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Extraordinary Proposal for a new Secret Society.
jesty's Ministers hold a cabinet meet-
* While I was writing the above, the Record for Oct. 7 was laid on my table; and the first article I glanced at in the answers to correspondents was an anonymous charge that the Lord Mayor had
might multiply instances: but it is
transacted some secular business on the
Would that a spirit of love were more prevalent in all who profess themselves pilgrims and strangers upon earth, and who are looking forward to a world where, after faith and hope are superseded, charity shall survive, for ever blessing and for ever blessed. Who can peruse St. Paul's eulogy on this divine grace (1 Cor. xiii.) and not feel its loveliness?" It speaks for itself, it speaks to our very hearts," exclaims Dr. Doddridge; but oh, who must not mourn that its angelic form is so much a stranger to multitudes who bear the Christian name! So that, in many instances, it can hardly pass uncensured; while those extremes which most evidently violate it, are often consecrated under honourable names, and men build much of their hopes of heaven, on breathing what is indeed the temper of hell. How many that style themselves Christians can endure no provocations, can cover no faults of their brethren, can keep themselves within no bounds, can believe nothing to their advantage against whom, on party-principles, they have entertained prejudices. They vaunt themselves; they are puffed-up with the conceit of their own wisdom; they behave unseemly; they seek only their own reputation and profit; they believe the worst they can hear of others, and suspect more than they hear." Thus did Dr. Doddridge write long ago, but most applicable are his words at the present moment. Alas!" adds he, that the dictates of our Divine Master and the genius of our religion are so little understood, are no more regarded, and that we so entirely forget the precepts of Christianity as not to number even those of common humanity. Yet surely if those precepts are wholly forgotten, it is in vain that we remember, or contend for, any of its doctrines and principles." I am aware that there are those who will say that all this canting" about love, candour, and tolerance, is only one of the modifications of liberalism, neology, indif
ference, and scepticism; but, be this as it may, I am sure it is the very atmosphere of heaven.
AN ANXIOUS OBSERVER.
A VISIT TO A CATHEDRAL.
(Continued from p. 554.) My dear friend,-Your Winchester antiquaries trace back the origin of their city to a high antiquity, which it does not become an ignorant man like me to dispute. I believe, indeed, they are not quite agreed as to the Trojan ancestry of Ludor Rous Hudibras, whom some have claimed for its founder: but they do not seem to entertain much doubt of its having been inhabited, several centuries before the Christian æra, by Celtic Britons from Normandy and Brittany; of its original name of Caer Gwent, or the White City, from its chalk hills; of its acquiring the name of Venta Belgarum, the etymon of its modern name, a century before the Christian æra, from a tribe of Belga, who came from the Rhine; of its having been subjected to Vespasian, who appointed a select committee to regulate its manufactures; of its revolutions in the days of the Romans; of its Christianization under the British King Lucius, a lineal descendant of Caractacus; of the building of its cathedral under this monarch, about the year of our Lord 180; or of the destruction of the said edifice in the Diocletian persecution, and its restoration by a convent of monks, when Constantine the Great restored peace to the church.
These remote matters I leave to wiser men than myself; but about the fifth century its history begins to be well marked; and I have already noticed a few of its early memorabilia. I might mention many others; among which, I ought not to forget that it was at Winchester that was held in the reign of William the Conqueror, under the presidency of the Pope's Legate, the far-famed synod which made the first efficient
attempt to render celibacy binding upon the English clergy. In the earlier ages, though clerical celibacy had been honoured, it had not been enjoined or generally practised. In the unsettled state of the church in the primitive age, it was often better that those who were to travel over the world with their lives in their hands should not be encumbered with a family; yet even then the Apostle Paul only spoke of celibacy as expedient under present circumstances, not as a religious duty. Two or three centuries after we find marriage still permitted to the clergy: but celibacy began to be more highly honoured; for which Mosheim assigns a strange reason, that "it was an almost general persuasion that they who took wives were of all others the most subject to the influence of malignant demons." I need not relate to you the various steps by which the practice became general, and the dreadful excesses to which it led. The Popes, with a view to bind the clergy to the secular interests of the church, and to the Papal see, were indefatigable in enforcing this bondage, and they summoned numerous synods for the purpose in various parts of Europe; but it was only after many efforts that they succeeded in generally imposing the yoke, especially in England. The Winchester synod decreed that the bishops should not henceforth ordain any person who would not pledge himself to celibacy; and this was a decisive step; but still it did not venture to divorce those who were already married, except they belonged to colleges and cathedrals, so that no positive criminality was, even up to that date, attached to clerical marriage; but by degrees the practice became universal, and with it that dreadful state of morals which helped to lead the way to the Protestant Reformation. An unmarried clergy is the masterpiece of Papal policy; the subjects of it have no ties to draw them off from their blind obedience to Rome; their church-I do not mean in a
spiritual or pastoral sense, but politically and ecclesiastically-stands to them in the place of wife and children; I had almost said, of God; for it they crave, and beg, and amass mortuary possessions, and too often keep in check the affections of kindred or patriotism, allowing the sovereign pontiff to intervene between themselves and their lawful rulers, or the superstitions of Popery to alienate them from the dearest and most holy relationships of life.
I have ever viewed it as one of the most convincing indications of the determined selfishness and moral pravity of the Church of Rome, that she clings with such obstinate pertinacity to this injurious and unnatural institution, which is not of necessity connected with any question of doctrine or religious discipline. It is a matter of undisguised calculating policy; a cold-blooded sacrifice at the shrine of Rome of the best affections and interests of the human soul.
What would Popery give up as to any matter of theology, any article of faith or religious practice, if it relinquished this baneful system? Nothing, absolutely nothing; only that Rome would lose much of her hold upon her priesthood, and would sacrifice the bulwark of her monastic orders. And for this paltry end she perpetuates this enormity. If it were allowed, which I for one do not admit, that celibacy is favourable to pastoral devotion and diligence, the flock occupying the place of domestic relationships, yet even this would not counterbalance the unceasing benefits which result to a parish from the residence of a wellinformed, virtuous, religious family; including the blessings which flow to the poor, the instruction of children, and the comfort of the sick, with all the tender charities of female solicitude and maternal influence. The demonstration is daily before our eyes in our own church; for, owing to the poverty which falls to the lot of so many of our clergy, great numbers of them are obliged to continue unmarried, and this in nume
rous cases in which the individual was eminently calculated to adorn every domestic relationship. But do we find, in point of fact, that the spiritual concerns of a parish are more sedulously and affectionately attended to where the clergyman is thus circumstanced, than where he has a wife and daughters to assist his labours? Is the Protestant monk's cell, in the wing of a farm-house, a brighter focus of light and warmth to the parish, than the parsonage fire-side, with all its glowing and expanding affections? I do not disparage, but sincerely pity, those of our clergy whose straitened circumstances do not allow of their attaching to themselves a domestic helpmeet and sub-curate to assist their pastoral labours, and to animate them to new efforts in behalf of their beloved flock; but to say, that they are therefore the more useful, is to contradict plain matter of fact. Yet if this plea be abated, what has the Church of Rome to urge in behalf of her rule of forced celibacy?
In the case of women, the rule is often still more severe than in that of men; both because women are less formed to bear the rude shock of the disruption of social ties, and because in their case the banishment is more often involuntary and forced upon them by artifice or tyranny. I never read without a tear, and a burst of indignation against the Church of Rome, Mr. Blanco White's account of his sisters. Let me wind up my execrations at the synod of Winchester with the passage; and if you will read it to your sons and daughters, it will do more to shew them the hard-hearted tyranny of the Papal church, than if I filled my sheet with twenty abstract arguments.
"Cruel and barbarous, indeed, must be the bigotry or the policy which, rather than yield on a point of discipline, sees with indifference even the chance, not to say the existence, of such evils. To place the most sensitive, innocent, and ardent minds under the most horrible ap
prehensions of spiritual and temporal punishment, without the clearest necessity, is a refinement of cruelty which has few examples among civilized nations. Yet the scandal of defection is guarded against by fears that would crush stouter hearts, and distract less vivid imaginations than those of timid and sensitive females. Even a temporary leave to quit the convent for the restoration of decaying health is seldom given, and never applied for but by such nuns as unhappiness drives into a disregard of public opinion. I saw my eldest sister, at the age of two-and-twenty, slowly sink into the grave within the walls of a convent; whereas, had she not been a slave to that church which has been a curse to me, air, amusement, and exercise might have saved her. I saw her on her deathbed. I obtained that melancholy sight, at the risk of bursting my heart, when in my capacity of priest, and at her own request, I heard her last confession. Ah! when shall I forget the mortal agony with which, not to disturb the dying moments of that truly angelic being, I suppressed my gushing tears in her presence; the choking sensation with which I forced. the words of absolution through my convulsed lips; the faltering steps with which I left the convent alone, making the solitary street where it stood re-echo the sobs I could no longer contain !
I saw my dear sister no more; but another was left me, if not equal in talents to the eldest (for I have known few that could be considered her equals), amiable and good in no inferior degree. To her I looked up as a companion for life. But she had a heart open to every noble impression; and such, among Catholics, are apt to be misled from the path of practical usefulness, into the wilderness of visionary perfection. At the age of twenty she left an infirm mother to the care of servants and strangers, and shut herself up in a convent, where she was not allowed to see even the nearest relations. With a delicate frame re
quiring every indulgence to support it in health, she embraced a rule which denied her the comforts of the lowest class of society. A coarse woollen frock fretted her skin; her feet had no covering but that of shoes open at the toes, that they might expose them to the cold of a brick floor; a couch of bare planks was her bed, and an unfurnished cell her dwelling. Disease soon filled her conscience with fears; and I had often the torture of witnessing her agonies at the Confessional. I left her, when I quitted Spain, dying much too slowly for her only chance of relief. I wept bitterly for her loss two years after; yet I could not be so cruel as to wish her alive."
Let us now return to Winchester. This city did not want in its day for sumptuousness; and in particular, the old historians boast of the excellent wines which adorned the tables of its royal and mitred inhabitants, nay, of its monks, clergy, and higher citizens. Robert of Gloucester sings in the thirteeeth century:
In the country of Canterbury most plenty of fish is,
And most chase of wild beasts about Salisbury I wis;
stituted distilled liquors for it; a most deadly substitute, as experience has proved; but Temperance Societies, I am inclined to hope, will so far enlighten public opinion as to rescue the next generation.
Notwithstanding wars, sieges, famines, and pestilences, Winchester continued to flourish, till Edward the Third, in the year 1363, removed its staple trade to Calais, which seriously injured it. But the Protestant Reformation was the deathblow to its greatness. It had lived upon Popery; its civil importance was closely connected with its ecclesiastical dignity; its immense revenues were chiefly the produce of religious munificence, as religion. was apprehended in those days of superstition, when a corrupt church discounted its post-obit bills on eternity for gold, jewels, manors, and other perishable wealth, which the people were taught was not to be compared for a moment with the value of a Pope's indulgence, or a wonder-working relic, or a mass to deliver souls from purgatory. Though the civil wars in the days of Maud and Stephen had caused much temporary damage and bloodshed in
At London ships most, and wine at Win-Winchester, the mine from which
Matthew of Westminster informs us, that the wine which rendered Winchester so much better a clerical residence than either Canterbury with its fish, or Salisbury with its game, was Claret; "Tibi vinum tua Vascovia ministravit." There was not only delicate taste, but sound wisdom in this choice; for no need had there been of Temperance Societies, if men had been able and content, as St. Paul prescribes to Timothy, to add to their pure aqueous beverage a moderate portion of the juice of the grape, as Providence gave it, without those deleterious mixtures of ardent spirits by which Northern palates have been vitiated, and life and happiness and religion so greatly injured. The poorer classes of society, where wine could not be cheaply procured, have subCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 358.
her riches sprang had remained unexhausted; but when the Reformation stopped up its adits, Winchester became poor indeed. Think of five religious houses, with all their revenues, at once suppressed; the magnificent establishment of Hyde Abbey devastated; chauntry lands confiscated; rich hospitals crushed at a blow; St. Cross, Mary Magdalene, and I know not how many other well-endowed foundations, put down or dilapidated; and the priory of St. Swithun itself, the oldest, it was said, in the world, utterly extirpated. The riches of this priory may be judged of when it is stated that out of a fraction only of the spoils, the cathedral, under its new regime, was endowed with a Protestant dean, twelve prebendaries, and six minor canons. The Papists look with horror at these reformations, and 4 I