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the languages in which the books of their religion are conveyed 2 A dissenting minister, of vulgar aspect and homely appearance, declares that he entered into that holy office because he felt a call; — and a clergyman of the Establishment smiles at him for the declaration. But it should be remembered, that no minister of the Establishment is admitted into orders, before he has been expressly interrogated by the bishop, whether he feels himself called to that sacred office. The doctrine of calling, or inward feeling, is quite orthodox in the English church; — and, in arguing this subject in Parliament, it will hardly be contended, that the Episcopalian only is the judge when that call is genuine, and when it is only imaginary. The attempt at making the dissenting clergy stationary, and persecuting their circulation, appears to us quite as unjust and inexpedient as the other measure of qualifications. It appears a gross inconsistency to say— “I admit that what you are doing is legal, - but you must not do it thoroughly and effectually. I allow you to propagate your heresy, but I object to all means of ropagating it which appear to be useful and effective.” f there are any other grounds upon which the circulation of the dissenting clergy is objected to, let these grounds be stated and examined; but to object to their circulation, merely because it is the best method of effecting the object which you allow them to effect, does appear to be rather unnatural and inconsistent. It is presumed, in this argument, that the only reason urged for the prevention of itinerant preachers is the increase of heresy; for, if heresy is not increased by it, it must be immaterial to the feelings of Lord Sidmouth, and of the Imperial Parliament, whether Mr. Shufflebottom preaches at Bungay, and Mr. Ringletub at Ipswich; or whether an artful vicissitude is adopted, and the order of insane predication reversed. But, supposing all this new interference to be just, what good will it do? You find a dissenting preacher, whom you have prohibited, still continuing to preach, VOL. I. E E
– or preaching at Ealing when he ought to preach at Acton; — his number is taken, and the next morning he is summoned. Is it believed that this description of persons can be put down by fine and imprisonment 2 His fine is paid for him; and he returns from imprisonment ten times as much sought after and as popular as he was before. This is a receipt for making a stupid preacher popular, and a popular preacher more popular, but can have no possible tendency to prevent the mischief against which it is levelled. It is precisely the old history of persecution against opinions, turned into a persecution against persons. The prisons will be filled, — the enemies of the Church made enemies of the State also, -and the Methodists rendered ten times more actively mad than they are at present. This is the direct and obvious tendency of Lord Sidmouth's plan. Nothing dies so hard and rallies so often as intolerance. The fires are put out, and no living nostril has scented the nidor of a human creature roasted for faith;then, after this, the prison-doors were got open, and the chains knocked off;-and now Lord Sidmouth only begs that men who disagree with him in religious opinions may be deprived of all civil offices, and not be allowed to hear the preachers they like best. Chains and whips he would not hear of; but these mild gratifications of his bill every orthodox mind is surely entitled to. The hardship would indeed be great, if a churchman were deprived of the amusement of putting a dissenting parson in prison. We are convinced Lord Sidmouth is a very amiable and well-intentioned man : his error is not the error of his heart, but of his time, above which few men ever rise. It is the error of some four or five hundred thousand English gentlemen, of decent education and worthy characters, who conscientiously believe that they are punishing, and continuing incapacities, for the good of the State; while they are, in fact (though without knowing it), only gratifying that insolence, hatred, and revenge, which all human beings are unfortunately so ready to feel against those who will not conform to their own sentiments.
But, instead of making the Dissenting Churches less popular, why not make the English Church more popular, and raise the English clergy to the privileges of the Dissenters? In any parish of England, any layman, or clergyman, by paying sixpence, can open a place of worship, -provided it be not the worship of the Church of England. If he wishes to attack the doctrines of the bishop or the incumbent, he is not compelled to ask the consent of any person; but if, by any evil chance, he should be persuaded of the truth of those doctrines, and build a chapel or mount a pulpit to support them, he is instantly put in the spiritual court; for the regular incumbent, who has a legal monopoly of this doctrine, does not choose to suffer any interloper; and without his consent, it is illegal to preach the doctrines of the Church within his precincts.” Now this appears to us a great and manifest absurdity, and a disadvantage against the Established Church which very few establishments could bear. The persons who preach and who build chapels, or for whom chapels are built, among the Dissenters, are active clever persons, with considerable
* It might be supposed that the general interests of the Church would outweigh the particular interests of the rector; and that any clergyman would be glad to see places of worship opened within his parish for the doctrines of the E.). Church. The fact, however, is directly the reverse. It is scarcely possible to obtain permission from the established clergymen of the parish to open a chapel there; and, when it is granted, it is granted upon very hard and interested conditions. The parishes of St. George — of St. James — of Marylebone — and of St. Anne's, in London—may, in the parish churches, chapels of ease, and mercenary chapels, contain, perhaps, one hundredth part of their Episcopalian inhabitants. Let the rectors, lay and clerical, meet together, and give notice that any clergyman of the Church of England, approved by the bishop, may preach there; and we will venture to say, that o of Yolo, capable of containing 20,000 persons would be built within ten years. But, in these cases, the interest of the Rector and of the Establishment are not the same. A chapel belonging to the Swedenborgians, or Methodists of the New Jerusalem, was offered, two or three years since, in London, to a clergyman of the Establishment. The proprietor was tired of his irrational tenants, and wished for better doctrine. The rector (since a dignitary), with every possible compliment to the fitness of the person in question, positively refused the ap}. ; and the church remains in the hands of Methodists. No particular
lame is intended, by this anecdote, against the individual rector. He acted as many have done before and since; but the incumbent clergyman ought to possess no such power. It is his interest, but not the interest of the Establishment.
talents for that kind of employment. These talents have, with them, their free and unbounded scope; while in the English Church they are wholly extinguished and destroyed. Till this evil is corrected, the Church contends with fearful odds against its opponents. On the one side, any man who can * the attention of a congregation—to whom nature has given the animal and intellectual qualifications of a preacher—such a man is the member of every corporation;–all impediments are removed: – there is not a single position in Great Britain which he may not take, provided he is hostile to the Established Church. In the other case, if the English Church were to breed up a Massillon or a Bourdaloue, he finds every place occupied; and every where a regular and respectable clergyman ready to put him in the spiritual court, if he attract, within his precincts, any attention to the doctrines and worship of the Established Church. The necessity of having the bishop's consent would prevent any improper person from preaching. That consent should be withheld, not capriciously, but for good and lawful cause to be assigned. The profits of an incumbent proceed from fixed or voluntary contributions. The fixed could not be affected; and the voluntary ought to vary according to the exertions of the incumbent and the good-will of the parishioners; but, if this is wrong, pecuniary compensation might be made (at the discretion of the ordinary) from the supernumerary to the regular clergyman.” Such a plan, it is true, would make the Church of England more popular in its nature; and it ought to be made more popular, or it will not endure for another half century. There are two methods; the Church must be made more popular, or the Dissenters less so. To effect the latter object by force and restriction is unjust and impossible. The only remedy seems to be, to grant to the Church the same privileges which are enjoyed by the Dissenters, and to excite in one party, that competition of talent which is of such palpable advantage to the other. A remedy suggested by some wellwishers to the Church, is the appointment of men to benefices who have talents for advancing the interests of religion; but, till each particular patron can be persuaded to care more for the general good of the Church than for the particular good of the person whom he patronises, little expectation of improvement can be derived from this quarter. The competition between the Established Clergy, to which this method would give birth, would throw the incumbent in the back-ground only when he was unfit to stand forward—immoral, negligent, or stupid. His income would still remain; and, if his influence were superseded by a man of better qualities and attainments, the general good of the Establishment would be consulted by the change. The beneficed clergyman would always come to the contest with great advantages; and his deficiencies must be very great indeed, if he lost the esteem of his parishioners. But the contest would rarely or ever take place, where the friends of the Establishment were not numerous enough for all. At present, the selfish incumbent, who cannot accommodate the fiftieth part of his parishioners, is determined that no one else shall do it for him. It is in such situations that the benefit to the Establishment would be greatest, and the injury to the appointed minister none at all. We beg of men of sense to reflect, that the question is, not whether they wish the English Church to stand as it now is, but whether the English Church can stand as it now is; and whether the moderate activity here recommended is not the minimum of exertion necessary for its preservation. At the same time, we hope nobody will rate our sagacity so very low as to imagine we have much hope that any measure of the kind will ever be adopted. All establishments die of dignity. They are too proud to think themselves ill, and to take a little physic. To show that we have not mis-stated the obstinacy or the conscience of sectaries, and the spirit with which they will meet the regulations of Lord Sidmouth, we
* All this has been since placed on a better footing.