Adam Bede eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about Adam Bede.
given up to the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life; hunting and shooting, and adorning their own houses; asking what shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?—­careless of dispensing the bread of life to their flocks, preaching at best but a carnal and soul-benumbing morality, and trafficking in the souls of men by receiving money for discharging the pastoral office in parishes where they did not so much as look on the faces of the people more than once a-year.  The ecclesiastical historian, too, looking into parliamentary reports of that period, finds honourable members zealous for the Church, and untainted with any sympathy for the “tribe of canting Methodists,” making statements scarcely less melancholy than that of Mr. Roe.  And it is impossible for me to say that Mr. Irwine was altogether belied by the generic classification assigned him.  He really had no very lofty aims, no theological enthusiasm:  if I were closely questioned, I should be obliged to confess that he felt no serious alarms about the souls of his parishioners, and would have thought it a mere loss of time to talk in a doctrinal and awakening manner to old “Feyther Taft,” or even to Chad Cranage the blacksmith.  If he had been in the habit of speaking theoretically, he would perhaps have said that the only healthy form religion could take in such minds was that of certain dim but strong emotions, suffusing themselves as a hallowing influence over the family affections and neighbourly duties.  He thought the custom of baptism more important than its doctrine, and that the religious benefits the peasant drew from the church where his fathers worshipped and the sacred piece of turf where they lay buried were but slightly dependent on a clear understanding of the Liturgy or the sermon.  Clearly the rector was not what is called in these days an “earnest” man:  he was fonder of church history than of divinity, and had much more insight into men’s characters than interest in their opinions; he was neither laborious, nor obviously self-denying, nor very copious in alms-giving, and his theology, you perceive, was lax.  His mental palate, indeed, was rather pagan, and found a savouriness in a quotation from Sophocles or Theocritus that was quite absent from any text in Isaiah or Amos.  But if you feed your young setter on raw flesh, how can you wonder at its retaining a relish for uncooked partridge in after-life?  And Mr. Irwine’s recollections of young enthusiasm and ambition were all associated with poetry and ethics that lay aloof from the Bible.

On the other hand, I must plead, for I have an affectionate partiality towards the rector’s memory, that he was not vindictive—­and some philanthropists have been so; that he was not intolerant—­and there is a rumour that some zealous theologians have not been altogether free from that blemish; that although he would probably have declined to give his body to be burned in any public cause, and was far from bestowing

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Adam Bede from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.