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CHRISTIAN OBSERVER FOR 1832,
BEING THE THIRTY-SECOND VOLUME.
RELIGIOUS & MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON'S EVIDENCE BEFORE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS COMMITTEE ON THE LORD'S DAY.
(Continued from p. 763.) IS S it your Lordship’s opinion, from reading and inquiry, as well as from
observation, that the observance of the Lord's-day is more or less strict now than it was two or three generations ago ?-I think, with respect to the middling classes, that greater attention is paid to the duties of the Lord’s-day than was paid thirty years ago. With respect to the lower classes, there has been, to a certain extent, a considerable improvement since the establishment of the system of national education ; that is to say, as far as the capacity of our churches has admitted such an improvement to take place ; but I fear that with regard to the great mass of the lower orders there has been a sad deterioration, very mainly owing to the increased facilities of intemperance.
Has your Lordship observed, in connexion with an habitual absence from church on Sunday, a habit of Sabbath profanation in other respects ? -It is difficult to form an opinion, except in country places ; my observation leads me to conclude that persons who absent themselves from public worship are not exemplary in the discharge of any part of their duty.
Your Lordship’s answer to the last question but one had reference to the middling and lower classes; can your Lordship state how far among the higher classes you hold the observance of the Lord's-day is now more or less strict than it was at the period to which that answer referred ?My own experience as a country clergyman relates principally to the lower classes. I have only had an opportunity of noticing the conduct of the higher classes in this respect of late years. I am really inclined to hope that there is a considerable increase in the number of those among the higher classes who observe the Lord's-day.
In reference to the more or less strict observance of the Lord's-day at present, compared with what it was two or three generations ago, it has been stated that the levees and the courts and the drawing-rooms were held formerly on the Sunday; does not the cessation of that practice, in your Lordship’s judgment, encourage among the higher classes the due observ. ance of the Sabbath ?—Certainly; I should say decidedly that there is less of that false shame which prevented many of the higher classes formerly from strictly observing the Lord's-day, than there was even within my
CHRIST. OBSERY. APP.
own recollection; and I may add, that our churches in London are much better filled twice, or even three times in the day, and that by the higher classes, than they were even once in the day twenty years ago. Has your Lordship ever instituted a comparison between
the gross population of your diocese in connexion with the Established Church, and the amount of the space in the Established Churches ?-- Yes : I could not, not having the document with me, state it correctly; it is so continually varying, that I could not state any one year with any degree of accuracy, on account of the continual variation both in population and church room.
The question would be sufficiently answered by the present impression on your Lordship's memory as to the proportion of the population which could be accommodated by the present space ?-Not a tenth, certainly; generally speaking, the church accommodation in the metropolis is utterly insufficient for the accommodation of the parishioners; and where we build new churches they are immediately filled. A great defect in the London churches is the want of accommodation for the poor.
Your Lordship would recommend, in case of new churches being built, that an enlarged accommodation for the poor should be provided –That is always secured now; in every new church that is built a certain amount of accommodation for the poor is secured.
In the city of London itself are the poor adequately provided for?There is much more room in many of the city churches than they require.
Your Lordship’s observation respecting the want of adequate accommodation for the poor applies to the parishes without the walls ?-Yes.
From the account of the disproportion between the population in connexion with the Establishment, and the space afforded in the churches, it would appear that comparatively few have the opportunity of attending church ?-Few of the poorer classes.
And that this to a considerable extent must be admitted as a cause, a general and prevailing cause, of that habit of Sabbath profanation in other respects which we witness ? -Yes. I should not like to put my answer so strongly as to imply that there was no other provision for the religious in. struction of the people than that which is given them in the Established Church; but I can have no hesitation in saying that this cause, which has been for many years in operation, is one efficient cause of the present neglect of the Sabbath.
Would the multiplication of churches in the Establishment in the same proportion operate as a remedy ?--No, because the evil is now done; and it is a different thing to prevent an evil accruing, and curing it when it has arisen ; but that it would, in such a proportion as to repay the nation, or the parties who might build such churches, for the outlay, I have no doubt.
That it would be one of the most effectual means of recalling what we may consider the alienated part of the population ?-I think, if sufficient accommodation were provided in churches, and care were taken to place able and faithful clergymen in those churches, that this would be by far the most promising method of remedying the evil now complained of.
Does not your Lordship think that if the accommodation for the poor were in all cases placed perhaps less remote from the clergyman, and more conveniently situated, it would have an increased tendency to induce them to attend church ?-It is the object of his Majesty's Commissioners for Building New Churches, as far as they can, to intermingle the seats of the rich and the poor, so as to afford the latter nearly the same facilities for hearing which the former enjoy. We have found considerable difficulty în realising our own wishes in that respect, on account of the objections which were made by the richer classes to too great an intermixture of the poor among them ; objections which it was absolutely necessary to attend to, because the whole income of the minister depends on the pew rents accruing exclusively from the richer classes.
But still in some of the churches that have been built, it has been seen that the free seats have been inconveniently situated, and that the poor have taken exceptions against such 'arrangements, to the great diminution of the congregation. The Committee beg to ask whether it would not be desirable to give the advantage (consistently with the necessary provision for the clergyman) to free sittings - It is desirable ; but I must again repeat that we have always made it a primary object, and in most of the new churches, where the churches are large enough, the seats are appropriated to the poor in the middle aisle from one end to the other; very conveniently for the purposes of hearing. And I may add, as it has some reference to the subject, that in many cases seats which have been rejected by the poor as free sittings, have been readily hired by them at a very small annual rent; the vesting in them a certain property in the seat takes away that feeling of degradation which sometimes prevents them from occupying free seats.
As your Lordship has been bishop of a diocese where manufactures greatly prevail, and where the children and young persons are so overworked and confined, as to leave them no means of recreation on workdays, so that they are induced to make the Lord's-day a time of recreation merely ; is it not your Lordship's opinion, that a reasonable remission of the hours of labour in mills and factories would greatly tend to the better observance of the Sabbath-day, assuming that there is not the slightest opportunity for any thing like recreation during other days in the week ?That is a point on which my opinion is worth nothing more than that of any other person, because it is a question of speculation; it is very obvious that if the poor have all their leisure and recreation thrown into the seventh day, they cannot employ, or will not employ, the same portion of that seventh day in the exercise of religion, which they would be disposed to do if they had some relaxation on the week-days.
We have had it in evidence that in Scotland it is usual to make the days of work shorter on Saturday, and that the workmen stop at four o'clock, to enable them to make their market; do you not think such a regulation desirable in this country, and would tend to the observance of the Lord's-day?Undoubtedly. A very great improvement would be effected by the payment of labourers on the Friday instead of Saturday. Will the Committee first allow me to state, as this evidence may be read perhaps in the manufacturing districts, that I have observed the best effects to follow in manufacturing towns from the institution of large Sunday-schools, and that these have promoted a devout observance of the Sabbath-day, in a degree only to be estimated by those who witnessed them in operation.
Your Lordship is not, perhaps, aware of the fact of the great disinclination of children to attend Sunday-schools, who have been labouring in factories for an excessive number of hours in the week, and that the parents find a great difficulty in inducing, or almost compelling, their children to go ?-I am looking particularly to one Sunday-school, consisting of between 1 200 and 1500 young persons; I refer to the town of Bolton: there was great readiness to enter into that school ; but then it was peculiarly well managed, and connected with a little savings bank against sickness on the part of the young people; it was the most perfect specimen of a Sunday school I ever saw, and kept together the church there, and promoted the good order of the town in a degree which hardly any person could estimate who had not seen it in operation.
Did the scholars of that school consist entirely of the factory children No, there were a great many of the hand-loom weavers' children.
Perhaps your Lordship is not aware of the fact, that in Scotland, where parish schools are universally established, or which are now very general, they are confined altogether to instruction on religious subjects; would it not be very desirable to see the Sunday schools in England confined to religious instruction also ? — They are so confined when in connexion with the Established Church.
Your Lordship mentioned the increased facilities of intemperance as one of the causes of the demoralization of the lower orders, and the disobedience of the Sabbath ; the Committee understood your Lordship to allude to the regulations lowering the price of gin and opening beer-houses ?-1 was not alluding to beer houses, which are of recent date, though I find one unvarying tenor of complaint on the part of the clergy in the country in that respect; the experiment was so recent, that I did not mean to allude to that; I spoke with regard to gin shops only.
The lowering of the price of gin took place only a few years ago; does your Lordship date the demoralization of the lower classes only from that period ?-1 date a most frightful increase from that period; between the time I first took the church of Bishopsgate, in London, and the time when I left it, the increase of intemperance was most frightful. I never saw, when I first came to London, a female coming out of a gin shop; but I have since repeatedly seen females with infants in their arms, to whom they appeared to have been giving some part of their liquor. I almost think I have seen more women than men coming out of these shops.
The Committee understand your Lordship to say that you consider the lower classes have been improved since national schools have been established ?-To a certain extent, as far as that class has been brought by that means under the immediate superintendence of the clergy; but it is a very small portion of the whole in populous towns.
Your Lordship has stated that the middling classes and that the higher classes have attended Divine service much better within the last two years ; is not there a hope that that would continue to improve without any compulsory legislation on the subject :-As I have great confidence in the final success of the right cause, I have no doubt it will continue to improve ; but I think that in the lower classes of society so frightful and rapid a deterioration is going on, that it would be an act of kindness to step in and check them, and to save them from running into evil ; it is very true, you cannot instil principles of piety into their minds by preventing them desecrating the Sabbath, but you may save them from those practices which will render it impossible for the teachers of religion to instil it into their minds; and you may prevent, to a considerable extent, the contagion of example.
Is your Lordship aware of any instance in which an enactment of penalties has ever been effective in enforcing moral or religious duties ? I think not; but I take this view of the subject: I am persuaded you will do no good by punishing people for not going to church ; but I think you will do a great deal of good by preventing persons from spreading out those temptations which prevent the people from going to church. I think that the positive enforcement of religious duties by penalties is a mistake ; it is a mistake in the principles of legislation : but I think you ought, if you look on religion as the basis of all sound principles and social order, to prevent and take out of the way as much as you can those temptations which must check the growth of religion, and encourage the growth of irreligion.
Is there no danger, by compulsory legislation, of exciting a feeling of resistance in the minds of those who would otherwise be inclined to attend to those duties?-I am firmly persuaded that if the desecration of the Lord's-day, in the way of trading, were prevented, so far from appearing
as a hardship upon the poorer classes, it would be a great boon. I apprehend they are now compelled to traffic on the Lord's day, and that they would consider it a real boon to be prevented; for they must be supplied, and it is the interest of vendors to supply them, and if they are prevented serving them on the Lord's-day, they will supply them with an equally good article, and I believe cheaper, on any other day in the week; and if an employer found that the persons in his employ could not be supplied with the necessaries of life on the Sunday, he must, for the sake of his own interest, pay them in such a manner and at such times as would enable them to get supplied in some other way, and in this point of view the poorer orders would be clear gainers; they would gain for themselves all that time on the Lord's-day which they are now obliged to spend in providing necessaries for themselves and their families.
Has your Lordship considered the question, by what penalties or what legal powers you would enforce these regulations you deem useful on a Sunday ?—No, I cannot say that I have considered that sufficiently to give an opinion upon it.
Would you by statute vest the power of enforcing such regulations in any person generally who chose to interfere on the subject, or would you think it better to confine it to the parochial authorities ?-I am afraid that such a limitation would defeat the ends of any enactment; the parochial authorities, constituted as they are now, have already quite as much on their hands as they can do: indeed one part of their duty consists in preventing the profanation of the Lord's-day, as far as they have power to do so by law, but
you cannot expect that two churchwardens and three or four overseers shall be able to notice all the profanation of the Lord's day in a parish with 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants.
Does your Lordship think that without that limitation to parochial authorities, there would be found sufficient volunteers in the service to make the statute efficient ?—I think there would be. I may
take this opportunity of stating that I think there ought to be a much more extensive and effective body of parochial authorities in populous places.
Reverting to the subject of church room: your Lordship has stated that the supply in London, within the walls, is always more than adequate to the demand of the population ; does that answer imply that the poorer classes have free access to the large churches within the city, or merely that there is vacant church-room not occupied by any class ?-In many of the city parishes there are few or no poor, the houses being almost entirely occupied by warehouses, counting-houses, and houses left in the charge of porters and housekeepers on the Sunday; in other parishes in the city there is sufficient room for poor; in some, for instance St. Botolph, Bishopsgate-street, which was my own parish, the accommodation provided for the poor is very inadequate, and though that is not within the walls, it is part of the city.
Your Lordship is no doubt aware that in several of the parishes within the city there are fewer poor in proportion to the population, generally, than any other part of the metropolis, in consequence of this fact, that the labouring men who work within such parishes during the week, reside with their families in the suburbs of the metropolis, in which suburbs there is not sufficient accommodation ?-The great proportion of the labourers alluded to in the question reside in the parishes of Bethnal-green, Stepney, and Whitechapel, where the church accommodation is very inadequate to their wants.
Can your Lordship state to the Committee what proportion of church room has been provided by the State during the last ten years, and what has been the amount paid during the last ten years ?-I will answer gene