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The Lord Chancellor said, that he only spoke the sense of those persons who had turned their attention to this subject, when he expressed his opinion that a thorough revision of the present system ought to take place. Far from thinking that the question should be entrusted to other hands, he felt that it could not be taken up by any individual more capable of doing justice to it than the Right Reverend Prelate himself.
Among other public measures, we accept with gratitude the Lord Chancellor's Bill for establishing COURTS OF LOCAL JURISDICTION,with a view to bring justice cheaply to every man's door; and the pledges of Government to accomplish several other objects of public benefit: among others, the abolition, except in special cases (and even these exceptions we think unnecessary) of the barbarous system of MILITARY FLOGGING; and the promise to bring in immediately a Bill to correct the evils of the BEER ACT. That Act has done infinite mis chief to the country. We advocated, and still advocate, the throwing open the trade in malt liquors, as much as we would the trade in bread or grocery; but the encouragement to idling or tippling on the premises is an evil of incalculable magnitude, and ought not to be permitted.
His Majesty's Ministers have of late been nearly dismounted on two or three occasions. The majority against them in the House of Commons, the month before last, on the malt tax, would have been fatal to them, but for its immediate reversal. The House of Lords has exhibited a majority against them, upon an alleged breach of neutrality in favour of Don Pedro against Don Miguel. It was purely a division of party politics; and the House of Commons and the country having taken the opposite side, the House of Lords has gained nothing by its constructive predilection for Don Miguel. We lament that any of our Prelates should have signalized themselves in this party contest; and thus have brought upon themselves and their brethren the popular virulence, which threatens to expel them from the House of Lords, and is likely enough soon to do so, if our Bishops are to become political partizans.
The general disappointment expressed at the rejection of Sir Andrew Agnew's Bill, instead of a judicious revision of its details, has led to the introduction of another bill upon the same subject by Mr. Peter. We are unwilling to impede any measure of real improvement upon this vital question, even should it fall short of our own views of what is adequate; but, upon carefully considering the whole bear ing of the case, we cannot think the new Bill will carry the general question forward, but we fear that it will rather im
pede it. Sir Andrew Agnew's Bill was grounded upon the solid principle of the Lord's-day being of Divine institution, and it recognised the duty of a Christian legislature to enforce its decent observance, so far at least as to prevent the violator of its provisions from committing any gross public outrage upon its sanctity; and to protect those who desire to obey the laws of God and man for its observance, from being injured in their secular interests by the conduct of others, who would wish to make it a day of traffic and merchandize.
The old laws proceed upon these propositions; but they fail in the application of their details to the varied circumstances of modern society; and, by the diminished value of money, their penalties have become unavailing to enforce the observance of their enactments. The great object therefore was to revive and perpetuate what was good; to leave out what was bad-as, for example, the enforcement of attending Divine worship, which is a matter of private conscience, and not of public legislation;-and to supply what had become defective, either by reason of new modes of Sabbath violation, or the inefficiency of the old sanctions to prevent it. Sir Andrew Agnew's Bill did all this; and if its enacting clauses restricted any thing which ought not to be restricted, the clauses of exception were open for the admission of whatever could be shewn to be properly included within their range.
But Mr. Peter's Bill proceeds upon no consistent principle. It proposes protection in regard to Sunday trading; but even in this it falls far short of the exigencies of the case, for it does not include many of those classes of traders who have expressly petitioned to be protected. Why should not a baker, a licensed victualler, a newspaper vender, a post-horse keeper, or a stage-coach proprietor, with their respective families, servants, and dependents, be as much protected as any other class of persons?
And why is not Mr. Peter's Bill consistent? Plainly because it is not grounded upon the word of God. Sir Andrew Agnew, instead of making an entirely new preamble, chose, as the basis of his own, the excellent words of one of the old Acts. His Bill says: "Forasmuch as nothing is more acceptable to God than the true and sincere worship and service of Him according to His holy will, and that the holy keeping of the Lord's-day is a principal part of the true service of God, which in very many places of this realm has been and now is profaned and neglected: And whereas it is the bounden duty of the Legislature to protect every class of society against being compelled to sacrifice their comfort, health, religious privileges, and conscience, for the convenience, enjoyment, or supposed advantage of any other class on the Lord's-day :
And whereas the laws now in existence are found to be practically insufficient to secure the object for which they profess to provide: Be it therefore enacted," &c. But, instead of this, Mr. Peter only gives us: "Whereas it is desirable to repeal the several Acts now in force relating to the observance of the Lord's-day (commonly called Sunday), in order that the provisions thereof may be amended and consolidated into one Act: Be it therefore enacted," &c.
Here, then, is at once a retirement from the higher and Christian ground occupied by his predecessor, and so far a virtual abandonment of a principle which the greater part of the friends of religion throughout the land had recognised and laid down as the basis of their proceedings.
But though the word "desirable" is too cold, and acknowledges no principle, we should not have grieved so much about the preamble, if the enactments had been adequate; but Mr. Peter's measure professes to be only a consolidation of what is allowedly defective; and in the process of consolidation some of the good parts escape, while some of the defective parts are retained. The following important statements, in a petition which is in a course of signature, are expressed with strength as they ought to be upon such a subject-but we see not how they can in substance be contravened. The petitioners say:
"It appears to your Petitioners that legislative measures for promoting the better observance of the Lord's-day, by prohibiting work thereon, should not only implicitly but avowedly be founded upon, and be in accordance with, the Revealed Will of God: your Petitioners therefore regret that a Bill, now depending in your Honourable House, to amend and consolidate the Acts relating to the Observance of the Lord's-day, does not expressly recognise the authority of GoD in this matter; nor is it implied or avowed in the preamble that its provisions will be framed by any Scriptural rule.
"Your Petitioners perceive that it is proposed to your Honourable House to repeal the ancient Statutes on this subject, which, though impaired in their efficacy by the altered value of money and other minor circumstances, do nevertheless avow and involve most holy principles; and your Petitioners feel deeply alarmed at this proposal, not only because there is no avowed intention of supplying their place by enactments upon the same Scriptural principle, but also because in the prohibitory clauses and exceptions of this Bill your Petitioners behold with dismay provisions entirely at variance with the Word of GOD, and entirely at variance, not only with the principles, but also with some of the most important and salutary provisions, of those very
Statutes which the Bill most untruly pro fesses to consolidate.
"Your Petitioners would point out amongst other defects in this Bill, First, that it omits to prohibit all kinds of goods from being received and delivered on the Lord's-day; under colour of which all trade may and will be carried on: and omits to prohibit Wakes, Revels, and Pastimes of public inconvenience, indecorum, and nuisance, not specified in the Bill; also public Debates, Discussions, Lectures, Addresses, and Speeches; also the travelling of carriages carrying goods for hire, and all Drovers with cattle, during the Lord's-day, with the exception of nine hours: also it permits, in the most alarming manner, the travelling of all Stage-coaches, Omnibuses, Steam and other Carriages, throughout the whole of the Lord's-day; and merely prohibits their commencing their journey between eleven and one, and between three and four; which seems to he a vain and frivolous prohibition, and amounts to a mockery of the Law of GOD. Your Petitioners also lament the wide and unnecessary departure from the Scriptural standard in the exemptions enumerated at the end of this Bill, as regards other than household servants, in the necessary arrangement of families; also as regards Fruit-sellers, and that much-oppressed class the Working Bakers; also as regards the sale of Liquor and Provisions by Publicans and others; also as regards the use of Hackney Carriages; and lastly, as regards the running of the Royal Mail, that national act of Sabbath trading. So that, on a review of the details of this Bill, your Petitioners perceive that it will have the effect of perpetuating the enormous evils which in former days were occasioned by the meetings of Debating Clubs on the Lord's-day, now prohibited by one of the Acts proposed to be repealed, and in our days so largely produced by the Sale of Spiritous Liquors in shops opened for that express purpose. Your Petitioners also perceive that complete exemption from the burthens of Sabbath Labour is not granted to any of those classes who have prayed relief, while partial exemption is granted to few, and to many classes absolutely none. In a word, your Petitioners perceive that many provisions are omitted, or rendered inoperative, contrary to the requirements of the Scriptural Standard; and many exceptions are introduced, which cannot be brought within the meaning of those works of piety, charity, or necessity, which alone are declared by the precept and example of our Lord Jesus Christ to be consistent with the spiritual meaning of the Fourth Commandment."
The Petitioners therefore humbly pray for the amendment of the Bill, by giving due honour to GOD, in the pre
amble, and by either expunging the repealing clause or amending the other provisions of the Bill; so as to give the nation a complete security for the substitution of equivalent provisions in the place and stead of those repealed, and, finally, to render it a fitting Law for a Christian People."
We have from the first maintained that any enactment upon this subject in order to be at all effective, must be grounded specifically upon Scriptural principles. If it be not, it will fall short of its object, as every day's experience increasingly proves. The present 'vantage ground upon which Mr. Peter stands is so much soil captured from the common enemy of vice, irreligion, and sceptieism, by those who went before as pioneers, clad, not in human but celestial panoply, and wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It is Christian men that have inserted the powerful wedge that was to split the gnarled oak; and let us not, because it has once slipped out, now substitute another of feeble power, which will not only fail of its professed purpose, but fly back and smite the operators. speak strongly, because we consider the present measure as only doing a little, just to prevent more being done; disappointing the hopes of the religious part of the community, just to stop their urgent appeals, and to baffle them with a semblance of unattained good. Even public opinion is already effecting much; and we would not check its progress by inadequate enactments. We trust, however, even yet, after the public anxiety evinced upon the question, that, if the Bill is to pass, it will at least receive such large improvements as shall make it in effect a new measure, and render it, if not all we wish and hope for, at least a considerable improvement upon the existing state of the law. But of the practicability of this we do not feel assured; and we are inclined to think it were wisest, much as we regret it, to postpone the whole matter till the next session.
We are glad to see that Sir A. Agnew is bringing in a Bill to allow Corporations to elect Officers, &c. on the Monday, where the day of the month required by their laws happens to fall on the Sunday. There are nearly a hundred corporate bodies, we believe, thus circumstanced. We well recollect hearing Lord Eldon, in Dr. Godfrey's Queen's-College-Cambridge cause, remark with great severity upon a portion of the case, which alleged that some secular acts had not been performed on the Sunday, as required by the College Statutes. It did not happen, he said, to be necessary for the adjudication of this cause that he should decide the general question, as to whether, when a
Cambridge-college Statute requires a Master to be elected or sworn-in by a certain day, and that day chances to be Sunday, the postponement of the matter till Monday vitiates the election; but, as an Oxford man, he added, he was happy to say that he had never heard of any such necessity or any such practice in his own University.
Sir A.Agnew is likewise bringing in a Bill for the better observance of the Lord's-day in Scotland. It is grounded on Scriptural principles, and we earnestly wish it success.
As illustrations of the need both of new laws and new manners in regard to Sabbath observance, we copy the following paragraphs from two of the newspapers.
"Seventeen hundred persons visited the Zoological Gardens on Sunday the 2d of June, and nearly a similar number were there on Sunday last. The carriages were so numerous as to render the drive in the outer circle of Regent's Park, and in the neighbourhood of the Gardens quite impassable. The old-fashioned promenade in Kensington Gardens on Sundays has been deserted for the new 'focus of attraction.""
"Castle of Exeter-[Before Major Pitman, Chairman; W. Nation, Esq., J. Milford, Esq., and J. Pitman, jun. Esq., Magistrates.]-Mr. Were, farmer, of Sowton, complained of Peter May, his apprentice, having left his service without his consent on Sunday last: there was also a summons against the master, for unmercifully beating the boy. The Magistrates desired the cases to be heard together; and the case as to the apprentice leaving his master being made out, the boy was examined, and stated, that on Sunday he was ordered by his master to drive some butter in a wheelbarrow to the Royal Oak public-house, which he refused to do, and his master beat him severely with a stick; he refused to go, because it was on a Sunday, and the people laughed at him. Witnesses were examined, who deposed as to the severity with which Mr. Were beat the boy; and, on his back being examined before the Bench, it appeared that he had been much punished. Mr. Were, in his defence, said he had not used unnecessary violence, and produced a small ash stick, which he said was the one with which he beat the boy, who was exceedingly obstinate. The boy admitted, on being questioned by the magistrates, that his master did not keep him from going to church, and that he had plenty of meat and drink.-The Bench dismissed the complaints on both sides, and informed the boy that he must obey his master's orders, in doing what may be necessary on Sundays, when not in time of Divine Service; and also intimated to the master that he was not authorized to beat the boy with unnecessary severity."
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
P.; T. G. H.; EUSEBIUS; W. L. N.; F. S.; Σ.; R.; and SIMMUD; are under consideration.
W. M. and G. M. will perceive that the defence of Mr. Wesley and the Methodist Conference had been anticipated by another writer.
SUPPLEMENT TO RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE.
BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY.
OUR readers will see, by the first two or three articles in the Monthly Extracts, that some, at least, of the Society's friends have turned their minds towards the duty of endeavouring to supply last year's deficiency in the funds of the Institution. A strong case was made out in the appeal of the Parent Committee; and it should be met, as it appears to us, by some prompt, vigorous, and simultaneous effort on the part of the Auxiliary and Branch Societies and Bible Associations throughout the kingdom. Might not a special general meeting in many cases be held with advantage of these various bodies; or an address be circulated by them; or a re-canvass of their respective districts be made? If some such course were to be taken, the deficiency of the last year (60004.) would, we have very little doubt, soon be made up; and we should not hear, next May, of the Society being impeded by want of funds from meeting the increasing demands for the Scriptures. It may not be generally known that the direct subscriptions received by the Parent Society amount this year to only 1789.; and they have never exceeded this, in the most prosperous year, by many hundred pounds. What a paltry sum! It ought to be, and might be, increased ten-fold. The free contributions from Auxiliaries amount only to 25,604/.: these also might be largely increased. At this moment the demand for Bibles throughout the world is insatiable: funds are also wanted for new translations, and perfecting old ones. The supplies to Ireland alone of Bibles and Testamentsby grants through the Hibernian Society, the Hibernian Bible Society, the Baptist Irish Society, the Irish Society in Dublin, the Sunday-School Society for Ireland, the Ladies' Hibernian Female School Society, and sundry individuals—have amounted in the whole, from the commencement of the Institution, to 729,614 copies, besides portions of the Scripture, at an expense, after deducting sums returned by sales, of 78,300.; and yet the Extracts now before us make new and large demands. Will then the friends of this Society be indolent, with such claims upon them? The Church Missionary Society, which was deficient last year, has by diligent exertion increased its income by more than 7000.; the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge has augmented its receipts and its disbursements to beyond all former years and why should not a similar result attend that Society whose only object is to circulate the pure Word of God throughout the world?
Having often explained the objects of this excellent Institution, we need do no more at present than recommend the perusal of its last Report, which is peculiarly interesting from the present circumstances of Ireland. We rejoice to find, that, amidst every difficulty, its funds and schools have been prosperous. But renewed and increased exertions are required to enable the Society to pursue its important work of affording to the native Irish a Scriptural Education through the medium of their own language.
BRITISH AND FOREIGN SCHOOL SOCIETY.
The speeches in the Quarterly Extracts contain much valuable and encouraging information respecting the progress of education throughout the world; and it is gratifying to observe how strongly the friends of the Society insist upon that important principle, that the education given to the poor, as well as the rich, should be Scriptural. Mr. Burnet had done well, in this and other speeches, not to inveigh against sectarism in a sectarian spirit, or to mix up political allusions with the business of charitable and religious institutions. Why tell us that the Society “looked not on a steeple to frown on a chapel; it did not help a Churchman to pass by a Dissenter ?" Another man might have transposed the words, and made an excellent good quarrel. If three or four political Dissenting ministers will always be flinging their gibes at the peaceful meetings of religious and charitable societies, they will do much evil to the cause both of religion and charity.
AT T the time when that fearful pestilence, the Cholera, was beginning to appear upon our shores, and when the public anxiety was intensely arrested in fearful expectation of its ravages, we endeavoured, as Christian Observers, viewing the signs of the times, to turn the visitation to religious account, by setting before our readers some of those lessons of spiritual wisdom which appeared to us appropriate to the occasion. We also introduced a variety of interesting details connected with former visitations of pestilence, partly from the more popular sources of information, and partly from the forms of prayer and humiliation drawn up on those melancholy occasions. Our series of extracts from these formularies will be of permanent value, as the documents are now most of them very scarce, and some of them, perhaps, almost unique; and are not likely either to be reprinted, or another collection of them made with as much research and industry as were expended in bringing together, from ecclesiastical archives and worm-worn parish-chests, the mass of them to which, by the favour of the Reverend collector, we had access.
The visitation passed over us more lightly than we had any reason to expect, and infinitely more leniently than our national transgressions deserved. It pleased God to hear and to answer the prayers of his people: He saw the nation bowed before him in solemn humiliation, and he commanded that our British Nineveh should not be destroyed. As compared with the capital of a neighbouring kingdom, and many other towns and villages in various parts of the world, our metropolis suffered little, and in very few places did the scourge seem to be let loose with its accustomed violence. Should it be permitted to return in its strength-and who, that considers either physically the character of the distemper, and its still lingering insidious lurking among us, or morally and spiritually our offences against God, aggravated by the absence of national amendment after He heard our vows and ceased to smite us-can venture to say that such a second visitation is improbable? we shall have ample need for all the foresight and experience to be derived from the former incursion: and well will it be if it meet us better prepared than before to welcome its approach--better prepared, we mean, in relation to that only source of true repose, confidence in God as his reconciled children in Christ Jesus; to whom all things work together for good; to whom to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
But though the visitation was upon the whole lenient, there were CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 381.