« PreviousContinue »
during these scenes of religious anarchy, was doubtless owing solely to the influence of Robespierre, who, from some unexplained cause, while he openly scoffed at the Christian religion himself, strenuously maintained the support of that section of its ministers. With reference to this remarkable fact, we are not surprised to find M. de Pressensé, with his ardent advocacy of the principle of disestablishment, exclaiming, “It is a great honour for this principle to have had him for its chief adversary.” M. de Pressensé adds, “and for such reasons," alluding, we presume, to the political dangers which Robespierre pointed out as likely to result from a total disconnection of the State with religion; for M. de Pressensé can hardly consider, as reflecting any honour upon his own side of the question, the other reasons by which he represents Robespierre to have justified the opposite view, namely, that where the payment of worship is voluntary, the burden of it falls almost entirely upon the poorer classes, who are, as a rule, more devoted to religion than the wealthy; and that the State, by discontinuing the payment of the Constitutional Clergy, would be guilty of a breach of its engagements towards them. The first reason we have mentioned could hardly have seriously influenced the conduct of Robespierre in the matter; for, however valid in the abstract, it had, we conceive, no bearing on the case in point. Whatever political evils were likely to arise from a severance of religion from the State, could not be hindered by the maintenance, in connection with the latter, when itself avowedly infidel, of a Church which commanded the adhesion of a mere fraction of the population of the country. No; France was already suffering under the very evils which Robespierre professed to be desirous of averting-evils which owed their origin in great part to the failure which, through the fault of the Church quite as much as through that of the State, had attended the effort to settle the union between the two.
We are rather disposed to look upon the support which the tyrant of the Reign of Terror insisted upon continuing to the Constitutional Clergy, even while he laboured to render national the worship of a Supreme Being, as one of the many instances in which even the worst of men, in a manner unperceived by themselves and inexplicable to others, are impelled by the Almighty to acts tending to the preservation of His people and the direct promotion of His glory. That such was the tendency of Robespierre's conduct with respect to the Constitutional Church at the juncture of which we are speaking, can be denied by no one. His protection of that Church enabled Grégoire, the constitutional Bishop of Blois, to make that noble confession at the tribune of the Convention which illumined, as with a solitary ray of light, the black cloud of
blasphemy and apostasy spread over France during the period of the Reign of Terror, and vindicated Christianity in the midst of her enemies at a time when they fondly thought that she had been crushed for ever. And soon afterwards Robespierre performed another service to the cause of religion, by effecting a speedy revocation of a Resolution carried by the Council of the Commune of Paris, by which they had interdicted all worships except that of Reason, and imposed oppressive restraints upon ministers and priests of every worship alike; and through his influence, a decree was passed in the Convention, forbidding all interference with liberty of worship, except where required by the measures already in force against the nonjuring clergy.
The fall of Robespierre took place on the 9th of Thermidor, in the year II (27th July 1794), and with his death terminated the period commonly known as the Reign of Terror. A few weeks afterwards a decree was passed, abolishing the payment by the State of the Constitutional Clergy. In M. de Pressensé's eyes, this decree is the turning point in the treat, ment of religion by the Revolution. And yet we have only to read his own admissions, and his own narrative of the measures which succeeded it, to be convinced of the insignificance of the alteration which it effected in the attitude of the French Government towards Christianity. The régime of the payment of worships was abolished, as he tells us,
“.... on the 20th of September 1794, almost without discussion, on a simple motion of Cambon. It might have seemed that a solemn deliberation should have preceded such a measure, so grave in itself, so considerable by the effects which it might produce, since it brought back the Revolution into the way of the purest liberalism, and caused to triumph, for the first time in France, the true notion of the State. Seriously applied, it immediately gave religious peace, and struck with death the fatal theories of the Contrat Social, * which had already caused so much evil to the Revolution. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of such a decree. Nevertheless it was voted as soon as proposed, after a speech from Cambon, which turned only on the finances. This was because the question had been resolved in fact, before being so in principle. The Constitutional Church had lost all her privileges in the revolutionary tempest; she was no more a public service. Pensions had been assured to priests who should deny their beliefs. Too great a num.
ber had begged of the State these infamous alms, which their weakness paid for. Others died of hunger whilst celebrating their worship in secret, for most of the churches had been closed or profaned. Nevertheless the worship of the jurors still existed constitutionally, and it was acknowledged by the law. This abnormal situation was to cease. It was necessary either to re-establish the ancient order of things, or formally to abrogate it.”
In this miserable state of things, we readily grant that it was a benefit to the Constitutional Church, and to the cause of religion in general, that the pecuniary link which had hitherto bound that Church to the civil administration should be formally severed; but we certainly cannot, under the circumstances, regard the decree of formal severance, either as an important measure in itself, or as the establishment of a great principle. It was, no doubt, concurrent in point of time with the termination of the cruel and relentless persecution to which Christians who had remained faithful to their profession, whether belonging to the constitutional or the non-juring Church, or members of the Protestant communion, had alike been subjected during the Reign of Terror, and with the revival in the celebration of religious rites which took place immediately upon the mitigation of the rigours of that persecution. But for months afterwards, and in fact until its close in October 1795, the Convention oscillated between the toleration and restriction of religious worship, And such value was still attached to the civil constitution of the clergy, that in August 1796, after the lapse of nearly two years, a Bill passed the Assembly under the Directory, which provided that every priest who should not have taken the oath to that constitution, should be transported, notwithstanding his having taken the political oath in 1792, and submitted to the laws of the Republic. This Bill was passed in a legislative assembly appointed to carry out the Constitution of the year III., which declared that every man was free in the exercise of his worship, and that no one could be prevented, whilst conforming to the laws of police, from practising the form of the worship which he had chosen. The same Assembly (subsequently to the coup-d'état of the 18th Fructidor) voted measures for enforcing the celebration of the tenth day, and for prohibiting, under severe penalties, the closing of shops on the days set apart under the old régime as days of rest, and every other usage and practice which should derogate from the republican calendar. None of these extreme propositions ever actually became law, but that which related to the observance of the tenth day in preference to the Lord's-day, was rendered superfluous by the tyrannical action taken in the matter by the local authorities under the direction of the Minister of the Interior.
(To be concluded in our next.)
THE LATE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE. It would be impossible for us to allow one whose principles and views of Divine truth were so entirely in accordance with those which have ever been maintained by the Christian Observer, and who occupied so prominent a position in the Church as the late beloved Bishop of Carlisle, to pass from the sphere of his labours on earth to his everlasting rest, without an affectionate record of the event, and an expression of our deep sense of the greatness of the loss which the Church of England, and especially his northern diocese, has sustained by his removal. The Honourable and Right Rev. Samuel Waldegrave, Bishop of Carlisle, was no ordinary man, either as a Christian, a scholar, or the administrator of his diocese; and those who knew him intimately can bear testimony to the rare combination of graces which marked his character in the various relations of life which he was called to fill. The late Bishop was born in the year 1817, and was the second son of Admiral the Earl of Waldegrave, C.B. His mother was a daughter of Samuel Whitbread, Esq. His eldest brother, Viscount Chewton, of the Scots Fusilier Guards, received numerous wounds when leading on his men at the battle of Alma, of which he died. The Bishop has often spoken with intense interest of his obligations to the care and training of his devoted mother, not only for the for. mation of his Christian character, but for that impulse and encouragement, which were given him in early life, in the pursuit of those studies which had so important a bearing upon his future course. Her portrait adorned his study, and was always regarded by him as a memorial of the greatest worth. It will be in the recollection of many, how on one occasion, when he filled the chair at a dismissal of missionaries going out for the work of the Church Missionary Society, when one of those young men spoke of his obligations to the instruction and example of a pious mother, Bishop Waldegrave, in most touching terms, bore public testimony to the debt of gratitude which he owed to his excellent mother as the instrument, under God, of spiritual blessing to him, and for the success which he had attained in life. Under her instruction and influence, blessed by the Holy Spirit, there is every reason to believe that he imbibed in early childhood those principles of distinctive gospel truth to which he adhered with unfailing steadfastness through life, and which were his support and comfort in his last illness and at the approach of death. These impressions, thus imbibed at home, were sustained and strengthened by the late excellent Dr. Mayo, of Cheam, at whose school he pursued his studies with characteristic diligence and conscientiousness, and whose favorite pupil he was. His University course was a distinguished one. He entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1836, and took Double First
Class honours in 1839, his name appearing in the first class “ in Literis Humanioribus," with those of several others well known in their day as distinguished for their classical attainments, among whom was Dr. Goulburn, the present Dean of Norwich ; whilst, of the candidates for mathematical honours, his name appeared alono in the first class.
It may be interesting to record, that, during the early part of his undergraduate course, he was visited with his first serious illness, an attack of low fever; and in this he was kindly and attentively nursed by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, who was his tutor at Balliol, and who sat up with him during the night. It is a remarkable coincidence, that the same kind and affectionate friend happened to be visiting in the neighbourhood of Rose Castle when the Bishop was drawing near his end, and drove over to make enquiries just in time to perform the solemn and interesting service of commending his soul to the care of his loving Saviour in the beautiful prayer for that purpose in the Office of the Visitation of the Sick.
Samuel Waldegrave was admitted into Holy Orders at Oxford in 1842, and was ordained to the curacy of St. Ebbe's in that city, having as his fellow-curates the distinguished men, Dr. Baring, the present Bishop of Durham, and the Rev. E. A. Litton, after wards Vice-Principal of St. Edmund's Hall. In that curacy he laboured with characteristic energy and zeal, and formed a new district, with a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This being the first district church formed under the Peel Act, Sir Robert Peel promptly appointed him to the incumbency. In 1839, he was elected Fellow of All Souls', and was twice appointed Public Examiner in the Schools.
By four Vice-Chancellors he was named Select Preacher, and in the year 1853 was appointed Bampton Lecturer, when he chose for the subject of his course “New Testament Millenarianism." In addition to these Lectures, he published a volume containing four very faithful, useful, distinct, practical Sermons preached before the University in 1847-1848, entitled “The Way of Peace," besides two others most suitable for the occasion, entitled “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," and “ Christ Crucified, the Christ for this and every age.” In the year 1839, he was elected Fellow of All Souls, and vacated his fellowship on the occasion of his marriage with Jane Anne, eldest daughter of Francis Pym, Esq., of the Hasells, Bedfordshire, on the 23rd January, 1846. At the close of the preceding year, the college living of Barford St. Martin, in the neighbourhood of Salisbury, most unexpectedly fell to his option, it having been refused by the senior Fellows; and it was in this quiet country village that the accomplished scholar, by the simple preaching of the Gospel, by the spiritual tone of his ministry, and by the weight of his Christian character, was made an instrument of blessing to many. It was a beautiful and edifying sight to witness the interest with which several of the villagers daily waited on his ministrations at the family prayer in the kitchen of the parsonage house. In 1857, he was appointed, by the Lord Chancellor, Canon of Salisbury Ca