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THE CHURCHMAN IN SOCIETY.
The worldly old Polonius may be supposed to have had duelling in his thoughts, when he delivered this precept to his son. But the precept, so applied—at least the latter part of it-can have but little reference to a Churchman. In the first place, the Christian Churchman is not likely to be implicated in any transaction which would lead to a duel. His courtesy would prevent him from giving offence, and his charity from taking it. But if untoward circumstances should arise, and a challenge be sent to him, a Churchman has no alternative. He who acknowledges the Christian code to be his rule of life, cannot offer one word of defence, for either giving or accepting a challenge. And one who is living under the Church's guidance,— who daily falls down before God in humble devotion, observes the Lord's day with holy reverence, and partakes often of his Saviour's body and blood, -one, in short, who is joined in spirit with Christ, cannot for a moment harbour the desire of revenge, and seek the blood of his brother; nor, on the other hand, can he, from fear of the world's scorn, tempt his fellow sinner to take away his life. It may be a sore trial,—the sorest perhaps to which a Christian gentleman can be subject; but it admits of no argument. A Christian Churchman's conscience must at once tell him, that he must obey the commandment of God, be the worldly consequences what they may. And, after all, it requires far more moral courage to refuse, than to accept a challenge.
I desire, however, in the present chapter, to speak of those intellectual contests in which a Churchman is more likely to be engaged.
It is one of the paradoxes of the present day, that religion is a private affair between each man and his Maker; and that we ought to leave our religious opinions behind us, when we enter into society. As to the propriety of doing so, we need not stop to inquire, because we may at once deny the possibility. Our opinions form a part of ourselves : whatever we really believe, or strongly feel, we bear about with us wherever we go, and cannot suppress, or conceal, without a continual effort of vigilant hypocrisy.
Is a Churchman then a sort of spiritual knighterrant, who throws down his gauntlet, and challenges every one he meets to break a spear with him? Certainly not. He behaves, with regard to religious matters, in much the same manner as he does with regard to any thing else; except that he uses more caution and seriousness. He maintains his Church opinions, as a gentleman and a Christian maintains any other opinion. Suppose, for instance, the profession of which he was a member were undervalued, or the regiment to which he belonged were disparaged, or any society, of the beneficial tendency of which he was convinced, were attacked—he would feel himself called on to defend them in a firm yet temperate manner. So, if a Churchman hears the Church attacked, or its principles called in question or mis-stated, it is his duty to protest against the accusation, or mis-statement; taking care, of course, to control his feelings within
due bounds, and to speak with calmness, though with zeal. He will not be forward and disputatious; neither will he shrink from maintaining the truth, when circumstances call on him to do so. And, generally speaking, the Churchman need not fear the encounter; for, besides that truth and justice are on his side, the Christian spirit, which is in him, will give him that patience and control over his temper, and that sincere and earnest manner, which, if they do not ensure a successful issue to his argument, will at least save him from defeat.
Next to the moral qualities and right feelings, which are so requisite in all arguments, it is highly desirable that Churchmen, both lay and clerical, should be acquainted with the common topics and facts relating to the Church, in order that they may be able to answer the objections of assailants. Nothing can equal the barefaced falsehoods, and ridiculous fallacies, which are commonly broached with regard to the Church; except it be the marvellous ignorance and prejudice displayed, even by otherwise well-informed persons, when any Church question is brought into discussion. You may argue gravely with a person of education for half an hour on the bearings of history upon Church matters,
and at last find that out he does not know the difference between the council of Nice and the council of Trent'. The most extraordinary want of knowledge, both as to facts and first principles, prevails in every society where Church matters are discussed, from the tap-room of the publichouse to the floor of the House of Commons.
Having made these few observations, let us return to the history of our two Churchmen.
Arthur Ridley was by no means averse to a moderate mixture in society, which he was peculiarly fitted for adorning, by his ample fund of information, his ready talent, and courteous manners. But professional duties claimed precedence over social intercourse, and obliged him to restrict the circle of his acquaintance. His rule was to confine himself chiefly to his family connexions, and old friends; not seeking more general society, except when he had the opportunity of enlarging his acquaintance with good
1 The common use of the word “ Catholic," instead of Romanist, or “ Roman Catholic," implies great ignorance or carelessness. The English Church is the true “ Catholic Church." See the Creeds, and the prayer in our Liturgy, “for all conditions of men,” in all which the “ Catholic” is spoken of as the true Church.