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WORKING OF DISSENT.
Sik,—The Congregational Magazine for November furnishes us with an illustration of the working of dissent, so painfully instructive, as to lie, 1 think, not unworthy of your notice. It is entitled "Case of Marshfield Chapel"; and is an appeal to its readers, founded on the following facts:—
There has existed ever since the time of Charles II. a congregation of Independents at Marshfield, a town about 8 miles distant from Bath. In 1752, a commodious chapel, with certain endowments, was erected for their use; and vested in the hands of ten trustees, whose duties were defined with the greatest possible exactness. They were rigid Calvinists; and boasted amongst their teachers many of eminence in their own sect. Within, however, "a few years, the minister and several of the congregation entertained the Arian doctrines concerning the person of Christ; and since the year 1791, the doctrines of Socinus have been the subject of the public ministry in the place." An orthodox party, having seceded, has continually endeavoured to gain possession of the chapel and endowments, but in vain—they remain in the hands of the Socinians.
How striking a display is this of the danger of dissent! Who does not see that it was their secession from our apostolical church, which has caused the fathers of those children, who now imbibe the blasphemies of the Socinian teacher, to transmit to their posterity this accursed inheritance of heresy? It was one boast of the dissenting orator, in the vaunted address of Mr. Binney at the King's Weigh House meeting, that when "their churches" departed from the orthodox faith, their voices were heard no more.—" Pereunt et imputantur." They did not, like ourselves, embalm the dead body of orthodoxy, by keeping up the form of worship when its spirit had departed. How will he reconcile with this statement, the instance which his own records here proclaims?—how the existence of 171 socinian chapels (out of 223) which were built and endowed by orthodox dissenters ?—and where, on the other hand, can he point to a parish church which does not testify every week against socinian corruptions? No, sir, from generation to generation our churches have heard the same language.— We have still pointed our people to "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." Nor are we in danger of ceasing to do so, whilst "liberality" allows us our declaration of faith, and, above all, our Athanasian creed. But every part of the land can produce its instance of independent, baptist, and presbyterian meetings, which now utter the stammering tongue, and disseminate the chilling poison of the socinian creed.* I remain, sir, your obedient servant,
n. E. K.
* There is a most curious and valuable octavo volume published, some years ago in consequence of a controversy about a chapel founded by an eminent non-conforming minister, ejected at the Restoration, named Newcome, (some of whose curious MS. Diary the Editor hopes to give hereafter,) in which a full and complete list of the chapels founded by orthodox non-conformists, and afterwards usurped by Socinians, with every particular, was given.—En.
Sik,—I have been sometime in the habit of observing, I will not say without secret annoyance, but without open expression of disapprobation, the weekly, sometimes almost daily, visits to my parish of a number of young men from a dissenting academy in a neighbouring town, themselves educating for the dissenting ministry, and already performing its duties in the smaller villages around. The avowed object of their coming is the distribution of pious tracts,—and I have sometimes seen as many as four going from house to house, under this plea obtaining admission, and thus gaining the ear of my parishioners; and all this with the most disinterested professions of merely wishing to advance religious knowledge, and promote the salvation of souls. Now I was well aware that there could be no occasion for this in a village of little more than four hundred inhabitants, constantly visited and attended by two clergymen and their families, and abundantly supplied with the books and tracts of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and was sure that the proselyting spirit must be at the bottom of it all; but yet I was so doubtful as to the prudence of direct opposition, that I, for some time, acted on a conciliatory plan, and contented myself with increasing, as far as lay in my power, my own ministerial exertions. In the mean time, the dissenters did not openly oppose me, nor make any open efforts to entice any of my flock from the communion of the church; and were content to open their chapel only in the evening, a time when there is no service performed by myself. There is, however, too much reason to fear they wereiall the time working under ground. The congregation at church has not diminished, perhaps rather the contrary; but yet that at the chapel has increased. A great laxity of sentiment has grown up with respect to the legitimate claims of the church to the entire conformity of her members. Those who continue true to her seem to do it, for the most part, "because they have been brought up to it;" and many think that, as regards their eternal salvation, it is a matter of indifference where they go, so long as they hear the preacher that pleases them best. This, together with what I have observed of the conduct of dissenters in other places, has roused me, and determined me to come forward in uncompromising hostility to them, and all their insidious schemes, though at the risk of losing some now doubtful friends. After Mr. Binney's declaration that "the Established Church is a great national evil—an obstacle to truth and godliness, and therefore its end is most devoutly to be wished by every lover of God and man," backed by the dictum of the Christian Advocate—" This is the truth,'' surely the eyes of every friend of the church must be opened to the fact, that conciliation is at an end; that however hostility may be disguised, it is still in its vigour against us in the mind of almost every member of the great body of dissent.
"Accipe nunc Danaum insidias et crimine ab uno disce omncs."
The gauntlet has been thrown down by unrelenting foes, and we must take it up in full trust in the justice of our cause, in the eternal power of truth, and the protecting arm of our insulted God, or else aiWit to be unresistingly deprived of all that is most dear to our feelings or our principles—all that we believe essential to impart its due effect to that commission which we doubt not we have received at the hand of the Most High God. I know that my case is not a singular one,—I know that many a pastor beside myself is assailed by the insidice of dissent,— I know that many are, as I was, cautious of exhibiting feelings of hostility; and did I not know this, I should not now address you as I have done. I address you, that each warrior of the church may buckle on his armour for the fight—that each minister and member of the church may withdraw himself entirely from the camp of his sworn enemy—from his meetings and his societies; and not unite with him even for the sake of the much-wished-for object—the advancement of religious truth. Let each parochial minister explain diligently and earnestly to his flock from the pulpit, in private conversation, and by all practicable means, the paramount claim the church of England has upon their exclusive services and affections;—let them declare what she can do for them which no other miscalled churches can;—let them insist upon the incommunicable efficacy of her sacraments, the divine authority of her priesthood, and the sin of schism, well nigh forgotten whether it be a sin or not. Let them do this, and, above all, let them lie united one with another—let them be combined even as their enemies are combined, and we may still oppose a formidable front. And will not the heads of our noble hierarchy come forth with those weapons which they so well know how to use, and which we trust are not sheathed for ever? Let them place themselves in our foremost ranks, and we shall advance with confidence ;—let them lead, and tbey will be followed with truth and devotion;—let them command, and they will be obeyed with diligence and zeal.
I am, Sir, most respectfully yours,
Imfori, Sucks. HENRY HlTGIIES.
IRISH CHURCH BILL AND ITS EFFECTS ON CURATES.
Sir,—If I mistake not, Mr. E. Tennent has given notice of his intention, during the next session of Parliament, to introduce some measure for the augmentation of the salaries of stipendiary curates in Ireland. Now, as an Irish clergyman, I beg leave to state what I conceive will be the consequence of such a measure. I conceive that it will greatly decrease the number of curates employed, and much more will it decrease the qualifications of the few that will be employed. These two objections I have never yet heard answered:—1st, If you compel a rector to pay a large salary to his curate, no rector will keep a curate; and thus you will deprive the parish of the services of a second clergyman; and you deprive the church of the very best school for initiating young clergymen. 2nd, You will thereby send men of very inferior attainments into the church: for instance, a father has a number of sons whom he wishes to provide for; constituted as the church now is, a man without talents and diligence, unless he have interest or private property, will well nigh starve; therefore, should he educate a son for the ministry, it is a fellow able to work himself forward. But change the circumstances; give a man, the moment he enters the church, an independent maintenance—an income fur exceeding the first step in the army, the navy, the bar, the medical, or any other profession—the father will then say, "every other profession requires talents and diligence; that poor booby of a son of mine would never get on there—I will put the clever fellows in them—I will try and get him into the church, where, if once admitted, he will be sure of a maintenance." Now, I confess, I have no desire that the church should enjoy a monopoly in dulness,—that she should become merely a refuge ior the asinine.
If Mr. Tennent, or some other member, had introduced a clause into the temporalities bill, (such clause to extend to the commissioners of Queen Anne's bounty, though I suspect that you will also soon have a commission, in which, alas! the church can place no confidence,) enabling the commissioners to allow a curate's salary to every incumbent who, having an extensive parish, might require an additional curate, such curate to be appointed by the incumbent, and to be under his control, equally as a stipendiary curate; such salary to be limited to parishes where the incumbent, possessing no other ecclesiastical preferment, constantly resides upon his benefice; where one curate is already kept, (in case the parish should exceed 300/. per annum, (and where the income of the parish, salaries of curates being deducted, does not exceed 500/. per annum, the commissioners to have the power of allowing salaries for additional curates, in the proportion of one clergyman to one thousand parishioners. If any member should introduce some such measure as this, he will do the church good service, particularly in large towns.
But, alas 1 these gentlemen have very little idea of what would be really beneficial to the church. They, to be sure, pity the poor curates; now, I beg leave to inform them, that the curates do not desire their pity; they do not wish that the salaries of stipendiary curates should be increased; they believe that such a measure would be the greatest misfortune that could befal the church; but they do wish that promotion should be fairly awarded; and, therefore, they would be obliged to any member of Parliament who would introduce a measure to prevent any man being appointed to a benefice until he had actually served a cure of souls for a specified number of years, in proportion, say, of two years to every hundred pounds the benefice is worth; so that no man could be inducted to a benefice of 200/. per annum until he had served four years; no man should enjoy 1000/. per annum until he had worked twenty years. This might be some check upon ungodly patrons,—it might be some obstacle in the way of their thrusting into important charges men without piety, learning, or experience.
I know it has been frequently said, Will you not allow a clergyman to appear like a gentleman? Will you not allow him to enjoy some of the comforts of life? Will you not enable him to give something to the poor? and will you not allow him wherewithal to purchase books? Now, to all this I reply—1st, A clergyman grounds his claim to the chanioter of a gentleman upon something very different from outward appearances; he knows that his very profession constitutes him a gentleman, and that so decidedly, that he can dispense with all the gew-gaws of gentility; and he is persuaded that while he labours to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man, nothing can shake his claim. 2nd, The young clergyman believes that he is called to take up his Master's cross, and he concludes that to this end the practice of self-denial is most beneficial to him in the beginning of his ministry; and he hopes that, should it please God hereafter to bless him with larger income, he may have learned experience to use it most advantageously towards his Master's service. Still he rejoices that the man to whom, in his inexperience, he looks for direction, enjoys an income which enables him to set his hand to every good work, and a station in the world which insures respect even from the worldling to him, and to that profession of which both are members; and he thinks that that income and that station induce many a parent to .devote the most hopeful of his sons to the ministry, and that thereby many men of first-rate abilities are brought into the church,—a circumstance which tends greatly to promote its respectability, its usefulness, and its stability. But, for himself, he feels that he has need of none of these things; that his vocation is that of a minister among the believers in his own parish. 3rd, No doubt the stipendiary curate cannot expend much in charity; but then much is not expected from him; that duty is entrusted to another person— the incumbent—who has the means entrusted to him for this very purpose, and who is expected to abound in charity. To him, therefore, all application is made. Whereas, were the responsibility divided, each person might endeavour to shift the onus from his own shoulders. And, lastly, if a curate be prevented, by the smallness of his income, from purchasing more books than he is able, not only to read, but to make himself complete master, he should regard that smallness of income as a blessing; at least, so thinks P.
Sir,—You ask for facts; perhaps the following may not be altogether unworthy of notice :—For eight years, I have had the charge of a population of above 5000 souls; and, in that time, have had occasion to visit about 400 sick persons,—being sent for by many, but not staying away from others if they did not send. Among these invalids were—Roman Catholics, Methodists, Socinians, and Congregational Dissenters of different kinds, and I can only remember four instances in which the individuals were visited by ministers of their own denomination—viz. one Roman Catholic, one Baptist, and two new connexion Methodists.* You will surely think me bigoted beyond all
• These were regular Methodist preachers;—their class leaders may often be found visiting the sick; and, in most instances that have coinc under my notice, are so ignorant as to be very unfit for the work.
Vol. V— Feb. 1834. z