Chapter 5.

{364} "IF you have made up your mind, Reding," said Carlton, "it's no good talking. May you be happy wherever you are! You must always be yourself; as a Romanist, you will still be Charles Reding."

"I know I have a kind, sympathising friend in you, Carlton. You have always listened to me, never snubbed me except when I deserved it. You know more about me than anyone else. Campbell is a dear, good fellow, and will soon be dearer to me still. It isn't generally known yet, but he is to marry my sister. He has borne with me now for two years; never been hard upon me; always been at my service when I wanted to talk with him. But no one makes me open my heart as you do, Carlton; you sometimes have differed from me, but you have always understood me."

"Thank you for your kind words," answered Carlton; "but to me it is a perfect mystery why you should leave us. I enter into your reasons: I cannot, for the life of me, see how you come to your conclusion."

"To me, on the other hand, Carlton, it is like two and two make four; and you make two and two five and are astonished that I won't agree with you." {365}

"We must leave these things to a higher power," said Carlton. "I hope we sha'n't be less friends, Reding, when you are in another communion. We know each other; these outward things cannot change us."

Reding sighed; he saw clearly that his change of religion, when completed, would not fail to have an effect on Carlton's thoughts about him, as on those of others. It could not possibly be otherwise; he was sure himself to feel different about Carlton.

After a while, Carlton said gently, "Is it quite impossible, Reding, that now at the eleventh hour we may retain you? What are your grounds?"

"Don't let us argue, dear Carlton," answered Reding; "I have done with argument. Or, if I must say something for manners' sake, I will but tell you that I have fulfilled your request. You bade me read the Anglican divines; I have given a great deal of time to them, and I am embracing that creed which alone is the scope to which they converge in their separate teachings; the creed which upholds the divinity of tradition with Laud, consent of Fathers with Beveridge, a visible Church with Bramhall, dogma with Bull, the authority of the Pope with Thorndike, penance with Taylor, prayers for the dead with Ussher, celibacy, asceticism, ecclesiastical discipline with Bingham. I am going to a Church, which in these, and a multitude of other points, is nearer the Apostolic Church than any existing one; which is the continuation of the Apostolic Church, if it has been continued at all. And seeing it to be like the Apostolic Church, I believe it to be the same. Reason has gone first, faith is to follow." {366}

He stopped, and Carlton did not reply; a silence ensued, and Charles at length broke it. "I repeat, it's no use arguing; I have made up my mind and been very slow about it. I have broken it to my mother, and bade her farewell. All is determined; I cannot go back."

"Is that a nice feeling?" said Carlton, half reproachfully.

"Understand me," answered Reding; "I have come to my resolution with great deliberation. It has remained on my mind as a mere intellectual conclusion for a year or two; surely now at length without blame I may change it into a practical resolve. But none of us can answer that those habitual and ruling convictions, on which it is our duty to act, will remain before our consciousness every moment, when we come into the hurry of the world, and are assailed by inducements and motives of various kinds. Therefore I say that the time of argument is past; I act on a conclusion already drawn."

"But how do you know," asked Carlton, "but what you have been unconsciously biassed in arriving at it? one notion has possessed you, and you have not been able to shake it off. The ability to retain your convictions in the bustle of life is to my mind the very test, the necessary test of their reality."

"I do, I do retain them," answered Reding: "they are always upon me."

"Only at times, as you have yourself confessed," objected Carlton: "surely you ought to have a very strong conviction indeed, to set against the mischief {367} you are doing by a step of this kind. Consider how many persons you are unsettling; what a triumph you are giving to the enemies of all religion; what encouragement to the notion that there is no such thing as truth; how you are weakening our Church. Well, all I say is, that you should have very strong convictions to set against all this."

"Well," said Charles, "I grant, I maintain, that the only motive which is sufficient to justify such an act, is the conviction that one's salvation depends on it. Now, I speak sincerely, my dear Carlton, in saying that I don't think I shall be saved if I remain in the English Church."

"Do you mean that there is no salvation in our Church?" said Carlton, rather coldly.

"I am talking of myself; it's not my place to judge others. I only say, God calls me, and I must follow at the risk of my soul."

"God 'calls' you!" said Carlton; "what does that mean? I don't like it; its dissenting language."

"You know it is Scripture language," answered Reding.

"Yes, but people don't in Scripture say 'I'm called'; the calling was an act from without, the act of others, not an inward feeling."

"But, my dear Carlton, how is a person to get at truth, now, when there can be no simple outward call?"

"That seems to me a pretty good intimation," answered Carlton, "that we are to remain where Providence has placed us." {368}

"Now this is just one of the points on which I can't get at the bottom of the Church of England's doctrine," Reding replied. "But it's so on so many other subjects! it's always so. Are members of the Church of England to seek the truth, or have they it given them from the first? Do they seek it for themselves, or is it ready provided for them?"

Carlton thought a moment, and seemed doubtful what to answer; then he said that we must, of course, seek it. It was a part of our moral probation to seek the truth.

"Then don't talk to me about our position," said Charles; "I hardly expected you to make this answer; but it is what the majority of Church-of-England people say. They tell us to seek, they give us rules for seeking, they make us exert our private judgment; but directly we come to any conclusion but theirs, they turn round and talk to us of our 'providential position'. But there's another thing. Tell me, supposing we ought all to seek the truth, do you think that members of the English Church do seek it in that way which Scripture enjoins upon all seekers? Think how very seriously Scripture speaks of the arduousness of finding, the labour of seeking, the duty of thirsting after the truth. I don't believe the bulk of the English clergy, the bulk of Oxford residents, Heads of houses, Fellows of Colleges (with all their good points, which I am not the man to deny), have ever sought the truth. They have taken what they found, and have used no private judgment at all. Or if they have judged, it has been in the vaguest, most cursory way possible; or they have {369} looked into Scripture only to find proofs for what they were bound to subscribe, as undergraduates getting up the Articles. Then they sit over their wine, and talk about this or that friend who has 'seceded' and condemn him, and" (glancing at the newspaper on the table) "assign motives for his conduct. Yet after all, which is the more likely to be right,—he who has given years, perhaps, to the search of truth, who has habitually prayed for guidance, and has taken all the means in his power to secure it, or they, 'the gentlemen of England who sit at home at ease'? No, no, they may talk of seeking the truth, of private judgment, as a duty, but they have never sought, they have never judged; they are where they are, not because it is true, but because they find themselves there, because it is their 'providential position,' and a pleasant one into the bargain."

Reding had got somewhat excited; the paragraph in the newspaper had annoyed him. But, without taking that into account, there was enough in the circumstances in which he found himself to throw him out of his ordinary state of mind. He was in a crisis of peculiar trial, which a person must have felt to understand. Few men go to battle in cold blood, or prepare without agitation for a surgical operation. Carlton, on the other hand, was a quiet gentle person, who was not heard to use an excited word once a year.

The conversation came to a stand. At length Carlton said, "I hope, dear Reding, you are not joining the Church of Rome merely because there are unreasonable, unfeeling persons in the Church of England". {370}

Charles felt that he was not showing to advantage, and that he was giving rise to the very surmises about the motives of his conversion which he was deprecating.

"It is a sad thing," he said, with something of self-reproach, "to spend our last minutes in wrangling. Forgive me, Carlton, if I have said anything too strongly or earnestly." Carlton thought he had; he thought him in an excited state; but it was no use telling him so; so he merely pressed his offered hand affectionately and said nothing.

Presently he said, dryly and abruptly, "Reding, do you know any Roman Catholics?"

"No," answered Reding; "Willis indeed, but I hav'n't seen him these two years. It has been entirely the working of my own mind."

Carlton did not answer at once; then he said, as dryly and abruptly as before, "I suspect then, you will have much to bear with when you know them".

"What do you mean?" asked Reding.

"You will find them under-educated men, I suspect."

"What do you know of them?" said Reding.

"I suspect it," answered Carlton.

"But what's that to the purpose?" asked Charles.

"It's a thing you should think of. An English clergyman is a gentleman; you may have more to bear than you reckon for, when you find yourself with men of rude minds and vulgar manners."

"My dear Carlton, a'n't you talking of what you know nothing at all about?"

"Well, but you should think of it, you should contemplate {371} it," said Carlton; "I judge from their letters and speeches which one reads in the papers."

Charles thought awhile; then he said, "Certainly, I don't like many things which are done and said by Roman Catholics just now; but I don't see how all this can be more than a trial and a cross; I don't see how it affects the great question".

"No, except that you may find yourself a fish out of water," answered Carlton; "you may find yourself in a position where you can act with no one, where you will be quite thrown away."

"Well," said Charles, "as to the fact I know nothing about it; it may be as you say, but I don't think much of your proof. In all communities the worst is on the outside. What offends me in Catholic public proceedings need be no measure, nay, I believe cannot be a measure, of the inward Catholic mind. I would not judge the Anglican Church by Exeter Hall, nay, not by Episcopal Charges. We see the interior of our own Church, the exterior of the Church of Rome. This is not a fair comparison."

"But look at their books of devotion," insisted Carlton; "they can't write English."

Reding smiled at Carlton, and slowly shook his head to and fro, while he said, "They write English, I suppose, as classically as St. John writes Greek".

Here again the conversation halted, and nothing was heard for a while but the simmering of the kettle.

There was no good in disputing, as might be seen from the first; each had his own view, and that was the beginning and the end of the matter. Charles {372} stood up. "Well, dearest Carlton," he said, "we must part; it must be going on for eleven." He pulled out of his pocket a small "Christian Year". "You have often seen me with this," he continued, "accept it in memory of me. You will not see me, but here is a pledge that I will not forget you, that I will ever remember you." He stopped, much affected. "Oh, it is very hard to leave you all, to go to strangers," he went on; "I do not wish it, but I cannot help it; I am called, I am compelled." He stopped again; the tears flowed down his cheeks. "All is well," he said, recovering himself, "all is well; but it's hard at the time, and scarcely any one to feel for me; black looks, bitter words ... I am pleasing myself; following my own will ... well ..." and he began looking at his fingers and slowly rubbing his palms one on another. "It must be," he whispered to himself, "through tribulation to the kingdom, sowing in tears, reaping in joy ..." Another pause, and a new train of thought came over him; "Oh," he said, "I fear so very much, so very much, that all you who do not come forward will go back. You cannot stand where you are; for a time you will think you do, then you will oppose us, and still think you keep your ground while you use the same words as before; but your belief, your opinions will decline. You will hold less. And then, in time, it will strike you that, in differing with Protestants, you are contending only about words. They call us Rationalists; take care you don't fall into Liberalism. And now, my dearest Carlton, my one friend in Oxford who was patient and loving towards {373} me, good-bye. May we meet not long hence in peace and joy. I cannot go to you; you must come to me."

They embraced each other affectionately; and the next minute Charles was running down the staircase.

Chapter 3-6

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