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pline; and that much of the power of electing dissenting ministers, instead of resting, as at present, wholly in the people who hear and who pay them, would have been transferred to his Majesty's justices of the peace, who were to determine whether the persons signing the certificates required to enable the minister to procure a licence, were substantial and reputable householders. Many of the justices it is well known are the clergy of the established church, and not a few of the Reverends, together with many of their worshipful lay brethren, are pretty rank tories in both religion and politics. Should the horrid reign of terror which was the characteristic feature of the administration of the “great man now no more," the anniversary of wbose birth, those wise-acres who are interested in the support of war and corruption, are about celebrating, --should that reign of terror, ever return, and no man be accounted by a bench of torified justices, “ a reputable housebolder,” unless he goes all lengths in support of the minister of the day, it is not very difficult to conceive the havoc such a power of judging must make on the purity of principle, on the virtue and the inde pendence of dissenting ministers, and the tendency it must bave to promote a time-serving spirit of servility amongst dissenters, both ministers and people. It is an admirable feature of the present acts of toleration, that not an atom of power is allowed to the civil magistrate to judge of the qualifications of those applying for licenses; that he bas, in the execution of his office, " nothing to do " with the laws but to obey them.” By those laws any map on taking an oath of fidelity to the King, of abjuration of popery, and making a declaration of his being a protestant dissenter, and a christian, and of his belief in the Old and New Testament, bas a right to the required licence, and it is at the peril of the magistrate to refuse it. These provisions would by the new act have been rendered nugatory ; and every thing respecting the characters of those who signed the certificate of a minister, or a candidate for the ministry, must have depended on the opinion of the magis. trate. The question is not whether magistrates in general might not have wisely and with moderation have exercised the power: the arbitrary or improper exertion of it in a single instance, yea the very allowance of such an exercise would have subverted the foundation principle of the Toleration act passed at the glorious Revolution.
Amidst all the reproofs and sarcasms so plentifully bestowed on Lord Sidmouth, by his noble friends in the house, by various writers in the public prints, and by almost every social circle in which this important subject has been discussed, we confess we cannot repress that compassion we feel rising in our bosom for his lordship when contemplating the late unsupported and unbefriended situation
farther conformation, resting ministers
in which he had so unfortunately placed himself; and when we farther consider the immense pains his lordship must have taken in acquiring information, respecting the increase of dissenters, and the various defects of dissenting ministers, and his ardent endeavours for their reformation ;-that his head must have been filled, and bis braius tortured with the subject for years past, we cannot but lament that so much valuable labour should be totally lost. Hoping that this may not be the case, but that “ good may be brought out of “ evil," and that his lordship's zealous, although mistaken endeavours for the advancement of religion, and (to borrow the language of Lord Morton)“ to make it more respectable in the eyes of the " world,” may, in spite of a recent discomfiture, yet turn to some good account, we shall refer to the reasons assigned by his lordship for his past conduct, which, if he seriously and impartially revolves in his own mind, will operate with tenfold force to prove the neces. sity of reform in bis favourite and beloved established church. Due reflection may incline his lordship to pursue the more useful, profit. able, and, we hope successful course suggested to bim by Lord Stanhope, that of " seriously setting about the reformation of affairs “ in the church of England, before he again dabbles in those of the “ dissenters.”
Lord Sidmouth in all the speeches he has made on this subject affects to be much impressed with the importance of the ministerial office, and to deprecate the intrusion of ignorant and immoral persons. Now, if his lordship will but carefully examine the state of his own church, he will find abundant reason to deplore the unfitness of many of the clergy for their stations, in both these respects; and what cannot sufficiently be deplored, that the very frame and constitution of the church tolerates and sanctions this awful abuse. How many of the young and thoughtless, are, without any regard to their capacity for study, their knowledge of divine truth, without serious impressions of the importance of the work, apprenticed to the church: to use the language of a modern clergyman," com“ mencing in those corrupting seminaries our public schools, ad“ vancing in our grievously neglected universities, where amidst all “ the circle of the sciences who ever thought of learning the know“ ledge of a crucified Jesus, an idea that would be generally “ scouted, entering into the ministry often ignorant of science, but “ especially of the doctrines of Christ which they profess to teach, "" subscribing articles which they have bardly read, never considered, “ and generally disbelieve.” Yes; it is at our universities that the moral sense of a young man is sure to be vitiated. The great champion for ecclesiastical prevarication and perjury, Dr. Paley, informs us, that “ member of colleges in the universities, and of other ancient foundations, are required to swear to the observance
" of their respective statutes ; which is become in some cases un" lawful, in others impracticable, in others useless, in others in" convenient.” Thus prepared, they enter the church lying unto God; giving their “ unfeigned assent and consent to all and to every " thing in the thirty nine articles and the book of common prayer," thoughtlessly or hypocritically declaring that they are “ inwardly " moved so to do by the Holy Ghost.” This clerical practice of swearing and subscribing to what the swearer and subscriber does vot believe, we challenge any one to vindicate on the principles of common sense or common honesty; and we are firmly persuaded that there never was an apology written for the practice but was disgraceful to both : we need not therefore be surprised at the ingenuous confession made by the famous apologist for ecclesiastical prevarication and perjury just quoted-—" That he could not afford " to keep a conscience in the sense of the word that some others " did."* Does Lord Sidmouth therefore really feel for the honour of religion let him well examine the foundations of the established ehurch : would he prevent the continued addition to the millions of lies and perjuries, the consequence of the abominable act of uniformity, and of those disgraceful statutes which require oaths, in most cases disregarded, and in some impossible to be kept, let bim seri. ously endeavour to procure the repeal of laws, which have made guch general havoc with the consciences of the clergy, and have tainted at least in some degree, the minds of the very best of them.
The manner in which preferments in the church are generally procured, is another evil which naturally produces swarms of ignorant and and unqualified clergymen, whose only aim is what is literally and properly termed a good living. Are not advowsons publicly bought and sold; and are not the recommendations of a “ fine sporting country, a pack of hounds in the neighbourhood, and " little duty required,” frequently held out as temptations to the indolent, the ignorant, and the vicious ? The living of Winebish in Essex, was a few years since advertised, and enchantingly described, “ of the value of 5761. a year, a perpetuity in fee, nearly equal " to a freehold estate, being a sinecure, and the only qualification
* This curious anecdote is recorded hy his biographer, Mr. Meadley. The confession was made to a committee of clergymen who waited on Mr. Paley, with a petition for relief from subscription to the 39 articles. When he refused signing, an appeal was made to bis conscience, as he had not long before written in favour of the measure ; but perceiving that this was not the way to preferment, he pleaded that he was a young man, rising in life, and closed his apology with the ever memorable declaration above quoted. We were informed of this disgraceful circumstance by one of the clergymen present at the famous conference, long before it was published by Paley's biographer, and who ever after entertained a very mean opinion of his principles.
“ necessary being in orders, as there is neither residence, nor “ duty required, and it being tenable with any other two church “ livings.” Another of our public prints lately stated a transaction in which “ two advowsons were offered for a seat in the house of « Commons.” As to the superior dignities of the church every one kuows how they are procured! What therefore must be the pafural consequence of this wretched system of traffic, of bargain, sale, and political influence ? Let a member of this corrrupt es. tablishment answer the question.-" The hand of the Priests bath “ been chief in our national transgressions ; the clergy, worldly “ minded, proud, ambitious, idle, ignorant : however learned as • philosophers, linguists or mathematicians, ignorant of that which “ is the most valuable wisdom, the knowledge of the gospel, are * the blind leaders of the blind : are not the herd of dignitaries “ the chief stumbling blocks; must not their general pursuits, con“ nections, conduct, convince the very infidel great, whom they « fawn upon, and persecute for preferment, that if the systems « inculcated in the epistles to Timothy and Titus be true, it is im, « possible that these men should believe one word of cbristianity " more than themselves."*
Lord Sidmouth assigned another reason for introducing his bill, the “ want of moral qualifications in dissenting teachers: as a proof “ of which he read a letter he had received, stating an instance of “ great depravity in a preacher who had obtained a licence.” His lordship further remarked, that“ nothing could be of more im“ portance than that religious instruction should not be contamina.
ted at its source, and that its teachers should not be men of « tainted or immoral principles.” And was it matter of astouisbment to his lordship, that after all his industry he had found out one instance of an immoral dissenting teacher ? If this instance bas so shocked his pious feelings, how must they be “harrowed “ up," on reading in the public prints, the numerous instances of depravity in our established priests? To pass over the squabbles about tythes, are not the trials for clerical adultery multiplied ? Have there been no instances of high preferments being eagerly
* These were as nearly as I can recollect," adds our author, " the “ very expressions uttered by a noble lord of the most distinguished attainu ments, natural and acquired, in a conversation I once held with him, “ respecting the truth and evidence of christianity." I must request the reader carefully to note, that the evidence I have brought on this subject, is not from dissenters, but from clergymen of the establishment, popular in their respective circles.' The first, Dr. Paley as a writer and preacher of distinguished learning and talents, and the latter, Dr. Hawes, the rector of Aldwinkle,-famous for the manner in which he procured his living : as a leader of the clergy called evangelical, and for his missionary zeal!
sought after through the medium of prostitutes, and of clergymen by such means having preached before his Majesty flaming serinons against French atheism and immorality? Have any of the parties engaged in these scandalous transactions been made amenable to church discipline? Is his lordship ignorant, that several clergymen during the present reign, one of them distinguished in his day for his abilities, his popularity, and his preferments, have expiated their crimes on the gallows ?-Why then does his lordship force the recollection of these disgraceful circumstances on the mind of the public, by stating a solitary instance of what he has heard, of dissenting depravity, (the particulars of which or the denomination of the offender we are not informed,) as a reason for attacking the rights of the whole body of dissenters? But what proves to demonstration, the too general unfitness of the clergy for their stations as public teachers is, the transactions in parliament, relative to non-re
sidence. This practice, which that great ornament of the establish· mient, Bishop Buruet, declared, was the “ peculiar scandal of the
"church of England," had a few years since arisen to such an height; so 'alarıned were the sacred order at the prosecutions instituted, and the still greater number threatened against them for their long and notorious violation of the laws of God and of their country, that they applied to the legislature for relief; and to accommodate the conveniences, the luxuries, and the consciences, of these qualified ministers of the gospel, the operation of those laws was suspended in their favour. During the investigation of this subject, a list was laid before parliament, in the year 1808, of the number of non-residents, which amounted to 6,145. The number since that period, it is understood, has not decreased. Now, when we recollect that the amount of livings in Britain is about 11,000, we may form some competent judgment of the qualifitations of the clergy for their work, for what is called the “ cure of souls,” and of the anxious solicitude of these reverend pastors, for the spiritual interests of their flocks! It is in vain that Lord Harrowby year after year, moves for additional grants to the established church; it is in vain that Lord Sidmouth laments the increase of sectaries, or the want of more churches; it will be something worse than in vain, if the professed friends of the church, instead of building churches themselves, pilfer the public purse for the purpose ; whilst. the gross abuses we have mentioned (a few out of many) continue, the pumber of dissenters will continue to increase: yea, we will add, the welfare, if not the preservation of genuine christianity in this country depends on that increase. The reformation of the church of England therefore, loudly demands Lord Sidmoutli's exertions ; and if his lordship does not, with all these crying and increasing abuses staring bim in the face, seriously set about the work, no