Chapter 17.

{290} CAMPBELL put Charles down about half-way between Melford and his home. It was bright moonlight; and, after thanking his new friend for the lift, he bounded over the stile at the side of the road, and was at once buried in the shade of the copse along which his path lay. Soon he came in sight of a tall wooden Cross, which, in better days, had been a religious emblem, but had served in latter times to mark the boundary between two contiguous parishes. The moon was behind him, and the sacred symbol rose awfully in the pale sky, overhanging a pool, which was still venerated in the neighbourhood for its reported miraculous virtue. Charles, to his surprise, saw distinctly a man kneeling on the little mound out of which the Cross grew; nay, heard him, for his shoulders were bare, and he was using the discipline upon them, while he repeated what appeared to be some form of devotion. Charles stopped, unwilling to interrupt, yet not knowing how to pass; but the stranger had caught the sound of feet, and in a few seconds vanished from his view. He was overcome with a sudden emotion, which he could not control. "O happy times," he cried, "when faith was one! O {291} blessed penitent, whoever you are, who know what to believe, and how to gain pardon, and can begin where others end! Here am I, in my twenty-third year, uncertain about everything, because I have nothing to trust." He drew near to the Cross, took off his hat, knelt down and kissed the wood, and prayed awhile that whatever might be the consequences, whatever the trial, whatever the loss, he might have grace to follow whithersoever God should call him. He then rose and turned to the cold well; he took some water in his palm and drank it. He felt as if he could have prayed to the Saint who owned that pool—St. Thomas the Martyr, he believed—to plead for him, and to aid him in his search after the true faith; but something whispered, "It is wrong"; and he checked the wish. So, regaining his hat, he passed away, and pursued his homeward path at a brisk pace.

The family had retired for the night, and he went up without delay to his bedroom. Passing through his study, he found a letter lying on his table, without post-mark, which had come for him in his absence. He broke the seal; it was an anonymous paper, and began as follows:—

"Questions for one whom it concerns.

1. What is meant by the One Church of which the Creed speaks?"

"This is too much for tonight," thought Charles "it is late already;" and he folded it up again and threw it on his dressing-table. "Some well-meaning {292} person, I dare say, who thinks he knows me." He wound up his watch, gave a yawn, and put on his slippers. "Who can there be in this neighbourhood to write it?" He opened it again. "It's certainly a Catholic's writing," he said. His mind glanced to the person whom he had seen under the Cross; perhaps it glanced further. He sat down and began reading in extenso:—

"Questions for one whom it concerns.

1. What is meant by the One Church of which the Creed speaks?

2. Is it a generalisation or a thing?

3. Does it belong to past history or to the present time?

4. Does not Scripture speak of it as a kingdom?

5. And a kingdom which was to last to the end?

6. What is a kingdom? and what is meant when Scripture calls the Church a kingdom?

7. Is it a visible kingdom, or an invisible?

8. Can a kingdom have two governments, and these acting in contrary directions?

9. Is identity of institutions, opinions, or race, sufficient to make two nations one kingdom?

10. Is the Episcopal form, the hierarchy, or the Apostles' Creed, sufficient to make the Churches of Rome and of England one?

11. Where there are parts, does not unity require union, and a visible unity require a visible union?

12. How can two religions be the same which {293} have utterly distinct worships and ideas of worship?

13. Can two religions be one, if the most sacred and peculiar act of worship in the one is called 'a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit' in the other?

14. Has not the One Church of Christ one faith?

15. Can a Church be Christ's which has not one faith?

16. Which is contradictory to itself in its documents?

17. And in different centuries?

18. And in its documents contrasted with its divines?

19. And in its divines and members one with another?

20. What is the faith of the English Church?

21. How many Councils does the English Church admit?

22. Does the English Church consider the present Nestorian and Jacobite Churches under an anathema, or part of the visible Church?

23. Is it necessary, or possible, to believe any one but a professed messenger from God?

24. Is the English Church, does she claim to be, a messenger from God?

25. Does she impart the truth, or bid us seek it?

26. If she leaves us to seek it, do members of the English Church seek it with that earnestness which Scripture enjoins?

27. Is a person safe who lives without faith, even though he seems to have hope and charity?" {294}

Charles got very sleepy before he reached the "twenty-seventhly". "It won't do," he said; "I am only losing my time. They seem well put; but they must stand over." He put the paper from him, said his prayers, and was soon fast asleep.

Next morning, on waking, the subject of the letter came into his mind, and he lay for some time thinking over it. "Certainly," he said, "I do wish very much to be settled either in the English Church or somewhere else. I wish I knew what Christianity was; I am ready to be at pains to seek it, and would accept it eagerly and thankfully, if found. But it's a work of time; all the paper-arguments in the world are unequal to giving one a view in a moment. There must be a process; they may shorten it, as medicine shortens physical processes, but they can't supersede its necessity. I recollect how all my religious doubts and theories went to flight on my dear father's death. They weren't part of me, and could not sustain rough weather. Conviction is the eyesight of the mind, not a conclusion from premises; God works it, and His works are slow. At least so it is with me. I can't believe on a sudden; if I attempt it, I shall be using words for things, and be sure to repent it. Or if not, I shall go right merely by hazard. I must move in what seems God's way; I can but put myself on the road; a higher power must overtake me, and carry me forward. At present I have a direct duty upon me, which my dear father left me, to take a good class. This is the path of duty. I won't put off the inquiry, but I'll let it proceed in that path. God can bless my reading to my {295} spiritual illumination, as well as anything else. Saul sought his father's asses, and found a kingdom. All in good time. When I have taken my degree the subject will properly come on me." He sighed. "My degree! those odious Articles! rather, when I have passed my examination. Well, it's no good lying here;" and he jumped up and signed himself with the Cross. His eye caught the letter. "It's well written—better than Willis could write; it's not Willis's. There's something about that Willis I don't understand. I wonder how he and his mother get on together. I don't think he has any sisters."

Chapter 2-18

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