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CHRONICLE OF BRITISH MISSIONS.
HOME MISSIONARY SOCIETY.
CASES OF RELIGIOUS DESTITUTION-CASES OF CLERICAL OPPOSITION.
The claims made on the Society, for help, to cultivate new fields of labour in various counties, continue to press upon them. The nature of these will appear in the following application sent to the Directors.
One minister, who writes from Lincolnshire, after giving a list of thirty-five villages, containing in 1831 about 16,000 souls-says, “ In the above list of villages, I believe there is not one evangelical clergyman; and they are all within a radius of 10 miles from G- There are but few of the Methodist Chapels, which deserve the name of chapel ; and the occasional visits of their local preachers, are deplorably below the wants of the peasantry-much more the minds and circumstances of the yeomanry. It must also be remembered, that the amount of population is given from 1831. I presume the population of the above places at this time, is not much less than 20,000. To which may be added, that we have nothing approaching the pure Gospel in the church here, where there is a population of about 6000 more."
Another minister, in writing of Herefordshire, says, “I should venture to recommend, that you employ four Home Missionaries in this long neglected county; and in order to make you acquainted with the localities, where I think they should respectively labour, I will draw out a rough sketch of the country-marking the different towns, and their several circumstances, according to the following scheme." The writer proceeds to give a description as above proposed-showing at once the lamentable state of the county, and his intimate acquaintance with it. He closes by saying, “I have thus briefly called your attention, to this benighted county. If I were not persuaded, that your sympathies will be more effectually called forth, by a simple statement of its wants, than by any laboured attempt at persuasion, I would write at greater length. I feel deeply for her awful destitution of spiritual blessings. She has none to plead for her-let her silence speak! I pray God, that your plans of beneficence may have a large, an abundant blessing ! Send wise and faithful labourers, to this my old and endeared place of labour ; and may our gracious God follow your energetic and benevolent schemes, with his most extensive and effectual influence ! Pardon my freedom of speech."
But it is not only the ignorance of divine things, existing in so many counties, that the Directors have to lamentit is not only their inability to meet the demand for agents, from so many districts, that they bewail—but they have deeply to regret, increasing opposition made to the introduction of the Gospel, into many villages, where it is utterly unknown; and into which our missionaries are attempting to carry it. Not only are men and money required, but bigotry and prejudice in their worst forms are to be overcome. Power is exerted—both lay and ecclesiastical—to precent the poor opening their cottages to the messengers of truth-or if the missionaries are successful in obtaining rooms, then bribes and threatenings, fear and favour, are employed to deter the people from hearing them. It is right, that this species of persecution, this systematic opposition to the Gospel, should be made known. Coming, as it often does, from quarters where there are high pretensions to religion, it is the more inconsistent and lamentable. Attempts to degrade our missionaries, as having no right to preach, are more in harmony with the times of Land and Sacheverell, than with the present age—more consistent with popery, than with nominal protestantism. Let our missionaries speak for themselves. In one town, where the Society has taken up a cause that was ready to be extinguished, by high church and Tory influence, the minister says :
“Notwithstanding the mighty opposition from the church party, which we have so long been required to encounter, I feel considerably animated, with the prospect of seeing a good interest raised in this town, under the auspices of our Society. Prejudice and bigotry, and the most inequitable distribution of monies and garments for the poor, have been employed to the utmost, with a view of undermining our little cause, and laying it in ruins. But · greater is lle that is for us, than all that are against us.'
"Our congregations, I consider, are more than twice as large as they were, when I first entered upon the station. The tone of piety among the members of the church, is evidently improved. Their long-slumbering zeal in the Redeemer's service, is now fully awake, and actively and usefully employed. The cause, which for such a length of time, had been so distressingly low, as to be regarded by some of them, with a spirit of apathy, is now clasped warmly to their breasts; and, by their prayers and pecuniary contributions, their laborious efforts, and frequent meetings, for devising new and improved plans for promoting its interests--they are proclaiming through the length and breadth of the town, their disregard of ecclesiastical menaces; and are plainly testifying too, lively and deep, and holy solicitude, for the advancement and prosperity of Zion.
“I have at present the names of a considerable number of inquirers, upon my book, who are the subjects of very serious convictions ; and my fervent prayer is, that they may not be permitted to decline. I was very much pleased this morning, with an interview which I had with a poor woman, who has been very ill, and whom I visited during her illness. When she was first seized by affliction, to use her own words, ' she thought but very little about her soul,' but affliction, she added, “has brought me to my senses. O, the mercy of God in afflicting me! It is better than giving me all earthly riches; I hope it has brought me into the right way. O what a precious Saviour Jesus is ! I am grieved to think, that I should have lived so long without him; but should I be resorted to health, by his grace, I will never, never, leave him again.' Through the mercy of God, her health is greatly improved. She attends the chapel, and one of the rooms in which I preach ; appears much affected under the word ; and is plainly and pleasingly manifesting, that the convictions which she experienced in the sick chamber, instead of proving evanescent (as, alas, is too frequently the case) are becoming deeper and deeper every day, and productive of the most salutary effects. I trust she will prove one of that favoured number, of whom Jehovah says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.'
Another indefatigable missionary, whose mild character and consistent conduct, should exempt him from such treatment as he has met with—thus writes :
"Our attendance is improving all over the station ; notwithstanding the influence of some in high places, is exerted against us. I am reproached as a layman, for not having been episcopally ordained. My authority to preach the Gospel, and to administer the ordinances of religion, is disputed by more than one of the clergymen on the station. The people are told, that I ought not to preach ; that it is a most dangerous thing to go to chapel ; that they should attend to their duty, and abide by the true church, and give no countenance to schismatics. “I have called on you, Mrs. S to converse with you on the subject of religion,' said one of our clergymen the other day, 'I thank you, sir,' was the old lady's reply; “I shall be very glad indeed, sir
, and feel much obliged.' 'Do you ever receive the sacrament, Mrs. S-? Yes, sir, I do.' “Pray, when did you receive it last ?' "On the first Sabbath in this month, sir.' 'Oh, indeed ! pray, where did you receive it?' 'In our chapel, sir, where I have received it for many years.' “And who administered it, Mrs. S—?' 'Our minister, sir, Mr. — Mr. indeed! And by whom was he ordained ? and by what authority does he do such things? 'I really cannot tell you, sir, by what ministers he was ordained. I have no reason to doubt that he has been ordained ; at any rate, I believe him to be ordained of God, and that is before the ordination of men.' 'Nonsense ! Mrs. S how you talk ! none but the regular, accredited
N. S. VOL. V.
ministers of our excellent establishment, who have received a superior education, and episcopal ordination, ought to preach, and adminster the sacraments.” “Well, sir, I received my first religious impressions at that place, and there I have attended ever since, and I can assure you, I have no desire for change.'”
“ Another says, “ that I am only a layman and ought to mind my own business.' While such things are frequently taking place on the station, I can say with safety, we have not an evangelical clergyman in any church for miles around. In fact, it is worse now than ever I knew it. Our late vicar was a good man: and though he did not preach for the last eight years, still, his example produced some moral influence in the neighbourhood.”
From another station, which has been occupied only about twelve months, the missionary says,
“ Truly, we need to "give ourselves unto prayer' at this station ; not only because of the spiritually dark and dead condition of the people; but on account of the combination of hostility manifested against us. In one village, the squire and the clersyman have shut me out of my preaching room; and not satisfied with this, they have visited the whole village, to ascertain who encouraged me, and to prevent my holding meetings there at all. In most of the villages, the pulpit exercises are characterised, by vulgar abuse of the Gospel, and of dissenters. They threaten the poor in regard to their different charities; and in every possible way try to keep them from hearing the truth. They are equally solicitous for the rising generation, by erecting new schools, where they may be kept from the heresy and schism of dissent."
Another missionary, who has recently gone to a new station, meets with difficulties of which he knew nothing, when he was a missionary to the heathen. A heathen field of labour presents obstacles, but of a different kind from those which the following statement describes. “I have visited all the villages on this station, with tracts, and conversed with the people. There is generally much ignorance of divine things; and how can it be otherwise ? the great majority cannot read a word. They attend church, they say. Still, they hear nothing that is calculated to inform their judgments, or affect their hearts. Some would open their houses for the preaching of the Gospel; but they are afraid that in doing so, they would offend the clergyman or their employers, or both; and thus lose their work and their cottage too. Such is the state of things at present; and till the people see their situation as sinners, and their need of Christ as a Saviour, there is little hope that things will be much different with them. Nothing else but this will raise them above the fear of man.
“In most of the villages here, there is not a school of any description, either weekday or Sunday. No wonder then, that the people are unable to read. No means have been employed to alter this state of things. The clergy will not—the farmers care nothing about it—and those who would, are hindered; having every possible obstacle thrown in their way, by the very men who should help them in their benevolent designs, to instruct them in the knowledge of that truth, which is able to make them wise unto salvation.'"
The two next extracts are from the journals of missionaries widely distant from each other, one being in the northern, the other in the southern part of England. “ I have to contend with some opposition from the church party in the neighbourhood. The poor people are told, that if they do not attend church, they shall have no bread given, nor any favours shown them. And not only are they to be regular in their attendance for three months, during the time the bread is given away, but throughout the year. The children are drawn away from our Sabbath school, by a promise of giving them clothes, which promise I find is seldom fulfilled. And to all this is added, the threat that the squire of the parish shall be told, if they are absent from church, and his bounty shall be withheld. But with all their threats, the people still occasionally attend; and so soon as all the bread is given away, I expect to have them at the chapel again." “At T- I expect to meet with some opposition from the minister of the parish. The place where I commenced preaching was a farmhouse. He visited the owner directly he discovered I had been there, was exceedingly angry, and said some very hard things of us poor dissenters. But, I believe, God will make this “man's wrath to praise Him.' His violent conduct has tended to remove some of the prejudices entertained against us, by one, if not more, in that place; and we had a better congregation the second time than the first."
From one more station we give the following : “ Were it not for the bondage, in which most of the poor and laborious class here are held, by the rector and the squire, I have no doubt that our chapel would, if not crowded, at least be well filled, every Sabbath evening. I am glad to find, that in the magazine, a corner is to be reserved for the exposure of clerical opposition and persecution. I have hitherto been silent, but have many times questioned the propriety of allowing the measures which are frequently adopted for the injury or destruction of the stations, and the subjugation of the people, to pass unexposed. In my next I shall endeavour to state some of those, which are now in operation here, for these purposes.”
Such are some of the trials of our agents. But why do we reiterate statements like these? It is to show the tendencies of a national church when in a state of activity and alarm—and especially, when there are able and zealous clergy-goading on the multitude of their brethren to arrogate for the priesthood, a power which sooner or later the civil arm must check-or be paralyzed by it. It is to awaken our denomination to the defenceless state of many of our weaker churches now contending with the same difficulties—that our agents are struggling with. In country districts this is grievously felt, and occasions great distress. Perhaps there never was a period in the history of our churches since the days of open persecution, when a more urgent claim was made on the sympathies of the stronger churches, and the wealthier Christians, of the Congregational body, than at the present time. Assistance, wisely and generously given now, may save some churches from destruction—and thus prevent the extinguishing of the only lights shining in dark places of our own land.
To illustrate what we mean, one case may be given : A farmer in Leicestershire, who has been for a number of years a zealous and consistent member of an Independent church, who took possession of his farm as a well known dissenter, his landlord then saying he did not like him the worse for that, received the following notice from his landlord, who is a clergyman of the parish.
“Mr. - Whereas, in consequence of the avowed determination of the dissenters, particularly the Congregationalists or Independents, of which you are an attached member, to extirpate the church establishment of this kingdom, I the Rev.
the established minister of your parish, and your landlord, have thought it necessary to dissolve the connexion of landlord and tenant, and to give you legal notice to quit the house you inhabit, and the farm you occupy, on the twenty-fifth day of March next; but having taken into consideration the inability you have pleaded to procure another situation, and the great inconvenience of so early a removal, have offered your continuance on the said farm another year,
“ Witness my signature, this day of January, 1840, No change has taken place on the mind of this landlord. His tenant could not get a farm, though sought for in every direction, and before this is read, the year of grace has passed away, and this good man, for no reason but obeying what he considered the will of God, is driven from his dwelling, is obliged to sustain a serious loss, and to find that the tender mercies of an apostolically ordained clergyman “are cruel.”
The pastor of this much injured man says, “ Such has been the conduct of the
Rector of in the county of Leicester. Had any landlord of the Independent denomination done so, it would have been noised abroad from one end of the kingdom to the other; but this is a clergyman of the church of England; and what would not such clergy do, if they had the strong arm of political power at their disposal.”
** Mr. has not yet a farm to go to; but he, and his good wife, are looking up to the God of their salvation, and entertaining the hope encouraged by the word of God, that, he will in His own time, provide for them.” Comments are unnecessary!
HOME MISSIONARY EXERTIONS OF CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES.
DEAR SIR,-- May I be allowed, through the columns of your magazine, to request most respectfully and earnestly from those who possess information, assistance in enabling me to prepare a statement of what is done for Home by the Congregational denomination of this country. I am anxious to give, in the Appendix to the Report of the Home Missionary Society for this year, as full an account as possible of the aggregate amount of exertion in every county by our churches, in promoting the religious instruction of the people. Circulars have been sent to the Secretaries of Associations, and to a few others. But on a subject like this, it will require information from every quarter, in order to secure a full and correct report. The queries which have been forwarded, and respectfully requested to be answered by the 17th of April, are appended to this note.
If our ministers and other friends who are now called on to assist, will only heartily second the effort to secure ample information, it will no doubt gratify and encourage us all to find that our efforts for Home are far more extensive and successful than we have hitherto been accustomed to consider them; and that, in fact, according to our mcans, we are second to no denomination in trying, by personal exertion and Scriptural efforts, to promote the salvation of our countrymen. If, however, there should be disappointment as to the aggregate amount of our exertions, and we find that even the opponents of the voluntary principle in theory are doing more practically than ourselves, it may excite us to greater activity. No one who marks “ the signs of the times” carefully and candidly, but must admit that our denomination forms at this time one of the chief bulwarks of the Protestant cause—that we form the largest denomination not tainted by heresy, or subjected to a spiritual and unscriptural domi. nation—that we, along with our Baptist brethren, carry out the great principle of the Reformation, “ the right of private judgment.” No inquiry, therefore, relating to such a denomination as to its efforts at Home should be uninteresting to the serious and thoughtful student of God's providence.
I forbear saying more-only expressing a hope that you will be able, this year, to give us in your Journal a list of our churches, and an account of their doings, more perfect, and therefore more valuable than even the interesting and useful tables of former years.
I remain yours truly, 11, Chatham Place, Blackfriars.
Queries sent to the Secretaries of Associations. 1. What sum has been expended in your county, in promoting Ilome Missions, in connexion with Congregational churches ?
2. What is the number of agents employed in Home Missionary work, distinguish. ing between those who are entirely devoted to it, and those who only give occasional and gratuitous service ?
3. What is done for Town Missions, Christian Instruction, and Lending Tract Societies; and, if these institutions are supported by various denominations, what proportion of the expense is borne by the Congregational churches ?
4. What is the number of Village Chapels, or Licensed Rooms in the county, in connexion with our denomination ?
5. What is the aggregate number of hearers, in such chapels and rooms ?