« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
mation devoutly to be sought after." It is an ample warrant for the Rev. John Sebree, who, in a sermon which has recently issued from the press, sounds forth the following note of warning:-"We do not hesitate to declare, that we wish to pull down the Establishment; we long and sigh for its overthrow, and shall do all in our power to hasten the consummation. We contend for nothing more-we shall be satisfied with nothing else." This is speaking out; and, however injudicious, whatever bad generalship it may discover on the part of the Rev. Gentleman, has, at all events, the merit of sincerity-which merit is far from slight, considering the unexpected quarter where we find it. This gentleman was placed in the pulpit, it would seem, "to contend" for the destruction of the English branch of the holy catholic Church; such is his mission-" NOTHING MORE!" Whether such a person be verily an ambassador of the meek Jesus, or rather be not a delegate from a power that shall be nameless (whatever private opinion we may entertain), we shall not here pretend to determine. We sincerely trust there may be some middle position (though we confess we cannot recognise it in the solemn station of the pulpit) which may save him harmless. But however injudiciously he may advocate his opinion, we ourselves might be inclined to entertain the same view, though not to such pernicious extremes, were we not acquainted with all the circumstances of the case, were we endued with merely a one-sided knowledge, did we dig only a few inches from the surface, and conclude we had penetrated the centre, according to the fashion of the blind mole, and this Church-rates Agitation Society.
And here with all brevity we will canvass the real truth of the
From the dark page of sectarian plausibility, let us turn over to the next leaf, and see if, in its lucid explanation of the matter, we cannot ascertain the grounds of nonconformists being compelled to contribute to the support of an Establishment from which, if we are to credit their own account, they derive no benefit. If this be the case, their argument may be allowed to have some force; and their demand for the abolition of church-rates is one which calls for the immediate attention of the Legislature. Yea, though during the great rebellion,-the Establishment being under the successive sway of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents, the illegality of church-rates was never dreamt of; though throughout the whole of that revolutionary period the impost retained its position on the statute book; though the payment hath been recognised and enforced for above 1200 years by the common law of the land; still, if indeed the Dissenters derive no benefit whatsoever from the parish place of worship, they ought not to be called upon to keep it in repairs.
Imprimis then, we would inform these declaimers upon the
illegal and vexatious nature of this impost, who, out of religious principle, have introduced enmity and bad blood into almost every city, town, and village in the kingdom,-who, however they may be read historically in the life of our Lord and Saviour, apprehend it not spiritually; since, under plea of conscience, they would fain indulge their prejudices, and carry narrow and selfinterested ends;-we would give them to understand, what may not prove very pleasing to them to hear, that were this inveighedagainst contribution abolished to-morrow, without some substitute (in which Churchmen and Dissenters would alike be rated), on the very next day the doors of the numerous conventicles throughout the land must be closed; the Voluntaries will have arrived at a full stop; they would of course be called upon to decline receiving any longer the many thousands of pounds they obtain every year from Government; they may wind up their affairs, for it is only under the wing of the Establishment that they flourish. Raze our churches to-morrow-the myriads of poor would not flock to Dissenting chapels to be made to pay for their religious instruction. No; they would take their own course. Every man would do what was right in his own eyes (which is in truth what the infidel and republican section of Dissenters are driving at); iniquity would become the order of the day; vice and free-thinking would prevail, and the congregations of the meeting-houses, lecture-rooms, and chapels, would indubitably follow in the wake of those of the Episcopalian Church. All places of worship would be alike denuded; and Beelzebub might hold his saturnalia in a land whose inhabitants "live exempt from Heaven's high jurisdiction."
The great mass of Dissenters (save and except those of the emended deistical worship, which is now-a-days all the vogue with your rationalists; Hume, Gibbon, and Voltaire being no longer the authorities), the great mass are to be met with amongst the very poorest classes of society. Consequently, to all intents, they are exempt from the payment of even the most trifling portion of these objectionable rates. The indigent Dissenter can have no complaint to make in respect to the operation of the Church impost; but only conceive it possible that their Agitation Society should succeed to the full extent of its weak, blind, wicked objects-and then only contemplate the consequences! The churches being shut up for lack of the requisite funds, the tens of thousands of pennyless Christians would be driven in the first instance to seek another court of the Lord where they might offer up their prayers to Heaven. They will flock to the meeting-houses and conventicles; when, instead of being let, as heretofore, offer the sacrifice of a contrite heart GRATIS to the Almighty, they will be charged for being allowed to pray; they will be mulct in taxes for seat-rents, and other indispensable expenses of the Dissenting interest. Finding
this cruel impost, or fancying it, beyond their means, they will very soon cease to give attendance at the sanctuary of the Lord.
Hence irreligion, and all the other evils which follow in its train; and with which the Dissenting classes being presently infected, the chapels would soon be emptied. They are now filled, not because the country is Wesleyan, or Independent, or Presbyterian, Baptist, or Anabaptist; not because they affect that quaint sect yclept Friends, or that Brummagem makebelieve of the faith of Jesus which goes by the style of Socinian -No, the seats in the several meeting-houses are occupied because the land is not puritan or rational, but-religious. Only raze the churches-or, what is the same thing, confine them to a few wealthy Episcopalians-and the land would presently be no longer religious; and, as a corollary, the pastors, teachers, or spouters of these divers sects would hold forth to empty houses. The best educated of the heterogeneous corps of Dissenters are well aware of this; and they deprecate in their hearts the success of the less knowing but more bitter and uncharitable brethren of their body.
Our Establishment is the noble tree whereon branches bearing another and a very different sort of fruit have been engrafted. We believe from our hearts this tree to be sound and good; but only destroy it at the root, and down topple tree and branch in one common ruin. The religious principle to which our modern Dissenters make such loud pretension, is only the lever by means of which-of course the English Radical and the Irish Papist lending a helping hand-it is intended and hoped to overthrow the sacred establishment of the Church of England. to the point, which we set out with promising to prove to the satisfaction of our readers. In the CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER for November, there is a letter addressed to D. W. Harvey, Esq. M.P. for Southwark, from which we make the following short extracts:
"There are many expenses and objects connected with the municipal regulations of the country, and the management of parochial matters, which are provided for only by church-rates; these are sometimes greatly increased by means of local acts of parliament. The rewards for attendance of engines at fires, and the expenses occasioned by coroners' inquests, are, for the most part-nay, I believe almost universally-provided for by these rates. Ought Churchmen or the property of the Church to be called on to provide for such merely secular matters? Ought not Dissenters to aim at getting all these expenses otherwise provided for, and to have reduced the calls upon the churchrates to matters purely connected with the celebration of divine worship, before they commit the injustice of attempting to throw the whole expense on the Church?"
"It is utterly false to say, that the Dissenters do not avail themselves
of the celebration of the rites of the Church. They do not attend, indeed, the usual morning and evening services of the Church, but the great body of Dissenters avail themselves of all the other services. With the single exception of the Jews and Quakers, the rites of baptism, marriage, and burial, are very generally received by all classes of Dissenters from the ministrations of the Established Church. And although this has hitherto been compulsory with regard to marriage, yet surely it has not been so with regard to the other two."
"The provision for the due performance of these rites, and the cost of registrations, are attended with considerable expense; and while they participate in the benefits, they ought not to ask for an exemption from them, or seek to throw the whole burden on others. Ought Churchmen to find register books for Dissenters ?"
Upon this single statement we believe that we might safely rest our whole defence; and we are the rather inclined to argue therefrom the benefits which the Dissenters derive from our Church, because in some respects the acts referred to in the above letter are voluntary on their parts. Dissenters cannot allege that they are compelled by the law to receive baptism, for instance, from the hands of our Clergy, who are obligated (upon due application being made) to bury Dissenters according to the rites of the Established Church, in the ground consecrated for the use of the Church, and which is only and can only be kept in decent order by means of these "most illegal" (after having been the law for 1200 years) and " iniquitous" church-rates.
We have just observed, that the receiving baptism from the hands of our clergy is an act entirely voluntary on the part of Dissenters; and we will go further, and aver, that in nine cases out of ten they avail themselves of the privilege; a fact, indeed, which every officiating minister can of his own knowledge certify and substantiate. Wherefore, then, are they so willing to embrace this privilege? Simply because the registration is very superior, and of greater utility in many respects than that which is so called in the chapels of the Dissenters. How many individuals are there, at this present hour, who set themselves up in hostile array against our Establishment, and revile, and scoff, and call in question its uses; instigated by a jealous, captious, bad spirit, similar in kind to that of Satan and of Cain, and not unmixed with that little jealousy which gnawed the vitals of Haman! How many such unchristian nonconformists, who, so possessed and so preyed upon, would abrogate the most salutary and authorized customs of our ancestors! who would gladly, as in old days, to use the words of Clarendon," that all bishops, deans, and chapters might be immediately taken away and abolished!" How many go about bearing the sacred cross of their profession stamped by the ministers of the Church of England on their
brows; nay, who themselves bring their childrenone after the other to the font, for them to receive, from the same hands, the same inestimable impress! In order to undergo this ceremony, the portals of the Church are opened; agreeably to their VOLUNTARY application is the pathetic service performed, and the registry thereof faithfully executed and yet these same men have the effrontery to turn round and loudly protest that they derive no benefit at all from our national Establishment! What shall we, or indeed what can we say, in reply to such unhallowed, needless, unfounded vociferation? Good God! to what weak and wicked lengths will not the rabid spirit of faction and fanaticism drive human beings when once they suffer it to get the better of them! It is indeed to be possessed-possessed as undoubtedly those must be, who, in mortal hostility to our Establishment, and reckless of consequences, have formed themselves into a society for the abolition of church-rates. They know not themselves what they do, and they draw into the same snare the numerous gulls of this world, who are too easily persuaded upon all occasions. Let it not be imagined that we be not cognizant of the shallow palliative, that is meant to quiet the whispering voice within. We can detect the casuistry with which they hope to lull their consciences to sleep; but we tell them, that whether as anodynes to their own souls, or stimulants to their creatures abroad, all their glorying in the long run will be of no avail. They have perused the Scriptures to little purpose if they wot not how to apply their exhortations to the inner man. May God forgive them! But we fear, however they may persuade themselves, they are far from having caught the tone and temper of Christianity; and, what is more extraordinary, they act as though they were ignorant of the very letter of the word. If the gospel inculcates one political truth, one moral lesson, more strongly than another, it is, subjection to "the powers that be," when no actual presence, no personal participation is required in things deemed contrary to God's word. The primitive Christians would gladly have welcomed martyrdom rather than have officiated in the temple of the heathen; but nevertheless they paid the rates, which went to furnish forth the gladiatorial pageantry of a false religion, and to uphold those pagan rites, where Christian human victims were the sacrifice; therefore, if the Dissenters recognise any similitude between the Church of England and the circus of ancient Rome, they should not violate the peace, and refuse to "render unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar's." Some such similitude, however, so dreadfully do the malignant passions distort the reason of mankind-some likeness or other, it is probable that the Dissenters do, out of the excess of their cæca invidia, descry between the pure, sublime, affecting ritual of the Establishment, and the games afore mentioned!