« السابقةمتابعة »
VIEW OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS.
WITH much pleasure we commence our notice of public affairs with abstracting the leading provisions of the act recently passed for building churches. They are most important and seasonable; and, had they been in force twenty or thirty years ago, would probably have prevented no small number of those evils which, as Christians and churchmen, we now deplore. Even yet the measure will be productive of great benefit. Large sums of money have been legislatively devoted to church building, and much has also been done by individual benevolence, through the Church-building Society: but the aggregate is little compared with the exigencies of the case; and the whole plan, till lately, proceeded very much upon the false principle that people were to have churches built for them, instead of being allowed for it was only permission that was asked to build them for themselves. While every sectary might erect a place of worship wherever he chose, a large district containing tens of thousands of immortal souls could not be privileged to build a church for itself, unless by means of an expensive act of parliament, not to be secured without much litigation, satisfying a variety of contending and often sordid interests, and then only on condition of the resignation of the patronage into other hands than those of the founders, perhaps into the very hands of those whose negligence, or worse, had caused, or prevented the redress of, the evil. Of late years much attention has been devoted to the subject, and even under very imperfect enactments numerous churches have been built, and much good effected. But far more was wanted, and accordingly a short act was passed in 1827, creating great facilities for churchbuilding; but on account of some legal difficulties, and we fear we must add some vexatious obstacles which were thrown in the way of its operation by some who disliked the measure, it remained dormant and inoperative. Last spring the Bishop of London brought in a bill to repeal it, and to replace it by new enactments. His lordship appears to have regulated his provisions, rather by what was considered necessary for their passing the scrupulous ordeal to which they were exposed, than by what might be abstractedly desirable. The bill was, however, a retrogradation from the act of 1827, and by no means satisfied the great majority of those who were anxious to promote church-building; and the sudden dissolution of parliament having prevented its passing the house of commons, his lordship, on the meeting of the new parliament, brought in the bill
which forms the act now before us, and which passed both houses with scarcely a word of opposition. Its provisions ought to be familiar in every parish of the kingdom where the want of churchroom is felt. His lordship and his Right Reverend brethren, with his Majesty's Commissioners and the Government, deserve, and will receive, the warmest gratitude of the public-of all at least who are anxious for the promotion of true religion, and the stability of our Established Church, forthis invaluable measure. The only objection that occurred to us, as to its details-for we had none as to its principle-was in regard to the clauses which allow an irresponsible veto to each bishop in his own diocese, without any appeal either to the archbishop or the privy council; and which, even for the sake of the bishop himself, we thought not a desirable provision. In point of practice, however, we do not think that, in the present circumstances of the times, and under the provisions and checks of this large and liberal act, it is likely to prevent any church being built where it is clearly needed; especially as, in case of real grievance, should such ever arise, both houses of parliament would be open to petition which would elicit from the party accused a public statement of his reasons; and this before a far less delicate court of appeal than that which we should have proposed.
The act declares, that in parishes where the population amounts to two thousand and the churches do not afford accommodation for more than one third; or in parishes, whatever the population, where there are three hundred persons residing more than two miles from the church, if any person or persons belonging to the Church of England, are willing to build a church or chapel in a convenient situation, and to endow it with a thousand pounds besides the pew rents, and to provide a repairing fund of five per cent. on the cost of erecting, and to appropriate one third of the sittings as free sittings; the bishop may declare the right of nominating the minister to be in this person or persons. This cuts short all difficulties and delays with patrons, incumbents, and boards of commissioners. The only further stipulations under this head are, that the number of trustees shall be limited to five; and that when the church is for three hundred persons resident two miles from the church, the new structure shall not be nearer to the old one than that distance. A certificate of the facts signed by a surveyor, or two householders, is all that is necessary to carry to the bishop.
The pews may be let at such rates as the trustees shall see fit, with the approval of the bishop; the parishioners having the first claim, but, in case of any being unoccupied, persons in neighbouring parishes may rent them.
To provide for any cases where it may be desirable to build, but which do not come under the above regulations, the commissioners, if they see fit, may, with the consent of the bishop, give the nomination to persons building churches under such particular circumstances. This will take in a large variety of cases which could not be well reduced to any given rule. In such cases copies of the application to the commissioners are very properly required to be sent to the patron and incumbent, and the commissioners are to allow those parties three months to send in any statement which they may wish, upon the merits of which the commissioners are to use their own judgment. No interested impediment, therefore, is allowed to prevent building where the commissioners think it desirable.
In all cases, notice is to be given to the patron and incumbent of a proposal to build a new church; and if the former agrees within two months to build to the satisfaction of the bishop, he is to have the preference over strangers. In the case of churches built or endowed by subscription, the application to the bishop or commissioners of the major part in value of the contributors shall be deemed to be the application of the party or parties building. In some cases, where enlarging the old church would accommodate one third of the inhabitants, a suitable offer to do this is to supersede a proposal for building a new church. churches built under this act are to be set apart for ever for the service of God, according to the rites of the Established Church. The bishop, with consent of the patron and incumbent, or the commissioners, with the consent of the bishop, are to assign a district to every church (except where they consider it better not) for visiting the sick and other pastoral duties; and to determine whether baptisms, churchings, or burials shall be performed. The new churches or chapels are to be perpetual curacies; and, if a district is attached to them, may not be held with the original church, or with any other benefice having cure of souls; and if no district is attached to them, they shall not be a legal exemption from residence on any other benefice. The fees, where there are baptisms, churches, or burials, shall go to the original church, except such portion as the bishop, or the commissioners, with his consent, shall attach to the new church. Churchwardens are to be appointed. The bishop, with the consent of patron and incumbent, may make a chapel of ease a parish church on its
being endowed to his satisfaction.We need not expatiate upon the value and utility of this important act; but we view in it a gratifying proof that our rulers both in church and state (for the concurrence of both was necessary to the passing of this act) are zealously alive to the momentous duty of increasing the facilities for the worship of God throughout the land, in connexion with the scriptural doctrine and scriptural services of an apostolical church. The people have been perishing for lack of spiritual knowledge; and, in the manufacturing districts especially, they have been left to grow up little better than heathens, except so far as private benevolence and the zeal of pious Dissenters ministered to their religious necessities. Now the members of our own communion will have only themselves to blame, and theirs will be the disgrace and the guilt, if they do not forthwith provide churches wherever they are needed. The right of choosing their own clergyman, which was the chief concession required, is now fully accorded to the founders of new churches. Let, then, those friends of religion who have mourned over the spiritual necessities of their neighbourhoods, be promptly "up and doing." In many instances, two or three judicious and active individuals or parish vestries might, before the season of spring arrives for building, procure the promise of funds, fix on an eligible scite, and arrange the whole matter with the bishop or the commissioners, so as not to lose another year, or waste an hour, in putting forward this great work. Let not our readers be displeased with us for our earnestness, but unite with us in prayer to God that he would abundantly bless this important measure for his own glory, and the benefit of the present generation, and of ages yet unborn.
The only other church bill that passed. last session was the augmentation-of-benefices bill. The tithes-composition bill and the plurality bill not having gone through their stages before the dissolution, it were premature to discuss their merits till we see in what form they are again introduced: we hope it will be in one much amended, especially as regards the plurality bill. The augmentation-of-benefices act is an act to allow bishops, chapters, and other ecclesiastical corporations, and also colleges, hospitals, &c. to augment vicarages and perpetual curacies out of the tithes of impropriate rectories. The measure is optional; but if widely acted upon, it might enable these corporations gradually to increase the value of the smaller ecclesiastical appointments in their gift out of their superfluous revenues.
Parliament opened on the 6th of December. The first and chief topic in the king's speech was the necessity of parlia
mentary reform; for which an amended bill has been brought forward, and has passed the second reading in the house of commons by a majority of 324 to 162, exactly 2 to 1. Parliament is adjourned to the 17th of January. The present bill is in many respects a great improvement on the last. It proposes to disfranchise as many small towns as the last bill; but as it takes as its standard of relative importance, not the number of inhabitants, but the joint proportion of the number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes, a few towns before retained are now proposed to be disfranchised, and the contrary. The number of members for England is not to be reduced, which allows of some towns having two members that were to have had but one. Resident freemen are to retain their votes. There are various other regulations, which will be better noticed when the bill goes into the committee. Serious difficulties beset the question on all sides; and thoughtful and prudent men feel some hazard in deciding either for or against the measure. Our own minds, upon the whole, and under all the circumstances of the case, are inclined to the affirmative; but it is impossible not to see, that, whether we have reform or no reform, a mischievous spirit is abroad which is at war with all social order and every established institution. Our earnest hope is, that so large a measure of reform will amply satisfy the great mass of the British public, and cause the affairs of the nation to settle down into tranquillity. It is clear, however, that some ample measure of reform could not
have been withheld without imminent danger of something worse. The evil lies deeper than the surface; and we fear that whoever are the ministers, or whatever may be their measures, the country has to undergo a fearful ordeal, more especially in regard to its religious institutions. The state of Ireland, in particular, is at this moment full of peril; and our dread is, that our public men are on the verge of measures of most doubtful and dangerous portent. We are unwilling to go at length into the subject in our present imperfect state of information; but enough has already transpired on the question of education, the Protestant church establishment, and kindred topics, to excite considerable alarm. Our chief fear is, that there exists a disposition in some of those who are at the helm of affairs to view the question of religion and Protestantism as too sectarian for the consideration of enlightened statesmen; or that, at all events, the peculiar circumstances of Ireland require an entire re-adjustment of the balance of political and ecclesiastical interests. We shall be speedily enabled and required to go more at large into the subject, when the report of the Irish tithe-committee and the intended bill or
bills on education and church affairs shall have come under parliamentary discussion. One thing is painfully clear, that Protestantism has never yet done its duty in Ireland, and till recently our own church in that island was almost wholly apathetic to every thing but worldly dignity and emolument; and now disgrace and retribution have fallen upon her. Even as late as the passing of the Catholic relief - bill much might have been done; but has it even been attempted? Let our readers refer back to Mr. Daniel Wilson's excellent suggestions on the subject in our volume for 1829, and inquire if any one of them has been acted upon? Protestantism was sent to Ireland originally not as a boon but a tax, and the blessing of God has never seemed to rest upon its careless and hollow labours. Of late years something has been done, and well done, in the way of Scriptural education, but nothing compared with the wants of the people. At length our statesmen seem to consider that Protestantism and the Bible in Ireland have been but a name, and that it would be better to pass them by, and to legislate as if for a RomanCatholic colony. Even as statesmen there are two sides to this question, for Protestantism comprises the mass of the wealth, intelligence, and good morals of the land; but in a higher view there can be no hesitation on the subject. If we believe Popery to be what we profess to believe it, we ought to hold no national terms with it. Let us yield the people every temporal privilege; but rather let them slip from our political embrace, than that we should legislatively unite ourselves to their unscriptural creed, and become abettors of their delusions.
We have read with much delight and gratitude the new order in council sent out to the crown slave-colonies, and which it is understood are proposed to be enforced by parliament upon those which have local legislatures. The order, which is dated Nov. 2, is accompanied by a circular from Lord Goderich even more distinct and gratifying as to the views of Government than the order itself. As the papers have only just been printed we can merely give a transient glance at them. Protectors of slaves are to be appointed, under admirable regulations. Sunday shops and markets are prohibited, except for bread, fish, milk, and meat, not in the hours of service. No slave is to be forced to work on Sunday. Women are not to be corporeally chastised, or men to receive more than fifteen lashes, and that not twice for one offence or on the same day. A slave cruelly treated may be manumitted; and on a repetition of the offence the whole of the slaves may be set free, and the offending party be prohibited possessing slaves in future. Records of punishments are to be kept. Slave mar
riages are to be legalized; and masters may not without due cause forbid them, and any minister of religion may solemnize them. Relatives are not to be separated by sale. Slaves may compel their owners to allow them to purchase their own freedom at a valuation. Humane regulations are proposed respecting food, clothes, and, above all, labour, which is not to exceed nine hours in the twenty-four. The slave may also frequent Divine worship without molestation. A few of the above and other regulations may not be perfect, but as a whole they are invaluable; so much so that the West-India body has stated to Government, that if they are carried into effect slavery is at an end in all but the name, and that they would rather the slaves were at once emancipated with due compensation. We await with impatience the discussion of the matter in parliaIn the mean time, let us thank God and take courage. The friends of the oppressed slave, we feel persuaded, have only to exert themselves with zeal and prudence and unanimity, and the dawn of the day they have so long wished for is not far off.
It is with deep concern we record the
will say that our own land has not griesinneth against me;" and surely no man vously sinned, if not actually more than other lands, yet more compared with our means of knowing the will of God, and in What shall we say of our national pride, contrast with his peculiar mercies to us. covetousness, self-will, self-indulgence, luxury, commercial fraud, carried to an extent never before known, Sabbathbreaking in all its multiplied forms, our political 1ancour, our religious animosities? connivance at West-Indian bondage, our Shall not God visit for these things? shall he not be avenged on a nation like this?
avenge himself on a sinful nation? He will And how does he declare that he will bring on them, he says, one or more of his four sore judgments. Most remarkably has he for many years dealt with us in this respect, allowing us as it were to behold his sword unsheathed and impending over us; yet affording a space for repentance, and not permitting the threatening vengeance to fall with all its weight upon our heads. Famine has not visited us; yet the extreme poverty and want of many of our he might in one moment have let loose thickly-peopled districts, have shewn that this plague among us; and not many months since it actually entered the dwellings of thousands and tens of thousands in the the Scriptures mean whatever animal is sister island. Noisome beasts (by which him his prey, to the lowest, the caterpillar, noxious to man, from the lion that makes the most despised vermin, and the unseen blight that nips his harvests) are also still the fruits of human toil; yet their ravages as much as ever at his command to destroy have not been suffered to fall upon us. The sword also has been warded off: for widows and orphans felt its keen edge in many years we saw it from afar, and our those who were their dearest earthly hope and stay; but it reached not our shores. year and a half been daily fearing lest the But is it impotent? have we not for a leap from its scabbard, and this country troubles of other lands should cause it to should be involved in the desolation; nay, intestine strife caused blood to flow around has it not gleamed in our streets? has not the walls of our sanctuaries? has not citizen flame been called in to aid the ravages of been armed against citizen, and the fury of plunder and fratricide? Yet, has not mercy spared us here also; or what had there been Bristol as was Moscow? The pestilence in to prevent London being as Bristol, and like manner impends, yet lingers; touches its ravages over them. In all this do we our shores, but seems reluctant to spread not trace judgment mingled with mercy? is it not a solemn call to humiliation, and to look in the anguish of our spirit to our offended God? It is not one of God's but, at a distance at least, several of them; sore judgments that has been shewn us,
which we may not unscripturally conclude, from the chapter above alluded to, purports a settled controversy with us. "How much more," says Jehovah, "when I send" not one, but "all my four judgments?" And how are they to be averted? Let the same chapter answer. By human intercession? Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were to intercede for a guilty impenitent land, they should not deliver it. Noah prevailed to the saving of his own house, but not of an ungodly generation who despised the warning. Job was heard for his penitent friends; and Daniel prevailed to receive the interpretation of the dream, by which his companions and the wise men were saved. Thus we see that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much; but it avails not every thing. It may assist, by the Divine blessing, to check national wickedness; it may promote a spirit of public repentance and reformation; it may gain, through the merits of the all-prevail
ing Mediator, a respite for the guilty; it will also deliver the soul of the individual, and may be blessed to many around him: but nationally it will not avail, unless the nation also repent and turn from its wickedness, before its measure of transgression be filled up.
Here, then, is warning blended with consulation. Oh that our beloved country may take that warning and turn to God with fasting, humiliation, and prayer; and who can say but he will turn to us and bless us, and ward off every impending evil? But in the mean time each Christian has individually a refuge. In the very chapter before cited, we read the promise, "Behold a remnant shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters ;" and "ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem." This is the Christian's retreat in troublous times in the world he has tribulation; in his God and Saviour he has peace.
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
G. A. B.; QUARTUS; A. B. C.; SEMAJ.; A LIFE GOVERNOR; A CONSTANT READER AND POSSESSOR; SUMNER; C. B.; COLIN; T. K.; A. Z.; T. G.; J. K.; J. D. B.; F. C.; H. J. H.; G. N.; T. D.; S. E. A.; VIATOR; T. K. H. A.; BATH; A CONSTANT READER; A. Z.; O. B.; and ASYNCRITUS, are under consideration.
Several versions of Psalm xix. 7, 8, have been sent us, but we doubt whether any of them will answer the conditions prescribed by the transcriber. There was a version of the verses by one of our correspondents in our Vol. for 1818, p. 669. We are requested to state, that the Rev. D. Wilson purposes replying to Dr. Burton's letter in our next and ensuing Numbers.
Our publisher (whose general vigilance is exemplary) has inadvertently admitted, among the advertisements on the cover of our last Number, the title of a book which, notwithstanding the obtrusion of the name of Calvin, is offensive, and we should fear Socinian.
We have seen the statement alluded to by D. C. respecting Mr. Montgomery West, who preposterously affects to have been consecrated a bishop by Dr. Chase; and this notwithstanding the incredibility of the thing, and Dr. Chase's own most solemn and repeated assertions by letter, in print, and in his episcopal addresses, that Mr. West's statement is a pure fiction and falsehood. Our reason for not having reviewed whole heaps of pamphlets and other publications, English and American, which have been sent us from time to time respecting Mr. West, is, first, that we really did not think the subject worth noticing; secondly, that we felt unwilling, unless in an extreme case, to go into a matter of private character; and, thirdly, that we could not have even alluded to several of the charges in the pamphlets without offending against the law of libel. It is for those to whom Mr. West addresses himself to examine into his character, not for us; nor should we have even alluded to his name, but that his well known connexion with Bishop Chase, and his absurd affectation of setting up a new system of Episcopacy in Liverpool, have induced us to notice D. C.'s query.
For the reason specified in our Number for March, p. 163, we cannot make any use of the printed discourse sent us by E., purporting to be a sermon recently preached by Mr. McNeile, but not stated to have been published by his authority. Nor indeed is it necessary to refer to any unauthorised report of a sermon for his views, since he has frankly and candidly expressed them in our own pages; see his letter as above, p. 154; in which he says that it is a "substantially correct statement," that he believes that "the miraculous gifts of healing and speaking in unknown tongues, are a regular part of the Christian dispensation, and that nothing but our want of faith prevents our using them." And in reply to our serious interrogation, Were it not wiser to turn from such questionable gifts to the solid practical realities of vital, saving, sanctifying truth?" Mr. McNeile, not admitting