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“ “ There is a plan, so comprehensive, and yet, to our ideas, so simple, that we wonder it has never been suggested. Licence, we should say, one building in every union—if we are all to be centralized in unions—in which any dissenters may be married by any licensed minister of their own persuasion, and according to the rites they prefer. It seems to us, that some arrangement of this kind would materially simplify the machinery of Lord John's bill, and at the same time render it better fitted for the objects he has in view. We are quite sure we shall have for it the votes of all the registrars—who are expected to possess, at least, the property of ubiquity, according to the ministerial scheme."
very few words may be added. Any registration scheme must be either very expensive, very tyrannical, or nugatory. There can be little doubt that this particular scheme will fall under the third head of description. When an union consists of thirty parishes, the notion that all the day-labourers in it will give notice of the births of their children to a person at so great a distance as the registrar must be from many of the thirty, must be reckoned quite absurd by any one who knows their habits, unless a severe penalty is attached to the neglect, which would be a very great hardship. And if the union is a populous one, it is clear that the registrar's personal attendance at every house where a birth or death has taken place is quite out of the question. It will be very soon found that the registers thus kept will be good for nothing. Were the system likely to be more efficacious, it might be extremely mischievous in one respect,—for careless parents, if they had their children registered, would be still less careful to have them baptized, and the strongest protest must then be made against it; but it would not be ingenuous to make such a protest now, because it can hardly be a matter of doubt that the scheme will be found so contemptible on examination that even such a House of Commons as this will hardly pass it; or, if they do, so inefficient that, in the course of two or three years, there must be fresh legislation on the subject.
With respect to the Marriage Bill, there is nothing of which churchmen, as churchmen, can feel that they have any right to complain. Their religious service remains as it was, and its celebration is that which will still make marriage binding. The only difference is, that the clergy man before, having married the parties, registered what he had done: and in future, the registrar appointed by Parliament will, at most, attend, and either register the clergyman's act, or attest his doing so. This is no matter of grievance, although it is useless and absurd. The getting rid of the publication of banns in service-time is a benefit, although the substitution of a written entry in a book is absurd. Still the Act might as well require, in addition, the publication of banns in the church, at the time prescribed by the rubric-viz., after service, and thus give churchmen that protection which the church is willing to give them. But though free from objections on any church ground, can any moral man look at this bill without deep feelings of alarm, and without seeing what a dreadful blow the dissenters are about to give to the morals of the country? Any twenty householders may have a marriage-house licensed. They need not be reputable persons, nor need the minister. They may agree to undertake this as a joint speculation. There is, among the lower orders, a great desire always to be married where they are not known, and a private room will be the very place to suit the thoughtless and young. As it is, with the sanction of our solemn service, celebrated in public, and in the church -certainly the most solemn place which can be found—there is quite little respect enough for the marriage tie. How will it be when a thoughtless couple may repair to a private room, with the parish officer, appear before a person
entitled to no respect, and go through a form which commands none-go through the whole, in short, without reverence, or remembrance that they are making a most solemn vow, in the presence of the Almighty God? This is a subject on which it is fortunately not necessary to dwell. It is enough to point this out to every considerate and moral person, in order to induce him to express his opinion, and save the land, if possible, from this heavy infliction on her morals from the hands of the dissenters.
It may be well just to add that the Marriage Act of George II. was passed very much to remedy the intolerable evils suffered from secret and surreptitious marriages, at certain well-known resorts for marriage, the Fleet Prison, &c. This bill will certainly create fifty of these private marriage-houses for one. This is full of danger to property, and likely to lead to sad cases of misery, in secret and forbidden marriages, as well as to the evils which have already been pointed out. The parish officer's presence can be no safeguard whatever.
THE TITHE BILL.
The former Tithe Bills which have been brought forward have been discussed with no embarrassment or difficulty. The objections to them were clear, and there could be no doubt as to the duty of opposing them. The provisions of the present Bill, on the other hand, combined with the whole state of the subject, are embarrassing in the greatest degree. It is not that the writer has the slightest wish for
any Tithe Bill, or any belief that, while things go on at all in this country, the present system is not the best. It is on the supposition that some measure will be past that he speaks, and must confess his embarrassment as to the present measure. Great objections to it are felt by very many persons;—first of all, on the score of the open violation of property, and that, sacred property. But, on the other hand, it is quite notorious that, with the full consent of all clergy who employ valuiers, this sacred property is valued on principles quite different from any other property, or, in other words, clergy have for time immemorial consented to a regular robbery of the church (or, in fact, a complete alienation of part of its property,) exactly of the same kind, and probably to a greater amount, than this Bill contemplates, the only difference being, that the spoiler was then the occupier, and will now be the owner. This proceeding has been so general, and has continued so long, as to have established a rule which the clergy can never shake. In other words, they have lost a part of their property
Vol. IX.-March, 1836.
which they cannot recover. When a practice has this prescriptive force, which makes it in fact a law, it seems idle to object to that being done openly which is tacitly done, and always will be, just as regularly as if a law for it were passed. Here then is one source of embarrassment in discussing this Bill. While the clergy, even if they gave their consent to it, would, in fact, not do one whit more than they do every year of their lives, and always will and must do, * yet is there not danger to society at large from this legalizing of spoliation ? It is not in this way a church or clerical question especially, but one concerning the whole of our fabric of society.t The especial danger to the clergy arises from another source. Though they will not lose more under the Bill than they did before, the landlord will now get what they lose instead of the farmer. The landlords have a large share in legislation. If they have their appetite thus whetted by the taste of one slice of church property, will they not be likely to use their power in parliament to get more of what they will find so pleasant? The only guard against this is the remembrance that if, the clergy being without defence or advocates in parliament, the landlords do use their power for farther spoliation, their conduct will be not only so dangerous to the country, but so miserably and detestably base, mean, and shameful, that, even with all our present lax notions, they could never look an honest man in the face. The very persons who might profit by the theft would despise and reprobate the baseness of those who achieved it. It may be hoped, then, that, even in these days, this may be some safeguard. And if the Redemption Bill be passed, and even a portion of tithes be redeemed, there will be little danger of spoliation, even if better feelings should not prevent it. Let the landlords of England, however, look well to this, and see whether, even if they set better feelings aside, they will do well for themselves, in these days, to set an example of robbery by farther incursions on the property of the clergy, or by unfair use of their power in introducing unfavourable conditions into this Act. It is currently reported that one member of parliament is about to come forward and complain of the Bill as likely to double his tithe! What! if his paying sixty per cent. of the real value will double his tithe, will he really venture to come forward and say that he has only paid thirty per cent. of the real value of his tithe, and that, having cheated his clergyman to this fearful extent so long, he wishes to cheat him still longer Is it possible that any man who has sixpence to
* It will be said, that the clergyman may always take up his tithe. And this is true. But for what purpose do the clergy resort to this measure? Is it in order to induce the occupier to give them the real full value of his tithe? Certainly not, but to induce him to give the full value on the common scale. Doubtless there is here and there a single clergyman who goes farther. But we are speaking here of that general proceeding which establishes the rule.
† It must be remembered, of course, that in getting a rent charge which will be paid without expense instead of tithe, the collection of which is very expensive, a deduction from the gross value must be made, and that such a deduction does not touch the question of property. The question here is, whether the deduction contemplated does not go beyond this. This, howe ver, is a question for all. The consciences of the clergy, who have no share in making this Act, will not be burthened.
lose can in these days (one will not say, be dishonest enough, but) be so utterly senseless, as to give the advocates for a new order of things such a precedent for spoliation ?
What has been said will perhaps sufficiently explain the difficulty and embarrassment felt in discussing this Bill. They are so great that the writer wishes to defer farther consideration of it. If there could be satisfaction as to the principle of the Bill, there is good reason, from careful examination of its details, to think that (always supposing it to be carried as it is, and without introduction of unfavourable clauses by landlords, and always supposing, too, that it is fairly and justly carried into operation,) it will not be more unfavourable to the clergy, as to their actual incomes, than the present state of practice.
POPERY. It will be seen, by a reference to the “ Original Articles," that the promise given last month has been redeemed, and that a third tract against popery has been given, in the shape of a translation of one of Bishop Davenant's Determinations. Deeply is it to be regretted that in so many cases that great prelate has refuted the errors of popery on grounds purely Calvinistic. For example, that most dangerous doctrine as to grace of congruity, which is at the bottom of so many of the worst errors of the church of Rome, is refuted by Bishop Davenant by the doctrine of arbitrary decrees (Det. 34). Were this not the case, a translation of all his Determinations on Popish Errors would be a most acceptable work, as, in length, in learning, in closeness of adherence to the subject, and usually in temper, they are all that could be wished. In the next number an original tract on Transubstantiation will be given, from the same pen as the “ Historical Notices” in the December number, which is just reprinted by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
It may be well to say one word here on this continued attention to popery. There are many very estimable
who conceive that our church is in greater danger from other quarters than from popery; who view, in short, with greater apprehension, the renewal of the same temper, and the same opinions, which have already, under the name of puritanism, once involved the church of England in temporary ruin. Nor can any thinking or observing man fail to see that from this quarter the danger is unquestionably great. But still, our danger from popery is at the present moment twofold. In the first place, we have to dread its physical force in Ireland, where it has given ample proof that nothing but a lingering doubt, whether even yet it has strength to stand in the day of battle against the array of men fighting for God's truth, for their wives, and children, and homes, restrains it from endeavouring to extirpate the reformed church and the English name from the soil of Ireland. There are warrants enough for the assertion, that no remorse, no tenderness, no womanly hatred of causing human suffering or bloodshed, prevent some of the leaders from giving the signal for combat. This can only be met by calling all men's thoughts and attentions to the condition of protestantism at once; and mere controversial tracts are doubtless not enough for that purpose. They are rather intended to serve another. The papists among us are becoming bolder, more active, more hopeful, every day. They see what a field dissent opens, and they are watching eagerly for wider dissension and schism among ourselves. Money is not spared; they are training their priests carefully, building chapels everywhere, and getting able and effective preachers. The subject of popery has been so long considered a settled question that it is no discredit to the clergy in one sense to say that they have not studied the controversy accurately. But many of them must now. And it is to be remembered that, even without this immediate object, it will amply repay the student. Controversy about the origin of evil, and predestination, and free will, ends where it began. But, in the popish controversy, history must be studied ; the sins which give rise to error and allow its growth, and the effects of error in causing fresh sin, must be marked; all the great doctrines of our holy religion must be fully studied, their foundations examined, and that wide question (embracing so large a field of curious and difficult inquiry), the extent of church authority, and the bounds of private judgment, fully investigated.
These studies exercise, invigorate, correct, and refresh the mind; and if they did nothing else but call it off from the everlasting repetition of two or three ideas, and two or three phrases, about justification and election, they would render an unspeakable service to the divinity student.
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. The readers of this Magazine will bear it witness, that, with the exception of a single paper, two years ago, it has maintained silence as to the affairs of the society. That course was judged wisest and best, and most calculated to preserve peace. It was felt to be a duty to try conciliation, and to abstain from a word or a remark which could give pain or annoyance to any one. But, will any one who has tried the effects of this course be ALLOWED to maintain much longer ? This, at least, is certain—that every week's “ Record” brings out a quantity of letters and paragraphs, with and without names, full of exhortations to all persons who agree with the writers to come forward, and, by force of votes, to expel or alter the old tracts of the society. That a regular design to that effect is entertained is clear. This is, in other words, a design to expel the old members from the society; for they, of course, will not remain in the society if its doctrines are changed. How lamentable, how deplorable, at a time like this, when all should be union, to find one of the regular organs of religious intelligence busy and active, in the highest degree, in endeavouring to break up the peace of the church, and to set churchmen at variance, at the moment when popery is only waiting to take advantage of our dissensions to increase their strength; and when the dissenter, the radical, the infidel, and the papist, are combined against us. How grievous and melancholy to find so many