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would as assuredly corrupt the exercise of discipline as they are in existence .... This, by the way, is one important advantage resulting from religious Establishments: they are the natural reservoirs into which all such characters are received, and thus indirectly contribute to preserve the ordinances of religion among the Dissenters in a state of considerable purity. p. 120.

And is this the only advantage ? Heartless conclusion! Is the purity of Christian ordinances every thing, and the condition of the greater part of society nothing ? What if there were no Establishment to receive these troublesome outcasts of Dissent? In what way would the Congregational system deal with them? This question demands an answer we are unable to supply. Repeatedly have we heard respected individuals among the Dissenters avow the sentiment, 'We are better without the great and

the fashionable,carriage-keeping professors, and wealthy persons; they are generally embarrassing and troublesome to a minister, and disturb the operation of the Congregational system

in its purity ;--let them go off to the Church.' But if Dissent can do without them, has Christianity nothing to do with them, or for them? Is her field of labour, her sphere of beneficence, less extensive than the wide circle of society ? Far be it from us to plead for that laxity of discipline or practice which would obliterate or obscure the essential moral distinction between those classes whom the word of God distinguishes as the Church and the world. But in the first place, it is not pretended, that the pale of Dissent includes the whole of the one class, or that the ordinances of religion ought to be confined to those who are true members of the Mystical Church. And secondly, the Church of Christ has duties of the most binding nature to discharge towards

those who are without', from which she cannot excuse herself by the plea of preserving her purity.

"We readily admit', says Mr. Ballantyne, 'that, under the voluntary system, there is some difficulty in affording adequate ' instruction to the mass of the people; though, up to a certain

point, its superiority to its rival is quite decisive and evident.'' But it is precisely the entire adequacy of the principle, and not its efficiency on a limited scale, or up to a certain point, that requires to be proved. For our own parts, we are far from denying the efficiency of the voluntary system under certain modifications; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact, that whole masses of the community have not yet been brought within the beneficial operation of our ecclesiastical systems, and that the Dissenters collectively are very ill prepared at present, whatever they may be hereafter, to perform the work which the Establishment was in

* Ballantyne, p. 287.

tended to discharge. We are ready to confess', says the Author of the Tract “on the Congregational System”, with deep and . unfeigned sorrow, that the principles of the Congregational system, so far as they have been adopted by religious societies, though they have done much, have not been productive of all the benefits which might have been expected from them.' * This affords no reason for abandoning those principles ; but, surely, it ought to moderate the boastful tone of those who advocate them as the panacea for all the evils of society.

The Congregational Dissenters of England occupy at this moment a high and honourable, but, in some respects, difficult and critical position. At no period, perhaps, had they a nobler opportunity of justifying their principles, and serving their generation. Delivered by the tardy justice of the Parliament from the political stigma that had been perpetuated in the statute-book ever since the days of Charles II., they have nothing to fear from the State, and nothing to ask for. At the same time, the Established Church, their ancient oppressor, has declined in popularity to so extraordinary a degree, as materially to abate her social ascendancy, and to render some great practical reforms indispensable to her political security. There is even danger that the cause of religion, so far as identified, in the minds of the people, with the Establishment and the clergy, will suffer serious prejudice from this state of public feeling; and upon the Dissenters, the duty seems more especially to devolve, at such a crisis, to stem the torrent of infidelity, by lifting up the banner of the Cross. Any peculiar demonstration of hostility to the Established clergy at this moment, would not only wear the character of ungenerous and vindictive policy; nay, more, of a confederacy with those whose disaffection is envenomed by irre. ligion, and stimulated by interest; but it must tend to hinder those necessary reforms and wise concessions which the spirit of the times calls for, and which, if no boon to the Dissenters, would be at least a benefit to society.

In some respects, the Congregational Dissenters have lost ground. That proportion of the nobility and the Senate which

* To the causes enumerated by the Writer of this Tract, as rendering the results of the system less considerable than they would otherwise have been, we must take the liberty to add, the ultra-democratic principles of Church government advocated in this Tract, and which are foreign to the genius of primitive Independency. The Congregational system, as here delineated, is a vague theory, ill adapted to Jewish or Oriental customs, to patriarchal, feudal, or the mixed condition of society, unknown in the Apostolic age: in fact, it is primitive Christianity jeremybenthamized.

VOL. VII.- N.S.

was formerly allied by religious conviction to the Dissenting body, is now found attached to the evangelical party within the Church. Orthodox Dissent has almost entirely disappeared from the higher classes. Evangelical Dissenters no longer form a phalanx in the Legislature ; nor, as formerly, are they found prominent in the direction of all the great commercial companies of the metropolis, and proprietors of all the principal manufactures of the country. The professional classes have also, with few exceptions, deserted the ranks of Nonconformity. And even among the middle classes, so far as our observation extends, the rising youth of England are not being trained up within the communion of Dissenting Churches. This consideration, if well founded, deserves the serious attention of all who are interested in the permanency of our institutions, as it seems to render the attachment of the next generation to them, highly precarious.

The Dissenters have lost ground, too, or, at least, they have not kept pace with the advance of society, in literary influence. They have relied too much on the pulpit, and been too negligent of the other great organ of opinion, the press. Not one daily paper is in the hands of the Orthodox Dissenters; and of the four Quarterly Reviews, two are high-church, and two are under the influence of the infidel party, - all are hostile to both evangelical religion and Dissent. The old Monthly Review, after declining from Presbyterianism to Unitarianism, has been trans ferred from party to party, till all that we know about it, is, that it is lost to the Dissenters. Of our own labours, we shall only say, that if they have afforded any support to the cause of Dissent, or procured for it any slight degree of reputation, it has been in the face of the most thankless indifference, and even, in some quarters, of the basest detraction and the most vulgar-minded hostility on the part of the body we have endeavoured to serve. With difficulty, indeed, any literary or religious journal conducted ostensibly by Dissenters, maintains its existence, having to contend at once against the illiberal prejudice of churchmen, and the supineness, want of literary taste, and party-spirit of their own body.

The Dissenters have for the last few years enjoyed the unenviable distinction of supporting the worst-conducted newspaper of the day. Contemptible in a literary point of view, radical in its politics, vulgar, prosing, dogmatical, and abusive in its style, it has not a little contributed to lower the body of its patrons in the estimation of the public, and has at the same time infused into the minds of its readers, a spirit of party rancour and violence, far more injurious to those who cherish it, than it can be to the parties against whom it is directed. We can conceive of noring more directly calculated to destroy the vital spirit of Chrisn piety, and to bring dishonour upon the cause of religion, than

gaharacter of the a branch tarily, but fare made

polemical newspapers, in which the ministers of Christ are made to appear as political gladiators, not involuntarily, but for love of the game, and religion to seem but a branch of politics *.

The irreligious character of the daily and weekly press is a portentous and gigantic evil, which sincere Christians of all parties have too long contemplated with tame and indolent dismay. Why should this mighty engine have been abandoned to political faction and hireling management, when a mere investment of money, if discreetly effected, and to an adequate extent, might have secured at least some one journal of commanding influence to the interests of Christian morality, without committing the name and credit of religion, by sanctimonious professions, without hanging out the Bible and Crown, or the Bible without a Crown, as a sign. An ostensibly religious paper will of course never be read by the secular and irreligious, and therefore presents no remedy for the mischiefs of which we speak. But a daily journal, conducted with first-rate ability and independence, speaking on religious subjects, when adverted to, with firmness, dignity, and explicitness, but not attempting to dose with religion, the man of business or of politics,—religious in its conduct, rather than in its phraseology, and tolerant of all parties,—such a journal would, we are persuaded, become, as it would deserve to be, the leading organ of public sentiment, by acquiring the respect and confidence of all classes. Nothing short of this seems to us likely to effect important good. Newspapers are taken in for the sake chiefly of the advertisements, the debates, and early intelligence;

* An announcement has appeared, of an approved · Plan for the establishment of a new Weekly newspaper, devoted to the support of the great principles held in common by British Nonconformists :' to which are annexed the signatures of a most respectable body of ministers and laymen, as the provisional committee for carrying the design into immediate execution. The plan, aware as we are of the motives which have originated it, cannot but have our best wishes; although we could have desired that a wider basis had been adopted, and that if a religious paper' is thought desirable, it had been found possible to make it the representative of the catholicity, not of any division, of the religious world. On one point, however, we venture respectfully, but earnestly to express our hopes. The character of a minister of the Gospel is too sacred to render it expedient or becoming, that his name should be lent, as an authority, or sanction, or pledge, to the best conducted newspaper. If the union of secular and spiritual office in our clerical magistrates be with reason deprecated, that of divine and politician is not less undesirable. When, therefore, the paper is fairly started, (for we are not objecting to any preliminary arrangements,) we trust that the responsibility of conducting it, will not attach to any of our ministers, nor to the denomination, but to lay proprietors alone.

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