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HINTS TO ADMIRERS OF BEAUTIFUL CHURCHES.
[NOTE.-The writer would wish not to be misunderstood. A due and sober
regard for strength, beauty, symmetry, and dignity, ought to be observed in buildings designed for the worship of God. It is the Tractarian and Popish use of art in the decoration of churches, whether in carvings, sculptures, paintings—and also their elaborate pedantry in design and mystic meanings, which the writer would condemn. And this is entirely characteristic of a meretricious devotion, and a spurious profession of love to God and honour for his Name. The expressions of devotion which spring from the true faith of our own pure and holy Church, are, and ought to be, chastely simple and solemn. Real religion is unobtrusive, and averse to needless pomp; while, on the other hand, it never shuns the light, nor hides the light of truth committed to her keeping. It does not maintain the doctrine of “reserve,” where God has said “preach," “ proclaim," “ declare," “ publish”—nor does it, with all the affectation of pretended zeal for his glory, busy itself most officiously, most laboriously, in working out a system of mystery and symbolism in things of lesser importance. It is the glory of Christianity that it unveils the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and shows them completely fulfilled in Him who is the Light of the World.]
THERE is something very much to be guarded against in the admiration and veneration we all naturally feel in visiting beautiful old churches. They are beautiful as works of art, they are curious and interesting as historical monuments, they are venerable from their antiquity, and full of hallowed associations when we think of them as having been for so many ages set apart for the worship of God. But we must remember that as to the spiritual communion with God of the truly humble and single-hearted worshipper, and as to the promised presence of the Lord “wheresoever two or three are gathered together in his name"-we must remember that Gothic arches and painted windows have nothing whatever to do with either the one or the other. “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” This spiritual worship can equally be offered where Gothic arches and painted windows are, or where they are not. Is he a whit the more present with us in a cathedral than in à poor chamber? Or a whit the less present in one than in the other to those who “ seek him”? Do we think about the bravery of the building, or its ornaments, when we are really praying to him and praising him? And doth he, " who dwelleth
not in temples made with hands”he who "inhabiteth eternity,” yet who condescendeth to dwell in the contrite and humble heart-doth he manifest himself the more or the less to that heart, according to the grandeur or beauty of the place where he calleth upon him? No, no! Let us not deceive ourselves. Let us not willingly encourage fanciful delusions, which may be called the religion of flesh and blood, a religion very agreeable and flattering to the pride of human nature. A worldly, unconverted heart can enter into the beauties of sacred works of art; and feeling them deeply, perhaps, with all the enthusiasm of a sensitive and imaginative mind, it may think that this is religion, when it is only admiration of the works of human hands-perhaps, alas, even accompanied with self-gratulation and self-complacency at their own offerings to God. Let us, then, be on our guard when we enter places of this kind; and mistake not the greatest beauty that human art can reach, for that beauty which the Lord is pleased to behold, which he himself has formed, in the lowly and contrite, the simple and single heart, trusting alone in the righteousness of Christ; the heart purified and sanctified by his own Holy Spirit; the heart in which he dwells and
reigns-or in a blessed company of such worshippers met together in his name.
We should soon find that there is something more human than divine, more earthly than heavenly, more from an enlightened intellect than a truly converted heart, in over-much attention to the ornamental part of church architecture, if we candidly studied the subject with the Bible in our hands, and no selfish, secondary motive swaying our pursuit of truth. As a practical proof of this, how often of late years have we beheld the sad spectacle of the greatest anxiety with regard to the building, and utter indifference to those “living stones," the souls of men, who are to worship there. Whether it be filled or not with these living stones, or if it should be what we are to hear there, are matters of secondary importance. The form of the Cross is much talked of, but full and true statements of the doctrines connected with him who died thereon, are seldom, if ever, heard-excepting in that pure and evangelical Liturgy which they cannot, as yet at least, take away. There may be the greatest correctness of Ecclesiastical taste, combined with utter ignorance of the spiritual needs and affections of a soul “ athirst for the living God." There is indeed great danger from many and various causes, of such a soul being distracted from that pursuit of our only real good; and there are no hindrances so plausible as those which may be cunningly brought forward as if in aid of true religion, by that Serpent, who would, through his subtlety, beguile us from the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus.
Constituted as the human mind is at present, it is far more inclined to act through the senses, than through faith. Churches are intended for the pure, spiritual service of him, whom we now can only know by faith, or worship by faith. The mind, and heart, and soul in worshipping God is therefore engaged in a highly abstract and spiritual employment, yea, the highest and most abstract of which our nature is capable. Now we all know by experience (and the Church
of Rome knows full well for its own purposes, how to take advantage of the fact) how exceedingly alluring to the eye and pleasing to the mind is beautiful form of every kind. But it is a pleasure not of an abstract or spiritual kind-it is something much lower, although it is undoubtedly a very harmless and even profitable source of enjoyment when rightly used. It certainly can never assist towards raising devotion, or spiritualizing the aspirations of the soul after God himself. But it may lower, it may interrupt the high aim of faithit may so amuse the eye as utterly to call off the mind from those solemn engagements which are the noblest and highest acts of the immortal soul, and yet which ought to be as its native element.
The Shechinah dwelt of old in the Temple at Jerusalem; a Temple built in every respect, and in every part, according to the immediate directions of the Most High-yet it imported emblematically of a glory that should surpass it, (because more entirely spiritual,) under the New Testament Dispensation. While the first Temple was still standing, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Is. lxvi. 1, 2.) And again, “Thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Is. lvii. 15.) “God manifest in the flesh" spake of the temple of his body, when he foretold his resurrection: thus explaining to us one of the typical designs of the Temple at Jerusalem. But how clearly did he show unto the woman of Samaria, that not even the Temple of Jerusalem, nor any other specified place, was from henceforth to be considered as the only
place where men could worship the Father. (See John iv. 23, 24.) And by his Apostle Paul he hath declared of believers in him, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” (See i Cor. iii. 16, and vi. 19.) This is in accordance with the gracious promises to his disciples before he was taken from them, which are recorded in the latter chapters of St. John's Gospel-assuring and re-assuring them of his send. ing the Comforter unto them, which is the Holy Ghost, and his declaring to them, “ He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Thus it is that the whole body of faithful believers constitute his true Church- a living temple, a spiritual house made up of living stones, built upon the tried corner-stone, the sure foundation, Christ Jesus, (1 Pet. ï. 4, &c.) “in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord : in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph, ii. 21, 22.) And thus it is also that his true Church, this living temple, is called “his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Oh, what a subject for highest and holiest meditation! What an unspeakable honour and privilege to be permitted to hope to be even the smallest stone of this temple! a temple built without the sound of axe or hammer, but by the silent and effectual working of the Spirit Oh, what an awful and holy jealousy should it inspire over our thoughts, and affections, and lives, and conversation, that we may indeed endeavour to “walk worthy of the vocation whereunto we are called”called to be members of that Church which is his body, in which, with all the fulness of the Spirit, he deigns to dwell.
It must needs be that those whose faith (so called) is so sensual as to require assistance from forms and figures now, in this day of types fulfilled, can know very little about faith. We must ever remember, that “ faith is the gift of God," and that, in reality, there cannot be any other faculty or power whereby the human mind can apprehend revealed truth, Faith is
entirely spiritual, for it has to do with spiritual objects, and is a light superadded to nature, and far above it; for it makes manifest truths which nature's light had never discovered. Faith is as the substitute for sight in things which we dare not, and could not, if we dared, attempt to represent to the bodily eye. “ Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." But the faith of such minds as those of which we are speaking, must, in fact, be more akin to imagination than anything worthy the name of true faith. Imagination, a quality native to the human mind (highly useful and necessary), is far below divinely imparted faith. Its offices, its ends, its objects, and its food also, are all far inferior to those of which faith alone can take cognizance. Imagination is indeed, if I may so speak, a sensual operation of the mind; for the mind imagines nothing (we are told) without some similarity to objects which our senses had before represented to us. Imagination therefore may well be fed by the arts; but not so can faith be nourished. Imagination will certainly be refined and purified, the more sacred and truly Christian are the subjects on which it dwells; but this is an object which should be gained in its own proper places and proper times. Churches are not schools of art, but nurseries of faith. Imagination is said to be creative of art-it may indeed create its own food, and feed on its own creation, both being but representations of human ideas of invisible things, in other words, of really present, of visible, of tangible things, transposed according to the unwarranted and sometimes presumptuous fancy of the artist. Therefore it is that bringing the art of painting to the decoration of churches may, it is true, feed the imagination, but it does not strengthen faith; and that those who would thus trust to the aid of the arts, know more of imagination than of true faith. Imagination can only be properly exercised where the mind is at liberty to form its own ideas, and to expatiate at will; but this can never be the case with those solemn truths which 2 R
are revealed to us, but revealed under every solemn guard. Wheresoeyer the Lord reveals himself unto us, there is it holy ground; “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet”—think not with the common faculties of thy nature unblamed to draw nigh. No! the purer and the truer faith is, the humbler,
and the more chastened will the imagination become: and will not for an instant presume to intrude where faith alone, God's own implanted witness in the soul, can hear his voice, and hold communion with him.
Columb. E. T. R.
LETTER TO A CLERGYMAN,
WHO REQUESTED A CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS RESTORING AN ANCIENT
GOTHIC CHURCH TO ITS ORIGINAL STATE.
DEAR SIR, -I have delayed thus long answering your letter, not through carelessness or neglect, but because I feel some scruples as to complying with your request, and yet am most unwilling to refuse it.
I confess I have much jealousy with respect to the restoration of churches, for that too often means putting them into the same state in which they were in the times of Popery, and so making them ready for the reception of Papists again.
Again, the adorning of churches induces the notion in many, that God is honoured thereby, which, I apprehend, is plainly contrary to Protestant and Bible truth.
Even under the Jewish dispensation, how carefully did the Almighty prohibit every instrument of worship that he himself did not exactly prescribe! The strict injunction was, “ Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish therefrom.” (Deut. xii.) The Temple at Jerusalem and its services were all typical of Gospel truths, and when they were fulfilled, they ceased; and I cannot find in any part of the New Testament any sanction, much less any command, to glorify God by means of hewn stones and painted windows. It always struck me as very remarkable, that St. Paul, when standing amidst the noblest specimens of architectural science, declared the great truth that " the Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with
men's hands," and that “repentance" is the only requisite for the spiritual service that God now requires.
Now, though I write thus, pray do not suppose that I think you are involved in the ignorance at which I hint; far from it, my only object is to show the ground of my jealousy, and it must be admitted that I am not jealous without a cause. For surely it is too notorious that the unrenewed heart of man ever shrinks from spiritual worship, and strives to satisfy or lull the conscience by honouring and serving God not according to his word, but according to its own devices. I hold it then to be our duty not to put a temptation or a stumbling block in the way of any man; but I fear we do tempt many, when we divert their attention from the great truths of the Gospel, by objects which excite the lust of the eye and the pride of life. Whether a Protestant temple be of the Gothic or Grecian style I care not; but, I venture to say, it cannot be too plain and simple. Every thing should be done to promote not merely the convenience but the comfort of the congregation ; the ventilation and the warming of the building should be carefully attended to, and the seats should be so arranged that the worshippers may best join in common prayer, and hear the preaching of the word of life. The object and purpose of the building should be kept in view, and if possible accomplished, but further I dare not go.
I do not say you should not remove your sash windows, if you can introduce others more in character with the building, and which at the same time will admit the light freely and keep out the wintry blast; but I am sure you will sacrifice much to the eye, if you substitute the leaden casement and small diamond panes of the dark ages.
There is another argument against
expending money in the mere adorning of churches, and that is the dearth of churches and of ministers, of which we have so much cause to complain. We of the Church of England are not turbulent enough to get a portion of the grant which is given to Maynooth. Trusting you will excuse the freedom with which I write, believe, &c.
W. C. W.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR.
Sir,--In the month of July, 1844, you have inserted an account of the death of Miss — , in which paper is also included the statement of an event which took place in Ireland, regarding a poor man, who tendered his services to a party en route to the Giant's Causeway, as a guide to one of the interesting scenes on the Antrim coast. That event has been followed by so remarkable an occurrence, that I cannot but think a statement will be highly gratifying to your readers, and I trust, an encouragement to the feeblest attempt to speak “ a word in season.” The particulars, as stated in the former paper, were related by me to a relative at Belfast, through whom it came to the hearing of Dr. --, in that place, a man of distinguished talent and high reputation among the Socinians. He was struck with the account, and wished much for the whole of the hymn-"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness," a verse only of which was related. My friend wrote to me for it, but the application escaped my memory, and I neglected sending it; but so great was the desire excited to procure it, that at length a lady was found who was acquainted with it. She came with the hymn to the Doctor; he was then on his death-bed; as she read, he every now and then responded, “how sweet, how sweet," and casting his whole soul upon the Saviour of sinners, died a believer in that Jesus whose blood and righteousness now
clothe his immortal spirit with the garments of salvation - a glorious dress, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Is not this a brand plucked from the burning!
O dear friends, let us not be weary in well doing ; cast thy bread on the waters, for thou shalt find it when and where thou dost least expect it. Little did I think, when wending my way over the ploughed field with my companion in his many-coloured garment, that his bright testimony of a Saviour's righteousness, should be made the instrument of guiding a highly gifted sinner to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, The surges of the sea have now been passed by both these individuals; safely in the haven of eternal rest are they now landed. The pilgrim guide may have welcomed the ransomed soul, as a seal to his simple testimony, on the confines of the Giant's Causeway Resting in the bosom of a Saviour, he hears no more the “ nearer waters roll,” the billows of the deep are passed, and the sweet fields of Canaan's happy land are exchanged for the rough and thorny road through which the pilgrim trod in Erin's troubled coast.
If not trespassing too much on your pages, allow me here to add an event of somewhat peculiar character. A poor man lived in our parish who was deprived of his understanding by a fever, when about four or five and twenty. He had been a good schon