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the popular conviction is in favour of the more decided sincerity and earnestness in religion of those who, instead of accepting the State provision, conscientiously pay for the enjoyment of their own mode of worship. The unbeliever will not be brought to think a whit the better of the Establishment, or of Christianity, by being made to think ill of the Dissenters; but will only infer that all are alike bad. Still, he will distinguish between abuses which cost him nothing and those he has to pay for. And this is the secret of the alleged alliance between Infidelity and Dissent. So far as it exists, it indicates nothing in common between them, but the unwillingness to be taxed for the support of ecclesiastical abuses.
But the plea of recrimination may be urged in defence of this most worthless reason for conformity. If Dissenters find fault with the Establishment, why may not its advocates retaliate ? Without denying their right to do so, we must take the liberty of remarking, that the position of the two parties is very different. It is in answer to the exclusive claims and arrogant demands of the Established Church, that nonconformists refer to those abuses and defects which justify and render in their view imperative their religious separation. Other denominations put forward no similar claims, and call therefore, for no similar defence from those who decline to join their communion. No Wesleyan or Congregationalist is found contending that his Church or collective body is that in which all others ought to be merged, the true centre round which all ought to rally. No such exorbitant demands have ever been made by any churches but those of Rome and England.
The evils connected with Independency, were they a thousand times greater than, by any ingenuity of malice, they can be made to appear, would avail absolutely nothing to the advocate of Establishments. If the question were, which sect ought to be the established one, then the Episcopalian might urge the democratic or non-scriptural character of Independency as an argument for giving the preference to his Church. Or again, if the question were simply a case of individual choice, no one could be blamed who weighed the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the two systems of church-government, that in which the people are nothing, and that in which they are alleged to be everything. We can forgive the conformist who, when tempted to renounce the communion of his own Church, by those inherent vices of the system under which the pious clergy groan in secret, dwells with more zeal than charity upon the admissions of non-conformists respecting the defects found incidental to their system. In the absence of over-ruling considerations, if the defects of opposite systems seem at all to balance each other, there may be good reason for not forsaking the one to which we have already attached ourselves. But we need not remind our readers, that the use made of the alleged defects of Independent Churches is widely different from this. The object of such writers as Mr. Cawood, Mr. Meek, et hoc omne genus, is to prove, not the superiority of the Episcopal polity, but the necessity of a State Church ; not to prevent episcopalians from forsaking the Establishment, but to shew that nonconformity is a crime, that no other religious body than the State Church has any pretensions to exist, except by permission from the Establishment as a tolerated and degraded caste,--and that no union with Dissenters beyond that of a condescending civil intercourse is to be thought of. We have before us a book to which we shall presently advert, in which Dissent is represented to be as great a crime as drunkenness; and all Dissenters are made out to be knaves or fools. No doubt this is an apostolic way of attaining the blessedness and honour of uniting the Church. It is this spirit, manifesting itself, alas! in some who would fain pass among evangelical clergymen, which is giving to the contest at the present moment an unusual character of exasperation, leaving to the proscribed and insulted Dissenter no alternative but to pray for the downfal of a system bearing such fruits of insolent intolerance.
We have, upon former oocasions, entered into the merits of the conflicting systems of church-government, and, when we meet with a worthy opponent, shall have no scruple in again defending the scriptural character of that polity to which our churches adhere ; but we do not feel ourselves called upon to say a word in answer to the ignorant and often refuted allegations by which Mr. Meek seeks to justify, not simply his preference of the ministry of the Established Church, but his sweeping condemnation of every other. It is conduct like his, not the mere fact of a Dissenting minister's conforming, which marks the character and betrays the malignity of an apostate. Mr. Meek says: “It is singular that at the time when the novel discovery has been made of the anti-Christian character and influence of the Established Church, there should be many Dissenting ministers of long approved piety, talents, and influence, who are desirous of conformity to her communion and of admission to her ministry. Our Author adds, that he could mention
So could we. We have no doubt that we are in possession of every name and every case he could mention; and we are bold to affirm, that not a single Dissenting minister of long approved piety, talents, and usefulness, has conformed to the Establishment for the last twenty or thirty years, to go no further back. We defy him to mention a solitary instance that would justify such a description. Clergymen of piety and
talents there are, who have sprung from the Dissenters, some few of whom entered Dissenting colleges ; but, with the exception of one or two ministers in Lady Huntingdon's connexion, who never identified themselves with the Congregational Dissenters, and a young minister of pleasing manners, who, having married a lady of a church family, first adopted the Liturgy in his chapel, and then conformed, -we do not recollect an instance in which approved piety and usefulness could be with truth predicated of the parties referred to * We will not say, however, that a Dissenting Minister of long approved piety and usefulness may not see it his duty to conform, although we deem it very unlikely. But this we assert without any hesitation, that no such minister could have written Mr. Meek's book. His conduct might, in the first instance, be conscientious: in this volume, he shews himself dishonest. We would not say this, had he been brought up in ignorance and prejudice; but no honest man, having the knowledge he pretends to, could have been guilty of the misrepresentations with which the volume abounds; and no pious man, sincerely anxious to promote the unity of the Church, could have taken such a way of effecting his object.
We shall give but a specimen or two of his disingenuousness, and then dismiss the volume. The following occurs in the pre
· The loud and bitter outcry against the Church of England on the score of tests and subscriptions to which her clergy, and members of her universities, are required to submit, comes with a very ill
grace from those who demand of their own ministers, as necessary to the full enjoyment of the privileges of their body, submission to tests which they have enjoined. A melancholy proof of this has recently been exhibited in a vote of the Congregational Board. By this vote, certain dissenting ministers are excluded from membership, and from the privileges of that body; for the crime, not of immorality of conductthat could not be alleged: not for holding false doctrine--that could not have been the objection; for Socinians who deny the Godhead of the Saviour, are recognized by these members of the Congregational Board, in the Redcross Street Union, as brethren !-Will the reader believe it, that the great offence of these pious ministers, which subjected them to the excommunicating edict of the Congregational Board, is, that in their chapels they use the liturgy of the Church of England !'
The utter baselessness of this whole story was exposed, on its original appearance in that great laboratory of calumny, Record,” both in the Congregational Magazine, and in the Patriot newspaper; and the introduction of it in the present
* Mr. Hull, formerly of Norwich, has not conformed, otherwise his talents would outweigh those of all the many' put together.
VOL. XII.- N.S.
volume, after that complete exposure, does little credit to the piety of the Writer. At a meeting of the Congregational Board, which, as most of our readers are aware, is a private association of the metropolitan ministers of the Independent denomination, the question was raised, whether dissenting ministers of orthodox sentiments, but not pastors of Independent churches, were eligible; and the majority found, that no precedent warranted their being chosen. Had the parties been Presbyterians or Baptists, the same decision would have been come to. That a submission to any test was required, is entirely false. The use of the liturgy in the chapels referred to is compulsory, by virtue of the trust-deeds; and their constitution, on this ground, was deemed irreconcileable with the Independent polity. Yet, with the ministers of those chapels, as with the ministers of the Baptist Board, the most affectionate intercourse and interchange of services is maintained. And yet, this vote is termed an excommunicating edict! The enemies of Dissenters must be hard pressed, when they have recourse to inventions like these, founded on the clumsy reports of spies and eaves-droppers.
Mr. Meek asserts, that at this day, the pulpits once occupied by the Baxters and Owens of the days of puritanism, are the strong-holds of Socinianism. This is a grossly deceptive statement, and intended to deceive. The Independent churches, which rank Owen among their brightest ornaments, have never declined from orthodoxy; and but for Presbyterian endowments, which have operated too much with the fatal influence of State endowments, no pulpit occupied by the Baxters of other days would now be desecrated by heresy. But, wherever this is the case, a Congregational church has sprung up beside the caput mortuum of the Presbyterian interest. We know not where Mr. Meek obtains his information, that the Unitarian congregations of this country amount to 222: we have reason to believe they are under 200. Of these, 46 are stated to have been founded by Socinians, and the remaining 154 (or 176) to have been origi
nally connected with orthodox Dissenters. Now when it is considered that there are no fewer than 58 orthodox Presbyterian congregations in England and Wales, besides nearly 3000 orthodox congregations of the Independent and Baptist persuasions, what can we think of the regard for truth shewn by a writer who has the audacity to make such a statement as the above, upon the mere strength of the decline of Presbyterianism in this country, and the perversion of its endowments to the extent alleged?
With a similar regard to fair dealing, Mr. Meek cites some remarks by Bishop Blomfield on the religious statistics of America, taking no notice of the distinct refutation they have received from Mr. Colton, or of the exposure of the blunder which arose from mistaking the returns of Presbyterian congregations for the total
of all denominations. The following specimen of loose statement and bold assumption is quite in character.
• The present state of our own country, considered in a religious point of view, is such as to demonstrate the insufficiency of the voluntary system, for the purposes of national religious instruction. Ask the Dissenter himself, whether the people of this country are yet adequately supplied with religious teachers and places of worship? He will, without hesitation, reply, they are not.
What then is the consequence of this one allowed fact ? Why, that the united effects of the compulsory and voluntary systems together are insufficient to supply those wants which the Dissenters are urging the legislature to-leave to the mercy of the voluntary system alone; and this after the voluntary system has been worked for nearly two centuries, with all the zeal and assiduity with which good and bad feelings could inspire its friends, and preached up through all the corners of the land. The voluntary principle in a city or town, where the religious feeling has been sufficiently called into exercise, may rear a place of worship, and support a standing ministry: but it would leave our thousands of villages, and the scattered population of our rural districts, destitute of the means of grace, or for the most part dependent on the casual instruction of itinerant teachers, many of whom should be content to learn, rather than assume the office of teaching the principles of religion to others.”
pp. 90, 91.
That the voluntary system has been worked for nearly two centuries, is an assertion which admirably tallies with the statement found in another part of the book, that it is quite a new and unheard of doctrine that is being preached up by the advocates of the voluntary principle! But in what terms shall we reprobate the baseness of mind which could suffer this renegade from Nonconformity to refer to the days when Dissent was struggling with active persecution, as illustrating the inefficiency of the voluntary system?— Nearly two centuries!' Does not this reverend person even know the date of the Toleration Act? And then, he talks of the united effects of the compulsory and voluntary systems, ---the united effects of counteractive forces ! Because the Establishment has to the utmost discouraged and opposed all voluntary efforts on the part of the people to make provision for their own spiritual wants, it is logically inferred, that the people could and would have done nothing more, had no such system existed to depress and prevent their exertions. The pretence that the Establishment secures to the scattered population of rural districts any efficient religious instruction, is disproved by melancholy fact.
We shall notice only one more misrepresentation in this volume. At p. 235, Mr. Binney is referred to as having denounced the Church of England as anti-christian and a great
natural (national ?) evil, and as wishing to substitute in its place a system of spiritual democracy which he himself reprobates, in his Memoirs of Morell, as fraught with practical mischief.