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difficulty before me. How am I to present what I have thought out to the minds of my people, neither doing violence to my own conscience nor wounding theirs ? The customary phraseology of our pulpits is an unweeded garden. If this, that, or the other expression do not cover a positive error, it may misrepresent my thought.
I am afraid our experimental hymn-writers have done infinite harm in puzzling and misapplying the language of Scripture. If a text fits in epigrammatically, or even smartly, with even a plausible show of meaning, in it must come—especially if it rhymes. How many hymns have made their way, almost solely in virtue of some positively perverting refrain of Scriptural language! People fancy they derive spiritual nurture from such compositions, when they really and truly relish them just as the child does its
*Ding, dong, dell
I have known a friend to be always murmuring
• By prayer let me wrestle,
And he will perform;
I smile at the storm'
and with what might pass for unction, too; when I have seen (I could not prove my perception,- I just saw the thing, and there an end) that the true secret of his pleasure in the verse was the (almost burlesque?) rhyme between 'wrestle' and 'vessel.' He asked me once if I did not think the verse beautiful. I said, 'No.' Why not? Chiefly because I did not understand the metaphorical leap from wrestling to sailing.
'Oh-h-h!' And I shall never again stand where I did in that friend's good graces.
These, and many more such matters, are trivialities concerning trivially-minded people; but it is not trivial that the hymn-book should be full of bad, muddling paraphrases of the richest portions of the word of God, so that when we take them for texts we can never feel tolerably certain of our aim.
When will people understand what it is to be really Scriptural ?' It would be an easy, though ungracious, reductio ad absurdum, of the common notion of a Scriptural' hymn, to compose a few, almost entirely ‘Scriptural' in phrase, but full of very unprotestant, doctrinal error!
The Old Believers of the Russian Church.*
(From "Le Revue de Deux Mondes.')
For a long time nothing has been known concerning the true character of that religious movement which has been, and still is, so fiercely opposed by the Orthodox Church. The variety of sects by which this movement is characterised scarcely permits us to discover the true idea of this somewhat confused phenomenon. The Government of Russia formerly omitted nothing to prevent publicity being given to the questions agitated between the Church and the Nonconformists, but at present two circumstances facilitate the study of those religious dissensions of which Russia is the theatre. The opposition now centres itself in one sect, known by the name of the 'Old Believers,' enabling us thereby to ascertain the ideas and appreciate the system of the Dissenters; and on the other hand, the Government no longer fears bringing to light the tendencies and progress of these sectarians, or Old Believers,' as those are called who, while accepting the dogmas of the Orthodox Church, reject its rises, and refuse to receive the changes introduced into the sacred text by the Patriarch Nikou. Until the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Alexander II., the Government carefully avoided all allusion to the numerous secessions which gave such umbrage to the clergy. It has at last departed from this reserve, and the Russian Government now perceives that there is something puerile in prosecuting, by a vexatious surveillance, every attempt to depict this curious phase of national life. Without officially suspending its opposition, the life and customs of these sectaries is now permitted to be written without Government interference. Some writings, which vividly retrace the struggle of these Dissenters against the administration and the clergy, point out for the writers of romance a new field in which new fame may be acquired. The two recitals which will especially occupy our attention bear the name of the counsellor of the court of Chetdrine,† and make part of a collection of provincial sketches, in which the life of the middle class and of the Russian peasantry is written with great truthfulness. The scenes in which the Old Believers figure are particularly remarkable. From having resided for a long while in those provinces to which the Government has for the last two centuries banished these sectarians, M. Chetdrine was able to study them in their own homes. Unfortunately he does not always speak of them with impartiality; he occupies himself too much with their weaknesses and singularities, and neglects to point out those precious qualities which more than redeem the former. In the varied population which he describes there are many exceptions which should be taken into account; therefore, having culled from the descrip
* Provincial Sketches,' by the Counsellor of the Chetdrine Court. Moscow. 1854.— Reports concerning the Russian Sectarians, addressed to the Emperor Nicholas.'
+ The pseudonyme of M. Soltikoff, who was banished to Siberia for writing a novel condemned as seditious.
tions of M. Chetdrine certain data as to the dangerous tenets of some communities among the Old Believers, we shall complete his pictures by documents emanating from the Russian Government itself, in which the good as well as the evil is fairly stated. But it will be necessary first to show how this sect, now the most remarkable amongst the many fragments detached from the Russian Church, was formed, and to make some remarks upon that change of ideas in the people of Russia which has led to so many secessions from the Church. Besides the Old Believers' there are a great number of sects, or religious communities, the greater part of which were not discovered till the close of the eighteenth century. These are the names of some of them : the Jidootchina, or Judaists; the Donkobortsi, or those who fight with the spirit; the Molokani, or milkdrinkers; the Skoptsi, or self-mutilators; the Klisti, or flaggelants; and the Skakouni, or jumpers. The Donkobortsi reject the sacraments, profess the most singular mysticism, and practise a community of goods and of women. The Molokani acknowledge the principal dogmas of Christianity without a community of goods to extreme limits. The moral doctrines of the Skoptsi and the Klisti enjoin the mortification of the flesh; but the former add to this doctrine a system of theology, and prophesy the coming of a Messiah who shall ascend the Russian throne, and convert all Europe to their belief. The Judaists are probably the remnants of a schism that spread to a great extent in the northern provinces of the empire in the fifteenth century. They are now very numerous in Siberia. The Skakouni, who appear very much to resemble the American Shakers, were discovered a few years since in the Baltic provinces, and in the suburbs of Petersburg. The only one of these Dissenting fractions that can prove dangerous to the state is the Skoptsi. These not only assert that the Imperial power is imbued with the spirit of Antichrist, but they expect, as we have said, a Messiah who shall come in thunder to their deliverance. It is not, like the 'Old Believers,' a heavenly beatitude for which they are looking ; on the contrary, they anticipate the day in which their sect shall regenerate the world. The deputation of peasants who waited on Napoleon in 1812 was probably composed of Skoptsi ; according to them Napoleon was the natural son of Catherine the Second, who, after being educated in Russia, had been sent into France. The Skoptsi affirm, even now, that Napoleon still lives in Turkey in a chosen retreat; but that he will reappear at the moment of their triumph as the Messiah's chosen vessel.
These facts, or statistics, the Russian Government always kept secret from the Emperor Nicholas. The officers charged with making the annual return of the population, knowing the feelings of the emperor towards the Orthodox Church, did not make out these various sectarians to amount to more than five or six thousand. On the other hand, the Dissenters neglected nothing to escape from the petty persecutions of the State. Even in the last century they took refuge in the depths of the forests, and lived there as hermits, forming secret communities in inaccessible places, only being known to their co
religionists by passwords which they took good care not to betray. At present, these pious frauds are become impossible in the interior of the country; but it is not so in Siberia. For nearly a century the Government having banished sectarians or schismatics into this country, their doctrines have spread with astounding rapidity. The greater part there live in villages, like the rest of the Christian population; those amongst them who seek a retreat can and do still hide themselves, as their ancestors did in Russia, in the depths of those marshy and old forests that cover the Asiatic part of the empire. The local authorities have much trouble to discover them, and do not generally put themselves out of the way to find out their retreat. The number, however, of these sectarians cannot certainly be less than from six to eight millions in the whole empire. The Old Believers, who form the large majority of these Dissenters, are found in the centre of Russia, in the Polish provinces, upon the banks of the Volga, in the midst of the plains which shut in the Caspian Sea, upon the shores of the White Sea, and throughout Siberia, from Irkutsk to Samaru.
The greater part of this population is composed of peasants and merchants; the latter, who are numerous, reside in Moscow, and in St. Petersburg principally. These Old Believers possess thirty-six convents; and most of these religious asylums are surrounded by hermitages hidden in the neighbouring woods. Now let us ask, what is there in this sect of the Old Believers, which, in spite of persecutions, still remains so formidable? When we examine the history of this schism, we are at no loss to perceive that, taken as a whole, their doctrine rests upon an essentially spiritually basis. An ardent love of religious truth, an absolute submission to the duty it enjoins, and a profound veneration for the forms under which religion is symbolized—these are ideas which govern these schismatics; added to which, there is a justifiable distrust of, and a contempt for, the members of the Orthodox Church. Of all the accusations which have been brought against them, the most unjust and groundless is their blind attachment to the letter of Scripture, and a stolid indifference to the light which discussion throws upon religious subjects. Progress is the very motto of this movement in Russia; while the mass of the people by whom the Old Believers are surrounded lead a comfortable life in the heart of their villages, never troubling themselves about spiritual darkness and stagnation, the Old Believers discuss amongst themselves, and courageously proclaim their faith, not only in the country, but in the heart of large towns. When they seek for solitude it is not always for fear of persecution. Another feeling may actuate them. What they seek is liberty, to live according to their own convictions; far from men whose blind attachment to the precepts of the orthodox clergy, generally extortioners and libertines, inspire them with profound aversion. As to death, they fear it not; they often voluntarily expose themselves to persecution and pain; and, to merit the martyr's palm, they often torture themselves with their own hands.
Without doubt, the history of such a sect must present us with many culpable abberations; but through all these we cannot but see a living protest against religious indifference, and against the intervention of a despotic power in those differences of opinion which belong only to the conscience. To be convinced of this, we shall glance at the origin and advance of this religious movement.
Before even Germany had risen at the voice of Luther against the disorders and the abuses of Romanism, the ignorance, the misconduct, the simony, and the extortion of the clergy, especially of the country priests, had excited a profound indignation amongst the Russian people, who have always been extremely susceptible of religious enthusiasm. These feelings broke out first in 1391, when a deacon and a layman, a sheepshearer (strigolnik) by trade, put himself at the head of this movement at Pskov; hence the men whom he led on received the name Strigolniks. This religious party professed at first nearly the same principles as those of the Old Believers' of the present day. The anathemas of the Church, and the persecutions of the civil power against this sect, only ceased in 1506. For more than a century The Russian Church had no severer conflict to sustain than the dissensions which reigned in its bosom, provoked by the abuses of its clergy. Then there came a second protest against the Church. These Dissenters professed a respect for the Old Testament, and for certain ceremonies practised amongst the Jews; the authors of this schism are the Judaists already named. Persecution succeeded in reducing these in 1503, about which time their name disappeared from history. Nevertheless, the lower orders were still a prey to secret agitation. The Russian clergy themselves were not agreed in certain articles of faith ; and a council held in 1551 separated without accomplishing anything to remedy this spiritual anarchy. At the commencement of the seventeenth century, the country was for a long time rent by civil war; and melancholy duties silenced religious discords, until peace being established, the Archbishop Nikou, favourite of the Czar Alexis, father of Peter I., thought it his duty to reform the Church. The changes he introduced were disapproved of by the people, and a portion of the clergy; the patriarch himself condemned them; but Nikou paid no attention to this opposition, and, when upon the death of the patriarch he was raised to the highest ecclesiastical dignity, he resolved to complete his reforms by submitting the sacred Scriptures to that revision which none of the predecessors of Alexis had been able to accomplish. This attempt of the new patriarch had a double object. There were, in fact, in Nikou two persons--one a religious, the other a political reformer. The first, not without reason, desired to restore to their primitive purity the rites and the sacred text of the Greek Church, more or less grossly corrupted since the Tartar invasion had interrupted the relations between the Russian and the Byzantine clergy. The second wanted to make, through the patriarch, a still stronger organization for clerical discipline, an authority that should rule in temporal matters as much as in the domain of conscience. The