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No temple receives us-no cymbal's glad voice
E. A. H.
The Editor begs to remind his readers that he is not responsible for the opinions
ON THE INVIOLABILITY OF CONFESSIONS.*
SIR, In answer to your correspondent, " W.," of Cambridge, I would say, in general, that no communication confided to a chaplain, under an express or implied promise of secrecy, whether it be made by a convicted or an untried prisoner, ought, upon any consideration whatever, to be divulged, without that prisoner's consent. Not only honour and Christian sincerity, but sound policy, forbids it; for if the chaplain once gives cause to the prisoners under his instruction to suspect that their confidence in him has been betrayed, adieu to his best source of information to that which best enables him to bring his advice and exhortations home to their bosoms, and in various ways to benefit the public. Whilst they retain this confidence unimpaired, it is almost incredible how ready, and even glad, are many offenders, under the influence of fear, sorrow, or contrition, to confide in one to whom they can unburthen a labouring conscience in the fullest assurance that their communications shall not be converted to their prejudice. It is thus that the chaplain accumulates a mass of information, with respect to the crimes and criminals of his district, inaccessible to other persons, and highly useful to himself in the discharge of his various duties. But then there are occasions on which he will avoid receiving these communications under the condition of secrecy, or he will, at least, prudently guard himself against being unnecessarily fettered by any
The Editor thinks it right to call attention to this letter by stating, that having been informed, in confidence, of the name of the writer, he can vouch for its coming from one who has long discharged the duties of a chaplain with a zeal and fidelity which have won for him the respect, esteem, and confidence of the neighbourhood which has been the scene of his meritorious exertions.
direct or implied promise of it. In the case of condemned criminals, it is seldom required. Here the chaplain's chief business will be, to prepare the unhappy sufferers for their awful change; to instruct them in the principles of our holy religion; to point out the only foundation of hope in the merits of their Saviour; to insist upon the absolute necessity of sincere repentance in all its branches of contrition, confession, &c., and to convince them that they can place no safe reliance on any evidence of their faith and repentance being accepted which is not accompanied with the strict performance of all those Christian duties which are yet in their power to fulfil: and he will not fail to shew them, separated as they are from society, how few opportunities they have of performing the common duties of life, and how much more it therefore behoves them to employ with diligence and sincerity the few that remain to them, amongst which he will place prominently forward that of restitution to society and to individuals for the injuries they have done. This course will seldom fail, especially when all hope of life has fled, to induce the condemned criminal to confess his guilt, and to acknowledge the justice of his sentence, and that on Christian grounds and for the public good,—that the community, for whose sake his life is forfeited, may be assured that it has not been sacrificed wrongfully or in vain, and that his dreadful example may produce its desired effect. The criminal probably will go still further, and enter into a more particular history of his life and crimes, with the intention of its being made available in warning his companions and fellow-prisoners against those courses which have led him to disgrace and death. Facts and circumstances will sometimes arise involving the names and conduct of others, which the prisoner will stipulate shall not be published. These, of course, will not be divulged, and, among others, for this plain reason that without this stipulation the chaplain could not have obtained information of them. But with respect to the criminal's own share in them I have never been restricted, nor have I been withheld from disclosing whatever the public had a right to know, or what could be really useful to it. As for that morbid curiosity which rests satisfied with nothing short of all the particulars, important or unimportant, down to the minutest trifles attending these distressing transactions, no good can arise from satisfying this depraved appetite. On the contrary, how often does it lead to impertinent interference with the chaplain's duties and the criminal's preparation for the awful termination of his life. I feel truly grateful to the magistrates of my own district for having secured me against such annoyances; but I have been shocked above measure at the accounts I have read of the injudicious, unfeeling, and injurious proceedings which are said to have occurred in other places, especially in the metropolis, well knowing how distressing it must be to the chaplain, and subversive of his labours,-how cruel to the criminal, and obstructive to his best interests,—and how mischievous and unjust in a public point of view, by hindering the legitimate and merciful provisions made by the legislature for the sufferer's benefit, and for obtaining that information from him which it may be useful for the world to know. AN OLD CHAPLAIN.
SIR,-Your correspondent, "Presbyter," in the last number of the British Magazine, calls your attention to the subject of church-pewing. One defect, he considers, in the present system is, that those seats which are styled free should be free and open to any one who chooses to tenant them, and should not, as he tells us is the case at the meeting-house, be private, and appropriated to a particular individual or family. Now, he ought first to consider that the cases are not parallel, as in the meeting-house generally there is no such thing as a free seat; but having dismissed this, which appears his chief argument in favour of close-pewing, I think any one may readily persuade himself that we cannot adopt any system which will sooner drive the poor from churches than this of the meeting-house. It may be difficult to account for it, but I have heard it remarked, that the mere circumstance of a step to a shop is sufficient to deter many persons from entering that shop, and the formality of entering when the door is closed is a much more serious hindrance still. And for this sort of reason, among others, it is that I believe pewing will prove much less inviting to the modest poor than the plan of open sittings, the happy result of which has been to ensure a large attendance of the humbler classes at the services of the church. And if the people were properly instructed to keep as nearly as possible, to the same sittings, I am persuaded there is sufficient courtesy among us, especially in our villages, to make doors quite unnecessary. Families, then, as your correspondent wishes, might be properly accommodated, but it would be the result of courtesy, and not of compulsion.
So much for the expediency of the proposed change. But what has ever been the usage of the church? She has set her face decidedly against everything which could countenance the notion that there is such a thing as private property in the church; and although it may be well that some regularity should be observed in our sittings, yet she has never thought fit, till in modern times, to purchase this at the hazard of introducing the selfishness of voluntaryism into her system. In the present state of society, I agree with your correspondent, it would be difficult to reintroduce entirely the free sittings of the middle and earlier ages; but I am at a loss to conceive why on this account we should sweep away every vestige of the ancient plan. Any one who may chance to have seen a church in which the ancient order to any extent yet remains, will, I am sure, be inclined, with me, to hesitate before agreeing to a violent change. The parish of Powick, for instance, near Worcester, from having, perhaps, been blessed with a succession of superior churchwardens, has admitted but few of those barbarisms with which village carpenters delight to deform our churches; and the impression which this hospitable and catholic method made upon me was such, that I vowed to denounce from that time all needless departure from this simple and beautiful plan. For certainly, the solemn and appropriate edifices which our fathers reared, and to which we ought to assimilate those now building for a like holy purpose, demand some better feeling at our hands than we evince when
we block them to the height of five feet throughout with our vulgar pewing, better calculated to incite sleep than devotion, instead of the modest sittings of our ancestors, implying that for God, and not man, were the wonderful churches of our country and of Christendom reared. Truly we rather enshrine ourselves than God in our churches, and cannot be surprised if they be mistaken for mere decent shelters against weather.
But your correspondent shews a want of proper feeling altogether in the planning of his churches. He talks as if it were of little consequence whether the desk and pulpit obstruct all sight of the altar or not, and I have seen many a modern church-plan into which it has been difficult or impossible to edge a font from the closeness of the pewing. In this insignificant light does the modern church-builder hold the ordained sacraments of the church, and I lament to think how few and far between are the signs of a better feeling. Instead of nineteen out of twenty, sure I am that ninety-nine out of one hundred. of our churches require to be entirely new-seated; and I have no hesitation, in saying, to as great an extent as possible open sittings should be preferred, and that our pewing is generally two feet higher than necessity or fitness demand.
I must apologize for troubling you with this lengthy letter; but really, when we are building so extensively throughout the country, the subject of church-pewing becomes an important question, and demands some attention.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, AN ARCHITECT. London, Sept., 1837.
THE NEW CHURCHES IN LONDON.
SIR, The noble effort which is now making in the metropolis to supply the religious wants of its inhabitants, by erecting churches for that purpose, gives a plain contradiction to the fears of those who would assert that the church is in danger. Assaulted, as she is, by Romanism on the one side, and ultra-protestantism on the other, she has still nought to fear, so long as those great principles are maintained which form her only solid ground of defence. Surely, those persons almost belie their own professed sentiments who suppose that the church of this country can suffer final harm and loss, so long as she continues faithful; for do they not believe that she is a branch of that church against which Christ has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail? Let us not, then, doubt our Saviour's words, but be true to our principles, and we shall find that He who preserved her in the hour of pagan persecution will not fail us when surrounded by enemies of a different kind. No compromise with error must be made
This letter has been so long delayed, from want of room, &c., that this allusion to the Metropolis Churches Fund may perhaps appear out of season. It is to be hoped, however, that all who wish well to this most important object will remember that their exertions are still needed, and will be thankfully appreciated.-ED.
-no base yielding to gratify the wishes of the age-for the sake of present comfort, but at the expense of consistency and future safety. And if the great principles of the church are to be upheld, it will be well that those of lesser moment should be rightly considered, and that, while articles of faith are to be preserved with sacred care, at the same time the rites and ceremonies used from time immemorial in the holy catholic church, and enjoined by our own as a branch of it, should be likewise reverently maintained.
These observations lead me to speak on a subject which, though it may appear to some of trivial importance, yet will, I believe, be viewed in a different light by those who love the practices of the primitive church, and look upon those observances which were hallowed by the practices of apostles and martyrs as of no light or trifling moment. It is to be lamented that, in many of the churches which have been erected in the present and during the last century, so little attention should have been paid to the sanctity of God's altar; and, as if it were not enough that the holy table should be carelessly moved about by the attendants of the church, and considered an object of very little reverence by them, and by too many of the congregation, the pulpit, from which the minister is to deliver the word of life, from which he is to exhort his hearers to draw near and partake of the holy mysteries as they would value their salvation, is placed in front of the altar, and so as nearly to obstruct the view of it from a great part of the congregation. Now, not to mention any other objection to such a course, would it not be enough to say that it is highly inconvenient for the view of the minister to be kept from the congregation? as well might he preach in the same position; and doubtless no one would defend such a system. But there is far higher ground to be taken than the mere principle of expediency. Is it not to be feared that the inattention paid to the altar arises from a limited and imperfect view of the mysteries celebrated upon it? Such views are, we trust, wearing away; and now that men are arising on every hand who, with bold fearlessness, are contending for the catholic faith, on the subject of the holy eucharist, let not those in whose power it is to assist them fail to do so. While the former are searching out and digesting the true doctrines of the catholic church, and proving that they are our own, let those in whose power it is to aid their efforts by other means act with them.
It is well known with what reverence the altar was regarded by the Christians of the first and purest ages of Christianity, and that the preacher was accustomed to address his audience from its steps, although St. Chrysostom* and St. Augustin+ sometimes preached from the ambo, or reading desk. And though afterwards pulpits were introduced, and the custom was followed in our own country, yet never was it known that they were placed with their back to the altar. Look, for example, at the cathedrals and old parish churches of England: we uniformly find the pulpit placed on one side of the church,
* Socrates, lib. vi. c. v.
↑ De Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 8.