صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

and also to buy seven pair of yellow hose for as many bachelors of the age of sixty at the least: the said garments and hose to be distributed on St. Valentine's day annually for ever; and if no such persons put in a claim to the dowlas and hose afore said, then the money to be given to the poor of the neighbouring parish of North P, at the discretion of two unmarried ladies of the like age with the twelve spinsters, as hereinbefore mentioned."

Then, besides the charity tablet, we have "beautifications," especially two gigantic figures of Death and Time; the first of them copied in soot and water from an emblematic design in an old edition of the Duty of Man; and the other, as I think, quite original, and taken undeniably from an image in the painter's wonderful imagination. For although the sithe and the hourglass are done, as my clerk tells me, from nature, I am afraid that this is more than can be said of the super or extra natural figure who holds them in what are meant to be its hands. Then, sir, we have cherubim; which are, as usual, heads flying about, or rather soaring after a stationary fashion, with duck's wings;-item, Moses and Aaron, on either side the altar, executed by the same artist who perpetrated the Death and Time-for it is as impossible to doubt his style, as to take Mr. Angerstein's Claudes for signs of the rising and setting sun;-item, the twelve heraldic devices of the tribes of Israel ;—and lastly, various texts, most unhappily selected, and bordered by scroll-work and devices as beautiful as- -they are. And not only are these things to remain, but we are soon to be dazzled with gilt inscriptions, surrounded by flourishes, already in progress under the direction of a famous schoolmaster, who never sets his boys a copy without covering a third of the page with what he calls ornamental penmanship. You may readily suppose the rest; which is, that Sunday after Sunday, and till the whole be

[blocks in formation]

There is another class of mural inscriptions, Epitaphs, which calls for something more serious than a playful address. I somewhat blame myself, indeed, for the jest-andearnest style I have so far adopted; for it is not coincident with professional consistency to court a smile where the thoughtful will rather incline to sadness. Many of our familiar epitaphs, if they were only ridiculous, and nothing worse, would be still very exceptionable. In Johnson's criticism on Pope's sepulchral inscription on the poet himself, the stern moralist says, "He attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious." But the monumental parade, both in our churches and cemeteries is, in a thousand instances, an actual premium upon self-delusion. Bad men are canonized on their grave-stones; and survivors of their own class begin to read their wretched eulogies with a sneer, and end by encouraging themselves in pursuing the course which the dead can run no more. Such things lower the spiritual standard to the lowest point of the world's wishes. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die; and to-morrow we shall also receive a certificate for heaven, recorded on our tombs."

Let me illustrate this painful subject by referring to the following confirmation of what is here advanced, and by one whose evidence is equal to the genius which thus delivers it :

Death levels man:-the wicked and the just, The wise, the weak, lie blended in the


[blocks in formation]

In these sarcastic yet vigorous and philosophical lines the reader will observe what is said by men who know the world, and are not afraid to disclose their knowledge. It is evident that such lookers-on read epitaphs backward, and regard them as examples of solemn irony, though found in the very last place where one sinner should trifle, and talk idly, about the character of another. I have made some efforts in my own parish to correct these things; but with very slender success. The lower classes of mankind are particularly jealous of any interference respecting their dead. Hence their extravagance at funerals; and hence their extreme dread of the remains of their friends being submitted to dissection. In their estimate, in fact, the body takes place of the soul. I have often been astonished at their anxiety to be buried in a favourite cemetery; and at the elaborate discussions held, even by the dying themselves, on the most minute circumstances of their approaching obsequies. One might suppose, that they expect in a disembodied state to hover over the procession to the grave, and enjoy the honour paid to the corpse. I have known individuals live hardly in their last days, and even years, that they might leave money for their funerals-or, as their actual phrase is, that they may be carIf the ried handsomely home." reader should be betrayed into a smile at this recital, I wish to recal consideration that the phrase just him to very serious feelings by the repeated is a fearful indication of the false confidence with which the bulk of mankind enter the invisible world. Home is the image of repose, enjoyment, and happiness-home, sweet home. The vulgar idea of death is, therefore, that of a resting-place after the tumults of life: and there is generally connected with it a certain persuasion that we are all to be recompensed in the unseen state for our troubles here below. The victims of this persuasion may have

[ocr errors]




very confused and indefinite notions is thy sting? O grave, where is thy of their own meaning; and may hold, at the same time, a few opinions yet more perplexed, and more indeterminate, on the difference between a good life and a wicked one, and of two distinct consequences; but the uppermost and the reigning conviction is all on the meritorious side. They think that a long illness after a life of poverty and toil, or a short one after an idle life-for these things, with them, are scarcely questions of degrees-must end in happiness; or, as they phrase it, in going to a good place." The same form of conviction extends itself to the rude grave-stone which marks the place of their interment. Gray, in his beautiful and mischievous elegy, thus tells, indeed, of the unlettered muse:

And many a holy text around she strews,

That teach the rustic moralist to die.

But this is not true. Holy texts are rarely discoverable in cemeteries; and, even when found, they are generally perverted to purposes of flattery. Sometimes they are abused by ministering to the self-righteous feelings of the reader. In other cases they would seem to be selected by the rule of contraries.

We are told that rustic moralists are taught to die would it not be better to call them rustic Christians? "Talk they of morals !”

Mural tablets, and combinations of sepulchral magnificence, though erected in St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, and in edifices of all but equal grandeur, might be mentioned, where inscriptions communicate to serious minds any thing but pleasure. The rhymes, indeed, are not uncouth, and the sculpture is not shapeless. But in our meditations among the tombs, and with such a guide in our hands as Hervey -with all his faults-it is painful to study many a monumental bust, and many an epitaph, with a conviction, that, when we have admired the astonishing skill of the artist, and perused the eulogy, we cannot ask the questions, "O death, where

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Ir is well known to the readers of our domestic history, that, towards the close of the seventeenth century, King William the Third authorized certain prelates and inferior clergy to revise the Liturgy and Canons; and to take also into their consideration the state of the ecclesiastical courts, with a view to their reformation. Among the commissioners were Archbishops Tillotson, Sharpe, Tenison, and Lamplugh; Bishops Lloyd, Burnet, Stillingfleet, Patrick, Kidder, and Beveridge; together with sundry other divines; although the persons now specifically named had not, in every instance, attained the episcopate. They assembled in the Jerusalem Chamber, the locality of which is thus described :-There is an old, low, shabby wall, running off from the south side of the great west door-way into Westminster Abbey: this wall is only broken by one long wired window and the whole appearance of the wall and window is so dull and dirty, that many strangers and inhabitants may well have wondered why they were allowed to encumber and deform this magnificent front: but that wall is the wall of the Jerusalem Chamber, and that guarded window is its principal light. The chamber itself appears about forty feet long and twenty wide, and was built in the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II.; and here the Upper House of Convocation assemble each Parliament. In a sort of ante-room to it assemble the Lower House; which ante-room is now called the organ-room, because some time ago was an organ in it, by which the choristers in the Abbey were accustomed to practise.-To this it may be added, that Henry IV. died in the Jerusalem Chamber, being carried thither from the shrine

of St. Edward the Confessor, when he was surprised by his last illness; and the circumstance is mentioned in a familiar passage in Shakespeare. The proceedings of the commissioners of 1689 were all recorded, and the original record is now in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth. It appears that Bishop Gibson was librarian to Archbishop Tenison in 1696; that in 1748 the bishop gave the record in question to the Lambeth collection*, to the especial custody of the primate for the time being. Very recently, William Winstanley Hull, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, requested permission from the present Archbishop to see the MS.; but his Grace considered, that, as the papers were committed to his special and private keeping, he was not authorized to allow the inspection of them, which might lead to the publication of their contents. Mr. Hull is author of two late works on the present state of the Established Church.

My object in the above statement is to suggest whether, previously to any revision of the Liturgy (should such a measure ever be contemplated), his Majesty's Government be competent to require, and, if judged expedient, to publish the Commissioners' Report of 1689 for general perusal.



For the Christian Observer.

I THINK the Christian Observer has been somewhat remiss in its office, as one whose duty it is to mark and report upon the signs of the times, in not having noticed the extraordinary proposals which have appeared in the Jewish Expositor for the formation of a new secret society. Before I offer a few remarks upon the proposition, I will, in justice to the parties,

transcribe the document upon which I am about to comment. In the April Number of that work we first find the editor proposing an "association" or "combination" for the suppression of Neologism in England. In the May Number a correspondent follows up the idea; but having proposed that the Society should be public and open, and consist of "such Christians as find it in their spirit to join it," the editor checks his imprudent zeal, by observing that "a too general invitation to join in the proposed work would defeat its own object;" which, if the work were good, and to be carried on in a manner that would bear the light, seems an extraordinary proposition; for why not enlist as many persons as possible on the side of truth? At length, in the June Number, the entire plan is elaborated as follows:

"I will tell you what I think ought to be done against rationalism. I. Form a little association of three, four, or more staunch men, clergy and laity of the Church of England, in each diocese, who conscientiously devote themselves to the Lord, to withstand infidelity in every shape. II. That this association publish no report, and consider themselves as responsible to none but the Lord himself. III. That they meet at stated periods, as may be agreed upon. IV. That between the times of meeting each member endeavour to procure the latest catalogues of theological books selling in London; mark all commentaries, expositions, doctrinal books, &c.; and either himself give the character of the author, or, at least, ask the other members do they know it, at the next meeting. V. That those who have the means, opportunity, &c., read the books, and apply earnestly to the study, for the object of controversy. VI. If it be possible, get either a gazette or a small periodical going, for the express purpose of exposing the doctrines and devices of rationalism, and shewing how they stand opposed

It does not appear how Gibson be- to the Articles of our Church. VII.

eame possessed of the document.

That all keep a watchful look-out as


[merged small][ocr errors]

to sermons, translations, &c., coming out in England, at the Universities or elsewhere. VIII. If a rationalist work appear by a member of an English University, that the Association immediately present a denunciation to the Bishop of the diocese, and to the Chancellor of the University to which the delinquent belongs the denunciation to be signed by all the members of the Association in that diocese. (This business of signing a denunciation, to which all who will become members of the Association should oblige or bind themselves, would keep out the undecided.) IX. If the Bishop or University take no notice, then go further, to the Archbishop of the province, the King, &c.; and if all fail, then publish the whole matter, with all the names affixed. This mode will soon shew what the Church of England has to hope or fear from its shepherds in this dread crisis, and would shew the danger in its fullest extent."

Of this extraordinary proposal the editor remarks, that it deserves consideration; but where are the men?" The Jewish Expositor not having survived to another number, I cannot ascertain whether this secret society has yet been formed: but, looking at the signs of the times, it would not be surprizing if an attempt were made for the purpose; and it may therefore not be unseasonable to offer a few remarks upon it.

Two inquiries present themselves: first, Who are the Neologians and what the Neologism against which this secret society is to direct its efforts? and, secondly, What is the nature of the machinery by which it purposes to work?

The terms Neology and Neologism have been used of late with much latitude; and have in some cases been employed as convenient words of reproach, for the mere purpose of exciting groundless prejudices, to perplex an opponent. A Neologist, properly, means a setterforth of new doctrines; and the term

is justly applied to those who, whether in France, Germany, England, or elsewhere, have adopted a system by which Divine Revelation, though professed to be honoured, is in truth wholly subverted. Neology attacks, directly or indirectly, all the doctrines of the Gospel. According to its shades, it denies, or explains away, or philosophizes upon, the Fall and the Atonement; the doctrine of the Trinity; the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; prophecy and miracles; grace and faith; regeneration and: holiness; Divine influence; and so on every thing, in short, belonging to revelation. How fearfully it has of later years prevailed upon the conti-> nent of Europe is well known; and too true, I fear, is it that some of the theological students of our own land are not strangers to its delusive influence. To endeavour to repress such fearful heresy by every Christian and lawful means, is the solemn duty of all who are solicitous for the glory of God and the eternal welfare of the human soul; and most thankful ought we to be to the Father of lights, that he has been pleased to dispose the minds of his servants, in various parts of Christendom, to oppose the inroads of this delusive system; and has so far blessed their efforts, that in many places, particularly in Germany, the subtle poison has been to a considerable extent counteracted, and the faithful promulgation of the Gospel triumphed over this snare of the enemy of souls.

But is this really the evil against which the proposed secret society is to be levelled? Is nothing more intended than to crush this hydra, which all true servants of Christ desire to oppose? I scruple not to reply, and I undertake to prove, that far more is meant than the counteraction of Neologism in its true and proper sense; and that what is in reality intended is to form a secret institution, under the conduct of a new and active sect which has lately sprung up among us, with a view to oppose and crush all who ven

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »