Chapter IV. 1858-1862.
St. George's-in-the-East--Characteristics of the work--Personal recollections of the Rev. T. I. Ball--Daily life in the Clergy House--Riot at St. George's-in-the-East--Correspondence with the Bishop of London--Letter from Keble--Offer of the Vicarage of St. Saviour's, Leeds--End of mission work in the East.
The work that was being carried on by the clergy of St. George's-in-the-East differed in many important particulars from that of an ordinary rural or town parish. It could by no means be confined within the rigid lines of a stereotyped Anglicanism, and yet had little to do with the methods of the religious revivalist. It was more or less of a novelty even to those who were engaged in it.
It is an old story now. Mission after mission has since those days been planted amongst the poor and crowded populations of our great cities. One after another men have sought in their various ways to solve the great problem of the Christianising of the people. But thirty years ago, both their spiritual and temporal needs were making themselves felt with new and irresistible force. Sin abounded, grace should much more abound. It was no new disease, but in its alarming complications and rapid developments it seemed to call for a new remedy. In every section of the Church of England men were awakening to the fact that, as a writer in the 'British Critic' expressed it,
No Church ever succeeded in retaining the allegiance of the people without a larger, stronger, more searching and more elastic apparatus than is ours. The extent of the popular apostasy in our days is indeed wonderful; but not more wonderful than the degeneracy of the Church's present ways and means. Christianity did once wear that very guise which, while it was good for the rich, was also of the very sort which most appeals to the prejudices and sympathies of the poor. It was once a religion of visible self-denial and holiness that willingly took upon itself the sorrows which to the multitude are inevitable and lightened their sufferings by its own pain and privation. It was not once that umbratile thing, that feeble exotic shut up in churches, parsonages, and parlours; but walked abroad, made the multitude both the receivers, the collectors, and distributors of her bounties; compelled cities to wear her livery, and dared to inherit the earth.
The object of the Methodists outside, and of the Evangelicals inside the Church, had been to break down the barriers between the soul and God, and in a dual revelation to show men their sins and their Saviour. Upon this foundation-stone of faith it was the aim of the Anglo-Catholics to raise a superstructure of ordered prayer and praise, and daily self-denial; to lead men onward step by step in the life of conversion--a life of union with Christ of which the Sacraments should be no empty symbols, but the very means and pledges; the condition at once of individual sanctification and of the Church's corporate existence.
These were the principles which had been carried out in the missions connected with St. George's-in-the-East, and Mr. Mackonochie was not only prepared but anxious to uphold them. The Christian life, with its high ideals and paramount obligations, was to be set forth in all its fulness, with the deep conviction that to lower the standard of religion in order to popularise it was to sacrifice permanent stability to temporary success.
'They were,' in Father Lowder's own words, 'making a great venture for the salvation of souls, . . . setting forth in all its fulness the love of Jesus Christ and His grace in the Sacraments and ordinances of the Church.' To this end they had taught, both by word and by ritual, the doctrine and duty of Eucharistic worship, the benefit of confession and absolution, the office of the priesthood, and the other practices resulting from it.
The Rev. Charles Lowder, in his narrative of 'Twenty-one Years in St. George's Mission/ writing at this time, says:
Wellclose Square, in which our Mission House was situated, is a large open square forming the meeting point of the three parishes of St. George's, St. Mary's Whitechapel, and St. John's Wapping. . . . The poverty of the place was very great. ... In the midst of scenes of sin and misery the children were brought up, the school of too many the streets, abounding in temptation, echoing with profane and disgusting language, and forming a very atmosphere of vice. . . . The parish had very few redeeming features; scarcely any residents of education and respectability to foster a better spirit. . . . The church had little influence; what wonder that when the rector attempted to throw a little life into the services and teach the doctrines of the Church faithfully, that he should meet with opposition. . . . The mischief which afterwards burst forth in the St. George's riots had been already smouldering. ... It was in the presence of such a population, and in the face of such difficulties without and trials within, that the St. George's Mission was now making ground in its campaign against sin.
Of that campaign Father Lowder himself and his biographer have already told the story; but some more particulars of its surroundings, and a special account of those years during which Mr. Mackonochie was connected with it, has been furnished by one of his friends and fellow-labourers, the Rev. T. I. Ball.
It was during the advent of 1859, in the chapel in Wellclose Square (he writes), that I first saw Mr. Mackonochie. The chapel was as a place for English worship, so unique in appearance, and is so associated with the memory of Mr. Mackonochie's earlier labours in London, that it deserves a word or two of description. The building, which stood in the middle of an old-fashioned square, and which was in summer-time almost hidden by trees, had nothing worth describing so far as outward appearance went, but directly you entered it you felt that you were in a church which had originally been built under other than British inspiration. It had, in fact, been erected at the end of the seventeenth century by Danish settlers in London for their own use. There was a thoroughly foreign air about it. First, it had much greater height than we should ordinarily give to a building of the same area. Then the arrangements were very non-English. At the east end was a shallow apse, open to the church above, but screened off from it below by a wooden partition, in the midst of which rose up a lofty pseudo-classical rercdos, containing in the centre a large and inferior painting of the Agony in the garden, flanked by Corinthian columns, and surmounted by a pediment. In those days (1859) High Churchmen were nothing if not Gothic, and so in front of the pseudo-classical reredos the clergy of St. George's Mission had placed an altar with a medievally designed frontal, on the gradine stood Gothic candlesticks, a Gothic cross was fastened to the reredos behind, and a Gothic cross adorned (or disfigured) the pediment above. . . . Against the lateral walls on either side of the reredos was, on the right side a royal pew or box, and on the left side an elaborately carved pulpit with extensive staircase. Between the two erections the floor was paved with black and white marble, and in this space stood medievally designed choir stalls for men and boys. Iron gates divided this sanctuary from the body of the church, which was seated with open benches. ... It was in this church at a week-day Advent service that I first saw Mr. Mackonochie, who at that time was barely known in London beyond a very narrow circle. I remember that the service was dreary; there were very few people present, but the sermon spoke to the heart; and in the following January or February I offered myself to Mr. Mackonochie as a lay-helper in his work.
I still remember, after the lapse of twenty years, as well as if it had taken place yesterday, my first interview with him in his own room in the Clergy House at Wellclose Square. The room was a back one, panelled with drab-painted wood; well-filled bookcases stood against the walls, on which hung some pictures (mostly of sacred subjects, with one or two views of ecclesiastical buildings); between the window and the door of a little dressing-room stood a prie-dieu table with books on it, and a small crucifix in a triptych over it; the general furniture of the room (there was no carpet) was of the plainest and severest description. ... At that my first interview I was struck by qualities which I learned afterwards to revere and appreciate more and more as years went by. I remember so well how, on my raising or asking some question with regard to the doctrine of Holy Orders, Mr. Mackonochie expended infinite pains in discussing the matter to the very bottom, how he rushed to a cupboard and hunted out notes of college lectures in order to unearth some valuable opinion; this kind of painstaking treatment of a question raised by an unimportant stranger impressed me very much, and I think I may say that then and there a friendship arose which only deepened and matured as years went on, and which I feel and know death has not broken, nor even interrupted, on either side.
In after years Mr. Mackonochie went on different occasions to take charge of Mr. Ball's mission chapel near Aberdeen; and in reference to this he wrote:
It is a great pleasure to do something for our Lord's kingdom in the country which, though not of my birth or (sic) chiefly of my education, has such very deep ties for me.
And the sentence touches upon a fact which it is well to remember, and which Mr. Ball emphasizes further on:
In nature as in name, and by race, Mr. Mackonochie was eminently a Scotchman. There are many qualities in the Scotch mind which are misunderstood or undervalued because not shared in by Englishmen, and of some of these qualities Mr. Mackonochie had his full share. A Scotchman is not only undemonstrative, but he has an inbred difficulty in expressing the warmer and deeper feelings of his heart even in words. To know the extent to which profound reserve and self-continence can be carried you must study the Scotchman, and you will again and again be surprised to discover how hard it is to find out what he really feels, or how much he suffers. Of this tendency to reserve Mr. Mackonochie possessed his full share. Then, again, the Scotch mind inclines to give full weight to distinctions which would appear to be trivial or immaterial to the less acute and logical English mind. Mr. Mackonochie had a genuine Scottish delight in a distinction, and I am sure that this was more than once the cause of his being seriously misunderstood by the English public, through its inability to appreciate the fact that to a Scotchman's mind a distinction, great or small, is all the same a distinction, and must be taken into account and allowed for as such.
Nor was this all. From his Scottish forefathers he had inherited not only his powers of discrimination and self-control, but the moral and mental hardihood which, in the troubled times upon which he was now entering, were to stand him in such good stead. It was a temper of mind to which the fear of misconceptions or adverse consequences was almost altogether unknown; a liberty of spirit eminently characteristic of the land:
Whose feudal faith had been her law,
And freedom her tradition.
Where frowned the rocks had freedom smiled,
Sung, mid the shrill winds whistle--
So England prized her garden Rose,
But Scotland loved her Thistle.
When in 1858 Mr. Mackonochie joined the Mission, this happy indifference to outward circumstances was more especially needed. There had been troubles both within and without. Two of the clergy had recently joined the Roman communion, and Father Lowder (though he had occasional clerical and lay helpers) was practically single-handed at the Mission House.
We thankfully welcomed the valuable help of the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie, hitherto curate of Wantage (wrote Father Lowder). He took special care of St. Saviour's, and by his indefatigable labours, eloquent preaching, and unceasing care for souls, set us an example of what Mission work really was. He was soon joined by the Rev. H. A. Walker, and both worked together most happily at St. Saviour's, until, to our heavy loss, but to the great gain of the Church, Mr. Hubbard, with the advice of those who were best acquainted with his high qualifications, and after mature consideration, nominated him to the charge of St. Alban's, Holborn.
But these intervening years were destined to be years of conflict; not only the inevitable conflict with the poverty and misery and sins of those to whom they ministered, but a harassing frontier warfare with enemies whose only object was to weaken their position, divide their forces, and paralyse their efforts. It was a warfare in which Mr. Mackonochie had had no experience, and for which he must necessarily have been unprepared, for it was not until after his arrival at St. George's Mission that the riots in the parish church began.
For a short time, even after he took up his abode at the Mission House, the clergy were left to carry on their work in peace. Surrounded by the sinful and the fallen, they were to see 'the eternal glory shed Upon the human race by the Love Christ bore to it;' and in their own persons to manifest that Love, not by the ordinary fulfilment of recognised obligations, but by the irresistible light of an absolute self-surrender. In the midst of the flagrant oppression and glaring inequalities of a degenerate world, they were to proclaim, not only by their lips but by their lives, the universality of the Christian brotherhood, and set the poor and sorrowful in those high places which (in the Kingdom of God at least) were theirs by right
With such an object any personal ease or self-indulgence would have been manifestly inconsistent; and the daily routine at the Mission House would in any case, when faithfully adhered to, have rendered it almost impracticable.
The day in the Clergy House (Mr. Ball tells us) began somewhere about 7 A.M. with Prime said in the oratory. At 8 A.M. there was always either Matins or Celebration in the church. It may surprise some to hear that there was no daily Eucharist in the church in Wellclose Square; but in those days, while the neighbouring clergy were allowed to neglect rubrics by the score in the interests of Protestant laxity, the clergy of St. George's Mission were not allowed to transgress the strictest letter of the most antiquated rubric in a Catholic direction, except at the risk of having their licences remorselessly withdrawn. As there were but few week-day communicants in the congregation, it was not ventured to have more than a Thursday and Saint's Day celebration in order that the legal number might always receive. . . . The entire order for Matins was always read through, and Mr. Mac-konochie always read it all himself; he had an invincible repugnance to lay readers of lessons. Breakfast, and Terce in the oratory followed about 9 a.m., and after this Mr. Mackonochie paid a visit to one or other of the schools where he gave Bible lessons. The discipline observed in his class was Spartan. The lesson was given from notes carefully prepared, and somehow the children did not hate these classes, as one might have expected would be the case. But though I never knew children shrink from his class or from spiritual intercourse with him, I do not think that he was a children's man. Whilst he was always gentle and kindly with children, there was in him an entire absence of that playfulness which must still linger in the mind and manner of the grown-up man if there is to be sympathetic rapport between him and children. But yet he could impress and win the confidence of the young. I remember the case of two big boys unbaptized, whom he took infinite pains with and whom he prepared for baptism. The City Missionary on visiting their mother was horrified to find under whose influence they had fallen. 'How can you let your boys go to Mr. Mackonochie?' he demanded. 'Do you not know he will make them go to confession?' 'And what if he does?' was the mother's reply. 'I am certain that Mr. Mackonochie would never let my boys confess anything that was wrong.' On the eve of their baptism he insisted that the lads should undergo a thorough ablution (at that time he considered this as a part of a proper preparation for baptism), and a missionary student who was staying at the Clergy House was sent with the boys to a public bath with orders to see that the cleansing was perfect.
After his return from the school Mr. Mackonochie's day was spent in the thousand and one occupations which came upon him as a Mission priest in a populous district, and which his growing reputation as a preacher and a spiritual guide brought upon him. Dinner and Sext came somewhere about i p.m. Nones at 3 p.m., but the recitation of this latter office generally fell through. Evensong was sung in church at 8 p.m., and at this service there was always a fair attendance, which was growing in numbers when Mr. Mackonochie left to go to St. Alban's. As at Matins so at Evensong, the whole office was punctiliously said and sung. . . . Evensong was almost always followed by something or other. I remember a very excellent set of Prayer Book classes which I attended; in those days he excelled in this kind of instruction: what he said was always carefully read up and prepared beforehand; he never aimed at originality or profundity; but he gave you in clear, simple, well chosen words the cream of what the best Anglican authorities had said on the subject in hand. Scarcely an evening passed without confessions to be heard. Frequently it was past ten before he left the church; some poor old voluble woman, some much-tried matron would come to pour out their lengthy griefs, or some troublesome young man or woman had been got hold of and must be reasoned into repentance. Supper and Compline ended the Clergy House day, but both were often over and done before he was back from church.
And yet, though the work was hard it was not overwhelming, and Mackonochie was not the least likely to exaggerate its difficulties.
It seems worse here (he wrote) because there is more of it and less outward pleasantness in the work itself, but I do not know that it is in itself harder; and plenty of people for worldly gain are ready to give up as much or more.
But this time of peaceful though strenuous effort was about to be rudely broken in upon. As we have said, it was not long after Mr. Mackonochie's arrival that the riots at the parish church began, and the Mission clergy bearing their part in the conduct of the services were distracted in the midst of their spiritual work by the necessity of taking what measures they could to restrain the irrational violence of the mob. The opposition to the rector, the Rev. Bryan King, had begun almost with his institution to the parish, but it took an active and aggressive form when Mr. Allen, the incumbent of St. Judc's, Whitcchapel, was (contrary to Mr. King's wishes) appointed to the office of evening lecturer at St. George's. It was then 'that, urged on by Mr. Allen's intemperate language, a few malcontents first interrupted the services of the church.' The flame once kindled rose and spread with the gusts of unreasoning passion, and burst forth with renewed fury upon the most trivial pretexts. Disorderly interruptions to the church services were organised and systematically carried out week after week, whilst the proper authorities were either indifferent, or took no efficient means to suppress them. During Mr. King's unavoidable absences a great pressure of work and responsibility devolved upon his curates. Vacillation would have been absolutely fatal, and presence of mind was of the greatest consequence, when to postpone action was to render it ineffectual.
On August 18, 1859, Mr. Mackonochie wrote:
The disturbances at the parish church have gone on increasing, till last Sunday afternoon the curate fell down in a fit in the middle of the service. This was followed by a most horrible row and at last fighting. There are to be cases on both sides tried at the police courts to-morrow, and the rector has given notice of a citation from the Ecclesiastical Court to their ringleaders. The bishop has also promised that, if the churchwardens fail to exert themselves, he will cite them. . . . However, the rector and------ have both gone away--one ill, the other for a much-needed holiday.
In this letter he states that Father Lowder was away, but did not know how bad things were, and would return at least for a time; but on August 30 it would appear that Mr. Lowder was again absent, for upon that day Mackonochie addressed a letter, from which we take the following extracts, to the Bishop of London, alleging as his excuse for doing so that he was 'the only licensed clergyman at present in the parish':
I have taken the liberty of sending to your lordship by this post (he writes) a copy of the 'East London Observer' of Saturday last. I accompany it with this letter as being unwilling to communicate anything to your lordship anonymously. The object with which I send it is connected with the disturbances, and there are two points to which I would ask leave to call attention: the position of Mr. Allen in the matter, and the conduct of the churchwardens.
In regard to the first, your lordship will, I think, agree with me in looking upon the first leading article in the accompanying paper as an impartial witness. The writer clearly does not sympathise with the rector, but merely looks upon the disturbances as a nuisance and traces out the cause. In the course of this investigation he is led, in the fourth paragraph, to describe the character of Mr. Allen's sermons. Supposing his account to be correct, it is difficult to conceive how the turbulent spirits of his hearers could be more effectually stirred up. Mr. Allen comes to St. George's Church attended, he asserts, and I have no reason to doubt the truth of his assertion, by about 1,200 people. These are almost all strangers--not people of St. George's or the neighbourhood--apparently from Whitechapel. These are his supporters, who have come, as their conduct testifies, not to be brought nearer to Christ, but first to hear an orator whose words please their ears, and then to insult Almighty God by mocking responses in the Litany, and even interrupting it, as themselves allow, by loud laughter. This being their object, Mr. Allen uses the opportunity of his sermon, not, so far as I can hear, to preach Christ and the way to Him, but to goad them on with exhortations to 'arm themselves' and be 'ready to shed the last drop of their blood,' and in conclusion exhorts them to retire quietly. My lord, may we not ask what need of such an exhortation, if his aim in the sermon had been to teach them to know the evil of their own hearts and the exceeding love of Christ and to send them away in the spirit of the meekness of Jesus? I hope I am not repeating an oft-told tale in saying something of the manner in which the election of Mr. Allen has been carried on. The person who claims, I know not how truly, to have suggested his nomination is a Presbyterian, who for some reason likes to go to church, while he openly avows his dislike of Church doctrines and practices. I need not say that he does not go to St. George's. He does not hesitate to say that he thinks the rector and those who agree with him the only consistent Churchmen. But he dislikes the Prayer Book, and therefore seeks the ministrations of those whom he believes most unfaithful to their ordination vows. It is not for me to endorse or reject his opinions, but your lordship will be able to judge of his consistency. His object he also openly avows to have been the desire to see the two opposing parties in the church face to face. The Church, he says, is militant, and he wishes to see the fight.
The letter goes on to complain of the handbills which had been put about the parish, containing much exciting language, the last being in the form of dissuasion, 'Do not groan; do not hiss; do not pull the popish rags off his back;' upon which Mr. Mackonochie justly remarks that if Mr. Allen were not responsible for them he 'should have instantly and indignantly repudiated such unworthy proceedings.' And then he touches upon his second point--the conduct of the churchwardens;
I cannot conceive anything more unsatisfactory. For three months they have allowed these scenes to occur weekly, nor has their sympathy with the rioters been any secret. ... A great deal is said about things being quieter, but on Sunday last I find that just as the clergyman was ready to go from the vestry into church he was told by the churchwardens that the tumult was so great as to render it impossible to say the service at all. As soon as the clergyman had consented not to attempt it, the fact was communicated to the crowd in church by the churchwardens in a tone of apparent triumph. . . . The real point which the rioters desire to gain is not, I do not hesitate to say, the disuse of certain forms. It is convenient to put this forward, and no doubt if permitted to gain one point they will ask for more; but at present they are simply vexed that Mr. Allen is not allowed to interfere with one of the regular services of the church, and are determined, as they avow, that no one else shall have a service at that time. This the churchwardens know quite well, and when the service was given up they felt that for one Sunday agitation had gained its point, and triumphed accordingly.
And then, in conclusion, he adds:
I feel reluctant even now to send this, lest I should seem to step out of my place in writing at all. But I will ask your lordship to excuse my forwardness, if such it is, in consideration of the grief of spirit which it is to hear Sunday after Sunday of the violation of God's house--my own parish church.
The Bishop's letter in reply is a lengthy one, entering in detail into the causes and incidents of the case, blaming in some respects the rector's action, and expressing a hope (not well founded, as later events proved) that if the matter were placed unreservedly in his hands he might put a speedy end to the disturbances. He expresses himself kindly and considerately towards the young curate in charge, whose position 'as the only licensed clergyman at this moment resident in the parish,' is, as he remarks, 'peculiarly painful.' And a day or two after Mr. Mackonochie writes back in a tone of frank cordiality, which, the Bishop seems to have been wise enough to see, implied no disrespect:
I have to thank your lordship most heartily and sincerely for your kind and ready sympathy with us in our anxiety. I need not say how much enhanced we all find this to be by the unhappy fact that scruples and differences of opinion have for some time past interrupted that cordiality which we most earnestly wish to exist in all things between the clergy and their bishop. I know well that your lordship, while deeply grieved at any such estrangement, will have from the first given the credit of conscientiousness to all concerned, as also I am sure none have doubted that, while discouraging and in some cases prohibiting that which others have thought it their duty to the Church to maintain, your lordship has been acting only out of a single desire to discharge the duties of your sacred office. I do not say this as of myself, but from a certainty that all belonging to the parish, and none more than the rector, are impressed with this view. I am sure when he is made aware of all your lordship's kindness he will fully join in every word which I have said. . . . You will, I am sure, feel that the tenacity on the part of the rector has only sprung from a conviction on his part (on the rightness or wrongness of which it is not for a junior priest to express an opinion) that he could not give way without violating his allegiance to the Church. Short of this, I feel convinced that your lordship's wish would have been law to him.
The two letters quoted are legible indications of a strong individuality, which, though free from self-assertion, manifests itself, when called upon to do so, without reserve. There is not the slightest shrinking from responsibility, whilst perfect loyalty to his rector is combined with an evident and almost affectionate desire to comply with his Bishop's wishes. And Bishop Tait evidently liked him all the better for a frankness to which perhaps his junior clergy had not altogether accustomed him; for on September 15, in reply to another letter, he wrote:
My dear Mr. Mackonochie,--Let me thank you for your interesting letter. I trust by God's blessing that the efforts you have made will not fail to produce their effect, and that this disgraceful state of things will soon be ended. I am sure that the manifestation of the kindly Christian spirit of conciliation at the same time that you show your determination not to be intimidated, must have its effect. ... I cannot but feel much for the very difficult position in which you are placed.
It is interesting to place the unsolicited testimony of the Rev. R. H. A. Bradley as a sequel to these letters:
During the riots in St. George's, East, at Mr. Mackonochie's request, I celebrated early on a Sunday morning at the parish church. On Monday the bishop sent for me, complaining of altar lights, eastward position, &c. On my telling the bishop that these were matters that concerned the rector of St. George's, and not me, he asked how I came there, and on receiving the answer that Mr. Mackonochie was a friend of mine, Bishop Tait replied, 'Well, I have not a better man in my diocese than Mr. Mackonochie.' This was when St. George's and the Docks Mission was in the worst possible odour, and the bishop was harassed on all sides, and there was scarcely an incumbent in London who stood by Mr. Bryan King and the Mission. At the end of my interview with the bishop he urged me not to mix myself up with St. George's, and when I declined to accept his advice, he replied: 'Well, I can't say anything against your wishing to help such a man as Mr. Mackonochie.'
In the meantime, Mr. Mackonochie had not only to send reports to the Bishop and to his absent rector, but also to seek interviews and correspond with the police authorities, and with Sir George Cornewall Lewis, at that time at the head of the Home Office. In a long letter to the latter, dated September 6, there is a strain of just indignation, all the more forcible because restrained within the limits of temperate language. The indifference of the magistrates had been fruitful of too disastrous results not to be bitterly resented by those who were making unavailing endeavours to re-establish order. Mr. Mackonochie had already had a personal interview with Mr. Waddington, the Under Secretary, from whom, he writes, he 'got no further consolation than that doubtless instructions had been already given to the police, and that for the rest we must have patience.'
I cannot believe that this is really the only answer which the Crown will return to subjects seeking protection in the exercise of their religious duties; and those subjects, too, ministers and members of the Established Church. It is, I urge, a simple question of social order. Will the law allow a crowd, merely because it is large and cannot be controlled by two men, to assemble Sunday after Sunday in a parish church and prevent the regular performance of divine service?
He then proceeds to detail the circumstances which aggravated the causes of his complaint, but he adds:
Were the circumstances of the case the exact converse of this, I should still feel that I had the fullest right to claim for the service of the parish church all the aid which the law can give. Were it a question of a mere conventicle of Mormonites or other barely tolerated sect, the police would interfere at once and punish the offenders most severely. Why are the legal officers of the Church of England to be the only ones unprotected in the exercise of their duty?
Mackonochie's spirited efforts--more remarkable for the cool self-possession displayed than even for their energy--were not destined to be successful. For many months the conflict raged at the parish church, although (except for a few Sundays, during which St. George's was closed) the congregations at the Mission chapels were left undisturbed. Concessions made at the Bishop's request only served to aggravate the excitement and to encourage the rioters. In November 1859 he wrote to his mother:
I thought it better not to tell you yesterday that L. and I should have to divide the services between us ... I was interrupted several times in the sermon, so that at last I asked the people whether I should go on or not. Some said 'yes' and some 'no,' and some told me to go on and not mind the rabble. At one time I thought the 'noes' had it and was going to stop, but a cry of 'go on' changed my mind. I was less disturbed afterwards.
But from this time, fortunately, he had comparatively little to do with the miserable and protracted struggle. He was more free to give himself to his spiritual work, and Mr. Lowder writes that Mr. Mackonochie's valuable assistance at St. Saviour's was bearing good fruit. The conversion of many souls in the way of true repentance, the increase of communicants, adults and children brought to baptism and confirmation, the better organisation and instruction of the schools, and the careful administration of the charities of St. Saviour's, all bore witness to the zeal and power with which his missionary labours were carried on.
It is more than possible that his ministrations had gained in power from the trials which had beset them. Some illusions had been dispelled and some fair hopes blasted, but the great realities of life stood out all the more clearly. The fight had ended in a defeat more ennobling than an easy victory. He had been forced to think for others as well as for himself, and the sense of responsibility had matured his character and deepened his convictions without impeding his action. If the difficulties which he had to encounter had placed him in an undesired position, the uncompromising sincerity of his conduct had won the respect of those who differed from him, and the warm approval of his Bishop. Nor had there been wanting the spontaneous sympathy from without which generous spirits are always ready to accord to a well-fought battle against overwhelming odds and to an oppressed and failing cause. Men of altogether different or adverse opinions--Lord Brougham, Dean Stanley, and Tom Hughes--had spoken out strongly about mob tyranny being permitted to work its will under cover of the law. Letters of encouragement had been received from unexpected quarters. The Guild of St. Alban, then in its infancy, had forwarded an address expressing a heartfelt conviction that when 'this persecution shall cease, a great religious work will develop itself in your parish.' And then from the quiet retirement of Hursley there came help, all the more prized perhaps because given after some doubts and misgivings lest zeal for God's honour should lead men further to profane it.
I did not wish my name, being at a distance and unable to do any good, to be mixed up in the matter (Mr. Keble wrote in March i860). It is now become a plainer case, and I shall be much obliged to you if you will kindly accept the sum I take the liberty of forwarding, and pay over 10l. or 20l., according as the need may be, to the Defence Fund, applying the rest to any of your charities which you and Mr. Lowder may judge best. Perhaps you will kindly make my apologies to Mr. King if any good opportunity occurs; I think I should say to him if I met with him that I hardly knew what to say or do, I was so worried and perplexed about the whole matter. Mr. Lowder knows that I could not myself 'show fight' about the mere externals if I were allowed liberty of teaching and ministration. My fancy is that if I knew of a disturbance coming on, I should dismantle the church silently on the Saturday night (as holy vessels might be buried to prevent desecration), and get some one who knew how to do it to address the people on the whole matter and try to make them ashamed.
I hope that your health is better, and I pray God to preserve you and your work and your coadjutors.
Believe me, dear Mr. Mackonochie, very truly and affectionately yours in Him Whom we would serve,
The letter begins by thanking Mackonochie for a tract Upon Good Friday, which Mr. Keble trusted would do a great deal of good. They had met two years before when Mr. Mackonochie went from Wantage to spend one or two nights at Hursley, and though the acquaintance appears to have been slight, it may be the reason why this letter was addressed to him rather than to the rector. In any case, it is a strong testimony to the righteousness of the cause to find the man of peace furnishing the weapons of war.
The reference to Mr. Mackonochie's health is almost the first indication of its having suffered. But in 1861 we find that he had a severe attack of rheumatic fever, and for some time he was subject to relapses. Laid up 'upon three chairs,' at first he writes cheerfully that he might get over in a cab to see his mother, who was also ill at the time; but the illness increased upon him, and soon took the question of locomotion altogether out of his hands. One cannot imagine that nursing in Wellclose Square can have been very satisfactory, nor the surroundings favourable to convalescence, but he had undoubtedly great physical strength as well as remarkable recuperative power, and it was not long before he was at work again with renewed health and energy.
Had the call to St. Alban's not come, it is impossible to say how long he might have remained contented and faithful at this outpost of the Church. No prospect of self-advancement was likely to tempt him away. Already, in 1859, when things at St. George's were almost at their worst, he had been offered the Vicarage of St. Saviour's, Leeds. It was a post in many respects desirable and attractive,--an important and assured position; a beautiful and already celebrated church, in which he would be able to carry on the Church's work, if not without fear of misconstruction, at least without the constant and harassing anxieties which beset his efforts in the East of London; and yet he writes:
I hope to be able to refuse, but I believe all my friends except the rector and Lowder wish me to take it. ... For me to leave the Mission, just as I am getting a little rooted, would be, humanly speaking, destruction to it. Of course, if God is pleased to bless it, it will stand whether I go or stay; and if He rejects it, it will fall in like manner; but I do not think I should ever forgive myself if I were, through anything which might be wilfulness, to give the last blow to it. Then it would be very barbarous to Lowder just when we are working very quietly, after all his discouragements, to leave him again alone. . . . Even if there were some one to step into my place at once, and work it far better than I can, I do not think I could go; there are many who at the present state of proceedings depend much upon personal influence and have been drawn to myself. Of course, I hope soon to see them rooted and independent of myself; but I should not like to leave while things are so.
And thus the offer was refused, apparently without any thought of the personal sacrifice, and in 1860, looking back upon that year of many troubles, he writes:
It is a great blessing to find health standing so well when all about us we so often hear and see people falling down. And, again, I do not think we ought any of us to forget the support and protection we have had in a twelvemonth, so unlike anything which could have been expected. If the end, too, is different both from our wishes and our expectations, we must not complain, but go on working in hope.
It was the character of his missionary work until the last; patient, persevering, and steady; with a determination to do his duty and leave the results to God, against which the waves of outward opposition and inward discouragements beat alike in vain. It was no wonder that Mr. Lowder spoke of it as a heavy blow to the Mission when Mackonochie became the first Vicar of St. Alban's, Holborn.