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or make him regret the former things ? And if he joined them, which of all the sects would afford him the freest scope for honest labour?. And thus, at the age of nine and twenty, the question still was, Where to go to?
On his return from Germany, two years prior to the time at which this chapter opens, he had requested the Spencers to receive him as an inmate of the family for a year, that he might now have a fair opportunity of observing and studying the principles and working of Dissent near at hand. Mr. Spencer had not felt himself justified in declining the proposal, and so Mr. Warrington had been his intimate companion for several months. During this period he had preached occasionally for Mr. Spencer, and for various other ministers of both sections of the Congregational body, being regarded as a gentleman
studying for the ministry. Some of the more earnestly denominational ministers had often urged him to enter one or other of the Dissenting colleges as the best way of securing a future pastorate, at all events of securing a good one. But his friend Spencer had quite sufficient reasons for refusing to entertain this idea for an instant. In fact, there was something almost ludicrous about it; for, as he was an M.A. of Oxford, and had taken a still higher degree in Germany, it is to be feared that American diplomas would scarcely have commanded his confidence. Besides, he was now nearly thirty, a mature man and experienced Christian, as well as a ripe scholar.
During his twelve months' residence with Mr. Spencer, he had given a large portion of his time to visiting the poor, had formed classes of young men, and had variously practised himself in ministerial duties. It is true that he every now and then found himself shrinking sensitively from things and persons that evidently belonged to quite another sphere than that he had once been accustomed to. He had attended .church-meetings,' and “prayer-meetings,' and 'teameetings,' had even been present with his friend Spencer at deacons'meetings,' and at 'anniversaries,' &c.
• Well, and what did he think of it all ?' A very natural question, no doubt; and one that perhaps ought to be answered in due season. Indeed, it would often do us all perhaps more than a little good, to know just how our proceedings strike an intelligent and impartial stranger. Perhaps we must admit that it would take some time to reconcile a quondam member of Oriel College to our interesting little peculiarities. But yet it is to be remembered that in Mr. Warrington the Christian was paramount over the scholar and (conventionally speaking) the gentleman. Well, then, as a Christian, unaccustomed to such things, how did it all strike him?' Well, if the reader insists on knowing, his curiosity must be gratified, I suppose. And yet, if his Dissenting amour propre be very hugely developed, and he be one of those who deem that religion would come to an end if all those interesting peculiarities above referred to were to be at a discount, it might be as well not to press Mr. Warrington too pertinaciously.
But Mr. Spencer had been so many years at Lamberton that, though there was no tropical warmth of affection among the people, and his
church was not free from a class of men who ought to have seceded and formed themselves into a sort of “Hey-fellow-well-met' society of their own, in some Cave of Adullam, or Grumble-tone-alley, yet, on the whole, there was much that a sincere Christian might well rejoice in; and such a one, who had been much abroad among 'professors of religion,' might, when brought into close association with Mr. Spencer and his flock, regard himself as led by the Good Shepherd into green pastures and beside still waters.
Mr. Warrington, then, had spent a year or so at Lamberton, and seen a good deal of Dissenting life and manners. At the end of the period he was naturally anxious to be at work in some part of the great field given by the Master to his Church to subdue and replenish.' But the question still was, Where to go to ? and it was time it received some satisfactory answer. But no answer came. He had supplied two or three 'vacant churches' during his residence at Lamberton, but nothing grew out of those engagements. Mr. Spencer scarcely knew what to advise; the chief ditliculty, I apprehend, lying in the very excellences of the candidate; a fact to which we shall have to advert subsequently.
However, having invitations to supply one or two destitute churches, as well as to preach for three or four ministers who anticipated needing assistance, he left Lamberton, and spent rather more than another year in fulfilling these engagements, and others to which these introduced bim, taking every opportunity, when not so occupied, of hearing the ministers of greatest repute in town and country.
At the opening of our narrative the Spencers are anticipating his return, after rather more than twelve months' absence. He had kept them acquainted with his movements, and thus they knew that he was returning to them as far as ever from knowing what his future plans were to be. But being free now from all engagements, and a good deal depressed, he had longed to find himself once more under Mr. Spencer's peaceful roof.
I shall leave the reader to imagine the meeting, though I suppose Mr. Warrington himself must be formally introduced. then, you may picture him as rather tall than otherwise, and well made; naturally graceful in his movements and easy in demeanour; a gentleman outwardly, because such within. A sculptor pronounced the head' well formed, and well set;' it was covered with a profusion of brown hair, soft and fine. The forehead was clear, open, and refined ; I have heard it characterised as an elegant forehead,' and should acquiesce, only desiring the idea of perceptiveness and strength to be added. But the chief feature you noticed, indeed the only one for a time, was the eye ; large, and often brilliant, it had a strange power of irresistibly fixing the individual whom he looked at. Duncan Spencer used to say it lightened. If the reader has ever observed the eye of the falcon close at hand, especially when excited, he may understand the peculiarity I refer to, and which I have never known so decidedly exhibited except in two other men. There was a sword. like beauty in it. I have seen a man fidget about uneasily without
scarcely knowing why, when Warrington was addressing him on even an ordinary topic; and have heard of individuals in the congregation becoming suddenly confused by his merely looking at them while preaching. Indeed, I have sometimes thought a person had need be free from every secret consciousness of wrong to bear that eye
fixed One of Mr. Spencer's flock said, “Mr. Warrington's eye do go through one like;' while an observer of a different kind remarked, How much of latent enthusiasm there is in that man's eye! What fire, but yet under what control! I can imagine it would be grand to see and hear him under circumstances that fully aroused the whole man, and called out all his power. His voice, in addressing all women and children, or afflicted or aged persons, was soft and low. 'If I was sick, or in trouble,' said a poor woman once, and Mr. Warrington was only to read the multiplication table to me, it would comfort me, I'm sure it would. In public speaking there was both great compass and great power in it.
If I could suppose such a thing as that the readers of the “ Christian Spectator' have remained ignorant of 'good society,' I might apprehend some of them would begin to think I was drawing rather too perfect a picture; but I may rest assured that most of them, for certain, know that an English gentleman, well educated, and accustomed from childhood to associate with the cultivated and refined, is, when the man and the gentleman are the basis of the scholar and the Christian, one of the finest specimens of humanity that God has put upon this earth. And Mr. Warrington was all that.
I have said nothing about his circumstances. They had always been what is termed easy;' but, during his abode in Germany, some of those changes in the value of property which occasionally occur, and the disgraceful failure of a large banking firm, had reduced his income to something under two hundred a-year. And as an only sister had no other near relative than himself to lean on, he had an additional reason for wishing to see his permanent position and work in the world clearly ascertained and fixed.
Such, then, was Mr. Warrington, as he was once more welcomed by the Spencers on that Christmas-eve, and looked again on those kind familiar faces, and glanced round the accustomed apartment, made 'all ship-shape and snug for the night,' as Duncan said.
I think, seeing I am not writing a volume, but only an article that ought not to extend to more than three or four numbers of the 'Spectator,' I must omit all mention of the evening's chat, all Duncan's share of his society, and even Nora's somewhat hesitating inquiries about Dante,' &c., &c., and confine myself to those matters which are strictly related to my title, viz., Where shall he go to? and let the reader see what he makes of the case. To the writer it is not without significance. For here we have a man, anxious, and even eager, to work, shrinking from no toil, but exulting in the idea of devotedness to a high and sacred calling. A proved Christian, who, with all sufficiency of training, and more than ordinary competency for his work, is standing, at the age of thirty-one, in the market-place, as it were,
unemployed, like the labourers in the parable ; likely to make a capital workman, and yet--and yet-Where shall he go to? For more than a year he had been looking out for work, yet here he stands, fully equipped, intellectually and morally strong for work, nay, the man has a keen appetite for work; he craves it as eagerly as some men crave pleasure, as the miser gold, or the starving man food. He could live on work. There is but one gift he asks of any man, 'Give me work!'-and yet-and yet-Where shall he go to? The churches are ever and anon urged to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into the great work-field. But what to do with them if the good Lord should hear their prayers ? One sometimes thinks the churches mean “labourers' after a particular fashion, and that, as goods are ordered to pattern,' so a pattern-type is put before the Lord of the vineyard, and that he may as good as not send any if they are not according to pattern. Of all the teachers of religion in this age, of all the churches, I do not know more than a dozen that I should rank as Warrington's equals, and yet-and yet- Where shall he go to? I confess it looks as if-nobody wanted him. And he was beginning to think so himself, and was trying to pierce with his eye the gloom in another direction.
There was much for the two friends to talk over. There was all that, during the past year or more, Warrington had observed and experienced among the Dissenters, and what he thought of them. And, on the other hand, there was what the ministers and churches he had been among had observed and thought of him, and of which Mr. Spencer had been pretty well informed, having received ample communications from the pastors and deacons, and others, to whom he had introduced him,
In the course of the evening's chat they touched upon a thousand things_books, men, affairs, the present time, the past, the future. I do not know whether they did not borrow the wings of the morning, and sweep through space, and make the compass of the universe. They had been grave and gay. They had conversed in pensive under-tones, and had laughed right merrily. Warrington had a fund of funny experiences gathered during the past year's tour among the churches; and, while Duncan thought he touched too lightly and good-humouredly the weaknesses and absurdities, or graver faults, which had come under his notice, Nora thought the half-playful treatment of the foibles of some of the less pleasing specimens of the Dissenting community a proof of his genial nature and strength. Duncan wished that “Punch” would just put on a white choker and become a Dissenting brother for one twelvemonth, and then, for another devote himself to showing up the beggarly– Ile paused, for he caught his father's eye fixed regretfully upon him. Mr. Spencer might, perhaps, have intimated a reproof, but remembered that his children had been aware of too many things that could not but act unfavourably on their minds in reference---not indeed to the principles of Nonconformity-but to the manner in which those principles are too often worked out, and feared the effect more especially on the
boy's mind. Seeing Duncan's confusion, Mr. Warrington interposed with the suggestion, whether, on the whole, Paul redivivus would not be better than Aristophanes ?' And so the subject was turned into a consideration of the moral effect of satire, and the tendency of looking at things only on their ludicrous sides.
But, when Mr. Warrington was alone with Mr. Spencer the next day, he referred to some of these things more seriously, and was half-inclined to think that a wee bit of Duncan's comic notion might be carried out with some ultimate advantage. And so the two friends plunged at once in medias res. Mr. Spencer had previously spent an hour that morning in looking over the various letters he had received touching his friend, and found that they arranged themselves under three classes. There were some quite enthusiastic in their expressions of admiration ; some as decidedly unfavourable, you might almost say, hostile; while others exhibited the writers as curiously perplexed to know what to say or think about him. Sometimes letters of all these three kinds came from the same place, so that it was not without significance to find the same man, the same sermon, or line of conduct, spoken of so oppositely. Truly, the question, after all, is not so much --What is said ? as, Who says it?
'I have been hesitating,' said Mr. Spencer, whether or not to read the greater part of these letters to you, for they all relate to you ; and I do not know that the writers considered themselves as addressing me confidentially. Still, it is possible they would not have been so unreserved, if they had supposed any other eye than my own would see them.'
· Perhaps they will assist you in getting at particulars, which might not occur to me to mention. Let me see; when I left you-rather more than a year since-I was going to preach at Water-Hampton for a month.
'Yes,' said Mr. Spencer, and smilingly selected three letters from his packet. “You were not sorry, you wrote me, when that engagement terminated.'
* True. There was an all-pervading tone of discomfort ran through everything. The deacons were vulgar, well-to-do men, sharp and successful in business, and fain to judge of all things connected with even a Christian church, and the spiritualities of religion and worship, on shop principles, and even those questionable of their kind. I almost expected them to call “our people, as they used to call their fellow-worshippers, “our customers. Actually, they made a sort of
” capital out of your unfortunate friend's antecedents, and put an advertisement in the local papers, that “So-and-so, late of Oriel College, Oxford in all the dignity of large caps), would occupy the pulpit at Pinchbeck Chapel for a month," but I cannot repeat the nauseous terms in which they characterised me. There, read for yourself. And he drew from his pocket-book the advertisement, which Mr. Spencer read in silence, and not without an expression of intense mortification,
Well, one of the firm, deacons, I mean, read the hymns, and in so