Page images

tute a regulation allowing of the open-
ing of the ports as before at 80s. and
continuing them open till the price
falls to 70s. and three months after it
begins to fall below it; but subject
throughout to a duty of 12s. per quar-
ter, with an additional duty of 5s. for
the first three months after opening.
We will not enter into any discussion
of the comparative merits of this mode
of protection with that which previ-
ously existed. It may perhaps, on the
whole, be a better plan than that which
it has superseded; or rather it may be
attended with a smaller portion of
practical evil to the agriculturist as
well as to the community. But both
systems, we hesitate not to say, are
radically vicious; and while either of
them is persisted in, we must be con-
demned to suffer all the afflicting al-
ternations arising from a great fluctua-
tion in the price of the main articles
of human subsistence. At one time
they will be depressed so low as not
to remunerate the grower, and at ano-
ther raised so high as to subject a
great part of our population to want
and wretchedness, and to expose us
to all the evils of disaffection and
tumult. We are fixed in the clear
persuasion, that the only remedy for
these evils, and for many others, is to
be found in a free and unfettered trade
in corn; and that in such a free and
unfettered trade, not only would the
-community at large, but the farmers
and the landholders find their true and
permanent advantage. The subject is.
far too wide for us to enter upon in
this place; but those who are disposed
to examine it, or who wish to know
by what process of reasoning we have
arrived at this conclusion, we would
refer to the report of the agricul-
tural committee of the house of
commons, which sat in the last ses-
sion, where the true principles by
which this mighty question should be
regulated are ably and luminously
exhibited, (principles by the way com-
pletely at war with the practical recom-
mendations that report); we would
refer them also to a recent pamphlet of
Mr. Ricardo, on this question, and to
a review of the agricultural report
which has appeared in the 72d Num-
ber of the Edinburgh Review, and
in a late Number of the Quarterly.
We think it absolutely impossible for
any dispassionate and disinterested
individual to read these articles with-
out a thorough persuasion that our
only true wisdom, even if we were to
look exclusively to the permanent

interests of agriculture itself, is in retracing our legislative progress, from the present system of restriction and prohibition, to one of perfect freedom, regulated only by a regard to the taxes which fall mainly or exclusively on the growers of corn. Of all human evils which can befal our population, there is none which can be compared to that arising from a difficulty of procuring food; and of all taxes to which the poor man is subject, none can be a hundredth part so oppressive as that which these prohibitory enactments are more or less calculated to produce, the doubling or trebling of the price of his quartern loaf.

The state of Ireland has been prominently brought before Parliament and the country. The distresses of the poor, that is, of ninety nine persons out of a hundred, in the southern provinces of that country, are most deeply afflicting. A scarcity of provisions, or rather of money to purchase them, amounting in some parts almost to absolute famine, has more or less prevailed for a considerable time, and is now truly affecting. The immediate cause has been chiefly the defective character and quantity of the last potatoe crop. The effect, in addition to the personal sufferings of the half-famished peasantry, and the recent disturbances which may be traced in a considerable measure to this source, has been a return of typhus fever, which is making great ravages. We shall not dwell upon particulars, as we trust they will have been already laid before most of our readers in the shape of an appeal to their sympathy and Christian liberality. We are happy to state that this appeal has met with a most generous reply in the bountiful subscriptions which are flowing in from the British public, and from the richer classes in Ireland, for the temporary relief of the necessities of these our fellowChristians and fellow-subjects. Large quantities of provisions, chiefly potatoes, have been already shipped for Ireland, and measures taken to promote an equal and effective supply. Government also has largely assisted the object; and we trust, not only that the temporary pressure will be considerably alleviated, but that the supplies will have allowed of sowing and planting for the approaching harvest. We earnestly recommend the object to the liberal contributions of our readers. Should the funds raised be more than necessary for the


Such circumstances are probably unprecedented in the history of Ireland or any other country; and they call loudly, especially when taken in connexion with the present afflicted and distressed condition of that island, on those who have a voice in filling up these important places, to select for the office men of distinguished zeal, simplicity, and piety, of well-known liberality and disinterestedness, of conciliating character, and endued with wisdom to guide those within the pale of the church, and to win those, who are without. Deeply afflicting would be the thought, and truly awful the responsibility, if, in appointments like these, considerations of mere favour or interest should be allowed to operate!

The bill of Mr. Canning, for the admission of Roman Catholic peers into parliament, has passed the house of commons, and is about to be debated in the house of lords.

immediate exigency, they will admit of being employed with great advan tage to the general welfare of Ireland, by promoting useful and productive labour. Parliament has wisely voted a sum of 50,000l. to be expended in opening roads in the wilder and less frequented parts of the kingdom, and in other works of public utility. All this, however, will effect comparatively little for Ireland. The evils which afflict her lie deeper; and many of them have been strongly pressed upon the attention of Parliament during the last few weeks. The tithe-system, in particular, has been amply discussed; and, from its present oppressive nature, as well as the unpopularity which it attaches to the Established Church and the cause of -Protestantism in that country, it ought to be commuted. An obvious remedy seems to be to throw the burden, as -in Scotland, not on the tenant, but on the proprietor of the soil. And we rejoice to say, that many of the great lay impropriators in that country, A measure has been proposed by have, much to their honour, expressed the chancellor of the exchequer for not merely their willingness but their relieving the country of two millions solicitude to concur in such a propo- of taxes, by converting the military sition. We shall, probably, have oc- and civil half-pay and pensions, casion to resume this subject next amounting to about five millions, month, in considering the nature of into annuities for 45 years. the measures which Mr. Goulburn taxes he proposes to remove are 13s. proposes to bring forward for the ame-a-bushel of the 15s, paid on salt, half lioration of the general condition of Ireland; and which, we trust, will not be merely of a palliative or superficial kind, but deep and prospective, and grounded on plans of moral and religious, as well as merely financial or agricultural, improvement. Events have occurred, during the month, connected with the Protestant Established Church, of a truly solemn and admonitory nature. No less than three Irish prelates have been called to give an account of their stewardship before the bar of God. Two of them, two primates, the Archbishops of Armagh and Cashel, were taken off in one day; the latter by illness, and the former by an accidental administration of a bottle of laudanum instead of medi

1 The

of the present leather tax, the window and hearth tax of Ireland, and the tonnage duty on shipping, These are certainly gratifying remissions, though we could earnestly wish the salt tax were entirely abolished. As to the plan of converting five millions of life annuities into annuities for 45 years, with which these remissions are connected, we do not conceive that there is any valid objection to it. It certainly, however, would be a much more simple and economical plan, to take the money required for the purpose at once from the sinking fund, than to be creating annually new stock, and yet keeping the sinking fund at what is in that case its merely nominal amount of five millions.


"Notice sur M. R.;" F. S.; SCRUTATOR; M. M.; J. B.; F. S.; A Constant READER; OnPEUTYS; CUMBRIENSIS; A. M. C.; J. W. M.; A. C. G.; and two or three papers, without signature, are under consideration.

We are much obliged to several correspondents for accounts of the anniversary meetings of various societies; but our limits will not allow of our entering much into details of this nature. We shall, however, be happy, as far as our plan permits, to give the results of their proceedings, from their Reports, when published.

EKRATA.-P. 266, col. 2, line 18, for feelings, reud failings.

[blocks in formation]


No. 246.]

JUNE, 1822. [No. 6. Vol. XXII.


For the Christian Observer.


QUERIST in the Christian

[ocr errors]

ing shape; What are the causes of the want of religious success of our clergy among their flocks in the present day? The

however, is still too

Abserver for last September wide for discussion; unless it were

having asked, What are the chief causes of want of success in the ministry? and his inquiry not having yet received a reply, the following suggestions are humbly submitted for consideration.

It is necessary to inquire, in the first place, What is success in the Christian ministry? And here it would be difficult to give a satisfactory solution, as no relative standard of success or failure can be laid down to decide the question. What is success in one age or place, or as respects one individual or congregation, may, under other circumstances, be comparative failure. Ministers also may have very different talents, and may be successful in different ways; either, for example, in first exciting attention to religion, or in awakening the conscience, or in instructing, or in comforting, or in stimulating, according to the varied necessities of mankind. In order, then, to narrow the ground to dimensions convenient for the purpose of practical discussion, let us confine it to our own age and country, and to the Established Church of England. It will not probably be denied, that the beneficial effects resulting from the labours of our clergy, are much less extensive than might reasonably be hoped for, when their number and influence, and other favourable circumstances, are fairly considered. The question is thus reduced to the follow


practicable to enumerate every defect of ecclesiastical doctrine and discipline,-every error in the edu cation and lives of our clergy,-and every possible impediment, natural or artificial, to the full efficiency of the ministerial function. Without, however, entangling the argument with those general causes which apply to every age and variety of mankind, or inquiring into the very obvious reasons why those individuals are not useful as ministers who take no pains to be so, let us confine the argument to the case of such of the clergy as are in the main scriptural in their doctrines, and whose personal piety and zealous wishes for the salvation of their people, might seem to open a door for much wider suc cess than it is to be feared, generally speaking, attends their la bours. Certain it is, that out of the numerous individuals who form a Christian parish or congregation, but a small number, comparatively, are seen in most instances in earnest respecting their salvation, or living consistently with their high calling, as professed disciples of Jesus Christ, and this even in places blessed with pious and faithful instructors. The fact itself is too notorious to need proof: let us hope that, in examining into some of its causes, a few remarks of practical utility may be suggested with a view to their removal.

The Parable of the Sower will 2 X

illustrate the question. The failure of a harvest may arise from the nature of the soil, or of the seed, or from the unfavourableness of the weather, or from some defect in the sowing or culture. To similar causes may we trace the want of success in the spiritual husbandry of the elergy; and first,

The SOIL.-The chief impediment to the reception of the Go spel, is the natural unpreparedness of the human heart: it is a soil over-run with thorns and briars, hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and needing deep culture to fit it for producing any fruit of righteousness. Our Lord, in the parable just adverted to, mentions very particularly the different characteristics of the soil;-the stony or rocky, or superficial ground; the way side, where the seed was exposed to be trodden down by every passing footstep; the uncleared and untill ed, where it was choked with weeds, and impeded in its efforts towards vegetation; and the honest and good heart, prepared for its reception by the Holy Spirit, and where the seed sown sprung up and bore fruit abundantly, thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold.

But it is not intended at present to dilate upon those general marks of unfitness in the soil which are applicable to the whole human race, and which, arising from the universal extension of original and actual sin," the infection of which remaineth even in them that are regenerated," are not to be reckoned among the local but the permanent impediments to the practical reception of religious truth. Nor shall we dwell upon various kindred causes, all springing from this general depravity; such as inattention in hearing the word of God; want of love in its reception; the absence of a humble and teachable spirit; and negligence, so to speak, in harrowing in the seed when sown by meditation, and imploring the dews of the Divine blessing upon it by fervent and continual prayer.

All these, and similar hindrances, deeply as they must be lamented by the faithful minister of Christ, are beyond his power to remove; he cannot change the natural character of the human heart, and must be prepared to encounter its opposition, rather than to expect its willing concurrence.

But still it is a consideration of much importance, whether this unpreparedness of the soil might not have been anticipated, and in some degree provided against by early culture. On taking possession of the spiritual functions of a parish, it but too frequently hap pens that a minister finds the large majority of his charge, not only deficient in personal piety, and perhaps swayed by those prejudices against practical religion which are inherent in our fallen nature, and are to be found in every clime and under every circumstance of human life; but also uneducated, uncatechised, untrained to pious habits, unused to a regular attendance upon public worship, and ignorant of the principles, as well as indisposed to the cordial practice of the duties, of true religion. Under such circumstances, a minister has perhaps to toil for years before his parish begins to exhibit any signs of spiritual culture; he has to fence out his vineyard from the waste, to break up new ground, and in many cases to begin almost as if nothing had been done to his hands. Now, passing over the great radical cause, the fallen condition of mankind, and the conse quent distaste of the human heart for every thing holy and like God, here is clearly one principal cause, among those of a subordinate kind, of the want of success in the Christian ministry; a cause which is ca pable of being in a great measure removed by preliminary provisions. It is of incalculable importance therefore to the spiritual labours of the clergy, that our population should be every where inured by early education to those tastes and

principles, and to that preparatory knowledge, which are requisite for giving due effect to pulpit instruction. Wherever a clergyman finds his public ministrations unsuccessful, let him impartially examine whether he has done all that was practicable towards preparing the soil for the reception of the Divine word; whether greater advances may not be made in his parish in educating the young and uninstruct ed; in public and private catechising; and in training his flock for understanding and taking an interest in the discourses which are prepared for their edification. In addition to all which, there are in most vicinities some peculiar and local impediments which a minister ought to study with a view to remove them. The soil may be equally unprepared in a large or a small parish; a town or a country parish; a rich or a poor parish; a commercial, or an agricultural, or a manufacturing parish; but the hindrances in these various cases will differ materially in their character, and should be carefully considered as they arise in the actual circumstances of a neighbourhood. It should be an habitual question with every minister of Christ, not only, What am I myself doing for the souls of my people? but, Are there any causes of impediment to the exercise of my ministry in the character of the soil to be cultivated, which it is in my power to lessen or remove? It is probable that many excellent men, absorbed in the diligent personal exercise of their vocation, do not devote sufficient attention to the powerfully efficient, though often silent and slowly progressive, object of preparing instruments of future usefulness; gradually sapping the foundation of local evils which could not be destroyed by direct effort; and, in short, imitating the conduct of a skilful and persevering agriculturalist, who, in reclaiming a barren waste, thinks little of the immediate crop in comparison with mak


ing such permanent improvements in the soil itself, as may afford in future years the prospect of many an abundant harvest. A minister's own lease, if we may thus familiarly pursue the allusion, is but short, even though for life; but he should ever keep in mind, that nations and parishes are of a more permanent character, and therefore prospective measures, though not always the most gratifying at the moment, are usually in the end the most useful. It requires indeed far stronger faith and greater self-denial to plant the seedlings for a forest of future oaks, which are to flourish in strength and verdure long after the hand which first nurtured them has mouldered in the dust, than to sport amidst an unserviceable shew of luxuriant foliage and flowers, which die away after their ephemeral bloom, and leave no hope of succession or perpetuity; but it cannot be a question which system is, in the result, most honourable and most beneficial to the world.

The next consideration relates to THE SEED. "Now the seed," remarks our Saviour, "is the word" of God. It is a point, therefore, for serious reflection whether that seed is in any measure counterfeited or adulterated; for if this be the case, it is not surprising that the harvest is either unproductive, or is productive only of a noisome crop. It has been already stated, that it is not intended to include in the present remarks those grosser cases in which the spiritual busbandman is clearly unfaithful to his charge. In such instances, no good fruit can for a moment be expected. If the doctrines of a minister be unscriptural, he sows weeds and briars instead of corn; and the natural crop is either impiety, heterodoxy, pharisaism, antinomianism, spiritual pride, or utter recklessness of religion, as the case may happen, in due accordance with the characteristic qualities of the seed and the soil.

« PreviousContinue »