Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

"FEAR GOD-HONOUR THE KING."

No. X.

JULY 1, 1837.

THE CHURCH AND DISSENT,

CONSIDERED IN THEIR PRACTICAL INFLUENCE.

CHAPTER VIII.

The Duty of Churchmen at the present Crisis.

We have neither sought, nor provoked, the existing conflict. Our opponents have forced it upon us; and our conduct throughout has been defensive. Their object has been to overthrow, what all the obligations of duty bind us to maintain. For this we have made a stand; but, as hitherto we have not interfered with them, or their privileges, so, in what remains to be done, we shall not be tempted to forget Christian charity, and Christian temper. Nothing is required for our triumph but that we should quietly do our duty; nothing for the destruction of our enemies, but that we should stand apart, and leave them to destroy themselves.

They who have been accustomed to think unfavourably of Dissent, would yet scarcely be prepared to find the tendency of the system always hurtful; but, when they consider the principle, they will easily understand why this must inevitably be the case. For, if God have ordained a Church,-which is not to be doubted,--that Church must have some essential character, some fixed principles, of absolute, universal, and perpetual force, which are never to be made subordinate to any arrangements of expediency. There are three necessary parts in the Christian Church:

-the faith of Christ, which is the only foundation; the whole assembly of the faithful, who are the building;-and the government, which preserves the unity, peace, and order of the whole. All these must have a fixed character, because they are essentials; and a difference in essentials would destroy the unity, and catholicity of the Church. If, therefore, Christ hath sent his ministers into the world, as the Father sent him; investing them with his own authority, to teach, and to govern, in his name, then the voluntary principle is rebellion against the ministerial authority of Christ; for it requires those ministers to obey, whom their Lord commissioned to rule; and claims the power of government for the people, whose duty is obedience.

It is not necessary here, to shew, by quotation, and argument, how entirely this is opposed to Scripture, and to reason. This has been proved in the mischief to which it leads. But if wrong at all, it is the very opposite of the right. And, since error, followed out to its application and consequences, must inevitably lead farther and farther from the truth; and truth and error in morals, are identical with good and evil; therefore Dissent, having taken an essential error for its leading and active principle, must always, and inevitably, tend to evil, wherever, and as far as, that error operates.

Nor is this position at all invalidated by the many very estimable persons we find

among dissenters. Their character has been brethren. The rising generation of the clergy

formed by circumstances and causes distinct from Dissent, and they have, in great measure, escaped its influence. They worship in the Meeting-house, because they have been led to suppose that the choice between different sects is only a question of expediency; and they think a dissenting service more spiritual, because habit has associated their religious feelings with it. But they neither allow themselves to be trammelled by the exclusiveness of Dissent, nor will they stoop to its party objects. Such things, indeed, their correct feelings lead them to condemn and despise. Their character is formed by the various influences which operate on society, and it has been shewn how these depend upon the Church.

are to a man opposed to compromise. The laity in communion with the Church, who not long ago regarded Dissent with deference, and respect, have at length learnt to know it; and it is one of the benefits of the Municipal Reform Bill, that it has greatly contributed to this happy result. So completely, and openly, has it identified Dissent with movement politics, that the radical journals distinguished the candidates indifferently, as "churchman, and dissenter;" or "conservative, and radical." None speak well of it now, except its own party; its character with the public is gone. Add to this, that the influence of the Church is greatly, and steadily increasing. In the five years between 1829, and 1834, the number Churchmen and dissenters espectively have of children receiving education in schools formed very mistaken views, because each connected with the National Society was has judged of the other party from data more than doubled. In moderately large belonging to his own. The churchman, ac- towns, and populous districts, hitherto the customed to nothing but what is orderly and strongholds of Dissent, Methodism is fast ocdecent, gave credit to Dissent for the same:cupying the ground which the Church cannot the dissenter formed no idea of any thing fill. Formidable as it has hitherto proved, in the Church better than what he saw its power as a check upon Dissent has hardly around him; and whatever seemed greater, yet appeared. At the beginning of the prehe attributed to pride, and corruption. The events of the last six years have made both parties much better known. Churchmen at least will hardly be deceived again.

The present position of Dissent is one of extreme danger to itself; even to the extent of threatening its very existence. For many years past, it has not been able to advance, though every thing has been in its favour: how then shall it now stand, when everything is becoming adverse? The democratic principles, so favourable to its success, since they accord with its own system, which prevailed for the last twenty years, are daily losing ground. The peculiar, and extreme tenets of Calvinism, upon which the whole congregational system is founded, are so entirely sunk in England, that the high-church, and calvinistic parties, scarcely differ except in words. That large section of the clergy, who formerly gave such countenance to Dissent, that it was even anticipated they might themselves form a sect of episcopal dissenters, have been compelled, by the circumstances of the times, to take a decided part with their

sent century, its extent was comparatively small, and a degree of scandal still attached to its profession. Yet it increased rapidly, till the prevalence of democratic feelings checked, and disturbed it. Now, having firmly avowed its own principles, and thrown off its unsound members, it has sprung forward with the strength of a giant; and small will be the hope of Dissent wherever they meet as rivals.

As Dissent becomes unpopular, its supplies from without will be cut off; a condition which alone must be inevitably fatal; since without such supplies, its losses by change. of residence, death, and desertion, will soon exhaust it. In addition to this, all its conduct for the last six years has strengthened and confirmed that party feeling, which is the bane of its character, and the ruin of its peace. To attack the Church, it has called up the worst spirit of enmity, strife, and faction; and whoever makes a compact with an evil spirit, must pay the penalty. When the time is fulfilled, he tears his master in pieces.

Our present duty is comprehended in

stand, and correct their error; and the only peace we ought to value, is that derived from the full establishment of truth.

quietly, firmly, and consistently, giving effect | the blessings they receive through her ministo Church principles. This includes three trations, and the sinfulness, and folly of particulars to carry out these principles to schism. The more popular the evil, the more their full extent in everything that relates to necessary to put them fully on their guard our own conduct;-to maintain them against against it. Unmoved by the complaints aggression; and to exert ourselves to make of mistaken charity, the wavering of friends, them properly appreciated; and especially, to and the clamour of foes, we should do extend their influence and blessings to the poor. this duty in the strength of conscious inNo principle ought to be more prominently tegrity. True charity towards those who maintained than the authority of the Christian" have erred, and are deceived," is to withministry, as derived from the commission of our Lord, and continued by apostolical succession; for with this is identified the spiritual authority of the Church. This principle is This by no means implies a hostile, or a established, by the analogy of the Old Testa- party spirit. We judge no man; but acting ment, which forbids to suppose that what was upon what we believe, we entirely withhold then a capital crime can now be a holy duty; our sanction from what we condemn; and this by the words of our Lord; by the manner in we are bound to do. For we have no right which the apostles exercised, and conferred to lead our fellow-worshippers by our example authority; by the universal consent of the to undervalue those institutions, through which Fathers; by all the history of the Christian they derive spiritual strength, and comfort: Church; and by the circumstances under we have no right to confirm our opponents in which a voluntary ministry originated. But their error, by giving to it our sanction: we every truth has its own practical value; nor have no right to form unions without the is that under consideration an exception. It Church, which create divisions within, by esis calculated to impress far more exalted views tranging us from the friends who condemn of the importance of public worship; upon our inconsistency, and looseness. That is not the minister, because the consciousness of Christian charity, which divides friends, that holding such a commission so immeasurably it may lend its influence to enemies. exalts his responsibility; upon the people, because it teaches them to look beyond the minister, to God, whose message he delivers. Let it not be forgotten, that the benefit to be derived from any Christian privilege, is in proportion to the faith which appropriates it. All admit this with reference to the Holy Communion; and it equally applies to all the services of God's House. The more we receive the word as God's message, duly considering the office and authority he bears who speaks it, the more will be our comfort, and profit. Thus also we shall best avoid indifference, captiousness, and all the bad feelings which rob us of the blessing. The apostolical commission of the Christian ministry is therefore a truth, which, in respect to the practical advantages it offers, ought to be prominently asserted, and firmly maintained.

In all schools, of whatever description, the children should be thoroughly grounded in Church principles; being taught to understand well the duties they owe to the Church,

What can we hope to gain by compromise with Dissent? Certainly not a better feeling in dissenters. The last concession of the most liberal or thoughtless churchman would still leave to the Church distinctions which they would desire to pull down. A few years since, there was a very extensive alliance with them, which greatly increased their credit, and power; but did this in any degree reconcile them to the Church? No-nor was it to be expected. A cordial union cannot exist between parties holding opposite principles.

Especially at the present moment, when all religious and political institutions are tried and shaken, each should stand only upon its own foundation. Leave Dissent therefore entirely to itself, to stand, or fall as it may. If, as it affirms, its principles are established in truth, and wisdom, it will be surely strengthened, when freed from all intercourse with a corrupt. Church. Let it therefore prove by its fruits, the excellency of its principles. Let it stand alone, before the eyes of all men, in its purity,

and strength; and compel their homage, for the brightness of a character unspotted by the corruptions of a State alliance, and the energy of a system unshackled by its chains! Alas! that no mockery should be so bitter as to repeat its own pretensions.

The assertion so often made that the Church possesses the Universities by usurpation, because many of the Colleges existed before the reign of Henry VIII., is altogether a fallacy. The English Church at the Reformation finally established that independence of Rome, which she had always contended for: and as an in

was her duty, to return to the Bible as her only standard of faith; and to reject all the corruptions, and innovations, which the Bible

As far as the alleged grievances of dissent-dependent Church, she had full power, as it ers affect themselves, let them have the most liberal, and full relief, which the legislature can afford; and that, without inquiring too curiously into their motives for seeking it. | condemned. The Reformation did not make But let the measures be strictly confined to a new Church in England, but purified the relieving them from what they complain of; old one just as Paul the apostle, was the and in no case, extend to interference with same person with Saul the persecutor, but others. They must not be allowed to demand changed in principles, and in character. their relief in a form which would disturb the Church, and create confusion in the Country. The claim of admission into our Universities seems to be dropped. Their friends have felt it too bold an attempt to coerce Oxford, and Cambridge; and after the lesson they have lately received, they will hardly venture again on the experiment of corrupting them.

Dissenters are quite welcome to marry, to register their children, and to bury, in their own way; with all the sanction, and encouragement, which the State can give them; but certainly not to require, and compel the Church to conform to their practices. It is a novel proceeding, and a beautiful specimen of consistency, for those who condemn all State interference in matters of religion, and contend for the inviolable rights of conscience, to ally themselves closely with the State, and avail themselves of its power, to coerce the consciences of their neighbours.

The marriage bill passed by the House of Commons is grossly offensive. We claim, for our poorer brethren, as for ourselves, that for us, marriage shall continue, in all its parts, a religious, and a Church ceremony. It is asso

The constitution of our Universities must have been quite changed, before dissenters could be admitted. Especially, it would be no longer possible to enforce attendance at chapel, which is the foundation of College discipline; for independent of its value as a religious duty, it is a security for the orderly arrangement of the day, an important restraint upon the dissipated, and a valuable relief to the industrious. It is the family worship of the College. Dissent cannot claim on the grounds of justice, that the Church Univer-ciated with feelings of the most refined delisities shall be thrown open; for it is the learning of the Church which has given them their high character: nor can it plead real injury in being excluded; for the four northern Universities have equal power to confer degrees; and are much less expensive. These are open to all sects; yet not many dissenters avail themselves of the advantage, because Dissent has neither demand, nor encouragement, for learning. It is therefore evident, that the claim to enter Oxford, and Cambridge, was put forth, less to gain direct advantage for itself, than to deprive the Universities of their distinct Church character, thus weakening those habits, and feelings, which confirm the educated classes in the communion of the

Church.

cacy, and with duties of the most sacred obligation. The present system connects it all with the clergyman, our friend, and spiritual father, whom we love, and reverence. We protest against the indignity of being required to answer questions put by a civil functionary, a registrar, an overseer of the poor; and to pass through his office to the altar.

Yet we are justified by the declarations of the political dissenters, in Parliament and elsewhere, in affirming, that they will reject any measure of relief for themselves, unless the Church be compelled to adopt the same. It may be added, that the respectable dissenters are so far from desiring these changes, that they would deprecate them, almost as much as churchmen themselves.

Dissenters may register their children, if work for each and that at a time, when the they please, in every one of their Meetings; and have all the facilities which a public and central office can afford, to make their registration available, and secure. This, it is true, would utterly destroy the delusion they have so industriously, and successfully propagated of their strength, and numbers; and fully expose their weakness, and decline: but that is their own affair.

As to the National Registration scheme, the promoters might be left to settle it with the Country. Its arrangements are so absurd, and impracticable; and its system so offensive, despotic, and oppressive, that if the Conservatives wished to make the party now in office thoroughly hated, and despised, by all men, an effectual means would be, to allow this bill to pass. The motive for it is obvious enough, from the refusal to admit a delay of six weeks in registering births, that the registrar might receive notice from the clergyman who baptizes the child; a delay which could occasion no mistake, or inconvenience; for if the child should die in the interval, its birth, and death, would be registered together. The object, as the Rev. Mr. Hale has very ably explained, is to destroy the connexion between baptism, and the name of the child; that so they may cut off a powerful inducement to early baptism, and sever one of the closest bands which attach the feelings of the people to the Church :-a conduct, to be paralleled only by that of the revolutionary atheists of France, when they changed the computation of time, that they might destroy the observance of the Sabbath.

It is truly astonishing, that any number of men, like those who passed this bill in the House of Commons, should be so ignorant of the condition of the poor. But we have always seen, that these friends and champions of the people, with liberty in their mouths, and oppression in their hearts, have as little scruple to excite the poor to violence and crime, on the one hand, as to grind, and trample them to dust, on the other, whenever their own party objects are to be served. The poor man in the country, living at some distance from the registrar, and probably employed in an opposite direction, for he does not always get employment at his own door, cannot give the two notices required, without losing a day's

circumstances of his family have created additional expense, and deprived him of the assistance of his wife. Baptisms in the country are almost always performed on the Sunday, because it is the only day on which the labouring poor can spare time to come to Church. If the husband be sick, or dead, or absent, there will be no one to give the notice at all. A strong prejudice will be universally created among the poor, which no explanation will be able to remove, by connecting the registration with the officers appointed to administer the new poor law. As to levying penalties for neglect, how are they to be enforced against those who have nothing to pay? Where could a magistrate be found, except perhaps in a whig-radical corporation, who would send a labourer to prison for non-payment, or take the bed from under his wife and her new-born baby?

Dissent and liberalism are little likely to be made popular, by subjecting every man in the Country to personal inconvenience, to interference with his domestic concerns, loss of time, penalties, fine, distress, and imprisonment, that their hostility against the Church may be promoted; and it augurs well for the Church herself, that her enemies cannot reach her, without trampling over the liberties and feelings of the people. In the days of Tory tyranny, the people managed their own local affairs, and every honest man did as he pleased, knowing nothing of the Government but its protection. But now, in the days of liberty, we are to be relieved from the trouble of free-agency; and Government will manage every thing for us, from regulating a poorhouse or a turnpike trust, down to fixing the day for giving a name to a baby. The sturdy old British oak is to be bent down, and trained to an espalier; and lopped and trimmed after the newest French fashion.

The demand of dissenters to bury in our church-yards, while they claimed to be excused from church-rates, was too palpably inconsistent to be pressed. It appears, however, from a discussion in the House of Commons, July 13, that the principle is not forgotten. Churchmen desire to be buried in consecrated ground; and if this be a folly, we may surely be indulged in our weakness. But in such situations none but clergymen

« AnteriorContinuar »