« ForrigeFortsett »
ideal Method of Life is, that it seems deliberately to open a door for such declension—in fact, contemplates it. I have seen among pro, fessing people so much selfishness covered by that word Duty,' so much unhumanity and negative’ morality taken for positive' Christianity by those who began their Christian career with a theory in which some conjuration of a narrow nature, called Duty, was set up, sacrificial knife in hand, over what is tender and beautiful in the Bonds of Life, that I cannot help dreading some morbid resolve, which will tell in wrinkles of sorrow or scowls of pride on the later aspects of life, when I see the very young in haste to tabulate existence, before they know what awfully sweet or awfully sad things its elements may be, and what flashes of truth of eternal import may be struck out in the conflict of emotion. I do not see why it should puzzle you to say that a certain measure of experience must be attained before one should venture to draw once for all his circle of duty; and when you think I give Affection too much to do in weaving the pattern of a life, you make me think that you are yet a stranger to the deepest of all purely human experiences. 'Love,' says Shakespere, you remember,
• Love is too young to know what Conscience is,
But who knows not Conscience is born of Love ?' and to the same purport sings Mr. Patmore in his ' Angel in the House,' -in some of the most beautiful words yet dropped in the ears of this generation
• 'Tis truth, althongh this truth's a star
Too deep enskicd for all to sce,
The well-heads of morality.'
Now, we will take 'love' and 'lovers 'here in the widest sense, so as to include all forms of attachment; not forgetting, but reverently clasping to our bosoms, the truth, that the very Fountain of Right is Himself Love; and I say that we have a great idea before us. Strange, passing strange, how little weight is allowed in the current Christian philosophies of conduct to the words of our Lord-Love is the fulfilling of the Law—words in which there are, indeed, shallows in which the lamb may wade, and depths in which the elephant may swim. But one need not plumb them far to see that, at least, we cannot venture to give Affection a very subordinate place in the council before which the Method of Life is to be adjusted.
I know no one who has so forcibly as Robert Browning rebuked the idea that the Method of Life may be comfortably settled, once for all, by the Christian, so that he will have, as it were, only to walk on chalked lines afterwards. I quote from Easter-Day:
But hard, I mean, for me and you
There is, then, this suggestion (I am quoting from memory, and forget some intermediate lines)
. But what if it be God's intent
To which is made the reply
• Ah! that's a question in the dark,
It is that shifting of the place which makes any such formula as affection must give way to duty,' so dangerous in the hands of us imperfect creatures. But you will complain of the indefiniteness' of a scheme of life which leaves any margin. That, also, you will say is dangerous. It is, indeed; but what makes it so ? Impatience of the means by which God is teaching us. And what is the counterpoise to that danger? Surely trust. There is something pagan, I always fancy, about mere resignation; it is just lying down, and letting the wheel of fate pass over one. Trust is the mood which becomes affection; to proceed hopefully as far as one sees the way, fully relying upon more light at the proper time. This is, of course, exceedingly difficult. It seems much easier to construct your stiff Method of Life, though upon information which is, and must be imperfect, and so proceed upon .something definite,' than to move steadily upon a line which you know may only serve you for a short time. Yet I maintain that the necessity of spiritually living from hand to mouth is not to be dodged, do all you will. The man who marks out his life as regularly as a chess-board, -so much for thought, so much for work, so much for love, and the rest, will have his inner shortcomings, which, though they may not mar his content with his diagram, will prevent his having any enormous advantage over another who is ready to break up his scheme tomorrow if he sees further than he did, and whose trust is placed other. where than in diagrams, and who is ready, even though he wander by the way, to rejoice that no arbitrary scheme of living forecloses for him any avenue of emotion,-singing, with Browning,
--Thank God no gate stands barred
When in our conversation I placed the tender (or immethodic type of character above the strong (or methodic), I did not forget that comparisons are odious, and that God uses all instruments, and approves all sincerity. But surely, the strength of conscience being equal, that is the most Christian soul which leans towards tenderness rather than the opposite; and even if the question were to be decided upon neutral ground, neither Christian nor un-Christian, it would hardly suffer itself to be overlooked that the tender (or passive-heroic) type of human nature has wider and deeper capacities of heroism than the strong (or active-heroie) type has of tenderness? Meantime, the decided leaning of Christianity to what is tender and affectionate cannot be disguised.* The quin multum amarit idea pervades the records from beginning to end. And, as I read them, they propose in affection for a Person a motive of conduct which the Law, weak through the flesh,' could not supply. I must own, then, my heart goes out most readily after the gentle, affectionate soul, in whose life there is the least rigidity of outline, the least appearance of the outer forms overlaying a hard skeleton of Method.
I do, indeed, as you remind me, think that the Method of Life has latterly, and that, too, in the very flower of Christian society, undergone some relaxation. This I attribute to the rapidity with which we live; the stimulating character of our lighter literature; the frequency with which questions of the boundary-line between Impulse and Law surprise us in our serious literature, and also in the facts of worldhistory going on all around; and the breaking-down of certain oldfashioned barriers of habit in trifles, which sincere people give up because they cannot maintain their full significance, while yet they cannot set up better.
The habits of modern life are exceedingly unfavourable to private devotion and a noble equanimity. We do, I fear, live too much at random, and suffer for it. Therefore, I say, let those of us who need it, repair any frame-work of habit which we may have found helpful, without pedantry, and with as little offence to the amenities as possible. Nobody need know anything of what we do but ourselves and God, except, perhaps, those who live with us; and the less use we make in our fresh plans of the timepiece and the diary, the better for our reforms. The widest diagram will serve our purpose longest; a few strong lines and no filagree-work, is what we require for practical help. More time and energy are often frittered away in silly resolution-making than, thrown into action, would suffice to build up a manly character. The most important fact of Methodic Living is action ; and the most important part of action is whatever waits to be done next.
It is, of course, impossible to lay down a law which will cover every life-story, but I should think that the space between twenty-five and thirty-five, as it is that part of life in which the greatest number of facts is taken up for assimilation by heart and brain, is almost always that in which a man finds out most emphatically how transient are the uses of set schemes of conduct. This is supposing that he lives fairly, and shirks no situation merely because it is arduous. Some men's Method of Life has no merit but that of studiously dodging the difficulties of duty, by which means a negative perfection is kept up at a cheap rate, but with great scandal to the Christian name, for everybody sees through the device. I am so sure of your warmth and soundness of heart, that I am satisfied you will always meet the facts of existence as fairly as now; and I am quite content to relegate the question between us, as to the flexible or inflexible Method of Life, to some day when you also shall be approaching the decade I have just entered, and learnt, if you need it, the lesson I have had to learn, and not without pain, that the logical circumscription of the feelings into which intellectual young men so readily fall when they attempt to construct a Method of Life--Student's Manual'in hand, and Stepney College in the distance—is neither manly nor Christian.
* Sce, if you do not remember it, what l'aley says of the Morality of the Gospel.'
R. B. W.
George Warrington; or, where shall be go to ?
MR. WARRINGTON's next experience of our Dissenting churches was less fortunate. Yet he had been led to accept an invitation to preach at Grumpton from the very promising letter of the leading deacon, or managing man,' as he was somewhat significantly called, and the strong persuasion of several influential ministers, who were convinced Grumpton was just the place for him, and he the very man for Grumpton.' So to Grumpton he went.
This was a very populous and highly respectable' suburb of a large city-a very large city-so large, indeed, that I only hope it won't be wroth at the idea of the indefinite article being used in connexion with it. There was an old established Nonconformist church there, under the pastorate of a popular D.D., but some active partisans of another denomination had long fixed their eyes on the locality as a desirable one for their body to be represented in. At least, this was the plea urged on the influential ministers of that body by Mr. Topperson, the 6 managing man’ aforesaid. But to others, of the same denomination as “the Doctor,' he of course could not urge this plea, and dwelt, therefore, on the increasing population of the neighbourhood, and the necessity for Dissent to be represented by additional interests;' while to pious simple folk he descanted on the spiritual condition of the locality, and the need for a more abundant supply of the means of grace, and the bread of life;' for he knew very well that, to succeed, he must unite people of all classes.
The truth was, Mr. Topperson had been a member of the Doctor's' church. But the Doctor 'liked to have his own way, it seems, and all very natural, too, for a doctor; but, unfortunately, Mr. Topperson had a great fancy in that same direction too. The Doctor, though free, I am told, could stand upon his dignity; and though not deficient in what Sydney Smith would call the oleaginous, could tread upon some men's toes pretty stoutly, and yet adroitly withal. Mr. Topperson, in his free-and-easy style, and not being endowed with any remarkable delicacy, had more than once done sore despite to the Doctor,' and that even at church-meetings; his prompt appreciation of which Dr. Mecoy manifested in his own peculiar style, till Topperson winced again. This could not last; and, as 'the Doctor' was a fixture at ‘Leicester Chapel,' and it would be hopeless to attempt to oust him, Mr. Topperson became greatly concerned about the spiritual condition of the neighbourhood, and had frequent conferences with ministers and others, to whom he showed the denominational wants,' or ‘Dissenting wants,' or spiritual wants,' according to the persons he was seeking to influence; but never showed them how cruelly his own poor toes had been trodden on—trodden black and blue, indeed_by the remorseless Doctor. No doubt this reticence was purely magnanimous. How could he waste a thought on anything personal when there was so vast a population so poorly supplied with the precious gospel? or, while Dissent was at so low an ebb in Grumpton ? or, lastly, while 'our denomination was not represented at all?' So he kept his toes out of sight. But they were none the less sensitive, or active, for all that. They carried him about pretty energetically, till things began to look promising, and he anticipated the time when the toe-treader should feel the consequences of not having submitted to Mr. Topperson's claims of 'right, as a member, to speak out all he thought,' or even chose to say without thought, perhaps. For, quite providentially,' an admirable place for worship soon offered itself; and, encouraged by certain ministers, and pecuniarily liberal members of
our denomination, and by other friends to Dissent in general, and by a few pious and worthy people who received implicitly all that was said about the souls in the neighbourhood, Topperson rented the place, had it very neatly fitted up, being a man of taste in shop-fronts and the like, obtained a list of ministers for a whole quarter's occupancy of the pulpit, persuaded two influential London pastors, one of each denomination, but both of them Doctors, to preach at the opening, and so opened the campaign in style.
A neat place of worship, an attractive list of preachers well advertised, with private appeals to all that were supposed to be 'not altogether comfortable at Leicester Chapel,' succeeded in at once collecting enough to form a nucleus or, as our interesting friend preferred to drop the middle syllable, you may say nuclous' if you will-and forthwith a church was formed, deacons were chosen, one or two of each denomination, and among them, of course, the indefatigable, zealous, devoted, excellent Mr. Topperson himself. And as it would never do to be without any apparatus or plans that were successful