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THE BISHOP OF EXETER.
It used to be a proud time for me when this Bishop came into Cornwall, and I was permitted to accompany him, and to act as his chaplain at the consecration of a church or burial ground, or to attend him when he went to a Confirmation. Sometimes I had the happy privilege of rowing him in a boat on the sea. He seemed to take such an affec tionate and intelligent interest in my parish and my church work. He asked various questions about my neighbours, just as if he lived among them and knew all their circumstances. He struck me as a wonderful man, and I was his champion upon all occasions in my unconverted days. Notwithstanding this, he was too honest to his own views to favour me after my conversion.
On my return home without a licence, I had but a poor account to give, and the future prospect looked very gloomy.
OCCASIONALLY preached in the parish church, and went to the daily Communion and the daily service. My spare time I occupied (it was like going back to brick-making in Egypt) in painting the church. I laboured for hours and hours to try and make this great chalk-pit of a place look somewhat ecclesiastical. All round the church I painted a diaper pattern, surmounted with a border, which went over the doors and under the windows. Then on the bare wall at the end I painted a life-sized figure of our Lord, as a Shepherd leading His sheep, taken from Overbeck's picture. This, together with a few other pictures of Christ, warmed up the building very well. Then for the chancel I had a most elaborate design.
First, there was a beautiful gilded pattern over the very lofty chancel arch, which I managed to reach by means of a ladder. Professional people need scaffolding and platforms, which I dispensed with, and accomplished the whole space in less time than it would take them to put up all their needful erections. Inside the chancel I had twelve niches,
THE LOCAL PRESS.
with tabernacle work above them, for the twelve apostles; and these were all duly represented after a true medieval pattern.
The local newspaper made great fun of these paintings; and the reporter would have it, that "these lively saints. looked very conscious of being put up there, and that they were constantly craning' their necks to look at one another as if they would inquire, 'I say, how do you like being there?'" My favourite figure, St. John, upon which I bestowed extra pains, the provoking man would have it, was St. Mary Magdalene, leering at the apostle next to her, or at the one opposite-it did not seem quite clear to him which; but her head was down on one side in a bewitching attitude.
In the middle of the great undertaking I was called away for a few weeks. During this time the reporter came again and again, but saw no progress; he therefore put an advertisement into his paper to this effect :
"Stolen or strayed, a monkish priest, who paints apostles. He is not to be found. Any person or persons who can give information concerning this absent personage, will greatly oblige."
My preaching was not acceptable in this church, neither was my connection with it; and my apostles were no better appreciated, for they were soon after whitewashed over, and disappeared like a dream. Sometimes, in damp weather, they were still to be seen craning" their necks as heretofore (much to the amusement of the chorister boys) though with a kind of veil upon them. Doubtless, in a future generation, when the plaster begins to blister, some antiquarian will discover this "wonderful mediæval fresco," and call the attention of the public to it.
My ideas and dreams about catholic advancement were thus brought to a calamitous end. This church to which I
had come was one in high credit for much private and public devotion; but, alas! I found what I might easily have expected, that without spiritual vitality everything must be dry and dead! Dry and dead indeed it was. The conversation of these supposed ascetics was for the most part secular, and at the highest only ecclesiastical. Their worship, on which a great amount of pains and cost was bestowed, was but a form carefully prepared and carefully executed, as if critics were present; yet it did not, and could not, rise to spirituality. A lady presided at the organ, and had the teaching and training of the choir. Much of her own personal and religious character were imparted to the performances, which in tone and manner were admirable and precise. She made the boys understand the sense of the words they sang, till I have seen them even in tears during the singing. The "chaste old verger (as our reporter called him), who headed the procession at least four times a day, up and down the church, was a very important and successful part of the machinery, and from him, up to the highest official, everything was carried out with exact precision.
But oh, how unsatisfying and disappointing it was!—to a degree which I was ashamed to own! How could I be so foolish, to give up a living, where there was vitality, though it was rough, for a superficial and artificial semblance of religion? In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, that "a living dog is better than a dead lion ;" and though I had often quoted this saying, I never felt the truth of it so deeply as now. The dead lion and the dead elephant are quite immoveable things for a live dog to bark at or fret about. It was a hard and trying time to me in that place. I could not see my way, or understand at all what was the Lord's will towards me.
While in this state of mind I had a vivid dream. I
THE HIGH-CHURCH LADY.
thought that the ornamental iron grating, which was for ventilating the space under the floor of the church, was all glowing with fire, as if a great furnace were raging there. I tried to cry "Fire!" but could not. Then I ran into the church, and saw it full of people reverently absorbed in their devotions. I tried again to give the alarm, and cry "Fire! fire!" but I could not utter a sound. When I looked up, I saw thin, long, waving strings of fire coming up among the people through the joints of the floor. I called attention to this, but no one else could see it. Then I became frantic in my gesticulation, and at last was able to tell some of the congregation of the great fire which was under them; but they looked at one another, smiling, and told me to go about my business-that I was mad! I woke out of my troubled sleep in a very agitated and perturbed state. Since that, whenever I have seen or heard of churches, where Church and Sacraments are preached, instead of Christ, as the one way of salvation, I long to warn the people of the fire raging underneath, and to show them the way of the Lord more perfectly.
One day, when I was feeling more desponding and wretched than before, a lady called, and said she wanted to speak to me would I come to her house for this purpose? I went, and she was not long before she opened the conversation by charging me with being very uncharitable. "You say we are all unconverted."
I replied, "Of course, as children of Adam we are, till conversion takes place; there can be no mistake about that! But when did I say that you were unconverted? Is it not your own conscience that tells you that? When we preach to people as unconverted, those who are changed, and brought from death into life, know as well as possible that we do not mean them; and they pray for a blessing on the Word, that it may reach others, as it once reached