Imágenes de páginas



[ocr errors]

13 and congregations gathered, but no account has. NIA been taken of those who remain behind. We have seen only what is done, not what remains undone; and the result has been, that one here and another there has been snatched from the surrounding mass of ignorance and profaneness, but the mass itself has remained unleavened. It could not be otherwise. And what has been the consequence? First, that there are thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands, who, although baptized with us into the same body, are not only, as we have seen, without any parochial ministry, and so are not invited to the house of God, and as the Lord commanded, “ compelled to come in from the high ways and hedges ;" but for whom, moreover, there is no room, should they desire to come: they cannot, if they would, assemble with their brethren, where Christ has promised that He will be in the midst and will grant their requests; they are aliens of necessity from His Church.

What number of our fellow-subjects are thus excluded from the common blessings of Englishmen and churchmen, it is as yet impossible to calculate. That they are many hundreds of thousands is certain and notorious. In the absence of accurate statistical information with regard to many parts of England, we may safely infer something from the facts which have been ascertained and made public by the most meritorious labours of the Glasgow Church Building

Society, and especially of their secretary, Mr. Collins. Of the population of Glasgow, which amounts to about 240,000, there are (it appears) above 90,000 who from age and circumstances might attend church, but for whom no accommodation could be found in any place of worship whatever, although all, both of the papists and of all Protestant sects, Socinians included, and even of the Jews, should be thronged to the utmost. In this city, therefore, ninety churches at least, for one thousand persons each, would be requisite, in order to offer access to all'.

Such is the state of one district, where inquiries have been made. Have we any reason to believe that the spiritual wants of our own manufacturers are more fully provided ? We find that in and round Birmingham there are 101,292 immortal beings, who could not, if they would, attend the house of God. At Leeds, only 14,393 out of 123,393 can find room in the churches. At Manchester, about the same proportion; at Sheffield, one-ninth ; at Wolverhampton, one-fifth ; and this seems about the average of the great manufacturing towns. London, meanwhile, there are 34 parishes, in which alone there are 756,754 beyond the capabilities of the existing churches; and, if we

1 The author of course cites the case of Glasgow, merely as illustrating the actual defect of church room, by no means as adopting the liberal theory, which would represent the Scotch establishment as substantially the same with the Church of England.


calculate that one-half of a city population ought to attend church (an estimate very low in the opinion of those who have most accurately inquired into the habits of a town population'), we need church room for 378,477, or more than 378 new churches, for 1000 each, in order to supply the deficiency.

We have as yet considered only the proportion of the whole population which is invited to the house of God and the means of grace. Another most important question remains behind. How are the existing privileges of the Church distributed ? Looking as before to the great towns, it is not too much to say, that they are almost exclusively confined to the higher and middle ranks of society, whom, by a most unchristian abuse of language, we have learned to call “the respectable classes.” When the Son of God would give proof of His divine mission, He said, “ to the poor the Gospel is preached;" but in our overgrown parishes the order is reversed. A church is erected among a population of many thousands ; and immediately those who have received the greatest advantages of education, and whose circumstances are the easiest, even if they do not attend it as a duty and a privilege,

| Dr. Chalmers calculates, that accommodation should be provided in country parishes for one-half; in towns, for fiveeighths of the population. Collins, in his Glasgow statistics, takes the proportion at three-fifths.--Bishop of Winchester's Charge, 1837.

yet unless alienated by infidelity, and indifferent to shame, are attracted thither by a sense of decency and propriety, and by the influence of public opinion. To the more wealthy the Lord's day is one of leisure, which often hangs heavy on their hands; they are naturally inclined to follow the general example of their equals, and they have children and servants whom they would gladly see governed by religious principles. A congregation is at once secured, which comprises almost every shade of moral and religious character. Its members differ widely in the motives and the regularity of their attendance, but in one thing they are alike. Nearly all belong to those classes of society which are above the pressure of want and the necessity of manual labour. And where are the remainder? They are excluded. The poor are naturally reluctant to mingle themselves with the rich; they are unwilling to exhibit poverty and rags in contrast with wealth and splendour. The very act, therefore, of attending the house of God, requires in them something of an effort; and they are moreover continually and importunately tempted to withdraw themselves : for their life is one of labour, and the Lord's day is inviting as a season of amusement; their families clamour for bread, and its sacred hours are invaded by the pursuit of gain. Such are the difficulties which they have to overcome; and we have proof accordingly, that abject and in

creasing poverty, has of itself caused


families to forsake the public worship of God, who once regularly frequented it. In fact, we may without much doubt assume that, without some measure of a sense of duty, a very poor man (especially in a large town) will scarcely be a regular worshipper in the house of God. But whence is this sense of duty to arise ? How is it to be fostered among the neglected portion of our town population? The due discharge, indeed, of the pastoral care, as prescribed by the rules of the church, would (under God's blessing) produce it; but this, as we have seen, is precluded, and what have they to supply its place? They have been born and bred amid an habitual neglect of the sacred day of rest, and its blessed offices. They are but following the example of their parents, and accompanying the mass of their friends and companions when they neglect it—and they do neglect it; and are from habit unconscious of the neglect.

And yet after all that barrier has not yet been mentioned, by which the poor of our cities are most effectually excluded from the house of prayer. For if any considerable number of them should overcome all their natural and excusable reluctance, and should throng thither (as we may say, uninvited), how are they to be received ? The consecrated area is partitioned, and almost every inch appropriated. We have carried the rights of property into the very sanctuary of our

« AnteriorContinuar »