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[The Rev. Thomas Spencer, Perpetual Curate of Hinton,
near Bath, has published a pamphlet, entitled “Observations on the School Return for the Diocese of Bath and Wells, showing the uncharitable nature and Puseyite tendency of some of the Questions contained therein," in the course of which occurs the subjoined passages. -EDITOR.]
ON RECLAIMING DISSENTERS.--Under the head of Statistics, there are the following questions :
4. Have the Dissenters any schools ?
6. Are there any means of reclaiming such young persons ?
I hope that it is not expected of the clergy to become spies upon the concerns of other denominations. Our office is to instruct such as are willing to listen to us, rather than to ascertain the comparative strength or weakness of dissenting communities. In this parish the word schism, or dissent, is seldom used or thought of. The only place of worship, besides the parish church, is the chapel of the Wesleyan Methodists; and as my services are in the morning and afternoon, and theirs in the evening, they never clash, but the meeting-house is, as it were, a chapel-of-ease to the parish church. I am not aware that there is any feeling of hostility, or any idea of rivalry or competition, but both places are devoted to the instruction of those who are willing to go. As a proof of the unity of spirit which exists, I need only mention that our parish clerk, who is a worthy and intelligent man, and a sincere Christian, is also the steward and class-leader of the Wesleyan chapel, and the master of our daily and Sunday-school; and I am told that some of the church singers sing also at the chapel, and that some of those who attend the church during the day are at the chapel in the evening, in addition to some who cannot go out during the day. Neither shall I do anything to prevent it. So long as I have reason to believe that they preach the Gospel, and take the sacred Scriptures as their guide, I shall regard them as fellow-workers, rather than as enemies. The disciples of Christ, in their ignorance, were ready to forbid those who were doing good in their Master's name, because they followed not them; but the enlarged spirit of their Master rose infinitely above such narrow views, and he said, “Forbid them not, for he that is not against us is on our part.” In like manner, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, with a like noble liberality, said, “Some indeed preach Christ, even of envy and strife; and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, wl e her in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”- Phil. i. 15—18.
I cannot but express my surprise at the use of the word, reclaim, as applied to Dissenters. The logic of that learned Dissenter, Dr. Watts, has long been used by students of the University of Oxford ; and his admirable hymns for infant minds have been adopted in most schools for children The sermons of another learned Dissenter, Dr. Doddridge, on the evidences of religion, formed a part of our stndies at St. John's College, Cambridge, at the time that I was an under-graduate. The writings of Dr. Pye Smith, and many other Dissenting ministers of the present or past generation, have been spoken of in terms of high esteem by the most excellent of the clergy, who have been glad to derive benefit from their talents, piety, and laborious researches; and shall we speak of reclaiming all young persons who place themselves under the instructions of such nien! The most eloquent preacher, in all probability, that the world ever saw, was the late Robert Hall, Baptist minister, of Bristol. I recollect hearing him preach at Bristol about twenty years ago, at which time it was necessary to go an hour before the service commenced, in order to make sure of a seat; and on one of these week-day services I counted in the chapel no less than nine clergymen of the Established Church; and among them I saw a high-church clergyman, whose father was an archdeacon. Being in his company some time afterwards, I said, “I was surprised to see you at a Dissenting chapel the other night.” To which he replied “I consider Robert Hall a phenomenon, and when the Almighty steps out of his way to make a man, I will go out of my way to see him.” About the same time one of our bishops was heard to express his astonishment that a clergyman to whom he was speaking had been so deficient
in taste as not to avail himself of the opportunity of hearing that great preacher. And yet, according to this school return, we must regard all children who are under the teaching of such a man as in a condition so deplorable as to demand our best efforts to reclaim them. Suppose a parish in which there was a drinking, hunting, horse-racing, card-playing clergyman, who had bought or been presented to the living, who has determined to make the most of his tithes and fees, and to exact all his rights, but who cared not for the people ; and suppose that in the same parish there lived an excellent minister of the Independent, Baptist, or Wesleyan denomination, whose life was in accord... ance with the precepts of Christianity, and whose unwearied efforts to do good amongst the grown-up people and their children displayed the spirit of power and of love, and of a sound mind--shall I try to reclaim those who have placed themselves under the pastoral care of such a man, in order to lead them into the fold of him who is a hireling, and careth not for his sheep? The Bishop of Bath and Wells is now, by extreme age, prevented from attending to the affairs of his diocese, or I am persuaded that these questions would not have been sent to the clergy of this county. During the sixteen years that I have been here, I have never heard him speak with unkindness or disrespect of the Dissenters ; on the contrary, it is known to many that he has expressed his high esteem for Mr. Jay, the beloved and revered Independent minister of Bath.
Instead of wasting all our time in finding out the children of Dissenters, and our energies in reclaiming them from dissenting schools, would it not be more profitable, under the head Statistics, to ascertain how many persons attended the public-houses, the gin-shops, and the beer-shops?
how many children are brought up in the habit of drinking and smoking ?-how many spend their time in idleness, swearing, lying, and stealing ? and then to ask how we can reclaim them? Instead of drawing away those who are already receiving as good an education as any national school can give, would it not be better to ask how many children are receiving no education at all?-how many are brought up in a workhouse, where they will inevitably imbibe the feelings of helpless pauperism, which will remain with them all their days ?-how many are destitute of shoes and stockings, or of fit clothing to attend a place of worship on the Sabbath, or a school during the week ?--how many of these miserable beings are in this condition through the - idleness and drunkenness of their parents ? and how many
through hard times, want of employment, and low wages ? And if the intemperance and improvidence of the parents be the cause, would it not be well to try to reclaim them, by advising them to join a temperance society, and to encourage them to do so by preaching total abstinence? And if it be want of trade and employment, and consequently want of wages, would it not be well to reclaim the wretches from their rags and misery, by discovering and removing the cause of their poverty; and to call public attention to those oppressive laws, which, for the supposed benefit of the landowner--the privileged dealers in provisions--restrict our trade, keep up the price of food, and keep down the wages of labour ?
THE CHURCH MEMBER'S MONITOR,*
CONTAINING A PASTOR'S FRIENDLY HINTS AND AD
VICES OF THE PRIVILEGES, DUTIES, AND ENCOURAGE-
The Author has endeavoured to guard the members of our churches against the frequent and almost universal efforts now made by members and ministers of the endowed church, to substitute the false for the true, the human for the divine, and the ceremonial and formal for the vital and essential. He thinks there never was a time when it was more necessary to insist upon the sole sovereignty of Christ in the Church, the exclusive authority of Scripture in determining what is obligatory in religion, and the unquestionable right of every individual to inquire and act freely, under a conviction of his personal responsibility to God, the Judge of all. He has therefore added an Appendix to this Edition, in which the great controversy of the present day is brought within narrow limits, and the least lettered members of our churches may find two things contrasted which are often confounded, or represented as one and the same.
* We strongly recommend this excellent little tract to our readers.
GIVEN TO THE TEACHERS OF THE ROCHFORD INDE
PENDENT CHAPEL SUNDAY-SCHOOL, AT THE NEW YEAR'S TEA-MEETING, JANUARY 17TH. 1843.
Dear friends of our Saviour, and friends of our youth,