صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

Some British pen has sketch'd the names renown'd,

In marks obscure, of his immortal peers; with a few more lines, informing us, that, though this gorgeous board, with its stout oaken planks, and its figure of Arthur and his twenty-four mettlesome knights, has become timeworn, yet its heroes shall live in the page of Spenser; which Mr. Mant in his notes illustrates by a similar sentiment in Ovid's Elegy on Tibullus.

As you do not restrict me, my dear friend, to a very nice adherence to any thesis, I shall trespass on you with a notice or two from the volumes out of which I have just copied the above stanzas. The names of Mant and of the Wartons are quite sufficient links to attach the matter to Winchester.

The two Wartons were both in their day, some forty to eighty years ago, considered very respectable kind of clergymen ; but I confine my remarks to Thomas, the Laureate, and Poetry Professor at Oxford. Bishop Mant was a young man, and not in orders, when he wrote his Life and edited his Poems; a circumstance in fairness to be mentioned, as the work is not altogether of such a character as the editor of the Christian Knowledge Family Bible would perhaps have selected some years after for his clerical labours. But even then Mr. Mant felt some apology necessary for his hero, considered in his capacity of a minister of Christ. "In the exercise of his profession as a divine," he says, I do not understand that Mr. Warton was much distinguished. A retired village church is not a theatre likely to bring forward the abilities of its minister, and Mr. Warton had never CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 356.

[ocr errors]

Bishop

any other preferment." Mant, I am sure, would be among the first to teach his clergy, that, if a village cure is not a sphere for the display of abilities, it is eminently so for the exemplification of qualities of infinitely higher importance; for those graces of the Holy Spirit, without which knowledge is vain. Mr. Warton's professed commission as a Christian minister, like that of the Apostle St. Paul, was 66 to open the blind eyes, and to turn men from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive an inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith that is in Christ." But I will venture to say, that there is not a single line in either of the two volumes now before me which indicates that such a notion had ever entered into Mr. Warton's mind, or that he did otherwise than perpetrate a solemn mockery when he professed himself called by the Holy Ghost to take upon him the office of the sacred ministry. In the language of Bishop Mant's own Bampton Lectures, whatever may be our several views of baptismal regeneration, he did not evidence the slightest sign of renovation," or "conversion." He took orders as a matter of course, and with as little serious thought, I fear, of the solemnity of his office, as if he had been articled to a scrivener. He lived a life of decent classical entertainment; laughed, smoked, gossipped; and composed verses humorous, sentimental, and descriptive, in Latin and English; and wrote works of biography, topography, criticism, and history; but as a minister of Christ he did, so far as we know, nothing-that is, nothing really, earnestly, honestly, and from the heart, and beyond the mere routine of what the bare necessities of his "profession" demanded. Let me just recite to you what Mr. Mant himself says on this subject:

[ocr errors]

"The Bishop of Gloucester (Dr. Huntingford) has represented Mr. Warton as strongly attached to the Church of England in all the offices 3 Q

of her Liturgy. In his political opinions he was inclined to Toryism. The former attachment, mixed with a decided antipathy to Calvinistic doctrines and discipline, may have disposed him not only to regard choral service with fondness, but to have reprobated somewhat too severely the practice of popular psalmody in our churches; and the latter may have been the cause that he has sometimes marked with too harsh a censure the conduct and principles of Milton. In the mean time, let it be remembered, to his honour, that he has shewn no servile spirit in his official odes, where flattery is too often indulged by prescription. In the exercise of his profession as a divine, I do not understand that he was much distinguished. A retired village church is not a theatre likely to bring forward the abilities of its minister, and Mr. Warton had never any other kind of preferment. I have, however, been informed that he gained some credit in the University by a sermon on the Thirtieth of January, and have myself seen a Latin sermon of his composition, preached perhaps on his taking the degree of B.D., wherein he reviews the objections advanced against Christianity at its first promulgation in a classical style and a wellarranged and perspicuous method. But his abilities were for the most part employed in inquiries not theological: let us presume innocently, inasmuch as they did not interfere with his practical duties; and beneficially, as they promoted the interests of general learning."

Now in this elaborately apologetic statement what do we find? I scruple not to say, that if we weigh the passage in the balance of the sanctuary, and of our own Ordination Service, we find an account of a man chargeable with guilt most heinous in the sight of God, fearfully dangerous to his own soul, and baneful to the souls of others. Here is a clergyman, bound by his sacred office to live peculiarly to the glory of God and to bring souls to Christ,

and to give himself wholly to these things, and who had taken upon him the most solemn vows to that effect; but of whom even a panegyrist can say nothing more than that he was attached to the Church Liturgy, evidently without any feeling of its spirit, and perhaps chiefly as opposed to Dissent; that he was an exemplary Tory; that he hated Calvinistic doctrine and Calvinistic discipline— under the former of which lax expressions he too probably included several of the undeniable doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, and particularly some essential points respecting human sinfulness and infirmity, the vicarious sacrifice of the Redeemer, justification by faith, renewal of heart by the Holy Ghost, and those spiritual graces which are the fruits of faith;-that he enjoyed church music; was not servile in his laureate odes; gained credit at Oxford by a probably ultra-Tory sermon; and wrote a well-turned and wellarranged Latin discourse against certain objections to Christianity. But his heart and mind and soul and strength were not devoted to God or his spiritual duties: "his abilities," says says his biographer,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

were for the most part employed in inquiries not theological;" which young Mr. Mant thought might be not only " innocent," but beneficial;" but which the present Bishop of Down would tell his former self (for the mind, like the body, changes, and oftener in some cases than once in seven years) was deeply criminal, since Mr. Warton had pledged himself, in the presence of God, to" be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and of the flesh;" and had assented to the solemn injunction "to forsake and set aside, as much as he might, all worldly cares and studies;" and had professed" clearly to determine, by God's grace, to give himself wholly to the office whereunto it had pleased God to call him," and " to draw all

[ocr errors]

his cares and studies that way;" with much more to the same purpose. To vow all this, and then deliberately to do just the contrary, is no ordinary guilt; and the only wonder is, how the matter should ever be looked upon in any other light; or how even a Winchester boy on the lowest form, to say nothing of a Master of Arts and Fellow of Oriel College," should have pronounced such conduct" innocent,' nay, "beneficial." I mean no reproach to the present Right Reverend "alter idem," who would not, I am sure, re-print his juvenile declamation; but the circumstance makes the more strongly for my argument, as it shews how strangely deficient are no small number of our young men from public schools, and at college, in what relates to the right estimate of the clerical character. Mr. Warton gives us his own ideas of an amiable and respectable country clergyman, playfully drawn indeed, and with goodhumoured satire, but not seriously intended to describe any thing really delinquent, any grave moral defect. Just scan this divine's favourite occupations:

Thus fixed, content he taps his barrel;
Exhorts his neighbours not to quarrel;
Finds his churchwardens have discerning
Both in good liquor and good learning;
With tithes his barns replete he sees,
And chuckles o'er his surplice fees;
Studies to find out latent dues,
And regulates the state of pews;
Rides a sleek mare with purple housing,
To share the monthly club's carousing;
Of Oxford pranks facetious tells,
And-but on Sundays-hears no bells;
Sends presents of his choicest fruit,
And prunes himself each sapless shoot;
Plants cauliflowers, and boasts to rear
The earliest melons of the year;
Thinks alteration charming work is,
Keeps Bantam cocks and feeds his turkies;
Builds in his copse a favourite bench,
And stores his pond with carp and tench.

Such were, without caricature, the average occupations, I fear, of some hundreds, if not thousands, of "good kind of" country clergymen, at the time when Warton wrote; and what I wish to remind you of is, that there was nothing, in popular

estimation, disgraceful, though there might be some things a little weak in the character. And this was a professed ambassador for Christ; one whose office it was-but I need not describe it; read George Herbert, or read the Ordination Service, or, best of all, read what the supreme Bishop of Souls himself says of it in the warnings of his holy word. Can we wonder that Dissent encroached upon us; and that those of the flock who had learned from Divine authority what a spiritual pastor ought to be, were prone to forsake instructors whose pursuits, however "innocent" or " beneficial" in popular opinion, were not a conscientious addiction to the ministry of the word of God, and a watching for souls as they that must give account?

[ocr errors]

And here I must say, disguise it as we will, that our universities have been grievously in fault. How have our young divines been hitherto trained? I am reminded of a passage quoted by Mr. Mant, as a specimen of humour, from a little publication rarely to be met with, the Companion to the Oxford Guide," to the author of which Warton addressed a poetical epistle. The passage is indeed, as Mr. Mant says, humorous enough; but, alas! the sting lies elsewhere than in the humour. "The schools of this university," says the humorous author,

are more numerous than are generally supposed; among which we may reckon three spacious and superb edifices, situated to the southward of the High Street, a hundred feet long by fifty in breadth, vulgarly called tennis-courts, where exercise is usually performed both morning and afternoon. Add to these, certain schools, familiarly denominated billiard-tables, where the laws of motion are exemplified, and which may be considered a necessary supplement to our courses of experimental philosophy. Nor must we omit the nine-pin and skittle alleys, open and dry, for the instruction of scholars in geometrical knowledge, and particularly for proving

Other much to their honour, have raised the character of the theological examination; but this cannot satisfy the wants of the Church; for, unless the examination is too ample for the intended lay pupil, it will not be sufficient for the clerical. And besides this, more is wanted; the spiritualities as well as the literary technicalities of the sacred office require to be consulted, and these are often too little thought of, even where much attention is devoted to scholastic competency.

the centripetal principle. schools and places of academical discipline, not generally known as such, may be mentioned. The Peripateties execute the courses proper to their system upon the Parade; navigation is learned on the Isis; gunnery on the adjacent hills; horsemanship on Port-Meadow, Bullington Green, the Henley, Wycombe, Woodstock, Abingdon, and Banbury roads. The axis in peritrochio is admirably illustrated by a scheme in a phaeton; and the doctrine of the screw is practically explained most evenings in the private rooms, together with the motion of fluids."

I would not ground a serious charge on a playful and exaggerated effusion; but does it not strike you, my friend, that there must be something wrong or defective, as a school of the prophets, in a place of which the above can be even a caricature? The reply is, that our universities are not strictly theological institutions, schools of the prophets; they do not profess to qualify young men for holy orders. But where, then, are our young men qualified? In the days of Popery they did profess to educate specifically for the church, as it then existed: since the Reformation they furnish the testimonial; but the qualification adapted to restored Christianity has almost slidden out of sight. They give, what other colleges also profess to give, a fair portion of classical, mathematical, and a substratum of theological attainment; but here they stop whereas other churches, in the case of candidates for the sacred ministry, are not contented with what their ordinary colleges send; they require a superadded training, both mental and moral; and this is bestowed either at a theological institution, or in some other appropriate manner. Till something of the kind is in operation among ourselves, or till our universities institute specific classes for clerical candidates, the bishops can do comparatively little; though even that little is important. The universities,

I was wondering how I should fairly get back, without too great a leap, from Oxford and Cambridge, and Mant and Warton, to Winchester and its antiquities, when I opened on Warton's poem, Apud Hortum jucundissimum Wintoniæ," with a note by the Bishop, purporting that the place alluded to by Warton in the "jugi sacrati," &c. of the following lines, is St. Giles's Hill, at the foot of which are the remains of Wolvesey Palace, formerly the magnificent residence of the Bishops of Winchester; that the "maximum templum" is the cathedral; and the "antiquum larem, &c." the college. "Quæ micant utrinque Tecta ingentia, maximumque templum, Antiquumque larem decus camenis. Sub clivo ancipiti, domus superbæ Hac dum prospicias, jugi sacrati Olim, fragmina vasta, dirutasque Arces."

Here, then, we are again in the midst of our monitory antiquities, of which Wolvesey Palace is fraught with the most chequered recollections. When I climbed in silence and solitude those mouldering remains of what were once magnificent walls and buttresses and towers and arches, where wars were planned, and revels were kept, and sieges were sustained, and captives immured, and royal nuptials celebrated, and every scene of human joy and woe, virtue and crime, for ages blended; my head whirled and my heart ached with the retrospect. Yet in one thing I gathered consolation: the world, I felt convinced, has not grown worse within the last thousand years; and certainly has not

grown worse, as so many of our Heraclitics aver, within the last century. When I hear a melancholic declaimer, whether a clergyman, or a poet, or a news-paper or magazine scribe, or a parliamentary croaker, or an unfledged dabbler in prophetical speculation, begin about this miserably degenerate age; the astounding increase of vice; the vast modern superadditions to human misery; the evils that have resulted from reading, writing, and education; the enervations of luxury; the growth of pauperism; the decay of religion; the substitution of what is shewy for what is solid; and a variety of kindred topics; I am quite sure that individual has never read the page of history, at least has not studied the philosophy of history. I plead not for what is evil; and in one respect our own land, at this moment, is perhaps the most wicked of all lands, and our own age the most degenerate of all ages—that is, computing, not by the actual extent of what is censurable, but by the increased progress of knowledge, the profession of a purer faith, the facilities for recurring to the all-perfect Standard of Truth, and the unbounded mercies of God to us individually and as a nation, notwithstanding all our demerits and transgressions. The warnings and expostulations respecting our actual amount of criminality cannot be too earnest; but, speaking relatively, and by comparison, I see no reason for heaping together on one age or nation all the invectives that belong rather to our fallen race in all places and at all times. If you look to the moralists or the satirists of any given day, you will find their own land and country described as fearfully deteriorated from the virtues of their ancestors: the past is eulogized at the expense of the present; and, black as may be the actual catalogue of transgressions, it is made blacker by contrast. My reason for objecting to this is, first, that such a representation is not correct in fact; 'and, secondly, that it leads to much evil; especially that it discourages hope and

checks exertion. The fearful truth is, that iniquity abounds in every age; but it has its phases; it is coloured by the circumstances of the times; and the minister of Christ ought in his own generation to point out those peculiar aggravations, whatever they may be: but this should be done specifically, and in such a manner as not to allow of the reply, that he is only taking up the common-places of all ages; magnifying existing circumstances, because they happen to be near and to press on his mind with local and temporary interest-finding, for instance, the battle of Navarino, or Mr. Canning's speech against Portugal, or the Catholic Question, or Elba and St. Helena, in the Prophecy of Daniel and the Book of the Revelations; just as, a hundred, or five-hundred years ago, persons found before him some battle, or kingly deposition, or act of parliament, then in agitation. It seems to me that sobriety is necessary in these matters, and especially in fast sermons and other passing records. I would give the declaimer leave to select any period he pleases, of British, Saxon, Norman, or modern English history, since the foundation of these giant ruins of Wolvesey were laid, which, taking all circumstances into consideration, he would prefer to the present moment. He may begin with the remote days of arbitrary sway, when, as tradition relates, the castle obtained its name from the tribute of wolves' heads imposed upon the Welsh by king Edgar, and ordered to be paid there. Or he may pass on to the time of the Normans, when from this very city of Winchester issued William the Conqueror's tyrannical edict of the Curfew; or when his hopeful nephew, Bishop de Blois, the brother of king Stephen, inhabiting, after the fashion of those days, when prelates were warriors, this feudal fortress, withstood a siege by the bravest generals of the age, Robert Earl of Gloucester and David King of Scotland, and repulsed them from his menaced battlements. We are told much of the faults of bishops now

« السابقةمتابعة »