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amongst us; and in the forms and furniture of our Churches we may trace all the varying shades which have diversified the surface of the Church's history, that they have not been deeper, shaking even her very foundations, we may be thankful for His protection Who has promised to be with His Church, even to the end of the world. With this object in view, we invite our readers to the consideration of our village Churches; we are bold to say that we have never visited a Church that has not amply repaid our trouble; for if there be nothing else, there is sure to be a window, or a doorway, or a font, which has been raised by some pious hand; and though the name of him who built it is no longer remembered on earth, his work still remains to the glory of God, and the preservation of that faith which has never wanted hearts on which to work, or souls inspired with holy zeal for its purity and advancement.
The most remarkable difference between the Churches of former days, and those we now build is, that the old ones are full of meaning hidden from some, but doubtless manifest to very many. Doors, windows, arches, steps, all have their appropriate signification; and it is our present object to attempt and retrace those feelings of reverence and religion which suggested the architecture and arrangement of our ancient Churches. We have said there is a meaning in all the portions of a Church, and surely it is a beautiful thought that every portion suggests to us some point in our Christian faith. The mysterious purpose with which they are so fully fraught, is indeed now styled " superstition,” and many consequently avoid the semblance of anything more than necessity requires in the formation of walls and arches, rather than allow that any edification may be derived from external forms. What can it signify, say they, whether I pray with my face turned to the east or the west ? " Yet Daniel did not think this insignificant when he prayed towards Jerusalem; and surely the disposition of S. Justin Martyr, who could trace the sign of the cross in the masts of a ship, or of Tertullian, who could see the same holy symbol in the wings of birds expanded in flight, was a more holy temper and more likely to be practically useful, than theirs who can break down and destroy a cross, as if they saw sin and shame in the ancient and significant emblem of Christian faith.
In external designs our village Churches are very various : the same character is indeed always preserved, but it is not always carried out in the same way. The simplest form is that of a nave and chancel with a tower at the west end ; to this may be added aisles and transepts. It is sufficient for the illustration which we propose, to confine ourselves to the very simplest form, for it contains ample proof of the holy feeling which, we . have said, suggested the significant structure, even in the most obscure and seemingly unknown little Church in some remote and thinly-peopled hamlet. It is a well-known fact, that the Church stands generally east and west, the chancel pointing to the east, the day-spring from on high : this is done to teach us where we are to look for assistance and protection against the power of our enemy, so that when we pray (it was formerly intended that all persons should pray turning to the altar) we may look for the day-spring which has visited us from above, and is daily symbolized to us in the rising sun, that sheds light and warmth in all the earth, even as He of whom the sun is to us a material type, can pour light and warmth into our hearts by His heavenly beams.
The entrance to the Church is at the west end, or through a porch on the south-west, which is for the general congregation, (sometimes the Priest had a door in the chancel for himself). This door is the entrance into the place of prayer, cutting us off from the outer world ; for as the east is the emblem of the LORD of light and life, so the west is the seat of darkness, and is taken as a type of the world and the powers of evil. We turn therefore from the world; our backs are towards the realms of the prince of this world, our faces steadfastly looking to the seat of heavenly brightness, and so we enter the Church: no longer are we in the world, we have left it, and are standing on holy ground. Is there any one who can be so wilfully blind—so determined to shut his eyes against his own edification, as to put aside those feelings of respect, that temper which holy men thought well to entertain, and which if better attended to now might probably bring about a more chastened tone of mind, a greater readiness to receive instruction in the paths of righteousness, than many, alas! now display? Formerly, when the Church was governed by that more rigorous discipline which is so reasonably lamented in the Commination Service, the porch was the appointed place for those who were under her censure, and who were not permitted to partake of that intimate communion, which was the portion of the faithful only. Those also who were unbaptized, and preparing themselves to receive the holy sacrament of regeneration, had their allotted place also there, not quite excluded from the Church and her sacred walls, and yet not permitted to enter wholly. Thus the porch served for two purposes; it was a place where the uninitiated and the censured might assemble and partake of such of her offices as were allowed them, especially that of hearing the Holy Scriptures and the Sermon; for after this portion of the service, answering to
the Epistle, Gospel, and Sermon in our Communion office, they were severally dismissed with a prayer appropriated to the circumstances and condition of each.*
The porch was also for the admission of all Christians into the body of the Church, so that they passed through the assembly of the penitents and catechumens, who were wont to ask the prayers of the more highly privileged, for their restoration or admission to the communion of the faithful.
Passing through the porch we find ourselves in the nave; this was so called as representing a ship tossed on the waves of the world, and typifies the Church militant on earth, the condition of the Christian in his course through this life, to a future state of happiness and perfection. The nave of the Church, therefore, is appropriated to the general congregation, who are to partake of the privileges of Divine service. The first and principal object in the nave is, or ought to be, the font: formerly, perhaps, it was more appropriately placed out of the Church, in a separate building called the baptistery, and the Christian was not admitted, as we have seen, till being baptized he was brought to the Bishop to be confirmed, for this rite in the earliest ages was always administered immediately after baptism. At first, except in extreme cases, the sacrament of baptism was only administered by the Bishop at the great festivals of Easter and Pentecost, and in the cathedral Church this evidently afforded much more convenience for immediate confirmation : but when in the course of time both Christians and Churches began to multiply, and baptism was administered in every village, S. Jerome tells us that the Bishops went through the diocese at proper periods administering the rite of confirmation to those who had been previously baptized by the Priests. The font, therefore, being the place where we are admitted into the Christian Church, should be placed as near as possible to the entrance. It is required by the canon to be of stone, and is usually large enough for the immersion of an infant if such were desired, and indeed the present custom of baptism by affusion, or pouring water upon the child from the hand, is only permitted, not enjoined by the rubric. Concerning the shape of the font so much has been written and said, that it seems superfluous to add more; we may, however, allude to the symbolical meaning of the octagon, which is the prevailing and most significant form. In the Christian sense, then, the octagon represents eternity—the day of creation; the first day is that of our birth in Christ, the day on which we first see the light which is the life of man; the six days represent the course of life in which men are to work; the seventh day is the day of rest; then comes the eighth day, which commences
* Council of Laodicea, Can. 19.
a new order of things; and in so many other ways does the number eight bear a typical interpretation in Scripture, that we ought not to refuse to recognize in the octagonal font the lesson which the ALMIGHTY Himself has taught us in His word. Thus we see how all things may in some way or other be made subservient to the Christian's progress towards Heaven, in that lowliness and meekness of mind which they must put on who would pass through things temporal, so that finally they lose not the things eternal.
From the western door there is a clear passage through the centre of the nave, signifying the strait and narrow way that leads to life eternal. On each side of this passage are seats for the laity, with room for standing and kneeling: these benches all face eastward, that Christians may have their bodies as well as their minds turned in that direction, which is the type of all that they believe and hope for. At the further end of the nave there should be a convenient seat for the Priest to say prayers, and a desk turned towards the people for the Lessons, a faldstool or Litany desk for the Litany, which, as it is a separate service from the matins or morning prayer, ought to have a separate place as much as the office for the Holy Communion has its place at the altar.
Such being the harmony and order of the nave, which has a meaning replete with holiness and edification to him who is willing to receive it, there remains another arrangement now, alas ! too mucb neglected, which well merits notice here. It is required by the eighty-second canon, that texts of Holy Scripture should be printed on the walls of the Church; thus over the porch we might write, “the place whereon thou standest is holy ground,” or “the LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” On the sides of the nave we might place such texts as are most practical, for the nave of the Church, being an emblem of her militant state on earth, those passages of holy writ, which refer to the Christian state in this life, as one of trial and warfare with evil, might be most appropriate in adorning the walls; and these texts would tend to hallow the very walls of the edifice, filling the minds of those who read them with the reflections best suited to the place, while they wait for the commencement of Divine service, instead of frivolous and vain thoughts, which too frequently follow us even to the very house of the Most High, intruding where they should not. Over the chancel arch might be placed these words, “ This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven,”—for in former days the nave was separated from the rest of the Church by a screen drawn across it, a carved open screen, not such as to exclude any Christian from
having some insight into the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but enough to show that it was a mystery, partly revealed and partly secret, of which he might obtain a glimpse, though he could not see it perfectly; this screen still remains in some parts of the country, especially in the West of England, and even where it hath been destroyed portions are often found. The screen has a door in it opening into the chancel. This door signifies death, which is to the good man the gate of heaven, the opening into everlasting life, for he that would pass from death to life must put off this mortal before he puts on immortality, and he that would pass from the nave to the chancel, the type of the Church triumphant, must be dead to the world, before he can worthily partake of the holy communion, which is the privilege of those who draw near to the altar of their God. And even in those Churches where the screen has been destroyed, the chancel is sufficiently distinguished by the arch which almost invariably divides them. Passing under the arch we enter the chancel. This portion of the Church is emblematic of the Christian perfection of the Church triumphant in heaven, and here we are permitted to partake of those holy mysteries which can most perfectly realize to us the communion of saints which, unseen now, hereafter shall be displayed to us. The great object of interest in the Chancel is the altar, which is inclosed in a space separated from the rest of the Church by the altar rails; without the rails there should be room for the faithful to assemble, and draw near, and take that holy sacrament to their comfort. The altar is raised above the rest of the Church, to show the superiority of those high mysteries which are there celebrated above all other Christian offices. The rails, too, which separate the people from the Clergy should teach them to think highly of the Priest's office, as of those who are chosen of God to be called into His immediate service, for although the people may draw near, they may not touch the holy table, but the Priest brings the heavenly food to them, from his hands they partake of those gifts of which he is the minister from God.
The altar is placed at the extreme eastern part of the Church, opposite to the font, that as the one, in its position, tells us of the new birth, by which we enter the holy edifice, so is the other the emblem of the perfection of the life given us in the font,therefore, nothing should be beyond the altar, for this is the end of the Christian life; and there should be but one altar in the Church, which should be fixed in some way or other, to denote the stability of that faith which, like its Lord, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
The Church, taken as a whole, is no less significant than are