Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

besides the example of good manners, of mildness, and of justice, that his life and conversation are constantly keeping before the eye of his parishioners—when you add to all this, that one day in every week he has them assembled together, to sit in silence; to receive his advice, his admonitions, his interpretation of the will of God as applicable to their conduct and affairs; and that, too, in an edifice rendered sacred in their eyes, from their knowing that their forefathers assembled there in ages passed, and from its being surrounded by the graves of their kindred—when this is added, and when it is recollected that the children pass through his hands at their baptism, that it is he alone who celebrates the marriages, and performs the last sad service over the graves of the dead—when you think of all this, it is too much to believe that such a church can fall.”

66 Yet fall it will ”--adds Cobbett. And as the obverse of the medal, he gives us his opinion of the actual working of the establishment.

“ This is an Established Christian Church; and this, the parsons will tell the people that they actually have; and you will tell the people who have no house and land, that in calling for the abolition of tithes, they are in fact calling upon the rich to take from them, the poor, the only property that they have in the country. Alas! you will tell them this in vain. They know that the church is not this thing now to them; they know that you do not visit their houses and comfort them when they are sick, except in instances so rare, that they hardly ever hear of them; they know that you do not teach their children, and that, though the churchwardens annually certify the bishop that the children communicate, hardly a workman in the kingdom ever saw or heard of such a thing being done; they know that you are frequently on the bench, perched up as justices of the peace; they know that you frequently sentence them to punishment without trial by jury, and sentence to transportation for what is called poaching. This is the capacity in which they now know you; and to induce them to stir hand, foot, or tongue, in defence of this establishment, is no more possible than it is to induce a Jew to give a farthing of his interest."

We say Dr. Chalmers quotes these and other like passages from Cobbett, and he quotes them in order to show that this able but prejudiced writer saw clearly how to distinguish between the machine and the working of it. But is

not the same distinction equally available, nay a thousand times more available, on behalf of the voluntary system, or, if you please, absence of system, in our own country? And may not an American Christian take a vantage ground to ask, If you, our elder brethren, after centuries of settled institutions plead the ill-working of these institutions, how much the more shall we, in a new country, with a domain scarcely yet reclaimed from its aboriginal condition, plead the impossibility of showing any adequate results from our system? It is common for the advocates of Establishments to cite the extensive wastes in the territory of the United States; and Dr. Chalmers shows the melancholy effect of leaving religious instruction to be originated by the native and spontaneous demand of the people, as most strikingly exemplified in the southern and western sections of the United States of America, by citing the late Rev. Samuel J. Mills, who declares the whole country from lake Erie to the Gulph of Mexico, to be as the valley of the shadow of death, having a little more than one hundred Presbyterian or Congregational ministers in it.' Now not to say, that a country may have neither a Presbyterian nor a Congregational minister in it, and yet not be as the valley of the shadow of death, and not to say, further, that bad as the fact is, it is not, even after the great increase of population, bad enough to justify these expressions,—we respecttully ask of such as would found an argument on the want of gospel instructions in the west-How would they go about to supply it? By an establishment ? The very proposition is ludicrous, for its insufficiency and its impracticability. Were it possible, which may God forbid, that our Government should chequer the whole valley of the Mississippi with parishes, where shall the houses, the stipends, and the men be found. We too could call spirits from the vasty deep.' We could perhaps find a thousand fox-hunting, horse-racing, godless clergymen, who would scramble for a benefice as men now do for a place; but surely these are not the means by which our British brethren would have us to evangelize our Continent. Be it further observed, that even without an establishment, it is undoubtedly true of the whole population of these United States, that as large a proportion attends divine service as of the whole population of Great Britain; that of our people no portion is more remote from divine culture, than that which we derive from the land of church endowments; and that in the land of

church endowments itself, the Establishment has utterly failed to do what it professes; the like want among us, being charged as the grand delinquency of the voluntary system. For how does the Establishment succeed in evangelizing the poor of Britain ? To answer this question, we shall not go to England, where the lowest classes(an extensive appellation) are lower in Christian knowledge and immeasurably lower in comfort than the slaves of America ;* we shall not go to St. Giles, or the factories, or to the collieries, where males and females work together in a state of nudity, and female children, in chains, drag loaded carts for hours through avenues fully equal in darkness and filth to common sewers;t we shall not go to that part of the island in which thirty millions of dollars are expended annually on the support of paupers, who, for such support are made slaves, and all of whom have equal rights in the great church establishment. But we shall go to Scotland, a country which we love, and to Edinburgh the most picturesque of cities, and the

very seat of Presbytery; and we shall take as our witness no voluntary nor seceder, but the greatest of Scots churchmen, even Chalmers himself. What, then, is the amount of Christian instruction actually afforded by the established church of Scotland to the poor in Edinburgh ?

To understand the answer, let it be noted, that Edinburgh proper, within the royalty, had, at the date of Dr. Chalmers's work on church extension, a population of 55,232. For these there is a provision of eighteen ministers, who officiate in thirteen churches. Now, we are astounded at the news, that in the old town of Edinburgh, chiefly occupied by the common people, and consisting of 28,196 inhabitants, only 727 attend the parish churches of the city. This is brought about “ in virtue of the seat-letting being in the hands of the magistrates."

“So that, practically, the matter proceeds thus : the seats are as good as put up to auction ; for it is altogether tantamount to this, that they are held forth at a price calculated and determined by the known acceptance and popularity of the minister.”—“The families, and more especially of the Old Town, have

* If any one doubt the statement, let him read what we have published, in our number for July, 1841, article iv. pp. 427, 441.

† Anticipating the denial of these facts, by interested persons, we are almost tempted to subjoin the evidence, as given to the Commissioners, disgusting as are its details; but we forbear. Sufficient to say, the allusion in the text gives but a feeble impression of the fact. That the case is somewhat brightened, is due to the philanthropic zeal of Lord Ashley. For particulars, see the Quarterly Review for June, 1842, p. 158, seg.

et

been ousted from their own proper churches; and the clergymen of these parishes, saddled with general congregations, have been dismissed from their own parish families. The working-classes have been shouldered out of the Sabbath. places which belonged to them by richer competitors from all distances, and from all points of the compass. I always understood it as a great argument for our establishment, that in providing for the support of the minister, it provided a cheap, if not a gratuitous Christian ministration ; so as to make the services of the minister and the accommodation in his church a sort of common good to the folk of his parish. But the Magistrates and Council of Edinburgh have taken another way of it, and still, however, make they a common good of it. After having wrested from the parishioners of the Old Town their proper and original intention, the sittings of their own churches, and exposed what they thus wrested to general sale—the proceeds of the unhallowed merchandise still go to a common good, it would appear, and that is to the common good of the city corporation. This sounds patriotically; but, in plain English,

hey have turned, and in what numbers, I shall presently tell--they have turned the working-classes adrift into the outfields of heathenism; and with the price of these Sabbath-places from which they have ejected them do they enrich their own treasury. They have in effect planted a toll-gate, a most expensive toll-gate, at the entry of each of the city churches, by which to keep the poor of its parish out, and to let the rich, not of the parish, in." '_“They, (the Magistrates and Town Council) have as good as driven the lower classes from the occupancy they once had in the city churches, and hold out to them instead some stately architecture to gaze at. The families in thousands have been plundered of the bread of life, and instead of bread their plunderers have given them a stone."

One of these very council-men made it his charge against the establishment in Edinburgh, that it was of no further use than to furnish sermons to ladies and gentlemen. Under the auspices of another, the following poem appeared in Tait's Magazine: for both statements, Dr. Chalmers is our authority.

THE POOR CHRISTIAN AND THE CHURCH.

“ He has incurred a long arrear

And must despair to pay.”—CowPER.
“To the poor the gospel is (not) preached.”

“How glorious Zion's courts appear,"

The pious poor man cries :
“Stand back, you knave, you're in arrears,"
The manager replies.

Poor CHRISTIAN.
“ The genius of the Christian code
Is charity, humility ;"

MANAGER, (in a rage.)
“I've let your pew to ladies, Sir,
Of great respectability."

Poor CARISTIAN.
“And am I thus debarred the house

Where erst my father prayed ?

Excluded from the hallowed fane,
Where my loved mother's laid?"

Manager.
Their seat-rent, Sir, was never due;

The matter to enhance,
As duly as the term came round,
They paid it in advance."

Poor CARISTIAN.
“ The temple of the living God

Should have an open door,
And Christ's ambassadors should preach
The gospel to the poor."

MANAGER.
“ We cannot, Sir, accommodate

The poor in their devotions;
Besides we cordially detest

Such antiquated notions.
“ We build our fanes, and deck our pews

For men of wealth and station ;
(Yet for a time the thing has proved

A losing speculation.)
“ Then table down your cash anon

Ere you come here to pray ;
Else you may wander where you will,
And worship where you may.”

Poor CHRISTIAN.
“Then I shall worship in that fane

By God to mankind given;
Whose lamps are the meridian sun,

And all the stars of Heaven;
“Whose walls are the cerulean sky,

Whose floor the earth so fair,
Whose dome is vast immensity ;-

All nature worships there."

True it is that the magistrates, not the clergy, of Edinburgh, are chargeable with these abuses. But true as this is, it is no less true, that while great destitutions in American wildernesses are attributed to the want of an establishment, greater destitutions in Scotland, yea, in the modern Athens,' are open to day in enormous extent; at the very focal point of the very best establishment extant, and that by the showing of the greatest living defender of establishments; and further that if the 27,469 who are thus extruded from their rightful gospel means, enjoy any such means, they enjoy them in independency of the establishments, as entire of that of Wisconsin, Florida, or Oregon. It is not the establishment which aids them. Thus much we felt constrained

« ÎnapoiContinuați »