MANNING'S visit to Lavington in September, 1851, set Randall to his peculiar task--the task of standing firm against the Roman claim in pulpit and parish, and at the same time upholding and continuing the doctrines and practices which Manning and Laprimaudaye had maintained in church and parish. He consulted his father about the Roman Catholic difficulties, and was given two rules to guide him in preaching which he certainly obeyed all his life.
1. 'Teach positively rather than negatively; dwell upon the assertion of Truth rather than on the confutation of Error.'
2. 'Without in the least assuming a controversial air, lay down the Truth plainly and distinctly as a Thing of Course, a Matter that your Hearers are not likely to question.'
As to the other part of his duty, his friends were his chief difficulty. Manning had left his two churches arranged and vested in the way which is now normal throughout the Church of England. The prayers were read at prayer desks in the chancel, facing north and south. The altars were vested with coloured frontals according to the season, of the usual pattern; on retables behind the altar stood the cross, two candles, and two vases of flowers. Manning had preached in his surplice, turned eastward at the Creed, and taken the eastward position in celebrating Holy Communion.
All this was very unusual in 1851, and both Bishop Wilberforce and Mr. James Randall strongly felt that after so great a catastrophe all these ritualistic innovations should cease. Bishop Wilberforce's requests sound very strange to the Churchmen of to-day, but in justice to the Bishop it must be remembered that he was only asking Richard Randall to be a Church of England man of the period. The Bishop hoped that henceforth there would be 'real communion tables instead of sham altars.' A 'real communion table' was an oak structure covered with a flowing crimson covering usually of velvet. It became 'a sham altar' if the coverings were tight fitting, of a colour corresponding with the season, and if there was a shelf at the back for the ornaments of the Church ordered by the Prayer Book.
As to flowers on the altar, the Bishop wrote:
My decision is perfectly clear against them. . . . An unobtrusive decking with green at Christmas and Easter is common and therefore desirable, and I see no objection to it in moderation at some other times. But I should only use them when they are customary.
As to the reading of the prayers, the Bishop wished 'a reading place of some sort' erected in Lavington Church where the lessons could be read 'to the people, and the prayers, south: outside the chancel.'
He also desired that the officiant should not turn his back on the people in the Prayer of Consecration or at any other time. Indeed, he told Mr. James Randall that if the eastward position were taken in any part of the service he would not be able to assist at the Holy Communion in Lavington Church.
Randall decided that he could give up none of these things, and the Bishop of Chichester1 does not seem to have interfered. He wrote a long and eager letter to Bishop Wilberforce and got a kindly reply, the sort of reply which endeared Bishop Wilberforce to so many devoted friends.
MY DEAR RANDALL,
Have you ever looked into Robertson's How to Conform to the Liturgy?
I think you wrong in your argument. But I really have not time to enter into the question now. After my visitation I hope to see you. Whatever your Bishop knows of and allows I cannot of course blame; but I will as you desire talk as always with you.
And then the Bishop goes on to write with enthusiastic interest about some of Randall's needs and plans. There is no record of the talk, and the Lavington arrangements were preserved.
During many years of his Lavington life Mr. Randall kept a Journal. It served him for a monitor as to his use of time. As a youth he had convicted himself of a lack of diligence, and he was determined that among the hindrances to God's work in this remote parish, the sloth of its pastor should have no place. The Journal reveals a
[Dr. A. T. Gilbert, formerly Principal of Brasenose College. Randall seems in fact to have consulted Dr. Gilbert only as to whether he might preach in a gown on Sunday afternoons, and as to the best way to meet tampering with his flock by Roman Catholics. It was Dr. Gilbert who inhibited Dr. J. M. Neale, Warden of Sackville College, in 1847; and the sentence was not removed till 1863. The ground of inhibition was the furniture of Sackville College Chapel, the Bishop tolerating only 'a decent low table' without a cross. 'When I entered the chapel,' wrote Dr. Gilbert, 'and saw the degrading character of Romanistic observances so decidedly exhibited, I felt it to be my duty by whatever power I might have, to stop Mr. Neale from continuing to debase the minds of these poor people with his spiritual haberdashery.']
sequence of completely occupied days, every minute of which is accounted for. There are few revelations of the writer's interior life; he is revealed incidentally in what he has to say about his work. The Journal is the record of an heroic fulfilment of a ceaseless, monotonous round of duties. A weekday in Lent 1852 may be taken as a sample. It only differs from other week-days as to the somewhat earlier hour of rising and the greater amount of sermon preparation.
Friday, February 27th. Rose at 5.30. Mattins at 6, seven or eight there. Private work and sermon. Breakfast. Litany at 9. Administered Holy Communion privately to two persons. Paid visits. Sermon and letters. Finished Sermon i and began 2. Callers. Sermon again. Prepared lecture. 6, Evensong, many there. Lent Lecture after 2nd Lesson: Ruskin's Stones of Venice. Tea. Sermon. Prayers. Journal and Parish Papers.
By 'Parish Papers' is meant registers of services and attendance and records of visits. The record of visits paid to his people survives. It reveals his relation to a considerable number of his people, his dealing with sin and doubt, his ministry in sickness and sorrow. The more private passages are always written in Greek characters. Thus he remarks about a wedding: Bridegroom beaned samfullg. It is the story of a gallant effort extending over many years to meet the needs of the English peasant with the Book of Common Prayer.
On the whole it is a sad story. The majority of the people receive the Rector stolidly, apathetically, with a good deal of courteous patience. They acquiesce, or are silent, or argue, or at times try to improve upon his exhortations. But their souls are inarticulate. It is sad to read so many adverse notes, 'cold and indifferent,' 'turned away with impatience,' 'not impressed,' 'ready to assent without thought.' Some neglect their religious duties because they do not like the chanting, others do not come to Holy Communion because 'people who do not go are as good as those who do.' Randall writes in his Journal on December 31, 1855:
So ended a year of much falling back, both for myself and flock. Things look dark, within and without. Much cause for grief and fear in all that goes on in the parish. My words powerless to incite to greater holiness, and little wonder seeing what my own life is.
And again on January 6th:
This is all sad and heavy work, and I am wellnigh brokenhearted.
The Rector tried gallantly to induce his parishioners to open their grief to him, but this one had never done anything very wrong, that one had 'been falsely spoken of.' One old man wished to know if his son had been 'telling on him.' There was a tendency to being afraid to do 'what dying people do,' for fear the doing of it should hasten death.
But there is a brighter side to the picture. Some were restored 'after much preparation' to Holy Communion. In continued sickness the Rector gave a course of instruction which in some cases extended over years, each lesson being carefully noted that the course might be properly progressive. In such cases Holy Communion was given at regular intervals, a little group of neighbours being gathered to the sick bed to participate, and these simple Eucharists in the cottages of Lavington and Graffham must have had a great power in extending the sacramental life over the parish.
A few instances of his work may be extracted from the Rector's book.
A. B. is a young woman who has returned very ill from service in London. She welcomes the Rector warmly when he comes to see her. On his first visit he speaks to her of the uses of sickness: (i) It is a trial of patience; (2) of Faith and Trust; (3) It is a call to repentance. It is sent by God in love and has a special message for the young who naturally think little of death.
Two days afterwards the Rector uses part of the Visitation Office and invites the girl to consider sickness in the light of a preparation for judgement. He gives a short instruction on the Creed as far as the article on the Judgement. The girl receives the teaching thankfully.
Next time he recites the Litany for the Sick and goes on with his instruction. The mission of the Holy Ghost is described and the possibility of resisting His voice in the heart, in Holy Scripture, and in the ministries of the Church. Then the Rector speaks of the Holy Catholic Church and dwells on her kindness and readiness to help her children. He passes on to the forgiveness of sin and asks the girl whether she cares that she has sinned against God. He paints the return of the penitent, the solemn admission of guilt, the pardon and communion of the Body and Blood, and the power of not returning to evil courses which is part of the Christian experience.
A few days afterwards he speaks of the resurrection of the body, and the honour and dignity of the body, its holiness, and purity: the importance of guarding eyes, tongue, and the other faculties from wrong use. He reminds the sick girl that all our sins remain fresh to God's sight as though just committed. He urges repentance and speaks of the hope of glory, God's design to grant everlasting life, sickness often His instrument to save us from losing it. He exhorts the girl not to reject the offer of God's love. She seems affected and her thoughts go to a brother of hers; she says she wishes he had somebody to speak to him in this way.
On the next occasion after the Litany of Penitence A. B. confesses her sins, with signs of contrition.
Two days after the Rector helps her about amendment and resolution against further temptation.
The girl now becomes more ill and is prepared for communion. She says she sometimes wishes to recover, but that her main wish is for the sense of pardon. A few days after that she would wish to go and be free of temptation if certain of forgiveness. On the day before her communion she speaks of her life being now ended and death near. Her communion gives her a sense of the blessedness of God's visitation. She shows an increasing dread of the Judgement Day. Her thoughts turn to the parable of the virgins and the danger of being found without oil and light. The Rector keeps the atonement before her, the propitiation of Christ's death and passion. She accepts the message of the Cross and applies it to herself.
On the next visit she is penitent and full of thankfulness. During the last days she is most attentive, grateful, and affectionate. She is evidently living in the peace of the Lord. She dies in the Rector's absence, her mother ministering to her and reciting the Miserere as she passes away.
C. D. was an old shepherd, one of Archdeacon Manning's faithful. For many years he had not missed the daily office in church, and when the Rector was called to him in serious illness, he found himself in the presence of a saint. The Rector notes that in meditating with the old man on the first penitential psalm he found himself insensibly dwelling on the mercy of God. The old shepherd exhibited an acute sense of sinfulness and was quick in the Visitation Office to condemn himself; the Rector was in the unusual position of having to soothe and calm his penitent, as he prepared him for communion. C. D. recovered for a time, but in November two years later the Rector writes, 'he has been failing in body for some time, ripening, I trust, in soul; calm and patient, often now unable to come to the week-day Morning Prayers, sometimes not on Sunday.'
The old man took to his bed about this time. He is helped to make his self-examination and confession, and then there is a long list of happy ministries, litanies, and communions, and words of encouragement.
The last message is whispered on S. Thomas's Day, 'Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.' He sleeps through the days tranquilly, but on Christmas Eve he revives and recognizes the Rector and hears the commendatory prayer. On Christmas Day, while the great Christmas Communion was in progress, the old shepherd enters Paradise, passing without sigh or struggle, and the Rector ends the record--
a blessed day for going. He knows more of what our weak words and praises mean. So humble, patient, and devout a man was not often to be seen--one to learn from and in whom to marvel at the power of God's grace. Oh! happy soul, mayest thou think of me where thou art, and pray there as thou didst in unwearied love here.
In another place it is noted that some time before his last illness, old Lintott had received the Blessed Sacrament on his birthday by the sick bed of another servant of God, Mary Upfold. Mary Upfold's example had upheld her young Rector during the latter part of his difficult first year at Lavington. She was one of the exquisite flowers of Christian piety which bloom unseen in many English cottage homes. The Rector thus notes her last days:
June 1, 1852. Mary Upfold dying, calm and quiet. Knew me. Anima mea, disce sequi. Doce Tu Qui illam docuisti.
June 4th. Mary still lingering. Patient, calm, but suffering. Her eye brightens at my step and salutation, and to-day she feebly murmured her old saying, 'I humbly thank you.'
June 7th. Mary Upfold deceased about a quarter to six this morning, quietly and without a struggle. She lies calm and beautiful. A few hours since her poor face was so shrunken and distorted with pain, now all its old placid beauty has returned. Is this a gracious dispensation to soothe mourning hearts that they may have happy memories of the last looks of those they loved, or is it not in some at least an earnest of the glory of Resurrection, the change from corruption to in-corruption, from dishonour to glory, from weakness to power, from the natural to the spiritual body? Blessed, patient, holy, peaceful, Mary! Who could grieve for thee? Who could wish to hold thee here with thy sharp sufferings? Or to separate thee from Him Whom thou lovest and hast found? Who could fail to miss thee with thy bright kindly eye and thy loving smile and thy calm resigned looks, and thy humble sayings, thy few words of faith, and the teaching of thy life, formed after the pattern of thy Lord's and by His grace? When, if ever, we meet again it will only be too well if I sit at thy feet to learn from thee in heaven, as I should have learned from thee on earth.
The life of the parish which had sheltered these holy souls circled round the school and the church. Mr. Randall catechized his children several times each week; his schemes of instruction were very carefully planned, the teaching on the Christian way of salvation was exhaustive and minute. Six years after he came to Lavington he had built good airy schools close to Graffham Church and henceforward a good deal of his teaching was done in the school itself. In earlier days he taught in church. He established a night school for the older boys and worked in it for years. His teaching of the younger children was not confined to divinity. He describes English history lessons, and how greatly some of his sayings had amused the little girls. From time to time he examined the school: on one occasion at least Bishop Wilberforce himself undertook this work.
From the first there was double daily service and a celebration every Sunday. [Bishop Wilberforce would sometimes himself say daily Mattins at Lavington.] Saint's Day celebrations were gradually added. The first Michaelmas, All Saints' Day, and Epiphany celebrations are noted. Before their introduction the Rector had been in the habit of reading what he oddly calls 'Holy Communion without Celebration,' evidently the Ante-Communion Service. There were no early celebrations until the later years of the Rector's stay at Lavington. But in the course of his reading he became convinced that it was his duty to receive Holy Communion fasting, and during the greater part of the Lavington time he went without his breakfast on Sundays.
Before the Saint's Day celebrations were instituted he would try to arrange private celebrations on such days. He often gave communion privately in the cottages of the more devout.
There was a good deal of additional preaching and teaching in Advent and Lent, and there is no doubt that in his earlier years at Lavington the Rector preached and taught too much. So many considerations, such a variety of ideas presented to the people in such rapid succession, must have confused and dazzled them. He was very sensitive as to the attitude of his audience and frequently notes that he has failed to carry the people with him. On such occasions he would sometimes abruptly break off his discourse 'with a few words about my grief to see their indifference.' He was forgetting the slowness of the rustic mind and the slender vocabulary of his people. His preaching exhausted him and produced attacks of severe depression. His father writes to him in response to a depressed letter:
I do not wonder at your finding Difficulty in answering what I must take the Liberty of calling the unreasonable Demand for sermons which you have raised up against yourself. But as to the doing no Good by your labours in the Parish, do not let that fancy ride you. Keep on; and you shall do Good in the due Season that God shall appoint. Remember what the Preacher said to you on that Subject when you were first admitted to the Ministry. If that eminent Divine ever spoke a Word of sound and trustworthy Advice in his Life he did so then; and even then he forecast the Thoughts of Temperaments like yours and addressed himself to them.
Mr. Randall came to agree with his father. In closing a volume of his diary in the fourth year of his work, he writes:
Abounding blessings, merciful warnings, humbling checks and trials. Gloria tibi, Domine! . . . A marked improvement in the attendance at church and holy communion, and also in the behaviour of the boys. Perhaps troubles and failures have opened my eyes now to see that when I first came I trusted too much to work, visiting, catechizing, sermons, influence, too little to prayer, and therefore too little to God. I have been driven to Him in my helplessness. I must beware not to hope for His aid without exertion. Bishop Wilson's maxim applies here: 'Study without prayer is atheism, as prayer without study is presumption.'
On the whole the people, well trained by a succession of devout rectors, came to church and communicated in satisfactory numbers. Mr. Randall made a great point of the general observance of Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day. He brought strong pressure to bear upon his farmers to suspend work on those days that they might be given wholly to devotion. On his first Ascension Day he writes: 'Bishop gives holydays to his men, farmers do not. I observed that all the shops were open. People did not come much to church. 28 communicants.' The words were written eighty years ago. It is to be feared that twenty-eight communicants on Ascension Day would surprise and delight most rectors of similarly circumstanced parishes to-day.
Next year two of the farmers gave a half-holiday. The year after there was a fair attendance in the morning, and 'the church was full' in the afternoon.
On Ash Wednesday, 1852, 'The Church was fairly full morning and evening. The farmers did not give holydays.'
On Ash Wednesday, 1853, 'The Benedicite was chanted. W. gave a half holyday; the Bishop a holyday. The church was full of men at 3 in the afternoon.'
On Ascension Day, 1855, all the farmers gave a holyday except one, and all the Sunday school girls were given new frocks. In the morning the church was full--the families of all the farmers being represented, and there were many communicants. The church was full again in the afternoon. After Evensong the elder children climbed the downs with the Rector and went to the 'sea-view.' 'We talked, and I told them stories,' he notes, 'and read from the Lyra and Neale's Lent Legends. We went on to Charlton Woods and came home laden with flowers. It was a merry party. . . . Put on our new superfrontal.'
Old customs continued to be honoured at Lavington. The first All Saints' Day has against it the note 'gave some All Hallowe'en cakes.' On Christmas Eve 'many parties of Carols came,' and at the beginning of May 'the girls came round with their garlands.'
Ancient superstitions survived as well. Soon after Randall's arrival at Lavington, an old labouring man came and begged him to 'unbehag' him. He had been 'behagged,' he said, by an old bedridden cripple. Randall went to see the accused. 'No, I've not done it and I can prove it,' he protested. 'Did you hear an owl hoot or see a hare cross the road as you went by? If you did not hear the owl or see the hare, there could not have been any behagging.' This was considered satisfactory, and peace was restored.
New Year's Day began with an early Mattins, celebration, and sermon at 6. In 1852, 'The church was pretty full. A solemn service. At first dark without, the church lighted. Then as the New Year dawned, the candles paled and there were we anxiously awaiting our new trial time from the hands of Him Who both gives time and grace to use time well.'
Archdeacon Manning had taught his people to come to early prayers, notwithstanding the fact that the two churches were inconveniently far from the people--Lavington in the centre of the Park, Graffham set against the beech woods on the top of a steep rise above the village. Randall continued to provide six o'clock services for the benefit of the early workers. There was a six o'clock Mattins on Fridays in Lent; in some years on Wednesdays and Fridays. In the Crimean winter the early services were continued notwithstanding the terrible weather. On February 11th, 'The Lavington bell is frozen.' On the 18th, 'The bell is still immovable.' 'The snow is over the hedges' is another entry. The Rector took to reading to the children in their imprisonment and got to know them much better. The merry flower-laden Ascension Day party which followed had its origin in the labour of these gloomy days. On one occasion it rained hard when the glass was below freezing point, the trees became loaded with icicles, then a strong wind rose and great boughs were smashed by the violence of the storm and the weight of the ice. Very few people ventured to church on these terrible mornings, but when the fast day for peace came there was a great response. About thirty came to the six o'clock Mattins, when there was a short sermon. At the Litany and Eucharist at ten the church was 'crowded,' and at three o'clock Evensong it was 'crammed.' There was a second Evensong at seven to which about fifty came.
Those who remember the extraordinary force and persuasiveness of Mr. Randall's catechizings and Confirmation instructions in later days, will be interested to trace their beginnings. They were the product of his own devotion and enthusiasm trained by his father's sagacity. Before beginning his first Confirmation work at Lavington in 1853 he asked his father to send him all his Confirmation matter that he might model his own work upon it. In sending it Mr. James Randall wrote:
I most gratefully remember the assistance you rendered to me last time (in 1851). I had begun to think that there never would or could be such a Confirmation held in Binfield as was held mainly through your Exertions in that memorable Year. But from what I see of Savory's Diligence and Activity I now hope that we shall be as successful again.
And Mr. Randall added two precepts, the two that all good young priests need to lay to heart: 'Do not be too anxious.' 'Do not expect too much from your candidates.'
When the Rector had completed his scheme of instructions he sent it to Bishop Wilberforce for his criticism. The Bishop, from 'the train, near Oxford,' wrote:
I would be indeed glad to give you any sort of aid in your Confirmation work. I think your plan a very good and complete one for such a Parish. As the time draws nearer you must get them alone, no really close work is done except alone.
I should try to make it an occasion for seeking out and giving another chance to the negligent ones of whom you speak. I do not think that you ought to be so cast down about these rough ones. Of course it must be distressing to you as a man; but as far as the great thing goes, the saving their souls, I believe you do really gain quite as many as amongst those who seem to be smoother and gentler. I doubt not that in the great day some of these rough ones shall gem your crown.
Three years afterwards Mr. Randall asked the Bishop of Chichester to allow Bishop Wilberforce to hold a Confirmation in Graffham church in the middle of June. The preparations went on all through the spring. On the 1st Sunday in Lent he notes,' Crowded church for the sermon explanatory of Confirmation.' In May 'much Confirmation work hopeful': 'arranged Private Work with the candidates. This work wears me. God prosper it!' In June there was daily work with candidates.
On June 15th the choir stalls were taken away and the altar rails placed at the chancel arch, the people stood up as the procession entered, men on one side of the church, women on the other. After the Confirmation the candidates had tea in the schools, most of the parents and all the farmers except one. It was Graffham fair-day and it was the crowning triumph that none of the candidates went to the fair.
The next Sunday was the First Communion day:
'It was very striking,' writes the Rector, 'to see the nave filled for Communion. Nearly all the newly confirmed were there, apparently earnest and devout. I trust so fair a promise of fruit may not be blighted. Some there, whom I could little have hoped to see gathered in five years ago; saw the candidates for a minute after service. The church was decked with flowers and its festal vestments both for the Confirmation and First Comrmmion. The number of Communicants was so large (90) that I thought it best to put off Evensong till 3.30 when the church was full.'
The Harvest Home, under Bishop Wilberforce as Squire and Mr. Randall as Rector, developed into a very perfect specimen of its kind and achieved a great reputation in the countryside. It drew out all the Rector's predominant qualities: his religiousness, his organizing ability, his social and dramatic gifts. The people used to meet at the 'Great Oak at Galloways,' a conspicuous tree on one of the farms; here they organized themselves into a procession--the children, the band, the older folk. Each farmer placed himself at the head of his men, then with band playing and banners flying they all advanced upon the Rectory. They found the Rector surrounded by a group of neighbouring priests, and he began the day by greeting his people and striking the high note of thankfulness to Almighty God. In the beautiful meadow studded with trees which stretches from the Rectory into the wooded curve of the downs, the tables were spread and a flag marked the position of each farmer and his men. At each table one of the neighbouring priests was placed.
During dinner the Bishop of Oxford, accompanied by the Lavington House party, appeared on the scene and passed from table to table with a charming word for everybody.
After dinner there was cricket and dancing and sports and children's games till six. One of Randall's sons wrote down some details of these sports in which he had joined as a boy.
There was a greased pole: and wheel-barrow races with a blind-folded man in the shafts of the barrow and a not blind man to run beside and direct him. Great sport that was; and I have seen my Father and Bishop Wilberforce each coaching his man and running a close race, roaring with laughter. Then there was cricket and football--save the mark--and races for the women carrying eggs or potatoes in spoons, and I don't know what else.
During the afternoon the county neighbours arrived at intervals, and at six there was a crowded Evensong, very hearty and congregational, with what was rare and rather alarming in those days, chanted psalms and many hymns. Then the people went home, and the choir had tea, and the farmers and their wives went into the drawing room and had tea with the Bishop and the neighbouring gentry. After tea there was music until nine, and still the Rector had strength left to write up his diary and add 'A very happy day.'
These extracts from the Journal suggest that Mr. Randall's work ran an easy and triumphant course, but that was far from being the case; it was heavily marked with the cross. There were many failures and disappointments, and the strength of his personality and the persistency of his appeal were all the while provoking an undercurrent of opposition which broke into the open trouble of 1858 and 1859.
There are notes of two grave cases of immorality in the parish during this earlier period; it is evident that the Rector acted faithfully and sternly, and although public opinion would in each case be strongly with him, a certain resentment probably smouldered here and there among the ill-disposed. There were other cases in which he had to fight public opinion. Under certain circumstances he refused to use the Churching Service publicly; in every such case he stood alone. His flock stood up to him and stoutly refused to agree with him in the matter. He never passed over a case of illegitimacy in silence. He always tried to deal faithfully with the persons involved. He was equally plain-spoken about drunkenness. All this meant bitterness and groups of estranged and sullen people.
How strongly he could feel and act in what he considered to be a case of wrongdoing is illustrated by the story of one of Archdeacon Manning's people who determined to follow him into the Roman Communion. This was a tiresome person who, in his first year at Lavington, gave Mr. Randall endless trouble by vacillating between Rome and England in alternate fits of impatience and penitence, both of which she apparently enjoyed. At length she went to London, saw Mr. Manning and was received. It is greatly to Mr. Randall's honour that this event afflicted him deeply. In a man of his sensitiveness one great trouble can overcast the whole horizon with gloom, and it is characteristic of him that side by side with a note of this secession is the entry for S. Matthew's Day, 'Wretched day with all the signs of trouble, people's hearts cold, tempers stubborn, self failing, church empty.'
The convert returned for a few days to Graffham and then left with her family to live elsewhere. On November 2nd Mr. Randall received a petition from her that she might be restored to communion in the Church of England. She could not stand the Roman Catholic service, the denial of the Cup and the prayers to the saints. She had only been happy for a fortnight. But in this fortnight Mr. Manning had rebaptized her and all her children. She insisted on returning to Graffham, where she was very sternly received by Mr. Randall and where her presence was the source of much discussion and criticism among the people.
The case created so much comment that Mr. Randall submitted it to the Bishop of Chichester. He proposed to preach a sermon dealing with it. This the Bishop of Chichester objected to. 'It is foreign to our usage,' the Bishop wrote, 'and in one aspect might even be considered as illegal. It might come under the head of brawling.' The Bishop desired the children to be re-admitted to the school but to be placed apart from the other children as an example and warning. He wished this discipline to be continued until the mother was re-admitted to Holy Communion. In a postscript his Lordship modified this ruling: 'I am not sure,' he wrote, 'the children might not be fused into the general body of the school before the mother is received to Holy Communion--on signs of her improvement--to encourage her.' To the modern mind these directions are startling, but to Mr. Randall they were examples of that godly discipline of the Primitive Church, the restoration of which in the Church of England is, says the Prayer Book, 'much to be wished,' The Bishop also proposed that the restored person should occupy a penitential place apart from others in church. Mr. Randall conveyed the Bishop's injunctions to her and she was willing to submit to them, but before carrying them out he consulted Bishop Wilberforce, who wrote:
(I) I think you do quite right--
(a) in seeing her,
(b) sifting her sincerity, severely, closely, doubtingly,
(c) in forming your own opinion on it,
(d) in telling her that we shall welcome her back if it be a true penitential return,
(e) but that we must use all means to ascertain this and shall inquire at her recent place of residence as to her past conduct,
(f) that we may require a residence under observation before letting her return.
(II) Then if she ultimately is admitted she should be clearly admitted by some public form.
I should not at present re-admit her to Communion.
A second note is, like the Bishop of Chichester's postscript, rather more lenient.
As to X, I think it would be impossible to place her in a penitential place in these churches and likely to invite ridicule. I should at once receive the children into the school, etc., and I should privately advise her not to put herself into a prominent place in the church and I should do no more.
The admission of X to Holy Communion was deferred for some time, the Bishop desiring it, Mr. Randall protesting, but at the same time treating her with great kindness and giving her strong exhortation. At last she was reconciled to the Church and established herself in a farm not far off where Mr. Randall continued from time to time to see her. Ultimately she contracted a second marriage and left the neighbourhood.
It is plain that work on lines which recall the episcopate of the saintly Bishop Wilson must provoke opposition and we are not surprised to find that Dissent organized itself against the earnest and strenuous Rector.
In the spring of 1854 the Dissenters started meetings in a cottage in the parish. One evening the Rector went down, and found 'eight or ten people met together.' He entered the meeting and offered to preach. They refused to allow him to do so. We should probably consider this an unwise proceeding; later in life Mr. Randall would not have acted thus, but in his early days it would appear to him that as God's appointed shepherd of souls in the place it was his bounden duty to face the intruders and state the Church's claim. On the following Sunday he preached on the subject of the Dissenting Mission. This opposition strengthened the Dissenters and gave zest to their enterprise, and on the following Sunday the Rector has to note: 'The meeting to be opened with a licence to-morrow. Is this a trial or a scourge?'
The depression such opposition threw him into was acute, but the strength of his character and his unflinching assertion of principle on all occasions so impressed people that only his intimate circle knew how he suffered. He confides to his diary, Sunday, January 11, 1852:
A most wretched day, all my work badly and inefficiently done. People careless, heavy, irreverent. I begin to think that the work here is more than I have head for, and that these rough spirits are not to be managed by such as I.
But he struggles on and is able to record in Lent, 'Wonderful help from God.' He is quickly cheered when the people seem 'orderly, devout, hearty, and attentive,' and he notes that nature harmonizes with his mood. 'A beautiful bright spring day. Bright and cheering in more senses than one.'
The beauty of his surroundings could not always draw him out of a mood of depression, but it could always refresh him when he was merely tired by hard work. Here are the thoughts of a Lent Sunday evening.
March 21st. We walked over the down toward Heyland. It was a most lovely evening, with some cloud about from which the sun stole out as we walked and threw his last light over meadow, tree, and hill, giving a peculiarly soft glory to the dull, dead wood. So does the true Light, the Sun of Righteousness, make death itself look fair, so falls the grace of God on a dead soul, having no beauty in itself but afterwards paying back the gleam and genial warmth of heaven with its rich flush of green. The leaves are first called forth by the cheering sun and then the sunlight gives them a double beauty. So it is with God's grace and man's works--or God's work in man. It was such an evening as one seldom sees, when the fairness of God's handiwork settles down upon the soul, filling it with a love and awe and joy, mixed with sadness--a time and a place with which words have little business, and one utters little, as if one were in a church or as if one feared to seem to commend God Himself.
We walked home wondering again and again at our happy lot.
Read The Christian Year till dinner time.
Fell asleep thinking of The Christian Year.
It was Mr. Randall's good fortune to have means which enabled him to get away occasionally for short visits, and these breaks in the monotony of his country life always cheered him. He was greatly dependent on the society and affection of those nearest to him. This he reveals often unconsciously in his Journal. The parish certainly seemed more intractable and indifferent when Mrs. Randall was away from home. To return from a visit without her was always a sad experience which found expression in the Journal. Days on which his father and mother and sister left Lavington after one of their visits are set down as 'very heavy days.' Mr. James Randall always threw himself with great vigour into the life and work of his son's parish, taking part in the daily offices, teaching in the schools, paying a friendly visit here and there among the cottages. Father and son spent an hour or so each morning in study together, now the Greek Testament, now S. Cyprian or S. Chrysostom or S. Anselm.
There is an entry in the Journal which suggests a pathetic contrast to the bent and aged figure his Clifton people used to watch passing so slowly from the choir to lectern or pulpit. When his mother and sister left after their first visit, Randall, who had been delayed in the parish, missed saying good-bye to them by ten minutes. They were driving to Chichester across the downs; Randall ran up the great chalk cliff by a short cut and partly using a passing cart but mostly running on foot, followed them for nine miles to within three miles of Chichester. He could not catch them; they went over each hill just as he hove in sight. So he dropped the chase and consoled himself by visiting Boxgrove Church, and came striding back over the high down road in strong wind and rain.
The friendship with Bishop Wilberforce and his family was a constant joy and interest to Randall, and the weeks during which the Bishop was at Lavington, keeping open house and entertaining many of the most interesting people of the day, must have been very bright spots in the Lavington year. Mr. Randall seems to have preserved every scrap of writing the Bishop ever sent him--notes enclosing alms, discussing a new fence for the churchyard, borrowing a pony, offering a clerical guest as helper on Sunday, or sending a hasty dinner invitation, all are preserved.
Here is a letter from the Bishop about a case of poaching:
MY DEAR RANDALL,
I hardly know enough of this case to venture to interfere.
i. There is great danger in not supporting a man in so difficult and obnoxious a post as a gamekeeper's.
ii. If the boy has already learned evil, a taste of prison early may sicken him.
iii. The Ferreting is quite a different thing from knocking over a rabbit or hare, etc., which may be done on an impulse of the hunting spirit within. But having ferrets implies a proairesiV, and if such an one is let off, how is any one to be punished?
There are very many letters of interest, written from scores of country houses, from the House of Lords, from the train, all conveying down the years a sense of the extraordinary fascination of the Bishop's personality, his strength, his sympathy, his delicacy of touch, his kindness, his love. It is plain that he greatly loved and honoured Mr. Randall. He was sometimes in conflict with him, but it was always the conflict of a father with a much loved son who is striking out a hazardous course. The following extracts from Randall's Journal for 1857 illustrate both his relation to Bishop Wilberforce, and the Bishop's extraordinary capacity for work and movement.
June 3rd. To Cuddesdon.
June 4th. Examination (of candidates for ordination) still going on. Helped to look over papers. The Bishop gave short charges morning and evening. The church has been restored and much improved since I had seen it. The college built, and the vicarage. We sat up late at night looking over papers.
June 5th. In the parish church Mattins are at 8.30, and Evensong at 7, both chanted. The Bishop of Kentucky and Mrs. Smith came. They are strange, simple people, of great earnestness, and a thorough sympathy with all real work. He is thinner than a lath, and dryer than a bone; no theologian, but a man of warm heart and earnest piety. I am made his chaplain.
June 6th. H.C. Parochial papers, the most of which I looked over. Dean Trench is here to examine. Liddon is a most taking man and one of deep piety. [The Rev. H. P. Liddon, Vice-Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College, 1854-59; Canon of S. Paul's, 1870-90.] In the evening the charge was delivered. One or two men have been rejected. This has been a work of high privilege, and renewed many old and mixed memories of my own ordination, and what has passed since. It has served as a 'Retreat,' and I have found great help in it from the Memorale vitae sacerdotalis and Manuale Sacerdotum.
Sunday. Went in procession to church which was beautifully decorated. The service solemn and well performed. The Bishop of Kentucky preached: the sermon was earnest, but full of hasty and ill-considered theological mistakes. At the Evensong I preached.
Monday, June 8th. The candidates left. Drove with the two Bishops and my father to Radley. There was a Confirmation there, and a most solemn service it was. We all went into the chapel, which was most beautifully decorated, in procession. The Bishop sat on the north side of the altar with his chaplain; the Bishop of Kentucky on the south side, and I with him. The Litany was beautifully chanted by all the boys. Then followed Veni Creator, and the Confirmation service. The Bishop addressed the candidates most touchingly: he confirmed each boy separately, sitting in a chair in front of the altar: then addressed them again, and ended by giving the blessing from the altar step with his right hand, holding his pastoral staff in his left. We went to the school where a boy made a very good Latin oration. Sewell described what the college was doing and the Bishop spoke; then the Bishop of Kentucky, who fairly burst into tears as he found all and more than all realized in the college, which he had been in vain attempting in America. We dined in the hall, where the Bishop again spoke. All his addresses were of a different character, each exactly what it should have been, and all wonderful instances of his power of using the opportunities which are thrown in his way. We went back to Cuddesdon. Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone came, Sir W. and Lady Heathcote, Mr. and Mrs. Phillimore, and many more.
June 9th. The service to celebrate the College opening. Assisted at H.C. Archdeacon Sandford preacher. The service was fully choral and well performed. We all had luncheon in a large tent. The Bishop spoke, and was obliged to leave immediately for the House of Lords to oppose the Divorce Bill, which is too sure to pass. It is a most dreadful measure. Gladstone spoke in the highest terms of the Bishop in his absence.
June 10th. The Bishop of Oxford was back again for breakfast. He had been at the House of Lords, left it with the Bishop of St. Davids, saw the great fire at Pickford's, did not go to bed, but came down by the train. At n Mattins and H.C. for consecration of Wheatley new church. The Bishop preached a most wonderful sermon, which was listened to with breathless interest.
The Bishop was obliged to go away directly after church.
There was Evensong, at which Liddon preached. His manner is very striking and earnest.
In the evening I went to see Liddon, and had some talk with him
On points where Mr. Randall came into conflict with the ordinary public opinion of the day, he rarely if ever had the Bishop with him, but it is clear that in his heart of hearts the Bishop liked the things that brought Mr. Randall into conflict with public opinion. Bishop Wilberforce was always able, with the most perfect honesty and conviction, to make statements which gratified the timorous Protestantism of his time, but in fact he did very much to assist all that was deepest and best in the Catholic movement.
The relationship between the Bishop and the Rector was most intimate and affectionate. When the Bishop was coming for a flying visit, and it was inconvenient to open Lavington House, he felt he could propose himself as a guest at the Rectory. As for example, November 22, 1852:
MY DEAR RANDALL,
Perhaps I may come over from Blackdown to your service next Sunday with the Bishop of Capetown. Perhaps I might be able to stay over Monday. If so, would it be convenient to you to receive me and my horses; or me, and send my horses to my house? Please send me one line by return to Fulham Palace.
Your ever affec.
In a letter to his wife Randall describes a walk on the downs with the Bishop after heavy rain:
You would have laughed at the figure I cut, equipped in a pair of the Bishop's gaiters with my trousers pulled up to my knees, and only fancy the Bishop himself buttoning them on to me. If this is not a most lowly act for a Bishop, I know not what is! We dined with him afterwards, but there was very little particularly interesting conversation either then or on the walk. The Sunday evenings at Lavington are certainly not equal to what I remember at Cuddesdon. However, he read us a very good translation he had made of a quaint but vigorous and good old Latin hymn.
It was natural that the Rector should sometimes confide his depression to so loving and understanding a friend. At the beginning of 1856 the Bishop writes:
I am grieved to see that you wrote in low spirits. I know that there must be times of gloom as well as of cheerfulness, but really, my dear Friend, I think you have in your parish a great deal to encourage you. I have no doubt that there is in it a better and healthier tone than there was. May God give you all encouragement and success that is good for you
On another occasion when Randall had complained of the tone his own Bishop had seemed to use towards him:
I have no doubt that as to your Bishop it was mere fancy. You are very modest and Bishops are often mistaken. No doubt he was thinking whether he could reduce some three-page sentence into a terse perspicuity when you thought he was frowning upon you.
Much later, in 1863, the Bishop wrote from Lavington House on S. Stephen's Day--
will gladly help you to-morrow if I am up to it. ... I think you must have been cheered yesterday by the sight of your congregation and communicants. I do not think that many country churches could show the sight it did. It was an unspeakable pleasure to me to have my three boys and F. all with us at Communion. I know too well the castings down of a Pastor's heart not to know your trials even though she who loved you so well and used to tell me of them, is taken away. Yet one such sight of a parish in worship is a great answer to these sadnesses.
The Rector for his part shared in the same way all the sorrows and joys of the Bishop's life. It was the Christmas after Mrs. Sargent's death.
The year 1856 was heavily shadowed by the illness and death of the Bishop's eldest son Herbert, who had returned from the Crimea stricken with consumption. The letter of encouragement at the beginning of the year, already quoted, ends with the sentence, 'My dear Herbert is very ill. I dare not look into the black cloud which has settled down on me.'
On the aoth of February the Bishop wrote from Torquay:
MY DEAR R. RANDALL,
This morning at 1.30 my dear son fell asleep; so softly that though I was holding his dear hand and reading the departure prayer I could not say the exact instant when he breathed his last breath of this earth. His penitence was as deep as ever I saw in human being, and his faith in Christ as simple.
Only yesterday he made a full and entire confession of the sins of twenty years to me and had absolution and the Holy Communion. Oh! there are mercies inconceivable mingled with the blow but it is crushing still.
After arrangement for the grave the Bishop adds, 'We are longing for a Lavington morning service and Communion.'
Herbert Wilberforce was laid to rest in Lavington churchyard by his mother's side on the following Sunday, after Mattins and Holy Communion. The Bishop and his family were present at morning service and received Holy Communion together. The Bishop's diary says: 'I cold at the time, overwhelmed after.' The Rector writes, 'The Bishop bore it wonderfully. Walked with the Bishop (after evening service). His usual walk on the downs with us all, and was cheerful as ever.'
The Bishop went away on the Wednesday to take up his work again. 'No stranger,' wrote Archdeacon Randall, 'could have guessed that anything particular had happened to him: though we who knew him could see that his face was drawn and wan.' But the Bishop says to his diary: 'Very weary at night, a sad heart so increases fatigue.'
A great happiness came to the Bishop in the following year. His youngest son Ernest began very seriously to consider the question of taking Holy Orders. Randall had been the strong friend and older companion of the Bishop's sons, and the Bishop in writing to him at Easter, 1857, says:
I shall be very grateful to you for talking thoroughly with my dear Ernest. Oh! what a joy it would be to me to see him a thoroughly good clergyman. Hardly anything could so glad my heart.
There is no record of the conversations which followed between the future Dean of Chichester and the future Bishop but they were strong links in a life-long friendship. When Mr. Ernest Wilber-force was ultimately ordained in 1864 to the curacy of Cuddesdon, Archdeacon Randall who, with his brother archdeacons, had felt a tender interest in the candidate, sent an excellent report of him to the Rector of Lavington, saying that he was 'without Partiality or Hypocrisy the best of the Deacons.'
After two years at Cuddesdon Mr. Wilberforce went to a curacy at Lea in Lincolnshire, and from there his father writes to Richard Randall:
I find dearest Ernest's work here very greatly appreciated. No such preacher got such a hold on the affections of the people. Brought wild navvies to church. But he has overdone himself very much. On Saturday night rather alarmingly.
When the Bishop was at Lavington the Rector saw him in one way or another on most days--sometimes he was the Bishop's secretary. The Bishop, as is well known, had a great power of drawing in those about him to be his clerical helpers. Archdeacon Randall describes a visit to Cuddesdon in early days when after the ladies had retired for the night he and the Bishop turned to at a mass of circulars, appeals for a diocesan fund, and sat up till four in the morning, Mr. Randall folding and the Bishop directing every envelope in his own hand to every man of substance in the diocese.
Sometimes the Bishop and the Rector walked through the woods while the Bishop marked trees, sometimes they rode together on the downs. Randall notes in his Journal: 'rode the new mare, but could not catch the Bishop.' On many evenings he and Mrs. Randall dined with the Bishop and his party. Here they would find Bishop Blomfield of London, Bishop Hamilton of Salisbury, Bishop Gray of Capetown, Mr. Trench, afterwards Archbishop of Dublin, Mr. Claughton, afterwards Bishop of St. Albans, Mr. Hubbard, afterwards Lord Addington, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Sidney Herbert, Lady Bath, Lord Aberdeen, 'who was very silent.' Mr. Roundell Palmer, afterwards Lord Selborne (' I had not seen him since he had examined me for the Heathcote; he was very kind and unaffected'), Baron Alderson, and the Tractarian leaders in whom Randall's soul delighted: Mr. Scott of Hoxton, Mr. Fosbery, Mr. Newland, Mother Harriet of Clewer. It is a misfortune for his biographer that Mr. Randall had always been so much accustomed to live with notable people that he did not take particular note of them. It is tantalizing to hear of a Sunday afternoon walk to the point on the downs where Bishop Wilberforce always read The Christian Year to his guests, outwards with Mr. Keble and homewards with Dr. Neale, and to hear that when they got back the whole party discussed the recent condemnation of Archdeacon Denison on the lawn of Lavington House, and yet to hear no word at all of what passed.
There is a description, gathered from Mr. Randall's recollections, in the Life of Bishop Wilberforce, of a memorable Sunday in 1854 when the Bishop's eldest son, to whom he was passionately devoted, was in the army before Sebastopol and his brother, Archdeacon Wilberforce, was on the verge of joining the Church of Rome. Mr. Randall had met the Bishop on the Saturday riding on the downs, and the Bishop had said that he should not be able to preach on the next day and, 'with a look of anguish and desolation,' had spoken of his brother's secession. But the next morning before service he said to the Rector, 'I will try to preach after all. I have been lying awake the whole night thinking over my poor brother Robert.' The Bishop's own diary says, 'Rose after a sleepless night, worn like a hunted hare.'
The sermon was based on the verse, 'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts,' and the Bishop reminded his hearers that by 'the flesh' is meant not only the body but fallen human nature generally, and that those who are Christ's by choice, crucify the flesh, for any real destruction of the sin principle in human nature is the suffering of crucifixion, which was a lingering death with terrible partial revivals from time to time. 'The sermon,' writes the Rector in his diary, 'was immediately the product of about ten minutes' thought but had been prepared in a sleepless night.'