Hundreds of parishes are served with men like the Rev. Samuel Bishop. It is half the decay of Christianity that the prospect of a fat living will induce men to adopt the profession of the Church. This is the irony of life in all religions, that to be kept going, to increase and multiply, they must be financially sound; yet as soon as that financial security is reached, you have men pouring into their offices who seek no more than a comfortable living.
There is only one true religion, the ministry of the head to the devotion of the heart. You need no priesthood here, but the priesthood of conscience; you need no costly erection of churches, but the open world of God’s house of worship. There is no necessity for the training of voices, when the choir of Nature can sing in harmony as no voice ever sang. There is no call now for the two or three to gather together. The group system has had its day, has done its work. The two or three who gather together now, do so, not in a communion of mind, but in criticism and fear. Each knows quite well what the other is thinking of. Where is the necessity for one common prayer to bring their souls together? Their souls are already tearing at each other’s throats.
You would not have found the Rev. Samuel Bishop agreeing to this. How could any man consent to give up his livelihood, even for the truth? This gentleman would have stayed on in his parish, happy in his hopeless incompetence, until his parishioners might have sent in a third request for his retirement, had not the irony of circumstance broken him upon its unyielding anvil.
For ten years, as has been said, he had held the rectorship of the parish of Cailsham. Sally was then fourteen years of age. Her mother, one of those hard yet well-featured women upon whom the struggle of life wears with but little ill-effect, had endeavoured to bring her up in the first belief of social importance consistent, to an illogical mind, with the teachings of her husband’s calling. But she had failed. It was grained in the nature of Sally to let the morrow take thought for the things of itself. The other three children, the boy up at Oxford, the two girls, one older, the other younger than Sally, were different. With them she succeeded. Into their minds she instilled the knowledge that, of all professions, the Church takes the highest rank in the social scale, and though in the world itself they might have found that hard to believe, yet in the little town of Cailsham Mrs. Bishop had discovered her capacity for draining from her husband’s parishioners a certain social deference and respect.
By persuading the Rev. Samuel to utilize his priestly influence upon the declining years of an old lady of title in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Bishop had stolen her way into the very best society which Cailsham had to offer. And Sally was the only one of her children who did not thoroughly appreciate it.