Chapter 6.

{34} THE walk to Oxley had not been the first or the second occasion on which Charles had, in one shape or other, encountered Sheffield's views about realities and shams; and his preachments had begun to make an impression on him; that is, he felt that there was truth in them at bottom, and a truth new to him. He was not a person to let a truth sleep in his mind; though it did not vegetate very quickly, it was sure ultimately to be pursued into its consequences, and to affect his existing opinions. In the instance before us, he saw Sheffield's principle was more or less antagonistic to his own favourite maxim, that it was a duty to be pleased with every one. Contradictions could not both be real: when an affirmative was true, a negative was false. All doctrines could not be equally sound: there was a right and a wrong. The theory of dogmatic truth, as opposed to latitudinarianism (he did not know their names or their history, or suspect what was going on within him), had in the course of these his first terms, gradually begun to energise in his mind. Let him but see the absurdities of the latitudinarian principle, when carried out, and he is likely to be still more opposed to it. {35}

Bateman, among his peculiarities, had a notion that bringing persons of contrary sentiments together was the likeliest way of making a party agreeable, or at least useful. He had done his best to give his breakfast, to which our friends were invited, this element of perfection; not, however, to his own satisfaction; for with all his efforts, he had but picked up Mr. Freeborn, a young Evangelical Master, with whom Sheffield was acquainted; a sharp, but not very wise freshman, who, having been spoiled at home, and having plenty of money, professed to be ęsthetic, and kept his college authorities in a perpetual fidget lest he should some morning wake up a Papist; and a friend of his, a nice, modest-looking youth, who, like a mouse, had keen darting eyes, and ate his bread and butter in absolute silence.

They had hardly seated themselves, and Sheffield was pouring out coffee, and a plate of muffins was going round, and Bateman was engaged, saucepan in hand, in the operation of landing his eggs, now boiled upon the table, when our flighty youth, whose name was White, observed how beautiful the Catholic custom was of making eggs the emblem of the Easter-festival. "It is truly Catholic," said he; "for it is retained in parts of England, you have it in Russia, and in Rome itself, where an egg is served up on every plate through the Easter-week, after being, I believe, blessed; and it is as expressive and significant as it is Catholic".

"Beautiful indeed!" said their host; "so pretty, so sweet; I wonder whether our Reformers thought of it, or the profound Hooker,—he was full of types—or {36} Jewell. You recollect the staff Jewell gave Hooker: that was a type. It was like the sending of Elisha's staff by his servant to the dead child."

"Oh, my dear, dear Bateman," cried Sheffield, "you are making Hooker Gehazi!"

"That's just the upshot of such trifling," said Mr. Freeborn; "you never know where to find it; it proves anything, and disproves anything."

"That is only till it's sanctioned," said White; "when the Catholic Church sanctions it, we're safe."

"Yes, we're safe," said Bateman; "it's safe when it's Catholic."

"Yes," continued White, "things change their nature altogether when they are taken up by the Catholic Church: that's how we are allowed to do evil that good may come."

"What's that?" said Bateman.

"Why," said White, "the Church makes evil good."

"My dear White," said Bateman gravely, "that's going too far; it is indeed."

Mr. Freeborn suspended his breakfast operations, and sat back in his chair.

"Why," continued White, "is not idolatry wrong—yet image-worship is right?"

Mr. Freeborn was in a state of collapse.

"That's a bad instance, White," said Sheffield; "there are people in the world who are uncatholic enough to think image-worship is wrong, as well as idolatry."

"A mere Jesuitical distinction," said Freeborn with emotion. {37}

"Well," said White, who did not seem in great awe of the young M.A., though some years, of course his senior, "I will take a better instance: who does not know that baptism gives grace? yet there were heathen baptismal rites, which, of course, were devilish."

"I should not be disposed, Mr. White, to grant you so much as you would wish," said Freeborn, "about the virtue of baptism."

"Not about Christian baptism?" asked White.

"It is easy," answered Freeborn, "to mistake the sign for the thing signified."

"Not about Catholic baptism?" repeated White.

"Catholic baptism is a mere deceit and delusion," retorted Mr. Freeborn.

"Oh, my dear Freeborn," interposed Bateman, "now you are going too far; you are indeed."

"Catholic, Catholic—I don't know what you mean," said Freeborn.

"I mean," said White, "the baptism of the one Catholic Church of which the Creed speaks: it's quite intelligible."

"But what do you mean by the Catholic Church?" asked Freeborn.

"The Anglican," answered Bateman.

"The Roman," answered White; both in the same breath.

There was a general laugh.

"There is nothing to laugh at," said Bateman; "Anglican and Roman are one."

"One! impossible," cried Sheffield. {38}

"Much worse than impossible," observed Mr. Freeborn.

"I should make a distinction," said Bateman: "I should say, they are one, except the corruptions of the Romish Church."

"That is, they are one, except where they differ," said Sheffield.

"Precisely so," said Bateman.

"Rather I should say," objected Mr. Freeborn, "two, except where they agree."

"That's just the issue," said Sheffield; "Bateman says that the Churches are one except when they are two; and Freeborn says that they are two except when they are one."

It was a relief at this moment that the cook's boy came in with a dish of hot sausages; but though a relief, it was not a diversion; the conversation proceeded. Two persons did not like it; Freeborn, who was simply disgusted at the doctrine, and Reding, who thought it a bore; yet it was the bad luck of Freeborn forthwith to set Charles against him, as well as the rest, and to remove the repugnance which he had to engage in the dispute. Freeborn, in fact, thought theology itself a mistake, as substituting, as he considered, worthless intellectual notions for the vital truths of religion; so he now went on to observe, putting down his knife and fork, that it really was to him inconceivable, that real religion should depend on metaphysical distinctions, or outward observances; that it was quite a different thing in Scripture; that Scripture said much of faith {39} and holiness, but hardly a word about Churches and forms. He proceeded to say that it was the great and evil tendency of the human mind to interpose between itself and its Creator some self-invented mediator, and it did not matter at all whether that human device was a rite, or a creed, or a form of prayer, or good works, or communion with particular Churches—all were but "flattering unctions to the soul," if they were considered necessary; the only safe way of using them was to use them with the feeling that you might dispense with them; that none of them went to the root of the matter, for that faith, that is firm belief that God had forgiven you, was the one thing needful; that where that one thing was present, everything else was superfluous; that where it was wanting, nothing else availed. So strongly did he hold this, that (he confessed he put it pointedly, but still not untruly), where true faith was present, a person might be anything in profession; an Arminian, a Calvinist, an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Swedenborgian—nay, a Unitarian—he would go further, looking at White, a Papist, yet be in a state of salvation.

Freeborn came out rather more strongly than in his sober moments he would have approved; but he was a little irritated, and wished to have his turn of speaking. It was altogether a great testification.

"Thank you for your liberality to the poor Papists," said White: "it seems they are safe if they are hypocrites, professing to be Catholics, while they are Protestants in heart." {40}

"Unitarians, too," said Sheffield, "are debtors to your liberality; it seems a man need not fear to believe too little, so that he feels a good deal."

"Rather," said White, "if he believes himself forgiven, he need not believe anything else."

Reding put in his word; he said that in the Prayer Book, belief in the Holy Trinity was represented, not as an accident, but as "before all things" necessary to salvation.

"That's not a fair answer, Reding," said Sheffield; "what Mr. Freeborn observed was, that there's no creed in the Bible; and you answer that there is a creed in the Prayer Book."

"Then the Bible says one thing, and the Prayer Book another," said Bateman.

"No," answered Freeborn; "the Prayer Book only deduces from Scripture; the Athanasian Creed is a human invention; true, but human, and to be received, as one of the Articles expressly says, because 'founded on Scripture'. Creeds are useful in their place, so is the Church; but neither Creed nor Church is religion."

"Then why do you make so much of your doctrine of 'faith only'?" said Bateman; "for that is not in Scripture, and is but a human deduction."

"My doctrine!" cried Freeborn; "why it's in the Articles; the Articles expressly say that we are justified by faith only."

"The Articles are not Scripture any more than the Prayer Book," said Sheffield.

"Nor do the Articles say that the doctrine they propound is necessary for salvation," added Bateman. {41}

All this was very unfair on Freeborn, though he had provoked it. Here were four persons on him at once, and the silent fifth apparently a sympathiser. Sheffield talked through malice; White from habit; Reding came in because he could not help it; and Bateman spoke on principle; he had a notion that he was improving Freeborn's views by this process of badgering. At least he did not improve his temper, which was suffering. Most of the party were undergraduates; he (Freeborn) was a Master; it was too bad of Bateman. He finished in silence his sausage, which had got quite cold. The conversation flagged; there was a rise in toast and muffins; coffee-cups were put aside, and tea flowed freely.

Chapter 1-7

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