« PrécédentContinuer »
injuring his worldly prospects. He will at least have peace of mind, which he would do ill to barter-higher considerations apart-by unmanly truckling, and
watching which way the wind blows. We are sorry that AN OLD SUBSCRIBER does not like the plan of printing across the
page, instead of in columns. We adopted it at the suggestion of many good judges of such matters, huving persisted in the old method of columns for years after most other publications had quitted it. If we were to print more widely, and with larger types, as one of our correspondents recommends, it would be a great saving of expense, but in the same proportion it would be a loss of matter to our
readers. We are glad that the fault complained of is on the side of over-honesty. We assure A FRIEND TO THE Poor, that it is not because we do not claim the
same title, that we have not urged so strongly as he thinks we ought, the “cow and cottage system, with spade husbandry,” &c.; but from a perfect conviction, that, however wise or humane it may appear at the moment, it is fraught with ultimate evils which far outbalance the temporary adyantage. It is, in truth, not an advance, but a retrogradation in society: it is precisely the system which has rendered Ireland what it is at present: it was tried, twenty or thirty years ago, in many places with the most promising success; but the final result bas disappointed the expectation of the benevolent promoters. We would not wish to check the benevolent local efforts of our correspondent_far from it: every man ought to do what appears to him likely to be useful in his own neighbourhood; but, speaking nationally, and as Christian political economists, we have no hesitation in saying that the system, on a large scale, is not founded on a sound basis; and that it tends, in the issue, to depress the poor, and to augment and perpetuate those very evils which it was intended to check. There are but three ways in which the poor can ultimately, and on a national scale, be benefited :-First, by the emigration of the unemployed hands, to countries more fertile or less populated than their own; a partial and afflicting expedient, and but temporary in its effects, while the causes of the mischief are continuing at work, and re-producing the evil. Secondly, allowing the products of human industry to be perfectly free; so that the largest population, without emigrating, may produce at their own fireside what they can exchange abroad; dense Manchester making garments for Poland, and sparse Poland sending bread to Manchester, and not telling Carolina to smelt iron, or Birmingham to grow rice—as is the miserable, selfish policy of our present restrictive corn-laws. Thirdly, and chiefly, educating, moralizing, and, by the blessing of God, Christianising the population to those habits of industry, sobriety, providence, and self-restraint, which alone, under any system, can rescue them from evils such as those which we lament in Ireland.— The subject is, however, too important to be thus dismissed; and we will take an opportunity of discussing it more at large.
SUPPLEMENT TO RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE.
BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. We have already briefly alluded to the anniversary of this Society in a former page : and if we now introduce the account of the proceedings at it without note or comment, it is not because we do not feel intensely upon the subject, but because the gratitude of the friends of the Society were better indulged in humble thanksgiving to God, and renewed ardour in circulating his holy word, than in mere expressions of joy and mutual gratulation, which worldly men would say were not in good taste, and Christians would avoid for better reasons. It was but a cloud, and we trusted it would pass away; but so speedy and uninterrupted a return of genial warmth and sunshine was more than could be expected : and we would desire to impute it to the blessing of Him who watches over His own word, ard, we doubt not, regards with a favourable eye the feeble labours of his servants in circulating it for the healing of the nations. May they now go forth to their labours with renewed ardour, simplicity, and faith! We rejoice to observe, not only that the funds of the Society (deducting legacies) have increased during the year, but that a considerable number of large donations have been lately received, which evince the special regard of its friends.
IRISH EDUCATION SOCIETY. We have so often explained the object and proceedings of this institution, that we need add nothing to introduce to our readers the accompanying Report of its proceedings. We are not anxious for the oral preservation of the Irish tongue-quite the contrary; but while multitudes speak it and prefer it, and many understand no other, the Scriptures, and the means of education and spiritual instruction, ought not to be withheld from those who prefer receiving them through this medium.
For the Christian Observer. FEW persons can have traced the progress of opinion during the last
twenty years, and witnessed the late commotions in the country, the popular interest taken in the subject of reform, and the change effected in the feelings of numerous persons of property with regard to it, without some apprehension for the stability of those institutions which from our infancy we have reverenced. This change of opinion, this spirit of innovation, indicates the existence of much evil, either in the institutions themselves or in their assailants, or in both ; and though this result was long since anticipated by thoughtful persons, who were aware of the necessity of reform, and observed the rapid advancement of the nation in intelligence, it is still alarming.
If we look back at the state of the country twenty or thirty years ago, and compare it with our present condition, the first thing which must strike every observing person is the great progress of the people in education, in general information, and, however inadequately, in religious knowledge. The stimulus to exertion commenced during the war; but though the excitement encouraged improvement, it tended too much to concentrate the talents of the nation in military affairs. Much, however, had been done towards the melioration of the country in general before the peace; schools had been established, the word of God disseminated, and Christian knowledge promoted. Still, even at that period, the state of the country was by no means what it is now. And if we take the date of thirty, or even twenty years since, for the time of our observations, we shall see that the change has been very considerable. The lower classes were then generally uneducated and profoundly ignorant. The middle, under which I comprehend all who, being placed above want, obtain their livelihood by the application of capital in manual labour, possessed little knowledge beyond their business, and were easily rendered the tools of the factious : in many cases, they were held very much in subjection, but, hating their chains, were only looking for an opportunity of breaking them. Professional men had, up to that period, probably from their education, a greater intellectual superiority over the other classes of society than they have at present; but from the influence of party, and from the political power of some great families under whom they were respectively ranked, the contest was rather for party mastery, than for the establishment of the truth and the general welfare of the nation. The higher orders were in many instances kind and benevolent patrons; but drawing a wide line between themselves and all other classes of society, notwithstanding their benevolence, they were more frequently envied than loved. CHRIST. Observ. No. 367.
It may naturally be asked, Have all the evils incident to such a state of things been removed during the last thirty years ? Certainly not; yet still a considerable change, whether for the better remains to be proved, but still a considerable change, has been effected. Education has become much more general among the poor, and they consequently feel a greater disgust at injustice and oppression. The middle classes have experienced perhaps the most material change; but the effects have been very different in different individuals. A large portion, from the facility with which knowledge is now communicated, have attained a superficial acquaintance with many subjects; but having never thought deeply or accurately on · any, or perhaps ever been influenced by any wish to discover truth, with great pretensions they are easily duped, and remain contracted in their views, and prejudiced in their opinions. Others of this class are men of serious and sober mind, deep thinkers on religious and political subjects, who have come forward in this great struggle for intellectual advancement, and become in their respective circles leading and influential persons. They are frequently men of strong prejudices; but they are in pursuit of truth, and are practical and discriminating in their views.
The professional classes have undoubtedly advanced, yet, from the approximation of others, they have sunk from their apparent superiority. There is scarcely a profession which is not overstocked; in which talent is not extensively exercised, and in which rivalry does not excite to diligence : and the result is, that at no period of English history could there be found the same number of persons in the country—though the very number renders the individuals less conspicious-qualified to fill stations of trust, as at the present moment: I may add, that probably never was there so great a competition for such offices.
Nor have the higher classes been idle amidst this general spirit of improvement. It may be doubted whether comparatively they have made the same rapid steps towards advancement; whether their peculiar privileges may not have tended to cramp those exertions of which they were intended to be the reward; still they have proved to the world that rank does not enervate the understanding, or deaden the nobler feelings. Our nobility, not only at Oxford and Cambridge, but in society at large, have in many instances laid aside their vantage-ground, taken their station by the side of the sons of the physician and clergyman, and shewn that they have not degenerated from those by whose labours they were raised to honour. Thus, with a general improvement in all classes, there has been a more than proportionate approximation among them in intellectual qualifications.
The danger of such a state of things is the want of subordination, and a neglect of the experience of former ages. The educated child is apt to despise its uneducated, though experienced, parent; and the present intellectual generation disregards the wisdom in which our ancient institutions originated. Not only do men overlook the danger of hasty innovation, but they forget that many abuses which have at present crept into our establishments, are only misapplications of what in itself was useful, and which, had it not been misapplied, would have prevented the evils complained of.
On the other hand, the advantage of such a state is to be found in the facility afforded for obtaining that information which must form the basis of every well regulated change, and for sifting the information thus obtained.—To this spirit of investigation I conceive we owe in a great measure the Reform Bill. I am not arguing the merits or demerits of that measure; but, so far as I can judge, it has arisen from the abuses of the former system and the intelligence of the nation in detecting those abuses. It is vain, therefore, to expect that under the present state of feeling, with this restless spirit of investigation abroad, any abuses will long remain undetected; or that, if detected, some measures, good or evil, will not be adopted with a view to correct them.-I apply these remarks to the machinery of our ecclesiastical institutions. I speak to its friends, its laymembers, its bishops, and its clergy. If we do not reform whatever requires reformation, we give our enemies the vantage-ground, of which they will readily avail themselves; and the consequence will be, that we shall find it difficult to retain what really and rightfully belongs to us : and the only alternative is, whether we shall stand still and allow others to attack the church establishment, or whether we shall come forward and · propose remedies for those evils, which were either mixed up with our institutions at the time of the Reformation, or have since crept in during the lapse of years, or arisen from the altered state of our population.
One objection often offered to this reasoning is, that the present is not the time for concession; for that the Church has many enemies, who will use every concession for the purpose of further attack; and that consequently any innovation, even in the shape of reform, would only weaken the Establishment, and accelerate its overthrow. But, even allowing that such an argument might honestly be admitted, and that a known error may be maintained for the sake of expediency, lest a greater evil arise from an attempt to correct it, still I should demur to the truth of the intended inference. It is true that the Church has many enemies; but that an honest appeal to the people of England, and an offer to correct what. ever might admit of correction, would weaken the church, I do not believe to be true. Let us remember that the Church of England, allowing for human frailty, has truth on her side. Whether, in the first place, we consider her doctrines, as a member of the church of Christ; or the right vested in a Christian government, nay, the obligation laid upon it, to provide for the religious instruction of the nation, and the consequent propriety of national church-establishments—truth is on her side; and with all the prejudices and impiety which prevail, she has an enlightened, and to a considerable extent, a religious population, to judge her cause. And who are the adversaries against whom she has to contend? They may be divided into those who are hostile to her temporalities, and those who dissent from her government, her services, and her doctrines. I omit the last class—those who differ materially from her leading doctrines—as they are comparatively a very weak party. Those who are hostile to her temporalities raise many objections to the nature of her property, and the distribution of her funds; to the alleged impediments which tithes present to agriculture, in being raised, not as originally intended, but from the capital vested in the improvement of the land. The principal danger to be feared from these reasoners does not consist in the strength of their arguments, but in the immense debt which is laid upon landed property, and the consequent restlessness of the proprietors under the pressure of the burden, which they would gladly remove; and some, of course, are not scrupulous as to the means of so doing. But, even admitting their arguments, still tithes are property; and justice therefore will not permit the present possessors to make any change, without an equivalent. But, even as a matter of expediency, to render any change permanent it must be equitable; otherwise it will lead to discontent, disputed claims, and eventually to a revolution of property.
Leaving then this class of speculators, I proceed to consider how far the objections of the conscientious Dissenter ought to be attended to, and how far, if attended to, concession is calculated to excite reasonable apprehension. This is a subject of much greater moment than the affair of tithes. If the spoliators prevail, we must submit, and I trust with
Christian patience ; but the church of Christ may still remain unpolluted, and we may be both employed and provided for in some other quarter; and even if impoverished, we might still be a useful, though less efficient, ministry. And He only who knows all things can tell whether if our darker side be towards earth, our brighter may not be towards heaven. But far different is the consequence, if we allow any unnecessary cause of offence to remain ; if we are negligent in the administration of our church establishment; and if the great advantages which we enjoy become solely instruments of worldly aggrandizement to individuals, instead of advancing the exalted purposes for which ecclesiastical establishments were originally founded, and tithes and other property dedicated to religious uses. In this case we are answerable in the sight of God, not only for the misapplication of his gifts, but for the divisions to which we have been instrumental.
The objections raised by conscientious Dissenters against our Church, generally refer to the union of church and state. Now it cannot be denied, but that, with all allowances for exaggerated statements, our church establishment has often served the purposes of private friendship, or the payment of services, while the advancement of real religion has been overlooked; and that, in the distribution of church preferment, interest and political intrigue have often been the instruments of advancement to the highest stations, while piety, theological attainments, or an aptitude from character and habit to govern the church, have been disregarded. I have heard it stated, and I believe truly, that but for the interference of the civil power with ecclesiastical benefices, and particularly with the bishoprics, thousands and tens of thousands of Dissenters would enter the Established Church. While this system remains; while the road to preferment has an evident tendency to secularize the clergy, and the advantages held forth are continually the reward of worldly conduct and intrigue, we cannot expect, say they, or even hope, that the governors of the Establishment will be influenced by Christian motives. And this being the case, they remain independent of a church whose discipline, they consider, has a tendency contrary to the word of God.
Such language may, with some, be merely the expression of a wish to gain possession of the temporalities of the Establishment, and thus introduce their own discipline; but I believe that it is also the feeling of many conscientious Dissenters, who are anxious for Christian unity. Should we endeavour then to make an alteration in the system of church patronage, because some persons conscientiously differ from our mode of distribution ? I would answer this question by putting another : Is the church right in principle ?-for if we are right in principle; if the evils complained of do not necessarily attend the system, and the remedies proposed are likely to introduce as many if not greater evils, we should firmly adhere to the present till something better can be found. I am not insensible of the evils of our present system of patronage; but I believe that, on examina. tion, we shall find that in each particular, the argument would be unfavourable to the objector. I expressly pass over the question of the union of church and state, as a subject irrelevant to the present argument; and shall merely state, that the conviction of my own mind is, that we are sanctioned by Scripture and by experience, in keeping this union undiminished.--The second topic; namely, Whether the evils of which the objectors complain, might not, by a judicious reformation, be removed, will form the subject of subsequent papers. But in whose hands would they place church preferment? If bishops are to be elected by the clergy of their respective dioceses-unless we not only make them no longer peers of the realm, but also take away their temporalities, and change the whole nature of our Establishment—we shall have elections for Bishops as popular as those for Members of Parliament; intrigue within intrigue will disgrace