Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the utmost, suffice to carry us through the whole-sermon and perhaps a Psalm being included; indeed, we have reason to believe that were the latter of these limits exceeded, the clergyman would expose himself to reproof-a good-natured reproof, of course, but still a reproof, from the head of his congregation. Let not our readers forget that in such situations it is absolutely impossible to administer the holiest rite of the Church, and that the soldiers never being invited to it, nor hearing a word about it, come, ere long, to forget that such a thing is. And when we further take into account the uncanonical dress of the clergyman, the absence of all external objects which bear upon Divine things, the associations of ideas that cannot fail all the while to be present to the soldiers' minds, and the bodily fatigue inseparable from standing, even half an hour, in one position-is it easy to conceive an arrangement better calculated to throw discredit upon public worship, and to confirm the soldier in indifference to religion?

We do not admire Divine service as it is performed in a bar. rack square. In the open air, among the white tents, or near the bivouack when the enemy is in front, the worship of Almighty God ascends to heaven on the wings of the wind with peculiar solemnity; but a barrack square is cheerless in itself, and seems to ring continually with the drill-serjeant's sharp command, and the awkward recruit's low murmur. A barrack room is, for ob. vious reasons, not much better; but a riding-school is a positive abomination. The place of exercise for beasts during six days in the week, and of corporal punishment for men, whenever such may be inflicted, is surely no fit temple for prayer and praise.

The separate service in barracks, as in a parish church, is paid for at the rate of one guinea per sermon. And here, as well as elsewhere, the sermon must be actually preached. It is no service no pay;' and 'no pay,' though it come not so frequently, is of too frequent recurrence even where there is a ridingschool.

While the public worship of God is thus provided for, care is taken in the same spirit of hard bargaining that the sick in hospital shall not be neglected; that is to say, that they shall have the chance, at all events, of occasionally seeing a minister of religion, of hearing him read a few prayers, and possibly of conversing with him. The form of certificate which shows that all this has been done, we subjoin.

to

'I do hereby certify, that the Rev.

has from

visited the sick soldiers in hospital at once a week, and more frequently when required, and has also read prayers once at least in each week to the convalescents.

'I further

'I further certify, that the hospital* is residence of the clergyman.

(Signed)

distant from the

Commanding Officer of the Troops. 'N.B. When separate service is allowed for a less number of men than one hundred, the remuneration of the service will be considered as including that for visiting the sick, and no additional allowance will be granted for the latter duty; but the clergyman must produce certificates of his attendance on the sick, when required, in order to entitle him to the allowance for separate service.'

*Here mention the exact distance, and the average No. of sick per week.'

It neither ex

The preceding paper demands small comment. presses, nor perhaps could anything of the kind express, the most remote hint that the sick and dying have been prepared for their great change; that the sacrament has been administered to any of them, or that aught except the routine of a weekly visit has been gone through. The clergyman receives payment for the weekly visits at a rate proportionate to his walk. If his residence be distant from the hospital less than one mile, he receives for his attendance there five shillings weekly; if it exceed one mile, but fall short of three, his pay is seven shillings and sixpence; if it exceed three, or he have more than one hospital to attend, we rather think that he is paid more. But we are not sure;—indeed the impression upon our mind is, that not in any instance is a clergyman, for attendance on ordinary regimental or garrison hospitals, paid more than at the rate of 187. per annum.

We

There is something so revolting in the whole of these arrangements, they so completely lower the dignity of the ministerial office and the tone of feeling among all parties, that we cannot be surprised to find that the general effect is bad. Not that the clergy neglect the military hospitals-far from it. verily believe that were all remuneration withdrawn, and the charge thrown upon them as an exercise of charity and Christian zeal, they would bear it, aye, and go through with it too in a spirit of higher and holier devotion than is now present with them. But see to what the system tends. In cases where no special Sunday service is performed, the clergyman who visits the hospital is without the smallest ground to believe that more than this routine of weekly inspection is either looked for or desired at his hands. He is therefore shy of undertaking the general pastoral care of the troops, not only because his time is probably occupied in another direction, but because he does not know how his voluntary attentions may be met. Meanwhile, the Sunday clergyman justly conceives that he has done his part by receiving the

troops

troops into his church; and so the men and their families, the officers and theirs, the regimental school, and all that appertains to the moral and religious training of the corps, are left to shift for themselves. To be sure there is a clause in the Queen's regulations, which enacts that the regimental schools shall be visited by the clergy; and we have read a circular addressed by the present principal chaplain to all the clergy who may in any way be connected with the troops, urging them to attend to this matter. And, doubtless, where there are resident chaplains or officiating chaplains present, the Queen's regulation may be enforced; but in all other cases the clergy are manifestly free to exercise their own discretion;-the two points to which they are pledged, and for which alone they receive pay, being these that when a separate service on Sunday is required, they shall perform it; and that in all cases they shall visit the hospitals and read prayers to the sick once a week, and oftener if sent for.'

In short, the clergyman has no opportunity of becoming acquainted with the troops-or of reaching their hearts through the care which he may take in the moral and religious training of their children. The men have no adviser to whom they can go in case their minds be troubled, or their consciences check them. There is no kind friend at hand who, being without professional authority over them, would perhaps, on that account, be the better qualified to be the depository of their fears and hopes; there is a flock nominally Christian, but there is no shepherd.

But what, it will be asked, would we have? The Government, when it enlists young men to serve under the Queen's standard, takes no pledge to make them perfect members of society. The end sought is, that they shall become good troops, and nothing more-brave, orderly, obedient, pliable; and nobody, it is presumed, will deny that of all these qualities the British army is eminently possessed. And for the rest, surely an English regiment, looking even to its moral and religious condition, is at least upon a par with an equal number of persons, belonging to the same station in life, whom you shall take at random from among the thousands of Manchester and Glasgow, or possibly from the average of our agricultural districts.

We shall not stop to consider this latter point-to concede which would no more weaken our argument than to demonstrate its entire incorrectness would strengthen our hands; for we hold that the position of a young man is entirely changed, even in a moral point of view, the moment he puts on the Queen's uniform. So long as he retained the power of disposing of himself after his own pleasure, the blame of his irreligion, if he chose to be irreligious,

irreligious, rested with himself; or if it be urged in extenuation of his vices, that the means of learning better were not within his reach, still even in this case it would be unjust to blame the government. Government (under our present state of things) cannot be expected to build churches or plant ministers in the manufacturing districts, proportionate in number to the growth of the population. They who by collecting their fellow men into masses, accumulate large fortunes, or strive to do so, would take care, if they were alive to the responsibility of their position, that neither churches nor ministers of religion were wanting. But the moment the Government withdraws a man from the sphere in which he was born, and makes him its own servant in a sense more absolute by far than can be applied to the connexion between any private gentleman and his domestics, it becomes responsible for the moral and religious, not less than for the physical, treatment of such servant.

Two changes, and only two, appear to us to be necessary, if you hope to place the important matter now under discussion on a right footing. The first of these implies that to every military station within the United Kingdom, as well as in the Colonies, where a permanent garrison of a fixed numerical strength is maintained, a neat, plain chapel shall be attached; the second, that at each of these places a clergyman shall be taken into the public pay, to whom the troops shall be accustomed to look as to their own pastor, and who shall be taught to regard the troops, their wives and families, as his especial charge. We venture to recommend that military chapels be attached only to such barracks as may accommodate the head-quarters of a regiment or a depôt, or be capable of containing not fewer than two hundred men at the least. Were we free to choose, we should indeed greatly prefer that for every detachment, particularly in the manufacturing districts, be it but a single company, a place of worship should be provided;-and that the Government should build on such a scale as that the people might participate in the boon thus conferred upon the troops. But there are obstacles in the way which we cannot hope to see surmounted; and therefore we must be content to leave our smaller detachments to their fate, while we take care of those larger bodies, among which it is worthy of remark that recruits, whether commissioned or otherwise, are invariably to be found. No doubt the measure would be attended with some expense. do not, however, believe that the expense would be very great; for there is scarcely an old barrack in the kingdom, of which some portion is not at this moment unoccupied, and a little skill in engineering, with an outlay comparatively trifling in

We

money,

money, would easily convert it into the sort of chapel that we want. An empty gun-shed, a deserted store-room, a mainguard raised a little on its walls, or a story added to the piazza beneath which in bad weather guards parade and recruits are drilled, could, with a very little exercise of taste and right feeling, be rendered every way appropriate to the purposes of Divine worship. And with regard to new barracks-as Government has adopted, we believe, the prudent plan of building them on contract, the addition of a chapel will add very little to the cost.

Having thus provided for your troops at each of their principal stations an appropriate place of worship, and fitted it with all the appliances necessary for the celebration of Divine service according to the rites and usages of the Church, your next measure will be to find a clergyman who shall officiate therein on Sundays and other holidays, and read a short service to such as choose to attend every morning in the week. Now let it be observed that we have no desire to see the order of regimental chaplains revived, neither could we expect that, in all the places to which the new arrangements might extend, chaplains should be appointed on the same footing with those of London and Chatham, or even of Portsmouth and Plymouth. The utmost that we contemplate is, that, instead of hiring parsons by the job, or doling out to them so many shillings a week in compensation for the shoeleather which they expend in walking to and from the regimental hospitals, an arrangement be entered into with the incumbent of each parish within the limits of which a barrack may stand, so that either he or the War-Office shall provide an additional curate and that not to the parochial clergy en masse, but to this particular curate, and to none other, the pastoral care of the troops in garrison shall be committed. If the Government pay this gentleman a fixed annual stipend-it need not be very great; perhaps not much more than is now paid as the price of a separate service' and attendance on one or two hospitals. But the curate will feel that the troops constitute his cure, and unless he be unworthy of his office, he will pay to them the same unremitting attention that he would bestow upon a district of civilians. If this arrangement were adopted, no stress of weather could be permitted to stand between the troops and their attendance at Divine worship. Their little ones also, and the children of the officers, would come to be catechised and instructed side by side at proper seasons, in the chapel; and a bond of union between them, ay, and between their mothers also, would be formed, eminently beneficial to all concerned. There would be no more flirting and levity during public prayer; no more excuse for mutilation of the service; no further difficulty

« AnteriorContinuar »