Page images

the holiest place; and now there was no thought in his mind but only one, to call upon every Holy name, that of the Father, who surely knew if there was any knowledge, what love was in the heart of a mother: and of the Son, who knew what sorrow was, and to be forsaken, above all men that ever lived and of Him whose name was the Comforter. He flung himself upon the floor, and in the great silence-for the music rolled away and was heard no more when he came in-called and called upon these Holy names. "You who are together," he cried, "leave not her alone!" And in the anguish of his prayer he was bold, and reminded the Lord that this was the image He had chosen of a love that never failed. "Can a woman forget her child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb." And should He above, who knows best, He who loves most, leave the woman to be alone, alone!

Presently words failed him, and he only knew that he held her as it seemed up in his arms to God. And slowly the living day died out of the cathedral in the wood, and the living night came in and shone through the tracery of the vault above, and the stars in their places lit up the living walls, and everything breathed a silent worship up to the heavens, the flowers with their odours and the leaves with their greenness and every noble tree stood up and called upon the name of the Lord. And the swallow and the sparrow, God's little children, and many a singing bird weary with the joy and the song of day, nestled among the branches and went to sleep in His care. And over the young man there came a great calm instead of the anguish of that prayer, and as the soft hours stole on to midnight, and the great

stillness wrapt him round and round, fatigue and peace stole over him, and he fell asleep in the middle of his prayer among the flowers.

There were those about who were coming and going for ever, faint with longing and desire to enter the Temple of the wood. But as in that world there are no bolts and bars, but only an unseen bond upon the feet and upon the heart of a man, so that he cannot go where he would until it is his hour-all that these longing souls could do was to linger and gaze and await the moment when they might enter. And many were always gathered about the door, gazing in where they so fain would be. And they saw the young man lying upon the flowers, and wondered at him that he should sleep in SO blessed a place. And some said, "God forbid that I should sleep if I were there"; and some, "God him though he sleeps!" And one who stood almost upon the threshold, and knew that he should be one of the first to pass, hushed these voices and said low, "It is the beginning of the mystery and of the new birth." And a murmur arose very softly, and a faint crying, "What did he do to attain the heavenly gift?" But the soul upon the threshold hushed them all: "Sleep came upon him while he prayed. Be still and see the goodness of the Lord: he prayed not for himself but for another."


The night had gone while these voices went and came: and he that spoke last caught with his words the little morning breeze which at that moment sprang up with the first glimmer of the sun; and all around the living walls of that house not made with hands it breathed back the words, "not for himself but another," like a song and blowing in at the wide

door for nothing can stop the winds of God, which make all the world pure breathed over the young man where he lay. And in his sleep he felt the soft touch upon his forehead like the hand of his mother, and waking, having prayed for her till he slept, prayed again when he was roused, with a soft cry of "God save her!" while still he was but half awake. And in the waking he lay a long time forgetting where he was. And he saw something white and wonderful stretched upon the flowers where he lay, and knew not what it was. Then slowly as he came to himself he remembered everything, and saw from the east the first arrow of gold that told of the sunrise, and in the great peace of his heart he prayed no more, for it seemed to him that his prayer was heard. So sweet was that calm that he lay and did not move, recollecting himself, and saying to himself that it was good to be here, and listening to the birds, which were all awake and already singing the morning song which he had learned to know so well. And some descended swift through the air, and perched close to him upon the steps of the altar and on the lower pinnacles, and sang as if to burst their throats in a tumult and outcry of joy. Blessed creatures, little children of God! he followed with a smile one that came almost within reach of his hand. And then his eyes were drawn again to something white and wonderful which lay as he lay upon the floor. Some one, he said to himself, had laid an angel's mantle over him as he slept; and there came a rush of soft tears to his eyes, and his heart melted with gratitude and kindness. But when he moved it moved with him, and putting out an astonished hand, he suddenly touched and knew that this was he-no mantle even

of an angel, but the body of a man. Oh, holy house not made with hands! oh, Temple of the Lord!-for this was he.

And a voice said:

"He hath accepted that which was allotted to him, and acknowledged that it was just; therefore there is now given to him the higher state.

"He hath acknowledged his Lord; wherefore his Lord doth not forget to acknowledge him.

"And here he hath come to seek the face of God, not for himself but for another; wherefore he goes hence blessed, with the blessing he has not sought."

The young man had not gone back half the way to the city of his fathers when he was met by a shining company, all radiant in their best apparel, with music and with song; and in front of all was his brother, whose arrival he had beheld before he set forth. And lo! while all men looked and held their breath, they stood together, two fair young menfairer than they had been on earth, or than any man is to whom has not been given the house not made with hands. And together they went back to their father's house to do the work which God might give them, whether it was humble or whether it was great, until the day should come when the books shall be opened and all the worlds stand together in their armies and battalions before the face of the Lord. But of that day knoweth no man, not even the Son, but the Father-as was told us by our Lord.

As for the prayer which he made, and which was answered in a way he asked not, it is still unfulfilled: yet they know it is not forgotten, for nothing is forgotten before God.


WITH the beginning of a new year it is natural that we should cast an eye over the political prospect which it opens to us, and the position of parties as they stand at the present moment. Mr Balfour has told us that the Ministry have learned their lesson. But whether in saying so he was referring to legislation in general or only to one particular measure, we do not clearly understand. We are often reminded by the utterances of public men belonging to both parties in the State of a well-known passage in Dr Newman's preface to the History of his Religious Opinions.' Referring to Mr Kingsley's attack upon him, he quotes the words of his accuser: 666 "What, then, does Dr Newman mean?'... He asks what I mean-not about my words, not about my arguments, not about my actions, as his ultimate point, but about that living intelligence by which I write and argue and act." What, we sometimes feel inclined to ask, does Liberalism mean? what does Conservatism mean? in the sense in which the word is used by Newman. This would be a tempting field of dissertation, and one that would fill a volume. And even if we limit our inquiry to what the present Government mean, we shall find that we have quite enough upon our hands for a magazine article. Their conduct has certainly not been wholly free from some of those ambiguities which Kingsley charged on Dr Newman, and though we doubt not they have as good an answer to the charge as Dr Newman had, it may be useful to consider the grounds of it. It is vain to deny that dissatisfaction exists

among their followers. But in our humble judgment there have been faults on both sides, at which, on the eve of a new session, it can scarcely be superfluous to glance.

Mr Balfour, in his speech at Rochdale on the 17th of November last, divided the work of the present Government into their defensive and their constructive functions, the whole Cabinet, we presume, in its corporate capacity, being pledged equally to both, and accepting to their full extent the responsibilities which both imply. The two, of course, are very closely connected, and specially so at the present moment, when not only the legislation of the Government, but the spirit in which it is conceived, is coming to be an object of inquiry; when the strength of the Conservative idea, and the extent to which Ministers may be expected to rely upon it, not in regard only to particular measures, but in general, are fancied even by some Conservatives to be debatable points, and give rise to questions which, if asked without sufficient cause, show at least in what direction men's minds are travelling.

Mr Balfour looks forward to a long career of usefulness for the present Government, in which the duty of defence shall not be allowed to interfere with the process of construction, and when social improvement and political stability shall go hand in hand and mutually assist each other. There is no reason why these anticipations should not be realised; but it is not unnatural, we think, that the supporters of the Ministry should feel some little anxiety on the subject, and should

want to know a little more clearly what is meant by the language which Ministers have occasionally made use of during the recess. Mr Balfour in his Rochdale speech adverted, with justifiable pride, to the "record" of last session, showing, as it does, the utter folly or dishonesty of stigmatising it as a barren one. The Ministry passed as many measures in six months as their predecessors passed in twenty-two.

Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the fact stands out that the session of 1896 was marked by a reverse such as hardly any Government supported by an equal majority has ever experienced before, and of which it would be very natural that Ministers should hesitate to recognise the real cause. We refuse to believe that it was impossible to pass the Education Bill and the Agricultural Rating Bill in one session, or that the failure of the former was due to its being too "ambitious." This, however, is the excuse which Ministers continue to make for themselves. They confess to the last infirmity of noble minds, not without some show of complacency; and no doubt the sin by which the angels fell is a dignified error, to which mere mortals may gladly plead guilty if it saves them from any humbler apology. We cannot say that in our opinion the plea is a valid one. Mr Gladstone passed the Irish Land Bill and Mr Foster's famous Education Bill in a single session; and obstruction need not have wrecked Sir John Gorst's Bill, had Government resolved to press it. Why did they not?

Such, however, is the only explanation which they choose to make public. They were too ambitious and they were too sanguine. They ought to have

known that a bill of that magnitude could never be carried in the teeth of a determined and wellmanœuvred Opposition unless a whole session were devoted to it. They admit that they ought to have known this. But we strongly suspect that this admission is only made to prevent the necessity of another which perhaps they are scarcely prepared to make even to themselves. However, we are now informed on the highest authority that the Government have learned their lesson, and are prepared in future to cut their coat according to their cloth. The same policy had been prescribed both officially and unofficially long before Mr Balfour gave it the stamp of his authority at Rochdale; and though we dare not impugn the wisdom of a decision so thoroughly in accordance with our favourite national virtue, we may perhaps be permitted to ask what it is that makes it so peculiarly appropriate to the present situation. Why should a Ministry like Lord Salisbury's be talking-as virtually, if not literally, they are of cutting their coat according to their cloth, a metaphor suggestive in ordinary life of straitened means or impaired resources? Why should a Government, strong, or apparently strong, in almost every element of political strength, be compelled to lower its pretensions, to contract its efforts, and abandon great measures which it believes to be for the public good? Mr Balfour points, almost in a tone of envy, to the small majority which gave Sir William Harcourt the complete command over the House of Commons. "My strength is small because it is so great," he seems to cry. We all know that unwieldy majorities are not always so powerful as they look, and that they are sometimes sources of embarrassment.

But we never heard of a Minister being prevented from passing his measures by the largeness of his majority. The greater it is, the more liable it is to fall asunder and to cause the breakdown of the Government. But while it holds together there will always be enough Ministerial votes to carry through a Cabinet measure. The weakness to which overgrown majorities are always liable has been explained by Lord Beaconsfield once and for ever in his account of the first Reform Ministry

a locus classicus in political literature; and fifty years afterwards Mr Balfour has nothing to add to it in fact, he uses almost the same words as are used in 'Coningsby.' But although the infirmities incidental to a majority of three hundred led to an early break up of Lord Grey's Cabinet, it did not prevent the Ministry from completing any one of their principal measures. They abolished the slave trade, they passed the Irish Church Bill, they passed the new Poor Law, they reconstituted the Bank of England, and they took the Factory question out of the hands of a private member and passed the first Factory Act, the foundation of all the rest. Here were five great measures of quite the first class carried in two years in spite of a strenuous opposition: so that although too large a majority may be a source of internal disorder, and hasten the dissolution of a Ministry, it does not necessarily destroy its working power while it lives; just as we often see men suffering from internal complaints which shorten their lives, who retain nevertheless their bodily or muscular powers in full vigour. Besides, Lord Grey's majority was twice the size of Lord Salisbury's; and if the one was no bar to heroic legislation, why

[ocr errors]

should the other be Mr Gladstone's majority in 1869 was a hundred and twenty. We do not see, therefore, how the miscarriages of the Government are in any way traceable to the largeness of their majority. We have no right to expect more from a Government with a majority of a hundred and fifty, than from one with a majority of eighty. This we have often admitted. But we have a right to expect as much.

Unless, then, we are prepared to allow, either that no Ministry could pass two such measures as the Education Bill and the Agricultural Rating Bill in a single session, or else that an overwhelming majority is a positive hindrance to legislative progress, we must look for some other explanation of what certainly requires to be explained, in order to justify the changed tone in which Ministers now speak of the future.

Both members of the Government and influential members of the party sometimes are heard to say, when pressed on any given point, "Oh yes, what you say is perfectly true; what you suggest is perfectly right; but what chance would there be of carrying such a measure in the House of Commons?" We want to know why. Would Peel or Palmerston, or Mr Gladstone in his best days, or Lord Beaconsfield, have talked in this manner? When Government speak of opposition in the House of Commons, what opposition do they mean? Not the opposition of the Radicals, for that could easily be overcome; and only in part the opposition of their own supporters, for a considerable flake might be detached from the Ministerial party, and even transferred to their opponents, without depriving them of sufficient strength to to carry any measures they pleased. There

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »