« PreviousContinue »
tian virtue? And yet farther, what is it that a minister of the Church of England can find to disparage or to ridicule in the humble and Christian contributions of his poorer brethren? Nothing, indeed, is more easy than to hold up both the givers and the receivers of such scanty donations in an invidious light. How readily, for example, might the same ingenuity be employed in ridiculing the briefs read continually in our Churches, by which the legislature directs the aid of the benevolent to be solicited from house to house, for the relief of different sufferers. How readily also might that ingenuity be employed in ridiculing the Easter offerings of the Church of England, " which," as Watson tells us, “ in many places, are by custom twopence from every communicant, and in London a groat a house." (Watson, c. 52.) I allude to the precedent, however, not merely to show the facility with which the humble subscriber to the Church Missionary Society may be ridiculed, but the propriety with which such ridicule is adopted by a member of that very church which thus supports her ministers, by a member of that very body of ministers for whom such supports are provided; and adopted, too, by such a person, for the very purpose of excluding the Society from the legimate pale of the Church of England. If, however, this be a subject of ridicule,
the venerable Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge have laid themselves open to the same shafts. We find, p. 73 of their last Report, the following language:-“ The Society, although it has existed above a century, may even at this time be considered as little known in some parts of the kingdom; and the Board is desirous by the establishment of District Committees to extend its influence to every part; and to add to the funds, on which its utility must depend, both by inducing more persons to become annual subscribers, and by collecting from charitable persons in every rank of life such contributions as they can afford, although much below the sum of one guinea, which is necessary to becoming a member of the Society."
But, as has already appeared, in soliciting the humblest contributions for a good object, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge has neither demeaned itself, nor swerved from the exemplar of the establishment to which its members belong. Surprising, indeed, would it be, if the Church of England alone, of all the churches of Christendom, rejected or despised the principle of drawing the benevolence of her poorer members into the common fund of Christian charity. Still more surprising would it be if the Church of England could forget the scale by which her divine and gracious Master has
taught her to measure the magnitude of private alms :- And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor
widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living
To say the truth, the great mass of the people must generally be the most effectual supporters of extensive designs of usefulness. And it is a most pleasing reflection, that, in lending their assistance to such objects, the poorer classes of contributors, whatever benefit they may confer on others, are usually found to receive very important benefit themselves. Perhaps the inspired declaration, that it is more blessed to give than to receive, is no where more fully exemplified than in the effect produced cn the dispositions and character of the poor, and especially of the younger part of them, by a participation in plans of benevolence. By calling them to the stated exercise of charity, it almost invariably forms them to habits of arrangement and economy. By embodying their
scanty contributions in great and lasting works, it not only gives to such exertions as their humble means will allow, a character of obvious utility, but it ennobles their minds, enlarges their range of enjoyment, and helps to wean them from that selfishness which their condition in life might make them liable to contract. A still higher advantage is, that by interesting them in designs of piety, it insensibly directs their attention, under the divine blessing, to their own religious welfare: their hearts, softened by feelings of kindness, become sensible to more sacred impressions, and benevolence is matured into Christian charity. I will not, however, expatiate in praise of this system; of which it may suffice to say that its obvious tendency is to draw our poorer brethren within the sphere of those promises which are so abun. dantly set forth in Holy Scripture to deeds of mercy performed from a right principle-promises, comprising the richest grant of blessings in this life and of endless recompense in that which is to come.
But, perhaps, the contempt of the reverend author was meant to be directed less against these petty contributions, than against the persons employed to collect them. The dignity of the Church of England, it seems, is compromised, when such men are “ elevated into members of a Church-of-England Society.” Doubtless it must be a question of expediency with every society supported by voluntary contributions, what shall be the lowest amount of qualification that shall entitle persons to be ranked amongst its members; and it is a question which different societies, having reference to their respective objects, may decide very differently. This, however, is not the point considered by the Archdeacon: the question which he raises, is, not that of expediency, but that of dignitythe dignity of the Church of England. He conceives it to be a signal degradation of the establishment, that the humble employment of collecting the alms of the poor should be considered by churchmen as an office of honour. Not so, it should seem, thought the Church herself, when, in the performance of the most solemn and deeply devotional of all her services, she enjoined her priests and her bishops to call on the people for their alms and devotions; to exhort those who bave little, to give, nevertheless, out of that little, and receiving their donations at the steps of the altar, to present and place them humbly on the holy table. Not so, it should seem, thought the Apostle Paul, when he himself condescended to the performance of this degrading duty; when he travelled to collect from the deep poverty of the Christian churches the riches of their liberality; when he executed the trust reposed in him, not only with alacrity, but with joy, earnestly and affec