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PEN PICTURES OF NONCONFORMITY.
frankness of my character, and the naturalness of my mind. He unmasked all affectations, and I received from him the habit of believing that my heart was clearly seen.” Those who met Madame de Stael spoke of her perfect sincerity, her child-like frankness in conversation, and in all her conduct as one of the most charming qualities of her womanly character.
Let our young girls imitate her in her sweet naturalness of manuer, her perfect sincerity at all times and under all circumstances, and they will not only receive the admiration of those whose opinions they value, bat will certainly become possessed of increased self-respect.
Pen Pictures of Yonconformity.
No. X.-NONCONFORMITY THE GREAT EDUCATOR.
EIGHTY years ago not one in twenty of the children of this country was at school. It was a rare circumstance to meet a poor man who could read, and the immense majority of the working class not only could not write, but did not know how to hold a pen when they took one to make their sign or mark. Along with ignorance there went, as usual, a great amount of depravity, and even brutality. Churchmen, with the whole power of the State on their side, were doing little or nothing to improve this miserable state of things; and the Nonconformists, who had been crushed for generations by savage and infamous laws, were still under a great variety of pains and penalties, and were in anything but a favourable position to grapple with the educational destitution of the kingdom. But they had the spirit to make the attempt, and did a work which resulted in dotting the land with British schools, National schools, and ultimately with those best of all elementary educators, Board schools.
In the year 1796 a young Quaker, Joseph Lancaster, opened a school in his father's house, in Southwark, for the education of the children of the poor.
He did this not for profit, but from simple benevolence. So strong was his zeal, and ardent his labour, that in two years he had more than a thousand scholars. He could not teach them all himself, but this great nonconformist was equal to the occasion. He first introduced the plan of instruction by pupil teachers, viz., that of employing the best educated boys as monitors to the younger scholars. His great success_soon attracted general attention; there had been nothing like it in England before; and it became one of the fashions of the day to visit Lancaster's schools. Even royalty, in the person of George III., did honour to itself in the open and constant encouragement which it gave to the founder and his quite unsectarian principles. After twelve years of hard toil Lancaster had the well-earned joy of seeing the formation of “The Royal Lancastrian Institution for Promoting the Education of the Poor.” This game institution was afterwards called the “British and Foreign School Society," so that we only need this information to perceive the name of Lancaster over the portals of British Schools, and we shall take the liberty of writing it in our
NONOONFORMITY THE GREAT EDUCATOR. 135
thoughts, as it actually deserves to be written, in letters of gold, over every National School in the land. By his own exertions, and the help of the Lancastrian Society, the noble Lancaster soon planted unsectarian schools for the poor in all the principal towns in England. It might be supposed that everybody was very glad, and that every minister of the gospel was certain to help this glorious enterprise. Whoever supposes anything of that kind makes a huge mistake.
Lancaster's great work at once met with the most tremendous opposition. The bishops and clergy of the State Church sounded a loud note of alarm the moment Lancaster's scheme became popular.
It may seem incredible to persons not familiar with the facts, but the truth is easy of proof, that the Church not merely opposed unsectarian education for the poor, but some of its representatives positively resisted the giving of any kind of education to the lower classes. Indeed, before we go any further, it shall be stated here that every sentence written in these Pen Pictures will be defended, by whomsoever challenged; and the reason for this statement is simply, that persons who read thoughtfully, but have neither means nor leisure to verify historic references, may feel no hesitation in accepting what, from the clinging good men have to the honour of human nature, might seem to be a possibly sectarian misrepresentation.
This said, i.e., our foot flat down on the solid ground of truth, we return to the opposition of Mother Church to the splendid work the Nonconformists were doing to educate the indigent.
The King was remonstrated with for the sanction he had given to Lancaster; but 0, horror of horrors royalty would persist in believing that it was good to give knowledge to the people, even though it was given by dissenters. It could not have been mere whiskerless innocent curates who thus attempted to alarm the mind of the Sovereign; they had no access to him, and there were not so many of them as now give variety and ornament to the greater dignity of the beneficed clergy. No, it was the top of the ladder and not the bottom that was thus bearing against the royal tower of friendship for the people; but if only the top of this ill-placed ladder impinged, it leaned hard all the way down; and the simile holds good yet further, it must be a poor tower that could be shaken by a wooden ladder, and the whole weight of clerical influence failed to shake the friendly mind of the King. The reverends endeavoured to convince royalty that the greatest dangers must result from encouraging a dissenter who taught reading, and put the Bible itself into children's hands without the safeguards of proper gloss and comment, and the regulation assortment of articles of religion.
We may here quote the Edinburgh Review:—“We are credibly informed that the utmost effect of these artifices was to provoke the steady contempt of King George III., and that he never could be induced to get over the first difficulty of these fine-spun Jesuitical reasonings of ghostly councillors.” The honest farmer king repeated to himself, we should fancy—“Eh, what the evils of being able to read, the dangers of reading the Bible l’” At all events, the Review tells that “The tempters soon perceived they had made a mistake, and they shifted their ground.” Finding they could not persuade the King that the poor ought not to be educated, or, if educated, ought not to be
136 THE TOMB OF AMPLIAS.
educated by Nonconformists, they raised the old cry once more of “The Church in danger.” Whenever that frantic shout is critically considered, it will always be found to mean, not the peril of pure religion, but only the peril of bishops, deans, canons, and other such superfine persons.
There is no escaping this conclusion, because the cry has always been raised when the people were about to be benefitted politically, morally, or spiritually; and at this juncture, according to the most eminent churchmen, nothing was so dangerous to the Church as to elevate, instruct, and enlighten the masses. In charges and pamphlets without number Lancaster was denounced, and his schemes derided in the most unmeasured terms of abuse. Was ever such a dog-in-the-manger church 7 It would not educate the people itself, and vilified the Nonconformists who endeavoured to do so. No wonder the clergy are so silent about the history and politics of their Church—silence is their best refuge; but the consequence is a retribution again, for one of the scandals of English State Churchism is that no person is more ignorant of the origin and general results of the body to which he belongs than your average churchman. But we will leave the heroic Lancaster under the torrent of epithets and invective with which he was so liberally assailed —not, indeed, forlorn, for, as Robert Southey said, “Many attacked him because he was a Quaker, and the ignorance and bigotry with which he was thus assailed gave him all the advantages he could wish. Southey was not only a poet, but a great authority in Church matters; a churchman, too, so that we can trust his testimony about the ignorant opponents, who, by the way, were Church dignitaries.
In the next paper we shall see how ignorant bigotry was forced to follow Lancaster's lead. E. HALL JACKSON.
THE archaeological researches in Rome of recent years have thrown much light upon the life of the early Christians in that city; but no discovery has produced such interest as that just announced of the tomb of Amplias. Says Paul, in Romans xvi. 8, “Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.” Who was Amplias P. Who were his friends? Why was he buried in this particular place? The answers to these questions are furnished by the discovery of his tomb; and a flood of light let in upon the times of the early Roman Christians. The tomb stands in one of the catacombs excavated in the time of Domitian, on the ground then belonging to Flavia Domitia, his niece. Roman history preserves the fact that Flavia became a Christian. Amplias, the friend of Paul, must have become a distinguished man. Because he was buried in Flavia's cemetery we judge they were personally acquainted. By Paul's greeting we imagine he was a minister of the New Word. Then the tomb is of a character that only the possessor of great wealth could have constructed so remarkable a resting-place. Was this the work of Flavia, neice of the great Domitian P Was it erected at the cost of his family, or by the early Christians of Rome? The questions may be answered, for the investigations are not yet concluded. All that we know at present is that there is no tomb in the catacombs that equals it for the beauty of its adornments and the variety of pictorial illustrations. The frescoes in the golden house of Nero, and the adornments of the house of Germanicus in the Palantine, are not to be compared, so it is reported, with the symbolic illustrations of the tomb of Amplias, the teacher of Flavia, the beloved of Paul.—Christian Chronicle.
Siguals for Preachers and Teachers.
FROM THE STUDIO OF THE ARTIST.
THE PREACHER THE TEACHER. Now, the language of art is not the appointed vehicle of ethic traths ; of these, as of all
knowledge as distinct from emotion, though not necessarily separated from it, the obvious and only fitted vehicle is speech, written or spoken-words, the symbols of ideas. The simplest-spoken homily, if sincere in spirit and lofty in tone, will have more direct didactic efficacy than all the works of all the most pious painters and sculptors from Giotto to Michael Angelo, more than the Passion Music of Bach, more than a requiem by Cherubini, more than an oratorio of Handel. It is not, then, it cannot be, the foremost duty of art to seek to embody that which it cannot adequately present, and to enter into a competition in which it is doomed to inevitable defeat.
ART IN PREACHING ; ITS PLACE AND POWER. It is this intersification of the simple æsthetic sensation through ethic and intellectual suggestiveness that gives to the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting, so powerful, so deep, and so mysterious a hold on the imagination. And, here, also we find the answer to the second of those fallacies to which I just now alluded—to wit, that moral edification can attach only to direct moral teaching. The most sensitively religious mind may indeed rest satisfied in the consciousness that it is not on the wings of abstract thought alone that we rise to the highest moods of contemplation, or to the most chastened moral temper, and assuredly arts which have for their chief task to reveal the inmost springs of beauty in the created world, to unfold all the pomp of the teemed earth, and all the pageant of those heavens of which we are told that they declare the glory of God, are not the least eloquent witnesses to the might and to the majesty of the mysterious and eternal Fountain of all good things. We should thus find ourselves abundantly armed, were it needful to be so armed, to meet those who affirm that to convey moral edification can alone give the highest status to an intellectual pursuit. But we have no need of defence against a fallacy so palpable, a fallacy of which the adoption contains the disparagement of every form of pure science with all its marvellous achievements, achievements more marvellous than the dreams of fancy, and in their results unspeakably beneficent. On the absurdity of such an attitude it is needless to dwell. In fact, the nature of man is a complex organism in which are many and various germs of growth, and only in the full and balanced development of these several elements can that organism achieve in this world its perfect maturity. To art belongs the development of one group of these rich and fruitful germs, a sufficient, and, surely, no ignoble task.
AS THE MAN IS; SO THE PREACHING IS. Ask you rather to believe that, while art is indeed in its own nature wholly independent of morality, and while the loftiest moral purport can add no jot or tittle to the merits of the work of art, as such, there is
138 SIGNALS FOR TEACHERS AND PREACHERS.
nevertheless no error deeper or more deadly—and I use the words in no rhetorical sense, but in their plain and sober meaning—than to deny that the moral complexion, the ethos, of the artist does in truth tinge every work of his hand, and fashion, in silence but with the certainty of fate, the course and current of his whole career.
This I called a dangerous error, and affirmed, on the contrary, that the man is stamped on his work, and his moral growth or lessening faithfully reflected in the sum of his labours. I believe this to be a cardinal truth, the disregard of which may bear fatal fruits in an artist's life, and I have no warmer wish than to stir in you and leave with you, if it may be, to-night some sense of the grave importance of its bearing upon each and all of us. The more closely you consider this subject the more clearly will you feel, for instance, the mischief to us as artists which must infallibly attend a tolerant indulgence within ourselves of certain moral weaknesses and failings to which nature is too often prone. Of these failings some are palpably ignoble and, in the long run, debasing; others are not on the surface so evidently mischievous. Among such as are palpably ignoble I will instance the greed for gain. I believe no evil to be more insidious, none more unerring in its operation than this sordid appetite. Its poisonous taint creeps into the moral system; numbs by degrees all finer sense; dulls all higher vision; is fatal to all lofty effort. No worse snare lies across our path. Another such deadening taint is the vulgar thirst for noisy success, the hankering of vanity for immediate satisfaction; of this the outcome is a deliberate sacrifice of the abiding appreciation of the intelligent for the transitory and noisy clamour of the unintelligent and shallow, with the fatally sure result of a paralysis of the sense of self-respect, a lowering of standard, and, in the end, an important disinclination for every sustained and serious effort. Other failings there are of which, as I said, the bearing is not so immediately evident, but of which the dangers are scarcely less. As one instance of these, I will quote the indulgence in a narrow, unsympathizing spirit, a spirit ever awake to carp and to cavil—feeding its self-complacency on the disparagement of others. This spirit stunts and shrivels those who yield to it, and by blinding them more and more to the work and beauty that are in the work which is not their own, deprives them of the priceless stimulus of a noble emulation. Let me urge you to avoid this pitfall also, and rather to keep alive within you a generous temper, ever keen to see the good wherever it may be found, finding and fastening on it as by an instinct in the least promising surroundings, even as a divining rod strikes on the hidden spring under a parched and weary wilderness of sand; for of this temper you will gather the fruits tenfold in the work of your own hands.
And, lastly, we have seen that, while the inculcation of moral and religious truths must be admitted not to be the object of art, as such, nor moral edification its appointed task, it is not therefore true, as some would have us believe, that the artist's work is uninfluenced by his moral tone, but rather that the influence of that tone is, in fact, upon it and controls it from the first touch of the brush or chisel to the last. And once again, I say I would fain stamp this vital fact deeply in your minds. Believe me, whatever of dignity, whatever of strength we have within us will dignify and will make strong the labours of our