Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHURCH BUILDING SOCIETY IN THE DIOCESE OF CHESTER. SIR,— The remarks with which I shall trouble you, are elicited by two letters which I find in your Magazine for December-one from Ilperfurepos év kwny, who recommends the bringing before the laity, as alone able to relieve it, the painful deficiency of churches in most of our popular neighbourhoods; and the other from “ Tarpa," who complains with considerable bitterness of “the spirit and temper with which many of the higher laity receive the present infidel attack upon the church.”

The hopes of the first of your correspondents may be confirmed, and some of the fears of the second allayed, by the communications which I am about to send to you. For certainly, in the part of the country from which I write, the higher orders of the laity, when distinctly called upon, have shewn no disinclination, no want of readiness to come forward and assist the church in the most effectual manner.

I allude to a society, which has lately been organized in the diocese of Chester, for the purpose of promoting the religious welfare of the manufacturing population, by building churches, where most needed, for their accommodation.

Two things were to be shewn, in order to excite that spirit of co-operation, from which alone any decisive result could be anticipated.

First, that there were no existing means by which the evil could be remedied—the parliamentary grant, which has done so much for many of our crowded districts, being now exhausted; and the incorporated society being unable from its regulations, and the nature of its resources, to furnish sums large enough to raise churches from the ground.

Secondly, it was necessary to point out the advantages which had actually occurred, where churches had been already established in the midst of a manufacturing population. It was necessary to shew that they had proved, and were calculated to prove, the commencement of civilization and order and education; and to diffuse, under the blessing of God, the holy influences which accompany the gospel.

This was an easy task; and it was done by an address containing an outline of the projected society, its objects, and the means by which those objects might be accomplished, if the effort should be seconded by those friends which alone could carry it into execution. The address was directed to the persons most conspicuous in the two counties for their rank, influence, and property; and the result has been, that the Chester Diocesan Society for Promoting the Building of Churches will commence its operations under a patronage, independent of the clergy, which will be gratifying, I am sure, to the minds of both your correspondents.

I enclose the statement, both because it appears suited to the valuable purposes of your Magazine, and because by giving it a place among your pages, you may greatly assist the objects of the undertaking; which, as relating to the moral state of an eighth part of the population of England, are not more locally than generally important and interesting

Yours, &c. Chester.

H. RAIKES.

BURIAL OF UNBAPTIZED INFANTS. Sir,--The following statement forms the substance of an article which is copied from the Leeds Mercury into the Times of Dec. 30, 1833:

« The Rev. E. M. Carter, curate of Milford church, having, on the 30th of September last, refused to read the burial service on the interment of William Green, the infant son of James and Ann Green, who had been duly named and registered according to the formula of the Baptist denomination," and the Rev. R. Maude, approving the conduct of the curate, who, he said, “ had only acted according to the requirements of that church of which he was a minister," a meeting was held, consisting of all classes of dissenters, and a letter was written to the Archbishop of York, “ to obtain his opinion in reference to the interment of a person not baptized according to the ritual of the church of England, but named and registered according to the formula of any denomination of Protestant dissenters." His Grace's answer, dated the 28th Nov., stated that “the burial service ought to be performed, if the child had been baptized by a Christian minister of any denomination.” This letter was submitted to the curate, who, notwithstanding, persisted in his refusal; and, though the sentiments of his Grace's letter were liberal, it was not considered sufficiently explicit as to the precise point at issue; in consequence of which, a second application was made to his Grace, in a letter in which it was especially stated that no form of baptism was used, and only a dedicatory service at the naming of the child. In reply to this second application his Grace addressed a letter to the Rev. Mr. Carter, the curate, from which we subjoin the following extract. This letter is dated “ Bishopsthorpe, Nov. 30, 1833. Though I conceive that you are justified, by the most obvious interpretation of the rubric, in hesitating upon the point, yet, as a question may be entertained whether it has been contemplated by the rubric to refuse the burial service to a person of any class of Christians dedicated to God, though in a measure differing from the doctrine of the church of England, and considering also that the practice upon this subject has varied, and that in many places (including, as I am informed, your parish) it has been usual to read the service in such cases, I recommend you to follow the same course in the present instance.

E. Ebor.” “ In consequence of this recommendation, the curate sent a note to the party, intimating his readiness to perform the funeral service in the manner required, which was accordingly done, according to the usual rites of the church of England.”

I trust, Sir, that your insertion of this article will call forth a contradiction or explanation of the statement which it contains,* and which not only attributes to a catholic bishop a decision implying the ministerial authority of unordained individuals,t but further represents

I hope this the more because the part of the article which I have omitted contains an unintelligible statement that the Rector demanded the burial fees, while he refused to allow the child to be buried.

+ The Archbishop's decision is not made to depend on the validity of lay baptism, but of baptism by a Christian minister of any denomination.

him as recommending the curate to perform the usual rites of the church of England over the remains of one who had not been baptized by any form whatever. Should the statement be incorrect, it seems due to his Grace, and important to the church, that it should be contradicted by those who have the power to do so.

But this is not the only object which I hope to attain by calling the attention of your readers to the subject. May I be allowed to ask of my clerical brethren, What line of conduct ought a priest to adopt, if placed in so eminently painful a position, if recommended by his bishop to do that which seems to him flagrantly opposed to the whole spirit as well as the positive commands of the church? Must he violate these by obedience, or may he venture to decline acceding to the wishes of his diocesan ?

Perhaps I may be excused if I suggest the course which has appeared to me the least questionable. We are very unlikely to be directed to do any thing which is of so questionable a nature that the conscience of a clergyman would be burdened by obedience. When, recommended by our ordinary, in such a case, may we not decline acting on his mere recommendation, requesting, with the most unaf. fected respect, that he will either give us the authority of his commands, expressing our readiness to obey them, or leave us to the exercise of our own judgment ? or, if we feel that the case is so extreme that no command would enable us, with a safe conscience, to act according to the recommendation, (that such a case may occur, all will allow-Galat. i. 8-and I cannot but feel, for one, that such was the instance in question,) may we not respectfully assure our spiritual father, that, though we cannot yield active obedience to his commands, should they contradict the dictates of our conscience, yet we are ready to resign the cure which we hold under him, if he should see fit to issue them. Such an intimation, of course, no clergyman would feel himself justified in making, unless he contemplated being directed to do something for which he felt he could not answer to God; for every churchman, of course, would be willing to stretch a point on the side of obedience. But should such a case occur, I do not see what alternative would remain to him ; for surely he could not resist, either by law or otherwise, the command of one whom he is bound to obey, not by human authority, but by a commission immediately from God. I may add, that it is my firm conviction that in cases which must, at the best, appear so very doubtful, no prelate would feel justified in commanding the adoption of that line of conduct which yet he might be disposed to recommend. * Jan. 9, 1834.

I remain, Sir, yours, &c., W. D.+

* As far as appears, the child was not baptized at all. He was the child of Baptists, who, on principle, baptize only adults. This is a new demand !- Ed.

† The writer of this letter will be gratificd by reading the following clear and de. cisive letter from one whose opinion is of the highest value on every account.

The same case precisely, it appears, has occurred in the 'diocese of Exeter, as York. The claim comes with peculiar good grace from the Baptists. The facts of the case are simply these :-Sir John Nicholl decided (the writer, with sincere respect for Sir

Vol. V.-Feb. 1831.

[ocr errors]

CONGREGATIONALISTS. Sir,—It is, I think, a part of your wonted vigilance for the cause of truth, to mark all the demonstrations of those motley squadrons of dissent which are at present encamped against our Zion. You will not therefore, I believe, reject assistance in that particular department of your toils. I have just been glancing through the December number of the “Congregational Magazine," and amongst a good deal of other curious matter, have stumbled upon a few remarkable positions in a paper entitled “ Remarks on the State and Progress of the Congregational Denomination during the Year 1833.” There are in this article two very remarkable passages to which I wish to turn the attention of your readers. The first (pp. 802, 803) is an appeal to the independent body on behalf of the starving authors,

John Nicholl's character and learning, doubts the correctness of the decision,) that any ceremony of baptism justifies the demand for burial with the rites of the church of England. Now the Baptists' characteristic is to have no baptism of children; and then they come to demand burial for a child, because they have offered some prayer for it, under the express belief that to do more-to baptize it-would be a sin. (Copy.)

Exeter, 5th Jan. 1834. “ Dear Sir,—I have received your letter of the 3rd instant, relating the circumstances under which you were lately requested to bury a child who had not been baptized, but who had been named by a Baptist minister, and your refusal to bury the child. You tell me that the occurrence has occasioned considerable sensation in the parish ;' and you ask my "instructions how to act if you should be again placed in a similar situation.'

“ I cannot hesitate to answer, that it will be your duty to do as you have already done—to refuse to bury in such a case. Nothing can be plainer. The rubric, which, I need not tell you, is binding upon you, both as the law of the church in which you are a minister, and also as the statute law of the land, expressly says, that the office for the burial of the dead is not to be used for any that die unbaptized.' Now, in this case, the child died unbaptized; you are forbidden, therefore, in express terms, to bury such an one.

“ You tell me that, although you have no doubt on the subject yourself, yet you have thought it your duty to represent the matter to me, and to ask my instructions, because it has been suggested, that the naming and dedication of the child by the Baptist minister may be considered as equivalent to baptism.'

“ Such a suggestion would be to me very surprising. It would be neither more nor less than to suggest, that our blessed Lord having

expressly instituted one sacrament of admission into his church, and having declared such admission an indispensable qualification for the reception of his covenanted mercies, man may institute another equivalent mode of giving to men the benefit of Christ's covenant, not only superseding the sacrament in the case of all who are not adult, but actually in direct and avowed opposition to it. If, as you tell me, you are stigmatized for 'intolerance' in resisting so presumptuous a pretension, I am ready, by sanctioning your conduct, to share in the reproach. But let those who may direct it against us, if there be any such, remember that you, by refusing, and I, by applauding your refusal to bury in such a case, pronounce no more than that the party is ‘unbaptized,' and therefore not entitled to the celebration of that office, which is, throughout, conceived in terms recognising the deceased as a baptized Christian, with all the hopes which the word of God enjoins us to entertain of one who has been made in baptism a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.'

I am, dear Sir, your faithful friend and brother, H. EXETER. " Rev. J. Buller.

“If any of the clergy or laity around you should make inquiries of you respecting my sentiments, you are quite at liberty to communicate to them this letter."

whose unrequited talents are reproaching its indifference to literature It is stated fully and boldly, that “ Congregationalists have done little for literature”—that “the works which have shed most lustre on the names of dissenters are not only subjects in no way connected with dissent, but, we suspect, owe no small ineasure of their reputation and popularity to the perusal and commendations of those who do not belong to the dissenting body.” And then the conduct of the church is contrasted with this:-—“ She has been aware of the importance of supporting literature munificently,—of having a corps of powerful writers enlisted in her service, who shall be her strength in war, and her glory in peace,—who pay back to her more than they receive, who diffuse a strong and powerful influence,” &c. &c. “ The respect and reverence which her literature inspires,” &c. This is pretty strong language, especially when taken in connexion with a former declaration, that " literature is certainly not less practically useful, only more indirectly so than immediate religious efforts." How this statement can be reconciled with another which occurs 'a few pages later as a quotation from “our beloved brother Binney," in which that individual (blasphemously as it seems to me) represents “God himself, on the throne of his glory, as rejoicing at the bright and blessed day which sees the absolute overthrow of the established church," I leave it to the congregationalist to conceive. But I should be glad to point out to some of our literary liberals whose patronage of dissenters is unbounded, and whose chosen theme of declamation (vide Edinburgh Review, passim) is the sterility in literature which has cursed the church, this unprejudiced commendation of the efforts of her sons.

Pp. 803, 804, contains also a curious line of argument. Funds, bequests, endowments of all sorts, are loudly demanded ; and then the rising anger of some true hearted adherent of the “ voluntary system” is deprecated by the declaration—“ We are thorough advocates of the voluntary system.“Compulsory endowments we abhor." Who ever heard of “ compulsory endowments” since the days when Jews were forced to endow Christian princes with their wealth, or masticate in future with toothless gums? And then the writer proceeds as follows :—" It is mean and contemptible that these great interests should go begging for every guinea, and be eternally and miserably dependant on the caprices of individuals, or the depressions and fluctuations of public affairs on the pride and waywardness of opulence, or the unprofitable good wishes of poverty. (p: 804.) Now, Sir, this is all undoubtedly true ; but is not the mouth of a congregationalist rather a singular category in which to find such truth ? What is the meaning of the « voluntary system,” if such endowments are consistent with it? Have we not for cver heard that the supply was to be left to be regulated by the demand ; that for religion and literature, as for food, men had naturally a restless and craving appetite which would give them no ease until it was satisfied; that endowments ensured the production of a bad article at a great cost ? &c. &c. Yet here we learn from a “thorough advocate

« PreviousContinue »