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but Christianity goes forth to knock sent engaged with. The ability and at the door of nature, and, if possible, the Christian worth of dissenters, and awaken her out of her sluggishness. the precious contributions which they This was the way of it at its first pro- have rendered to sacred literature, mulgation. It is the way of it in every should ever screen them from being missionary enterprise. And seeing, lightly or irreverently spoken of. And that the disinclination of the human yet, among all their claims to the graheart to entertain the overtures of the titude of the public, we think that gospel, forms a mightier obstacle to they have a higher still, in their its reception among men, than all the wholesome re-action on the establishoceans and continents which mission- ments of the land, in their fresh, and aries have to traverse, there ought to vigorous, and ever-recurring impulses be a series of aggressive measures in on a machinery, the usefulness of behalf of Christianity, carried on from which they may disown in words, one age to another, in every clime and while, in fact, they are among the country of Christendom. To wait till most effective instruments of its usethe people shall stir so effectually, as fulness.-pp. 89-95. that places of worship shall be built by them, and the maintenance of teachers shall be provided by them, and that, abundantly enough for all the moral and spiritual necessities of our nation, is very like a reversal of the principle on which Christianity was first introduced amongst us, and on which, we apprehend, Christianity must still be upheld amongst us. We, therefore, hold it to be wise, in every Christian government, to meet the people with a ready-made apparatus of Christian education. It is like a constant and successive going forth amongst them with those lessons which they never would have sought after, through all the sacrifices that they else would have had to make, and all the obstacles that they else must have overcome. It is in order to perpetuate the religion of the people, keeping up the same aggressiveness of operation, which first originated the religion of the people. We are aware that itinerancy is an aggressive operation, and that dissenters do itinerate. But we are mistaken if, in this way, there is more of the gospel brought into contact with the inhabitants of our country, throughout the space of a year, than is heard on every single Sabbath within the pale of its two establishments. This is not fastening the contempt of insignificance upon dissenters; for, in truth, the good done by their locomotive proceedings forms, we believe, a very humble fraction, indeed, of the good that emanates from their pulpits, and is performed through the week, and around the vicinity of their pulpits, by the ministers who fill them. It is a mere question of moral and spiritual tactics, which we are at pre
It is quite true that the establishment has been greatly more powerless in cities, than, with care and vigilance on the part of our rulers, it might have been. It is not merely of the inadequate number of churches that we complain, though these, in some of the chief cities of our empire, could not harbour more than a tenth part of the inhabitants. Neither is it of the manner in which the clergy have been loaded with such extra-professional work, as, in fact, has reduced their usefulness as ministers, greatly beneath the level of that of their dissenting brethren. But, in addition to all this, the most precious advantages of an establishment have been virtually thrown away, and its ministers disarmed of more than half their influence, by a mere point of civic practice and regulation. By what may be called a most unfortunate blunder in moral tactics, an apparatus that might have borne with peculiar effect on the hosts of a rapidly degenerating population, has been sorely thwarted and impeded in the most essential part of the mechanism which belongs to it. Not by the fault of any, but through the mere oversight of all, a wide disruption has been made between city ministers, and the people of their respective localities; and we should esteem it a truly important epoch in the Christian economy of towns, were effectual measures henceforth taken, to repair gradually, and without violence, the mischief alluded to.
What we complain of is, the mode which has obtained hitherto of letting the vacant church seats. They are open to applications from all parts of the town and neighbourhood, and that, till very lately, without any pre
ference given to the inhabitants of the parish.
It is this, which, trifling as it may appear, has struck with impotency our church establishment in towns, and brought it down from the high 'vantage ground it might else have occupied. In this way each church is made to operate, by a mere process of attraction, over an immense field, instead of operating, by a process of emanation, on a distinct and manageable portion of it. With the exception of his civil immunities, and his civil duties, which last form a heavy deduction from his usefulness, there remains nothing to signalise an esta blished over a dissenting minister, though the capabilities of his office ought to give him the very advan◄ tage which a local has over a general Sabbath school. That which, in argument, forms the main strength of our establishment, has, in practice, been so utterly disregarded, as, in fact, to have brought every city of our land under a mere system of dissenterism. It is not of the powerful influence of dissenters that we complain. It is of the feeble influence of their system. It is not that they are become so like unto us, as to have gained ground upon the establishment. It is, that we have become so like unto them, as both of us to have lost ground on the general population. Locality, in truth, is the secret principle wherein our great strength lieth; and our enemies could not have devised more effectual means of prevailing against us, in order to bind us and to afflict us, than just to dissever this principle from our establishment. Our city rulers, without the mischievous intent, have inflicted upon us the mischievous operation of Delilah; and since we are asked, why it is that, with all the strength and superiority which we assign to an establishment, we put forth so powerless an arm on the general community-we reply, that it is, because, under this operation, our strength has gone from us, and we have become weak, and are like unto other men.
It is well enough, that every article of ordinary sale is to be had in stationary shops, for the general and indiscriminate use of the public at large; for all who need such articles, also feel their need, and have a moving force in themselves to go in quest
of them. But this is no reason why the same thing should have been done with Christianity. It is what all men need, but what few feel the need of; and, therefore it is, that, under our present arrangement in towns, there are many thousands who will never move towards it, but where still it is in our power to reclaim and to engage, did we obtrude it upon them. We cannot think of a more effectual device, by which to send a reaching and a pervading influence to this sedentary part of our population, than by binding one church, with one minister, to one locality. Under the opposite, and, unfortunately, the actual system, the result, that is now visibly before us, was quite unavoidable. All the activity of dissenters, aided by the established church, whose activity and influence have been, in fact, reduced to that of dissenters, could not have prevented it. It is not mere Sabbath preaching that will retain, or, far less, recal a people to the ordinances of Christianity. It is not even this preaching, seconded by the most strenuous week-day attentions, to hearers lying thinly and confusedly scattered over a wide and fatiguing territory. With such a bare and general superintendence as this, many are the families that will fall out of notice; and there will be the breaking out of many intermediate spaces, in which there must grow and gather, every year, a wider alienation from all the habits of a country parish; and the minister, occupied with his extra-parochial congregation, will be bereft of all his natural influence over a locality which is but nominally his. The reciprocal influence of his Sabbath and week-day ministrations on each other, is entirely lost under such an arrangement. The truth is, that, let him move through his parish, he may not find so much as a hundred hearers within its limits, out of more than ten times that number who attend upon him. And, conversely, however urgent might be the demand in his parish for room in his church, which, under the existing practice, it is not likely to be, he has not that room that is already in foreign occupation, to bestow upon them. A parochial congregation would have, at the very outset, throned him in such a moral ascendancy over his district of the town, as the assiduities of a
to them. It was thought that a regular evening sermon might be instituted in this chapel, and that for the inducement of a seat-rent so moderate as from 6d. to 1s. 6d. a-year, to each individual, many who attended no where through the day, might be prevailed upon to become the regular attendants of such a congregation. The sermon was preached, not by one stated minister, but by a succession of such ministers as could be found; and as variety is one of the charms of a public exhibition, this also might have been thought a favourable circumstance. But besides, there were gentlemen who introduced the arrangement to the notice of the people, not merely by acting as their informants, but by going round among them with the offer of sittings, and, in order to remove every objection on the score of inability, they were authorised to offer seats gratuitously to those who were unable to pay for them. Had the experiment succeeded, it would have been indeed the proudest and most pacific of all victories. But it is greatly easier to make war against the physical resistance of a people, than to make war against the resistance of an established moral habit. And, accordingly, out of the 1500 seats that were offered, not above 50 were let or accepted by those who had before been total non-attendants on religious worship; and then about 150 more were let, not, however, to those whom it was wanted to reclaim, but to those who already went to church through the day, and in whom the taste for church-going had been already formed. And so the matter moved on, heavily and languidly, for some time, till, in six months after the commencement of the scheme, in September 1817, it was finally abandoned.
There were several ingredients of success, however, wanting to this experiment. There was no such reiteration of one minister, as would ripen into familiarity or friendship between him and his hearers. There was no reciprocity of operation, between the duties of the Sabbath, and the duties of the week. The most aggressive part of a minister's influence upon the people, lies in his being frequently amongst them; the recognised individual, whose presence is looked for at their funerals, and who baptizes their children, and who attends their sick
whole life will not be able to earn for him. But, as the matter stands, he is quite on a level, in respect of influence, with his dissenting brethren and the whole machinery of an establishment, in respect of its most powerful and peculiar bearings upon the people, is virtually dissolved. On the system of each minister feeding his church from his parish, he could not only have crowded his own place of worship, but stirred up such an effective demand for more accommodation, as might have caused the number of churches and the number of people to keep in nearer proportion to each other. But, under the paralyzing influence of the present system, it is not to be wondered at, that the urgency for seats should have fallen so greatly in the rear of the increasing rate of population; and that the habit of attendance on any place of religious instruction whatever, should have gone so wofully into desuetude-and that the feeble operation of waiting a demand, instead of stimulating, should be so incompetent to reclaim this habit; and that the labouring classes in towns, should have thus become so generally alienated from the religious establishment of the land and, what is greatly worse than the desertion of establishments, that a fearful majority should be now forming, and likely to increase every year, who are not merely away from all churches, but so far away, as to be beyond the supplementary operation of all meeting-houses-a majority that is fast thickening upon our hands, and who will be sure to return all the disorders of week-day profligacy upon the country, because that country has, in fact, abandoned them to the ever-plying incitements and opportunities of Sabbath profanation. pp. 104-109.
An experiment may often be as instructive by its failure, as by its success. We have here to record the fate of a most laudable endeavour, made to recal a people alienated from Christian ordinances, to the habit of attendance upon them. The scene of this enterprise was Calton and Bridge ton-two suburb districts of Glasgow which lie contiguous to each other, bearing together, a population of above 29,000, and with only one chapel of ease for the whole provision which the establishment has rendered
beds, and who goes round amongst them in courses of religious visitation. There was nothing of all this in the experiment; nor were the Christian philanthropists who did go forth upon the population, so firmly embodied under one head, or so strictly and officially attached to one locality, as fairly to represent the operation of a stated minister, and, where possible, a residing eldership. Above all, in so wide and dispersed a locality in question, it was not by the marvellous doings of one year, that a great or visible change in the habits of the people ought to have been expected. The descent of more than half a century will not be so easily or so speedily recovered. Such an achievement as this can never be done without labour, and without the perseverance of men, willing to plod and to pioneer their way through the difficulties of a whole generation.
in the name of one individual, instead of their being let by threes and fours in the name of the head or representative of a family; for, in this latter case, they may pass from one member of it to another, and, perhaps, descend to its next and its succeeding generations. The object of this last regulation is, to secure a more rapid and abundant falling in of extra-parochial vacancies, which should be rigidly and unviolably offered to parishioners from one year to another, as they occur. Under such a constitution, there may, at the outset of every new church, be but a small proportion of parishioners attending it; but, with the removal or the dying off of extra-parochial hearers, there will be a certain number of vacancies to dispose among them annually. Meanwhile, the interest of the minister, in his new parish, will be gradually extending, and, with very ordinary attention on his part, may so keep pace with the disappearance and decay of the exotics among his congregation, as will enable him to replace them by parish applicants; and thus in the process of time, will a home be substituted in the place of a mixed congregation. It were laying an impossibility upon a clergyman, at once to call in from a yet unbroken field, fifteen hundred ready and willing attendants upon his miniştrations. But this, without any colossal energy at all, he might do at the rate of fifty in the year. So that though he begins himself with a mixed auditory made out of hearers from all the parishes of the city, there may be such a silent process of substitution going forward during the course of his incumbency, as shall enable him to transmit to his successor an almost entirely parochial congregation.
This may serve to guide our anticipations respecting the probable effect of new churches, built in places of the most crowded and unprovided population. A given territory ought, by all means, to be assigned to each of them; and, in letting the seats, a preference should be held out to the residents upon that territory. But we should not be sanguine in our hopes, of the preference being, to any great extent, actually taken by them in the first instance; and this, if the cause be not adverted to or counted on, may, for a time, damp and discourage the whole speculation. On our first entrance upon new ground, we must consider that there is a minority already in possession of sittings elsewhere, and that, nearly up to the existing taste for church-going; and that there is a majority in whom that taste must be formed and inspired, ere the church can be recruited out of their numbers. A congregation, out of these, may be looked for in time, as the fruit and the reward of perseverance; but it cannot be looked operation. Were they now broken up, for the purpose of being new-modelled, and that instantly on the local principle, there would be violence done to the feelings of many an individual. But, what is more, it would also be found, that, after the dispersion of our mixed congregations, there would be a very inadequate number of applicants in the poorer parishes ready to take the places which had
This is the way, in fact, in which all our existing congregations might be at length parochialised. It should be done by an enactment of gradual
for immediately. The best rule of seat-letting, in these circumstances, is, to hold out a preference, in the first instance, to the inhabitants of the new parish, and then, in as far as that preference is not taken, to expose the remaining seats to the applications of the general public. It is of importance, however, that each of the extra-parochial sittings should be let
thus been dispossessed. It is much better if the existing arrangement can be righted without the soreness of any forced or unnatural separations, and in such a way as that no actual sitter can, on his own account, personally complain of it. Though he retain his right of occupation till death, the substitution of a home for a foreign congregation will yet go on, and as rapidly, perhaps, as the parochial demand for seats can be stimulated. So that the sure result will at length be arrived at, of the parish and congregation being brought within the limits of one influence, and reduced to the simplicity of one management.
There is a philanthropy more sanguine than it is solid, which, impatient of delay, would think an operation so tardy as this unworthy of being suggested, and refuse to wait for it. But it is the property of sound legislation to look to distant results as well as to near ones-to be satisfied with impressing a sure movement, though it should be a slow one-nor does the wisdom of man ever make a higher exhibition, than when apart from the impulse of a result that is either speedy or splendid, she calmly institutes an arrangement, the coming benefit of which will not be fully realized till after the lapse of our existing generation.
But it is not enough that the demand of each parish for seats should be stimulated up to the extent of its present accommodation. The truth is, that all our large towns have so far outgrown the church establishment, that, though each church were crowded, and with local congregations too, and each meeting-house already in existence were also filled to an overflow, there would still be a fearful body of the people in the condition of outcasts from the ordinances of Christianity. The mere erection of additional fabrics will do nothing to remedy this, without an operation on the people who should fill them. It must be admitted, that the Calton experiment looks rather discouraging. But still we think that certain adverse ingredients may be removed from it, and certain favourable ingredients be substituted in its place. It was really not to be expected that much could be done by an indefinite number of ministers, who each had the transient intercourse of a rare and
occasional Sabbath evening with the people, without any week-day movement amongst them all. But is there not a greater likelihood of success, when the same attempt is made by one minister in his own parish, in conjunction, perhaps, with an assistant equally bound to its locality with himself? And what the influence of a few private philanthropists, going forth on so wide and populous a district as the one we are alluding to, could not accomplish by a transient effort, may at length be accomplished by persevering and reiterated efforts on the part of an official body, raised, perhaps, into existence for the very object of calling out a parochial congregation, and animated with a sense of the importance of achieving it. Even with all these advantages, the strenuousness of an encounter with previous and established habits will be felt, an encounter which will require to be as assiduously met by moral suasion through the week as by preaching on the Sabbath. At the same time, it is a very great mistake to think that any other peculiar power is necessary for such an operation, than peculiar pains-taking. It is not with rare and extraordinary talent conferred upon a few, but with habits and principles which may be cultivated by all, that are linked our best securities for the reformation of the world. This is a work which will mainly be done with every-day instruments operating upon every-day materials; and more, too, by the multiplication of labourers, than by the gigantic labour of a small number of individuals. The arrangement now suggested may exemplify this. Let a Sabbath evening sermon be preached in the church of a city parish to a parochial congregation, distinct from the day-hearers altogether. Let a moderate seat-rent be exacted, and a preference for these seats be held out to those in the locality, who have sittings no where else. Some care and some perseverence will be necessary to ensure the success of such an enterprise. But there is nothing impracticable about it, and no such impediments in the way of its execution, as to stamp upon it the least degree of a visionary character. There need be no additional labour to the minister, who may, in fact, take full relief to himself from an assistant.