Abbildungen der Seite

where there is an Established Church; the Quaker in one where there is a standing army; the democrat where there is a monarchy: they all have to pay for the support of what they disapprove. Hæc est pæna minoribus. But what, we would ask, has occurred since 1853, to place the church-rate on a different footing, or to destroy the force of an analogy then held to be sufficient? Why does the “ Times“ say now that the rate ought to be abolished, when then it contended that it ought not? We shall return to this question very soon, and the answer to it presents one of the most interesting features of our whole subject. Government in 1853 was against Sir William Clay; our readers must remember that: otherwise the present situation is in nowise different, or, if anything, is more favourable to the Church than it was then.

Coming on to 1854 and 1855, when a strong anti-Conservative feeling was rife throughout the country, we find the tone of the “ Times” on Church matters become more and more uncompromising. In an article on the Episcopal and Capitular Estates Bill of the Marquis of Blandford, which it praised highly, the “ Times” observed that if found to work well it would soon come to be applied to the general revenues of the Church ; that is, according to its own words in another part of the article, the bishops would soon be made regular stipendiaries as they are in France and Russia. The style in which the “ Times” commended this precious consummation was just of a piece with the ad captandum plausibilities which it had used the year before in discussing the Report of the Commissioners on which the present Bill was founded. “ The object of the Church,” said the writer, “was to save souls,” and not, therefore, to superintend fines, leases, and renewals. Our critic forgot to ask if the Church could not do both. He had perhaps never read the conclusive arguments of that illustrious philosopher, De Tocqueville, to show the dangers which beset that Church whose only care it is to save souls; to prove, in other words, the inestimable benefits which society derives from that connection of the Church with the world which territorial possessions and territorial duties insure to her. Whether he had read it, however, or whether he had not, his remarks upon the subject would probably have been just the same ; for it is not to be supposed that he would have allowed himself to be diverted from his favourite amusement merely by finding out that it involved the advocacy of falsehood. That, he would have said, was an accident. Moreover, if there was to be a devil's advocate, why should it not be the “ Times”?

We have seen that in the previous years the “Times," which had swallowed a good many strong doses in its discriminating passion for abuse of the Church Establishment, had still drawn a line at churchrates. This proceeding, if creditable to its candour and sagacity, still



marred the symmetry of its creed, and imparted a hue of vacillation to what was otherwise so dashing and decisive. However, there were great excuses for this conduct. Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. It is not all at once that a lady of refined education, who has acquired a taste for spirituous liquors, sends out her maid to the nearest public-house for gin. It is not all at once that a man who has failed to meet a bill takes to forging the acceptances of friends. And it is not all at onco that gentlemen and scholars, as these journalists certainly are, throw themselves headlong into a course of writing which is merely the gratification of spite. Now, however, the time had arrived.

This one tempting cup had often been rejected by the “Times.” But importunity would seduce even angels. And at last the great Jupiter succumbed ; in a rash moment the fiat went forth. Church-rates were to die. And to all appearance they were dead; though since that time, like John Barleycorn, the church-rate has got up again and sore surprised them all. But for the time being the prospect was gloomy and discouraging. Lord John Russell, indeed, whose fidelity to the church-rate this year only makes his subsequent tergiversation more lamentable, had strongly defended the rate on constitutional grounds; and the “ Times” accordingly, which never numbered Lord John among its supreme favourites, came jauntily down upon him as follows :

" There are various kinds of churchmanship. There is the churchmanship of those who believe the Church of England to have dropped down as it is from heaven, who think Canterbury the centre of the earth, and that the day will come when all nations will go to church twice a Sunday, begin service with Dearly Beloved,' and finish once a month with a collection for the National School Society, or the Local Maternity Institution. There are those who take a rubrical turn, are deep in the Canons, know the Bishop of London's last Charge by heart, and in what exact respects the order at St. Barnabas differs from that of St. Paul's. Another class may, or may not, combine with these studies a taste for missals, breviaries, and hymnals, and a qualified respect for the Church of England as a daughter of Rome. There are those who have an immense respect for the Establishment, as a very good thing, and full of good things, and that rewards with good livings those who go the right way to get them. There are poor, good souls, who have derived all their religion from the Church of England, and even understand no religion but hers. There is an easy sort that likes the Church of England for its well-behaved, inobtrusive character. When they have gone to morning service on Sunday, and slept through the sermon, they are free for the week, and the Church will not hunt them out if they follow their own ways till next Sunday.” Then the writer proceeds to say that Lord John has added a new variety to the list in the shape of a “church-rate Churchman.” He coquets with Dissent, but “he will go to the stake for church-rates--for the Church's sacred and indefeasible right of exacting a halfpenny in the pound from myriads who never enter her temples.”

On the 23rd of June in this year, it was proposed by Mr. Heywood to introduce a clause into the University Reform Bill to admit Dissenters to the M.A. degree as well as to the Bachelor's.

This was a fine opportunity for the leading journal.

Why indeed were not Dissenters to share in all the privileges of the Universities ? Was the University a national or a “denominational” institution. If the former, then it must admit Dissenters to all its honours; if it confined itself to the Church of England, it was denomi. national; as, by implication, the Church of England was a denomination. Here we see a distinct denial that the Church of England is the National Church. The “Times” affected to consider that the exclusion of Dissenters from fellowships, which was a matter of Collegiate not University discipline, would still be sufficient to secure the University against the operation of Nonconformist prejudices. It is impossible to believe that the writer could have sincerely thought so. The privilege asked for gave Dissenters a voice in the internal management of the University, and what is more, in the election of its Parliamentary representative. We have been told over and over again that the admission of Dissenters to analogous positions would not result in evil consequences, and over and over again the prediction has been falsified. But to do the

Times” justice, it did not here rest its case on this argument, but on the broader ground that the Church of England being only a denomination, had no right to an exclusive property in a University that was national.

With the year 1855 we see the “Times” divested of its last shred of prejudice in the shape of a lingering regard for church-rates, and fairly stripped for battle. This journal is not the one to do things by halves. And accordingly, when the church-rate question came round again, it at once took up that confident and contemptuous tone which is usual with it when affecting to treat a thing as settled. This

year leave to bring in a bill for total abolition was carried by a majority of seventy-nine, and the second reading was for the first time carried on the 16th of May by a majority of twenty-eight. The "Times" could now afford to take a very high tone indeed. The rate must go, we were told. It was one of those doomed institutions which nothing but prejudice supported, and which the longer it lived the worse was it for the Church. The effects of the voluntary system were largely quoted to show what the Church would do if left alone. And one of those fine boldly-coloured pictures which the “ Times” can paint so well was held up to the popular gaze, of a land covered with new churches and school-rooms in the best Gothic taste by the generosity



of Churchmen; the old feud between themselves and Dissenters extinguished; peace and charity brooding over every happy village ; and Ranters and Baptists, by the mere force of good fellowship, rejoining the communion of the Church. A noble scorn of details ; a contempt for those figures which, on good authority, are only less fallacious than facts; an entire surrender of the reason to the wings of a powerful imagination were the characteristics of its articles at this period. The “ Times might almost have seemed like Asia in the Hyperion, “to have been prophesying of the Church's glory.” It was only to those who looked a little closer that the disguised sneer was still apparent, and the undertone of hate audible.

Those, however, who may have believed that in recommending the voluntary system, the “ Times” was actuated by any goodwill to the Church of England, were very soon undeceived by its language on the new Religious Worship Bill, introduced by Lord Shaftesbury in this year. The object of the bill was to repeal the act of George III., which prohibited more than twenty people from meeting together for public worship, unless they were licensed as Dissenters.

Into the merits of Lord Shaftesbury's measure we need not enter now. It is manifest, that at all events, it would have this bad effect of establishing a little imperium in imperio in every parish in the kingdom, and an“ opposition” to the parish clergyman within the bosom of his own flock, little calculated to promote the harmony, goodwill, and Christian feeling of the entire congregation.

To the “ Times,” however, the bill came "like the handle of a pint stoup,” as the Scotch well express it. The occasion was so extremely promising that to improve it to the utmost, the “ Times” invented a stage parson for the purpose, and dramatized its song. “Old Dr. Mumble

was trotted out through a series of comic articles till his poor old legs must have ached nearly as much as his readers' heads. Old Dr. Mumble's teeth, and old Dr. Mumble's twaddle, and old Dr. Mumble's avuncular sermons were effectively contrasted with the honied lips (sic), and winged words, and great spiritual gifts of some unordained village prophet, who would keep his hearers swinging between heaven and hell in a kind of religious roundabout for two good hours at least, and all at a much less cost than old Dr. Mumble put the country to. The teaching of the Church, said this writer, was equivocal, and her worship dull. In the eyes of John Stokes the Bishop, the Parson, and the Church had no vitality. Ergo, let John Stokes get up into the pulpit, and like a coarser Mr. Toots, throw a little life into the thing.

But not only were the clergy “dumb dogs” about this time in the judgment of our omniscient censor; they were also as a rule dishonest. In criticising the Report of the Cathedral Commissioners for


this year, the

Times fully adopted with reference to our cathedral chapters one-half of the old sayings about corporations, and endeavoured to compensate for the truth of the other half by as severe a moral kicking as it was in its power to administer. After much lavish abuse of all Church dignitaries, it wound up with a fine sweeping charge at which all the clergy must have trembled. “A clergyman with an average conscience !" it wrote, in a rich strain of irony which speedily changed to crushing sarcasm in the words, “which in ecclesiastical matters is no conscience at all.”

But the “ Times” reached perhaps its culminating point of rancour in 1856 on the celebrated Bishops Retirement Bill. We feel no call towards defending that bill. But the personal attacks upon the two prelates who retired, which appeared in the columns of the “ Times," would have disgraced the Satirist in its worst days. The income of the late Bishop of London, under the old system, had been £22,000 a year, and he retired on an allowance of £6000. The income of the Bishop of Durham had been £15,000 a year, and he retired on £1500. Upon this the “ Times” wrote (August 12th), “We are given to understand that we ought to extol to the skies the incredible disinterestedness of these successors of the Apostles, who are content to starve the one on the pay of sixty curates, the other on the pay

of forty-five.” Passing over this schoolboy sneer at the apostolic character of the bishops which ten years before the “ Times” had so pointedly acknowledged, what insufferable balderdash is the remainder of the sentence ! Does not every official's retiring allowance bear a certain proportion to the income which he had been receiving while in the full discharge of his duties ? A Minister of State's salary is £5000 a-year, and his pension is £2000, or nearly one-half his salary. This pension too is enjoyable after only three years' service; so that he may very likely continue to receive it for nearly half a century. But of these two bishops the one took very little more than a quarter of his previous income, and the other less than a third ; while, as they were disabled by age and ill health, it was not probable that they would receive it for more than a very few years. But the grande et insanum sophos of the commercial-room had been fast becoming all that the “ Times” aspired to command: and that of course would follow loudly and longly in response to the sixty, and the forty-five, curates.

But this was not the worst piece of abuse which this measure elicited from the “Times.” Subsequently to the appearance of this article a rumour was circulated in London that the bishops had been bargaining with ministers, and had made their own terms before they consented to retire. The assertion itself, if made in an incriminatory sense, was ridiculous; for it is clear that some scale of allowance must have been fixed, and that could hardly have been done without the

« ZurückWeiter »