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proper dislike, to be always advertising themselves and their opinions on sacred matters (one is amazed sometimes at the amount of deep religious feeling one finds in the most unlikely subjects; because a man does not label himself one thing one has no right to assume that he is necessarily the opposite), or else he must stand guilty of making a serious accusation on insufficient grounds against men with whom he is not acquainted. No one, of course, would maintain that the majority of men up at the 'Varsities were godly young gentlemen only living to see what work they could do for the Church, but to make a statement such as the above one of Mr. Deane's is, to say the least, hyperbolical. It is difficult to meet his other statements in this connection with criticism seeing that they are merely bald assertions, but as I have ceased being a resident undergraduate for nearly three years and probably had as extensive and varied an acquaintance as Mr. Deane, I beg to state that as regards the average man at Oxford it is incorrect to say that 'agnosticism is regarded as a hall-mark of intellectuality; 'it is incorrect to say that it is considered 'fine to scoff at ancient beliefs ; ' and it is not the sign of culture to ridicule by cheap jests any allusion to Christianity.'
The disbelieving wholly in everything 'must have odd results, as, according to Mr. Deane, it is apparently an easy and certain path to admiration, and also one adopted by the majority of undergraduates. Are we to suppose that these naughty disbelievers are objects of admiration to the minority of men who believe in something, or are we to suppose that these incredulous persons form a great mutual admiration society comprising a majority of the men up? One or other of these conclusions seems to follow from Mr. Deane's premises, and for arriving at the right one I should recommend him to go and spend a week within half a mile of Carfax and observe carefully. I would lay him considerable odds that he would find that a 'Rugger' blue commanded vastly more admiration than a man who disbelieved wholly in everything.
Mr. Deane's description of the religious condition of the freshman starts in error, but it finishes in truth. He is said to 'cavil at authority in any form,' which is a true if not quite original remark concerning a young Englishman between the ages of eighteen and twenty; but the sentence which went to my-well, heart, was Mr. Deane's last, which has much pathetic truth in it. He says: The freshman looks upon agnosticism as, like his cigar, the symbol of intellectual manhood.' I did not know before that at the 'Varsity a cigar was a symbol of intellectual manhood even in the eyes of a fresher (I have known a passman smoke one). But the picture Mr. Deane draws of the fresher looking upon his agnosticism as he does upon his cigar is exquisite. Ah me! those cigars. How well we remember them, as with clammy brow and palsied hand we gazed with fishy eye on the unclean thing, and saw that there was at least three-quarters of it left. But the picture is a painful one.
I only call attention to it because Mr. Deane is quite right in implying that the attitude of the average freshman (or of most other men) at Oxford towards agnosticism is like his attitude towards his (first) cigar.
No; I do not think that agnosticism is what Mr. Deane or anyone else need fear at the University. His picture of a great number of young men who will one day have their part to play in shaping the destinies of the British Empire, living in a condition of easygoing agnosticism and helped therein by a set of wicked young dons who are ó too often open deriders of religion,' is sad but incorrect. Mr. Deane overrates the influence of the young dons, who are generally excellent young reading men of quiet disposition who wish to do their duty by their college, and who live in a more or less constant state of siege; and I believe that most people who know undergraduates will condemn Mr. Deane's estimate of them for, among others, the reasons given above.
But Mr. Deane has hit upon much that is in need of reform in the latter part of his article, and if he had only seen that indifferentism, and not agnosticism, is the difficulty to be overcome, he would have discovered still more. And this indifferentism pervades the whole body academic from top to bottom. It is only too true that there are many priests holding fellowships at Oxford who never seem to do a stroke of work for the Church amongst the undergraduates. It is only too true that the College chapel services are, in many cases, simply disgraceful, and these are facts which can be readily observed and easily verified. One shudders to think of the harangues—Greats lectures watered down to the passman's capacity-under which one has sometimes been compelled to sit of a Sunday afternoon. Can those who are responsible for these effusions blame the undergraduates for occasional lapses to paganism illustrated by nocturnal sacrifices to Moloch in the College quadrangles ? I well remember one epochmaking sermon in which we were informed that nu' was “the resolved imperfect' (whatever that may be !), and surely to describe the Gospels as “the Memorabilia of Jesus Christ' is not edifying ! The way, too, that the lessons are sometimes read hurts. I remember a scholar once opening the Bible at random, and reading a Psalm with several Selahs in it! And some time ago in one college chapel it was observed that one morning service in the year was always abnormally attended. Men who ordinarily never went near the chapel used to crowd in five minutes before the service, and a man who was late could hardly get a seat. The reason was that there was a leaf of the Bible missing, and everyone came to view the embarrassment of the unfortunate scholar who happened to be reading the lessons on this particular day, and was brought up short in the middle by the absence of the necessary letterpress. It is hard to believe that this was allowed to continue unremedied for some time, but it is a fact that it was. The theology professorial lectures are sometimes a scandal. The lamblike innocence of lecturers, who think that, because 'Here, sir’is loudly bawled when a man's name is called out, the owner is therefore necessarily present, is most refreshing. when the professor had unexpectedly stopped to take breath, a painfully penetrating voice was heard to say, 'I'll go four.' The more virtuous of those attending used to copy out other lectures. But these lectures are only for those who intend to take orders, so I suppose they do not matter. They illustrate well the gross indifference of some of those in authority in the most important of all educational work, viz. the preparation of young men for ordination, The Bishops are rapidly recognising this, and many of them have practically pronounced the greatest educational organisation in the world inadequate for and incapable of producing a man fit for ordination by desiring a year at a theological college. And they are quite right too.
One cannot help thinking, one only hopes wrongly, that many of the clerical Fellows are utterly indifferent to the spiritual welfare of men under their care, and do not in the least realise that they are responsible for them. How many of them can honestly say that they, as priests of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, have done their utmost for the young men under their charge? Or, to look at it from the undergraduates' point of view, how many priestly Fellows are there to whom a man would care to go in a time of trouble for ghostly comfort and friendly counsel ? You could almost count them on the fingers of one hand. With such a state of things amongst those in authority, what can be expected of the undergraduates ? Of course a man becomes slack, of course he becomes indifferent. You are dealing not with grown men of matured opinion, but for the most part with young fellows who have yet to form their opinions on almost every subject, who are at the most susceptible time of their life, who can be taught anything and led in any direction, and, as a rule, they are taught nothing, and are let go whithersoever they will. The result is not agnosticism ; it is indifferentism in the many, ruin in the few. If only many of those in authority were more in touch with the life of the place, and were more cognisant of what is too frequently the state of things, they would be wondrously surprised. But they are not in touch, and they do not know, and so they sit and fiddle while invaluable lives are being frittered away.
There is a great work being now done by men like the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Head of the Pusey House, the Vicar of St. Mary's, and the Head of the Oxford House. But this ought to be done too by the dons in the colleges. Let Mr. Deane go to the Head of the Oxford House, who knows more of and is better known by undergraduates than any one else in Oxford or out of it, and ask him what
he thinks about agnosticism in Oxford. Mr. Ingram's work is proof positive of what can be done to abolish indifferentism. He would be the first to acknowledge the enthusiasm which marks his crowded meetings at Oxford, and which sends men to help him in his splendid work. Everyone cannot do wbat he has done and is doing, but numbers of priests at Oxford can do far more than they are now doing. That is partly what they are put there for, and they did not have the words of the office for the ordination of priests thundered over their heads that they might sit in their comfortable rooms and do nothing except cram men in Latin and Greek for examinations. There are notable exceptions, but not nearly enough of them; and their success only shows what might be done if every college don who was a priest and a man remembered it, and did not sometimes behave like something else.
With this part of Mr. Deane's essay many will cordially agree, but this agreement will not extend to all that he says in conclusion. The apparent objections to compulsory chapel are numerous, but his argument that voluntary chapels would be well attended seems to savour of the argument of the Anarchist, that if the police were disbanded no one would steal anything. The main objection to the present compulsory chapel is the disgraceful way in which it is conducted. For this there can be no sort of excuse. If the service were earnest, simple, and bright, it would go with plenty of swing, and men would no longer lounge and take no notice. But what Mr. Deane overlooks is that, whether it is well conducted or whether it is not, the service of the Church of England is a constant witness to certain things for everyone who hears it, and that in the case of young men who are professing Churchmen, and are not yet old enough to judge for themselves, this witness ought to be forced upon them if they will not take it voluntarily. In some colleges a liberal chapel policy is pursued towards those senior men who are out of college, and who may be presumed to be more able to judge for themselves. (It is likely enough that men are often compelled to keep too many chapels. The idea that a man shall keep his term by keeping so many chapels is obviously an abomination, prostituting the service of the Church to subserve the requirements of university discipline.) Religion is a matter for education, and a greater or less degree of coercion is always necessary for the education of those in statu pupillari. One day, at the decisive moment which comes in every man's life, this witness will be with him and will have its effect. Even though it has been at times heard unwillingly and often in parrot-like fashion it will be heard, whereas if neglected it will be forgotten and lost, and wheresoever it may be that the critical moment comes the witness will be no longer there to spontaneously assert itself. In or or two ases one has had this fact impressed most strongly upon one, and it is, at all events, exceedingly sweeping to arbitrarily convict a debatable system like compulsory chapel of being absurd,' illogical,' and 'infinitely mischievous,' and an opinion one would not look for from a Cuddesdon man.
At Oxford there is, of course, no Paley. Instead thereof there is a ridiculous examination, called “Divinity Moderations' (commonly called ' Gossers' or 'Divinners' and respected accordingly) which is a nuisance and teaches no one anything, as it can be crammed up in a few days, and then forgotten in another. Still it is perhaps better than Paley. Why is not a regular training in faith and religion part of the necessary accompaniment of examinations leading to degree, with relief under a conscience clause? The ignorance of most men on such matters is astounding, and there is no counterpoise to the influence of the study of Greats and other influences on young and receptive minds.
Mr. Deane deserves many thanks for his article. He has broached a question which ought never to be allowed to rest till it is thrashed out. Much that he says is true, and the conclusions therefrom are true ; but with facts and conclusions in much of his paper he will find many who disagree strongly. One willingly concedes his earnestness and sincerity, but he should guard against sweeping generalisations of an uncomplimentary nature, which it is perfectly impossible for him to substantiate.
Our differences, however, only accentuate the more the points in which we agree, the chief of which is that many of the priests who now hold fellowships are not fulfilling their office by any means, much less magnifying it. Let them take heed. These are not times in which the Church of England can afford to be or intends to be asleep. There are signs abroad even now of a vastly increased desire for more discipline in the face of organised and vigorous attack, and when the time comes to set the house in order with a firm hand sleeping partners will be requested to go elsewhere. What should be desired is the Church Militant and not the Church Dormant, and Christianity rather than Indifferentism. This can only be attained by work in the University by the University for the University, and is largely a matter of education upon the right lines; and those who are responsible for this education we know, and it may interest them to learn from Mr. Deane that Cambridge is Agnostic and knows nothing, and from others that Oxford is In different and does not care.