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matter of conscience and of faith can be from one of mere legal permission. Let me put a case. A candidate for orders reads one of the Articles brought forward in this late judgment. “I do not believe this,' he says, 'in any sense which my own reason tells me is natural; but a legal decision tells me that I may read it in another sense, and therefore I will sign it. Now, I say that man has put a violence upon his moral nature, which will probably vitiate it for life.”
"I confess I do not quite see that; but as I am not called to be a clergyman, those Articles have never troubled me much, one way or the other."
"Nevertheless, depend upon it, the people are keen critics, and you will not get them to put confidence in a Church based on a creed that may be subscribed in opposite senses."
"I perceive you think you have hit a blot. We shall see. At any rate, I thank you for your admissions. If the clergy of opposite schools can be brought to dwell together in peace, and if the community will accept the comprehensive scheme which the Supreme Court of Appeal has wrought by these successive judgments, the National Church will be stronger than ever.”
“Unquestionably. Mark, I do not say that even then its strength will be the strength of truth and righteousness."
"Oh no; I understand all about that. You're a rabid Dissenter' you know, old fellow; but positively I should like, before I go home, to have one word of sympathy from you about this idea of a National Church, including all Christians in the land, with common worship instead of a common dogma. Is there not something grand in it?”
"Yes, Hope, there is; but I think we have a grander idea in our "Bethel' yonder.”
"My dear fellow, you are joking. Bethel is all very well, and its minister is well, I won't say what. If, too, you think you have a truth to maintain, it's all right for you to meet together to maintain it; but you know you can't get beyond being & sect, for all that.”
“On the contrary, it is the Church of England that is the sect."
" What, the National Church of Dr. Arnold's ideal, of Mr. Maurice's delineation, of the three decisions! Do you mean to say that we are more of a sect than your Church at Bethel, with the denomination’ at its back, and nothing more?”
“Yes, indeed I do. You see, we aim not at nationality, but at catholicity.”
"You fairly astonish me. Catholicity! Why how can a denomination' be catholic ?”
“I should like to answer your question, but in few words I cannot. Suppose we have another talk upon this matter. I have heard you out to-night about the brilliant future of the English Establishment with its threefold charter; and if you will let me, I will show you, when we meet again, why I believe that the bright prospect is ours rather than yours-in short, that it is at Bethel, rather than at your parish church, that your own ideal, and Mr. Maurice's, must be sought.”
“Well, I shall long for the unfolding of your paradox.” And so we parted.
THE SONGS OF DEGREES.
If our readers will open their Bibles at Psalm cxx., they will find that it is the first of fifteen, bearing a common title, and constituting by themselves a little song book within the larger compilation. The title, “ Song of Degrees," whatever it may mean, points, doubtless, to some fact or element common to these fifteen Psalms; else why should the compiler of the whole Book have thus gathered them together? Moreover, as we read these Psalms, even cursorily, we can scarce help feeling that a common tone pervades them. With one exception, they are unusually short, consisting of but a few verses each. A ce tain national feeling runs through them all. Zion, Jerusalem, Israel, these are the constantly recurring words. Even when the individual is represented as speaking, it is as an Israelite he speaks; whilst, generally, throughout these Psalms, individual feeling is altogether merged in allusions to national sorrows, deliveranees, privileges, and hopes. So that these are, essentially, patriotic songs.
Concerning the title itself, there has been considerable diversity of opinion. The word rendered “ degrees ” is the plural form of a word which signifies, literally, “an ascent," or * going-up.” Some have accordingly rendered the phrase Step-Psalms, or Psalms of the Steps. This is a common explanation with Jewish expositors, who suppose that these Psalms were so named because they were sung on certain steps in the sanctuary; and some have even added that they are fifteen in number, because they were sung on the fifteen steps which led from the court of the men into the court of the women. Others, again, entertain much the same opinion, but say that they were sung, not on steps, but on some eminence to which the “ascent"
he phrase the idealom clause
was by steps. This explanation, however, assigns too slight a reason for such a title : besides which, one or two of these Psalms do not appear to harmonize with the notion that they were sung within the Temple at all. Another and very different interpretation finds the reason of the title in the structure of the Psalms themselves. It is said that there is a certain gradation manifest in their language—that a word occurring in one clause leads on naturally to the thought expressed in the next; and that thus there is a gradual “ascent” from clause to clause. This would seem to have been the idea of our own translators, when they rendered the phrase “A Song of Degrees.” But when we come to examine the songs themselves, we find no such uniformity in their structure. In one or two of them, perhaps, something like a gradation in the language may be observed; but in the majority it is invisible. We seem, therefore, to be shut up to the remaining interpretation of the title, which is, that the “ascent” referred to is the going up to Jerusalem. It was customary with the Jews to speak—just as we do—of “going up” to the metropolis of the country; and it was even more natural for them to speak thus, inasmuch as Jerusalem stood on a physical and religious, as well as political eleration. To the mind of the Hebrew, “the city of the Great King” must have seemed to tower far above all the other cities of the earth. Accordingly, some have thought that these “Songs of the Ascents, or upward journeys,” were the Psalms sung by the Israelites on their return home at the close of the Babylonish captivity. But this view also is open to objection. For some of these Psalms point to a present endurance of persecution ; which would scarcely have been the case had they been sung immediately after the deliverance from Babylonian oppression. And even when, in Psalm cxxvi., reference is directly made to the return from Babylon, that return is spoken of as being now a thing of the past ;-“ We were like them that dream ;—“Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.” Moreover, the title of these Psalms—“A Song of the Ascents” (not of the Ascent)-leads us to look, not for some one special going-up of the people to their native land, but for some upward journey to Jerusalem which was repeated again and again; and this we find in the pilgrimages annually made by the Jews from all parts, in order that they might keep the great national festivals held in the metropolis. Thus, “A Song of Degrees," — or, more literally, of the Ascents,-becomes, by interpretation, “A Song of the Pilgrimages.” This is the explanation given by Hengstenberg, and is that which best accords with the leading features of these Psalms. Not that the fifteen songs are necessarily of
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contemporaneous origin, nor even that each was originally written with a view to these annual pilgrimages. On the contrary, they were probably composed at different times and under diverse circumstances. Some of them, indeed, appear to have been purposely written for the use of the pilgrims; and we can scarcely wonder at this, when we consider how the coming up of the people to these national gatherings must have interested the minds, and engaged the sympathies, of the singers of Israel. Others, again, may have been originally composed without any reference to these journeyings, and yet, through “use and wont," may have gradually become associated with them. We can easily understand how their brevity, simplicity, and national feeling might lead to their being used as popular travellingchants. Meanwhile, it is enough for us that—at the time when the Psalms were finally arranged and collected into one book, as we now have them—these fifteen, standing thus together in a group by themselves, were known, distinctively, as the Pilgrim Psalms.
The chief national festivals of the Jews were three in number. The law in the Book of Exodus runs thus :-“Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread, .... and the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of thy labours which thou hast sown in thy field; and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.” Now, although we can well understand how, in process of time, this law would come to be observed with considerable latitude-in consequence of the distance at which many of the Jews lived, and the trouble involved in making such a journey three times in the same year—yet we know that great multitudes did, as a fact, come up to the metropolis on these festal occasions. Josephus tells us that, in the year 65, three millions of Jews were in Jerusalem together, observing the Passover. And we ought to remember that the three great festivals were agricultural, as well as historical, in their aspectthat the laws concerning them were made for an agricultural population—that their dates were so fixed as not to interfere with the chief pursuits of the people, and that not one of them took place in the winter season, when travelling was most difficult and disagreeable. We can easily conceive, therefore, that this going up to Jerusalem would, by an agricultural population, be anticipated as a pleasure rather than dreaded as a burdenwould, indeed, be regarded as a delightful episode, varying the monotony of their quiet rural life. Here, in England, we have our many large towns and cities, which, owing to the railway and
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the daily newspaper, have become almost like suburbs of the metropolis. So accurately and speedily do the dwellers in the provinces receive information of what is transpiring in London, that for them, practically, it is almost as if they lived there. There are, moreover, no special religious feelings binding them to London; and these always constitute the deepest attachments. True, when a huge temple is reared in the metropolis, and filled with specimens of the natural products, the industry, and the art of all nations, Englishmen know what it is to be attracted from all parts of the land to one common object. Or, when a time-honoured festival like the season of Christmastide comes round once a year, we know what it is to enter by sympathy into the gladness and brotherly feeling which universally prevail. But to be summoned by national law to appear in our metropolis thrice a-year, in order to observe three holiday seasons there, w uld—notwithstanding our modern facilities of travelso interfere with the arrangements of our mercantile and social life, as to become an infliction of the most grievous kind. With the Jews, however, it was far otherwise. The whole area of their country was only about twice that of Wales. From the beginning of the year until its close they lived, for the most part, an agricultural life-a life which, in times of peace, would be devoid of excitement. Jerusalem was not only the civil inetropolis of their nation; it was also the "city of the Great King.” In that city stood the Temple, the central glory of their nation, the earthly palace of the King of Heaven. And wherever the Jew might be, it was towards that Temple he turned to pray. Without that Temple his nation was nothing; but with Jehovah's presence there, no nation was to be compared with his. Piety and patriotism thus united to bind Jerusalem to his heart. And the three annual festivals were also religious as well as national. Jehovah had enjoined their observance. They were a recognition of His guardian care. They pointed back to events in the nation's history illustrative of His power and goodness, as well as to His present superintending mercy. They were designed to be the expression of a whole people's gratitude, faith, and gladness. They were, moreover, the means of bringing together the members of the various tribes, thus manifesting and preserving the unity of the nation. How natural, then, that a pious Jew, who was praying towards Jerusalem every day, should regard it as a great privilege to "go up,” even thrice a-year, to the city of his pride and affection, there to mix with the throng of his fellow-countrymen who were rejoicing with himself in the presence of the God of Israel. For to him the holy Temple possessed an attraction mightier far than any temple of international industry; and for