« السابقةمتابعة »
THE CRISIS OF THE CHURCH AT HAND.
EASONS are plain why I say that the crisis of the Established Church is at hand. First. The well-known and acknowledged fact, that it is a system of corruption, aristocracy and oppression. Of corruption, in that the hierarchy riot on the millions wrung from the laborer, and the ecclesiastical emoluments, being in the patronage of political men, are very often bestowed upon persons destitute either of piety or morality. Of aristocracy, in that the bishops are, ex-officio, members of the House of Lords, peers of the realm, and, of consequence, identified with them in all their interests, feudal tastes and overbearing pride; and of oppression, in that they receive immense revenues from the people, and roll in wealth, while the flock to which they are overseers, pine in want and poverty. Second. That all this is for the first time being understood in its true character by the middle and lower classes of England.
A lie may long survive if it is believed to be a truth; but a known lie must be overthrown. The Church of England, then, as it stands connected with the civil government, constituting part of the oppressive system that bears so heavily on the multitude, and with whose fate seems interwoven, the fate of the government, claims our particular attention. For the person who wishes to understand the workings of the social system in England, and ascertain, with what accuracy he can, the probable issue of the crisis England is approaching, must not overlook in his estimate an institution of such enormous power-one so intimately allied with the civil and social structure of the nation-as the Established Church.*
The assertions I have made above in regard to the Church, would be evident enough from her constitution and practice. It started in sin. Henry VIII. was its founder; and if "a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit," we should not expect anything but evil from such a stock. The history of the rupture between England and Rome, misnamed the Reformation, is a curious affair; and into it we shall not go very minutely. It is perfectly understood
VISIT TO JOHN THOROGOOD.
ERHAPS the chief merits of this question will be found fairly illustrated, in the following extracts from My Private English Diary, containing an account of an interview with John Thorogood, who had been "made an example of," to vindicate the right of the Church of England to force British subjects to pay their money to support a religious establishment which they condemn and abhor:
CHELMSFORD, July, 1840.
Yesterday I came to this place, which is thirty miles northeast of London, chiefly to see John Thorogood, who is a victim of the tyranny of the Established Church. I have spent several hours with him in the Chelmsford Jail; and I have seen no man for a long time for whom I feel more sympathy and admiration. I found my way to the jail, and asked permission to see Mr. Thorogood. The keeper reluctantly turned the key and unbarred the door.
by all parties, that this rupture was merely the effect of an amorous passion on the part of the English monarch. In other countries the Reformation originated with the people; but Henry, under scruples of conscience (says Rotteck, the keen-sighted German historian), wished to separate from his wife, Catharine of Arragon, the widow of his brother Arthur, who was growing old, in order to marry the beautiful Anne Boleyn, whose favor he was unable to obtain at a lower price. The Pope, chiefly from love to Charles V., opposed the divorce, which Henry then caused to be pronounced by his pliant clergy. This step was followed by the Papal excommunication, and a complete rupture with Rome. Such was the origin of the Church of England; and as if it were not incongruous enough to have a church start from such a source, in the first grand article it constituted the king its head. A Henry VIII., a Charles II., a George IV., the representative of Christ on earth! The greatest murderer that ever escaped from the gallows; the most corrupt libertine that filled the royal palace with courtezans; the most profligate and heartless man of his time, the representative of the immaculate Son of God! Nominating all the bishops, possessing thousands of livings, and convoking and dismissing synods at his royal pleasure! From such bold encroachments in the outset on the simplicity and purity of the Apostolic Church, we should expect to find a secular, selfish establishment, acting not for the poor but the rich; not for the elevation of man, but his more complete subjugation. Commencing in pride and lust, it would necessarily live by extortion, and end in oppression. The extortion of the Church is seen in its enormous REVENUE.
CONVERSATION WITH THOROGOOD.
"Yes, sir," said he, "you must come in, I suppose, but I wish the authorities would take this Thorogood away; for once in a few minutes, day after day, and month in and month out, some one comes to the door, 'Can I see John Thorogood, sir?' 'Can I see Mr. Thorogood, sir?' 'I have come to see this famous Thorogood;' and I have got sick of his very name. Why, if you were to stay here one week, you would think there was nobody in all England worth seeing but John. But I don't complain of him or his wife-that's all well enough; still I don't want to be bothered with John any longer."
The jailer led me to Mr. Thorogood's apartment, and I introduced myself. He seemed to be about thirty-five or forty years old, with a stout and well-made person. His countenance wears a kind but resolute expression, and his forehead denotes a considerable degree of intellect. He is a mechanic, and has always moved in the common walks of society; but he is a man of extraordinary intelligence and great firmness of character. I told him that I had come to Chelmsford to see him; that I considered him a persecuted man, and wished to know something of his history.
"Yes, sir," said he, "I am a persecuted man, and I thank you for coming to see me. I am an obscure and unworthy individual, but the Providence of God has placed me in circumstances very trying, and I have endeavored to act like a freeman in Christ. I said I was glad to see you, and I am; and I thank you for the sympathy you manifest in my behalf: not because I begin to grow irresolute and faint-hearted; for I should be just as firm, I think, if I stood alone; but then, you know, it does one good to see the face of a friend, and take hold of his hand, when one is in trouble or persecution for conscience' sake.'
"How long have you been confined here, sir?"
"Eighteen months, sir; and all for what some consider a very small matter. They say, John Thorogood had rather lie in jail eighteen months than pay five and sixpence Church rate. Just as though I cared anything for that five and sixpence. Why, I will give any of those gentlemen half a sovereign or more at any time for a good cause; but I am not in Chelmsford Jail for five and sixpence at all. I am here because I will not surrender my liberty of conscience. That is the highest and most inviolable of all human rights. I can bear oppression until you invade the sacred ground of native moral rights; and then I cannot, and will not, give way to the wicked claims of despotic civil rulers.
"But I will tell you something about the history of this matter, and then you can judge for yourself. I am, as you well know, a dissenter. For many years I felt it my duty to oppose the Established Church. I wept over its corruptions, its abuses of power and truth, its tyrannical
WHY THOROGOOD WAS IMPRISONED.
oppressions of the consciences of good men; and still I paid my Church rates, although I received no advantages whatever from the institution I supported. I regarded this payment of Church rates rather as a civil duty.
"But after suffering a good many trials of feeling, at last I became satisfied it was wrong for me in any way to give my countenance to the Establishment, and I refused to pay five and sixpence Church rate. I was summoned before the Ecclesiastical Court to be tried, and, of course, condemned by my enemies; for in England, when the Church prosecutes a suit at law, you must know that they are both judge and jury. I thought and prayed over the matter, and concluded it was best for me to pay no attention to it.
"The result of it all was, that for contempt of Court, as it was called, I was thrown into this jail, the 16th of January, 1839, where I have remained ever since, and where I will remain till I die, rather than surrender the principle for which I am contending. That principle is no less than that for which Protestant reformers in all ages have contended; the very principle for which England broke away from her allegiance to Rome; for which Huss and Jerome, and ten thousand others, went to the stake; the same principle for which John Bunyan lay twelve years in Bedford Jail; the greatest, the dearest principle for which man ever contended—the high and sacred right of conscience.
"I cannot believe that I owe religious allegiance to any man: God is my only master. No man, or body of men, have a right to place any restrictions upon my religious liberty. The free exercise of conscience in matters of religion is a right which man can neither give nor take away. Religion is sacred to conscience; conscience is sacred to God, and all human interference is sacrilege. Religion is seated in the will; it is essentially voluntary; exaction either of profession or payment is destructive of it. To establish religion by law, is first to corrupt and then to destroy it. The Established Church is one of the greatest structures of wrong the world ever witnessed. Why, who does not see this? it is as plain to me as a self-evident truth.
THE other day Sir Robert Inglis, the zealous advocate of the High
came to pay me a and I
him a few questions which perhaps he did not expect, for he was not exactly prepared for them. I said to Sir Robert: 'Is it not a wrong to refuse Dissenters interment in the national burial-grounds, except their
friends are willing to have the deceased Dissenter give the lie in his death to all he had said and done while living, which he would do if he consented to be buried with the forms of the Church? Is it not wrong to exclude him from the national schools and universities, except he conform to the Church? Is it not wrong to compel the Dissenter to contribute to support a Church which he conscientiously disapproves ? Is it not an act of oppression, the greater because it comes from the stronger and wealthier party, and because, too, he has to support his own Church?
"And is not his Church as dear to him; are not his Church privileges, his liberty of conscience, the religious rites and worship of his own Zion, the affection and comfort of his pastor, and wife, and children, all as dear to the Dissenter's heart as to the churchman are his ? Do you not, sir, commit great wrong when you take from me those rights and privileges which you prize so dearly? If the golden rule is to be our standard of action, you cannot outrage it more palpably, than by throwing me into jail because I will not quietly give away my highest rights as a man and a Christian.
"Do I not suffer the greatest wrong, when any party seeks to prescribe to me in religion, either what I shall believe or how I shall express my faith? Has not compulsory payment produced nearly all the evils which the best friends of the Establishment acknowledge and lament? Has it not placed its ministry beyond the wholesome influence of the people? Has it not dishonored religion by making the Church the creature of the State? Has it not attracted the worldly, and the indolent, and the inefficient, to the Church as its ministers? Who does not know that the Prayer-book contains little besides the Mass-book translated into English? That the Pope offered to confirm it, if the Church of England would join that of Rome? That Episcopal clergymen of great reputation have declared such a union of the two Churches practicable? That the efficiency of Episcopal ordination is derived entirely through the Popish prelates? That at the accession of Elizabeth, 9,011 Catholic priests, out of 9,400, joined the Church of England? and who supposes that they gave up their Papacy by doing it? The Papists and Protestants worshipped together in the English Church until they were prevented by the Pope; and at the Reformation, Parliament transferred the entire powers exercised by the Pope in this country to Henry VIII. and his royal successors.'
"I spoke to Sir Robert about a good many other things. I thought I would tell him something that he would not be very apt to forget; and I expressed myself with great freedom. There was a trap laid in London, by the High Church party the other day, and Sir Robert was sent