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But, in certain districts, we meet with the question why the Wesleyans so much outnumber the Independents. Are not they dissenters as well as we? Practically no doubt they are. Whatever be their professions, in fact none are more complete separatists, or more thorough nonconformists. Should Wesleyanism spread to its mind, where were the Church? And are not their modes even more repugnant to Church tastes and prejudices than ours ? Why then their superior numbers ? Let the Independent, whom this circumstance tempts to blame his minister, or to suspect his chapel of lying under some unaccountable fatality, reflect how far that body and ourselves are from standing on equal ground. The Wesleyans have escaped (in certain districts, where dissent is accounted a crime) an inconceivable amount of odium, by disclaiming the principle, while they practically enjoy all the benefits of separation. Their adherents are supposed to be moved by simple preference of the one system over the other, not the conviction that the one is right, and the other wrong; whereas to profess Independency is to take a decided and a bold stand upon a great public question, obscured by the most stubborn prejudices, and perplexed with the most complicated interests, known to us as a nation.
Have we forgotten also that Calvinism, as it has been generally misunderstood, is, to human nature, as vinegar upon nitre ? That dark, distorted image, conceived of by the popular mind, under the name of Calvinism, forms, be it remembered, one of the most invariable associates in the public eye. Our decided stand upon this question has fixed upon us one of our most conspicuous denominational badges. What wonder, then, that we make our way slowly? We work onwards by dint of truth alone, obstructed at every step by the hydra of prejudice. It would be wrong to suspect our worthy ministers of even an apparent hesitation about the salvation of infants, or the least reserve in inviting sinners : but we know, to our cost, that our fathers have eaten sour grapes ; for their incaution we lie under the galling imputation of restricting infinite mercy; and there are some who take care we shall do full penance before the imputation is removed.
Let us see, also, how the constitution of Wesleyanism is formed to attract numbers. Its constant change of ministers--its easy membership—the prehensile influence of its class meetings—its astonishing multiplication of offices, adapted to confer importance, and diffuse partizanship—the unity of its government, by which the defalcation of particular individuals in places is corrected or compensated—constitute it a more taking and a more thriving system than Independency. The stated ministry amongst us sacrifices attraction to the superior purposes of edification; our church rules are formed to secure purity, not numbers; we have no class meetings, and unhappily have not discovered a substitute for them; our offices are few, and generally for life; and as a people, we make but slow approaches to any efficient incorporation. With all these facts in view, must we not expect to hold an inferior place, till at least there shall be a greater disposition in the public to weigh the merits of all existing systems in the balances of the sanctuary?
- The writer (in whose neighbourhood the popularity of the Wesleyans is peculiarly striking) would add a word or two on a more serious topic than any yet noticed. He is persuaded that Methodism is a favourite with the public, for its stirring and adventurous zeal. It would seem, that even the most boisterous and disorderly revival meetings, awaken in the popular mind more of admiration than disgust. There is a general impression through the common people of this country, that they are in spiritual danger; and, like shipwrecked men, they think the best of those who seem to strive hardest for their rescue. A man who has jested a thousand times about methodist conversions, if his conscience be touched, will run to this body, in preference to any other, to be encouraged, and borne onwards to a state of spiritual safety. Should not we Independents do better, had we a few “new-measure men ?” (to adopt a well-understood phrase.) Are not the choicest efforts of our best and greatest preachers directed rather to the exalting and refining of religious excitement than to its diffusion ? Are not our most deeply affecting services prepared for them that have already “believed through grace," rather than for dead professors and careless worldlings? Is not too much provision made for spiritual luxury, too little for spiritual want?
To pursue this topic were easy, but it is in some measure foreign to the design of this paper. If the writer has expressed himself strongly, he hopes this will not defeat his purpose, which was, with all deference, to suggest objects of enquiry to abler minds. There are other causes for the feebleness of certain dissenting interests, on which some remarks may be offered on a future occasion. Meanwhile, let us enter a caveat against excessive and unreasonable murmurings, especially when they lead to hasty and sweeping charges against our ministry. A want of effort would be blameable; but, after due exertions have been used, a want of success calls for submission to the Sovereign Disposer. It is no where promised that the increase shall be exactly proportioned to our labour; it is enough that our labour shall not be wholly in vain.
THE CROSS. A SONNET. “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Josiah Conder's Choir and Oratory.
DR. J. P. SMITH AND HIS CO-TRUSTEES ON THE REGIUM
(To the Editor.) My Dear Sir,-I request the insertion in your valuable Magazine, of the accompanying “Brief Statement,” being assured that your justice and kindness will readily grant the request. Permit also two or three remarks upon the first article in the last number, -“ Historical Notes on the Regium Donum,” &c.
P. 142. I am not aware of any boasting of the accuracy of our accounts, but I have no doubt, that, whatever assertions may be referred to, they apply to the present Trustees and their immediate predecessors. Not being the senior Trustee, I have no knowledge of the extent backwards to which our documents go, but I exceedingly fear, that our boundary is the restoring of a fair course of administration, under the Fox and Grenville (not Granville, as in p. 160] ministry. I fear that we have no records of the earlier proceedings. You may think this an extraordinary acknowledgment, but I cannot apply to my senior colleague without too much trouble and loss of time.
The extracts which you have given from some old and scarce pamphlets, contain, I have little doubt, very unjust and calumnious representations; and I do not think that Dr. Thomas Rees's “ Sketch of the History of the Regium Donum” is fairly treated.
P. 156. The gentlemen here mentioned as “the late Dr. Morgan," was not the person evidently meant by the writer of the “ Historical Notes," the late Rev. Dr. Thomas Morgan, the librarian of Red Cross Street, but William Morgan, Esq., the nephew of Dr. Price, and Actuary to the Equitable Assurance Society.
P. 160.“ Secrecy and management." Much to be lamented and greatly blameable as were some of the proceedings detailed in the “Historical Notes;"—very partially and unjustly, I cannot but apprehend. I am thankful to you for exonerating the present Trustees from even a suspicion of any conduct inconsistent with integrity and independence. As to the expectation on the part of the king's ministers of any thing like a quid pro quo, I am persuaded that there is not the shadow of a ground for such an insinuation. During the twenty-two years that I have been a Trustee, I am confident that nothing, directly or indirectly, has ever occurred to indicate any expectation from any ministry of any sort or degree of attachment, service, or compliance. The insinuation is utterly contrary to truth.
P. 161. The interview of two of the Trustees with Sir Robert Peel, when he was Prime Minister, was only a private conversation, which ought never to have been dragged into newspaper discussions; and there was not the smallest reason for supposing that Sir Robert sent for those two persons because they were Trustees of the Parliamentary grant. Indeed, I have good reason for believing that the matter originated in a perfectly different manner. The object was solely to discuss the project of a Marriage Bill; and not the most distant hint was given of a wish or expectation on the part of VOL. I. . s.
the Premier. No man could have conducted a conversation in a more frank and honourable manner than he did. I am, my dear Sir, your's faithfully,
J. Pye SMITH. Homerton, March 15, 1837. Brief Statement of the Regium Donum and Parliamentary Grant to poor
Dissenting Ministers by the Trustees. The subject of the Regium Donum and Parliamentary Grant to the poor Dissenting Ministers of England and Wales, has engaged a considerable share of the attention of the Dissenters, in their late proceedings relative to the assertion of their principles and the redress of their grievances. By some persons this grant has been denounced as one of the evils of which the Dissenters have a right to complain, the reception of which they have pronounced to be " inexpedient and improper," and the immediate discontinuance of which they have thought a fit object for Memorial or Petition to the Government and the Legislature.
Under a full conviction that the strong feeling of disapprobation which has been thus manifested against the grant is altogether founded in ignorance or misapprehension of its true character, we deem it to be due to the sovereigns who have successively bestowed this mark of the royal favour, to the Parliament which has for some time past continued it on behalf of the crown, and to the distributors who have had the honour of acting during so long a period as the almoners of the royal bounty to their necessitous brethren, to endeavour to rectify the prevalent mistakes by submitting to the consideration of the dissenting public a brief statement of the origin and nature of this fund.
For the only authentic account of its origin we are indebted to Dr. Edmund Calamy, who was a contemporary of its benevolent royal founder, and one of the first-appointed Trustees. In the “ Memoirs" of his “ Life and Times" lately published, (Vol. II. pp. 465-467,) under the year 1723, he writes as follows:
“ About this time His Majesty (George I.] was pleased in a private way to give the Dissenters a considerable taste of his royal bounty and kind regard to them by an annual allowance. The first motion for it was made by Mr. Daniel Burgess, who had for some time been Secretary to the Princess of Wales. He, of his own head, and out of good will to those among whom he had had his education, moved for something of that kind to the Lord Viscount Townshend, who readily fell in with it, and afterwards discoursed his brother Walpole about it, who also concurred. Upon its being mentioned to the King, he was very free to it, and soon ordered £500 to be paid out of the Treasury for the use and behoof of poor widows of Dissenting Ministers. And some time after £500 was, upon application made on that behalf, ordered to be paid each half year for the assisting either Ministers or their Widows that wanted help, or to be applied to any such uses as the distributors thought to be most for their interest. An order was each half year obtained by Mr. Burgess, payable to Mr. Ellis, & surgeon : and when Mr. Burgess received it, he paid it to the following persons, viz. Mr. William Tong, Mr. Jeremy Smith, Mr. Merril, of Hampstead, Mr. Thomas Reynolds, Mr. Matthew Clarke, Dr. Joshua Oldfield, Mr. John Evans, Mr. William Harris, and myself; and as any of these persons died, the survivors chose another in his room."
From this simple statement it clearly appears that, when first made, the
* It is not certain whether the antecedent to the words “ their interest" be the “ Ministers” and “Widows” of Dissenting Ministers, or “ the Distributors :" if the latter, it is unquestionable that Dr. Calamy intended “their interest" only in the sense of their being representatives of, and agents for, necessitous“ Ministers or their Widows."
grant was one of pure charity, designed for the relief of the poor Widows of Dissenting Ministers. The same compassionate feeling which dictated the first act of royal beneficence, prompted, shortly afterwards, the augmentation of the grant and the extension of its benefits to poor Dissenting Ministers.*
There is not to be discovered in this transaction the slightest trace of any political feeling or purpose. No conditions were imposed on the part of the Crown when the money was paid, nor were any stipulations entered into by the trustees and the recipients, which virtually pledged them to the support of the political principles and measures of the existing Administration. The Prime Minister did not even reserve to himself a voice in the appointment of the distributors, to secure their subserviency. They were originally chosen without his interference, and the vacancies which have since occurred have been successively filled by the survivors at their own discretion; the appointment being, however, always made in reference to the age, character, public and official station, or generally acknowledged usefulness in the several denominations, of the Ministers chosen into the Trust.
The Trustees have never, in any part of their public conduct, evinced a disposition to truckle to the Minister of State for the time being. In seasons of political excitement, thy have not only asserted their independence, but have never scrupled to oppose existing administrations when they have judged their measures to be injurious to the Protestant Dissenters, or inimical to the public good. They fearlessly challenge the world to point out a single instance in which their charge as dispensers of the royal bounty has weakened their attachment to their principles as Nonconformists, or cooled the ardour of their zeal in the cause of civil and religious freedom. They have from the first stood in the foremost ranks of those who have laboured to remove the unjust restrictions imposed upon Protestant Dissenters, and to obtain the enlargement of their liberties.
The distributors repel the insinuation that in undertaking the charge of this charitable grant from the Crown and the Parliament, they are acting in violation of any acknowledged principle of dissent. In their estimation, it is in no way opposed to the doctrine which they hold as firmly as any of their brethren, and for which most of them have in their public character pleaded as zealously, at least, as any ministers of the three denominations, that Christianity should be supported by the free-will offerings of its professors. The grant is not an endowment to congregations, nor even an annuity to ministers. It is apportioned to the relief of the necessitous, as cases of necessity arise. In many instances, it is given to such as from old age and infirmity have retired from the pastoral office. It is, therefore, essentially different from a grant of the State for directly religious uses. And the distributors maintain, on historic grounds, that this bounty of the Sovereign is in no respect a fund created by the compulsory taxation of the people for the maintenance of any system of christian worship.
Formerly the kings of England, on their accession to the throne, became
* When or why the grant was at length confined to “ Ministers," the present Distributors have no means of ascertaining. They received their trust with this long-established limitation. It appears to them probable that this alteration in the objects of the Royal Bounty, was made upon the establishment, a century ago, of “ The Widows' Fund," a noble monument of the liberality of the “ Threr. Denominations," raised principally by the zealous and generous exertions of Ministers associated in the distribution of the Royal Charity.
+ In the only case from the foundation of the grant in which political feelings disturbed the purity of its distribution, the body of the distributors threw up their appointment; nor would they resume it until, on a change of administration, it was acknowledged that the office was one of mere charity, and neither a reward of past, nor a pledge of future adherence to the Ministers of the Crown. The case alluded to was in the feverish crisis of the first French revolution.