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It was some time before the feelings of either party were sufficiently tranquilized to allow of any conversation on the disclosures of that evening; but at length the subject was opened by Mr. Singleton.
“Well, Emma,” said he, “I should like to know by what process you have arrived at this melancholy conclusion? There may be still hope that if once plainly shewn your error, you may be induced to retrace your steps and return to your first love. You are not, I presume, pledged to any public avowal of your principles, and I trust, may by God's grace, be brought back to the Great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, without any of those distressing circumstances which must have attended your return, had you made an open profession of your opinions."
Though uttered in the kindest spirit, these few words again opened the flood-gates of grief in the mind of Emma. Had her uncle at once supposed the worst-nay, had he gone farther, and imagined her to have been more deeply immersed in the superstitions, and enslaved by the lying wonders of Romanism than she really was—it would have pained her far less than this considerate and charitable view of the case. Her own conscience, and her uncle's tenderness were brought into trying conflict, and her thoughts, alternately accusing and excusing, could find no vent in words. She sighed deeply, and on being pressed more closely, gave Mr. Singleton to understand, though not in direct terms, that she had already given notice of her desire to be publicly received into the bosom of the Catholic church at no very distant day.
We need not particularize the scene which followed this confession. It must suffice to say that Mr. Singleton, seeing no probability of turning the present occasion to much profitable purpose, and unwilling that his niece should be swayed by mere impulse, or borne down by feelings which he feared might be in a great measure the result of those peculiar circumstances under which they had now met, declined to enter into any controversy respecting the great question at issue. He contented himself with eliciting a few of the reasons which Emma urged in extenuation of her conduct, and which, shorn of all their affecting accessories, and divested of a few incoherences of expression, will
be given presently. We shall, however, preface them with a few general remarks.
The letting in of heresies, is very like the letting out of water. It begins with words, goes on to things indifferent, and is consummated by an entire repudiation of the great doctrines of the gospel. It had been so in the melancholy case before us. The minister, had become the “priest;" the Lord's table, “the altar;" and the feast of memorial, the “Eucharistic Mystery.” The reading, the singing, the responses, the attitude of the worshippers, the arrangement of the several parts of the church, its furniture and ornaments--all these admitted of, or required, such alterations as might prove “ aids to devotion." But Devotion has two daughters, and the oldest is blind. Her name is Ignorance. The younger and meeker, Piety, is unobtrusive, and as such, but little known. She it is who “prays in secret,” and her “manner of prayer" is not for the million. It was consequently in the school of the first-born of these daughters, that the forms of worship sought to be introduced were studied. And they were well worthy of their parentage, for they inevitably led on to one or other of these alternatives—either they were altogether soulless and without a meaning, the mere husks and shells of superstition ; or they possessed a symbolism only to be opened and unriddled by a full acquaintance with the lying legends and mystical associations of Romanism.
It was this last point which laid deep hold on the judgment of Emma Singleton. For, captivated and darkened as that judgment was, it was, nevertheless, far superior to that abject and drivelling thing miscalled reason, possessed by others in a similar position. Drawn gradually into the silly forms of Puseyism, she longed, naturally enough, to know something of their original meaning and associations. To call anything by a certain name, without knowing what that name meant; or to perform any act, without knowing more about it than that it was an act, appeared to her so childish and inane a thing, that her mind could not rest till she had looked beyond the mere name or act into its recondite import. She felt that love was the very heart of true worship, and that love could burn freely only in a clear and transparent atmosphere. To use her own simile, there was a sense of oppression in all her public acts of religion, rendered the more distressing by an intense inward yearning to throw it off, and worship without doubt or distraction, in the full light of an affection spiritualized and refined from above. Coleridge defines music to be the twilight between instinct and reason; and this was exactly Emma's view of the mere pomp of Puseyism. It was an imposing but painful mystery; a shadow without any substance; a mean without an end ; an instrument without an object. It was not therefore to be wondered at that she was anxious to look farther than her instructor. Speaking, amongst other innovations introduced at Springclose, of the splendid gilt cross floriated and jewelled, which Mr. Glossenfane had placed upon the altar, she described, with much emphasis, the intensity of those feelings which it excited in her own ardent mind, as contrasted with the cold formality and indifference of others among the congregation ; adding that she felt herself under this impulse almost constrained to give to that precious symbol the full measure of adoration conceded to it by the papists.
The statement, fearful though it was, was undoubtedly made in all sincerity, and though framed in genuine feeling, it threw the whole power of the contrast-not between Protestantism and Romanism, but between a heartless and abject form of Puseyism, and the warm, but meretricious and soul-destroying rites of Popery ; between a cold, showy, and unmeaning observance, and a ceremonial which was, at all events, significant and figurative, however awfully abused.
Mr. Singleton felt not at all disposed to discuss the comparative merits of Puseyism and Popery; he looked, in fact, upon the first, as the royal road to the second ; and it had certain features which in his own mind rendered it even more odious than the other, inasmuch as he remembered, not without feelings of peculiar anguish, the lesson he had himself learned from a dear relative, now deceased—“ C'est le premier pas qui coute.” The first step towards error is at once the most difficult and dangerous-not indeed that in our fallen natures any step in that direction is difficult, for all are far too easy; but because everything is what it is by comparison. Puseyism, therefore, as the first step to popery, was likely to find little mercy at the hands of Mr. Singleton. He detested, too, the awful hypocrisy of those men who, while Romanists at heart, (if heart be any word in
their vocabulary) could yet hold preferment in a church professedly protestant, and so recklessly practise the very rites they were bound by their own vows to renounce as idolatrous and superstitious. It was therefore more in sorrow than in anger, that he heard Emma's avowal.
“I must love the Cross, uncle, when I think, as who can fail to do, of all its mournful and yet delightful associations ! I must love it.” Then raising her eyes and clasping her hands, she whispered audibly, “ O Crux! Ave spes unica!"
“ Emma !” said Mr. Singleton, rising in his emotion, and seizing her clasped hands, as if by this proceeding he hoped to neutralize an act of idolatry, for which alone the heart was responsible—“Emma! my dear Emma! you can hardly be aware of the enormity of your guilt in offering to a mere piece of wood, the honor and worship which are alone due to God. If an angel, specially commissioned to open to the eyes of John in Patmos, as full a view as he could bear, of the glories of that great city, the holy Jerusalem above, could in a voice of thunder, denounce an act of worship paid to him, how can you be guiltless in thus calling on a shapeless piece of wood as your only hope?”
“But, uncle," replied Emma, “we look beyond the symbol to the symbolized.”
“ As a catholic, you cannot do this," said Mr. Singleton, again taking up the little book and rapidly turning over its pages. Then, having found the chant required, he read as follows :
“ Bend, towering tree! Thy branches bend!
“If this, Emma,” he continued, “be not idolatry of the grossest kind, I know not what is; especially when its use is preceded by all those forms connected with it in the Romish church. The priest, as you know too well, had previously uncovered the symbol, and carried it to a place before the altar, where the feet of the crucifix, having been first kissed by himself, were kissed by all the clergy and laity, two and two, kneeling thrice on both knees. And, here, is the paraphrase of your own very ejaculation.
“Hail Cross! our Hope, on Thee we call,
And every sinner's guilt efface !" Emma knew not what to say. Her conscience could not excuse the act; for she had really sunk the unseen and eternal, in the thing seen. But grieved as she was to witness the deep sorrow of her uncle, it can scarcely be wondered at if she attempted farther evasion. Like a practised Jesuit, though this was far from being her real character, she said,
“But, uncle, we do not understand the term 'adoration' as you do. Its meaning must be ascertained by the nature of the object, and the intention of the person who employs it.”
“ Its human meaning may, perhaps," rejoined Mr. Singleton ; “but we are speaking of the sense in which God, and god-taught men, employ it. The word, then, signifies, as you yourself confess, that mark of respect which is shewn by the application of the hand to the mouth, from the latin words ad and ore. In this way it was understood by pious Job, who shuddered at the bare idea of paying such reverence even to the most glorious created symbol of the Great Unseen“If I beheld the Sun when it shined, or the Moon walking in brightness, And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand, That also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge, For I should have denied the God that is above."
The earnestness, tempered with genuine feeling, with which this last argument was uttered, convinced Emma that she was altogether unequal to measure lances with her uncle. She quitted her ground, and acknowledged her inability to carry on the contest unprepared. But hoping that Mr. Singleton might concede something, she spoke of the aids to devotion derivable from the