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ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
A. R. C.; G. C. S.; A. B.; I. O. Z.; ——; B.; A. R.; IGNOTUS; E. M. B.; G. N.; E. M. B.; A VICAR; EXCUBITOR ; AN ANXIOUS INQUIRER; E. D.; "On Oaths; " R. F. D.; are under consideration.
Had we omitted the statement alluded to by H., that Mr. Wilberforce once communicated at a Dissenting chapel, we might have been open to the charge of unfair dealing, as it formed a portion of a connected narrative which we professed to transcribe. We made no remark upon it, because we knew nothing of the circumstances of the case, or of the authenticity of the anecdote; and we are equally ignorant at the present moment.
Our reply to the inquiry of A BIBLE CHRISTIAN-and it may serve also as a reply to some of the statements of Dr. Malan-is, that the Bible says "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." There is, therefore, some sense in which the Bible does not exclude either working or trembling. To hold the contrary, is to make the word of God bend to crude human systems.
It cannot be unknown to our readers, that an effort is in progress, chiefly among a few individuals connected with the University of Oxford, to make a party to oppose the progress of efficient Church Reform. We have felt unwilling to allude to the subject, and had laid aside the following letter, which touches upon it; but circumstances have occurred to make us think it our duty to call the attention of our rulers to it. The great body of the judicious friends of the Church of England have come to the conclusion, that, even if the extinction of abuses were not a Christian duty, it would be, in the present state of things, the first dictate of prudence and expediency. Among proofs innumerable, we need not go further than the Bishop of Exeter's important Charge, just published, to shew how strongly this opinion has taken root in quarters of the highest influence and respectability. As we purpose speedily reviewing this and some other Charges, Episcopal and Archidiaconal, we say no more at present than that his Lordship warmly espouses those three measures which we, in our humble capacity, have often and zealously urged, long before the present spirit of reform came into fashion-namely, the commutation of tithes; the establishment of schools of theology for the education of the clergy; and the abolition of pluralities, and, with it, of non-residence. Yet when this necessity-not to say duty-is forced upon every judicious friend of the Church; and when Dissent is projecting our downfall, and may prevail if timely reform do not prevent ruin; a party is most suicidally forming among us to impede efficient amendment to range our Bishops and Clergy into two hostile factions to render the Church obnoxious to the Government, the legislature, and the public-and to seal its doom, by its obstinacy in repelling the most useful and temperate correctives.
We shall probably be obliged to return to the subject; but in the mean time we insert the following monitory letter, only premising, that we do not consider it as in any way disrespectful to that highly esteemed and beloved Prelate whose name, without his knowledge or consent, has been invidiously obtruded upon the public as a watch-word for a party- spirited opposition to efficient ecclesiastical reform.
"To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
"A form of address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, headed ‘Address from the Clergy to the Primate,' has, it seems, been prepared by one or two individuals at Oxford, and great pains are taking to obtain signatures to it. Whether it be advisable or unadvisable to get up petitions implying, as this appears to do, designs and intentions of the existence of which there is no evidence, may perhaps admit of question; but that, if got up, they should be directed to the proper quarter, and proceed through the right channel, and be explicit and tangible in expression, is, I presume, no question. I esteem the document referred to to be defective in all these respects. The wording is so vague and indistinct that it may bind the subscriber to any thing or nothing, and may convey to the Archbishop's mind just as much or just as little as he may be disposed to infer. And the only apparent proposition that it contains, by commencing with an hypothetical if,' clearly informs his Grace that his petitioners have no opinion themselves whether Church Reform be very desirable or very objectionable. It offers no suggestion: it presents no counsel. What good can result from such an address I am unable to conceive. If intended as a declaration of attachment to the Church, it is surely a work of supererogation if intended to enlighten the Prelate's mind by the judgment of the clergy, it is singularly ill-suited in its phraseology, resolving the whole question, as it does, into his Grace's individual conviction.
This, however, is not the main objection. An Address from the Clergy to the Primate!' What! are we not then a Diocesan Clergy? Have we no Diocesans?
Is the Primate' virtually the Bench of Bishops, as the Pope is virtually the Roman Episcopacy? Is the Archbishop any more than Primate, i. e. primus inter pares, as the Scotch Church expresses it? Is he any more than Metropolitan, bishop of the metropolitan city? Is he any more than the Elder among many brethren? Is his superiority of Divine right; or is it any more than an arrangement of ecclesiastical order, which was given by the Church, and may be taken away, as it has from other Primates? Was it intended to militate against the inherent rights of Bishops? The Clergy (those of his own diocese excepted) owe to the Primate only an indirect and indefined subordination: to their Diocesan they owe direct and immediate canonical obedience: from him alone they derive their orders, their mission, and their authority. To pass him over, therefore, and to address immediately, especially upon such a subject, another prelate, though that prelate be the Primate, is a violation of decorum and duty; and, being probably unintentional, betrays a great want of reflection as to the essentiality of an Episcopal Church, and gives the appearance of setting up 'the Primate' in opposition to the whole body of which he is but the chief member; an appearance which I am sure his Grace would be the first to deprecate.
"I also reprehend the tone in which the address is expressed. In the use of terms of personal veneration for Archbishop Howley, few would go further than myself. But I conceive that when a body of Clergymen think it expedient to communicate their opinion to a Prelate, they ought certainly to adopt terms of the utmost deference towards him, but still they ought to remember their own office. They ought to give that opinion, not as humble supplication, but as fraternal counsel and advice; such as behoves men who (whatever ecclesiastical arrangement may have made them) are, by Divine institution, a ruling' part of the Church of Christ (1 Tim. v. 17). But this document seems as if addressed to a Throne: it is in the humble strain of loyal subjects to their sovereign, rather than of Christian presbyters to a Christian bishop.
"From whom does this address emanate? Is it from a few ultra High-churchmen, who may be anxious to effect a rupture between our civil and ecclesiastical governors, and to set the Church at variance with the State? who seem eager to undergo some modern sort of martyrdom, unlike that of old? and who, talking largely of their own consciences, despise all sympathy with the consciences of their brethren, who, whether without or within, may love the Church, for her own sake, as ardently as they do; and who may think that that Church neither acts wisely nor charitably in retaining mere stumbling-blocks, and perpetuating restraints upon her own piety and usefulness.
"The address is presumed to refer to something supposed to be fabricating by the Government in relation to the spirituality of the Church. Is there any authority for this? Is it not our duty, as loyal and dutiful subjects, to remain in the calm discharge of our regular obligations, anticipating no evil from our rulers till it comes? Were it ascertained that they were about to intermeddle with the Articles or Liturgy by an act of mere civil power; or were they even to place a commission in latitudinarian hands, to desecrate the piety and wisdom of our martyred and holy Reformers, and to make havoc of the most blessed code of revealed truth that has ever been drawn from the inspired Fountain; then let the alarm be taken-then let the clergy rise as one man-then let them prepare for a separation ;—But even then let them deliberate--let them act calmly and consistently-and let them speak through the proper channel and to the proper quarter. Should direct addresses be needed to any other than their Diocesan, let them go to the Throne itself to the Sovereign, who is, what the Archbishop is not, and never can be, supreme governor of the Church of England;' and whom it is equally consistent for subjects, lay or ecclesiastical, to address, at all expedient times, with or without intervention, as may appear fit.
"I must not touch, in a postscript, upon the large question of Church Reform; but I have a strong opinion that rightly to educate the clergy for their solemn office is the primary desideratum. I could weep over the astonishing ignorance of some excellently disposed and truly pious brethren, as I mourn over the party spirit and opposition to the removal of abuses of others. "PRESBYTER."
Our correspondent might also have noticed the extraordinary theological doctrines of the Oxford papers, to which we shall have occasion to advert before long.
We have been requested to insert the following statement:- The writer of the 'article p. 560, in the Christian Observer for Sept. 1833, does not seem to be aware that the price charged for tracts to the members of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge is only one half of the cost to the Society: therefore the difference between the wholesale price to the Society, and the retail price to the public, is not so extravagant as he supposes.'
Now we fear that this explanation only makes the matter worse. For, first, it appears that the Society sells its tracts at a price so ruinously low, that if its
members in general thought them worth purchasing, even at that price, the [APP. Society would soon become bankrupt. Ten thousand pounds' sale of tracts, according to this apologetical statement, costs the Society twenty thousand; so that there is a waste of ten thousand pounds upon the transaction: and if each member only took a very moderate quantity, the Society would be ruined. Good and popular tracts require no such sacrifice; nor do other Societies make it: indeed, so far from it, their publications are often a source of considerable profit, which is judiciously expended in procuring new works, or adding to the value and embellishments of the old; as we see, for example, in the case of the Society's own Committee of Literature. But, secondly, if the price affixed by the Society is only one half of what it pays to Messrs. Rivingtons, then most injurious is its system of purchasing its books, instead of printing them for itself. If it actually gives its publisher twice the amount charged to its members, it throws away most unnecessarily a sum, which upon the aggregate of its large transactions is enormous, and which ought to have been employed in promoting Christian knowledge. If any person conversant with the subject will calculate what an edition of five or ten thousand, more especially a stereotype edition, of such a tract as the Bishop of Bristol's, ought to cost in paper and printing; and then calculate the cost actually paid by the Society, at the estimate of its defender; he will find that it pays far more than the worth of its tracts, while it sells them for only one half of their estimated value; thus losing both ways, and giving to the public, from the money received from its subscribers, much less of paper and print than is consistent with its character as a good steward. We have thus shewn that the above explanation is wholly unsatisfactory; but even were it satisfactory so far as it extends, it would still leave untouched the other objections which we adverted to; and among others, the circuitous machinery by which a subscriber wanting a single tract, or a packet of tracts, must either give attendance two or three times between the Society's office and the publisher's shop, or else forfeit his privilege and pay the publisher's large retail charge. The Society will not use its subscribers' money in the best manner till it prints its own publications, and issues them from its own depôt; so that a member can at once procure what he wants, without trouble, intervention, or unnecessary expense. The Committee of Literature has done so, and succeeded; but would it have succeeded, if it had required a member who called at West Strand for a Saturday Magazine to go back to Lincoln's-Inn Fields for an order, and to return to West Strand with it, and then to repair once more to Lincoln's Inn to pay his penny; unless he preferred at once giving fourpence for it-not into the Society's pocket, but the bookseller's?
But lest we should be again accused, as we have been, of scattering vague generalities, we will give at once a calculation. to the matter in print, had it not often been mentioned, for years past, in priWe should not, however, have alluded vate, to many gentlemen connected with the Society, but hitherto without effect. It is necessary, therefore, that the country members and district societies should be made aware how their commercial arrangements stand. particular tract before alluded to (Bishop Gray's Dialogue with a Methodist), Let us take the and suppose an edition of ten thousand, which, as the tract has gone through numerous editions, is not too large a venture. to the Society, with the present paper, print, cover, lining, stitching, &c. ought The expense of such an edition not to exceed fifty pounds. But such an edition, at the retail price of fourpence, charged by Messrs. Rivington to the public, or to a member who does not bring an order, amounts to (omitting shillings and pence) 166. price charged to members (namely, six shillings and sixpence per hundred), The same tract, at the amounts, upon ten thousand, to 321.; the double of which to the publisher would be 64. Thus, for an edition worth not exceeding 50., the Society pays the publisher 64., and the publisher charges for retail copies after the rate of 166.
We have calculated upon an edition of ten thousand, which is not too large for a popular tract of a Society that has ramifications in every corner of the land; but even upon five thousand the case is still glaring. The prime cost per copy of the tract in question, upon ten thousand, ought to be less than a penny; upon five thousand, about one penny farthing. But if we went far below the estimate even upon five thousand, and calculated that the Society sacrificed only ten per cent. by not transacting its own affairs, what an enormous loss would there be yearly, to an institution whose funds last year exceeded seventy thousand pounds, and which issued more than two millions of books and tracts.
Since the above was written we have received the new Report of the Society. It is a document of extraordinary interest and value, and we hope speedily to give an abridgment of its important contents to our readers. Every friend of the Church ought to be a member of this invaluable institution; and his first duty to it is to labour to correct whatever may be faulty in its proceedings. We regret to say that the Dialogue with a Methodist is not only retained in the new
list, notwithstanding its universally acknowledged unfitness, but is lowered fifty
last audit, on the terms of the Society, viz.-
Charge to Members
Society's loss on the Books, and for
and District Committees ...
£.55,279 18 5"
19,381 5 8
Contrast this enormous loss, on one part only of the Society's transactions, with the statement in the very same Report, that the Society's own infant Committee of Literature, which transacts its own affairs, has made a profit upon its publications, though some of them are furnished to the public at a price, reckoning the superiority of execution, far lower than that of the Society. Compare, for instance, the cost of getting out a highly embellished Saturday Magazine, with a sheet of the Society's tracts. The Society may rely upon it, as a rule, that no tract is intrinsically worth publishing that will not pay its own expenses. Why sacrifice 19,3817. in a lump, to nurse " gentle dulness," or to inflame party-spirit? We will only repeat, what we before said, that we have not the slightest intention of casting any blame upon the highly respectable and irreproachable commercial house which transacts the Society's business: it is only of the system that we speak.
SUPPLEMENT TO RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE.
BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. In closing another year's notices of this truly Christian institution, we bow our knee before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with humble thanksgiving, both for the return and perpetuation of peace within its borders, and for the success with which it has pleased Him to bless its labours for promoting His glory and the salvation of mankind. Of the latter, ample testimony is to be found in its Annual Report, the accompanying Abstract of which we doubt not our readers will peruse with much satisfaction; of the former, we may refer to a pleasing illustration in the Christian and brotherly language of some valued friends who thought, and still think, that some things in the constitution and proceedings of the Society ought to be altered, but who have never uttered against it the language of virulence or party-spirit. Among these we may mention the Rev. Charles Bridges, who is well known to our readers from the valuable papers on the Christian Ministry which he communicated to our pages and afterwards expanded into a volume. Mr. Bridges has taken an active interest in the questions at issue respecting the Bible Society, and no man has been more anxious for some modification of the Society's laws; but the spirit in which he, and others of like mind, think and speak of the Society may be seen in the following notice of a speech delivered by him at a Bible Society Meeting at Bury St. Edmunds on the 31st of last October. "The man," said Mr. Bridges, "must be blind indeed, who can read a single Report of our Society without seeing that the blessing of God is there :-that he dares not lay his conscience under the tremendous responsibility of withholding the daily food of the Scriptures from his own soul, or of not giving it to others; and that if we waited till perfect instruments were found, we should die burying our talents in a napkin." From brethren who think and speak thus, it is doubly painful to differ; but this comfort at least we have, that the enemy of souls does not gain his great object of impeding the Gospel of Christ by sowing discord among its friends; to which we may add, that investigations conducted on both sides in such a spirit, with mutual forbearance and prayer, will doubtless in the end be directed by the Author of all truth to that result which shall most promote His own glory.
The Rev. George Browne of Clapham has been unanimously elected to the office of Secretary, vacant by the death of Mr. Hughes. We are not acquainted with Mr. Browne; but we have heard, with much pleasure, that he is a man of a sound mind and a catholic spirit, zealously attached to the Society, and likely to tread in the steps of his lamented predecessor.
We lament to find that this excellent institution is in want of pecuniary aid. It has been an invaluable blessing to Ireland, and is more than ever needed, on account of its giving to the people, what the Legislative Plan denies, a Scriptural Education.