chant to them, I can imagine the look of pious horror with which the proposition would be received. Why, I met with one of them the other day who was overflowing with indignation, which he took the first opportunity of expressing to me as the new minister, because the chapel which was newly painted about twelve months since had been painted of a darker oak than before. “We're on the way to Rome,” he told me, with a passionate vehemence he could not restrain. I listened at first in amazement, and then tried to laugh it off as a joke, but soon found it was in grim earnest, and that the good man really regarded the dark oak as a symbol of that religious gloom which to him was characteristic of Rome. What such a man would think of a chant or of an occasional collect woven into one of my prayers (if he only knows enough of the Prayer-book to detect it) it is not difficult to predict. He is of course an extreme man, but there are numbers who, if they do not go so far, are largely in sympathy with them.

My chapel is just what you might expect it to be under such circumstances. There is not an attractive point about it. If an architect were employed in its erection his only idea must have been to secure the greatest possible accommodation at the lowest possible cost. It has, however, the great merit of simplicity and freedom from everything pretentious. It does not aspire to appear

better than it is, and much as I admire fine architecture, I have an idea that it would be far better for us as Dissenters to be content with these substantial structures, call them ugly, barn-like, or what you will, than to attempt what we do not accomplish. There is at least a reality about such buildings, and, what is more, they answer the ends for which they are designed. I have lately seen one or two modern chapels which have made me feel that it is possible to have more show without securing any real advantage. One of them, in particular, looked very attractive outside, at least to the uneducated eye. It had a kind of spire, and in some respects looked like a church, but if that was a gain it was dearly purchased, for what with the high, open roof and the tall Gothic columns, the building was utterly unsuited for the purposes of Congregational worship, and though it is not large the preacher could not be heard by half the congregation. The next Sunday, when I looked round on my own plain chapel, though there is not a solitary line of beauty in it, and saw it filled by a large assembly, every one of whom could see and hear with comfort, I felt that the old was better, and that Dissenters would do well to abide by it until some architect of rare genius is able to strike out a plan which unites the elegance of the new with the comfort of the old.

You will judge from the little I have told you that I have hard work before me. I cannot be content to pursue the beaten track of my predecessors, and to uphold the traditions and practices of Congregationalism at all costs. I have faith in the system rather than in its present modes of operation,'and my feeling is that justice has not yet been done to it. I have ideas of my own as to church arrangements, forms of worship, and other points of detail which I shall try to develope. I can foresee difficulties in my path, but I think I am not unprepared to encounter them. But I have already rambled on far too long in this selfish strain, and I fear you will begin to fancy that I have almost forgotten Chatterton and its interests. Be sure my thoughts are often with you, and I often sigh for some of the quiet hours of thought and happy intercourse we enjoyed there. Let me hear from you soon with full particulars of all your doings. Meanwhile remember your old companion, think of him in his work, and sometimes, in the little prayer-meeting which I suppose is held still, let a petition go up for Your sincere friend,






PEOPLE, FORTUNE, MISFORTUNE, AND SUCCESS IN LIFE. It is quite remarkable what a multitude of proverbs we find about fortune, and what a strange faith seems to have ruled men's beliefs that fortune is blind; how many proverbs canonize or consecrate the expression luck,” or seem to contain a shudder at unluck.” God give you luck, my son, for little wit must serve your turn,” says the Spanish. “ When wisdom fails luck helps," says the Danish. Fortune and women are partial to fools,” and “Lucky men need no counsel,” and “ Luck is better than a hundred pounds.” But then, on the other hand, our forefathers seem also to have had some perception that the happy life could not be made up of luck alone, for they said, “Luck will carry a man across a brook if he is not too lazy to leap,” and “ Luck comes to those who look after it," and again,“ When ill-luck falls asleep let nobody wake her,” and so again, Ill-luck is good for something,and “ Fortune aids the bold,” and “ Fortune often knocks at the door, but the fool does not invite her in." Our fathers set forth the capriciousness of circumstances in many an adage : “Fortune


wearies with carrying the same man always," " Fortune and misfortune are two buckets at the same well," " Fortune is like the market-bide your time and the price will fall," so variously the store-house of proverbs expresses the law of life. Yet some other proverbs finely express the independence of the soul, as “ Fortune has no power over discretion,” and Fortune can only take from us what she has given

Fortune dreads the brave,” and He is lucky who forgets what cannot be mended." The Hebrews dealt with these matters too; they had their proverbs concerning fortune, only what we should call fortune would have been to them Providence : The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Man is constantly in danger of misusing his freedom. Man was made to be free, and to use his freedom, and to grow by its use, but greater souls profess themselves, with Wordsworth,

“To feel the weight of too much liberty.” There are those whose happy and well-trained natures seem to rejoice and to become strong by the exercise of freedom, but for one such, ten thousand turn their freedom into a toy or into a vice. Dreadful, indeed, would be the fate of the world and the race, if God did not still retain His throne of umpire over the powers He has created and given. Nothing is more plain than that in man's nature there is an inevitable tendency to anarchy, and disobedience, and confusion--in fact, to licence and to lawlessness, although these appear by the side of the very instinct which desires order and unity. And God is constantly preserving the moral as well as the material equilibrium of our world. God is constantly reducing human actions to law. Some writers deny freedom to man from the prevalence of law. This is mere folly. The lot in the lap, that is the side of freedom; the Divine disposal then is the over-ruling law préventing freedom from becoming a calamity to the universe. Who is there who has not felt the bondage of the will? That great mystery is nevertheless like the mystery of life itself; to express it is to demonstrate it. What is the human race at the best but a congregation of handcuffed kings ? “A good archer is not known by his arrows, but by his aim,A good surgeon must have an eagle's eye, lion's heart, and lady's hand, but these all still need a good surgeon." The lot is cast into the lap, but with the lot in the lap man sits as if blindfolded, unable to use that, unable to dispose of that which seems exclusively at his disposal. His hands are free, but he is unable to discover the relations of his lot to the things around him. As we have it in Job, “The light is given, but the way is hidden." True, there are calculation and forethought, but how often an unexpected turn of affairs upsets a and brings about an entirely uncontemplated end. Man cannot make his moral calculations for a resisting medium; he cannot comprehend moral contingencies; these all indicate freedom. Man can insure against shipwrecks or fires, for these are of natural forces, but he cannot insure against a sudden emotion, a gust of passion, or an unexpected thought. That freedom by which God works, and beyond which He looks, and which He reins and controls, quite contravenes all man's designs; and hence how singular it is that in all ages man conceives fairness in blindness. “ Fortune is the blind goddess." While we direct it is doubtful, but when we give up the reins then all is true and equal and fair, hence the history of the lot. Nature sits like a blindfolded woman, or like a stony Sphinx. Justice has been represented as blindfolded.

Thus the Hebrew proverb rises far higher than the mere Pagan idea of fortune, and weighs the lot against the disposer of it, or rather deems no lot happy or adequate which is not governed by a Divine disposition.

Regarding the lot in life, we should seek to attain the happy medium of thought, neither appreciating it too highly, as if it alone were equal to life, neither on the other hand depreciating it as if no human or Divine purpose could be woven from its texture; and there was something very finely instructive in that incident in the life of the glorious David; when the King was flying into exile from the rebellion of his son, as he was passing amidst the lamentations of his people over the brook Kedron, there met him Zadok and the Levites bearing the Ark of the Covenant. Then the King said unto Zadok, “Carry back the Ark of God into the city; if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again and show me both it and His habitation ; but if He thus say, 'I have no delight in thee,' behold here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.” The words show a noble spirit in the royal exile, and exhibit a fine perception and faith as to the wise disposition of the lot.

There seem to be divided possessions, the possession of goods and the possession of success; there is nature and there is grace, there is fate and providence. It would almost seem from this as if we might regard certain possessions of ours as not really from God, that is, not immediately from Him, not as given to us by intention, and preference, and mercy. This is the lot that is cast into the lap, the lot which nature gives, the lot which God almost throws away; this is the possession of human pride, and it is most remarkable that the things frequently which lie beyond human causation are most frequently the motives of human pride -pride of birth, respectability of birth. Men are proud of the accidents of their life, the lot that is cast into the lap. This it teaches is a lottery, the lottery of nature; but the use and the disposal are Divine. You walk along and look so superciliously upon your companion by your side born in a cottage, while you were born in the manor house or the hall—it is the lot in the lap. So also a good constitution is a lot in the lap. How strong, how robust that iron frame; and so the possession of a fortune ; and so the possession of genius,-all of these are so many arbitrary distinctions, valueless in themselves, deriving all their value from Divine disposal; the lot does not content, it is the state; we sometimes wish we could go back to the little room we slept in when we were a child, the little shelf of books, the shade of the old elder-tree.

What we are satisfies us, not what we have; childhood was a time of contentments ; how softly now the summer sun seems to have gone down in those old days; how large and sufficient seemed the old field where we used to play; and the little brook where we sent our paper boats down the stream said nothing, as its waters glided away, of the great turgid river with the forest of shipping on its bosom or the great ocean to which it was hasting beyond; and the sweeping upland seemed like a range of hills, and a melodious peacefulness pervaded the whole scene, which, however, carried no consciousness into the heart like that which the memory of it carries now; yet the world must have had plenty of grief around us, and we heard of it, but beard of it just as we heard and repeated our lessons in the school-room, without knowing them, for wide is the difference between hearing, and repeating, and knowing. Such we were ; life was in being simple as the being was, not in possessing or seeking to have.

To the young," says the Persian proverb, “all life is a fairy tale,and an Arabic proverb tells us that “ The remembrance of youth is a sigh.

No; the lot in the lap is little. If a poor man should draw some lottery-ticket to entitle him to 10,0001., instantly would all his friends congratulate him upon his great fortune.

" What is the worth of anything

But just as much as it will bring ?When I was a boy I knew a man who came to a fortune ; there was his lot in the lap. He, in fact, could not use it; it was thrown into his lap. He still continued his nightly visits at the publichouse—the old sign of the Mitre and Crown—and stood treat all round. He had drawn his lot from the urn, and what was its value to him? The value of the lot is in the wise and disposing mind; the gold without that is worse than dust, for it may be a devil. God contradicts the lot of life frequently; frequently man seems to possess all when, in fact, he finds he possesses nothing. Man confounds his possession with his mere environment, that which is around him with that which is within him. Not what is biggest, but what is fittest" is best. We cry for a larger lot. So a

« ElőzőTovább »