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i , j THURSDAY, JULY A, 1872.…


THURSDAY, JULY A, 1872. ON Tuesday night Mr.' MIALL made another attempt to induce the House of Commons to afford information respecting the position of the Church of England, necessary to a correct appreciation of the question of disestablishment. In moving for a Royr.1 Commission to ascertain the origin, nature, amount, and application of the property and revenues of the Establishment, the hon. member for Bradford, wisely abstained from making an attack upon the ecclesiastical hierarchy to which he and Nonconformists generally are opposed. j The object and scope of his motion were confined to the elicitation of facts, which it is desirable to ascertain upon authority, before proceeding further in a direction that must ultimately lead to the opening-up of the subject in its fullest amplitude with a view to the entire severance of Church and State. His speech formed only a tentative part of the campaign- against the Establishment which must sooner or later occupy the attention of the Legislature. He devoted himself to enquiry and the pursuit of knowledge, hidden with more or less success, from the public at large. As a preliminary to active warfare the information sought would be extremely valuable, and this circumstance probably operated strongly to lead Churchmen, on both sides of the House, to enter into an unholy alliance to defeat his purpose. Neither Tories nor Whigs can be congratulated upon the result. They have defeated the motion, but they have not succeeded in strengthening the Episcopacy. If they felt that their position was tenable, and that no danger could arise from an explicit and frank statement of the true state of afiairs, they might well have consented to the appointment of the Commission sought. But Churchmen know that the revelations would be of a most astonishing character that particulars re- specting enormous abuses could not fail to be brought to light; that matters connected with mis- appropriation, spoliation, and other abuses of funds, originally intended by donors for the specific purpose of teaching religion or im- parting instruction in the Scriptures, would be dragged from obscurity, and they made common cause against the bold, painstaking reformer who virtually challenged them to publish their accounts. Now, we believe that if the genius of spiritual life be in a Church, and that it is.possessed of a vital organisation inherent in itself, the signs of such vigour "would be made apparent rather in acts of candour than in those of reticence and exclusivenes3. Burdened as the Church is with the consciousness of wrong-doing, and ashamed of the degrading enormities peculiar to its temporal system, its leaders naturally shun i the scrutinlting gaze of the Nonconformist leader. It would not do to reveal the true state of affairs, and the evil day was postponed for a time, only to dawn upon its members with still more ominous portent. At the outset of his speech, a frantic but futile attempt was made to count out the House. This ruse, however, which is all too common when other tactics fail, did not succeed, and the quiet, undemonstrative, but intensely logical speaker, was permitted to proceed. Declaring that he was acting on Mr. GLADSTONE'S advice of last year, the honourable gentleman said he- was anxious to convert public opinion to Dis- establishment. To do this effectually, and to carry out the suggestion of the PREMIER in a prac- tical way, he believed the first step was to get at the facts of the financial condition of the Estab- lishment, hitherto shrouded in mystery, notwith- standing the facilities offered by the Jaw for ob- taining partial insight into details. He contended that the State had a right to call for this informa- tion, upon the ground that the Church was a national institution, and the defenders of the Estab- lishment, to use a familiar illustration from SHAKE- SPEARE, were hoisted by their own petards. Avowing themselves to be the Church par excellence, it is impossible to conceive any reasonable grounds for refusing to acquiesce in the irfotion. The Church claims to be national in its action, but exclusive and worse than sectarian when the administration of its funds is called in question. As a consequence expendiency was brought to the aid of its sup- porters when principle was proved to be wanting, and clamour silenced argument by its blatant voice. The occasion also afforded Mr. MIALL an opportunity of pointing to the origin of tithes, which will be found to have grown out of the action of the State; and he especially called the notice of the House to glebe lands and the extent of new endowments. It was in vain, however, that Mr. MIALL pleaded at the bar of a prejudiced tribunal. Like GOETHE, he cried out, with the earnestness of his nature, for "more light," only to find that a settled resolve existed on the part of the House that he country should be kept as far as possible in the dark. In his efforts the member for Bradford was ably seconded by Mr. LEATHAM, whose denunciation of the evils connected with capitular revenues was alike emphatic and just. Pointing to the cathe- drals, and going far beyond his equable leader in warmth and scornful sarcasm, the hon. member for Huddersfield quoted Lord HARROWBY, who had said he defied any one to put his finger on a cathedral since the time of St. AUGUSTINE that had contributed largely to evangelisation; and reminded the House that the Bishop of PETERBOROUGH, at the Church Congress, recently held at Norwich, had declared his belief that they were of use, "principally to cultivate canons and grow vergers." The people of Wales have not very far to go for an illustration of the truth of the prelate's avowal, and will agree with Nonconformists .generally, that it is lamentable ill the extreme such splendid fanes, notwithstand- ing the exceptional efforts of a few liberal-minded clergymen, should be comparatively useless in the practical work of religion, and that those who minister in them with perfunctory zeal, should be content to leave their architectural splendours and florid musical services to kindle devotional feelings by mere aesthetic influence. Defeated as in Mr. MIALL was, he was accompanied to the lobby by a goodly muster of thoughtful men. Nearly i a hundred members. voted for the motion, in the fullest belief that" the widest extent of accurate knowledge of facts will do no llarm to that which is true in itself." When we take into consideration tlat the whole of the minority have laid -their hands upon the plough, and will not turn back that they are men of de- termined purpose, exercising immense influence in the country and resolved to accomplish their de- sign, it is impossible not to take heart of grace, and look forward with hope. Many to whom they are opposed can give no reason for their votes except that they desire to serve party, or are influenced by a blind faith in the efficacy of a State-paid Church, Others, animated by a Quix- otic spirit, simply tilt at windmills, amuse them- selves with cock-crowing, and beat the air, when- ever Political-Dissenters address the Houpe, be- cause it is the fashion of heedless, namby-pamby legislators to "undertake a crusade against them. But the irresistible tidet-I of public opinion will not be stayed by the mandate of dreamy politicians supine upon the shore; the Estab- lishment cannot strengthen its case by throw- ing dust into the eyes of Nonconformists bent upon obtaining particulars which it is the right of every member of the State to know clerical ostriches may bury their heads in the sand, but they will not hide themselves from their pursuers by the foolish act; and Churchmen may defy scrutiny, but they cannot stifle enquiry. Next year the motion will be made again, and probably vvith more satisfactory results. The great ques- tion of Disestablishment is growing more impor- tant every hour, and enlists the sympathies of all classes with ever-increasing effect. The Press and the Pulpit are at work. in the matter; the foremost minds of the age are bent upon solving the problem; the movement has received the sanction of many enlightened members of the Church itself, and before long it will evoke an ex- pression of the national will to an extent unknown in connection with political or religious agitation, since nations in the days of CHARLES MARTEL, were aroiised to a sense of their independence, and myriads, in the age of PETER the HERMIT, were sent in tumultuous enthusiasm across the civilised world to the rescue of a shrine.




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