Chapter 21.

{334} THE time came at length for Charles to return to Oxford; but during the last month scruples had arisen in his mind, whether, with his present feelings, he could consistently even present himself for his examination. No subscription was necessary for his entrance into the schools, but he felt that the honours of the class-list were only intended for those who were bonâ fide adherents of the Church of England. He laid his difficulty before Carlton, who in consequence did his best to ascertain thoroughly his present state of mind. It seemed that Charles had no intention, either now or at any future day, of joining the Church of Rome; that he felt he could not take such a step at present without distinct sin; that it would simply be against his conscience to do so; that he had no feeling whatever that God called him to do so; that he felt that nothing could justify so serious an act but the conviction that he could not be saved in the Church to which he belonged; that he had no such feeling; that he had no definite case against his own Church sufficient for leaving it, nor any definite view that the Church of Rome was the One Church of Christ:—that still he {335} could not help suspecting that one day he should think otherwise; he conceived the day might come, nay, would come, when he should have that conviction which at present he had not, and which of course would be a call on him to act upon it, by leaving the Church of England for that of Rome; he could not tell distinctly why he so anticipated, except that there were so many things which he thought right in the Church of Rome, and so many which he thought wrong in the Church of England; and, because, too, the more he had an opportunity of hearing and seeing, the greater cause he had to admire and revere the Roman Catholic system, and to be dissatisfied with his own. Carlton, after carefully considering the case, advised him to go in for his examination. He acted thus, on the one hand, as vividly feeling the changes which take place in the minds of young men, and the difficulty of Reding foretelling his own state of opinions two years to come; and, on the other, from the reasonable anticipation that a contrary advice would have been the very way to ripen his present doubts on the untenableness of Anglicanism into conviction.

Accordingly, his examination came off in due time; the schools were full, he did well, and his class was considered to be secure. Sheffield followed soon after, and did brilliantly. The list came out; Sheffield was in the first class, Charles in the second. There is always of necessity a good deal of accident in these matters; but in the present case reasons enough could be given to account for the unequal success of the two friends. Charles had lost some time by his father's death, and {336} family matters consequent upon it; and his virtual rustication for the last six months had been a considerable disadvantage to him. Moreover, though he had been a careful, persevering reader, he certainly had not run the race for honours with the same devotion as Sheffield; nor had his religious difficulties, particularly his late indecision about presenting himself at all, been without their serious influence upon his attention and his energy. As success had not been the first desire of his soul, so failure was not his greatest misery. He would have much preferred success; but in a day or two he found he could well endure the want of it.

Now came the question about his degree, which could not be taken without subscription to the Articles. Another consultation followed with Carlton. There was no need of his becoming a B.A. at the moment; nothing would be gained by it; better that he should postpone the step. He had but to go down and say nothing about it; no one would be the wiser; and if, at the end of six months, as Carlton sanguinely anticipated, he found himself in a more comfortable frame of mind, then let him come up, and set all right.

What was he to do with himself at the moment? There was little difficulty here either what to propose. He had better be reading with some clergyman in the country; thus he would at once be preparing for orders, and clearing his mind on the points which at present troubled him; besides, he might thus have some opportunity for parochial duty, which would have a tranquillising and sobering effect on his mind. As to the books to which he should give his attention, of course {337} the choice would rest with the clergyman who was to guide him; but for himself Carlton would not recommend the usual works in controversy with Rome, for which the Anglican Church was famous; rather those which are of a positive character, which treated subjects philosophically, historically, or doctrinally, and displayed the peculiar principles of that Church; Hooker's great work, for instance; or Bull's Defensio and Harmonia, or Pearson's Vindicić, or Jackson on the Creed, a noble work; to which Laud on Tradition might be added, though its form was controversial. Such, too, were Bingham's Antiquities, Waterland on the Use of Antiquity, Wall on Infant Baptism, and Palmer on the Liturgy. Nor ought he to neglect practical and devotional authors, as Bishops Taylor, Wilson, and Horne. The most important point remained; whither was he to betake himself? did he know of any clergyman in the country who would be willing to receive him as a friend and a pupil? Charles thought of Campbell, with whom he was on the best of terms; and Carlton knew enough of him by reputation to be perfectly sure that he could not be in safer hands.

Charles in consequence made the proposal to him, and it was accepted. Nothing then remained for him but to pay a few bills, to pack up some books which he had left in a friend's room, and then to bid adieu, at least for a time, to the cloisters and groves of the University. He quitted in June, when everything was in that youthful and fragrant beauty which he had admired so much in the beginning of his residence three years before.

Chapter 3-1

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