Archibald Marshall.

Richard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall online

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Online LibraryArchibald MarshallRichard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall → online text (page 20 of 29)
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would proceed for years to come. What had happened
to make him feel that he could not do so without clear-
ing the obstacle of a grave decision?

It was a great temptation. He longed as ardently
now to go to Oxford as years before he had longed to
go to Rugby. More ardently, because with greater
understanding. But he realized that it was a tempta-
tion, although at first he could not tell why. He set
his mind to the task of discovering the reason. He
would be honest ; he would face it out.

Why did he shrink from taking advantage of his
father's surrender? Because he felt that if he did so he
would be going to Oxford under false pretences. If his
father had had any doubt of his finally taking orders he
would certainly not have consented to his going. This
much was clear. If he felt that he could not take that
course, then it would not be right that he should go.
But did he feel this? That was what he had to decide.

He had never felt it hitherto. He had had the
career of a clergyman before him for the last five
years, and had accepted it as his settled future. If
one had asked him during that time what he was



going to do after his education should be over, he had
answered without hesitation that he was going into the
Church. He had said so to John Meaking, and to Mr.

His thoughts, in parentheses, turned to these, his
two most intimate friends. He thought for a time that
he would like to ask their advice on the problem that
he was going to solve, but soon relinquished the idea.
No one but himself could make up his mind for him.
Besides, he knew well what each of them would say.
Mr. Ventrey had never spoken to him directly upon
the subject, but he knew as well as if he had done so
that he would be unsympathetic towards a calling which
his father judged to be the highest he could follow. His
father knew it too, and had hinted as much. He al-
lowed himself for a moment to compare the lives of the
two men, the one who claimed divine authority for all
his actions, the other who grasped his opportunities in
his own hands and made what he could of them. Which
of the two was likely to be the better guide in the diffi-
culties of life and conduct? He turned away from the
question, leaving it unanswered. But the knowledge
of what Mr. Ventrey would have advised him to do, if
he had asked his advice and he had been able to give
it frankly, weighed with him.

John Meaking had given his advice on the subject
more than once, quite straightforwardly, and without
being asked for it. Richard had not paid much at-
tention to it at the time, but it recurred to him now.
He felt it to be good advice as far as it went. Meaking
held strongly that the work you set your hand to ought
to be the chief thing in your life, and that you could
not be happy in it unless it were. He also held that,
unless a complete change came over Richard's char-


acter, it was impossible that he should be able to make
his work as a clergyman the chief thing in his life.
Richard had been more influenced by Meaking's views
on the subject, expressed in various ways, but always
with cogency, than he had known. Possibly it was
owing to these, rather than to the more conventional
conceptions held by his father of what a clergyman's
life should be, that he shrank from pledging himself
to a vocation for which he doubted whether he was

At this stage he became very unhappy, for he saw
whither his cogitations were leading him. From their
widely different points of view, both his father and
Meaking held the highest ideals as to what the life of a
teacher of religion should be. It must be nothing less
than entirely devoted to the one aim and object. Mr.
Ventrey would no doubt hold much the same view, for
there was a curious similarity between the workings of
his mind and those of Meaking's; curious, considering
that the one was a young man of very small education,
and the other had spent a long life in training his mind
and his understanding. And Richard was bound to ac-
knowledge that this view had become his. It would no
longer be possible for him to look forward to the life
of a country clergyman as affording him opportunities
for the occupations and pleasures he liked best. He
must go into it putting them aside altogether as of no
account, or not at all. And when he had brought him-
self to this point it became quite plain that, as he was
at present constituted, there was nothing whatever that
drew him towards it. Unless he became quite a new
creature within the next few years, a creature with dif-
ferent tastes and impulses and powers of mind, he
would be as unfitted for a cure of souls as any one


could be who estimated aright the importance of that

He cajne to this conclusion by the direct path indi-
cated, but it was long before he could fix it in his mind.
His boyish self, impatient of dogmatic scruples, rose
up and told him to look around him. How many of
the clergymen he knew took these high views of their
calling? Were not their lives much the same as those
of other men? Did not even the best of them indulge
in much the same pleasures, and were they any the
worse for it? There was no question of his shirking
his duty as a clergyman. He would do it as well as he
could, and take an interest in it too. He would preach
and visit and hold the requisite services and meetings,
and when he had done his duty, what harm in taking
part in the most innocent recreation, out of doors or in,
that a man could enjoy? These arguments, and others
of the same sort, appeared consoling and convincing
until he began to be persuaded by them ; when they were
met by the simple conviction that, whatever might be
right for other men, he, Richard Baldock, having had
his eyes open to the truth of things, could not choose
this calling unless he were prepared to give up every-
thing in life that he took most pleasure in. Again the
house of cards was built up, and again demolished. At
last he accepted the decision to which he had been
brought. He was bound in honour to reject his father's
offer, unless he saw in front of him a possibility of a
complete change in himself.

He could not see this possibility. Nothing that he
really believed or had observed in the lives of others
pointed to it. He saw himself growing into his man-
hood with the tastes that he had already begun to form
strengthened, and others added to them. But nothing


that lie knew of himself indicated that impulses quite
dissimilar would be born in him, which might alter his
desires altogether.

His father did believe this not only that it might
happen, but that it would happen. He believed it so
perfectly that he was willing to take the risk of sending
him to Oxford, although he would not think of sending
him there to prepare for any profession or calling but
that of the church. Then why could he not relieve him-
self of the responsibility of decision, and take what
was offered to him?

Here was a temptation more subtle than the last. He
believed the truths that his father taught, did he not?
He had never thought of questioning them. The instan-
taneous, miraculous conversion he had been told of
many examples of this did he deny that they had oc-
curred? No. But he had never seen an instance. On
the contrary, he had met with several instances of peo-
ple who professed to have undergone this miraculous
change of heart in the past, but whose thoughts and
actions seemed to be guided by just such motives as
those of people who made no professions. Still, his
life had been spent in rather a restricted circle ; he did
not deny, did he, that there were thousands of people in
the world who had experienced a real change of heart?
Why, it was the doctrine upon which Christianity was
founded. His father had preached nothing else. No,
he did not deny it.

Then was it not probable that his father was right?
He claimed nothing less than a divine revelation that
his own dedication of his son to this particular service
of God had been accepted, and that the " call " with-
out which no man might take upon himself the respon-
sibilities of the ministry, would surely come to him in


good time. Why could he not leave it there? He had
nothing to do even his father would have told him that
he had nothing to do but to wait without impatience
until the call and the change should come to him. Could
he undertake not to resist it if it came? Yes, this, at
any rate, he could undertake.

Then followed a long struggle of mind. Again rea-
son, founded on beliefs assented to, seemed to have the
victory, and more than once Richard believed himself
to have come to the conclusion that it would be right for
him to do what he ardently wished to do, to go to Ox-
ford and to leave the greater question for the future.
But it was not a conclusion that could satisfy him. He
could not rise from his place and go home with a clear
and contented mind, having so decided. The question
would arise again and again, and he knew that he would
never be able to free himself from the charge which
his own honesty would bring against him, that he had
so decided because he wanted to go to Oxford, and not
because he thought that there would be any chance of
his ever wanting now to go into the Church.

He seemed to have come to a deadlock. He could
not find a flaw in the arguments he had produced in
favour of accepting his father's offer, but his own hon-
est self still resisted them. He remembered his promise
to use the weapon of prayer in his deliberations. He
knelt down where he was, away from men, alone with
the God whom he believed in with all sincerity, in spite
of a dawning scepticism as to the dogmas in which he
had been trained, and put up his petition. It was a
prayer for guidance, and it seemed to him that it was
instantly answered. The arguments by which he had
sought to persuade himself were merely plausible.
There was no necessity to refute them. They could be


ignored. It w&s not for him to take upon himself,
either now or at any time, the functions of a priest-
hood; and, that being so, it was not open to him to take
advantage of an expectation held by his father but not
by himself, and proceed with his education as it was at
present mapped out for him.

Now, at last, he felt strong and settled in his mind.
He had gone through an ordeal, and emerged from it
victorious. The contentment that his decision brought
him overpowered even the great disappointment occa-
sioned by the downfall of his hopes of Oxford. But
that consideration must wait. He could only now feel
the relief and buoyancy that arose from a decision
honestly come by. He had made himself captain of his
soul, and could look the whole world in the face with
nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.



RICHARD allowed a few days to elapse before he told his
father of the decision to which he had come. He wanted
to test his resolution. It remained unchanged, but the
exultation he had experienced when it was first made
had faded away and left behind it a troubled sense of
loss. His thoughts had so often of late turned towards
the life of the University, which he was to have entered
upon in a little over a year, and had dwelt upon it
with such pleasurable anticipations, that he suffered a
definite pang of unhappiness many times a day when
they followed their wonted course, only to end in a
reminder of what had been cut out of his future. It
was no ordinary sacrifice he had made on the altar of
honesty. It was a giving up of something that he most
ardently desired, the loss of which, besides, altered for
the present his whole outlook in life. It must be ad-
mitted that, although his main intention remained quite
firm, he was not without fleeting hopes that Oxford
might still come into his future. It was very difficult
to give up all idea of it. But he never got so far as
to consider how it was to come, for he knew his father
well enough to be quite sure that he would abide by his
word, and that it was of no use to plead or reason with
him. He had a sort of hope in the back of his mind
during these two or three days that Mr. Ventrey might
help him in some way, at any rate with advice as to
what he was to do next ; but Mr. Ventrey and Lettice
were in Paris, and he had no one to turn to.



His discomfort became no less acute when three days
had gone by since his decision had been come to, and
he resolved to make it known to his father without any
further delay. He went into the study with a spirit
very much subdued. He felt it to be rather hard that
he should have to go through the scene which he knew
could not be avoided, when his resolution had cost him
so much. But it was of no use to shirk the inevitable,
and he presented himself, prepared to make the best
of it.

" I want to speak to you, father, about what we
talked over the other day," he said.

The Vicar looked up with a face that was almost
eager. " Yes, my boy," he said, " you have been think-
ing over it, I know. I have observed that you have
been serious and collected in your mind, and I feel
sure that you have been approaching the matter in a
right spirit and that you have received guidance. It
could not fail you. I have prayed for you constantly,
and I have been assured of that."

This speech did not tend to raise Richard's spirits.
" I think I have been guided," he said. " But I am
afraid it is not in the direction you wish, father. I
have thought it all over very carefully, and I have
made up my mind that it would not be right to accept
your offer."

John Baldock's face had lost all its eagerness. It
had become black, with the intolerant expression that
Richard knew so well.

"And pray, why not?" he asked shortly.

" Because you are willing to send me to Oxford
only because you are convinced that I shall decide to
go into the Church at some time, and "

" Do not use that expression. You are already in,


the Church, as are all baptized Christians. You are
going to Oxford to prepare for Holy Orders."

" I can't see any likelihood of my ever wanting
to take Orders. In fact, I am sure that I never

" Really, Richard, you would try the patience of
Job. How can you at your age be sure of any such
thing? "

" I don't know, father. But I am sure."

An exclamation of angry impatience. " You cannot
be sure. It is mere obstinacy. It is worse than that.
It is a definite resistance of grace. You may feel that
as you are at present such a course would be impossible,
as no doubt it would be. You may feel very far from
being in the spiritual state that would justify you in
taking on yourself the responsibilities of the ministry,
even if you were old enough and had gone through the
requisite training. But I have told you that if you
resign yourself to God's wish the grace and the convic-
tion will come in His good time. Why do you take upon
yourself to doubt it, or to cut yourself off from the
power to accept it when it does come? "

" Because my conviction is as strong as yours,
father, that it is not the work for me. I am old enough
to think for myself now, and and to see what I'm
fitted for."

" Perhaps you will kindly tell me, then, what you are
fitted for."

" I I don't exactly know, but I "

" Quite so. A moment ago you said you did."

" I know that I am not fitted for the life of a clergy-
man at least, not such a life as I think clergymen
eught to lead."

" Oh, you have thought it over as clearly as that,


have you? Will you tell me what your opinion is of the
life a clergyman ought to lead?"

" I think that he ought to think about nothing but
his work. I mean that I don't think it ought to matter
to him where he lives, or how he lives, or what he does
I mean that he ought not to have any likes or dis-
likes outside his work."

" You put it in a curious way, but you are quite
right. That is what the life of a minister of the Gospel
should be, but for any man to think that he had the
power to lead such a life of himself would be gross pre-
sumption. Of course you are not fitted for it, and
never could be, in your own strength. But that has
nothing whatever to do with the case. It is God's
help that is needed to fit you or any one else for the
life, and, thanks be to His mercy, it is help so strong
that it can break down all selfish desires and impulses,
and change the very innermost impulses of a man's
heart. And not only that, but it is help that can be
had for the asking. Do you doubt all this?"

The dark look had lifted somewhat, and given place
to one of earnestness. Richard felt the change, but it
brought no relief to his mind. It was harder to stand
against than the irritation that had preceded it. He
foresaw the weary round repeating itself, all the argu-
ments brought forward again which he himself had
used and had not been able to refute except by the in-
ward conviction that there was something wrong with
them somewhere, and that if they were accepted he
should be led into doing something which he ought
not to do. He was tempted to say that he did doubt,
and to cut the knot. But that would not be honest

" I suppose it must be as you say, father," he replied,


" but I cannot feel that it will be like that with me, and
I have tried hard enough."

" In what way have you tried? You seem to me only
to be holding back with all your strength against the
divine influence that would change your whole life."

" I am sure I am not."

" I cannot talk witli you any further about it, Rich-
ard. You are in a hard and unrepentant mood. I can
only go on praying, in the full assurance that my
prayers will some day be answered."

There was silence for a short time. Then John Bal-
dock said : " I have nothing more to say to you now.
You had better leave me."

" But what am I to do, father? You said the ques-
tion must be settled now."

" I consider it as settled. Your present attitude
occasions me great sorrow, but I should be unfaithful
if I did not still believe that it will be changed. I act
on that belief. You are to go on as before, and you
will go to Oxford in due course."

Was this really faith or mere fanaticism? Which-
ever it was, it was a conviction of the utmost strength,
and Richard was shaken by it. After all, it might be
that he was wrong and his father right, and that if he
did not cut himself off from the opportunity there actu-
ally would come a time when the whole trend of his
nature would alter, when the tastes and habits he was
forming would be swept away by a miracle, and others
of which he now saw no signs in himself would spring
up fully formed to take their place. His reason re-
jected the possibility as soon as it suggested itself. It
was not thus that spiritual changes were worked.

" You know, father," he said, " it is very hard for
me. There is nothing at present I want more than to


go to Oxford next year. I only want to tell you that
if I do go I cannot pledge myself in any way."

" You are not asked now to pledge yourself."

" But I am bound to say this, too. I am almost as
certain as I can be about anything that I shall never
take Orders."

John Baldock thought for a moment. " I don't
wish to be impatient with you, as I am strongly tempted
to be. Let us look the situation in the face. What has
occurred to make you take this attitude? You say you
have a conviction. I think I am sure it is a mis-
taken one. But I will grant that you hold it honestly.
Whence has it come? You have known now for some
years what I have had in view for you, and you have
not resisted it. I don't think I am mistaken in thinking
that you had accepted it. Am I right?"

" Yes, I did accept it until I was made to face it
definitely one way or the other. Then it seemed to me
quite plain that it was a far more serious thing to
undertake than I had thought before. And I can't see
any possibility of my ever thinking it right for me to
undertake it."

" We seem to be going round in a circle. You deny
the possibility of a spiritual change in yourself. That
is what it comes to."

" I don't think so, father. I know my conscience
doesn't tell me so. But I think that everybody ought
to try to do the work that he is best fitted for, and that
he can only be quite happy in the world if he does so."

" I recognize the source of that sentiment, Richard,
and I deplore that you have given yourself over to
guidance which I cannot recognize as coming from the
right source. But you are too old now for me to dic-
tate to you as to the friends and companions with


whom you are to associate. The responsibility rests
with yourself. Only let me tell you this, that there
will come a time when you will deeply regret having
turned aside from the way which has been pointed out
to you ever since you were born."

There was no answer to be given to this. Richard
wondered, .with a dreary sense of the futility of the
interview, when it would end. Again there was silence
for a time. John Baldock was thinking. He was a
fanatic, but he was not entirely destitute of common
sense. " You say that you are anxious to go to Ox-
ford," he said at last. "Why is that?"

Richard could scarcely say that the delightful free-
dom of an undergraduate's life as he had read about it,
and as it had been described to him by older school-
fellows of his own who were now enjoying it, appealed
to him irresistibly, that he wanted to work and talk
and laugh and play in company with his fellows, that he
wanted to be a man among men and to try his powers in
a larger field than he had yet known. But these were
the only reasons that made him so eagerly desire Ox-
ford, and he had to offer some expression of them which
would not grate too much upon his father's prejudices.

" I like school now," he said. " I am interested in
the work, and I like being with the other boys. It
would be like that at Oxford, wouldn't it, only much

John Baldock made no reply to this. He sat for a
long time, his head on his hand, his eyes bent down-
wards, pondering. Richard looked out through the
latticed window to the green garden. What a curious
position he was in, trying to persuade his father against
something that he eagerly desired ! Why should he
struggle any further to make himself understood? He


had done his best. If his father still persisted, could
he not take what was offered to him and enjoy it, re-
lieving himself of all responsibility in the matter? He
would do so, he told himself, with a last warning which
should be as straightforward and determined as he
could make it. But as he said this, conscience still
replied that he would be doing wrong.

" I see how it is," said John Baldock, raising him-
self. " It is what is called the social life that has such
great attractions for you. Perhaps it is not unnatural.
It meant little to me. I don't think I had above half-a-
dozen acquaintances during my whole time at the Uni-
versity, and they were hard reading men ; poor men,
like myself, whose aims were very different from those
of the greater part of the men around us. I regard the
ordinary social life of Oxford as possessing very great
dangers. Certainly it is the last sort of life in which a
man who has the responsibilities of the ministry in front
of him ought to take part. If it does not involve idle-
ness as it very often does it means frivolity, revel-
ling, very often sin and disgrace."

" It wouldn't mean that with me, father," said Rich-
ard, now all eager to plead ; " I should work hard, and
I should spend my spare time very much as I do now,
only I should have more companionship. You told me
that you did not mind my doing the things that I do
now when I am not at work."

" Nor do I now. You are a boy. At Oxford you
would be a man, embarked on a definite course of
preparation for your life-work. I confess that I had
not thought of the temptations of the life. I had looked
upon it as a time of quiet retired study and prepara-
tion, as my own life at Oxford was. But your tem-
perament is very different. However improved your


outlook may, and I trust will, be in the future, you are
not at present constituted so as to resist such tempta-
tion. I think perhaps it is this that you have felt at the

Online LibraryArchibald MarshallRichard Baldock: an account of some episodes in his childhood, youth, and early manhood, and of the advice that was freely offered to him. by Archibald Marshall → online text (page 20 of 29)