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CHRISTIAN WORK IN PUBLIC
DR MONTAGU BUTLER.
THE subject on which I have been called to address you is "Some Aspects of Christian Work in the 19th Century." One aspect of such work will to-day engage our thoughts. It is the efforts of good men to bring not only healthy but distinctly Christian influences to bear on our great Public Schools.
It cannot, I fear, be questioned that during (we will say) the 18th Century and, roughly speaking, the first quarter of the 19th, such distinctly Christian efforts were conspicuous by their absence. There were indeed many earnest Christian schoolmasters between 1700 and the time of Arnold; but the conception of school life as a training in Christ both for boys and masters, and the ambition of serving Christ as part of a schoolboy's school ideal—these things were either no longer or not yet.
The evidence for this conclusion is to my mind as irresistible as it is painful. I can but touch upon it. I find one admirable man, with special opportunities of judging, writing in 1844, "The tone of young men at the University"—and 64 S. M. L.
he went to Balliol about 1825-"the tone of young men, whether they came from Winchester, Eton, Rugby, Harrow, or wherever else, was universally irreligious."
I find another saying, "The religious teaching in my school days was not a strong point either in or outside our Chapel." Another, "It cannot be said that our religious training was sufficiently attended to. All that my Tutor did for me at Confirmation was to ask whether I could say the Catechism, to which I said 'Yes.' In no case was Confirmation followed up by the Holy Communion; in short, as regards the school, it was, I fear, a thing unknown." This was in 1824. Yet again another witness, "At my school we were literally without religious guidance"; and yet another, "I received no religious instruction whatever of any kind "; and yet another, "In my day not only no boys took the Lord's Supper, but no one dreamed of it."
We know, my friends, that charges of this kind would not be made against the great schools now. Can we, then, fairly "locate" the beginning of a change, and can we connect the change with one or more names? I think we can.
It was in the year 1827, "the year that classic Canning died," and that saw the publication of Keble's Christian Year, that Thomas Arnold was elected Head Master of Rugby. He was thirty-two years of age. His friends expected much from him, and perhaps feared something. One of the "prophecies" which "went before" upon him was from his lifelong friend, Edward Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, who predicted that "if Mr Arnold were elected, he would change the face of education all through the public schools of England."
Such a testimonial, if now given to a candidate, might probably blast all his hopes. But seventy years ago the twelve noblemen and gentlemen of Warwickshire were, it would seem, men of stout heart, and prepared to stomach even a Luther. Arnold was elected in December 1827, and met his boys in the following August.
What, then, was the " aspect of Christian work" which presented itself to his eager gaze? What was his own conception of it? Had he before him any clearly cut design? Could he have said what Edward Thring said, when asked whether the structural and other ideas of Uppingham had grown upon him as he advanced in his work,-"No, among my papers I can show you the sketch, almost in detail, of everything I proposed to do, and which you now see here, just as I made it in the very first years of my mastership"?
I doubt if Arnold, on leaving his private Tutorship at Laleham, had any such working model in his study or in his brain. At the same time, he had doubtless a clear conviction that there was a real Christian work to be done at Rugby, and that he, with God's help, could do it. Writing to an intimate friend just before the election, he says, "If I do get it, I feel as if I could set to work very heartily, and, with God's blessing, I should like to try whether my notions of Christian education are really impracticable; whether our system of public schools has not in it some noble elements which, under the blessing of the Spirit of all holiness and wisdom, might produce fruit even to life eternal."
And yet again, some two months after the election, “With regard to reforms at Rugby, give me credit, I must beg of you, for a most sincere desire to make it a place of Christian education. At the same time, my object will be, if possible, to form Christian men; for Christian boys I can scarcely hope to make."
Now, my friends, so far as I can judge, this is a new voice in the English world. The hour has come, and a man has arisen who is equal to the demand of the hour.
As to his first "throw off," there is but little evidence. I do not gather, nor is it at all likely, that he made any speech or issued any kind of manifesto on first taking office. Even his earliest published sermons do not cover just this interval of space. According to Stanley, during his first half year he confined