Page images
[ocr errors]

no doubt we should let them alone. My creed is live and let live ; ' a good fat living, a bottle of old port, and a few old friends, give me, a very good idea of the Church ; and when I receive, as I do, 8001. per annum in the shape of tithes, I think it the most real of all realities. But if Mr. Walford should set us, who are the clerisy, to teach the nation all the fine things he talks of, I shall think this a very poor manifestation of the Eternal Church in the idea of it.' Gentlemen, it appears to me, therefore, that Lord Henley's idea of the Church, namely, a minimum of 400l. per annum to every parson in Great Britain, with a maximum of 16001. per annum, is a much better idea of the Church than Mr. Walford's; and with your permission, therefore, I will give you a toast— Lord Henley's idea of the primitive Church.? "

This toast we drank with much laughter, to the no small annoyance of the mystical prebendary. When order had thus been restored, after a time, up rose the Honourable and Reverend Mr. Arden, second son of the Earl of Birmingham. It had been a matter of surprise to many of us,

before we sat down to dinner, to see this young gentleman amongst the party, for he is known amongst us as a very unaccommodating evangelical, who keeps aloof from the clergy, and lives by himself, deeply immersed in study, and altogether of a sombre and melancholy temperament. I should not forget

to tell you that his curacy is only two miles from Tuddington, that he was a great friend of “ good Mr. Thompson,” but never once has condescended to pay me a visit. When you read all he said you

will be amazed that we let him go on, seeing that we had tolerated so much less from Prebendary Walford; and indeed I can only account for it by the respect paid to his rank, and by his commanding and prince-like air. He is very tall, has a remarkably elegant person, a pale face, with large black eyes and black hair; and I must confess that it is impossible to hear him speak without involuntarily paying him deep attention, He spoke as follows:

“ The object of this meeting, Mr. Chairman, having never yet been fairly stated, I have been endeavouring ever since we have been in this room to ascertain the motives of those who have been pleased to call us together. The invitation which I received was orally delivered by a friend, who begged me to attend a meeting of the clergy, which, he believed, might be of importance in the present crisis. As no proposition has, however, yet been brought forward, and as no gentleman present seems to have anything to propose, I presume that the convokers of this meeting had no other object in view than to pay a compliment to the Vicar of Tuddington, which having been paid in the usual style, it would seem that no other labour is now imposed on us than to settle the tavern bill, and return to our respective homes. I am anxious, Mr. Chairman, that this meeting should not terminate with results so unimportant, and I therefore beg leave to bring forward a proposition for the consideration of my reverend brethren, which I must preface with a few necessary remarks.

If we should separate without having performed any thing more efficient than the compliment of a toast to the Reverend Vicar of Tuddington, it would appear to me that our enemies, who are not less observing than numerous, might accuse us of congregating for a most frivolous object; and these, Mr. Chairman, are not days when we can incur


additional ridicule with impunity. I am sorry that the health of that reverend gentleman has been drunk at all, and should wish, if it were possible, that we might wash it away with the waters of oblivion ; but the word, having escaped the hedge of teeth, cannot be recalled ; and as the Vicar of Tuddington has now received the wishes of his brethren for an increase of health, it only remains for us to add thereto a prayer that he may

henceforward employ it in purposes honourable to himself, and to the Church of which he is a minister.

“I am, however, sorry that this health has been drunk, because it has been coupled by the proposer with a eulogy on the Vicar of Tuddington, as the preacher of a published sermon, and as the brother and imitator of L, S. E. To me, Sir, it



that neither the preacher of that sermon nor L. S. E. are entitled to the thanks of the clergy. I would have added, Sir, that they have merited nothing but our contempt, had I not this day, for the first time, heard the sentiments of the Bishop of L-on the merits of these brothers, sentiments at which I am amazed beyond description. That a prelate of so much pretension to scholarship and to discernment--that a gentleman so well versed in courtly manners, and in that species of sagacious prudence which is the boast of the Jesuits--that a politician of so much management as the Bishop of L- should have recommended the Letters of L. S. E. the clergyshould have given it as his opinion that they ' contain much useful information and sound reasoning'is a matter of deep regret to every clergyman who is not content to grovel in the lowest grade of stupid and brutal bigotry.

“I have performed, Sir, the painful task of reading these said Letters of L. S. E., and for some time was disposed to consider the book a clumsy and exaggerated caricature, written by a Dissenter to make the sect of bigots in our Church look ridiculous; but when I heard all around me the serious applauses of my brethren, and observed how the Vicar of Tuddington was extolled for his printed sermon, I was compelled to open my eyes, and to look on these Letters as the bonâ fide production of real malevolence, the undoubted labours of genuine clerical spite.

[ocr errors]

“ As the Bishop of L— has only pronounced a general approbation, we must be at a loss to know in what part of the book to find this sound reasoning; for to me every page seems replete with such foolish rant, such violent perversion of Scripture, and such desperate blunders, that I marvel much how even the least instructed of all the great army of our priesthood could accept this miserable volume with approbation. We must, Sir, I fear have fallen into a very low estate indeed to admire, or even to tolerate, these Letters, though stamped with the approbation of a notorious prelate; and I know not what excuse to find for our order in thus having committed ourselves, unless indeed we may plead that the political excitement of the times, or the alarm of an approaching downfall, have so bewildered our reason as to make us say and do things of which we should be ashamed in a more tranquil season.

" It does, however, appear to me a most imprudent, I had almost said a most insane, stroke of policy, in this turning point of our future destiny, to come forward with the old rusty sword of Archbishop Laud in order to frighten the Dissenters into obedience. It is a scheme full of folly, and worthy only of ridicule in these days to dress ourselves in the worm-eaten garments of Popish precedence, and to strut once more on the stage as the bullies and monopolists of the Christian religion. In darker days than these—in the heats

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »