Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

empire, many of whom never see a clergyman for years together; and as to the instruction of the Natives among whom has of late arisen an intense thirst for European knowledge, accompanied by a greatly diminished alarm at the advances of Christianity—this is still popularly considered as too dangerous a matter to be even thought of: and thus are hundreds of millions of human beings, within the range of nominally Christian influence, allowed to live and die in the most degrading and brutal superstitions, with scarcely an effort to impart to them the light and blessedness of the Gospel, and the knowledge of that Name by which alone men can be saved.

In many places where there is a British agent, and where numbers of our countrymen are to be found, there is to this hour no publicly recognised provision for Divine worship, according to the forms and discipline of the Church of England. A Chaplain ought to be made an essential part of every national offset; and at several central points, where a convenient number of English clergymen and lay settlers or residents are within a few days' or weeks' visitation, a Bishop ought to be appointed-as, for instance, at Malta and the Cape of Good Hope—so as to keep up order and discipline, to exercise the solemn function of ordination, and to administer the edifying rite of Confirmation to those who profess to be within the pale of episcopal jurisdiction. It is not necessary that these colonial bishops should be overburdened with a large income, or be styled “ My Lord,” and ex. pected to keep up the pomp that is popularly identified with high secular titles * : it would be sufficient to discharge their actual expenses, and to make such a reasonable addition to their stipend as would enable them to exercise due hospitality and charity.

It is with somewhat of surprise that we have observed the pertinacity of opposition which has attended every step for the enlargement of the Christian pale in India : for though we could not expect, in these days, that a company of merchants, in its official capacity, would make religion its first and most prominent object--as similarly chartered bodies in former ages at least pretended to do—yet we could scarcely have conceived that English gentlemen, professing to be Christians, and the majority of them probably members of the Church of England, would have been so greatly alarmed at a fraction of pecuniary expense to promote so momentous an object, or would have either felt or feigned any fear of creating suspicions in the minds of the natives of India by so reasonable a measure as that of supplying the religious wants of their own countrymen within the limits of their authority. Is it avarice, is it infidelity, is it aversion to the Church of England, or is it hostility to all religion, that has caused this painful phenomenon?

Without directly answering these inquiries, we think we can throw some light upon the subject by adverting to a similar discussion, nearly a century ago, in the case of our North-American Colonies, before their separation from England. We have lying before us a pamphlet published in 1769, entitled " A Letter to the Right Honourable Horatio Walpole, Esq. ; written Jan. 9, 1750-1, by the Right Reverend Thomas Secker, LL.D., Lord Bishop of Oxford ; concerning Bishops in America.” To

• We believe this matter has been attended to in the recent appointment of suffragan bishops for India. It was only by accident-it is said, by the mistake of a clerk in making out the first patent_that the Bishops of India came to be styled “ My Lord;" thus forming an inconvenient precedent for the West Indies, and all future colonial episcopates; but assuredly there could be no reason for imposing the same inconvenient secular dignity upon their suffragans, who cannot possibly, upon their limited stipend, live as Lords, temporal or spiritual, are expected and enabled, for the public benefit, to live in England and in India ; though they may be equally efficient, and quite as much respected, as bishops and pastors of Christ's Hock.

CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 382. 41

this pamphlet, which we presume is now very scarce, is prefixed the following Advertisement:-" The following letter was found among the papers of the late Archbishop Secker. It was written in consequence of a letter, dated May 9, 1750, from the late Lord Walpole to the late Dr. Sherlock, Bishop of London ; which was communicated by the latter to Bishop Secker, Jan. 2, 1750-1. It is now printed, in obedience to an order left with it under his Grace's own hand (dated May 25, 1759) in these words : • Let the letter written by me to Mr. Walpole, concerning Bishops in America, be printed after my death.Tho. Cant.'

We have been much struck, in perusing this pamphlet, with the similarity of the difficulties and objections then urged against the establishment of bishops in America, to those which have been raised in reference, first, to the formation, and since to the enlargement, of the episcopate in India : and as the question is one of great importance, and is likely to be still further discussed, as often as the increased zeal and piety of the friends of the Church of England shall propose the extension of the episcopate or an addition of clergymen in any of our foreign dependencies, we think our readers will not be displeased at our stating the substance of Bishop (afterwards Archbishop) Secker's argument. Our Right Reverend Friend of Calcutta will, we are sure, gladly postpone our duty to himself till we have taken leave of his Most Reverend Brother.

Dr. Secker's reason for directing the letter to be published after his death, though he had considered it as a private communication during his life, was, doubtless, by keeping upon record his arguments, to promote the object at some more favourable period : and such a period, we may hope, would have occurred, had not the subsequent revolt of the colonies set aside the matter. The Bishop's arguments are, however, of permanent value, on account of their bearing upon all similar cases.

It would seem, from the opening of Bishop Secker's letter, that Walpole was much prejudiced against the measure, and had been in controversy with the Bishop of London on the subject; for Secker says, “I return you my humble thanks for the honour you have done me, in communicating to me your letter to the Bishop of London. I have read it with all that attention and regard which is so justly due to your superior abilities and long experience, and meritorious zeal for our present happy Establishment and the public welfare. But, still, I cannot see the scheme to which it relates in the same light that you do. And though, if ever he hath conversed with you on the subject since, he hath doubtless said every thing material by way of reply which I can suggest, and much more; yet, as doth not seem to have laid any thing further before you in writing, I beg leave to trouble you with what hath occurred to me ; which, as the session is not yet begun, you may possibly have some leisure to look upon.

The Bishop then states, that the thing proposed is that two or three persons should be ordained bishops, and sent into the American colonies, to administer Confirmation, and give Deacon's and Priest's Orders to proper candidates, and exercise jurisdiction over the clergy of the Church of England in those parts. His Lordship then asks, “Is this proposal reasonable ? And, if it be, Are there any such dangers of its being extended to introduce exorbitant church powers, or of its raising uneasinesses abroad or at home, as may, notwithstanding, at least for the present, be just objections against it "

In regard to the first of these proposals, the Bishop says, “ The reason: ableness of the proposal, abstractedly considered, you seem, sir, to admit;" which is more than can be said of many modern opposers of the extension of the episcopal office to all our colonies. But, lest Walpole should waver as to this part of the question, the Bishop proves it, as follows:

· It

[ocr errors]

belongs to the very nature of episcopal churches to have bishops, at proper distances, presiding over them. Nor was there ever before, I believe, in the Christian world, an instance of such a number of such churches, or a tenth part of that number, with no bishop amongst them, or within some thousands of miles from them. But the consideration of the episcopal acts which are requisite will prove the need of episcopal residence more fully. Confirmation is an office of our Church, derived from the primitive ages; and, when administered with due care, a very useful one.

All our people in America see the appointment of it in their Prayer-books, immediately after their Catechism. And if they are denied it, unless they will come over to England for it, they are in effect prohibited the exercise of one part of their religion. Again : if they are to have no ordinations there, they must either send persons hither to be ordained, or take such as come to thein from hence. Sending their sons to so distant a country, and so different a climate, must be very inconvenient and disagreeable ; and taking the small-pox here, is said to be peculiarly fatal to them *. The expense also must be grievous to persons of small fortunes—such as most are who breed up their children for Orders—yet not sufficient to bring any accession of wealth to this nation, that would be worth naming, were more of that rank to come. But, in fact, very few of them do; therefore they must be supplied chiefly from hence. And not many, in proportion, will go from hence, but persons of desperate fortunes, low qualifications, and bad or doubtful characters ; who cannot answer, as they ought, the end for which they are designed."

After other arguments to prove the utility of an episcopate for America -and, among others, the discipline of the clergy, and the benefits thence resulting to the public—the Bishop proceeds to shew that the alleged " danger of increasing church power" was not a valid objection. He says :

Against things evidently right and useful, no dangers ought to be pleaded but such as are both very probable and great; and from confirming and ordaining no danger of this kind, I presume, is apprehended. Yet these are the only new powers that will be exercised. No other jurisdiction is desired for the proposed bishops than the preceding commissaries have enjoyed; and even that, on this occasion, may be ascertained and limited more accurately, if it be requisite. But here it is asked, How any persons can undertake to promise that no additional powers shall hereafter be proposed, and pressed on the colonies, when bishops have once been settled? And, strictly speaking, indeed, nothing of this nature can ever be promised in any case. But if the Dissenters had been asked, on their applying for a toleration, how they could undertake to promise, that, when that point was once settled, nothing further, nothing hurtful to the Established Church, should ever be proposed and pressed on the government by them, surely this would not have been sufficient to defeat their application. And yet what could they have answered ? Not more, if so much, as can be answered in the present case : That no such thing is at all intended ; and that, though it were, there would be no danger either of the intention taking effect or causing any disturbance.

“But on the former of these assertions our sincerity may be questioned. For it is argued, that bishops doubtless think the powers which they have in this nation to be strictly just and reasonable ; and, consequently, must be desirous of their taking place in the colonies. Now, for my own partand I believe my brethren in general are of the same mind—I have no imagination that bishops are entitled to, or that it would be right to give

• Many young men, who came over to England about that time to take Holy Orders, died of that disorder.

it so.

them, every where, the same powers and privileges that we happen, by the particular constitution of this country, to possess here. Several parts of that constitution might, perhaps, full as well have been formed otherwise. Whether our share of it might or not, I have never set myself to consider : I hope, and am persuaded, it is on the whole as harmless and useful a branch as many others; and I endeavour, so far as I am concerned, to make

But were I to live where bishops were only on the same footing on which it is now proposed they should be in our plantations, I should no more attempt to raise them higher, than I should to overturn the established form of government in any other respect. It may, indeed, be prudent to suspect clergymen, ministers of state, all men, to some degree; but it cannot be prudent to refuse doing things that are highly proper, on account of little more than a possibility that an improper use of them may be hereafter attempted. Some bishops may be thought peculiarly fond of church power; and it concerns them, when they are called upon, to defend themselves, if they can. But, at least, I hope we are not all so fond of it as to be aiming at that point now, though we solemnly profess we are not. Yet I believe there scarce is, or ever was, a bishop of the Church of England, from the Revolution to this day, that hath not desired the establishment of bishops in our colonies. Archbishop Tennison, who was surely no Highchurchman, left by his will a thousand pounds towards it: and many more, of the greatest eminence, both dead and living, might be named, who were and are zealous for it; and yet have always been applauded by one party and censured by the other for their moderation. Or if bishops, as such, must of course be deemed partial, the Society for propagating the Gospel consists partly also of inferior clergymen, partly too of laymen. Now the last cannot so well be suspected of designing to advance ecclesiastical authority ; yet this whole body of men, almost ever since it was in being, hath been making repeated application for bishops in America.”

The Bishop adds, that, far from increasing the secular power of the hierarchy, it might be, and had been, argued that it would rather depress it, for the following remarkable reason : It will afford the laity here an example of English bishops abroad with no other than spiritual powers : which may tempt them to think of reducing us at home to the same condition.” The Bishop, however adds : " But I should be very willing, for the benefit of those of our communion in the colonies, to run a greater risk than I conceive this to be. For the fact is so notorious that all our temporal powers and privileges are merely concessions from the state ; and the Act of Par. liament for the suffragan bishops, under which several were made in the last century, and others may now, exemplifies so fully the possibility of bishops without peerages and consistory courts ; that we need have no fear of any new discovery to our prejudice from appointing a few such bishops in America. But then the opposite fear, of their growing up to what we are, would it be ever so great an evil if it were to happen, seems as unlikely to happen as most things. I do not wonder, indeed, that persons who were in public stations at the latter end of Queen Anne's and the beginning of the late King's reign, should have strong impressions remaining in their minds of the terrors of ecclesiastical influence, which was then so grossly abused to such wicked purposes. But whoever attends to the present state of things in this respect, must see that there hath been a prodigious change within the last thirty years. Though too many, both of the clergy and the laity, are disaffected to the government on one account or another; yet, of the former, even the lower part are not near so generally possessed of the wild high-church notions as they were. Nor was a time ever known when the upper part were so universally free from them. And yet it is the upper part only that can do the least towards supporting any

exorbitant pretensions of bishops in the colonies. Then as to the laity, I hope and believe the administration and their friends will always shew countenance to the clergy, as far as it is necessary; but there is visibly no danger of their giving them any encouragement that may be hurtful. Amongst the opposers of the administration, few, if any, are at all more prejudiced in their favour. And that regard which the bulk of the people had for religion, and the teachers of it, is greatly diminished, and diminishing daily, to a degree which I wonder wise men are not alarmed at: for it is as important, even in a political view, that they should be able to do good, as that they should not be able to do harm. Nor do I find that bigotry to the Church prevails amongst the members of it in our colonies ; or that there is any chance of their making afterwards imprudent additions to the authority with which their bishops will come to them at first. On the contrary, one plea against the present scheme is, that bishops, even with the lowest powers, will give them jealousy and offence. Now these two opposite dangers cannot both be considerable, and I apprehend neither of them is : but surely the former is the less of the two. The Bishop of London's commissaries, believe, have gained no accessions to what was granted them originally. And bishops will be still more narrowly watched by the governors; by other sects; by the laity, and even the clergy, of their own communion. Nor will they have a greater dread of any thing, if either so good or so discreet men are chosen as I promise myself will, than of losing all, by grasping at what doth not belong to them. Nor will their patrons here attempt to defend them in what they cannot but know will ruin them. As they will be appointed by the Crown—which, unless I mistake, the commissaries are not—they will be such persons as the Crown can best confide in. And if it be thought necessary, a right of recalling them may be reserved to the King; whereas, I believe he hath not a right of ordering the Bishop of London to recal his commissaries. Upon the whole, if the present disposition of his majesty's ministers and subjects, in relation to ecclesiastical authority continues the same, as in all likelihood it will, there can be no danger from bishops in America. And if that disposition should alter back to what it formerly hath been—which God forbid —they will be established with greater powers than are now desired for them."

If the above argument had any weight in the year 1750, it has much more in the year 1833. The State has certainly no cause to fear in the present day, that bishops, in our colonies or elsewhere, will acquire such power as to render them dangerous to the civil interests of the community. It is only for spiritual purposes that the friends of the Church demand them; and for those purposes it is unjust to withhold them, wherever there is a Christian Episcopalian community to require their superintendence.

Dr. Secker proceeds to shew the inconsistency of the conduct of the government and legislature upon this great question. “An Act of the last session of Parliament, which passed without any opposition from any body, hath expressly established Moravian bishops in America; who have much higher and stricter notions of church government and discipline than we have. Why then should there be such fear of establishing bishops of the Church of England ? If, for want of these, the Moravian bishops should ordain such ministers for our people as they thought proper; or should they, by administering Confirmation, or by the reverence of their episcopal character, be continually gaining converts from us, it would be a very undesirable thing, on several accounts,-particularly on this, that most of them refuse taking oaths and bearing arms. Besides, there have been nonjuring Jacobite bishops in our colonies, not very long since, if there are

And Popish ones also, I apprehend, have recourse to them

none now.

« VorigeDoorgaan »