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including also Dudley in the county of Worcester, to Bruerton near Rugeley, on the northeast. But it is only as far as Bilston and Darlaston, about seven miles, in the northerly direction, that the main bed of coal, ten yards thick, is to be met with. Hence this portion of the whole tract has been hitherto the chief seat of mining operations. And limestone as
well as ironstone being found in abundance in the same district, we have here also above an hundred iron furnaces; whilst the manufacture of weighty articles in iron is carried on to a considerable extent.
These various works both disfigure the face of the country, and fill the atmosphere with smoke. And thus, whilst the population has increased to above one hundred and sixty thousand, scarce any persons of property reside, except such as are actively engaged in business. Thus the poor are deprived of that instruction and help, which it should be the chief occupation of the rich to impart. And with the exception of the ministers of religion, scarce any one of education and leisure can be found, to devote himself to the work of doing good. Whilst on the other hand, the temptations to doing evil are increased by the numerous vicissitudes to which the trade of the district is liable. In good times, the receipt of high wages generates improvidence. The scarcity of work in bad times leads to idleness. And both these habits, besides their own evil influence on the morals and happiness of the poor, are closely connected with that propensity to drink, which is here their besetting sin.
Here we have many grievous instances of gross drunkenness, and many more of that tippling in public houses, which is often counted for no sin at all, because the drunkard can still walk upright home. As if wine and strong drink might be lawfully consumed, and time lawfully spent in consuming them, in any measure beyond what is generally needful for refreshment of health and strength! As if a Christian might lawfully waste upon himself what should feed and clothe his wife and children, and rob them at once of their share of his earnings, and of their comfort in his society! Far from that salutary jealousy, with which the servant of Christ ought ever to regard even the allowed indulgences of sense; there prevails an almost universal purpose to enjoy pleasure in this shape, whenever it can be got. Strong drink is in these parts very generally esteemed as the sovereign remedy for all the ills of life, and the necessary accompaniment of all its enjoyments. If a bargain is to be made, if a quarrel is to be made up, it must by all means be done at the public house. If a farm is to be taken, or a cottage sold, if a thief is apprehended, or a felony compromised, the public house must in any case be visited. Scarce a
child is christened, a couple married, no, nor even a corpse buried, without the parties calling at the public house, either before church, or after church, or both. Here it is that wages too are paid, and the workmen often kept for hours waiting for their money, till it is all spent before ever it comes. And here meet those illcontrived benefit societies, which under the show
of commendable forethought, decoy into the taproom the diligent and sober, and thus ruin tent families for one which they relieve.
Amongst so large a multitude thus beset with evil, almost the sole emissaries of good are, as has been already said, the ministers of religion. For, though there are many Christians, God, be praised! who make their light shine before men, in their daily business, or in their daily tasks; yet their being thus engaged for the chief part of their time, prevents them from carrying on that active aggression against Satan's kingdom, which is necessary for any large success. ministers of religion have few lay helpers in their work. And they are themselves also but few in proportion to their respective flocks. The same table which exhibits for the district a supply of thirteen hundred publicans, shows only twenty-three churches, and thirtyone officiating clergy. (See Table, Appendix, No. VIII).
In this deficient supply of religious instruction by the Church, much good service has been done by those of other communions. Their chapels, counting those of Methodists, Dissenters, and Members of the Church of Rome, are three or four times as many as our churches. But owing to their comparatively small dimensions, their whole contents cannot be set much, if any, above the same amount. And, though the Dissenters bring many to be Christians, who would else be heathens, and we ought to rejoice if in any way, and to any good purpose Christ is preached; yet there is always this evil in the prevalence of dissent, it tends to make men indifferent to the
sin of religious disunion, and to the duty of honouring in their minister, not the talents or the graces of the man, but the duly delegated authority of Christ.
In a district thus teeming with population, to a people thus addicted to intemperance, and thus scantily provided with means of instruction in the faith which alone can save, how doubly awful was the approach of a disease, which has shown itself so fatal to drunkards, that it might almost be taken for a judgment upon drunkenness ! "Will it visit us, do you think, or will it not?" was the universal topic of conversation. Some said we should be exempted by our living far from seas and navigable rivers. Others expressed great confidence in our being surrounded by an atmosphere of smoke. But all seemed to speak, as if aware that for our sins we richly deserved this chastisement at the hand of God. And many betook themselves beforehand to repentance and amendment of life; together with prayer, that if we were to suffer, we might not suffer in vain. This profitable apprehension was quickened by the measures taken about Christmas 1831, towards cleansing the houses, and putting the people on their guard against the disease. And to the information then circulated, according to the orders of Government, there was added a pastoral address, pointing out the real sting of death, and the only real antidote to the fear of it. (See Appendix, No. I.) These admonitions, as well as others, we had to give, whether public or private, were received with attention and thankfulness. And as the cholera began to
spread throughout the country, when a national fast day was appointed for March 21, 1832, it was no where observed with more religious solemnity than in this parish, and in the surrounding district.
And now ere yet this pestilence had broken out among us, what could be more awakening to the minister of the Gospel, than the looking for so severe a visitation? How could he help reflecting for himself and for his parishioners, in some such thoughts as these following? Will this chastisement, if it be inflicted, redound most for evil or for good, to the people committed to my charge? Will it be an instrument in God's hand for awakening the consciences of many to the necessity of caring for the soul? And shall I be blest in helping thus to direct its force? Will the hardened sinner be now at length alarmed? the careless be made serious? the believer confirmed in faith, quickened in hope, and strengthened in charity? Will jealousies and animosities be allayed? Will wars and fightings cease? Will the outside show of things alone be sobered? or will the hearts of men be moved, and their souls converted to the love of God, through the love of Christ their Saviour? And for myself, how may I best improve this great occasion for turning many to righteousness? How may I most advance that spiritual improvement of my people, which is my own eternal gain? Oh! if it should please God that I be now taken away, may I be found watchful and working at my post! Oh! if it should please Him to lay low many of those whom it is my duty to