Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

that the parents of the children might use their own pleasure in respect to the place of worship which their children should attend. The consequence of such a formal regulation would be, that habitual absence from church would become a rule of the school, instead of being, as before, an exception to the rule. Instead of being an indulgence to be granted only in extreme cases, it would become a right to be demanded in all cases. And not only those, whose conscience did not permit them to send their children to church, but the methodists, who secede while they profess to be churchmen, and numberless other seceders, who have not the plea of conscience to urge, would uniformly avail themselves of the privilege thus formally conveyed to them. It would operate as an inducement to keep their children from church, when they would otherwise not have thought of it; it would suggest to them the notion that they ought to do so, and thus actually encourage an habitual absence from church, when attendance would otherwise have been given without a murmur. If a school therefore is professedly a Church-of-England school, (and no other can properly come into union with the National Society,) the conductors of it would act more wisely, as well as more consistently, if every thing which must be regarded as a deviation from a Church-of-England school were left to silent discretion, as urgent cases might occur, and not authorized by any general and positive law. Though the National Society was not founded in the spirit of proselytism, but was immediately intended for members of the established church, it excludes no one from the benefits of the education which it provides, who is willing to be educated in those principles for which alone it was established. In all schools therefore, which propose to unite with the National Society, it is better to avoid any positive declaration in respect to the children of dissenters: their admission, on compliance with the terms of the society, is a thing already understood; and if, in some places more than in others, there should be reasons for a relaxation of those terms, such relaxation should be matter of silent indulgence, and not of positive stipulation. If in any of these schools a rule should be made that the children of dissenters are admissible as well as the children of churchmen, the rule would, to say the least of it, be unnecessary, because it is already implied in the rules of the parent institution. But if it were added, or even if it were meant, that they are admissible without complying with the proper terms of admission, a rule thus positively declared, would be hardly reconcileable with the fundamental law of the National Society. The power of dispensing with the law would be applied to the total abrogation of it. Further, if the attendance of children at divine worship is left entirely to the care of the parents, there can be no security that the children will attend any place of

worship

worship whatever: and if in order to secure their attendance somewhere, the leave of absence from church should be accompanied with the requisition that they go to Meeting-such requisition would not be quite consistent with the principles of an institution which was formed for the promotion of the established religion.

But suppose a school were to be formed in a place or district in which the dissenters constituted a majority of the inhabitants. Ought not even in this case a rule to be made that the parents should take their children to their respective places of religious worship? If this question be asked, without any reference to the National Society, it is foreign to our present subject. But if it is intended that the school should ever be taken into union with this society, no such rule, even in the case proposed, can consistently be made, for the reasons already assigned. A school avowedly founded on the broad basis of the Lancasterian system, would be incompatible with the fundamental law of the National Society, even if Dr. Bell himself were the conductor of it. Whether the system there adopted were called the British system or the Madras system, the name would make no difference if the things were the same. If it be urged that, in a place where the dissenters constitute the majority, they would unite in opposition to a school at which the children were expected to attend the service of the established church, we answer, not only that they are at perfect liberty to form schools of their own upon their own principles, but that the National Society has formally disavowed all intentions of interfering with their just rights and privileges. If it be further objected that, in the event of two schools being established for the district, the one a Church-of-England school in union with the National Society, the other a dissenting school in some other connection, the children of the dissenters in that district will never be brought over to the church, we answer, that the object of the National Society would still be obtained, which is not to draw over persous of other persuasions, but simply to retain in the establishment the children of churchmen, by providing them with an education adapted to its principles. We cannot too frequently repeat, that the avowed object of the National Society is not proselytism, but self-preservation. If the notion should once become general, that the former is their principal object, it might excite a serious alarm among the dissenters; but if nothing more is desired than to retain in the establishment the children of churchmen, no offence can be taken, because the privilege of self-defence is common to all men. That the children in the schools of the National Society are generally expected to go to church, is no proof of its being founded to make proselytes; the chief objects of its care are, and must be, the children of churchmen; but if dissenters are B 3 desirous

desirous that their children should also partake of the education provided by the society, they are not refused. Here then is neither an eagerness for conversion on the one hand, nor absolute exclusion on the other. We are indeed aware that many well-intentioned churchmen would, even in the case above described, prefer a single school for the whole district; and that they would prefer it for this very reason, that it might eventually become the means of bringing the children of the whole district to church. But if this be the object in contemplation, a positive or declared rule, that the parents may use their own pleasure in respect to the place of worship for their children, would be no less subversive of that object than inconsistent with the principles of the National Society. It would operate with the dissenters as an inducement, in the first instance, to withhold their children from church, and become an argument, in the sequel, for refusing, when solicited, to grant their consent. In whatever light, therefore, the case in question be viewed, the inference, which has been deduced from the above quoted resolution of the National Society, will remain unaltered. Where it is prudent in the conductors of a school to avail themselves of the dispensation which that resolution entrusts to their discretion, it should be applied in the form of silent concession, and not be published as a general law. If this distinction be disregarded, we shall be always in danger of deducing inferences both false in themselves and injurious to the welfare of the Established Church.

"

We should trespass too long on the patience of our readers, if we attempted to resolye every difficult case which might present itself to the conductors of schools in union with the National Society; but however various the cases may be, we must never lose sight of the object and end of the institution, education in the principles of the established church.' If this object be neglected, we might as well have remained without a National Society altogether; we might as well have confided the entire education of the poor to the Lancasterian institution. If churchmen and dissenters must make a common cause, in which the interests of the church are to be surrendered, we cannot employ a more appropriate agent than Mr. Lancaster. The Lancasterian Institution possesses the same advantages with other institutions on the broad basis; it furnishes just so much religious instruction as places churchmen and dissenters on a level; and hence is enabled to furnish schools for all instead of schools confined to the principles of a single party. But if the established church is one of the contracting parties, if that church is worth preserving, if that church cannot be preserved without a strict adherence to that which forms its distinguishing character, and this distinguishing character is lost in such institutions as those

to

to which we allude, we must clearly perceive, not only that the National Society should be strenuously supported, but supported especially in respect to that very object for the promotion of which it was originally formed. Consequently, there is no advantage to be gained in any other respect which could compensate for the loss of the advantage in that. If, for instance, it be true, that instruction is conveyed at less expense in the schools of Mr. Lancaster than in those of Dr. Bell, yet if the grand object of the National Society is obtained in the latter but not in the former, there is no saving whatever which could compensate for the loss of that object. Besides, there is nothing to prevent the National Society from adopting the method of Mr. Lancaster, where it is cheaper than Dr. Bell's, and at the same time as good; for we may lose, either in time or in progress of learning, still more than we gain by a saving of expense. There is, indeed, one point in which, if general expenditure be considered, the same number of children throughout the kingdom could be instructed in reading and writing for less money, if the education of the poor were entrusted entirely to Mr. Lancaster, than they can be when a district is divided between Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster. One master and one school would suffice for a thousand children belonging indiscriminately to churchmen and dissenters. But if a second school be established for the benefit of the former, it is evident that the same quantum of reading and writing for the thousand children, when thus separated, will be purchased at a greater expense than if they were united. This argument will certainly weigh with those to whom the established religion is a matter of indifference, and still more with those to whom it is a matter of dislike. But no man, who is attached to our religion, will grudge the additional expense which may be necessary for retaining the poor of the establishment in the religion of their fathers. If it be further objected that the children of one party may bear so small a proportion to the children of the other, that a school consisting only of the former would not possess the same mechanical advantages as the school which comprehended all the latter, we answer, that the objection still applies to the expense only of the schools, and that it does not affect the progress of the scholars. Though, according to the new method, one master can direct a school of five hundred as well as of fifty, no man will pretend that he cannot direct a school of fifty as well as one of five hundred. If he can superintend the operations of thirty monitors and thirty classes, he cannot be less able to superintend them when reduced to ten or to five. The progress, therefore, which is made by the children of each class in reading and writing, may surely be as great, when only fifty of them are together, as if they amounted to five hundred. Consequently the inconvenience

B 4

convenience which is sustained is again only in the pecuniary expense, in having two schools instead of one. No positive loss is sustained by the scholars in respect to their learning, though the subscribers to the smaller school have so far a want of gain that their subscriptions do not provide for the same quantity of learning which the mechanism of the system might admit. But if this deficiency is compensated by the prevention of greater evils, there is no reason to complain; and surely the mere saving of expense can never be put in competition with the preservation of the Established Church.

A society founded for this important purpose, in the present state of religious parties, when the legal barriers provided by our ancestors are already prepared to break asunder, is calculated to render more essential service than at any period of our history. It was formerly imagined that when a religion was established by law it was necessary to provide some security for the danger of a confederacy against it, which mere envy at the advantages of an establishment will always excite on the part of those whose religions are protected but not supported by the state. To break, therefore, the force of such a confederacy, and to prevent it from producing effects which might be subversive of the establishment, it was deemed a matter of prudence to lodge the power of the state in the hands of those who were interested in preserving the establishment, and to exclude from power all those who were interested in overturning it. And this precaution, which is common in all countries, did not appear to be less necessary in England than in despotic countries; it did not appear to be less necessary where political power is diffused through every rank, than where it emanates from the will of an individual; it did not appear to be less necessary where men are governed only by the law of the land than where they are governed by the edicts of a tyrant. But we now live in an enlightened age, when the ancient barriers appear to be no longer necessary; we are gradually abolishing all religious distinctions; we have societies founded on the principle of surrendering, as it is called, our ancient prejudices; and to those which previously existed may be now added The Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty.'* If religious liberty in this country is now in need of protection, let not that protection be withholden; religious liberty is a blessing which should be denied

See the resolutions at a meeting holden the 29th of July, and printed (among other papers) in the Courier of August 7, 1812. In the words of the first resolution the committee of the Protestant Society' represents the most numerous congregations of Dissenters and Calvinistic Methodists in the metropolis, and many hundred congregations of various denominations in England and Wales.' In the same resolution it is declared that their efforts shall be persevering to obtain the repeal of every penal law which prevents the complete enjoyment of religious liberty.'

to

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »