write her name. But it is so cold, and he must sleep for a few minutes. He will write her name when he awakes. But he never does awake.

Is he a son, too young, perhaps, to have been smitten very deeply with love for a maiden? His dying thoughts are wholly with his mother. No one scene, either of dread parting or of playful affection, brings her image before him, for, from his mother it has been continuous love ; and it is the fond recollection of his whole short life-time, shared with her, that is present to his mind at once. Her grief, which he knows will not cease until her life ceases, is no consolation to him.

Is he a husband and a father? His are the bitterest feelings. There is no consolation here--at least, no earthly consolation. What a world this is, in which he leaves those dear ones, is but too clearly manifest to him from the way in which he has been made to depart from it. It would be a temptation worthy of the Arch-Tempter himself, standing by that dying soldier, to try what portion of his soul's welfare he would imperil, so that he might be permitted to behold his wife and children once again, if only in this dying hour.

He listens for aid to come: to him life is still inexpressibly dear.

He hears the galloping of horse; but his trained hearing knows that this is only the quick pursuit of friends or foes, and not the approach of any

aid for him. The cold wind makes its strident noise amidst the reeds; he watches them bend before it; and it is, perhaps, the last thing that he sees or thinks about.

Some, the least fatally wounded, have spare thought for a fellowsufferer lying near, and crawl to aid him; but the most part are lost in an overpowering pity and sorrow for themselves. And, besides, they are so thirsty.

There is in all their minds, whether they are sons, husbands, or lovers, a pervading sense of horrible ill-usage—ill-usage, by whom they scarcely know or care; but had they energy, they would be inclined to curse the universal nature of things.

And oh, my God! how I wish that some of those who are the prime causers of all this agony, could themselves suffer some of the agony they cause. But no: they are away in snug rooms, telegraphing accounts of victory, or summoning for slaughter new levies to their aid. Their time has not yet come.

Maulererer. And thus great nations are welded together, and historians write grandly about this welding, and the grass is very green in certain spots of the earth's surface, and everything is quite satisfactory in this “best of all possible worlds."

[There was no more conversation after this, to-day, worth recording; and so I close the chapter.]

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

THE subject of this article

has acquired some prominence of late from the indirect condemnation which the Archbishop of Canterbury has passed upon it. In reply to the kindly offer of the Synod of Athens to perform the rites of burial and offer the usual prayers of their Church on behalf of such English churchmen as happened to die beyond the reach of their own clergy, the archbishop asserted that “our Church does not sanction such prayers.” Of the wisdom, or taste, or good feeling of such a statement, on such an occasion, it is not necessary to express any opinion. But the statement itself, if I may venture to say so, seems to me hardly consistent with the facts of the case, and it is with that aspect of it alone that I propose to deal in the remarks which follow. I wish, first of all, to ascertain the mind of the Church of England on the subject, and then, secondly, to consider whether the doctrine is, on its own merits, reprehensible or the reverse.

With regard to the first point, it is, of course, unnecessary to pass beyond the Reformation period; for everybody knows that the Church of England before the Reformation inculcated and practised prayers for the dead. What, then, was the teaching of the English Reformers?

The first formal exposition of doctrine put forth by the Reformers was the Ten Articles of 1536, which a few years later were expanded

into “The Institution of a Christian Man." This careful and elaborate summary of Christian doctrine was published by authority of Convocation in the year 1544, and was the work of a commission consisting of all the bishops of the English Church, eight archdeacons, and seventeen other doctors of divinity, making forty-six in all. The head of the commission was, of course, Archbishop Cranmer. Hugh Latimer, then Bishop of Worcester, was also a member, and among other names I find that of John Voysey, Bishop of Exeter. On the question of prayers for the dead the “Institution of a Christian " speaks as follows:

“Forasmuch as due order of charity requireth, and the Book of Maccabees and divers ancient doctors plainly show, that it is a very good and charitable deed to pray for souls departed ; and forasmuch also as such usage hath continued in the Church so many years, even from the beginning, we will that all bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach our people committed by us unto their spiritual charge, that no man ought to be grieved with the continuance of the same, and that it standeth with the very due order of charity a Christian man to pray for souls departed, and to commit them in our prayers to God's mercy.”

The passage then goes on to say that, inasmuch as Almighty God had not revealed the manner and degree in which the prayers of the Church benefited the souls of the faithful departed, so the Church of England declined to dogmatise on the subject, further than by saying that the doctrine had no necessary connection with “such abuses as under the name of purgatory hath been advanced.”

In the same year in which this was published, one of the commissioners, Hugh Latimer, declared, in a sermon before Convocation, that the doctrine of prayers for the dead “was never lost” from the teaching of the Christian Church.

The next point I shall take is the Prayer-Book of Edward VI.

In the Office for the Burial of the Dead, when the priest throws earth upon the corpse, he says, “I commend thy soul to God the Father Almighty, and thy body to the ground,” &c.

The next prayer begins thus :-“We commend into Thy hands of mercy, most merciful Father, the soul of this our brother departed, that when the judgment shall come, which Thou hast committed to Thy well-beloved Son, both this our brother and we may be found acceptable in Thy sight, and we may receive that blessing,” &c.

The next prayer concludes thus :—"Grant, we beseech Thee, that at the day of judgment his soul, and all the souls of Thy elect departed out of this life, may with us, and we with them, fully receive Thy promises, and be made perfect altogether, through the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Second Lesson is followed by some versicles, of which the following are samples: The priest says, with reference to the dead,

“From the gates of hell,” and the congregation reply, “ Deliver their souls, O Lord !

Then follows a prayer, in which occurs this petition :-“Grant unto this Thy servant that the sins which he committed in this world be not imputed unto him, but that he, escaping the gates of hell and pains of eternal darkness, may ever dwell in the region of light, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the place where is no weeping, sorrow, nor heaviness."

This is almost a literal rendering of a prayer in the Apostolical Constitutions, which shows the practice of the Christians of the third century. The prayer is as follows:

“Let us pray for our brethren departed in the faith of Christ, that the most merciful God, who has received the spirits of the deceased, would forgive all their voluntary and involuntary failings; and that, being restored to the Divine favour, they may have a place assigned them in the region of the blessed ; in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in the company of those where pain and sorrow and dissatisfaction have no place."

But I may be told that the First Prayer-Book of Edward VI. was superseded by the Second Prayer-Book, from which prayers for the dead were rigidly excluded. My answer to that objection is this: The very authority which published and sanctioned the second book -i.e., Church and Parliament-declared explicitly and emphatically that it was not intended as a condemnation or censure of anything contained in the first book. The Act of Parliament by which the second book of King Edward was ratified, states that there was nothing in the first book but what was “agreeable to the Word of God and the primitive Church, very comfortable to all good people desiring to live in Christian conversation.” The Act then goes on to explain “that such doubts as had been raised in the use and exercise thereof proceeded rather from the curiosity of the minister and mistakers than from any other worthy cause.” The Act of Uniformity bears still stronger testimony to the excellence and orthodoxy of the first book, for it declares that “ by the aid of the Holy Ghost it was with one uniform agreement concluded."

I think I am right, therefore, in asserting that in substituting the Prayer-Book of 1552 for that of 1549, the Church of England was as far as possible from refusing her sanction to anything contained in the latter. She expressly guarded against any such inference in the passages which I have just quoted; and, therefore, the Second PrayerBook of Edward VI. cannot be accepted as any argument in favour of the view that the Church of England “does not sanction” prayers for the dead. They were excluded under pressure from Calvin, acting on the English Reformers through the boy-king and through Bucer and Peter Martyr, who were then holding positions of considerable influence in England. Calvin's objection to prayers for the

dead were natural enough; for they were inconsistent with his doctrine that the great mass of mankind are irrevocably foreordained to eternal damnation, while the smail flock of the elect, whose fall was impossible, were privileged to enter heaven as soon as they passed away from earth. But the Church of England has ever instinctively recoiled against the unchristian cruelty of the Calvinistic system, and has never without protest; accepted, even temporarily, any

of its fundamental tenets. The Second Prayer-Book of Edward VI. was, of course, abolished on the accession of Queen Mary in 1553. When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 she took immediate steps to restore some of the most important omissions in the Prayer-Book of 1552, and her Primer of 1559 contains prayers for the dead. The Marian persecution, however, had caused such an anti-Roman reaction that even the strong Tudor will of Queen Elizabeth could do comparatively little against it. Those who had fled to the Continent during the reign of Mary now returned with soured, and in some cases vengeful, feelings, and thought that it was impossible to rush too far or too fast in a direction opposite to that of Rome. Such a period of feverish excitement was not very favourable to a policy of moderation, and Queen Elizabeth, backed as she was by the support of the old leaders of the Reformation, found it impossible to restore, as she wished to do, the First Prayer-Book of Edward VI. in its integrity. But all the alterations made were in that direction. The commemoration of the faithful departed was not, however, restored to its old place in the prayer for the Church militant till the last review in 1661.

The present state of the question, then, so far as the Church of England is concerned, I take to be this. In the years 153, 1544, and 1549, she gave, freely, deliberately, and publicly her sanction to the doctrine of prayers for the dead, and that sanction she has never since withdrawn. On the only occasion on which she seemed to do so (1552), she was careful to put on record, through the mouth of Parliament and Convocation, a distinct protest that that was not her intention. And, as a matter of fact, prayer for the dead was not altogether excluded even from the Second Prayer-Book of Edward VI., though it was certainly reduced to very narrow compass.

“ There was one clause,” says the very moderate Wheatley, “permitted to stand” in the Prayer-Book of 1552, “ viz., in the prayer that immediately follows the Lord's Prayer, in which, till the last review, we prayed that we WITH THIS OUR BROTHER, and all others departed in the true faith of God's holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss." He goes on to say, what we all know, that the Puritans at the Savoy Conference objected to the words, “with this our brother,” not because it implied, as it certainly did, prayers for the dead, but

« ElőzőTovább »