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56. CHAPTER LVI (continued)
One thing, however, did begin to loom out of the general vagueness, and to this he instinctively turned as trying to seize it--I mean, the fact that he was saving very few souls, whereas there were thousands and thousands being lost hourly all around him which a little energy such as Mr Hawke's might save. Day after day went by, and what was he doing? Standing on professional etiquette, and praying that his shares might go up and down as he wanted them, so that they might give him money enough to enable him to regenerate the universe. But in the meantime the people were dying. How many souls would not be doomed to endless ages of the most frightful torments that the mind could think of, before he could bring his spiritual pathology engine to bear upon them? Why might he not stand and preach as he saw the Dissenters doing sometimes in Lincoln's Inn Fields and other thoroughfares? He could say all that Mr Hawke had said. Mr Hawke was a very poor creature in Ernest's eyes now, for he was a Low Churchman, but we should not be above learning from any one, and surely he could affect his hearers as powerfully as Mr Hawke had affected him if he only had the courage to set to work. The people whom he saw preaching in the squares sometimes drew large audiences. He could at any rate preach better than they.
Ernest broached this to Pryer, who treated it as something too outrageous to be even thought of. Nothing, he said, could more tend to lower the dignity of the clergy and bring the Church into contempt. His manner was brusque, and even rude.
Ernest ventured a little mild dissent; he admitted it was not usual, but something at any rate must be done, and that quickly. This was how Wesley and Whitfield had begun that great movement which had kindled religious life in the minds of hundreds of thousands. This was no time to be standing on dignity. It was just because Wesley and Whitfield had done what the Church would not that they had won men to follow them whom the Church had now lost.
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