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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 134, 3 August 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OP TRYING TIMES.
Let all the offices of entertainment Be free and open.
Little was said of Dr. Snapperdudgeon by any of the little party at Whinnyside at his somewhat ignominious retreat. James Duncanson made no further remark on the brutal treatment he had received from the Doctor, but Mrs. Renishaw could not help adverting to the feelings which she knew would be rankling in her nephew’s mind. “ Weel, Jimes,” she said, “ye maun just look owre the Doctor’s conduct, for everybodyjkens he’s a passionate man, and if he hadna fauts he wadna be ane o’ the sons o’ Adam. But he’s a grand preacher nevertheless, and gi’ed you some insight in this Nonintrusion nonsense, that I houp ye’ll profit by.” “He is just the last man, aunt, to recommend me to an Erastian Church.” “ I’m sure I kenna what ye mean by an Eraustian Kirk ; but if he’s no what he ought to be as a minister of the Gospel, there’s just the mair need for gude men to stand by the Bark, and keep its head abune the water. ”
Notwithstanding her attempts at argument, however, Mrs. Renshaw felt that her project in bringing Dr. Snapperdudgeon and her nephew together had utterly failed ; and she was at a loss what move to make next, when her perplexity was relieved by a very unexpected incident. This was nothing less than the arrival of a livery servant at Whinnyside with a polite invitation from Sir John Baldwin, Bart., the patron and principal proprietor of the parish, to Mrs. Renshaw and the students to dine with him next day at the baronial hall.
The great man was Mrs. Renshaw’s landlord, and had heard her nephew favorably spoken of. Moreover, some of his servants had seen the two young men on their fishing excursion, and mentioned the circumstance to their master. He took a deep interest in the Church controversy, and was glad of the opportunity of discussing it with the students as well as of showing respect to so good a tenant as Mrs. Renshaw : hence the invitation.
It was not less unexpected than rejoiced in by the mistress of Whinnyside.. She instantly built on it a magnificent structure of bright anticipations. The fortune of her nephew seemed secure if he could only be induced not to spoil it by his own wilfulness. Simon M'Quirkie thought himself fortunate in being included in the invitation, for he had a secret hope that he should be able to turn it to good advantage. His companion, however, was by no means elevated with the • prospect of being, at that particular juncture of affairs, suddenly ushered into the acquaintance of a man so influential as Sir John Baldwin. He foresaw that it would probably be impossible for him to avoid committing himself irrevocably either on one side or other of a controversy involving all his professional hopes as well as deepseated principles, while as yet these were far from being so well matured in his mind as he desired. He did not, however, shrink from the occasion, but determined, come what would, to act a frank and manly part. Mrs. Renshaw would fain have drilled her nephew into the practice of a little double-dealing or hypocritical profession, which she dignified with the name of prudence ; but she found her subject impracticable, and was obliged to confine herself to giving him counsel by inuendo. Mr. M'Quirkie, however, put himself to no such trouble ; he had his own part to study, and beyond tha; his concern did not extend.
At the appointed time the Whinnyside party reached the gates of Baldwin House, and were soon in the presence of the Laird and his family, where they were very graciously received. A few other guests were also present, of whom we may have occasion to speak by-and-by. One who might naturally have been expected to be there had not been invited—namely, the parish minister the redoubtable Dr. Snapperdudgeon. The Doctor and Sir John, so far from being on friendly terms, were engaged against each other in a law-suit which had lasted for years, and was expected to last as long as both of them survived. They were indeed at the most deadly enmity, a footing on which the Doctor contrived to be., with almost every person who had the honor of his acquaintance. Mrs. Benshaw thought herself “nae sma’ drink” when the Laird himself gave her his arm and conducted her with great politeness into the dining-room. The company sat down to a sumptuous feast, at which James Duncanson was placed in the post of honor. His place was at the right hand of Lady Baldwin, and on the other side sat her eldest daughter, a blooming girl of eighteen. Mrs. Benshaw and Mr. M'Quirkie were seated right ; near at hand were some of the junior members of the Baronet’s family and the Bev. Mr. Calmsough, the venerable minister of an adjoining parish, of which Sir John was patron. During dinner there was very little conversation beyond mere common-place and ceremonious remarks, few of which fell from Mrs. Benshaw and as few escaped her ears. She paid particular attention to every word uttered by either of the ladies to her nephew, and watched the eyes of both with rather more vigilance than good manners. The result of her observations was a conviction, at which she had arrived before the dessert was brought to table, that Miss Baldwin was in love with Mr. James, and that the fascinations of the high-born damsel would soon make him forget his imprudent attachment to Agnes Montgomery. She thought she could see too that Lady Baldwin looked with favor on him, and her head became giddy with sanguine speculations. James, she concluded, was sure of the first presentation at the disposal of the Laird, and then the hand of Miss Baldwin would be his, as a matter of course. Here was the prospect of fortune and greatness even beyond what she had ever anticipated for her nephew. She had indeed a faint apprehension that his peculiar notions of duty to the Church might stand in the way of his good fortune, but she could not seriously believe that he would be so insensible to the prizes which dazzled her imagination as to forego them when placed temptingly within his reach. But she was building on sand from all points; for the marked attentions of Lady Baldwin and her daughter were paid to Mr. Duncanson purely from a delicate appreciation of his diffidence of character, and a generous desire to make him feel at ease. Towards Mr. M*Quirkie the ladies felt this to be unnecessary, as he bore the impress, both in look and manner, of concentrated self-sufficiency. Hence the evident difference of treatment which the students received, and which misled Mrs. Benshaw into such a wildgoose chase of visionary speculations. On the cloth being removed, the conversation became more animated and general. Mr. Calmsough told some of his best stories, all overflowing with quiet humor and good nature. There was no bitterness or egotism in his observations, while he displayed a wide range of information on many subjects, and an intimate knowledge .of society in all he said. _ j or a time he was the centre of attraction to every ear and eye in the company, the Laird himself being well pleased to bean attentive listener, and only throwing in a word now and then to encourage the
venerable gentleman to proceed in the same delightful strain. As may be supposed, most of Mr. Calmsough’s anecdotes and observations had a professional smack which clearly indicated his calling ; but otherwise it would not have been easy to discover that he was a clergyman, for he was entirely devoid of any affectation of any superior sanctity, and made no ostentation of devoutness. He had the felicitous faculty of seizing on the agreeable and harmonious points of all subjects, and insensibly brought the most apparently incongruous matters into unity. Not from any want of discernment, but rather from amenity of temper, he fixed his regards on the good in all things, to the almost utter oblivion of the bad. It was a common remark that he had a blind side even to the Father of Evil, and could not see evil in others because he had so little of it himself. Under his benign influence the conversation took a turn that was exceedingly agreeable to young Duncanson, and favored the only policy which he had made up his mind to follow on the present occasion—namely, to avoid as much as possible controverted or controvertible points. This, however, did not suit Mr. M’Quirkie’s views. He felt a strong desire to have the opportunity of distinguishing himself on debatable ground in the presence of Sir John, and displaying himself before the great man as an able casuist, certain always to arrive at safe conclusions. Accordingly he took the first opportunity which offered to raise a dispute with Mr. Calmsough on some point which led directly to an argument on the much-vexed Church question. No sooner had the conversation begun to take a controversial turn than the ladies withdrew ; though for her own part Mrs. Renshaw would much rather have remained, perceiving clearly enough that the discussion might have important effects. The decks being cleared for action, Mr. M’Quirkie only ventured at first on a passing hit now and then to show his dexterity. He raised a question, and then carped a little at both sides, so as to leave the company in doubt as to his precise opinions on the subject in hand—which happened to be the veto. Mr. M’Qnirkie seemed both to condemn and defend that most remarkable expedient, till Mr. Calmsough shook his head, and the Baronet impatiently inquired on what ground an exercise of ecclesiastical power could be defended which was at once at variance with the law of the land and an open spoilation of vested rights. M’Quirkie shufQed and tried to qualify Sir John’s decided condemnation, without directly impugning its justness. “The veto,” said he, “ is no doubt in itself bad in many respects—perhaps I may say in every respect —but it was forced on the Church as a matter of necessity. ” “ How so ? ” inquired the Baronet, in a tone in which there was some mixture of displeasure as well as surprise, for the veto was an object of his special detestation.
“Why, for the reason,” replied M’Quirkie, 1 ‘ the Dissenting bodies were fast becoming too strong for the Church, on account of their more popular constitution. It was neither practicable nor desirable to abolish patronage, but its most obnoxious features were softened to the public eye by the modification of the veto.”
“ I grant,’’said Sir John, “ that the encroachments and growing power of Dissent furnished a very strong reason for some change ; for ever since the Whigs were allowed to unsettle the constitution by their Parliamentary and Municipal Reform Bills, Dissent had been making most alarming strides. But the veto was calculated virtually to extinguish patronage altogether, and I can neither see the justice nor propriety of that.” “ Strictly speaking, neither do I, Sir John,” replied the cunning parasite; “but then, sir, you will please to observe that while the veto law infringes the privileges of individuals, it by no means confers the power of appointing ministers on the vulgar herd, but gives a kind of popular air to appointments, while it leaves the substantial and entire power in the hands of Church courts, which consists very much of the classes in whom patronage is vested, and who are entirely at one with them on constitutional and Conservative principles.” “ Well, well,” said Sir John, “ there is a good deal of force in that view of the subject. It never struck me in the same light before, but I admit there is reason in it; Ida indeed. Your perception, Mr. M'Quirkie, of the danger of admitting the many-headed monster, called the public, into any share of power pleases me particularly well, and I have great happiness in forming acquaintance with a young man of such decided talent and sound principles.” “ I have always,” said Mr, Calmsough, “ been opposed to the veto, but I have never thought so uncharitably of those who were instrumental in its introduction as to suppose them capable of aiming at a deception, as Mr. M'Quirkie’s view of it seems to imply. No, no ; Lord Moncrieff and those who supported his views were honest men, and certainly intended to render the Church of Scotland in reality, and not merely in appearance, more popular in its constitution; and though I think they were mistaken in the means they used and the ends they aimed at, I believe they intended to give the people the power of choosing their own ministers. ”
“And I,” said James Duncanson, who now felt that it would be pusillanimous to refrain from expressing his sentiments — “ I believe that, though the Evangelical majority in the Assembly of 1834 were wrong as to the means, they were right in the object of giving to every congregation the choice of their own pastor. I may be mistaken, but my present opinion is, that the object aimed at in the veto must be secured in some shape before the Church of Scotland can regain her hold on public regard, or become as efficient as she ought to be.” “I certainly,” said Sir John, “am very much inclined to see the Church made strong enough in some way to enable her to keep ahead of Dissent ; for Dissent is nothing but Democracy in the disguise of religion, and I confess I am terrified at the progress it is making ; but then we must take care how we seif about meeting the evil, in case our measures, instead of preventing it, should make it worse.” “In fact,” said M'Quirkie, “ we must take care, in battling with democracy without the Church, that we do not make the Church itself democratic.” “ That’s it,” said Sir John, rubbing his hands complacently, “that’s just the point. Let us do all we can against the democracy of Dissent, but let us have no democracy in the Church.” “ I have all my life long,” said Mr. Calmsough, “ been opposed to innovations in the constitution of the Church even for the plausible object of purifying her and rendering her more efficient ; because on considering her laws and privileges, I perceive them to be so nicely balanced that they could not be touched without producing mischief on one hand or injustice on the other. Ear better, in my opinion were it that she should cease to be established, whenever her ancient constitution is found to be obsolete, than that it should be tampered with to harmonise her with the popular humors of the passing day. But still more decided am I opposed to any changes in the Church for State purposes. When she is degraded to he the tool of mere State expediency or party influence, her glory is gone, and she is no longer the noble institution for which our fathers bled.” “But she has already,” interposed Mr. Duncanson, “ been degraded and driven from the old landmarks of her constitu-
tion. She must be restored to what she has been, before it bo time for her friends to cease agitation and take up a defensive position.” “There may bo two opinions on that point, my young friend,” said Mr. Calmsough mildly, and proceeded at some length to state his views regarding the various modifications which had been made from time to time in the constitution of the Church.
[to be continued.l
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 134, 3 August 1880
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