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as the fact may be, yet it is obvious to every one, that no advocate of what we consider the principle of the Bible could more energetically carry it out externally than these very parties in the church of Eng. land, who have frequently denounced it as a great evil, and most injurious to religion !
We are led to these remarks by the titles of the two pamphlets we have announced. The first is an attack on the “ Pastoral Aid Society," founded by the evangelical party in the establishment, about five years ago. While pursuing its benevolent and zealous career, it has come into such close contact with some of the orthodox clergy, that jealousy has been excited, and opposition produced. The decidedly spiritual character of the agents which the Society professedly seeks has alarmed their fears, lest the reign of Puritanism should again commence, and good old church of Englandism be tainted with fanaticism !
We are not in the least surprised that the efforts of the Pastoral Aid Society should arouse the slumbering energies of the orthodox men, quietly and comfortably sleeping at their posts. Nor do we wonder that such a very high churchman as Dr. Molesworth should express his fears and his indignation at the uncanonical proceedings of this voluntary Society. Our astonishment has been, that means were not used, at the beginning of its career, by some ultra stretch of ecclesiastical authority, to stop it altogether. Our conviction is, that this would have been attempted, had not the anti-evangelical clergy been so alarmed at the movements of the dissenters, as to submit to any plan which had in view the increase of the clergy, and thereby, as they supposed, secure the stability of their church, even though the originators of it were of a school they disliked. But when they found their Zion safe, and a new power put forth on their own side, while seeking church extension and opposing the just claims of dissenters—when they saw the influence of their party was increasing, by the secret and sure spread of what we call heresy, all favourable to their high church notions, and opposed to evangelism wherever found—then they arose from the dust, and asserted their claims, and called on worldly churchmen to help them in voluntary schemes for spreading their religious opinions. Hence originated the “Society for Promoting the Employment of Additional Curates in Populous Places.” This is the Society which the well-known Dr. Hook delighteth to honour; and his disciple, the vicar of Rochdale, takes up the lance in its defence, though it is not attacked !
The very opposite sentiments entertained by the supporters of these two societies, though in the very bosom of the endowed church, made it evident that collision must shortly take place. The time has come, and the two pamphlets at the head of this article show that the war has commenced. The pamphlet of Dr. Molesworth is written quite in the style of the vicar of Rochdale. He deals in hard words against the sectarian Society, and does not show very much respect for his excellent diocesan. His chief object is to show, that the rule of the Society, which requires satisfactory evidence as to the spiritual character of candidates for service, interferes with the rights of the bishops, and is subversive of church order! The defence of Mr. Harding is written in a very different spirit; though we should have been glad if he had ventured to refer, in a stronger manner than he has done, to the great ignorance of Dr. M. as to spiritual religion.
We have no intention of entering into the controversy between two of the numerous and conflicting parties now existing in the state church; and which, if it had not been for the movements of dissenters, in trying to get rid of their grievances, would have raged at the present moment to an inconceivable extent—not that we might express our opinion as to the right or wrong of canonical observance, for we may not be good judges in a matter like this—but that we might, without any hostile feeling, express our reasons for cherishing a fear, that the Pastoral Aid Society is losing its liberal spirit, and compelled it may be, by certain circumstances, to assume a higher tone respecting other denominations, and act as many of the evangelical clergy did, not many years ago, when they became high church, in order to be considered churchmen at all. We think it right also to show, that, however useful the Society may have been in certain very populous towns and villages, it hardly touches the most sterile districts of our land. We desire likewise to express our wish, that the institution may not wholly give up that friendly feeling towards others engaged in the same Christian enterprise which we think its originators cherished, nor unite with others in denouncing evangelical dissenters as unfit to co-operate in the same important work of seeking to christianize England.
In looking at the agency that must be employed to cultivate the rural wastes of England, our attention has frequently been directed to the labours of the above named Society. We have been reminded of its labours, and of its success. These we were willing to admit. But we could not conceal from ourselves the fact—that the very rule of the Society, which is appealed to by its friends, as a proof that it is in accordance with church order and authority_stops its efforts on the very borders of the dreary regions of ignorance and vice. The fundamental rule of the institution is, that no curate or lay agent be sent to any parish, however destitute, unless the incumbent apply for such aid! Now this law prevents it from touching those parts of the country most destitute of evangelical instruction-the most unenlightened districts remain the most hopeless. For it is well known that the antievangelical clergy will not apply for curates to the Pastoral Aid Society. And it is in the agricultural counties that the clergymen of this class are generally to be found. Hence it is that in regard to more than one-half of all the counties of England, and these, as it is well known to those acquainted with the subject, the most degraded and ignorant, this Society is nearly useless. The following facts will show that such is the case. There are six counties, in which not one agent is found. There are ten others, in each of which there is but one agent altogether assisted by the Pastoral Aid Society; and in other four counties, there are eight-making for twenty counties, containing a population of nearly four millions, and including five thousand parishes, only eighteen curates receiving its assistance, besides four lay agents. Among these counties, are Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Lincoln, Oxford, Wiltshire, and Kent. The fact is, that nearly one-half of the incumbents aided, are to be found in three counties, viz.-Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cheshire. And supposing there were a parish containing twenty thousand souls, in which the committee were well aware that nothing but destructive error was preached in the church-they could do nothing for its relief. in this way, by a rule of their own making, rendered necessary, no doubt, by canonical laws—what could the Pastoral Aid Society do, for the most destitute parts of England, even if its income were £100,000 a year? That in certain districts it has done great good, we believe ; and believing it, we rejoice. But that yielding to the pressure of the Puseyites and others, it is obliged to assume an unfavourable aspect towards dissenters, we fear is equally true. This cannot but weaken its spiritual influence and identify it with the opponents of good men of other communities. These remarks may seem unkind—but we have no other way of checking, what we believe is a great evil, than by directing attention to what has occasioned uneasiness to some of the early friends of the Society. We have observed, for instance, in some of the occasional papers of the Pastoral Aid Society, a tone of remark, when speaking of dissenters, which we had not anticipated. The committee are not answerable for all that their correspondents may write; but when extracts are given which they describe as “valuable,” then, we may assume that they approve of what the writers say. One zealous clergyman in describing his success, says, “Some persons may imagine how it is that there are such large schools in such a small village? The fact is easily explained: the children come from all the surrounding neighbourhood, and the parents, once nearly all dissenters, are thankful to place them under the care of the church, and to pay for their daily instruction too." He states the number of children as 570. We should like to know the name of the village where those dissenters lived—and what kind of dissenters they were. Proceeding with his report, the writer makes a comparison between his own village and the one where the dissenters lived—about a mile and half distant. The picture he draws is dark enough, as it regards the dissenters' village, and very bright as it regards his own. He closes his comparison by referring the whole to the inefficiency of the voluntary principle :
“The voluntary system, in the way of dissenting chapels, has been tried at the former place, and I am now prepared to prove, from the most unquestionable evidence, that it has most signally failed—failed, First, in promoting the spiritual welfare of the place; Second, in imparting instruction to the rising generation ; Third, in creating respect for the laws, and suppressing crime. I do not mean to charge the dissenters with want of zeal, and only state facts, which I can prove, and from these facts I argue, that nothing, under God, but a church, a school in connexion with it, and a vigilant and devoted minister of the Gospel, can effect that salutary change which will cause this wilderness to blossom as the rose."
It is not necessary, here, to defend the voluntary principle, even if it failed in this particular instance ; but did we know the writer, believing him to be a good man, we might respectfully ask a few questions :- 1st. Under which system, the voluntary or compulsory, do we find the greatest number of conversions to God? 2nd. Where do we find the greatest number of enlightened, "spiritually minded,” Sabbath school teachers, able and willing to give religious instruction to the rising generation ? and 3rd. How can respect for the laws be best promoted, and crime most effectually suppressed? Is it by a formal system of religion, and, in most cases, but few conversions to God; or where there is the formation of Christian churches composed of converted characters, as far as that can be ascertained by personal conduct ? We might also inquire, why this clergyman applied for aid to a Voluntary Society—if his church system had been so perfect as he intimates it to be? Surely there is an apparent inconsistency here--or, perhaps, it is only when "the voluntary system, in the way of dissenting chapels," is spoken of, that it is worthless. The last inquiry is a solemn one. Did not the writer perceive that he was uttering a cutting sarcasm on his own church, and almost blighting the hopes of her best sons, when, at the close of his
Nothing under God, but a church?” &c. He asserts that a vigilant and decoted minister of the Gospel is essential to accomplish the happy change he describes ! What a prospect for the church of England, if this is essential—and we admit that it is so! How
many parishes are occupied by men of a character the very opposite to that which he describes, as essential to success. We fear that eight thousand parishes out of the ten thousand are in this miserable condition ! If the writer is correct, the wilderness must remain as it is! We admire his candour as to his own church, though we demur at his logic, as applied to the voluntary principie. Truly, there is work enough for many Pastoral Aid Societies and kindred institutions for many years to come, before the spiritual wants of these eight thousand parishes can be supplied. But these are the very parishes the Pastoral Aid Society cannot benefit—what then is to be done for them? We leave the incumbent of the chapelry in Staffordshire, to answer, or, if we might be permitted to reply, we should say, only the voluntary system, “in the way of disssenters,” can provide the instruction that is required while the law of patronage exists.
letter he says,
NS, VOL. V.
But our regret is increased by another document in our possession. It is an appeal from a clergyman (who receives £50 a year from the Pastoral Aid Society) for assistance to enlarge his parish church. The sectarianism of the writer may be excused; but the company into which he introduces the unhappy dissenters, is not of that character which an evangelical and converted minister should have chosen, for men who hold in common with himself, the great principles of true religion. That the worldly clergy afraid of the protestant dissenters and misunderstanding their efforts, should have given them such associates would have been a matter of course. But that a good man—an evangelical clergyman—with a curate, sustained by the Pastoral Aid Society, should print an appeal containing the following passage, may justly excite regret and surprise :
“The ministers and lay-members of the church of England may feel assured, that the only way in which they can hope to check this fearful increase of Popery, Schism, Chartism, Socialism, and Infidelity, in the poor and populous parishes, is by assisting in the building churches and schools, and increasing the accommodation in old churches, wherever there is an anxious desire expressed for it by the people, and at the time of this desire. This desire and this time neglected, the people fall back into a state of religious apathy, until any party offers to give religious ordinances, and to that party many of the poor immediately enlist themselves, whether they be Dis. senters, Papists, or Infidels; and thus the church of England, through a want of charity in those who once had the power to assist her, loses those amongst the poor who might have been stones of the temple of God within her walls and under her sacred keeping; and in return receives the opposition of those who might have been made her supporters and buttresses."
It is scarcely necessary to make comments on this singular paragraph. The writer does not explain, for instance, how it is, that when people fall back into a state of religious apathy, they are thereby prepared “to enlist themselves immediately with any party offering to give religious ordinances, whether they be dissenters, papists, or infidels.” Nor does the good man tell the public, what kind of religious ordinances are offered by the infidels. Neither does he show, how “the poor who might have been stones within the walls of his church, could at the same time have been made her supporters and buttresses without." These, however, are trifles. He continues,
“ Now is the time to increase the accommodation in this parish; the poor people are anxious for it, and many of them, through the want of it, are halting between two opinions—Church and Dissent, saying they have no desire to join the Dissenters, all their forefathers having been members of the church of England; and it is only through their having no room in the church that they go to meeting-houses, else they must stay at home on the Sundays. And many, through want of room in the church, stay at home altogether; saying they would rather do that than go amongst any kind of dissenters.
“ Reader, when the church is full, 1100 persons every Sunday are without seats in the church ; of this number, suppose 300 desire to attend, they are unable for want of the necessary church accommodation. Your aid, and that of your friends, is now earnestly asked, and it is hoped, with the blessing of God, not in vain, to remedy this evil; which is often the root of Schism, Popery, and Infidelity."