Sir, I see it," he replied. "And therefore, it seems to me, that when on such subjects popular opinion runs vehemently in a wrong direction, (or if not wrong, at least questionable,) that then it is not the best time, but the very worst possible, for yielding to its fancies. So that even if it should be at any time, necessary or expedient (which I cannot think it ever will be) to shorten the Church Services, yet then is the very worst of all times to set about it, when there is the greatest demand for it."
"You are quite right," I said, "beyond all doubt. But I think it would be a great support to the good cause, that is, to the cause of GoD, and truth, the Church and the Prayerbook; and also a great encouragement to such among us of the clergy as desire to stand in the old paths; if in every parish a few serious thinking persons would consider of drawing up and signing a solemn address to their respective Bishops, plainly saying that they utterly disapprove of all plans whatever for shortening the Church Service, unless some, urgent cause should arise, stronger than they have ever yet heard; and that as churchmen they never can or will consent to any such plans of miscalled Church reform. For you know, Richard, laymen are quite as much part of THE CHURCH as the clergy; and it is your right and duty to stand up in its defence, as much as it is ours."
"Sir," he replied, "you may be sure I would gladly sign such a declaration as this you propose, and I think I know four or five more who would sign it also with all their hearts."
"That will be sufficient," I said, " for our parish, for no doubt the Bishops will estimate the value of such addresses, not by the quantity, but by the quality of those who sign them-not by the
number of names, but by the worth of those who bear them, their honesty, piety, and truth."
So we agreed that an address of this kind should be prepared, and kept ready to be presented to the Bishop whenever circumstances should seem to require.
Not of course that we were so vain as to expect that our exertions could be of much avail; but still, as Richard said, "We cannot stand by and see the noble old Prayer-book pulled to pieces, just to humour a mob of Tiptops, Gapes, and Yawns."
The Feast of St. Matthew, 1834.
These Tracts are continued in Numbers, and sold at the price of 2d. for each sheet, or 7s. for 50 copies.
LONDON: PRINTED FOR J. G. & F. RIVINGTON,