Page images
PDF
EPUB

POSTSCRIPT.

ON THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE CHURCH.

Two or three passages in the foregoing sermons, would have been in some degree modified had they been written more recently. The last few months have rather changed the aspect of affairs. Before that time, there was every reason to fear that the Church was about to be the arena of political strife between the great contending parties which divide the State. But Providence appears, for a while at least, to have warded off the evil. Whether convinced of the injustice of their views, or alarmed at the kindling spirit which had begun to show itself, the enemies of the Church have abstained from assaulting her on any vital point; and her friends are willing to acquiesce in the proposed reform, as being on the whole a beneficial measure.

God grant that this new-born spirit of moderation may continue to pervade the national councils,

see and

Meanwhile, the friends of the Church must not suffer the temporary suspension of danger to lull them into inaction, but rather make diligent use of the time allowed them, to prepare themselves for the struggle, which, it can scarcely be doubted, will come at no very distant period.

The grand error, which all now deplore, has been the unaccountable neglect to provide religious instruction, and pastoral superintendence, for the increasing population of the great towns. Whence it has happened, that, not only are vast masses of people left in almost heathen darkness, but also, that the Church has lost influence precisely in those places where circumstances have recently thrown a great increase of political strength. It is useless now to lament over the error, the object of the friends of religion should be by all practicable means to repair it.

Owing to a combination of circumstances, the Church at present labours under this serious disadvantage, namely, that the best of her forces are not employed where their services are most necessary. She numbers among her ranks many hundreds of the ablest men in the kingdom, but they do not avail her as they ought, because their strength is wasted in situations of minor importance.

Many clergymen of first-rate

talent are settled down in cathedral stalls, or country villages; employed in work which might be done as well by inferior men; and acquiring habits of retirement and love of ease, instead of that stirring spirit of practical activity which the present age requires.

The safety of the Church demands a better disposition of her forces. The chief influence at her command ought to be brought to bear on the most important points—that is to say, the large and intelligent communities of the great cities. Such unquestionably is the system under which the Church of this country, as a national establishment, has grown up and prospered. The Bishops with their cathedral establishments were attached to the principal cities; the pastoral superintendence of which was provided for by the Chapters; and the sermons delivered in the cathedrals were much thought of and resorted to by the principal inhabitants. But this state of things has passed away. The stalls in cathedrals are now useful rather as rewards for services done, than as posts of practical efficacy. The cathedral towns have become of second-rate importance. Larger and wealthier communities have grown up elsewhere. The object now should be to direct the talent and influence of the Church to the same points.

In order to accomplish this object, not only should many new parishes be made in the great towns-new churches built, and parochial pastors appointed; but these offices, or a considerable number of them, should be made principal posts of honour and emolument; so as to become the objects of laudable ambition to men of the highest, or rather the most practical and useful order of talent. At present the pulpits in our great towns are filled, for the most part, by young and aspiring ministers, who make them the steps to higher preferment. Much more advantageous would it be to the Church, if they were in the hands of men of tried ability, who should occupy a prominent station, and exercise that influence in their respective communities, which well-directed talent is sure to command.

The means of accomplishing this desirable object are not, it is hoped, irrecoverably lost. Instead of casting the property of the suppressed stalls into a common fund, and doling forth a stipend, which shall barely suffice to procure the services of a minister who can obtain no better preferment, let the emoluments and dignities of some of the principal stalls be devoted to the endowment of the most important of the new churches, by which means, not a mere maintenance, but a station and dignity would

be conferred on those who should be placed there. It is obvious also that these situations would train up men eminently qualified by practical habits to be promoted to the office of Bishop.

If the time is unfortunately past for the appropriation of the stalls to this purpose, the friends of the Church should redouble their efforts to gain this important object in some other way: every endeavour should be made, by subscription or by petitioning Parliament', to establish in the great cities such endowments

1

It is thought by some hopeless to look for any more grants from Parliament. Why do not the friends of the Church stir themselves, and try the experiment of petitioning? An excellent opportunity is afforded at this moment. By the Tithe Commutation Bill, the Church is not only called on to sacrifice much actual property, but to give up for ever the chance of increasing it. Surely some compensation might reasonably be demanded for this sacrifice. With an increasing population of 180,000 souls per annum, the means of the Church are suddenly limited in their increase. Surely the nation ought in common justice to make provision, by a grant of money or in some other way, for the instruction of the additional thousands who are annually thrown on the already straitened means of the Church.

« PreviousContinue »