Imágenes de páginas

a choice of evils ; yet we cannot but hope that, before another year, a better arrangement will be made. We cannot be satisfied to see important questions stifled, and those most interested in them unable to utter their sentiments, merely for want of sparing an extra hour or two once in the year. We recommend trying the arrangement of having the sermon and business-meeting on one day, and the social meeting on another—the latter being made an evening meeting. If the business-meeting were alone on one day, perhaps few besides the Committee and some country friends might attend; but if, as now, it followed the sermon, and if there were a feeling that its object is not formally to adopt a report, soon to be circulated in print, and read at leisure, and sanction the choice of officers, which has previously been arranged by those who have the management in their hands; but that questions of interest are likely to arise, and that natural and energetic speaking may probably be heard, there would be no danger of a small attendance, and no lack of interest.With the views stated in this paragraph, more particularly the latter part of it, we most cordially concur. Why should not Unitarians do as the “ Friendsdo in these respects? The latter body give themselves ample time (generally ten days or a fortnight), for the discussion of their ecclesiastical affairs ; and though the church system (if we may so call it), of the Unitarians is very different from that of the Friends, yet we cannot but think, that two or three days instead of one, allotted to the discussion and arrangement of matters of importance that are increasingly likely to come before the notice of the denomination, would be a considerable improvement in several ways. The subjects themselves would stand a chance of being fully and fairly handled; the Committee would derive information as to the general sentiments and feelings of the body or of the parties more especially interested ; and the individual members of the Association would come to feel a closer and warmer interest in the success of its views, and in its general prosperity and welfare, than they may be justly supposed to do under the present comparatively exclusive system. We would, of course, willingly leave the final arrangement of matters to the judgment and discretion of the Committee, as it is at present, but let the Committee learn the wishes and opinions of the Unitarian body at large by the liberty and opportunity of open discussion ; and what opportunity so fit as the annual meeting? The object, however, could not be satisfactorily accomplished, in general, we apprehend, without setting apart two or three days instead of one. Having thrown out these hints for consideration, we turn to the topic we have selected as requiring our principal notice, as well as the earnest attention of our readers.

Mr. Armstrong brought under the notice of the Unitarian Association at its last annual meeting the somewhat extraordinary language employed by the Bishop of Norwich at the late anniversary of the British and Foreign School Society. The meeting was held at Exeter-Hall on the 11th of May, Lord John Russell acting as chairman, who very fully and distinctly stated the broad, catholic, and inexclusive principles on which that Society was founded—and which, as his lordship alleged, had, “ for the space of forty years remained unaltered in every single particular.” But, whatever might be said as to the preservation of the principles up to the present time, it is evident that the declaration cannot be repeated, inasmuch as there is now a marked disavowal of them ; for, in the hearing of the chairman, and unreproved by him, the Bishop of Norwich ventured to throw a most undeserved odium on the Unitarian body, and to abandon the unsectarian, uninterpretative, and impartial ground of the British and Foreign School Society, by intimating, and obviously designing to commend, the practice in its schools of inculcating the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement. The Bishop proceeded to class, in one category, Jews, Infidels, and Unitarians; thus offending in a double sense ; first, against the religious feelings represented in the latter Christian body; and, secondly, against the principles of the British School Society, whose rules originally disallow such teaching as he indicated; on the faith of which rules Unitarians, in common with the liberal public at large, had been its zealous friends, and the Legislature itself had been induced to lend its support.

Such, in short, is the account given by Mr. Armstrong as to the conduct of the Bishop of Norwich at the meeting alluded to. We see thereby that the original principles


on which the Society was founded are no longer acknowleged; nor indeed, as we have reason to believe, have they been kept to in practice; and, we fear, the noble chairman himself was not ignorant that such was the

We have heard it stated—though we should hardly have believed it, had we not experimentally found that nothing which appertains to bigotry and intolerance should be accounted incredible—and we perceive that the Rev. Mr. Murch, adverted to the circumstance, that in the teachings of these schools, the pupil is asked for a scriptural proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the answer he is taught to give is a reference to the “ 1st John, chap. v. ver. 7. Can

any more palpable or astounding evidence be adduced of the spirit and intentions with which this originally excellent institution is now sought to be managed? Is there any thing in the ecclesiastical conduct or theological proceedings of the Establishment more objectionable than this? To incul. cate in the mind of a child, as proof of an imagined theological doctrine, a spurious passage of Scripture-an admitted interpolation—an acknowleged mendacity!

At the meeting of the Association at the Crown and Anchor, Mr. Armstrong reverted to the subject in a very forcible manner; and, as facts are indispensable things on which to ground any observations we may have to make, we need hardly apologise for the following extract from his speech on that occasion :

" When he first saw the efforts made under the celebrated Joseph Lancaster, to have education for all, supported by all, and managed by all, it was with pain and mortification that he witnessed the attempts to subvert the system by the introduction of the narrowest sectarianism, instead of the broad principles of religious freedom on which it was founded. He had found it necessary, on more than one occasion, to be peculiarly watchful of the British and Foreign School Society in his own neighbourhood. Two years ago, at a meeting in Bristol, at which Lord Ducie presided, he complained of some attempts that had been introduced from the metropolis, without the Unitarians being consulted upon them, and though Mr. Dunn was present, he never offered one word of explanation. He then communicated his apprehension at what was going on, to Lord John Russell, but he got no answer to his letter. At a subsequent occasion, when he saw ministers of his own persuasion, who for twenty-six years had been connected with the management of these schools, passed over, in favour of the narrow principles introduced by some ministers who had joined the management within the last few years, he again wrote to Lord John Russell, but the liberal statesman had never even the manliness and courtesy to acknowledge the receipt of the documents that he had sent him. He was of opinion, therefore, that they should look to themselves alone for the protection of their rights. As to the Bishop of Norwich, he did not think that, because he had done them an act of justice once, they should permit him to act unjustly towards them on other occasions. The Right Rev. Prelate had a perfect right to think and say what he pleased anywhere else; but in making the observation attributed to him, where he did, he trespassed against thé principles of good breeding, and against the rules of the institution. When they were lumped up before the public with Jews and Infidels, it surely did not become them to remain silent. They were met in that Association for the protection of Unitarianism all over the country ; and those of their brethren who were absent, and who saw, as he did himself, this assertion of the Bishop's with deep mortification, looked to them as a great representative body for redress. He hoped therefore, that the resolution adopted that day would not be made a dead letter ;* and for his own part, if he were spared his life, he was resolved that the thing should be carried out in some shape.”

Of the facts stated in this extract we have no manner of doubt, and of the opinions and resolves we cordially ap: prove.—The former tend to show, in a remarkable degree, the animus with which the co-operation of Unitarians in a confessedly laudable and philanthropic object is regarded and treated by the orthodox, and even Nonconformists,

* The resolution to which the speaker refers is the following, suggested by Mr. Murch, and adopted in place of the more definite and explicit, and, we think, for that reason, the more appropriate one proposed by Mr. Armstrong himself :

“ That it be referred to the Committee of the Association, to consider whether any, and what, steps could be taken to secure that the Schools of the British and Foreign Society should be conducted upon the original, fundamental, and comprehensive principles of the society, without, dogmatic teaching.”

many of whom, we regret to say, have liberality enough in their mouths, but intolerance and bigotry the most appalling in their hearts and their actions. In further proof of this, let us hear the observations of Mr. Taylor, made at the business-meeting of the Association : he said, “He recollected when the Lancasterian Schools and Bible Society were first agitated, they were told that these were objects in which ALL Christians could unite, the principles of the schools being the use of the Scriptures without note or comment ; and the education of the people. Now, this was a very pleasing delusion, but he was satisfied that it in reality was nothing but a delusion, for, as long as the opinions of the orthodox party remained as they were, it was perfectly vain to suppose that they could unite in disseminating certain dogmas of the dark ages on the one side, with the pure, fundamental principles of Christianity, as inculcated by Unitarians, on the other. How were they to co-operate with those whose principles so essentially differed from their own ? No doubt the Unitarians might and would co-operate with the orthodox Christians, but it was vain to expect that the latter would co-operate with them. They had no objection to the Unitarian money or influence, but it was in order to advance their own interests. There were, no doubt, individuals of high honour and independence among them, but he was satisfied that, in the long run, it would be found that bigots would get hold of the management. He did not attend the meeting of the Borough-road Schools this year, because last year, when he had received a platform ticket, he attempted to make an allusion to the principles on which the Schools had been first established, but he was not allowed to proceed. He saw at once that he had to deal with an Exeter-hall audience, and Lord John Russell, who presided, kindly suggested that he should sit down. Mr. v. Smith, and one or two noblemen and gentlemen, were anxious that he should proceed, but he felt that he had no chance of obtaining a fair hearing, and he gave up the attempt. He recollected the scenes that had taken place before on similar occasions, and the great grief and sorrow which the late Mrs. Fry had expressed to him at the bigotry which she saw creeping into the Bible Society, and which she felt would subvert the original intentions of the founders. He was fully sensible of the importance

« AnteriorContinuar »