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dreaded was sacerdotal power, and sacramentarian superstitio springing out of the weaknesses of human nature.
That the publication failed to affect public opinion among th Dissenters is certain ; that it deserved to be neglected is not quit so clear. Thirty years hare rolled over our heads since these tran actions took place, and the question is, what has been gained ?
1. Has the progress of practical dissent continued to advance it did, or has it become in great measure stationary ? Half t1 population were thirty years ago computed to be Dissenters ; ca a greater proportion be claimed now?
2. Is there, to-day, the slightest ground for anticipating that tl Church of England will soon be in such a minority, either as “numbers, weight, or influence,” that Parliament “ will begin think it not worth support?”.
3. What, during the last thirty years have been the actual gai of Nonconformity among the educated, the influential, or tl devout?
4. Are the young people among Dissenters less or more attacht than formerly to the simple worship of their fore-fathers ?
5. Are dissenting ministers, as a body, happier or more i fluential, of deeper piety, or of greater moral weight in the cor munity than they were in the olden times of which we have be speaking ?
6. Are intelligent persons in dissenting congregations (you or old) generally instructed in relation to the subtleties of a sact mentarian theology, or at all competent to meet the sophisms al seductions of its adherents ?
7. What has been the general effect on the English mind of ti last “ thirty years' war," of the teachings and revilings of the r ligious press, of the bitterness and alienation consequent on par struggles ?
These questions are not proposed in any spirit of unkindne but simply for investigation. The last has been put from a co viction that Dissenters are not generally aware of the feelings th now pervade English society in relation to themselves, or of tl effect produced by their proceedings on public opinions in relati to the general interests of religion.
In stating my own views on this matter, gathered from observ tions and intercourse with others, I am quite aware that yo readers will not go with me. I fear they will think me disagreeabl if not offensive. I can only assure them that I have no wish eith to be the one or the other. But I can only speak that which believe.
First, then, I am desirous of saying a few words on certain forn of public opinion, which, whether right or wrong, are rapidly es tending in relation to the Dissenters. In doing so, allow me to Darrate, not a fable, but that which in spirit is fact.
A short time since I received from a friend in the country, a newspaper, containing one of a series of letters headed, NONCONFORMIST INTOLERANCE. The tyranny complained of was said to consist in the efforts now made by Dissenters to reduce Churchmen to the condition of Nonconformists, by enforcing what they regard as “ religious equality.”
The argument was this: “Intolerance is a determination not to endure anything which is opposed to our own views. Toleration is forbearance—it is allowing, out of regard to others, that which is not in itself approved. The Dissenters say they disapprove of church establishments, and are therefore bound to do all they can to Sever the connexion between the Church of England and the State. Tuis, to the friends of the Church of England, seems very much like hateful intolerance.”
Not long after the reception of this newspaper, it was my lot to hear the Dissenters accused of this same fault by one of the most literal-minded members of Parliament I am acquainted with, a staunch opponent of church-rates, and certainly not a high, or even ardent Churchman.
A friend standing by (also a decided liberal), without disputing the charge, expressed his opinion that the Dissenters were chiefly moved by envy. They were irritated, he said, whenever they redected that certain members of the community enjoyed privileges
which they, owing to their conscientious convictions, could not share; and so, like other envious persons, they longed to deprive the favoured party of a benefit in which they could not themselves par
A third remarked that, Dissenters were ecclesiastical chartists who regarded a privileged church as a sort of spiritual peerage, and therefore a standing injustice. Their aim was, he said, to bring down these ecclesiastical nobles to the level of commoners. Envy, he observed, is undoubtedly the prime mover in all such cases. | A fourth seemed to think that America, the land of voluntaryism, was at this moment furnishing us with a specimen of modern Dissenting principles fully developed, and in frightful activity. A land, said he, from which religion has fled in horror ; where pulpits, long boasting that the Spirit of God has vouchsafed to them showers
blessing, only re-echo hate and breathe out slaughter; where slaves cling to their oppressors from a greater dread of their pretended deliverers; and where selfishness and pride combine to honour with lhe name of " sacred” the most miserable strife that ever cursed a country, or disgraced humanity.
Here it was hinted that Dissenters believed that in freeing the Episcopal Church from the thraldom of the State, they were really benefiting her; and that so far from being injured by such a change, she would be greatly strengthened.
This was unanimously laughed at, as the most extraordinary delusion ever heard of. It is absurd, it was argued, to imagine that political Dissenters, unless they are fools, can really wish to see so wealthy and powerful a body as the Church of England free from control. It is equally absurd, it was added, to suppose that religious Dissenters, if conscientious in their Nonconformity, car honestly desire to see the Hierarchy stronger than it is, or to wish the increase and prosperity of a priestly and sacramentarian system against which they have always borne their testimony.
It was agreed on all sides that modern Dissenters, unlike their forefathers, were disagreeable, noisy, and vulgar; and that unde existing circumstances, the best course to be pursued was quietly to avoid them,
A word or two was now interposed by one who, although differing in many important points from the conclusions at which Dissenter generally have arrived, is nevertheless practically a Nonconformist.
“Give me," said he, “a direct answer to one or two questions :First, 'Is it, or is it not true, that England owes her liberties, iz great measure at least, to the people you are scorning?' Secondly •Have they not, as a rule, been the consistent supporters of civi and religious liberty all over the world?' And thirdly, • Does not the Liberal party in Parliament still depend mainly at elec tions on the efforts of persons who do not belong to the Churcb of England ?'"
The questions proposed were at once, and frankly taken up “No thoughtful reader of English history can doubt for a moment, was the reply, “that the debt of the country to religious Nonconformity is one that can never be repaid : no one affects to dispute that Dissenters are, and always have been, the friends of Liberty and it is equally indisputable that at elections they find it their wisdom to support a Liberal rather than a Tory candidate.
“But these things do not really affect the estimation in which they are now held. Dissenters may have been very useful in times past, but they are not on that account the less disagreeable now. The fact is, they are no longer the same persons that they were fifty years ago. They believe they have advanced. They imagine that they have a greater hold on the people of England than formerly. But the reverse is the fact. They have amongst them wealth in abundance, but relatively very few persons whose minds are highly cultivated. They never had at any former period of their history so slight a hold on the educated classes of England as they now have. Politically, they were never so unimportant
"Their ministers are doubtless, in culture, far before the people ; and as a consequence, when they do not happen to be popular, they
for the most part unhappy men. It is difficult to conceive of a e painful life than that which has to be endured by a young and ly educated Dissenting minister who finds himself settled among, dependent upon, a people who are quite incapable of appreig his learning, who have little sympathy with wounded bilities, and cannot understand why he should feel his poverty uch, or be grieved when the curate of the parish declines to e his existence. But it cannot be otherwise while things remain as they are. her you nor I could feel anything but bitterness towards a man from whatever motive, was spending his spare energies in svours to deprive us of privileges which we value as above all
How can I,” he added, “ask a Dissenting Minister to meet royman at dinner, when I am conscious that he regards his cal brother, and at other times perhaps does not scruple to of him, as a man of low moral sensibility, who subscribes to which he does not believe, and habitually sacrifices his con*to his interests? How can I expect any intercourse I may with him myself to be pleasant, when I know that he hates istitution I love; when he indicates, as he almost always that he is a wronged man; and regards himself as having - life at a disadvantage in consequence of the existence of Church? He may be very superior in attainments to the e, but he cannot be a pleasant companion, so long as he is, in in to the Church of England, as I believe, strongly under the ace of an envious and intolerant spirit.” re the conversation dropped. Is anything to be learned from it can at least do us no harm to enquire. ; question more. “Whither are we tending ?” I, for one, e, in spite of many appearances to the contrary, that the n is becoming general that, consciously or unconsciously, men are more or less dishonest ; that young men are required scribe to very much more than ought to be demanded ; that sion of the terms of subscription is absolutely necessary.
I am far from believing that either Parliament or the public insent that such revision should be in the interest of either of eat parties that have so long divided the Church. To neither se is it possible to yield without breaking up the compromise ich the existence of the Church of England hangs. Change take a latitudinarian direction. m the more inclined to think that it will do so, and that to a langerous extent, since it is by no means improbable that whenItalian confusions find a solution, it will be in this direction. eral Popery may not improbably pass away with the temporal
of the papacy ; but certain elements embodied therein will ass away. Everything indicates that Rome will remain the
hither ares to the or ung
metropolis of Catholicism ; but that it will be a Catholicism modifie to meet the existing tastes and wishes of the Continental min Political power will be transferred to the state ; but priesthood ad ritualism will remain ; worship may be less superstitious, but it wi be less devotional also. It will be æsthetic, ritual, and intellectua but it will not be spiritual. It will be a worship tending toward and probably some day ending in a Pantheism, not very far remove from the refined Polytheism of the educated Greek or Roman.
When that day comes,—and it may not be so distant as some us imagine, the change will affect the civilized world. It will lea I doubt not, to the severest trial the faith of the Gospel has yet ha to endure. Then will it be seen that he has served the Master be who has done most to build up individual piety, to strengthe faith in the religion of the Family, and to purify the Church elevating the moral and spiritual character of the units which cou pose the whole.
Forgive the Conservatism of age, so little in harmony with You England, since it is the outcome of one who is now
A SEXAGENARIAN AND SOMETHING MOR
NOTES ON THE PRECEDING PAPER.
The promincia agent
The above printed contribution was sent to us by a gentlema whose prominent and useful career entitles to consideration the utte ances of his old age. It was accompanied by a friendly permissiq to burn the paper if unacceptable, and with an intimation that suc a chemical process might be found the easiest answer to its content We prefer, however, to publish it, partly because it contains som things from which wisdom may be learned by the Dissenters; an partly because it expresses a style of thought and feeling, in relation t existing Nonconformity, which will receive its quietus by offerin a fair field to its pretensions, more effectually than by any short sighted attempt at repression. Whatever is true ought to be spoker and ought, we think, to be heard, at whatever expense of discomfort by the Dissenters themselves. Whatever is the mere result of one sided or narrow reflection, of Sexagenarian querulousness, of unjus judgment, or of social bias, will reach its final level most effectuall by affording a channel for its downflow.
Of course, this old prophet has contrived to say a number of very “ disagreeable” things, and some which might even be considered “offeusive," as coming from a candid friend ; but we shall not quarrel with him on this account, for every month's experience