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I reside in a parish whose incumbent is a member of an auxiliary of the Church Missionary Society in a neighbouring city: he subscribes his guinea, and occasionally makes his speech at its anniversary, and is the means of a few pounds being collected in his large and populous parish : but there his exertions end: he never brings the claims of the Society, or the perishing condition of the Heathen for “ lack of knowledge,” prominently before his parishioners, either in the pulpit or otherwise. I have no doubt, by proper diligence, the small sum raised in this parish for the Church Missionary Society might be increased tenfold; and so in many others; for surely the case of this place in regard to missionary efforts is not an unique one.
It is owing to the indifference or supineness of her Bishops and Clergy that the Church of England is so backward in missionary pursuits ; for I am persuaded that their flocks would generally and gladly follow, if they would but lead the way in this work of Christian love and mercy.
Oh that the “ bishops and curates” of our Church would arise as one man, to shake this reproach from them ; that they would bestir themselves. and use their best endeavours to send the word of light and life to “ such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” To the party politics of the day they are anxiously and keenly alive, while the degraded and destitute condition of the benighted Heathen excite but a small portion of their care and commiseration.
With humble prayer that the blessing of God may rest upon your labours to advance the cause of truth and righteousness throughout the world, 1 remain a Ten-Years' Subscriber as well as
A CONSTANT READER.
REMARKS ON AN ANECDOTE IN DR. GREGORY'S LIFE OF
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In Dr. Gregory's Life of Robert Hall, reprinted separately from his Works, a few anecdotes are inserted which are not contained in the Memoir as prefixed to the Works; and among them the following, which I do not recollect reading in the original publication, and which I do not find noticed in your review of it, where I feel persuaded it would not have escaped animadversion if it had met your eye. It occurs in Note A, at the end, just after some remarks on Dunning, Junius, and Bishop Watson. It is as follows :
“A clergyman, who had just before been at one of the late Archbishop of Canterbury's public dinners at Lambeth, mentioned that the Archbishop's chaplain said grace' both before and after dinner. Mr. Hall observed, that ' it must have been a very gratifying mark of respect to the chaplain, when sitting at the same table. You are under a mistake,' said the clergyman : 'the chaplain did not dine at the same table, but in another room, from which he was called in twice to say grace. Mr. Hall, after using two or three terms of astonishment, which I cannot now recal, added,
So, that is being great. His Grace, not choosing to present his own requests to the King of kings, calls in a deputy to take up his messages. A great man indeed! a very great man !''
Now allow me, sir, to express my disbelief of the truth of this statement, and my regret that Dr. Gregory should have allowed himself to publish it; more especially in a small popular volume of wide circulation, after it had been omitted in the original publication, which alone was likely to reach the eyes of reviewers who would have animadverted upon it. The pride and pompous bearing of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Sutton, in his conduct towards what are called the inferior clergy, are as much matters of familiar history as his affability and elegant deportment among men of aristocratical rank; but, whatever were his own feelings, I do not be. lieve that he durst have outraged the feelings of his guests, or would have been willing to disgrace himself, by the conduct imputed to him in the above extract; nor would any clergyman have so far forgotten his own station, either as a gentleman or a minister of Christ, as to be placed upon the footing of a menial at a great man's table.
It is indeed probable that a chaplain, just like any other member of a family, would decorously give way to the guests at his Grace's board, and be glad to take the lowest seat, or to repair to a side-table, or to an antiroom, or to dine when and how he could, as might best minister to the convenience of those who were honoured strangers in the house; and such an arrangement might even be expected as a part of the domestic plans of the house, without the Archbishop's intending to derogate from the respect due to his chaplain, or meaning to intimate that he thought him unworthy to sit at his table, and that his only business was to “ say grace,” as it is called, over food which he was not allowed to partake of. The particular circumstances of the case ought therefore to have been known, before a story was published which so injuriously tends to injure the venerable fathers of our Church in the eyes of the public, and which, if duly explained, might have been wholly divested of that painful air which it assumes in the aboverelated anecdote. At all events, as Dr. Gregory omitted it in the large work, he ought not to have given to it the far wider and more injurious circulation of the popular narrative.
For the Christian Observer. THERE is in the human mind a natural love of wonderful narratives ; to cater for which is a favourite employment of writers both of fact and fiction. It is proverbially remarked, that in every company the narrator of a ghost story is sure to be listened to ; and the more extraordinary the adventure the more profound is the attention ; and in some minds credu. lity is apt to keep pace with wonderment, and to reject every explication by which its avidity for the marvellous would be destroyed.
The injurious impression made upon young and feeble minds by mysterious stories has been pointed out so often, that it were superfluous to dwell upon it; but it may be doubted whether the matter is even yet sufficiently considered by those who write for the instruction either of children, or of the many men and women in stature who are but children in intellect. It were easy to point out in popular books a variety of extraordinary stories, whose only merit is that they are extraordinary, and which are calculated to leave upon weak minds an undefined impression of awe, which too easily diverges into terror and abject superstition. The object aimed at in others of these narratives, is to impress upon the reader the vivid feeling of a superintending Providence-as, for example, in the detection of some secret crime by a supernatural voice or manifestation ;-but too often the mere appetite for wonderment seems to be the only exciting motive; and in every case stories gradually become current which have no foundation in fact, or which at least widely divaricate from strict truth.
Under these circumstances I would submit for consideration, whether it were not desirable that in all publications intended for popular instruction—such as school-books, religious tracts, and Penny, Saturday, and
Useful-Knowledge productions—there should be a total abstinence from tales of mysterious wonderment; and that no story should be introduced of which, first, the facts are not well ascertained ; and, secondly, of which such a probable solution cannot be rendered as will lead the reader in similar cases judiciously to examine the circumstances, so as to endeavour to penetrate the mystery, rather than to cherish an enervating credulity. The former is a wholesome and strengthening discipline of mind; the latter is a habit fatal to manly vigour of understanding, and in its consequences injurious to truth, by leading men to class what is really well-founded with the absurd reveries of fiction.
It is in this last respect that I would particularly urge the matter upon the readers of the Christian Observer; for few things have done more to discredit religion in the eyes of its opposers, than the weakness of mind, in reference to the subject now under consideration, of some of its votaries. If a believer in Christianity credits an idle ghost story, the infidel will easily flatter himself that he has no better foundation for the one than for the other. Such narratives as some of those contained in the Journals of Mr. Wesley, and in the writings of many other religious men, are an opprobrium to the interests of truth, and a stumbling-block to unbelievers. Instead of assisting the object which they were intended to promote, they impede it, and cause men of the world to turn aside from the serious investigation of Revealed Truth, lest they should be expected also to credit visionary fabrications.
I am aware that in some well-disposed minds there is a reluctance to examine too nicely into the evidence for popular marvels, or to reason upon admitted facts of an extraordinary character in order to account for them, lest, from disbelieving flimsy stories, and arguing upon remarkable though not supernatural incidents, they should be led to indulge sceptical feelings in regard to the disclosures of Revelation itself. This fear is weak and unfounded; and it probably arises from a man's not having that steady hold upon truth which is necessary to enable him to cleave to it amidst all the seductions of error. If a person can give no solid reason for the hope that is in him, or that he professes to be in him, no wonder he is afraid to exercise a searching investigation, lest in shaking the foundations of errors he should undermine those of truth. But this is an unworthy feeling : it is the result of ignorance, and not of knowledge; and it betrays latent unbelief, under the specious aspect of reverence : just as if a man would not examine into the facts of astronomy or geology, lest the works of God should appear inconsistent with his declarations ;-an absurd and infidel notion, which a Christian cannot cherish, and which he ought to encounter, not in the darkness, but in the light; not by shutting both his eyes, or opening only one of them, but by looking on all sides, and discerning the wonderful harmony which pervades the external works of the hand of God and the inspired record which he has given of his Son.
The above reflections have been suggested by reading, in that excellent publication the Saturday Magazine (No. 77), the well-known story of Mozart's Requiem. The introduction of this narrative does not perhaps bear out all that I have above remarked; but it at least fairly leads to such considerations. The story has been so often recited that it is scarcely worth while copying it, but it is necessary to do so, for the sake of illustrating the observations which I am anxious to impress upon the mind of the reader. It is as follows.
“ The bodily frame of Mozart was tender, and exquisitely sensible: ill-health overtook him in early life, and brought with it a melancholy approaching to despondency. A short time previously to his death, which happened when he was only thirty-six years old, he composed that famous
Requiem which, by an extraordinary presentiment, he considered as written for his own funeral.
“ One day, when he was plunged in a profound reverie, a carriage stopped at his door. A stranger was announced, who requested to speak with him. A person, handsomely dressed, and of dignified and impres. sive manners, was introduced. I have been commissioned, sir, by a man of considerable importance, to wait upon you. "Who is he?' interrupted Mozart. “He does not wish to be known.' 'Well, what does he require?' He has just lost a friend whom he tenderly loved, and whose memory will be ever dear to him. He is desirous of annually commemo. rating this event by a solemn service, for which he requests you to compose a Requiem. Mozart was forcibly struck by this discourse, by the grave manner in which it was uttered, and by the air of mystery in which the whole was involved. He engaged to write the Requiem. The stranger continued ; • Employ all your genius on this work; it is for a judge.' • So much the better. "What time do you ask?' 'A month.' " 'Tis well ; in a month I will return. What compensation will you require ?' * A hundred ducats.' The stranger laid the money on the table, and disappeared.
“ Mozart remained lost in thought for some time: he then suddenly called for his materials, and commenced the Requiem. In his rage for composition, he wrote day and night, with an ardour that appeared continually to increase : but his constitution, already in a state of great debility, was unable to support this enthusiasm. One morning, he fell senseless, and was obliged to suspend the work. Two or three days after, when his wife sought to divert his mind from the gloomy presages which occupied it, he said to her, abruptly, “It is certain that I am writing this Requiem for myself : it will serve for my funeral service. This impression was never removed.
“ As he proceeded, his strength diminished from day to day, but the score was slowly advancing. The month which he had fixed being expired, the stranger again made his appearance. I have found it impossible to keep my word. Do not give yourself any uneasiness; what further time do you require ?' • Another month : the work has interested me more than I expected, and I have extended it much beyond the first design.' • In that case,' said the stranger, “it is just to increase the reward : here are fifty ducats more.' 'Sir,' said Mozart, in increasing astonishment, 'who, then, are you?' That is nothing to the purpose : in a month's time I will return. Mozart immediately called one of his servants, and ordered him to follow this extraordinary personage. The man returned, unable to trace him.
“ The great musician then persuaded himself that the stranger was no mortal being, but was sent to announce his approaching end. He applied himself with more ardour to his Requiem, which he regarded as the most durable monument of his genius. While thus employed, he was seized with the most alarming fainting-fits; but the work was completed.
“ At the time appointed, the stranger returned ; but Mozart was no more."
Now why, I would ask, was this story thus specially selected for the columns of a work designed for popular amusement and instruction ? The other incidents in the life of Mozart are passed over as unworthy of notice ; the many topics of rational entertainment or information which might have been easily connected with it are omitted; and nothing is given us but a mysterious story, which leaves the mind in a state of painful suspense, and perhaps of dangerous superstition. Not the slightest effort is made to turn the story to good account: there is no investigation of its probability
Christ. OBSERV, No. 383. 4 P
or improbability; no examination of the evidence upon which it is found. ed; no attempt to explain it; no instruction grounded upon it. On the contrary, it is given as a mere matter of wonderment; and at least five readers out of ten, among those classes for whom such publications as the Saturday Magazine are professedly intended, will consider it as a veracious ghost-story, and thus find all their prejudices strengthened respecting omens, death-watches, apparitions, and every other form of popular superstition.
But is it wise, in the conductors of such a work as the Saturday Magazine, to encourage this diseased appetite by ministering to its gratification ? Why go out of their way to introduce such a story, unless they intended to make some good use of it? In a regular memoir of Mozart it would be necessary to mention it—though even then a biographer of right feeling would scarcely have dismissed it without a few explanatory remarks or useful reflections—but to turn aside expressly to find it; to give it in a detached form, as a mere marvellous story; and to clothe the narrative with an air of mystery, even beyond the necessity of the case, was surely not well-judged, or conducive to popular edification.
Indeed, one express object of such works as the Penny and the Saturday Magazines should be to correct vulgar errors, to root out absurd notions, to check irrational customs, and to rescue the poorer and less-educated classes of society from the debasing thraldom of superstition. With a view to this, many of the arts of impostors might be judiciously exposed; the jugglery of slight-of-hand performers and pretended fortune-tellers might be explained, so as to guard the simple and ignorant against their artifices ; optical illusions might be rendered a very entertaining and instructive topic; and the reader might thus be taught to reason and reflect, instead of cherishing vague wonder, and believing every tale.
In the particular case under consideration, if the object of the writer had been utility, and not mere excitement, he would naturally have led his reader-I presume that he is writing for youthful and uninformed minds, that require to be directed in their researches after truth-to inquire first whether the story was worthy of credit. Its singularity would naturally lead him to examine minutely into the evidence upon which it rested, and not to take for granted that it was true because it was won. derful. If, after examination, there were any doubts upon his mind as to the credibility of the narrative, he would not allow the fear of marring a picturesque tale to prevent his stating them : on the contrary, he would shew his pupil—for such I consider his reader-upon what very insufficient evidence many unaccountable stories rest, and thus fortify his mind against the gaping wonderment of illiterate credulity. If, upon the whole, he ascertained the story to be grounded upon facts, he would still endeavour to learn whether any thing had been added by way of embellishment, in order to make the mystery more mysterious : thus, again, he might usefully shew how strangely many of those stories are exaggerated which are the common-places of marvellous narrative. Then, when he had ascer. tained, so far as he was able, the exact facts, it would remain for him to offer such reflections upon them as might rescue an ill-informed reader from injurious impressions. Let us suppose that he has reason to conclude that the circumstances did occur, and that the tale is correctly told; he might then inquire into the most probable explanation. It is certainly very possible that some wealthy person, in order to induce Mozart to compose a Requiem for a beloved friend, might have adopted this mode of communication. The death of Mozart, and the air of reserve studiously thrown around the story, give to it more mystery than it necessarily claims. A believer in the doctrine of Purgatory, and the value of requiems and masses for the