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“Indeed ; and he attends generally ?"
"I should think so : though he don't half like his office I can tell ye. There's a great many people in the parish as has made up their minds about the church rates; they won't come nigh the place, and they won't pay neither, for what they call all this popish nonsense. They did talk of going to the bishop : and I can tell you something, I reckon, about that. You saw that gentleman in the chancel?”
“What, Dr. Shoveller?" I enquired.
“No, no," said he-" that's not the man; he's as bad as any of them. He's a nothingarian or an anythingarian : he never cared at all about religion till he got in with Glosenfane. And now he'd stand up for that man through thick and thin."
"I beg your pardon, Byfield,” said I; "who then ? Who do you mean?”
“ The gentleman that passed us in the church-yard-his name's Somerland; but I can't tell for the life of me how he came to sit with the parson,"
“ A friend of his, perhaps?" I suggested.
“Anything but that. He called on me early this morning, and asked all kinds of questions about these strange goings on at the church ; and then he goes right away to the parson, walking, as you may say, right into the lion's mouth. I thought he was going to see what he could do to help us with our remonstrance to the bishop; but that don't look like it : do it Mr. Enderby?”
How the thought came into my mind, I cannot pretend to say; but I was at no loss in imagining a reason for the conduct of this strange gentleman. He might have other business besides that of collecting information as to the feeling of the parishioners on the subject of this Tractarian movement. Judging from the little I had seen of him, and weighing these and many other remarks made by Byfield on the subject, I could not certainly believe that he was very friendly to the interests of Mr. Glosenfane. Yet it was not easy to understand why any one so honest and straightforward as our friend appeared to be, should wait upon the very man whose downfall it was pretty evident he would not have been unwilling to assist in. But the secret lying only in my own bosom, I was unwilling to bring it forward.
_" Why, no!” said I, resuming the conversation after this
brief colloquy with myself—" It certainly does not. Yet such a gentleman as he was, cannot, I am quite sure, be playing a double game."
At this point our conversation was brought to a close. Byfield was within sight of his home, which stood on the borders of an old untrodden heath. It reminded me of the Reve's dwelling so graphically mentioned by one of our poets
“ His wonning was full fayre upon an heth ;
The trees had now, however, passed into “ the sere and yellow leaf ;" and in the old orchard beyond the house, scarcely hid from view the glowing clusters of late fruit that still hung there in the grateful sunshine.
As I walked home I had my thoughts all to myself, and they naturally enough ran back to our recent conversation and the circumstances out of which it arose. Taking my Bible from my pocket, I turned again to the parable of the sower, which had lately occupied much of my attention, as connected with the subject of Education. As in all the instances there mentioned, both the seed, and the manner of sowing were alike good, though the results were so widely different, I seemed to be shut up to the inference that this diversity must result from some peculiarity in the soil. On this point, indeed, the same text itself was clear enough. The way side, the stony places, the thorns, and the good ground, were types sufficiently expressive of the fact. I had therefore but one idea to work out, and determining to keep my eye on this, I hoped to simplify the whole question, and to educe a practical and profitable result.
And first of all, it seemed remarkable that every one addressed by the word, heard it. There was no difficulty about that. One party did not understand it; another starved it, and a third overlaid it with rubbish: but they all heard it. They did not, nor could they, plead inability on that score.
Now as Faith is the root of the Christian Life, and “ faith cometh by hearing,” there can be no excuse for those who contend that Christianity is not for them -- that the soil is not adapted to the seed, and that the dictates of the Bible are those “hard sayings" which few, or none, can hear.
Well, then ; they all heard the Word-but how? The first heard ignorantly. They “understood it not.” The good seed only reached the MEMORY; and even there it left the most vague of all vague impressions—a film, a cloud, a hazy mist, shapeless and ill defined as those patches of milky light that of late years have so perplexed astronomers. The body merely—the outward form of words—is all that lies there; the soul and sense are gone. The image - no, not the image ; the mere ghost or phantasm—has never touched the mind. It has not come home to it, in its first crude shape, as the raw material of Information, from which principles and sentiments are to be elicited, and on which must rest a steady, consistent, righteous line of practice. And hence it is that he who dreads the Word itself, is a hero in contending with its shadow. It is not, as in the other cases, the world, or persecution, that assaults these way-side hearers, but the great adversary himself. “Then cometh the Wicked One and catcheth away that which was sown.” A crouch, a spring, a clutch, and the prey is borne off for ever. The breath of the Destroyer passes over it, and the glimmering haze that at best but faintly reflected the light of God's truth, has melted away into the blackness of darkness.
These then are the hearers whose representatives still live in the Walkinshaws, and that extensive school, the motto on whose phylactery might well be
" THE UPPER PART
Yet these are they who obtain a notoriety they could achieve by no other means when received into the pseudo-aristocracy of Tractarianism, or announced as having been publicly admitted to the Romish church, in the journals of the day. Every one counts one, all the world over ; but estimating Wiclif, or Luther, as the unit, what is really the infinitesimal value of such silly recusants as these ?
The question now so common-" Why are the conversions to popery so numerous?” ought only to be answered by another,
“Why should they not be ?" Is it so wonderful that those persons whose very
name to live while they are dead” is dim, dark, and indistinct, should catch at the first offer of a way to heaven? Oh! if the Unclean Spirit, who knows every chamber of the heart from having lived there, should find it swept and garnished when he leaves it for a moment alone in the vastness of its vacuity, is it any wonder that he should bring home with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself ; and thus defile the house, and make the latter end of its possessor worse than his beginning?
And how much better is he who receives the seed into stony places ? It drops into a selfish heart, and not into the head. Some of the affections are quickened, for he “receives it with joy;" but it works no settled nor salutary change of principle. His love of the truth is momentary and impulsive. The impression lasts a little while, but by and bye he is offended. It does not answer his expectation. He can give no good reason for the hope that is in him, and therefore tribulation or persecution soon drives it out. But the most common feature in this religion of impulse is selfishness. It is gladly welcomed because it promises to be pleasant and profitable ; and it is so delightful to possess something which others have not. The Jew was offended when the Word of Life was made common to the Gentile; the elder son was angry when his younger brother was allowed to share again their father's favor; and just so the man who makes more haste than good speed in religion, takes umbrage when he finds it is no monopoly. There are many such professors in the world—men who can not only talk of Christ, but preach Christ, " of contention and ill-will”- men whose hand is against every man’s; and who are ready at a moment’s notice to take up any position from which they can launch their bolts at those with whom they are, often causelessly, offended. The elements of their mental constitution are precisely those which belong to the Pope himself. Why, therefore, should not popery claim them for her own? The papacy of Antinomianism is of the same type as that of Rome; and Major Goode and all of his school will be as much at home within the one pale as the other.
Then there are hearers of the will men who receive the seed into the head, while the heart remains untouched. The world
overlies and smothers it, and it remains unfruitful. “The cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches," as in the case of John Curtis, “ choke the word.” It has no stamina by which it can spring up again from the iron hoof of popery, or withstand the specious blight of Puseyism. And sometimes the freshening influences of heaven are quite shut out by the rampant growth of Philosophy and Science, falsely so called, “the lusts of other things,” and pleasures of this life—as in the instance of the learned and eccentric Doctor Shoveller. Men who, like him, have never felt their religion, may as well hold with one form as another.
“He who is not with Me," said our Saviour, "is against Me." The Truth is no mere negation. To believe is as much a real act, as to do. The “unbelieving" stands in the same category with the “ abominable," and the “murderer," so that the only ques. tion to be now decided is-Are these classes of whom we have just spoken, believers in the Bible-sense of that expression ? Is that man a Christian, whose creed lies, crude and shapeless, in the Memory alone, in the Affections, or in the Will; and if not a Christian, why may he not be anything or everything else? The Seed may be good, the Sowing may be good ; but an ill. adapted Soil, whether lean and hungry, or over-rich, may spoil the whole business of mental and moral culture.
What then is a fitting soil ? The Scriptures tell us it is “ an honest and good heart”—honest in rightly balancing the feelings and faculties which God has given it; and good, in regulating all, by the wisdom which cometh from above. It is a mind of which Reason holds the vice-royalty, and Revelation the undisputed throne. All therefore that God requires of us is that we should deal honestly with his precepts—that our calm, unbiassed JUDGMENT, first cleansed by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, should mete out, and weigh, and rightly divide his Truth, giving to each and all the principles of our mental nature, so much as belongs to it and no more. To give an undue proportion to any, is to destroy the balance that should exist between all, and therefore it is well and wisely written, that “ to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole of man."
This was the substance of my musings, as I returned from the church of St. Fabian at Springclose to my own quiet home; and