Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

ed, or of the pernicious and destructive superstition that enslaves them *.

It would be necessary, on the other hand, to shew the admirable effects of Christianity on those Slaves who have enjoyed the means of instruction (calculated to amount to nearly 40,000), deduced from unquestionable authorities; that the nation may distinctly see what is practicable on the subject.

Both these particulars are to be derived from unexceptionable sources; viz. The first, from the work of the late Bryan Edwards, Esq., who passed most of his life in the West Indies, and was afterwards a Member of the British Par

liament; and the second, from the " Report of the Lords of Committee of Council on the Slave Trade," respecting the effects of the Mission of the United Brethren.

[ocr errors]

We shall advert briefly to the latter subject; but it will be proper first to examine the "state "of our Established Church in the West Indies, "in regard to its efficiency as an instrument of "instructing the people."

* See Edwards's West Indies, Vol. II. p. 90.

THE STATE OF THE CHURCH IN THE WEST INDIES.

OUR West India Islands may be divided into two classes; the old, and the new. The new islands, Trinidad excepted, were acquired by Treaty of Peace in 1763: the old were settled by, or ceded to, Great Britain, a century antecedent to that period. In all the old islands there is some, though a faint and highly inadequate, imitation of the Ecclesiastical Establishments of England. Parochial Churches are built, and Rectors are maintained, not indeed by tithes, but by a small compulsory contribution, in lieu of them, which is charged on the landholders in their respective parishes. But in the new islands, such vestiges of Christianity were, till lately, no where to be found; and in three of them, there is not, we believe, at this moment, a clergyman or a place of worship.

1

It might have been expected, that the new islands would have been far more fortunate in their religious establishments than the old. The power of making laws for the ceded islands belonged to his Majesty alone; but, unfortunately, his Ministers did not advise him to exercise this power for the purpose of planting religious establishments,

until after he had constituted the Colonial Legislative Assemblies; who alleged that they would take care of the interests of religion*.

This fact may be admitted as some proof of the general decline of religious principle in the kingdom, about the period alluded to; for, certainly, under the administration of the Ministers of Charles II., the interests of religion in the settlements which they planted, were not forgotten.

In the recently acquired island of Trinidad, the legislative power has rested and still remains with his Majesty. We hope to see Trinidad become a model, in its civil and religious institutions, for our Western Islands in general.

Let us now advert to the old islands, and see to what their Ecclesiastical Establishments amount. In Jamaica, there are twenty parishes. Supposing that there are also twenty Rectors (in some islands there are many Pluralists), we shall then have twenty Clergymen in an island which is 150

* An example of this care is stated by Mr. Edwards, in his account of the flourishing Colony of St. Vincents. "This island is divided into five parishes, of which only one

was provided with a church, and that was blown down in "the hurricane of 1780. Whether it is rebuilt, I am not "informed."-Edwards's West Indies, Vol. I. Book iii. ch.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

miles long, and forty in a medium broad; which gives a district of 300 square miles for the labours of each Clergyman. The population of the island is stated by Mr. Edwards to amount to 30,000 Whites, 10,000 free Persons of Colour, and 210,894 Slaves*; which, when divided among twenty Clergymen, will give to each a cure of 12,554 souls. It will hardly be necessary to say more, of the utter inadequacy of the public means of religious instruction in Jamaica. This island is a favourable specimen of the state of the Established Church in the old islands.

On the whole, it may be safely affirmed, that no human zeal could be equal to a tenth part of the duties of the parochial Clergy, were the Slaves practically regarded as belonging to their flock. But the truth is, that this unfortunate mass of the population has, with very few exceptions, never been so regarded, either by the Government or the Clergy t.

It will be proper next to advert to the DISCIPLINE of the Church in the West Indies.-For want of episcopal superintendance, some very singular anomalies and irregularities exist, in regard

* The number has since been very considerably increased. +"The State called Slavery delineated," pp. 244-253

to discipline and church government. A Layman inducts the Priest into his living. A Layman has power to suspend the Priest ab officio. The Governor or Commander in Chief is reputed Supreme Head of the Provincial Church." Of these facts we have the evidence of the writer be fore mentioned,

[ocr errors]

"The Bishop of London is said to claim this "island (Jamaica) as part of his diocese: but his jurisdiction is renounced and barred by the laws "of the country; and the Governor or Com"mander in Chief, as Supreme Head of the Pro"vincial Church, not only inducts into the seve"ral Rectories, &c., but he is likewise vested "with the power of suspending a clergyman ab officio, &c."-Edwards, Vol. I. p. 265.

[ocr errors]

6.6

Here we see, that, in a portion of the British Empire, the Church is entirely subject to the secular authority. This system is not paralleled by that of any sect among us, which may be the most remote from primitive discipline; and certainly its continuance can only be justified by imperious necessity.

::.

But in the West Indies, the neglect of Christian ordinances, and the relaxation of morals, are the most serious evils. One most evident cause of the neglect of religious ordinances, is the want of per-

1

1

« ÎnapoiContinuați »