Page images
PDF
EPUB

discharge of his political duties, and either vacate the position assigned to him by Providence, and renounce its obligations, or by a kind of spiritual mesmerism, put his religious principles to sleep. This is what the doctrine means if it means anything. On behalf, then, of politics-on behalf of the numberless myriads whose interests are vitally affected by political causes—and on behalf of that embodiment of Christianity which we call “ The Church,” whose position for good has been so often and so seriously interfered with by the “powers that be," we call upon every man whose good sense has not been drugged by this mischievous absurdity, to lend a helping hand in stifling it once for all. What is there, we ask, in the realm of politics, that this stupid dogma should be allowed to girdle its borders and prevent the entrance thereinto of heaven-born truth? Has it been the common refuge of intellectual and moral prostitution ? The greater is the need, the fuller the scope, for the beneficent working of genuine Christian life?

But the divorce of politics from religion has been even more baneful in its effects than absurd in its nature. We claim the attention of the serious of all denominations to the facts of the case. We ask, whether Christian truth, as exhibited in the pulpit and the press, has established any powerful hold upon the masses. Is it not too clear that the vast majority of the industrious poor are strangely indifferent, if not secretly opposed to it? The natural distaste of human nature for the humbling doctrines of the gospel, does not explain this melancholy fact-for that distaste is equally decided, and quite as operative, in the middle walks of life as in the lowest. Nay, more ! other things being equal, it has been ordinarily found, that as “to the poor the gospel is preached,” so among the poor it has the warmest welcome. How comes it that, in this country, general experience is reversed, and that the class least open to worldly seductions, is also least disposed to spiritual things. The phenomenon cannot be said to have its origin in any general law; for in the West Indies the slave class, prior to emancipation, the hard-worked labourer subsequently, constituted the most religious portion of the community. We suspect that in Great Britain, Christianity has failed in securing the respect of our industrial population, because the phases in which the Church has set it forth, have not been such as might serve to indicate a kindly interest in the rights and the liberties of the oppressed and down-trodden many. Religious profession has stood by in silence, whilst men in power selfishly spoiled the people--and instead of rebuking oppression, sided with the oppressors. That divine maxim, “Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you," was never practically embodied in the laws affecting the masses—and unhappily, the representatives of evangelical light and love have never been earnest in their advocacy of social justice. The consequence is what we have stated, that the general body of the working classes have conceived an aversion for revealed truth.

The contrast, in reference to religious knowledge and habits presented by the West Indian peasantry, to that of our own country, suggests the immense importance of making men understand the bearing which Christianity has upon their social and civil rights. Had the working people of Great Britain been wont to hear at the lips of the pious some defence of their rights—had they witnessed in political arrangements a genuine working out of the benign principles of God's truth-had they been taught to believe that injustice perpetrated upon them 'could look for no sanction from the living exponents of revelation,-in a word, had they seen in evangelical communities of whatever name a readiness to sympathise with weakness rather than strength, to elevate the depressed, to notice the forsaken, to mete out equity to the wronged, and minister encouragement to the humble and the downcast, Christianity would have had its stronghold in their respect and affections, instead of being, as now, looked at askance as a deceiver. The severance of politics and religion, so unnatural in itself, has induced the rejection of religion by the myriads whose interests political exclusiveness has betrayed and well-nigh ruined.

Nonconformist.

SKATING-A MAN IN.

C. A. COLLINS. It was fourteen or fifteen years ago at least, and I was then an eager skater : a student of the higher walks (or rather strokes) of the art of skating: a diligent cultivator of that mystery which is at the root of all advancement in this exercise, the mystic “outside edge.”

The Round Pond was crowded to inconvenience. The Round Pond is, as most Londoners know, just in front of Kensington Palace ; it is rumoured that it was once a gravel pit, and that in consequence its waters are in some parts of very great depth. The number of skaters on this piece of water on the day in question was so great, that there was scarcely a possibility of carrying out a single stroke to completeness. So constant were the collisions between the skaters, and so completely was one's attention absorbed by the necessity of steering clear of other people, that it was hardly possible to enjoy the amusement; I was on the point of giving the thing up and taking off my skates, when it occurred to me that there was one part of the pond on the opposite side, which I had not tried, and which seemed to be less covered with skaters than the other portions of the ice.

Distance is a thing very soon disposed of in skating, and an approach to this more deserted region was the affair of a very few moments. As I drew nearer, I found that my first impression was not an incorrect one; there were fewer people here. Fewer people on all parts of this side of the pond ; and just out there, where that pole inscribed “Dangerous” had tumbled over on its side, there was no one. What fools the people must be! Are they afraid? Why, the frost has lasted a fortnight, any one with eyes in his head would see that that “dangerous” pole has been left there, simply because the proper authorities have forgotten to take it away.

Arrested and balked at every stroke as I had been all the morning, the sight of the clear place, where I could practise

unmolested, was inconceivably atttractive. I was very young, not more than sixteen or seventeen, and my taming days had not begun. Here was good ice in front, and nobody to knock up against me, and behind was bad ice and a crowd of skaters. Pooh! No danger! That board has been there ever since the frost set in.

Most people who have had anything to do with ice, will be aware that that substance is subject to several different kinds of cracks. There is the melodious, ringing, wholesome crack, which ice of any strength is liable to, and which is not indicative of danger; there is the sharp, rattling crack of thin ice, which certainly does show mischief at hand, but which is not perfectly inconsistent with security ; and, lastly, there is a crack which he who hears will

know by instinct to be a cry of warning, but one which is uttered generally, just too late.

I had not philosophized much on cracks, or, indeed, on anything else, at the time I am writing about. I had my skates on, I saw before me a sheet of ice, and I knew that the frost which was making my fingers tingle, dated from a fortnight back. Such ice too! So black, and so smooth ! A few more strokes, and what a sweep I shall have over its polished surface ! a few more Hark! is that man with the life belt on, calling out to me? Yes. What's that ?

A crack such as I had never heard before, and which sent the knowledge—not the apprehension, but the certainty-into my soul that I was going through the ice. There was not a clear second of time between the crack and the time when the ice gave way under me, and I was in the water. The cruel, treacherous ice broke away as I held to it with my hands, gave with every touch, and made the space which I had broken away, so large, that water was all around me except just in one spot to which I held, but held gently, seeing the thinness of the edge against which my breast was pressing, and knowing that if I moved, this last fragment might go too, and that then I must inevitably sink-I knew not how far: there was no ground beneath my feet. · How difficult, too, to keep still: the excessive cold of the water making my chest heave convulsively, and causing me to gasp for breath. How difficult to keep still, with the wicked water sucking at me and pulling and drawing me under, till I felt the toes of my skates scraping the inside of the ice !

By this time, the words that head this paper were ringing through the air, and the cry of “ Man in !" reached me from many voices. I hardly expect it to be believed, but I have a vivid impression that in that hour of extreme danger, and with death so near, it was a gratification to me to hear that cry, and—I was not seventeen, remember—to be called a “man.” I had so often writhed under the insult of being called “a boy” by my elders, that this cry of “Man in !" was, in a dim way, a sort of compliment to me. As I lay in the water with my arms stretched out over the piece of ice on which my life depended, I watched the preparations which were going on for my rescue, with an eagerness which none can know but those who have been in some such position. There was no one near me. The machinery of the Humane Society was all far removed from that place. I was skating alone when I dropped through, and had no friend upon the ice.

Still, that lifting and sucking action of the water beneath mepulling and drawing at me always. The man with the life-belt, with the long ice-ladder on wheels with the air-barrels at one end of it, and a drag fastened to the side, is hastening towards me from the other side. Can I hold on till he comes? The cold seems arresting my very life within me. Am I going to die? My young life-is it at an end already ? Oh God! why did I ever do anything wrong! The man with the ice-ladder on wheels, has broken in at fifty yards' distance, and cannot get any nearer to me—the ice is rotten all around. Who can come near to help me? A circle far, far off, of frightened people gazing at me, I cannot see their faces—they are making signs to me, but I cannot understand ; they are calling out to me, but I cannot hear. And what would they say at home if they could see me now? Would the icemen try harder to save me, if I had a brother there among the crowd to urge them on? A brother ! This piece of ice is giving way; the water, which is sucking at me more and more, has got into my clothes ; I am lower down than I was, and the ice to which I cling is sinking! The man who was coming to save me is still in the hole, and other men are trying to get him out. What strange thoughts come rushing to my mind! Every one of those Latin exercises, done with the help of a key-and praises lavished on me for them—I lied about them, and said I had no help—I shall die—the water is creeping over this piece of ice, and my arms are wet-and the ice will be under soon--and the men with the strange machinery are standing aloof, and cannot get to me, and some are running round the bank, and they have ropes—and one has got a drag—but I am sinking now, my hair is wet, and the water pouring down my collar--and when we were at Naples, my father asked me to go out with him one day and to stay with him while he sketched-and a dog would have gone-but I had some plan of my own, and would not go—and he sighed—and I shall die—the men with the ropes upon the bank, and with a ladder —it is tied to the ropes—it is pushed along the ice towards me a man is crawling along the ladder—but too late, for surely this is death-the voices on the bank—what do they say! The man is

« PreviousContinue »