IN A FASHIONABLE CHURCH.
BY A Vagabond
I I certainly had no business here. A vaga .bond in a fashionable church is decidedly out of place, and his presence is more sur- prising than that of flies in amber. Such »3 myself are " neither rich nor rare," bat the wonder to many, I am told, is how I find my way into the placea of which I write. From a social stand-point it ia a far cry from the Gospel-hall to the Scots Church in Col- lins-street. Nevertheless, on Whit Sunday I attended service at the latter, and now have the audacity to give! my views
Although the edifice is a new ono, the «burch (using that word to denote the body of worshippers) is one of the oldest in Victoria. The building itself is a fine specimen of architecture worthy of a great city like Melbourne. Inside there is no " dim religious light ;" no painted windows keep out God's Bun, or convey holy leBSons by the representation of pre-Raphaelite figures of saints of dubious identity ; there are no obscure aisles, Banc, tuariee, or altars which imagination may en- dow with an extra amount of sacredness or mjatery. Everything here is cold, severe, chaste, and beautiful ; there is a free light everywhere-the building is typical of the doctrines preached, which require no super- natural embellishments or material appeals to the Benses, but ore open to and court the full light of reason. I had shed for the nonce my vagabond apparel, and being clothed in the garments of civili- sation and church-going, borrowed from the stores of a well-known second-hand clothier,' no obstacle was offered to my entry. I arrived full early, and had ample time to ob- serve the congregation. The beauty, fashion, wealth, and talent of Melbourne is strongly represented here. The daughters of the land are in great force-could any church exist for a year without female support 7 For them the denizens of land, Bea, and air have been slaughtered to furnish fitting attire for worship, and they wear a fortune in golden ornaments and precious stones. The civilised man, in direct opposition to the course of nature ob witnessed in the animal kingdom or savage man, wears a sober apparel, and leaves the beauties of colour to his mate; but some here present restore the balance of value by the extra size of their diamond rings, It is a moot point aa to whether one should dress plainly for church-going. Cynics . say, "If God cam about you, he won't look at your dreBS or coat, but at your heart." That is true ; but then, why should we pay lees respect to the worship of God than to our own friends? You swells would not in- sult your host by going to dinner in a staff gown, or in a shooting-jacket ; and so long, therefore, as dress is considered a mode of expressing observance, I am not going to quarrel with ladies for adorning themselves for church-going. And in this moderation I loBe a fine opportunity of inveighing against feminine vanities, and the moon- gi ui ty of much of the service with the position and attire of the female congre, gation. But although a vagabond, I strive to be impartial, and I think many writers have criticised too much "the fair sinners in satins, laces, and diamonds." Outwardly and artistically, the moles here may not be much to look at, but they represent a great deal. This is a truly remarkable congrega- tion, and chiefly bo for the individual and aggregate wealth of its members. Here are men whose yearly income is reckoned by the thousand, up to hundreds of thousands. Squatters, whose Hocks and herds are greater than those of Abraham. Merchants, bankers, and lawyers, men of the first repute on the mart asd in the forum. No incongruity is apparently perceived in the presence of a sporting element in the congregation. Could some modern outcast Samson pull down the pillars, I expect the amount of BucceBsion and legacy duties would free the Government from the necessity of collecting taxes for a year or two.
Itispleasanttobe in such company, pleasant to look around and see fair, cultivated women, pleasant to feel the Bubtle perfumea which float through the air. Whatever ia - ia (whether it is right or fair is another ques- tion), So I, although my feelings and pre- judices are enlisted on behalf of the poor and outcast, cannot deny to myself that this clean, well-dressed congregation is likely to be morally better than thoBO who should fill the Gospel-halls-but don't In the sur- roundings here there is everything in the favour of morality and respectability. Leav- ing the religious question on one side, one feels that here every one is likely to acknow- ledge an obligation to his neighbour-that received social morality which John Stuart Mill well defines as being in truth "the summary of the conduct which every one, whether he himself observes it with any strictness or not, deBires that others should otwerve towards him." And I can readily imagine that this feeling may be in- creased and Sustained by a superior social position,and advantages mental and physical Mr. Philip Gilbert Hamerton, the author, artist, BByain the Intellectual Life-"There is really in nature such a thing as high life. There is really in nature a difference be. tween the life of a gentleman who has cul- ture, and fine bodily health, and indepen- dence, and the life of a Sheffield dry-grinder who cannot have any one of these three things. A life of health, of Bound morality, of disinterested intellectual activity, of freedom from petty earea, is higher than a life of disease, and vice, and stupidity, and sordid anxiety." The present Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, writing of his friend, the late Julian Fane, refers to bis "artistry of life " ob represented not only by his in- tellectual but by his bodily gifts. Now, with- out allowing that the advantages which Mr. Hamerton and Lord Lytton refer to are always accompanied by a sound morality in their possessor, still they must be a great incentive thereto. But all these advantages are dependent upon the posseB sion of comparative wealth ; and the poor man baa a double ground of complaint:-first, in his present state being one of disease, care, and hard work ; and secondly, in his surroundings leading him into vice and crime, and so endangering his immortal welfare. I really feel that now.a-days (if he will) it is easy for a rich man to be moral and religious, and so become worthy of the kingdom of heavon. I have known how hard it is to feel yonr equals turn from your shabby coat, to fare meanly, and en- deavour to keep up the feelings of an honour- able man, and to resist the promptings of evil, which would lead one to do things which hereafter you might be ashamed of. If I have conquered temptations, and can feel that morally I am not much below the average church-goer, it is because years of social train in g and advantages, in the past, taught me that vice and crime are not beautiful, and in the end don't poy ; and that not only in the next world, but in this, virtue, if it can riso abovo the slough of poverty, has ita reward. But I can fully realise how to the poor and ignorant temptations which those more fortunately situated can throw off without effort come with overpower ing force. There ia nothing in their lives or associations, or tone of their public opinion, to aid them in resisting such -the inlluence, in fact, is the other way. I am obliged to admit the superior morality of thia congregation, but how their position is to be reconciled by any "scheme of existence or salvation" with those of the vagabonds and outcasts for whom I hold a brief, I do not know.
In the old country I have studied all tho vagaries of the Church of England-High, Low, and Broad, Sometimea where the church waa least apparent I fancy I detected the most Christianity. But I confess I know little of Presbyterian doctrines. Occasionally there ia an advantage in approaching a subject without previous knowledge. Things strike a stranger with freshness, and often begets ideas which would not occur to those to whom the topic is familiar. I suppose we bad the orthodox service of prayers, reading».
nod hymns. It belüg the occasion of the periodical communion, the portions ot Scrip- ture which were read referred to the institu- tion of that sacrament. The singing, ia which I waa glad to hear the congregation join, waa good, and the organ is an excellent one. The prayer was not a long one ; it was full of the ordinary appeals to the Almighty for help and protection for ourselves and others, but couched in moderate language. After the giving out of the text we carefully settled down in our Beats, which were not too comfortable, and observed the minister. The Rev. CharleB Strong waa selected and sent out here by Principal Caird aa the best available article in that line in Scotland. He ia a young man, not much over 30, but looking bia full years. There is nothing particularly striking in his personal appear- ance, which ia not set off by the grim Geneva gown of orthodoxy. From the chaste white stone pulpit (which occupies the place of the altar in other churches) his voice waa clearly heard. But his reading of the sermon could not be called eloquent, and to my mind, atleaat, his manner waa decidedly not "inspiring." There waa a harshnoBa and dryneaa of deli- very, which I daresay after the firat hearing yon get accustomed to. Bat the matter of the sermon waa everything. Taking his text from the leeson, he discoursed on the com. munion. He Bhowed that it waa a rite of the church, one of those grafted from the Jewish on to the Christian faith. But in partaking of this sacrament we did not believe in any supernatural cha- racteristics, or that there waa anything par. ticlarly sacred or prieatly in the administering of the Bame. Wa did not believe in any ritualism ; and by that be meant not only the functions of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, but that worship of or vene- ration for forms which might and did exiat in- many Presbyterian country chnrches. We believed that there was nothing specially sacred in the form or ma- terial of any service, in the officiator, or the place in which it waa held ; bat so long aa men believed that an immaterial soul, with-
out form and substance, would go to a very I material hell, bo long the belief in the efficacy of material rites and ceremonies would exist. All these, although now so thoroughly grafted into the doctrines of churches, were at first merely adopted from motives of expe- diency. We might look upon many of these observances as childish, but still, there waa nothing particularly wrong in them ; and perhaps they had in paat times been necessary. We must look at, and par- take of the Bacrament in a spiritual light, The love of Christ, and of a Christian life, should be in our hearts, and recognising one broad universal spirit in the other churches of the paat and the present, we may see through petty forma, rites, and ceremonies the spirit of Christ With His love in our hearts we should strive after purity of life, and endeavour to do Christian worka, help- ing to make a Christian city and a Christian congregation, and not leave this only a weekly "religious meeting-house or Gospel shop," where praying and preaching might be beard, but no fruit come thereof.
These were the principal heada of Mr. Strong's discourse, and fairly embody, I believe, his views ort the necessity of a purity of life and good worka. He ia evidently no believer in the efficacy of [faitb, and in every idea is far in advance of the traditions of the Preaby terian Church, and the majority of its minis tera. The "Holy Church Universal" is to him composed of all who believe in the prin- ciples of a Christian life, no matter how they call their belief. In rites and ceremonies he aeea childish aids to religion for those who have not arrived at a stage in which they can do without these, ¿firabile dktu, be does not denounce others for believing in super- stitions, but underneath theae sees the spirit of Christ, and detecta love where others would onlr find hatred. For auch a con- gregation as Mr. Strong posaesses I hold his views to be admirable-for myaelf, I desire no other; but for the majority of man- kind-for the poor, the vicions, and the criminal-how will thia intellectual-Bpiritual religion affect tbem ? Can yon appeal to their hearts through their reaBon, or must they not be influenced by rites and teachings which claim some sort of present supernatural authority, as in the Church of Borne, or by the emotional nervous spasms accompanying that peculiar process styled as " getting belief" or " being converted ?" In one case the heart is reached through the outward senses ; in the other through the nerves. Can the like process be attained through the brain ? To the poor the teaching of a kingdom not of this world, which they may inherit, is all enticing. They hope to enjoy the good there they have missed on earth ; and although I myBelf believe that very lew people are rendered better by hopes of a future heaven, or fears of a posaible hell, still the creed which holds out tangible rewards, and punishments will always be believed in by the multitude. Theae, with an as- sumption of supernatural authority, have from early agea controlled mankind ; and although there baa of late years been a great decline in ecclesiastical authority throughout the world, still the believers in that authority are yet numerous ; and many who, contrast, in g comforting teachinge such as Mr. Strong's with the poverty and misery there ia outaide the chnrcbeB, can find for themselves no ex- planation of the incongruity, rush to the relief afforded tbem by "absolute authority,'' which settles all their doubts and scruples of conscience ; in fact, objects to their thinking for themselves at all. Will Mr. Strong's teaching lead to any great belief i I do not mean faitb, but that belief, that courage of their opinions, which led the early Christian martyrs, many of the warriors of the Crusades, and all of Mahomet's followers to gladly welcome death for their cause. I am aware that in devotion to ideas these deeds have been omulated by patriots and enthusiasts-such enthusiasm does not depend entirely on a religions motive. But can Mr. Strong arouse by his preaching of the religion of humanity sufficient enthu- siasm in his congregation to effect any last- ing good? I hope bo, and recognise in his
broad tolerance for all faiths one who is in advance of hie church and times, and un- fortunately, I think, of the majority of people through all time, who will, I am afraid, never be Bufficlently educated en masse to a due appreciation of this spiritual religion of humanity.
Mr. Strong gave us a short sermon. He, I am told, generally follows Sidney Smith's advice as to the length of sermons, "twenty minutes, with a leaning to the side of mercy." Afterwards, there was the uBual weekly collection. I contributed my mite, and whilst doing so thought of the old Scotch story of the man who inadvertently put half a-crown in the plate instead of his regular modest donation. Discovering his mistake, be afterwards waited on the elder, and wished to rectify tbe bama, bat was told that what was given was given, and could not be changed. "Ah, weel," he aaid, "I winna foBli mysel, I'll get credit for the half-croon." "Na, na, mon," was the reply; "ye'llonly get credit for the bawbee." From the point of view of only totting credit for intentions, I am afraid I am not much the better for the morning thus spent in a fashionable
At a recent meeting of the Paris Political Economy Society some surprise and incre- dulity were manifested at a statement by M. Joseph Gamier, that he bad learned from ii. Manneanln that gold-mines had just been discovered in Spain of such marvellous rich- ness that thoy might contribute to restore the normal relative value-IS} to 1-between the two metala. M. Mannequin boii/g present at thoeociety's meeting held twoor three days ago, an attempt was made to obtain from him somo details of this wonderful discovery, which M. Simonin turned into ridicule, affirming that there were no gold-fields in Spoin which would pay the expenae of work- ing. M. Mannequin, however, refused to be drawn, Btating that ne could not betray the secret, as a company was now being formed, but he maintained his assertion, and de- clared that he bad by no means exagge- rated the richness of this gold-field.