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ON CHURCH REFORM.
1. Ecclesiastical History of England. By John Stoughton. London: Jackson and Co. 1867.
2. Reform in the Church of England. A Tietle.r to the Right Hon. B. Disraeli, M.P. By a Clergyman. Nisbet. 1868.
3. A Letter to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., on the Increase of the Episcopate, S.c. By Raw. R. F. Laurence, M.A. Masters. 1869.
4. The Admission of the Laity into Convocation. A Speech delivered on February 23, 1869, on the Convocation of the Province of Ywk. By Edward Prest, M.A., Archdeacon of Gateshead.
5. -Convocation: its Present Constitution, and Requirements for tlie Work of the Church. By Rev. S. A. Hubert, B.A., Rector of St. James', Gateshead.
6. The Chronicle of Convocation. 2 vols. Rivingtons. 1809.
The history of England by Mr. Stoughton, from 1640 to the death of Cromwell, is interesting from its clearness of narrative, and is creditable to its author from its fairness. He brings to his task the bias of a decided Voluntary, and he makes no effort to disguise that these are his opinions. But he is faithful to the facts, he states them frankly, and he is candid to the characters, even when they appear as cavaliers and earnest churchmen. There is value in the testimony of such a writer. When he narrates that the seizure of the temporalities of the Church led to selfish landholders putting their tithes in their own pockets (vol. i. p. 389),—to the unsettlement of public opinion, squabbles, and violence (vol.i. p. 393),—to the wildest schemes of ecclesiastical arrangement,—to arbitrary reference of religious Vol. 68.—No. 384. 6 U
plans to ignorant men (vol. i. pp. 485—488 j vol. ii. p. 151),—to the trial of the theology and the morals of religious teachers by a set of insolent persons who relied on testimony confused and contradictory (vol. ii. pp. 104—109,178),—to sequestration of revenue, spoliation of Church property, and destruction of Church buildings (vol. ii. p. 64),—to the grinding down of the minister to a pittance on which he starved (vol. i. pp. 486—489),—to the abandonment of all outward worship in the poorer parts of the country (vol. ii. p. 120), and to a contention and rivalry of sects, which ended in making Christianity odious and contemptible throughout England,—we are warned, by a writer who on this side would not deceive us, what were the fruits of the voluntaryism, which we are now told may safely be substituted for an Establishment (vol. ii. pp. 158, 162, 186, 198, 300, 325, 328,252,271).
When we find that the designs of Parliament, had it been permitted to run its course, and not been happily crushed by Cromwell, were to break up our universities, confiscate tithes, turn cathedrals into market-houses, and leave churches (vol ii. p. 63—65)—" hateful steeple houses," as Fox called them—to e given up to owls and bats, we must thank Mr. Stoughton for offering us this instructive admonition as to what we may expect when the schemes of Mr. Bright and his colleagues have reached their natural development.
We observe, indeed, that followers of Mr. Gladstone talk in sanguine vision of the coming destruction of churches, and the levelling down of all faiths to one dead uniformity.* The idea is attractive to feeble minds: it catches those who know nothing of history or men; who dream, in their studies, of vain theories, and tread the superstitious routine of an unreal religion. Such men have never come into real life to observe its social evils and manifold difficulties. They have never seen what, with all our defects, we may see—the work done at this day, in countless rural hamlets, by 20,000 moral teachers in England, who reclaim and civilize a rude generation, half of whom would disappear if the endowment, which now feeds them, were withdrawn. The state of the Commonwealth, which Mr. Stoughton accurately describes, was far removed from this dream of modern voluntaryism. Cromwell was too shrewd a man for such unpractical visions. He would not abolish tithes (vol. ii. p. 8), he kept them to pay religious teachers (vol. ii. pp. 10—14). He augmented the provision for livings; and, till it was increased, he maintained firmly the old endowment (ib. p. 88). "He should think himself very treacherous if he took away tithes, till he could see the legislative power settle the maintenance of
• See Speech of Lord Hollo at Perth Meeting, August last.
ministers in another way. To destroy tithes was to cut ministers' throats" (p. 132; also pp. 209—211, 216—219). He kept the provision for professors and lecturers at the universities (p. 15). He preserved Church-rates, and assigned them for the maintenance of the fabric and the worship (p. 89); and not only Presbyterians, but even Independents, headed by the great names of Owen and Goodwin, accepted gladly a permanent provision (pp. 220—227, 244).
If the state of England under the Commonwealth was one of distraction and disorder, let it be remembered that it was so through the struggle of sects and the prevalence of wild faiths, which grew up, like weeds, over the ruins of the fallen Church. Yet these were kept in some check by the existence of a settled provision. It may teach us what will arise when the spoiler has had his way, and parliamentary license, no longer curbed by a strong hand, sweeps away—as such politicians as Lord Rollo and Mr. Bright would wish—all the endowments both of religion and science. What is now seen and felt in the United States, in the crowd and conflict of the wildest delusions, would be felt ten times more in the dense masses and jostling industry of our crowded island.
But there is one sect which makes its profit out of this confusion. The wilder the weeds, the more easily it creeps in, to sow unobserved its darnel. In the English Commonwealth, Mr. Stoughton shows us the activity and success of the Church of Rome. In the army and the Court—in Ireland, their stronghold—Romish priests were unwearied. In Ireland a bloody insurrection, in England constant intrigues, marked their advance (vol. i. pp. 212, 218, 231, 242, 376; vol. ii. pp. 27, 122, 315).
It may teach us what is doing now, when we learn from history what was done then. "In 1646, by order from Rome, above a hundred of the Romish clergy were sent into England." They were trained in various arts; they learned various languages; they mastered the tenets of " Presbyterianism, Independency, Anabaptism, Atheism," and were taught to defend these theses by their skilful instructors abroad. Arriving here in 1647, they joined various parties. (We wish the Liberal and Conservative parties in Parliament would learn this lesson.) Some assumed the mask of fierce Loyalists; others were enthusiastic Puritans, and with secret bulls and licenses in their pockets to remove scruples and gain associates, they set themselves to npset the monarchy, and (hear it, ye modern Liberals!) "there was no better design to confound the Church of England than by pretending liberty of conscience." They were bound, these Romish priests, to send monthly reports to Rome; and in any case of doubt (just as the Roman Catholic peers did last session) they referred to Rome or the Sorbonne, and "it was returned from the Sorbonists that it was lawful for Roman Catholics to work changes in governments, for the Mother Church's advancement, and chiefly in an heretical kingdom, and so lawfully make away the king."*
If any one supposes that these intrigues are not rife among ns now, we would refer him to the last work of the lamented Dean of Ripon, which will show him, by a series of facts, what Rome has done to gain a footing in England; and if he imagines that the success of Rome is to be ascribed to the influence of Courts, we would ask him to read the instructive evidence of Rome's success in the United States, which a recent American magazinef has collected. It there appears that Irish Papists have possessed themselves of the most important municipal offices in New York, and many of the judicial posts; that, with their help in the different corporations, the Romish Church has set up an enormous establishment, with 2000 priests, monks, and nuns—an army moving in perfect order under the direction of their Primate; that they have established 150 superior institutions, such as academies, colleges, or hospitals; have spent on land and building fifty millions of dollars, and have obtained a property which they themselves estimate at nearly £200,000.
By their influence they have induced the City of New York to pay to them a yearly sum of nearly 200,000 dollars, and they had the modesty to propose (and it was with difficulty that the proposition has been for the time resisted) that every Roman Catholic child shall be sent to a priest's school, and that every child shall have eight dollars yearly paid for his education out of the public taxes. When we consider that above 100,000 children could claim and receive this in New York alone,—that every school is under the absolute control of the priests, and that all this enormously large property is held by the Romish Bishop,—we may learn how, with the dissolution of Protestant sects falling into decay, this colossal Establishment rises and extends its power over the Legislature and Corporations, till it overshadows the liberties of the Republic and the order of society.
That Rome should unite with Voluntaries to overthrow in England the only body capable of resisting them, the Established Protestant Church, is only natural and wise. But that the Nonconformists should lend themselves to such schemes, and work out the demolition of the fortresses of Protestantism, is one of the many examples of the infatuation which, under the influence of passion and prejudice, drives men into calamitous blunders. Far wiser were the Nonconformists of our Revolution, who, in the face of dangers less considerable, and a Romish confederacy less powerful, joined the Church of England in their resistance to Rome, and postponed their minor differences till the great question of Protestantism was settled in their favour.
* Bramhall'a Works, vol. i. p. xcv. t Putnam's Magazine, July, 186'J.
We rejoice to see that some classes of Dissenters, and some individuals both among the English Nonconformists and the Scotch Free-churchmen, see the true state of things, and take their place on the side of Protestant Churchmen. All honour to them! We hail their help; we commend their wisdom. The best return we can make them for their sagacious and disinterested aid is to direct our own attention to the evils within our Church, which weaken our hands, and alienate friends. These evils we now desire to notice, and to suggest a remedial and practical reform.
Two pamphlets, both written by clergymen, and addressed to two Premiers, treat of the question of Church Reform. The one was written last year, and complains of the necessity of Reformats exigency, the delays in the Ritual Commission, which may render its existence a delusion and its report a sham. The feelings of the writer are given in words which we quote, as they record the impatience and annoyance which now prevail among thousands of our most zealous laity,—" If the whole Church system of to-day is to be stereotyped, with its muffled Popery in some parishes, with its sluggish deadness in others, with its semi-uniformity, with its defective discipline, with its maintenance of phraseology and formulas in its Ordination and Occasional Offices distinctly derived from Romish sources in dark ages of Popery,—many will hail that man as a deliverer and true Reformer, be he Liberal or Conservative, who shall cut away the supports of such a system, and thus afford Protestant Churchmen the opportunity of forming a free church in a free country."
The next pamphlet, that of Mr. Laurence, proposes, as the cure for our evils, the increase of our Bishops from 28 to 76, the nomination of ten of these new bishops by the Crown, i. e. by the Premier, and the election of 37 new bishops by the clergy.
On this scheme, and this feature of it, it is needless to waste words. The unrestricted selection of bishops by the Premier will, we imagine, before Mr. Gladstone has finished his term of office, be felt to be unendurable. But, bad as the system is, it will be unexceptionable as compared with the election of a bishop by the clergy. If, by happy accident, the choice of a Premier is at times guided to the selection of a suitable man, the choice of a Bishop by the prejudices of