29 DECEMBER 1855, Page 15


SIR—I know that in saying that I believe the Spectator to be the most truly religious paper in England, I am subjecting myself to the contemptu- ous wonder of very opposite parties ' • when I proceed to avow that I consider you to be the best friend that the Church of England has in all the press, it is certain that I am involving myself in the same condemnation with which you are visited by High-Churchmen and by Low : and yet I am prepared to support both propositions. I believe you to be the best friend of the Church of England—first, because you have always told the plain truth about her right doings or wrong doings, when the "Church" papers have been tearing her asunder by party spite, and the rest of the press assailing her with un- discriminating slander ; secondly, because you, desiring neither the triumph of a party nor the overthrow of the Establishment, have grieved that a power which might do so much for the people of England should be rendered feeble by prejudice and strife. I believe the Spectator to be truly religious ; because, while its pages have never blasphemed the great definite truths of theology by introducing their sacred names into ephemeral conflicts, still the philosophy and politics which the Spectator professes are always based upon an acknowledgment of the great abiding laws of God and the spiritual nature and moral obligation of man, and nobly contrast with the base and undisguised materialism of a large portion of the " Liberal " press, and the ceremonial or verbal formalism (no less really materialistic) of the self-styled "religious organs." When you, therefore, advise the introduction of "common things" into sermons, I doubt not that in your sense of the words the advice is excellent, just as I believe Lord Ashburton's advice to introduce "common things' into schools to be excellent in his sense of the words. But as this advice has been dinned into our ears incessantly by those in whose sense of the words it is most pernicious—by those of whom as to godliness and learning I can truly say, "Timeo Danaos et done fe- rentes"—you will perhaps permit me to attempt to show the good and the ill which lie beneath the ambiguity of this popular phrase.

First, as to religion. We who are Christians, of whatever church, believe that our life, here and hereafter, is spiritual, mysterious, depending upon eternal laws and Divine power, (I purposely avoid specially theological phrases) ; we hold that while the world is governed by God's laws, there is much in _it that is in rebellion against those laws, and so sin and sorrow

• exist, which we think can be healed and comforted only by leading the minds of men "from the things which seem, up to the truths that are." Again, we as Christians believe in the gradual growth of mankind towards a perfect life, (" progress,") not by slavish adulation of the "spirit" of this or that "age," but in virtue of a fuller knowledge of those eternal truths and laws, obedience to which forms the sound portion of the "spirit" of every " age," (ignorance and disobedience forming the rotten part) ; in other words, the "spirit of the age" is good just so far as it is possessed by the Spirit which is above all ages, and no further. We who are Christian Ministers, (mind, for the purpose of this argument, I neither affirm nor deny anything concerning other powers besides those of teaching and minis- tering,) of whatever church, are ordained that we may by our lives and doc- trine keep the eternal laws ever before the minds of mankind, upon whom sin and sorrow are ever pressing. Now, if by preaching "common things" is meant that we should cease to talk of doctrines apart from life in a hard and technical way, and to exalt mere dry and formal ceremonial enactments unconnected with rneu's hopes and fears into the place of eternal truth—if by preaching "common things" is meant, that we should ever show that every-day life and all the commonest duties and cases of senators, judges, farmers, blacksmiths, and washerwomen, are most closely bound up with the most mysterious laws of God,—then is the phrase a most excellent one.

But if it is meant, that we should put physical laws before men, not as based upon spiritual power, but as affording the highest knowledge,—that we are to tell men that a mere acquaintance with the forces of brute matter or the laws of demand and supply will make drunkards sober or rogues honest,— that Rachel weeping for her children is to be comforted by a lecture upon anatomy demonstrated upon the corpses lying at her feet,—then the advice to preach "common things" is false and hateful, springing from ignorance of all whom it concerns. The working men of England do not want parsons to teach them the parallelogram of forces and the Silurian system ; they want friends in life, real friends, not patrons ; guides in perplexity and trouble • true levellers, who know no prejudice of class or taste ; and if the clergy of all churches have lost, as they have, the affections of the people, it is because they have thought more of the dignity of their .calling than its duties, not because they are not mathematicians, geologists, or engineers.

Bo with regard to eduoation. If by "teaching common things is meant the cultivation of attention, observation, and reflection, upon the world of mind and matter—the connexion of theory and practice, so that a child shall not be taught a lesson on anatomy without the moral "do not lace tight," or a lesson in grammar without the moral " do not say me ' for I,' " the advice is excellent. But if it is meant that the-teaching of high moral principle as a guide in life—of history as an introduction to political rights and duties—of grammar as the best (and indeed only possible) training of the working classes in habits of logical thinking—is to be laid aside, that all a poor child's school-days may be spent in learning to sweep stairs and cook mutton-broth,—why, then, the old Tories of 1810 were right : it is hopeless to make freemen of the working people of England—hewers of wood and drawers of water they must be; only it is hard to see why all our army of her Majesty's Inspectors is needed, where Betty the housemaid would do this work better.

This cry of "common things" may do great good—may do irreparable evil. Napoleon the First well knew what he was doing when he sup- pressed the study of moral philosophy and encouraged only the exact sciences. I suppose some "Liberal organs" would applaud this device greatly. But no one who has hoped and toiled for the elevation of the °people of England can submit to be deluded by the idle fancy of the hour into withholding from them those studies of history, of poetry, of religion, (living, not formal,) which, although they do not directly bring in so many more thousands a year to the landlord and the millowner, alone can train the minds of the working classes of England to strength and nobleness sufbient 'to make them seek and maintain freedom, knowledge, and self-respect. I have the honour to be your obedient servant,

A Cuzsirrnz Pensori.