« ElőzőTovább »
insert a that reale on the
more, I knew quite well by something in their gait and manner and surroundings, neither to the one nor to the other. In later days our little town has grown and become quite the centre of a large manufacture, and now the numbers of those who will not go to church have very much increased; but I can always remember that there were many idlers, and loafers, and country-walk takers, at all events, in some way or other, non-attendants at worship, and the fact has served as a very pregnant topic of meditation to myself. There are little bits in my diary which bear upon it, sometimes the number of people who passed the chapel certainly bent on pleasuring, and even here and there comparative estimates as to the worshippers at one place or the other, or at no place at all, and perhaps it may not be amiss that I should in this chapter discuss the matter.
Let not any reader object that it is unphilosophical and a mistake in art thus to insert a chapter which does not exactly come in the proper order. For if that reader has at all properly and in a fit spirit perused my discourse on the Naophylakian order of ministry, he will feel so greatly the impression of that important office that to proceed directly and at once to another order, and that but little inferior in sanctity and magnificencenamely, the Thyroegian-would be more than the average student could bear. He who gazes at a brilliant star steadily and for awhile cannot direct his eye at once to another resplendent member of the stellar family. He must look either at one of minor magnitude, or at the Milky Way, or shut his eyes and seem to be meditating on what he has seen; and then, after a little rest and relief, he is able to return to the close observation of a new and shining orb. Or, if that illustration be somewhat too scientific for the taste of some of my readers, let me borrow another from the habits and customs of meetings, such as Bible, missionary, anniversary, tea, or the like. The wise manager of such a meeting is far too wary to put up a great speaker-a hero of the platform, the victor of a thousand tea-fights—immediately after another, his equal, rival, who is almost certain to have produced a deep and enthusiastic impression upon the audience. It would be more than the audience could bear. Not even that bevy of young females who sit at the right hand of the platform, surrounding a grim, self-possessed, elderly female, and who acknowledge her as mistress of the school for young ladies, so celebrated in the advertising columns of some of our newspapers and magazines, could endure two such speeches, one immediately following the other; and they have been trained into preserving self-possession under any excitement. No, there must be a contrast, a gentle passage, a time of repose ; and so the wary secretary inserts some dull brother, who yet may be depended on for brevity, or even in extremis whose coat-tails may be pulled without fear of offence. Thus the audience repose, and quietly chew the cud of meditation whilst the last speaker is cooling, and the other great gun is busily making notes for his effort, which comes upon a people ready to be once more aroused, without the very difficult task of sustaining the effect produced by Lion No.1.
Need the author apply his illustrations ? As obscurity is the very last charge which he would have made against him, he ventures to do so. The reader has gazed upon a star, even Salem's Naophylax, or chapel-keeper. (Star, is it? Sun, I should have said, but there are not two suns to be looked at in the heaven, and so the illustration would have seemed unnatural.) Steadily has the reader gazed. He is dazzled, almost blinded at the glory of this great church officer. What then? He must either gaze at some Milky Way or at some minor luminary, or shut his eye and rest. This latter favour the editor will not allow the author. He therefore gives the reader the rest, the change of vision needed by the watching of the nebular crowd who are dispersed anywhere but at worship. Then will his steady gaze revert to the single stars, and the next glorious will be attentively considered. Or, to apply the other illustration : the effect of the last two chapters must have been such as to demand for the reader some repose. Another such as they would have been too exciting, demanding too great a strain of the student's understanding ; therefore is this calm and quiet parenthesis. It may be skipped if the reader pleases, but the author would recommend the reader not to do that. At least it will prove an agreeable set-off against the brilliance of the subject last treated, and & pleasant preparation for that other overwhelming personage to whom next the reader will be introduced-namely, the Thyroigos, or pew-opener.
After this somewhat protracted excursus let me return to my point of observation-at the open window upon Sunday morning, watchful of the people who go neither to church nor chapel. It is approaching eleven o'clock. The parish church bells ring a joyous peal. Who was the man I wonder that invented church bells ? If I were a Romanist I would say a mass every day for that man's soul. He has given even to God's Sabbath gladness another smile. Yes, there are the bells. With a noisy, fussy, interrupting kind of sound the one bell of the new district church is also ringing lustily, but mercifully not to drown the melody of the rector's octave. Church people and chapel people pass each other. The chapel stream comes up the street to Salem ; the church stream goes down the street to St. Peter's, separating at the first turning to the right,
where some go off to the new St. Michael's. But, together with the ascending stream Salem-wards, there are some who I am sure are not going thither. See, they pass on, and away along the road that leads out of town into the country. Now the bells cease. The worshippers are fewer. The straggling late ones hurry up, and, hark! there begins the opening psalm. Yes, say what you will about it, I love to hear the good old tune, Wareham, and almost catch the words
" Lord of the Sabbath, hear our vows,
On this Thy day in this Thy house." But the passers-by continue. Indeed, I almost fancy there are more of them, and as the day approaches noon they still increase, evidently not bent church or chapel wards. They have passed the churches; for see, they come up the street, at the top of which Salem stands, and they turn to the right, and join the other stream which comes along the street running at right angles, and there is no place of worship beyond Salem except a room belonging to the Bible Christians, and my friends do not at all convey the notion of Bible Christians by their appearance. Besides, they would fill the little place to overflowing ten times over. No; depend upon it they are " off and away” for a Sunday out.
There is a mechanic and his younger brother, with two boys, tidily dressed, clean and smartened up. Next come half a dozen who do not boast Sunday clothes, or at least do not sport them, but rejoice in the week-day apparel, not too clean, accompanied by two or three dogs, and attended by a gun. That's the publican and his wife and daughter in their little gig, drawn by a pony about the best stepper in Market Brampton. They are chiefly men who pass by, for this is the morning, and they are going to take their morning's walk. Then you will find they return at about one o'clock to dinner, and after a rest, perhaps for a nap or a pipe, while the wife is washing up the things, the whole family start off for the regular Sunday outing—father, mother, children, friends, sister, and the young man who “ keeps company” with the last mentioned.
As I lie here at my window this will be the scene presented all day long. Hundreds of people, especially the small shopkeepers and artisans, going out for the day; and besides these, I know many others whose last thought will be anent assembling for public worship. There is my doctor, for example—a good fellow, clever, learned, kind-hearted, but who never dreams of going to church. Chapel, of course, would be unprofessional. He sees a few patients in the morning, spends the rest of the day either among his books, or drops in upon myself when he knows that I am at home, and enjoys, and I confess I enjoy too, a pleasant, lively talk about any.
Friday christening, and certainly th
thing and everything, from zoophytes to argels, from the latest gossip of the town to the last question before Parliament. We are sometimes joined by Leach, the editor of the newspaper, who has not been inside a church for certainly thirty years, except at a marriage or christening, and, most queer custom, regularly on Good Friday and Christmas Day. Indeed I was told that last Good Friday he stayed at the communion; but I have never liked to ask him about that piece of gossip, feeling it was too sacred a subject to be just lightly treated.
Now then, here are the people who spend Sunday certainly not in the “assembling of themselves together.” What is there, I have asked myself, which keeps these men and women away from church? Why will they not enter my own beloved Salem ? And I must confess the more I think about it the more I am puzzled. Some of them are “fresh air philosophers.” They are the gentlemen who love to worship God in nature. They find the roof of a conventicle stifling, while the blue dome of heaven is wide and clear and fresh. Organs or even the melodious noses of the frequenters of Salem have no charm for their delicately attuned and musical tympanums. Singing under a ceiling is distressing, and the echoes in the long-drawn aisles are not to be compared to the cheering warble of birds, the babbling of brooks, or the strange, mysterious murmur of the forest leaves. “That's worship, sir,” as Tom Larkin, my shoemaker, and a genius in his way, says to me, as I sometimes get my chair rolled up to his little shop, and enjoy a talk with him as he sits at his bench and pegs away at a sole. Tom is an eloquent man, well read, and a character. To hear him address an election crowd is a treat; and I am told his harangues in the back parlour of the Plough are worthy of a place in the next treatise on Elocution and Oratory. “Well, Tom," I say, “and where were you last Sunday ? ”—for his wife is an eminent member of the Wesleyan persuasion, and is quite a leader of the “ Glories" and “Hallelujahs” which resound when the superintendent of the circuit-a very rousing preacher-visits Brampton. “I, sir ? " replies Tom, with an extra tug at the threads of St. Crispin,-“I communed with the inarticulate utterances profound and mystical of Nature's children. I mused in rapture with cloud and sky, with river and leaf. Ah! Mr. Vane, that was worship, if you like. I was a new man, and was admitted into the arcana of Divine power." “Now, Tom,” said I, “ don't be too eloquent. I could not go out last Sunday, and was at my window and saw you pass.”
Tom looked a little crestfallen.
“What sport, Tom ?." added I, for I did not like to press my advantage, as I had watched the eloquent son of Crispin go out with a gun and dog in the company of half a dozen of the loafers of the town, and at night saw him come back again (let me not appear to scandalise) certainly rather shaky in gait, as if the rapture of the arcana had been a trifle more than he could bear.
"Well, well, Mr. Vane,” replied Tom, “I only wish you could use your legs as you do your eyes. 'Twould be better for my trade -and eloquence," added Tom, as I laughingly told my man to take up our journey once again.
Yes! “worship of Nature's God” and “fresh-air philosophy.” These gentlemen seem to require powder and small shot as a part of the worship, and a dog appears a most necessary hierophant. Leach and the Doctor have their ways too of putting it; the publican and the weaver, they can assign some object in view ; but all agree in this—they don't care about going to worship, and so they do not go.
It has been a very fruitful subject of meditation, as I have said, for the Sundays when I myself was an absentee from Salem. Naturally my mind turned in that direction, and especially was aided by the scene outside.
“The necessity of recreation and fresh air" seemed to me to be a very poor reason indeed-in fact, to be rather an excuse. For many of those who urged it had short time on Saturday, and nowa days, indeed, have generally a half-holiday. Besides, it is not as if they availed themselves of the opportunity. An hour and a half spent in a place of worship would not take out very much from the day, and I am not such a Sabbatarian as to frown upon all enjoyment of Sundays, and for those who are immured all the week in close workshops and small rooms it seems natural enough that the day of rest should be spent in as much freedom and freshness as possible. But then they do not take all they can of exercise and fresh air. The fact is, some two or three miles from town is a little village, where on Sunday the beershops for the hours that they are open are crammed, where they take more money on Sunday than all the rest of the week put together. There is a teagarden also and a kind of restaurant in the road, and this is the general resort of the Sunday-outers. Most of them smoke, and between the smoke and the fumes of the drink, and the heat of lamps there is really not much fresh air inhaled, and I have my doubts of the real recreation enjoyed. Many of the working men who object to places of worship because they are so close and stifling-simply a repetition of the “holes where they work all the week”-spend many more hours than the hours of church-time in reeking public-houses and beershops, to return home besotted and unfitted for Monday's work. Poor Tom Larkin is a common example of the working man and his Sunday for fresh air and Nature's philosophy,