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episcopacy, and, after long struggles, it was overborne; and, in the union of the kingdoms, of course the religion then established was left unaltered in both. in Canada the case is different; popery is not established, and he would not be considered a dissenter there, if of the church of England. We received that colony in 1763 from the French ; the Roman Catholic clergy were enabled, by the Bill of 1774, to exact their tithes &c. from Roman catholics, but not from protestants; and by the Act of 1791, lands &c. were set apart to endow protestant parishes.* The French clergy and laity of the Roman catholic persuasion were of course at first the most numerous; but great changes have been effected by the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, by sending protestant bishops and clergy. The author's arguments about establishments will need but little further notice; and I proceed to consider the remaining part of his pamphlet which attempts to answer the usual arguments against abolishing ours.
1. He appeals to America for a proof of the efficacy of the voluntary system, (p. 48,) and declares (p. 54) that he is “ prepared to say advisedly, that it is better supplied with the means of religion than any other land under heaven.” Others are prepared to say advisedly the very contrary, that it is not; but to pass over America (he adduces New York as his only instance, which, like other great towns,t proves nothing) I refer him for some candid remarks on the unprepared state of the voluntary churches to instruct England entirely,—I refer him, I say, not to our own writers, but to the Eclectic Review for Feb. 1832. The article is written in a candid spirit; but it is, in some degree, tinged with melancholy feelings as to the present condition of religion altogether, which are far more calculated to win the sympathy of their fellowChristians in the church, than hundreds of violent and virulent pamphlets. I refer him also to the pages of the British Magazine, where the voluntary system has been often considered ; and to the work of Dr. Chalmers on Endowments.
2. He would not propose such a scheme as abolishing the establishment good, honest man !--if he thought it an act of spoliation! and he accordingly proposes to give the present race of clergy their life interest in the endowments of the church, and thus to allow them to live on as pensioned nuisances and adherents of an evil system, which is to be destroyed as soon as the breath is out of their bodies. Assuredly, if the English clergy would agree to see their system abolished on this condition, they would deserve all the reproaches their enemies cast against them. They would thus confess that they supported their church for what they get by it, not because they thought it true and good. The man who can seriously offer such a defence of an act of spoliation, can know nothing of the clergy or their feelings, and they will forgive him the insult; but, in a better and more Christian mood, he will hardly forgive himself. As to the abolition of tithes, I refer again, for an answer to this person, to the same article of the Eclectic Review, p. 129.
Did space permit, I could offer many more points in which this writer has laid himself open to as severe or severer criticism than mine ; but I must confine myself to one more exhibition of his mode of argument. In pp. 56-58 he argues that the established church is a minority, if we include Ireland,--pay, even in Great Britain ; aye, and he goes one step further, for he says, take only England and Wales, and it is still decided the dissenters have the largest congregations; they have the more communicants,” &c. He refers to Bishop
Encyc. Met., Art. America. + He asserts, indeed, that America has 15,000 churches to 12,000,000 people. The statement appears to be taken from the tracts of the Ecclesiastical Knowledge Society, No. 44, p. 142, and originally from the Congregational Magazine ; but, on the subject of American Religious Statistics, the book of Mr. Lorimer, of Glasgow, ought, by all means, to be consulted. See British Magazine, Feb. 8134.
Blomfield's assertion that the dissenters are one-fourth of the people, and sets them, therefore, at three millions; and then he calculates the numbers of the church. He makes them two millions; and will the reader guess the mode by which he gets at this conclusion ? He calculates the number of attendants al church,—so that, according to this scheme, (as, no doubt, the Bishop's estimate was of the population of the dissenters,) he sets the number of attendants at church against the families, infants, &c. of the dissenters! The numbers that do attend, at one time, at church (for the calculation is made by multiplying the number of churches by a certain number, to obtain the churchgoers in London, and then applying the proportion to the country) is no fair criterion of the number of those who belong to the church; and he does not state that the Bishop called the congregations of dissenters one-fourth of all the population. In Lancashire the Protestant dissenters are, on their own shewing, not much above one-ninth of the population,—their own number being taken now, and the census of the population ten years back ;* so that they must be less than a ninth now.
So much for these calculations; but Fraser's Magazine for February has entered fully into the matter, and settled the question completely.
I have now considered the most prominent positions in this pamphlet, on which a large part of the dissenters seem to place great reliance for its power in declaring their grievances, and claiming their rights ; but I think the feel. ing of every candid mind will be a mingled sensation of joy, that, after all, there is so little real cause for complaint; and of sorrow, that men should be found to advance such unreasonable claims. There are other points in the pamphlet that demand a slight notice, which I may bestow upon them at some future occasion, when I might also undertake to shew, more fully than my present limits would allow, the extreme unreasonableness of much which I have here noticed but briefly. My object has been to set the matters it treats of in what appears to me their proper light; and I have, therefore, confined myself to a defensive line of argument, without attempting to carry the war into the enemy's country. The author has occasionally laid himself open to severe animadversion for a violence of matter and manner, as well as for a recklessness of assertion, more befitting the disciple of a political union than a writer on what he professes to consider a religious question. Indeed, I find the question argued throughout with the shrewdness of a worldly politician ; but I do not perceive much of the leaven of a religious and Christian spirit in the work. With this remark I leave it for the present, in the hope that the observations I have made may induce the author to reconsider some of his statements, and his readers at least to pause before they assent to them.
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. It is with regret quite unfeigned that it is thought desirable to make a few observations on the present condition of things respecting the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The regret arises from two causes,—the first, that any remarks should be necessary, and the second, that any subject where there is such imminent danger of appearing to take a mere party view should require notice. It has been the endeavour of this Magazine to avoid all subjects which divide churchmen, to heal all breaches of unity, and to cause none. And, although the condition of a Religious Society ought to be a sufficiently free subject of discussion, all persons, who know the state of things, will be sensible of its extreme delicacy; and even they who are less acquainted with it, will gather the same conclusion, from even what will be said here. But no choice is left; for the other ligious periodicals have been making such
See the Lancashire Returns to Parliament in 1830.
fierce assaults on the present condition of things in the society, and such free recourse is had to the press, for the dissemination of the same sort of assaults, in the shape of letters, statements, memorials, &c., that the silence which has been so long preserved, is quite out of the question. All that can be done, is to adhere to facts, to state no opinions as to who are right or who are wrong, but to leave it to the judgment of the reader, upon the facts stated, what will, in all probability, be the results of perseverance in the present course.
Every one is aware, that, twenty or thirty years ago, a very hot controversy was going on among churchmen, in this country, on certain points which have divided and ever will divide the minds of men of every church. Occasionally, perhaps, the difference will break out into controversy while the world lasts ; but it must always be matter of bitter regret when these occasions arise, as (though pot entirely without advantage) much evil must ensue, without the smallest approximation to any decision of the points themselves. After a time, the controversies must die away on this very account; and then the great object must be to heal the wounds inflicted, and soften the feelings of the combatants towards one another. This good work has obviously been going on, to a certain extent, for some time among ourselves. The controversy is wholly over--not because people agree in opinion, but because they see that it is fruitless to dispute on matters beyond the sphere of the human intellect. While it was raging, another object of dissension arose-the Bible Society. The party which adopted one side in the disputes alluded to, were in the management of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and the others pretty generally became members of the Bible Society. Discussions of a different nature arose between the same parties, which, for the time, divided them still farther. The propriety of churchmen uniting with dissenters, for such a purpose, was the main object of dispute; and many others relating to what was esteemed strict churchmanship followed, especially with relation to ordination, the ministerial commission, and the obedience due to church rulers. It is a matter of the sincerest congratulation, that these points of difference are most materially lessened, and that very many, who still doubtless disagree theoretically on points on which the best and most illustrious men have disagreed, now dispute those points no more, and are perfectly at one, in their high value for the ministerial commission and their views of the obedience due to the rulers of the church. Under such a state of things, and with such dangers as surround us now, is not any point of division earnestly to be deprecated? Yet such would seem but too likely to arise in the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. What is the state of things there? This Society was, during these disputes, principally managed, as has been said, by one of the two parties alluded to. Under their management (as far as related to its finances), the most sanguine wishes of its friends have been realized. It has arisen to a most remarkable height of prosperity within the last thirty years.
In 1800, its receipts were 10,1991. ; in 1832, they were 66,2691. The progress of its efficiency has been no less remarkable. In 1800, its members were only 2000; in 1832, they were 15,000. In 1800, it had no District Committees; in 1832, it had 330. In 1800, its annual distribution of books was only 131,295; in 1832, it amounted to 1,715,323.
We have here in our hands the actual proof that, as far as increase of members, of committees, of funds, and of application of funds to the purposes of the society, nothing could answer better than the course pursued. For, probably, no society belonging to a particular body of Christians, and strictly refusing aid from persons not belonging to that body, could exhibit such an increase in the same period. What then is the cause of alarm at the present moment? It seems to be this, and is, indeed, a very serious one. As controversies have died away, and the parties drawn nearer to one another, there has been a greater disposition among all to unite in this society. During the controversy, the churchmen who espoused the Bible Society, instituted the Prayer Book and Homily Society, to supply themselves with these works, and used other
Religious Tract Societies. Now, the same persons, it is pleasant to find, are disposed to join the standard of the Ancient Society. But they are dissatisfied (more or less) with its condition and regulations, more especially with relation to its books and tracts. The chief ground of these latter objections (on which more will be said presently) is, that the books and tracts do not take the views which are acceptable to them, on those particular points which formed the subject matter of the controversies now past. Particular books are named, and objected to on this ground, and strong wishes exprest to get rid of them. Motions are made to get rid of other books offensive, partly on these and partly on other grounds, to the same persons. It is not necessary to go farther into detail on this matter here; but it will be advisable to recite the present practice of the society with respect to its books. It imposes no obligation on its members to receive, approve, or circulate its books and tracts. Every individual is at liberty to select which he pleases, or to take none. And more than this, if it is found that, from a book being dull, or not useful, or in any way not acceptable, there is little demand for it, it is not reprinted, and is thus quietly got rid of. Under such a state of things, let us consider what must be the effect of endeavouring to banish particular books, not in this quiet way, but by direct votes, on the ground of their being bad in doctrine. The state of things is this—the books and tracts now on the society's lists are, on the whole, in accordance with the opinions of those, by whose exertions, and under whose management, the society has prospered so remarkably. They are joined by others, whose opinions do not coincide with theirs, on certain doctrinal subjects; and the new comers intend to banish, by vote, those books which are approved by the older members, but disapproved by them. Now, though controversy has ceased, men hold their former opinions on both sides, and, holding them, must, in conscience, teach them, if they teach at all. It cannot then possibly be expected, that, while public discussion is avoided, either party, in the dispute, will disseminate doctrines which it does not approve, or hold back what it does. Consequently, every motion to get rid of an obnoxious book, must be a trial of strength, or, in other words, a renewal of the controversy in a different shape. There is no help for this; for there is no other substantial reason for alteration of the tracts, than difference of opinion on these points. It may be said, that the tracts are dull, and so on ; but then there is the strong fact, that whether they are the best which could be found or not, their nature has not been found practically to be any objection, nor any impediment, to the success of the society. Let it be considered fairly, and kindly, whether this is just or right, or whether, even supposing that it could be effected either by local strength or by tactics, it must not necessarily produce effects quite disastrous to the peace of the church. To debate doctrines which can never be settled, in a war of pamphlets, is bad enough; but the prospect of fighting them by mere hard voting once a month, is perfectly dreadful. The end of this can only be a fresh separation of the parties into distinct societies, with feelings of far less good will than they are now inclined to entertain.
Some of the journals have openly advocated the giving up of books and tracts altogether, and reducing the Society to a Bible and Prayer Book Society. No doubt, if two parties, who do not agree, are to act together, it may seem very reasonable that each should concede the exercise of his peculiar opinions, and that they should meet on neutral ground. But looking at this question practically in the present instance, it will be seen that there are peculiarities in 'the case.
The quantity of books and tracts, such as they are, distributed annually, is, as we see by the returns, enormous. And this is not for want of tracts teaching different doctrines, as we all know. The Religious Tract Society, and many others, supply such in abundance to those who approve them; the quantity thus distributed indeed is known to be immense; and yet the quantity sold by the Society is enormous. There will be just the same demand for these, if the society changes its constitution to-morrow. In other words, there will be another society which will supply them. For those who con
scientiously object to them to suppose they can drive them out of circulation, by driving them out of Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, is idle. The persons who—not accept, but-wish for tracts holding these doctrines, are the bulk of subscribers to the society; and the mere beating them by tactics, or by having strength on the spot, cannot alter their opinions, or prevent them forming another society. Let it be asked whether this is advisable or desirable. Yet can any one deny that this must be the result? If 6 or 8000 persons, not merely subscribe to this society, but anxiously desire and industriously use its books, can it be supposed that, if they are deprived of their books in one society, they will not take themselves and their money elsewhere? If this is so, the getting possession of the society, if it can be effected, and expelling all the obnoxious tracts, will be an useless victory, for the hydra killed in Lincoln'sInn-Fields will raise its head again in Holborn. It is earnestly hoped that this obvious truth may be considered, as well as the consequences of overlooking it. If a contest actually ensues, are the newcomers, in the first place, secure of victory? Iomlov ye det. On the contrary, let them be assured that, if it is necessary to beat them by votes, they will be beaten. Strength will be collected, which they must well know exists, though seldom called forth. Then the contest will have been in vain. But suppose the facts were otherwise, and that they had more votes than they have,-suppose that they expel the whole catalogue of books and tracts. If they do not replace them by others congenial to their own views, still those who have distributed twenty-two editions of Bishop Greene's “Four Last Things,” will have a twenty-third and a twenty-fourth, and a society to supply them. Then there will be the edifying spectacle of open breach again, but not one proselyte gained to the opinions of the victors. The same consequences must clearly follow more directly if the old books are supplied by others of different views. In the mean time, the same ill feeling will be roused again which existed before ; but, it is to be feared, more strongly, because the controversy will be carried on by the tongue, and not the pen. On this point, a word must be added. For many months, the meetings of the society have assumed a new appearance. Each bas afforded a debate. This is the first symptom of what will happen, and, in itself, is most deplorable. The waste of time in talking, and the temptation to exhibition thus afforded, are fearful evils. A debating society of any sort for men (whatever, as practice, it may be for boys) is very bad a debating society on religious matters is the worst of all. Debate will always, among all men, excite a desire for victory, and occasionally anger and feelings of a less Christian nature still. This must always be, and this alone is an obvious reasons why person of opposite opinions ought never to attempt uniting in the management of a religious society. Conscientious opinions must produce debate, and debate display, and display bad temper. These everlasting debates are of themselves so opposite to the character of a Christian body, and so destructive of the principles on which it ought to proceed, that it would be better to see the society destroyed at once than to make its tenure depend on their continuance. This is so much the feeling of a very large body, that, simply to avoid debate, and its necessary unchristian consequences, they would withdraw themselves from the society. But it will be said, is it reasonable to ask the new comers to submit to seeing their opinions excluded ? The only answer to this must be the practical answer. Can the same society issue tracts of two different complexions of doctrines ? If not, will any real advantage be gained to the cause of Christianity, or the church, by a different party (even if it be possible) gaining possession of the society, driving out all the tracts which they dislike, and the persons who wish for these tracts with them? Can any other effect arise, at most, than this—that whereas now one party gets its tracts from the society, and the other elsewhere, these two parties will, in this respect, change places, and this operation will be effected (if effected) after long and violent struggles, and with an increased tendency to distance and separation between the parties? Vol. V.-March, 1834.