MoboReader > Literature > Wintering in the Riviera

   Chapter 5 SUNDAY ABROAD.

Wintering in the Riviera By William Miller Characters: 38539

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Sunday is kept abroad with various degrees of propriety. As a rule, it is a gala day-a fete day, and to certain classes of servants it only brings additional toil. There is no distinction, as with ourselves, unless in rare and exceptional cases, between railway trains on Sunday and trains on week-days; and, in point of fact, I believe there is more travelling on Sundays than on other days of the week. Work and business are not wholly suspended, but there are fewer carts upon the streets. In many places, workmen may be seen engaged in their employments, at all events till dinner-time, just as usual. Shops are nowhere wholly closed, at least during the earlier part of the day. But the generality of the natives attend a morning service, and afterwards walk about in their Sunday clothes; so that in large towns the streets are crowded by lounging saunterers, or scarcely less idle sightseers. It is gratifying to observe that wherever English people form a large admixture of the population, as at Cannes, Mentone, and Pau, a greater external reverence is paid to the day than elsewhere, and particularly in the matter of closing shops. Possibly in some cases this may result from finding it is not worth while to open them, as the principal customers would not enter and transact, but let us hope that it springs from a growing influence for good. In Paris, during and after the reign of the Commune, I believe all shops were open; but they are now, year by year, getting to be more and more closed.

In Mentone the washerwomen appear to suspend operations on Sundays. It is probable that they strive to get all the linen committed to their care sent home by the end of the week to the ladies, who require their things by that time to be ready. But I have occasionally seen one or two washing away as usual, even in heavy rain; and I fancy, from appearances, they were then purifying their own garments.

To what extent theatres are open, I have no means of stating. I believe that in Paris and other large French towns, if not elsewhere, the theatres are in full operation.

In places where musical bands play, as at Interlachen, the music proceeds just as on ordinary days-once, twice, or three times a day, according to the custom of the place; but it gathers to it all the idlers, and is therefore generally listened to by far greater crowds than during the week. Nor is the music different in character from what is usually performed. There is no attempt to compromise matters by playing sacred tunes. Not improbably, in some places, there may be a better selection of secular music than usual; 'classical music' may be attempted. At Cannes, although it is a thoroughly English settlement, the band plays on Sunday near the Mairie. At Mentone the playing took place outside the cirque, near to some of the churches, so that the worshippers had to pass by it to reach them.

Where there are Galleries or Museums, Sunday is usually an open or free day, no payment being exacted. At Naples the Museum, and at Florence the Picture Galleries and the grounds of the Royal Pitti Palace, are open to the public, the only other day in the week on which the Museum and Galleries are free being Thursdays. Ascension Day, however, seems to be regarded as more holy than Sunday, for it happened at Florence, while we were there, and falling upon a Thursday, the Galleries were closed. The Louvre in Paris is open on Sunday, but is closed on Monday, to be cleaned. The Capitoline Museum in Rome (belonging to Government) is open on Sundays gratis, but as a rule galleries as well as shops are closed on Sundays in Rome.

The Casino at Monte Carlo is always open on Sundays, and was a source of attraction to many of the foreign visitors at Mentone, and sometimes, though more rarely, even to such English people as were not very strict in their views.

The Carnival proceeded at Nice the same as on the other day or days on which it was held. It was probably then a grander affair, and I believe drew to it much greater crowds-many, though not many English, going to see it from Mentone, and, no doubt, from all the surrounding parts.

Sunday, indeed, is regarded as a fete day. In the times of the Empire I found it, on occasion of my first visit to Paris, to be the day of the great Fête Napoleon. It was also the day for illuminations, and for playing the Grandes-Eaux at Versailles. The same practice prevails elsewhere. At Rome there was on one Sunday during our visit an illumination of the Piazza del Popolo, and a balloon was sent up in the course of the evening. At Pau also our attention was called one Sunday afternoon to an immense balloon descending, with a man suspended from it by ropes-a most perilous-looking adventure, and by no means an agreeable spectacle, though we were not near enough to see the man distinctly. Throughout France the elections take place on the Sunday, and possibly it is the same elsewhere. In Italy and in Paris, as well as in other places, people expend a portion of their earnings in driving about in cabs and other vehicles plying for hire. One summer, a few years ago, we spent a fortnight in the Champs Elysées, and found that on Sunday evening they were, if possible, more brilliantly lighted up, and more gay and noisy, than on other nights; but I think the great spectacle then to be seen was derived from the multiplicity of voitures driving up and down, two rows one way and two rows another, in continuous line. As each carries either one or two lights (I am not sure which, but I think two), and as nothing at a little distance but the lights is seen, the effect is curious. The broad roadway seems from the Place de la Concorde to the Triumphal Arch to be filled with an incessant stream of Will-o'-the-wisp-like lights noiselessly flitting up and down the course.

Letters are delivered by the post either as usual on the rest of the week, or at all events on the Sunday morning, but my impression is that there is no difference in the deliveries. When there were any letters to annoy us, they were sure to come on a Sunday morning, so that often we wished there had been no delivery.

In hotels at home, with a laudable view to lessen the work of servants and give opportunity to them to go to church, visitors who have private rooms are often requested to dine on Sundays at the public table, and I have heard of no less than thirteen newly-married couples at one of the English lake hotels having thus one Sunday complied. As people abroad are little in the habit of dining in private rooms, there is not scope for this observance. But Sunday is always regarded as a day for a somewhat better dinner than usual. Sometimes, if not on the ordinary programme, it is in the shape of a course of ices, or it may be some other rarity.

The employment of the evening depends upon the company. The English, as a rule, observe Sunday abroad much as they do at home, except, of course, that being in a hotel, they are thrown more into living in public. Many retire to their rooms and read. But often before they do so, in hotels frequented by them,-particularly if exclusively so,-the young people, led by some one at the piano, will join in singing hymns. Even in hotels where foreigners are the principal visitors, English people present will sometimes strike up a hymn. This takes place usually to the apparent enjoyment of the foreigners, who seem not to know what to do with themselves on Sunday. They do not read, at least to the extent to which the English do. It is not unusual for them to have recourse to cards, or drafts, or chess, while their children romp about in a way at which we should be scandalized at home. Occasionally a visitor will play and sing at the piano secular tunes and songs, though when our countrywomen go to the piano they rarely select anything but sacred pieces.

One Sunday evening I recollect its being announced that there would be a concert by professional musicians in the salon, from which, before the concert began, nearly all the English quietly withdrew. It was not repeated in the same house while we were there.

In travelling, those who desire to have a book for Sunday reading, ought to take one or more such books with them. They are not procurable in shops or in circulating libraries. Possibly they may be, though probably not of a high class, at Tract Dép?ts; but where these depots are to be found, may not always be easy to learn. However, in season places the churches have generally small libraries attached to them, which are useful to those who are there for the season. A passing traveller of course cannot avail himself of them. It is not a bad plan to have the monthly magazines sent by book post to one's foreign address, and when read they may prove very acceptable gifts to others.

It was not often that we were induced by curiosity to go into a Roman Catholic Church on a Sunday. The proceedings are unintelligible to the uninitiated, and the service seems to be all performed for the people by the priests, who are 'the Church.' Where there is singing or vocal music, it is done by the priests alone, aided by boys, and sometimes, though very rarely, by women. I recollect, when in Antwerp many years ago, on occasion of some great festival the choir was augmented by a number of (concealed) female singers with the sweetest voices. But the congregation never joins in the singing. They listen, just as congregations do at home to anthems performed by choirs, which it would require a knowledge of music, acquaintance with the piece, a music book, and a good voice to enable them to take part in. The service is conducted by the priests, with their backs to the people, these backs being generally covered with an ornamented dress, sometimes exhibiting an inserted cross in colours, sometimes white satin with rich gold embroidery, but varying according to the rank held by the priest, and according to the place, and doubtless according, in some churches, to the importance of the day. The chief priest appears to be reading a large book before him on the altar, and mumbling something to himself; and every now and then he and they (when more than one) perform a genuflexion or change position, and sometimes he turns round to the audience and says something inaudibly, while a boy tinkles a bell as a signal to the people at certain stages of the service. The ceremony is familiar to all who have been abroad. This priest service is no doubt intended, with other things, to exalt the priesthood and to swell its power, the grasp and severity of which the world has unfortunately too often felt. It is only right, however, to say that the people listen devoutly, and seem to know something at least of what is going on, and can follow it and understand when to rise up and when to kneel down. Many of them hold in their hands the book containing the service, which is printed both in Latin and in their own tongue; and were this book (after which the Prayer Book of the Church of England is modelled) purged of some erroneous matters, such as the prayers to the Virgin Mary and Saints, it contains a service to the words of which Protestants probably could not object. Mass sometimes begins very early in the morning; and after it has been said by the priest (I think it does not take much longer than half an hour), the congregation clears out and is succeeded by another, which pours in, before whom the service is repeated. People who have so heard mass apparently consider they have done their duty for the day so far as church worship is concerned.

When a priest preaches, which seems to be only rarely, and possibly only when he has the faculty, he mounts the pulpit, by his side in which a large crucifix is stuck, and addresses the people shortly but with great animation, his eloquence increasing like the Welsh preachers as he proceeds, till he reaches his climax in such a fervent heat that the perspiration will burst from his brow. No doubt he succeeds in stirring his auditors, but I never could make out sufficiently what was said to know exactly the purport of discourse. But the blessed Virgin is frequently invoked.

Roman Catholicism, however, must be losing ground fast, as the people increase in knowledge and desire to be free from clerical yoke; and it is astonishing to what an extent Protestantism, everywhere tolerated now, prevails in countries formerly so pope and priest ridden. A book, called A Guide to Evangelical Work on the Continent of Europe, and on the Southern and Eastern Shores of the Mediterranean, published by the Committee of the Foreign Evangelical Society (London: James Nisbet & Co., 21 Berners Street; Paris: 4 Place du Théatre Fran?ais, Rue de Rivoli), gives an idea of the extent of this work.[12] I have tried to make up some statistics from it, but have not found my results to agree in numbers with the prefatory notes prefixed to some of the sections. I observe, however, that in France the Reformed Church, under the control of the State, is by far the largest of the Protestant denominations, and it is stated in the guide to consist of 483 parishes and 573 pastors. But on reckoning up the churches named in the book, it seems only to mention 124 Reformed Churches. Probably the explanation is that all parishes are not given. Of the Church of the Augsburg Confession, or Lutheran Church, there seem to be 63; of the Methodists, 7; of the Société Evangélique de France, 25; of the Société Centrale, 70; of the Wesleyan Church, 39; of the Free Church, 63; Independents, 6; Baptists, 6; Société Evangélique de Genève, 14; Society of Friends, 1; other denominations, 11 churches or stations. In all these the service is in the native French, and intended for the natives, and there is not a town of any importance in which there is not one or more of the different denominations represented by a church, so that it will be seen that Protestantism must be spreading and taking a deeper hold on the people. In Paris alone there are, inter alia, the following French Protestant churches:-Reformed Church, 19; Lutheran, 16; Evangélique de France, 7; Baptist, 1; French Wesleyan, 6. The native population, besides, throughout France, is reached by a multitude of Protestant or Evangelical associations and institutions and schools, such as Young Men's Christian Associations, mission homes, orphanages, etc., and there are not less than 85 Bible or Tract Dép?ts. I state all these figures salvo justo calculo, and with the impression that they only represent a portion of the work, and they are at least short of the figures given in the prefatory 'note' on the Protestant Churches of France.

In some cases, as at Biarritz, French service is conducted in the English Church; in others, as at Lucerne and Chateau d'?x, the English service is held in the native Protestant Church.

At Mentone, the French Protestant Church, under the pastoral care of a most worthy man, M. Delapierre, is largely attended by English-speaking people. Indeed, I would say that English, Scotch, and Americans of all denominations form during the season by far the principal part of the congregation. We used almost regularly to attend this church during one of the Sunday services, going to one of the other churches for the other service. A layman commenced by reading a short liturgy or formulary of devotion, then a portion of Scripture, and, having given out a hymn or canticle, as it is termed, left the pulpit, and the minister taking his place, after extempore prayer, preached a sermon. M. Delapierre spoke slowly and distinctly, and it was easy, comparatively, to follow him. His thoughts were always good and striking, though simple, often rising to an elevated and earnest eloquence, calculated to make a deep impression. He was much respected and esteemed by all, but unfortunately was, or rather is, a man of delicate health; so that he only took one of the Sunday services, and had for a short time to leave Mentone for relaxation and change of air. His assistants (young men) we never could follow so well. Hymn-books, with the canticles set to music, were placed in all the pews; and generally at the close of the service a doxology was sung, being a verse commencing, 'Gloire soit au Saint Esprit,' to the tune called Hursley, the old German melody to which the hymn 'Sun of my Soul' has been wedded. There is a striking and puzzling peculiarity in the French singing, for the words are not sung as spoken. Thus père is pronounced peray. The singing also is in slow time. The Communion was dispensed on the first Sunday of the month, all who desired being, without distinction of sect, invited to attend, and was conducted very much in the same way as in Congregational churches at home.

We once witnessed in this church the baptism of an infant. The father and mother, nurse and baby, and another man and woman-all stood up in front of the reading-desk below the pulpit, to which M. Delapierre descended, and took the baby, which had been squalling, over his left arm. Holding up his hand, and looking down upon it, its great eyes looked up into his either in terror or in wonder, and all was still, not even the water sprinkling disturbing its equanimity. The preliminary service or address seemed to be somewhat long.

No gown or vestment of any kind was used in the church beyond the wearing of black clothes and a white tie, although I believe a gown is worn in many other French churches. Everything was conducted with the reverent simplicity so consistent with true worship. The singing was assisted by a harmonium, amply sufficient for the size of the church, which I suppose might not be seated for many more than two hundred.

In Italy the Waldensian is the largest of the native churches. The Guide (p. 159) says:-

'Their missionaries are now found in all parts of Italy. There are 40 churches, some of them small, perhaps, but of living Christians; and there are also 10 missionary stations, with 30 ordained pastors and 20 lay preachers, who visit every month 50 other small towns where there are those friendly to the gospel. There are at present upwards of 2000 converts. This Church, which has 15 parishes in the Waldensian valleys, has a College or Lyceum at Torre Pellice, the capital, and a Theological College at Florence, with three able professors.'

Next to the Waldensian is the Free Christian Church, which 'has taken a position between Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. It has 37 stations and 24 preachers.' After it the Wesleyan Church comes, with 28 stations and as many Italian ministers. There are in Italy 14 Bible or Tract Dép?ts.

In Switzerland, Protestant service is conducted in most of the towns by, inter alia, the National Reformed Church, the Free Church, the Société Evangélique de Genève. There are 16 Bible or Tract Dép?ts throughout the country.

We attended a French service in the church at Chateau d'?x, and found a peculiarity existing there which perhaps may be characteristic of the native Swiss churches, for all the women were seated on one side, and all the men on the other, as, I believe, is the case with the Society of Friends in Great Britain. Not till it was too late did I discover I was a b

lack sheep among the women. This congregation sat at singing and rose at prayer. The church, a tolerably large one, was quite full, and no doubt many came from a considerable distance.

Having said so much with regard to the native churches, I shall now state a few facts regarding those conducted in English for the benefit of strangers.

There are of American churches in France, 3; in Italy, 3; in Switzerland, 1; of Wesleyan or Methodist, 5 in France, 2 in Italy (not including American Methodist, which are probably Italian churches), and none in Switzerland.[13] Apparently there is but one Congregational church in these three countries, viz. in Paris, where nearly all the above churches stated to be in France likewise are. The remaining English churches are either Scotch Presbyterian or English Episcopalian.

Taking the Scotch Presbyterian first, I ascertain from the Guide (by summation), in France 6, in Italy 6, in Switzerland 5-17 churches altogether, but there may possibly be other Scotch services not noted-as, for example, we found a room occupied in Venice which is not a station noted. Of these 17, I find from the Guide (comparing it, too, with a card obtained abroad), there are 11 in connection with the Free Church of Scotland; there is only one in connection with the United Presbyterian body; the remaining five are either in connection with the Established Church of Scotland, or are, as in Rome, and as they undoubtedly should be, 'occupied by a minister of the Established, Free, or United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.' It would be much better if all the churches were in connection with all these bodies; and, indeed, there is no reason why they might not take in Independents and Baptists and other denominations, and call it everywhere the 'Scotch Church.' It would strengthen their hands very much, and avoid, at least, the appearance of unnecessary schism. I believe, however, there is an understanding, so far commendable, that where one of the three Presbyterian bodies above named already has a station in a foreign town, neither of the others shall introduce one of their own.

In some places the Presbyterian Churches have a chapel or building devoted to worship, as at Cannes. In others a room is engaged, as at Mentone; and I may here mention that the same thing is found with regard to the Episcopal Churches or stations: frequently a room in one of the hotels is used, and sometimes, as at Sorrento, is devoted to this use. Where a church has been built by an Episcopalian body, a great deal of space seems often lost, as at Hyères, in the chancel; and in such cases, when the minister retires to its extreme end to read the communion service, his voice is sometimes lost to the congregation.

In Florence, Leghorn, Pau, and perhaps elsewhere, there is a permanent settled minister attached to the Presbyterian Church. At other stations the pulpit is supplied either by ministers sent out for the season, or more generally by ministers requiring to go abroad for health, to whom the chaplaincy is pecuniarily an advantage; but it can scarcely be an advantage in regard of their own health, and it does not tend to secure for the station the best men. However, if this were not done, probably stations might become vacant. At Rome, where there is a large nice church outside the Porto del Popolo, alongside of other Protestant churches, care is taken to send for a short period a man, or rather two men, of recognised ability-a very proper step in such a city, and one which, were it possible, it would be well to take elsewhere. While we were in Rome, we were so fortunate as to have, among others, Mr. Mitchell of Leith, who spoke with great power and eloquence. It was strange and gladdening to think that in the very citadel of Old Giant Pope there was now such perfect freedom of speech.

The English Episcopal Church is necessarily far more largely represented abroad. In fact, there is no town of any importance in which there is not a service conducted according to the forms of this Church. In France, as appearing from the Guide, there are 54 stations; in Italy, 23; in Switzerland, 43; in all, 120. Of course in other countries it is similarly, though perhaps not so largely represented, because the three above-named are the principal countries frequented by English travellers, and it is to them the present observations have had exclusive reference.

I do not profess to know much about the operations of the Episcopal Church of England, but I believe that it has two societies in connection with the Continent-the Colonial and Continental Society, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. This last belongs to the High Church or Ritualistic party.

Ritualism is not, according to my limited opportunities of observing, very rampant abroad, although, looking at it as a dangerous and insidious Jesuitical attempt to subvert the Protestant Church of England to Rome, or to its errors, and to swell the power of the clergy, the least beginnings deserve to be carefully watched and reprobated by all who desire to preserve the purity of Christian worship. Even were it carried to the most extravagant lengths to which it sometimes is in England, it would pale its ineffectual fire before the full blaze of the Roman Catholic Churches around in their richly-adorned cathedrals, their great altars heaped with all manner of valuables and decorations, their innumerable candles of all sizes, their multiplicity of priests with gorgeous vestments, their full-voiced sonorous chanting, their theatrical ceremonial.

But in some places there is a tendency, apparently held under a certain check, towards Ritualistic practices.

Of course one sees everywhere in Episcopal congregations a good deal of genuflexion among the women.[14] But I imagine this is not regarded by many good people as Ritualistic, although it has a considerable resemblance to the observance in Roman Catholic churches of bending the knee before every crucifix which is passed.

The church is open in some places every morning of the week for reading of prayers.

Intoning the prayers is occasionally attempted; but in a small church, and essayed by one whose voice is not naturally musical, the unaccustomed performance assumes all the appearance of a timidity conscious of deviation from the simplicity of genuine worship.

Not infrequently the altar is gaily ornamented, and a large cross is placed on it, and sometimes there is in a compartment of the window over it a representation of the Saviour on the cross in stained glass. At one little town where we spent a Sunday, the minister was a young man with Ritualistic tendencies. We attended the little chapel, the congregation (one-half probably Episcopalians) being about a dozen or fifteen persons, nearly filling it. The altar was plain, just a table covered with a red cloth, but a large cross stood on it. Shortly after having read the commandment, 'Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them,' etc., the young man knelt down on his knees before the cross with his back to the congregation, as if in silent adoration. Upon this an English gentleman immediately rose up, and with his family walked out, and I felt much inclined to follow his example.

The single attempt at robing I have witnessed was in the use of stoles, where the wearer, having a black one and a red one, pleased himself by crossing them on his back like a St. Andrew's cross.

The only other practice I am aware of, savouring of Ritualism, is where three or four stalwart young men, robed in white, have marched in swinging procession from the vestry up the aisle to the chancel to 'perform' the duty, not requiring great physical and still less mental exertion, of reading prayers, upon which (the watchful choir leading by rising up) great part of the congregation stood to do them reverence in the house of their Master. One almost expected the men, horrified, to turn round and call out to the people in the words of the angel, 'See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow-servant. Worship God.'

I believe, were it not that in all the Episcopalian congregations abroad there is a large proportion who either do not belong to the body, or belonging to it, thoroughly disapprove of the practices of the Ritualists (spoken of by the Roman Catholics as 'our first cousins'), there might be more latitude taken. But this reason should go a good deal further and put an end to it altogether, because it has a direct tendency to prevent those who cannot reconcile their conscience to giving even the semblance of approval by attending service, from coming to the chapel in which they prevail, and which may be the only one in the place.

All these and any further observations, though made tenderly, must be taken as by one who does not belong to the Episcopalian communion, and as indicating perhaps the impressions formed by strangers or by those belonging to other denominations.

The practice now so common, but I believe originally not either intended or observed, of reading the Litany and Communion Service in addition to the ordinary Morning Service, is very general abroad, and, conveniently for lazy or careless clergymen, shoves the sermon into a corner, so that, losing importance, it becomes short and is commonplace, being seldom striking or impressive, although this orthodox flatness is occasionally transgressed, sometimes singularly. We once heard a sermon on Saint Michael almost leading up to the worship of angels, and at Mentone a stranger one afternoon occupying the pulpit spoke in eulogy of war at a time when war or peace were trembling in the balance, and there was little need to inflame some minds.

In the Episcopal churches there is usually a printed notice in every pew to the effect that the income of the chaplaincy is dependent on the offertory, and at every service (even, I believe, on week-days) a collection is made by sending up the collecting plate through every pew. While this is done, the congregation, or the major part, stands, although perhaps not one in a hundred could assign any feasible reason for doing so, and the minister for whose benefit the collection is made reads out at intervals certain verses of Scripture. The collecting plates with their contents are taken to him, and by him are deposited on the altar, and afterwards carried by him to the vestry. To say that this practice produces more, is only to act on the Roman Catholic doctrine that the end justifies the means. In other places, such as in Paris, the custom, in better taste, is to hold out a plate at the door as the congregation retires.

The hours of service on Sunday are generally at 11 A.M. and 3 p.m. If the second service be taken in the evening, it is not always so arranged as to avoid trenching on the hotel dinner hour. In the Riviera it is invariably in the afternoon, and it is kept short so as to allow invalids to get home some time before sunset of the winter months. The morning service is always well attended; but the afternoon service (except in such places as Cannes and Mentone, and even there, too, to a certain extent) is, in Episcopal churches, deserted, and there is only a sprinkling of people in the pews. I have at one place seen only a single person besides ourselves and those officiating; at others, only a few, and probably none of them belonging to the Episcopal Church. In these cases, sometimes only the Evening Service is read.

Out of Paris and Rome, there is hardly a 'Dissenting' Church represented; and as the worship of the other churches does not fundamentally differ, it may be convenient, in what I am about to say, to design and classify them all as Presbyterian. Putting out of view such places as Paris, Florence, and Rome, those attending the Presbyterian services are comparatively few in number; and this is partly attributable to the congregations being drawn from a smaller community, and from a nation in which, among the better classes, from whose ranks to a large extent travellers are drawn, Episcopalianism is, to a considerable extent, considered fashionable. Assuming the population of England to be seven times that of Scotland, the seventeen Scotch Church stations form just about the fair proportion as compared with the 120 English Church stations; while upon the same calculation, the numbers of those who should attend Scotch services ought to be only one-seventh, or, say, 10 for every 70. In this view of it, the Scotch churches are fairly enough represented. But, of course, this is not a practical view, and it is obvious that there must be great difficulty in maintaining, with so few supporters, stations in not very populous towns.

In Fielding's time, Thwackum's definition of religion might very well represent general opinion in England, at least among Episcopalians. By religion, he said, 'I mean the Christian religion, and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England.' The idea dictating this expression finds utterance more recently in Dean Hook saying, with reference to an interview with Dr. Chalmers, 'It would be contrary to my principles to hear him preach.' Many still would shrink from entering a Presbyterian or Dissenting church, though they are themselves Dissenters when across the Scottish border, where all sects are on the same level, no sect affecting a religious superiority over another, or being conscious of any social separation from others. But when bishops have quietly gone to hear popular Scotch ministers like Dr. Guthrie, and when men like Dean Stanley have even conducted Presbyterian service in Scotland, it shows that this narrow and unchristian illiberality of feeling is passing away. Presbyterians and Dissenters in general take a large and liberal view, and do not hesitate to go, at least occasionally, to an English Episcopal chapel; and where it is conducted with simplicity and reverence, they even enjoy a casual attendance, and hearing the fine old service of the English Church, although after having had to go repeatedly they are glad to get back to the less formal worship to which they have been accustomed.

Now, does not all this suggest for consideration whether it would not be possible, in the smaller places at least, to combine the Scotch and English services in such a way as would enable all to meet in common. There are marked peculiarities in both, distinguishing them, no doubt-peculiarities which at home will take long, by mutual reconcilement, to efface; but when people are from home, there is a tendency to meet more on common ground and feel members of the same great community. Thus it is not uncommon, at least in Scotland, in large hydropathic establishments, very much to the satisfaction of all, to have the whole company assembled on a Sunday evening for a simple worship by reading of Scripture, singing of hymns, extempore prayer, and a sermon or address by a Presbyterian minister.

Apart from the objection which Presbyterians have to a service which is wholly read, and is therefore apt to degenerate into ceremonious worship, there is not a great deal in what is usually read to which they would take exception. The absolution would be better out, as having a tendency to mislead,[15] and it grates upon unaccustomed ears to hear the words of the prosaic version of the Psalms contained in the Prayer Book substituted for the far grander and more poetical words of the Authorized Version. But the Prayer Book, till reformed or revised, would need to be taken as it stands. There would be, however, no need for adding to the morning or evening service the communion service-that might be reserved for those who desired to remain one Sunday in the month for the Episcopal communion, the Presbyterians taking another Sunday in the month for their communion. Nor need the Litany be always used. Then, with regard to the remainder of the service, why not have a Presbyterian minister, when he could be got (and sometimes there are even men of eminence going about), to take it alternately, or otherwise, with the Episcopalian, by giving a short suitable extempore prayer before sermon, and then preaching a sermon according to his own usage-in other words, adopting the mode of service practised in the Rev. Newman Hall's church, London.

Besides other and higher good, this alternate preaching might benefit even the ministers themselves of both communions. The great fault among Episcopalian clergymen is that, in the generality of cases, what they read has no pretence or aim at preaching, but consists rather of a string of meagre platitudes, of sentiments which nobody would controvert, a dry homily read without feeling or animation, and having no intention of reaching the soul or heart of the hearers. The ministers of the other communions have, as a rule, a higher estimate of the duty of the preacher; but they do not always have the power or the perception of the means of carrying it out successfully. Among men of mediocrity, the idea seems to be to occupy a long statutory three-quarters of an hour in a stiff, formal, methodical fashion of dividing and exhausting the subject, and an equally formal and unskilful, and therefore ineffective, application and address. While added to ignorance of the arts of arresting and maintaining attention and of persuading an audience, Presbyterian divines too often do not choose the most suitable subjects of discourse. Might not even the spirit of emulation evoke better things?

It is too much the custom in churches in Scotland, after sermon, to close with a hymn, a prayer, and an anthem. After an impressive sermon, it seems only calculated to drive out the impression to have, immediately after, the same subject and the same thoughts droned out by the congregation in a melancholy paraphrase to a doleful tune, followed up by the blare and fanfare of an elaborate high-sounding anthem performed by the choir according to book. The English method, where all this would be more appropriate, is to close quietly. But sometimes the minister stops suddenly short, and with startling rapidity utters, 'Now to God the Father,' etc. However, the rule is, whether with or without this invocation, to close with either benediction, or a short prayer and benediction. We did not often go to the west church at Mentone, though near to us, because the flavour of the service inclined to be 'high'; but the closing there was always pleasing. After the minister had pronounced the benediction, and before the congregation rose from their knees, the choir (composed principally of young ladies with good and trained voices), to the accompaniment of the organ, in subdued tones, so suitable to parting with reverent step and slow, sung to a soft sweet tune the following simple, perhaps child-like verse:-

'Lord, keep us safe this night,

Secure from all we fear;

May angels guard us while we sleep,

Till morning light appear.'

* * *



(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top