Imágenes de páginas

Our readers will observe, that this sermon was preached in aid of the funds for building churches and chapels, and was therefore an appeal to the voluntary generosity of the audience, involving a departure from the fundamental principle of an Establishment, which is that of compulsory payment.

Of this we shall say more presently. Mr. Stebbing's sermon was preached on a similar occasion, and is characterized by a kindred spirit of amiable and enlightened liberality, combined with a fine tone of evangelical piety. It is an excellent and an eloquent sermon; an eloquent defence of the Church of which he is a minister; an eloquent, though undesigned, condemnation of the Establishment. The text is taken from Psal. cxxvii. 1. After urging the claims of the Church to the veneration and support of the people, Mr. Stebbing proceeds to lament, that the principle of the text has not been sufficiently remembered by the builders of the house.

• I shall not hesitate to say, that for many years, the building of the house was not carried on as if the Lord was to be the great Masterbuilder of the edifice; and this more especially because the articles of the church were not taken by its ministers as the rule of their preaching; or in plainer terms, because the Gospel was not given in its whole substance as the nourishment of the people. The church of Rome has laid it down as a maxim, that the blood of Christ was too precious a thing for the unconsecrated laity: the church of England seemed on the verge of saying, that the inexpressibly holy and comforting doctrines of justification by faith, of spiritual renewal, of the in-dwelling of Christ in the heart, that is, the life-giving Spirit of scriptural truth, was to be kept back, and only the moralities presented ; ---the body which, without the Spirit, though it were the body of Christ himself, is dead. It cannot but be matter of profound thankfulness to churchmen, that we seem to have passed, in this matter, from under the shadow of darkness; for everywhere now may the Gospel be had, if it be sought for: there is no shamefacedness shown at the mention of Christ : divine grace, the experience of its power, the testimony of the Holy Ghost, furnish topics which the preacher may now handle in language familiar to his hearers; and the opened sanctuary thus pours forth again the light treasured behind its altars.'

• But the Church still suffers in its strength from the faults of its own members . . . . . If I may pass from considerations of this kind to others which belong to points of a more temperal nature, I must freely state that there does not appear to be that recognition of the building of the house of God in the disposal of the church's wealth, which we might look to see in a land like this. There can be but one opinion as to the general principle which should prevail in the management of resources given for the sole purpose of promoting the interests of Christ's religion ; but obvious as it is, that to support an efficient and independent body of ministers is the first grand object for which the wealth of a Church should be expended, we find that, in our apostolic establishment, the same fearful vice has long prevailed, which lent a powerful hand to the ruin of earlier churches. It is no trifling thing to a genuine churchman, to see simony allowed, by a mere quirk of law, to practise its infamous arts undisturbed ; still less is it so to know that, there is, in fact, a worse species of simony than that which carries on its traffic by money, because it is a bolder vice, and has its chief seat in the highest places of national power :-I mean the simony of political patronage; that which, for the promise of so much help in the support of a particular measure, will give so many thousand souls over to the charge of, perhaps, the most worldly-minded, and the most unlearned of the ministers of the Church. The dire spirit of antichrist was never more clearly exhibited, in the worst periods of Roman corruption, than it has been in the unchecked use which the government of this country, or the agents of government in their several degrees, have been allowed to make of Church patronage to carry their ends. In some instances, it

may be feared, the sin of the politician is infected the ruling members of the Church itself; and the cedar and the gold of the temple have been taken away, even by those who dwell therein, to satisfy the labourer who was not worthy of the meanest hire. This certainly has not been a recognition of the precept that,

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it ;" for it has distinctly proved that, in the one instance, the wealth which the generous piety of our ancestors consecrated on the altar of Christ, which generation after generation has regarded as a sacred trust, which was given that the Church might not want a seemly vesture when it has kings for its nursing fathers, and mighty nations to worship in its courts,—it has plainly been shewn that, in the one instance, the wealth given for this noble end has been taken and employed as a vile and common bribe; and that, in the other, a favouritism which it would have been unpatriotic to exercise in respect to the meanest offices, has taken by the hand men of low capacity and untried character, and placed them in situations for which


sober-minded Christian, every thinking man in the country, would declare them unworthy and unfit. And what is the consequence? It would be bad enough, were it only that the plain rule of right, which the Church should have ever on its side, is broken by those who have the chief power over it; but we see the mischievous effects of such a state of things in the confined efficiency of the ministers of the church. Were its resources and patronage managed with a direct reference to the production of the greatest possible good; were it felt by the ministers of the crown, by the men of wealth and power, of every class, who have benefices in their hands, that literally, and without an argument, the best and most pious of Christ's ministers are the men for whom these benefices were placed in trust,—there would not be a parish in the kingdom without a sound teacher of truth ;—there would be no shaking of beams and rafters in the sacred edifice; and the mass of the community, owning the power of learning and sanctity, would prove, by their stedfast and increasing attachment to their church, that the Lord is building the house, and that they labour not in vain who build it.

*As patronage is at present disposed of, there is a threefold evil always in action. In the first place, the clergy are tempted into seeking preferment by methods · which little become the pure, independent,

olitical elevated temper of mind which should always characterize a minister of religion. In the second place, the worthy and laborious curate is, with very few exceptions, dispossessed of his office, and not in very rare cases driven into a situation of the greatest anxiety and distress ; and that, not because his virtues are unknown, but because the benefice has been promised elsewhere. In the third place, the church is deprived hereby of the full portion of intellectual power, as well as of the spiritual exertion, which it has a right to look for from the great body of its clergy.' pp. 13—-17.

It is not quite in harmony with these admissions, that Mr. Stebbing proceeds to remark, that the Church has lost none of • the characteristics which made it venerable in the eyes of our

forefathers'; or that he ascribes the rancour with which it is now assailed, first, to the spirit of schism, to the desire of appropriating its wealth, or to the love of political experiment. He admits, however, that it is not with these only, its fierce, bitter, • intolerant enemies, that the Church has at present to contend.'

• It has to stand on its defence against a very different class of opponents: I mean those numerous dissenters from her rule and discipline, who, not for wrath, but for conscience sake, assail her borders. For the true Christian piety; for the laborious charity which marks the teaching and the conduct of many of these, our adversaries; for the profound learning which adorns the leading members of the body; for the thoughtfulness, for the systematic recognition of the gospel which

appear in all they write, and say, and do, I feel the truest reverence: but I am not the less convinced that they are acting in opposition to the general interests of Christianity, by joining at this time with the rude, unthinking multitude, in endeavouring to undermine the national church. I am not the less anxious to see every barrier raised against their approaches, which the wise, temperate, and sober spirit of that church can provide.' pp. 20, 21.

But are Dissenters seeking to undermine the National Church? Properly speaking, they form part of the National Church, and they are anxious that the National Church should be established on the broadest and surest foundations. To this end, they would wish to see it no longer a State Church, such as Mr. Stebbing describes it to be, resting upon the Jachin and Boaz of corruption and patronage, but an apostolic establishment', resting upon apostolic principles. And this is what they mean by desiring its separation from the State.

With such men as Mr. Turner and Mr. Stebbing, the ornaments of any Church, Dissenters can have no quarrel. But we must repeat, that their notions of the Establishment, as a State provision for the religious instruction of the people, are a mere theory, of more modern origin than the objections urged by Dissenters, because invented as a reply to them; a theory at variance with the history of the Church Establishment in this country,


at variance with existing facts ; not reconcileable with its construction, with the polity, or the exclusive claims of the Church, or with the uniform policy of the rulers of the Establishment. this theory correct, the Establishment, having for its object to instruct the people, would have favoured every auxiliary means of instructing them; would have encouraged spontaneous and gratuitous efforts; would have promoted preaching; would have encouraged the people to procure instruction for themselves; would have met their anxiety to obtain competent instructors. The reverse of all this has notoriously been the uniform practice of the Establishment. It has discountenanced and repelled every popular effort; has reluctantly conceded education to the people, when it was seen that otherwise education would be taken out of the hands of the Church ; has depreciated preaching; has denied to the people any voice in the choice of their teachers; has fostered popular ignorance; has discountenanced evangelical religion, both within and without the pale of the Church, and has uniformly treated with contempt, or met with active opposition, every effort on the part of Dissenters to supply its own lack of service. The obstacles which the Establishment has thrown in the way of the usefulness of its own clergy, and of the instruction of the people by all other means, are immense and incalculable. The Establishment was not designed as a scheme of instruction: it was a scheme of government. The intention was not that the people should be taught, but that they should obey. The Establishment was intended to repress the free progress of knowledge, not to advance it; to keep down fanaticism and puritanism, not to build up piety. It is a provision, but of benefices, not of benefits; of livings, not of teachers. It is essentially a scheme of patronage, and an engine of power; the beneficed clergy being only an order of magistrates, wholly unfitted, for the most part, to be the teachers of the people. Mind, we do not say that the Church is all this, and nothing more than this. We say, that such is the political scheme of the Establishment; and that, by being incorporated with the State, and merged in the State, the Church, as à religious institution, is stripped of its proper character, and converted into a mere secular corporation, which has become odious alike for its extortion and its intolerance.

The Church Establishment never can be rendered efficient as a scheme of instruction, till its whole constitution is changed. There are two ways in which this may be done; by the fundamental reform which intelligent and pious churchmen sigh for, and by what Dissenters term its separation from the State. Now there is really far less difference between them, than may at first sight appear. Both measures would meet with equal opposition from the same quarters. To reform the Church would be to deprive it of every thing for which its alliance with the State is deem

[ocr errors]

ed valuable. Reform it, as Mr. Turner would have it reformed, and its separation from the State would be acquiesced in without regret. Destroy its patronage, and even the aristocracy would lend a willing hand to reduce or to alienate its revenues. On the other hand, its separation from the State would lead to every other species of reform ; and it is a question, whether any reform will be found practicable till this step is taken. The hopes of the reforming Churchman are at least as visionary, his plans not less impracticable than those of the Dissenter. If to separate the Church from the State would be a revolution, so would it be to reform the Church. The Reform Bill was a revolution ; the abolition of the sacramental test was a revolution; the abolition of penal laws in Ireland was a revolution ; Catholic emancipation was a revolution ; the Church of Scotland has just undergone a revolution. Every reformation is a revolution; and those who say We will not have a revolution, mean "We will have no re

form.' Base and insidious attempts are being made to exasperate the sound portion of the members of the Establishment against the Dissenters, as having hoisted the black flag of separation be“tween Church and State;'* in the hope that, by raising an alarm, the attention of the nation may be diverted from the abuses of the existing system, so as to stop the march of church reform. Just as the

cry of The Radicals are at the gates, was raised with a view to save the rotten boroughs from extinction. The stratagem can have only temporary success. The Commons of England have taken the field, and a few campaigns will decide the question, which, we say once more, lies not between Churchmen and Dissenters, but between those interested in a Tory Church monopoly, with its sinecures and proxy-cures, and the religious people of England.

We had written nearly thus far, when Indagator's pamphlet came into our hands, which, on examination, we think well adapted to enable pious churchmen to arrive at a clear, unprejudiced view of the subject. It is written in a very mild and conciliatory spirit, and can scarcely give offence to the most tetchy opponent. The analytic method of discussion adopted, will also greatly assist in placing the involved and diversified bearings of the subject in full and distinct view. A series of questions are proposed, to which answers are consecutively offered. We at last come to this plain question, . What is to be done under existing

circumstances ? ' The answer imbodies the conclusions to which the preceding remarks are designed to lead, and will be read to disadvantage in a disconnected form ; but we extract it

* See an impudent and abusive article in Croker's “ Quarterly Review,” No. CII.

« AnteriorContinuar »