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proprieties of a higher state, and from the misuse of such laws and regulations as those proprieties required.
Let us picture then to ourselves, in the first place, an assembled congregation, without reference to any building whatever; no one can doubt that the ministrations of the Church would be valid, and, in Missionary labours, this is often witnessed as the real mode of operation till something else can be attained. From this commencement, then, we may trace what would obviously be the growth of such simple worship into a permanent institution. Conveniencies and adornments would naturally suggest themselves, but yet the original freedom would be witness of a principle which ought always to be retained. The Christian religion is essentially voluntary ; . Come unto Me' are the words of invitation, not of command, and the penalty of not coming is the loss of spiritual not of temporal advantages, except incidentally. The assembly, therefore, of Christians, is that of a voluntary coming to the representatives or ministers of Him who first used these words; it should be one of ready access and easy departure, unless by mutual understanding some private restraint is submitted to, for the public good. Individuals, then, would converge from their respective abodes to some centre where it was known that the teaching and the ministration, which they were willing to join, were to be going on. A crowd voluntarily met together on the common ground of intrinsic equality, feel this; though, if wellmannered, there will be deference shown towards individuals and classes. If this congregation listen to the teaching which they come to hear, they will learn gentleness and forbearance of temper, though individual responsibility and equality of interest will be found strongly urged. The natural laws, therefore, which regulate a crowd will be fixed, though private annoyances will be kept in check. They who have felt the spirit of that teaching, and learnt that some heavenly gift was held by commission in the hands of their instructors, will come again, and the congregation will then not be migratory or temporary, but that apostle of good tidings will be induced to remain, and his flock will gather round him habitually, acquiring thereby the bonds of a common family, from the rites which are administered as well as from the natural sympathy of being united in a common cause.
Another consideration, however, will now occur, which must draw our minds away from the idea of a mere crowd assembled to hear sermons or even to join in some acts of common prayer. The sacraments of the Church will obviously require a certain degree of reserve in their administration, which will prompt our imagined Missionary of the desert to desire a small covering or tabernacle wherein to minister the more sacred mysteries of his
religion, even though he still preached in the open air. Thus a chancel for himself and those immediately engaged in the direction of holy things will be the first building erected. The Bishop of New Zealand and his Missionaries celebrate the mysteries of the faith under a tent, the congregation being in the open air. The very nature of the offices thus performed will immediately suggest thus much of a covering, and this state of things would seem to correspond with the Apostolic era, when upper rooms were selected for the breaking of the bread, while other duties were performed as chance or opportunity enabled. Having now arrived at the stage of having a Sanctuary and Holy Place, the plain and the sky being still the floor and the roof of the nave, with trees to be the pillars and to form the aisles, it is obvious, in that natural settlement of ecclesiastical arrangements which we are depicting from its very elements, that the assembled people outside this chancel will also desire some protection from the heat or cold, the wind or rain, as the case may be. They will also desire a seclusion from others who have not joined their body, or who manifest in different degrees an hostility to their religion. As the habits of Christian devotion gain on them, they will also feel the benefit of retirement from the ordinary sights and sensations of the outer world. All these motives will prompt them to erect a covering over their assembly. Holding the assembly itself as the primary idea, we prefer saying, that they will erect a covering over themselves, to saying, they will make a building in which to assemble; for the natural disposition and order of the assembly, apart from the idea of any building whatever, is what we wish to refer to. Four plain walls, then, will be thrown up, with a roof of simplest construction, which will adjoin the before erected Sanctuary, the doors of which will probably be made of open work, that there may be direct communication between the two, though the place for general preaching will still be outside. According to one theory of the prevalence of pillars and arches in church architecture, these deviations from the simple walls we have described will be carrying out the resemblance to some avenue of trees, under whose shade the first meetings will have been held.
Supposing all this to have taken place on open and common ground, and also supposing that the law of the land subsequently not only sanctioned the whole proceeding, but identified itself with it, by considering it the act of the whole people of a certain district, and not only of a part, we have the entire system of a parish church at once before us as now recognised by law. The branch of the subject thus opened out to us, with which we are now concerned, has only to do with the disposition of the people assembled in this church. The relations between the State an! the management of the Church in other respects, we shall not touch upon, but confine ourselves to the question of that area, which the Church by the very title of nature considers to be common, open, and free; which freedom the law confirms and makes universal to all parish churches, as arising from the act of consecration, whatever the accidental origin of a church may have been in each place. All churches may have been founded by individuals on their own ground, but after the act of consecration, the law, in theory, considers it given to the Church, and exactly in the same position as the church we have pictured to have arisen on the wild desert, owned by none, the labour being performed as a common work.
The normal idea, therefore, of a church is, that of free and open ground for the use of the Christian community within each parish. All baptized Christians who have not been legally deprived of the rights thus belonging to them, as by excommunication, have a right to free admission, as all subjects have a right to walk on the highways. The law defines this right, even in exceptions of individual appropriation, to be of the nature of an easement; that is, not a property, but a right to use, or the privilege of a certain accommodation, as when one man may walk through another's ground, or may have a right of water not passing through his own land. Up to a certain point everything seems to establish this freedom and protect those members of the Christian community, who, owing to the accident of poverty, are not in a position to assert their rights, from being thrust aside. It is supposed that the church is every one's home, where he has a right to go, with ease and freedom, for Christian worship, subject only to such rules as must be established in any public institution for the common benefit of its members; nor, if this is really and truly the case with the inhabitants of the district or parish, will there be any fear lest strangers should be exposed to any unpleasant exclusion. They will share in the general freedom of the place within all reasonable limits, though, strictly speaking, the original open character of the church is a right of a local nature. The unity, however, of the Church, as composed of many local branches and interests, with the mutual interchange of rights and privileges naturally arising therefrom, is a distinct subject from what we need now consider. There is a certain claim, in justice and equity, which all have in churches of their own communion, though not parishioners, which is generally felt and acknowledged, and which it would be difficult to oppose in practice in such an open system as ought to be adopted towards parishioners, and which therefore we need not accurately define, inasmuch as it is not the right which is principally endangered, or which is most important.
Certain rules we have acknowledged to be essential in the management of this assembly, even to make the best of this free and public right of all parishioners to the use of the church; and here it is that we come to the more intricate difficulties of the pew system. The law provides for these rules in an admirable manner according to its theory, but the precedents of years have so overloaded the original idea, that in too many places there esists the greatest difficulty in asserting it. The freehold of the church is placed in the Clergy, subject to certain laws by which to exercise the privileges of freehold. The church must be open during times of service, and generally for the rites of the Church. The parish priest on his part is also under compulsion to perform those rites. The church therefore is necessarily open. The same authority under which the parochial clergy hold their rights, viz. that of the Ordinary or Bishop, also appoints two officers, called churchwardens, to manage the placing in due order those who come into the building in accordance with their popular rights. They have to see that those who enter come for certain religious purposes, and if they misconduct themselves, they are making a use of the place to which their claim does not entitle them. They may therefore be ejected, just as a man who enters a field to walk on a public path is no longer in a secure position if he begins to dig up the soil; his right in the place is particular, not general. Public freedom, therefore, is no way interfered with by the power of the churchwardens, as long as people are properly engaged.
But now, having reached the point of finding our Church machinery admirably calculated in theory to preserve the elementary freedom which pertains to Christian worship, let us look, before we enter further into detail, at the state of things which, in process of time, grew out of this apparently wellbalanced adjustment, and which even now is painfully visible in too many of our churches.
The office of Churchwardens, as representing the Ordinary, was to arrange people as they came into church, according to those principles which natural good taste, acting on the mass, would dictate, so that individuals would have to give up illregulated fancies to the general notions of propriety which prevailed over the congregation. The churchwardens, in fact, represented the good sense and experience of the whole, rather than enforced any arbitrary power, for we always bear in mind, that the Church never invites her flock in order to tyrannize over them. Now, good feeling in the mass will ever give a voluntary deference to position and station, and the courtesies of life are not only encouraged, but highly developed by the whole theory of the Church, and that consistently with an equal development of the doctrine of Christian equality. This voluntary deference was entrusted for its execution to the officers of the Church, who were charged to place men according to their station. So far all is natural and fair, for it is to be presumed that these officers were not only to respect rank and station, but generally were to represent courtesy and good manners; and that, therefore, women, the aged, and infirm, such as the deaf, would be marked out as objects of peculiar consideration. No theory, however, will work without the guidance of a living principle within the sphere of its supposed operation. You may balance a thing as nicely as you like, but there must be some solid foundation, or some innate spirit of buoyancy always kept up, or the balance will be lost. În proportion, therefore, as the Church lost some portion of her true Catholic theory, or lost spiritual vitality, so, in the order of things, may we expect that the well-balanced system of Church arrangements would incline to one side or other, influenced by some worldly attraction, or disturbed by some hostile force. In other words, we may always expect that selfishness and avarice will supplant courtesy and openness of heart, if not suppressed by a constant struggle. The outward system of the Church does not pretend to have a mystical power of going on quietly and orderly, without a corresponding vitality of spirit ; it is rather the fruit and token of that vitality; as we have presumed in ascribing the origin of ecclesiastical arrangements to the working of natural principle; common sense and courtesy taking as their premises the truths of revelation, conscious also of the continual guidance of the Spirit consecrating all such means. This injunction, therefore, to the officers of the Church, to place people according to their station, harmless in its first intention, and consistent with the original freedom of Christian worship, though still touching on very tender ground, became a great power for evil, when popular ideas of the use of a Church were somewhat altered, and deadness prevailed over too many of her offices.
The history of church-sittings is thus briefly summed up by Mr. Oliphant :
• In our cathedrals, and other ancient ecclesiastical edifices, there seems to have been an entire absence of any fixed and regularly constructed accommodation for the laity, as an essential part of the building. For, before the Reformation, no seats were allowed, nor any distinct apartment in the church assigned to distinct inhabitants, except for some very great persons.
• The first seats permitted to be used were moveable forms, for the ease of the parishioners, to sit during those parts of the service, for which kneeling or standing were not directed by the ritual of the times. These